William Morris Hughes was born 25 September, 1862 and died 28 October, 1952. Hughes was the Prime Minister of Australia 27 October, 1915 to 9 February, 1923. Throughout his parliamentary career he was a member of the Labor Party 1901 to 1916, National Labor Party 1916 to 1917, Nationalist Party 1917 to 1929, Australian Party 1929 to 1931, United Australia Party 1931 to 1944 and Liberal Party 1944 to 1952. He represented the electorates of West Sydney, NSW 1901 to 1917, Bendigo, Vic 1917 to 1922, North Sydney, NSW 1922 to 1949 and Bradfield, NSW 1949 to 1952.
Elections contested1917, 1919, and 1922
The Parliament elected by the people in 1919 has run its course; a new one has to be chosen; the Government to whom you then entrusted the reins of power again appeals to you for a renewal of your confidence. We have held office for nearly six years. As we have borne the heat and burden of the day during the most trying period in the history of the Commonwealth, it is only proper I should review our record, remind you of the principles for which we stand, and declare the polity upon which we again seek your support.
Our task has been so difficult-the field of the Commonwealth’s activities so vast—the ramifications of the problems with which we have to deal so complicated, that I can only hope to set out the position in broad outline.
Foreign and imperial policy
The policy and record of the Government in Imperial and Foreign Affairs must be first dealt with.
The National Party stands for the maintenance of the Empire; that is the rock on which its house is built, the cross to which it clings. We believe our very existence as a free Commonwealth depends upon the unity and greatness of the Empire. As the power of the Empire lies in its unity, it is obvious that in its relations with foreign countries it must have one policy and speak with one voice.
In determining the Foreign Policy of the Empire, the Commonwealth claims, and has been freely conceded, the right to sit around the Council Table, and to be consulted in moulding that policy. Upon our right to be consulted, to have a voice in Foreign and Imperial. Policy, we stand most firmly. But the policy when formulated, must be communicated to the world through one channel, and this in the nature of things must be the Government of the United Kingdom.
During the term of this Parliament many most important matters, vitally affecting our Imperial and Foreign relations, have been dealt with. At the Imperial Conference held last year, the broad general lines of Foreign policy suited to the circumstances and ideals of the Empire were laid down, great and complex questions discussed, and agreement arrived at on many matters of great importance to Australia and the other parts of the Empire.
Nothing better serves to emphasise the wide scope of the National Government’s activities, the vital importance of the matters with which it has had to deal, and the manner in which it has upheld the honor and dignity of the Commonwealth, and promoted its National and general interests, than the Washington Conference.
Australia was represented by Senator Pearce, who was included as one of the British Empire delegates, and who, as a result of the world’s recognition of Australia as a nation, was given a status equal to that of the representatives of Great Britain and other countries.
After many months of discussion, the Washington Conference came to an agreement on all the great questions before. Its decisions mark an epoch in the history of civilisation. The Pacific questions were settled upon terms satisfactory to China, Japan, America, and Australia; and the mad race for Naval Supremacy was ended. Mighty fleets destined for the destruction of life and property were scrapped; the dark clouds of another world-war disappeared; the world, relieved of the cost of crushing and ever-increasing armaments, breathed freely again. The decisions of the Washington Conference gave to Australia that assurance of peace essential to its progress, and immediately relieved it of huge expenditure upon the maintenance of its fleet. A saving of nearly £2,000,000 has been effected on this year’s expenditure.
If the Washington Conference had not succeeded, the taxpayers of the Commonwealth would not only have had to dud this amount, but at least a million more for Naval Defence alone.
War in the Near East averted
Quite recently the situation in the Near East developed with such dramatic rapidity that another great war, in which the great nations of the world would have eventually been involved, seemed imminent. The situation, which could not have been foreseen, demanded instant action before it was possible to consult the Dominions. Britain, committing herself, left the Dominions free to decide their own attitude. We were asked whether Australia would stand by Britain, and, if the necessity arose, be represented by a contingent of Australian troops.
The Government, while regretting that action had been taken by Britain before our views had been ascertained, recognised that the situation was most critical, that the war cloud had burst without warning, and that there was only one course open to Australia as an integral part of the Empire. We decided to stand by Britain, and support her to any extent the circumstances rendered necessary. At the same time we appealed through our representative to the League of Nations to intervene in the cause of peace.
Circumstances have amply justified Britain’s policy and our own. There is no doubt than our declaration that Australia, while most unwilling to make war, was ready, if the Turks persisted in appealing to force, instead of accepting a Conference, to put a substantial army in the field, was a definite factor in inducing Kemal Pacha to accept that invitation to the Conference which was successful in settling the dispute. A dark war cloud has thus been dispelled, and the country happily saved from war and all that war involves.
Relation between foreign and domestic policy
Before turning from these brief references to Foreign and Imperial matters to consider domestic policy one observation is necessary. In the modern world, the interdependence of nations is so complete, the ramifications of their commercial, financial, industrial, and social life so complex and far-reaching and foreign and domestic policy are so intimately related acting and re-acting on one another, that it may fairly be said that it is impossible to formulate or consider one without having regard to the other.
We walk today in slippery places; our every act is pregnant with great possibilities of good or evil. Out of some ill-considered act of domestic policy may come war; out of the distant and apparently cloudless sky of Foreign Affairs may come blight and ruin to our economic prosperity and our national greatness.
What National Party stands for
Turning now to domestic affairs, let me state the principles for which the National Party stands. First and foremost, we are against class legislation and class government; we have striven to govern in the interests of the whole. We believe that legislation in the interests of a section is bad, not only for society as a whole, but in the long run even for the section whose interests it seeks to advance. We believe sectional or class legislation to be one cause of social and industrial unrest. We have striven to hold the scales fairly, giving to each what is his due; protecting the weak against the strong and holding open the gates of opportunity so that all who would might enter.
We stand for stable government by representatives duly elected by the people. We stand for Government free from the control of secret juntas or forces outside Parliament.
Australia is a Continent. Climate, resources and conditions in the various States differ greatly, and the outlook of the people is naturally coloured by the environment in which they live. The National Government has bad regard to the varied circumstances of the Commonwealth to the needs both of our vast countryside and of our great cities, to the well-being of our primary and secondary industries. It has adopted a policy suited to the circumstances of North, South, East and West. It has stood for decent wages and conditions of labor for the worker: a fair return to capital. It has given the Public Servants a fair deal, and above all things it has made the soldiers to whom we owe everything the objects of its special care.
Having a deep and abiding faith in the future of Australia, the Government has pursued a sound policy of developing its resources. Believing that our greatest asset in a virile, self-reliant people, it has helped the producers to help themselves. It has governed prudently, firmly, wisely; it has stood and stands now for stable government by the people in the interests of the whole people, and for the rule of Law.
It was upon these principles that the National Party was founded: it was upon them that it has based its policy, and has been guided through the trying years of its existence.
National Party’s record
We have been the target of much hostile and splenetic criticism. Everything we have done has been misrepresented by the extreme sections. Bolshevists on the one hand, and reactionaries on the other, whose ideal Government is one that acts as a servile tool to advance their interests, have alike denounced us. We are not at all disturbed by their denunciation. To have won their approval would have been the most crushing condemnation of our policy.
The record of the National Government is one so full of great achievements that had we not been called upon to govern this country during such strenuous days, their mere recapitulation would have silenced all our critics. But we have lived through great days; the years have been so thickly crowded with events of vast moment that men have lost their sense of proportion; and judge us not by the standards they were wont to apply to others in pre-war days, but by those which we ourselves have created. Time will not permit me to set out our record with that wealth of detail which it deserves; I can only sketch it in rough outline.
When the war broke out that familiar world, which seemed so solid, so secure, was changed in the twinkling of an eye. Institutions that had seemed destined to last for ever, disappeared like the baseless fabric of a vision. Australia lives mainly by selling her primary produce oversea. It is this that enables us to maintain that high standard of living on which we pride ourselves, and enjoy those conditions which we have come to regard as the natural, proper and only life for a civilised community. Yet all this depends upon our being able to sell our wool, wheat, meat, butter, and other primary products at pro?table prices overseas. If we could not do this, all our greatness would fade away, and we should lead drab and exiguous lives.
It is well to emphasise this fact; some do not seem to understand what is the secret of Australia’s prosperity.
Australian production increased from £251,000,000 in 1915-1916 to £348,000,000 in 1919-1920.
The value of the output of manufacturing industries increased from £62,000,000 to £98,000,000 in the same period.
