1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I wish to ask the
Prime Minister and the Treasurer, without notice, whether it will be possible to find time before the close of the’ session for the discussion of the question of the consolidation of the debts of the States 1 I have upon the business paper a notice of motion dealing with the subject, and I tried to bring the matter forward during the discussion of the Budget,’ but I was ruled out of order. I hope that the session will not be allowed to pass without a debate upon the subject.
– The honorable and learned member knows that I am in sympathy with him on the subject of his motion, although whether the end which he seeks should be brought about by the appointment of a Royal Commission is another question. I shall, however, con- - sult my colleagues between to day and our first meeting next week, with a view to see whether it is possible to make an arrangement which will enable the subject to be discussed.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received a report from the financial expert whom he consulted when in England in regard to the consolidation of the debts of the States?
– I have not yet received such a report. No report has been arranged for on business terms, but there was, upon the part of the gentleman to whom the honorable member refers, during his tour in Australia, a kindly expression of willingness to act in the matter. I have not felt justified in pressing him for a report which is to be given entirely without remuneration.
– Does the right honorable member not expect to receive a report?
– I do not say that I do not expect to receive a report ; but I do not feel justified in pressing for it.
– On Tuesday last, when the Estimates for the Senate we’re being discussed, I stated that the President’s messenger was only temporarily employed in South Australia previous to Federation. I desire to withdraw that statement, as I find that he was, from the year 1889, continuously in the service of the South Australian Government as a permanent employe.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister if his attention has been directed to the following telegram from Sydney appearing in this morning’s Argus : -
Sir William Lyne, speaking at Cootamundra, . . in reply to a question as to the Federal Capital, said the final fight would be between Albury and Tumut, and he had provided that it would be a “ fair go.”
What arrangements have been made by the Government for a final fight between Albury and Tumut, and what is meant by the statement that it is to be a “ fair go “ ?
– I ask my honorable friend not to found any opinion upon a newspaper paragraph of that character. We all know that these statements are sometimes the result of mere speculation and political kite flying. The motion of which I have given notice, and which will be gone on with, provides for what has been termed a “ fair go “ by means of an exhaustive ballot, the regulations for which are to be drawn up, with the concurrence of both Houses of Parliament, by the President and Mr. Speaker. I have not the slightest doubt that under them honorable members will be able to give effect to their opinions by their votes with the utmost fairness.
Mr.WILKINSON. - I wish to know from the Prime Minister if he has any further information to give the House in reply to the question I asked him yesterday concerning the regulations passed at a meeting in Brisbane about the new mail contracts, a copy of which I handed to him then?
– I have no more information on the subject, except that, upon making inquiry in my Department, I ascertained that no letter covering such a resolution had been received up to this morning.
asked the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -
Whether medicine chests (with instructions as to the use of the medicines) are provided at the cost of the Post and Telegraph Department for telegraph operators at isolated stations where there is no medical officer within reasonable distance ; if not, willhe see that such necessaries are provided ?
– The answer to the honorable and learned member’s question is : -
Medicine chests and instructions for the use of medicines are not generally supplied at such stations. The question of supplying medicines and instructions will be considered, either in connexion with the district allowances provided for by Public Service Regulations 168 and 169, or otherwise at an early date.
In Committee of Supply : -
-I move -
That a sum not exceeding £658,500 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1904. As I mentioned last night, I am anxious to obtain supply for two months, and it was then my intention to ask honorable members, merely to agree to the formal stages of a Bill, and deal with it finally to-morrow. I’ understand, however, that there is a general, desire that we should not sit tomorrow,and that the Prime Minister is willing; to consent to an adjournment until Tuesday next if the General Estimates and the Works and Buildings Estimates are passed to-night, the one clause of the Naturalization Bill which has to be recommitted dealt with, and the second reading of the Patents Bill moved. Under these circumstances, I shall later on ask to be allowed to put the Bill through all its stagesduring the present sitting. I have already circulated a statement giving the details of the proposed expenditure. All I ask for is a vote to cover the ordinary services of the Departments.
– Is it proposed to put the whole of the Estimates through to-night?
– I understand, that that is desired.
– I presume that the items in the schedule of the proposed Supply Bill are contained in the Estimates, and that the amount for which the Treasurer is. asking is simply a proportionate amount of the estimate.
