House of Representatives
16 September 1903

1st Parliament · 2nd Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 5105

NEW MAIL CONTRACTS

Mr WILKINSON:
MORETON, QUEENSLAND

– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, if he has been furnished with a copy of the resolutions passed at a representative meeting of the pastoral, agricultural, commercial, and industrial interests of Queensland, held on Wednesday, 9th September, 1903, forwarded by the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, and containing certain suggestions and requests relative to the new mail contracts for which tenders are now being called. If so, is he disposed to give favorable consideration to the requests therein contained 1

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Minister for External Affairs · HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– I cannot answer the latter question, because the resolutions to which the honorable member refers have npt come before me ; but as the meeting was held on the 9th September, it is reasonable to expect that they should be here now, and, therefore, I shall presently inquire whether they have been received by the officers of my Department.

page 5105

QUESTION

FEDERAL CAPITAL

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, if the Government have yet arrived at the decision ‘to ask Parliament fora vote for the Federal Capital, so that when the site has been selected, work can proceed there at once?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

–The questtions whether a vote shall be asked for this session, and if- so, what the amount of it shall be, have not yet been decided by the Cabinet, but I will bring the matter before my colleagues at an early date.

Mr O’MALLEY:
TASMANIA, TASMANIA

– Is the Prime Minister in a position to tell the House whether, if we select one of the proposed sites, he will be able to get all the laud required by the Commonwealth under the terms of the resolution carried at my instance last year?

Sir EDMOND BARTON:
Minister for External Affairs · HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– I have already made a statement to the House on the subject. It was that in a conference or conversation which I hold with the Premier of New South Wales during my last visit to Sydney, the question of area was discussed, and he informed me that there will, of course, be no difficulty raised by his Government in connexion with the granting of the minimum area of 100 square miles, at any rate, which this Parliament may select, but that the acquisition of land in excess of that area would have to be the subject of negotiation between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales. It would, I presume, ultimately have to be considered by the respective Parliaments concerned, because they alone can finally settle the question.

Mr Crouch:

– Did the Premier of New South Wales refer to Crown land %

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– The Crown lands within the area provided for by the Constitution are to be made over by New South Wales free of charge, but whether that provision applies only to Crown lands within that area, or to any area of Crown lands, so that any larger area will have to be acquired by the Commonwealth under our constitutional powers, is another question, which was, probably, in the mind of the Premier of New South Wales when he gave me the answer. The acquisition of private property, whether within or without the area, distinguishing the proprietary control of the land from ils administrative control, will have to be made under the powers which the Commonwealth possesses under the Constitution.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– We require 1,000 square miles.

Mr KING O’MALLEY:
TASMANIA, TASMANIA · IND; ALP from June 1901

– Not an acre less.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I do not say that we require 1,000 square miles, but I am convinced that an area considerably exceeding 100 square miles will be needed.

page 5106

QUESTION

FRANKING OP DEPARTMENTAL CORRESPONDENCE.-

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General a question without notice. I would direct his attention to a telegram from Adelaide published in this morning’s newspaper, which says : -

In the Legislative Council to-day, Air. Guthrie moved the adjournment of the House to call attention to a discrepancy between the State Electoral Law and the federal Postal Law. The State Law, he said, provided that all absent voting papers should pass through the Post-office free, but the Postal authorities demanded Sd. for the registration of each paper, and this would disfranchise a large number of electors. The Attorney - General thought there must be some mistake, and said he would ask the Premier to telegraph to the Postmaster-General on the subject

Has he any explanation to offer to the House 1

Sir PHILIP FYSH:
Postmaster-General · TASMANIA, TASMANIA · Free Trade

– I am obliged to my honorable friend for having informed me of his intention to ask a question upon this subject. When the Post and Telegraph Bill was passing through this House, many instances were given in which, under the postal laws of the States, papers connected with the work of statistical, electoral, and other Departments wore permitted to pass through the post free of charge. It was determined, however, that no franking should be ‘allowed under the Commonwealth law, but the following provision - paragraph q of section 97 - was enacted -

The Governor-General may make regulations for the following purposes : - … (?) Providing for the payment by the Governor of any State, or by any person instead of the Bender, of the rate payable on any postal article.

I believe that that provision was intended to meet the case to which the honorable member has referred ; and if a regulation is not already in. existence, I will see that one isframed which will not be ultra vires, but will meet such cases as come within the purview of the honorable member’s question.

page 5106

QUESTION

CONCILIATION AND ARBITRATION : SHIPPING

Mr KINGSTON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– Referring to an answer to a question relating to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, in which the; Prime Minister stated yesterday that a communication had been received from Western Australia, I ask him, without notice - and I understand that he is prepared with a reply - when will he be able to communicate to the House the decision of the Cabinet in reference to the Western Australian letter to which he referred I

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -

Probably within a week. Since yesterday, when I gave my right honorable friend this information verbally, I have observed that the official representatives of the Federated Seamen’s Union have asked the Shipowners’ Association to extend the existing understanding as to wages for twelve months from the 31st of next January. I hope, therefore, to avoid any premature action which may embarrass the consideration of this request, or prevent an agreement between the parties named, or which may otherwise interfere with a just decision of the whole question.

page 5106

PUBLIC SERVICE RELIEVING

page 5106

QUESTION

ALLOWANCES

Mr MAHON:
COOLGARDIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

asked the Minister for Home Affairs; upon notice -

Referring to Mb answer on 10th September, 1903, to questions relative to Public Service Regulations, will he state -

What words in section SO of the Public Service Act are relied on to justify the Commissioner in drawing up and enforcing two scales of allow,ances?

Under which regulation should’ a postal official, not on the regular relieving staff but performing temporary relief work at a country officeother than that to which he is attached, claim’ an allowance ?

If Regulation 149 applies (to quote paragraph, 4 of his answer) only to officers who “ must De travelling continually to perform their regular duties,” why should it be necessary for it to provide for a “ doily allowance after one week’s residence in same place,” and at a rate 50 per cent higher than is fixed for postal officials of equal grade and receiving approximately the same annual salary ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Minister for Home Affairs · SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · Protectionist

– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. The first part of sub-section g, where provision is mode “ for regulating and determining the scale or amount to be paid to officers for transfer or travelling allowances.”
  2. Under Regulation No. 149.
  3. Officers are paid under Regulation 149 for irregular periods ; they may be absent for a few days or longer, and consequently cannot at first make a weekly arrangement at the hotel, and as they are temporary and irregular visitors, they cannot obtain accommodation for.the same amount 4is a regular relieving officer. The latter, who is paid under Regulation 155, has, by the nature of his employment, no settled place of residence, moves about from place to place periodically, is known as a regular visitor, and can therefore make more economical arrangements. Regular relieving officers are also provided iu many cases with sleeping accommodation at post offices, and’ consequently have to pay for their meals only.

page 5107

SUPPLY.

In Committee (Consideration resumed from 15th September, vide page 5105) :

page 5107

DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND CUSTOMS

Division 31 (Minister’s office) - £5,000.

Mr FISHER:
Wide Bay

– I desire to bring under the notice of the Committee a matter which does not directly relate to the vote now before us, but which, as a matter of convenience, may, I think, be mentioned at this stage. According to a report which appears in the Age to-day, the Minister for Defence, speaking at a banquet in connexion -with the local branch of the Australian Natives’ Association at Korumburra, stated with regard to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill-

The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. McDonald). - Does the honorable member intend to mention a matter relating to the Customs Department t

Mr FISHER:

– I think the matter is one which may be appropriately mentioned in connexion with a motion to grant Supply. Whilst it is not directly connected with the Customs Department, it relates to the administration of the Government. As a member of the Ministry has made a certain statement, I think that the matter may be fittingly mentioned at this stage.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- The proper course for the honorable member to adopt would be to move a special motion, or to refer to the matter when the motion is moved for the adjournment of the House at the close of the present sitting.

Mr FISHER:

– Unless you, Mr. Acting Chairman, positively rule that I cannot mention the matter in connexion with the vote now before us it will be necessary for me to take some course such as you have indicated.

Sir George Turner:

– If the question which the honorable member proposes to raise relates to the Customs Department, I am prepared to deal with it, but otherwise I cannot do so.

Mr FISHER:

– It would have saved time if I had been allowed to proceed, but, in view of the ruling of the Chairman, I shall have to take another opportunity of bringing the matter before honorable members.

Mr CROUCH:
Corio

– I am sorry that the Minister for Trade and Customs is not present, because I desire to bring under the notice of the Committee the attitude which he has assumed towards his immediate predecessor in the control of the Department. The majority of honorable members approved of the policy adopted by the right honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, in administering the Department, and the country also supported him. His colleagues in the Ministry were so sorry to lose him that they delayed the acceptance of his resignation for ten days. Therefore, it is surprising that a series of veiled attacks, which, ho say the. least of it, were very unfortunate, should have been made upon the late Minister by the present Minister for Trade and Customs. In the Melbourne Herald of 22nd August last the following statement appeared in reference to an interview with the present Minister for Trade and Customs : -

Sir William Lyne, Minister of Trade and Customs, is engaged in framing a scheme with the object of decentralizing the administration so as facilitate business. The Minister said to-day that he had not yet finally decided the matter, but he would probably give the Collector of Customs in each State extended powers, under certain regulations, to enable him to investigate and deal with all matters in which prosecutions are possible without reference to head -quarters.

The Minister then went on to say -

There will be no prosecutions in cases that are without a tinge of fraud. There are other ways of dealing with such cases.

Other newspapers have similar or more severe statements. In the Age of 8th of September last it was stated that -

The new Minister of Customs, Sir William Lyne, is developing a policy in the administration of the Department, which he expects will do much to conciliate merchants anil the general public who complained of the rigidity and inelasticity of the system followed by his predecessor. In some of its details the policy follows out ideas which were gradually maturing in- the mind of Mr. Kingston before he left office.

Then again the Argus of 19th August, contained the following statement : -

Sir William Lyne is evidently determined to carry out his intention to administer the Customs Department on common-sense lines. The Minister had a long ‘conference yesterday with the ComptrollerGeneral and Mr. N. Lockyer, Collector of Customs at Sydney, whom he summoned to Melbourne specially for the purpose, regarding the manner in which he desires to administer the Department. . . . The Minister hopes to constitute a departmental board, which will advise him when prosecutions should be instituted, so that the commercial community may not be. needlessly harassed.

Then another statement, also resulting from a press interview with Sir William Lyne, was published in the Argus, of the 21st August last, as follows : -

It has been recently decided that importers would not be forced into the Courts unless the amount of revenue at issue was more than £1. Since Mr. Kingston left the Department, however, his successors have taken a broader and saner view of their duties, and many piles of papers which would formerly have found their way into the Crown Solicitor’s hands for purposes of prosecution have been withheld, and the cases have been dealt with by the Minister. The best proof that there is no organized effort made to cheat the Customs is the number of mistakes that ure made every day.

I think that last sentence “ the best proof that there is no organized effort made to cheat the Customs is the number of mistakes that are made every day” will bear repeating.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Does the honorable and learned member propose to found ‘a complaint upon what he has read 1

Mr CROUCH:

– I do not know that the honorable member has a right to ask me. Honorable members may recollect that when Sir John Forrest went to England, one of his colleagues was appointed to act ‘as Minister for Defence, and that it became immediately necessary to point out to the public that there were a number of deficiencies in the Department which the acting Minister intended to make good. It seems very unfortunate that a former Minister who had been referred to constantly by members of the Government as a -valued colleague, and who enjoyed the support of the majority of honorable members and of the country, should have been made the subject of veiled attacks through the medium of press interviews. I regarded the late Minister of Trade and Customs as a good, strong, honest man, who was trying to do his duty, and I thought that no broader or saner policy than his could be adopted.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– Which paper contained the statement with regard to a. “ broader and saner view” of the Customs administration ?

Mr CROUCH:

– The same kind of criticism has appeared in the Melbourne Herald, the Argus, and the Age, and similar statements have been published in the Sydney newspapers.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– Would the honorable and learned member mind telling me which paper contained the expression to which I have referred %

Mr CROUCH:

– The Argus of 21st August.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– That is only what we might have expected.’

Mr Mauger:

– Surely the Minister is nob responsible for these paragraphs ?

Sir Edmund Barton:

– Does any one suggest that the Argus is an inspired journal?

Mr CROUCH:

– We have heard also from the Age of the “ rigidity and inelasticity “ of the system which was followed by his predecessor. I have not consulted the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, in reference to this matter, and I do not suppose that he will thank me for bringing” it forward. I am -merely speaking from my own point of view. As a result of the present broadness and saneness of administration, and of the manner in which the Minister intends to conduct his Department, we are to have a little more back-stairs influence imported into the settlement of Customs questions. When it is declared that “The best proof that there is no organized effort made to cheat the Customs is the number of mistakes that are made every day “ - mistakes which the Minister apparently intends to have decided by a Board which is to be appointed for the purpose - I want honorable members to consider what has been the result to the revenue of the” first month of the new administration. The only returns yet published are those for the month of August.

Sir George Turner:

– The returns for July have been published.

Mr CROUCH:

– Then I did not see them. But I would point out to theTreasurer that the Minister for Trade and Customs did not fill his present office in

July. I desire to show the effect of the altered methods of administration upon the Customs revenue. This is the result of the “-saner methods and of the system of back-door interviews. According to the Herald -

The Federal Treasurer this afternoon received from the various States the Customs and Excise returns for the month of August’ just closed. The figures include sugar excise, but omit inter-State adjustments. The returns areas follow: - New South Wales, .-6309,230; Victoria, £230,366; Queensland, £91,258; South Australia, £59,460 ; Western Australia, £116,517 ; Tasmania, £22,272.

These sums represent a total of £829,103. Thus, compared with the returns of the previous month of July, the revenue shows a falling-off of £48,317. That is the result of the “ elastic” methods which have been adopted. There is no inelasticity about that. The New South Wales Customs revenue for August, as compared with the receipts for July, shows a decrease of £27,356, and the Victorian returns for August fell below those of July by £28,211. Similarly the receipts in Queensland show a drop of £5,696, whilst Western Australia enjoys an increase of £6,597, South Australia an increase of £4,981, and Tasmania an increase of £1,370! The grand total of the revenue for August of last year was £841,423. Thus there is a falling-ofF in the receipts for last month as compared with those for the corresponding period of last year of £12,320.

Mr Thomson:

– Does the honorable and learned member wish to imply that the variations in the receipts for the previous months were due to administration ?

Mr CROUCH:

– I do not say that the administration and decrease represent cause and effect ; but certainly the figures should make us pause before we confirm the Minister for Trade and Customs in the new policy which he is adopting. To me it looks like a return to the system of administration which formerly existed in Victoria, and which was condemned. The administration of the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs - severe as he was in many of his acts - was absolutely necessary in the interests of the honest traders. Although, in this State, there was a good deal of commercial unrest and disapproval created by some of his acts - as is inevitable when, a new policy is put into operation - the first persons to regret his retirement were the honest traders of Melbourne. I have met numbers of men who condemned his administration a good deal, but who were very sorry when he retired from his official position. I do not propose to move in the direction of reducing this vote, but I think that we are returning to a very regretful method of administration.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– To what method does the honorable and learned member object 1

Mr CROUCH:

– I object to the method by which men who defraud the revenue, instead of being prosecuted in a Court of J Justice, where they receive a fair trial, are tried by what the present Minister for Trade and Customs chooses to call a “ Board.” At any rate, he intends to see that no mistakes -which are made under certain conditions, shall be inquired into. I strongly approve of the position taken up by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, and trust that the new regime will not be allowed to remain in force, but that his system of fearless and honest administration will be continued.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Hunter Minister for External Affairs · Protectionist

– I think that the honorable and learned member for Corio has entirely misconceived this matter. In the first place, he has been misled by the newspaper paragraphs of those who wish to make mischief between the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, and his former colleagues.

Mr Kingston:

– There is a good deal in that.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– They wish to make mischief for obvious political reasons. In the next place, he imagines that any contemplated change, even if it be suggested by a newspaper, involves a reversion to backstairs influence.

Mr Watson:

– Unfortunately that is the idea in the public mind.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– It is an idea which ought to be got out of the public mind by those who know better, and the honorable member is one of those who knows better. The public mind ought not to be filled with ideas of that kind, because, whatever happens - and I wish that the Minister for Trade and Customs were fortunate enough to be present to make this re-

Mr Fisher:

– He ought to be here.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I can assure the Committee that there is nothing further from his mind than a return to what has been described as ‘ “ backstairs influence,” and that any inquiry which is made by any authority whatever will be a public inquiry. There is no intention on the part of any one concerned with the administration of. the Customs Department to revert to the system of private inquiry in matters which affect the public administration either of justice or of the revenue law. In what has been inferred, conjectured, or surmised by news. paper writers, there is not a shred of truth to warrant the suggestion that any private inquiry system is about to. be instituted by the Minister. Any board that may be appointed - and none has yet been appointed - will be constituted for the purpose of dealing with these matters publicly.. I will see to that.

Mr Crouch:

– I am very glad to have that assurance.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– In the next place the honorable and learned member for Corio has adopted a perfectly fallacious method of reasoning in inferring that any decrease in the Customs revenue has been due to. a change of administration. It will be within the recollection of honorable members that the Treasurer’s Budget and Estimates of revenue forecast a decrease during the present financial year. I am happy to say that so far that decrease has not been so great as. my right honorable friend anticipated. But that there must be a substantial decrease has been forcasted by him, and, as I think, correctly. It is a justification of that forecast, and is not the result of any change in administration, that any decrease has occurred. In the third place, the honorable and learned member for Corio did wrong in taking the results of two succeeding months as a basis upon which to calculate the Customs revenue. These matters are invariably dealt with by a comparison with corresponding months of the- previous year..

Mr Crouch:

– I did both.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I did not understand that the honorable and learned member did that. As the Treasurer reminds me, there was a difference between the receipts for July and August of £49,000 j but, comparing the revenue derived’ during August of the present year with that of* the corresponding month last year, the difference was only £12,.000, which is no more than a casual decrease, as any one w.ho has administered a Department which- is charged- with the collection’ of revenue,, must know.. I should, also like to remind the honorable and. learned member that, because a newspaper which is not quite in accord - and has shown that it is not in accord - with the Government, speaks of a return to “ saner and broader methods,” he is not justified in attributing’ to the .Ministry any attempt to declare that we are about to return to methods, which are saner and broader than thoseadopted by our late colleague. ‘ As head of the Government, I wish to say, once and for all - if I have not already said so often enough - that I supported- the administration of the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The Prime Minister said that he would stick to “ Charlie” King- stop.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I did not use those words, but whether the honorable member calls him “ Charlie” or not, I have stood by the right honorable gentleman named. I do not propose to appeal to the right honorable member, because I do nobneed to do so ; but throughout his administration of the Customs Department he had the stay of my support, and I should be less than a man if, now that he is not my colleague, I failed to make this statement. I trust that the honorable and learned member for Corio will disabuse his mind of the idea that newspaper comments-

Mr Crouch:

– They were newspaper interviews with the Minister.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

-I .repeat thaphrase, “ newspaper comments.” Although these statements were- based on interviews, they were comments- promulgated by peoplewhose desire is, not to help, but tohinder both the work of the Governmentand the friendship which still exists between the Ministry and their old colleague. I trust that the honorable and learned member will disabuse- his mind of the idea that any paragraphs of that kind are likely to cause such results. I do- not complain of the action which he has taken, because it helps us to clear the aor.;, and enables statements to bemade such as that which I am now putting before the Committee I desire to say finally that not.only is there no intention to reverb to a process which the honorable and learned member has described as a backstairs one - not only is there no intention to abandon publicity of investigation - but that I have reason to believe that certain- preliminaries having been, dealt with, and a great body of decisions given, my late colleague intended, in some respects, to allow trusted officers of the Department a somewhat freer hand in dealing with routine matters. I do not by any means despair of having the support of the. fight honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, if in that respect a change is made. If it be made it will not be for any reason connected with the justice of the previous administration, but simply because the time has arrived not for laxity of administration, but to repose a certain degree of confidence in officers who have become thoroughly acquainted with the working of the Department, under principles which have been already laid down. I have no further remark to make in reference to the statement made by my honorable and learned friend, except to assure him, as a supporter pf the Government, that he need have no fear of any departure from any public and proper administration of the Customs Department.

Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay). - I am pleased that this question has been raised, for in the absence of a statement to the contrary by the Prime Minister, or the honorable gentleman administering the Department, the Government might have been exposed to a charge of injudiciously changing the System of administration. It was reported in both the Melbourne morning journals that the Friday afternoon on which the announcement of the retirement of the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, from the Ministry occurred, was given up by “ Flinders Lane “ to drinking and rejoicing.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– They may find that they had not much cause for rejoicing.

Mr FISHER:

– If the great mercantile community were rejoicing at the fall of the right honorable member, whose administration of the Customs Department is held by every one save those who have been convicted of evasions of the Customs Act, to be the most upright that has ever taken place-

Mr Wilks:

– Do not say “ fall.”

Mr FISHER:

– The right honorable gentleman withdrew from the Ministry, but so far as these people were concerned he had fallen from his position. They rejoiced either at the prospect of a better state of affairs from their point of view, or they thought that the Government would favour a return to the old “system of administering the Department. In consequence of the statement made by the honorable and learned member for Corio, the Government have been able to make a plain straightforward declaration to the country. It is well that they have had an opportunity to do so, because in Queensland and some of the other States there is an impression in the minds of the people that convictions for breaches of the Customs Act will not take place as frequently as they used to do while the right honorable member for South Australia was administering the Department. There is an idea that those who seek to evade the Act will not be hurried into Court.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Nor are they as a matter of fact.

Mr FISHER:

– Many people say-“ We can get along all right now that Kingston has retired from the Ministry.” Is there an honorable member who has not heard the assertion that the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs was a tyrant 1 That was the general cry of those who were rightly brought to book, and those who were prosecuted under the Act and convicted on all. counts by a jury of their fellow countrymen, have been most actively engaged in maligning him. Is there to be no protection extended - to an honorable member when he retires from the Government in such circumstances ? Is his successor to be allowed to say that he is going to modify this and modify that ? It would have been well for the Government had the Minister for Trade and Customs stated that he did not propose to depart from the policy of his predecessor.

Mr Wilks:

– Where is he ?

Mr FISHER:

– This is the first occasion on which I have known a Minister to be absent during the consideration of the Estimates of his Department.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– He is going to make his calling and election sure.

Mr FISHER:

– I trust that Ministers are not going to make it a practice to absent themselves from the House for electioneering purposes while the Estimates for their Departments are under consideration.

Mr PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920

– How does the honorable mem- . ber know that the Minister for Trade and Customs is electioneering 1

Mr FISHER:

– I do not wish to say that he is ; but, save on the ground of sickness or family bereavement, a Minister should not absent himself from the House in such circumstances. I wish to ask the Minister in charge of these Estimates what has been done in regard to the appointment of a Secretary to the Minister for Trade and

Customs ? An advertisement appeared some time ago in the Government Gazette, inviting applications for the position, and, although the time for the reception of applications has expired, I have not heard that the appointment has been made.

Sir George Turner:

– No appointment has yet been made

Mr FISHER:

– How many applications were received t

S i r G borgeTurne r. - I cannot say just now.

Sir Edmond Barton:

– The honorable member may rest assured that a good many have been received.

Mr FISHER:

– We should know the number of applications sent in. This is an important matter ; the office is a very responsible one, and before the House is dissolved we should know who is to fill this position.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– No appointment has been made or considered.

Sir George Turner:

– Thirty applications are now in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner, who has to make a suitable selection.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– The Public Service Commissioner will make a recommendation to the Government.

Mr FISHER:

– Is it the intention of the Government to make an appointment ?

Sir George Turner:

– Certainly ; an appointment must be made.

Mr KNOX:
Kooyong

– With reference to the remarks made by the honorable and learned member for Corio, and the reply given by the Prime Minister, I wish to say that in my opinion it is a libel on the commercial community of Australia to imagine that the honest trader objects to any publicity which may be necessary in relation to inquiries associated with the Customs Department. I am speaking for the honest traders of the Commonwealth. The other kind, I hope, are in a very small minority indeed. Laws, however, have to be made to provide for such minorities. The honorable and learned member for Corio, attempts, with the aid of the figures which he has quoted, to suggest that the decreases in the Customs revenue have been consequential upon the changes made in the administration. Any more ridiculous suggession I cannot imagine. The objection in the past lay in the fact that trivial mistakes which were apparently only incidental were given a prominence which was quite beside the necessities of the position.

Mr Watson:

– Who is to be the judge?

Mr KNOX:

– If it is not possible, without reference to a law court, to determine whether errors are errors of intention and purpose, or merely technical mistakes, the management of the Department must be inefficient in some respects.

Mr Tudor:

– Is it not far better to try such cases in open court? “Mr. KNOX. - Surely there is a distinction between a police court and a court constituted of responsible men for the purpose of dealing with offences under the Customs law, and to the proceedings of which full publicity could be given?

Mr Watson:

– It would still be a court.

