1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. DEAKIN laid on the table the following paper : -
Copy of correspondence between the Post and Telegraph department and Messrs.. Cobb and Co., with reference to mail contracts in Queensland.
– I should like some information with reference to the proceedings of the Standing Orders Committee which was appointed about fifteen months ago. Are they in a position to present their report to the House?
– The Standing Orders Committee have done a considerable amount of work and are summoned to meet on Thursday next with a view to consider whether any further changes shall be made in the draft of their report before it is presented to the House.
Consideration resumed from 29th May (vide page 13095).
Department of the Treasury.
Division 22. - (The Treasury), £4,805
– I do not anticipate that therewill be very much cavil at the Estimates of my right honorable friend the Treasurer, who has won a reputation for bath economy and consistency. At the same time I think we might occupy a short time in some philosophical reflections. In the first place I wish to draw attention to the fact that members of this Parliament are worse off than were members of the State Legislatures in previous years in the matter of statistical information relating to the public revenue. It is of the utmost importance that we should be furnished with up-to-date information regarding the revenue, especially in relation to that derived from customs duties. The Treasurer will recollect that the basis of calculation of the Minister for Trade and Customs in connexion with the Tariff, was the sum of about £19,000,000 or £21,000,000,the total estimated imports from abroad amounting to about £32,000,000. Among others, I prophesied that, notwithstanding the introduction of the protective system, and the foreshadowing of the Government policy, which would naturally affect importations to some extent, “ the trade of Australia would not be suddenly reduced, and I ventured to predict that the importations for this statistical year would amount to nearly £40,000,000. This is a very important factor in the consideration of these questions, and honorable members ought not to be less informed than were the members of the New South Wales Parliament under theadmirable system instituted by Mr. Coghlan. Therefore, whilst I do not wish to increase the Government departments or to incur unnecessary expense, I think some arrangement might be made with Mr. Coghlan. I understand that the Government have taken some action in connexion with the continued compilation of Mr. Coghlan’s work The Seven Colonies of Australasia, but the publication of that work is necessarily delayed some time beyond the end of the period to which it relates, and we ought to be able to readily obtain salient figures relating to the Commonwealth affairs up to the latest date. There is not much scope for criticism of the Estimates of the Treasurer, because I can frankly say that we have every confidence that all my right honorable friend’s figures are honest. I wish, however, to refer to the position of the Treasurer in the Cabinet. It is very important that honorable members should be able to feel that every item of new expenditure has had the full approval of the Treasurer. In State politics it was the general policy outside of New South Wales, and lately also in that State, to allot the portfolio of the Treasurer to the Premier. Consequently, the head of the Government was able to maintain a hold upon the money chest, which it was impossible for any subordinate Minister to weaken. When I was Treasurer of the New South Wales Government, I realized the difficulty of inducing my colleagues to comply with the very wholesome rule that in all matters of finance the Treasurer should be recognised as supreme. When we have a Treasurer like ray right honorable friend in whom honorable members on both sides of the Chamber have the utmost confidence, we ought to be able to feel assured that every proposal for new expenditure has his imprimatur. Although the Public Service Commissioner will always be a check upon the salaries of officers there will still be a very wide scope for expenditure regarding which it is necessary that the Treasurer shouldbe consulted. Under our present system there is no doubt a large opening for extravagance in the transferred departments during the five years’ bookkeeping period, and at the same time the amount available under the Braddon clause for expenditure absolutely confined to the Commonwealth is so limited that it is necessary to exercise the utmost economy. My remarks may be considered irrelevant, or perhaps impertinent, but I think that honorable members generally would deal with any future Estimates with much greater confidence if they were perfectly assured that the expenditure of every department came under the strict financial eye of the Treasurer.
– I thank my honorable friend for his kindly references to me personally. There has been a considerable amount of difficulty in obtaining statistical information from the States. The officers in the furthermost States are not accustomed to the present system, and, unfortunately, nearly all the statistical registers are compiled in different forms. It will take some time to attain uniformity, but wo are gradually inducing the different branches in the States to give us the fullest information. The figures regarding imports could not be compiled, of course, until the end of the year. The information can be compiled from the various returns, but owing to the immense amount of work the Customs officers have had to perform, that process has been somewhat delayed. However, I have published for the information of honorable members, the actual receipts from every item in the Tariff, month by month, and have issued a return for the first six months. We propose to continue that practice for some time. We cannot expect the press to publish the whole of these figures because the returns are very lengthy. My great difficulty has been to obtain details of the receipts in Western Australia. We now -have them to the end of February, and when they are complete to the end of March, I shall have the returns made up for the first six months during which tHe present Tariff has been in operation. Ministers are of course anxious that honorable members should have the fullest information, so that we may obtain the value of the experience gained in the various States. It is difficult for the Treasurer, who may have had experience in his own State, to be quite familiar with the circumstances of all the other States. T. am glad to say that my relations with the State Treasurers are of the most harmonious character. I take care that they get the fullest information they desire, and I have employed their own officers as Commonwealth officers instead of, as T might, having the work done in our own department. All the details come before the State Trea”surers, who have full information quite as soon as I get it myself ; and I have heard no complaint from them. I have asked them to give all the assistance they can by way of suggestion ; and in some cases they have been good enough to comply with my request. So far as the Estimates are concerned, honorable members must recollect that they are the first prepared for the Commonwealth, and that their preparation was carried on under great difficulties. The Minister for Trade and Customs and myself had to devote much time to the Tariff, and unfortunately my secretary, who is a splendid officer, was ill for five weeks. But every detail of the Estimates was carefully considered. With the consent of all roy colleagues, their officers attend on me, and I ascertain the expenditure for the previous year, insisting on good reasons before I allow any increases. So far as the Customs department is concerned, there is very little change. AVe have managed that department this year, with all the extra work, at a less cost than was incurred during the previous year under State management. On the total amount we shall effect a saving, in small sums spread over the different branches, of between £7,000 and £8,000. We all know that the expenditure on defence has largely increased in the various States during recent years ; but a promise has been made to reduce the estimates for this department next 37ear by a considerable amount, and experience may enable us to effect further economies If we are to carry on the Post-office properly, more especially in the States which have large outlying territory, the expenditure must increase somewhat. That cannot be helped ; but I am certain the various officers do all they can to keep the expenditure down. My colleagues endeavour to reduce their estimates as much as they can before they come before me ; and, as I said before,. I insist on the fullest information before any increases are allowed. If I am not absolutely satisfied with the proposals made I submit them to the Cabinet.
– The Treasurer must keep his eye on the Department for Home Affairs.
– -The honorable member for Wentworth seems to keep his own eye pretty well on the Department for Home Affairs, which, however, must be a considerable spending department, public buildings having to be kept in proper repair. It is well known that the Treasurers in the States were compelled for years to starve the expenditure, and naturally the amount required is larger when an attempt is made to overtake arrears. There are cries outside, by those who do not know or do not take the trouble to ascertain the facts, about extravagance on the part of the Government. I can assure honorable members that I watch the expenditure very closely, more especially new expenditure. This expenditure of necessity has to pass through the Treasury, except that relating to Parliament House, which is dealt with by the President and Speaker. All the vouchers with regard to new expenditure arc dealt with in the Treasury, and we certify, so that we have complete control. I have recently taken an opportunity of going through several thousands of vouchers relating to the transferred departments, and while there are an immense number of small items which appear to be absolutely necessary, I have not found any trace of reckless extravagance. I know that the feeling of the House and of the country generally is that there should be no extravagance; and honorable members may rest content that the Government will do all they possibly can to keep the expenditure down to an amount which is reasonably necessary to carry on the various services.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 23(Audit Office)- £3,533
– I see that an Auditor-General has been appointed in the person of Mr. Israel ; and, as I have not been always able to be in my place, I should like to hear from the Treasurer what are the antecedents of that gentleman. I never heard of him before, but I suppose he was an officer in one of the States. The Auditor-General is an officer of Parliament, and not of the Treasury, and he must be placed in an absolutely independent position. I have no doubt the choice has been a wise one in every way, but, at the same time, if no official statement has been made before, the Treasurer might now give us some information in regard to the appointment.