– That is all.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir G eorge Turner) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain Supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
Bill presented by Sir George Turner,. and passed through all its stages without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 16th September, vide page 5164):
– I should like to afford honorable members a little information with regard to the matters which were mentioned by the honorable and learned member for Corio last evening. It was stated by the honorable and learned member that a large number of the men belonging to the Royal Australian Artillery were being kept in Melbourne, instead of being stationed at the forts at the entrance to Port Phillip. The inference I gathered from the honorable member’s remurks was that the number of men now in Melbourne was larger than formerly, and that these soldiers would be better employed in looking after the guns at the forts. I find that there are 232 men on the establishment of the Royal Australian Artillery in Victoria. Of these, 142 are stationed at Port Phillip Heads, 85 are at the Victoria Barracks, and there are five vacancies. I am informed by the General Officer Commanding that there are thirty less Permanent Garrison Artillerymen now in Melbourne than immediately prior to Federation. This small detachment of eighty-five men is now” kept in Melbourne for the purposes of guarding Government House, forming guards of honour, escorts to the Governor-General, performing technical duties, and giving instructional services in connexion with the schools of instruction recently established for the Militia and Volunteers. With regard to the case of Sergeant-Major Coffey, who, we were informed, had died of phthisis and from disease contracted in South Africa, I am informed as follows : -
Sergeant-Major Coffey served with the first Victorian contingent, and was invalided suffering from phthisis. He was granted a temporary pension of 3s. 6d. per diem by the Imperial authorities on 6th August, 1901, and the State Government supplemented this by another 3s. 6d. per deim. He died on the 18th September, 1002, and the widow was granted £10 for his funeral expenses, and has since been in receipt of an allowance of 21s. per week from the Patriotic Fund Committee. The conditions attached to pensions provide that unless the soldier dies within twelve months of the date of contracting the illness, no pension is granted to the widow or relative. Sergeant-Major Coffey did not die until two years after contracting the disease. A representation with regard to Mrs. Coffey has, however, been sent to the Imperial Government, on 22nd May last, asking their favorable consideration as regards the case of the widow.
– What was the nature of the reply received from the Imperial Government ?
– No reply has as yet been received. With regard to the statement that the pay of the Permanent Artillerymen in Victoria had been reduced, I find that the following are the facts : -
New rates of pay for the Permanent Artillery were adopted from the 1st of July, 1902, to apply to all new appointments, and to those serving only when re-engaged or promoted ; and these rates were in accordance with the rates of pay recommended by a Pay Committee appointed specially to consider the same. These new rates of pay, as compared with the old rates of pay in the three large States, where there are the largest establishments of Permanent Artillery, viz., New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, are an increase on the average daily rate for noncommissioned officers and men ; but involve a decrease in Victoria in all ranks except that of warrant officer. They are an increase on the old rates in New South Wales and Queensland. Therefore when non-commissioned officers or men at present serving, finish their period of engagement, they lose in pay in Victoria, except in the case of warrant officers, but gain in all ranks in the cases of New South Wales and Queensland.’
The honorable and learned member entertains the view that officers are treated better than the men under the new Pay regulations. That is not so. I find that the facts are as follow : -
With regard to officers, the new rates of pay adopted for them are less than the former prevailing rates for the respective ranks in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. Whereas no non-commissioned officer or mau has been brought on the new rates unless he is re-engaged or promoted, all officers were brought on the new rates of pay at once, and fourteen of them in consequence suffered a reduction in pay, the rule being adopted that where the officer’s salary was above the maximum of the new rates, it was brought down to the maximum.
Concerning the remarks of the honorable and learned member in reference to the reduction of 6d. per day in the pay of the carters in Victoria, I find that -
When the new rates of pay were adopted, all the rates or allowances for special duty pay were revised by the artillery officers, and whilst two carters in Victoria previously received ls. special duty pay per day in connexion with carting the stores, they now, under the new special duty pay, receive only 6d per day. The total pay, however, with these allowances, amounts to 4s. per diem, or 28s. per week, and this is, of course, exclusive of their rations, uniform, quarters, fuel, light, and medical attendance. These privileges may certainly be said to equal, at least, 2s. per diem more, which would give a total remuneration equivalent to 42s. per week (6s. per diem, as they are paid for Sundays). It is understood that the usual pay of carters employed civilly is not so high as 42s. per week. As a general rule, the amount of carting done for the Victorian Artillery is not very onerous.
This information was supplied to me only this morning, and I thought it would prove interesting to honorable members, and especially to the honorable and learned member for Corio, to whom I shall be very glad to furnish a copy.