Mr KNOX:

– Not a court of law. It would not be a court having attached to it the offensive associations which pertain to an ordinary police court, before which merchants have been brought for trivial offences, many of which, I venture to say, were easily explained. It was for that reason that objections were taken - not because there was any fear of publicity by honest traders. The suggestion that the mercantile community in Melbourne, on theafternoon when the right honorable member for South Australia retired from the administration of the Customs Department, engaged in hilarity because of the change of administration, is not worthy of the slightest consideration. I do not think such hilarity ever took place in the sense which it is now sought to describe it.

Mr Tudor:

– Their own newspaper in Melbourne said so.

Mr KNOX:

– Although I do not agree with many of the methods adopted by the late Minister, I have always said that undoubtedly he did what he conscientiously believed to be right in the administration of his Department. But, unfortunately, his administration did succeed in bringing the commercial community of this Commonwealth into disrepute, not only amongst commercial people at home, but also in other parts of the world. That has been a very serious result.

Mr Page:

– Why then did they rob the revenue ?

Mr KNOX:

– There was no intention t» rob the revenue ; but there was a method of bringing forward important firms, which had paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Customs revenue, for small trivial offences, which it was absolutely ridiculous to suppose that the firms could have had any interest in committing.

Mr Fisher:

– Has the honorable member any objection to naming any of these firms 1

Mr KNOX:

– I do not wish to bring iri any names ; I think it is quite unnecessary. Reference has been made to a return to saner methods.” No one will say that the right honorable member, who until recently was Minister for Trade and Customs, is not a sane man. But looking at the administration of the Customs from the commercial stand-point, with the desire to prosecute business, and not to interfere with the ordinary trade and. commerce of the Commonwealth, I say that saner methods could easily have been adopted. One direction in which those methods could have been adopted was in securing a more prompt attention to the various matters which were awaiting the Minister’s decision. I believe that the merchants are now able to get more rapid replies and more speedy decisions, in connexion with matters that are pending, than they formerly could do. There may have been reasons, which were not known to the outside community, why the late Minister was not able to deal more expeditiously with the various questions that were waiting to be settled by him. But the fact remains that, at present, those matters are being more rapidly dealt with. I say all this without any disrespect to the right honorable member. I add mine to the other protests that have been made against the absence of the Minister in charge of the Department when his Estimates are being discussed, and when he ought to be in his place to deal with such a question as is now being considered. I think the matter so important that, were it not that I do not wish to interfere with the progress of business, I should move that the Estimates for the Department be postponed until the Minister is able to attend in his place and assist the Treasurer with information as to the various details.

Mr KINGSTON:
South Australia

– I do not rise for the purpose of taking any captious exception to anything that has been done by the present Ministry. I sympathize with them, knowing perfectly that during the first few years, while it was my experience to hold the position of Minister of Trade and Customs, there were considerable difficulties to contend with, the back of which I am glad to think I succeeded in breaking more or less. At the same time, I know that a good deal of trouble remains ; and . I can assure my old friend and colleague, the Treasurer, and the members of the Ministry generally, that whatever I can do for the purpose of assisting them in connexion with the work - and I have had some experience of it - I shall be only too glad to do. I think I have already shown to the Minister for Trade and Customs that in that respect I speak with absolute sincerity. Where he has consulted me I have been only too glad to give him the benefit of theexperience I have had. Of course, if any member of the Ministry desires similarassistance from me. in connexion with the conduct of my old Department, I should beonly too happy to give it. I can say that it was one of the most trying departments with which I have ever had anything to do, and honorable members are aware that I have had considerable Ministerial experience in one of the States. The Treasurer will not be slow to recognise what the difficulties are which are in front of the present Minister, because an immense amount of work is involved in the conduct of the Department. No doubt there were delays, but I say that had an angel from Heaven, with the mercantile training of centuries and professional experience in addition, taken charge of the Department he could not have avoided a lot of the trouble we had in the past. In the initiation of a new system, the Minister was actually responsible for the form of the machinery Bills, the Customs Bill, the Beer Excise Bill, the Distillation Bill, and the general Excise Bill. The Minister who then occupied the position took his share of the work connected with those measures.

Sir George Turner:

– And the right honorable gentleman broke down most of the officers.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I can assure honorable members that the officers were tumbling around me, and the only wonder was that my turn did not come. I do not know that it would not have come if I had not had the comparative ease and relaxation I have at the present moment. Persons sometimes talk of two years’ hard labour, but I put in two years of the hardest labour I have ever had to do in my life. I do not want to undergo the experience again. However hard I worked my officers, T do not think it can be said that I spared myself. We all did what we could in the circumstances,’ and, instead of fault being found, I think that we have some reason to congratulate ourselves upon the fact that we got through with comparatively so little difficulty. As regards some of the delays, I saw that it was better at the earliest possible moment to collate as many as possible of the decisions arising out of difficulties connected with the Tariff. The result was the preparation of the Tariff Guide. That occupied our attention to some extent. I believe it may be said that the work has been an unmitigated blessing to importers, as it has enabled them on a variety of difficult matters, by simply turning to the book, to obtain at once an interpretation upon questions which give trouble, which they would have had great difficulty in obtaining, if we had not addressed ourselves to the preparation of this work. T shall not say anything to hurt any one at the present moment. It is not necessary, and when we .are not far from a dissolution, or from Christmas, it is perhaps better that we should forget troubles of this sort.

Sir Malcolm Mceacharn:

– Is not the honorable gentleman a little tired of hurting people’s feelings %

Mr KINGSTON:

– I have had to show :SOme people the error of their ways, and when the honorable member for Kooyong talks of a Minister or any Ministry doing anything for the purpose of bringing disgrace upon the mercantile community, I tell him that no honest man has anything to fear. It is only the dishonest and the careless who need fear. I thoroughly agree with the honorable member that the number of the dishonest and careless is’ very small indeed in comparison with the number of those who are honest and careful. But I also say with regard to the dishonest and careless that for two reasons they require to be looked after. I did look after them, and I guarantee that they have had a lesson which they are not likely to forget for some years.

Sir Malcolm Mceacharn:

– Did the honorable gentleman never make any errors himself?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I did not make errors of this sort, I guess. I can do a good many things with figures, but I cannot do what some- merchants can do with them, or what, if they cannot do it themselves, they can get a small boy at a two-penny- halfpenny salary to do. These small boys did it very well, too, but mostly in the one direction. I saw the way in which mistakes were made and honorable members know the trouble that I got into when I ventured to tackle the most representative man in Australian commerce on the subject of what were called “ mistakes.” I tell honorable members that the Department has been, I am happy to say, a terror to evil doers and a source of praise to those who do well. Time and again I have been thanked by the leading merchants in the different States for the course I pursued, and which I should pursue again, not only for the protection of the revenue, but also for the protection of the honest and careful trader. On this subject I ask,, who has to pay to the revenue - those who owe money to the revenue or those who do npt ? I say that those merchants in this connexion, careless or dishonest, as the case may be, owed the money, and it was the duty of any Minister worth his salt to see that they paid what they owed. We did everything we could to this end, and if the money had not been paid what would have happened ? We should have had further retrenchment, and the cutting down of some expenditure which it was necessary to incur or some man who did not owe the money would be called upon to pay it. Which was the right thing to do 1 To make those pay the money who owed it. We did our best in the circumstances, and I say further that what we did was not only for the protection of the revenue, but for the protection of the honest trader, because goods cost the honest and careful trader, who pays his full dues, more than they cost those who are less careful or who are dishonest. The careless and dishonest traders are able to compete in the market at an advantage as compared with those persons whom I venture to think in various cases they do undersell by means of the practices to which I refer. So I say that whilst the revenue is benefited the honest trader also is benefited. The bulk of the money collected last year in excess of anticipations was, of course, due to fodder duties. There is no doubt about that. But at the same time, whilst we received £500,000 or £600,000 more from fodder duties than we anticipated, we received more than we anticipated from other sources of taxation in the Tariff, although the season was so bad that less fodder than usual to the value of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 was produced in Australia, and had to be imported. I look with the greatest’ pleasure at the way in which the revenue came in, and I .say that it was paid by those who owed it. As regards those who- tried to- avoid their just liabilities in this connexion, they are not likely to be forgetful of the lesson which has been taught them. The honorable member for Kooyong talks about the Government bringing the mercantile classes into disrepute; Nothing of the sort. I can tell the honorable member what has brought the mercantile classes into some disrepute. It is this : That as regards men whose firms have been proved to be positively, actually, and continuously engaged in fraud, men who have gone into the witness box and pledged their oath to what every one knew was a lie> it is said the Minister who instituted the proceedings was animated by spi te. These men are considered by bodies, such as the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, as fit to be retained amongst their number, and to be elevated to high positions in connexion with standing committees. It is such a thing as that which is responsible for the low opinion of Melbourne commercial life, and not antipathy to the deeds of the character to which I refer, and from which arises the disgrace- to which the honorable member for Kooyong refers as lying at my door. I have, of course, noticed these little newspaper paragraphs. They annoy one a little sometimes, and one speaks and feels pretty strongly about them. I shall not hesitate to speak as I think. I trust that honorable members will believe that I am the more entitled to credit when I do not conceal my feelings in such matters. I see them from day to day trying to make mischief. I do not think they are likely to succeed. I cannot believe the statements that the policy of the old Minister is to be reversed by the new Minister. I do not believe that the present Ministry, or any member of it, have any sympathy with anything of that sort. Only a day or two ago I saw a newspaper paragraph to the effect that there was to be a great re-organization in relation to the preparation of Customs statistics. That would make it appear as if I had neglected this branch of the administration, and that the “ new broom “ of the new Minister was going to make a clean sweep. The statistics prepared in some of the States are something awful. I do not profess to know much about statistics, but I do know that time and again there have been placed in front of me figures which were absolutely wrong, and I have penned remarks which, perhaps, ought not to have been made.

But unless care is taken in the preparation of statistics there- is great liability to duplication of work. At the time of which I am speaking statistics generally were under the- control of the Minister for Home Affairs, and I do not know that the system has been altered since.

Sir George Turner:

– It has nob been altered yet.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am speaking a little “ without my book,” but months ago I called the attention of the Minister for Home Affairs and the members of the Government generally to the fact that the statistics were in a muddle, and that reorganization was necessary. In the Customs Department the statistics were in a very bad state, but I hesitated to deal with them because- I did not wish, to duplicate work. My opinion was that there had better be a reorganization of the statistical branch-, than that each Minister should attempt to rectify the statistics in his own Department, with, the almost inevitable result of a duplication of work and the spending of more money than was necessary. My minutes on the subject remain, and time and again I mentioned the matter, so that it is by no means my fault that there has nob been the desired re-organization. These are the simple circumstances; and I do nob think that honorable members generally, on looking at the- press paragraphs, will come to any conclusion of the sort which the writers apparently attempt to convey. I am sure the Treasurer knows perfectly well that what I am saying is correct.

Sir George Turner:

– It is perfectly correct.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Then something has been said about a lady being appointed to a position in the Department. . Any man may get into trouble about the ladies, but, as a believer in female suffrage, and in giving ladies fair opportunities for employment, I am rather proud of my connexions with this matter. During my term of officethere was a vacancy in the analytical branch of the Customs Department, and amongst the applicants a lady was deemed by the various examiners to be the best qualified. I arranged that the lady should be employed on trial ; and there, so far as I am concerned,, the matter ended. Subsequently, however^. I saw a paragraph in the newspapers suggesting that this young lady had been badly treated - that there had been something in the nature of a conspiracy to evict her from the service - but that the new Minister, with his “new broom,” had come in and rescued her from her tormentors. The paragraph would lead any reader to suppose that I was one of those tormentors, whereas I was nothing of the sort. All I know is that I took on myself the responsibility of seeing that this young lady, who was reported as qualified, had, at least, a trial, and I heard no more of the matter beyond what I have said.

Mr Mauger:

– Did the honorable and learned member ever see the lady?

Mr KINGSTON:

– Yes, and I congratulated her on her recommendations, and wished her a. happy time in the Department. That was the last I heard of her until I saw this paragraph, inwhich, as I say, it was suggested that the “ new broom “ had swept clean, and that the young lady had been rescued from some terrible peril in the shape of the loss of her position. I do not for one moment suggest that the present Minister had anything to do with the publication of that paragraph ; but while I may be prepared to fight the combined strength of trade and commerce, it does not suit me to be accused of being the oppressor of this lady. I spoke to the present Minister about the matter ; but as to what subsequently took place, I do not know, or much care, now that I have had an opportunity of making an explanation. There is a number of newspaper paragraphs which have been published for the express purpose of stirring up strife ; but although conflict may sometimes be highly enjoyable, rest is a good deal more to my taste at the present time. I do not think I should have spoken in the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs but for what has been said during the present discussion. As regards Customs administration, I know that there are some honorable members - though I hope not many - and other people outside Parliament who abuse and rate me. But I feel that in my administration of the Department I was supported by the public opinion of Australia ; and if I were in the same position again I should act similarly, and facethe result. Something has been said about revenue. I tried last year, in competition with our veteran Treasurer - long may he reign ! - to frame estimates. There are six States, and the result of the competition was that the Treasurer was “ top” in five of them, while I “ got home” in one. That one was a big State, but I came to the conclusion that the experience of the Treasurer was infinitely superior to mine, and made for accuracy to a larger extent. Therefore, I speak almost “ with ‘bated breath and whispering humbleness “ when I venture to suggest that there is not any risk of the Treasurer’s estimates not being realized. On the contrary, . I believe those estimates are, as they ought to be, on the safe side; indeed, it is quite possible that they are more than on the safe side. It may be that I have a more sanguine disposition than that of the Treasurer. I know the infinite care, great intelligence, and ripe experience which he brings to bear in placing at the disposal of the House figures to which the only exception I am inclined to take is that they may be more than realized. Something has been said about administration affecting estimates ; and I think it does. I make bold to say that we should not have received as much revenue in the past as we did, had it not been for the style of administration, which I am pleased to hear is to be continued.

Mr Thomson:

– The statement was that the drop in the receipts was due to the new administration.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am not going to say as much as that ; but, while not setting up any claim, I venture to think that administration has its effects. Honorable members mustnot, however, jump to any conclusion in connexion with the figures am about to quote. I was in office for, say, three weeks of the present financial year. I am again speaking a little “ without my book,” but I think I am pretty close to the facts, when I say that during those three weeks the revenue from the Customs was £43,000 more than that received during the corresponding period of last year, whereas, during the three weeks following my resignation, the revenue was £73,000 less.

Sir George Turner:

– I was administering the Department during those latter threeweeks.

Mr KINGSTON:

– It may have been the quiet administration of the Treasurer ; but it was a joint act, and our mutual fame had spread, so that there was terror in the land amongst those who were inclined to put an end to our methods of administration.

Mr Thomson:

– Yet the revenue went down during the second three weeks.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am simply referring to these matters in order to show the possibilities, and by no means with a view of claiming that the actual result was due to the change of administration. I notice that something has been said about the appointment of a Board. I never knew a board of that kind to be appointed without the sanction of an authorizing Act, and I am sure that the Government would not dream of appointing a board without such sanction. The idea, as it was foreshadowed in the newspapers, was, not that a board should be established in each State, but that there should be a central board in Melbourne, which would consist of an officer of the Department and two mercantile men.

Mr Wilks:

– There were two schemes - one providing for a central board, and the other for boards in each of the States to assist the Collectors there.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Now that the Tariff Guide has been published, things ought to work much more easily than they did. ‘They were working more easily when I left office, and I am sure that they will continue to do so. As regards the proposal to appoint two purely mercantile advisers to the Department, I would point out that the Government already have excellent officers. I should like to say, in regard to the officer with. whom honorable members no doubt are best acquainted, because he has been brought by the nature of his work, in the interpretation of the Tariff, into contact with members of both Houses - Mr. Smart - that, shortly before I left office, I appointed him Commonwealth Surveyor. I do not think a better selection could be made. His experience is of a riper character than that of any other officer with whom J am acquainted, and he is recognised us having for years past satisfactorily discharged the duties required of him. It was on account of his knowledge of Tariff interpretation, and questions affecting the work of landing surveyors, that members of the Government had him at their elbow during the consideration of the Tariff by Parliament. The arrangement which I sanctioned was that as regards all matters of Tariff interpretation, Dr. Wollaston. the ComptrollerGeneral - a most admirable officer - and Mr. Smart, should decide jointly without reference to the Minister, unless a special case arose requiring such reference. If the Government continue that arrangement they will do .well. To obtain the advice of two mercantile men would be a mistake, and for this reason - they can get mercantile men who are well acquainted with their own particular businesses, but those businesses are confined to particular classes of trades.

Mr Fowler:

– And often to dealing in a comparatively few articles.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Yes. Although they might get two admirable men, each well acquainted with his own particular trade, they would not get two men who are acquainted with all trades. It has been the practice of the Department not to decide difficult questions without reference to those who have special knowledge in regard to them. Mr. Smart - and the other Collectors do the same thing in the other Sates - whenever a question arises in regard to which special- knowledge is required, makes inquiries, through his various officers, of the merchants connected with the particular business in regard. to which the question has arisen. From them he gets all the advice that he wants.

Mr Thomson:

– There has been too much of this sort of thing.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I venture to say that there has not been too much of it. That advice is obtained gratis, and is of the best kind. We have appealed to merchants of highest character, and I believe that the result Of our appeals was very satisfactory, and infinitely better than we should have obtained if we had selected two special mercantile advisers, and shut ourselves off from communication with the mercantile community generally, Another consideration is this. If the Government appoint two mercantile advisers they must pay them, though, of course, one might, easily be penny wise and pound foolish in a matter of this sort. But the Government will not be able to command, all their time. They will have to be called together as occasion arises, and in the meantime there will be delays - delays which I think are separable from Customs business in a greater degree by the continuance of the present system than by the adoption of the suggestions which have been made for changing it. I wish the new Minister for Trade and Customs every success in the administration of a troublesome Department. I venture to think that by this little debate grounds for misapprehension may have been removed.

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– I am rather sorry that the right honorable member for South Australia announced that he was not going to say hard things about any one. He had said nothing hard when he made that announcement, but he afterwards uttered some very hard things, and in my opinion, quite unnecessarily. I do not intend to compare his administration with that of his successor. I do not know what the administration of the present Minister is to be; it has yet to be proved. I recognise the great difficulties with which the right honorable member for South Australia had to contend in administering a Tariff which, although he was largely responsible for it, was constructed upon lines which made it probably as difficult to administer as- any Tariff could be. In the creation of a new system of combined Customs administration affecting all the States, there must have been many difficulties.. But at the time he left office, the administration of the Customs Department was still capable of. great improvement. If the Minister now in office,, and succeeding Ministers, effect that improvement, it will be all the better for the Governments to which they belong, and for the community. In saying that, I am speaking without reference to the question of prosecutions. There were delays under the administration of the right honorable member for South Australia which were absolutely unjustifiable. They were delayswhich lasted, not merely for a week, or for a month, but almost,, in some cases, for years - delays in. regard to decisions upon the most simple matters, which should not have occupied five minutes of the time of a Minister who was properly advised by his officers. If the new Minister intends to prevent similar delays, and to give his decisions promptly, that in itself will be a great improvement in the administration of the Department. For how much of the delays of the past the ex-Minister was to blame I am not going to say. I believe that he’ tried to do too much himself ; that he tried to undertake a work which no one man could perform, and that in consequence some of it had to stand over. As for thecomparison of monthly collections, I am sorry that the ex-Minister apparently lent himself to such a thing, by his remarks about the receipts during the three weeks which concluded his term of office and the following three weeks during which, the Department was administered on his own lines by his late colleague the Treasurer. Such comparisons are worth nothing.

Mr Kennedy:

– That is what the righthonorable member for South Australia said.

Mr THOMSON:

– The right honorablemember pointed out that there was a drop of £70,000 odd in the three weeks following the conclusion of his administration as compared with the last three weeks during; which he was in office.

Mr Kennedy:

– But he said that thecomparison was of no value.

Mr THOMSON:

– He said that one could not actually insist upon a comparison of that kind, but that the difference was worthy of note. The inference was that the difference was due- to the change of administration.

Mr Page:

– I do not think so.

Mr THOMSON:

– Then why was th& comparison made ?

Mr Page:

– The honorable and learned member for Corio may have wished that inference to be drawn, but it was not to be drawn from the remarks of the right honorable member for South Australia.

Mr THOMSON:

– The right honorablemember for South Australia said that toomuch emphasis should not be given to thematter, but he desired to call attention tothe fact as something that should be noted. The honorable and learned .member for Coriobelittled himself by bringing forward the illustration which he gave. There was as great a variation of the returns during the time that the right honorable member for South Australia was administering the Customs Department as the variation to which, he has drawn attention. Did those variations mean that one month he was activeand honest and in the next inactive and dishonest ? Of course,, they meant nothing of the sort.

Mr Kingston:

– Does, not the honorable member know that in some months the revenue is higher than it is in other months 1

Mr THOMSON:

– There are- months in which the revenue is higher than in. others. No Minister for Trade and Customs and no Treasurer can tell within £50,000 what the revenue of any coming month will be. Such a thing- is absolutely impossible. It is. therefore, absurd to say that any variation would indicate extra vigilance and honesty, or the reverse. I do not say that careless and lax administration will not reduce the revenue of a month or of a year, but it would be ridiculous to conclude, because the revenue for any one month decreased, that there hadbeenlaxor dishonest administration. Now, as to the prosecutions which have been made. No honest merchant objects to strictness in Customs administration, or to publicity or to punishment inflicted for a real offence. But merchants, like other people, object to being haled before the courts at the expense of time and of money, for simple, explainable, evident errors from which no such consequence would follow if they had been committed in connexion with transactions with any other Government Department, or in the transactions of ordinary mercantile life. So long as those who do business with the Customs give the full and honest disclosures required by law, it is the business of the Customs officials to check the figures based on the information with which they are supplied, and the people supplying it should not be haled to the Courts if a simple, evident error then appears. How would honorable members look upon similar administration in regard to the collection of income tax?

Mr Kingston:

– The various Governments would obtain more income tax if they were stricter.

Mr THOMSON:

– If a man makes a full disclosure of his income, but in subtracting the legal deductions makes an evident clerical error of £1 or £2, while it might be right to fine him for it, as a caution to be more careful in future, it would not be right to hale him before a Court, and to put him to the expense and inconvenience which such a procedure would entail upon him. All that I have claimed in connexion with Customs administration is that where there has been an honest disclosure of facts, a mere visible error, such as it is the business of the Customs officials to check, should not cause a man to be brought before a Court. I do not wish to create openings for dishonesty, or for defrauding the Customs ; I think that the fullest caution should be shown in protecting the revenue, because the greatest care in that respect is admittedly necessary. But this is what takes place now. Even though the Customsauthorities may have all the information before them necessary for checking purposes, any mistake in detail is made the subject of a prosecution. It may be urged that the authorities have to be careful in such matters, because an error might be made to the extent of £1,000 in “favour of the importer. If such an error were made, the Customs officers would have an opportunity of checking the figures of the importer. Moreover, no part of the £1,000 would be recovered by dragging the importer to Court, and having him fined £5. Fines could be easily imposed without resorting to public prosecutions. There might be a fines clerk at the Custom-house. The officer who discovered an error could then refer the importer’s shippingclerk to the fines clerk, and a fixed fine might be imposed before the entry was passed. So long as it is admitted that the documents given in with the invoice are correct, and afford all the material necessary for checking whether the proper amount of duty is paid, the administration should not force importers into Court for making mistakes. The present practice could be altered without the slightest risk to the revenue. Every day importers render invoices accompanied by documents which disclose whether or not the entry is correct in its main particulars. There may be an error in the minor particulars, but it is not right that the person responsible for such a minor discrepancy should be brought into Court. It is the duty of the Customs officers to check calculations, and to discover errors when the material placed at their disposal is sufficient for the purpose. That is all that has been claimed by me in connexion with my objections to the administration of the Customs Department upon lines which do not benefit the revenue or the community generally, but place difficulties in the way of the trading community. The treatment to which merchants are subjected at the Custom-house is very different from that meted Out to those who have to do business with other departments of the Commonwealth or of the States. Reference has been made by the right honorable and learned member for South Australia to the proposed board, which is to consist of a Customs officer and two merchants. I do not propose to pass any opinion on that proposal, except that, so far as I understand it, I am not very favorable to it. At the same time, I do not approve of the back-door and improper methods which have been adopted by the Department. I have been astonished by the actions of the Department in connexion not only with the administration, but with the Tariff itself. Owing to the lack of knowledge on the part of officers in the Department, the authorities have referred to merchants, who. may or may not have possessed the necessary knowledge, for opinions upon which they have based their decisions to prosecute or refrain from taking legal proceedings against other importers. That I consider to be an improper proceeding. I should far prefer to see the Department act upon the experience of its own officers. There are, or there should be, within the Department officers having a knowledge of every branch of trade. It should be the business of the Customs administration to employ officers with practical knowledge of the different branches of trade, so that it should not be necessary to seek the advice of outside experts. It would be far better if the Department were to act upon its own responsibility in the first instance, and afterwards summon merchants as witnesses.

Mr Kingston:

– The practice has been to consult a merchant, and then to summon him as a witness, in case of dispute. ,

Mr THOMSON:

– But it would be preferable if the Customs officials decided for themselves, instead of going behindback to merchants. In connexion with the Tariff, we had evidence that manufacturers were asked whether they could make a certain article - whether they were making it, or whether they could do so - and were told that if they could manufacture the article a duty would be proposed.

