1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Acting Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will furnish this House with an explanation as to why, in these days of retrenchment, it is thoughtnecessary to send ten military instructors to South Australia, seeing that in the past the work of military instruction has been satisfactorily performed at very much less cost ? Also, if additional instructors are needed, why they were not selected from the men in the State who for years have rendered excellent service, as proved by the efficiency of the South Australian troops ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Military instruction has, in the opinion of the general officer commanding, been seriously hampered inSouth Australia for want of a sufficient number of qualified permanent instructors. As there are instructors in excess of numbers at present required in New South Wales and Queensland, some are being transferred to South Australia, instead of otherwise either increasing the total number of permanently employed instructors under the Commonwealth, or of dismissing instructors who are qualified from other States in order to make fresh appointments in South Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following are the answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The information necessary to enable replies to be furnished is now being obtained.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The Canadian Government is understood to be endeavouring to secure the co-operation of the British Government in the establishment ofa fast line of large steamers across the Atlantic. Conditionally upon this proposal being adopted, they are desirous of arranging with New Zealand and the Commonwealth for a similar service across the Pacific, thus placing Australia several days nearer London than under our existing mail contracts. The Prime. Minister has cabled that the whole matter is in a tentative stage, and that Parliament will not be committed by any action of his in this respect.
asked the Minister representing the Post1 master-General, upon notice -
– The information necessary to enable replies to be furnished is now being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Administration of Post-office and Customs Departments - Ventilation of Chamber.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I have ] rather a serious grievance, -which I brought under the notice of the Government before without effect, and which, I think, ought to be redressed at once. I offer j no apology for again occupying the time of the House on the subject. Unfortunately, the Postmaster-General does not occupy a seat in this House, where he could be interrogated. All information, in reply to our inquiries, has to filter through another Minister ; we have to wait some days before we get a reply to an inquiry, and very often it is of a very unsatisfactory nature. The time has arrived, I think, when some alteration ought to be made in the allotment of portfolios. The Postmaster- General should be in attendance in this Chamber to reply to our questions. Some time ago I brought under the notice of the Government the question of the rates for press telegrams. I then expressed the hope that the Government would see the fairness of the suggestion I made, and at once remedy the grievance I complained of, and the view I took was shared, I believe, by a large majority of honorable members. Although the matter was pressed on the notice of the Government by honorable members on this side, by the leader of the labour party, and by others, and the Government promised to give consideration to the suggestion I made, still the grievance exists, as I find from reference to the recent regulations issued by the Postmaster-General. It is very difficult to secure a copy of the regulations. At the General Post-office in Sydney, I was told that as they are printed at the Government Printing-office, in Melbourne, they could be procured from only that place. Some provision ought to be made to enable persons in the various States to procure the regulations without being called upon to send to Melbourne for them. I believe that the regulations were in force for some days before a copy of them was obtainable. On page 259 of the Gazette I find this regulation : -
Commonwealth press telegrams shall mean fcl lose relating to Parliamentary and Executive proceedings of the Commonwealth, or parliamentary papers and Bills ; or summaries thereof, without notes, comments ; or information given by Commonwealth Ministers for publication.
The interpretation of press telegrams is still the same as that which I gave some weeks ago. During the last few weeks, in response to an invitation, the leader of the Opposition visited various districts in Victoria, and delivered several addresses. Honorable members opposite may differ from my right honorable and learned friend’s views on fiscal matters, but we all agree that, no matter what opinions a nian may hold, he has a perfect right to. express them, and that no distinction should be drawn between the speeches of the leader of the Opposition, the leader of the labour party, or any other member of the House, and those delivered by Ministers. All the telegraphic reports of my right honorable and learned friend’s speeches inVictoria to the various States were charged at the rate of 3s. per 100 words. But a Ministerial comment on his deliverances at one meeting was telegraphed to the various States at the rate of1s. per 100 words. Is that fair or just?
– Has the honorable member verified that ?
– It is correct according to the regulations. I know that the reports of my honorable and learned friend’s speeches were charged for at the rate of 3s. per 100 words, and I am told that comments of Ministers on one speech of his - as they are on any federal or other matter - were wired to the various States at the rate of only1s. per 100 words.
– Have any of the Ministers commented on those speeches ?
– I think my honorable friend will find that they have. A reference appeared in one of the newspapers to certain comments made in Melbourne. 1 think my honorable friend will find that he commented on one speech.
– No; I have that to do vet.
– My honorable friend will not deny that any Ministerial comment on. any speech relating to federal matters is telegraphed to the other States at the rate of1s. per 100 words, and that if any other honorable member speaks on a question of policy or criticises the action of the Government, a telegraphed report to the other States from Victoria, is charged at the rate of 3s. per 1 00 words. It is a most unfair regulation. The people of the Commonwealth have a right to know the opinions of, not only Ministers, but every member of this Parliament. Another unfair regulation is in force. Some weeks ago the Minister for Home Affairs delivered, in Sydney, a speech on some question, and the telegraped reports to the other States were charged for at the rate of 3s. per 100 words. Of course, the proprietors of the newspapers wished to know the reason why the charge was made, and a letter from the Postal department explained that it was made because the speech was delivered in Sydney instead of Melbourne, and that if it had been delivered in Melbourne the reports would have been sent to the other States at the rate of1s. per 100 words. I have the official reply to the effect. The Government are deliberately endeavouring to prevent free criticism of their actions. If they are not afraid of criticism, why do they not give the same consideration to the utterances of private members as to their own utterances ? No doubt some honorable members will say that the utterances of Ministers are more important. That is a matter of opinion. Take the case of the Customs department. I could cite innumerable instances where persons have been harassed, or seriously inconvenienced, by the maladministration of affairs in that department. If an honorable member were to be interviewed on the subject of that maladministration, the report would be transmitted to the other States at the rate of 3s. per 100 words. But if the Minister for Trade and Customs chose to reply, the representatives of the Inter-State press could wire his criticisms at the rate of1s. per 100 words. Is that fair?
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the Post-office franks my utterances cheaper than those of other honorable members ?
– It does. I do not know why my right honorable friend should have that distinction, but it is so ; and it is a matter that ought to be remedied at once. Then , there is another regulation providing that if a telegram happens to be sent from Melbourne to a newspaper in some other part of Australia at press rates, and the message happens to be crowded out- if the newspaper editor cannot see his way clear to publish it owing to lack of space - it must be charged for at ordinary rates. A strict watch is kept at the Post-office, and the department reckons that such telegrams ought to be treated as private messages.
– That is ridiculous.
– I am only I showing the ridiculous nature of the alterations in the regulations. An alteration has also been made in regard to trunk telephone lines, fixing the maximum distance for ordinary telephone communications at 10 miles. The matter is one that does not concern my district, but it does concern some places which have been entitled to lower rates for many years. People at these places, under the new regulations, will not he able to communicate as freely as they could do before. They will be charged at the rate of 6d. per five minutes conversation if the wire is under 25 miles in length.
– Does that apply to private subscribers?
– Yes ; if this regulation is carried out the department will fix the limit at 10 miles, and for all wires above that distance trunk line rates will be charged. That is to say, private subscribers will be unable to communicate as freely as they have hitherto done, and will be charged at the rate of 6d. per five minutes’ conversation. Many other alterations have been made in connexion with the Post-office regulations which should claim the attention of Ministers. I hope that now that the subject has been brought under their notice they will realize that a gross injustice has been perpetrated to honorable members, whether they sit upon one side of the House or the other, in regard to press messages, and that the grievance will be remedied. I do not think any one can defend a regulation which compels the press to pay 3s. per 100 words for telegraphing speeches delivered by private members, whilst the utterances of Ministers are sent over the same lines at the rate of1s per 100 words. If that is done what will happen ? Take the case of a speech delivered by the honorable member for Bland, or any other honorable member, in Melbourne. A telegraped report of that speech will charged for at the rate of 3s. per 100 words. But in order to get over the difficulty, and to secure a reduction, what might be done is this : A newspaper reporter could send the telegram to Wodonga, and then have it telegraphed from Wodonga to Sydney. By adopting this plan, he would get the message sent for 2s. per 100 words - a reduction of1s. per 100 words ; whereas by sending the message direct from Melbourne to Sydney, his office would have to pay 3s. per 100 words. What sense is there in a regulation of that kind?
– What about speeches delivered in this Chamber?
– The regulation does not refer to speeches delivered in this Chamber, but only to those made outside. Suppose that when the recess takes place a speech is delivered in Melbourne by a Minister, or he gives official utterance to certain views, that message will be telegraphed for1s. per 100 words. But if the honorable member for Canobolas, or any other honorable member, was interviewed by the press as to his views upon the Ministerial manifesto, that utterance, if telegraphed, would have to be paid for at the rate of 3s. per 100 words. I hold that that is not fair to honorable members, nor is it fair to Australia. If Ministers submit proposals, or make official utterances, and if any other honorable member likes to criticise them, the same rates should be charged for telegraphing the opinions of the private member with respect to the Ministerial utterances as are charged for the transmission of the statements of Ministers themselves. It is all very well for Ministers to adopt this practice now they are in office. They can sit comfortably in their chairs and say to themselves - “We know very well that whatever wesay there will be very little chance of speeches delivered by certain honorable members beingtransmitted to theother States, because the newspapers will have to pay three times the amount for transmitting them that they have to pay for telegraphing our utterances.” But Ministers should remember that they will not always be in office. I hope, for the good of the Commonwealth, that they will not be. Therefore, they should endeavour to deal fairly in respect to this matter, so that no undue preference is given to Ministers compared with ordinary Members of Parliament. I trust that the Government will give careful consideration to the matter. I have brought it under their notice before to-day, and they promised an inquiry ; but the practice has continued. I do not wish to takeup the time of the House unnecessarily, but I thought it my duty on grievance day to bring the matter under the notice of the Government. I did not want to move the adjournment of the House, because it would delay business. But grievance day has been set apart for such purposes as this, and I make no apology for again bringing the matter forward. I hope that the Government will pay attention to my complaint, and that an alteration will be made, so that . private members may be placed on an equal footing with the members of the Federal Government.
– As to the complaint that has just been mentioned respecting the transmission of press telegrams, I think that Ministers will see that the honorable member for Macquarie has made out a very good case.
– He has made his statements under a misapprehension.
– It was a great mistake for the Government to allow the newspapers to send federal news as distinct from parliamentary reports at lower rates. When I originally moved for the reduction of the rate for the transmission of press messages conveying reports of the debates in this House, I never contemplated that the Government would go further and permit lower rates to be charged for reports of interviews between members of the press and Ministers, or their comments on public matters.
– They have not allowed that to be done ; that is a mistake.
– I do not see why the department should allow the lower charge to be made for telegraphed reports of interviews.
– On official matters only.
– What about those interviews in respect to the GovernorGeneral, that were telegraphed at1s. per 100 words?
– I do not want to go into that matter at further length, as I have no doubt that the Government will be able to enlighten the House and clear up some misconceptions with regard to it. What I particularly want to draw the attention of Ministers to is this : Some time ago Parliament passed a Public Service Act, under which it was understood that officers would be appointed to investigate the working of the departments in the various States. No one knows better than the Postmaster-General and the other members of the Government the disorganization and insubordination existing in the Postal department in Western Australia. I have frequently put questions to Ministers, and otherwise drawn their attention to the subject. The Postmaster - General himself practically admits the whole case : that the Post-office in Western Australia is very badly managed, and needs to be reorganized from top to bottom - chiefly at the top. Unfortunately, only one gentleman has been appointed to investigate and carry on the work under the Public Service Act for the two States of South Australia and
Western Australia. I am afraid that it will be practically impossible for one officer to do the work. South Australia is an extensive State to travel over, and Western Australia is still larger. But the conditionof the Postal department in Western Australia is such as to need instant attention ; and an officer should be sent there at once to put things into proper working order. I will give an instance of the actual chaos which prevails in the Postal department in that State. Some time ago the Postmaster-General made regulations, which were to come into operation on the 30th June. One of these regulations was that all Inter-State postal notes were to be payable at their face value at any post-office . within the Commonwealth. That was a very clear regulation. No man of ordinary common sense and common understanding could possibly make a mistake about it. But what did the officers at the head office at Perth do? At some of the gold-fields offices the postmasters read the regulation in a proper way, and their officers paid Inter-State postal notes at their face value, not deducting . the commission which bad hitherto been charged. Their action was reported to Perth, and they received instructions to continue the old system of deducting a certain commission, and, further, the officers who paid the notes at face value were called upon for a refund of the amounts so paid. That is merely a small matter perhaps, but it shows the want of knowledge or the inattention to instructions which the chief officers in Perth have continually displayed. Probably this will continue until they are shifted, or until some officer compels them to pay proper attention to their business. I would impress upon the Government that if it be necessary in the interests of economy to appoint certain officers to look after the service in the States, it is above all necessary to send an officer to put the Postal department of Western Australia on a proper foundation. There is only one othermatter to which I wish to call attention, and it is in connexion with the same department of state. Amongst the regulations recently issued is one providing that all telegraph offices and stations shall close at midnight for press messages, and that if they are kept open after that hour a charge is to be made of 4s. for the first hour, and 2s. for each subsequent hour. Possibly there is a good deal to be said for that regulation.
It may be that the press has not been paying an adequate amount for the services rendered by the Government. But I think the department could select some more equitable means of securing payment for services rendered than this one. The arrangement will work out in this way : In the case of two large city newspapers existing in a place like Melbourne, the mere payment of 6s. for keeping the telegraph open at night is a bagatelle ; but in the case of a small daily newspaper in a remote part of Australia, the editor of which is unable to close his columns before two o’clock a.m., the payment of 6s. per night, six nights in the week, amounts to a considerable tax. It would be much fairer for the Government to raise the telegraph rates a little for press messages lodged after midnight - or not to have reduced the rates - than to penalize the small newspapers, which are already fighting against many difficulties. At Coolgardie, for instance, this extra charge is being imposed upon one newspaper. Coolgardie is a repeating station, and Kalgoorlie also, I believe ; and the telegraph offices must be kept open at night in any case. To charge a small newspaper at Coolgardie or Kalgoorlie the rate I have mentioned is too great a tax. It would be much more equitable if the Government would increase the rate for messages after midnight than impose what is really a ‘differential penalty upon these small newspapers. I have no personal interest in this matter, but the question ‘ has been forced upon me by the fact that I have recently visited these places, and I know from personal experience the great hardship which the system inflicts upon these newspapers. There are many other matters upon which I might speak, but I have endeavoured to confine myself to those which are most important and of the greatest urgency.
– With respect to the matter brought forward by the honorable member for Macquarie, I understand from an interjection made by the Acting Prime Minister that there is some misapprehension, and I shall have nothing further to say .upon it. Under the system to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Coolgardie, newspapers, and particularly provincial journals, suffer great injustice. The newspapers of Western Australia are not alone in this respect. In company with the honorable member for Macquarie and the honorable member for Newcastle, I recently brought the matter before the Postmaster-General, and we were promised that it should be looked into. Until we receive the official decision I do not think further comment is necessary. I wish, however, to bring before the Government a real grievance of some importance as affecting country interests. I refer to the long delay in carrying out approved Government works in connexion with the Post and Telegraph department. A couple of concrete cases have occurred in my own electorate- and I presume they are not singular - which should place the matter strongly before the Government. Some two or three years ago the question of additions to the Orange Post-office received the attention of the State Government, and over two and a half years ago provision was made upon the State Estimates for additions and improvements, estimated to cost something like .£2,000. As no tenders had been called for the work up to the date when the department was taken over by the Commonwealth, the matter passed over to the Federal Government. I understand that the Government fully realize the necessity for carrying out the work, but, as no provision has been made for it, nothing has been done. The position in regard to the post-office at Cargo, near Orange, is practically the same. From correspondence that I have received, I believe that that office is in such a condition that it is not creditable to the Government to require their officers to carry on business in it. The position is due to no fault of the Federal Post and Telegraph department. From inquiries I have made it seems that the department recognises the necessity for carrying out the work, and is prepared to take it in hand if the necessary funds are provided. The difficulty is that, although provision has been made on the Estimates for the work, the money is not yet available. The Treasurer has been requested by the department to provide the money from what is known as the Treasurer’s Advance Account. But the light honorable gentleman sits hard on the Treasury chest and says, rightly no doubt - “ No money shall come out of this chest without parliamentary authority.” The whole trouble is due to the fact that the Government have been unable to secure the necessary parliamentary authority. I understand that although provision was made for the work on the
Estimates passed for the year just closed, the Appropriation Bill has not yet been put through, and that when it is passed the money will not be available for the reason that all unexpended votes lapse at the end of the year. The fact that the money so provided has not been expended will appear as a saving on the part of the Government. The only remedy is that the money should be revoted, and as in this, and possibly in a large number of other cases of a similar character, great injustice is being done to the community, I would respectfully urge the Government to introduce the necessary Estimates as speedily as possible, so that the work may be carried out. The work is of sufficient importance to war rant special consideration being given to it by the Government, either by taking the necessary funds from the Treasurer’s advance account, or providing for them in one of the monthly Supply Bills. Failing either of these courses, the Estimates for the current financial year should be passed as speedily as possible, so that the money may be available.
– I have a long list of grievances in regard to the new post and telegraph regulations, but I propose to mention only a portion of them to the House. In the case of Tasmania, these regulations have caused immense public inconvenience and considerable loss of revenue. I hope that, asthe result of these grievances under which the people suffer being brought home to the Government, the regulations will be materially altered in the direction of public benefit, both as regards the community and the State. One minor grievance is that of the charge of an additional1d. postage upon every letter posted in trains. In Tasmania, as in every civilized community, it has been the constant practice - and a very desirable practice, I think - to allow letters to be posted in trains. There they have been sorted, and time has been economised and business facilitated by the process. Leaving that matter, we come to telephones on trunk lines, for which a charge ranging from 6d. to10d. is made for every time that the telephone is rung on. It seems to me to be absolutely monstrous that because a man happens to have a telephone on a trunk line he should be penalized to this extent. Formerly a charge of £1 per annum was made for the use of private boxes in Tasmania, but now the charges are £1, £2, and £3 per annum. For private mail bags, delivered as the mail coaches pass the houses of those who subscribe to them, a charge of £1 per annum used to be made, but the rate fixed under these regulations is £2, while as to telephones on trunk lines connecting two towns, the simply monstrous charge is made of from 6d. to 2s. 10d., according to distance, for every three minutes’ conversation over them.. The effect of this has been, in the case of Queenstown, to cause such a withdrawal of subscribers as to involve a loss of some £700 a year. I believe that this regulation has been modified, but the position in Queenstown is not the only instance which has come under my notice. There is also the case of the Don Trading Company, who, when asked to pay £120 per annum for what they had been formerly charged £80 a vear, withdrew from subscription. Their telephone has, however, been restoredon the old basis. Then, there is the seemingly monstrous provision that private telephone lines between houses and offices, if within 20 miles radius of the capital or other large centre, shall be charged for the first quarter of a mile or fraction radially up to 1 mile, £1 5s. per annum, and for each additional half mile up to 20 miles, £1 5s. per annum. All these regulations defeat revenue, or what should also be the object of every Government - the facilitation of the enterprise of the community. I have a small personal grievance in this matter which is purely ludicrous. Whilst I was Premier of Tasmania I had a telephone erected between the Leith railway station and my own house, simply to facilitate public business. It was erected so that telegrams sent to me as Premier might be forwarded to me through the telephone, and replied to in the same way, instead of messengers being sent backwards and forwards over the intervening distance of 1 mile. In the first instanceI received notice that I should be charged something like £2 or £3 a year for this telephone’; but subsequently I received a further notice that I should be required to pay either £10 12s. or £12 10s. per annum - I cannot say which. I instructed the department to come and take the telephone away. The department did so. I am perfectly satisfied that, in my present privatecapacity, the accommodation afforded to me by that telephone is not worth more than 10s. a year. I contend that there is a want of consideration to individuals, and a want of common sense in ‘ the way that these regulations Lave been framed and are being administered, as to which Ministers might take warning, and reform, if reformation is possible to them.
– PATERSON (Brisbane). - I am glad that the honorable member for Macquarie has brought under the notice of the House the anomalous charges made for telegraphing the utterances of Ministers. The honorable member suggested that a similar, concession should be made for telegraphing the utterances of private members. I take an opposite view altogether. I say that this cannot be characterized or named as a concession. It is a robbery of the department to do this work for ls. per 100 words, no matter whether the utterances are those of a member of the Government or those of a private member.