– I had intended speaking at some length upon various matters which are included in these Estimates, but as there is a general desire to adjourn over to-morrow and to secure an early division upon the amendment which has been indicated, I shall make my remarks exceedingly brief. Concerning that amendment I merely desire to say that, having appointed a military expert - and, consequently, having decided that an expert’s services were necessary - it is a serious step to take the management of the forces out of his hands. I quite agree that it is for us to outline the policy which should be pursued, and to state definitely the amount of money which we are prepared to expend for military purposes ; but having done that, it is scarcely desirable that we should take the details relating to the control of the forces out of the hands of the General Officer Commanding. If we wish to do anything in that direction we should deal either with the Minister or with the expert when the term of his engagement has expired. For these reasons I do not think it is advisable - especially as the saving which would be effected is a very trifling one - for the Committee to interfere in mere matters of detail. I am strongly in favour of the exercise of economy in connexion with our Defence Forces. But with that economy I think we should have efficiency, and under the present arrangement I fear that we are not getting efficiency. For instance, in connexion with our arms - our guns and rifles - and with our forts we have not that perfection which is essential if we are to be secure against a sudden attack. If the South African war has proved anything, it is that under conditions such as would exist in case of an attack upon Australia, we require not so much highly trained men as troops possessed of a certain amount of efficiency in military movements, and experienced in the use of the most perfect weapons which can be placed in their * hands. If we do not secure that, ovir whole defence system rests upon a rotten foundation. I have in my possession some data which I had intended to place before the Minister, but in deference to the desire of the Committee, I shall reserve it till next week, when I shall have another opportunity of addressing myself to this matter. At the present moment, how ever, I shall content myself with saying that all the , forces upon which we should have to rely in time of war - whether they be partially paid, volunteer, or reserve forces, the last named consisting
10 Q 2
largely of the members of rifle clubs - should be armed with the most up-to-date weapons. The only way in which they can be so equipped is by the Government providing the arms. They are beginning to provide them in the case of volunteer and partiallypaid forces ; but they seem to have made up their minds not to do so in the case of that branch of our Defence Forces whose services are specially devoted to attaining proficiency in rifle shooting. I think that is a wrong policy. I am sure that, whilst keeping down expenditure in ali directions in which a fair return for the outlay is not forthcoming, this Committee is sensible and patriotic enough to vote any sum that is necessary to provide those munitions of war without which all our defence expenditure is practically valueless. That is the position, which I had intended to put before the Committee at greater length, but in deference to the general desire to adjourn over to-morrow and to secure an early division upon the amendment which has been outlined, I shall not occupy further time.
– If I rightly understand the temper of this Parliament concerning matters of defence it is that the Commonwealth forces shall consist of the adult male population of the Commonwealth. Indeed we have gone a little further than that. ‘ We have decided that it shall comprise all our male population from eighteen years of age upwards. In perusing the report of the General Officer Commanding, I notice that he speaks very highly of the cadet corps and the rifle clubs. But when I come to examine the provision which has been “ made in the Estimates for these branches of our defence, I find that his words represent so much empty sound. Very little money has been appropriated for their encouragement. I am thoroughly in accord with all that has been said by the honorable member for North Sydney, and with much more that he might have said in. regard to the treatment of these two branches of our defence force. I would specially direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that a very large number of the men who have devoted their time, and a considerable portion of their substance to qualifying themselves as expert marksmen, have purchased their own weapons. But, as honorable members are aware, the barrel of a rifle is serviceable only for the discharge of about 13,000 rounds of ammunition. Time after time the Department has been approached with a request that it should import new rifle barrels to replace those which become worn out.
– I have fired far more than 13,000 rounds out of an old shot-gun.
– But after so many rounds have been fired from a rifle it begins to become defective.
– We have sent for more.
– I believe that I have shot that many kangaroos with an old gun.
– In my youth I shot many an opossum with an old flint piece, but I would have preferred a breech-loader. I am sure that the honorable member for Gippsland would not use a defective rifle when he could obtain a good one, more especially if he were competing with other expert shots. The experiences of the South African war have demonstrated that whilst men may be trained in military manoeuvres in the course of a very few months, it re- quires months, or perhaps years, of practice to make a man an expert rifle shot. It was as rifle shots that the Boer forces excelled ; they were able to use their rifles much better than were the majority of the forces which Great Britain sent against them, and should occasion arise Australia will find that her greatest source of strengthlies in the skill with which her forces are able to use the weapons placed in their hands. Instead of the Department charging members of rifle clubs 40s. for a rifle, as is proposed under the new regulations, it should supply them at the lowest cost. I have been a member of a rifle club for something like fifteen “years, and while the Defence Department was under the State control I was never called upon to pay more than 10s. for a rifle in Queensland. I had complete control over the Martini-Heniy, which I purchased at that price, the only condition being that I should submit it for inspection at certain periods in order to satisfy the Department that I was keeping it in order. After a certain time I was permitted to do as I liked with the rifle, and it is still ‘in my possession. The Department is now asking rifle clubs to pay 40s. each for rifles.