Mr Kingston:

– No, no.

Mr Mauger:

– What was wrong about that?

Mr Kingston:

– The honorable member does not suggest that that was done before the Tariff was framed.

Mr THOMSON:

– Isay that we had evidence that it was done whilst the Tariff was under consideration.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Yes, in connexion with tanners’ tools of trade.

Mr Mauger:

– What was wrong in connexion with that?

Mr Kingston:

– The honorable member is not suggesting that it was done before the Tariff was framed?

Mr THOMSON:

– I cannot say that. I do not suppose it was done before the Tariff was framed, but I say that it was done before the Tariff was passed.

Mr Kingston:

– Exactly.

Mr THOMSON:

– In consequence of the information obtained from manufacturers, alterations were proposed in the Tariff.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– In connexion with the tanners’ tools of trade.

Mr THOMSON:

– Yes, alterations were proposed by Ministers in consequence of the information which they received from certain manufacturers, that if a duty were imposed they could make a certain article which it was proposed to admit free because it was a tool of trade of another industry. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has become so accustomed to an improper system that he sees nothing wrong in doing that to which I have referred.

Mr Mauger:

– I certainly do not. If certain articles can be manufactured here they ought to be protected.

Mr THOMSON:

– Most people would see something wrong in the Government going to an individual–

Mr Kingston:

– To find out the facts.

Mr THOMSON:

– Most people would see something wrong in the Government going to a manufacturer and saying - “ We shall put money into your pocket by imposing a duty if you can say that you will be able to make this article.”

Mr Mauger:

– The Government said nothing of the kind.

Mr THOMSON:

– That is the whole position. The Government go to a private individual and say that if he can prove that he is making an article - that in itself ought to be the best proof that he does not need a duty to protect him - they will impose a duty. If the manufacturer is not making the article, but says that he will make it-

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Or if he says that he is making an article which would do the same work as that put before him.

Mr THOMSON:

– Yes ; if he says he can make an article which will do the same work as that exhibited to him, the Government say - “ We are going to put so much money into your pocket by taxing the people for your benefit.”

Mr Mauger:

– That is consummate rubbish.

Mr THOMSON:

– I say that it is rubbish, and I object personally to any of these back-door arrangements with people in trade, whether they be manufacturers or merchants. Iobject as much as do other honorable members to the fining of merchants in the rooms of the Minister for Trade and Customs. I contend that all the objectionable practices to which I have referred can be avoided without any loss to the revenue, whilst, at the same time, the convenience of those engaged in trade may be met, and the work of the Department may be facilitated. It is a pity that the Minister for Trade and Customs is not present. His attendance here is specially desirable, in view of the fact that two honorable members have cast imputations upon his administration. They have indicated that in their opinion he intends to adopt back-door methods.

Mr Kingston:

– That has been publicly disclaimed bv him.

Mr THOMSON:

– It is highly desirable that the Minister should be here, in order to clear himself of charges of that character. The Prime Minister found himself at a disadvantage, because he was able to state only what he supposed to be the intention of the Minister. I have no doubt that the attention of the Treasurer has already been directed to the apparent great discrepancies between the cost of administration of the Customs Department in the States. Of course, I know that the circumstances vary.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
BALACLAVA, VICTORIA · PROT

– I have prepared a return showing the expenditure in each State, and sent it on to the Minister for Trade and Customs. I have suggested that he should appoint, if necessary, an officer to visit all the States to investigate matters, or, better still, ask the officers of. the various States to meet in conference to consider the matter.

Mr Kingston:

– I left a minute in the Department commenting very strongly on those discrepancies. The honorable member must understand that it is easier to keep down the expenditure, as in New South Wales, than to cut down the expenditure after it has become inflated, as in the case of other States.

Mr THOMSON:

– I recognise that there are great .natural differences, and that the cost of administration in some cases is increased by the length of sea-board, the extra number of ports, and other circumstances. In some instances, however, the expenditure is altogether out of proportion to the volume of importations, and I am glad to know that the Treasurer has taken action with a view to a thorough inquiry.

Mr. MAUGER (Melbourne Ports).With regard to the statement of the honorable member, for North Sydney, tha£ certain inquiries were instituted in order to put money into the pockets of the manufacturers

Mr Thomson:

– I did not say that they were instituted with that object.

Mr MAUGER:

– I think that the less that is said by the honorable member about putting money into the pockets of the manufacturers the better it will be. When the Tariff was under discussion, we heard a great deal about the robberies committed by. manufacturers, but the revelations which have been made since go to show that there are other people who can rob, and who do rob repeatedly. Therefore, my honorable friend had better not indulge in statements such as he has made with regard to the manufacturers, because, like chickens, they are apt to come home to roost.

Mr Thomson:

– Does the honorable member refer to me 1

Mr MAUGER:

– Certainly not, personally, but I refer to the party with which the honorable member is associated.

Mr Thomson:

– I am not associated with any of the merchants to whom the honorable member is referring, any more than he is associated with manufacturers who have been fined.

Mr MAUGER:

– But the policy advocated by the honorable member has been associated with them, and during the Tariff discussion, the leaders of the party to which he belongs, were continually holding up the manufacturers as robbers. It was stated by the honorable member that the Government did wrong in instituting a systematic inquiry as to whether certain articles could or could not be manufactured within the Commonwealth. ‘The honorable member knows full well that the Government policy is to encourage manufacturers in every possibleway. Therefore, if they could find out by circulars or in any other way that an article could be manufactured within the Commonwealth, they would be justified in proposing a protective duty.

Mr Thomson:

– And thus allow certainindividuals to pocket the money which the article would pay in the form of dutv.

Mr MAUGER:

– They would do nothingof the kind; They would find out whether an article could be manufactured.

Mr Kingston:

– We were bound to ascertain the facts.

Mr MAUGER:

– Exactly ; and, in accordance with the Government policy, they decided to impose a duty or otherwise, as the occasion might seem to warrant. It “is. absolute nonsense to say that they did wrong, or that the money represented by the duty goes into the pockets of the manufacturers.

Mr Thomson:

– I do not say that the honorable member can recognise the wrong.

Mr MAUGER:

– Nor do I think that the honorable member can prove it. The whole of our experience goes to show the very opposite. But I desire to bring another matter under the notice of the Minister - a matter which will come home to my right honorable friend, the exMinister for Trade and Customs. As the Committee will recollect, at an early stage in its history, this Parliament decided that a part of its policy should be, that wherever practicable, Commonwealth employes should work six days a week, and not seven days. We also affirmed that where it was absolutely necessary that employes should work seven days a week provision should be made to grant them either additional payment or holidays, but as far as possible the practice of working seven days a week was to be discontinued. Now, upon the Customs’ launches in Melbourne, there are twelve men who, for years past, have been working seven days a week. I know that the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, does not believe in the principle of working upon seven days each week-

Mr Kingston:

– I wish that I had not done so much of it.

Mr Page:

– Why, the right honorable member worked for ten days a week.

Mr MAUGER:

– The measure in which my right honorable friend worked is practically the measure of his present illness. He overdid it. But, although he does not believe in the principle to which I have referred, I understand that, in connexion with the instance which I am discussing, he shelters himself behind what may be a fact, namely, that these men were originally engaged by the Government of Victoria at salaries ranging from £60 to £150 a year, upon the condition that they worked seven days’ a week. I hold that we have nothing whatever to do with any engagement which the Victorian Government may have made with them. At any rate we ought to see that these men are treated in the same way as are their officers. It is a singular thing that their officers - the Tide Surveyor and those who receive from £300 to £325 per year - are paid for their holidays and their Sundays, whilst the men in receipt of the smaller salaries obtain no such recognition.

Mr Kingston:

– The original contract was for seven days a week.

Mr MAUGER:

– The original contract was bad, and the sooner we abrogate it and substitute for it a new one the better. Moreover, that contract was not with the Commonwealth. Does the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, believe in a contract which compels a man to work 365 days a year? Because a contract is wrong in essence and principle should we perpetuate it ?

Mr Fisher:

– What Government made the contract?

Mr MAUGER:

– The Victorian Government.

Mr Kingston:

– Why did not the honorable member secure their removal from the Treasury benches ? He was in the State Parliament then.

Mr MAUGER:

– I was not there. I was a member of the Victorian Parliament for only twelve months. During that period I moved for a return showing the number of men in the Government service who were called upon to work seven days a week. At the present time there is a motion upon the business-paper of the State Parliament upon exactly the same lines as that which I succeeded in carrying.

Mr Fisher:

– Is it the Victorian policy to compel men to work seven days a week ?

Mr MAUGER:

– Quite apart from that consideration, it is a bad policy.

Mr Page:

– Why did not the honorable member alter it before Federation was accomplished ?

Mr MAUGER:

-Will the honorable member assist me to alter it now ? Mr. Page. - I will.

Mr MAUGER:

– That is all I ask. We have here eighteen watchmen,, boatmen, engine-drivers, <fcc; who are employed upon the Customs launches for seven days a week. I say that that condition of affairs should be. altered. Whilst not attempting to vindicate the principle of employing men upon seven days a week, the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, says that an arrangement was made with these men by the State Government. But I would remind him that arrangements were made with the postal officials–

Mr Kingston:

– What does the honorable member suggest 1 Does he contend that they should not be employed seven days a week, or merely that they should be paid for seven days ?

Mr MAUGER:

– I suggest that sufficient hands should be employed to relieve these men, and to enable them to enjoy one day’s rest in. seven.

Mr Kingston:

– “Would the honorable member pay them for six days’ wort a week the salaries they at present receive for seven days’ work 1.

Mr MAUGER:

– I would, because the pay which they at present receive is rather low.

Mr Fisher:

– If they work on Sundays they should receive double pay.

Mr MAUGER:

– I think so too. If the Committee decide that they shall work only six. days a week, I am asked whether there should not be a corresponding reduction in their pay ? I do not think so, seeing that they are receiving- only from- £60 to £150 a year. At a later stage I intend to propose as an instruction to the Government that the item be reduced by ls. When we carry a resolution in this House, affirming that men shall work only six days a week that decision ought to be respected. These men dispute the statement that the Victorian Government engaged them at certain salaries upon the understanding that they should work seven days a week. But, even if it were true, is it not notorious that when the Commonwealth took over the Postal Department, the pay of some of the officers employed in that Department amounted to absolute sweating ? I trust that this committee, wherever practicable, will insist upon men receiving one day’s rest in seven. Whilst there are individuals in the community in search of work no man should be employed upon every day throughout the year. I should like an assurance from the Treasurer that the wish, of the Committee will be respected, and that sufficient hands will be engaged to afford the individuals to whom I refer at least one day’s rest in- seven.

Mr FULLER:
Illawarra

– I very much regret the absence of the- Minister- for Trade and Customs to-day. At the same time, the remarks which I intend to make will not be of a personal character, because I recognise that the honorable gentleman has not been connected with his Department sufficiently long to have effected an alteration in the state of affairs to which I shall direct attention. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that references had been made by honorable members upon this side of the

House to robberies committed by manufacturers, and declared that we represented importing robbers.

Mr Mauger:

– I did not say that.

Mr FULLER:

– I would point out to thehonorable member that there is a very large class in the community - notably the farmers and pastoralists of New South Wales and Queensland - who lost their all during the recent drought, and wholook upon the action of this Parliament, in extracting more than £600,000 from the pockets of the people during that period of adversity, as an absolute robbery. But the particular matter to which I desire to direct attention has reference to a petition which was forwarded by the lockers in the -Customs Department in New South Wales to the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr.. Kingston, who at the time was the Ministerial head of the Department. That petition was transmitted to the Department six months ago by a body of forty-five employes, but up to date no reply to- it has been forthcoming. Surely it is the duty of somebody in the Department to see that these men receive an answer to their communication. What are the facts concerning which, they petitioned ? The regulations issued under the Customs Act of 1901, which came into force upon the 1st November of that year, fixed the hours of attendance for lockers from S.30 a.m.. till 5 p.m. in the winter,, and from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. in the summer. Upon Saturdays their work ceased at noon. Upon the 20thi May, 190.2, an order was issued by the Comptroller-General directing that these hours should be temporarily altered to those which were previously in force under the old , State Customs Act, namely, from 8 a.m.. till 6 p;m. In consequence of this alteration the lockers were compelled to work an additional nine hours per week.

Sir George Turner:

– They reverted to the State practice.

Mr FULLER:

– Yes. This order was issued by the Comptroller-General in opposition to- the regulations which were adopted and issued by the Executive. It appears to me that the Comptroller-General has no power to do anything of that sort. If he , has, it is certainly a power which should be exercised only in case of emergency, and the alteration should be merely of a temporary character. So far,, however, from the hours which he has prescribed being, merely of a temporary character,, they have been in force from the 20th May, 1 902,. up till the present time. The result is that for fifteen months past these lockers have been working an additional nine hours per week. Although the regulations which are issued by the Executive make’ an allowance for overtime, no authority has been given to the men to collect their overtime from the bond proprietors. That is the first complaint which I’ have to make in connexion with the administration of the Customs Department. It appears to me, first, that these men are entitled to an answer to their petition ; secondly, that the Comptroller-General has no power to issue such a regulation ; and, thirdly, that the regulation having been issued, and the men having worked under it for fifteen months, something should be done by the Department to secure for them the extra remuneration to which they are entitled. The second matter to which I wish to direct attention has reference to the tremendous discrepancy which exists between the payments which are made to officers in the Customs Department in New South Wales, and those which are made to officers in Victoria. I do not know whether honorable members have made any comparison of the salaries received by the officers of the Department in the various States. I have given special attention to those paid in New South Wales and Victoria, because they appear to offer the most striking example of the disparities which exist. I have also glanced casually at the salaries paid in South Australia, which differ very materially from those received by officers occupying similar positions in Victoria. We know that the Victorian officers were the subject of special legislation passed shortly prior - to the establishment of the Commonwealth, and that their existing, and accruing .rights as at the time of transfer must be recognised by us. The officers in the Department in New South Wales occupy a different position. In common with other members of the Public Service of the State, they had to submit, in 1895, to a very drastic scheme of retrenchment, designed to enable the Government of the day to effect a saving of £250,000 per annum. Under the Public Service Act, which came into force in the same year, they did not receive the benefits of being regraded.

Sir George Turner:

– Were not all the officers of the transferred Departments in New South Wales regraded shortly before they were taken over by the Commonwealth 1

Mr FULLER:
ILLAWARRA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910

– The officers of the Customs Department were not. They came over subject to the reductions made in 1895. As a matter of fact, although the Treasurer estimates this year to collect in New South Wales £725,000 more than is obtained from this source in Victoria, the Customs officers in the mother State, who have thus larger collections to make, and ‘more onerous duties to perform, are receiving very much lower salaries than are paid to men discharging similiar duties in Victoria. I propose to give a few illustrations of these disparities as shown by the Estimates. I think it is right in the first instance to refer to the salaries received by the three highest paid officials in the Department in each State, namely, the Collector of Customs, the senior landing surveyor, and the warehouse-keeper. In New South Wales the Collector of Customs receives 920 per annum, while the Collector in Victoria receives only £750, the difference in that case being in favour of the officer in New South Wales. I presume, however, that that distinction is made because the Comptroller-General has his head office in Victoria, and is immediately over this officer.

SirGeorge Turner. - Formerly the Collec tor of Customs in Victoria received £1,200 per annum, but, when a new appointment was made, the salary was fixed at the reduced rate for heads of Departments, namely, £750 per annum.

Mr FULLER:

– The senior landing surveyor in New South Wales receives £140 per annum in excess of the salary paid to the officer discharging corresponding duties in Victoria, whilst the salary” paid to the warehouse-keeper in New South Wales is also higher than that received by the officer performing similar work in this State. With these exceptions, almost all the salaries paid in the Department in New South Wales and Victoria show a great difference in favour of the last-named State. . The accountant in New South Wales, where the collections are nearly £1,000,000 in excess of those made in Victoria, receives only £450 per annum, whilst the accountant in this State is paid £535 per annum.

Sir George Turner:

– According to the Estimates the Victorian officer is paid £485 per annum ; but apparently a cashier is employed in New South Wales.

Mr FULLER:

– The cashier receives £425 per annum. I presume that the receiver in Victoria discharges similar duties, and I find that he is paid £450 per annum.

Sir George Turner:

– I cannot say whether they perform similar duties.

Mr FULLER:

– Let me deal now with officers who are more particularly associated with the rank and file of the service. I understand that the landing waiters in these States perform similar work. In one division there are eleven employed in New South Wales, of whom five receive £350 per annum, three £325 per annum, and three others £300 per annum. ‘ In Victoria there are fifteen, four receiving. £485 per annum, or £135 in excess of the highest salary paid to a landing waiter in New South Wales ; one £450 per annum, and ten £360 per anuum. Thus the salary paid to the ten landing waiters, on the lowest scale, is greater than that received by five landing waiters at the top of the list in New South Wales. These facts show the absolute necessity for the regrading of the service. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs must have known of the existence of these disparities, and while I am not making any complaint against the present Minister for Trade and Customs, who has not been administering the affairs of the Department long enough to enable him to go into this question, I think he will see that it is necessary to give instructions to the Public Service Commissioner to place the officers in these two States on a more equal footing.

Sir George TURNER:

– The Public Service Commissioner is carrying out the work of classification under the Public Service Act.

Mr FULLER:

– I understand that nothing is being done in this matter.

Sir George Turner:

– The Commissioner has a work of great magnitude to perform. He has to deal with the classification of the service, and to submit his scheme as a whole. We have no power to interfere with him.

Mr FULLER:

– -The Government could give instructions to him to deal with these disparities in the rates of pay.

Sir George Turner:

– I do not think so.

Mr FULLER:

– These matters should be dealt with.

Sir G George Turner:

– We can direct the Commissioner’s attention to them; but we have no power to interfere with him.

Mr FULLER:

– The Estimates provide for another series of landing waiters. In

New South Wales there are five employed at £275 per annum, four at £250 per annum, and four at £225 per annum, the lowest salary paid in this grade being £175 per annum. In Victoria, on the other hand, we find that there is one employed at £325 per annum, one at £300 per annum, six at £235 per annum, and two at £185 per annum. In this section also the salaries paid in New South Wales are lower than those received by officers discharging similar duties in Victoria. A like state of affairs is to be found in the clerical branches. In the first grade in New South Wales there are five clerks employed, one at a salary of £350 per annum, three at £325 per . annum, and one at £300 per annum. On the other hand, the five clerks occupying similar positions in Victoria each receive £360 per annum. In the second’ grade we find sixteen clerks employed in New South Wales, of whom two receive £290 per annum. The rates decrease until we reach seven employed at a salary of £200 per annum. In Victoria, there are twenty-one clerks in this grade, one receiving £350 per annum, three £325 per annum, five £300 per annum, ten £2-35 per annum, and one £185 per annum. Here again we discover a remarkable disparity between the salaries paid in Victoria and New South Wales to the officers performing corresponding duties. I find that in a still lower grade of the service in New South Wales, there are fifty-two clerks, three of them receiving £190 per annum, two £180 per annum, and twenty-one £120 per annum. In Victoria there are fiftynine clerks employed in this division, twenty-eight of whom are paid £200 per annum, whilst nineteen receive under £130 per annum. The examining officer in New South Wales has occupied his present position for a great number of years, and has discharged his duties to the satisfaction of the Department. He receives a salary of £250 per annum, but an officer who was recently appointed to perform similar duties in Victoria, and who has had but a few months’ experience in the service, receives £35 per annum .in excess of that amount. These are matters which call for investigation at the hands of the Minister for Trade and Customs.

Mr Kingston:

– To what new officer does the honorable and learned member refer ‘

Mr FULLER:

– To the analyst.

Mr Kingston:

– That would be for Victoria and the central office.

Mr FULLER:

– I am informed that the Appointment of an analyst is an absolutely new one, and was only made a few months ago.

Mr Kingston:

– The new analyst is a lady, I think.

Mr FULLER:

– That makes no difference, the fact remains that £30 a year more is being paid than to the Sydney analyst.

Mr Kingston:

– She does not only the Victorian, but also the central office work.

Mr FULLER:

– The analyst for New South Wales is receiving only £250.

Sir George Turner:

– The analyst in Victoria may be doing work for other Departments.

Mr FULLER:

– I understand that the duties are absolutely confined to the one Department, but that is not a matter about which I should like to speak positively.

Mr Kingston:

– The appointment for the central office is more important than for any of the States.

Mr FULLER:

– There is no doubt about that. But the question arises whether the duties at the central office are more onerous than they are in New South Wales.

Mr Tudor:

– Did the honorable member take the total of the number of officers in each State and the amount of pay they received 1

Mr FULLER:

– Yes.

Mr Tudor:

– The officers in New. South Wales receive £6,000 more than in Victoria ; there are about 100 more officers in New South Wales.

Mr FULLER:

– There are 263 in Victoria and 339 in New South Wales. But the payments, man for man, and the whole of the salaries put together, amount to vastly more in Victoria than in New South Wales. I mention this not for the purpose of setting New South Wales against Victoria, but in order to impress upon the Minister the desirability of bringing about something like uniformity at as early a date as possible. If the service is to be carried on efficiently this kind of thing must be remedied. Otherwise there is bound to be created a sore feeling between officers in the different States. It is perfectly apparent either that the Victorian officers are getting too much, or that the New South Wales officers are getting too little. If the New South Wales officers are getting too little in consequence of the delay in regrading, and if that regrading could not be carried out prior to these Estimates being laid upon the table, then in the event of any officer being deserving of an increase in salary, it should be provided for.

Sir George Turner:

– My honorable friend will see that I have provided for all increments and adjustments of salaries in each State.

Mr FULLER:

– In connexion with the adjustments and increments referred to, there is only a sum of £500 provided for New South Wales, whilst in Victoria £625 is provided. Again, there is a margin in favour of Victoria.

Sir George Turner:

– I expect that if that is investigated, my honorable friend will find that many officers in Victoria are getting less for corresponding work than is paid in New South Wales. I know that when I was in office in Victoria, New South Wales was always held up as the example.

Mr FULLER:

– So it was until the retrenchment of 1895. The New South Wales officers’ came into the Commonwealth service shortly after suffering disastrous retrenchment at the hands of the Ministry at the date I have mentioned. In consequence of that, no matter how deserving a New South Wales officer may be, through the disabilities which I have just mentioned, be cannot possibly get an increase of his salary, and in all cases there will be a loss of three and a half years’ increased salary until the Estimates for 1904 are prepared ; because there is no power for the Commissioner to grant any increments.

Sir George Turner:

– If an increase were approved by Parliament I could make it out of the Treasurer’s advance and provide for it on the Estimates next year.

Mr FULLER:

– I also desire to point out that in New South Wales the only Customs officer who has received any advancement is a gentleman occupying the position of assistant landing surveyor. He occupied a position in Victoria, where his salary was £350 a year. He was sent over to New South Wales and placed over the heads of men. who had been in the service as landing waiters for) ten and twenty years, and was given a salary of £450. That promotion may have been necessary from a departmental point of view ; I am not in a position to speak as to that. But it seems extraordinary that it should have been necessary to give such promotion to a comparatively inexperienced man, so far as concerns his term of service. I thought it to be my duty to bring these matters before the Treasurer, and I trust that he will see that the Minister for Trade and Customs is instructed in reference to them, in order that something may be done to bring about more of an equality in the two States referred to, and justice done to New South Wales officers.

Mr FOWLER:
Perth

– I should like to ask the right honorable gentleman in charge of the Estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs a question about a matter which is of some importance to the business community of my own State. A little while ago there was a case brought before the Western Australian Courts in which Messrs. D. and W. Murray were opposed to the Federal Government in connexion with the collection of revenue at the higher rates. The case was decided against the Government ; and I am now requested by the Perth Chamber of Manufacturers to find out whether the Government . have made a final settlement, or whether they intend to appeal t

Sir George Turner:

– There is to be an appeal to the Privy Council. I recollect that the matter came before roe, and that the Attorney-General recommended that there should be an appeal to the Privy Council. The case will go on.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– Each honorable member who has addressed the Committee has expressed his regret that the Minister for Trade and Customs is not present. I equally regret the absence of the honorable gentleman, and I suppose every other honorable member who speaks will do the same. Certain matters affecting the administration of the Department must necessarily be brought forward, and the Minister ought to be present to notice criticisms and defend his Department. If ever a Department required investigation, it is the Customs Department, especially when we remember that there has been divided control. It is idle to attack the late Minister for Trade and Customs, because, having resigned his position, his responsibility has ceased. We are unable to obtain any satisfaction from the new Minister because he has gone away. The honorable and learned member for Corio was very caustic regarding the present administration of the Department. I do not recollect a more caustic attack being made upon the administration of a Department from the Ministerial side of the Chamber. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports seems to be the only person who is ready to defend the Minister for his absence. Perhaps a brotherly feeling induces the honorable member to defend the President of tha Protectionist Association, because it is suspected that the Minister’ is absent doing work for the Association to which the honorable member is attached. Apparently the honorable member for Melbourne Portsputs the work of the Protectionist Association before the duty of defending the Customs Estimates. That is rather a peculiar position for an honorable member who calls himself a radical. We are placed iri an unfair position, because, if we attack the Minister, . it will be said that we are taking advantage of his absence. I have heard many charges made in the past from this side of the Chamber concerning the administration of the late Minister for Trade and Customs. I was not in harmony with many of my colleagues in the Opposition, who, time after time, “roasted” the late Minister for his administration, because I often thought that he was in the right rather than in the wrong. I recognise that the manufacturers and the merchants require very little protection from the members of this House. The manufacturer is just as keen to get 20s. for his pound as is the importer ; and, while on the one hand I cannot defend the manufacturers for their attacks upon one party in this House, neither can I have any sympathy with those who groan at the alleged afflictions under which importers suffer. Perhaps the screw may have been put on when, at times, a drop of oil upon the machinery would have sufficed. But the leakages that were discovered under the administration of the late Minister suggest a reflection as to what the leakages must have been prior to the drastic administration which the right honorable gentleman inaugurated in the interests of the public. I should now like to draw attention to the fact that the honorable and learned member foi1 Corio in reading certain extracts this afternoon, omitted to read a portion of an extract from the Argus which he referred to. It reads as follows : -

Sir William does not think that the political head should be worried with matters of detail. He holds that a Minister should only have to deal with papers concerning important issues. He therefore proposes to give Dr. Wollaston and the State collectors a chance of exercising their own discretion in ordinary matters of routine, rather than compel them to appeal to him about the most trifling points as Mr. Kingston did.

