1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Sir LANGDON BONYTHON presented a petition from the president and secretary of the Council of Churches, in South Australia, in favour of the liquor trade of the federal capital being carried on exclusively by the Government of the Commonwealth.
Petition received and read.
– As a great deal of uncertainty exists as to the subjects upon which candidates for the Federal Public Service are to be examined, and the extent of the knowledge of them which they will be required to show, I wish to know from the Minister for Home Affairs if he will expedite the making public of all necessary information on the subject?
– The matter is one of considerable importance. It is considered that the best time for holding these examinations will be during the next Christmas holidays, but as it is estimated that there will be about 30,000 papers to deal with, it is thought that it will be cheaper and better to appoint an officer especially to conduct the examination, than to follow the system which has been in vogue in the States. The salary of that officer will be placed upon the Estimates, and as soon as it is voted preparations will be made as expeditiously as can be for publishing the necessary information, and getting everything in readiness to hold the examination, if possible, about Christmas time.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Acting Prime Minister to the following telegram from Ballarat which appears in to-day’s Age : -
Consequent upon the rise in the price of horsefeed, the Ballarat Delivery Company has decided to have only one delivery daily for the present. Various shopkeepers suggested the curtailment of the service in order to escape the extra charges proposed by the carrying company, which has been employing eleven horses, the keep of which per week cost 13s. per head, chaff being £7 per ton. Higher prices are likely to rule. The cabmen in Ballarat are also feeling the pinch of the hard times. It is not improbable that owing to the dearness of horse-feed the tramway company will raise its fares.
In view of the fact that the severity of the drought is now being felt in Victoria, and even in the constituency which he represents, will the Acting Prime Minister bring before the Cabinet the advisability of suspending the collection of the fodder duties in the interests of those who are suffering?
– I have not seen the paragraph in the Age, and am obliged to the honorable and learned member for drawing attention to it. If the circumstances in Ballarat, or elsewherein Victoria, call for relief, that relief is, as I have already indicated, in the hands of the State Government. The money received from the fodder duties collected by the Federal Government is returned to the States, and the States Governments can employ it in affording relief to those in distress. The case is one to be met by State action, without the intervention of the Federal Government, whose action, if they took any, must apply to the whole Commonwealth. While the drought is being felt in Queensland, New South Wales, and in parts of Victoria, it does not appear to be felt in Western Australia, Tasmania, nor dangerously in South Australia.
– Has the honorable and learned gentleman received any recent com munication from the States Governments in regard to the remission of the fodder duties, and, if so, what is the nature of it? Has his attention been drawn to a paragraph which appeared in this morning’s Age, to the effect that the Premier of New South Wales has been in communication with the Premiers of the other States with a view to induce the Federal Government to take action, and that the Premier of Queensland replied in these terms -
Re fodder duties, I think it quite useless to ask the Federal Government for any concession. They have already refused it, and seem quite callous about what happens to any of the States.
In view of the apparent disposition of the States Governments to look to the Federal Government for relief, is the Acting Prime Minister prepared to afford that relief?
– I have not received any communication on the subject from any of the States Governments since the matter was last before the House, except that the Government of Western Australia has informed us that that State feels no need for relief, but does not wish to stand in the way of relief being granted to any other States - an allusion I presume to the privilege which Western Australia possesses of imposing duties upon goods sent there from the other States. The statement which the honorable member has read is noteworthy rather for the temper it displays than for its accuracy. It has been repeatedly pointed out to the Premiers of the States, that they are perfectly justified in communicating with each other with a view to determining upon a common course of action, and that the Federal Government is willing to lend what aid it can to assist them to deal effectively with the difficulty, but that it is not within our province to take action affecting the whole Commonwealth simply to meet the requirements of parts of the Commonwealth.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister assert that the States Governments have power to remit the fodder duties ?
– Certainly not.
– Does he mean to say that the Federal Government has no power to remit the fodder duties?
– There is no doubt as to the power of the Federal Parliament to reduce, increase, or remit any customs duties, but its power in this respect mustbeexercised uniformly in regard to every State of the union.
– And why should it not be exercised?
– Because half the States of Australia do not want it to be exercised ; nor is it necessary that it should be be exercised, when the relief required can be most readily, fully, and fitly obtained by State action.
– Is it a fact that an interview has taken place between the AttorneyGeneral of the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Ministry on the subject of the suspension of the fodder duties? If so, has any scheme been arrived at by which the State Government may assist the stockowners, and has it been put into effect?
– The Attorney-General of New South Wales, as I have already informed the House, visited Melbourne some time ago, and conferred with the Ministry upon this subject. Various means of affording relief were discussed, and on his return to Sydney he stated publicly that he had been satisfied that there were constitutional objections to the Commonwealth taking the action which it had been asked to take. We considered methods by which the States might, in the exercise of their powers, apply the revenue derived from the fodder duties to the relief of those in distress. What conclusion was arrived at by the State Ministries I have not been officially informed.
– Were there any constitutional reasons against the course suggested by the Attorney-General of New South Wales other than those already indicated to the House?
– There were difficulties in regard to the manner in which action could be taken by the Commonwealth or by the States. A number of difficult questions were involved owing to the limitations imposed by the financial and other sections of the Constitution. This Government gave the most serious consideration to the whole matter at several Cabinet meetings. We could have seen our way to surmounting most, if not all, of the other constitutional difficulties if a course of procedure could have been found to enable us to act only in regard to those States in which the drought was existing. But as that was not possible, we were obliged to refrain from any action at all.
– Then there was only a political difficulty!
– There was no political difficulty.
– Does the praise or blame for not suspending the fodder duties rest with the Ministry ?
-The Ministry has done its duty, regarding neither praise nor blame.
– Can the Ministry with the consent of Parliament remit the duties upon fodder throughout the Commonwealth?
– The Commonwealth Parliament has power to pass a law remitting the collection of duties.
– Does the Ministry intend to ask Parliament to remit the duties upon fodder throughout the Commonwealth ?
– Certainly not.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister any further information to give to the House with reference to the swearing-in as Acting Governor-General of His Excellency Lord Tennyson? Can he inform us whether the swearing-in before a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria was authorized at the time, or has it been authorized since ?
– The Acting GovernorGeneral is in receipt of a cablegram from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated the 14th of this month, which says -
Referring to my telegram of 1st August, Additional Royal Instructions passed 11th August, amending Royal Instructions 29th October, 1900, so as to permit Governor-General to take oath in presence of Chief Justice or other Judge of Supreme Court of any State of the Commonwealth. It is further provided that Additional Royal Instructions shall be deemed to have come into operation as from 14th July last.