– The charge for a magazine rifle is £3 15s. 9d.
– But the Depart ment proposes to charge members of rifle clubs only 40s
– That is the price of a Martini-Enfield rifle.
– Does the Department propose to charge more for the magazine rifles ?
– They will be sold to members of rifle clubs at cost price.
– Then it seems to me that the Department is acting in a way that will kill the rifle clubs.
– And deliberately doing so.
– This charge has not killed the Victorian clubs.
– But the new scale has not yet been adopted.
– The rifle clubs in Victoria have been in existence for some years.
– I think the Minister will learn on inquiry that under the State law members of rifle clubs in Victoria were not called upon to pay £3 15s. 9d. each for their rifles. I feel satisfied that if such a price had been demanded we should not find something like 20,000 members of rifle clubs in Victoria. There are far more rifle clubs in Victoria than in any other State, and Queensland and New South Wales come next in the order named. The rifle club movement received a great stimulus in this State, but even under existing conditions, a rifleman cannot go on a range without spending 4s. or 5s. There are certain entry fees and markers’ charges to be paid which involve considerable outlay, and when men are patriotic enough to devote their time ard a considerable portion of their substance to the work of making themselves proficient rifle shots, they should receive a little more encouragement from the Department than they are likely apparently to obtain from it under the present administration. . There is an old saying - “Hard words break no bones,” and it appears that the converse is also true. The smooth words which we find in the report of the General Officer Commanding will not stimulate this branch of the Defence Forces to as great an extent as would a little practical assistance. It is not for me to set my opinion against that of the expert administering the Department, but there are certain facts in connexion with our defences, so patent to us all, that we cannot shut our eyes to them. If we are to have our army established in accordance with what I believe to be the opinion o fcl iia House, and the country generally, we should begin our training in the schools. Cadets should ‘be drilled until they leave school at the age of fourteen, and we should continue to train them until they are old enough to join the rifle clubs. We should drill and arm them, so that when they are old enough to join rifle clubs they will be able to do good work. If we adopt that system we shall obtain a force which, in a time of emergency, will be able to render a good account of itself. I am reminded that there is a desire to go to a division without delay, and, in view of that fact, I shall bring before the notice of the Minister in his .own Department several matters which I proposed otherwise to put before the Committee. I desire, however, to request the Minister to explain the disparity which exists between the salaries paid to certain officers in one of the most important blanches of our Defence Forces. I refer to the instructional staff, or, in other words, the drill instructors. I understood that with the creation of the Commonwealth we were to obtain uniformity. When the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General visited Brisbane to help the cause of Federation they said that, with the establishment of the Commonwealth, various savings would be effected, and that we should obtain uniformity in several directions. They declared that instead of having six tin-pot armies and six tinsel commanders we should have one Australian army and a’ General Officer Commanding. But, if I am rightly informed, uniformity so far as salaries are concerned does not exist. The drill instructors engaged in this work in New South Wales receive. £208 per annum; in “Western Australia, £196 per annum ; in Victoria, £177 per annum ; in South Australia, £175 per annum ; in Tasmania, £173 per annum ; and in Queensland, £166 per annum. These men discharge corresponding duties in each of the States, and they should receive equal remuneration. I have also a list which shows that preference is given, without exception, to instructors who have been in the Imperial Army.
– That is quite right from the point of view of the General Officer Commanding, but not from our standpoint.
– Let me remind the honorable member that the only Australian force which surrendered in South Africa was led by an Imperial officer. We did not find our men surrendering when they were led by their own officers, and I assert that we have men as competent to instruct our forces - men who have been trained on the battle fields of South Africa - as are any officers to be found in the Imperial Army.
– If we will have an Imperial General Officer Commanding we must have these Imperial instructors.
– I should like to see the Department rely a little more on our own resources instead of going abroad for these men.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– The figures which I have in my possession show that in every instance Imperial officers are receiving from £10 to £16 per annum more than is paid to Australian officers discharging similar duties.
– That is in accordance with agreements made .prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth.’ We have not engaged any Imperial officers since then.