– Does it not pay at that rate«
– Of -course, it does not pay. In the State of Queensland we never made any charge of less than 3s. per 100 words ; and yet, since the establishment of the Telegraph and Postal department in that State, not a single shilling of interest has been paid from the revenue of the department upon the loan money expended upon the construction of telegraph lines and the building of postoffices. The balance-sheet is presented every year without a shilling going to pay interest. The expenditure, plus the interest on loan money to which I. have referred, brings the Telegraph and Postal department in that -State into a most disastrous financial position. I am not able to speak as to the practice in the other States. But in view of the necessity for paying interest upon cost of construction, providing for a sinking fund, rents, salaries, and other emoluments in connexion with this department, I think that 3s. per 100 words should be the lowest charge made to the press or anybody else. Having said so much, I. shall defer further observations upon the subject until we have the explanation of one or other of the Ministers in reply to the honorable, member for Macquarie. I gathered from an interpolation of the Acting Prime Minister that the honorable member for Macquarie was under some misapprehension. I now come to another matter, in connexion with- which I have a great deal of sympathy. I had the other day in Brisbane the honour and satisfaction of performing a public duty. On the occasion to which I refer my honorable colleague, the honorable member for Oxley, was present, and one of the proprietors of a morning newspaper in Rockhampton was also present, representing the Rockhampton press.
– Was that where they refused to toast the Federal Parliament 1
– PATERSON. - The business of which I am speaking has no relation to picnics. I am referring to a deputation that waited upon the PostmasterGeneral on behalf of the Rockhampton newspapers which were represented by a Mr. Blair, and the object was to urge the desirability of continuing the previouslyexisting practice of keeping the telegraph office at Rockhampton open until 3 a.m. on all days except Sundays. Rules were recently promulgated by the department under which the post and telegraph offices in provincial towns were closed at 9- p.m. The regulations have been to some extent modified by the department, at the suggestion of my honorable and learned friend the member for Darling Downs, who, on behalf of the provincial press association, made such representations as led the department to fix 12 midnight as a suitable closing hour to be universally adopted in. the provincial towns of the different States. It is these little grains of sand between the teeth of the community, coupled with many annoyances, inconveniences and wrongs which they suffer through the action of other departments, and particularly, it is alleged, of the Customs department, which produce a sort of quasi-torture, and make people cry out and ask themselves why they have sought for federation when the result is that they are worse off now than ever they were before. Many people were looking forward to the benefits they expected to derive from the amalgamation of the different State departments under the Commonwealth ; but instead of securing comfort in the conduct of their business they have been subjected to irritation. Instead of having harmonious administration they have something totally different. The matter to which I refer was properly represented by the deputation to the Postmaster-General in Brisbane. Mr. Blair explained that ever since the publication of newspapers in Rockhampton, and the establishment of telegraphic communication there the practice had been to keep the telegraph office open for the convenience of the newspapers until 3 a.m. Now the office closes at midnight, and for the extra three hours the newspapers are called upon to pay 8s. per night, which in these times amounts to a pretty heavy tax. For the 313 working days of the year, it comes to over £120, and that is not a small item in the expense of conducting a provincial daily at this juncture, when subscribers are diminishing and bad debts increasing - because newspapers have bad debts - and at a time when, owing to the drought, advertising has been curtailed. It is a considerable tax, and it is felt all the more because it is so great a change from the custom which has hitherto prevailed. It is impossible, as every one knows, to get press messages concerning the proceedings at public meetings biking place in different parts of Australia through to the provincial press before 12 o’clock. No one is more anxious than I to maintain, and, if possible, augment the public revenue of the Commonwealth in all the departments, but with an experience of several years as Postmaster-General in Queensland, and having in that capacity come intO contact with the Postmasters-General of the other States, with the exception of Western Australia, in dealing with important public matters, I am enabled to urge a few words of business sympathy in support of the demand made by the provincial press that the telegraph offices should, as in the past, be kept open until three o’clock in the morning. It was pointed out at the deputation to which I have referred that in Brisbane, with six or seven times the population of Rockhampton, the telegraph-office is kept open all night without any extra charge to local newspapers. That is an advantage possessed by newspapers in the larger centres of population, but I point out that it is the weaker journals - the little provincial newspapers - that should receive consideration from the Government. We must all recognise that even a weekly newspaper published in a provincial town containing a couple of thousand inhabitants exercises a great influence for good throughout the little community in which it is published. The people in those communities have not the advantages possessed by people living in the towns, where the workman, on leaving his bench at five o’clock in the evening, is able to buy an evening paper for Id. The usual charge for these provincial newspapers is 6d., and I do not think any are published ‘ for less than 3d. Having regard to all these circumstances, and having regard to the social conditions of these little communities, I do not think it is wise public policy to impose a tax of £120 a year upon any newspaper in a provincial town, even though it be necessary to keep one officer on duty until three o’clock in the morning. Surely shifts could be arranged ; an officer going oil duty at seven o’clock in the evening, and getting off at three in the morning would have worked a shift of eight hours. Even the waiters in hotels under the Factories Act in Victoria work in shifts, and are expected to work early hours and late hours. It is cast-iron rules and regulations, such as that which has abolished the advantage which provincial newspapers hitherto enjoyed, that are irritating the community, and bringing the federal authority and the Commonwealth administration very properly, if not into contempt, at any rate into great disfavour.
Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - By way of personal explanation, I desire to add to what I said that the private telephone communication I had was between my house and the Leith railway station, and that is all. I could communicate with no ‘ one but the station-master, who is also the postmaster, and there is no place to which I could send a telephonic message except to the Leith railway station.
– What was the charge for that?
– I have said what I was asked to pay was either £10 12s. or £12 10s. per year.
– How much was that in addition to what the right honorable gentleman had been paying ?
– I have explained that I had been paying nothing. I had the telephone erected while Premier of the State, in order to enable me to carry on public business while I was at home.
– My attention has a few times been called to the harsh operation of one of the new regulations in districts where there happen to be no banks. Take, for instance, the case of Renmark. I have been given some information by an association at Renmark which the department to some extent disputes, but the association by letter confirmed the facts which they have submitted to me. I find that the old rate for sending £20 worth of silver to Renmark from the bank in Adelaide was ls. 6d. .Now under the new regulations of the 30th of June, the sending of bullion by parcels post is prohibited, and the consequence is that the charge for sending a parcel of £20 worth of silver from Adelaide to Renmark is 22s. 6d. This is found to be exceedingly inconvenient in places like Renmark, where there is scarcely any currency other than silver.
– What responsibility did the Government authorities undertake when they carried bullion as a parcel1!
– I do not think that they took any. It was simply registered as an ordinary parcel. I do not think they took any liability as to loss, nor do I think they were asked to accept any liability. The regulation to which I refer is exceedingly inconvenient for places like Renmark. I hope the matter will be looked into with a view to continuing the previous practice. I may say that in South Australia, inquiries have been made locally, and I have been rather surprised to hear that what I have referred to was not the rule there. I have sent for confirmation of the information I have received, and the statements made to me are categorical and explicit. I hope the Acting Prime Minister will reply clearly to the statement of the honorable member for Macquarie. The complaint of the honorable member for Macquarie is that Ministers regard every information, or criticism combined with information, coming from them as liable only to the lower rate, whereas if a statement of facts, or criticism combined with a statement of facts, happens to come from the leader of the Opposition it is charged the higher rate. The regulation dealing with press telegrams is as follows : -
Commonwealth press telegrams shall mean those relating to parliamen tar y and executive proceedings of the Commonwealth ; or parliamentary papers and Bills, or summaries thereof, without notes or comments ; or information given by Commonwealth Ministers for publication.
Surely a statement on such matters made by the leader qf the Opposition ought to come under that regulation quite as much as do statements by Ministers. If it is the practice of Ministers to regard every statement, whether it be criticism or otherwise, as coming under the head of information supplied by the Executive, that seems an undue extension of the privilege accorded to Ministers. A legitimate corollary would be to allow all criticism,, if not by all politicians, at any rate by the leader of the Opposition, to come under the regulation which I have read. Indeed, I do not think there ought to be any distinction made as between members of this House : it is only a matter of convenience that any distinction at all is made. No doubt, Ministers have recognition outside as Ministers of State, but in the House they are simply a sort of executive committee to initiate legislation.
Mi-. GLYNN. - -Ministers are only a sort of executive committee to initiate legislation, and take control of the business in the House. A Minister of State under the Constitution has a status that is independent of his position as a member of the Cabinet committee of the House, and under the circumstances all honorable members would seem to be on the same footing so far as regards the right or privilege of having their expressions of opinion transmitted at the lower rates. While we should not grumble at the Minister extending the regulation, so as to cover criticism combined with information, we object to a ban being placed on the transmission of the utterances of the leader of the Opposition.
– I dislike extremely rising to speak once more on post-office grievances. I have done so until I feel myself a sort of grievancemonger, but I am .afraid I shall have to keep pegging away until some remedy is applied. Only this morning I received a communication which shows the absurdity of the regulations now in force. I presume I shall have to seek a remedy in the usual way, but if that is to continue, honorable members will have nothing to do but run between Parliament House and the Post-office. That ought not to be the case ; we ought to have something better to do than continually deal with small grievances. I have many such grievances in my electorate as that inferred to by the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, and it is time there was some alteration in the administration of this great department. My own. impression is that all the trouble, particularly that connected with the telephone service, arises from the effort to establish a dull, dead uniformity, for which I can see no necessity. I can understand uniform postal and telegraphic regulations as applying equally to the States, but I cannot see any reason for uniform telephone regulations. There is no objection to uniformity on a proper and reasonable basis, but when an attempt is made to level down the conditions in the best of the States to the conditions in the worst of, the States, it ought to be resisted to the utmost of our power. New South Wales has four or five times the amount of business that have some of the smaller States, and there is no reason why the former should be subject to the same conditions as the latter. There is no equality of treatment in a State as between individuals. A man in the back country, who wants to use a telephone, is practically subject to a fine, as compared with the man in town, and there is no need to strain for an absurd uniformity throughout the various States. I see nothing” to prevent absolute autonomy being conceded to the various States, who ought to be allowed to manage their own affairs, so far as the telephone is concerned, in view of local circumstances and requirements. The proposal is to charge a trunk rate over a distance of 1 0 miles ; and that means bringing New South Wales, where the distance is 20 miles without any charge, down to the level of other States. I cannot see why the Post-office authorities should not sometimes stumble upwards rather than stumble downwards. I earnestly hope that the officials will not apply uniformity to the trunk lines at any rate. For their own peace of mind, as well as for our peace of mind, I urge them to exercise a little common sense, and bring to bear on this question those principles which an ordinary business man would apply. The telephonic business ought to be managed on commercial principles : it is essentially a local service, and we ought not to treat New South Wales, for instance, in the same way as a State in which, perhaps, the volume of business is small, and the service does not pay. Every State should be treated on its merits in proportion to the amount and quality of the business done. I have yet to learn that the department ought to be made a machine for getting as much as possible out of people. The service ought to be put on a paying basis, and the moment that is done every effort should be made to give further advantages rather than to take advantages away. Another regulation which seems to be most absurd provides that if a man desires to have another switch put on in a radius where lie already has a connexion, he must bear all the cost in addition to a yearly rental. Such a case in my own electorate has been brought under my notice this morning. An old subscriber, with a telephonic connexion, desired to have another switch provided in his private house, so that he might be able to speak to his manager or any one else connected with his business, and he was told that he must pay £9 lis. 6d. as the cost of construction, and also a rental of £2 10s. per annum. Personally, I should not use a telephone under such conditions, and I can see no reason for this absurd action on the part of the Postal authorities. Such regulations are calculated to cause people to cease to use the telephone. The joke is that this subscriber already has a line to his private house, and all that is required is an instrument at the end, and yet he is charged as though a new line had to be constructed. Even before I ceased to have control of the post-office in New South Wales, the total cost of these instruments was £3 5s., and yet it is sought to make a man pay a rental of £2 10s.
Mr. Watson. Is there no additional attendance required ?
– No; that £2 10s. is for the rent of the instrument only. I know that these instruments are delicate, and that repairs are sometimes necessary, but I cannot believe that the life of a telephone is only a year and a half, as the regulation would seem to indicate. The constantly expanding business ought to be considered, and some effort put forth to make the service a little cheaper to subscribers. Instead of that there is the old regulation which was made when the business of the telephone was nothing like what it is to-day. There are other instances of that kind in the regulations, but ‘ they all seem to point to the danger there is in relying absolutely on experts for advice. I am told that these regulations are in accordance with the report of a conference of telephonic experts from the various States. I refuse to “believe that an electrical engineer is necessarily the best business man one can get. Yet these men practically make the regulations, and get the officers of the department and the Postmaster-General to indorse them. The Minister ought to be very careful in accepting the suggestions of his experts. They do not necessarily possess all the business capability in the community ; he is as capable as they of judging things; but the only reason which can be given for the regulations is that the experts recommended them some time ago. The maintenance of the service is a matter coming within their purview. “We are not allowed to criticise their actions in that respect. We leave them to reign in that field undisturbed, but when it comes to a matter of business I think that any commonsense man has just the same chance of making up his mind correctly as they have. The Minister will do well to step outside all this red-tape and technique, and look at the matter from a purely business stand-point. If he would take that course, I am quite sure that there would be a revolution in these regulations. I ask those concerned to be careful how they apply the trunk-line rate uniformly to all the States. The only effect of such an application will be to take advantages from the larger States without, so far as I know, conferring additional advantages on the smaller States. I do not see why a service which is returning a handsome dividend on the loan investment should be deprived of any advantages for the sake of applying a uniformity where certainly it is not required. I sincerely hope that some step will be taken in the matter of the cash guarantees. I went to the department yesterday with a case which they promised to look into, and which on the face of it seemed to be a shocking example. A line of communication with their market town was wanted by some fruitgrowers. All. that was required to be done was a switch on the railway line, which could be provided without much trouble. According to the departmental estimate, the cost of constructing a new line for the distance of 3 or 4 miles would be about £50. But they would not undertake its construction unless a cash guarantee of £62 13s. was put into a bank. They said that this money was required to cover the cost of operating the line for five years, as well as the cost of all the instruments and the construction of two-thirds of the line, and they estimated that the revenue would be £S per annum. If that is the way to facilitate telephone business throughout the Commonwealth, it is a strange way, to my thinking, and I do not wonder at the hue and cry which is being got up as to the fettering obstruction which federation is becoming, rather than leading to more economical and careful’ management, and conferring greater advantages on the people. I hope that these criticisms will be taken in the spirit in which they are intended. I do not like bothering with these matters, but we must do so when the people are crying out as they do. The name of federation will presently stink in the nostrils of the people, unless some action is taken to stop this absurd administration. Why does not the PostmasterGeneral give the people of the various States carle blanche ? Why does he fetter them with regulations which may be adapted to a small State, but which are totally wrong for large States where the volume of business is different ? If he would take another course we might have some hope of these grievances being redressed, but so long as the present regulations are retained the troubles will continue, and the Post-office will become more and more unpopular.
– I wish to make an explanation. I said I had a letter which caine from the Postal department concerning press telegrams sent from Sydney and from Melbourne. It was received from the Acting Deputy Postmaster-General at Sydney and reads as follows : -
Referring to your communication of the 10th ult., respecting the “full rates” charge made for a press message sent from your office to the Adelaide Advertiser, containing a speech made by Sir William J. Lyne, at Sydney, I have the honour to inform you that the secretary, PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Melbourne, advises that speeches made by Ministers do not necessarily come within the definition of “ information, given by Commonwealth Ministers for publication,’ and that it was not intended, that the reduced rate for Commonwealth press telegrams was to apply to anything transpiring outside Melbourne, as the temporary seat of Government for the Federal Parliament and Executive.
It bears out exactly what I said.
– It will come as an agreeable variation to the Government when I say that I have no grievance against them to-day. Nevertheless, I have a matter to bring forward, which, I think, ought to be of interest to them, and indeed to every other member of the House. At a time when the public are being informed by the press that the Federal Parliament exists under conditions of almost unexampled luxury and comfort, it may be a. surprise to find a member like myself presuming to complain in any of these respects. Such, however, is my intention, and I think I shall show that the conditions of the Chamber are neither comfortable nor conducive to health. I do not intend to make any charges against any officials connected with the building. I have received from’ them nothing but the utmost courtesy and attention. Any defects I have to speak of must be understood tobe defects of system. I hardly remember having suffered more physical discomfort in my life than during the two winters I have spent in this Chamber. The particular form of discomfort is a coldness of the lower extremities. I know that I shall afford an excellent opportunity for the caricaturists to depict honorable members trying to obviate cold feet with the aid of foot-warmers, hot water and mustard baths. But this has a tragic side. In my own case this personal discomfort culminated last winter in a very serious illness. Two members of this House have died, and, at least, one death may be traceable, in some degree, to the conditions under which we sit here. The late Mr. Piesse used to complain to me very frequently of the precise form of physical discomfort I have mentioned. For some considerable time I thought that I might be a faddist in that respect, although not previously considered as such by my friends, and I endured in silence. But a little while ago I overheard complaints from one or two honorable members immediately behind me, and I determined to get to the bottom of this trouble. I inquired of one or two of the officials, and finally the engineer in charge and I had a look at the place. In our conversation I asked him what system of ventilation was in vogue. I felt satisfied from his explanation that there was something wrong in the system. I made further application, to another gentleman in the public service of Victoria - one who has had a very large experience in sanitation and ventilation - and he has supplied me with such information as, I think, thoroughly justifies me in bringing the matter before the House. I do not intend, as I did originally, to quote, any lengthy scientific opinions. A few rough and ready investigations I have made will, I think, show that I have very good ground for the position I have taken up. The system in vogue is what is known as the “Plenum “ system of ventilation and heating. Hot air is thrown into the Chamber by means of openings at the top of the dadoes. So far, so good. But there is another part of this system which I have only to mention in order to show its utter absurdity. In addition to these openings for the supply of warm and fresh air, there are a number of openings along the ledges over which the seats are placed, to allow the bad air to escape. When the engineer told me of their object, I was in a position to assure him that whatever might have been the theory, the openings introduced cold currents, and by a rough and ready experiment he satisfied himself that such was the case. Having managed to get under a seat he held a lighted match to an opening, and the current was so strong as almost to blow out the light. These openings are placed all round the chamber, but the objectionable current is particularly strong at the corners, and it is accounted for by this fact, that at each corner a tunnel is driven from behind the ledges down to the subterranean depths of the building. The theory of this “Plenum” system is that the floor outlets are contrived to enable the carbonic acid gas which we exhale to . escape from the building. The theory proceeds on the assumption that carbonic acid gas always falls. But it has been discovered since the “ Plenum” system was put forward that the carbonic acid gas which we exhale, instead of descending, rises; so that there is no advantage in attempting to get the objectionable atmosphere out of the Chamber by these lower outlets. Then, we are very apt to be misled as regards the warmth of the Chamber. When we come into it we find an agreeable warmth striking our faces. But I can assure honorable members, if they have not discovered the fact from the condition of their lower extremities, that the atmosphere about head or breast high is not by any means a criterion of the atmosphere on the floor. Owing to the hot air coming in at a certain height the tendency is to create a draught through the gratings or openings all round the floor ; and the stronger the current of hot air forced into the Chamber, and the warmer that currentis, the more powerful the draught from the numerous holes on the floor. I have proved such to be the case, and that cold currents of air do come in, from the simple experiment of bringing a small thermometer, testing it by comparing it with the thermometer hanging behind the Speaker’s chair, and then placing it underneath the seats in the corners. I found to-da)’, which is a fairly good day for a Victorian winter day, that while the temperature outside, as shown by Gaunt’s thermometer at the time I came up the street, was 60 degrees, and while that also was the temperature shown alittle while ago by the thermometer behind the Speaker’s chair, the temperature underneath the bench was 9 degrees lower. This experiment shows that we are sitting in a temperature of, say, 60 degrees, so far as the upper parts of our bodies are concerned, whilst the effect of the warmth in the upper part of the Chamber is to introduce an icy current from the subterranean depths S or 9 degrees lower than the temperature of the atmosphere above. I have taken pains to satisfy myself with regard to these facts. I could quote authorities, if necessary, to show that the system in vogue is entirely objectionable ; but I think that what I have said will have indicated that some improvement is absolutely necessary. Although I may have upset another Victorian idol in respect to the ventilation of this Chamber - for I believe that students are even brought here from the University to observe the wonderful perfection of the system - what I have said is not only of importance as regards our comfort, but also in regard to our health. It may be urged by those who may object to an improvement being affected that we are near to the end of the winter and probably near to the end of the session. But with the proverbially slow movements of Governments and their officials-
– This is a matter which concerns the House Committee.
– It is necessary even in the case of parliamentary committees to give considerable notice. Probably by the time the next winter commences the condition of affairs I have pointed out may be improved. It can be done in a simple way - merely by- transforming the tunnels which at present convey cold air from the lower regions of this building into hot-air flues, carrying some portion of the hot air into the Chamber and thus warming the floor space equally with the upper portion. I trust that what I have said is sufficient to justify the expectation that the Government will make a note of the matter, and that they will do something to obviate the discomfort which I find is almost generally felt. I have been told sines I mentioned the matter among honorable members that all sorts of expedients are being resorted to in order to overcome the cold. Sometimes the method is the wearing of two pairs of socks to keep the unfortunate feet of honorable members in a condition of reasonable warmth. I think I have shown why our lower extremities are so cold, and I hope that the Government will, at the earliest possible opportunity, give us that comfort which the outside public are given to understand we enjoy in such a high degree.