The honorable and learned member will therefore see that the swearing-in was authorized on the 11th of this month.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been directed to the statement which Sir John See is reported to have made last night in the
Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, that he has been in communication with the State Premiers as to the desirability of a joint protest to the Federal Government in reference to a certain clause in the Electoral Bill, that he regarded that clause as a serious inroad upon the constitutional rights of the electors by curtailing their choice of representatives, and that he had received replies from all of the State Premiers to the effect that they objected to the provision in question? Has any protest been received by the Government from the Premiers of the States, and, if so, what action do they intend totake upon it ?
– A protest against the clause referred to has been received from the Premier of New South Wales on behalf of the States Premiers, and a reply was sent informing him that this Government did not see its way to follow the course indicated. I shall have pleasure in laying both Sir John See’s letter and our reply upon the table.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table
Report on the pearl-shelling industry in Northwest Australia.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, and 3. It appears that the continuation in
Victoria by Customs officers of the old Victorian practice under the State law, which, in Victoria alone, regulates trade marks, has given some occasion for the suggested complaint. 4, The Victorian Minister who is charged with the administration of the State Trade Marks Act is consulting the State law officers and otherwise inquiring into the matter, and it is also occuping my attention with a view to the early removal of all cause of complaint. So faras ascertained no similar difficulty exists in any State other than Victoria.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Steps have been taken to obtain the desired information.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The necessary steps have been taken to obtain the desired information.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That leave be givento bring in a Bill for an Act relating to Royal commissions.
– It is unusual to object to the granting of leave to introduce a Bill, but I desire to direct attention to the peculiar proceedings of the Ministry in connexion with this matter. It is stated in the newspapers that the Royal commission sitting in Sydney is now taking evidence without legal warrant, and that it has no power to administer the oath to witnesses. It is remarkable that a Ministry consisting very largely of members of the legal profession should have allowed themselves to be betrayed into committing an illegal act by appointing a Royal commission under such circumstances. The people of Australia naturally expect their work to be thoroughly well done by the Federal Ministry and Parliament, and I think we are entitled to know whether a mistake has been committed to the extent indicated in the press ?
– The honorable member has been misled. There can be no doubt as to the power of the Drayton Grange Commission to take evidence, or to administer the oath to witnesses.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– I desire to withdraw the motion stand ing in my name -
That the expenditure upon the GovernorGeneral’s establishment of 43,500 a year, and upon the Federal Executive Council of £1,925 a year, as submitted in the statement ordered to be printed on the 7th inst., is approved.
It has been represented to me that if the proposal is made in this form it will prevent detailed criticism, such as some honorable members desire to offer. Consequently. I desire to withdraw it, and to move -
That the House, on Tuesday, resolve itself into a committee of the whole to consider the following motion : - “ That an expenditure upon Government Houses of £5,500 a year, and upon the Federal Executive Council of£1,925 a year, as submitted in the statement ordered to be printed on the 7th instant, is approved.”
I propose on Tuesday to lay the whole subject before honorable members, so that they may be free to offer any criticism they choose.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I do not wish to raise any objection to the motion at this stage, but I desire it to be understood that if we consent to go into committee on Tuesday next, we must not be regarded as approving of the Government proposals. Doubtless very strong opposition will be shown towards some portions of the Government proposals.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I quite agree with the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, that honorable members must not be understood to accept the whole of the Government proposals. One or two of the items require very careful consideration. If the motion hud been moved in its original form, it would have been impossible to properly consider it. Moreover, the Government would have had no power to spend any money on the strength of the resolution. It would have been absolutely necessary to bring down a message, and to pass a Bill authorizing the expenditure. I understand that the Acting Prime Minister has other reasons for desiring to obtain an expression of opinion on the part of honorable members, and that they do not intend to spend any money until they are properly authorized by the House to do so.
– I would ask whether the Minister does not consider that we shall be really wasting time by adopting the course proposed. The only purpose that a discussion can serve will be to indicate the feeling of honorable members. It will be necessary to introduce a Bill to authorize the expenditure of the money, and a further long discussion will then take place.
– I think the House is under a debt of gratitude to the Government for altering the form of their proposal so that honorable members may have the fullest opportunity of discussion. I desire to know from the Minister whether he is in a position to lay beforethe House the correspondence which took place between the Premier of New South Wales and the Secretary of State for the Colonies in regard to the residence of the Governor-General in Sydney? I asked for this correspondence on a former occasion, and I hope that the Minister will be able to obtain it before we are asked to go into committee on Tuesday.
– Although I shall not oppose the motion at this stage, I shall do so next week.
– I shall have pleasure in making an effort to obtain the correspondence referred to by the honorable member for Laanecoorie before Tuesday next. The reason for submitting this motion, in advance of the Estimates, is that we have now an Acting Governor-General whom it will be necessary to replace by a permanent appointee. Before that can be done, it is necessary that the future occupant of the position should know what expenditure is to be incurred upon the Government Houses and upon the establishment. It is with a view of obtaining an expression of the opinion of honorable members upon that question that we are adopting the present course, our object being to place ourselves in a position to communicate with the Secretary of State for the Colonies as soon as possible.
– Supposing that the House refused afterwards to sanction the expenditure of the money ?