Savings Bank deposits (the best test of the condition of the great mass of the people) increased from £97,000,000 to £163,000,000 during five years of National Government; the number of depositors increased from 2,421,000 to 3,345,346; and the savings per head from £19/15/ to £30.
National Government and Primary Producers.
When the war broke out we were cut off from the world’s markets. Those accustomed channels along which our goods flowed were closed. On top of this, the commercial and financial world was panic stricken. Prices fell like a plummet. Disaster confronted the primary producer; he was in despair. The Government came to his aid. It created that organisation without which he would have been helpless; it provided ships to take his goods to market; it kept freights down below the world’s rates; it sold his wool, wheat, butter at higher prices than he had ever received; it financed him even when his goods could not be shipped; it organised the metal industry which had been completely controlled by the Germans; it made an a arrangement by which the Zinc industry of Australia has been stabilised; during the years when the metal markets were in a depressed and chaotic state it sold ten years’ output of Zinc at a remunerative price, and made arrangements which are responsible for the erection of what will be the largest Zinc works in the world at Risdon, Tasmania.
I cannot, as I have said, do more than touch upon the benefits that followed from these great pooling organisations—not only to the primary producer, but to the nation generally. Some idea may be given of the vastness of their operations by quoting two sets of figures. The cost of the war to Australia was roughly £370,000,000. The Government handed to the producers through the various pools it had erected and controlled very nearly £500,000,000. This gives some idea of what the Government did to enable Australia to help win the war.
But perhaps an even more striking evidence of the value of the organisation, created by the Government during the war is found in the fact that as and when the Government in pursuance of its policy has given up control, the primary producers have taken over the machinery of organisation created by the Government, and today are carrying on and controlling the handling, marketing and financing of their produce by co-operative effort, which the Government is assisting and encouraging.
It is not too much to say that the pooling system has effected a revolutionary change In the farmer’s circumstances, stabilising his industry, vastly improving his position, and doing very much to encourage land settlement by making life on the land profitable.
The Industrial Question
The Industrial question is emphatically the greatest with which the world has to deal. It is as old as civilisation, but modern methods of production have made it far more acute. It is the sword of Damocles which hangs threateningly over the head of society. Formerly static, today it is dynamic, The forces behind it are terri?c. It cannot be resisted by anything outside itself. It conditions the life of every individual. Its ripples wash the farthest shores of social activities.
The Industrial question is not merely a question affecting what is known as wage earners in manual industries but all individuals in society. Industrial unrest is a disease of civilisation. It is, or seems to be, inherent in civilisation. Some declare that the only remedy is the destruction of society. Those of us who do not subscribe to this gloomy and ferocious creed are called upon to find some other solution. One thing is certain: we must face the question.
Present system unsatisfactory
In Australia the settlement of industrial disputes by compulsory remission to legal tribunals created by Statute has been operative for some 20 years. The Federal Court has done good work; that it has not brought about the Industrial Golden Age where peace and goodwill and harmony reigned unchallenged, is due in part to the perversity of man’s nature, which neither this nor any other law can materially modify, and partly to the limitation of its powers imposed upon the Court by the Constitution.
The Government has frequently stated that it regards the present position as most unsatisfactory, but it does not believe that a solution of the industrial question is to be found in the abolition of all forms of Compulsory Arbitration. The Government does not believe that the shortcomings of the present system are inherent in the settlement of industrial disputes by legal tribunals.
The Government stands for the rule of law. It believes that the remedy for bad law is good law.
Those who are desirous of sweeping away Compulsory Arbitration suggest round-table Conferences, composed of an equal number of employers and employees, to thrash out the merits of a dispute in their own industry. They express the belief that the parties would come to an agreement in the vast majority of cases. Where they did not, they should be left to their own devices, subject, of course, to observances of the laws of the land. These gentlemen do not want to mend the system of Arbitration but to end it The Government does not agree with these views.
As the Government believes the industrial question to be the greatest of all questions, affecting, as it does, every sphere of human activity, I must define the position in plain terms. The Government admits that the present state of things, with dashing awards, conflicting and uncertain jurisdiction, is most unsatisfactory—that Courts presided over by Judges are not best suited to deal with industrial disputes.
The Government is of opinion that industrial tribunals are to be preferred to Courts. But it does not believe that if in these Tribunals the parties do not agree they should be left to fight the matter out, or in other words, to wage industrial war against Society.
Rule of Law v. direct action
The workers must face certain facts; but then so must the employers. Labor cannot get more out of an industry than it puts into it. Before Labor can get high wages it must create the wealth necessary to provide them. Production cannot be carried on at a loss. No one will engage In an enterprise unless there Is a reasonable prospect of a margin of profit. It is one thing to produce an article and quite another to sell it World competition has to be faced. If we cannot compete successfully, the industry cannot be carried on. It is the eternal law.
But when all this and much more has been admitted, we are still faced with the question—who is to decide between the parties when they do not agree?
Who is to say what is a fair wage in all the circumstances? If sacrifices have to be made, who is to make them? Surely not only the worker. If an industry is called upon to readjust itself to changing world conditions, who is to decide what is fair to both parties? And, of course, this is the real and only important point. The suggestion that Capital should do so is repugnant to our sense of Justice. Nor can Labor be permitted to hold up enterprise at the point of the industrial bayonet. That is the creed of Bolshevism, the policy of the O.B.U.
It is suggested that Labor and Capital will agree if round-table Conferences are substituted for Courts. But experience tells a different story. The industrial question is the greatest which confronts the world, because Labor and Capital cannot agree. And they cannot agree because their interests clash, or the parties believe they do. They are like contending armies, mutually distrustful of one another. How is civilisation, which rests upon the rule of law, to be preserved unless society resolutely sets is face against recourse to force? How otherwise are the scales to be held fairly? Is the employer to force the worker to accept his terms, or the Union—if it is powerful—to compel the employer to yield?
The community’s right
That Labor and Capital should discuss the matter and come to an agreement—if possible—is plain commonsense. That is what they ought to do, no doubt.
But sometimes they do not. If they do agree, no trouble arises; if they do not, what is going to happen?
Has the community as a whole no right to be heard and to have its interests safeguarded, to protect Itself against exploitation on the one hand and industrial war on the other? Society as a whole is involved in this great struggle which is being waged everywhere, degenerating in some countries into a ferocious war of extermination.
It is deplorable, incredibly foolish—criminal, if you like—but it exists and is, indeed, as I have already said, the one great pivotal fact of modern civilisation.
It is suggested that the way we who pride ourselves upon being a progressive community should deal with this greatest of all questions is not to modify but to abolish the system of compulsory arbitration which we have had for some 20 years, and fall back on “Direct Action.”
That is the position. There is, and can be no half-way house between settlement by law and settlement by Force. If round-table Conferences of the parties fail to come to an agreement, and fight the matter out, what is this but Class war? How can the workers be expected to respect the law and adopt Constitutional methods for reform when they are told that in matters meaning literally life and death to them the law will not protect them?
Safeguarding both capital and Labor
Capital has its rights, and these must be protected. It is justly entitled to a fair reward. But then so is Labor. The high standard of living in Australia is one of the chief pillars of our temple; it is the most potent lure to immigrants; the greatest bulwark against the spread of Bolshevism and revolutionary doctrines. How are the conditions under which the Australian worker, enjoying a higher standard of living than any other, has been able to place £163,000,000 to his, credit in the Savings Bank to be safeguarded?
Admitting that wages must conform to world conditions, who is to decide what is a fair wage for the worker? Many employers; the majority if you like, would scorn to attempt to take advantage of the workers’ helplessness but some unprincipled ones would do so. And if they reduced wages below a fair level, would not circumstances compel other employers in the industry to do the same? The Government, standing as it does for fair play for all, believes that Law is better than Force—better not only for the worker, but for the employer and for Society.
The Government fully recognising the defeats of the present system, is desirous of removing them. It accepts the proposals unanimously agreed to by the Premiers of all the States and the representatives of the Commonwealth last November, and is prepared to do its part to give effect to them or any fractional modification of them which does not impair the principles laid down. It believes that State instrumentalities should be outside the Federal jurisdiction, which should be confined to disputes in industries Federal in their nature; e.g., affecting seamen, waterside workers, coalminers, and the like—leaving all others to be dealt with by the Arbitration laws of the States.
Government stands for Rule of Law
It believes in exhausting every effort to secure voluntary agreement by providing for preliminary round-table conferences, at which the Chairman should have no casting vote; but if the parties should fail to come to an agreement, as a civilised community we should have recourse to law and not to Force.
