1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In this morning’s Melbourne Age it is reported that it is proposed to create a new department to take control of the naval defences of the Commonwealth. I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister for Defence what truth there is in that report. 8ir WILLIAM LYNE.- This is the first that I have heard of the matter. I think the report must refer to a casual remark of mine - that I thought that there should bo one department for the control of our naval defences, instead of a department in each State, as there is at ‘the present time. I do not know whether it will be possible to deal with that matter at present, or whether it will have to remain in abeyance; but I think the present arrangement a bad one.
– I should like to know from the Minister representing the Prime Minister, what is the present position in regard to the negotiations with respect to taking over the Meteorological department of Queensland?
– I have despatched a telegram to the Premier of Queensland, informing him that the Government consent to the temporary arrangement suggested by him in connexion with the tentative proposal which he has submitted to the Premiers of the other States. It involves upon our part the continuance of the telegraphic and postal facilities which the Queensland bureau has hitherto enjoyed. I hope the House will shortly have an opportunity to consider this and similar concessions when dealing with the Postal RatesBill.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General prepared to make an announcement in connexion with the suggested remission of the duties upon fodder?
– I hope to have an interview with the Attorney-General of New South Wales this afternoon, and afterwards to be able to make an announcement to the House upon the subject.
– Has the Minister for Home Affairs arrived at any determination, and if so what, in regard to the naval forces of New South Wales ?
– I have not com.pleted the new proposals, but their preparation is far advanced, and they will show some retrenchment. I cannot, however, give the honorable member any details, because the scheme is not so complete that it may not be slightly altered.
– Yesterday the Minister for Home Affairs, in reply to questions asked by the honorable members for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython and Mr. V. L. Solomon, stated that the prices for supplies for South Africa asked by South Australian tenderers were much higher than those asked by Victorian tenderers. I forwarded to South . Australia the following letter which I received from the department upon the subject : -
I am directed to inform yon that in connexion with some recent South Australian tenders for supplies, to the South African contingents, the attention of the Minister has been called to the very high rates for some of the articles as compared with the prices paid in other States. The reply I have received from a South Australian merchant is as follows -
Bunning down through the schedules published in the Commonwealth Gazette, we are forced to the conclusion that the very reverse is the case, and that South Australian prices are very much lower than the Melbourne prices. Would you ask the Minister for Defence if he would kindly compare the price of bandoliers here and in Melbourne V The price of sets of saddlery here and in Melbourne. On the rates which are higher, for instance,, kit bags and section bags, our contract for supplies in the colony of this line is only 2s. 9d. for kit bags, whereas kit bags for Queensland were 5s. 6d., and Victoria 4s. each. The kit bags supplied to the contingents were different to the ordinary kit bags, in that they were made of tan canvas, water-proof lined. The one line costing us 6s. a yard for material, and the other under ls. There were no standard samples to which to tender for these lines. Horse blankets were made specially good quality at !)s. 6d., and were cheap at the price, whereas those supplied to the Victorian contingent were 38 a 2 of quite different material altogether. Victoria charged 6s. each for her head ropes, South Australia’s price was ls. lid. So on with many other lines we could reply to Mr. Collins’ unfair remarks. The only line in which there were standard samples to tender to, and on which there is any comparison between both colonies, was the sets of saddlery. Even in these our price was lower than Victoria; we have a good reply to it if the question ever arises in the House.
Has the Minister any reply to make to these statements ? If they are true, should he not modify what he said yesterday in regard to the two sets of prices, after a bald comparison of the prices themselves without regard to quality or other explanation ?
– I cannot come Vo any conclusion immediately, from the figures which the honorable and learned member has read out, but the information which has been supplied to me on the subject is as follows
With reference to the contracts submitted from South Australia, in connexion with the Australian Commonwealth Horse, I would call attention to the very big prices of some of the articles compared with the prices at which they could be purchased in this State -
Apparently, rifle buckets (which, it was understood, it was not necessary to supply, and which were not supplied in Victoria) were supplied at 7s. each.
These very large prices compared with the prices here must involve Imperial Government in a considerably increased expenditure.
Upon that I wrote the following minute : -
The difference between the South Australian and Victorian prices is very considerable, and in many cases the South Australian charges “arc exorbitant. I think they should have been referred to head-quarters before acceptance.
– In view of the discrepancy between the statement which I have read and the document quoted by the Minister, will he inquire fully, not only into the prices asked, but also in regard to the quality of the articles supplied, and the general conditions regarding the tenders, and put fully before the House the true position of affairs 1
– There may be some difficulty in obtaining information as to the quality of the articles supplied, because they have been sent away from the State, but I shall make further inquiries. The document which I have read is the only one which has been laid before me. It is an official paper, and no doubt compiled from the actual price-lists in the possession of the Defence department. ‘
– Although there may be some difficulty in testing the comparative prices of the goods in relation to their qualities, will the Minister do all in his power to test the fairness of the comparisons which have been made on his official list from the point of view of quality as well as price. In the letter which has been sent to me, it is stated that the kit bags and horse blankets which appear on the Minister’s list as being supplied at higher prices were quoted at lower prices in the South Australian tender than in the other States, while the quality of the horse blankets supplied under the South Australian contract is stated to be much better than that of those supplied by the Victorian tenderers.
– I shall do all I <can to test whether the articles supplied under the South Australian contract were of better quality than the Victorian articles for which prices were quoted. At the same time, I may say that from the experience I have had in the past the articles supplied by the Victorian manufacturers are fairly good.
– Will the Minister representing the PrimeMinister make arrangements to supply the public with copies of the Commonwealth statutes at a price no higher than is necessary to pay the expenses in connexion with their publication 1 It has been the practice of the Victorian Government to make a profit out of the sale of public statutes, but I think that is a mistake.
– I think that what the honorable and learned member desires is being done. I had recently an interview with the Government Printer, during which he suggested a scale of charges, commencing I think, at 3d. an Act, and increasing according to bulk.
– Copies of Victorian Acts cost from ls. 6d. to 5s. each.
– I do not think that any of the Commonwealth statutes will cost more than ls. 6d.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister, without notice, whether he has noticed a report -which appeared in the newspapers of yesterday that certain Mexican and Greek immigrants were prevented from entering New South Wales at Albury 1. The report states -
When the express reached Albury the Customs officers refused to let the foreigners land in New South Wales, and the whole batch, numbering 38, were taken back to Wodonga by the train which brought them over. No accommodation could be seemed for them for the night, so they camped the best way they could in the vicinity o£ the Wodonga railway station. Rain fell during the night, but the platform afforded shelter. The difficulty reached an acute stage this morning, when one of the women became unwell. A room at the station was placed at her disposal, and a few hours later she gave birth to a daughter.
I should like to know whether the report is correct, and if so, why these people were allowed to land in Melbourne. If ‘it were right to allow them to land in Melbourne why were the)’ prevented from entering New South Wales 1 I should also like to know whether, in the event of any further immigrants of a similar character being permitted to land here, the Minister will do all in his power to prevent a repetition of barbarity such as that referred to ?
– The Commonwealth Government are responsible for allowing these people to land in Melbourne. Hearing that they had arrived, I arranged to secure the services of the most experienced officer in Charge of immigration affairs - Mr. O’Brien - who subjected the intending settlers to a very severe test, and was entirely satisfied. In view, however, of the reports in the newspapers as to the undesirable character of a previous party of these immigrants who had been allowed to pass into New
South “Wales, and, in order to make assurance doubly sure, I sent a second special officer from the department to examine them. This gentleman was satisfied that they were what they purported to be, hard - working agriculturists. They were possessed of money sufficient to provide for their immediate requirements, and of letters of credit that probably represented a good deal more. There appeared to be no reason why they should be rejected. Consequently they were admitted to the Commonwealth, and for that we are responsible. Up to the present time, however, the States Acts relating to the exclusion of undesirable immigrants have been enforced inland, and we are not in any way responsible for any action taken by the States Governments under those Acts.
– In whose employ is the officer in Albury who prevented the immigrants from entering New South Wales?
– He is a Commonwealth officer, but in this case was acting for the State.
– Then there are two masters for the one officer ?
– It is about time a change was made. In view of the very unsatisfactory working of the Immigration Restriction Act, and of the education test applied under it, does not the Minister think that it would have been better to adopt the colour test, as was proposed when the Bill was under discussion ?
– In the first place, I respectfully deny that the Act is failing in its purpose. I would direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that not a single coloured alien entered the Commonwealth last month, and if any have entered this month I am not aware of it.
– It was not intended to keep out those who were not coloured.
– We are not doing so.