– I am certain that the House, having once arrived at a conclusion, would not act inconsistently with it. Although the resolution, if carried, will not authorize us to spend any money, it will afford a sufficient guide to the feeling of honorable members to enable us to send such information to the Secretary of State for the Colonies as will allow him to proceed with the arrangements for the appointment of a Governor-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I desire to take this opportunity of referring to a matter which I brought under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs three months ago. At the present time fully 600 men in New South Wales, and large numbers in Victoria and other States, are being deprived of their usual employment, because paints brought to the Commonwealth by ships for their own use are subject to duty. When I mentioned this matter to the Minister for Trade and Customs on a former occasion, he gave me a sympathetic reply, and indicated that his only desire was to provide as much employment as possible for artizans and others within the Commonwealth. Three months, however, have passed, and he’ has not taken any action. All vessels trading to Australia, and which are placed in dock for repair are obliged to pay duty upon every pound of anti-fouling composition, and other special paint used upon them. These paints are very expensive, and are not made within the Commonwealth. The extra outlay involved in the payment of duty is a matter of such serious consideration that the owners of vessels, instead of placing them in dock here as usual, are, in the majority of cases, deciding to put off repairs until their ships return to their home ports, or reach other ports where the work can be carried on at less expensed In order to get over this difficulty, and with a view to prevent further injury to the dock owners and employes, I would ask the Minister whether he could not permit the paint to be used in bond, or allow a drawback to the extent of the duty paid upon the material used.’ I am sorry that this matter has not been attended to before. I have written to the Minister several times, but I have not been able to obtain a reply. I merely suggest that the Customs Act should be so administered as to encourage vessels to undertake their repairs in Australian waters. If it is right to allow a’ drawback upon local productions such as jams, surely it is equally right to allow it upon the anti-corrosive paints which are used in connexion with these vessels, and which cannot be manufactured in Australia. I repeat that, so far, I have received no reply from the Minister to my communication. That cannot be due to the fact that I sit in opposition to the Government, neither do I believe that it is owing to neglect or callousness on the part of the right honorable gentleman. But, allowing for his astuteness and legal training, I think that if the Minister paid New South Wales the compliment of visiting it occasionally and of spending a little time there, many of the difficulties which have occurred in connexion with the administration of the Tariff would have been obviated. The transition from Adelaide to Sydney is like that from a villiage to a city, because the conditions obtaining in the two places are so utterly dissimilar. I am satisfied that if the Minister is not prepared to visit all portions of the Commonwealth in order that he may personally gain accurate information upon this and kindred matters, maladministration in this department will continue. If he had acted upon my suggestion, I am convinced that on his own initiative he would have rectified many of the mistakes which have arisen.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Acting Minister for Defence to one or two matters which are not receiving that attention which they deserve. The first has reference to the warrant officers and staff sergeants who are to be retired from the service of the Commonwealth at the end of the current month. I understand that the Cabinet h is had under consideration for some time the question of what compensation, if any, shall be granted to these men. It is exceedingly unfair to allow a matter of that sort to remain in abeyance for one moment longer than is absolutely necessary. All these men are upon leave of absence which terminates at the end of the present month. Upon the decision of the Government depends very largely the direction in which they will turn their energies in the future. If any credence is to be placed in the statements which have appeared in the public press, this question has already been under the consideration of the Government for about two months, and although I understand the volume of work with which they are confronted, I think that it should have been decided ere this. It is not fair to leave men who are to be retired in ignorance of what , is to be done regarding them. They should be allowed to know the best or the worst at the earliest possible moment. Another matter to which I would direct attention relates to the prohibition of recruiting in the Commonwealth forces. The other night, upon the motion for adjournment, I pointed out that to allow the forces to run down far below their normal strength and then suddenly call upon them to recruit up to their full strength was a most ill-advised course of action. I do not suggest that any difficulty will be experienced in obtaining the requisite number of recruits. Indeed, there is no corps in the Common wealth which could not recruit up to its full strength within a week. What I am urging is that the method of procedure now being adopted seriously interferes with the efficiency of the troops, and the military forces have quite enough difficulties with which to contend without unnecessarily adding to them. Let me put a typical case. Let us suppose that upon its establishment a corps is 500 strong. There will always be a number of men leaving it owing to a change in. their residences. There is thus a continual change going on in the force. In Victoria upon an average a corps 500 strong will in ten years pass 2,000 men through its ranks. So long as a corps does not fall too far below its normal strength it will always contain a large proportion of trained men, who will materially assist in bringing the recruits up to a proper state of efficiency. But the less trained men there are left in its ranks the greater will be the difficulty experienced in maintaining that efficiency. Whenever recruits join an)- corps in large numbers instead of in small drafts its efficiency must be seriously impaired. I understand that the Acting Minister for Defence desires to consider the draft estimates for the current year before deciding what is to be clone in this connexion. I assume that he received those estimates from the defence authorities some time ago. This is a matter of pressing urgency, which should be given priority over many ‘ others of ordinary routine administration. Of course, if the Minister wishes to have only 750 men in a corps instead of 1,000, it would be wise to allow it to fall to that number by the natural processes by which men would dissociate themselves from it. But where, under the new scheme, the strength of any corps is intended to be approximately what it now is, the present practice of prohibiting recruiting should be discontinued. Any new scheme must necessarily involve a large amount of work in the training of the forces, and if, in addition to making soldiers adapt themselves to new conditions and new drill, it is necessary to train raw recruits in the matter of discipline, a double task will be cast upon the forces, and we shall not get the results that under other conditions we should have a right to expect. Of course, when Parliament says that the defence vote must be reduced by a certain amount, the forces must submit; but at the same time they ought not to be unnecessarily hampered by the administration of the department. I do not say that, from his point of view, the Minister has unduly delayed coming to a decision in this matter, but somebody has delayed far too long, from the point of view of the efficiency of the forces. I am not suggesting that the latter have become inefficient, but unnecessary labour will be involved in bringing them up to that standard of efficiency which has hitherto characterized them if the present practice is continued. It is essential that the Minister should let each’ corps in the Commonwealth know what its future strength is to be at the earliest possible moment. T would further point out that, quite irrespective of what new scheme may be adopted, it would be fatal to reduce the number of leaders. I know it is sometimes said that the forces contain all captains and no privates.
– Hear, hear.
– I would point out to the honorable member who interjects, that if we have a sufficient number of commissioned and non-commissioned officers, we can very quickly train men in the ranks, but we cannot hastily train military leaders in time of emergency.
– Then we had better have all captains 1
– No; but the honorable and learned member must recognise that we require more captains in time of peace than we do in time of war. I may also mention that all appointments of non-commissioned officers have been stopped. The result is that in connexion with many of the corps which these officers are leaving there is no opportunity of replacing them with other men. Consequently, when the reorganization takes place it will be found that there is an insufficient number of noncommissioned officers. That is the most serious aspect of this question. I hope that the embargo of which I complain will either be speedily removed or made permanent.
– I also wish to invite attention to one or two matters connected with the re-organization of the defence forces, and more particularly as this is the last occasion before the dismissals come into force at the end of this month that I will have an opportunity of bringing the matter under the attention of the House. In the Herald of the 14th June I find the following : -
The Acting Minister for Defence, Sir William Lyne, had a final interview with Captain Collins, Secretary for Defence, and Captain Tickell regarding the defence retrenchment scheme. In the interview some final touches were given for the Minister’s information, and later Sir William was able to complete his scheme for presentation to the Federal Cabinet at its first meeting next week.
I should not object to waiting till the Estimates are submitted for consideration if I were assured that in the interim the Minister would stay his hand. But I find that a large Dumber of men whose presence is absolutely necessary to the efficiency of the defence force are to be retired on the 31st instant, and that when the Estimates are presented the whole of the retrenchment scheme will be an accomplished fact, and it will then be too late to bring thismatter forward. When Parliament decided that the defence vote should be reduced by £130,000, the intention was thatthe expenditure in connexion with that department should not exceed the expenditure for 1898, and that the excessive allowances enjoyed by a large number of officers - particularly in New South Wales and Queensland - in addition to their salaries, should be discontinued. Those were the points brought forward by the honorable member who moved to reduce the defence voce by £1, and it was in consequence of such representations thenmade that the Minister for Defence promised to reduce the Estimates for the current year by £130,000. Practically what was asked for was retrenchment without destruction. Regarding the question of allowances, I gather from a published list that the headquarters staff - the members of which formerly received the bulk of these allowances - is still in receipt of as much as it ever had.I n addition to the General Officer Commanding, who receives a salary of £2,500, the following amounts are paid to its members in the way of salary: - Deputy Adjutant-General, £750; Assistant Adjutant-General, £600 ; Deputy QuartermasterGeneral, £750 ; Assistant Deputy Quartennaster-General, £600 ; Assistant Director of Artillery, £575; Assistant Adjutant - General for Engineers, £575; Director-General, Medical, £900; A.D.C. to General Officer Commanding, £450 ; Secretary toGeneral Officer Commanding, £350 ; making a total of £8,050.