The Government stands for the law; it sets its face against “direct action” whether attempted by Bolshevists or reactionaries. While readily admitting that very much said against Arbitration is Justified, It believes that at its worst the rule of law is preferable to “direct action.” In every country in the world Industrial unrest is rife. Every year it gets more and more acute. Every year it gets more and more acute. Every attempt at repressing it by force, though beating it down for the moment, only gives it new vigor. The industrial problem may be solved by law; it will never be solved by Force.
Amendments of the Constitution
The Commonwealth has now passed its majority. We have had over 20 years’ practical experience of the Constitution under which Federation was established. Time has shown that in certain respects it is unsuited to the ever-expanding needs of this young but rapidly progressive country. This was only to be expected. The world of today has changed very much since 1920. Population and trade have increased very considerably; the ramifications of commerce and industry are more complete. A Constitution suited to the circumstances of 20 years ago is today out of date.
Apart from this, which was to be expected and is the inevitable consequence of growth, the interpretations of the Constitution by the High Court have so limited its powers as to make amendment necessary. One example will serve to show the effects of the High Court judgments.
Although it would appear from the wording of Section 51 that the Commonwealth has power to make laws relating to trade and commerce, it has been decided that it cannot even make a general Company law. In other directions too, its jurisdiction has been most seriously limited as a result of the judgements of the High Court. The nature of certain subjects, e.g., Commerce is such that unless the legislature dealing with them has authority over the whole subject matter, it cannot legislate effectively.
The need for amendment of the Constitution has long been recognised. Proposed laws for its amendment have been submitted to the people as provided for in Section 128 on no fewer than three occasions; but the necessary majority of the electors has not been obtained. At the 1919 election the National Party submitted certain proposed amendments to the people, but they were not approved.
Although proposals for amendment of the Constitution ought to be treated as non-party measures, the fact remains that amendments put forward by one party have been opposed by the supporters of its opponents This was notoriously the case in 1919, when, despite the fact that the amendments submitted by the National Party were substantially the same as those put before the people by the Labor Party on two previous referendums, the leaders of the party—in certain States, at all events—advised their adherents to reject them.
An elected convention
From all this it appears unlikely that amendments framed by the party in power and put before the people will be approved by the requisite number of electors. The only alternative is a Constitutional Convention elected for the purpose of considering the whole question and reviewing the Constitution in the light of actual experience, and submitting such amendments as it thinks necessary to the people.
The Government brought down a Bill providing for such a Convention during the last Parliament, but it was not approved. The Government, being of the opinion that some amendments of the Constitution are necessary, and that those recommended by a Convention are much more likely to be approved by the people than any put before them by the Parliament, will, during the first session of the new Parliament, legislate for the election of a Constitutional Convention.
In certain States there is a strong and growing feeling that development is being retarded owing to centralisation, and that the remedy is to be looked to in the division of existing States into a larger number of States with smaller areas.
Some advocates on the New States Movement seem to be under the impression that the initial step in this direction must be taken by the Commonwealth, and suggest amendment of the Constitution in such a way as to vest in the Commonwealth the sole power to alter, subject to a requisition by a certain number of electors, the existing boundaries of any State. The point raised is one of considerable importance. It cannot be dealt with adequately to-night, but I shall take a very early opportunity of setting out clearly what is the Constitutional position.
I must content myself tonight by saying that these gentlemen are in error in their contention that the initial step to subdivide the States is a matter for the Commonwealth, or that the proposed amendment of the Constitution they desire can be made in the way they suppose.
The Government policy on the New State movement, however, may be shortly stated. The National Government, as I have said, will provide for a Convention, and will do everything possible to enable the people in the areas and States affected to have an opportunity to express their opinion at the earliest possible moment.
The Federal Capital
The Constitution provides that the seat of Government shall be within Federal Territory. Canberra has been chosen as the site of the Capital City. The Government holds that the compact should be honored: that in the best interests of Australia the Federal Parliament should meet at the earliest possible date in its own home.
The Government believes that the transfer of the seat of Government to Canberra is essential to National development. The Federal Legislature will never be a truly National Parliament, taking a broad national outlook, until it meets in its own house in Federal Territory. The Government, therefore, will proceed at once with the erection of the necessary Parliamentary and Administrative Buildings.
In the opinion of the Government, the initial stages of the preliminary work connected with the civil development of the city have progressed sufficiently far to make it desirable to transfer the re-responsibility for this work to a body which will be charged with the duty of controlling the city area and surrounding territory. Following the Washington precedent, the Government propose to appoint a Commission which will be empowered to raise the necessary funds to carry out the work of civic development, to lease building sites in the business and residential quarters, and generally to control the Capital Territory.
By this means the way will be opened to secure the early co-operation of private enterprise in the development of the city. There is no room for doubt but that within a short space of time the ground rents will provide the interest on the outlay required, for the development of the city, and that as the years go by, the city and surrounding territory will become a source of considerable revenue.
Consideration of the industrial conditions of the countries of the world today must convince the most unthinking citizen of the importance of National Finance.
Owing to the unprecedented dislocation caused by the war, the industrial and economic machinery of the world has broken down. Unemployment is prevalent in all countries and starvation in many. Standards of living established after years of patient effort have been destroyed, and industrial chaos is threatened.
Most of the countries of the world find themselves in and almost hopeless financial position in consequence of the obligations undertaken during the war, and no country has escaped some embarrassment. In the majority of these cases the solution of the financial and industrial trouble lies in the direction of some International arrangement for the re-establishment of credit cards and the stabilisation of exchange. In others-and Australia is among those fortunate few-it [three words - illegible] internal administration in accordance with the true principles of finance.
In framing its financial policy, the Government has followed this course, and a close study of the Government proposals will show that they conform to the basic principles of sound finance laid down by the in International Financial Conference held in Brussels in 1920.
In broad outline, the fundamental conceptions which underlie the Government’s proposals are:-
- That current expenditure must be met out of current revenue.
- That unnecessary expenditure must be avoided and that the strictest economy must be observed in regard to necessary expenditure.
- That loan expenditure must be limited to developmental works of a reproductive character.
- That the burden of taxation must be steadily reduced.
Reduction of Expenditure.
In giving effect to these principles, the estimated expenditure out of revenue has been reduced to £62,000,00 for the year 1922-3, as against an actual expenditure of £65,000,000 for the year 1921-22, by the elimination of all unnecessary expenditure and by the observance of the strictest economy in all necessary expenditure. By this action the Budget has been made to balance, and a surplus of £500,000 of Revenue over Expenditure is shown.
The loan expenditure has been limited to developmental works of a reproductive character.
This expenditure is in pursuance of the national policy, and the purposes to which it is being put are approved by the vast majority of citizens.
Recognising that nothing curtails development, hampers trade and industry, and reduces the standard of living more than crippling taxation, the Government secured the passage through Parliament last session of measures granting substantial relief.
The amount involved by the reduction of taxation is estimated at £3,200,000. All our primary and secondary industries will benefit and will be stimulated by the remissions which have been made, and all our individual citizens will receive some measure of relief.
Some criticism has been directed against the Government for employing part of the accumulated surplus for the purpose of reducing taxation. With that criticism the Government totally disagrees, and not only maintains that its action is right, but that, so far from being criticised, it should be applauded for its courage and vision in taking the course it did.
It is imperative that taxation should be reduced if trade and industry are to be stimulated, enterprise encouraged, development accelerated, and foreign capital attracted. In no other way could it be done, our economy critics to the contrary notwithstanding. The reduction in our expenditure of £3,000,000, which the Government has effected, is the maximum that can be achieved at the moment, unless necessary services are to be dislocated or grave injustice inflicted upon the civil servants.
In this connection, it is significant to note that no suggestion has been made, either inside or outside of Parliament, as to how these further economies are to be effected.
Some apprehension also appears to be felt that the remissions of taxation which have been granted are only temporary, and that the remitted taxes will have to be re-imposed. The Government carefully examined the position before submitting its proposals to Parliament, and is quite convinced that these fears are groundless.
As a result of further economies which can gradually and systematically be brought about, and in consequence of the stimulus to trade and development which the Government proposals will effect, it is anticipated that further remission will become possible. To this end efforts are being made for the elimination of duplication in Commonwealth and State activities,particularly in regard to taxation, Electoral Rolls, Science and Industry, and Statistics. The figures for the financial year, for which nearly four months have gone, show that there is likely to be a diminution in expenditure and an increase in revenue as against the Budget figures. All that is required in order to bring about a continuous reduction of taxation is a reasonable period of stable government and sane finance.