Resolved (on motion by Sir William Lyne) -
That Mr. Deakin be a member o£ the Standing Orders Committee during the leave of absence granted to Mr. Barton.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister for Home Affairs. - I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I am very glad to have an opportunity during the first session of this Parliamentto introduce this Bill, which I hope will meet with the approval of honorable members. The trouble that was experiencedduring the last federal elections points strongly to the necessity of passing a measure of this kind without any unnecessary delay. Honorable members are aware that the Bill was first introduced into this Chamber, but that, owing to the pressure of business, it was withdrawn from the noticer paper, and submitted for the consideration of the Senate. It has been passed by theother branch of the Legislature, and is now presented for our consideration. The Electoral Acts of the States have been drawn upon as far as possible in the framing of this measure. The States Electoral Acts differ very widely, and this measure will produceharmony and uniformity of method and. action. Many of the provisions are more akin to the Acts of SouthAustralia and Western Australia than to those in force in the other States. I venture to think, further, that it will be one of the most liberal electoral laws in existence. Certainly the Bill as it stands contains more liberal provisions than are to befound in any of the State Acts, and theCommonwealth is to be congratulated upon the fact that the measure has been pressed , forward to its present position, and that no further general election will take place except under its provisions. This Bill worked in conjunction with the Franchise Act, which recent!)’’ became law, willperhaps bring aboutmany changes ; but I believe that they will be of a wholesome and democratic character. I have always felt that it is best to confer a liberal franchise, and to pass liberal electoral laws. In explaining this measure I shall refrain, as far as possible, from dealing with details of a minute character. I shall refer briefly to the more important provisions of the Bill, in the order in which they appear. The greater part of Part I. is comparatively unimportant, but clause 4 contains a special provision that the Bill shall not apply to any by-election that may take place during the continuance of the present House of Representatives. It would have been almost impossible to apply the provisions of this measure to any by-election for some time to come, because honorable members must recognise that a great deal of work will be involved in the framing of the new rolls.
– Yes; but we should have to use the existing rolls.
– Then there is no urgent necessity to pass this Bill.
– I think there is. My experience is that it is necessary at frequent intervals to revise the rolls. In New South Wales the rolls have in times post become very much overloaded with the names of persons who were no longer entitled to hold electoral rights. Within fifteen months after the last referendum we revised the rolls in New South Wales, and made 250,000 alterations. As I stated the other evening, the process of purging the rolls is being carried out as faras that is practicable at the present time under the existing law. But it is only possible to purge them to a very limited extent, because no such provisions are extant as those contained in this Bill. In clause 4, provision is made that this Act shall not apply to the election of a new member to fill any vacancy happening in this Chamber during the continuance of the present House of Representatives. It could not very well be made applicable to such an election for a variety of reasons, one of which is that if a State which at present returns its representatives as one constituency were subdivided, we should have to select some particular district, instead of the whole State, to elect the new member. Though the Bill was originally framed with that object in view, I found upon analysing the question that, owing to the intricacies and difficulties which surround it, it was really impossible to give effect to the original intention. Thus it is that clause 4 has been inserted in the Bill. Part II. deals with the general administration, which, to some extent, resembles the general administration in most of the States, with this difference - that we now provide for one chief electoral officer, and also for an electoral officer in each State to control the elections in that State. The latter will be subject only to the Chief Electoral Officer. In addition to that, power is given to appoint a returning officer for each division. That officer will be under the chief electoral officer of the State, as the latter is subordinate to the chief electoral officer of the Commonwealth. In dealing with this question I do not wish honorable members to become alarmed at the extra expense involved in the appointment of new officers. We have recently heard a good deal about the appointment of officers in my department, although, as I have previously stated, that department is very meanly administered. We intend, as far as possible, to utilize the services of existing Commonwealth officers in the performance of allthe work that is necessary. They will be chiefly postal officials and such others as can be efficiently utilized for the service. They may have to be paid a small additional sum for the services required of them, but I wish it to be distinctly understood that it is not intended to appoint an entirely new staff to cope with this work. Power is also given to appoint assistant returning officers, if necessary, for such districts as the Northern Territory, &c,as well as electoral registrars. These are the main features of Part II. of the Bill.
– Will the divisional returning officers be public servants?
– Not necessarily. In some cases it may be impossible to get public servants to perform this work, but as far as practicable it is intended that those undertaking it shall be Commonwealth officers. I believe that in the Postal department we shall be able to secure nearly all the public servants required, but if not, we may utilize the services of the inspectors under the Public Service Act, or those of other Commonwealth officers. Part III. is an important one, because it creates the divisions of each State, so far as the House of Representatives is concerned. Save for dealing with general elections, this Bill refers more particularly to the House of Representatives than to the Senate. It is proposed to appoint three commissioners to subdivide each State. That practice has been adopted in one of the States upon a previous occasion, and it has also been followed in other countries, notably in England and New Zealand. It is better to deal with the matter in this way than for the Government to undertake the work themselves. . Of course, there should be no inducement to define the boundaries of a division in other than a fair manner ; but if the Government undertook the task, they might possibly be accused of cutting up the electorates in a way to suit their own party.
Mi-. Poynton. - Will there be separate commissioners for each State ?
– I cannotanswer that question at the present time. I think it is mote than likely that one or two commissioners will act in all cases, and that in determining the limits of the electorates, they will, be assisted by a gentleman who has been for a considerable time resident in the particular State affected. They will thus be less liable to error than would otherwise be the case.
– Do these divisions refer to the existing electorates, or will they involve the creation of new electorates ?
– I am speaking of the subdivision of those States which at present vote as one constituency for the return of members of the House of Representatives.
– Are not the States already divided ?
– No; for instance, Tasmania and South Australia elect representatives voting as one constituency.
– Is it proposed to re-divide those States which are already divided ?
– Not unless that course is considered absolutely necessary. The Bill does not compel it to be done. “For instance, in New South Wales or Victoria, which have already been divided into electorates for the return of members to this House, population may have increased in one division and decreased in another, and the variation of the boundaries of a division may therefore become necessary. The commissioners will deal with these alterations of boundaries.
– There is the female vote to be considered, too.
– Yes. The female vote will be exercised to a greater or less extent in every State, and consequently will cause a re-arrangement where such is found necessary.
– Will these commissioners become permanent officers ?
– Not necessarily the honorable member need not be alarmed upon the score of expense.
– It is not the question of expense about which I am concerned, but I thought that the Minister might have a few more New South Wales friends.
– That is not a very kind remark to make, seeing that I am dealing with States other than New South Wales. When the honorable member refers to “ my friends in New South Wales” he should recollect that, having lived in that State for so long, I know more of the personal attributes of men there than I do of individuals in other States, who no doubt are quite as worthy. These divisions are to be made upon a population basis. ‘ They are to be based upon a quota, and the quota will be found by dividing the total number of electors in any State by the number of members which it can return. There is a somewhat elastic but necessary provision that the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution of the divisions, and shall be adhered to as nearly as practicable, but may be departed from to the extent of onefourth, more or less.
– Is it proposed that the commissioners shall exercise their discretion, or will they receive Ministerial instructions ?
– They will exercise their discretion, but they are not to go either above or below one-fourth. The principle of the Bill is equal representation. If the number of electors exceed 1,000, ‘ more or less, the reason for not adhering to the quota must be stated.
– Does that mean that there is to be an equal population in town and country electorates ?
– Then the Government will never carry it ; they will have a lively time.
– I may tell honorable members that I gave one Ministry in New South Wales a lively time upon this very question, but I was defeated upon it. I am quite sure that the honorable member for Gippsland will not give me a lively time in connexion with it, because at heart I am with him, but I know what the people want. I do not propose a variation between town and country, such as I am inclined to favour, because it will be recognised that the Government must concede what they conceive the bulk of the people require. I repeat that there is an elastic provision in the Bill which permits of the otherwise hurd and fast rule in relation to the quota of electors as the basis for the distribution of the divisions being departed from to the extent of one-fourth or one-fifth, below or above what would actually constitute equal representation. The divisions have to be laid before Parliament, and I would direct particular attention to the fact that on a resolution of either House disapproving of “ any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the commissioners to propose a new distribution. The report and map have to be laid before Parliament within seven days after their receipt, if the House is in session, and if not, within seven days after its next meeting. Both Houses of the Legislature must pass a resolution approving of any proposed distribution before the Governor-General can proclaim it, and either House may cause a fresh or new distribution. The principal instruction which is given to the commissioners is that they must pay serious regard to three points, namely, community or diversity of interest, means of communication, and the physical features of the country. These three points must be considered, but otherwise the commissioners have a reasonably free hand, and ave not subject to undue influence on the part of Ministers. Part IV. deals with polling places. It gives power to proclaim and annul polling places in any locality which is desired in the public interest. Part V. deals with the electoral rolls, and it is proposed to have a separate roll for each division. The rolls for each division will be so subdivided that an elector may see at a glance the polling place at which he has to record his vote. A similar plan works very well in New South Wales.
– Will there be one subdivision for every polling place 1
– No ; but the roil will be grouped in polling places, and the rolls will show where the electors are to vote.
– Can an elector vote in any part of the district1!
– He may, under certain conditions, which I shall explain. Under clause 33 any person is entitled to have his name placed on the roll, copies of which will be exhibited.
All persons qualified to vote at any election lor the Senate or House of Representatives, or who would be qualified so to vote if their names were upon a roll, shall be qualified and entitled to have their names placed upon the electoral roll for the division in which they reside.