– They are altogether too large.
– Exactly. In this connexion, I find that the Herald, of 14th June last, says: -
As to the suggestion that the central headquarters staff should be retrenched, we have learned that no such retrenchment is contemplated. The salaries paid have already been set out in the Herald in detail, and are repeated in a morning contemporary to-day. The salaries total over £6,000. The offices were created on the advice of Major-General Hutton, the General Officer Commanding, and it is scarcely to be expected that he would now - thus early - propose any retrenchment in the salar ies attached. That there is room for retrenchment is another matter. The present salaries, for instance, have been calculated on the basis of the old salaries, plus allowances, and consequently the officers of the head-quarters staff who have been drawn from the extravagant States of New South Wales and Queensland are enjoying exceptionally high salaries, while those from the parsimonious and the careful States are, by comparison, suffering considerably. One officer who received £600 in salary had £280 allowances, and this not being enough when added together, was generously supplemented by a £10 note. Sir William Lyne, when asked as to these matters to-day, would not express any opinion. It would, he said, be time enough when the scheme came before Parliament.
So that, as the House objected to allowances, the Minister added them in that case to the officer’s salary, gave him an extra £10, and treated the whole amount as salary. That seems to me a very objectionable way of getting rid of allowances.
– The honorable and learned member has chosen a very objectionable way of bringing the matter forward.
– It maybe objectionable to the honorable the Minister. I have tried every other way, but see no other course than that I am now adopting open to me. I am not going to allow these men to suffer without a protest. The statement which I have made appears in the press, and I have given the Minister my authority for it. In my opinion the action of the department is destroying the efficiency of the permanent engineering corps at Queenscliff. The original intention in regard to that corps, as set forth in a general order, was that it should consist of one captain, one lieutenant, three warrant officers, and 30 men of other ranks, making a total of 35 ; but we find now that it is to consist of one major, one captain, four warrant officers, and twenty men, thus reducing the numericial strength of the corps to 26, although Major-General Downes and other officers have pointed out that a corps of 35 is quite inadequate to have charge of the fortifications at the entrance to Port Phillip, and to conduct all the work connected with the laying-down, of submarine mines and other defence work. Moreover, while the strength of the corps has been reduced so that by the saving of the. pay of the men who have been retrenched, provision may be made for a larger number of officers, the pay of those who have been retained is to be reduced. Men who join the submarine miners must be either electricians, smiths, fitters, or carpenters, and whereas formerly they were paid from 6s. to 7s. a day, it is now proposed to pay them 4s. 3d. per day. As these men are tradesmen, I think that the proposed reduction is a matter which the Trades Hall or some kindred association should take in hand. The proposed reduction in pay is a distinct breach of the minimum wage, which this Government in other directions is so anxious to maintain. My information on this subject has been obtained from a general order which has been issued, and which the Minister has had brought under his notice.
– The honorable and learned member is stating two or three things which are not facts. It is premature to make a speech of this kind.
– It is easy for the Minister to say that. I challenge him to prove it. We also had a promise from the Minister that when men had to be. dismissed, it would be single men as far as possible who would be sent away, so as to mitigate the harshness of this act ; but I find that five single men, all of them of less than two-and-a-half years’ service, have been retained, while four married men - Flynn,
McCready, Wilson, and Eastaugh - one with nine years’ service, another with twenty, and another with twelve, and one with ten months’ service, have been dismissed. No doubt the Minister was not made aware of that fact, but he should consider it. Since the Defence department has been taken over by the Commonwealth, there have been 1 00 gunners and one company of artillery removed from Queenscliff to Melbourne and permanently stationed here. These ‘men, who belong to garrison artillery, must, if they are to keep ,up their efficiency and training, be constantly in attendance upon big guns, but in Melbourne they can get no big gun practice at all, and only see a big gun from time to time when they go over to Williamstown, though the gun there is not of the same character as that of those at the Heads.
– The removal has been> a great mistake.
– Yes. I wish also to refer to the following telegram from Queenscliff, which was published in the Age of 2nd June last : -
A general parade of the Royal Australian Artillery war. held on Saturday in the Queenscliff fort, the available men in Melbourne, accompanied by the band, coming by train to take part. The fort was manned and guns worked as in action. Similar monthly parades in the Queenscliff fort are contemplated, so that the men’s knowledge of working the guns in the forts at the Heads will not be altogether lost. It is satisfactory to know that under the new regime the Permanent Garrison Artillery men will have twelve days’ drill at the guns during the 3rear.
These men, who have been specially trained in the management of big guns and the general knowledge of artillery work, and who are part of the best artillery corps in the world, are given only twelve opportunities a year to keep themselves in touch with that work, and are kept in Melbourne to act as guards of honour, and to furnish other guards, and to be in many cases orderlies, batmen, and servants. The guns at Queenscliff have cost Victoria thousands of pounds, and it is necessary that they should be kept in perfect order, while the efficiency of the artillery depends upon their intimate and constant acquaintance with the delicate machinery intrusted to their charge. The present position is so surprising, that I think I need .only draw attention to it to have the matter rectified. I wish, ako to remind the Minister for Home Affairs of a promise made by the Minister for Defence once in reply to a question asked by myself, and again in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Bland, that every man in the military forces should have the right to rise from the ranks to any position in the service if his ability warranted the promotion. I ask honorable members to notice how the fulfilment of that promise has been prevented by the military authorities. Regulations have been issued under which men may obtain commissions in the Royal Australian artillery. They were published in the newspapers on the 16 th May last, although laid on the table of this House only yesterday. Candidates for a commission are expected to have an acquaintance with French, German, Algebra, Euclid, and Latin, which in itself is a great handicap to men coming from the ranks, though, perhaps, it is necessary that officers should be persons of education and literary attainment. If they are, so much the better. But it is furthermore provided - and this is what I mostly object to - that they must be between the ages of 19 and 23 years, unless they have served in South Africa or in China, in which case the age limit is to be raised to 25 ‘years. Now, as a man cannot join as a gunner until he is eighteen years of age, that leaves him only five years in which to get himself out of the ruck, and make his abilities conspicuous; It takes an artilleryman two or three years to learn his work, it takes him a longer time to become a non-commissioned officer, and it is practically impossible for any man to qualify for a commission by the time he reaches 23. I believe that the Minister honestly intended to carry out his promise, but the military authorities, in their desire to limit commissions to persons .of good social status and wealthy connexions, have promulgated a regulation which practically makes it of no effect. I take it that the House, in voting for a reduction of the military estimates, did not wish to see the rank and file reduced and the officers increased. I have already shown that the men have been reduced, and the following paragraph from the Argus of- 17 th July last will show how the officers have been dealt with -
Three military promotions have been made by an Order in Council. Major A. H. P. Savage, of the RoYal Australian Artillery, has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel ; Major W. T.