– I inquired a few days ago why a certain classification had not been carried out, and it seemed to me that the reply I received was, to say the least, a little ambiguous. It was said that because certain men were not appointed at certain dates they were not given promotion. Some of these instructors joined the service years before those who are now receiving larger salaries. Some of them were in the service only two or three years, whilst others have been in .the service nine or ten years and are getting less pay.
– They were introduced before Federation.
– Why were not these men promoted so that they could receive the same pay as the Imperial non-commissioned officers ? Why should they be placed at a disadvantage ? However, I shall probably have an opportunity of discussing this matter with the Minister in his office some time during next week, and, at the present stage, will content myself with the observations I have made.
– I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without making some reference to the disbandment ‘of Commonwealth volunteer corps. Some time since the matter was brought forward in the House, and it was supposed that the Minister would make some reference to it when the Estimates were under consideration. But so far he has said nothing to justify the action taken in disbanding companies, some members of which have’ been in the service upwards of twenty years. These men, it is said, have been converted into a mounted force. But it is impossible to convert companies of volunteer infantry into a mounted force unless they have the means >to provide themselves with horses. Some of these volunteers have been to the Transvaal and have covered themselves with glory. On returning they were desirous of continuing as volunteers, but the Minister says he no longer requires their services. The volunteers throughout New South Wales feel very much aggrieved, and, judging from the observations made by the honorable member for Gippsland, it would appear that a similar ‘feeling prevails throughout Victoria. I am aware that in other States there is also discontent. The throwing of these men out of the service in consequence of the conversion, as it is called - it is practically disbandment - should receive some consideration, and it is only due to the Committee that some definite, explicit, and satisfactory explanation should be given before the Estimates are passed. If the valuable services of these experienced men are not to be used in volunteer forces, they ask for an opportunity to form civilian rifle clubs. Then the Minister interposes again and says, “On payment of a fee of £3 15s. for the cost of the rifle, you are permitted to form rifle clubs.” In addition to that I suppose they would have to provide their own ammunition.
– Oh, no ; they receive 200 rounds free, and 200 at half-price.
– Half-price for ammunition to men who cannot afford to pay any price at all is a very heavy tax indeed, and prevents their carrying out the duties pertaining to rifle clubs to the fullest extent. When experienced officers returned from the South African war they publicly announced that it should be the policy of Australia to provide members of rifle clubs with free ammunition. Some of them went to the . length of saying that the .riflemen should have as much as they desired ; but, of course, there must be a limit. I think that ammunition should be supplied free to all those who are desirous of forming themselves into civilian rifle clubs, and that the rifles also should be supplied to them free of charge. Then, again, I should like to obtain some information from the Minister as towhat he is prepared to do ‘ to provide thenecessary targets for the practice of the clubs. It is a considerable tax upon them toprovide themselves with targets. I brought this matter under the Minister’s notice some time ago.
– We now propose tomake them a capitation allowance of 5s. per annum.
– That is a merenothing j it is scarcely worth mentioning.
– It means 5s. per man, to the clubs.
– Give them a free rifle and free ammunition, and they will not want any money whatever. The Minister is always very courteous when any application is made to him, but we can get nothing but courtesy out of him. Will he give the rifleclubs an opportunity of doing something for their proportion of £700,000 a year which we are spending t We hear a great deal about the necessity for having good officers,, and I am prepared to support the GeneralOfficer Commanding in this respect ; but he should be given to understand that many of our citizen soldiers are unable to provide themselves with horses ; that many members of our rifle clubs cannot afford the cost of rifles; and that they should not be expected to purchase the ammunition they use, even at half-price. These ar& matters of very great importance. My constituents are at fever heat over them. I trust that the Minister will make ‘ a fewobservations on the point. If time permitted, I believe that this discussion would * continue for a whole sitting, judging from the interjections which have been made, and from the speeches with reference to this subject a few weeks ago. I have read in thenewspapers that certain companies of the Australian Horse have also been practically disbanded, because they decline the conditions imposed under the new regulations.
– I have not heard of it, and do not think it is so.
– I read that at Mudgee- ‘
– Most of them aregoing to keep their old title.
– Are they satisfied now 1
– So far as I know,, yes. I think that some of them would rather remain as they are.
– Are they quite satisfied ?
– I should not like tosay that, but they are content to fall in with the new arrangements.
– Some of the men sent in their resignations, I understand.
– I heard nothing about that.
– It was so stated in the newspapers. If the Minister willgive a denial to the report I shall be satisfied.