– Has the Minister noticed that, under section 41 of the Constitution, any person eligible for the local roll may vote at Commonwealth elections, whether or not he is on the Commonwealth roll ?
– I shall deal with that matter later on. In reply to the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, I may say that power is given under sections 120 to 124 to issue voting certificates for, I think, three days before polling day to persons who expect that they will not be able to be at a particular polling place ou election day. These certificates entitle an elector to vote at any place in the electorate where he may be on the day of election.
– Where is the necessity for a certificate 1 A man ought to be able to vote at any place in his own electorate.
– I know that this provision in the Bill will be discussed, but I have dealt with a great many knotty questions as fairly as I could. I do not pretend to say that the Bill cannot be improved, and I shall be glad of the assistance of honorable members in committee. Clauses 40 to 55, and 70 to 88 very liberally provide for appeal courts, revision courts, and supplementary rolls, which may be issued immediately before an election. Part VI. deals with additions to and alterations of rolls and transfers of names. Clause 57 provides that claims may he made under Form B, B, which honorable members will see on reference to the schedules. If a person resides, it may be, a great many miles from where there is a registrar, or an electoral officer, he may make application, on receiving which the registrar is compelled to place his name upon the roll, even in the absence of any witnesses as to bona fides. am rarather in- lined to to think that that is almost too liberal a provision, and that it would be wise to have the application supported by the signatures of one or two persons known to the registrar. When the lists are exhibited any one may object to a claim on giving twenty days’ notice, and the claimant, if he feels that he is being unfairly objected to, may depute an a,gent to act. for him instead of travelling perhaps hundreds of miles in order to appear in person.
– Is there no official whose duty it is to watch the lists 1
– Only the registrar.
– There ought to be no objections.
– Iask the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, to be fair and reasonable. If there be no provision for objections, what can be done if a name appears on the rolls which ought not to be there? I hope the proposals will be keenly criticised when we come to deal with them in committee, but in the meantime I am explaining the provisions of the Bill. As to transfers, an elector who has resided in any other division may have his name transferred.
– What happens if an election takes place during that month ?
– In that case the elector will not have resided a month in the new division.
– And he loses his vote because he has ceased to reside in the first division ?
– This is a discussion on the second reading of the principles of the Bill, and details ought to be thrashed out not in the House, but in committee.
– I am very glad to hear expressions of opinion as I proceed because they give me an opportunity of judging the feeling and temper of honorable members on various points. There is only one alternative to the proposal in the Bill, and that is to have no term of residence. We might, of course, reduce the term to a week, a fortnight, or three weeks, but there must be some arbitrary period fixed if a residence condition is to be enforced.
– A day is sufficient.
– But very serious abuses might creep in by an unexpected swarming. The Bill provides that there is to be no alteration of the roll between the date of the issue of the writ and the closing of the poll except for transfers. The date for the holding of revision courts will be fixed by proclamation. A revision court will be held before any election, especially a general election, and it is compulsory to have a revision of the rolls at least once in three years. Part VIII. deals with writs for elections.
– To whom are the writs to be returned ?
– In the elections for the Senate, the Commonwealth electoral officer will return the writ to the Governor of the State in which it was issued. In the elections for the House of Representatives the returning officer will return them through the Commonwealth Electoral Office.
– Who issues the writs?
– In some cases they are issued by the Speaker and the President, and in the case of a dissolution they are issued by the Governor-General.
Writs* for the election of senators or members of the House of Representatives may be in the formG or H respectively in the schedule, and shall fix the dates for -
I desire to direct attention to this foot-note in the Bill-
*See sections J2, 32, find 33 of the Constitution.
After the first general election, the writs shall be issued within ten days from the expiry of a House of Representatives, or from the proclamation ofa dissolution thereof.
That, I think, answers the question of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton. Nominations must be made within from seven days to 21 days of the issue of the writ, and the polling must take place from seven days to 30 days after the nomination. The general elections for the House of Representatives are to be held on the same day. And at the same time, I think the spirit of the Bill is that the Senate elections shall all be held on the same day. And they may, when practicable, be held on the same day as the elections for the House of Representatives.
– It does not matter in the case of the Senate, the members of which are elected by each State as a whole.
– That is so ; but I think the spirit of the measure is that the Senate elections shall be on the one date.
– How could that be arranged? In the case of a dissolution the Senate is not dissolved.
– I am afraid there is some misconception. It is proposed that the members of the House of Representatives shall all be elected on the same day, and that the senators shall be elected on the same day, so far as they themselves are concerned. The two Houses are absolutely dissevered, but I -think the same principle should be acted on in regard to both Houses.
– In the case of a double dissolution, expense would be saved by having all the elections on one day.
– That cannot be provided for in the Bill, but I should think that in the case of a double dissolution, or on the expiration of Parliament, it would be wiser to have all the elections at once, and thus save expense.
– That could be done by administration.
– Of course it could. Part IX. of the Bill deals with nominations, clause 99 providing : - Ho nomination shall be valid unless -
Caj The person nominated consents to act if elected.
– If clause 99 be read with clause 3 it will be seen that the nominations must be made three months before the day of election.
– I do not think that applies in this case.
– It applies to offences under the Act; it does not apply to nominations.
– Nomination papers must be signed by six electors. Clause 104-, which is a very important one, provides that -
No nomination shall be rejected by reason of any formal defect or error therein if the Commonwealth electoral officer or divisional returning officer receiving the nomination is satisfied that the provisions of this Act have been substantially complied with.
If the measure were now in force effect would have been given to that provision in connexion with the petition in regard to the recent Tasmanian election. Part X. is one of the most important in the Bill, and embodies a principle which is almost a novel one, though it has been partly recognised heretofore in some of the States. Clause 109 provides for application being made for “ postal vote certificates,” and clause 112 shows how an elector who has received such a certificate is to record his vote. If an elector resides more than five miles from the polling place, or thinks that he is likely to be absent on polling day from the polling place at which he is entitled to vote, or will be prevented by serious illness or infirmity from attending there on polling day, he can apply to the returning officer for the division in which he resides for a postal vote certificate. The Bill provides for voting by post in much the same manner as the voting of the members of some of our insurance companies, and especially of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, is done. An elector who has received a postal vote certificate will get with it a postal ballot-paper, with a counterfoil attached, and also an envelope addressed to the returning officer at the chief polling places of the division. He must then go before a “postmaster, officer, police, stipendiary, special magistrate, or head master of a State school,” and record his vote in the presence of such officer, but in such a manner that the contents of his ballot-paper will be secret. Having marked the ballot-paper in the manner prescribed by the Bill, and signed his name on the counterfoil, he must enclose it, with the counterfoil attached, and witnessed by the officer before whom the voting is done, in the special envelope, and hand it to a postmaster for posting, or post it at a post-office. When it is received by the officer conducting the scrutiny, he, without unfolding the ballot-paper, or allowing it to be inspected, must compare the signature on the counterfoil with the signature to the application, and allow the scrutineers to inspect both, and if the vote is allowed he must tear off the counterfoil, and insert the ballot-paper in the ballot-box ; but this will be done in such a manner that no one will be able to ascertain for whom the elector has voted.
– Will the candidate’s agent be able to take postmasters round the country with him, as is occasionally done in South Australia?
– I have not heard- of that being done, but no doubt the honorable member’s experience will prove of value” to the House. As every one knows, a large part of the population of States like Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia is always travelling about. Teamsters, drovers, labourers, shearers, cane cutters, and seamen are constantly on the move, and the provisions to which I have referred have been inserted in the Bill in order to prevent their disfranchisement. I believe that some honorable members desire a still further extension of the principle, but I think that these provisions are very liberal, and I hope that the House will regard them as adequate. Part XI. deals with voters’ certificates, and Part XII. with the polling. The schedule contains a copy of the form of the ballot-papers which are to be used. These ballot-papers will have a square opposite the name of each candidate, and the elector, instead of striking out either the name of the candidate for whom he wishes to vote, or the names of those to whose return he is opposed - both of which practices prevail in the States - must indicate his vote by making a cross in the square opposite the name of the candidate, if the election is for the Senate; and by placing the number “ 1 “ in the square opposite the name of the candidate for whom he wishes to vote in the first instance, and the numbers, “ 2,” “ 3,” “ 4,” and so on in the squares opposite the names of the remaining candidates, to indicate the order of his preferences for them, if the election is for a member of the House of Representatives. When the Bill was before the Senate, it was proposed that what was called the principle of exhaustive voting - under which the balance of the votes cast for a candidate who has obtained the quota, and is therefore elected, are distributed amongst the other candidates in a certain way - should be adopted in regard to Senate elections, but it was not agreed to, and the ordinary arrangement will continue in regard to them. In regard to elections to the House of Representatives the system of contingent voting has been provided for. The ballotpapers are numbered in the way I have described, and where there are more candidates than one the votes indicated by the number “ 1 “ are first counted, and if no candidate then obtains an absolute majority a second count is made. On this second count the candidate obtaining the least number of votes is rejected, and the ballot-papers counted to him must be added to the votes obtained by the remaining candidates, according to the order indicated on the ballotpapers, but so that each ballot-paper is counted only once, and the exhausted ballotpapers rejected. If no candidate then obtains an absolute majority, the process must be repeated until one candidate does obtain an absolute majority, the candidate to be rejected in each instance being the candidate with the least number of votes. That system, which is a modification of the system which is now in use in Queensland, is outlined in clause 165.