– I can assure the honorable member for Perth that he has destroyed no Victorian idol in condemning the system of ventilation prevailing in connexion with this Chamber. I only wish I were in possession of the thousands of pounds that have been spent in different endeavours to ventilate it properly.
– Are not students brought from the University to admire the ventilation arrangements 1
– Students may be brought here, but not, I should think, to elicit their admiration. I have a vivid recollection that when Minister of Public Works in Victoria, I had to attend one or two meetings held in connexion with inquiries for the purpose of improving the ventilation. The investigation commenced by obtaining the services of two experts. One was a continental and the other a local expert, both of them being pastmasters in the science. The first told us that the basic principle and the whole foundation of a proper’ system of ventilation was that the tendency of the gases exhaled from the human system was to fall, and that those poisonous gases should be carried off by means of perforations on the floor, while currents of fresh air should be poured in from the highest available point.
– That theory is entirely disproved.
– I think it is widely held even now. Then the other expert came. We did not think it necessary to start from the very beginning with him, but he insisted upon telling us that the primary principle of ventilation was that the poisonous air exhaled from the lungs had a tendency to rise, and that the fresh air should come in at the floor. After that I did not attend any more sittings of the inquiry ! It would appear that the existing arrangement enjoys the disadvantages of both systems ! If the . honorable member for Perth will put himself into communication with the House Committee, perhaps some simple - and, I hope, inexpensive - experiments may be ti-ied which will effect an improvement and save us from the necessity of legislating with the uncomfortable feeling that we are sitting up to our knees in cold water. But the bulk of the debate to-day has related to a department, and to regulations, and practices, with which I am only gradually becoming acquainted. I am sorry, therefore, not to be able to deal with the different points that have been raised by honorable members, as the Minister at the head of the department could have done. All that I can say is that as was the case on the last occasion when these questions were raised, the attention of the Minister will be called to the series of points that have been put ; and I think I can say now that [every one of those points has been dealt with either finally or tentatively in some way, except the one referred to by the honorable member . for Parramatta. That had relation to arrangements as to the deposit to be made on the opening of any new telephone line. That remains to be dealt with. The debate to-day will be treated in precisely the same manner as previous discussions were treated. Every statement, and every complaint, that has been made, will be scheduled, and the attention of my colleague the PostmasterGeneral and his advisers will be given to them. One or two matters which have been mentioned have been partially dealt with. For instance there is the question of the use of the telephone trunk lines for press purposes, and at press rates, during the day Lime. An experiment is now proceeding in order to prove the practical efficacy of the suggestion made, that the press should be allowed to use the trunk line telephones on terms. The experiment is in the direction of seeing how the system will work of allowing the wires to be used by the press when idle, and their use interrupted, when any ordinary member of the public, paying ordinary rates, wishes to use them ; the press message being resumed when the ordinary clients of the department no longer require their services. Then, again, with reference to the charge made for night service at the telegraph-offices, I may state that the practice complained of has already been varied in all cases in which daily newspapers, or newspapers issued on alternate days, are published. Several other amendments in the existing practice are being considered. The case of Rockhampton, to which the honorable and learned member for Brisbane referred, will be taken into account. It may be that an arrangement will be made which will permit of the difficulty being remedied by allowing a night shift to carry on the work, enabling messages to be received up to 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. I will not attempt to deal seriatim with the questions which have been raised at this stage, but honorable members will see, I am sure, and will have evidence before them, that every one of “the points raised has been practically considered. The important question introduced by the honorable member for Macquarie is one which certainly demands attention, and points to the necessity of once more revising the conditions on which lower charges are made for telegraphic messages despatched to newspapers in reference to the business of this House and statements made by Ministers. That lower charge in the latter case, was originally intended to apply only to statements made officially by Ministers as to departmental matters which were considered to be of general public interest. I quite agree with my honorable friend, that any discrimination between Ministers and other Members of Parliament is unnecessary and unwise. It certainly would lead to differences which it would be difficult to justify, and which I shall not attempt to justify. It appears to me, that having regard to the financial circumstances of the States, and the demands made upon them for facilities in regard to the telephonic and telegraphic services, the better plan would be for Ministers to forego the regulation with . regard to reduced charges for messages concerning statements made by them in connexion with the departments, and to allow such messages to be treated in the same way as telegrams concerning other statements made outside this House. The reduced rates should be confined to telegrams reporting Parliament and parliamentary proceedings, and nothing else ; so that no member of this House or the public would feel that members of the Executive Government enjoyed any advantages in respect to the publication of their views that did not pertain to every . other member of
Parliament. I certainly will promise to consult my colleague on that point.
– What about the Sydney case 1 “Mr. DEAKIN.- That case shows the mistake of discriminating, not only between members and Ministers, but also between the same person in different places. Such a system is equally unnecessary and inadvisable. I am unable to agree with the proposition of the honorable member for Parramatta that each State should continue to be dealt with in regard to its telephonic and telegraphic services as if it alone were responsible for those services. Such a system would be practically impossible - because it would be impossible to satisfy the citizens of every other State that they were not entitled to enjoy the conditions which prevailed in one State. But there may be something to be said with regard to making distinctions between a sparsely-settled portion of one State and a more thickly-settled portion of the same State. I quite agree that we should have regulations that would give, us a greater measure of elasticity, and would enable us to deal with the state of things the honorable member has described. Why there should be a deposit at all in the instance the honorable member mentioned, I am unable to explain. It appears to me as if the experts who have been consulted, and under whose advice these regulations were framed, have fallen into some errors which I am glad not to be called upon as yet to defend. But, at the same time, it may be the course which would have suggested itself to any one confronted with the difficult task of bringing the six systems prevailing in the six States together, and choosing that which would admit of adaptation to all the States. It appears, however, that the experts who in this instance were called in, as being those best able to advise the Minister, have failed in several particulars. As the honorable member has said, it now remains for us to regard these services from a business point of view. I hope that we shall reduce existing friction, but cannot see that it will be removed except gradually, and by process of time, even when the services are so regarded. We must commence upon a uniform basis, and gradually modify the system as necessity requires in the different States. The telephone and telegraphic services are business undertakings to be managed on business principles, and what we require to do “is to see that they are governed as a private firm would govern them.
– Could not the Government make one set of regulations apply, say, to a telephone service which has 1,000 subscribers, and another set to apply to a service with 2,000 subscribers ?
– That is the distinction which should be drawn.
– But the honorable and learned member said that it could not be done.
– I said that a distinction could not be drawn as between State and State.
– I contend that it can.
– The distinction should be made, not between State and State, but between locality and locality according to the area operated upon by the telephone service. That would differ entirely from a distinction as between State and State. A difference between State and State would arouse jealousy. If the practice in regard to the service in New South Wales differed from the practice in Queensland and Western Australia, jealousy would be aroused in the two States which were considered to be less favoured. If we were to say, however, that where there is a service with 1,000 subscribers, there shall be such and such a practice ; that where there is a service with 2,000 subscribers there shall be another arrangement; and still another applicable to a service with 3,000 subscribers, the system might be applied in each State, and would be equally reasonable.
– It could not apply in each State, because in some cases they have not 1,000 subscribers.
– But no complaint could be made if the distinction were made on the ground of numbers. The grievance is not that a distinction is made between citizens of different States, but that the principles laid down being business principles, they must be applied differently according to the number of subscribers dealt with.
– That is my argument.
– The honorable member did not put it in that way, and lest I should mislead, I pointed out where we differ and where wo agree. The management of the telephone exchange is ii matter of business to be dealt with on business principles. Undoubtedly, so fair as we can make it pay, and increase its business, we shall reduce the rates, and increase its facilities. But there is a point beyond which the service will not pay, and there we must stop, unless we are prepared to subsidize certain places at the expense of others. If the House is prepared to adopt that course, it must do so upon some principle which shall be capable of being equitably applied all over the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie referred to a matter of considerable importance to Western Australia and South Australia - the appointment of inspectors under the Public Service Act - which the Acting Prime Minister has evidently overlooked.
– I thought that my honorable colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs, would deal with it.
– I am sure we shall be glad to hear what the Minister for Home Affairs has to say on the matter. Under the Public Service Act, six inspectors - one for each State - can be appointed. So far, only four have been selected, and one is required to do the work of South Australia and Western Australia. Any one who knows anything about the public service of Western Australia must be aware that there is quite sufficient work for one man to do in connexion with it, and it is absurd to expect one man, no matter how able or energetic he may be, to deal with the service in the two States.
– Perhaps I may save time by informing the honorable member that the existing staff of inspectors, while sufficient for the present, is not to be considered as being necessarily complete. The officers appointed are able to do the preliminary work now undertaken, but it is quite possible that an additional inspector will be required to deal with the public service of the State which the honorable member mentions. That has been recognised from the first.
– I would impress upon the Acting Prime Minister the necessity for immediate action in connexion with the public service of Western Australia, and more especially in regard to. the administration of thePost and Telegraph department of that State. I can assure the Ministry that there is a universal feeling of dissatisfaction in regard to the service, and I might speak for some time on the grievances of the public, which I learned on my recent visit to Western Australia. There is no part . of the Commonwealth where the service needs so much attention and requires it at such an early date as in Western Australia. Therefore I wish to protest against one inspector being expected to do the work for the two States. When the officers were being appointed some honorable members from Western Australia thought it might be advisable that an inspector from one of the other States should be appointed for Western Australia, so that he might be unbiased and free from the prejudices which might attach to a local officer. My idea is that that principle should apply not only to Western Australia, but to the Commonwealth generally. If, for example, an officer from Tasmania or Queensland were appointed as inspector for Victoria, South Australia, or New South Wales, he would be absolutely free from the cliqueism or influences which might arise if he were connected with the local service, and that would apply to the case of Western Australia. I think it would be better to appoint an inspector from one of the other States, so that he might set to work with an absolutely open mind. At the same time I should like it to be clearly understood that there are good men in the service of Western Australia, who ought not to be debarred from appointment. But if an officer is taken from theservice in Western Australia he should be appointed an inspector for another State, where he would be quite apart from those with whom he had been associated for many years. Considerable disappointment is felt in Western Australia, and I have heard some remarks in regard to the appointment of one inspector for Victoria and Tasmania. It takes four days to travel from Adelaide to Perth, and if much travelling be necessary, it will involve a great loss of time. I hope that at an early date an inspector will be appointed to deal solely with the service in Western Australia. If an officer is appointed for that State alone, and does his duty conscientiously, his position will be no sinecure. He will have plenty to do for some time to come.
– I wish to say a few words in regard to a matter of considerable importance to . Queensland. Fully six months ago, the Postal Rates Bill was introduced in this House, but it has been postponed month after month, and has not yet been discussed by us to any extent.
– A provision in that Bill with reference to the Tasmanian cable rate was amended by the Senate. The Premiers’ Conference considered the question, and decided that the Tasmanian cable rate should be dealt with in a certain way ; but owing to the fact that some of the States Governments subsequently withdrew from that decision, the negotiations have only just been terminated.
– The Queensland newspapers are paying 50 per cent. more than any of the other States in respect of press telegrams, and now that we have federation, there ought to be a uniform rate throughout the Commonwealth. I desire to learn from the Acting Prime Minister when the Bill is likely to be dealt withby the House. Another matter which I should like to touch upon is that, according to this morning’s issue of the Argus, the Acting Prime Minister has received a long report from Judge Dashwood on the present condition of the pearl-fishing industry in Northern Australia. I hope that the report will be laid on the table of the House in the near future, so that those interested in the pearl-fishing industry may know what they have to provide for.
– The only matter which I desire to discuss is the taxing of ship’s stores. The question has been brought forward on several occasions, and the Minister has promised to inquire into it. I have previously expressed the opinion that it was not the intention of this House, and that it was not legal to tax stores on ships that come into one of the ports of the Commonwealth, and do not trade in Australian waters. I desire to know whether the Minister has yet gone into the matter, and whether he is prepared to give a decision. The fact that a duty is charged on paint taken out of a ship’s locker by her master, who requires to paint his ship in port, is giving rise to great irritation, and causing captains to have their work done in other ports. The greater the delay the worse it is for the trade of the Commonwealth. I should like to see the matter placed on a proper footing.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).I have been requested by my constituents to bring under the notice of the Government the neglect to supply postal facilities in several important parts of the electorate of Robertson. In the district of Wellington a post-office is badly needed. For some years the State Government promised to erect an office, at a cost of something like £2,000 or £3,000, but the people would be quite satisfied with a building costing considerably less, as long as facilities were provided commensurate with the importance of the district. Residents of Wellington complain that they are not only unable to secure proper postal facilities, but that adequate accommodation is not made for the postal officials, with the result that the public are forced to use certain parts of the building that are at the same time devoted to domestic purposes. Within a short distance of Wellington there is a place called Montefiores, where an old office has been in existence from the earliest days of settlement in New SouthWales. There the public are not even able to purchase postage stamps. The same remark applies to other parts of my electorate, and it is urged as an excuse by the department that the returns from these old offices are so small that they do not warrant the granting of these ordinary facilities. Now I believe that the withholding of the sale of postage stamps at these centres, and I specially refer to Montifoire, is being urged as a reason why the post-offices at those places should be closed. The people of the district are in a high state of indignation upon the matter, and they have requested me over and over again to bring it before the House. I have interviewed the authorities of the department, both in Sydney and in Melbourne, to try to secure some facilities of communication for these people without having to bring their grievances before Parliament. But it seems that something has to be said here before any practical attention is given to reasonable requests made by constituents in New South Wales. One receives courteous interviews and very polite letters, but nothing comes of them. Indeed, it is now looked upon as a waste of time to go to the departments to make requests for ordinary facilities, because nothing is ever done beyond the sending of the reply that the matter will be considered favorably. I may further mention that in the district of Robertson the people have not ordinary facilities for telegraphic communication. These people have to travel miles to take their communications to places where facilities are given for sending them on. There are, for instance, no telephone or telegraph facilities at Goolma or Two Mile Flat, though these places could be connected with the telegraph system by the construction of a line for a distance of something like 4 miles. That has been brought under the notice of the authorities before, but nothing has been done. It seems to me that the Minister in charge of this department might look into the matter and give some assurance that the convenience of the public will be attended to. There is another matter of more than ordinary importance to which, I think, reference should be made ; and that is the retrenchment which has been effected in the Defence Department. Some officers who have been in the department for 30’ years, who have practically organized the department in New South Wales, are now in their grey hairs cast adrift. It seems to me that the Government have taken a very stringent course, and the men with least influence appear to have suffered most. There is one gentleman to whom the people of New South Wales are especially indebted. Now that he is too old to enter upon any other occupation, he is cast adrift, though he practically re-organized the service, and carried out his work generally to the satisfaction of the officer commanding in that State. I believe that some pittance is now offered to him in Melbourne, and that he must either take that or go upon the streets.
– What is his name ?
– I decline to mention names at any time. I say further that in the district of Wellington there is an officer called upon to retire who has, from the inception of the volunteer movement, taken the liveliest interest in its welfare, and owing to his personality and influence its high efficiency has been attained. His reward should be promotion in his regiment ; but instead he has been called upon to retire without any sound reason being given. It seems to me that a very great injustice has been done. I am sorry that the Minister in charge of the department is not in his place to hear what is said, but I think he should make careful inquiries, and see that as little hardship as possible is inflicted upon men who have done so much good service for the States, and officers who have done so much for the volunteer service, and who would in future have done equally good service for the Commonwealth,
– I have a small matter to bring before the Minister with reference to the Fremantle Post-office. Some little time ago, when it was proposed in the State Parliament that money should be expended upon the improvement of the building, it was suggested that it would be better to pull it down altogether and build an entirety new post-office on the block of land held for the purpose in the vicinity. I may remind honorable members that Fremantle is the first landing port of Australia, and many letters are addressed there purposely in order to meet people landing there in the first instance. Within the last two or three years the population of the place has considerably increased, and it is found now to be absolutely necessary that something should be done to afford greater convenience to the public for the transaction of postal business. I hope the Minister will take the matter into consideration, and give that accommodation which is due to a port like Fremantle, which may be called the landing place of Australia. With reference to the matter referred to by my honorable colleague, the honorable member for Coolgardie, as to the appointment of an inspector under the Public Service Act for Western Australia, I entirely agree with what that honorable member has said. Considering its distance from the other States, and the fact that Western Australia is nearly one-third of the whole of the Commonwealth, it is necessary that we should have as an inspector there a man who is not also connected with the work required to be done in” any other State. With reference to selections from the public service in Western Australia, I can assure honorable members that there are officers there who have the highest confidence of the people, and who will do justice to any position to which they may be appointed.
– I desire to emphasize what has been said by the honorable member for Coolgardie with respect to the appointment of one inspector under the Public Service Act being insufficient for the two States of South Australia and Western Australia. The duties which he will have to carry out under the Public Service Act will, for a considerable time, keep his hands very full indeed, and unless the intention is to prevent certain, employes of the Federal Government having justice done to them by putting off the evil day, as some people consider it when they will have to pay a little more remuneration for the services rendered them than they are paying at the present time, I feel confident that it will be found that one inspector cannot properly perform the duties of this office for the two States. I trust that what has been said will receive the fullest consideration of Ministers, and while the immediate extra cost would not amount to much, I think it would result in a saving in the long run if an extra officer were now appointed, seeing that he might at once get into the running with the other inspectors appointed. With regard to the objection raised that the Postal Rates Bill has not been passed, I am personally rather pleased that it has not been passed. It is all very well for certain business firms to look for cheap postal facilities and low postal rates, but there can be no doubt that there will be a loss in some directions in the department, and it certainly will not’ assist the financial position of Queensland if the Postal Rates Bill, as introduced, is brought into operation. What will be the position if there is a loss in connexion with these services ? Will those who make use of these services have to pay the loss ‘t Do we not know that they will not pay one-hundredth or one-thousandth part of it, and that as a matter of fact it will fall upon the general taxpayer 1 Is not that proved to be the case in Victoria to-day, in the matter of- the reduction of the postage rates 1 The man in the street, who perhaps does not get two days’ work in the week, has to contribute the same amount as the largest firm to make up the deficiency. The incidence of this imposition is absolutely unfair, and until we have some assurance that the postal rates and telegraph rates and the many other concessions which are clamoured for by business people are likely to prove remunerative through an increased volume of trade, I shall decline to give my vote to carry any proposal which will result in the poorest of the poor having to make up a revenue deficiency. I desire to refer now to another matter, and I am sorry that the Minister for Home Affairs is not present. Recently what is- looked upon as a grave reflection upon State officials in South Australia was made by that honorable gentleman. He has accused them of having been guilty of charging an excessive amount for work done for the Commonwealth Government. In other words, he has suggested that they have tried to get at the
Commonwealth Government, and that is the suggestion which has gone f ort 11 to the people. I asked two or three questions last week upon this matter, and during my absence on Tuesday last the answer to a question of which I had given notice was to the effect that the Minister for Home Affairs had read the correspondence in connexion with this matter, and was still of opinion that the charges made were excessive. I have no hesitation in saying that if there was a fault at all it was that the South Australian officials did not charge enough. The Minister seems to be under the impression that it was merely work of supervision for which the 10 percent, charge was made. He has contended that if the charges generally for the construction of public works throughout the Commonwealth were upon that basis they would amount to £30,000 a year. But the honorable gentleman did not tell those who interviewed him upon the subject that the plant was supplied, and that railway expenses were not charged to the Commonwealth. It is wrong for any Minister to throw broadcast a statement that State Ministers or officers have been guilty of what is practically a dishonest act by charging for services which were not rendered. One would think, on hearing the Minister for Home Affairs, that this money came from the Commonwealth, whereas the whole 1 comes from the States, which, if they charge in excess, have to pay in excess. I know the Superintendent of Public Works in South Australia, and I know that no man in the Commonwealth is better able than he is to get work done satisfactorily at moderate cost. The percentage system was considered to be the simplest, and the expenditure embraced a portion of the office rent, cost of stationery and drawing materials, routine clerical work, record, keeping, accounting, office and official inspection, draftsmen’s work, advertising, drawing up tenders, use of four tents, valued at £10 each, for six weeks, and use of barrows and other plant required* for the particular work, which was that of erecting an embankment near Port Adelaide for the Defence, department. Then, of course, there was the cost of ordinary supervision ; and on the total expenditure of £228, the per- ‘centage charge amounted to £28.
– Does the honorable member think that a fair amount to charge for supervision ?
– There was not only supervision, but materials were supplied; and I do not think any outside contractor would have done what the South Australian Government did for £28.
– The honorable member makes a great mistake in pitting a Government department against a contractor.
– The charge made was a moderate one, as I am sure the honorable member will admit.
– I think 10 per cent. expensive.
– Perhaps it is a work which ought to have been doneby private contract.