In those lines the position made clear is that apparently the Minister at present in charge of the Customs Department is prepared to delegate his functions. I do not think he ought to do so. In the past Ministerial heads have been too prone to delegate their authority in order to promote their own comfort and peace of mind. That practice has not only proved bad in operation, but has set a bad example for other Ministers who have followed. Apparently the ex-Minister would not delegate any .authority whatever; in consequence of which he laid himself open to charges of delay in connection with his work. But these inspired paragraphs suggest that the present Minister is prepared to go go to the other extreme. The Melbourne Herald also published the following paragraph : -

Sir William Lyne, Minister for Customs, is’ engaged in framing a scheme with the object of decentralizing the administration so as to facilitate business. The Minister said to-day that lie had not yet finally decided the matter, but he would probably give the Collector of Customs in each State extended powers under certain regulations, to enable him to investigate, and deal with all matters in which prosecutions are possible without reference to head-quarters. “ There will “be no prosecutions in cases that are without a tinge of fraud,” said the Minister. “There are other ways of dealing with such cases.” Sir William Lyne went on to say that an alternative scheme was to appoint the ComptrollerGeneral, Dr. Wollaston, and certain other officers a central Board to deal with the cases, but at present he felt more disposed towards giving the power indicated to the collectors.

Apparently the Minister is prepared to delegate his authority, but he has not yet decided upon a scheme for that purpose. It would be interesting to know whether he intends to adopt either of the schemes which he suggested, for the Committee would then be in a position either to compliment or to blame him. I heard the Prime Minister say this afternoon that the Minister for Trade and Customs would not relax the character of the administration of his predecessor, and that in the enforcement of the law he would not allow any interference. That is a very wise position to take up. That spirit, I think, characterized the administration of the late Minister, and that is what we require to be done. The House has always been willing to listen to any complaints on the part of traders who thought that they had been tyrannically treated, or that the Minister had abused his position. It is not a good plan to allow these matters to be sifted out, and decided by a subordinate authority - the Comptroller-General and the States Collectors. I could understand the mechanical portion of the administration - the settlement of mere matters of detail of the delay in which the traders have complained so much - being left to those officers. But I cannot understand that course being taken now that we have a Tariff Guide, which is a perfect encyclopedia of interpretation. The merchants cannot complain that they are not armed with interpretations of the Tariff, or provided with every information, when the Tariff Guide comprises some 3,000 interpretations and is, according to certain statements I have read in the press, amended month by month. It ought to relieve the Minister of much detailed work. I hope that he will allow no subordinate officer to supersede himself, in the administration of the law. I realize my inability to submit this consideration to the Committee as effectively as I should like. In the States, unfortunately, it has been the practice for many Ministers to delegate -their authority to their under-secretaries, and the result has been that the administration of the Departments has been controlled by permanent heads instead of by Ministers responsible to Parliament. ‘ In the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs, it would be bad taste on my part to infer from the extracts I have read that, for the sake of insuring his personal comfort, he proposes to shirk his work, and to leave the administration of his great Department to the officers. I regret that he is not here to defend his position. Perhaps his colleague, who is in charge of his Department, may be able to supply the information I require. If the Treasurer, who has had experience in Customs administration, knows the spirit and intention of his colleague, he should lose no time in allaying an apprehension in the mind of myself and other honorable members. The honorable and learned member for Illawarra made out a very strong case in regard to the position of certain officers of this Department in New South Wales. I desire to emphasize his representations. I find that the lockers in New South Wales have presented a respectful petition co the Minister, and that so far they have not received a reply. They ought to have received a reply from some source or other.

Whether they were over-riding the provisions of the Public Service Act I do not know ; ‘but if, through inadvertence, they made a mistake in that respect, the Public Service Commissioner should have advised them as to the position of their petition. In regard to the salaries, too, the honorable and learned member also made out a very strong case. Prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth, the Parliament of Victoria passed a measure which placed the officers in the Departments to be transferred in a happier position than that of civil servants in other States. A certain amount of sagacity was displayed by the civil servants of Victoria at that time. The result of the operation of this enactment has been that those officers are paid at higher rates than are the officers in corresponding positions in New South Wales. Prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth, we had a spasm of economy in New South Wales. The Public Service Board had been exercising the pruning knife in an effective manner, and the Customs Department, in keeping with other Departments, suffered both in salaries and in numbers. From that action these officers have to suffer to-day. On the other hand, transferred officers in Victoria are in the happy position of being protected by the Act passed in anticipation of the transfer of their Departments. It is only right, I contend, that the Public Service Commissioner should, so far as he can, regrade these officers. -I can best illustrate the discrepancy in their treatment by giving an extraordinary example. In Queensland, it costs £59,000 to collect a Customs revenue of £1,305,000 ; while in New South Wales it costs no more than that amount to collect double the revenue from the same source.

Sir George Turner:

– New South Wales has not the same number of ports as has Queensland.

Mr WILKS:

– At any rate, there are as many ports in New South Wales as in Queensland. But even if the number of ports be not equal, the Customs returns in New South Wales are more than double those in Queensland.

Sir George Turner:

– In New South Wales they deal with larger items. There is just as much work to do in Queensland in dealing with smaller items.

Mr WILKS:

– Nearly half-a-million less revenue is collected in Victoria than in

New South Wales, but the cost of collection in the former State is £4,000 in excess of the cost of collection in the latter. Surely, it will not be argued that Victoria has more ports than has New South Wales. To obtain half-a-million of revenue- less, a greater expenditure is required in Victoria than in New South Wales, and that result is due to the salaries per head being higher in the former than in the latter. Ali we ask is that the Customs officers in New South Wales shall receive fair treatment. Surely, we are not making an unreasonable request when we ask that the Customs officers in New South Wales, who do more work and collect more revenue, should, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Act, be placed on an equal footing with Customs officers elsewhere. I do not propose to deal any further with these anomalies than to express the hope that they will be removed as quickly as possible.

Mr BROWN:
Canobolas

– The honorable and learned member for Corio raised a very important point when he cited certain references in the press to an alleged difference in the administration of the Customs Department. It was satisfactory to those honorable members who wish to see the Department administered on proper lines to hear from the Prime Minister, that there was no intention to make any departure of the kind. I have been altogether at variance with the fiscal policy of the late Minister for Trade and Customs ; but I recognise that, when the Parliament in its wisdom passes an enactment, although as a matter of principle I may strongly disagree with its action, “the law should be honestly and properly administered. It is the duty of the Minister to the Parliament and to the country to defeat any attempt on the part of any individual in the community to obtain an advantage over his commercial competitors. He is bound to see that legislation is properly administered, and that the law is obeyed. If people are dissatisfied with the legislation adopted, there is a proper way to remedy the matter ; and that course should be taken by those opposed to it. During the time the ex-Minister for Trade’ and Customs was in charge of the Department, a considerable amount of friction was aroused by his administration, and when it became known that the .right honorable gentleman had relinquished his office there was some jubilation amongst, at least, a section of the community. The administration of the ex -Minister has been submitted to very severe criticism, and I think that, on the whole, the right honorable gentleman may be said to have come out of the ordeal in a manner very creditable to himself. He was, no doubt, somewhat draconic in his enforcement of legal technicalities, and some friction, no doubt, also arose as the result of delay in dealing with certain matters. The House, however, has been given to understand that there were more serious grievances existing, and that prosecutions, for which there was no justification, were instituted against some leading commercial firms in the Commonwealth. The inference which has been drawn that these prosecutions were largely due to personal feeling on the part of the Minister has been completely dispelled .upon thorough investigation. I say that, so far as the late Minister foi- Trade and Customs did his duty in honestly carrying out the law which he had to administer, he was to be commended. It would not bc in the interests of good administration of the Customs law that there should be such a departure from the methods adopted by the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs, that influential persons interested in mercantile pursuits might be able to commit what they call “mistakes,” and that, when those mistakes had been discovered, they should be allowed to settle them by private interviews with the Minister. That kind Of thing would only bring suspicion upon the administration of the law, and I was therefore very pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that there is no foundation for the allegations that have been made since the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs relinquished office, and that there will be the same strict administration of the law. Where the administration of the past was unnecessarily harsh something may be done in the way of giving relief if it does not involve any injustice to the Department or any relaxation of the terms of the law. While I strongly object to the principle of this Customs legislation, I desire to see it properly carried out, so long. as it commands the consent of the majority of honorable members of this House and of the people. In my view the true remedy for those who object to the principle lies in a repeal of the legislation. I think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, in the short address which he delivered made one remark which was quite uncalled for. The honorable member made it appear that the robbing of the revenue was the work of those in sympathy with honorable members on this side who favour a low Tariff as against a protectionist Tariff, and that because of that there is a fellow feeling between low tariffists and those who have been convicted of illegal practices. On the other hand, the honorable member denied that there was any justification for the contention of the honorable member for Parramatta that what he described as “legalized robbery” has taken place under the Commonwealth Tariff. On both sides of a question, upon which there is a great difference of opinion, there may be found those who are not too particular in observing the requirements of the law. But no large section of any community can be blamed for the wrong-doing of some individuals who may be in sympathy with their views, and may be to a certain extent allied with thom in matters of policy. There is great difference between that and the principles which underlie a policy, and it is upon that point I join issue with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I should like to call the attention of the honorable member and of those who supported him so strongly in imposing this Tariff upon the community to the effects which it is producing at the present time. One effect of the existing Tariff has been aptly and properly described by the honorable member for Parramatta as “ legalized robbery.” In this connexion, I refer more particularly to the taxation imposed upon the bread supply of the community, and, to a lesser degree, upon importations of fodder necessary for the preservation of the stock of the Commonwealth during the late drought. When these matters were being discussed, and an effort was made to press the seriousness of the situation on the attention of honorable members, the severity of the drought’ was questioned. Honorable members were given to understand that there was no drought in. some districts in which it was said to exist, and that in others it was very much less severe than it was said to be by those who were asking for relief. I remember that the present Minister for Trade and Customs on that occasion caused telegrams to this effect, which he received from his electorate, to be published in the press of this city, and other honorable members urged similar arguments in their addresses. We are not, however, now speaking from any theoretical stand-point, but with- practical knowledge ;upon the subject, which I regret to say has been gained at considerable cost to the Commonwealth in the loss of great numbers of stock. I should like briefly to indicate what the present position is. As showing the advantage of protectionist legislation, it was alleged that the Tariff which had previously existed in Victoria was accountable for” the progress made in that State in wheat-growing and farming operations generally. It was claimed that this advance could never have been possible if it had not been for the benefit conferred upon the agricultural industry by the system of taxation adopted. I think that very much more than it was entitled to was claimed for that system. I desire to emphasize the fact that abnormal drought and abnormal rainfall are but natural conditions in the Commonwealth, and that this heaven-born method of helping men to help themselves, according to the theory of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, will not enable us to overcome those natural disadvantages. Turning to Coghlan I find that, as far back as 1861, before the system of protection had obtained the hold which it at present has obtained in Victoria, that State produced 3,607,727 bushels of wheat, whilst New South Wales produced only 1,606,034 bushels. Later on in 1891 the Victorian production of wheat had risen to 13,629,370 bushels, whilst New South Wales produced 3,963,668 bushels. I find, however, that in 1901 Victoria produced only 12,127,382 bushels of wheat, whilst New South Wales produced no less than 14,808,705 bushels. During this time the two opposing fiscal theories were given effect to in the respective States. In Victoria under protection it was alleged that the industry had been brought to the highest degree of protection, whilst the farmers of New South Wales had to straggle under all the alleged disadvantages which protectionists claim are inherent in the principles of free-trade. In spite of this, New South Wales farmers did so well that, in 1901, their production exceeded that of the Statesubsidized farmers of Victoria. Coming to the present year, and dealing with the operation of the Commonwealth Tariff, which was so strongly recommended for the ‘purposes I have indicated, what do we find ? The Government carried their Tariff through and imposed high duties, not only upon Victoria, but upon the whole of the Commonwealth, bringing free-trade New South Wales within the protectionist fold, and, if the claim set up by its advocates are really substantial claims, we should have some evidence at the present time of the great advantages of this ideal policy. But I contend that the policy cannot surmount the natural difficulties with which we are faced. In the Melbourne Argus of yesterday it is stated that the wheat received at Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, and other places for the present year amounts to 12,289,690 bushels. Of that quantity, Melbourne has received 3,802,051 bushels ; Sydney and -Newcastle, 7, 2 1 6, SOO bushels, and other places 1, 270,839 bushels. During the same period Victoria imported 994,343 bushels from South Australia, 102,259 bushels from New South Wales, 720 bushels from Tasmania, 18,887 bushels from New Zealand, 2,782,257 bushels from the Pacific Coast, 154,604 bushels from New York, 103,.635 bushels from India, 747,155 bushels from the Argentine Republic, and 14,400 bushels from London. In the Melbourne Age of the 14th instant a table is given, showing the decrease in the quantity of wheat delivered at country railway stations in Victoria for conveyance to Melbourne, from 24th December to 10th September. In 1901 the quantity received in this way was 3,205,615 bags; in 1902 it was 2,031,495 bags ; and in 1903 it was 210,885 bags. The decrease is 1,280,610 bags as compared with the quantity received in 1902, and of 2,994,730 bags as compared with the quantity received in 1901. These figures show that the heaven-born Tariff cannot accomplish everything - that it cannot make wheat grow during an abnormally dry season. Instead of having the wheat produced by local farmers and settlers, we find Victorian citizens, and the Australian community generally, obliged to send outside for the necessary supplies. This year Victoria, with all the advantage of thirty years of protection, is compelled to draw on London instead of, as in the past, exporting surplus wheat to the old country. The farmer who requires his seed, and all who require bread, have to bear the burden of taxation which is the result of the duties imposed on this particular commodity. In New. South Wales every bushel of wheat imported has to pay ls. Id. in customs and wharfage charges, and this, of course, means an increased tax on the whole of the community. This taxation is imposed at a time when the people are least able to bear it. The losses from the drought in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria are not equalled by those during any previous drought in the history of Australia, and I hope that a similar experience will never again be our lot. Something like 25,000,000 of sheep have died in New South Wales during the past year, and that does not represent the total loss. Stock-owners in their heroic struggle to preserve their flocks and herds were induced to purchase fodder at high rates for a portion of the time’; -with the result that their ready money, it may be the savings of years, were lost “in one act.” The same may be said of Queensland and of Victoria, although’ in a lesser -degree ; and yet this is the time chosen to bring into operation a Tariff which has the effect of crushing men, who, under great disadvantages, are fighting grim nature. These facts should appeal strongly to those who have persuaded themselves that there is something in this method of taxation to make a community wealth)’. In addition to the enormous losses in stock and money as the outcome of the drought, the community are being further pressed down by Tariff charges which they cannot possibly escape. The Ministry would have acted wisely, not only in the interests of the community, but in the interests of the policy which they advocate, if they had been amenable to reason, and allowed themselves to see the true position of affairs at the proper time. If the Government could not see their way to remove the Tariff charges altogether, they might at least have remitted them during the period of the drought. The community have had not only the theoretical aspect of the Tariff, but also its practical effect, presented to them in a light which, I believe, they will not forget in a hurry. I wish to draw attention to another matter which perhaps properly relates to the Department of External Affairs, but which comes within the administration of the Customs Department. It sometimes happens that lady passengers on board ships which arrive in Sydney are accompanied by coloured servant girls, and that through some oversight the necessary exemption certificates are not obtained. Under such circumstances the lady passengers when they land have to leave their servants behind them. Some of those girls are of tender years, and yet they are left on board ship over night without any female protection or care. It seems to me that this is a hardship which the exercise of a little common sense might remove. The Customs authorities ought to be empowered to permit these girls to be taken ashore with their mistresses, and I hope that something will be done in the matter.

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

– The House is greatly indebted to the Treasurer foi-‘ his elaborate presentation of cbe national accounts as displayed by the Budget papers, and also for his lucid if somewhat laboured supplementary explanations. It will, I suppose, . be regarded as rank heresy to challenge in any respect the accuracy of the Treasurer’s figures. Nevertheless, I must direct attention to a lapse in the very first table of the series in the return headed “ Receipts.” Therein the estimated revenue in Western Australia from the uniform Tariff during 1902-3 is set down at £1,406,428, and the actual receipts at £1,388,344. Both figures are incorrect. The estimate was £1,162,400 and the actual receipts were £1,162,530. The error arises through the Treasurer having embodied the postal and other revenue, amounting to £225,814, . with the proceeds of customs duties.

Sir George Turner:

– The table referred to deals with the total revenue. This is a matter I was prepared to deal with during the discussion on the first item of the Estimates, but not during the discussion on the Department of Trade and Customs.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- I ask the honorable member for Coolgardie if he intends to apply his remarks to the administration df the Customs Department? At present I understand the honorable member to be dealing with the general revenue.

Mr MAHON:

– My remarks must be connected with the Customs Department, because I am speaking of the receipts under the uniform Tariff. Surely the Treasurer has his Budget papers with, him, and can refer to them. The error is on the first page.

Sir George Turner:

– That includes the total receipts from all sources.

Mr MAHON:

– I have just said so. The Treasurer will see that the headings to the columns indicate that the totals represent the receipts under the uniform Tariff and the special Tariff. Will the casual reader draw any other conclusion than that the uniform Tariff produced so much and the special Tariff so much? The mistake cannot be overlooked for this reason - that it involves the conclusion that the uniform Tariff realized £18,000 less than the Treasurer’s estimate, whereas it actually produced £2,500 in excess of his estimate of the 23rd September, 1902. The Treasurer made two estimates, and in that of the date mentioned he anticipated that there would be some £2,000 more than he did on a later occasion.

Sir George Turner:

– That was probably owing to the fact that in one estimate the revenue from sugar was included, while in the other it was not.

Mr MAHON:
COOLGARDIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– That may be. But it is desirable that the error should be corrected and emphasis given to the fact that both the uniform and the special Tariffs took more from the people of Western Australia than the Treasurer anticipated. It is not quite fair to attribute to the Tariff a discrepancy which is wholly accounted for by a shortage in the Post-office accounts. That error being rectified, we may quit the past for a glance at the more interesting future. The Treasurer expects that both Tariffs will realize £53,000 less next year in Western Australia ; but if that should prove to be the fact, it will not be an unmixed misfortune. Last year the western State paid Customs and Excise taxation to the extent of £7 3s. 6d. per head, as against an average of £2 16s.1d. in the other five States. With only 5£ per cent. of the population of the Commonwealth, Western Australia contributes about 12½ per cent. of the total Customs and Excise revenue. This disparity is too great to continue, and though population steadily advances, the proportional contribution must diminish. One reason for this anticipation is that the western community is absorbing alarger proportion of women and children, which involves a lessened consumption per head of heavily taxed commodities such as stimulants and narcotics. Eight years ago Western Australia had only fifty females to every 100 males - to-day she has sixty-six. The sexes in Western Australia are being gradually adjusted to normal Australian proportions, in proof of which it may be mentioned that for the seven months ending 31st July the male immigrants numbered 4,687, and the female 3,619.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. McDonald). - I think that the honorable member is going beyond the ordinary discussion allowed upon an item in Committee, and is dealing with the Budget generally.

Mr Mahon:

– We are considering estimates of the Customs Department, and I am dealing with the revenue produced by customs duties. I feel sure that my remarks are much more pertinent to the question than most of the observations which have been addressed to you, sir, during the last two hours. I will proceed with them unless you decide against me.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. - I must certainly rule the honorable member out of order.

Mr mahon:

-Then I desire to move -

That the Chairman do now leave the Chair, and that his ruling be reported to Mr. Speaker.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. - Will the honorable member hand me his motion in writing?

Mr Mahon:

– Do you rule that I cannot move that motion?

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. - I have not given a ruling upon that point, because I have not been asked to do so. I ask for the motion in writing, so that I may know definitely what the terms of it are.

Mr WILKS:
DALLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I think that under standing order 228 the question - “ That the Committee dissent from the ruling” - should be put from the Chair.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- It is competent for the Committee to decide the point of order.

Mr Wilks:

– It has been the practice, when a member has dissented from the ruling of the Chairman, to immediately refer the question to Mr. Speaker, but I ask, for our future guidance, whether it is not in order for the Chairman to first put to the Committee the question - “ That the ruling be dissented from.”

The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- It is competent for the Committee to determine that question. The written motion which has been handed to me is in these terms -

That the Committee dissents from the Chairman’s ruling in deciding that the remarks of the honorable member forCoolgardie are not in order.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I submit that the honorable member for Coolgardie is in order in discussing any matter relating to the Customs in Western Australia or any other part of the Commonwealth. As we all know, Western Australia is in a peculiar position in this respect, and I understand that the honorable member wishes to call attention to the anomalous relations of that State with other States. If he cannot deal with these matters upon the division now under discussion, I should like to know when it would be in order for him to refer to them. I take it that anything relative to the administration of the Customs Department is in order when the Estimates for that Department are under review. Our position is not analogous to that of a Committee of the House of Commons or of one of the Parliaments of the States. There questions such as this are dealt with when the proposed vote for the Minister in charge of the Department is under discussion. I think a grave mistake was made when it was decided that Ministers’ salaries should not be subject to the review of Parliament, but should be fixed in the Constitution Act without reference to Parliament.

Sir George Turner:

– May I make a suggestion in order to facilitate matters 1 It seems to me that the honorable member is in strictness out of order.

Mr Mahon:

– Then so was every one else who spoke.

Sir George Turner:

– No ; they were speaking in regard to the administration of particular Departments. I do not object to my honorable friend being allowed to continue his speech if he will not take up much time. I understand that he desires to speak in regard to the finances of his own State, because, owing to ill-health, he had not an opportunity to do so when the Budget proposals were under consideration. Under the circumstances the Committee might concur in allowing him to continue his remarks.

Mr Henry Willis:

– Let the point of order be decided first.

Sir George Turner:

– I think it would be better to let the honorable member proceed. We wish to conclude the consideration of the Estimates this week if possible.

The ACT UNG CHAIRMAN.- It is stated on page 584 of May’s Parliamentary Practice that -

In accordance with general usage, the main principle which governs debate in the Committee of Supply is relevancy to the matter which the question proposed from the Chair submits to the Committee.

It has hitherto been the practice to allow a discussion on the whole administration and policy of the Government in the debate which follows the delivery of the Treasurer’s Budget, a motion being moved for that purpose ; the general understanding being that when we come to deal with the Estimates by divisions, honorable members must confine their remarks to the particular question before the Chair. Perhaps if the honorable member will withdraw his motion honorable members will allow him te proceed with his remarks.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– While what you have read, Mr. Chairman, is, no doubt, the general usage of the House of Commons, the English practice ought not to govern our proceedings, because, as I have shown, it is there the custom to take a general debate upon the proposed vote for the Minister in charge of the Department, whereas here no such vote is asked for.

Mr Brown:

– In New South Wales the custom is to have a general debate upon the delivery of the Budget Speech. It was also the practice to permit of a general discussion upon the first vote for a Department before the items were dealt with in detail. I listened to the few remarks made by the honorable member f©r Coolgardie, and it seemed to me that he was dealing with certain matters relating to the Treasurer’s statement as to the financial position of the Commonwealth. I think, however, that he was leading up to something having reference more particularly to the Customs Department. The suggestion of the Treasurer might very well be adopted, and after the withdrawal of the. motion, the honorable member for Coolgardie might, with the concurrence of honorable members, be permitted to proceed with his speech.

Mr Wilks:

– I think that the present opportunity should be availed of to obtain a clear definition of our position in regard to the discussion of the Estimates. We cannot deal with the Minister’s salary because that is the subject of a special appropriation, but it would be strictly in accordance with previous practice if a general discussion upon the administration of the Department under consideration were allowed upon the first vote. We have nothing in the Standing Orders to guide us in this particular matter, but I think that the honorable member for Coolgardie would be in order so long as he confined his remarks to matters connected with the Customs Department. It might save time if the Speaker were asked to give a ruling for the future guidance of honorable members in this, as well as in the next, Parliament.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. - Is it the pleasure of the Committee that I should refer the question to Mr. Speaker for his ruling ?