– It is a complicated and a rotten system.
– I shall be glad to hear the honorable member’s criticism of it later on. Part XIV. provides for the return of the writs. Clause 169 provides that the Commonwealth electoral officer for the State in which the election is held shall, as soon as conveniently may be after the result of the election has been ascertained, declare the result, and return the writ to the Governor of the State in which it ‘ was issued. Of course, a date will in every case be fixed for the return of writs, but it may sometimes happen that because of floods, droughts, or other reasons it will be impossible to return them by that date, and under the provision I have read any informality in that regard will be overcome. Part XV. deals with thelimitation of electoral expenses, clause 173 providing that in elections for the Senate no candidate shall exceed an expenditure of £250, and, in elections for the House of Representatives, an expenditure of £100. I do not think that those sums are too large. I, know that in my own case travelling expenses and printer’s bills have often cost me more than £100. Part XVI. deals with electoral offences, such as breaches of duty, bribery, undue influence, and other offences under the A.ct. The provisions in this part are similar to those contained in the various States Acts, and I do not think there is any need to refer to them in detail. Part XVII. deals with the Court of disputed returns. It is proposed to remove the dealing with election petitions from the control of the Committees of Elections and Qualifications, to which such matters are now referred, and have them tried by the Full High Court, but until the establishment of the High Court the Supreme Court of each State will be the court of disputed returns. The High Court is to have jurisdiction either to try the petition, or refer it for trial to the Supreme Court of the State for which the election was held or the return made, and the powers conferred by the clause - 198 - maybe exercised by a single Justice or J udge. A case occurred in regard to a disputed election for the Senate in Western Australia last year, which illustrates the wisdom of this latter provision. If such a case should occur in the future, the High Court, instead of trying the petitionitself, may refer it for trial to the Supreme Court of Western Australia, and the matter will be settled there at much less cost to the parties, and with much less inconvenience to the witnesses and all concerned, than if it had to be tried in the State in which the High Court was sitting. While I do not think that any great objection will be taken to these provisions, I question whether it is wise to require these matters to be referred to the Full Court. Part XVIII. contains miscellaneous provisions. Under clause 212 all electoral papers may be transmitted through the post free of charge, and, under clause 213, where it is impracticable to communicate by post without undue delay, any telegraphic advice will suffice as though the matter telegraphed had been communicated in the manner provided by the Act. Clause 215 gives the Governor-General power to make regulations for carrying out the Act; but all such regulations must be notified in the Gazette and laid before both Houses of Parliament within 30 sitting days after the the making, if Parliament is in session, and if not, then within 30 days after its next meeting. Three very important matters are not provided for in the Bill at present. I think there should be some improvement upon the present arrangement under which allowances are made to honorable members. For various reasons, honorable members may not be able to attend the House to be sworn in, and, in some cases, Parliament may not meet for some four or five months after an election. It is rather hard, under such circumstances, to deny an honorable member payment of his allowance until he can take the oath. I do not propose that the allowances shall commence from the date of election, but from the return of the writ.
– An honorable member may refuse to take the oath subsequently.
– That would be a very extreme case. It may be stipulated that an honorable member shall not receive his pay until he takes the oath, but he should be entitled to receive pay from the date upon which the writ was returned. Another matter which was referred to when the Franchise Bill was under discussion was the definition of the word “ residence,” regarding which we must be very careful. In the larger States, where persons are travelling about for the best part of their time, and have no permanent place of residence, it is very unfair that they should be disfranchised owing to any technicality, and I hope, with the assistance of honorable members, to insert a provision that will prevent the possibility of any voter being prevented from exercising the vote simply because he has no permanent place of abode. I think we ought also to consider whether it is possible to frame a provision other than that which is now included in the Bill for voting by post. If I can frame any provision that will render it more easy for electors to vote in any part of the State in which they may be on the day of election, I shall do so. I have not taken up more time than has been necessary to explain briefly and clearly the most important parts of the Bill.
– The Minister has not mentioned the Hare- Spence system of voting.
– There has been no occasion to do so, because it is not embodied in the Bill. I am glad that I have not been called upon to explain the HareSpence system of voting, because I found it very difficult to understand, and I must admit that Professor Nanson’s explanation left me a little more in the dark than I was before. I hope honorable members will give me their assistance in improving the Bill. I have tried to frame it upon the most reasonable and liberal lines, so that every facility shall be afforded for every man and woman to exercise on the day of election the broad and liberal franchise which has now become law under the Commonwealth Franchise Act.
– Would the Minister explain what the Bill proposes in regard to scrutinies ? Is a scrutiny to be held at each polling place, as in Victoria?
– The scrutiny will take place wherever the polling papers are counted.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Glynn) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 4th June (vide page 13310).
Division No. 131 (Expenditure in New South Wales), £787,513.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to one or two complaints which have been forwarded to me with reference to tenders for supplies to the department. I believe that, according to the rules under which tenders for supplies are called, samples are supposed to be provided for inspection by intending tenderers in all the capitals, but that rule has not been observed. Where tenders have been called for supplies required in Queensland or in Tasmania, samples have been sent from those States to Adelaide ; but where tenders have been called for supplies required in Melbourne or Sydney, samples have not been sent to South Australia. This seems to be a case of partiality, perhaps due to carelessness rather than intent, and a change should be made as soon as possible. Through the absence of samples, the merchants and manufactures in Adelaide are precluded from tendering for supplies in the more important States. Recently tenders were called for the supply of telephone and telegraphic material for twelve months. Tenders were to be handed in by 1st July, and the advertisements in the
– The Minister did not mention anything with reference to the payments to be made by the States for services rendered by officers of the Post and Telegraph departments in connexion with the Post-office Savings Banks and the payment of old-age pensions through the post-offices. I should like to know whether the Commonwealth is paying its servants to perform this work for the States, or whether we are to be recouped.
– The claim of the Commonwealth to compensation for the services rendered under the circumstances referred to has been recognised, and negotiations are now taking place with a view to arriving at some satisfactory arrangement.
– It is the practice of the Postal department when calling for tenders for the annual mail contracts to insert huge advertisements in the newspapers of the capital cities throughout the Commonwealth. For example, an advertisement occupying a whole page, will sometimes appear in a Melbourne journal, inviting tenders for mail contracts in Gippsland and other remote parts of the State. The people who are likely to tender for such contracts, probably never see these advertisements, and their insertion is nothing more nor less than gross extravagance. Why should not a small advertisement only be given to the daily newspapers, directing attention to the fact that the full text of the advertisement inviting tenders may be found in the Commonwealth Gazette, which can be obtained at every post-office ?
– I have asked that the advertisements in question should be curtailed.
– I can point to one huge advertisement which appeared in a dailynewspaper within the past six months. The Commonwealth Gazette is a better medium through which to give publicity to mail contracts than any daily newspaper, and it should be utilized for the purpose.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 132 (Expenditure in Victoria), £544,902.
– I desire to call attention to the item, “ Payments to Victorian Railway department for the performance of postal duties.” I would point out that a strong feeling of dissatisfaction exists amongst postmasters in the Railway department by reason of the fact that they receive no remuneration for the work which they perform in this connexion. I would ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to see that where the Railway department is paid for conducting postal business, the officers who perform the duties attaching thereto shall receive a payment proportionate to the services which they render. The result of the failure to remunerate them is that the postal work is performed in a very unsatisfactory manner, and is naturally subordinated to their other duties, not from the fault of the persons in charge of the railway stations, but from the fact that the department insists that the railway business must be first attended. to.
– I support the request of the honorable member for Flinders that consideration should be given to this matter. It has already been brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral upon several occasions. Only a few weeks ago I forwarded a number of questions to him with a view to ascertain the conditions under which the various railway station-masters perform certain work. The replies which I received were anything but satisfactory. It seems to me that the railway station-masters who are called upon to discharge postal duties, should be given a more adequate remuneration than that which they have hitherto received.
– We pay the Railway Commissioners for the services rendered. We cannot insist upon the department paying its officers.
– I am aware that the States Governments used to pay £10 or £15 a year to different station-masters for acting as assistant mining wardens, and for reading the weather gauges, &c. Recently, however, a notice was issued that these allowances should be withdrawn from the postal officials - a most unjust proceeding. I am glad to learn that the allowances in question are now to be restored, the objectionable notice having being cancelled. It behoves the Government to look into this question, and see if some fairer adjustment cannot be made.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- The matter which has been referred to seems to me to be one which rests with the States Governments. It is for them to decide what they will do with the money which is paid to them by the Commonwealth. But what I wish to point out is that we are paying large sums to the States Governments for services rendered by their railway officials in connexion with postal matters, whilst we are receiving no consideration whatever for services rendered by the Commonwealth in connexion with Post-office savings banks, and the payment of old-age pensions. As a result these Estimates are unduly swollen. This is a very serious matter. If am- adjustment is to be made it should not be a one-sided adjustment. The amount which the States ought to pay the Commonwealth would probably equal that which the Commonwealth pays to the States for services rendered bv the latter. Is this arrangement, when made, to go back to the beginning of the Commonwealth, or is it to start from some indefinite period in the future ?