The need for population
It has long been recognised by all but a short-sighted minority that the first need of Australia is population. Important as this was before the war, the need has now become imperative and urgent.
Before the war Australia went her way unheeding the world and by the world unheeded; but now the nations watch us more closely. We are no longer free to do as we like. World opinion has to be taken into account. The days of the careless irresponsibility of youth are gone; we have to weigh our words and consider well our every act. The responsibilities of nationhood must be borne—our obligations as a partner of the British Empire fulfilled.
It is obvious that an Australia amenable to world opinion, unable to avoid its responsibilities and its duties as a nation towards other nations, cannot escape the world’s condemnation if, having a land capable of supporting anything from 50,000,000 to 100,000,000, it insists upon maintaining a “dog in the manger” policy, and neither will bring in those in whom its laws approve, nor amend its laws to allow all who wish to share in developing its resources. This attitude will not be tolerated by world opinion.
Put in plain words: our position is not as some would have us believe. We have not the option of keeping out all would-be immigrants—some by our laws, others by passive resistance. One choice, and one only, is given to us. We can bring in without delay our kinsmen from Britain, and, if the numbers of these be insufficient, such other white races as will assimilate with our own. Or we can live for a short season in a paradise of fools, and then see the doors of our house forced, and streams of people from lands where there is hardly standing room, pour in and submerge us. That is the position which confronts us.
In view of the short-sighted policy of a certain section in our midst, who believe, or affect to believe, that more people mean less work, it is necessary to emphasise what everyone ought to know—that in new countries like Australia, with vast undeveloped resources, progress and population walk hand in hand. And all other things being equal, the more people, the wider the avenues of pro?table employment for all.
The effect of the great influx of population as a result of the discovery of gold was greatly to increase opportunities for employment, and vastly improve conditions of labor and rates of wages. It brought in hundreds of thousands of new people; a veritable stream of new life poured into the veins of the young community, inspiring everyone with confidence in the future of the country. It was this feeling of confidence in the future, this belief, this faith in Australia, that was, along with the increased population, the greatest benefit that flowed from the discovery of gold—not the gold itself, but the spirit kindled in the hearts of the people, manifesting itself in a wonderful and sustained policy of public and private enterprise.
Believing in Australia
Men believed in the future of their country; they saw something of its greatness, of its possibilities; saw that, in order to develop its wonderful resources, the country needed opening up, railways built, land settled, industries established.
Whatever we have achieved—and our achievements are many and great—has come because we have believed in Australia, in ourselves, in our race. It is this spirit which enabled us to fight—doggedly, if you like, but determinedly—Nature in her sternest moods, to endure and emerge triumphant from droughts, floods, and other evils that have beset us.
The war, which took from us 60,000 of our young men and put another 40,000 out of the industrial battle line, has imposed on us great obligation; and a grievously heavy burden of debt.
Our population, although increasing at a much greater rate than is generally recognised (as a matter of fact, at a rate greater than any country in the world except Canada), is so inadequate to the task of developing this great country that no one ventures to dispute the fact.
The golden key
Here, as in America, we have seen that so-called desert pushed back and back, waving fields of wheat now are seen where 30 or 40 years ago it was generally accepted cereals would never grow. And what is the name of the magician that has worked these wonderful changes. Here, as in America it is “Population.” As the people advance, the desert recedes.
Population is the golden key which will unlock all doors, sweep aside all obstacles. When we number 50,000,000 instead of 5,500,000, we can undertake tasks now far beyond our immature strength. What the man on the land wants is profitable markets, good roads and railways, education for his, children society for his wife and himself. All this and much more will flow if we but strike the rock with this wand. Population will give us national safety, lighten the burdens of taxation, develop our wonderful resources, ensure employment to the workers, and an almost limitless field for enterprise.
It is, therefore, most satisfactory to the Government of the Commonwealth that for the Best time in the history of the Empire we are able to say that the question of migration is being treated as Imperial in policy. At the average rate of increase for the past 16 years our population will double itself in 30 years. This may be well enough for other countries, but we must move much faster. If we wish to double our population in 20 years, we must increase the influx from overseas by over 100,000 per annum. This number can be obtained without difficulty, and, given a policy which provides suitable land upon which they can be settled, is well within our capacity to absorb. The settlement of migrants upon the lands must be emphasised.
Immigrants for land settlement
The Government sets its face resolutely against flooding our already overcrowded cities with new arrivals from overseas. Upon the foundations of land settlement and upon that foundation only, can a comprehensive and vigorous immigration policy suited to our circumstances rest. It is on this solid and enduring foundation that the Nationalist Government bases its immigration policy. Under it £36,000,000 is made available on loan at the rate of £2,000,000 per State per annum.
Agreements with Britain and the States of Western Australia and Victoria have already been completed. Under these two agreements 27,000 migrants yearly are provided for; every settler-of whom W.A. is to take 6000, Victoria 2000 per annum—is guaranteed twelve months’ employment on the land, and a block of land at the expiry of that period.
The Commonwealth pays one-third interest for a period of five years on the money advanced to the States, on a basis of £1000 for each settler placed on the land. Under the W.A agreement the British Government pays one-third interest for the same period, and under the Victorian agreement advances a lump sum of £300 per settler. Owing to the cost of securing suitable land in the State of Victoria, the Victorian Government is providing an additional amount of £500 per settler, for which it is, of course, responsible. We hope to make similar arrangements with other States. Negotiations are proceeding, and we hope will soon be completed with the State of New South Wales. If all the States agreed to make provision for a number proportionate to that covered by the average of the two agreements already completed, the rate of increase of population would be sufficient to double the population in 20 years.
To encourage the man on the land
We can only hope to cheek the drift towards the great cities—manifested throughout the world—which here has gone much farther than is safe, if we make life on the land profitable and attractive. The wonderful discoveries of applied science, and their application to industry; the marvellous improvements that have been made in transport and communications by railways, motor transport, telegraph and telephone and wireless, have placed at our disposal means by which life, in the country can be made as attractive, as comfortable, and as profitable as in the great cities. I have already dealt with some of the ways in which the Nationalist Government is helping to do this. I now propose to indicate other measures upon which the Government has decided.
First, recognising, as we do, that in order to give new settlers on the land a reasonable chance of success, preliminary training is necessary, the Nationalist Government is prepared to co-operate with the States in the establishment and maintenance of training farms, in which youths from overseas, and our own young men who decide to go upon the land, may have opportunities of acquiring practical knowledge. The policy of the Government in this, as in other matters now under the control of the States, is not to establish training farms of its own, but to assist the States to assist intending settler to fit themselves for work on the land.
Light developmental railways
In order to make land available for successful land settlement, the country not new served must be opened up by means of roads and railways. Railways and roads are to the primary producer what the arteries and veins are to the physical body. One of the chief causes of the amazing progress made by Australia since it was first settled has been a vigorous, reproductive public works policy, which has enabled the almost limitless resources of the country to be developed. Nearly £200,000,000 has been spent on railways. We have more miles of railways per head than any other country in the world. By far the greater part of the States’ Public Debt has been incurred in building railways, and the expenditure has been the most profitable investment Australia has over made. But so vast is this country that, although much has been done, very much more remains to do.
In pursuance of the policy of the Government to promote Closer Settlement and to assist the States to settle Australian citizens on the land, the Commonwealth Government is prepared to assist the States in building light developmental railways, and will pay one-third of the interest on the cost of construction—or bear one-half of the losses during a similar period—on approved lines and roads which provide for the establishment of a definite number of new settlers, on conditions to be mutually agreed upon between the States and the Commonwealth.
Improving our herds
We are a very rich pastoral and dairying country. We have more sheep than any other country in the world; and those, thanks to the enterprise, foresight, and patriotism of those engaged in the industry, produce the best merino wool in the world. We have more cattle per head than any other country; but, although a great deal of money has been spent in improving our herds, it can hardly be said that we have yet reached a satisfactory standard.
That is true both of beef and dairy cattle. For example, while the yield per dairy cow in Denmark is 600 gallons per annum, it is 300 in Australia; or, in other words, one cow in Denmark gives as good a return as two here. And, of course, as good cows cost no more to feed—frequently less— than in different or poor ones, the advantage of the dairyman in Denmark over his competitor in Australia is still greater than the milk and butter fat returns indicate. And, to lesser degree, perhaps, what is true of dairy cows is true of beef cattle.