Bridges, also of the artillery, lias been raised to the same rank ; and Captain P. T. Owen, of the Engineers, who has been temporarily major, has been permanently promoted to that rank, with the local title of Lieutenant-Colonel. All the officers named are from New South Wales.
– The officers there referred to are perhaps three of the best men in the service.
– And I. presume that the promotions were the reward of merit.
– I am glad to hear it. I am ready to accept that explanation, depending as I do upon the Minister’s knowledge, but that is not sufficient. Although meritorous service should be rewarded, it is a wrong thing, when men are being dismissed even to the extent of diminishing the efficiency of the service, that officers should be increased in rank and pay. I feel that the whole service should be treated alike, and that when retrenchment is going on in one branch there should not be increases “in another. It is altogether against the wish of the House that the rank and file should be
Called upon to suffer so that the number of officers and their salaries may be increased. I hope that the Ministry will consider all these matters, and will see that in future all ranks receive equal treatment.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).The matter to which I wish to call attention is one of grave importance to the industrial community. I wish to know if the Government intend to do anything in pursuance of the policy which was announced at the time of the Maitland address in reference to factory legislation. The Minister for Home Affairs must be aware of the replies sent by the Premiers of the various States to the Commonwealth Government in reference to the resolution passed by this House. Those replies were most chilling and unfavorable. I was especially disappointed that the Premier of Victoria, who was a professed friend of factory legislation, should have treated the subject in such a cold and faint-hearted manner. So long as factory legislation continues in the hands of the States’ Parliaments, we must have different Acts in each State. In both this morning’s newspapers, it is stated that ten of the thirteen brush manufacturers in Victoria have petitioned to be brought under the Factories Act, because they are being under-cut by manufacturers who pay sweating rates of wages, and ‘ they fee] that this unfair competition should not be allowed. The result is that the principal sweater in the trade intends to remove to Tasmania, where there is no factory legislation.
– And where he can get plenty of girl labour.
– Where he can get cheap labour, and will be under no restraint. The brush makers of Victoria, who pay honest and fair wages will, however, still have to compete with the brush makers in other States, who sweat their employes, which is unfair to them, and to all engaged in the industry. The circumstances of these States are so similar that one set of industrial conditions should govern all of them. I admit, of course, that under the circumstances it is impossible for the Federal Government to introduce legislation dealing with factories and wages ; but I should like to- know if Ministers intend to introduce a measure providing for courts of conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of labour disputes affecting more than one State. Although we cannot pass factory legislation until the subject is voluntarily delegated to us by the States, we have power, under the Constitution, to provide legislation for the settlement of disputes affecting more than one State. While such legislation will be insufficient, and, to a great extent, inefficient for the object which we desire to attain, it will enable us to deal with the most urgent cases, and to interfere between employers and employed who are at odds, as the police can now interfere between two bruisers who are disturbing the peace in the street. We cannot afford to allow these .people to fight to the detriment of the whole community. The Government will place the public under a debt of gratitude if they take the first opportunity of pressing on legislation in this direction. None of us wish to see any particular State offer facilities to sweaters to carry on their nefarious operations to the detriment of workers in all the other States. Such a condition of affairs would be very unfair to the employers who are placed under stringent conditions as to wages and hours of labour. There is one matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. There is a small corps of engineers, numbering, I think, 33 men, in Victoria. These men, who are trained mechanics, have a very difficult work to perform, but I understand that their numbers are to be reduced by six. I have had an opportunity of witnessing the work in which these men engage, and of studying the consequences of the reduction in their number. I admit that we should be guided by experts in matters of this kind, and I should be the last to interfere with them, but I am informed that Major Hannay and Major Reynolds, both skilled engineers, reported sometime ago that the number of engineers required for the purpose of controlling the defences of Hobsons Bay ought to be increased rather than reduced. The present commandant of the Commonwealth military forces is a linesman, he having been connected with the 60th rifles, and he has no sympathy with the work done by the engineer corps. He has reported that there is no need for so many engineers, and that the efficiency of the corps would not be impaired by a reduction in their number. If it is true that, on the other hand, experts who understand engineering work have reported that the number of engineers ought to be increased, how are we to act 1 I feel that when this House determined that the expenditure upon defences should be reduced honorable members did not intend that the efficiency of our forces should be in any way impaired. In the efforts which have been made at retrenchment the pressure has been applied in the wrong places. We are now finding out the extent of the expenditure involved in the maintenance of the military staff. We are also becoming aware that the retrenchment is not being exercised in those quarters in which it was desired that expenses should be reduced, but that its effects are falling upon the men who are the most useful, and who occupy the humblest positions. ‘ The policy seems to be to cut down everything but the salaries of the highly-paid officers. I have no special branch of the defence forces in my constituency, so that I can speak upon this matter with perfect disinterestedness. I am strongly in favour of cutting down the defence expenditure, which amounted last year to nearly £1,000,000. It is absurd for us, whilst we have to depend upon borrowing to pay our way, to spend £1,000,000 annually upon defences, and the pruning knife should be so applied as to cut down all expenditure upon unnecessary padding and gold lace. We want to maintain an efficient force at a reduced expenditure.
We are willing to provide all the money that is necessary for a force sufficient to defend our shores, and we do not wish the brunt of the reductions to fall upon those who ought not to bear it. If I understand the temper of honorable members they will not be satisfied to leave the whole of the defence retrenchment to be carried out by the expert officers in the employment of the Government.
– The officers look after their own saleries, and cut down all other expenses.
– I should not go so far as to say that ; but we wish the Government to formulate a defence policy. We have been drifting for a year and eight months and nothing has been done towards carrying out any scheme of reorganization. ‘Retrenchment is being effected by the reduction of small corps like the engineers, but we find that captains are being converted into majors, and majors into colonels, and that promotion is going on rapidly amongst the officers. I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for Defence will recognise that honorable members are anxiously awaiting the statement of the Ministerial policy in regard to defence matters.
– I think that this is the first occasion on which I have ventured to ventilate a grievance. Complaints such as those just referred to are not confined to Victoria, but are general throughout the States. Although theGovernment of Queensland desired that there should be a reduction in the expenditure upon the Defence department in that State, the retrenchment has been carried out in such a way that neither experts nor others can approve of the methods adopted. The officers seem to have been maintained at their full number whilst the men have been reduced.
– I wish thehonorable member would speak from his own knowledge. What he now states is not true. Most of the statements of a similar character made to-day are also untrue.