– Had itbeen done by private contract the charge made would have been very much higher, and it is absurd and unjust to say that the South Australian officials tried to “ get at “ the Commonwealth. The Minister for Home Affairs, in one of his interviews, gave this as another instance of the way in which some of the States were trying to extract money out of the Commonwealth, although at that time the honorable gentleman did not know the particulars.
– The Minister did not say the officers had tried to “ get at “ the Commonwealth.
– He was so reported, and he still contends that the charge was excessive, though I do not think other public works of the Commonwealth will be carried out at so moderate a rate.
– Is this not something that South Australia will have to pay in the long run?
– I have already pointed out that if the charge was excessive South Australia will have to pay it ; but I contend that the charge was most moderate. In another case men were sent up country to do some work for the Post and Telegraph department ; and surely it was only fair that their railway fares should be charged against the Commonwealth. I do not want the Minister for Home Affairs to run away with the idea that the Superintendent of Public Works of South Australia is a man who will in any way attempt to deal unfairly with the Federal Government. It would only be proper to pay this money and withdraw the charge which has been made against South Australian officials.
– In the time at our disposal it is utterly impossibleto deal with all the iniquities of the Ministry
– Do not say anything about-, Wragge.
– That reminds me that no reply was given last evening to my question why there had been an expenditure of £15,000 per annum for telegrams to a private individual like Mr. Wragge, when Signor Presa has distributed papers showing how much more correct his weather forecasts are than those of the former gentleman. If Mr. Wragge were pursuing the ordinary avocation of a palmist or prophet, I should not seek to interfere with him. It does not matter that Mr. Wragge may send to the newspapers weather forecasts based on meteorological data received from the South Anbarctic ; there ought not to be this expenditure. He must have got this data by special revelation, and it ought, therefore, to be quite unnecessary for him to ask the Government for any help whatever. I think I gave sufficient instances last night to show that Mr. Wragge knows nothing whatever of the subject withwhich he professes to deal.
– Does the honorable gentleman wish the Government to give Mr. Wragge an official salary ?
– I do not rate the intelligence of the Government so low. In passing, I ask what better proof there could be of the inaccuracy of this man than the fact that he failed to predict the storm of last night. The Government are not warranted in incurring this expenditure by a mere executive act, and when the Estimates are under consideration, I shall propose that they be reduced by £15,000. As to the Post and Telegraph department, I, amongst others, objected strongly to that department being taken over by the Commonwealth last year. So far back as May last, I and other honorable members entered an emphatic protest against the transfer. The very crux of the Post and TelegraphAct - namely,the post and telegraph rates - has not yet been brought before the House, and I should be very glad if it were never brought forward. Perhaps, until the book-keeping period has expired, we may as well continue on the old lines, and merely try to adjust differences in State rates by regulation.
– What would the honorable and learned member suggest ?
– In view of the misconduct of the Ministry, I suggest that they should step out, and allow somebody else to clear up this muddle which they have created. It would be impossible for any senator to attend to requests concerning telegraphic or postal communication. The people of a district would not know which senator to communicate with ; therefore, all complaints and all requests for telephonic and telegraphic communication are addressed to the members of this House. It would have been much better had the PostmasterGeneral been chosen from the members of this House, and the administration of another department entrusted to a member of the Senate. That has been a grave mistake on the part of the Ministry. To a certain extent they have tried to remedy that error by appointing as honorary Minister a member of this House, but, unfortunately, he is absent.
– Owing to family circumstances, he is detained in Tasmania.
– I very much regret to hear that explanation. I shall take the case of an application for telephonic communication in my district. During the last few years a large number of men have settled at Binda. They are prevented from obtaining telephonic communication with Bigga. Had the department continued under State management their application would have been granted twelve or eighteen months ago. In reply to request after request, we are told that nothing can be done, and finally, when we make an insistent appeal, the answer is - “ Yes, if the applicants put up two-thirds of the cost of constructing the line, and the cost of its maintenance for five years:” Not only do the department make that extraordinary demand, but, in a letter I received, they said that in any case want of funds would not allow of the work being carried out at present. It is the duty of a department to see that funds are provided for carrying on necessary works. I admit that circumstances now require that great care should be exercised, but if a line can be shown to be necessary, then undoubtedly the funds for its construction should be found. The progress of a whole district should not be delayed merely because it is not convenient at that time for the department to find certain funds. A portion of the surplus revenue which was returned to New South Wales would have enabled the line to be constructed. Therefore, there ought to have been no difficulty in finding sufficient money to provide the desired communication. I mention the case of that line because it is one to which I have drawn ministerial attention for a . longer period than any other. In my electorate the people have asked for a line from Marulan to Bungonia, and from Wombat to Young or Murrumburrah. They do not mind which route is taken provided that they get telephonic communication. It is a great disability to country people to be shut off from ali telephonic communication with the outside world. I hope that full consideration will be given to all these requests. I do not ask that they should be granted if they are not found to be justified. I am not here to ask that any portion of my constituency should have a farthing of public money spent in it if the demand is not found to be absolutely justified. I would go so far as to oppose a vote for that purpose if I thought it was being wrongly asked for. All I ask is that an inquiry shall be made, and what I call a reasonable guarantee asked for, and, of course, if it is not forthcoming, the department need not proceed with the work. It is very wrong for the department to ask the- applicants to put up two-thirds of the cost of constructing a line. I believe I am well within the mark when I say that the life of the poles and a line is 15 years. I have known many poles ‘to stand 25 or 30 years ; but we are told by the department that the life of a telephone line is only 8 years. It is an unreasonable estimate; and the demand of the department is unjust to the people living away from the settled centres. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Newcastle call attention to the question of sealing the ships’ stores. I was under the impression that a modus vivendi had been arrived at, and that in the case of certain ships coming into our ports no harsh measures would be used by the department. It is doubtful whether we have any legal authority to seal ships’ stores. Friction is created more easily in these matters than in others. I trust the Minister will see that only officers of previous experience ore entrusted with the duty of dealing with ships’ stores. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to say whether that has been done. I observe the Minister for Trade and Customs nodding his head as much as to say that attention has been paid to the matter. It seems very strange that vessels which are not engaged in the coastal trade, but which merely enter and leave Newcastle, should be taxed on their stores as if they were within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. I hope that no friction will arise from the administration of the Customs Act. I was informed a considerable time ago that an American captain promptly decided that the Customs officer should go overboard, and took his ship out of port. It is all very well for some of us to talk largely about bounce, but I trust that the Minister will be no party to allowing any ill-feeling to spring up between America and Australia. What is a matter of saving a few pounds in a ease like this? I am sure that no honorable member would like to see a break occur in the friendly relations which exist between the two countries. America does not exercise this privilege of taxing ships stores, although its customs laws are, perhaps, the strictest in the world. I do not think that we should seek to exercise a greater power than they do. I do not say that this power has not been claimed by various nations, but, in deference to the opposition which it evoked in others, it has always been given up. It does seem a curious thing that honorable members should view a practice which, if continued, may lead to a war with far less interest than they view some twopenny-halfpenny complaint as to a nail having been improperly driven into a plank. When the Customs Bill was going through the House . I was surprised to find with what little interest Ministers viewed a provision which, if enacted, might seriously affect our national interests. It showed me that they had not been able to raise themselves to the higher level of national politics. I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs to let us know exactly in what position we are regarding the sealing of ships’ stores ? It is too important a question to be passed over in silence, to be treated as if it were of no account.
– The honorable member for Newcastle mentioned that he would call our attention to the question of allowing paints and other ships’ stores, which were intended for use in harbor,’ to be so used duty free. ‘ I desire to say that it is engaging our attention. It is a question of considerable importance. We recognise that it may be possible that the amount of duty is small in comparison with the importance of having the work done in the Common wealth, and if a littlefurther consideration confirms us in that view, we shall not hesitate to take the necessary steps. There are a number of matters in connexion with Customs practice and procedure that have not yet been finally settled. We are deriving information on the subject, and as we have been able to pass some good Bills dealing with machinery, we trust that we shall be able to improve the practice in a way that will leave nothing to be desired. We are only too glad to receive hints to that end, and hope to profit by criticisms. While recognising the great difficulties which are incidental to the present transition stage, we hope to emerge triumphant, in regard to a system of legislation and a course of procedure which we think, will ultimately be open to little or no attack. I do not think it necessary to say much in reply to the observations of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. He was equally warm in his attack upon Mr. Wragge and in his attack upon the Customs administration. He places little relianceupon Mr. Wragge’s predictions, and I placevery little reliance upon the honorable and learned member’s predictions with regard to international complications. All we are doing in this connexion is to ask that foreign nations shall, in their trade with Australia, submit to the same conditions as regard ships’ stores, &c, as those towhich our own people have to submit; and I venture to suggest that we are not exposing them to unfair treatment, and that theyhave no ground for complaint. Contrasting our procedure with that which prevails elsewhere, it will be seen that instead of our refusing to foreign nations the power to participate in our coastal trade as is done by some countries, we in Australia permit all foreign nations to trade on precisely the same conditions as apply to our own people. As regards liberality, our practice is transcendent compared with that pursued elsewhere.
– There is a matter which affects Queensland very much, and that is the press rates for telegraph messages.
– The Postal Rates Bill will come on after the Bonus Bill has been disposed of.
– The Bill has been promised to us for several months. There is a prevailing sentiment in Queensland that instead of federation being a blessing to us it promises to be a curse in more than .one way. Ardent federationists are beginning to think that there is not so much in it after all.
– Quite so !
– - -I can quite understand the honorable and learned member for Corio saying, that, because he thought that his State was going to get not only all the plums; but all the pie as well. But he finds that the expected advantages are slipping away from his State. I do not rejoice at that by any means, but am sorry that any State should not enjoy the prestige that it had before federation. As far as press rates are concerned, Victoria does not want any alteration.
– It is contrary to the
Standing orders for the honorable member to discuss a Bill which will come before the House at a later stage. The Postal Rates Bill must not be discussed now.
– I desired only to show the disparity between the States, but I will say no more on the point, hoping to have an opportunity when the Bill comes on. I can assure the Government, however, that it is a very serious matter to the Queensland press, who have to pay 50 per cent, more than do the newspapers in the other States. Another matter to which I wish to allude is Judge Dashwood’s report. We have seen in the newspapers that the report is in the hands of the Government. Honorable members, especially those from Queensland and Western Australia, are anxious to see it.
– The honorable member will not like it when he sees “it.
– Well, we have to take many things that we do not like. Perhaps the honorable member for Melbourne has been privileged to see the report. I am very pleased if he has. .
– I have not seen it ; I know something of it, though.
– Perhaps the honorable member will not like it when he sees it. The boot may be on the other leg.. The report may not be all he expects.
– The report arrived yesterday morning, and it was in the hands of the Government Printer yesterday afternoon.
– After the explanation of t lie Acting Prime Minister, I am quite satisfied that there has been no delay. As regards, the payment of 10 per cent, to South Australia in connexion with public works, I consider the demand to be exorbitant. It really means paying a State 10 per cent, for doing its own work. We cannot get away from the fact that the taxpayer has to pay the money whether it goes into the Federal or a State Treasury . It is too much to. expect the Commonwealth Government to pay a State Government 10 per cent, for supervising work done, in a State.
– The honorable member cannot call the drawing of specifications “ supervising.”
– If we had our own officers we should know what the work costs. The honorable member gave an instance of work costing £228, the charge upon which was £28. That charge was made for supervising and allowing the Commonwealth Government to use the State Government plant. But does the honorable member compare Government plant with the plant of a contractor who is making his living out of the business 1 There is no analogy whatever. I think the charge is exorbitant. When it comes to exacting anything from the “model State” the honorable member is absolutely opposed to it, but when it is a matter of giving anything to the “model State” he complains that the amount is not large enough. That has been the honorable member’s policy throughout. I am sure that the Government will treat each State fairly. If the Government were to pay 10 per cent, to the States on some of their large loan contracts the amount so paid would be very considerable.
– It would mean paying 10 per cent, on £25,000 for the Brisbane Post-office. .
– For the use of the State plant.
– The Federal Government will have to find the plant. I am very sorry to hear the honorable member for South Austrafia, Mr. Poynton, taking up such a stand. If he looks into the matter further he will find that if this practice were adopted the Federal Government would have to pay about £250,000 a year in one way or another.
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 19th June, vide page 13942) :
Postponed clause 2 -
This Act shall commence on the 1st day ofJuly, 1902.
– The 1st day of July, 1902, has passed, and it, is necessary to alter the clause. I do not agree with Parliament binding itself as to the date upon which this measure shall come into force.
– I will move that the date be one to be fixed by proclamation.
– I suggest that we should make the date the 1st of July, 1904, because by that time there will have been a general election, and half the members of the Senate will have been re-elected. A subsequent Parliament will then have an opportunity of expressing its opinion with regard to the giving of bonuses. We ought not to try to bind a future Parliament. Indeed, I do not see how we can do so in a matter like this. It is likely that the policy of the present Government will be reversed at the general election. I do not think any man can say, if he reads the signs of the times, that the policy set forth in this measure will be continued for any longer period than it will take Parliament to pass another measure dealing with the subject. We ought to recognisethat the final word has not been said ; that the struggle has yet to come. Honorable members of the Opposition are looking forward to and are anxious to precipitatethat struggle, because we are animated with the consciousness that we have fought in the interests of the great bulk of the people. It would, be unwise to agree to the date fixed in this clause, and although the Minister has consented to amend the clause, by providing that the Act shall come into operation on a day to be fixed by proclamation, I do not agree with that proposal. The work will not be entered upon at a month’s notice. I presume that no business man would ever dream of entering upon the iron industry on the authority of a Parliament which had not submitted itself to the people. If the suggestion which I have made be followed, an election will take place before the measure can come into operation, and the House will be able to settle the matter one way or the other. I intend to propose an amendment that the Bill shall come into operation on 1st August, 1904.
– I have a prior amendment.
– Very well ; I shall not move my amendment at this stage. I know that honorable members do not anticipate that work in connexion with the iron industry will be started as soon as this Bill is passed. If any one embarks upon the industry before the election of the next Parliament, he will do so not upon the expectations held out in this Bill, which could be upset by any Parliament, but simply because he intended to enter upon the industry in the hope of making something out of it.
– I move-
That the words “a clay to be fixed by proclamation “ be inserted after the word. “ on.”
That is the form we have generally adopted, and it is particularly convenient in this case.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I certainly do not think that the matter should be left entirely to the Ministry of the present day. The measure should come into operation on a date to be proclaimed, but not earlier than August, 1904.
– It is perfectly competent for the honorable and learned member to move to that effect.
– I would point out to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that the effect of providing that the measure shall not come into operation until August, 1904, would be to preclude any goods manufactured before that date from receiving the benefits of the bonuses. Clause 3 says that the bonuses are to be given to the manufacturer of goods mentioned in the schedule “after the commencement of this Act.” If the Act does not come into operation until 1904 there will be no bonuses for anything manufactured in the meantime.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I move-
That the following words be added: - “not earlier than the 1 st day of July, 1 903. “
Does that meet with the approval of the Minister?
– It does not, for reasons which I will give.
– I do not think that we should commence to pay bonuses before 1st July, 1903. If that date is fixed, it will allow every one to take advantage of the offer contained in the Bill, instead of the benefits being given to any particular individual, or body of individuals. My amendment would allow about ten months to elapse between the final passage of the measure - if it does pass another place - and the granting of bonuses. It would enable thenewsthat such a measure had been carried to go broad-cast through the world, with the result that we might have ten or twenty firms instead of one commencing operations. Then would ensue that competition which honorable members opposite have said they so much desire. If, on the other hand, an earlier date is fixed, no time will elapse before the payment of the bonuses to enable it to go forth to the world that this inducement is being held out for the establishment of the iron industry. Of course, it is well known that I do not agree with the principle of the Bill. But even honorable members opposite ought to take care that the advantage is held out to all persons equally.
– The Government will see to that in their proclamation.
– My proposal would settle the whole difficulty. What possible objection can there be to it % I do not suppose that any honorable member opposite is asking for these bonuses as an advocate of a particular firm, and consequently we ought to see that an opportunity is given to the whole public equally to participate in them. If there is an advantage to be derived from the system, the more we advertise it, so as to encourage competition, the better it will be. If we do not do so, we shall be offering this bonus to only one or two individuals.
– To all Australia.
– How can the right honorable gentleman say that, if the system is to be entered upon at a moment’s notice? I thought it was said that one of the advantages of this Bill was that it would attract an enormous amount of fresh capital. Now we are told that it is designed to induce people already in Australia to enter upon the industry. Does the right honorable gentleman mean to say that all the capital in the community at the present time could not be well employed in tiding pastoralists and agriculturists over the bad times that are now with us, and the still worse times before us ? Honorable members surely do not expect that capital can be secured at a moment’s notice for these undertakings without inquiry or inspection?
– We have the money already in the country.
– Then is it proposed to play the confidence trick ? If this is not to be a real thing it is the confidence trick that is being played, and we are saying to certain persons that if they put down £2 we shall give them another £1. Ifthis is to be areal live matter, and we intend to invite mon from every part of the world to come here and say whether there is sufficient iron ore to enable this industry to be profitably developed, by all means let us hold out this advantage to all alike. Do not let us select one or two particular individuals and say to them, “ You have come in first; we will hand the industry over to you.” However much some persons may desire to do that, we, as guardians of. the public purse, cannot take up such a position. We must hold out the same attractions to all. I do not see that by fixing the date as I propose,we are asking for one day too long. Honorable members opposite know in their hearts that we are not. No matter what Ministers may determine, I am sure that if a private expression of opinion were taken from honorable members, they would agree that this proposal should be announced to the world for nine or ten months before it is brought into operation, so that parties other than one or two particular individuals may, if it is going to be such a good thing, be given an opportunity to share in this bonus. I shall not take up time in repeating this continually, but, certainly, reasons should be advanced by honorable members on the other side for bringing this proposal into operation on a day to be fixed by proclamation, which, if the Senate met, might be within afortnight. Is thereone honorable member opposite who will contend that afortnight is time enough in which to publish to the rest of the world that Australia is offering a bonus of £250,000 to any one who will start these industries’! Even the Minister, wedded as he is to this proposal, and whose training in the profession of the law enables him to make any statement without moving a muscle, will not venture to say that he thinks that time long enough. The honorable gentleman refuses to contribute to the discussion ; and why is he silent? It is because he knows that the arguments put forward in favour of delay are absolutely unanswerable, from whatever point of view this question is looked at. Will he say that there are one or two men who will start here, and that he is determined they shall have the first chance of getting the bonus ? Does the honorable gentleman not know that it will take persons in other parts of the world from six to .eight months to make the inspection and inquiry which it will be absolutely incumbent on them to make before risking such a sum of money as will be required to start these industries? Will the honorable gentleman say that, as a guardian of-the public purse, he refuses to consider the public interests by extending the time so that other individuals may be able to come in to share in this bonus t Will he say, “ I do not believe in the law of competition I have laid down myself. I do not believe in what I urged when speaking upon the Tariff, that what we required was to have a number starting these industries, to bring about competition. I shall take care that outsiders shall have no chance of starting here, by fixing the date for the operation of the bonus at so short a period that only those who have operations already in train will be able to take advantage of this magnificent offer of Australia”1? No doubt many honorable members earnestly desire to see iron industries started within the Commonwealth. I desire as earnestly as they that there shall be established in Australia great industries which will increase the general wealth. But I have no desire for the establishment of industries which are to be imposed like parasites upon us, which will be bloodsuckers all through, and will never be able to ‘stand upon their own feet, and which, according to the statements of the individuals concerned, cannot he carried on unless they get not only a bonus but the assistance of a protective duty also. On these grounds I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to accept the proposal I have laid before the committee, or to give us such reasons against it as may make a man like myself recognise that there is something in refusing to extend the time, and that he is acting in the best interests of the community when he takes away the chance which outsiders have of coming in to share in the great offer which is here made to the citizens. of the .rest of the world.
Mr. KINGSTON (South AustraliaMinister for Trade and Customs). - When we were discussing this matter some time since, I pointed out that perhaps it might be desirable to fix the times for the commencement of the bonuses, and that in different cases different times might be adopted. I said that we desired the Bill -to come into operation as soon as possible : but that, at the same time, there was no desire to play into the hands of any particular person. I went on, further, to say -
I am willing to provide that the provisions of the Bill generally shall come into operation on the 30th September next, and to amend the schedule in the way I have suggested, which .will enable us to deal with each class of manufactures in the most effective way.
What I said further was that -
There must be a limit, and as different terms would be applicable to different cases, the best plan would be to add to the schedule a column showing when the bonus in regard to each particular class shall commence and terminate.