– I made inquiries throughout the various States as to whether any gentleman who held the position of Auditor-General was willing to accept a similar office under the Commonwealth. The salary has been fixed at £1,000 a year, and made a special appropriation, in order that the officer may be entirely independent of the Treasurer, and able to act fearlessly in all matters which come before him. I had a number of applications for the position, and all the AuditorsGeneral, except the Tasmanian officer, desired to remain in their States. The AuditorGeneral of Tasmania applied for the position, and I inquired fully into his official career. I ascertained that for a considerable time Mr. Israel had filled various financial positions, and had for some years been Auditor-General of Tasmania. The honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh, knew Mr. Israel and his qualifications, and the Treasurer and the Premier of that State gave the applicant the highest recommendations as to ability and trustworthiness. Great regret was expressed by these gentlemen that they were to lose the services of Mr. Israel, but they pointed out that the Government of Tasmania could not pay as high a salary for an Auditor-General as was paid in the other States. After going fully into the matter, I offered the appointment to Mr. Israel, who accepted it. I have now had several months’ experience of the Auditor-General, and I am perfectly satisfied that a good appointment has been made - that, in Mr. Israel, we have a gentleman who will carry out the duties to the satisfaction of Parliament, and take care that the Treasurer does not overstep the rights given to him by the Supply and Appropriation Bills.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - For many years in New South Wales there was a most ridiculous and incongruous system, under which the figures, as between the Auditor-General’s department and the Treasury, were never brought into reconciliation. Each department had a system of its own ; though I fancy that, under the present Audit Act, nothing of that kind can occur.
– The Audit Act is very strictly administered.
– When a member of the New South Wales Parliament, I at one time intended to submit a resolution providing that at a certain period, say, about three months after the end of the financial year, the Auditor-General and the Under-Secretary for Finance and Trade should certify to the correctness of the balance brought forward by the Treasurer in Ways and Means, and as to the amount of expenditure that had really been completed but not brought into the accounts.
– There is a special provision in the Audit Act compelling that information to be placed before Parliament.
SirWILLIAM McMILLAN. -It is such a long time since the session commenced that one almost forgets the Bills that have been before us, though I remember we were so satisfied with the Treasurer’s Audit Bill that it received very little criticism. There is one point which the Treasurer might explain. I see that the Auditor-General is paid from the 1st to the 31st December, 1901.
– The Audit Act did not come into force in 1901, after which year there must be a special appropriation for the salary.
– I gather from the items which appearhere that the Auditor-General intends to use the services of certain officers in the different States.
– Provision is made in this division for remuneration to Deputy Auditors and staffs in the various States. For the twelve months before the Act came into operation the auditing was done in the various States, following the practice which prevailed before Federation. It is thought advisable that some slight recompense should be given to the States’ Treasury and audit officers for the work they did in this connexion, and therefore, it is proposed to divide a sum of money amongst them in each State. Since the first of January we have had control of the whole business, and all matters now come to the head office to be finally dealt with. If we were to send officers from the head office to the various States for the purpose of auditing accoun ts and reporting, a large, staff would be necessary, while, at the same time, the State officers would remain with a considerable portion of their work taken away from them. Under these circumstances, arrangements have been made by which the AuditorGeneral of each State will act as the deputy of the Commonwealth Auditor-General, and have the work done by officers who have been doing it for years past. The Commonwealth Auditor-General will visit some of the larger centres in the different States every year, and his chief clerk, who is also a first-class officer, will go to other places, and by that means a general check on the audit operations will be obtained. I have no doubt that the work will be done satisfactorily, and therefore I have arranged that it shall be paid for by the Commonwealth, foi’ which purpose I shall, later on, have to ask for a further sum of money. But that will be a payment made to the States, and not extra expenditure in any shape or form. We simply pay the money to the States for the time during which their officers are engaged in performing duties for us. By this means we shall keep the expenditure in connexion with the Auditoffice down to a very low amount. Some slight increases may have to be made as time goes on ; but I see no reason why any large expenditure should be necessary in managing this department.
– We all compliment the Treasurer on the modest Estimates he has submitted for the department under his control. But the particular service under discussion is one in connexion with which I have always held the opinion that we should not be too strong in our desire for economy, the main point being to secure an efficient oversight of all accounts. When the Audit Bill was before us somemonths ago, I remember taking up the position that it would be desirable for theAuditorGeneral of the Commonwealth to have an independent staff, and that is my opinion still. The services which theAuditorGeneral will have to supervise areof great magnitude, and as time goes on it will, I think, be found necessary to have an independent staff, which, however, need not be very large. The Deputy AuditorGeneral in each State should be a Commonwealth officer under the control of the Commonwealth Auditor-General.
– The Deputy AuditorsGeneral are, of course, in that position now.
– -But only in a degree.
– Unless the Deputy Auditors-General are entirely separate from the States service, and are paid large salaries, the idea of the honorable member cannot be carried out.
– I am afraid that that is an expense which we shall not be able to avoid as time goes on, if we wish to have effective control. I am not satisfied that in all the States there are efficient audit departments. I do not want to throw any kind of contempt on any State department, but the Treasurer must admit that the unfortunate disclosures in connexion with the Melbourne University show that the most loose system of audit was performed by the State Auditor-General. Those disclosures have to a considerable extent, shaken the confidence of the public in the State audit system.
– Does not the same thing occur in connexion with companies ? If a man wishes to rob any one, he will do so right under his nose.
– I am not talking of- robbery, b.ut the disclosures in that unfortunate case show that the system has not been effective. We have an enormous revenue to control, and we should see thatwe have an effective supervision over the whole of our finances. I do not know that we shall secure that effective control by accepting any kind of service that the States choose to offer us. I know that the time is not opportune for the creation of an expensive department, and I do not suggest that anything of the kind should be done ; but the Auditor-General should be I encouraged by the Treasurer to secure the very best officers. I dare say that, so far as the Postal department is concerned, the internal inspection which takes place is almost a sufficient check.
– That system does not exist in all the States, but it is gradually being extended.
– I hope that it will be. I have more confidence in the internal inspection that goes on in the postoffices than in any merely mechanical outside system.
– The officers who are doing that work in the Postal department will probably be transferred to the Audit department.
– I am satisfied that the Treasurer is alive to the importance of these matters. All that I wish to insist upon is that he and the Auditor-General should have supreme control over the officers who are to perform these duties. There is an unfortunate tendency to look upon every new office created at the present time as merely an increase of public expenditure. I shall resist at all times airy attempt to create departments that are unnecessary : but there are some which are necessary to check expenditure in the public service. This is one of those departments which, above all others, should be maintained in full effectiveness. I hope that the ‘ Treasurer will encourage the AuditorGeneral to see that the best officers are obtained from the States, and that no mere perfunctory inspection takes place.