– I have no personal knowledge of these matters, but my information is derived from those who ought to know, and I have documentary confirmation of what I am stilting. I do not make these statements in any hostile spirit, because I can understand the difficulties with which the Minister has to contend in the administration of the Defence department.
I am speaking more with a view to give him some idea of the feeling which exists regarding defence matters before the Estimates are finally prepared. If I am rightly informed it is intended to spend a fairly large sum of money in providing uniforms for members of rifle clubs, whilst at the same time it is intended to increase the charge hitherto made for ammunition supplied to riflemen.
– I take it that that will not be done before the House has had an opportunity of expressing its opinion.
– If that course is adopted it will cause general dissatisfaction. Too much attention is being paid to the scarlet and gingerbread element and too little to those things which make for fighting efficiency. It would be far better to have menwithout uniforms who are capable of handling a rifle than men in uniform who are of no value as rifle shots, and it would be preferable to spend £10,000 in cheapening the cost of ammunition to riflemen than to devote it to the purchase of uniforms. Certain matters relating to the members of the defence forces in my own constituency are now under the notice of the Minister, and I do not wish to refer to them at present, but I may say that there is general dissatisfaction in Queensland at the way in which the defence retrenchment has been carried out there. I believe that there is room for still further retrenchment in Queensland.
– I do not think that there is much room for further retrenchment in Queensland, but there may be in Victoria.
– I do not think the limit has been reached even in Queensland, but the retrenchment should not take the direction of reducing the rank and file of the various corps. One of the oldest volunteer companies in the State has been disbanded. The members of this corps are willing to serve at considerably reduced remuneration, and it would be a pity to lose the services of such men if they could be retained- especially as we are piling up the salaries of those members of the force who are more ornamental than useful.
– I think I may fairly complain of the action of honorable members in initiating a debate of this character on” grievance day,” rather than dealing with the subject under circumstances which would permit of my being notified beforehand, and of my preparing myself for a reply to their criticisms. Honorable members can not expect me to deal so effectively with their complaints as if I had had notice of their intention to bring forward the matters to which they referred. I have no documents or records with me, but I wish to speak from memory with reference to two or three matters. First, I desire to deal with the statement of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, with regard to the warrant officers and non-commissioned officers who are being retired, and who have not yet been informed of the amount of the payment to be made to them at the expiration of their term of service- on August 31st. I may say that we are under no obligation to pay these officers anything whatever, but I induced my colleagues to agree to give them two months’ notice and two months’ pay, so that they should not be thrown out of employment without a moment’s warning. I am proposing to the Cabinet to give certain compensation to the retiring men, which will probably amount in all to about £16,000 ; but the exact form in which this shall be done is still a matter for consideration. This expenditure must, however, be sanctioned by the House before any payments can be made. Many honorable members object to make any payments in the form of compensation or retiring allowances, and therefore the matter will have to be discussed before any definite action is taken. In all probability this proposal will be submitted in connexion with the Estimates. It will, therefore, be seen that so far as I am concerned I am not keeping this matter in suspense.
– I do not think I suggested that.
– But the honorable and learned member said that the matter should not have been under consideration for so long. I am now showing him that it is practically settled so far as the Cabinet is concerned. Although this proposal, to which I have referred, will involve the expenditure of a large sum of money for this year, I do not think that we can very well deny consideration to the men who are being deprived of positions which they have occupied for many years past. The amounts given to individuals will, after all, be comparatively small. The draft. Estimates, to which the honorable and learned member referred, are being printed as rapidly as possible. My secretary has been conferring with the Government Printer this morning with a view to arranging that the printing shall be completed to-morrow. These will be subject to further reductions and alterations. The Estimates for the whole of the military and naval forces stand at about £599,000, or practically the same amount that they represented two or three years ago. This is a reduction of £135,000 upon the Estimates for last year, but I wish to explain the position. The honorable and learned member for Corinella complained about the stop page of recruiting, but I would point out that recruiting was suspended for nearly the whole of last year. It will probably surprise honorable members to learn that, in consequence of this, the defence expenditure was very much reduced - in fact, the actual outlay was about the same as the amount provided for in the Estimates to be submitted this year.
– Then if we commence recruiting, in order to bring the forces up to their proper strength, we shall probably run into a large amount of extra expense, and find the Estimates exceeded. 1
– I do not think so. The Estimates submitted last year were upon an inflated scale. Many of the corps were below their proper strength owing to the suspension of recruiting, and, as a result, the actual expenditure was £130,000 less than the amount provided for on the Estimates. The number of volunteers in Queensland had been much reduced, the strength of the various corps in New South Wales had also been diminished, and this applies to a small extent to the Victorian forces also. In South Australia there has been no reduction, and in Tasmania very little.
– Let us keep up our staff of non-commissioned officers. I do not refer to the permanent men, but to those who belong to the citizen forces.
– The honorable and learned member refers to the militia 1
– Honorable members can scarcely expect me to use the pruning knife in connexion with that branch of the force in the absence of personal knowledge. In the very nature of things, I must depend upon my responsible officers for information. I can assure honorable members that, as far as possible, I have accepted the recommendations of those officers in the carrying out of this scheme. There have been occasions, however - notably two - upon which Icould not adopt that course. One of these recommendations was that a considerable reduction should be made in the pay given in some of the States, and the other that there should be a reduction in the number of men without a corresponding diminution in the number of officers. In those two instances, I returned the recommendations, and I think I can fairly claim that the reductions which have been made in the payments to the men have been very small indeed. I believe that in the case referred to by the honorable and learned member for Corio, he is mistaken as to the facts. If men devote all their time to the service for 4s. 3d. per day, it is a very small pay indeed ; but it is not within my knowledge that they have done so.
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister by letter, and he will find that my statement is accurate.
– I shall be very glad if the honorable member will do so. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has referred to the probability that because the General Officer Commanding has not belonged to the engineers, but has been a linesman, he might not devote that attention to the engineering branch of the service which its importance warrants. At this particular moment, I forget the exact details of the retrenchment scheme, but it is essential that I should have some one to advise me as to the number of men which should constitute that arm of the service. I am not going to take the responsibility of determining these matters without having some one to support me, should my actions be questioned. I have advised the responsible officers that they should be particularly careful-
– Let us have a General as Minister for War.