– I do not think there is much chance of carrying the arrangement back. There would not be much benefit from such a course, because we should be. simply collecting from the State and paying back to the State. It might be better to start from the next financial year.
– But we are undertaking liabilities which the States refuse to take.
– This payment was made by one department to the other in the States, but the reverse payment was notmade.
– When we are crediting these large’ amounts, there ought to be an equivalent debit. Under the present arrangement the distribution of the revenue of the Commonwealth must be unequal.
– While the post-offices were the property of the States, the practice of transferring certain sums from one department to another for services rendered was purely a bookkeeping affair. Now, however, I presume the Commonwealth and the States will have a balance struck at the end of each financial year, and there will be an exchange of actual cash. Under the circumstances we have a right to insist that State officers who carry out the services of the Commonwealth shall be paid for those services. I hope the Minister will make inquiry and endeavour to arrange that these officers shall personally receive the money. I agree with the honorable member for North Sydney as to the necessity for a correct and prompt striking of balances between the States and the Commonwealth. In most of the States - except New South Wales, where there are more satisfactory returns - great anxiety is shown at the end of each financial year to reduce the railway deficit as much as possible ; and we should recognise that the taxpayer of the Commonwealth is the taxpayer of the States, and is entitled to the fullest information.
– This expenditure will be attributed to the cost of federation.
– That is so. The frequent assertionthat federation is going to ruin the country can be met by showing that this expenditure is on the part of individual States.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).This question has arisen also in Queensland in connexion with railway officials who do postal services. I wrote to the department some time ago, but the matter was left in abeyance until the passing of the Public Service Act. I hope that the Minister will see that officers receive payment for the services which they render to the Commonwealth.
Mr. SALMON (Laanecoorie). - I wish to draw attention to the high charge made in Melbourne for telephone facilities. In Sydney there is a different state of affairs, and the result is a large increase in telephone business. In Melbourne there is a circuit which is worse than that of any part of the civilized world.
– It is not so bad as that in Perth.
– This is a very serious matter. Business people in Melbourne find that it does not pay to make that use of the telephone exchange which they would if the charges were reduced.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 133 (Expenditure in Queensland), £398,275.
– I notice that the salary of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral and Superintendent of Telegraphs in New South Wales is £920, and that the salary of the corresponding official in Victoria, is £900. I have no fault to find on that score, but the committee will observe that the salary paid in Queensland is only £700. In South Australia the Deputy Postmaster-General is paid £1,000 a year ; in Western Australia, £700 ; and in Tasmania, £500. In the face of these figures, I think that the salary paid in Queensland ought to be at least £800.
– The honorable member overlooks the fact that the Deputy Postmaster-General and Superintendent of
Telegraphs in Queensland has been raised from a position which carried £500 a year, to his present office. The salary he now receives is within £50 of the maximum which has been fixed for officers of the highest grade in the future. Similar officers who are receiving the higher salaries referred to have been in the service longer and have held more responsible positions.
– If a new Deputy Postmaster-General is appointed in South Australia, will he be paid a salary of lessthan £1,000 ?
– I raised this question last night, and it was pointed out that these larger salaries were paid simply because they were those which the officials were receiving when the services were transferred.
– The Public Service Commissioner will have to fix all the salaries.
– It should be an instruction from this committee to the Public Service Commissioner that no officers appointed to these positions in the future should be paid more than £700 or £750.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 134 (Expenditure in South Australia), £228,753.
– Accordingto these estimates, the storekeeper in South Australia receives a salary of £210 per annum. Last night I brought under the notice of the Minister the fact that the storekeepers in New South Wales and Queensland each receive £300 per annum. Prior to the transfer, the Queensland storekeeper received only £250. In Victoria, the storekeeper, who, considering the relative size of the State, must have less important duties to perform, is paid £431 per annum. I should like to know the reason for this discrepancy. Before the Postal department was transferred to the Commonwealth the Victorianofficer to whom I have referred was receiving only £350 a year. I ask the Minister to inquire into these matters. It seems to me that they should come within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commissioner.
Mr. MAHON(Coolgardie).- Now that the Postal departments of the States have been amalgamated, the Ministry should attempt to economize where economy can be effected. Is it not about time that the Government thought of a Commonwealth stamp, which could be printed at one centre and distributed throughout the States?
– That can hardly be done during the bookkeeping period.
– I am aware that the bookkeeping sections of the Constitution may cause some complication, but surely if one State got a little more than another from the sale of stamps, the matter is one which could be easily adjusted.
– There would be a great outcry if that happened. The States watch every shilling.
– Well, if the State of Western Australia watches every shilling, it is very slow in furnishing returns to the Treasurer. Returns which he promised long ago have not yet been completed to date. I think that one establishment for the printing of postage stamps should suffice.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 135(Expenditure in Western Australia), £268,534.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- Yesterday I took the trouble to give the committee some facts concerning the administration of the Postal department of Western Australia, but the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral has not said what he proposes to do in regard to the matter. If there is any conclusion to be drawn from the Royal commission’s report quoted by me, it is that the Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth and some of his chief officers are not competent for the work which they are supposed to do, and should not be retained in their positions. It has also been shown that public requirements are not being met by the Post-office at Perth, and that there is great dissatisfaction with the administration there, while on the testimony of officers themselves there is the utmost disorganization amongst the staff. I can conceive of a business being carried on in such a way as to please the servants of the institution, and not the public ; or in such a way as to please the public and not the servants; but here we have a department administered in a fashion which satisfies neither section. I think that we should have a statement from the Government in regard to what they propose to do in this case. Some time ago, I asked if they would direct an independent investigation to be made during the recess, but a most evasive and an almost impertinent answer was given to my question. I do not like to take the extreme step of moving a reduction in the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth, but it may come to that unless we have some satisfactory assurance.Surely the Government must have heard, from other sources than the members representing Western Australia, complaints in regard to his administration. Most of the members of the Royal commission whose report I read last night are personal friends of this gentleman, and yet they show that the department has drifted into such a condition of disorganization that subordinate clerks have been able to embezzle nearly £8,000 of the public funds, because of the inefficient system which he initiated, and which has been carried out under his rule. All the representatives of Western Australia in this House who spoke on the subject have indorsed what I said on the subject last night,- and honorable senators representing the State have the same story to tell. Surely this singular unanimity should in itself be sufficient to induce the Government to look into the matter, and to cause an independent inquiry to be made, with a view to putting the administration of the Western Australian offices upon a proper footing.
– I should like to add that I also am of opinion that this is a matter which requires the attention of the Government. I believe a change could be made which would increase the efficiency of the Postal department in Western Australia, and I am sure that that change should be made. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral at Perth is now well up in years. He has capable men under him, and I have very good authority for saying that the greater part of his work is relegated to subordinates. The people of Western Australia would willingly see him pensioned, because they feel that a change can be made for the better, and that it would be very difficult to make any change for the worse. He could be retired upon terms which, I think, would besatisfactory to himself.
– I hesitated to reply to the honorable member for Coolgardie last night, because I presumed that he would understand that the representations made by himself and others would bo laid before the Postmaster-General. The honorable member has my further assurance now that these mattersno longer rest solely with the Ministerial head of the department, and that the Public Service Commissioner will have it within Jus power to make such changes as he may deem desirable in the public interest.
– I hope that the Public Service Commissioner will inquire into the manner in which the Deputy Postmaster-General discharges his duty immediately he begins work, because the proper administration of the Post and Telegraph department is of the gravest importance to our State. The people there are separated by considerable distances from the people in other parts of Australia, and it is chiefly by the administration of this department that they will be able to judge practically of the advantages or disadvantages of federation. As I said yesterday, and as my colleagues have said, there will be no satisfaction in Western Australia so long as the Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth is allowed to remain in office. To show the bent of that gentleman’s mind, I may mention that upon two or three occasions, when the officials of the department have desired to form an association to place their grievances before their official heads, he has had those taking a leading part in the matter transferred to other places, and some of them have been banished to quite out-of-the-way situations.
– That has been checked and remedied.