– Every one will agree that the Auditor-General’s department is one of the most important branches of the Commonwealth service. I presume that the Auditor-General is in all cases responsible only to Parliament, but his responsibility is generally regarded as greater than that of any other Commonwealth officer. His officers should be men of integrity, and he should have some one available to take his place in case of emergency.
– The chief clerk would be fully competent to do that.
– Instances have occurred in the States in which it has been considered necessary to go outside the Auditor-General’s department, in order to secure some one to take his place ; but the men appointed have known no more about the work than have other officers in the department. The people of Western Australia have every confidence in the AuditorGeneral’s department there, and no slur whatever has been cast upon the AuditorGeneral or his officers. In other States, however, a difficulty has been experienced. That difficulty may be overcome, if we make our officers responsible for their own acts. The control of the whole of the department should be in the hands of Parliament, and if anything goes wrong, the head of the department should be made responsible for the acts of his officers. I think that the Treasurer must clearly see that this is one of the most important departments, and that it requires officers of the greatest integrity.
– I should like to ask the Treasurer whether it is proposed that officers inspecting telegraph offices shall in future be connected with the Audit, rather than with the Telegraph department. I understand that something of the kind is intended. I would point out that to give effect to such a proposal would distinctly mean an unnecessary duplication of officers. In South Australia, the telegraph offices are inspected by men who are able, not only to check the accounts, but to examine the instruments and to correct anysmall fault in them. If the work of inspection were carried out by officers from the Audit department, they would be able only to check the accounts.
– Will the honorable member allow me 1 In the postoffices in the capital cities officers are continuously engaged in carrying on an internal departmental audit. They are officers of the Postal department, and the only proposal made in a report which the AuditorGeneral has supplied to me with regard to the future working of the service is that these officers should be transferred to his department so that he would have absolute control over them. That, of course, would apply only to officers who devote the whole of their time to the work of auditing. It would be ridiculous to think of sending men to offices other than those in the main centres, for the sole purpose of auditing the accounts. That is why I have made arrangements that men who are doing certain work should -continue to discharge their present duties. If they are performing work for the States, as well as for the Commonwealth, we are to pay the
States a certain amount in respect of their services. That amount will be calculated upon the amount actually expended in this way for the first six. months of the year, a record having been kept. The honorable member may rest assured that there will be no unnecessary duplication of officers.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - There is a reason, I take it, why the audit must be an independent one. There may be circumstances under which the checking of the accounts under some system, such as that in the Post-office, may be continued, save that the Minister proposes to transfer the officers to the AuditorGeneral’s department. But the whole advantage of an audit, whether it be that conducted for the Commonwealth by the Auditor-General or an audit for a private firm, rests upon its absolute independence.
– That is why I think it better to transfer these officers to the Audit department.
– The Government will kill two birds with the one stone, but the responsibility for the checking of the accounts will attach to the Audit department.
– Yes; I think that is the proper course.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division No. 24. -(Government Printer) £29,871.
– I think the committee are entitled to some explanation in regard to the proposed allowance of £150 to Mr. Brain, the Government Printer of Victoria. What salary does that officer receive from the Victorian Government, and why should he be specially selected to receive a grant? A great deal of dissatisfaction exists amongst the workers in the State Government Printing-office, and I think we should have some information in relation to this proposal.
– If I recollect rightly, Mr. Brain receives a salary of £800 a year from the Victorian Government ; he receives no salary whatever from the Commonwealth.
– We make him an allowance for work performed for the Commonwealth.
– The whole of his salary is paid by the Victorian Government. He supervises all our work, and, in view of the immense strain which has been placed upon the resources of the State Government Printing-office, I think that, notwithstanding that occasionally there has been some slight delay, our work has been carried out in a way which cannot give rise to any serious complaint.I propose, with the approval of the committee, to give Mr. Brain an allowance of £150 for the services which he. has rendered to us. Our printing has made great demands upon his time, and has required him to work at night. I know that he does everything that he can to carry out our work as cheaply as possible, having regard to the wages which have to be paid. The same remark applies to his staff. We have a record kept of the time devoted by them to our work, and we propose to pay a sum of £3,600 to the Victorian Government for the time which they devote, during ordinary office hours, to matters connected with the Commonwealth printing. The men are also required very often to work overtime on our behalf, and we cannot expect them to do so unless they receive some remuneration. We propose therefore to distribute amongst them a sum estimated not to exceed £500. I think that it is only reasonable that the allowance of £150 should be made to Mr. Brain in view of the immense amount of work which he has to carry out for us, and the responsibility attaching to it. We employ our own compositors, who are paid for what they do.
– Will this be an annual charge?
– Until we have a Government Printer for the Commonwealth. If we had a Government Printing-office of our own it would be much more expensive : and, until we remove to the federal capital, there will be no necessity to provide one. Whatever machinery or material we require we supply, and a separate record is kept by Mr. Brain. Any work done for us by the Government Printer of Victoria is paid for according to the actual cost price, and we are getting our printing done as cheaply as possible. Although it has been necessary to obtain some stationery from outside, almost the whole of the printing required for the Commonwealth has been carried out at the Victorian Government Printing-office.
– Can the Treasurer inform the committee what proportion of the item of £3,600 for “proportion of salaries of the State classified staff at the Government Printing - office, Melbourne,” will be devoted to the payment of Mr. Brain’s salary ?
– That amount is set apart only for the officers under Mr. Brain. We do not pay the State anything for the Government Printer’s services.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I do not want to cavil at the proposal to give a gratuity to the Government Printer of Victoria, but I think that there is something in the point taken by the honorable member for Yarra. We are told that a great strain has been put upon the Victorian printing-office, and yet all we do to recompense that office is to give a gratuity of £1 50 to the head of it.
– We pay overtime to all the State officers who are employed upon the Commonwealth service after ordinary office hours ; while we pay the State for the time that they are so employed during ordinary office hours.
– Does that apply to all the employés in the Government printingoffice other than the Government Printer himself ?
– Yes, but in the clerical branch there are not many who have been so employed.
– To me it seems strange that the Government Printer, who already receives the large salary of £800 per annum, should be given a gratuity of £150.
Mr.F. E. McLean.- £500 is to be given in gratuities to other officers as well.
– But I do not think that the book-binders, machinists, and others will get any of the money.
– We pay the Victorian Government for the actual work done.
– Am I to understand that the Government Printer does not use any of the State time in performing services for the Commonwealth ?
– Of course, he does.
– Then we should pay the State, and not the. officer himself, for that work.
– Surely, as practical men, we can understand, without an elaborate explanation, that the Government Printer has not been able to perform all this extra work without spending many hours of overtime in his office. Besides, he is not the only officer to whom a gratuity is to be paid, because the sum of £500 is to be distributed amongst other officers. In regard to the men themselves, they are paid for the actual overtime worked, and the Commonwealth probably has found employment for a large number of extra hands.
– Yes ; we employ about 60 compositors.
– This straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel is characteristic of all Houses of Parliament. No doubt honorable members wish to do what is just to every man in our service, but a great deal of the enormous strain which has been put upon the printing office has no doubt been due to the long speeches of honorable gentlemen opposite, and, remembering the torrents of oratory which came from the representative of Geelong early in the session, I think he might be a little more sympathetic towards the Government Printer.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- I drew attention to this matter because on the original Estimates which were introduced in last October no provision was , made for a gratuity to the Government Printer. Personally, I think it would be better if we had a Government printing-office of our own, which we could manage better than this office is managed.