Mr Glynn:

– Would it not be as well to consider the suggestion that the honorable member for Coolgardie should withdraw his motion with a view to his afterwards being permitted to continue his speech ? Last session a general debate took place upon the administration of the Customs Department at this stage, and I think that the same course might very well be followed in the present instance.

Mr Isaacs:

– The shortest and simplest way out of the difficulty will be found by following the suggestion of the Treasurer.

Sir George Turner:

– But unfortunately other honorable members would ask for the same indulgence, and we should have an unending general discussion.

Mr Isaacs:

– The suggestion made by the Treasurer offers the simplest and fairest way of dealing with the matter. I think that the ruling given by the Acting Chairman is strictly correct.

Mr Mahon:

– But it should have been given two hours ago.

Mr Isaacs:

– I know nothing about that. The Treasurer’s suggestion is a very fair one. Honorable members would be perfectly willing to give the honorable member for Coolgardie every opportunity of addressing the Committee upon a matter which is of considerable importance to the State which he represents.

Mr Mahon:

– I beg leave to withdraw my motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the honorable member for Coolgardie be allowed to proceed?

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !

Mr MAHON:

– With all respect to you, sir, I do think it is quite unnecessary to ask the Committee to allow me to proceed. If I continue my address it ill be by virtue of my inherent right as a member of this House, and not by favour of this Committee. At the outset I admitted that I intended to follow a bad example, but I thought that as other honorable members had been allowed to discuss the Tariff, and many other matters having no intimate connexion with the division under discussion, I should be given a similar latitude. I missed my opportunity to. take part in the debate on the Budget, and if I were prevented from speaking generally at this stage I should have to make a number of separate speeches upon the various divisions as they come up for discussion. When interrupted I was referring to the fact that the Customs and excise revenue of Western Australia must, as the Treasurer anticipated, suffer a very considerable reduction during the next few years. I was pointing out that a larger proportion of women and children were now going into Western Australia, and this must lead to a considerable reduction in the per capita consumption of stimulants, narcotics, and such like heavily taxed articles. The Treasurer must also have made allowance for the second percentage reduction in the Western Australian special Tariff, and this, I think, goes far to justify his forecast. But are there no other influences operating towards diminished revenue? Has the Treasurer taken into account the rapid expansion of agriculture and the possibility that the western farmers will soon be in full possession of the local market? If that transpires, the special Tariff will yield little except what is collected on manufactured goods.

Mr Kingston:

– Protection will also have fostered the manufacturing industries of Western Australia.

Mr MAHON:

– The manufacturing industries of Western Australia flourished without any protection. That is where the right honorable and learned member for South Australia makes a great error. He is under the impression that the special Tariff of Western Australia is a protective Tariff. Certainly, a few agricultural products were protected, but on the whole the Tariff was framed purely for revenue purposes. Reverting to the Treasurer’s anticipations, it must be conceded that he has not been wholly fortunate in his Western Australian advisers. At any rate, he was egregiously misled two years back, when framing his original Estimates. The right honorable gentleman is naturally a little uncomfortable whenever that Estimate is recalled. He based it on Tariff rates, which were about 12½ per cent. higher than the rates ultimately sanctioned by Parliament. On these high rates he calculated it would yield £708,000 ; yet, on the lower rates, it returned £1,335,614. He claimed that his Tariff would reduce taxation” in Western Australia to the extent of £1 8s. 4d. per head, but as a matter of fact it increased the imposts upon the people to the extent of £1 15s. lid. per head in 1902, and by the amount of £1 2s. 2d. per head in 1903. Of course, I am including the revenue collected under the special Tariff, because a comparison upon any other basis would be worthless. The quibble that the Commonwealth is not responsible for the special Tariff may be wholly disregarded. The real comparison must be between . the total sum raised by Customs and Excise in Western Australia before and since Federation, and that quickly disposes of the fallacy fathered by the Treasurer. The figures are up to the 30th June in each year :-

The Minister for Trade and Customs - I suppose on the strength of the Treasurer’s assurance - at the time told the Perth Chamber of Commerce that the Federal Tariff would reduce the taxation of Western Australia by 28s. per head. As a matter of fact, however, it has done nothing of the kind ; indeed, as I have shown, it resulted in a considerable increase of taxation. In dealing with the position of Western Australia, the Treasurer made one pregnant observation, which was heartily appreciated by the representatives of that State, and which I think deserves the earnest consideration of Parliament. A little more than three years hence we shall be called upon to re-adjust the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth, and to settle the principle upon which it shall be divided amongst the States. Under any per capita division, Western Australia would be intolerably penalized. Had the revenue of the two years ending 30th June, 1903, been divided on this basis, Western Australia would have lost £1,091,249. These are the Treasurer’s figures, and they do not include receipts under the special Tariff. Now, the possibility that 50 per cent, of its revenue may be paid over to and expended for the benefit of other States is necessarily disquieting to Western Australia. The Treasurer’s frank statement is certainly reassuring, and portends that Parliament will’ approach this great adjustment in a spirit of justice, resolved that its acts towards the weaker States shall show no taint of unrighteousness. There is no fear that the right honorable gentleman will forget his words ; but in order that they may be readily recalled, for the behoof of his and our successors, I take the liberty of rescuing them from the mass of detail in which they have necessarily been enveloped. The right honorable gentleman said -

When the time comes for us to consider this question we shall not be able to deal with Western Australia in the same way that we can deal with the other States. As in the past, we have made a special exemption in favour of Western Australia, so if we are to deal justly with its people, we shall require to make a still further bargain with them.

If . the course indicated by the right honorable gentleman be taken, the Federation will indeed have escaped a great peril. For Western Australia could never permit, without exhausting all its powers of resistance, the funds so badly required for its own development to be annexed by States which are embarrassed by their refusal to tax wealthy land-owners, by internal extravagance and mismanagement, or by all these causes. Western Australia, as a new and -spacious territory, necessarily makes great demands upon its Government - demands which in countries under more settled conditions would undoubtedly be met by private enterprise. Every penny which is raised from the people of that State is urgently required for their own purposes - to extend railways, erect telegraphs, and give widely-scattered settlements the benefits of postal communication. Truth to say, even though it seems unfraternal to say it, Western Australia cannot afford to shoulder any more of its neighbours’ burdens than those with which it is already saddled. No other State in the Union has made greater sacrifices for Federation - no other State had so little to gain from it, or has gained so little. All the other States have obtained some advantage from the creation of a semi-protective Tariff. But in so far as that Tariff touches Western Australia at all, it burdens rather than stimulates industry. It circumscribes the purchasing market of our primary producers, whilst it leaves their products still open to the world’s competition. Western Australia pays her share of the price of a white Australia - a not inconsiderable sacrifice, seeing that hitherto sugar has been admitted to that State free, and that the duty, instead of going into the Treasury, passes into the pockets of private planters. But that is not all. A plot is now being incubated to re-establish the isolation from which the western State has been emancipated by her own indomitable energy and generous expenditure. The design is to hand over the whole coastal trade of that State to a local shipping monopoly, and divert the great ocean highway to the world’s markets away from her shores. Another occasion will, however, arise upon which we shall be able to discuss that sinister project in all its bearings. Should the success of that scheme be followed by the refusal of an Inter-State railway (and the authors of the scheme are said to be identical with the opponents of the railway) then the cup of Western Australia’s bitterness will be full to overflowing. But until it is actually accomplished, I shall refuse to believe that a national Parliament is capable of inflicting so grievous a wrong upon the people of any State. Whilst upon this branch of the subject, I should like to correct an erroneous idea which is prevalent in this House as well as outside of it, concerning the special Tariff duties which Western Australia is permitted by the Constitution to levy for five years. The idea which obtains is that the western State derives some great benefit from that special Tariff. But I ask honorable members to recollect that its operation is limited to five years, and that it merely allows the people of Western Australia to tax themselves for their own benefit. It is merely a means of raising revenue to defray the expenses of Government. It has no protective incidence whatever if we make allowance for the insignificant protection which it gives to a few items of agricultural produce.

Mr Kingston:

– It means about £1 per head of the population every year, including men, women, and children.

Mr MAHON:

– That is so, but if the people did not pay the money in that way, they would be called upon to contribute it in some other form. It is a good thing that £1 per head of the population is being applied to the development of that State instead of finding its way into the pockets of private individuals. I should prefer, if necessary, that double the amount were obtained from the people and placed in the Treasury, rather than that £1 per head should be seized by a gang of monopolists and cormorants. That is the policy which the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, advocates. He believes that the money of the people should find its way into the pockets of monopolists. I merely advocate that it shall go into the Treasury for the benefit of the community. The special Tariff of W Western Australia inflicts no injury whatever upon the other States, and any hardship that is involved under it is suffered by the people of Western Australia themselves.

Mr Kingston:

– Why do they not remove it?

Mr MAHON:

– It will doubtless be removed in good time.

Mr Kirwan:

– It ought to be removed at once.

Mr MAHON:

– It was not inserted in the Constitution with popular approval, but being part of the Federal bargain, it is wrong for any honorable member to demand its repeal.

Mr Kirwan:

– Surely a Western Australian representative can express his individual opinion.

Mr MAHON:

– I was referring rather to the representatives of the other States. I am very glad to pass from this to a more pleasant topic, namely the Treasurer’s solicitude for the finances of the States. In this connexion, I think that few honorable members will be disposed to withhold from the right honorable gentleman the credit which is due to him. His desire is that the States shall receive from Customs and Excise a sum approximating to that obtained by them during the year prior to Federation, when that source of revenue was entirely under their control. But while we all appreciate the Treasurer’s object, a doubt often arises whether he is not carrying this solicitude for the States a little too far. We are all with him in desiring that there shall be no grave’ dislocation of States finances such as might justify a popular revolt against Federation. Certain State politicians, whose ignorant and reckless management has involved them in public odium, are notoriously, anxious to find a scapegoat, and the House must feel gratified that the Treasurer has completely defeated their attempts to place him in that unpleasant position. In escaping from an obvious peril, however, we sometimes drift towards a less perceptible danger, and the Treasurer, in returning every penny possible to the States, seems to me to have incurred the risk of starving the Departments transferred to the Commonwealth. To my own knowledge, public facilities are being denied which the States in the past granted without demur, and which they would even now concede had the control not been transferred to the Federal Government. If this course is persevered in much longer, the unfortunate result which the Treasurer seeks to avoid may still be produced. While any extravagance will assuredly injure the prestige of Federation, equal discredit may follow a parsimonious policy, a lack of enterprise, and a timorous reluctance to meet public requirements. The Ministry have not yet discovered the happy medium. I do not profess to speak of cities or long-settled centres of population, but I say advisedly that the Post and Telegraph Department is not keeping pace with the needs of newer communities, especially those of Western Australia. This abstract statement can be supported by detailed proof. As honorable members are probably aware, the Coolgardie constituency embraces an area equal to about fourfifths of the whole western State. That vast territory is being rapidly settled, new centres appear, older ones develop and expand. Yet, with scarcely an exception, I have had to fight for every public facility conceded to that constituency since the Department came under Federal control. In no case within my knowledge has any alteration, addition, or improvement been suggested by the Department. In every instance the impetus came from outside, and was resisted bv the officers in Perth - sometimes through ignorance, and, once at least, by downright misrepresentation of the facts. I do not know to what extent this departmental hostility to any progress involving additional expenditure was influenced by the Treasurer’s determination that no shadow of excuse should remain to enable the States to charge him with extravagance. But it should be interesting to him to observe how this policy works out in Western Australia. There the State Departments are fairly successful in satisfying public requirements for the concession of which there is obvious justification, whilst the one great Department controlled by the Commonwealth notoriously fails to do this. Clearly, this must lead to the formation of public opinion adverse to Federal administration. The Treasurer is under a delusion if he imagines that there is in the public mind a full and accurate comprehension of the financial relations between the Federal and the States Governments. People are too deeply immersed in their own concerns to give close study to the financial’, sections of the Constitution. The general idea is that, since the Commonwealth controls the Department, it alone is toblame for any refusal of postal, telegraphic, or telephonic facilities. Thegreat -majority are ignorant that requests are refused because no money is available and no money is available because the StateGovernments say they cannot carry on unless it is handed over to them. Woshould endeavour to put the public in possession of the facts in a way that will permanently remove misapprehension. Let usplainly tell the miners in the remote campsthat they cannot have a mail service ora telegraph line because the State Government wants the money to bridge a creek for one of their bucolic supporters. And when the Postmaster-General declines to give a. township a decent post-office, let him clearly explain that it is because’ the cashis required to equip and embellish a. new Parliament House at Perth. Asthis is really the truth when stripped, of disguise it should be frankly avowed. We shall never be strong enough to make a. bold stand until this salient fact is well understood outside. I, at any rate, desire to record my protest against the starvation of Commonwealth services in order to glutStates Treasuries and enable Ministries todistribute largess to faithful followers.

Mr Kingston:

– Do they do that in Western Australia 1

Mr MAHON:

– Let the right honorablemember ask a past-master in the art.

Mr Kingston:

– The honorable memberknows nothing about South Australia.

Mr MAHON:

– I know enough of the right honorable member’s administration there to discredit it somewhat. Here we arecharged with a Department which all new countries recognise as an auxiliary resettlement. Hitherto Australia has madegood, without murmur, any loss on its postal, administration, knowing well that it would be fully recouped indirectly. But, nowadays,, we hear it whispered that the Post Office- “ should pay its way.” I venture to predict that the rigid application of that principle would give settlement in the forbiddingwastes of this Continent almost its death blow. Common sense and common justiceforbid further ‘isolation of our pioneer settlers - nay, rather command that w© should strive to bring civilization nearer to> them. We have in our Post and Telegraph ^Department ‘ a fine exposition of the collective energy of the community, and this could not act more beneficently nor in the -end more advantageously than in stimulating the occupation, .of our far inland areas. Our cities are congested, population still clings to the fertile coast fringe, shunning the dreariness, discomforts, and deprivations of frontier life. How to alter this state of things constitutes, perhaps, the most perplexing problem of our age. How the virile manhood of the nation is to be tempted to exchange agreeable city environments for the more bracing, but more arduous, life of the interior, is the greatest -difficulty our Legislatures have to grapple with. We might, at any rate, try the experiment of conferring on the country some of the conveniences of the city, bridging over by telegraphs and telephones the spacious gaps between remote communities. In previous debates emphasis was laid upon the fact that the States which most loudly deplore revenue deficiencies are those that refuse to make property pay adequately for the protection it receives. The more revenue we return to them the less their necessity becomes to impose direct property taxation. It comes to this : That when the Federal Government withholds legitimate facilities from the public, it is, in reality, conserving the interests of wealthy landholders. Though I think this Parliament should not just yet tax land, I decline to connive at a practice which permits property to escape its just burden. In the view of some State politicians, this House is merely -a tax-gatherer, clothed with the responsibility of raising money, but lacking the right to spend a fair proportion of its funds. “This estimate of our functions collides with the anticipation that the sphere of Federal action would widen with the years, until eventually little remained to justify the existence of provincial Parliaments. While we must all desire to see these bodies retain -such independent powers as are vested in them by the Constitution, we should scrupulously avoid any act or policy which challenges or impairs our position as the paramount legislative authority in the Com.monwealth.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
Protectionist

– I do not propose to deal at any length with the various statements which have been made during the discussion of these Estimates. The Prime Minister has already replied to the question (relating to the future administration of the

Department, and I have no doubt that the Minister for Trade and Customs will carefully consider the observations which have been made by honorable members in reference to Boards of Inquiry.’ Reference has been made to the position of certain launchmen in Victoria, who appear to be employed seven days a week. So far as I have been able to learn these men were engaged some years ago at a wage considered to be commensurate with their special service, and have been so employed ever since. Complaint is now made that they should not be compelled to work seven days a week, and it is urged that a new staff of men should be engaged, so that they may be able to have one day’s rest in seven. I believe in that principle. The question is now under the consideration of ‘ the Department, and will be referred to the Public Service Commissioner,’ who has to deal with all such matters. The complaints mode with reference to the pay of certain officers in New South Wales also relate to a subject which must be dealt with by the Public Service Commissioner when reclassifying the service. These are the only matters with which I think it is necessary for me to deal.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Division 32 (Expenditure in New South Wales), £68,376 ; division 33 (Expenditure in Victoria), £61,638; division 34 (Expenditure in Queensland), £57,526 ; division 35 (Expenditure in South Australia), £25,046 ; division 36 (Expenditure in Western Australia), £33,287 ; division 37 (Expenditure in Tasmania), £9,323, agreed to.

page 5139

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE

Division 38 (Chief Administration) - £4,706

Mr McCAY:
Corinella

– I do not propose to discuss these Estimates at any length, for I recognise that the Committee does not desire, at this stage in. the history of the House, to hear any lengthy debate. I wish to remind the Committee first of all that much was said last year about the economies which it was insisted should be effected, chiefly in the direction of reducing the unnecessarily large staffs and unnecessarily large establishments of permanent soldiery of various classes. regret to find, however, that although considerable reductions have been made in the permanent soldiery, they have been made where they ought not to have been made, and have not been effected in directions in which it was possible to make them without undue interference with efficiency. As compared with what has obtained in previous years, the establishment of permanent garrison artillery has been very materially reduced. I desire to impress upon the Minister the fact that there is one direction in which economy is grave and fatal, and that is in relation to our Permanent Garrison Artillery. There appears to be an idea prevalent in some quarters - I do not know to what source to ascribe it, and I suggest none - that a garrison soldier is of more service when he is away from his guns for the greater part of the year, and that the change of air which he obtains when he is taken away from the forts, which it is his duty to assist in manning, makes him in some mysterious way better qualified to perform that duty. The Permanent Garrison Artillery appear to be detailed for all kinds of duty except that of attending to the guns. I believe that if the Minister were to obtain a return showing the strength of the detachments at some of the chief forts of Australia during the last six months, the number of officers who were directed to do duty with their details, and the number who were taken away to perform other work, he would discover a condition of affairs that would surprise ‘him. I have heard statements in relation to these matters that have fairly staggered me. They are so astounding that I hesitate to repeat them, because it seems to me almost incredible that the forts should have been so consistently and continuously denuded of the men who ought to have been there, as they are said to have been.

Mr Kingston:

– Where are the men sent ?

Mr McCAY:

– They are called upon to perform all kinds of work. They are acting as instructional cadres, and perform other duties. I believe it will be found’ that there are far more members of the Garrison Artillery in Melbourne than in Queenscliff, where they ought to be, and the same remark will apply to forces in other parts of the Commonwealth.

Mr Crouch:

– The head-quarters have been transferred to this city, and consequently men have been brought from Queenscliff to Melbourne.

Mr McCAY:

– They ought not to be here.

Mr Crouch:

– The matter has been brought under the notice of the Minister on many occasions.

Sir John Forrest:

– –Whose opinion should! be accepted in these matters ? The General Officer Commanding orders these changes tobe made. Surely the honorable and learned member does not expect the Minister tosay how many troops are to be kept here,, there, and everywhere?

Mr McCAY:

– I expect the Minister tosee that when we vote money for the maintenance of what is called the “ Royal Australian Artillery “ the designation of those* forces correctly describes the duties which they are- called upon to perform.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable anc learned member does not want a General Officer Commanding.

Mr McCAY:

– The right honorable gentleman should not be in such a hurry totake up a hostile attitude towards me. I have never displayed any extreme hostility towards his administration. On the contrary, I have done my very best to help, as far as lies in my power, to make the work of the Department run smoothly. The complaint I now make is founded on f act and is justifiable. No work which a soldier is called upon to perform is so specific, and so much requires his constant attention, as the duty of a garrison-gunner who hasto deal with big guns of position. The time* during which the gunners would have an opportunity to do execution, if an enemy had to be fired upon, would be very limited, and it is urgently necessary that the men, who are to work these guns shall be trained to the very highest degree of efficiency. They cannot be so trained if they arecontinuously taken away from their military duties. The Minister has abolished thePermanent Field Artillery, but we find thatthere are still 1 08 of these men retained as. instructional cadres, and for all sorts of purposes.

Sir John Forrest:

– There are thirty-six in three different places.

Mr McCAY:

– One hundred and eightaltogether, and that is 108 more than is. necessary if we wish to expend our money to the best advantage.

Sir John Forrest:

– The General OfficerCommanding thinks there ought to be moreof these men.

Mr McCAY:

– I assume that he does, from the fact that provision is made for these men on the Estimates.

Sir John Forrest:

– They are now included in the Royal Australian Artillery.

Mr McCAY:

– I am aware that they are mow called Royal Australian Artillerymen.

Mr Watson:

– Why not put them on the Garrison Artillery establishment ?

Mr McCAY:

– Exactly. Why not put them on the Garrison Artillery establishment, and use them as Garrison Artillerymen ?

Sir John Forrest:

– They are all Garrison Artillerymen.

Mr McCAY:

– They do not “perform Garrison Artillery work. The right honorAble gentleman could not call the inhabitant of a stable a horse merely because he inhabited a stable ; and a man is not a gunner simply because he is called an artilleryman. He cannot be a gunner unless he is trained “to the work. This system is really part of the theory that the citizen soldiery of Australia - officers, non-commissioned officers, and men - oan net do anything unless they are commanded, controlled, and assisted in all manner of ways by permanent soldiers. If we had millions of money to spend on our defences it might be desirable, quite apart from any question of militarism, to have large forces of permanent troops. But when our funds are strictly limited - and “limited to a much greater extent than they were two or three years ago - I think we are compelled to consider what is the best value we can obtain for a given sum of money. We do not obtain the best value by having an excessive number of permanent troops employed for anything but garrison artillery work. I can assure the Minister that, so far from the system of’ red-tape having been relaxed of late, it has really grown worse.

Mr Watson:

– That is why the MajorGeneral requires so many clerks.

Mr McCAY:

– There are more returns, and more clerical work required than ever.

Sir John Forrest:

– There will not be so much, perhaps, in the future.

Mr McCAY:

– It is to be hoped not. A great many officers spend almost all their lives in sending in returns. That work takes up nearly the whole of the time of the clerks : and then there are clerks at the other end to look at the returns in order to justify their preparation. They must not be pigeon-holed until some one has looked at them. Altogether, the system of centralization has been carried to an excess that does not make for the welfare of the citizen’s as a whole. It may be merely a phase of the old battle as to whether we are to have a citizen soldiery or a military caste. As far as I am concerned, I prefer and always have preferred a citizen soldiery.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable and learned member put that all right in the Defence Bill.

Mr McCAY:

– I helped to make the Bill better than it was ; but even within the limits left by the Bill there is a great deal that still remains to be done. There is an unnecessary employment of permanent soldiery in directions in which they are not required, while there is a diminution of permanent men in directions in which they are required. I have not the figures by me just now, but the right honorable gentleman knows that there has been a very large reduction in the Permanent Garrison Artillery pure and simple, which was the corps in which the reduction should not have takenplace.

Sir John Forrest:

– We were told by the’ House to make reductions.

Mr McCAY:

– The Minister should allow the instructional cadres of the Royal Australian Artillery to work with the Garrison Artillery, to which they should belong, now that the Permanent Field Artillery has been abolished. I do not grudge the expenditure upon these men, but I do not think that their services are being utilized to the best advantage. I do not hope for any great benefit from talking upon the Estimates at this period in the history of the present Parliament, but I want to dwell on the point which I have just referred to. I have expressed the same opinions on previous occasions, and I am far from satisfied on reading through the Estimates with the way in which the reductions and retrenchments have been carried out.

Sir John Forrest:

– What would the honorable and learned member have instead 1

Mr McCAY:

– There are too many permanent soldiers who are not at the forts, and too few who are at the forts. That is the long and the short of it.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable and learned member says, I believe, that there are not enough of them.

Mr McCAY:

– Not enough at the forts, which is the right place for them.

Sir John Forrest:

– Only 755 altogether.