– An association was formed since the establishment of federation, but the Deputy Postmaster-General acted then as he did on previous occasions, and dispersed the officials concerned. When the matter was placed before the PostmasterGeneral he telegraphed that that should not take place, and he was good enough to express his approval of associations of the kind, and to state that he thought them of great service in the proper management of the department. This shows the bent of this official’s mind, and what he will do in regard to small matters which do not come under the notice of the Postmaster-General. In the allotment of the salaries in Western Australia, consideration should be shown for those officials who are located upon the gold-fields, where the expenses of living are very high, and the conditions of life are not very agreeable. A gold-fields allowance is paid to a number of these officials, but there are others who do not receive any consideration. The stamp-sellers and telephone attendants are among the latter. Some time ago, in reply to a question, I was informed that the stamp-sellers at Kalgoorlie and Boulder were paid at the rate of £7 0 per annum, while a similar officer at Coolgardie received £80 per annum. I find that the stamp-sellers at Perth, where the con ditions of living are much better, are paid salaries ranging from £60 to £80 per annum, the majority receiving over £70 per annum. Then, as regards the telephone assistants on the gold-fields, nine are paid at the rate of £60 per annum, one at £65, ten at £70, six at £90, one at £100, and two at £110. No gold-fields allowances are given, and £60 or £70 is altogether too small a salary when it is considered that domestic servants are paid higher wages, in addition to being provided with board and lodging. Furthermore, I believe that these attendants have to work for six months on probation, during which time they receive no salary, and that they are not allowed a holiday unless they pay for a substitute. A relieving officer is provided at Perth, but not on the gold-fields. These matters require investigation, in view of the conditions under which the officers live.
– In the cases of both the stamp-sellers and telephone assistants at Kalgoorlie increases are provided for.
– The stamp-seller at Boulder City, who is paid £70 per annum, should also have an increase.
– I shall represent what the honorable member has stated to the Postmaster-General.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). - I am rather disappointed that the Minister has not given us a more specific assurance with regard to the re-organization of the department in Western Australia. The Minister should have gone further than to tell us that he would refer the matter to the Public Service Commissioner. So far as I understand, that gentleman will inquire only as to the capacity of the various officials to perform the work allotted to them ; but much more is required in this case.
SirGeorge Turner. - If any complaint is made against an officer the Commissioner will have to investigate it.
– In addition to that the methods of working and the policy of the department ought to beinquired into. I believe the chief trouble arises from the manner in which the accounts are kept, this being partly due to the conservative policy followed by the accountant, who, I believe, entered the service as far back as 1861. However efficient this officer may have been in the olden times, I think it must now be said of him that “ the veteran lags superfluous on the stage.” Very much the same description applies to the manager of the money order office. The allowances paid to officials on the gold-fields are utterly inadequate. Most of them are receiving only £30 per annum.
– Ten receive £40, and 257 receive £30.
– Even £40 per annum is of very little use, because the extra cost of water in many cases would represent that amount.
– We have increased the allowances from £7,200 last year to £8,000 this year.
– Yes : because the department has expanded. That means that a larger number of officers are receiving the allowance ; the individual allowances have not been increased. It must be remembered that the railway rates have been largely increased, and that the result of the imposition of the present Tariff has been to largely increase the cost of living. The present allowance would be almost absorbed by the cost of travelling to the coast in the event of an officer falling into bad health, and in view of the fact that the officers have to live in galvanized-iron buildings under most trying climatic conditions, and have to subsist upon tinned provisions, an allowance of at least £60 per annum should be made to those living at stations away from the railways, and £50 to those who, are stationed on the lines of railway. The telegraph line repairers employed in Western Australia receive no gold-fields allowance. These men have to perform most arduous work in almost all kinds of weather, and yet they are very poorly paid. Two men receive £180, one is paid £170, and others receive salaries ranging as low as £1 20. I find that in Queensland, the officer who is in charge of the line-repairing at Mungindi receives a salary of £200 per annum, has quarters worth £40 per annum, rations of the value of £36, and an allowance of £35 for forage, or a total of £311. Unquestionably, these line repairers should receive whatever allowance is paid to other gold-fields officers.
I notice that there is an amount of £1,700 provided upon these Estimates for increases to salaries of deserving officers in receipt of £160 per annum. I should like to know how the Government propose to distribute that money? Is it to be disbursed in accordance with the wishes of the Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth? If so, very considerable dissatisfaction will result, because the manner in which he has distributed it in the past savours of gross favoritism.
Mr. KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie).- There is an item of £3,000 set down for incidental expenses under the heading of “ Contingencies.” I think that the committee should be informed what those expenses consist of. I wish also to direct attention to the line “ subsidies for coastal steam services.” In connexion with this item I desire to refer to the south-coast mail service. Hitherto that service has been carried on by a small steamer which conveys the mails from Albany to Esperance. That place has long been regarded as the natural port of the gold-fields, and its people have never received fair play from the State authorities, who feared that it would constitute a formidable rival to Fremantle. As a result those in power in Western Australia have done all that they could to injure Esperance. I feel satisfied, however, that the federal authorities will view this matter apart altogether from local prejudice, and will not rely solely upon the representations which emanate from the Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth. What the people desire is that the Inter-State mail steamers from Adelaide shall call at Esperance on their way to Albany. Esperance is the natural route for the mails to follow. Some time ago this matter was brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General, who was good enough to promise that tenders would be invited for a direct mail service from Adelaide to Esperance, and also for a similar service to that which has hitherto obtained. The recent contract expired early during the present year. The papers in connexion with this matter, after being delayed in Perth for some time, were forwarded to the Postmaster General’s department in Melbourne. The Minister thought it necessary to send them on to the Customs department, where, through an inadvertence, they were detained for a couple of months. It was then discovered that a constitutional point was involved, and the papers were forwarded to the AttorneyGeneral’s department. I understand that within the past few days they have been returned to the Postmaster-General. It will thus be seen that a delay of several months has occurred, and in the meantime an expensive temporary service has to be carried on. I hope, therefore, that this matter will be settled as speedily as possible. When the alternate tenders are received I trust it will be recognised that of tlie two suggested services, the direct one from Adelaide will best serve the interests of the southern portion of Western Australia, and also of the Commonwealth generally.
Mr. FOWLER (Perth).- There is just one matter which I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister. It is in reference to the item “ extra labour, £5,320.” What I desire to know is whether this money is intended to be used for the purpose of paying for temporary employment. I would point out that in Western Australia this temporary employment sham has been worked to a very improper degree indeed. I hope that, as far as the Postal department is concerned, no attempt will be made to employ men in a fashion which will prevent them from obtaining the advantages which accrue from the ordinary conditions attaching to permanent employment.
Mr. KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie). - I should like the Minister to give the committee some information regarding the item of £3,000 for incidental expenses.
– It is really impossible for me, without bringing down a very extensive set of returns, to explain what is covered by “incidental expenses” in a large department like that of the Postoffice. These expenses are constantly recurring. Last year I am informed that they amounted to £3,000, although this year they totalled only £1,37S. I regret that I cannot give the honorable member the information which he seeks.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 136 (Expenditure in Tasmania) £105,703.
Mr. TUDOR. (Yarra). - There are one or two items in connexion with this division which call for a little explanation. Upon page 132 I find that in Hobart there are 24 letter carriers employed at rates varying from 2s. to 8s. per day. In the light of these figures I can well understand- the opposition of some honorable members in another place to the insertion in the Public Service Act of a provision to insure the payment of a minimum wage. I also notice that in Launceston there are seventeen letter carriers at rates varying from 2s. 9d. to 7s. 6d. per day. Under the heading ( f “ country staff offices” some assistants alf employed at £20 a year, and there is one individual who receives only £10, or 4s. per week. Surely such sweating as this should be stopped. In “ other country offices “ there are five employes at £5 annually, and one at £1. Such a state of things demands inquiry, and I hope that the Minister representing the Postmaster-General will be able to give the committee some information in connexion with these matters.
– In reply to the honorable member for Yarra, I would point out that as regards junior letter carriers, who receive only 2s. 9d. per day, the practice has been to employ telegraph messengers in that capacity after they have served a certain number of years, and to give them only a small salary for the first twelve months. Ry far the greater number of letter carriers receive from 5s. to 8s. per day. It is only the veriest of juniors, who are not out of their teens, who receive the small rates of pay to which the honorable member has referred. Regarding the payment of £1 per year, to which attention has been directed, I can only say that no considerable service would be rendered for that amount. The probability is that it is paid to some person in an outlying district, where a bag containing a few letters is thrown out. The honorable member for Yarra can rest satisfied that those who sit in the House of Assembly at Hobart always watch over the interests of country postmasters and postmistresses. I am quite satisfied that if honorable members only knew the services rendered in return for the payments made they would in most cases consider them ample. I am satisfied that tlie poor people who are thus employed are very glad to receive the payments voted for their services.
– I notice that a sum of £504 is provided “ for increases to salaries of deserving officers in receipt of £160 per annum and over that amount, in accordance with the practice at the time of transfer.” I should like some explanation of this item, seeing that elsewhere in the Estimates increments are not dealt with in this way.
– This item appears in the Estimates for every State, except that of Victoria. Officers who receive £160 per annum are given increments as a matter of course, and these appear on the Estimates. But men who receive over that amount do not get their increments as a matter of course, and this small amount is voted in order to provide for payments to officers who show extra vigilance.