– I am beyond measure surprised to hear the honorable member for Yarra speak about establishing a Commonwealth printing-office. Last night he was talking economy, but today he is talking extravagance of the very worst kind. I do not know the Government printer, but I think that no one but the Treasurer could have got the work which that officer has performed done for a gratuity of £150. I hope that we shall not establish a Government printing-office until we can do so on proper lines.
– I do not object to this gratuity, if the work done is worth the money. I wish to point out, however, that £30,000 is a very large sum to have to pay to the State of Victoria for our printing.
– It is not paid to the State of Victoria ; it is paid in wages and for material. All we pay to the State of Victoria is £3,600.
– Does the Treasurer know what the cost of printing will be during an ordinary session? If we have to pay £30,000 a year to get our printing done by the Victorian office, the sooner we get a department of our own the better.
– The cost would be nothing like £30,000 in an ordinary year, when Parliament would probably sit only six months, whereas we have already been sitting for more than twelve months.
– The expenditure uponprinting is bound to increase in any case. We have inaugurated a Public Works department for which a great deal of lithographic and photographic work will require to be done, and this will tend to increase the cost of printing.
– That work will be done by the State, and we shall pay the actual cost of it. The States have had to do the work in the past.
– The point is that we shall have to foot the bill, and the printing department is certain to grow to very large proportions. It is time that the Treasurer seriously considered whether he should not take steps to inaugurate a Commonwealth printing department.
– If honorable members fix upon the federal capital site we shall commence to build a printing-office at once.
– It will take two or three years to make the preliminary arrangements, because it will be necessary to secure a good man to report as to the best class of plant to employ, and to generally organize the department. We find that the printing of Hansard and the Parliamentary papers alone costs £30,000 a year, and we shall probably find that this item will be increased by 50 per cent. in two or three years. I do not believe in paying the States to do work of this kind, and I can see no economy in the present arrangement, because, apparently, everything is charged for at the highest possible rates. The printingofficein New South Wales costs about£60, 000 per annum, and must do at least three or four times as much work as that for which we are paying in connexion with the printing ofHansard and the Parliamentary papers. I am not saying that the New South Wales printing-office would do the work more cheaply than it is now done by the Victorian department, nor do I say that the Victorian Government are overcharging us. What I maintain is that we should study economy by establishing a printing-office, over which we should have absolute control.
I find that there is one item here for the cost of a machine, and I should like to know if that belongs to the Federal Government.
– Yes ; it is ours absolutely, and it saves a lot of money. It is operated by our own officers.
– I thought we had no men of our own.
– Of course we have. We have our. own printers and bookbinders.
– Do they work for the State also?
– No ; but they are under the control of the Government Printer.
– The sooner we inaugurate a printing department of our own the better. The cost of the printing will increase as the functions of the Federal Parliament multiply, and we should have some check upon our printing establishment so as to exercise control over its expansion.
– I think that as far as the arrangement of the work of this department is concerned, the Treasurer has done the very best he could. In that respect, his department affords a marked contrast to some of the others with which we have been dealing. I would, however, ask him whether it is not possible to reduce the volume of work.
– That does not rest with me.
– I find that the raw material for the printing of Hansard costs £6,000 per annum, and it is the volume of the work in connexion with that publication that causes this heavy outlay. I think the Hansard reports could be greatly curtailed without loss to anybody. We have an excellent staff of official reporters, and I feel sure that they could reduce the reports to half their present length, and still give the pith of everything that is said in the House. The proofs of their speeches are submitted to honorable members who can, in the event of anything to which they attach importance being omitted, easily refer to the chief reporter, who will be able to supply the deficiency from the full notes taken by the reporters. In the Victorian Hansard, of which we had no reason to complain, the space devoted to members’ speeches was nothing like that which is occupied by the reports furnished by our own reporters.
– The speeches were nothing like so long ; and the sittings of the
Commonwealth Parliament are also longer. Both Houses of our Parliament also sit four days a week.
– But the long speeches are mostly repetitions, and it is not neces- sary. that they should be fully reported in Mansard. Many thousands of pounds might be saved by curtailing Hansard, and without sacrificing any material points which it would be to the advantage of the community to have placed on record. I do not think honorable members would complain if Hansard were reduced to one-half of its present dimensions’.
– Would the honorable member have the debates reported as they are in the Ar/e 1
– No. Of course the daily papers do not profess to report the debates in Parliament.
– Do not profess to do it?
– There is no doubt that, at one time, the Melbourne morning newspapers published very excellent compressed reports of the proceedings in Parliament, and if Hansard contained records similar to those to which I refer, they would be sufficient for all purposes.
– The newspapers have evidently been kind to the honorable member.
– lam not in the habit of reading the reports of my own speeches. I am sure that the Treasurer will agree that the reports which were given in the daily newspapers some years ago, were sufficient for the public information, and satisfactory to honorable members. Therefore we might effect a great saving, without loss to any one-
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I do not think that honorable members have very much to complain of in connexion with the printing arrangements. The amount paid to the Victorian Government, for the services rendered by them, is not very large. We pay nothing for rent, and we should not gain very much if we had a printing office of our own. Is nothing paid to the Victorian Government for the use of their plant and machinery 1
– We use our own plant and machinery for parliamentary printing. Other printing is done by the States, and paid for at the actual cost in all the States.
– I see that we give the Government Printer only £150, and yet we make use of him to the fullest extent that we require. We also draw upon the services of the State classified staff as far as may be necessary, .and pay for that £3,600 a year. There is an additional amount for gratuities to officers engaged for excessively long hours, amounting to £500. I think we should make a very bad bargain if we attempted to do in our own printing office the same amount of work as is now performed for £30,000 per annum. The question as to whether there is too much printing done is one for the Printing Committee to consider.
– I cannot interfere with the printing orders of the House. The House orders its own printing.
– Of course, Hanisard is conducted in accordance with the desire of Parliament, so far as it has been expressed, and no fault can be found with the arrangements made by the Treasurer.
– The cost of the publication of Hansard seems to me a very large item, though I understand the reporting of the debates iri committee is more condensed than is usually the case in the Parliament of Victoria. The type used is of a large and extravagant character, which I think is unnecessary, seeing that the speeches are not studied for any serious or educational reasons, but are mostly useful for reference.
– Let the honorable member go amongst the masses, and he will learn the contrary.
– At any rate Hansard is not read to such a degree as would have a prejudicial effect on the eyesight if the type were much smaller. The printing ought to be in type such as that used for the South Australian Hansard. By this means, I believe there would be a saving of at least one-third in the cost of the raw material. I have not the slightest objection to the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland that the reporting should be still more condensed and, so far as my personal inclination goes, I should feel very much happier if many of the speeches were also curtailed one-half in their delivery.
– We were nearly blinded in South Australia by the small type used for Hansard.
– Small type may be quite legible. In newspapers we do not see the larger type used except, perhaps, for leading articles and the more important cable news. There is a great deal of printing in connexion with notices of motion and so forth that might be done away with. I seem to be always wading amongst printed matter relating to business which has been before us for months past. Surely notices of motion, for instance, might appear for a reasonable time and then be removed from the business-paper.