– I have not seen it.
– The Minister ought to know whether the company of the Australian Horse at Mudgee has resigned because the members of it were dissatisfied to continue in the service under the regulations recently issued.
– We have heard nothing of it in the office.
– I am glad to learn that the men are now satisfied. I should like the Minister to answer the following questions : - First, is he in favour of giving members of the rifle clubs free rifles; secondly, will he provide them with targets ; thirdly, will he forego the charge of half-price for ammunition? These are only reasonable requests in the interests of the Commonwealth. We may save hundreds of thousands of pounds hereafter if the Department will properly equip these men. I hope the answer to these questions will be in the affirmative.
– It would cost
– I entirely subscribe to the suggestion of the honorable member for Robertson as to the need for greater liberality in the treatment of rifle clubs. We did expect, when the Federal Forces had been re-organized, to find the rifle clubs put upon a very much more liberal footing. It will be a matter of keen regret throughout the States that such is not the case, and that men are still to be “ cribbed, cabined, and confined “ in their efforts to make themselves thoroughly good rifle shots, and so provide us with a mobile force in case of any peril to the Empire. We did expect that when the new regulations were issued they would be found to contain some such provisions as have been suggested by the honorable member for Robertson. It seems, however, that there is the same old military dislike being displayed towards rifle clubs.
– What is suggested would cost such a lot of money - over £200,000.
– I do not care what the cost would be.
– We do.
– The Commonwealth is prepared to bear the cost of thoroughly equipping the members of rifle clubs with up-to-date rifles.
– What does the honorable member think the States would say ?
– The people of the Commonwealth will not shirk any expense in that direction. The right honorable gentleman will not find any objection in any part of Australia to the complete equipment of the forces we have established.
– We hear objections in every direction from the States.
– The right honorable gentleman must know that it is better we should have no force at all than that we should have a force which is not equipped in such a way as to render it an efficient fighting force in case of need.
– Give us a little time.
– How much time does the right honorable gentleman require? He has had three years already. How much time does he consider sufficient ?
– Honorable members have been cutting down the vote” all that time.
– It will bear cutting down a little yet.
– How much time does the right honorable gentleman require to thoroughly equip the various corps?
– The right honorable gentleman should cut a little off the staffs and give it to the rifle clubs.
– That would not make them very fat.
– It would help.
– As to the cutting down, I desire to say that I, for one, will do no more cutting down. I think we have cut into the bone.
– Some branches are pretty fat still.
– If we are to have a thoroughly effective defence, I believe we can hardly expect to secure it for much less than the expenditure at present proposed. That is the conclusion to which I have arrived upon these matters without, of course, any expert knowledge. I am the more determined not to go in for further cutting when I see the use which has been made of the cutting down which has already been effected by honorable members.
– The Department is not spending the money in the proper direction.
– Invariably the effects of the cutting down have fallen upon the rank and file of the force.
– No, no.
– Upon the very men for whose interests honorable members have always manifested the deepest concern. They have had to bear the brunt of any cutting proposal. We have organized and re-organized our army upon very many occasions, and the net result of each re-organizing scheme has been to take something more from the volunteer forces of the Commonwealth.
– Who is to blame for that 1
– The honorable member for Wide Bay for one.
– The honorable member says that he will not give it back to them. He says he will not cut down the staff.
– I said I would do no more cutting until I get some guarantee that it is not going to be the same kind of cutting that we have hitherto had.
– We can make the guarantee for ourselves by the vote we give now.
– 1 say the honorable member has been aiming at one man and hitting another.
– The Government have been hitting the other.
– That is my complaint against the whole scheme.
– The honorable member has been taking a part in what has been done. He need not attribute it to other persons.
– I am prepared to take my share of responsibility. But I may tell the honorable member for Bland that, so far as last year’s cutting is concerned, I had nothing to do with it, and I was not in favour of it.
– The honorable member did not raise his voice against it.
– If the honorable member will look at Hansard he will find that I told the Committee exactly what I am telling honorable members now, and that was that in my experience the cutting always fell on the wrong shoulders.
– Did we not get the assurance of the Minister in the matter 1
– I speak now of State experience as well as of ‘Commonwealth experience. I remember that on two occasions lump sums were cut off the Defence Estimates submitted in the New South Wales Parliament, and that in variably the reductions were passed, on to the lower ranks of the service. I desire some guarantee, before I take part in any more cutting, that that will not be done again. I wish to say that, as the result of all the organization and reorganization, we find the citizen soldier getting further and further into the rear.