– What steps do the Government propose to take, in view of the fact that this is a trading department, to give the House and the country a balance-sheet of its operations 1 In the Victorian State Parliament great complaint was made for years of the absence of adequate information concerning the financial and trading transactions of the Postal department ; and now that the services throughout the States are amalgamated, we have an excellent opportunity of supplying this want. The observations made this afternoon by the honorable member for Coolgardie prove that in Western Australia, at any rate, the accounts are kept in a manner entirely different from that which prevails in other States. The probability is that each State has a different method of bookkeeping ; and unless some uniformity be observed, it will be impossible for honorable members to obtain the information they desire. There is great necessity for such a reform, as is shown by a Victorian case, the full particulars of which I do not desire to give, in view of the fact that it is at present under investigation. In the Victorian Postal department there appears to be a most lax and loose system of audit ; and in the case to which I have referred it was proved that in a sub-office an official had for two years carried on a most systematic and comprehensive misappropriation of the public moneys. That was due to the want of proper auditing and checking, and it was only by an accident that the offender was discovered. This officer had learned, also by accident, that it was possible to “ get at “ the department, and having made two or three successful attempts, continued the frauds for over two years.
– What sentence did the offender get ?
– The case is at present being dealt with by the department.
– I hope he may get two years’ imprisonment. .
– I hope justice will be meted out, and that the officers, who ought to have detected the fraud, will come in for a severe handling, seeing that they are really more to blame than the actual delinquent. I should like to know further what steps the Government are taking, or propose to take, to render the Victorian telephone service efficient.
– We propose to spend £250,000, if the House will authorize the raising of a loan. If there is not a loan, the work cannot be done.
– But I want to know what the Government propose to do irrespective of any loan. The Victorian telephone service is about the worst in all Australia, nothing having been done of late years to popularize it or make it efficient.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 237 (Miscellaneous), arrears £17 agreed to.
Division 238 (Expenditure in New South Wales), arrears £43,911.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- The opinion has several times been expressed that the Victorian Legislature were rather smart in passing an Act just prior to the transfer of the departments, by means of which Victorian officers were given certain advantages. It appears, however, that New South Wales took a similar step on 31st December, 1900, just one day before the Commonwealth was proclaimed, when provision was made for increments on salaries to the amount of £2,646, “ on the same basis as such increments would have been provided for had the officers remained in the service of the State.” If Victoria had acted in the same way as New South Wales, and had fixed the increments and positions of the transferred officers, I should not have had to bring a certain matter so often under the attention of the Government. I hope, however, that that trouble will be arranged long before we deal with the next Estimates.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 239 (Expenditure in Victoria), arrears £25,139 ; Division 24=0 (Expenditure in Queensland), arrears £29,112 ; Division 241 (Expenditure in South Autralia), arrears £16-,766 ; Division 242 (Expenditure in Western Australia), arrears £1,764; and Division 243 (Expenditure in Tasmania), arrears £8,184 - agreed to.
Proposed vote, £61,750.
– I notice that it is proposed to erect a portable office at Brown Hill, Western Australia. I take it that portable offices are erected upon gold-fields of the permanency of which there is somedoubt, and I think that the arrangement is a good one ; but Brown Hill is a place having a population of at least 4,000 people, and is the head-quarters of the Brown Hill mine, which has been working almost ever since the discovery of gold in Western Australia.
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Western Australia reported that the position of the township is not assured.
– It is absolutely assured. The place was in existence long before places like Cunderdin, Davyhurst, and other places where it is proposed to erect permanent post-offices were in existence.
– I am sorry to notice that no provision is made in these Estimates for the establishment of additional rifle ranges in Queensland. In that respect Queensland has been more neglected than the other States. I have more than once drawn attention to the necessity of doing something for the rifle clubs there, and I had expected that some notice would have been taken of my representations. I hope that this oversight will be remedied in the near future.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £250, agreed to.
Department of ExternalAffairs.
Proposed vote, £5,420.
– I should like some explanation of the item
Expenses of Coronation church services, £300.
Are representatives of all denominations to take part in that service?
– Most of the denominations will be represented at it. The money is to provide for the expenses of a celebration service which is to be held in the Exhibition-building, Melbourne. It is intended to cover the cost of attendants, hire of chairs, printing, and soon.
– I regard this as an attempt to infringe the provisions of the Constitution by granting a religious subsidy. If we subsidize any denomination, we should subsidize every denomination in the Commonwealth.
– This is not a subsidy to any denomination. No one is to be paid for his services in connexion with the religious part of the celebration.
Mr.CROUCH. - No, but a denomination can be subsidized by providing for the purchase of hymn books, the cost of printing and music, and the hire of chairs, even if its clergy receive no payment. I know that exception has been taken in some places to the appointment of military chaplains in connexion with the contingents which we have sent to South Africa. In any case, this is a revival of a practice which I hoped was killed in Australia years ago.
– Move that the item be omitted.
– I move-
That the item “ Expenses of Coronation church services, £300,” be omitted.
The Government cannot give me their assurance that if Hindoos or Mohammedans wished to attend this service they would find it harmonize with their religious views. But they have as much right to be remembered as the people of other denominations.
– This is not a Mohammedan community.
– It is as much a Mohammedan as a Christian community.When the State gave Roman Catholics the franchise, it ceased to be a Protestant State, and when it admitted Jews, Mohammedans, Unitarians, and all other creeds to citizenship it ceased to be a Christian community. I am a descendantof one of those who 300 years ago fought for religious liberty. I am an Independent of the Independents. Although the amount is not a large one, the principle underlying it is a serious one. Even if this service would meet the views of the great majority of the community, to vote money for it would be an injustice to those whose views it would not meet, however small a minority they may be. We are here to support that minority.
– I do not think it is necessary to work up any excitement with regard to this item, but Ministers might explain what is intended.
– The service is to be held in the Exhibition-building, and the money will be required to pay for the loan of chairs, for whatever printing is done, and for the remuneration of the ushers. The money will not be voted to the churches in any shape or form.
– In that ca,se I shall oppose the vote.
Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy).- I do not wish to vote for the omission of the item, but I suggest that it should be postponed.
Department of Home Affairs, £1,251 ; Treasury £2,162 ; and Department of Trade and Customs, £46S, agreed to.
Department qf External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £2,832.
– I should like to know what the amount of £2,832, set down for expenses in connexion with the opening of Parliament and the Royal reception at the Exhibition-building, includes 1
– We had considerable difficulty in deciding upon the proportion of the expenses to be borne by the Commonwealth in connexion with the fitting up of the Exhibition-building and other matters relating to the Commonwealth celebrations. A portion of the expenses were borne bv the Victorian Government, and the Commonwealth had the use of the buildings for certain of their own purposes. Various accounts were rendered from time to time, and I went through them with the Treasurer of Victoria. I would not allow some of the claims, I agreed to pay the half of others, and there were one or two cases in which I thought it was fair for the Commonwealth to pay the whole amount. The vote agreed to on a previous occasion was not sufficient to meet all the expenses, but the amount now asked for will cover everything, and enable the accounts to be closed.
– Could the Treasurer give us an idea of the total cost to the Commonwealth of the celebrations ?
– I think we have paid about £18,000.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £54,560.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney).There are many matters of policy involved in these Estimates which I think we should have an opportunity of fully discussing. I know that we’ are bound to a certain extent in regard to many of the items by the actions of the States Governments, but I desire to call attention to the fact that apparently no principle or system is adopted in the erection of post-offices. For instance, it is proposed to spend £1,500 on the erection of a post-office at Chatswood, a village near Sydney, whereas at Richmond South, a very populous suburb of Melbourne, the postoffice is to cost only £2,000. I hope that when the Commonwealth is no longer hampered by any prior action on the part of the States Governments, we shall only erect such buildings as will be necessary to meet the local requirements, and shall avoid any appearance of extravagant or lavish expenditure.
– I agree with the honorable member that there is very little uniformity in the works carried out by the department. I see that it is proposed to spend £4,000 in the erection of a postoffice at Inverell, New South Wales, whereas only £2,000 is provided for the post-office at Richmond South. The population to be served in the latter case is 12,000, and I should like to know what is the population of Inverell. I notice that £3,000 is provided for the purchase of sites in New South Wales, whereas only £600 is required in Victoria. I should like to know whether the £3,000 represents the cost of the sites for the new post-offices mentioned in the New South Wales vote.
– It covers the cost of those and others. The £600 provided for in the Victorian vote has been expended in acquiring sites at Cobram and Woodend.
– In amplification of my remarks regarding the Chatswood and Richmond South postoffices, I would point out that the Chatswood office, which will involve an outlay of £2,500, including the cost of the site, has a revenue of only £750 per annum, whilst the salaries and expenses amount to £1,339 per annum. At Richmond South the expenses are £625 per annum, and although there is no record of the revenue, it appears that the letters posted last year numbered 23,501, the telegrams transmitted numbered 4,487, whilst those received numbered 8,937, the money order transactions numbered 2,112, and the savings bank transactions 5,728. The actual population served is not given, but it is said to be very large. We thus see that the post-office which transacts much the larger business is conducted at the smaller expense. This gives point to my remarks that there is no system followed in carrying out the operations of the department, and we should, as far as possible, avoid the erection of extravagant offices which require large sums of money for their maintenance.