– The arrangement made by the Government in regard to the publication of Hansard seems to be the best possible, and the Government, instead of being adversely criticised, should receive the thanks of honorable members. The Treasurer is to be commended for the advantageous terms he has been able to make, not only with the Victorian Government, but with the Victorian Government Printer, under which there appears to be no charge made for the use of building or plant. The longer we continue to have our Hansard published under the present conditions, the better it will be for the Commonwealth. The only fault I can find is that Hansard seems to growing to an extraordinary size, and if we are not prepared to do away with the publication altogether, I am certainly in favour of condensed speeches, which would result in shortening the session to a very great extent.
– I do not at all agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland. Persons are finding fault with the length of the reports in Hansard, whereas it is really the length of the session to which exception should be taken. Had this been an ordinary session, and the reports of their present length, not one word of complaint would have been heard.
– Whose fault is it that the session has been long?
– I am not saying who is to blame, but I find fault with the suggestion that the Hansard reports are too lengthy.
– When the honorable and learned member has been in Parliament for twenty years he will not be so enamoured of reading his own speeches.
– I must confess that before I came to this House I derived much pleasure from reading the speeches of the honorable member for Gippsland. Although we in this House are apt to depreciate each other’s speeches, a great many people outside of Parliament find considerable pleasure and profit in ascertaining what we are here doing. Hansard circulates largely in Queensland, where a great many people have to depend solely on this means of ascertaining what is beingdone in Parliament. Further, we must not forget that country newspapers throughout the Commonwealth look to Hansard for true records of Parliament. In the cities the newspapers send their own reporters to the House, who communicate so much of our proceedings as is necessary for their own purposes. I am not finding fault with the newspapers on that ground, because each journal is entitled to conduct its business in its own way.
– The newspapers get certain facilities for doing their work here, and they ought to give fair reports.
– I do not want to raise the question of the fairness of newspaper reports; but it would be a great misfortune if we were to so curtail Hansard that it did not fairly represent the proceedings. Fault may be found with the repetition of ideas, but different men have different ways of expressing the same idea. It would be unfair to ask the chief reporter to practically edit Hansard, and to place him in the unfortunate position of having to determine how much of any speech was relevant, and when an argument had been sufficiently stated.
Mr.Kingston. - His salary being submitted annually on the Estimates.
– It would be a very invidious and unfair position in which to place the head of the Hansard staff. As it is, the reports are short enough ; the condensation is admirablydone ; and I raise my voice in protest against the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - It is our custom very often to make light of our own Parliamentary proceedingsto talk about the bulk ofHansard, and the long-winded character of the speeches. But all this length of debate and reporting is more or Jess incidental to a deliberative assembly. We must recollect that this is not a Parliament comprising merely two parties or three parties, but is a Parliament containing the representatives of six States. Very often it is absolutely necessary for an honorable member, who in his own State would be under party discipline, to assert his independence, and this gives rise to a larger amount of discussion than probably we should find in any State Parliament. This is a matter of very great importance. We are starting a Commonwealth Parliament - a new system of government for all Australia. It is very necessary that the people from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, especially those who are now in early manhood, and on whom the destinies of Australia will depend in the near future, should be able to get an intelligent idea of the proceedings of Parliament.
– Does the honorable member not think that people would be more likely to read Hansard if there were more compression in the reporting?
– I think so, and I shall deal with that point in a moment. After all, we here do not speak to the limited number of people in this Chamber. There are cases, no doubt, in which an impassioned speech may possibly affect a vote; but, as a rule, the minds of honorable members are made up on a subject before a discussion begins. Although I should be very sorry to say that this is not a deliberative assembly in the best sense of the word - the debating council of the nation - I hold that our great audience is the public of Australia. Besides, we have now the audience of the world in matters of a semi-nationalcharacter. Ishould like to suggest to the Treasurer whether some mode could not be adopted by which the proceedings of Parliament might be made better known throughout the different States. I confess I do not know what the system should be. I do not reflect on the newspapers particularly, seeing that they are commercial undertakings and have to give the people what news they want. Very often a three-column report of a football match, or expensive cablegrams about a cricket match in England, is much more acceptable to the general run of readers than is a report of Parliamentary proceedings.
– Does not the honorable member think the newspapers very often give the people what they do not want?
– Thatmay be, but I am so essentially a business man that I take it for granted that the conductor of any undertaking knows his own business best. The newspapers are great public institutions, and I hope their conductors never forget that fact.
– Newspapers are also political institutions.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN. Newspapers are essentially commercial undertakings.
– They have a political side.
– They have a political side. J ust as I should be sorry to bring down a great banking institution to the level of a shop, so I should be sorry to bring down the great institution of the public press to the level of an ordinary commercial undertaking. But newspapers are essentially a commercial undertaking with a political side, and, like many other commercial undertakings, they undoubtedly owe a great duty to the public. The Federal Government might consider whether some mode could not be adopted, by which, either through the newspapers or by a cheap edition of Hansard, a digest of the proceedings of Parliament could be sent into all parts of Australia. When we are in Parliament we know everything that goes on, but it is otherwise when we are away. The Sydney press does its duty well, and the parliamentary reports, although these have to be telegraphed, are on the whole excellent ; but when I am away from this Chamber attending to my business in New South Wales, it is almost impossible for me to grasp, from the newspaper reports, what is really going on here. Hundreds of thousands of people, I presume, like to take an intelligent view of politics, and they have no opportunity of knowing the proceedings of Parliament unless they obtain a copy of Hansard, which, I suppose, is rather difficult. Hansard might be made very cheap, and placed in the hands of booksellers in the different capitals and towns throughout Australia.
– Hansard is now sold at a nominal price.
– The subscription is only 4s. for the whole session.
– It isthe size of Hansard which frightens people. Each weekly issue is almost a volume in itself, and, having regard to the number of pages, is nearly as large as two or three numbers of the Nineteenth Century. I do not see how it is possible to get over the difficulty, but it is a matter which should be considered by the Government. We should have some means of disseminating a digest of the proceedings of Parliament, at any rate at the end of the session.
– If we did that, we should continually have complaints from honorable members that their speeches had been cut down.
– Of course the Votes and Proceedings are simply a bald record, and amount to nothing. There will be great national debates in this Parliament, debates affecting Australia as an integral part of the Empire, and although the newspapers do the best they can, and discriminate as well as possible, we think sometimes that they might give more space to reports of parliamentary proceedings of a special character. I notice that the two daily newspapers in Melbourne have adopted the policy of giving a résumé of the day’s proceedings in a very fair and open way ; and I believe that they are more likely to be read than would long reports. I understand that Hansard is sent to all Schools of Arts ; at all events I know that it is sent to those in New South Wales.
– It is very widely circulated.
– I would commend to the Government the desirability of considering when we get into recess some means for the more extensive circulation of parliamentary news throughout the Commonwealth.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).It seems to me that the Government have made very excellent arrangements with the Victorian Government Printer, although I think that we shall find it to our advantage tohave our own printing department in the federal capital. I must commend the Government for the excellent way in which Hansard is produced. I believe that it is published as inexpensively as possible under the circumstances ; but a great many papers are circulated amongst honorable members which, in my opinion, might be dispensed with. The Votes and Proceedings may be of interest to many honorable members, but I must admit that I no not peruse them very often. The same remark may apply to the honorable member for Grampians, who has also expressed the opinion that far more printed matterthan is necessary is distributed amongst honorable members. The printing of the business-paper, perhaps, does not involve any large expenditure, for the greater part of it is in type from day to day ; but the Votes and Proceedings, and a number of other papers, might be curtailed.