For instance, the bonus as regards iron works might verv well be fixed a little later than the bonus for, say, the manufacture of reaping machines, which might be undertaken at once, and the bonus for which should expire shortly. So I shall ask the committee to let us have the Bill as regards the time of its coming into operation in the form in whicli we propose it, which is the usual form, under which Ministers are responsible to this House for the exercise of their discretion in accordance with the wishes of honorable members. Then, as regards the different industries, when we come to deal with the date of the expiry of the bonus, we can make, wherever that is considered necessary, a declaration as to the time when the bonus shall commence ; so that there will be the fullest power to deal with the matter. That will be better than laying down a general rule, which, however applicable it may be to one particular industry, will not apply with equal force to another. I think honorable members must see that the course I suggest will give the fullest power to the committee to regulate the bonus in connexion with each industry.
– How long does the honorable gentleman propose for class 1 ?
– That shows the advantage of the proposal I suggest. At the present moment I do not propose to declare what the dates should be. I would point out to the committee that it will be much better to discuss the dates separately in regard to each of the items in respect of which it is suggested that a bonus should be given. The matter will then be settled in accordance with the desires of the committee.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I, of course, abandon my first proposal that the date fixed should be 1st July, 1904, although, as I have pointed out, that would be after an election. On our side of the House we certainly do not intend that it should go forth to the world that this bonus has been carried by a Parliament which has not submitted itself to the will of the people. If the Ministry had just come back from the country after having introduced a Tariff, I, for one, should never have exercised my right, as a representative of the people, to challenge them as often as I, did upon the various items. Where we are dealing with big things we must either speak strongly or leave it alone, and, while I was prepared to speak strongly upon the Tariff, I should not have continued to criticise the many duties proposed if I had not believed that Ministers had not the approval of the people for what they proposed. I have suggested that a date shall be fixed at a fairly late period of this Parliament, and that will enable men in other parts of the world to know what is being done. It must not be forgotten that it is also to enable Ministers themselves to be freed from the importunity that must necessarily be exercised upon them if we leave.it to them to fix the date by proclamation. Ministers should themselves be the first to thank the committee for doing away with their responsibility, and saying that we, as a Parliament, have settled, at all events, hat the time to be fixed by proclamation shall not be earlier than a certain date. I must therefore adhere to the amendment I have suggested, giving the date as 1st July, 1903.
– I regret that the honorable member for Werriwa has not adhered to his original proposal to make the year 1904. 0
– Surely it is better to deal with a specific case than with a lot of cases altogether.
– The country had no idea that such a Bill as this was to be introduced.
– In order to meet the desire which has been expressed, I ask leave to so alter my amendment as to fix the year 1904 instead of 1903.
Amendment amended accordingly.
Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy).- It is very important that the country should know exactly what course the Government intend to take.
– There will be no concealment. I shall tell the honorable member, with pleasure, what the Government proposals are.
– Then honorable members will know exactly how to act. Are the Government prepared to stand b)’ the amendment in clause 3, which was carried the other night ?
– The Government propose to ask the committee to deal with the Bill on the distinct understanding that an endeavour will be made to recommit clause 3 for the purpose of striking out the words which limit the operation of the Bill, so far as the benefits are concerned, to the States, and prevent encouragement being given toprivate enterprise.
– That amounts to a fair’ invitation to honorable members to stone-wall this Bill, if such a course be deemed necessary.
– I think not.
– If the Government were honest, so far as accepting the opinion of the committee is concerned, there should be no attempt made to alter clause 3. We are in the position that, if the Bill be recommitted and clause 3 is altered, it is probable that there may be a desire to remodel the whole measure. If the benefits of the Bill are given to private enterprise, the Commonwealth should be safeguarded in every way possible. Up to the present we have dealt with the Bill on the assumption that the amendment carried the other night will be adhered to, and that there will be a State monopoly. If clause 3 be altered, and private enterprise is allowed to benefit
– The honorable member cannot discuss that clause now.
– Surely my remarks bear on the question of the time at which the Bill ought to come into operation. Will the Government consent to recommit the whole Bill, so as to give an opportunity to remodel it in the event of any alteration being made in clause 3 ?
– Every opportunity will be given for consideration.
– That, only . means that the Government will regard proposed amendments to certain clauses as injurious to the Bill, and will refuse to accept them. That is not a reasonable, fair, or. honest way in which to deal with honorable members. Until we get a clear understanding as to the proposed action of the Government, we are perfectly justified in fighting every line of the Bill.
– What does the honorable member want to know ?
– I want to know whether, in the event of the Bill being recommitted and clause 3 being amended or omitted, we shall have an opportunity of inserting certain safeguards which will be required if a monopoly is to be given to a private company.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss clause 3 any further. If there be a recommittal that clause will be open to discussion.
– If the Minister for Trade and Customs would agree to recommit the whole Bill the position could .be understood.
Mi-. KINGSTON.- There is not the slightest desire to burk discussion, or to prevent honorable members having every opportunity they desire for considering the measure. Ministers would be very foolish if they attempted anything of the sort. I invite honorable members to make any alterations which they think desirable under the circumstances, but, at the same time, to treat the Government and the Bill fairly.
– Any alterations will have to be made in the light of the decision as to clause 3.
– I do not object to recommitting the whole Bill, and I feel that no party in this Chamber will take undue advantage of the circumstance. We might pass all the remaining clauses of the Bill pro forma, and thus reach the consideration of clause 3 as soon as possible. I think honorable members will agree that the Government are liberal enough in their proposal.
– Time would be saved by passing the remainder of the clauses, and recommitting the Bill without further debate.
– The committee are divided into two sections; one of which is in favour of private enterprise, while the other desires State monopoly. The Government are only wasting time in discussing the matter at this stage, because, if the industry is to be left to private enterprise; conditions different from those necessary in the case of State control will have to be imposed. If the industry has to be conducted by the States it does not matter whether the Bill comes into operation next year or the year after, because that will not constitute a monopoly as we understand the word. If the Government do not desire to waste time we should at once get through the Bill and start with its reconsideration. Why not as soon as possible reach clause 3 on which we understand the Government have certain information which will affect the deliberations of the committee? We may not discuss the effect of the communications from the various States, but the committee might be placed in possession of them before proceeding with the discussion on the various clauses. All this bother and delay arises simply because the Minister seems to shrink from coming to the crucial test. The Minister has charge of the measure and could have made* the suggestion for a recommittal, but it was only when the honorable member for Kennedy spoke, that the right honorable gentleman condescended to explain that an opportunity would be afforded for a reconsideration of the whole Bill.
– The position is that the first time honorable members ask that a certain course shall be adopted, I express myself as in perfect agreement with them. For the honorable member for West Sydney to speak as he has spoken is simply “ ridiculous. I again suggest that we should deal with the remaining clauses en bloc.
– I am in favour of the course suggested, and ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 10 and schedule agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, and (on motion by Mr. Kingston, with concurrence) recommitted.
– With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I desire to mention a serious subject, and to read to the committee a telegram which I have received. The message is as follows : -
It is reported that from ISO to 200 men entombed in Mount Kembla mine about 2 p.m. today owing to terrible explosion. Several men working on surface injured, one killed ; rescue party gone into mine. Both Houses adjourned, and Ministers gone by special train to scene.
This telegram is signed by the manager of the telegraph office in Melbourne. On receiving it 1 at once telegraphed, in the name of the Government, to express our sincere sympathy, and our hope that the disaster may prove to be less terrible than anticipated. But if later information confirms these grave apprehensions, and supplies us with details, I propose to submit a resolution in order to allow this House to express its sympathy also.
In Committee - (Recommittal) :
Clause 1 (Short title).
Motion (by Mr. Kingston) proposed
That clauses1 and 2 be postponed until after the consideration of clause 3.
– I am not prepared to agree to the motion which has been submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs. I see no reasons why clauses 1 and 2 should be postponed. Either this is a well-considered and well-thought-out measure or it is not. I see no reason why we should at this stage go back on the work we have already done. We have not yet determined the title of the Bill. I have many objections to make to the title which the Government has given to it. They call it the “ Manufactures Encouragement Act 1902.” I should prefer to call it the “Monopolies Encouragement Act.” The present title is a misnomer ; and if there is one tiling more than another to which the committee should firmly adhere, it is truth.
– I must ask the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to confine himself to the motion. May lays it down clearly, on page 460, that upon a motion for the postponement of clauses debate must be confined solely to the question of postponement.
– But I am entitled to show reasons why there should be no postponement. The reason why I am opposed to a postponement of the first two clauses is that I think we ought to know exactly what we are doing ; and if clause 1 is to stand as printed, and the measure is to be cited as the Manufactures Encouragement Act, we ought to take good care that the remaining clauses stand in an entirely different position from that in which they stand at present.
Motion agreed to : clauses postponed.
Clause 3 - The Governor-General may authorize the payment out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated for the purpose, of bonuses on the manufacture in Australia after the commencement of this Act of the goods specified in the schedule to this Act according to the rates set out in the said schedule. Provided that no bonus shall be paid in respect of pig-iron, puddled bar iron, iron or steel pipes or tubes, or steel, unless the same is manufactured in works operated by a State Government.
– I move -
That all the words after the word “schedule,” line 7, be omitted.
I venture to think that in connexion with this debate chere will be a disposition on the part of honorable members on all sides to address themselves really and substantially to the simple question before us, and not to do anything which in the slightest degree would prevent a fair vote being taken as soon as there has been fair and sufficient discussion.
– Why does the right honorable gentleman ask the committee to go over its work again?
– I have risen for the purpose of giving the reasons which induce me to ask the committee to affirm a position for which I felt it my duty to contend some little time ago, but I do not propose to go over the whole ground which we then debated. I think it will be a good thing if I can confine my attention chiefly to references to matters which have arisen since the subject was last debated, and which strengthen the Government in the position which they then took up. Our contention is that it would be a grand thing to establish the iron industry in Australia and make it the success which it is already in the sister federation of Canada. I pointed to, some time ago, the magnificence of the success which had attended the efforts of the Canadian Government to establish the industry by a system of bonuses somewhat similar to that which we propose. I was able then to refer to figures which showed that magnificent results had already been achieved ; but I am pleased to be able to say that since I spoke - since our adjournment, and since, indeed, we met again last week - there have been placed in my possession official figures which speak most eloquently in favour of the proposition which
I previously had the honour to recommend to the acceptance of the committee. I propose to quote only from works which have the stamp of official authority. I received only two or three days ago from the Canadian Statistical office a letter advising me of the posting of the Canadian Yew Book for 1901, which was supposed to accompany it. Unfortunately the work referred to did not accompany the letter, owing, no doubt, to some slip in posting it, but I was able, upon search, to find that the volume had already reached the Parliamentary Library. Now we are in a position to discuss this matter in the light of the additional information which is thrown on the position by ‘another year’s work in Canada. The results are absolutely startling. Whilst I was able previously to quote figures which I felt made out a very strong case in favour of the course we advocated and the adoption of the Bill, our hands are now strengthened by the possession of figures far and away more telling than those to which I referred. These figures are derived from the same authority, brought up to a later date - the Canadian, Year Book for 1901. Honorable members will recollect with what eagerness both sides discussed the figures in the Canadian Year Book, for 1900, the stress which was laid on’ figures here and figures there, and especially in relation to the question whether or not the iron manufactured in Canada was made from Canadian ore or from ore derived from the adjacent State of Newfoundland. Some exception was taken to the encomiums, passed on the success of the Canadian manufacture of iron, because it was shown that a good deal, if not most, of the ore used in Canada was brought from Newfoundland, and not procured from within the four corners of the Federation. All that is altered to-day. So far as regards the quantity of Newfoundland ore used in excess of the local Canadian ore, the result is very different. The figures for 1901 show that the quantity of Canadian ore used is largely in excess of the foreign ore. The total quantity used during 1901 in excess of that for 1900 is positively marvellous. These were the figures to which attention was called previously, and which were taken from the Canadian Year Book for 1900: - :Total consumption of pigiron, 167,000 tons; imports, 65,000 tons; iron produced from native ore, 34,000 tons ; iron produced from foreign ore, 67,000 tons. What are the figures today ? The total consumption for the year ending June, 1901, was 190,000 tons, or between 20,000 and 30,000 tons in excess of that for the previous year. The imports of iron fell from 65,000 tons to 40,000 tons, so that they are a rapidly disappearing quantity, while, although in 1900, 67,000 tons of pig-iron were manufactured from foreign ore, in 1901, only 50,000 tons were manufactured from it. But I am most triumphant in regard to the alteration which has taken place in the figures affecting that which we seek chiefly to accomplishment - the encouragement of the manufacture of pig-iron from native ore. These are the figures : 34,000 tons were manufactured from native ore in 190Q, and 99,000 tons in 1901. If I was justified, as I believe I was, in quoting with confidence the figures to which I referred on a former occasion, how much more is ray case strengthened when to-day we see that the production of pig iron from Canadian native ore increased threefold during a single year1? If we could only accomplish a success like that, how proud we should be !
– Is the bonus system still in operation in Canada ‘I
– Yes, but it is tapering off now.
– According to this morning’s newspapers, the Canadian Government propose to give the manufacturers another £1,000,000.
– Honorable members may accept my assurance that the bonuses are commencing to taper off. According to the Yean- Book, an Act passed in 1 899 provides that these bounties shall continue to be paid up ‘to the 30th June, 1907, at a yearly diminishing rate from .1902. The rate is specified. Ninety per cent, of the bounties is to be paid during 1902-3, 75 per cent, during 1903-4, 55 per cent, during 1904-5, 35 per cent, during 1905^6, and 20 per cent, during 1906-7. When we see the result which has followed Canadian efforts in -this direction, surely we should be emboldened to tread the path which they have trod 2 What is the percentage that Canada - produces of the pig-iron which she annually consumes? It is given in the Canadian Year Book. In 1900 the percentage was 60 -9. To-day it is 78-9. Think of figures of that sort. When progress such as this is made, what can we not hope for in the future ? We can hope for the rapid exclusion of the foreign article by that which is locally produced from the ore of the country.
– According to this morning’s newspapers, the Canadian Government intend to give a bonus of £1,000,000 to the manufacturers to enable them to fight a trust.
– That is another purpose altogether. I read the cablegram in this morning’s newspapers, and, although we have little information on the subject, it is altogether on our side. Of what does the message speak? Huge combinations ! This is a day of huge combinations. This is a day when it is necessary to combine to succeed. This is aday when the absence of combinations in the British marine has caused the British Hag to be transferred from ships which we were proud indeed to own. Shall we not be justified then in doing what we can to enable our people to hold their om n with those who thus combine against ‘them ? What more does the news mean than that 1 It means that the Canadian Government is adopting a bold and public spirited policy in resistance to aggression elsewhere.; that it is prepared to assist its own people by practical pecuniary aid to do more than simply to hold their own at home.
– After the wonderful results to which the right honorable gentleman has just referred.
– Yes ; but are they to stop at those results? Honorable members see perfectly well that further assistance is being given to encourage additional enterprise in foreign markets - a step beyond that which the Government have previously taken. If it is followed with the success which has attended the encouragement of the local manufacture of iron for the home market, the best results can undoubtedly be anticipated. Combination may mean strength.
– Por the monopoly.
– Let us hope that our associations and merchants, banded together to their own advantage, and also for the national good, may be so strong that they will be able to hold their own with those whom they have to fight for supremacy in the trade of the world. Something has been said about monopoly. I am not going into details, but look at the figures. Honorable members will find them in the books from which I have quoted. Are these manufactories in Canada the sole property of one or two 1 Nothing of the sort. The blast furnaces are owned by a dozen or more, and there are similar numbers in relation to steel rolling works.
– They are a combine so far as the price is concerned.
– The price is that which enables the manufacturers to hold their market, and also to get ready for an increase in the export trade. I am” not going to quote a multitude of figures, but figures like these speak as nothing else can speak. Statistics are of infinite use to us in these- matters, and when we see figures such as those to which I have referred, how can we doubt the position ? I say it was a strong case a month ago ; it is infinitely stronger to-day. I say that these figures show that there is no falling off in the benefits to be derived from this policy, but an assurance of success if we proceed on similar lines. The Government have been entirely consistent in their attitude in this connexion. They have pointed to history, to the similarity of conditions, and they point also to the results. I lamented the absence of these figures when I spoke last, and I rejoice that I have them here to-day. One word more. How is the position changed’ since I spoke last ? Honorable members know well. I put it to honorable members that they will recognise generally, if they have had occasion to note the trend of political thought in the State from which I came, that I am in favour of State enterprises undertaken for the public benefit, and State encouragement of industries in every possible way. They know that I speak what I “feel when I tell them that if I could see this industry established tomorrow, or even in the near future, under the control of a State, nothing would rejoice me more. I should rejoice with exceeding gladness to think that it was not to be confined to private individuals, because I know that State undertakings, when parliamentary and responsible government prevail, are undertakings which tend to the general good, and do mora for the welfare of the community than undertakings entered upon by private individuals for their own benefit, and conducted upon purely business principles. But I tell honorable members this : I am not going to cast away the substance for the shadow. I believe in the industry, and I say let it be established. I had higher hopes than I can possibly entertain to-day. I had these hopes a month ago, and I had reason for them. I frequently converse with my fellow-members upon these subjects. We exchange ideas frequently, and I am inclined to think that even they will say that they hardly expected that their views with reference to the States undertaking enterprises of this sort would have received the shock they have received.
– It is just what we did expect ; there is no shock about it.
– I did not expect it. From what was told to me, I understood that there was a weight of public opinion which would cause early attention to a matter of this sort on the part of the Government of one of the biggest’ States. I was bound to look into the matter further, and get all possible information upon the subject. I addressed a letter to the Acting Prime Minister in these terms -
I shall be glad if the variousStates can be communicated with, asking whether there is any probability of advantage being taken of the provisions of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill by the States for the establishment of the iron industry, in the event of the Bill passing into law in its present form. If we could get replies before the House of Representatives reassembles it would be well.
I tell honorable members now that I should be proud if I were able to stand here to-day and say that I had received a single word from any of the Premiers or Governments of the States in favour of the course I should like to recommend above all. What is the position now 1 Here is the answer from the Premier of New South Wales, a gentleman for whom we all have the highest respect, and who at this present moment enjoys the confidence of, I believe, the biggest labour party in any of the States.
– Not upon this subject.
– They sit behind him and follow him, and I believe and hope they will follow him. What is his opinion upon this subject ? He writes to the Acting Prime Minister -
I desire to inform you that my Government have given the fullest consideration to the matter of the establishment of ironworks, and works of n kindred character, and are of the opinion that such should be carried out by private enterprise rather than by the Government of the State.
There is no mistake about that declaration. There is no qualification or limitation about it. That is the opinion of the Government of New South Wales, and in support of it they have nailed their colours to the mast.
– It is not the opinion of the Parliament of New South Wales.
– The Premier of New South Wales further says -
I might add that we favour both a duty and a bonus, and should be glad to support any action taken by the Federal Government in regard thereto.
The Government of the senior State, without a word of qualification, and in the plainest possible terms, tell us that they will have nothing whatever to do with it that, if we pass the Bill, so far as they are concerned it will remain a dead letter for all time, and there will be no State establishment of an industry which we desire to see established at the earliest possible date. This is the answer from the Victorian Government. The Victorian Premier writes -
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your circular letter of the 4th inst., and to state in reference to your inquiry in connexion with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill in its present form, as per copy accompanying your letter, that there is no probability of advantage being taken of its provisions by this Government.
Then the Premier of Queensland writes -
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 4th inst….. In reply, I have to inform you that there is no likelihood of this Government adopting the course indicated, as it is not our intention to erect orcarry on manufacturing works in Queensland.
Mr. Jenkins, the Premier of South Australia, says -
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 4th inst….. and, in reply to your inquiries, to inform you that the probability of advantage being taken of its provisions by this Government depends entirely upon circumstances.
Of course we asked for a little further information.
– What is the name of those circumstances?
– The honorable member wishes to know the name of those circumstances. That is what we desired to know.We asked -
Referring my letter 4th July, and your reply 8th, on subject Manufactures Encouragement Bill, shall be glad to learn . whether your Government has any intention of establishing such works, and also what are circumstances referred to in your letter, on which action of your Government depends ?
The reply was -
This Government have no intention of starting suCh works, and the circumstances referred to in the letter of 8th July means the discovery of coal deposits [which could be utilized in conjunction with our iron ores.
All I can say as regards South Australia/ - for which I have the truest recollections, and which I hope to see again shortly, because I am only temporarily estranged from it, and here I have no abiding city - is that I have the highest hopes as regards her future. Her mineral resources have startled us at various times. Although we have coal in South Australia and plenty of it - a 45-f t. seam -
– Up at Leigh’s Creek. It is of a disappearing quality. If you leave it out at night uncared for it disappears by morning, and its flight is being accelerated by use for steaming purposes. The flue seems to be its natural resort upon the slightest provocation. Although I will not say that we shall never get coal, we have not yet discovered coal of the right quality, and we cannot build any calculations upon the prospects of an immediate reversal of our mineral form in that respect. Mr. Lewis, the Premier of Tasmania, says -
I beg to inform you that I do not consider, in the event of the Bill pissing into law in its present form, that there is any probability of the Government of this State taking advantage of the provisions of the above-mentioned clause, as recently amended in the House of Representatives, at any rate for many years to come.