Mr McCAY:

– That is too few. There are 755 provided for in the Estimates as being at the forts, but I venture to say that of that number half, as a rule, are not at the forts, but are at other places. There are several hundreds” - one hundred at any rate - who are not serving any very useful purpose, and who might be placed with the Royal Australian Artillery at the forts which they are supposed to man. Another thing I should like to point out is that under the regulations recently issued for the annual training of the various portions of the citizen forces, a scheme has been prepared under which the members of the forces have to attend a certain number of’ whole day parades, a certain number of half-day parades, and a very small number of night drills. So far as Victoria is concerned, that scheme will not work in its original form. It is working now for the reason that there is a provision in the regulations which allows the scheme to be departed from ; and because the scheme has been departed from completely, and there has been a reversal to the method which previously existed in Victoria, it is working all right. But a scheme which only works by letting it alone is n&t an ideal scheme. I can assure the right honorable gentleman that it is impossible, for example, to get a large proportion of the forces to attend six successive whole-day parades - to attend camp for six days. It has been tried in Victoria over and over again, and we have never been able to keep a satisfactory number of men for the extra two days. Other honorable members who have had experience in camp will bear me out in that. The scheme has only worked by being practically modified, so as to revert, to all intents and purposes, to the scheme which previously existed in Victoria. There are still too many permanent soldiers upon the various head-quarters staffs. The total number of officers on the various head-quarters and instructional staffs is too great. There is an excessive number for this reason : - There are instructional officers - and by instructional officers I mean commissioned officers - attached to the various corps throughout Australia ; the theory being apparently that unless there is a permanent officer to keep his eye upon the citizen soldiers they cannot do anything. I have protested against that method over and over again. The proper principle to pursue, if we are going to have a citizen soldiery, is this : Let the permanent officers come and see what they are doing as often as they like. Let them come once a month or once a week if they choose. Let them search as rigidly and as closely as they please into the> way- in which the work is being done, and tell the officers what work is tobe done, and how it is to be done ; and then leave them to do it for themselves. Let theinstructional officers correct their errors by frequent inspections and examinations. If war were to come and the Australian forces were to be called out by proclamation, it ispractically certain that every one of these permanent officers would be withdrawn for staff service in the field, and the citizen, soldiery would be left to their own regimental and company staffs of citizen officers. When the crisis came, these citizen officerswould have to do the work for themselves. But they cannot be expected to do it properly unless they have an opportunity of learning by practical experience to do it forthemselves in time of peace. The system of having permanent instructional officers permanently placed with the various corps is amistake in the best interests of the citizen soldiery. I think I may say without exaggeration that the Victorian infantry compare not unfavourably with any otherinfantry in Australia. Their system basal ways been to leave the citizen soldiery to manage and look after themselves. Thereis possibly plenty of work which these permanent officers can do well, but they arebeing literally wasted in the work they aredoing at present. Unless they are called upon to do staff duty at district headquarters, or are made to do the work of permanent adjutants for the corps to which they are attached, they have not sufficient work to do, and have not got a fair chance - to prove their abilities. The dilemma isalways present that either the corps mustbe managed by them and they must do the work - and then the commanding officer and the other officers stand by and watch them doing it - or they must beleft with nothing or very little to do. I think it is a bad system. Of course, the Minister will say, “The General OfficerCommanding is responsible, and we must do what he advises.” But I am not referring to that matter. . I am merely speaking of the system, and drawing attention to what I firmly believe to be the faulty manner in which things are carried out. At the present time everything is at a stand-still, because, it is said, the Estimates have not been passed. Some time ago I said here that I thought we ought to have the re-organization scheme brought into operation at once for the sake of the forces. It is of no use to -approve of the re-organization scheme, and then to say that it must be suspended until the Estimates - perhaps the Appropriation Bill - have been passed.

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not think it was suspended.

Mr McCAY:

– There are general orders, open to the press and to the public, which draw attention to the fact that no appointments and no promotions must be made, that everything must be got ready for bringing into force the re-organization scheme.

Sir John Forrest:

– To spend no more money than was voted on the Estimates last year.

Mr McCAY:

– No more money is asked for in these Estimates than was asked for in the last Estimates.

Sir J ohn Forrest:

– We could not pay a man more than he was paid last year.

Mr McCAY:

– Nobody has asked that that should be done. All we wish is to be allowed to get the re-organization scheme into working order. When the Ministry accepted the responsibility of adopting a reorganization scheme, it should have told the authorities to go ahead.

Sir John Forrest:

– So we have, but we cannot anticipate the vote of the House.

Mr McCAY:

– The great bulk of the money will not be payable until later on in the year. I can assure the Minister that there are general orders to the effect that until the Estimates have been passed by the Parliament, no appointments and promotions are to be made under the re-organization scheme. It is a great pity to hang up the business for a reason of that kind.

Mr PAGE:
Maranoa

– What I wish to deal with chiefly is the cost of this evergrowing Head-quarters Staff. For tinsel, gold lace, cock’s feathers, and gilt spurs these gentlemen “take the cake.” They are going round the Commonwealth doing nothing but showing off their fine feathers. It is nearly time that the House took into its consideration the cost of their movements. The forces throughout the Commonwealth are being starved in order to keep up the Head-quarters Staffs. We got on very well without all these officers before the Federation was established.

Sir John Forrest:

– There are fewer of them now than there were last year.

Mr PAGE:

– The vote, not for the Defence Force, but for these gilt-spurred roosters, is going up.

Sir John Forrest:

– Not at all.

Mr PAGE:

– We have a General Officer Commanding, at £2,500 ; a Deputy AdjutantGeneral, at £800; a Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General, whom I propose to strike out, at £650 ; an Assistant QuartermasterGeneral, at £650; an Assistant AdjutantGeneral for Artillery, at £625; an Assistant Adjutant-General for Engineer Services at £625 ; a Director General for Medical Services, at £950 ; an Aide-de-Camp, at £425 ; and a Secretary to the General Officer Commanding, at £350. We propose to do without the Assistant Adjutant-General for Artillery,and the Deputy Assistant AdjutantGeneral, and we hope to be successful in our effort. The party to which I belong do not wish to reduce the vote, but to carry out the determination of the House last year, that the officers, not the forces, should be reduced.

Sir John Forrest:

– We must have officers.

Mr PAGE:

– I give the Minister credit for knocking out two of the officers - the Deputy Quartermaster-General and the As,sistant Director of Artillery and Stores. No doubt he will meet the Committee with the argument that the General -Officer Commanding must have the usual retinue of officers. If some honorable members had been passing the barracks when he was starting on his inspectional tour, from the quantity of baggage and trappings and the number of officers, they would have thought that an Indian prince was going to a durbar, instead of a commanding officer going off to inspect- the forces. The- money which is paid for travelling allowances amounts to nearly £100,000 out of the vote of £750,000 for the Defence Forces.

Sir J ohn Forrest:

– The honorable mem ber is absolutely wrong.

Mr PAGE:

– If the various items are added up, the total amount will be found to be alarming. Some effort should be made to stop the expenditure.

Sir JOHN Forrest:

– Let us hear what they are.

Mr PAGE:

– The items are stated in the Estimates, and will be mentioned by me presently. I desire the right honorable gentleman to tell me what the duties of the Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General are. I admit that we must have a QuartermasterGeneral. But for what purpose do. wi* require an Assistant Adjutant-General for Artillery ? What are the duties of that officer that; cannot be undertaken by the officers in the States visited ? In connexion with the Head-quarters Staff, we have one military clerk of the first class, at £325 ; five military clerks of the second class - one at £286, two at £275, one at £268, and one at £250. The point I wish to impress upon the Minister is that the provision of so many clerks duplicates the work throughout the Commonwealth. If we could get on without these sixteen or seventeen clerks before the Federation was established, why are their services required now 1 It is these persons who are robbing the country of the citizen force, for which we vote money every year. The amount which has to be paid in salaries is enormous. I ask honorable members to notice the difference between the pay of these gentlemen and the pay of the men who do all the graft. The services of some clerks ought to be dispensed with, and no doubt some honorable member will move in that direction. I desire, however, to deal with the Headquarters Staff. In the Argus of the 14th September I read the following paragraph : -

The Minister for Defence has approved of Major-General Sir Edward Hutton convening a conference i State Military Commandants in Melbourne early next month. It is proposed to hold these meetings from the 7th to 14th November, and those who attend will bc asked to discuss “ a variety of military questions affecting the efficiency of their commands.”

A Federal Military Committee assembled in Melbourne on the 12th June, 1901, and spent several days on the preparation of a report which was presented to both Houses. Prior to that time a report was drawn up by the Military Commandants. Of what value have the reports been to the Commonwealth t Not one recommendation has been acted upon, no notice has been taken of the reports, which are so much waste paper. It must have cost the Commonwealth some hundreds of pounds to bring the officers to this city. In his annual report, presented to Parliament only last month, the General Officer Commanding refers to the question of bringing the commanding officers together annually. He says -

On visiting each State, I took the opportunity of officially assembling the commanding officers and adjutants for the purpose of discussing the existing condition and future development of the troops of the State. These meetings are most valuable, and it is proposed to make them an annual institution, as by their means the views and opinions of responsible officers in all matters appertaining to> the military system can be obtained.

That is all very well in its way. But we have already spent some hundreds of pounds on the visits of the General Officer Commanding to the States, inspectional tours, and staff rides. Although he has visited all the States since last May, yet he wishes to call the Military Commandants together in November, t(5 confer on the “future development of the troops of the State.” In its paragraph, the Age has suggested the reason for holding a conference in that month. It says -

The conference will take place at the Victoria. Barracks between the 7th and 14th November - about Cup time, in fact.

I am very thankful to the Age for giving us the tip. If the General Officer Commanding had brought the Military Commandants down to Melbourne and held his tongue, we should have had nonews of the conference until after it had been held. It is really a proposal togive the Military Commandants a good time at social functions and butterfly balls at th& time of the Melbourne Cup, when the Fleetand all the society darlings of the Commonwealth will be here. Apparently theGeneral Officer Commanding wishes to bring down his officers, with all their fine tinsel and gunpowder, to show what fine fellows he has in his command. No doubt, when he was visiting the States, he told ‘ theofficers that he would bring them down here, so that they could go to all thefunctions, and see the Cup race run, at the expense of the Commonwealth. I intend to testthe feeling of the Committee on this question. I propose to take the opinion of the Committee on the question whether there shall be a military conference in Melbourne at Cup time.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn:

– The raceswill be over on the 7th November.

Mr PAGE:

– The honorable member will see that the conference is not to start until the 7th. The General Officer Commanding: goes on to say in his report -

A meeting of State Commandants was arranged, in November last.

But the then Minister for Defence nipped, that proposal in the bud. He would not stand it. The General Officer Commandingthinks that because we have got as a new Minister for Defence, a kind of jellyfish, he> will be able to squeeze him and carry out that arrangement. He found that he could not squeeze the present Minister for Home Affairs, and he had to back down on his proposal to hold a conference last year.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Is the honorable member calling his Queensland Minister a jellyfish 1

Mr PAGE:

– The Minister must be a jellyfish to stand this. If the Government consent to this conference proposal, I can only say that it will be the worst piece of political jobbery I have ever heard tell of. It will certainly be worse than the action taken in connexion with the electoral divisions, about which we heard such a roar from honorable members on the Opposition side. Major-General Hutton says in his report -

A meeting of the State Commandants was arranged in November last, which it is proposed to repeat annually, as it is of the utmost, importance to personally discuss with the officers commanding the troops in the States the various changes and developments which it may appear desirable tn recommend, so as to insure efficiency and promote economy.

Major-General Hutton’s idea of promoting economy is to bring these men down here at the expense of the Commonwealth. Then in the winter time, which is most suitable for travelling in the northern latitudes, he will go round inspecting the troops of the northern State. That is not a bad idea either. It is a case of scratch my back and I will scratch yours. He goes on to say -

It is impossible, without being in close personal touch with those under his command, for any General Officer in command of troops extending over such a wide area as Australia to do full justice to the forces under his command.

If the General Officer Commanding requires the State Commandants to come here in a month or two, why did-he spend hundreds of pounds in inspecting the forces in the different States when by bringing the Commandants to Melbourne that expense might have been avoided 1 My experience of the Defence Forces is that if we give the money they will find a way of spending it. If they cannot spend it in one way they will in another. Here is another quotation from the report, and this is about the strongest thing I ever read coming from the permanent head of a Department to be laid before sane men like the honorable members of this Committee: -

I recommend that State Commandants be granted still more extended power to authorize expenditure of money within the items of the annual estimated expenditure of their States which have been recommended by the General Officer Commanding, approved by the “Minister, and accepted by Parliament. This system was adopted in New South Wales during the ten years prior to Federation, to the unquestioned advantage of military efficiency, combined with rigid economy.

Fancy the head of the Defence Force talking about rigid economy. That is the most amusing part of the whole thing. He goes on to say -

I see no reason why officers in a responsible position should be treated without that confidence in their administrative powers which managers of sound business concerns in civil. life are invariably invested with. It may be accepted as certain that when responsibility is denied to persons in high and responsible positions, the individuals thus treated will not in the nature of things exercise that care in the administration of their responsibility to the same extent that they will when they find the necessary trust and confidence reposed in them.

That paragraph has made me doubly careful in considering these Defence estimates. It behoves honorable members of this Committee to exercise that care in the administration of their responsibilities which the General Officer Commanding says that the State Commandants will not exercise. It is for us to call attention to each item which we think ought to be struck out of these - Estimates. So far we have established the practice of telling the Minister for Defence how much we are prepared to vote. The Minister has kept well within the vote, but we are concerned for the efficiency of the force. If we are going to keep up a huge Headquarters Staff and starve the Defence Force we shall have a force which will be all officers and no soldiers. In Queensland, at times, no one turns up on parade but the commissioned and non-commissioned officers, and this is the Defence Force upon which we are spending between £700,000 and £800,000 a year. Something must be done, and members of the Labour Party have taken it into their own hands to say how the money shall be spent.

Mr Henry Willis:

– They cannot do it alone, and they should not, therefore, claim all the credit.

Mr PAGE:

– I admit that we need the assistance of the honorable member as well as of other honorable members. I do not ask for all the credit, and I am prepared to give the honorable member just as much credit as I claim for myself if he is willing to vote in the same way. I have mentioned that the present Minister for Home Affairs, when Minister for Defence, cut two officers off the strength of the Head-quarters Staff.

Mr Watson:

– But he put five others on in another place - in the Ordnance Department.

Mr PAGE:

– The right honorable gentlemen left the Defence Department, or there would have been no more put on. A change of Ministers has taken place, and it has been taken advantage of to ring in more officers. To show that the General Officer Commanding was very sore about what the exMinister for Defence did, I find that in his narrative of events ‘for 1902, and up to 30th April, 1903, he slates the Minister in a quiet way, and says -

I am, however, informed that it has been decided to further reduce the Head-quarters Staff by abolishing, the position of a Deputy QuartermasterGeneral upon the retirement upon age of the officer now holding this appointment.

He thought we were going to prune the staff this time with a vengeance.

In this case I may clearly say that the duties of command cannot be carried out with proper efficiency. The duties pertaining to this appointment are of the most important character, and cannot be distributed among the other staff officers who are already overworked without serious detriment to their other duties.

I should like to know what the duties are which cause them to be so seriously overworked.

Mr O’Malley:

– They have to play ping pong and lawn tennis.

Mr PAGE:

– That is no doubt a part of the Commonwealth defence, but we cannot kill a man with a plug pong bat. The General Officer Commanding says further -

I would point out that the work of consolidating the reconstruction and organization is only now beginning, and that to cripple my efforts as the responsible military head by depriving me of the services of an indispensable staff officer is to make the success of the military system as proposed most difficult.

I say, without fear of contradiction, that the Commonwealth Government would do well to pay the General Officer Commanding the amount of money which he would earn during the time for which we have engaged him, and let him go about his business. If he cannot carry out his work with a smaller staff than the present, the best thing we can do is to get somebody else who can. I have no doubt we should find as capable a man in the Commonwealth forces if they only got a show.

Mr Henry Willis:

– He is a good man.

Mr PAGE:

– He is all right. He is good enough to spend money in gathering a huge staff around him. If a man who wants plenty of tinsel and gold lace about him is a good man, we have got a good man. We have heard the statement made repeatedly by honorable members on both sides that Major-General Hutton had the largest staff of any officer on active work in South Africa, and it is clear that he desires to have the same thing here. If honorable members think it wise to reduce the Commonwealth forces to staffofficers by all means let them do it, and let us have the whole of the force in Melbourne. We are spending too much money on the Head-quarters Staff and on the States staffs, and we are getting no value for it. So far as the administrative part of the Defence Force is concerned, I say that those who are under the impression that we are paying rather too much money to the head of the administrative staff may be satisfied that we could not get a better man. We are paying him £900 a year, and he is saving us hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Mr O’Malley:

– Who is this 1

Mr PAGE:

– Captain Collins, the besthated man in military circles in the whole of the Commonwealth. Not one of our military officers has a good word to say for him, and that is the man we should stand by. He knows too much of their little tricks, knows the “ins” and “ outs “ of the whole concern, and can check them at every turn. No wonder they have a set upon him. We can deal with the States staffs when we come to them, but I desire now to tell the Minister in charge of the Estimates that I do not feel satisfied with the replies I received to the questions I put to-day. I wish to know whether the Department or the Minister got an estimate of the cost of these staff rides and inspectional tours before they took place.

Sir John Forrest:

– Yes.

Mr PAGE:

– Then I should like to know whether the estimate was exceeded.

Sir John Forrest:

– They were estimated to cost about £150, and I do not think the cost exceeded that amount.

Mr PAGE:

– According to the report I have, the cost was a great deal more than that. That, however, is neither here nor there. I desire to emphasize the fact that if the Minister does not keep control of the financial part of the business he cannot expect the General Officer Commanding to do so.

Sir John Forrest:

– The Minister does keep control of the financial part.

Mr PAGE:

– The right honorable gentleman used to do so, but I would be glad to hear that his practice is being continued. I am afraid that, as in the case of the change which took place in the Customs administration, there may be some reconstruction scheme going on, and that the authority may be passed over to a board or a committee. I hope that will not be done. I desire particularly to know whether the Minister keeps control over the financial part of the concern, and whether he got an estimate of the cost before these staff rides and inspections took place. “

Sir John Forrest:

– Yes, he did.

Mr PAGE:

– I am very pleased to hear it. It has been suggested to me that I should ask whether the expenditure is always kept within the estimate.

Sir John Forrest:

– Yes ; it must.

Mr PAGE:

– There is a way of “ getting round” excessive expenditure ; but I shall take the Minister’s word.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– On this occasion we have the Minister, who, up to recently was in charge of the Defence Department, present in order to defend his Estimates. Om the two prior occasions the Estimates were simply thrown down before honorable members and accepted in the absence of the Minister in charge of the Department. Last year the Defence Estimates for the whole of the Commonwealth amounted to £762,014 ; but an intimation was conveyed from this Committee that the expenditure should be reduced by £62,000. According to the Estimates which have been presented this year that intimation from the Committee appears to have been acted on. The proposed expenditure is £677,579, showing on paper a saving of about £85,000 ; so that apparently the Minister has not only acted on the recommendation of the Committee, but has gone further.

Sir John Forrest:

– The promise was to cut down the expenditure for the half of last year by £31,000.

Mr WILKS:

– And a similar saving during the six months of this year makes the total of £62,000.

Sir John Forrest:

– We had to save £62,000 on the new Estimates.

Mr WILKS:

– The public of Australia do not object to a proper military bill ; but there is a feeling abroad that economies and savings are not made in the right direction. The people object to the Chief Administration and the Head-quarters Staff absorbing more than a fair share of the expenditure. Last year the appropriation for the Chief Administration was £4,926, and the estimate for this year is £4,706, showing a proposed saving of £220. The appropriation for the Head-quarters Staff last year was £15,225, and the estimate for this year is £15,069. To be fair, I ought to add that there is a further sum of £1,138 to provide for officers who were not contemplated in the Estimates of last year. The position is that the Chief Administration is answerable for a saving of only about £200, and the Head-quarters Staff for a saving of about £160, plus the provision for the new officers. There is thus a total saving on the administrative branches of only £1,490, and it is seen at once that the rank and file and the citizen forces are to be whittled down in consequence of a reduced expenditure of about £83,000.

Sir John Forrest:

– The sum of £1,853 is the actual saving on the Head-quarters Staff.

Mr WILKS:

– I am content to take the Minister’s figures. The present position only bears out the contention which was submitted last year in Committee that to ask the Minister to cut down the military estimates by a lump sum is not the proper method. It has often been said in debate that the General Officer Commanding will not destroy his own privileges or weaken his own staff - that he will not cut down the expenses of the Chief Administration, or of the Head-quarters Staff. I think it is the opinion of many honorable members, and also the opinion of the public whom they represent, that great savings should not be made at the expense of the citizen forces, or the absolutely necessary permanent forces; it is not the rank and file who are expected to suffer. Newspapers cavil at the action of Parliament, and express the opinion that honorable members cannot be aware of the true effects of the retrenchment, or they would never have reduced the military estimates in the way they have done. I recognise the importance of an effective defence scheme, and of properly-equipped military and naval services. But I find that our efforts at retrenchment are, and have been, made at the expense of the forces generally, and not at the expense of the Head-quarters Staff and the Chief Administration. A remarkable fact is that the Defence estimate for the small State of Victoria equals that for New South Wales.

Mr Crouch:

– Victoria has as large a coast-line as New South Wales.

Mr WILKS:

– I do not think so. It is not my desire to approach this question in an un-Federal spirit,but it is remarkable that a State which contributes more taxation than Victoria–

Mr McCay:

– New South Wales does not do anything of the kind.

Mr WILKS:

– New South Wales does do so indirectly.

Mr McCay:

– New South Wales gets all the money back again.

Mr WILKS:

– Not at all. The military bill for New South Wales practically equals that of Victoria, and that does not disclose very wise administration on the part of the General Officer Commanding. One will naturally suppose that the State with the larger area and more dense population, together with the longer coast line, would necessitate greater defence expenditure.

Sir John Forrest:

– About £5,000 more is spent in New South Wales that in Victoria.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– Is any money provided for sham fights ?

Mr WILKS:

– No, there is not, although, strange to say, the present’ General Officer Commanding was noted for his overweening desire for such displays during the South African war. It has been told in the history of that war, that when there was no real engagement on hand with the enemy, Major-General Hutton was so anxious to display his powers of command that he was always arranging sham fights. These displays are costly, and not amusing.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– They are very useful.

Mr WILKS:

– They may be useful from a spectacular point of view, but they are not worth the money they cost. I think it would be wise and prudent if more money were spent on the naval defences than is provided on the Estimates. Queensland and Victoria are fairly well equipped in this respect, but New South Wales, prior to federation, sadly neglected the naval branch of defence.

Mr Mauger:

– New South Wales had the Auxiliary Squadron.

Mr WILKS:

– But that squadron was not for the purpose of training men in naval tactics, or even for naval brigade men. The warships merely lie in Farm Cove as splendid specimens of naval architecture.

Mr Mauger:

– But the money required for their maintenance is spent in New South Wales.

Mr WILKS:

– And New South Wales pays a proportion of the bill. I do not think that the Commandant has recommended sufficient expenditure on this branch of our defences.

Sir John Forrest:

– The proposed expenditure this year is practically the same as that of last year.

Mr WILKS:

– The expenditure on the naval defences ought to have been larger and that on the military smaller. The volunteer regiments are filled only in times of enthusiasm and excitement, as was witnessed during the recent war. in South Africa. Immediately the trouble is over the volunteer forces practically fritter away, and it is difficult to get 200 or 300 men in regiments which formerly consisted of 800 or 1,000. No allowance is made in the. Estimates for this lack of enthusiasm, and in my opinion some of the money which it is proposed to devote to the volunteers might well be spent in the strengthening of the naval arm of defence. In New South Wales the Naval Brigade and the Naval Volunteer Artillery have been amalgamated, and many of the members of the latter, who had mercantile training and were skilled in seamanship have been superseded and retired. These men were under the impression that they would be granted some compensation, and on this point I intend to lay before the Committee a statement made by the Prime Minister in New South Wales, and also a Gazette notice-

Sir John Forrest:

– It has never been said in this House or elsewhere that citizen soldiers, who receive an honorarium of a few pounds a year, should be given pensions on their retirement.

Mr WILKS:

– But compensation has been paid to citizen officers.

Sir John Forrest:

– Those were officers who earned their living as such.

Mr McCay:

– No compensation has been paid to citizen officers.

Mr WILKS:

– It has been admitted that citizen officers have been compensated.

Sir John Forrest:

– No, not one.

Mr WILKS:

– In the Sydney Evening News, of May 27, 1902,there appeared the following : -

The retiring age regulations, recently approved by the Federal Executive Council, to take effect from July 1, will affect many permanent and volunteer officers in the military forces of this State. Some are said to have already been informed that their services will not be required after the date named. Positions for some of the retired officers may be found in other Government departments. The opinion has been expressed that all would be satisfied with a month’s pay for each year of service.

Mr McCay:

– Those were permanentlyemployed officers.

Mr WILKS:

– But the paragraph speaks of volunteers. Then we have the following paragraph from the same newspaper : -

Sir Edmund Barton on Wednesday telegraphed to Sir George Turner relative to the complaint by retrenched soldiers that they could not obtain payment of their compensation money. Sub- sequently the following reply was received- “ Authority for payment of compensation to retired officers and men of the military forces has been forwarded, and a wire was sent to the paying officer to-day directing immediate payment.”

The following is an extract from the Sydney Daily Telegraph : -

The military men retired last year on account of retrenchment were allowed a gratuity equal to one month’s pay for each year of service. The money for this purpose was provided on the Estimates.

Mr McCay:

– That applied only to officers &nd others permanently employed.

Mr WILKS:

– The honorable and learned member for Corinella seems to have taken the defence of the Minister on his shoulders.

Mr McCay:

– I am only speaking of facts within my recollection. Does the honorable member for Dalley not remember that the suggestion was made that noncommissioned officers, as well as commissioned officers, should receive compensation, and that the present Minister for Trade and Customs, who was then Acting Minister for Defence, said that the suggestion would be acted upon ‘£

Sir John Forrest:

– And that permanently employed men would also receive compensation.

Mr WILKS:

– I hold documents from the men of the rank and file of the New South Wales Naval Brigade, in which they assert that their officers have been compensated while they have not.

Sir John Forrest:

– Not one of the officers has been paid anything.