The honorable member for Gippsland has suggested that Hansard should be printed in smaller type, and that the reports of speeches should be condensed. That, in my opinion, is most undesirable. The Com- monwealth Parliamentary Debates are read largely throughout New South Wales. I have taken care to see that Hansard is circulated amongst the Schools of Arts in my own electorate, and that it is supplied also to the Schools of Arts in Sydney. I dare say that other honorablemembers have taken similar action in regard to other parts of the Commonwealth. As a young man I used to follow the proceedings of the SouthAustralian Legislature very carefully, and I know that the type in which the State Hansard is printed is so small that it is a great strain on the eyes. To some extent I believe that it injured my sight, and I should not advocate the printing of the Commonwealth Hansard in smaller type than that at present used. I hope that the Government will endeavour to keep down the expenses of Hansard by shortening the length of the sessions. If they would only agree to the adjournment of the House until the Tariff has been dealt with by the Senate, the result would be a considerable curtailment of the expense of Hansard.
– I think we must all concede the point that Hansard is a necessary record, not only in the interests and for the information of the people of the Commonwealth, but for our own information in subsequent sessions and subsequent Parliaments. I have no doubt, in my own mind, that in the future, at all events, greater economy can be exercised even in regard to Hansard, and still more in relation to printing generally, than is exercised at the present time. I should like to give a few figures which I think will justify to a very considerable extent the volume of Hansard for the session. Hansard reports of proceedings in committee have been, and are being, reduced by onethird of the length of the reports of proceedings in theHouse, and shortened, I think, with due regard to efficiency and effectiveness. They are more condensed than are the New South Wales or Victorian Hansard reports of committee proceedings.
– Hear, hear.
– It is to be remembered in this conjunction that the sittings of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament aremore frequent andof longer duration, and that they have extended over a much longer period, than the sittings of any of the Parliaments of the States. I shall make a comparison between the length of ourHansard and that of the Canadian Hansard. We have now sat thirteen months in one session, and the Hansard reports of our proceedings cover 13,000 pages. The Canadian Parliament, with a five and a half months’ session, produced an equivalent to 9,000 pages of the Commonwealth Hansard. The comparison is greatly in favour of our own Hansard. I think there are one or two matters in regard to the printing of Hansard which might be considered. I have no doubt that the volume of Hansard is swollen to some extent by the action of honorable members who add to the reports of their speeches things which they really did not say.
Mr.Kennedy. - Is that possible ?
SirEDWARD BRADDON.- I believe it is something more than possible - that it has actually taken place.
– No additions should be made unless they appear in the shorthand writers’ notes.
-I quite agree with thehonorable member. It is utterly wrong that any honorable member should alter in one iota the report of his speech as delivered. If he omitted anything which he intended to say, that is his own fault. He should avail himself of another opportunity. He certainly should not insert in Hansard, which professes to be a true record of what is said, anything save that which has absolutely fallen from his lips in the House. I do not know whether anything in the way of the suggestion made by the honorable member for Gippsland in regard to some form of condensation, to be arranged with the printing committee, could be contrived, but that is a point well worthy of the consideration of Ministers.
– It rests with the printing committee. I cannot control them; I have to print what they order. I should be very glad if they could cut clown the expenditure.
– If the House supported Ministers by affirming the desirability of these reports being condensed, the printing committee would be guided by their instructions. It is not only in regard to Hansard that economy is possible. The machinery in the Victorian
Government Printing-office is not uptodate. If the bulk of our printing were done by linotype, as it could be-
– It will be done by linotype within the next few months.
– If the printing were done by linotype, there would be a great saving of expense.
– They are doing away with the gas engines and putting electric power into the Government printingoffice, and that will enable some of these fast printing machines to be substituted for the old machinery. The Government Printer went across to Western Australia to see a machine working there.
– He might have seen quite up-to-date machinery by going to Tasmania, where we have made a saving of something like 20 per cent. Notwithstanding the suggestion of the acting leader of the Opposition, I think that we shall be well advised to have our printing done* by the Victorian printingoffice until we can have one of our own at the Federal capital.
– The Printing Committee has given this matter very serious consideration. Together with members of the Senate Committee, we have had several joint meetings, and I wish to impress upon the Treasurer the fact that if he will hurry the preparation of the return asked for by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, he will greatly facilitate our work in the recommendation of economies. We have considered the duplication of papers which is said to take place ; and, while we find that a saving can be made, it is not a very large one, because when once matter is in type a few copies more or less do not cost very much. We hope, however, to effect other savings when we receive the return to which I have referred. I may also inform honorable members that the Hansard reports are now being considerably condensed, under the instructions of the President and of Mr. Speaker. I believe that the space which is devoted to reports of proceedings in committee would average four pages for an hour’s speaking. The type used is exactly the same as that used for the Victorian Hansard, and the Government Printer when examined upon the subject told us that the saving which might be effected by using a smaller type would not in itself be sufficient to justify an alteration. It must not be forgotten that this Parliament is doing most important work, and, in view of the Constitutional interests involved, it would be a huge mistake to allow further condensation. It is not enough to have the record that a member voted for or against a certain proposal, because, later on, a great deal will depend upon the Hansard reports, and the courts will no doubt turn to Hansard to ascertain the intention of Parliament in regard to various Constitutional points. I am very pleased that there is a feeling that there should be no further condensation. Then, too, we have met this session upon 175 days, and have done work which might very well have occupied us for three sessions. This session has been the longest known in Australia, but the probability is that our average sessions will not be longer than four or five months.
– In South Australia, Parliament used to sit for nearly six months in each year.
– Yes ; but there, for the first half of the session, we nearly always adjourned about half-past six, whereas here we sit until eleven, or later ; and there we sat only three days a week, until the rush of business at the end of the session, when we sat four days, and had night sittings. If our session had lasted only six months, we should not have had these complaints about the expense of printing. I can assure honorable members that a great many misleading statements have been published in the newspapers upon this subject. I was staggered some months ago to read a paragraph in one of them, headed “Huge Federal Printing Bill.” Although the statements therein made were true, they contained only half the truth, because it was not explained that about two-thirds of the amount set down as the cost of Federal printing was due to the cost of printing for the transferred departments, which would have to be incurred even if the States had not federated. For the work clone, and taking into comparison the length of the session, our expenditure has not been greater than that of any of the State Parliaments. Leaving the Tariff out of consideration altogether, our work in connexion with machinery legislation has been greater than that which any other Parliament has done in the time.
– Despite the remarks of the honorable- member for South
Australia, Mr. Poynton, I think that a great deal more might be done by the Printing Committee in reducing expense. No later than this morning a printed document, containing a copy of a telegram from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Governor-General, and the GovernorGeneral’s reply, was circulated to honorable members, although the whole text of both telegrams had already been published in the morning newspapers.
– That document was printed by order of the House.