We ought not to be satisfied with anything but the best: indeed, if we are going to hold our own in the world’s markets, we cannot afford to keep inferior stock. There is only one way of improving our flocks and herds—by breeding from high-priced animals in overseas countries and importing them here. The initial financial outlay, the cost of transport and quarantine, have no doubt deterred men from doing very much. In some States, the Government has taken the matter up, but much remains to be done. The Nationalist Government will introduce legislation designed to assist the producers by defraying the cost of transportation and quarantine of stud stock.
In accordance with the promise made to electors, the National Government, during the course of the last Parliament, inaugurated the Department of Health. Great progress has already been made in the investigation of diseases which directly and indirectly affect the efficiency of the nation, and are responsible annually for an appalling loss of life and wealth.
The Government feels that no question is more important; and has determined to extend its efforts to a much wider field. A health Laboratory has been establiahed at Bendigo; provision has been made for others at Port Pirie, Toowoomba. Cairns, Lismore, Rockhampton, and Kalgoorlie, and similar provision in other country centres is being considered, A complete survey of all Australia, Papua, and New Guinea, in respect of hookworm, has been completed, and a campaign of hookworm control started.
The Serum Laboratories have progressed to a point where antitoxin, sera, and vaccines are produced of a quality and quantity sufficient to supply the needs of Australia and New Zealand.
The Government is extending the operations of the laboratory, which has already begun valuable investigations into the prevention and treatment of diseases in stock. This matter is of supreme importance to the primary producers of the Commonwealth.
Investigations in regard to industrial hygiene, venereal diseases, the care of mother and children, are being pursued. The National Government aims at a clean, healthy, and efficient Australia, realising that the successful rearing of healthy Australian children Is the only safe foundation for the country.
Thanks to our healthy climate, food, conditions of labor and high standard of living, the health of our community compares favorably enough with most others. But anyone who will give the matter serious consideration will be convinced that we are very far from enjoying that standard of health which our favored circumstances and acquired scientific knowledge and medical skill make possible. I do not hesitate to say that much of the industrial unrest and consequent diminished production are caused by sub-normal health.
Health expenditure a wise investment
Money spent in improving the health of the community is the very best and wisest investment we can make, Everyone knows from personal experience how the quality and quantity of the work we do is affected by the state of our health. If we could raise the standard of health of the community, we should add many millions to our annual output of wealth, and at the same time deal a most formidable blow to those perspicious doctrines now being preached here as all over the world, which are the sickly emanations of diseased and degenerate minds, and find their favorite breeding-ground in those whose mentality is warped and vitality lowered by sub-normal health.
Both States and private citizens have shown great activity in the field of national health. The Commonwealth has for many years endeavored by its Maternity Allowance legislation, which ensures every expectant mother of the means to secure medical and skilled attendance and reasonable comforts, to encourage a high birth rate and preserve infant life.
But although the Commonwealth spends £700,000 a year, and the States very considerable sums, no appreciable decrease in infantile mortality has been effected. An appalling number die every year of preventable causes. The Government is of the opinion that, while the general standard of health is satisfactory, much better results can be obtained. We cannot afford this drain upon our vitality. We believe that the question of national health ought to be regarded as amongst the very first to demand attention. What are known as the Red and White plagues claim their victims by the thousands, and are responsible for lowering the vitality of a still greater number.
The Commonwealth does not suggest duplication of existing machinery nor to take the matter out of the hands of the States, but believes that by co-ordination and co-operation the desired results can be obtained. With a view to giving effect to this proposal, and acting in co-operation with the States, the Government will appoint a Royal Commission to consider and report upon the best means for co-ordinating the various activities and improving the nation’s health.
Assistance to Returned Soldiers
The National Government pledged itself to stand by the Returned Soldier. It has done so. The figures I shall quote are at least evidence that we have endeavored to honor our pledge to the men who made such great sacrifices and fought so gloriously for Australia and the Empire.
Up to September 30, 1922, the National Government spent £122,400,000 on soldiers and their dependents:
- War Pensions £31,250,000
- Repatriation General Benefits £15,450,000
- War Service Homes £15,550,000
- War Gratuities £27,000,000
- Land Settlement £33,150,000
During the same period no fewer than 1,138,500 applications for War Pensions and Repatriation benefits were dealt with, or an average of 3.5 applications for every solider enlisted in the A.I.F. In addition to the expenditure already incurred there is an annual liabilities for war pensions of £6,789,000. That the Government has not forgotten the dependents of the Anzacs, and has been faithful to its promises to the men it asked to enlist will be seen from the fact that out of 225,000 pensioners, only 76,249 are actually soldiers. Of the remainder, 42,407 are wives and 55,664 children, of soldiers, 7444 widows, 11,685 children of deceased soldiers, 27,867 mothers, 3655 fathers, and 2401 other relatives.
Preference in public service
The Government has enforced its policy of preference to returned soldiers on all occasions. The number of returned soldiers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service is approximately 7000. Recent legislation amending the Public Service Act sweeps away those obstacles that prevented soldiers from obtaining permanent employment in the Public Service; 232,400 applications for employment were dealt with by the Repatriation Department; and £3,386,553 expended on tools of trade, fares, advances to municipalities, and State Governments for the provision of employment to soldiers.
Twenty-nine thousand five hundred soldiers have been duly trained or are still in vocational schools—the cost of such vocational training to date being £4,385,000. £1,650.000 has been expended on medical treatment, and £3,764,000 on furniture, small businesses, free passages, etc.
Arrangements have been made for the education of children of deceased and totally incapacitated soldiers, on which £65,000 has already been expended, and for which a total of £1,250,000 will be provided.
Twenty-eight thousand soldiers have been settled on the land at an expenditure of more than £33,000,000; 19,901 homes have been provided by the War Service Homes Commission at an average cost of £725.
The Government, just prior to the conclusion of last session, made further increases in pensions to incapacitated soldiers, and amended the Public Service Act to provide for the permanent employment of ex-members of the A.I.F.
This brief summary of what the National Government has done for the soldier speaks for itself. We invite comparisons between our record and that of any country in the world. We do so only to show that we have faithfully fulfilled our obligations and endeavored to honor the promises made to the gallant men who responded to their country’s call; who fought, suffered and died, in order that we and the Empire might be saved from military despotism.
Our first duty is to these splendid men and their dependents. Nothing that we can do for them can adequately repay them for the services they have rendered to their country. But the National Government in the future will do what is humanly possible to show in what regard they are held by all true Australians.
As soon as the decisions of the Washington Conference were ratified by the Parliament, the Government took the earliest possible opportunity to curtail expenditure on Defence, pending the re-organisation of the whole system.
After setting aside £300,000 as compensation to be paid to the members of the forces compulsorily retired, £270,000 less was spent last financial year than the amount provided on the year’s appropriation. Meanwhile plans were being matured for the reduction of the various branches of the Defence Forces to the smallest cadre formations which the Council of Defence advised the Government could be adopted with safety.
These plans have been given effect to; with a resulting net saving of some £1,750,000 per annum. At the same time, and within the amount provided by the reduced vote, recognising the necessity for every reasonable precaution being taken in case of emergency to defend our shores, the Government is providing for certain additional essential munition plants, which Australia lacked, and it could not be expected private enterprise would provide.
The Government intends to encourage the progress of civil aviation in Australia—both for commercial purposes and for use as a reserve arm of defence. The first Australian Aerial Mail Service was established between Geraldton, Broome and Derby, in W.A. (a distance of 1200 miles), and has proved entirely successful, upwards of 10,000 letters a month being carried over this route. Arrangements have been made for a similar service between Charleville and Cloncurry, in Queensland.
As soon as circumstances permit, a direct aerial mail service will be maintained between Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, and steps will be taken during the current year to complete the preliminary ground organisation on the Fremantle to Adelaide route. With the establishment of these two latter services, the time saved in receiving replies to letters from Sydney to Great Britain will be at least 14 days.
The National Government takes full responsibility for the assistance rendered to the Sugar industry. Apart from its most important bearing on the White Australia Policy, and the extent to which it peoples and develops the Northern portions of the Commonwealth, the Sugar Industry is one of the greatest in Australia. The capital invested totals no less than £15,000,000; the annual production is valued at approximately £10,000,000; the wages bill at £6,000,000; and the persons dependent upon the industry for a living number approximately 125,000.
Early in the war it became apparent that if the great primary industries were to escape disaster Government action was necessary. Conditions were abnormal; the individual was powerless to cope with them. In these circumstances the control of sugar was instituted in 1915 by a Labor Government, and the policy has since received the endorsement of every party in Parliament. The agreement stabilised the industry and encouraged production. It has been said that it enabled the growers to make exorbitant profits and compelled the consumer to pay high prices for sugar. This is not true. Had the growers received world prices for their sugar during the whole period of control from 1915 to 1921 they would have made at least another £40,000,000, which the Australian consumers would have been forced to pay in higher prices.