Mr WILKS:

– I am giving the Committee the statement made by the men, and they approached the Prime Minister with this complaint. They are skilled men, some of them old navy men, and they ask for compensation similar to that granted to their officers, that is, at the rate of a month’s pay for each year of service.

Mr McCay:

– Were the officers citizen officers ?

Mr WILKS:

– Both officers and men were partially paid. They were on a ‘ footing similar to that of the militia in Victoria.

Sir George Turner:

– The officers have not received compensation.

Mr WILKS:

– Another complaint I have to make is with reference to the appointment of a raw youth to serve as an Imperial officer at a salary of £150 a year. Although he is an Imperial officer he must have been nominated to his present position by the Commonwealth authorities. I do notwish to mention his name, because I am anxious not to do him an injury, but I have supplied the name privately to the Minister. It was always understood, when we were despatching troops to South Africa, that the men who went there to fight for the Empire, would, on their return, be given an equal opportunity with others to fill any position for which they were suitable, which became vacant in the military forces of the Commonwealth.

Sir John Forrest:

– There have been no positions vacant. We have been making reductions all the time.

Mr WILKS:

– The position now filled by the officer to whom I am referring is a position which should have been available to men who went to South Africa.’ Cases like this create great annoyance among those who think that their services abroad entitle them to at least equal consideration with others.

Sir John Forrest:

– The officer in question was nominated by the Public Service Board of New South Wales as a clerk for temporary employment, and he is being paid by the Imperial Government

Mr WILKS:

– Yes j but the probability is that when his work as an Imperial officer ceases, he will be absorbed into the Commonwealth forces. Those who have seen service in South Africa say that positions like this ought to be gazetted, and made available to them. Although the enthusiasm which reigned when they were being sent away has evaporated, we should in justice see that the promises which were made are kept.

Mr Hughes:

– Many of them have been ruined for life, and they ought to be given positions of this kind.

Mr WILKS:

– Exactly. Dealing with the Estimates generally, I find that, while there appears to be a total reduction of £84,435 upon the appropriation of last year, only a small part of the saving has been effected in connexion with the Chief Administration and the Head-quarters Staff. Most of it has been at the expense of the service at large.

Sir John FORREST:

– I do not think so. There has been a large saving upon the appropriation for the Head-quarters and Administrative Staffs.

Mr WILKS:

– There is a saving of £84,435 upon a total appropriation of £762,014, but only £220 has been saved in connexion with the Chief Administration, and about £160 in connexion with the Head-quarters Staff, or less than £400 as against £84,435. This fact shows how difficult it is for the Committee to properly control the defence expenditure. When we resolve upon a reduction by a lump sum, as we did last year and the year before, the Minister says that he will carry out the intentions of the Committee, but we afterwards find that the General Officer Commanding has retrenched, not at the expense of the highly paid officers, but at the expense of the rank and file. Unless the Minister will assume control of the Department and compel the General Officer Commanding to make proper reductions, the Committee must deal with each item separately, although by doing this, since honorable members cannot have a proper knowledge of the duties and abilities of each officer, perhaps very useful men who have not friends here to defend them may suffer.

Mr Mauger:

– Under that system the most useful officer in the service might be discharged.

Mr WILKS:

– Exactly. The newspapers at times complain that Parliament does not recognise the importance of defence expenditure. If the reductions were proportionate throughout the Department, and the Minister assured us that the Estimates presented by him had been cut down to the very bone, I would acknowledge that it would be dangerous to tamper with them, because we cannot afford to deal with this question in a parsimonious manner. While a saving of £40,000 or £80,000 might look well on paper, it would be a bad que to make if it were made at the cost of efficiency. The* public would not thank us for such a savingas that. They expect us to endeavour toobtain the most effective scheme at the most economical rates. It would not do for a Minister to say in the hour of danger - “Former Parliaments would not vote the necessary money, so that we have had to starve the expenditure, with the result that to-day the service is inefficient.”” No honorable member desires to starve the Defence Estimates, but for want of properinformation we shall be obliged, if we desire to reduce them, to take the same drastic course that was followed last year. If theEstimates had been properly framed weshould have known exactly the extent towhich the Estimates might be wisely increased or reduced. When the Estimateswere reduced on a former occasion, they must either have been overloaded, in view of the possibility of retrenchment being insisted upon by this Chamber, or the General Officer Commanding must have miscalculated the requirements of the forces. I am not in a position to say whether that officer isqualified or not, but my own impression is that he is too much of a theatrical soldier. He surrounds himself with a gorgeous staff, and on his tours of inspection is accompanied by a retinue greater than that required by Lord Roberts himself. We cannotafford to pay for theatrical display, butwe require as the General Officer Commanding a practical soldier “ and a strong disciplinarian. The Head-quarters Staff appears tome to be altogether too large for the forcesof the Commonwealth. I hope that the nextDefence Estimates will be so prepared that honorable members will be able to readily understand them, and, if necessary, makereductions with proper discrimination. If £900,000 were absolutely required to placethe Defence Forces upon an efficient footing, I should not object to such an expenditure ; but I am strongly averse to increasing theDefence Vote for the purpose of bolstering up a favoured few among the officers, or of enlarging the permanent staff.

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Minister for Home Affairs · Swan · Protectionist

– I am rathersurprised to hear honorable members, especially the honorable member for Dalley, complain of the difficulty of obtaining proper information with regard to theseEstimates. I should like to know whether the honorable member has noticed thepapers laid upon the table on the 30th July containing no less than twenty-four pages of explanatory matter with reference to the Defence Estimates. Included among these papers are carefully prepared tables-

Mr Watson:

– Which make confusion worse confounded.

Mr Wilks:

– This is the first I have heard -of the papers to which the Minister refers.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I am sorry, and also surprised, to hear that. The papers were prominently referred to in the press, and I should have thought could scarcely have escaped the notice of honorable members. They contain the fullest information that could be afforded with regard to every branch of the service in every State of the Commonwealth. They show in Appendix “ A. “ the expenditure that was incurred last year, and also the amounts which it is proposed to spend . this year in all the States, under twenty-nine different heads. If honorable, members have not” read these papers I very much regret it, because I took a great deal of trouble ever them so that honorable members might not be under the necessity of asking questions with regard to the proposed votes. The information was very carefully prepared under my own personal supervision.

Mr Crouch:

– There are still more matters which require to be explained.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I should be very happy to give any information which honorable members may desire ; but what is the use of preparing papers such as those laid on’ the table if honorable members will not look at them? The Defence Estimates for 1901-2 amounted to £831,212. A desire was then expressed for economy, and an undertaking was made by the Government that the Estimates should be reduced by £131,000. The Government not only fulfilled their promise, but reduced the Estimates by £175,198. Last year the Estimates -amounted to £656,014. Honorable members desired that a further reduction should be made to the extent of .£62,000, and now the present estimates amount to £571,579.

Mr Watson:

– -They amount to £677,000.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I am dealing with the whole of the Defence Estimates - civil administration, £4,706 ; naval expenditure, £42,416 ; and military, £524,457 ; a total of £571,579 - exclusive of the naval subsidy, of £106,000.

Mr Watson:

– Even so, the undertaking given by the Ministry has not been carried out.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I think we have done it as nearly as it w.as possible to do it.

Mr Watson:

– I shall quote Hansard directly.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– There is no use in quoting Hansard to me, because it was absolutely impossible for any one to do what some honorable members suggested in the speeches reported in Hansard. How could we save £62,000 upon the Head-quarters Staff, the total cost of which, including clerks, contingencies, ordnance, and general services, only amounted to £15,225?

Mr Watson:

– The Minister has not saved anything in connexion with the Headquarters Staff.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The amount voted for the “whole of the permanent forces last year was £171,900, and this year the amount proposed is £151,907. The expenditure proposed for this year upon the officers, clerks, and orderlies of the Headquarters Staff amounts to only £10,402; and of this amount the General Officer Commanding receives £2,500.

Mr Watson:

– No ; it is £15,000.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The expenditure proposed for the current year upon the Head-quarters Staff and District Staffs is only £24,621, as against £27,378 voted last year.

Mr Watson:

– No; it is £30,000, exclusive of the Naval Staff.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– -The total amount proposed to be spent upon the Head-quarters and District Staffs, exclusive of contingencies, stationery, and other similar items, is £24,621. Since the Department was transferred to the Commonwealth the Defence estimates have been reduced to the extent of £259,633.

Mr Watson:

– Nearly all of which has been deducted from the expenditure upon the citizen forces.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I do not think the honorable member could have read the papers which were laid upon the table.

Mr Watson:

– Yes ; I have read them.

Sir J OHN FORREST:
Protectionist

– This year it is proposed to spend £252,958 upon the citizen forces. Last year the vote was £274,971, and the expenditure amounted to £224,118. Therefore the Government are proposing to spend £28,840 more upon the citizen forces this year than last year. How can the honorable member say that we are reducing the expenditure upon the citizen forces ?

Mr Watson:

– We are talking about the Estimates for last year.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The Estimates relating to the citizen forces last year amounted to £274,971, whilst this year we propose to spend £252,958, being, as I have just said, £28,840 more than was expended last year. The whole of the forces have been re-organized, and the scales of pay and allowances have been altered and made uniform, and, therefore, it is not very easy to compare the expenditure last year on the old scale with that proposed for the current year on the new and uniform scale. The Estimates have been very carefully prepared under my own personal supervision. I gave a great deal of attention to them, and honorable members must realize that it was not very easy to re-arrange the scales of pay for the whole of the officers and men throughout Australia, and at the same time to carry out the wishes of honorable members. However, we have done our best, and I do not see how, under the existing conditions, anything better could have been accomplished. I have given the matter a great deal of attention - naturally more than any other honorable member could be expected to give - and in my opinion we have done the very best possible with the funds at our disposal. In order to comply with the wishes of honorable members, the expenditure upon the permanent forces has been reduced since 1st July, 1901, by £62,381. That was a very large reduction to make upon one branch of the service. The honorable member for Maranoa has declared that £100,000 is annually absorbed in military travelling expenses. I have in my possession a note from the secretary of the Defence Department in which he says that the military expenditure upon travelling is estimated this year at £8,010, exclusive of railway fares. Including the railway fares involved in the attendance of competitors at Rifle Association meetings and of members of the rifle clubs it represents only £26,000. There is a great difference between that amount and the £100,000 that was mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa in this connexion. In regard to the Head-quarters Staff I may add that there is a staff in each of the States-

Mr Crouch:

– Why should there be?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The honorable and learned member for Corio is, I believe, a military officer, and I should like him to tell us how he would control the forces of the States without a staff of officers.

Mr Crouch:

– Why cannot the whole of the forces be administered from one centre ?’

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The honorable and learned member seems to be under a misapprehension. I am referring to the local staff in each State.

Mr Crouch:

– There are too many military staffs.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I do not think so. I am convinced that when honorable members consider the matter, they will come to the conclusion that there are not too many staffs or too many officers on the staffs. In some States there are only three officers and in others two. I fail to see how the forces in any State can be managed without the aid of two or three officers upon the staff.

Mr Spence:

– In New South Wales there are eleven officers.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– But there are not eleven officers upon the staff. We cannot manage the forts, submarine mines, &c. without officers. I suppose that the honorable member for Darling includes the clerks and orderlies in the number which he mentioned. Honorable members will notice. that the Head-quarters Staff in Melbourne. which is presided over by Major-Gen eral Hutton, has been reduced by two officers, one of whom was receiving £800 a year, and the other £625. Both of these officers have been retired.

Mr Watson:

– But the Minister has a. few more officers, in place of them in the Ordnance Branch.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– They were there previously.

Mr Watson:

– They do not appear upon, the Estimates for last year.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Oh ! Yes they do. . I shall be able to prove that the honorable member is absolutely wrong. The Inspector of Ordnance, who receives £500 a year, . was provided for in the appropriation for New South Wales last year.

Mr Watson:

– Where was he provided for?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The honorable member may depend upon it that the necessary provision appears upon the Estimates.

Mr Watson:

– Will the Minister find it for me ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Surely the honorable member does not think that this officer has been newly appointed !

Mr Watson:

– Yes.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I can assure him that it is not so.

Mr Watson:

– His name does not appear upon the Estimates for last year.

Sir JOHN” FORREST:
Minister for Home Affairs · SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · Protectionist

– I do not care whether it does or not - I say that he has not been newly-appointed. Probably his name appears in this parliamentary paper. We have retired two officers from the Headquarters Staff, -and made reductions in the clerical staff amounting to £1,853, so that instead of the total expenditure under this heading being £12,255 - as it was last year - it is only £10,402. That is a reduction equal to 15 per cent, of the whole. At present there are only seven officers upon the Head - quarters Staff, where previously there were nine. I assure honorable members that it was my desire to reduce the staff to the utmost, and I experienced a great deal of difficulty in effecting my purpose. The General Officer Commanding protested again and again, and as honorable members will see by reference to his published report, which was read by the honorable member for Maranoa, he was very much dissatisfied with the action which I took in obedience to the mandate of this House. In the absence of such an instruction, I might not have acted as I did, as I desired to assist to the utmost the General Officer Commanding in carrying out his difficult duties. But a promise having been made, I felt that it was my duty to redeem it as far as I possibly could. I knew perfectly well that I should have to face this House, and I was not prepared to tell honorable members that I had not attempted to faithfully carry out the promise made by my locum tenens, the Acting Minister of Defence. In this connexion Major-General Sir Edward Hutton says -

I am, however, informed that it has been decided to further reduce the Head-quarters Staff by abolishing the position of a Deputy QuartermasterGeneral upon the retirement from age of the officer now holding this appointment. In this case I may clearly say that the duties of command cannot be carried out with proper efficiency

These remarks were prompted by my proposal to retire a second officer from the staff. I hold in my hand a long report from the General Officer Commanding, dated 15th May last, in which he writes quite as strongly. He even asks that the matter should be referred to the Prime Minister, so strongly does he feel upon it. I replied upon the 16th May that the subject had already been fully considered by me. I alsohad an interview with the Major-General on the subject, in the course of which I informed him that I was unable to alter my decision. Honorable members will therefore see how difficult it was to make this reduction, and that practically it had to be* effected at the point of the bayonet. Not only did the General Officer Commanding protest most strongly, but he has also referred to thematter in his report to Parliament. To-day I received a still further protest, which was written by him at that time. In it he says that he should be failing in his duty to theCommonwealth if he did not point out that, with a reduced staff, it was impossible for any General in Command to accept the responsibilities attaching to the position. He* adds that since his assumption of the command of the military forces of the Commonwealth he has had the most loyal cooperation of his staff. This communication wasreceived by me to-day, together with a note,, explaining that it was prepared upon the 23rd May last, but was not forwarded tome at the time, because he did not consider the moment opportune. However, he wishes me to know his views upon the matter of the reduction of the Headquarters Staff, which are unchanged at the present time. My opinion is thatin view of the organization which is proceeding it is unwise for the sake of the expenditure in providing an officer or even two officers, to say to the General Officer Commanding, whom we have obtained from England - “ We shall not give you the materials which you require. You shall not have the assistance you want. For the sake of £1,000 or £1,200 a year we will make you dissatisfied and hinder the work which you are performing.” I would remind honorable members that the appointment of Major-General Hutton is for three years only. In another sixteen months his timewill have expired. Is it advisable to say to him - “We shall not give you the material you require to undertake the work which you desire.” That is not the way to treat the General Officer Commanding.

Mr Page:

– What would the Minister do T Would the right honorable gentleman givehim all that he wants ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– No, but I donot believe in spoiling the ship for the sake of a ha’porth of tar.

M>. Page. - What are the duties of these officers ? If their services cannot be dispensed with I am satisfied to let the item’ pass.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I advise the honorable member to let it pass.

Mr Watson:

– We -were “ had “ last year, and we do not intend to be “ had “

Again

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Protectionist

– I deny that statement. I think it is very unfair of the honorable member to make such an accusation.

Mr Watson:

– I will quote Hansard to prove it. It is there in black and white.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I do not care for Hansard or anything else. We have reduced the expenditure.

Mr Watson:

– Not in the way in which the Minister promised to do it.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– At any rate, I -was not here last year.

Mr Watson:

– Nevertheless, the Minister is bound by the promise of his colleague.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– We have endeavoured to do the best possible under the circumstances.

Mr Watson:

– The Government have not tried to carry out their instructions.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I did try. I am not accustomed to being spoken to in that way. I do not wish to get into a wordy warfare with the honorable member ; but I am not in the habit of having my word questioned.

Mr Watson:

– We are not accustomed to having a Minister’s promise absolutely broken.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Under the Defence Bill, which will probably become law during the next few days, the forces will be re-organized. We shall have uniformity throughout the service, and there will be much to do to make the whole machine run smoothly. In these circumstances, I do not think we should find fault with, or attempt to reduce these Estimates, not because they are too large, but simply because some honorable members consider that there are one or two officers on the Head-quarters Staff whom they think might be dispensed with.

Mr Hughes:

– Are there not some grounds for that belief 1 The honorable member for Dalley asked a question in regard to the payment of compensation to the Naval Brigade men. It is said that money has been squandered on the officers of the

Head-quarters Staff, and that these men have been unjustly treated.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– No promise’ was ever made to those men. No one has said that partly-paid citizen soldiers - receiving an honorarium - should .have compensation upon retiring from the service. They are retiring every day.

Mr Hughes:

– That is to say, one of the rank and file cannot obtain compensation, but the officers get it.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Not one !

Mr Hughes:

– Not in the Naval Brigade?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Not one, unless he was a member of the permanent forces. I do not think there were any permanent men in the brigade.

Mr Hughes:

– But on the amalgamation of the Naval Brigade and the Naval Volunteer Forces-

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– No partiallypaid officers or men receive any compensation.

Mr Hughes:

– Not in any part of the Commonwealth ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– No. I should not willingly say anything that would be displeasing to any honorable member, and it seems to me that in dealing with these officers we should be careful not to say any-‘ thing offensive to them, or which we would not say if they were members of this House. They are not here to defend themselves, and it is my duty to protect them. I trust that we shall discuss this question on its merits, and that we shall refrain from indulging in personalities either in regard to the officers or men. If the honorable member for Bland could show that the spirit of the promise made to the Committee-

Mr Watson:

– I did not expect the letter but the spirit of the promise to be kept.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– If the honorable member could show that the spirit of the promise made last year by my honorable colleague, the present Minister for Trade and Customs, had not been complied with, the position would be different. A very great effort has been made to carry out that promise. Instead of making further savings to the extent of £62,000, as my colleague undertook to do, we have made a reduction on last year’s Estimates to the extent of £84,435, or £22,435 more than we were called upon to save in order to comply with the wishes of honorable members. I am not prepared to say that, in effecting these economies we have in every instance acted exactly in accordance with the promises which were made by my honorable colleague. We have perhaps not done so, but a very strong effort was made to comply in every particular with the wishes of the Committee.

Mr Thomson:

– The right honorable gentleman means to say that the reduction has been made, -but that the details may not have been worked out as promised.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Yes. We may not have complied exactly with the details. The honorable member for Bland appears to think that we have been guilty of something approaching a breach of faith. I would point out, however, that we have cut down the Estimates to a far greater extent than was promised, and that, although the Headquarters Staff is not a very large one, I have reduced its strength by two. It seems to me that, in the circumstances, there is no great cause for complaint. . If further economies can be affected there will be opportunities to make them during next year, because two officers who were lent to us by the Imperial Government will shortly rejoin their regiments. One of these officers is Major McClagan, of New South Wales, who will return to England about a year hence, while Colonel Plomer, of Queeusland, will also rejoin his regiment at no distant1 date. If it is possible to make further reductions in the staff, the question can be considered when these vacancies occur. The General Officer Commanding will also be leaving us a little more than a year hence, and we shall then be able to consider the terms upon which his successor shall be appointed. It would be a matter for regret if the Committee at the present time did anything that might tend to further disorganize the forces. How can we expect good service from a Department when, notwithstanding that reductions amounting to £175,000 were made in the Estimates of last year, and a reduction of £84,000 is made this 3’ear, a demand is made for still further retrenchment? I do not think this reduction would be in the interests of the country, or that the people of the Commonwealth desire it to be made. I have heard on all sides expressions of opinion that even the reductions we have made were unnecessary and undesirable. I do not go so far as that, but I think we have now put the Estimates of the Defence Department upon a solid basis.

Mr HENRY Willis:

– Have we touched bed-rock ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I think we have. It is due to Major-General Sir Edward Hutton, who, at our request, took control, of the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth, that he should have every opportunity to dohis best. What is the use of paying him a. salary of £2,500 a year, if for the sake of saving £500 or £600 a year, we decline togive him the assistance of an officer whom he considers to be necessary ?

Mr Watson:

– One officer?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– He does notask for any- more, although he is very dissatisfied with the arrangements which have been made.

Mr Page:

– How does the Ministeraccount for the report of the General OfficerCommanding in regard to the cutting down, of the Head-quarters Staff?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– There must be some control over the Department. In theend the views of the Minister must be supreme. I was very reluctant to makethese changes, and if I had not felt that a. distinct promise had been given to theHouse that they should be carried out I would not have made them.

Mr Page:

– What about the statementin the General Officer Commanding’s report ?’

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– He is dissatisfied and he will be still further dissatisfied if we deprive him of the services of another officer. I am sure that the honorable member has no desire to .do any in juryto the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth,, but if we deprive the General Officer Commanding of the services of one or two of theseofficers the monetary saving effected will not by any means compensate us for the loss to theforces. If a man desires to obtain good work from his servants he is careful to seethat they are satisfied with the terms of their employment. If his servants are dissatisfied they are not of much value to him, and he would really do far better without them. We want a satisfied service. I appeal to honorable members not to still further reduce these Estimates. I havegiven them very careful attention, and they have been a source of much trouble and worry to me. They are framed on what I believe to be a solid basis, and I feel satisfied that if we can have one year of peace - if we allow the Estimates to pass on thebasis submitted to the Committee - we shall find that we have a satisfied, willing, and efficient citizen Defence Force.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– I, for one, do not take any exception to the amount which we are asked to vote for the military forces.

Mr Mauger:

– The honorable member objects to the allocation of it.

Mr WATSON:

– -Quite so. I was satisfied with the measure of retrenchment to which the Committee agreed last year - that our expenditure on the naval and military forces should be some £700,000 per annum ; but I contend that there has been an absolute breach of faith on the part of the Minister in carrying out the decision of the Committee. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and quite a number of other honorable members who support the Government, expressed their unwillingness to vote for the reduction of the Estimates by a lump sum, because of their fear that what has actually happened would take place. They said - “ We shall be placing ourselves in the hands of a military clique. The rank and file will suffer, while the permanent officers will go on their way rejoicing.”

Mr Mauger:

– That is just what has occurred.

Mr WATSON:

– I should like the Minister to give his attention to a quotation from Hansard, which I shall read to the Committee. The fear that the suggested retrenchment would be made at the expense of the more poorly paid members of the service was so general when the Estimates were before us last year that the present Minister for Trade and Customs,in consenting to the reduction of £62,000 as proposed by me, made the following statement : -

I hope there will be no misunderstanding, and that the suggestion I have made will be accepted. I give my word, which I hope the Committee will accept - and I do not think I have ever been accused of not standing to my word in a case of this kind - that the reductions will be made, not in the direction that some honorable members seem to fear, but mainly in the expenses of the administrative staff.

Now comes the most important sentence -

I cannot give particulars now, but I shall take cure that the spirit of the debate to-night is reflected in the reductions, and that honorable members shall not be in any way hoodwinked or misled.

J do not contend for a moment that it was possible for the Minister to keep to the letter of his promise. . I do not say that this reduction could have been made at the expense of any of the head -quarters staffs alone, much less at the expense of the central one ; but I assert that the Minister promised to abide by the spirit of the debate, and that was that there should be a comprehensive and tangible reduction of the staffs throughout the Commonwealth. That has not been done.

Sir John Forrest:

– I think it has.

Mr WATSON:

– I repeat that it has not been complied with. Apart from the Naval Commandants in ‘ Queensland and Victoria, and setting aside for the moment the Administrative Staff, these Estimates provide for the expenditure of £30,000, in round numbers, on the military staffs throughout Australia.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable member is including incidentals and contingencies in his total.

Mr WATSON:

– Of course, I am. Every additional officer means more contingencies and more red-tape.

Sir JonN Forrest:

– The honorable member has all the figures before him in relation to these officers, if he cares to look at them.

Mr WATSON:

– I am aware of those figures. I repeat that these staffs cost us roughly speaking £30,000 a year, and that every additional man we put on those staffs or allow to remain on them in excess of the number actually required means ‘additional expense in the way of contingencies, travelling allowances, and red-tape generally. What I complain of is that, while the Minister has practically left the Head-quarters Staff and the other staffs alone so far as numbers are concerned, and left the salaries of all the permanent officers untouched, he has taken care to cut down the remuneration given to militia officers.

Mr Mauger:

– The militia is being starved.

Sir John Forrest:

– They get very well paid. What pay do they receive ?

Mr WATSON:

– I will state what they are allowed according to the Estimates. In New South Wales, an officer Commanding a militia regiment–

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable member is now speaking of the officers.

Mr WATSON:

– Both the officers and men of the militia forces have’ had to suffer, but I am now dealing with the former. This year, after a series of retrenchments, which took place under the authority of the State, an officer commanding an infantry regiment in New South Wales is asked to lose £50, as compared with what he previously received.