– I think that if the Printing Committee is to control this expenditure it should have the sole control. At the present time the control is divided, and the House authorizes the printing of some documents, whilst the committee authorizes the printing of others. We need only turn to the files in order to see an enormous amount of printed matter which is useless. I do not see the value of the “ “Votes and Proceedings “ in their present form. If they contained even the names of honorable members who favoured particular proposals they would be of more use, and they should certainly include the answers to questions, as does a similar publication in connexion with the Senate. As far as Hansard is concerned, I think that a great many of the complaints are absolutely baseless. This House has certainly the best staff of reporters in Australia, and there have been absolutely no complaints about the way in which the work has been done. The reports are already condensed to some extent, and condensed well. The honorable member for Gippsland, who is always well treated by both the morning newspapers in Melbourne, invariably securing very full reports, is indifferent whether or not there is an official record of his remarks. But honorable members from the other States to which the reports of our proceedings have to be telegraphed are not in the same fortunate position. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that the Government should pursue a fairly liberal policy in regard to the distribution of Hansard. I have tried to impress this upon the Government from the beginning, but they have not responded as I should have liked. The honorable member for Gippsland has a very rigid idea regarding Hansard reports, holding that they should be an exact transcript of the reporters’ notes, but exempt from correction. If the honorable member had had any practical experience in reporting, he would know that many observations may be uttered which the reporter fails to catch, or which he catches imperfectly. If only what ,is recorded in the reporter’s notebook is to find a place in Hansard, a great deal of time must be taken up in personal explanations. I am not now attacking the members of the Hansard staff, because I know that, from the number of interjections, it is almost impossible in some cases to accurately reproduce what is said.
– The reporters would not miss any material point.
– But the honorable member can surely conceive of a misrepresentation taking place under some circumstances. If an honorable member were misreported lie would not care to have the misstatement recorded in Hansard. It is therefore desirable that we should have an opportunity of seeing the proofs of our speeches. The honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, has stated that the use of the linotype would materially lessen the cost of composition. I would point out, however, that if honorable members are to be allowed to sub-edit Hansa/rd and to make additions and corrections as at present, the use of the linotype will not result in any economy, because if a correction has to be made in any particular line, the whole line lias to be re-set.
– I think the Government Printer favours the monoline
– A select committee who have had practical experience in journalistic and typographical work should be appointed to take the testimony of the chief of the Hansard staff, and one or two other experts, who are in a position to make practical suggestions. If these were considered by practical men, Parliament would, no doubt, be guided to a wiser decision than that to which, without such aid, it is likely to come.
– It is desirable that honorable members should have some idea as to the cost of the whole of the printing work required by the Commonwealth. The vote now under consideration deals only with parliamentary printing, although I understand that the Victorian Government Printer also does the printing work necessary in connexion with the transferred departments in his own State. .
– I am obtaining information as to the cost of printing in all the States up to the 31st March, and I shall lay it before honorable members as early as possible.
– It would be useful to know how much our printing is costing, in order that we may understand the demand that would be made upon a Government Printing-office if it were established at the federal capital. I disagree with those who are over anxious to cut down the bulk of Hansard. That publication is bulky, because the sittings of Parliament have been unduly prolonged, and under ordinary conditions our Hansard would assume no more formidable proportions than similar State publications. I am not one of those who find fault with the newspapers for condensing the reports of Parliamentary proceedings. Sometimes a little partisanship may be displayed, but on the whole the newspapers cannot be expected to devote any more space than they do to Parliamentary proceedings. It is,therefore, necessary that there should be an official report of tho debates in Parliament, and any attempt to curtail .this report by unreasonable condensation would not be in the interests of Parliament itself. The present system of condensing the debates in committee is a very satisfactory one. On the whole the condensing of the speeches, to my mind, rather improves them, and as long as it is not carried to a greater extent than at present, I should urge no objection. To condense the reports unduly, however, would destroy the usefulness of Hansard. Perhaps there is no drier publication issued than Hansard, except it be the Commonwealth Gazette. The printing of a very large number of Commonwealth Gazettes is quite unnecessary, but so far as Hansa/rd is concerned I think a reasonable number of copies should be circulated. This need not be carried too far, because so long as our Schools of Arts and similar institutions are furnished with copies, and a reasonable number are stored for reference, at is not necessary to circulate the publication broadcast. We cannot approach the question of establishing a Commonwealth printingoffice until the Commonwealth Government is established in its own home. For the present the arrangement made by the Government appears to be a reasonable one, and I do not think any charge of extravagance can be urged against the printing bill.
All that can he done is that which none of us are doing, namely, to curtail our own speeches if we wish to curtail the size of Hansard. The printing bill so far is reasonable, considering the amount of the work which has had to be done ; and the arrangements of the Treasurer are in the interests of economy. We should like, however, to know exactly what the Commonwealth is spending on printing in connexion with the transferred departments.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I have always taken great interest in this question, having at one time, as a Minister of the Crown, had a Government Printing department under my control. In my opinion the question of machinery is the only one that might lead us to decide that there should be some temporary arrangement made. A new machine, I always found, paid for itself in about twelve months. I do not know the condition of the printing-office in Melbourne, but the falsest economy in an establishment of the kind is to continue to use old machines. Day by day there are inventions which facilitate operations as regards both economy and efficiency. I hope we shall not lose sight of that fact, seeing that in the future we shall have to establish a model printing-office, equipped with the newest machinery.
– The Government Printer has been making full inquiry as to the best classes of machinery for the particular work involved in the publication of Hansard. The great difficulty is that in parliamentary reports there are so many corrections, and it is very difficult indeed to decide as to the best class of machinery. Amongst type - setting machines there appear to be three in the market, namely, the monoline, the monotype, and the linotype. The State Government were asked to allow then: printer to go to Western Australia, where machines of the kind are at work, but he found that these machines were not giving very satisfactory results. We have in view, however, some machines, not for composing, but for other purposes, and these, it is believed, will result in a considerable saving of labour. Unfortunately there is not at present room in the Government printing-office for their erection. At the printing-office gas engines are now used, but the electric light is being installed, and this will enable the gas engines to be got rid of to a great extent, when machines, which will lead to a considerable saving, will be secured. I hope that within six months we shall have composing machines at work in the Government printingoffice. So far as the printing bill is concerned, honorable members will realize that we have been doing the work of at least two sessions. An immense amount of printing was necessary in connexion with the Tariff, and all the Estimates had to be set up. The latter will, however, be kept in type, and the cost will be considerably less next year, when expenditure will be limited to the necessary alterations. People outside may say that there has been great extravagance in connexion with the printing generally, but when the matter is investigated, it is difficult to put the finger on any undue expenditure in connexion with Parliament or any of the departments. I . am certain the Government Printer does all he can to insure economy, and I hope that the Printing Committee, when they get the information which has been asked for, will be able to suggest some reforms. It will be the desire of the Government to keep the expenditure on the printing and other services as low as possible ; and I trust the committee will allow the vote to pass.