Cheapest sugar in the world
The Agreement enabled the people of Australia to enjoy the cheapest sugar in the world at a time when prices were abnormally high, The retail price in Australia was 3d in 1915, 3 1/2d from 1916 to 1920, 6d from 1920 to November. 1st of this year, when it will be reduced to 5d. These prices compare very favorably with those ruling in other countries.
For four years, whilst other countries were rationed, Australia had the cheapest sugar in the world, and during that period the export of Jams, Canned Fruits, Confectionery, etc., showed phenomenal increases. The Government’s sugar policy has been fully justified. It has saved the Sugar Industry and dependent industries during the most critical period in our history; supplied the Australian consumer with the cheapest sugar in the world; given the jam, condensed milk, and confectionery exporters a tremendous advantage over their foreign rivals; and established the sugar industry so firmly that for the first time in the history of Australia sufficient sugar has been produced for local needs in two successive years.
Adequate protection to growers
Sugar control, like that over Wool, Wheat, and other Industries, was a War measure, and was fully justified by the circumstances. The war is over; conditions are fast becoming normal; control is no longer necessary and cannot be continued. But the Government, regarding as It does the Sugar industry as the bulwark of the White Australia policy, and the only industry that has yet been proved to be suited to the climatic condition of the tropical belt stands and will stand for its adequate protection against Black Labor sugar. In pursuance of this policy, and to give the grower that assurance of future stability necessary to encourage him to continue to plant cane, the Government recently introduced a proposal to give such Tariff protection as was fair and necessary.
Unfortunately, owing to, the action of the Labor Party and, the great majority of the Country Party, the Government policy was emasculated and adequate protection not given to the industry.
The Government deeply regrets this, considering that the proposed duty on imported White sugar is fully justified by the circumstances, and is such as would enable the consumer to obtain sugar at 4 1/2d per lb. The Government will not stand by and see this great industry, which is essential to our White Australia policy, made the football of Party ambition and intrigues. Apart from that adequate Tariff protection to which the sugar industry, like all others, is entitled, the Government will give the same assistance to any voluntary pooling scheme that it has done to wheat and other primary products.
Commonwealth Shipping Line
The facts surrounding the purchase and operation of the Commonwealth Shipping Line during the war are now well known and need not be repeated.
By the purchase of the fleet the Government saved the primary producers of Australia from disaster. Bought as an emergency War measure, the Line immediately proved pro?table, and, though charging the lowest freights to shippers and paying the highest wages to its crews, showed gross profits on June 30. 1921, including those earned by ex-enemy steamers, of £7,357,231.
With the cessation of what may be called the Emergency War Period, the Government gave the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion on the retention of the line. The general feeling was that the line exercised such an influence on freights that it should be retained. The Government, in pursuance of its policy, has introduced a Bill formally constituting the line and appointing a Board of Directors to control its operations free from all political and Government control. The board will submit an annual balance-sheet to the Auditor-General for report, and both the balance-sheet and the report will be tabled in both Houses of Parliament.
The Government anticipates that the line, freed entirely from political control, will maintain the excellent results which it has achieved since its inception.
The National Government’s Ship Building policy was also an emergency undertaking required necessary by the war. Despite the difficulties of obtaining experienced men, the Government proved conclusively that ships of the highest possible workmanship can be built in Australia by Australian workmen. Sixteen steamers have already been constructed in the Commonwealth shipyards and they compare favorably with vessels built elsewhere. The industry has found employment for many thousands of workmen, who would otherwise have been idle, and laid the foundations of a great national industry. By retaining this work in Australia, more than £3,000,000 has been kept within the Commonwealth. In pursuance of the policy previously announced, the Government does not intend to do more than complete the ships now partly built.
Owing to chaotic world conditions, shipping is in a very bad way, Many millions of tons of shipping are now laid up. There is no demand for ships, and, in the circumstances; the Government feels that it cannot continue its activities in this direction beyond completing the vessels arranged for. Though the Government cannot continue this industry, it hopes—now that it has pioneered the way—that private enterprise will do so.
Wireless telegraphy and telephony
Communication with the outside world is vital to Australia, both froze the standpoint of defence and trade.
The Imperial Conference held last year in London decided that for purposes of Imperial defence and trade the Empire should be linked together by Wireless. The National Government was the first to give effect to that policy. Under the agreement with the Amalgamated Wireless Limited (which gives to the Commonwealth a majority of the shares, a majority of the directors, and therefore control), the Commonwealth is assured of a commercial service considerably below present cable rates, and the handicap imposed upon Australia by reason of her distance from the world’s markets will be to a great extent removed.
Thus, in the very near future, one of the most serious handicaps to Australian pioneering work will be swept away the lonely settler will be as one in the very midst of the busy world. The Government considers that the provision of cheap and rapid communication, the discrimination of daily news, weather forecasts, and market reports will add greatly to the attractiveness of, rural life and, do much to check the dangerous drift from the country to the city.
Oil is indispensable to modern production. Without oil modern industry and transport could not be carried on, nor any country defend itself against an enemy.
The National Government has done everything possible to encourage the discovery and production of oil in Australia and its Territories.
It has offered a reward of £50,000 for the discovery of Petroleum in commercial quantities on the mainland.
It is also co-operating with the Queensland Government by operations being carried on at Roma.
It is conducting extensive geological surveys and boring operations in Papua and New Guinea territory.
It has entered into are agreement with the Angio-Persian Oil Company, for the erection of refineries in Australia. Fuel depots have already been provided at most of the capital ports; and the first refinery is now in course of erection.
Shale oil bounty increased
Whilst every effort has been made in connection with the discovery and refining of oil, the immense deposits of shale—upon which Australia might in an emergency depend, and the value of which to the commercial life and defence of Australia cannot be over-estimated—have not been neglected. The Government has increased the bounty on Shale Oil to 3 1/2d per gallon, and extended its operation for another year. This will ensure the continuance of a most important producing and refining industry.
The mandated territories
Amongst the fruits of victory which Australia secured at the Peace Conference, where I had the honer of representing the Government and Commonwealth, perhaps the most important was the Mandate for New Guinea and adjacent territories.
These great and rich islands have vast resources and are capable of great development; in the hands of a potential enemy they menace our very existence.
The victory disposed of Germany’s claims. A proposal to internationalise these islands; which would have been fatal to our White Australia policy, and would over present danger to our national existence, was strongly pressed at the Peace Table and supported by the official Australian Labor Party, who are, of course, anti-European and internationalistic in outlook, but was, in consequence of the Commonwealth’s strong representations, put aside.
After a great struggle we were given the Mandate, and with it great and ever growing responsibilities. The National Government has shouldered these responsibilities in a manner which has received the approbation of Australia’s friends and left no loophole for criticism from her enemies.
Whilst the value of the territory to Australia is primarily one of Defence, the National Government is pursuing a broad National policy which promises great economic advantages to Australia and to the Islands generally.
There is every reason to believe that pursuance of this policy will result in Australia becoming the centre for the whole Pacific trade.
The National Government will continue to foster this trade, to develop the resources of the islands, and to maintain regular communication.
As a result of the first two years’ operations of the Nauru Commissioners it is estimated that 875,000 tons of superphosphate placed on Australian farms have been sold at between £2/10/ and £3/10/ below the world’s market price. In other words, the primary Producer has benefited to the extent of not less than £2,500,000.
The Northern Territory
For many years the development of the Northern Territory has been retarded by reason of the fact that two-thirds of the pastoral areas there are locked up under long leases, which, under the terms of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, cannot be varied without the consent of the holders.
The Government has given close attention to the problem thus created. It desires to extend to the pastoral industry in the Territory all the assistance and encouragement possible, but regards the subdivision of the larger holdings as a necessary precedent to any effective scheme. Subject to the lessees acquiescing in an equitable surrender of portions of their leases (which acquiescence, it is believed, will be forthcoming and will enable the Government to provide holdings for additional settlers), the Government proposes liberal expenditure on bores, wells and roads, and to provide access to markets. In addition the Government proposes to establish inland wireless stations to give better means of communication; improved coastal shipping facilities; to cheapen the cost of stores; and give general assistance to encourage the opening of markets for live cattle in the East and port facilities for this trade.
Railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs
The Public Works Committee, which has recently investigated the question of the North-South Railway, had recommended the continuance of the Railway from Ooodnadatta to Alice Springs in the McDonnell Ranges. The Government regards this extension as essential to land settlement and increased production in the pastoral and mining industries in this part of the Territory, and will seek the approval of Parliament to proceed with the construction of the line as speedily as financial considerations permit. This additional construction is expected greatly to diminish, if not to extinguish, the heavy loss now involved in working this railway. The Government is convinced that the prospects of mineral and oil development in the Northern Territory are good, and it will be prepared to give assistance to prospectors where this can be justified.
The Government has redeemed the promise it made when it last appealed to the country, and placed on the Statute Book a comprehensive protective tariff. Though Australia is not altogether free from those troubles inseparable from the re-adjustment of economic conditions common at the present time to the whole world, still it can be confidently asserted that the fiscal policy of the Government has resulted not only in giving effective protection to a vast number of valuable industrial ventures which had sprung into being during the war, but it has also proved to be a great factor in preventing the widespread unemployment and disorganisation of trade which have caused the deepest distress in other countries since the war.
The Government stands for solid preference to Great Britain and the Dominions. The Tariff, besides extending and amplifying that preference in favor of Great Britain, has made special provision for reciprocal fiscal relationships with other parts of the Empire and the world. A fiscal treaty has already been arranged with the sister Dominion of New Zealand, and negotiations are proceeding with Canada and South Africa. By this means, without jeopardising our own interests in any way, an instrument is provided ready to our bend to obtain the more favorable entry of our primary products to other lands.
The Government has supplemented and strengthened the legislation known as the Anti-Dumping Act, designed to meet the abnormal conditions of the world’s finance and trade. Dumping duties have already been applied to twenty classes of goods; but for this action the Australian market would have been flooded with cheap goods from ex-enemy countries.
The Tariff Board
A Tariff Board has been created by the National Government to investigate thoroughly the incidence and effect of Tariff legislation and kindred matters, and has done valuable work. During the short period of its existence the Board has visited every State except Tasmania, and inquired into the circumstances surrounding many of the great industries of Australia.
Its recommendations in regard to several of our products have been accepted by the Government.
Besides keeping the operation of the Tariff constantly under review, the Tariff Board is also charged with the obligation of seeing that no manufacturer abuses the production afforded by the Tariff, and thus the consumers’ interests are also protected. The Board is now in Western Australia inquiring into the effects of the Tariff upon that State. The Government recognises that its remoteness from the Eastern centres of population imposes a handicap that ought to be taken into consideration. The Government will give sympathetic consideration to any recommendation made by the Tariff Board with the object of removing the handicap now imposed on Western Australia by her geographical position.
The uniform gauge
The problem of standardising the railway gauge, which faced the United States and Great Britain, and must be faced by every growing community, was considered by the National Government shortly after its return from the last election. As a result of a conference of State Premiers held in May, 1920, a Royal Commission of railway experts was appointed to investigate the matter throughly. The commission recommended the adoption of the 4ft 8 1/2in gauge, and estimated that the conversion of a standard gauge line between the capital cities, and the conversion of all broad gauge lines in Victoria and South Australia, would cost £21,600,000.
The Commonwealth Government has undertaken to bear one-fifth of the total cost, the balance being allocated amongst the States on a per capita basis.
The importance of this question from national and economic stand-points is obvious; and each day of delay intensifies the problem and increases the cost of conversion.
New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia having expressed their readiness to co-operate, the Government last session introduced a Bill which makes provision for agreement with one or more States for the carrying out of any portion of the scheme. The Bill is a permissive measure, and the Commonwealth can do nothing without the co-operation and consent of the States. The Government hopes, however, that this necessary work will shortly be approved by the mainland States.
The Government has already announced that it will give encouragement to the Cotton Industry in Australia. It is estimated that 40,000 acres will be under cotton cultivation in Queensland alone this season. The cotton belt covers a vast area of territory, extending throughout all the States of the mainland of Australia. The Government believes that the production of a sufficient quantity of high-grade cotton will mark a new era in Australia, and it has, therefore, decided to guarantee a fixed price to growers over a period of three years. Consideration is being given to proposals to encourage the use of Australian cotton by British manufacturers.
The Government is now in communication with the various States and with the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation with a view to their participation in the guarantee. The accredited representatives of large manufacturing groups in Britain are at present in Australia at the invitation of the Commonwealth Government, inspecting the lands and discussing the general question of cotton development in Australia. As there are millions of acres suitable for cotton growing, the Government is confident that Australia will, with careful management and proper seed selection, play as important a part in the production of this article as she does now with wool.
Conforming to the policy enunciated by me in 1919, the National Government agreed to guarantee advances to growers through voluntary State Pools.
For the coming season the National Government has agreed to guarantee up to 3/8 per bushel. The Commonwealth asks for no representation on the Board managing the voluntary pool; the farmers are free to act as they think best.
To facilitate the construction of wheat silos, and so protect the accumulations of wheat from destruction, the Government undertook to advance to the States the sum of £2,850,000. Under this arrangement a sum of £1,000,000 has been advanced to the Government of New South Wales and a scheme inaugurated which provides for a country storage capacity of 15,450,000 bushels, Sixty-four per cent. of the storage scheme has been finished. The plant has been operating for two seasons with satisfactory results. A further agreement has been entered into with the Westralian Farmers Ltd., under which the Commonwealth Government advances up to £550,000. Plans have been prepared for the erection of 70 country elevators and a terminal with a total storage capacity of 3,500,000 bushels.
An additional agreement has been entered into with the Farmers’ Bulk Grain Co-operative Co., Adelaide, and the Government of South Australia for the erection of elevators with a storage capacity of 8,630,000 bushels This scheme will be advanced by the Commonwealth by way of a loan.
During the 1921-2 season a fruit pool was established to assist growers—the canning factories being unable to purchase and process the crop. In all, 14,600 tons of fresh fruit were received into the pool, for which the growers received £140,000 from the National Government. A further value of about £450,000 was added in the conversion of the fresh fruit into the canned product.
The action of the Government saved the fresh fruit market from collapse, and enabled 23 canning factories to operate throughout the whole of last season. Had the Government not come to the assistance of the industry, thousands of struggling orchardists, including many solider settlers, would have been ruined. Financial support in the form of Bank guarantees amounting to £37,000 was also given during 1921-2 to assist the processing and sale of Berry Fruits in Tasmania; of Peaches and Pears in Victoria; and of Tomato pulp in Queensland.
As a result of a national conference of fruit-growers held in Melbourne recently, the National Government has agreed to conduct a voluntary Pool for this season. The growers will control the industry; the Government will advance up to 75 per cent, of the market value of the processed fruit and assist to market the product overseas, and will make reductions in freight on exported fresh fruit.
Dairy produce pool
At the outbreak of war the dairying industry was faced with the same problems which confronted all other primary industries in Australia—the collapse of the foreign market, shortage of freight, and difficulties of finance.
The National Government came to the rescue of the dairy producers, found the market, guaranteed the shipping and finance, and enabled the farmers of Australia to carry on under favorable conditions. The Pool operated since 1917-8, and since my last policy speech was delivered, has ceased its operations. During the period of the Pool approximately 215 million pounds of Butter, and 16 million pounds of Cheese, valued at £20,000,000, were handled for the producers.
The organisation created during the war is being carried on by the dairying interests with the co-operation of the Government for the standardisation of their products and improvement by marketing conditions.
During the present year the accumulation of large stocks of frozen beef in England, and an abnormal fall in prices, threatened completely to ruin the pastoralists engaged in this industry in Australia. Practically every large meat works in Australia was forced to close down.
To meet the situation the Government called a conference of meat exporters and pastoralists; and as a result agreed to pay a subsidy of 1/4d per lb on standard beef (and on certain beef for canning) slaughtered between 5th April and 31st October, 1922, and exported on or before 31st December, 1922; also a subsidy of 10/ per head on live cattle for slaughter exported from the Commonwealth between the 5th April and 31st December, 1922.
This subsidy was conditional upon the Meat Works reducing charges for treatment by 1/4d; a decrease in labor costs of approximately 1/5d, and a reduction in beef freights of 1/4d per lb.
To ensure that the whole of these concessions should revert to the primary producer, the Government took precautions to see that payment was made direct.
The subsidy to be paid is estimated at £140,000; but the direct gain to the grower as a result of the Governments action will be approximately four times that amount.
To stabilise the market for Australian Meat the Government, in addition, purchased £49,000 of old Australian Beef in London and shipped it to Russia. This action enabled fresh shipments to be disposed of.