– Not at all. That is not true. The honorable member cannot have read the report of the General Officer Commanding.
– I shall be able to show the right honorable gentleman whether the statement is correct or not. It has been understood that the policy of the Commonwealth was to be one of encourage-^ ment to the citizen soldier, and- that our future Australian defence was to be built upon a citizen basis. I desire to point out that, as the net result of the reorganization schemes we have had from time to time, dating as far back as 1S92 in New South Wales, the gunner and private who used to get £12 a year is now going to receive £6 8s. The lieutenant, who used to receive £30, is now to receive £12 under the new scheme. The lieutenant who used to receive £25 is now to receive £12. Whereas the captain used to receive £40, he is now to receive only £1S. The major who used to receive £50 is now to receive only £24, and the lieut. -colonel who use,1 to receive £60 is now to receive only £28. I say that this is not encouraging the citizen soldiery. It must have the very opposite effect.
– The permanent men have not been cut down in that way.
– This kind of thing is taking the very heart out of our citizen soldiers, and is tending to destroy all that feeling of loyalty which should be the basis of any effective defence of the Commonwealth. The members of the forces are wondering when it is going to> end, and when this constant nagging ab them is likely to cease. That is the feeling in the militia forces of the Commonwealth to-day. It is about time that some finality was reached in the re-organization of the forces. It seems to me that very shortly they will be re-organized out of existence, if this is the kind of encouragement that is to be given to them. I repeat that the net result of all the schemes of re-organization we have had has been t© still further reduce the bare emolument which our citizen soldiers have from time to time received.
– That is a charge against the admistration.
– That is precisely the charge I make.
– The honorable member refers to New South Wales.
– What I have said is true of New South Wales, and it is true of the Commonwealth also.
– It is true of all the States.
– The right honorable gentleman must know that he is now cutting down the pay of the partially-paid forces.
– We are giving them 8s. a day.
– The right honorable gentleman is talking of the pay per day, whilst I am talking of the sum allowed to the men annually. I say that the annual sum, which they may become possessed of as some reimbursement of their out of pocket expenses and loss of time, is now proposed to be £6 8s.
– We cannot make a reduction of £250,000 without doing injury to some one.
– The sum allowed is a paltry one, and I venture to say that the great public of the Commonwealth will not sympathize with that kind of cutting down.
– Why did the honorable member assist in cutting down the expenditure 1
– The right honorable gentleman airily assumes that the scheme of re-organization adopted is perfect, and can be improved by no man.
– We had to face the large reduction of £250,000 in the expenditure.
– I believe the right honorable gentleman has made an earnest effort in this scheme of re-organization ; but one cannot help observing that it simply pulsates with old military ideas. The fundamental and underlying object of the House in amending the Defence Bill has not been sufficiently taken into account. Another point that strikes me is that no regard has been paid to the means of efficiency at our command throughout the Commonwealth. Men from the volunteer ranks went to South Africa, and remained there throughout the war, proving themselves able soldiers, and rendering efficient service. But I know of no instance in which advantage has been taken of the services which these men would be able to render ; they have all been forced to retire to the privacy of their own homes and districts, and resume their civil callings. I always understood that it was a well-known rule in the armies of the old world, and, indeed, wherever fighting efficiency is valued, to take advantage of such experience; and the military authorities might have tried to utilize the services of gentlemen who have proved themselves good leaders and capable administrators. But, as I say, I know of no instance in which those experienced soldiers have been given any opportunity under the re-organization scheme. That is not what Australia expected ; and an efficient fighting force cannot be maintained if we ignore some of the best ability at our command. There is another idea underlying the scheme of reorganization - an idea which the Minister ought to have obliterated. That is the idea of drawing invidious distinctions between the regular forces and the volunteer forces. For instance, there is still maintained the old tradition that a colonel of the regular forces must be allowed twice as much for his horse as is a colonel of militia, although the latter has to pay quite as much as the former for horse feed.
– Perhaps the horse of a colonel of militia has to be only partially fed, because the colonel is only partially paid.
– That would seem to be the idea of the authorities.
– A colonel of militia is not bound to keep a horse all the year round.
– I beg the right honorable gentleman’s pardon ; a colonel of militia must keep a horse all the year round ; and where there is that compulsion no invidious distinction should be drawn.
– Formerly only the colonel and the major received any allowance for horse-keep, whereas now some allowance is. given to all officers.
– All men who are compelled to keep horses ought to be put on the same footing, whether they be in the regular forces or the volunteer forces.