A reply was also received from Western Australia : - 2vo probability of advantage being taken of the provisions of the Bill by this Government.
There is the position. From all we can learn by appealing to gentlemen qualified to speak with authority, by avoiding speculation and having recourse to the fountain head for the purpose of acquiring information, we understand plainly that the States will not undertake the enterprise. Under these circumstances what is now the position? Here is a country- of which we are proud, and of which we have cause to be proud. We have got the coal, the iron, and the men ; we have everything ‘ which will enable this industry to be established as a magnificent success, a success equal to that in Canada, if we adopt similar lines. Which will honorable members do 1 Will they, in searching for something far distant, which they are not likely to get for years, throw away the immediate probability - nay, I may almost say the certainty - of starting and establishing this industry, and having it a success in a very short time ? Everybody knows that this industry will be what I say it will be. Why do honorable members hesitate ? It seems to me that there is no room for hesitation. . I am as strong as any one here in the advocacy of the extension of the limits of State enterprise, but in these days of the youth of Australia we should do everything that is possible for the development of our resources, and nothing should be neglected which can be shown to have been a success elsewhere. In a matter of this sort, the establishment of an industry the importance of. which cannot be over-estimated, both as regards its assistance to other industries, and as regards the employment which we know it will give to labour - an industry which will be a means of subsistence, comfort, and happiness to the people of Australia - I say the course is clear, and we propose to strike out the proviso.
– The right - honorable gentleman in charge of the Bill has made a strong appeal to honorable members to pass the measure in the form he desires. But in view of his own attitude only a few days previously, one may be permitted to doubt the extent of the shock to which he was subjected a few days ago on the receipt of telegrams from the various State Premiers. The Minister tells us that he is not only in sympathy with the proposal to start State ironworks, but that his strong desire is that that form of enterprise shall be adopted ; yet he has resisted, at every turn, proposals to give that complexion to the Bill.
– The bonus was open to the States under the original Bill.
– It is idle for the right honorable gentleman now to attempt to lead us to believe that he was really disappointed with the nature of the replies. Although, in proposing the amendment to clause 3 a few weeks ago, I had strong hopes that one, if not more, of the States would take the matter up, I received no shock whatever on reading the replies of the Premiers, as published in the newspapers. If those who believe in the State following a certain course of action were to be deterred on each and every occasion by the immediate attitude of the gentlemen who hold the reins of power, what reforms would there be? Reforms must be forced down the throats of Governments every time. The idea of putting a new proposal forward and expecting a Government in any State to swallow it immediately is one fit only for children, and not for grown-up men. The gentlemen at the head of affairs in New South Wales say that they are not in favour of starting State works. I am quite prepared to believe that they are not, because I never expected they would be in favour of such a proposal until the course of public opinion was such that they could no longer withstand it. Just a few short years ago if any one had asked those gentlemen if they were in favour of early closing, compulsory arbitration, or old-age pensions, they would have replied that they had no immediate or ultimate intention of carrying out such reforms. Indeed, they actually said they had no such intention, and it was simply because public opinion was worked up and the agitation for each of those measures became very, strong, that we found that particular Ministry carrying reforms which they had previously strenuously opposed. In the life of the Common wealth Government, as in the life of every Government, we ‘have evidence of reversals of opinion in view of strong public agitation. On the question of black labour on the mail steam-ships, the Commonwealth Government changed their opinion when they found the House or the people outside too much for them. . So far as the New South Wales Parliament is concerned, I am convinced that a very different feeling from that displayed by the State Ministers exists amongst its members. It is true that up to the present those honorable members have taken no active steps ; but I have a letter in my possession from Mr. McGowen, the leader of the labour party in New South Wales, which, as was stated by the Minister for Trade and Customs, is supporting the present Ministry. Mr. McGowen states that members are only waiting until this measure has passed through the Commonwealth- Parliament in its present shape, in order to take action. I have the very highest respect for Sir John See as a gentleman, but he is just like any other Minister, or any other politician, and when the agitation outside is strong enough the New South Wales Government will find reasons for doing what is desired. Outside the labour party in New South Wales there is a strong opinion in favour of the State undertaking works of this description ; and that feeling existed while I was a member of Parliament in that State. On several occasions there were deputations to Ministers, asking that State works’ might be established for iron production, and numbers of men not connected with the labor part)’, with whose aims as a whole they had no ostensible sympathy, were quite willing to support the proposal. That was not because of any general socialistic belief, but because they recognised that if these works were established by private enterprise there was not only a prospect, but almost a certainty, that they would become a monopoly, which would weigh down every secondary industry which uses iron throughout the State. That is a danger which, I contend, still confronts us. It is idle for the Minister to say that the duty which he proposed, and which, I think, the Senate rejected-
– Not as regards iron.
– The duty proposed was only 10 per cent. .But what is the Canadian experience? The Minister has appealed to Canada as an exemplar in this connexion. The experience of Canada is that when a duty was imposed it was found not sufficient, and the same result followed the imposition of a higher duty. Then a bonus was granted ; and notwithstanding the admiration expressed by- the Minister of the rate of progress in Canada, we find it stated in to-day’s cable news that, in order to effectively compete with theYankees across the border, it has been found necessary to increase the bonus by another 5,000,060dollars, or £1,000,000. The deduction I draw from Canadian experience is - and it bears out my main contention - that if works are established with what somepeople are inclined to call a pal try assistanceof £250,000 - we speak now in millions, and a quarter of a million is a mere “flea bite” - a large number, of workmen will be encouraged to enter into this particular form of industry,, and they will have practically no other outlet for their energies. After the bonus has been exhausted, and the duty of 10 per cent, has been in operation for some little time, thesemen will come to the Government and say - “ We are here ; we are established, and you will throw us out of work unless you increase the duty or the bonus.” In all probability the finances of this Commonwealth, for a considerable time to come, will, not stand a largely increased bonus, and the result will be that the duty will have to be made higher. With any regard to humanity, the men could not be deprived of their employment, and we shall be con-, strained by circumstances, as we have been during the recent Tariff debate, to impose higher duties than those to which we otherwise would consent. The argument in favour of a higher duty would be almost irresistible. The proposal is to impose a duty of 10 per cent, on the raw material of thousands of workers throughout the Commonwealth, who, if the impost be made heavier, or remain even at 10 per cent., will be compelled to ouse the product of the works brought into existence by the bonus. When speaking previously on the Bill, I expressed the opinion that there was no probability of more than one works being permanently established, and I still hold that view. It’ may be that more than one establishment would be commenced, but as sure as the sun will rise to-morrow, there would be a combination between the promoters within a very short period, because there is not - in Australia, at any rate - a sufficient consumption of iron to keep more than one works going.
– How many works are there in Scotland 1
Mi-. Macdonald-paterson. - Scotland has the world for a market.
– As is said, Scotland has the world for a market. If we are to manufacture for our own population only, my contention is correct. The imports into Australia are very difficult to ascertain, so far as the actual weight of iron and steel, is concerned. In many cases, while the raw’ material in the shape of bar and rod-iron, pig-iron, scrap, and steel is enumerated in tons by the various Customs authorities in the States, machines which come in as manufactured iron are described according to their value, and not according to their weight. But on official figures for the year 1900, kindly supplied by the Minister for Trade and Customs, I have attempted to make an estimate of the quantity imported. I find that of bar and rod-iron, pig-iron, scrap, and steel, the total importations were some 155,000 tons.
– About 180,000 tons will be affected by this Bill.
– But that excludes highly-manufactured iron, which we are not likely to make here.
– The value of the manufactured iron and steel imported is about £6,500,000, but that, of course, is not a fair criterion of the value of the iron and steel in the manufactured articles. A complicated machine carries with it such a large value, in the shape of labour, freight, and other cost, that its worth is no guide as to the quantity of iron used in it. But I reckon that, at the very outside, not more than 350,000 tons are imported into the Commonwealth ; and from that has to be subtracted a large proportion which will continue to be imported whatever kind of Tariff we may have. No matter how high the duty may be, there will still be a large quantity of machinery imported. As I indicated a few weeks ago, it is extremely doubtful whether the States Governments will have to pay duty on their importations. This is one of those uncertainties for which the law is so frequently responsible.
– Mr. Wise says that the States Governments will not have to payduties.
– I do not know which of the many authorities may be correct.
– Even if the States Governments do have to pay duties, they will receive back the revenue from them.
– For convenience of working, the States ought to pay duties, but it is extremely doubtful whether they can . be compelled to pay ; in any case, I contend that, in all probability, the output required from the works of any private company or companies for local consumption, will not be more than 150,000 tons per annum for a considerable time to come. As I have said, the demand is not more than sufficient to keep one large works going, and if the works are not large, with a large output, there is no probability of success, even with a bonus and a subsequent 10 per cent. duty. As to the likelihood of export, I notice that one weekly journal commenting on the labour party’s proposal . a few weeks ago stated that, as England - I do not know about Scotland in this connexion - Canada and the United States find markets abroad, Australia -will be able to do the same. But the estimated cost of the production of pig-iron in Australia, as given by one gentleman .who came here as an expert, is not less than 45s. per ton, while the cost in America is reckoned . at about 30s. per ton. If that is correct - and I know nothing of the subject myself - it precludes all hope of successful competition in the world’s markets with the iron masters of other lands. We can only rely upon giving iron to our own people by the assistance of the isolation we enjoy and the help which freights, in addition to duty or bonus, may give us. It is unlikely that more than one ironworks will be successfully operated under the proposal of the Government, and that must tend to a monopoly of the worst description. If the Bill goes through in its present shape, as I hope it will, I am convinced that not only will the labour party have the support of those in New South Wales and Tasmania who are convinced that, as a matter of principle, the State should undertake the erection and operation of iron works, but that they will also have with them those who wish to see the industry given a start, and our own people employed, but who, at the same time, desire to avoid the evil results which would flow from a monopoly, and the raising of the price of the article to the highest limit, consistent with successful competition against outsiders.
Mr.Sawers. - How could it be a monopoly if we opened our ports ?
– I admit that by opening our ports we could pull down a monopoly. The honorable member believes that we should encourage our own people to produce. I have noticed a peculiar thing about some protectionists. I admit that I am not a very enthusiastic protectionist. I do not believe that the millenium will arrive immediately a protective tariff is imposed. Some protectionists are quite willing to extend protection to every private manufacture, on the ground that it will find employment for local people, but immediately it is desired to bring into existence a State industry, which will also find employment for the local people, they find a thousand and one objections to what some persons term “bleeding the community” for a purpose of that sort. My view is that it is much more justifiable to impose a duty with the object of insuring that the work shall be done locally, when the recipient of the duty happens to be one or other of the States, than is the case when it is a private enterprise.
– A London syndicate?
– I do not see that it matters very much where the syndicate comes from, though, naturally, I would prefer that it was an Australian one, because there would be some probability of whatever it earned being spent or invested locally. But the main point of my objection is to handing the money over to any syndicate. We are asked under the measure to spend, for iron alone, £250,000 out of a total sum of £324,000. Probably the persons who might embark in . this enterprise would not touch reapers or binders at all, but the manufacture of pipes, galvanized iron, and wire-netting would certainly be likely to come within their operations. Assuming, however, that they produced only the articles enumerated in class 1 of the schedule, involving a bonus of £250,000, it means that every 1d. they would require to spend on their works for several years would be handed to. them by the Government, and that all the expenditure they would have to bearit might be a very heavy amount - would be the cost of production and the maintenance of the works. I understand that the few gentlemen who have theright to use the iron deposits at BlytheRiver, in Tasmania, hope to float a company on the London market. I believe I amdoing them no injustice in making that statement, and I do not know that it is a secret. They talk about spending £1,000,000 in laying down these works. I have an estimate from a very good authority. I had an interview the other day with a gentleman who is supposed to know a very great deal about this matter, and who has given some guarantee of his bona fides, and he estimated that the utmost expenditure on theplant necessary to turn but the quantity of iron which is likely to be used in Australia, outside that which would necessarily be imported, was £220,000. It did not include the steamers which the Blythe River syndicate, if they went into the business, would have to build or to charter for the carriage of their ore. It assumed that the coal would be supplied at a certain place, and that the blast furnaces and coke ovens would be erected there. It included the cost of the sidings in and about the works, of puddle furnaces, and so on ; but, of course, it did not include the cost of bringing the ore from the mine to the blast furnaces. The carriage of the ore would be a running expense. The point I make is that £250,000 would be sufficient to provide plant to manufacture all the iron likely to be required to supply Australian needs for a considerable time to come, and almost that exact sum is proposed to be handed overby the Government for the purpose of establishing ironworks.
– Does that amount cover the cost of working during the years mentioned in connexion with the bonus ?
– No : but it covers the initial expenditure on the works. I take it that the cost of maintenance and. transport and other charges are included in the working expenses.
– Is it not a fact that the greater part of the money which will be expended in order to claim the bonus will be paid in wages?
– I do not know that that has any particular bearing on the point, because wages have to be paid in any commercial enterprise. A number of persons are assailing the labour party on the ground that we are standing in the way of private’ enterprise, which is going to find employment for thousands of our people. If that argument is worth anything, it means that those of us who have certain convictions about the desirability or otherwise of giving concessions to private persons, are to sell ourselves on every occasion for the paltry mess of pottage which any man cares to offer us. Practically it means that we are justified in voting any expenditure, so long asit employs labour, no matter under what circumstances the money is to be spent. We might as well vote £1,000,000 for the purpose of shovelling sand into Sydney Harbour, so f ar as finding employment for our people is concerned.
-paterson. - The honorable member claims them as his people, but they are as much our people as his people.
Mr.WATSON. - I do not claim that we alone represent the labouring classes, but I do say that the argument is hurled at the labour party that we should consent to any bartering away of the rights of. the people and the State, in order to find employment for those whom it is said that we specially represent. I claim to represent every class in my district. I do not make any special claim to represent only labouring men. But, perhaps I differ from the honorable and learned member in seeing that the labouring man has a little more show to get his rights than he has had The argument that the money will be spent in labour is largely true, but that alone is not sufficient justification for the voting of a sum of money. If we were asked to run, any public work to the detriment of the people I am sure that honorable members who, when it suits their purpose, advance that argument, would be the first to cry out against the extravagance of the labour party in voting money simply in order that it might be spent in providing employment. It is our duty to see that every penny of the public funds is spent to advantage, and, of course, if incidentally it. gives employment to labour all the better, from my point of view. I feel convinced that, if this clause is passed in its present shape, within a comparatively short time there is every prospect, in one State at any rate, of a successful agitation for the establishment of ironworks.
– Where will they get the money?
– The last loan of £3,000,000 was subscribed about four orfive times over. I am not at all doubtful about their ability to raise an additional £500,000, if it is necessary, to carry on these works. They can always get money more easily and cheaply than any private syndicate can.
– Not for that purpose.
– For that or any other purpose. The investor in the mother country or in Australia pays little attention to the purpose to which the money is to be devotedi His only considerations are the nature of his security and the probability of his interest being paid regularly, and of the principal being repaid at the endof the term. Nothing else worries him to any particular extent. I believe that if proper measures were taken it might not be necessary to borrow the whole of the sum. I shall not argue that point at the present time; but, assuming that the State has to go into the money market, it only remains for the people there to be convinced of the propriety taking up this enterprise. That the feeling there is in favour of that being done I am sure, and, further, I believe that before the next general election it will be stronger - so much so that, if the Bill is passed as it now is, I have little reason to doubt that the industry will be shortly established there if nowhere else.
– I think the committee has good reason to complain of the way in which the Minister for Trade and Customs has reintroduced this matter after the lapse of a month, during which he had time to make himself acquainted with’ the subject, and to place the committee in possession of agreat deal more information than they had at first. The subject was brought before the committee in the first instance in a very crude manner. It has not got beyond the crude state ; and honorable members would be untrue to the responsibilities they owe to the country, if they voted the sum of money which the right honorable gentleman proposes under the Bill, without insisting before any definite steps are taken upon the most searching investigation into the prospects of the success of the industry. It is lamentable that a Parliament should be seriously asked to vote huge sums of money on such meagre information as has been furnished to this committee by the Government. The Minister has not acted fairly to the committee in bringing before us no moreinformation, except four or five paltry letters which have been received from the Governments of the States. The Bill has been recommitted in order that the committee may be asked to reverse a vote already given, and theonly information upon which we are asked to take this step is contained in the letters which the Government have received, in which the Governments of the States assure us that there is no prospect of their taking any steps to establish State ironworks-. The right honorable gentleman has quoted some figures in regard to the experience of Canada: I do not intend to question those figures; except to emphasize the statement of the honorable member for Bland, that the Canadian experience of bonuses is not such as to warrant us in hastily establishing a system of bonuses for the benefit of manufacturers in Australia.
– In the Canadian Year-Book it is stated that the figures must not be taken too literally.
Mr.F. E. McLEAN.- That is so ; the figures are subject to revision. They are not absolutely correct. But even accepting themas approximately correct, we have the undoubted fact that theCanadian industry has not been sufficiently or so, satisfactorily established as to enable it to thrive without other bonuses : and the right honorable gentleman, if he carries this proposal through to-night, will, as sure as he is sitting in this Chamber at present, be compelled to ask for further bonuses and higher customs duties in order to bolster up the industry. Honorable members know enough of the world, and of business, not to be led astray by any threats in regard to the failure of the enterprise, if the Bill is not passed before the session closes. We have heard that kind of thing before. We have heard about the large amount of money that would be spent in wages, the vast amount of. employment that would be found, and the activity that would abound throughout the length and breadth of certain districts if we only gave certain people valuable rights, and conceded to them advantages which would enable them to carry on certain enterprises. But if there is anything like the prospect of success in connexion with the establishment of the iron industry in Australia which has been prophesied, no harm will be done by the committee hesitating before it sanctions the expenditure proposed by the Government. The honorable member for Bland has quoted statements in all good faith, and, I believe, on good authority, to the effect, that the sum of money which it is proposed to grant by way of bonuses would be sufficient to establish ironworks of such magnitude as to meet the requirements of the Australian States, so far as the output of iron is concerned. If that be so, we are practically asked to vote a sum of money by way of bonuses which will reimburse the people who embark upon this enterprise the whole of the capital they put into it within five years. Is that so? Can the right honorable gentleman inform the committee what it will cost to lay down ironworks of sufficient magnitude to supply the requirements of Australia? Is he in possession of the information himself? If not, has he any right to father a proposal like this, and ask the committee to embark upon so novel and extraordinary a policy? The fault I find with the Minister for Trade and Customs is that he has not mastered his subject, is not leading the committee in regard to it, and is not possessed of sufficient information. Beyond the set of Canadian statistics which he has quoted, he seems to be absolutely devoid of information in regard to the iron industry ; and as to Canada, we know very well that the Dominion is now being asked to increase the bonuses and, practically, to vote an additional £1,000,000 of money to save the industry from the ruin threatened by competition. I quite agree with the right honorable gentleman that this is an age in which we have to deal with huge combinations. I can quite understand that the Canadian iron works, having been established by private enterprise, and subsidized by the State, are now in such a position that their very existence is threatened by the competition of very powerful syndicates. The Government of Canada having come to the financial support of the industry, and being a sleeping partner in a huge manufacturing concern, cannot relinquish their responsibility. They have committed themselves to the policy, and they are bound to see the manufacturers through when anything like dire competition threatens the destruction of the industry. We in Australia have to see that we do not embark upon a policy which may mean that we shall have to continue voting bonuses and increasing duties for years to come, in order that we may be able to maintain the iron industry against the great competition that may threaten it in the future. Is it reasonable to suppose that the bonuses which this Bill offers to manufacturers, and that the duty which the Government proposes to give, will protect them for all time against’ the competition which may be expected from huge combinations abroad t If not, are we expected as a Parliament to protect the manufacturers for all time against any competition to which they may be subjected ? If that is the policy upon which the Government intend to embark, we may expect to have to take upon ourselves huge financial responsibilities in the future, of the magnitude of which we have not at present the slightest idea. If this Bill be passed, the Commonwealth becomes committed to the policy not merely of establishing but of preserving and maintaining the iron industry for all time. We are not going to throw away a quarter of a million of money within the next five -years, and then sit down with folded arms, consoling ourselves with the fact that we did our duty within those five years. If we spend a large sum of money in establishing the iron industry we shall, if competition threatens its existence, be asked to spend another quarter of a million of money - or it may be halfamillion or a million - in protecting it. We have not the slightest idea of what we may be committing ourselves to by adopting the policy which the right honorable gentleman tries to force upon the committee. I urge the Minister, in all seriousness, not to press the proposal upon the committee now. There can be no plea of urgency raised as to any great and important industry, concerning which it may be said that syndicates are already in existence, and are prepared to do certain things. Honorable members who have been in Parliament for any considerable length of time are used to that kind of thing. We know that syndicates are always being formed, and companies are always being promoted to acquire rights and to qualify themselves to take advantage of legislative enactments. They are always prepared with the money, if Parliament will only give them the rights they want. But when the rights are given it often takes years for them to find the money which they said they were ready to plank down at once. That has been our experience in connexion with railway proposals and all sorts of other enterprises where valuable rights were conceded by the legislature. If this proposal becomes law, there will be great delay in connexion with the financing of the enterprise. There is no urgency about the matter at all, and I feel that the Minister would do more justice to himself and to the country, and would be acting more fairly to Parliament, if he took advantage of the time that must elapse between now and the next session of Parliament, to make himself more fully acquainted with the details of his proposal. AVe do not yet know what amount of capital a State Government or a private concern would need to meet the requirements of the iron market in Australia. These details have not been put before us. AVe do not know what the plant will cost. Yet we are asked to vote this huge sum of money as if the Government were in possession of all the requisite information. The Minister himself has expressed a preference for the State ownership of ironworks. He has declared himself emphatically, not only on this occasion, but formerly, in favour of the States availing themselves of the rights which this Bill proposes to give by way of bonuses, even without the proviso submitted by the honorable member for Bland. The Minister expresses a preference for the States dealing with the matter, and for the industry being controlled by the States. If that be his wish and his preference - if he really believes that it would be advisable for the iron industry to be controlled by the State rather than by private individuals - would he not be conserving the interests of the Commonwealth and of the people by postponing the consideration of the matter until it has been more thoroughly investigated ? I understand that the Minister’s proposal is that these bonuses shall continue only for a term of years, and that at the expiration of that term a 10 per cent, duty will be proposed, provided the industry is sufficiently established. The policy of the Government is that the duty is not to be imposed while the bonus is operating.