Mr McCay:

– In Victoria they lose 43 per cent.

Mr WATSON:

– A major loses £16 per annum, and each of the other officers in proportion. The men have been forced to suffer a reduction of, I think, £1 per annum each.

Sir John Forrest:

– What men, and where ?

Mr WATSON:

– The militia men. What I want to get at is the amount that is paid to a militia officer now as compared with the amount paid to a permanent officer. A citizen soldier is expected to keep a-horse on £1 6 a year, whilst a permanent soldier has suffered no reduction in pay of any description.

Sir John Forrest:

– A horse soldier in New South Wales gets exactly the same as he did before.

Mr WATSON:

– But 0 .. point that I am insisting ‘ upon is that the men in the infantry regiments are now getting £1 per year less each. They used to get more than £6 8s.

Sir John Forrest:

– The amount was £7 8s. before.

Mr McCay:

– There is a difference of 22s. in Victoria.

Mr WATSON:

– The Government, after promising that the intention of the Committee should be carried out, have certainly made a sum-total reduction, but they have not made any reductions whatever in the amounts set aside for the staffs, except in regard to one or two officers ; and in lieu of those they have created an Ordnance Department at head-quarters. We are told to-night that two of these ordnance officers have been transferred, one from Victoria and one from New South Wales. But the officer who has been transferred from New South Wales was not, so far as I can ascertain, occupying a similar position there.

Sir John Forrest:

– He was a major.

Mr WATSON:

– He was a major in the permanent artillery, and would in the ordinary course have been retired ; but a new position was created for him at headquarters. The Department was cutting down the artillery in New South Wales, and as I have said they created a new position at head-quarters.

Sir John Forrest:

– One officer was retired - I think it was Major Savage ; and this officer came into his place.

Mr WATSON:

– The gentleman who is now Inspector of Ordnance Machinery was transferred from the Victorian State staff to the central staff. But the other gentleman, at £500 a year, was a major in the artillery in New South Wales, where he occupied nosuch position as he now occupies.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable member previously said that the officer was not provided for on the Estimates last year.

Mr WATSON:

– I could not find him, but I now discover that he has been transferred from another position altogether. In other words, another position has been created for him - I presume to find an excuse for employing him. The Minister, to my mind, has manifested no grip of the’ possibilities of reducing the staff, and of the work which they are engaged in. The amount for the central staff is still ridiculously high. These officers, with a thousand and one letters of the alphabet after their names, are each of them duplicated in the various centres of the Commonwealth.

Sir John Forrest:

– I deny that altogether.

Mr WATSON:

– In New South Wales, there the a Commandant, an Assistant AdjutantGeneral, a Deputy Assistant QuartermasterGeneral, a Deputy Assistant AdjutantGeneral, and seven clerks. I want to try to impress this point on. the Committee, because evidently it is no use trying to impress it on the Minister, who will have his own way. I want the Committee to recollect that every man who has spoken with any knowledge concerning these staffs in this House, or in any other part of the country - and I do not pretend to speak with knowledge for my own part - has said that the work is unnecessarily duplicated, and that because of that there is a necessity to keep up a large staff.

Sir John Forrest:

– There are only four staff officers in New South Wales.

Mr WATSON:

– But each of those officers has a duplicate in each of the States.

Sir John Forrest:

– This is a big country.

Mr McCay:

– And there is a lot of official paper in it, which apparently has to be written on.

Mr WATSON:

– That is so. We should either make reductions in these staffs or force the responsible officer to adopt a simpler method of arranging returns and conducting the correspondence of the Military’ Department. Every officer commanding a regiment, to whom I have spoken in New South Wales - and I have had conversations with several of them - has exactly the same complaint to make, as has been made tonight by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who speaks with authority. The complaint is that papers innumerable have to go backwards and forwards with reference to every trifling matter, and that there is no possibility of anything of a simple character being carried through without grave expense and trouble.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– That is the only way in which they find work for the officers.

Mr WATSON:

– That seems to be the whole object - to find work for some people who have influence behind them, or something like that, or who, at any rate, help to magnify the importance of the General in Command.

Sir John Forrest:

– There were a good many more before Federation than there are now.

Mr McCay:

– They are all kept hard at work.

Mr WATSON:

– I do not say they are not ; but I do say that every officer com.manding a corps to whom I have spoken in New South Wales tells exactly the same tale as was told by the honorable and learned member himself a few minutes ago. So long as we allow the staffs to remain in their present swollen condition, so long will that excess of red tape continue.

Mr McCay:

– There is another thing - district head-quarters staffs have to keep writing reams to the Central Head-quarters Staff.

Mr WATSON:

– Just so, reporting on things that might come direct. I do not profess to know all these details myself, but I have had the thing drummed into me so frequently by those who do know that–

Sir John Forrest:

– By some interested person probably.

Mr WATSON:

– I do not believe that, for this reason - that I have had it from a number of officers, each of whom made the same complaint about the unnecessary work in the shape of returns, and making them out, and sending them backwards and forwards.

Sir John Forrest:

– There are only four head-quarters officers in New South Wales.

Mr WATSON:

– But the officers commanding corps have to send these papers to the local staff, by whom they are then sent on to the Head-quarters Staff in Melbourne ;

And so we have a duplication of work that is absolutely unnecessary, and costs a great deal of money.

Sir John Forrest:

– Is it so unnecessary?

Mr WATSON:

– I do not believe that the Minister has gone into the thing for himself in order to find out whether it is necessary or not. That is the probability. I do not suppose that we can expect the Minister to go into the office and find out for himself whether every bit of paper that is used i3 necessary. But I think that it would be possible for him to get the Public Service Commissioner, or some military officer who has had a commercial training, to’ go into the office of the Headquarters Staff, and into the offices of the various districts staffs, and see how far this .work could be minimized. I believe that if the Minister had done that he would have ascertained that a good deal of it could be done away with, and that the salaries of many of the men engaged in doing it could be saved. At the Head-quarters Staff, apart from the officers, there are no fewer than thirteen clerks engaged in the business of helping red tape routine to be carried on. In New South Wales there are seven clerks engaged in the same kind of work. In each of the other States there is an abundance of clerks. I contend, from what I have been able to glean, that the services of a great number of these men in the aggregate - taking the whole of the staffs throughout the States - could be dispensed with, if the Minister cared to institute a proper inquiry as to the methods by which the work is done at the present time. I trust that the Committee will not be fooled again, so far as this matter is concerned.

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not think that that is a proper expression to use.

Mr WATSON:

– It is both a proper and an adequate expression.

Sir John Forrest:

– It is out of order, and it is rude.

Mr WATSON:

– It may be out of order, but it is a very correct term to employ. Personally, I dp not think it is out of order.

Sir John Forrest:

– I rise to order.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Kirwan). - As the Minister considers that the remark is offensive, I am sure that the honorable member for Bland will withdraw it.

Mr WATSON:

– If .the Minister considers that the word which I used is offensive

Sir John Forrest:

– I consider it very offensive.

Mr WATSON:

– I will withdraw it, and say that the Committee Iia ve been “hoodwinked and misled.”

Sir John Forrest:

– I object to that, too.

Mr WATSON:

– Those are the words of the Minister’s own colleague. He should call upon the present Minister for Trade and Customs to withdraw and apologize. We were promised by that gentleman, when he was temporarily filling the position of Minister for Defence, that the vote would be cut down, and that he would be guided so far as the reductions were concerned by the spirit of the debate ; instead of which we have been absolutely hoodwinked. I trust that the Committee will take some steps at a later stage to insist on a reduction of these staffs.

Mr Higgins:

– How is it to be done 1

Mr WATSON:

– I admit that the Committee cannot be expected to have the precise knowledge which is necessary to determine these matters justly. But if the powers that be insist regularly and persistently in ignoring” what the Committee asks should be done, as they did on the last occasion, then the only recourse we have is to cut out some of these salaries for ourselves. There is one other matter which I should like to mention, and that is in regard to the £75,000, which, under the heading of new works and buildings, is set aside for military purposes. We find that arms, rifles, pistols, and reserve ammunition are set down at £30,000. I should like to know how much of that is going to be spent on arms. Would the Minister mind answering my question ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It is not - “Yes, Mr. Watson,” now.

Mr WATSON:

– We might at least expect the courtesy of an answer to a question.

Sir John Forrest:

– When I get up, I will speak.

Mr WATSON:

– If the right honorable gentleman prefers not to answer it, I do not mind. I say, again, that there is a sum of £30,000 set down for arms and reserve ammunition, and I want to know how much of it is going to be spent on arms, and how much on ammunition. It is a proper thing for us to know, because it is universally admitted that the supply of rifles in the Commonwealth is absolutely inadequate. I have been hammering away at this matter ever since we discussed the first Estimates. I am prepared now, as I have been all along, to vote any reasonable sum for the purchaseof small arms and field-guns, and other equipment which may be necessary.

Sir John Forrest:

– I think it means what it says - arms and rifles.

Mr WATSON:

– It includes a lot of things.

Sir John Forrest:

– It includes 5,000- rifles, the cost of which would be about. £20,000.

Mr WATSON:

– That is not a sufficient number to meet our requirements ; nor issufficient money being spent on the purchaseof field-guns. I do not know anything aboutpositionguns, but I do know that sufficientmoney is not being spent on field-guns and other equipment.

Sir John Forrest:

– The General Officer Commanding wanted £125,000 voted.

Mr WATSON:

– We should have been asked to vote more than the sum on theEstimates. It is proposed to spend £25,000- in re-arming the Cerberus. I do not pretend to know whether that is a wise thing to do or “not ; but I notice that Fremantle is gettingits fair proportion out of the ridiculously small sum which we are asked to vote for warlike equipment.

Sir John Forrest:

– It gets £13,000. Ithas no equipment yet.

Mr WATSON:

– I do not say that theexpenditure is unnecessary, hut it is a great pity that the Government have not recognised the necessity of spending a much larger sum on arms and equipment than they proposed to expend. When we werediscussing the first Estimates we wereassured that the Government were considering the question of establishing an ammunition factory. The Minister assured me at thebeginning of the session that the General Officer Commanding had not recommended! the establishment of a Government ammunition factory.

Sir John Forrest:

– I think he did makesuch a recommendation.

Mr WATSON:

– Of course he did ; but the right honorable gentleman denied it in. the House.

Sir J ohn Forrest:

– I have never denied it.

Mr WATSON:

– T am quite positive that the right honorable gentleman did, becauseI looked up the reports of the General. Officer Commanding afterwards, and I found; that he had emphasized the necessity of not having to rely solely upon colonial ammunition.

Sir John Forrest:

– It is. a curious thing if he made that statement in two reports that I should have said that he had not made it.

Mr WATSON:

– I do not say that, but probably the right honorable gentleman had forgotten what he had read. If he will refer to the Hansard report for the current session he will see that on page 251, he did deny what I have stated. The Acting Minister for Defence did not actually promise last year that the Government would provide for the establishment of an ammunition factory, but he said that they viewed the proposal sympathetically, if my memory serves me aright, and I think that some step in that direction should have been taken by this time. All the Government have done, so far as I can ascertain, has been to give a contract to the Colonial Ammunition Company.

Sir John Forrest:

– Will the honorable member quote from Hansard what I said ?

Mr WATSON:

– When I said-

Major General Hutton, I understand, has recommended that factories for the supply of ammunition be established in different places throughout the Commonwealth.

The Minister interjected “ No.”

Sir John Forrest:

– In one place, not in “ different places.”

Mr WATSON:

– At the time I understood the right honorable gentleman to mean that the General Officer Commanding had not made a recommendation at all.

Sir John Forrest:

– I knew that last year he had recommended the establishment of a factory at Sydney.

Mr WATSON:

– Do the Government think that they are performing their duty to the people of Australia in extending the contract to a private company for the supply of ammunition? Practically all - they have done so far has been to ask a private company to supply an increased quantity of ammunition. That, I contend, is not a sufficient preparation for the defence of Australia.

Sir John Forrest:

– We cannot do everything at once - in these days of economy.

Mr WATSON:

– Surely the right honorable gentleman does not assume that any objection would be made to voting a reasonable sum for the purpose of starting an enterprise of that sort ? We have no right to rely exclusively on private individuals.

I do not’ mean that we should wipe them out of existence, but I submit that we should make further provision than their factory. It is well known that they are merely assembling the different elements which go to make up a cartridge. They do not make them here to any extent, and, therefore, we are just as dependent on outside sources for the supply of ammunition in case of war as if no factory existed here. That is not a satisfactory condition of affairs. In view of the long debate which has taken place on other aspects of the Defence Estimates, I do not know that it is worth while to say a great deal to night, but I trust that as soon as the general discussion is finished the Committee will take advantage of this opportunity to cut down the Head-quarters Staff in such a fashion as will leave no doubt as to its intention. And that being done, I would recommend the Minister to appoint a commission or committee, including some person from the office of the Public Service Commissioner in each State, to see how far the use of red tape can be minimized, and a great quantity of unnecessary work done away with.

Mr CROUCH:
Corio

– It is a great pity that an intimation was made that it was desired to close the discussion on those Estimates at an early hour, because, as ‘a consequence of that intimation, the honorable and learned member for Corinella gave a promise that he would speak for only five minutes. It is very unfortunate for the Committee that he gave that promise, because the information which he supplied last year was of great assistance to honorable members. He had made a very careful analysis of the figures in the Military Estimates, and I believe that the Treasurer will acknowledge that the information then supplied was very useful to him. I regret that the Minister in charge of these Estimates has a very stubborn and fixed opinion in regard to the continuance of the Garrison Artillery in Melbourne. He has assured the Committee constantly that they do not want the Garrison Artillery, but that a recommendation to the opposite effect has been made by ‘ the General Officer Commanding. I desire the Minister, although he is advised by that officer, to apply his own common-sense to this matter. Does not “ garrison artillery “ mean the employment of men on big guns in order to be properly instructed and thoroughly trained in the use of them ? There are no big guns round Melbourne except in Fort Gellibrand at Williamstown.

Mr McCay:

– There are big social guns round Melbourne.

Mr CROUCH:

– That might have something to do with the matter, but it certainly does not affect the rank and file of the Garrison Artillery, of which corps Melbourne is made the head-quarters. I ask the Minister why the Garrison Artillery - and the sole reason for their being permanent troops is that they have special duties to perform in connexion with big guns - should be allowed to leave their guns, and to come in such a large number to Melbourne ?

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable and learned member had better ask a question, and an answer will be furnished by the General Officer Commanding.

Mr CROUCH:

– During the last th’ree years the question has been asked repeatedly, and the General Officer Commanding has answered it in a way which is absolutely contrary to the Minister’s own common sense.

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not know ; I am not a military authority.

Mr CROUCH:

– It is not common sense to bring garrison artillery to a place in which there are no big guns.

Sir John Forrest:

– There are instructional officers.

Mr CROUCH:

– How can any instruction be given when no big guns are available? Evidently there is a big gun here who is instructing the Minister in a way which appears to ‘me to be undesirable. I am very glad that the honorable member for Maranoa proposes to direct his attention to special items. I do not say that it should be directed to the Headquarters Staff because every modern war has shown the absolute necessity of a large and efficient staff. I can quite appreciate the position in which the Minister is placed, when a certain number of officers, formerly in the employ of the States, have to be provided for. I do not wish any man to be dismissed unjustly, but I do not find that the Minister is carrying that out in regard to certain Royal Australian Artillery troops. On looking at the Estimates for the Royal Australian Artillery, I find that a reduction of £10,000 is made in New South Wales and a reduction of £9,100 in Victoria. If any note was dominant during the discussion on the Military Estimates last year, it was that the reductions should be applied almost entirely to the allowances to the Head-quarters Staff and not to the number and pay of these men. But the pay, as well as the number of the men, has been reduced, and the Committee ought to call the action of the Minister in question. It is a most awkward thing for the Committee to deal with special items, because in so doing it must act very much like a bull in a china shop. It cannot know what injustices it may be committing, and it has not the special knowledge necessary for such action. But if the Minister will not carry out the expressed desire of honorable members, the only alternative is to cut down special items, and I think that the honorable member for Maranoa will obtain a good deal of support in that direction. I said that the pay of some of the men had been cut down in order to save the allowances to the Head-quarters Staff. I received a letter to-day concerning some poor unfortunate fellows who, for acting as carters, and working ten hours a day. in connexion with the engineers and artillery at Queenscliff, used to get a shilling per day as extra pay. In order to avert the possibility of retrenchment in the case of men who were receiving a salary of £900 a year, the extra pay to those men has’ been reduced to 6d. a day. I do not intend to ask the Minister now for a promise in regard to this matter, because I understand that the Hansard report of the debate will be read by him and carefully considered later, and no doubt he may be able to give an assurance of some kind on another occasion. I shall be glad if the Minister will read the debate, and will attend to the matter to which I refer.

Sir John Forrest:

– No one has ever complained to me on the subject. The honorable and learned member said something about some one on the Head-quarters Staff getting £900 a vear.

Mr CROUCH:

– i said that this was done in order that officers on the Headquarters Staff might be paid salaries of £900 a year.

Sir John Forrest:

– Who gets £900 a year on the Head-quarters Staff? Does the honorable and learned member refer to the medical officer ?

Mr CROUCH:

– The principal medical officer used to get £450 salary and £410 a year allowance, and after the very definite opinion which honorable members expressed on the subject of allowances the two amounts were added together, and he is now getting a salary of £900 a year.

Mr TUDOR:

– He is getting actually more than he was getting before.

Mr CROUCH:

– In order that these salaries should be paid to officers of the Head-quarters Staff, the men to whom I have referred have had their extra pay cut down to 6d. a day.

Sir George Turner:

– Are there many of them ?

Mr CROUCH:

– There are only two of them, and I think that it is sufficient to point out the injustice to induce the Minister to see that it is remedied. There is another difficulty in connexion with reduction of pay. A man, by study, by working hard at his profession and passing his examinations, may raise himself to the rank of a noncommissioned officer, with the result, in some cases, that he will receive less pay than he previously received. That is a state of things which ought not to be allowed to continue. If the Minister will look at page 67 of the Estimates he will find that the average salary paid to officers on the instructional staff in New South Wales is £491 a year; whilst in Victoria, although there are fewer men employed to do an equal amount of work, the average salary paid is only £345. It does not seem fair that men, doing similar or better work in an adjoining State, should receive less pay than officers on the instructional staff in New South Wales. Then, in the case of the noncommissioned officers, of whom there are seventy in New South Wales, and only forty-three in Victoria, the average pay of the instructional staff of non-commissioned officers in New South Wales is £235, whilst in Victoria the average pay is only £209.

Sir John Forrest:

– We could not take away from a man what he was previously receiving ; it is only in the case of new appointments that any alteration could be made.

Mr CROUCH:

– I am glad to have that admission from the Minister ; but I should like to know why there was an alteration made in the pay of Royal Australian Artillery men ? Previously a man got 4s. 6d. a day, and that was poor enough pay for a married man with a family, but as soon as the five years’ term is up, and he is re-engaged, he receives only from 2s. 9d. to 3s. 3d. a day.

Sir John Forrest:

– When their term is* ended they may come under the scale of uniform pay.

Mr CROUCH:

– I do not desire to set State against State, but why should not the New South Wales men come under the scale of uniform pay as well as those in Victoria ?

Sir John Forrest:

– Probably the termwas not up in their case.

Mr CROUCH:

– I find men on the Estimates getting £301, £288, and £285, and. these men are kept on permanently.

Sir John Forrest:

– We could not reduce them.

Mr CROUCH:

– Why reduce the pay of one class and not of another?

Sir John Forrest:

– The others are only engaged for a certain term and afterwardscan leave if they choose.

Mr CROUCH:

– With the exception of particular officers there is no man in the Defence Force who is engaged for a longerterm than five years.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable and learned member should make inquiries upon these matters. I cannot answer his questions off-hand now.

Mr CROUCH:

– I am putting the matter before the Minister in order that he may give it consideration. I am referring to anomalies which the Minister should dohis best to remove. There is one other matter connected with our treatment of returned soldiers from South Africa towhich I desire to refer. I wish to refer specially to the treatment of a noncommissioned officer, Regimental Sergeant-Major Coffey. This is the third time I have called attention to his case, and I have no desire tobe bringing it up constantly, but I find that it is necessary . to reiterate a thing until it is absolutely forced into the mind of Ministers before they will think of doing even justice to a man. I am not. now fighting for Sergeant-Major Coffey,, because he is dead ; but he has left a widow and five children, who are deserving of someconsideration. He was a regimental drill instructor in Victoria, and he was directed, to go with the First Contingent to South Africa. He did not come back with that contingent, but continued in South Africa attaching himself to the Second and Third Contingents, and he returned to Victoria with phthisis of the throat. He died aftertwo years from this disease contracted while on duty. Neither he, when alive,. nor his widow could get the slightest compensation from the Commonwealth, because the Commonwealth authorities insisted that he was a State man. When application was made to the State Ministry the reply was that the Commonwealth had taken over the Defence Force.

Sir John Forrest:

– I suppose he died before the Commonwealth was established.

Mr CROUCH:

– He died only last year; but he had served in the State forces. Between the two authorities his widow is left to live in a way which must be considered disgraceful by every man in the Commonwealth who contemplates the position. She has applied to the State Defence Department and to the State Premier of Victoria. Their answer was that the Commonwealth had taken over the Defence Force. When she applied to the Commonwealth authorities, their answer was that the case is one for the consideration of the State authorities, because Sergeant Major Coffey went with the First Contingent before the 1st January, 1901.

Sir George Turner:

– Did not Coffey get compensation ?

Mr CROUCH:

– He got no compensation.

Sir George Turner:

– Is the honorable and learned member sure of that?

Mr CROUCH:

-I know pretty well all about the case. A special board inquired into it, and made recommendations to the Imperial Government. The Imperial Government, in a letter received this week, state that theWar Office cannot consider the case, because Coffey died some eight days after the two years within which they would have been prepared to give him a pension. The position now is that the Imperial Government is not responsible, nor are the Commonwealth and State Governments.

Mr Thomson:

– Are they taking responsibility in other similar cases?

Sir John Forrest:

– How can we take a responsibility which belongs to a State ?

Mr Thomson:

– Why choke ourselves with red tape?

Mr CROUCH:

– I believe that the Commonwealth Government should accept responsibility in a certain way. I am appealingto the members of the Committee, and I feel that, in putting the case before them, I am asking for simple justice for a dead man’s widow and children. I am very sorry that I should have to bring the matter up a third time, but we are getting choked with red tape, and I point out that if the Commonwealth Government place a sum on the Estimates to meet the necessities of the case the expenditure will have to be met by the State of Victoria. If the authorities of that State will not recognise their obligation, we are in a position to make them recognise it. We should see that justice is done in every case, and it is a scandal to us that we should have allowed men to fight and die for us in South Africa when we are too parsimonious to meet the expense which every civilized nation will take upon itself as part of the cost of a war. We claim all the glory of military victory in South Africa, but when it comes to paying something for it we are shockingly mean, and the responsibility for payment is passed from one authority to another.

Sir John Forrest:

– It is a question of who is liable. ‘

Mr CROUCH:

– If the widow applies to the State, the Commonwealth, and the Imperial Governments, and all three deny any liability, and her five children still have to be fed, it is not her place to find out who is liable.

Mr Glynn:

– Would the State have been liable if the Commonwealth bad not taken over the Defence Force?

Mr CROUCH:

– The State would have been liable, because in the State Defence Act provision was made for such cases.

Sir John Forrest:

– I am informed that the State did give Coffey something.

Mr CROUCH:

– I can tell the right honorable gentleman that Coffey received no compensation. At the present time his widow is receiving a guinea a week from the Victorian Patriotic Fund, which was subscribed’ by private citizens, and to which, no doubt, many honorable members of the Committee contributed. All that the State did was to pay Coffey’s medical expenses while he lived, and to give him an ordinary sergeant-major’s pay until he died. As a matter of fact, the State authorities paid his widow the fraction of the month’s pay due to the date of his death.

Sir John Forrest:

– I shall look into the matter.

Mr CROUCH:

– That will satisfy me. There has been some criticism of the administration of the right honorable gentleman’s Department, but I can say that I never approached him without finding him reasonable.I think that the right honorable gentleman acted splendidly throughout his administration, and I hope the new Minister for Defence will do as well. The right honorable gentleman got a grip of the work of the Department, and I was sorry when he left it, because I knew that whenever I had to approach him in connexion with defence matters, I was certain to receive a reasonable, sympathetic, and just hearing. I hope that the new Minister for Defence will conduct the administration of the Department in a similar way.

Progress reported.

page 5164

ADJOURNMENT

Supply Bill (No. 3)

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
BalaclavaTreasurer · Protectionist

– I move-

That the House do now adjourn.

I desire to mention to honorable members thatI propose to-morrow to take some steps towards getting two months’ supply. I have already circulated the items, and I desire to get the Supply Bill through this week in order that there may be plenty of time to get the Bill through the Senate next week.

Mr Thomson:

– Is the right honorable gentleman going beyond this stage of the Estimates to-morrow ?

Sir GEORGE TURNER:

– We shall go on with the Estimates, but as we are nearly at the end of the Estimates, I take it that two months’ supply will be granted as a matter of form.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 September 1903, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030916_reps_1_16/>.