– Chatswood, to which the honorable member for South Sydney has referred, is one of the most progressive places in New South Wales. It is not possible to secure absolute uniformity, whilst the plans of buildings are prepared separately for every State, and under present conditions we have to do the best we can. The plans for post-offices in New South Wales are prepared by the State Government architect, and those for postoffices in Victoria are furnished by the officers of that State. In the latter case, however, the State officials are more closely under our control than are those of New South Wales, because I have an engineer, who, with his staff, is checking the plans and specifications prepared in Victoria. I hope that some more satisfactory arrangement will be made next year in regard to all the States. If honorable members will look at the explanatory notes they will find that, with regard to nearly all the post-offices provided for, we are committed to their erection by the action taken by the States Governments prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth. The money, in many cases, had been actually voted, but its expenditure was checked, for the time being, owing to the transfer of the department.
– Are we actually committed to this expenditure ?
– Yes. This will not happen to the same extent in the future, because we shall have better control over the expenditure of the money voted by the Federal Parliament. So far as Inverell is concerned, the town is the centre of a fine district, and the business done being of considerable importance, I think it is wise to provide in such a case for substantial and commodious buildings.
– I should like to know, in reference to the item “sundry offices,” whether the £1,000 provided in connexion therewith is a sort of contingency vote, or whether the offices referred to have already been determined upon.
– Had they been determined upon I should have mentioned them. This vote is to cover small additions to various offices.
– Am I to understand that the Government have not decided upon the particular offices in regard to which it is proposed that this expenditure shall be incurred ?
– This vote will be expended in repairs and additions to offices which have already been approved. I will endeavour to supply the honorable and learned member with the names of the offices in question.
– I wish to say a word or two in reference to the building at Terang. I do not object to the proposed expenditure of £2,000 upon this work, but I wish to point out that the particulars with which honorable members have been supplied are evidently incorrect. The statistics of business for last year show that 136,631 letters were posted there. These figures represent 189 letters per inhabitant. The people of Terang, therefore, are about the most prolific letter writers of whom I have heard.
– I wish to direct attention to the absence of any provision for the erection of a post-office at Drysdale. There are about 1,000 people resident there, and the postal business of a growing and prosperous community is conducted in a very small building, so that telephone conversations can be heard by people outside on the footpath. Mr. Gurr, the late PostmasterGeneral of Victoria, promised a deputation that he would erect a post-office at Drysdale.
– How long was that prior to the transfer of the Postal department of the Commonwealth?
– About twelve months.
– Then why did he not redeem his promise?
– Because he knew that the present Treasurer had the interests of the country at heart, and he confidently relied upon him to induce his colleagues to proceed with the erection of a new building without delay.
– I should like the Minister for Home Affairs to inform the committee of the localities in which it is proposed to purchase sites for post offices in Queensland. I notice that there is the sum of £2,000 set apart for that purpose.
– £1,250 of it is for the purchase of a site at Woolloongabba.
– I am not interested in Woolloongabba, but I desire to know whether theGovernment intend to purchase a site at Chillagoe, which is a very important place. The population there is rapidly increasing, and will continue to do so. Residents complain bitterly of the postal facilities which are at present provided. The building in which the business is- conducted is very little better than a shanty. The inconveniences at Drysdale referred to by the honorable and learned member for Corio are very much intensified at Chillagoe.
– I do not think it is intended to purchase a site at Chillagoe, but I have taken a note of what the honorable member has said, and will bring the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
– I wish to know if any provision has been made for the erection of a post-office at Killarney, where a site for the purpose has already been acquired. I would further point out that some time ago certain additions were recommended to the post-office at Warwick, and I would like to know if these additions have yet been carried out. A request was also made for improvements to the post -office accommodation at Allora. The present facilities are grossly inadequate. Upon more than one occasion the municipal council has urged that a proper building should be erected in the locality. I trust that the Minister for Home Affairs will cause inquiry to be made into the matters I have mentioned, and make proper provision.
– I wish to inform the committee that the site which has already been purchased for a post-office at Woolloongabba is one of the best bargains which the Commonwealth Government have made. If they only conclude a few more bargains of that nature there will be no need to introduce Loan Bills to the notice of this House. The present postal accommodation at Woolloongabba is altogether inadequate, but the new building which it is proposed to erect will be centrally situated, and will admirably serve the requirements of what is undoubtedly a growing district.
– I quiet agree with those who have spoken against any lavish expenditure in connexion with the erection of public buildings. At the 10same time I am bound to add that the £2,000 which is set apart for the erection of a post and telegraph office at the Boulder, in Western Australia, is altogether inadequate for the purpose. Prior to the accomplishment of federation, the State authorities promised to expend £5,000 in the erection of a building. That amount is, certainly, little enough in view of the statistics supplied to honorable members in reference to the postal revenue and expenditure of that town. The present PostmasterGeneral promised Senator Swing and myself that £5,000 would be spent in erecting a building there, and I presume that he will abide by his pledge. Therefore, I regard the £2,000 which appears upon these Estimates as merely an instalment of the expenditure to be incurred. I notice that £550 is provided for the building of a post-office at Canning, where the revenue derived by the department amounts to only £52 annually, whilst the expenditure totals £85. At the Boulder the revenue is £9,989, and the expenditure £7,202. In one year, therefore, the actual profits derived from the post and telegragh office at this place represented no less a sum than £2,600. Under these circumstances, it is surely not too much to ask that more than £2,000 should be expended in the erection of proper postal accommodation in the town. The present building is in a very insanitary condition, and the local council have passed several resolutions condemning it. I take it that the Postmaster-General will act in accordance with his promise, and see that the full amount of £5,000 is expended; but I should like some definite information on the point.
– I am ; rather surprised at the statement that the PostmasterGeneral promised £5,000 for this work, seeing that the £2,000 was placed on the Estimates at the request of the postal authorities. As far as I can follow the recommendations made by the Postal department, there have been a good many cases in which more has been asked for than the Postmaster-General wished to be appropriated, and sometimes the amount has been altered; but in this particular case, the request of the department has been carried out.
– I understand that prior to federation plans were prepared for a building to cost £5,000.
Si r WILLIAM LYNE. - The PostmasterGeneral objected to that amount.
– This is clearly a case in which a building affording reasonable facilities ought to be erected.
– On making further inquiry, I find that with what has been termed myusual extravagance,Iapproved of the expenditure of a larger sum ; but the plans were objected to by the PostmasterGeneral. I telegraphed to Western Australia, and the new sketch plans have now come to hand. In my opinion £2,000 was not quite enough, but I gave way to the Postmaster-General, who thought that amount sufficient.
– Before the building is proceeded with, I should like some inquiries to be made in view of the assurance which was given by tho Postmaster-General to Senator Ewing and myself.
– In consequence of what the honorable member has said, I shall make further inquiries.
– These votes will lapse on the 30th June, but I suppose that, as they have been approved by the committee, they will be revoted as a matter of course, and tho work will be proceeded with in the meantime.
– The money may possibly have to be revoted next year, but we shall go on with the preparation of the plans. If necessary, I shall finance the works until there has been a revote.
– The difficulty is that there may not be a revote until next June, and I want to know whether the Government intend to proceed with the preparation of plans and the calling of tenders without waiting for any fresh authority.
– The object of passing these votes is that the plans and the work may be proceeded ‘with. The. Treasurer has promised me that if there is any necessity he will finance the works until there has been a revote, so that there may be no unnecessary delay.
– Is it proposed to meet the expenditure in connexion with these various items out of loan or out of revenue?
– All out of revenue.
– If that be the case, I should like to know why no requests have been made on behalf of Tasmania. I notice that all the States have been considered while Tasmania has practically been left in the cold.
– I do not know of any requests which have been made on behalf of Tasmania.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- I see that £6,000 is set aside for machinery and plant for the printing-office in Western Australia. Is tins vote for the Western Australian Government or for the Commonwealth?
– For the Commonwealth.
– I understood, when the question of the Government Printing-office was discussed the other night, that it was. not the intention of the Government topurchase printing machinery and plant until the federal capital had been selected ?
– The Government are buying a certain amount of plant suitable to take to the federal capital, such as quick printing and folding machines.
– Does the plant to be purchased include linotype machines?
– It has not been decided whether the monotype, theinonoline, or the linotype shall be adopted, but new machinery is to be obtained
Proposed vote agreed to.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until’ Tuesday next.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I take the opportunity of informing honorable members that it has now become apparent that the appeal for the remission of the duties on grain and fodder is made on behalf of only two out of the States composing the Commonwealth. It is not within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to deal with those two States independently of the rest of Australia. Consequently the question of relief, in the great and serious distress that obtains in them, has become a matter for the consideration of their Governments. The
Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr. “Wise, with whom I have been in conference this afternoon, is now in communication with his Government in regard to the steps to be adopted. If any arrangement should be arrived at before the meeting of the House, or there should be any further information of importance, honorable members would probably desire that it should be at once communicated to the public.
– I gather, from what the Attorney-General has said, that no action will be taken by the Commonwealth in respect to this matter 1
– It is not competent for the Government to remit the duties in two States only, and it is not intended that the duties shall be remitted in all the States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 6.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 June 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020605_reps_1_10/>.