– That is so.
– I un derstand that the duty will follow, to assist the industry after it has been established by means of the bonus. Has the right honorable gentleman fully considered whether it is probable that, at the expiration of five years, this industry will be so firmly established that it will be able to do without a bonus, and to maintain itself with a duty of 10 per cent. 1 Has he been advised by high authorities, skilled in the manufacture of iron,, knowing its commercial value, and all the circumstances surrounding its production and importation, that the term during which the bonus will be paid will be long enough, and that the amount proposed to be paid will be sufficient to establish the industry upon such a basis that it will be able to do without further bonuses ? These are questions which the committee have a right to say shall be answered. I do not say that the facts should be demonstrated with absolute mathematical accuracy, but we should have reasonable evidence that if the Bill is passed in its present form the industry will be established by the proposed means. We are at present absolutely in the dark. I pointed out upon a previous occasion that before such a proposal was put before Parliament, the Government should cause an investigation’ to be made by the most competent experts. But they are allowing themselves to be guided solely by the statements of other people. They are controlled -not by the advice of their own experts - not by those whom they have brought here to advise them - but by the mere statements of those who are interested in the promotion of companies abroad. I do not say one word against gentlemen who may be endeavouring, honestly and fairly, to establish the iron industry, or who may be concerned in the formation of companies or syndicates. They may be acting bond fide; but I contend that the committee is not to beguided by their statements. The House stands in the position of a trustee of the public funds. AVe are here to see that public money is voted for public purposes, and we are bound to take all the reasonable and prudent steps which any man would take before investing his own money in any large enterprise. In this matter we are practically in the position of trustees ; and, before we vote this money, we are bound as prudent men to demand that the Minister shall place us in possession of facts that will show whether there is any reasonable prospect of the establishment of the industry upon a commercial basis. Are we in possession of such facts t Is this a proposal that any man would put before a body of business men, and expect them to embark their capital in it upon such meagre information ? I am not prepared to commit myself to an expenditure like this, and I do not think the committee is in a position to take any responsibility whilst these proposals remain in their present crude form. The Minister has given us no further information than we possessed a month ago, with the exception of a few Canadian statistics, which do not really help us. The latest information from Canada is that there is a clamour for more bonuses for the industry, and that is rather a reason why’ we should hesitate before we commit ourselves to the right honorable gentleman’s proposal.
– I hope I shall be able to justify the position I intend to take up on” this question. When we had the iron duties before us, I systematically voted against them as a freetrader. I am going to vote for these bonuses, believing that, for the encouragement of a great national industry such as this, which is beyond comparison with those minor ones which employ each some two or three hundred men - an industry which will employ its thousands - we may very well provide a bonus, the extent of which we know, and of the term of operation of which we are aware. The honorable member for Lang has criticised the Minister because he has not come down with further information to show how this proposal will work. But the Minister has some important particulars. He has the certain knowledge that the iron, the coal, and the men to work them are all here. While the nations of the world - the mother country, America, and Belgium in its own small way - are all struggling to push the iron industry in their midst, surely we shall do well to take some initial step in the same direction. The bonus would be after all simply a charge upon the whole body of the people - and distributed amongst them, would be very small indeed - in order to provide for the employment of thousands of men. Prom those men a revenue would be obtained even by means of the customs duties, which would amply recoup us this expenditure. The honorable member for Bland has said that there are certain protectionists- who will find a thousand and one reasons why this scheme should not be adopted. I do not know of the thousand and one reasons, nor of those protectionists; but the honorable member himself has furnished one excellent reason why the establishment of the iron industry should not be left to the States Governments, inasmuch as he has shown, or attempted to show, that it must be absolutely a failure.
– If the honorable member be reported verbatim, the way in which he put the matter will lead the Governments and the Premiers of the different States to that conclusion.
– I did not say anything like that.
– Six other reasons are provided by the Premiers of the six States, all of whom say that they will not have anything to do with the proposal.
– They may be compelled to take it up.
– It is all very well to say that, but I am very doubtful whether public opinion would trend in the direction of making them do it. I am also very doubtful whether any State Government is qualified to carry on a commercial enterprise of this kind. For my own part, I do not believe in State Governments as conductors of commercial operations.
– What is the difference between a State Government and huge trading trusts 1 Neither personally superintend their own enterprises.
– A State Government exists for the purpose of governing a State, and not to run . combinations or trusts, or mining, iron manufacturing, or other industries.
– Why then let them run the railway and postal departments ?
– There is a reason for allowing the State to run its own post-office, which must present itself to all of us.
– What about the railways?
– If Australia had been in a position to secure the introduction of capital for the construction of railways, it would have been in a very much better financial position to-day than it is.
– There would have been no opening up of the country for settlement but for the Government railways.
– That is so ; and I commend railway construction to that end to the fullest extent. I say it was inevitable in the interests of Australia that railways as well as roads and bridges should be constructed on a very large scale. I think I may claim for myself, as one who has been in office in Tasmania for a very long time, that no man has exceeded me in his efforts to get railways and other public works constructed.
– That is State socialism.
– I admit it, and because of the necessity of the occasion I approve of it.
– But surely the right honorable member is not a socialist ?
– A State socialist to that extent. I do not desire to labour this matter. I have only to add that I believe in the Government proposal as a movement which may tend to great national advantage, and I would ask what is the use of providing that the bonus for the local manufacture of pig-iron shall be offered solely to the States Governments which will not touch it ?
– I agree with the honorable member for Lang that sufficient information has not been given to the committee at any stage of the proceedings to enable us to deal now with a measure of such great importance as this. The right honorable the Minister no doubt thinks he made out a very good case, both to-day and upon a previous occasion, in favour of his project, and I have previously expressed a great deal of sympathy with the object aimed at in the Bill. I am one of those free-traders who long ago gave it out that they favour bonuses for the establishment of an industry such as the manufacture of iron, which is unknown in our midst, which requires the expenditure of a large amount of money, and is one that we are all very desirous of seeing established. But I take up the stand that in submitting a proposal of such vast magnitude and far-reaching importance as this, it was the duty of the Minister from the first to furnish the committee with more information than he has given. The Minister waxed very warm and eloquent about the figures relating to the industry in Canada, and they are certainly very much in favour of his proposal ; but he cannot expect that honorable members, who have to safeguard the interests of the whole Commonwealth, will adopt a proposal of this sort on the bare ground that bonus arrangements have led to the establishment of ironworks in Canada. The point which I raised on the second reading stage has not been adequately dealt with in the public discussions upon this measure, nor in the discussion which has taken place upon it in this Chamber. I refer to what I call the financial aspect of the matter. I suppose we have now reached the last month or two of this inordinately long session, and yet the whole of the financial measures for initiating this great Commonwealth are still suspended, like Mahommed’s coffin, between earth and heaven. We are asked in these circumstances to enter upon a scheme to provide £250,000 for the establishment of local iron manufactures. We have a right first to see the end of the great Tariff measure which we have had before us for so many months. We have a right to see what revenue will be derived from the Tariff, but the wisest amongst us is as much in the clark as is the merest tyro in this House as to what the revenue from it is going to be. I refer again to the fact that our loan proposals have not yet been dealt with by this House, and that every other finance measure we have before us remains incomplete and awaiting final decision. Again, if we look to the interests of the different States - and coming from a State which has rather more revenue than it requires, I am studiously desirous that the position of the other States is made safe - two, at least, if not three, of them are in such a position that if their Governments do not get more revenue than they have been getting they will be seriously embarrassed in financing necessary public works. Admitting that it will be two years before anything will be claimed under the provisions of this Bill, in two years from now, and for three years thereafter, this Commonwealth will have to find £100,000 each year to pay these bonuses. That is a point upon which neither the right honorable gentleman who introduced the measure, nor any other member of the Government, has given the committee any information which would justify us in taking the very important step of carrying the Bil). On a previous occasion I voted for the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland to restrict these bonuses to the States Governments. I am free to confess this evening that, in some respects, I am rather sorry that I voted for that amendment, though not because I do not think that the States Governments would probably be the very best parties to undertake these manufactures, and not because I think they will not undertake them. The contention of those who believe in State manufactures under this Bill is not at all weakened by what has occurred. The righthonorable Minister to-night gave a whole series of arguments, which, if driven home to their logical conclusion, are in favour of these manufactures being undertaken by State enterprise. The right honorable . gentleman said that he personally favoured and believed in State enterprise, and that he had hopes when the clause was amended that it would be taken advantage of by the States Governments. Further, in referring to the Canadian statistics, he pointed out that they had paid vast sums in Canada as bonuses for these works, and were proposing now to, expend an additional sum of no less than £1,000,000 to help the manufacturers there through a struggle. All that strengthens the contention of those who would confine the bonuses, at any rate in the first instance, to works of State enterprise, because if we are to pay bonuses to the extent of £300,000 and we are to have the Canadian experience, and follow that up by the expenditure of another £1,000,000 to preserve the industry from ruin, while we might be justified in putting the money into the hands of the States, we should hardly be justified in putting it into the hands of anybody else, because it would be a very vast sum of money to pay way in order to create an industry in our midst. I feel that on the whole the case for the States undertaking this enterprise has been strengthened rather than weakened by the delay occasioned through the adjournment. The Minister’s answer is that the States have replied, through their several Premiers, that there is no immediate prospect of the States Governments taking up the industry. That has been very fully and completely answered by the honorable member for Bland, who has said that the Premiers do not - and they very seldom do - represent the feeling of the States in this matter. Probably, if a sufficient time were given, they would be inclined to alter their views, or the)’ might even be compelled to alter them. However, I do not know that we were altogether justified in altering the clause, because I certainly think that if the States Governments will not take up -these enterprises it would not be the right thing for those who believe in bonuses to refuse, to grant them to private persons who will step in and do what the States refuse to undertake. But I. fully believe, for the reason that we do not see our way clearly to finance this proposal, and on the ground that the States Governments have not made up their minds definitely, or rather that the people of the States cannot be said to have made up their minds definitely to refuse to undertake the enterprise, that it would be wise for us to delay this measure. I am, therefore, going to move that the Chairman do leave the -chair, in order that the Bill may be postponed for a time, because next session we may have an opportunity of getting further information than we are likely to possess before the present session of this Parliament terminates. This is a course which one cannot take without feeling very deeply the responsibility of the position, because whether one succeeds or not in such a’ motion, he is taking an extreme step in moving it. But it seems to me that no -other step will meet the position of some conscientious members of. the committee. I have frequently said that I am in favour of bonuses, and also that I am in favour of the States undertaking enterprises of this kind, but if the States will not undertake them, we are not justified in preventing private enterprise stepping in, and engaging in them. For these reasons I do nob think we can do better than to defer the consideration of the measure until next session, when probably we shall have more time to deal with it than we are likely to have this session. Further,- we shall be more likely to have then the important information which we require, and which the Government have so lamentably failed to give us to assist us in deciding the matter. I do not see what either those who advocate private or State enterprise, or those who are in favour of the Bill or opposed to it, have to lose by delay. The delay can only be short in any circumstances. The iron deposits of this Commonwealth are not likely to be like the right honorable Minister’s South Australian coal. They will not evaporate, and they are not likely to decrease in value. We shall have a few months’ additional experience to assist us, and to assist those who are thinking of embarking in the industry as a private enterprise. On all grounds, therefore, I think the committee will be wise in refusing to go further with this measure now, and in holding themselves free to consider it de novo with the advantage of fresh information, more complete knowledge of the facts, and a knowledge of the results of the first twelve months’ operation of the finance measures which have not yet been finally considered by this Parliament. It seems to me, also, that the committee is not in a position to come to a decision upon the matter at the present time, because the information we require is not before us, and particularly information which will enable us to say how the finances of the Commonwealth will pan out. I feel, therefore, constrained, though reluctantly, to move -
That the Chairman do leave the chair.
– I desire to make’ a few remarks in explanation of the vote I propose to give. Like the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I voted in favour of the proviso in the clause as it now stands, but unlike that honorable member, I cannot say that I am sorry for the vote I gave on that occasion, because I feel that with the information at my disposal at the time I was quite justified in acting as I did. I was under the impression that there was a reasonable probability of the Government of one of the States availing themselves of the exclusive privilege proposed to be given to them under this Bill. I must say I have been deeply influenced by the case which has been presented to the committee by the Minister, and by his powerful explanation and’ advocacy of the course he proposes in the striking out of this proviso. The right honorable gentleman read the official communications received from the various States Governments, showing that there is no reasonable probability of any of the States Governments undertaking this work at the present juncture. I feel, therefore, that I shall be justified in voting now for the exclusion of this proviso from the clause. I point out that to do so will not be to exclude the States Governments from entering upon this work if they consider it advisable or necessary. Under the clause as it originally stood, it was quite open to any State Government, as well as to any private company or corporation, to enter upon these works and to earn the bonus proposed to be given. The clause as it now stands makes it exclusively the right of a State Government, and excludes private enterprise. I am disposed now to consider that that would be a very undesirable restriction, and I therefore propose to vote in favour of the excision of the proviso.
– I should like to know whether we are to argue that the Chairman shall or shall not leave the chair, or whether we can discuss the whole range of the subject as it has been discussed this evening? If we may discuss the subject, I will say, commencing with the Canadian system, that there is no analogy whatever between the conditions in Canada and the conditions in Australia. To start with, the Commonwealth of Australia, within a few years, will have to consolidate or amalgamate the railways. The railways in Australia are the property of the people. The railways in Canada are the property of various companies, the same as in the United States. I have not the slightest objection to private enterprise. I believe in private enterprise. But I do say that the danger lies in starting ironworks in Australia, and having those ironworks in the hands of private individuals when the various States as they now stand, or the Commonwealth, must be the great consumer. The source of supply will be in the hands of a small private monopoly, and the great consumer will be the Commonwealth, or the various States of the Commonwealth of Australia. It does seem to me that this is almost like a man allowing an outsider to cut a canal to take off the water that supplies him with the force necessary to turn his mills. The fact of the matter is that in Canada the very men who are now running these various works arc shareholders, managers, or directors of the great railway companies that consume the products of the various iron industrial institutions.
– That is a good argument against protection.
– I can assure honorable members that State-owned ironworks are consistent with one of the greatest principles of protection. But I am not going to argue from that stand-point. We ought to have a Royal commission or a select committee appointed to take evidence as to the possibility or otherwise of the State commencing works of this description. In Victoria at the present time are certain gentlemen who were managers in the iron industry in England for years, and I understand from one of them that works can be erected here for a much smaller sum than that mentioned by the honorable member for Bland. If no State will undertake the enterprise why should not the Commonwealth do so ? I will sign an agreement with the Minister to-night to erect works for a quarter of a million. During the last month I have been in the company of gentlemen who have had charge of ironworks in England, and they could be called to give evidence before a select committee which I have suggested. When Andrew Carnegie came to the United States Congress 28 years ago and asked for more protection, he said that his plant represented 1,000,000 dollars or £200,000, and at that time he was the biggest manufacturer in America. Since then his business has developed so enormously that he is now worth £80,000,000. As compared withAmerica there is no wealth in Australia, though there are a few gentlemen who are able to keep out of the destitute asylum. Andrew Carnegie has built up an enterprise which challenges the empires of the world ; and Morgan, the man who started the great steel combine, has lately done more to destroy the prestige of Great Britain’s flag than have all the wars of the last 50 years.
– Rubbish !
– It is such rubbish that Mr. Robert Reid, a member of the Victorian Ministry, and one of the ablest men of business in Australia, declared the other day at the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce that he was in favour of the Government owning the steamers of the Commonwealth, although five years ago Mr. Reid was not in favour of the State undertaking any such enterprises. The States of Australia own their railways ; at any rate, if England is the pawnbroker, we in Australia possess the railways and manage them. The honorable member for Melbourne, who has recently been to Japan, has informed a newspaper interviewer that that nation is not at all satisfied with our alien immigration legislation, and if in a few years the Commonwealth were called upon to fight for its very existence, and the country were surrounded by warships, the private owners of the ironworks would raise the price of iron, and the Government would have to face the same difficulty that the United. States had to face in 1861.
– Then we should repeal the Alien Immigration Act.
– Exactly. Would a private company sell railway iron to the Austraiian States at the cost of production plus a certain legitimate profit ? No; the price would be regulated by the London, New York, and Paris markets, and that price would have to be paid. If the Commonwealth are to be called upon to pay for these works, why not give me “ a show “?
– What would be the output of the honorable member’s works 1
– The output would be 150,000 tons.
– Then why not claim the bonus?
– I wish the works to belong to the Government. If these works were started by a private company, the flotation in London would cost £100,000 ; the end would be that there would not be £300,000 in the works, and with overcapitalization, workmen and others invest-, ing because the enterprise was backed by the Government, the whole thing would come down with a crash. It is said that the Government would have power to resume the works, but that could only be done at the company’s own price. The supply of a primary product essential to nearly every industry in the Commonwealth ought not to depend on any private company, but should be guaranteed by the Government, so as to make the price independent of market operations in London or elsewhere. It is said by lawyers that the Commonwealth Government have not the constitutional power to start works of this kind ; but if we were at war to-morrow, and no private company was in existence, the Government would very soon undertake the supply of iron. That had to be done by the southern States, and America defeated Mexico because the Mexicans had no mechanical skill.. The Australians are like Americans, and would soon start works, in which enterprise the Minister for Trade and Customs would be the very first to help. Here we have a chance to supply an industrial material essential to the progress and the very existence of the Commonwealth, and yet honorable members are called traitors because they will not depart from their principles. If there are to be in this House only men who, like weeds, are prepared to turn with every breeze because they are told so much money it to be made, we had better shut up Parliament at once. But it has not come to that pass yet, and if we who favour State industry are wrong, we are wrong unknowingly, and, therefore, can not be blamed for what we do. I do not think, however, that we are wrong. America is so honeycombed with trusts that the President the other day had to order the prosecution of the combination which has captured the beef trade. Wherever there is great wealth and luxury there is great poverty and misery, and I hope Australia” will be delivered from the curse which is spreading over America. For three years I assisted to keep the Minister for Trade and Customs in power as the Premier of South Australia. When I was defeated in that State, the man who defeated me was the means of depriving the- right honorable gentleman of office, and I am grieved by the action of the Minister to-night, because, if ever I had looked for a “Jim Blaine” of democracy, it was in the person of Charles Cameron Kingston.