Mr.FOWLER (Perth).- I am one who believes that Hansard ought to be continued pretty well on the present lines ; and any attempt to give only a precis of the speeches should be objected to by honorable members. In the case of representatives from the more distant States, and particularly in my own case, there is every necessity for accurate and extensive reports. The newspapers published in my own electorate, probably on the score of expense, give only the most scrappy reports of our proceedings. It is a matter of amazement that honorable members, who have very little connexion with Western Australia, are frequently reported in those newspapers at much greater length than are the State’s own representatives. I have some idea of the reason, but I am not absolutely certain, and, therefore; I shall not attempt to express any opinion. But the fact only emphasizes the necessity for having a Parliamentary report to which people can refer with the certainty that they are getting full and absolutely correct information. In Western Australia there are a number of ardent politicians who, in spite of the alleged dreariness of the Hansard reports, read them with avidity. That, of course, might be regarded as an unfortunate commentary on the quality of the other printing matter supplied to them. The people of Western Australia would be very sorry to find Hansard curtailed to anything like the dimensions of reports given, even in the best newspapers of Melbourne and Sydney. In those newspapers there are remarkable instances of members’ speeches being entirely ignored, and that happens with notable frequency in the case of labour members, who, for some reason or other, are apparently considered not worth reporting. Those who believe that labour members sometimes have speeches to deliver, which are both interesting and instructive, have to refer to the pages of Hansard. For those reasons it would be almost a national misfortune if we interfered in any way with our official reports. As to the printing expenses in general, I wish to re-echo what fell from the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton. As a member of the joint committee investigating this matter, I find the expenditure of the Commonwealth bears very favorable comparison with that of any of the States. There may appear to have been an unnecessary amount of talking, but we must remember that for the first time in the history of Australia we have not two sets of views to put forward, as is usually the case in a State Parliament, but we have the views of six different States. That necessarily means a large amount of talk - expressions of opinion necessary to enable honorable members to arrive at a fair estimate of the position from the Commonwealth point of view. The expenditure on printing in the transferred departments is considerable, but it is even less than the amount those departments collectively and individually had to expend before federation. There is certainly a saving in the cost of printing for the Customs department and the Postal department, now that these are under centralized authority. It is in this connexion that there has been the most expense in the printing up to the present time, and it is unfair to credit the federal printing account with an expenditure which would have to be incurred by the States under any circumstances, and which is now actually less than formerly. I see nothing to object to in the Estimates on the score of unnecessary expenditure on printing. I should be very sorry if any attempt were made to curtail the efficiency of Parliament by a penny-wise and a pound-foolish policy in reducing Hansard, even from its present formidable dimensions. The present conditions are abnormal and will soon disappear, and the volume of the Hansard reports of future Federal Parliaments will be found to compare very favorably with that of the official reports in any of the States.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 25 (Unforeseen and Accidental Expenditure), £1,000 ; Division 25a (Advance to the Treasurer), £100,000 ; Division 151 (The Treasury), arrears, £2 ; Division 152 (Government Printer), arrears, £1,992; and Division 153 (Miscellaneous), arrears, £44, agreed to.
In Committee -
Motion (by Sir George Turner) proposed : -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for Commonwealth Government inscribed stock, and for other purposes in connexion therewith.
– I should like to ask the Treasurer whether at any stage of the proceedings hewill give us some idea of the course to be adopted by the Government in dealing with their finances in London and elsewhere. I presume that a good many things are unsettled pending the appointment of a High Commissioner, but I understand that this is a preliminary process to the floating of a loan. Will it be raised locally ?
– So that it will not affect the position in London.
– Will it take the shape of Treasury Bills ?
– No ; Inscribed Stock.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to ask the Attorney- General a question in regard to the order of procedure at this stage. As we are given to understand, whether rightly or not I cannot say, that the passage of the Tariff through the Senate will be delayed longer than was anticipated, it may be possible to reduce the sitting days of the House. Instead of meeting four days in the week it may be possible to arrange for the House to sit only on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. It was originally expected that it would be sufficient for the House to meet three days a week, and after this very long session it would be a great boon to those who have other work to do if we were able to reduce the number of sittings by one day per week. I would ask the, Government to take the matter into consideration.
– The question raised by the honorable member will, I hope, come up for consideration shortly. The position is that we are now practically at the beginning of the last month of the financial year, and, in order that my right honorable colleague, the Treasurer, may place his own finances in a satisfactory condition, and, at thesame time, to meet the conveniences of the States Treasurers, whose financial year also closes on the 30th June, it will be necessary to continue meeting four days a week for the next fortnight. The first four Bills on the notice-paper all relate to the finances of the Commonwealth, and it will be necessary to dispose of them at all events. I do not think that they are measures that will demand extended consideration, but they will require, of course, to becriticised and deliberated upon.
– The Government will go on with the Estimates before dealing with those Bills ?
– Yes. After these Bills have been disposed of, it will be open for us to reconsider the position. By that time, perhaps, honorable members will be able to say whether it will suit their convenience better to sit only three days a week, or to continue to meet four days a week for a time, and then adjourn for a week.
– When do the Government propose to deal with the Electoral Bill ?
– As soon as these financial measures have been disposed of. Of the Bills on the business paper, there will then be only three measures left, and we shall be able to take up the Judiciary Bill. The Electoral Bill has already passed the other Chamber, and when it has been considered here, any amendments made by us will then be before the Senate for consideration. I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of the following message from the Senate : -
Resolved (on motion by Sir William Lyne) -
That the message be consideredforthwith.
In Committee :
– The Senate has agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in the Franchise Bill, with the exception of the amendment in the second paragraph of clause 4. As it left this Chamber the paragraph provided that-
No aboriginal native of Asia, Africa, or the Islands of the Pacific, except the islands of New Zealand, situated in the Pacific Ocean, beyond the Commonwealth, shall be entitled to have his name placed on an electoral roll, unless so entitled under section 41 of the Constitution.
The clause will have precisely the same meaning as it had when it left this Chamber, the words in our amendment to which the Senate have disagreed merely being regarded by them as superfluous. The provision will now read -
No aboriginal native of Asia, Africa, or the Islands of the Pacific, except New Zealand, shall be entitled to have his name placed on an electoral roll, unless so entitled under section41 of the Constitution.
The surplusage has been struck out, and the clause would appear to have been very much improved.
– Will the clause as amended give a Maori the right to vote?
– Yes; if he resides here, but not otherwise. I move -
That the committee do not insist upon the portion of the amendment disagreed to by the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to ask the Attorney-General whether he has received any reply to his message to the Premiers of the different States, respecting the need for concerted action on the part ofthe Commonwealth and the States, in order to deal with the conditions arising from the drought. Has the honorable and learned gentleman any further information to communicate to the House?
-I desire to draw the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to the following paragraph which appears in the Port Denison Times of Tuesday, 18th May, which is one of the oldest and best conducted papers in. Northern Queensland -
Mr. Mitchell, of Mackay, arrived here by the Barcoo on Sunday afternoon, and spent yesterday in engaging South Sea Islanders for various Pearl shelling companies at Thursday Island, from whichhe has a large number of orders. He leaves this morning by the Arawatta for Townsville. We understand that Mr. Mitchell will visit Bowen again shortly, when he will spend a week here, during which time he will visit the Proserpine, where he hopes to engage a number of kanakas.
I desire to know whether the AttorneyGeneral proposes to take any action in this matter. The Queensland Polynesian Islands Labourers Act provides for the employment of kanakas only in the sugar industry. The kanakas were brought to Queensland for that purpose, although, I am sorry to say, they have not always been engaged solely in theindustry. The employment of kanakas in the pearl-shelling industry is clearly a contravention of the law, and I trust that the Attorney-General will see his way clear to put a stop to the engagement of these islanders.
– The honorable member for Herbert will observe that the legislation to which he refers is that of the State itself, and will require to be enforced by the State. The matter does not arise under a Commonwealth Act, and does not come within the jurisdiction of Common wealth officers. The honorable member’s statement of the Queensland law is, I believe, correct, but the fact that it is a Queensland and not a Commonwealth statute makes it a matter of State and not of Commonwealth administration. In reply to the honorable member for Canobolas, I desire to say that within the last few minutes I have received the following telegram from the Premier of New South Wales:-
In reply to your telegram of yesterday, respecting suspension of duties on grain and fodder, I strongly urge that steps should be taken with this object at once. Of course the question of duties is entirely in the hands of the Federal Government and Parliament. I am in full sympathy with the proposition that has been made that these duties should be suspended meanwhile.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020530_reps_1_10/>.