As a result of recent Conferences with the representatives of the Beef industry, a comprehensive scheme of organisation, has been agreed upon which will reach from the cattle station to the wholesale and retail markets of Britain and the rest of the world. In order to enable it to establish itself firmly, the Government is advancing a credit of £50,000.
Australian trade representation abroad
In accordance with its promise to the electors that, if the growers carried on the organisation created by the Government, the Government would assist them to secure trade in foreign markets, Trade Commissioners have been appointed in China and the East. The territory covered by these Commissioners embraces the whole of the East, with its teeming millions, who must in time become large consumers of Australian goods. The future of Australian producers and manufacturers depends largely upon the extent to which they can tap the markets of the East and the Government is gratified at the progress already made in this direction.
Four-fifths of the expenditure in connection with the Trade Commissioners to the East is borne by the States, who in this important matter are co-operating with the Commonwealth Government.
The Government has redeemed its promise to establish a system of contributory superannuation for the Public Service supported by a reasonable payment by the Treasury. Such schemes are now regarded by business men as essential to the efficient conduct of extensive private enterprises. They are equally applicable to the Public Service, giving hope and encouragement to its members, and an assurance of prudent provision for their future, and that of their dependents. The scheme is as generous as is consonant with sound actuarial principles. Time does not permit me to deal with it in detail to-night. It means very much to the Public Service.
During the war the Government assumed control of the Coal industry to enable an adequate supply of this essential commodity for transports and general Australian requirements.
In November, 1921, at the request of several States, the Commonwealth continued a measure of control in order to safeguard Australian industries.
The authority under which this control is exercised expires on 31st December of this year; and the Government has decided that existing circumstances do not warrant its extension. This decision conforms to its general policy of decontrol.
Relief of unemployment
In order to relieve unemployment throughout the Commonwealth and at the same time assist the construction of good roads, the Government made available a sum of £250,000 for expenditure on main and district roads outside municipalities. The grant was distributed amongst the States on a per capita basis, and was subject to the States themselves contributing pond for pound.
The whole six States accepted the with Commonwealth Government’s offer, and arrangements have been made for the commencement of the work.
By this means the National Government has ensured the expenditure of £500,000 on country roads.
The Government endeavored to find a solution for the general industrial depression and consequent unemployment by convening a Conference of representatives of Employers and Employees. The Conference proved abortive, the workers putting forward as their solution of the problem the socialisation of industry.
Invalid and Old-Age pensions
The National Government, on January 1, 1920, increased the Invalid and Old- Age Pension from 12/6 to 15/. For the year ended June 30, 1919, the amount paid in pensions was £3,880,865; for the year ended June 30, 1920, the amount was £5,290,056. This increase was considered only just, in view of the increased cost of living.
In January, 1921, the limit of income for a blind pensioner was raised from £65 to £221. This enables a blind person to earn up to £3/10 per week, and still receive the maximum pension of 15/ per week.
The Navigation Act has been amended and brought up to date. Owing to the disorganisation caused by the war, the Proclamation which brought the Act into operation had long been long delayed. It has been found that, owing to seasonal fluctuations of trade, the normal steamer services cannot adequately cope with the trade of certain parts of the Commonwealth, and the Government proposes to use the powers conferred by the Act to license additional vessels from time to time. By this means such difficulties as occur with the Tasmanian apple trade several can be overcome. The peculiar circumstances of other remote portions of the Commonwealth can thus be dealt with.
In no direction has the Government done more to meet the ever-increasing demands for the provision of public facilities than in the Post and Telegraph Department. The disorganisation caused by the war, the impossibility of obtaining adequate supplies of material, the necessity for concentrating the financial resources of the country on the prosecution of the great struggle, had built up heavy arrears of those postal works of all kinds necessary to meet the ever increasing demands for telegraphic and telephonic facilities in town and country.
Large numbers of telephone subscribers are awaiting connection with the exchanges throughout Australia, a great number of telephone trunk lines are required to meet the ever-increasing volume of business, and from every direction applications have been pouring in from country districts to be provided with this modern means of communication. Many additional telegraph lines are also required.
It has become abundantly apparent, if these arrears of work were to be overtaken, and if at the same time provision was to be made to keep up with the country’s rapid expansion, that departing from methods hitherto followed, a bold and comprehensive developmental policy would have to be laid down.
A three years’ programme
After the most careful examination of the position, the Government has adopted a scheme providing for a three years’ programme, involving a loan expenditure on postal work, of £9,575,845 of which £8,498,073 will be expended solely on telegraph and telephone extensions.
This year it is proposed to spend £2,956,633, and of this sum £2,536,760 will be expended on meeting the demand for telegraph and telephone facilities, whilst in the following year the programme provides for an expenditure of £3,236,057 on these reproductive works. The adoption of this policy, while meeting the requirements of the country, will enable the Postmaster-General to lay his plans ahead and Secure the delivery of the necessary material well in advance of the requirements of the construction branch of his Department.
Liberal concessions for the country
In the cities no fewer than 16 new automatic exchanges have either been erected this year, are in course of erection, or have received the authorisation of Parliament. In the country the work of erecting telephone lines is proceeding at a rapid rate. The Government has at a rapid rate. The Government has liberalised the conditions pertaining to country telephone lines and exchanges in several notable directions. In addition to a number of minor concessions, all tending to the advantage of the public, the Government has decided to bear the whole of the estimated loss on any country line which does not cost more than £1500, and the erection of which is thought to be justified in the public interest. Heretofore up to 1920 the Government only found 50 per cent of the estimated loss. In that year the Government decided to carry 75 per cent. of the estimated loss and ask the residents to find the balance; now it proposes to shoulder the whole.
Under this scheme 85 per cent of the country telephone lines will be erected without asking the residents to make any contribution to the capital cost. This year the Government is erecting 188 new trunk telephone lines and 188 new country lines. The hours of attendance at most of the country exchanges have been extended from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the conditions have been liberalised in regard to continuous exchanges by crediting a proportion of the trunk line fees in computing the necessary revenue required before a continuous service can be granted.
More liberal concessions have been given for the provision of country mail facilities. Outlaying country districts have been, or will be shortly, brought into close touch with the more settled areas by the provision of aerial mails. Much has been done to decentralise administration and thus secure the rectification of country grievances as rapidly as possible. It is impossible to set out in detail all that the policy of the Government provides for, but by every means in its power the Government is endeavoring to make this great service the factor in the development and settlement of the country that it ought to be.
The Murray River Scheme
The Government intends to press on vigorously with the construction of the works, already commenced, on the River Murray, the completion of which will render irrigable approximately 1,400,000 acres, and create a permanently navigable river highway of some 1250 miles.
The works now under construction consist of the Hume Reservoir (with a storage capacity of 1,000,000 acre feet), Lake Victoria (with a capacity of 514,000 acre feet), a weir and lock at Torrumbarry, near Echuca, three weirs and locks in South Australia. One weir and lock in South Australia has already been completed, and is in operation; and it is anticipated that weirs and locks in the vicinity of Wentworth and Mildura will be commenced at an early date.
The Government regards the general men question of water conservation as an essential part of any national programme; and is prepared to co-operate with the States in a vigorous irrigation and water-conservation policy as the most certain and direct means of providing for the establishment and growth of rural settlement.
The issues before the electors
The policy and record of the National Party are before the people; upon them rests the responsibility of deciding who is to govern the Commonwealth during the next three years. Three parties seek endorsement, but the choice of the electors lies between the National Party, which has led them through the dark days of the war and the troublous years that succeeded it, and the Official Labor Party, with its Red Objective, its Class War Doctrine, its International outlook, its domination by secret and sinister forces, and its reckless extravagance.
We stand for the Empire; for a White Australia; for stable government by the duly elected representatives of the people. We set our faces resolutely against Government by secret juntas and forces outside Parliament. We are against Class legislation—whether it be in the interests of the Bolshevist or the Reactionary. We believe that only by the encouragement of land settlement can the country be developed and the drift to the great cities checked. We are for a vigorous policy of immigration based upon land settlement. We believe that only by a broad National policy can the Commonwealth be safely governed and fully developed.
Our record speaks for itself. We have meted out even-handed justice to all men—to the citizen, to the worker, the primary producer, and the manufacturer. We stand for Industrial Peace; for the rule of law as against Direct Action; for co-operation and unity as against class war and class hatred. We invoke again that spirit of Nationalism which bore us triumphantly through the war, sustained us in the trials which have followed, and alone can bring us to the realisation of our destiny—a full, free, prosperous, and powerful partner in the greatest Empire the world has ever known.