– America, to which reference was made by the last speaker, has a population of about 80,000,000. In Australia the people number about 5 per cent, of that figure, and our consumption of iron in all kinds of manufactured articles does not represent more, than a few hundred thousand pounds per annum. The speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs must commend itself to every man who is without that bias, which is inherited from pure devilment. As the bones develop in the child, in the youth, and in the man, there is a certain amount of disintegration which affects the blood and the brain where the devilment rests, and gives rise to a ferocity such as has been displayed by the last speaker. The leader of the liberal party, commonly called the labour party, said that the State ought and must take up this enterprise, and that it is ready to do so. The only State mentioned by him was the senior State. In Queensland we are ready, and so they are in other States that I shall not name. In Queensland we have limestone, iron, and coal, and yet we are told that the reply from the Government is that the State is not prepared at present to enter upon this work. I agree with the leader of the liberal party that that State is unprepared. I agree with previous speakers, that no State is prepared through its present Government to enter upon the speculation of establishing ironworks. At the present time in Australia - New South Wales included - there is no Government who would dare to ask for a vote to enter upon the great work of iron production, without consulting the people of the State. I am perfectly satisfied that if the Governments of all the States were to appeal to their respective constituents, the reply would be “ let private enterprise succeed first.” Australia to-day is not as it was a few years ago, and many years ago. What is the axiom of life in these States to-day - from squatting right down to blacksmithing, from the building of a tip-dray to the building of a waggon? That all pioneers fail. All pioneers have met with disaster. If this enterprise were taken up by any State it would meet with the fate which has fallen to all pioneers without exception. The replies from the Governments of theStates are neither hot nor cold ; but they are sufficient to indicate to us that they are not prepared to accept the great responsibility of embarking in the iron industry. The Minister in charge of the Bill has properly told us that here is a chance to establish the industry, that here are men who are prepared, with the aid of a bonus, to enter upon the enterprise. We must either accept their offer, or be prepared for the disappearance of any proposal to enter upon this great enterprise, which if it were once established in this country, would prove of the highest advantage to the people in all branches of trade, as well as to the lowest grade of labour. To-night I was surprised to hear one honorable member claim that because he had to sit on the other side of the House, he should not be charged with speaking and voting on behalf of an enterprise, because it would give employment to labour - “ to his people.” What about all the labour that is represented on this side of the House ? Why, sir, the honorable member for Oxley and I represent 50,000 men, and we represent but a very small proportion of the territory of Queensland. I have sat in Parliament for many years, with many external responsibilities, but I have never worked so hard for a constituency as I have done for my country since I entered this House. On one occasion the Minister for Trade and Customs told me that he could do with two less clerks, at a saving of £800 or £900 a year, if all honorable members would discharge their political duties as I do. I know that there is a devil abroad - an evil genius - who always watches and tries to deteriorate, if not to annihilate the conscientious hard working man, of whom I am not a bad representative. If the honorable member at the head of the labour party fights his battle to the bitter end, and succeeds, what does it mean? It means that we shall not have the iron industry established in the country for possibly 15, 20, or 25 years. This miserable sum of £250,000, of which we hear so much, is only the beginning of the wage-earning power of the people. Forsooth, honorable members will not give even a chance at this time for what I think ought to be pioneered by private enterprise and not by the Government with public money. Let private enterprise pioneer the industry, and if by-and-by it turns out to be a success, which I trust it will, the Government will be able to take precautions to come in and absorb it. In a life of Cesar Augustus I once read this remark - “I think I shall stop free corn to the people.” He stopped free corn to the people, and byandby he took a journey into the country, whereupon a little war cropped up. On his return he said - “I do not think I shall stop free corn to the people. I shall not live long. My successor will make a trumpcard of it, and he will again give free corn to the people and demoralize them so that they will be worse than they are at present.” Do not give free corn to the people by attempting to establish the iron industry with the funds of the State. Let private enterprise undertake the responsibility, and the result will be satisfactory alike to the people, the Government, and the industry itself.
-In his excellent and very earnest speech, the honorable member for Bland made a statement, which, if correct, is certainly detrimental to the cause I advocate. He said he had it from a most reliable authority - he did not mention the name - that the total cost of erecting ironworks of sufficient dimensions to meet all likely requirements would not exceed £220,000, which is not equal to the amount of the proposed bonus. I challenge that statement.
– Privately I shall give the honorable member my authority for it.
– Publicly I shall give the honorable member my authority for a contrary statement. The directors of the proposed Blythe River Company have gone into this question very fully. According to the estimates in their office, the cost of the plant - not to speak of the cost of the land, and many other incidental expenses - is given approximately at £600,000.
– Do they offer to guarantee to the Government that they will spend that sum on a plant?
– From my knowledge of these gentlemen, I venture to say that they are prepared to show to any honorable member the estimates which they have received.
– Will they undertake to spend that sum 1
– : I am not sufficiently in their confidence to say what they intend to spend ; but I have it from them that the cost of the plant alone will come to about £600,000, and I am prepared to guarantee that they will spend a great deal more than that sum.
– Does the honorable member know anything of the circumstance 1
– I am confident that it will be the case.
– The honorable member is not an expert, any more than I am.
– I gave my authority, and I challenge the honorable member to give his.
– Privately I shall give it to the honorable member. I am not at liberty to mention the name publicly.
– When one gives an authority publicly, and pledges the honour and veracity of a gentleman, I think statements so made have more weight than those for which no authority is given.
– The gentlemen the honorable member quotes have an interest in what they say.
– They have had estimates from experts.
– How much was put down for the cost of steam-ships ?
– I do not think anything was included for. that purpose.
– I haVe been informed that the estimate did include the cost of ships to carry the ore.
– The chairman of the syndicate referred to is an old personal friend, and a man upon whose word I can absolutely rely. I would as soon think of doubting my own veracity as his. I invite the committee to consider the extraordinary position in which we are placed. We have carried the second reading of the’ Bill, and on going into committee my honorable friend, the member for Bland, carried an amendment that the bonuses were to be confined to State enterprises. The Government are attempting to rescind that proposal. The fight is a very fair and proper one as between those who desire that the State should monopolize this great industry and those who believe in individual enterprise.
– It is open for a State to establish it under the Bill.
– Of course, it is open for a State to avail itself of the bonuses ; but those who follow the honorable member for Bland wish to confine the enterprise to the States, whilst others, like myself, wish to give an opportunity to private enterprise. That is a perfectly fair and straightforward issue, and I can quite sympathize with my honorable friend and his supporters. They are, of course, ‘ carried away with the socialistic idea. I have no objection to socialism in a modified form. We have socialism all around us, and our public life is largely carried on by socialistic means. But I am not one of those who wish to have nothing but collective enterprise, and to crush private enterprise. The honorable member for Bland would like to carry his idea all through the industrial life of the country, and his present proposal is only the thin end of the wedge. But what is the position of the free-trade party 1 They are hostile to both proposals. Are the freetraders going to vote to retain the proposal of the honorable member for Bland as it stands, and in favour of a socialistic proposal? If that be so, I shall watch the division list very closely, and shall hail them for the future as members of the socialistic party.
– A good many of them have declared themselves to be so.
– I congratulate my honorable friend on having made so many converts. If I were a free-trader I would walk out when the division was taken rather than support a socialistic proposal in opposition to my principles. The proposal of the honorable member for Bland was carried with the assistance of those who did not believe in it, but who wished to defeat the Government. Now they are put in this position, that if they vote to retain the honorable member’s proposal they will be supporting socialistic legislation in favour of the establishment of a State monopoly. They can take their choice.
– I wish to give my reasons for voting on the same side as I did when this question was last before the committee. I am very anxious that this Bill should become’ law. I believe that my honorable friend, the member for Bland, is similarly anxious. I certainly do not join with those who impugn either his honesty or his desire to see the iron industry made a State monopoly. I am anxious that the Bill should become law for many reasons. It has been represented to me during the past week by gentlemen representing capital, and it has also been put to me by an agent representing the workers, that the devolopment of this iron industry in New South Wales would be of immense value, not only to that State, but to the people of Australia generally. It has been said - and I do not think the remark has been challenged - that a number of honorable members voted for the honorable member for Bland’s proposalon the last occasion, not for the purpose of securing the development of the iron industry, but to defeat the Bill. It is because I believe that, if the Minister had maintained the course he indicated and put the Bill through, he would have pinned those gentlemen to their vote, that I shall vote in the same direction to-night. I have no reason to doubt that the Minister will do that, whatever may be the result of the division. A great deal of reliance is not to be placed on the letters received from the States. The view of the leader of the labour party is absolutely correct, that governments say they are against a thing to-day and are in favour of it to-morrow. That was the case with the Factories Acts in ‘Victoria. Most of the members of the present State Government in Victoria were by no means warm supporters of the Factories Acts, but they have watched the public opinion of Victoria on the subject, and are now amongst their warmest supporters. Therefore, I do not place much reliance on the views expressed by the States Governments. In order to get the measure through, I believe in following the line of least resistance, and compelling certain honorable members to vote for the proposal which they themselves supported. The one straightforward course for the Minister to pursue, whatever the voting may be, is to put the measure through at all hazards. A number of remarks have been made as to the cost of establishing iron works. I do not think we need waste time in debating that which is largely speculation.We have, on the one hand, the statement that the cost will be £220,000, and on the other hand it is said that it will be £600,000. I have a memorandum from a gentleman, who is an authority on the subject, to the effect that the Steel Company of Scotland have just put down a plant at a cost of £450,000. But, to my mind, the matter in dispute is not one of cost, but of development. My honorable friend the member for Bland stated that we had to remember the future. But I am quite sure that he does not want to belittle the terrible position of men who have a want of employment staring them in the face.
– Would the honorable member sell the rights of future generations for a mess of pottage?
-No ; and that is why I ask the Government to put the Bill through, at all hazards. I have seen no reason for changing the vote I formerly gave, and it is because I am anxious for working men to find employment, and for capital to find investment, that I advocate that course. It has been urged that the States Governments will find it difficult to obtain the necessary capital. But surely, if syndicates can secure the capital, States Governments can. I am quite confident that if it can be proved beyond doubt that this is a speculation that is likely to be profitable, it ought not to be long before it is proved to the States Governments that it must be an advantage to them to enter upon the industry.
– It will never be done.
– I believe, at any rate, that if we can get this Bill through we can easily determine within the next two years whether the States Governments intend to take the matter up or not. If within that time there is a general election - as will be the case - and if it is proved that the people of New South Wales are against their Government undertaking the manufacture of iron, what will be easier than for the Commonwealth Government to bring in a small amending Bill, giving the right to private companies to do the work.
– If the people of New South Wales had their way - according to their representatives - there would not be an industry in Australia.
– I am sorry to think that there are a number of honorable members who have voted for the honorable member for Bland’s proposal, not in order to support the measure, but to destroy the chance to establish the iron industry. It is because I would pin those honorable members to their votes, and make use of them for the purpose of putting this measure through, that I feel bound to stand by the proposal I formerly voted for. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will give a practical demonstration of his sincerity - which I do not doubt - by declaring that this Bill shall be placed upon the Statute Book in one form or another. If he cannot get it in the form he desires, I trust he will accept it in the form in which it is now before the committee.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).The speech just made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has put the position in a way which I think will commend itself to those who believe generally that the State ought to have an opportunity of entering upon this industry, and that we should not be too ready to accept the reply of the various States Governments that they are not prepared immediately - and that is all that it amounts to - to embark in it. It has been said that those who are supporting the clause as amended are standing in the way of what would be a great national industry. It has also been urged that the States Governments are unlikely to enter upon the industry. Those statements cannot both be correct. They are mutually destructive, because if the States Governments will not enter upon the industry, the road must be perfectly open, and those who are crying out for freedom of private enterprise, and against Government monopoly, can vote with perfect consistency with the honorable member for Bland. It has been urged very frequently that this is a question of private enterprise versus State monopoly. It is nothing of the sort, and wherever I have an opportunity of denying the statement I. shall do so. It is a question whether the people’s money, collected by means of duties upon cottons and other articles that they use, shall be paid away to a number of individuals or a State Government, or whether it should be paid away at all, to secure the establishment of this industry. If only one State takes up this project, the money collected from the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, and paid away in bonuses, will go to that particular State. It will go, however, to a very large section of the community, and not to private individuals. In the other case the money would go to assist a number of private individuals to establish this industry. Eor want of sufficient funds men are being dismissed in a wholesale fashion by some of the States Governments, and at such a time it would not be right to give this large sum of money to private individuals in the hope that they may launch out and make a success of the industry. I would absolutely object to it.
Mr.Fowler. - What dreadful thing is going to happen if the industry is not established for the next year or two ?
– The position would be no worse than it is at present if we are to believe those who tell us so frequently, by means of circulars issued by chambers of commerce and chambers of manufactures, that they do not believe in grandmotherly legislation or State coddling, but desire to be left to carry on their business as they think fit. They will be at perfect liberty to engage in the industry whether this Bill is struck off the noticepaper or carried as it now stands. I have previously spoken upon this question, and my views are well known, but I desire to put it as emphatically as possible, -that if the clause is carried as it stands it will place no barrier in the way of private enterprise, and that this is not a question of private enterprise versus State monopoly. The point is whether we should devote a quarter of a millibn of money to assist some gentlemen for the establishment of a particular industry in the Commonwealth. We have no more right to spend the people’s money in that way than to take a £5 or a £10 note out of the Treasury to assist a struggling bootmaker to set up a little cobbling business for himself. There would probably be some 2,000 men employed in the industry, and we should have just as much right to hand over £100 or £.120 to some individual to start a business to keep his wife and family as we have to give this £250,000 for the establishment of this industry by private enterprise. I hope that the committee will adhere to their previous decision.
– From time to time we have had several attempts by syndicates to obtain concessions from . the States Governments, but this is the first occasion on which an attempt has been made to obtain a concession from the Commonwealth Government. I do not hesitate to say that the proposal is that this bonus shall be granted to certain individuals in order that they may make money out of it. Any one who has watched the lobbies for the last few days must be aware of the disgraceful log-rolling which has been going on, and the Government ought to be ashamed to come forward with a proposal to give a concession to such people.
– When the Tariff comes up again we shall see some log-rolling on the other side. What about the log-rolling by the residual oil people 1
– No one has seen me about the matter. They can make sure that I shall be against them.
– They know that the honorable member is safe, because they want oil to be free.
– -Whenever a concession is required by the people in this way we are told - and the Government is prepared to adopt the statement - that they desire it to enable them to give employment to thousands who are unemployed. The Minister has said to-night, and upon other occasions, that this scheme, if carried out, will find work for the unemployed. I -remember that a couple of years ago » number of syndicators said that if a certain grant of land in mineral country were made to them by the Queensland Government they would be prepared to proceed with the construction of railways and the opening up of mines. I refer especially to the Normanton-Cloncurry railway. It was said that the moment the construction of that line was sanctioned the company would expend £2,000,000 in building it and developing the mines at the Cloncurry end of it, but two years have elapsed since the concession was granted and not a pick has been put into the ground. The fact was that, just as in this case, certain interested gentlemen sought the concession from the Government, so that they might hawk it about the world for sale to the highest bidder, and pocket the profits, leaving somebody else to nurse the baby. A little while ago, a syndicate, in’ which a number of Melbourne syndicators were interested, obtained a concession of 2,000 acres of mineral land in the Chillagoe district from the Queensland Government, and promised that they would spend £1,000,000 in constructing a railway line and developing the mines there. Immediately after the concession had been granted, these gentlemen floated the property on the London market for £1,000,000. Individuals in England, and Australia were induced to buy the company’s scrip at a greatly inflated value, the shares selling for as much as 38s. each. A sum of £600,000 was then borrowed at 6 per cent, for the construction of the railway. The loan, however, realized only £82, which goes to show that the borrowing capacity of a syndicate is not nearly as good as that of the Government. The result was that the big syndicate-mongers, among whom were a number of Victorian gentlemen, some of them sitting in very high places, unloaded their shares- for as much as 38s. each, and now the scrip can be bought at ls. and ls. 6d. One gentlemen made nearly £60,000 out of the transaction, while other people were left to bear the burden of the misrepresentation on. the part of the promoters.
– That is what is called “business.”
– So long as we live under the present economic system I suppose we may expect that sort of thing. It is wrong for the Government to give concessions to people who want to make money out of the flotation of companies ; and that is simply the object of the present Bill. I know it will be said- that any one can qualify for the bonus ; but there is no room for competition in an industry of this kind. If there be competition, nothing but ruin can follow ; success can only be attained by complete monopoly.
– Does not that amount to saying that it is better to have no industry than to have a monopoly 1
– I would rather see this industry remain undeveloped for 100 years to come than give it into the hands of a huge private syndicate. Theflotation of two companies depends on the passage of this Bill, which practically means dividing £250,000 between them. The Minister has told us time after time that he would rather see this enterprise controlled by the State ; and yet he has done more than any man in the committee to defeat any effort in that direction, simply because four or five Premiers have sent telegrams, saying that the States are not prepared to qualify for the bonus.
– Does the honorable member not think” the States Governments of the day speak with more authority than do irresponsible persons ?
– From his experience of politics, the Minister must know that many reforms would not have been carried but for the pressure brought to bear. There is hardly a reform in Australia up to the present time which would have been achieved had it been left to gentlemen similar to those who sent the telegrams. The Minister for Home Affairs knows that there were many reforms when he was Premier of New South Wales, which would not have been carried but for a certain amount of pressure brought to bear upon him.
– If the honorable member means that I was forced to do that which I did not want to do, he is mistaken.
– The honorable gentleman’s Government and a number of other Governments in New South Wales, as elsewhere, would not have carried out many reforms but for the pressure brought to bear by the labour party.
– Years before I was Premier I said I would bring in those reforms, and I did so.
– I give the honorable gentleman credit for carrying out the reforms, but he must know that they were the result of pressure. I am surprised that the Minister for Trade and Customs should raise the most paltry objections in order to defeat an object which he says he has at heart. Not very long ago, when a concession was asked on behalf of the Tramway Company in Adelaide, the Minister for Trade and Customs wired over asking the people of that city not to vote for the proposal.
There is now an opportunity for the State to develop an industry likely to be the biggest in Australia, and yet the Minister is prepared to hand over the enterprise to private syndicates. The Minister told us that he was going to secure the substance and allow the shadow to go ; but it appears to me that he is handing the substance to the syndicates, and leaving the shadow fov the Commonwealth.
– Seven weeks ago, when the Minister for Trade and Customs introduced the Bonus Bill, the measure was practically saved by the votes of the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Hartnoll, and myself; because had it not been for us, the Speaker would not have had an opportunity of giving his casting vote in favour of the Government. Shortly afterwards, my colleague and myself, urged the Minister for Trade and Customs not to proceed with the Bill in the then rather excited state of the House, but our counsel was rejected, with what I call obstinacy, but with whatI presume the Minister calls determination. The result was that for the rest of the evening, if I may so term it, honorable members “ played the goat “ with the measure - they prevented any practical business from being done. The following week the Bill was again brought before the House, and the labour members, aided by some members of the direct Opposition, succeeded in carrying the amendment which the Minister now seeks to rescind. It is very ill-advised for the Minister now to have this measure recommitted with the object which has been indicated. Instead of asking the House to consider measures once and finally, he is asking the chance majority of- to-day to reject the legislation of a chance majority of yesterday. In that I find one of the strongest objections which can be raised against the Bill. Seven weeks ago I expressed myself in favour of the measure, although I am usually known as a revenuetariff member. A bonus seems to me lessobjectionable than a protectionist duty, and on that occasion I voted for the measure. That was not because there are large iron ore deposits in Tasmania, because I know that if the Bill becomes law, the operations of the company will be carried on in New South Wales. I am prepared, however, in the interests of Australia, to support a bonus, but I object most strongly, and always shall object, to the recommittal of Bills for any such purpose as that which has been declared to-night; because that, in my opinion, is a highly improper manner in which to conduct public business. As to the iron industry itself, it is well to remember that in the case of war between England and a large foreign State, we shall be entirely dependent on the English navy for the protection of our commerce. Under such circumstances the establishment of ironworks is a most legitimate object ; but I do not think any Australian Government is justified in expending a large sum of money on what, from present appearances, may turn out a failure. When the amendment of the honorable member for Bland was originally proposed I felt compelled to vote against it. If a certain number of men are prepared to risk their money it seems reasonable to allow them to do so, butI urge on the Minister the advisability, even now, of withdrawing the Bill. If the measure be proceeded with I shall be compelled to either vote against the clause as it was amended at the instance of the honorable member for Bland or not to vote at all. My earnest advice to the Minister is to withdraw the Bill. . I tendered the same advice to him before, but he refused to accept it. At a later period, when we know something of the state of the public finances and of the amount of money we shall have to spare, the measure is more likely to be carried than it is at the present time.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
It is with some satisfaction that I am able to read the following telegram from Mr. McKenzie, the mayor of Wollongong, in reply to the telegram of sympathy which was sent to him this afternoon on behalf of the Government : -
Thanks for sympathy. Five deaths ; over 100 still entombed. Rescue parties report many alive.
That is corroborated by the following telegram, received a little earlier : -
Mount Kembla colliery office advises 90 men rescued, and several bodies also brought out of mine.
Evidently about 200 men were entombed, and about 100 have been rescued. Unfortunately, five, at least, are dead, but many are reported to be still alive, and there appear to be reasonable hopes of their rescue. In addition to thesetelegrams, the honorable member for Illawarra, who is the member for the district, has been good enough to place in my hand a telegram to him from Mr. McKenzie indorsing the information I have given.
– What is the time of the telegrams ?
– The last telegram received by me was lodged in the Wollongong office at 9 o’clock.
– When are we likely to see the report made by Judge Dashwood in connexion with the pearl-shelling industry ?
– I received the report yesterday morning, and yesterday afternoon transmitted it to the Government printer, in order that it might be laid upon the table of the House as early as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m..
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 July 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020731_reps_1_11/>.