– In reply to that interjection, I may mention that quite recently my attention was directed to a statement in the Sydney Evening News criticising a little trouble which was supposed to have arisen between MajorGeneral Hutton and myself, and suggesting that it would be wise to hand over to that officer a certain sum of money, and allow him to spend it just as he chooses. I question very much whether Parliament would allow money to be disbursed in that way. I admit that the number of officers upon the head-quarters’ staff appears to be large. But I would point out that no new appointments have been made. The officers in question have been transferred from other States, and it must not be forgotten that prior to federation there were six headquarters’ staffs in Australia, whereas now there is only one of any importance. What has happened is that a good many of the officers upon the head-quarters’ staffs of the various States have been drawn to one centre. Peeling, however, that the staff was a large one, I have only provisionally approved of it, and of three of its members only temporarily. The General Officer Commanding informs me that after the first twelve months he will probably be able to get along with three or four officers less, and, therefore, I took the action indicated. I did so because I had to act before the matter was discussed by the House, and with a view to giving honorable members a free hand in dealing with it. Under the circumstances, I do not see what more I could possibly have done. The honorable and learned member for Corio has also referred to the reduction which has taken place in the number of men stationed at Queenscliff - a reduction from 35 to 26. That, however, is a mere matter of official detail. I cannot be expected to know why one man is placed here, there, or anywhere else. How can a Minister do other than depend upon the reports of his responsible officers? There is another matter which was specially brought under my notice the other evening by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. He declared that married men were being discharged from the force whilst single men were being retained. The same evening I ascertained that it was perfectly true that married men had received notice of retirement. Thereupon I requested that, whereever it was possible, the services of married men with families should be retained, whilst the single men should be retired. With the exception of four or five, I believe that the whole of the married men have been retained in accordance with that instruction. It is true that notice of retirement was given to certain married men, and that the notice has not been withdrawn. At the same time it has not been acted upon.
– Some of the married men are going.
– It may be that four or five married men are being retired for some special reason.
– I can supply the Minister with a list of the names.
– What I promised to do on the occasion in question I have done. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has referred to the impossibility of a man in the ranks rising to a higher position. The regulations to which he has referred came under my notice only about a fortnight ago, and I at once took exception to that one which insists upon candidates for positions as officers having a knowledge of Greek, Latin, and a number of other subjects. I gave instructions that these should be omitted from the educational test.
– What about the age limit?
– I was not aware that the age limit was so low, but to a large extent I must leave that question to those who understand these matters. If there are any conditions in the regulations which it is impossible to carry out I will endeavour to make them more elastic. The instruction which I gave in regard to the educational qualifications of candidates will be carried out, and an opportunity will be afforded to the sons of the poorer classes of the community to rise to the higher positions in the service. That would be quite impossible under the existing regulations, save in the case of a man possessed of an exceptionally brilliant intellect. There is another regulation which I thought was a little objectionable, and the terras of which will, therefore, be varied. Reference has been made to three officers who have been brought from New South Wales to the head-quarters staff. Those three officers were recommended for promotion. I happen to know all of them, and I do not know which is the best officer. As to Captain Owen, I am satisfied that there is no better man in Australia. Major Bridges and Major Savage are also exceedingly good men.
– I am told that they are first-class men, but there is an objection to promoting officers, whilst men are being dismissed.
– Their promotion does not involve any considerable increased expenditure, seeing that we have reduced the allowances payable to military officers, and included them in their salaries. In most cases the salaries now paid constitute a reduction upon those previously paid, plus the allowances. It seems to me that in this connexion some persons have been trying to cause trouble without giving the public accurate information. The honorable member for Moreton has declared that an effort is being made to cut down the issue of ammunition, and spend the money thus saved in uniforms for the rifle clubs. I am not aware that that is the proposal at the present time, but if ammunition is to be distributed in the other States as it has been in Victoria during the past three years we shall need to provide a considerably increased sum for its purchase. Last year the ammunition required for the rifle clubs of Victoria was something over 4,000,000 rounds, and this year it is estimated at nearly 5,000,000 rounds. When it is considered that the cartridges for the 303 rifle cost the Government £6 10s. or £1 per 1,000 it will be seen that this supply represents a considerable outlay. It is not proposed to do more than reasonably restrict leakages. Regarding the question of uniform the general officer commanding has made a recommendation with which I do not agree. He wishes to reduce the class of uniform -
– He desires it to be khaki all through the service.
– Yes; and I do not agree with that proposal, because there are regiments which have provided their own uniform, which pride themselves upon it, and wish to retain it. Take, for instance, the Australian Horse. If the recommendation of the general officer commanding were adopted, the handsome uniform of that branch of the force would have to be thrown aside.
– And also that of the Scottish Regiment.
– To my mind, khaki is suitable for active service, but it is not very suitable for ordinary purposes.
– My reference was to the uniforms for rifle clubs.
– I think that the honorable member is mistaken as to the facts. The honorable and learned member for Corio has referred to several paragraphs which have appeared in the press. In this connexion, I would ask honorable members to pay very little heed to a number of those paragraphs. How they come to be published I do not understand. Sometimes I am very much startled to see absolutely misleading paragraphs, based upon information which I am alleged to have supplied. I cannot agree with the contention that there should be no reduction in the number of officers.
– Some honorable members desire only the New South Wales officers to be reduced.
– The New South Wales officers have been reduced more than have those of any other State, whilst the Q ueensland troops have been diminished to a larger extent than have those of the other States, and that at the request of its Premier. In Victoria the reduction has been less, whilst there has been practically none in South Australia and Tasmania.
– We were down to bedrock here previously.
– In New South Wales and Queensland the expenditure has been reduced by one-half, and in Victoria by one-third.
– Why has Victoria been so favoured ?
– Victoria has been treated exactly as the needs of the case demanded. I fear that I shall have to make still further reductions in the naval forces, so that those in the service who experience a feeling of unrest in connexion with what has already taken place, should realize that up to the present time they have been lucky. Instead of trying to bring influence to bear to prevent reductions, it would be better if they recognised that the country is determined that reductions shall be made, and that, therefore, they must submit.
– But the reductions must be equal.
– The object of the General Officer Commanding is, if possible, to equalize the rates of pay throughout the Commonwealth, and to make the cost of the defences proportionate to the population ; but it is impossible to do this all at once. The reason why greater reductions have taken place in Queensland, and, perhaps, in New South Wales, is that the rates of pay were higher there than in Victoria, for example. The expenditure in Queensland is still higher in proportion to population than in the other States, though serious reductions have taken place.
– How much can be taken off the head-quarters staff?
– It is a very popular thing to attack the head-quarters staff, but they have more work now than they are able to do - at any rate, within an eight-hours day. - and they work very hard.
– Besides, they are a man short ; the Minister for Defence is away.
– Yes ; and personally I have to work sixteen hours a day. The headquarters staff is composed of very good men, and in the initiation of a new condition of affairs the General Officer Commanding cannot be expected to carry out extensive schemes without the assistance of the best men obtainable.’ I hope that honorable members will not tilt at the headquarters staff until we get things into working order. When that happens, it maybe possible to reduce the staff a little, but at the present time the General Officer Commanding requires the assistance of every man under him. It would be hard to find any one who would display more energy or greater ability than that officer himself. ‘ I feel sometimes that he goes a bit too fast, but he is very much in earnest, and I am sure he will shake up the drones in the service in a way in which they have never been shaken up before.
– Are there strained relations between the honorable member and the General Officer Commanding?
– No. There was a misunderstanding between us. I do not like things to be made public until the ministerial head of a department or the Cabinet have dealt with them, but the action of the General Officer Commanding in the case referred to was due to a mistake. He recognises that the civil authority must be above the military authority - that in matters affecting expenditure, or any large scheme of organization, the civil authority must ‘be paramount. As I have had to speak entirely from memory, honorable members will understand that the figures which I have used cannot be regarded as absolutely correct. What we have striven to do is to make a fair reduction in the number both of the officers and of the men in the service, but we have not denuded the forces of necessary officers. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Corinella that perhaps a larger number of officers are required in times of peace than in times of war, in order to train the men.
– In times of war it is more difficult to procure officers than to procure men.
– Yes. I hope that when the Estimates are brought down, as I think they will be within the next fortnight or three weeks, I shall be able to give honorable members fuller and more detailed information than I have at hand now. A few alterations have yet to be made, but I hope to present Estimates showing a reduction of £140,000 or £150,000 on the amount provided for in last year’s Estimates. I have previously explained that in those Estimates provision was made for the salaries of men who had notbeen appointed, and as many of the positions have not been filled up, the money of course has not been spent, the total expenditure having been reduced to about what it was the year before last. With regard to the question raised by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, I would point out that the Commonwealth has no power to deal with factory legislation unless the subject is referred to it by the States. A resolution dealing with it was passed by this House, and the Government thereupon inquired from the States Governments if they would refer the subject to the Commonwealth Parliament, but they refused to do so. We could, of course, deal with industrial disputesaffecting more than one State ; but as things stand we could not do more than that.
– The honorable member for Dalley has brought the matter to which he has referred very forcibly under my notice. I have been looking into it, and I find it a difficult question to deal with, but I hope shortly to come to a conclusion in regard to it which will be satisfactory to all concerned. With regard to his remark that I should visit the other States, I wish to point out that I had not been in office six weeks before I visited them all. I accepted office when in New South Wales, and I hope to renew my acquaintance with that and the other States before very long, and to ascertain whether there are remedial measures which might be adopted by my department to remove grievances. I have not seen my own State for a considerable time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I regret that the progress made early in the week was not continued until the present sitting. The matters which have been debated this afternoon are matters which it was proper to bring under the notice of Ministers, and in regard to which information was needed, but I ask honorable members to assist us next week in finally disposing of three or four measures whose consideration must precede the introduction of the Estimates. One of these is a small Bill dealing with the procedure and power of Royal commissions, and providing against the contingency that witnesses may refuse to attend and give evidence. We wish also to take a vote upon the proposals for the upkeep of Government-houses and the expense of the Executive Council, to deal with the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill, and to finish the consideration of the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill.
– Will the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill be taken before the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill ?
– Probably. If we can finish with those measures next week, it may be possible to allow honorable members a respite from legislative duties during the following week.
– When is it proposed to introduce the Estimates ?
– As the Minister for Home Affairs has indicated, they will probably be presented within three weeks. They will certainly be ready within that time, so far as the departmental preparation is concerned, and it will then only be necessary for the Cabinet to go through them before they are presented to the House.
– When will the report upon the influx of Italians into Western Australia be available to honorable members?
– By Tuesday at latest.
– I wish to call the attention of the Acting Prime Minister to a statement which appeared in the press a day or two ago, and which has caused some alarm amongst a certain section of the public service. Itis announced that the Public Service Commissioner intends to hold in December next an examination of candidates for admission to the public service. When the Public Service Bill was before us, the Acting Prime Minister promised that persons who had passed examinations for admission to the clerical division of the States services should be given the preference where clerical appointment’s were concerned, over candidates for admission at a later date. A number of men who occupied non-clerical positions in the States services, but who have since been transferred to the Commonwealth service, submitted themselves for examination for admission to the clerical division of the States services, and, having passed, were registered for appointment to clerical positions, but did not receive such appointments. They now fear that they may be passed over, and preference given to those who succeed at the examination which is about to be held. I hold that those who have passed the States examinations should be given preference, and I.think it was understood when the Bill was before us that that would be done, and that a referenceto Hansard will show that the Acting Prime Minister promised that it should be done. I wish to know now if that promise will be carried out.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).A committee of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales is now inquiring into the conditions under which newspapers have been carried by the railways, and request the attendance, as a witness, of an officer of the Commonwealth, from whom they require certain information. I believe that they have asked the officer to attend, and I hope that in courtesy to them, and in order that the fullest information may be obtained, the Attorney-General will see that their request is complied with.
– A few days ago I drew the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to a matter affecting the shipping of the port of Melbourne. He replied that he thought I was mistaken, but I am now informed that only on Monday last ships were prevented from discharging cargo, because permits such as have hitherto been granted by the Customs authorities, were refused. The Customs department has refused for some time past to grantthese permits, and shipping people are thus put to a great deal of inconvenience. I believe there are reasons why the trading community have not taken steps to ventilate the matter, but the Minister should certainly investigate my statements, and take steps to alleviate the present inconvenience.
– The honorable member brought the matter under my notice before, and I called for a report next morning, with the result that, as I expected, I was informed that there was no ground for the complaint. If the honorable member will mention some particular case, I shall have it inquired into, andI undertake to satisfy him that he has been led to bark up the wrong tree.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Bourke referred to the statement I made when the Public Service Act was under discussion, that officers in the non-clerical division, who had qualified themselves for promotion to the clerical division, would retain their qualification. Without further examination, I do not know whether that qualification would entitle them to priority of appointment. I understand that the examinations which are to take place at the close of this year are intended to enable persons to qualify for entering the service at the lowest grade. Most of the candidates will be youths fresh from school, entitled on appointment to£40 per annum. Officers in the non-clerical division who have qualified for their transfer to the clerical division would scarcely be competitors for these cadetships. As to other appointments, it might be necessary to hold further examinations. I do not think that the interests of these officers will be affected by the forthcoming examinations. With reference to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Macquarie, I am not aware that the Government had any invitation. Mr. Scott may have had. I do not know what information is sought from him, or what his wishes are, but feel sure that if he cannot personally appear before the committee, any information he may possess will be readily placed at their disposal.
– It is only fair that the committee should have an opportunity of examining him.
– Yes, if he knows anything of his own knowledge ; but if his information is derived solely from papers which could be produced just as well by another officer in the department, I do not see that there would be any advantage in securing Mr. Scott’s personal attendance.
– Mr. Scott sent certain information to the committee upon which they would like to examine him, and I think that the Ministry would be showing only ordinary courtesy to the Government of New South Wales by permitting him to attend.
– That is a matter for the Postmaster-General and Mr. Scott to consider.
– It is a question for the Government to consider.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020821_reps_1_11/>.