– That cannot be done with the money at our disposal.
– I could multiply instances of invidious distinctions which we expected would be obliterated under the new order of things.
– Horse allowance is now included in the salary.
– I complain of the constant whittling away of the little privileges and emoluments to which the militia forces of Australia have been accustomed from time immemorial. It was expected that the forces would be put on an entirely citizen basis ; but that has not been done. That work awaits some kindlier hand than that which, I am afraid, the right honorable gentleman has brought to bear. When is this sort of thing to stop ? Is every new Commandant to be given a free hand to “ cut “ and “ slash” where he pleases, and to be applauded the more he is able to “ cut “ in connexion with the rank and file? We have reductions of ±”20,000 one year, and of £30,000 another year in the expenditure on the men who have to do the fighting, and who are scantily paid in any case. I hope the Minister will see that some better treatment is given to the rifle clubs, because, after all, in the guerilla warfare which we may- anticipate in the case of a raid on Australia, it is to the members of those clubs to whom we shall have to look for the mobile force which is to help to keep the enemy at bay.
– I wish to comply with the wishes of the Committee that the debate shall be restricted as much as possible, but I must ask honorable members to bear with me while I draw attention to the very large decrease which is proposed in the expenditure on rifle clubs in Victoria. The actual expenditure under this head last year was £27,550, and the proposed expenditure for thi3 year is only £19,002. The rifle club movement in Victoria has been carried on with exceptional activity, and I protest against a reduction which is likely to impair the progress of these organizations.
– I understand that 7,000> members of rifle clubs have no rifles.
– I shall refer to that matter in a moment. In the other States theamount proposed to be Spent on rifle clubs is totally inadequate to the number of men who are eligible. In New South Walesthe estimate of expenditure is £5,750 ;. in Queensland, £1,745 ; in South Australia, £2,595 ; in Western Australia, £2,850
– I was one of those who anticipated that the reduction in the Military Estimates last year would be made at the expense of the rank and file. I regret that our apprehensions in that regard have been too generally realized. I rise, however, to introduce another matter which I think also shows a lack of appreciation by the General Officer Commanding and his staff, of what was meant by the House when it emphasized its opinion in support of the establishment of a citizen soldiery. It appears to me that the General Officer Commanding rather flouts the House when he fails to carry out its views. That is not to be wondered at when we recollect that any preferment which he is to get will come, not from an Australian source, but from a British source. The officers who have held a position of this kind in Australia hitherto - and probably it will be so for a long time to come - have not paid great attention to the views of those who have found their salaries, for the simple reason that they have been engaged for definite periods, and because their salaries were secure, and their preferments and promotions were to come from the home authorities. Until we can get a man in this position whose promotion and preferment will come from the same source as his emoluments, we are not likely to get the Australian ideal respecting Australian soldiering or defence carried into effect. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that such a case as I am about to relate has cropped up. It was my duty, some time ago, to protest against the treatment which had been meted out to Lt.-Cols. Braithwaite and Reay. By that act the service in Victoria lost the aid of two officers who had proved themselves capable, and who, because they stood up for a principle, were, to use a common phrase, “wiped” out. What is proposed to be done in another case is, I think, even worse. Let me premise my remarks by saying that the officer concerned has not asked rae to bring the matter before the Committee. It was placed before me by some of his friends. I thought it my duty to see him about the case, and when I told him of my determination to bring it before the House he said he would not accept any responsibility for its ventilation, because it was against orders. It is such a glaring case of injustice, however, that I propose to state the facts. In 1896, four members of the second battalion of the Infantry Brigade - Messrs. G. O. Bruce, R. E. Gordon, T. G. L. Scott, and W. R. Woods - were nominated as lieutenants on probation. In an extract’ from General Orders issued at that time, it was said that -
The seniority of these officers will be determined on passing the required examination on the completion of their probation.
It will be seen that the four officers started on a fair basis when future promotions were to be determined by the relative superiority and merit that they displayed. At a later date the four men went up for their first examination. Lieutenant Scott - the officer of whom I am speaking - passed the theoretical examination at the head of the list - with 94’3 marks out of 100, while Lieutenant Scott - the officer of whom I shall speak in contradistinction to Lieutenant Scott - passed at the bottom of the list with 71 ‘65 marks. The practical examination was held in 1897, when Lieutenant Scott passed first, Lieutenant Bruce being third on the list. According to the official papers published at the time, Lieutenant Scott passed - “ S.C.” - “Distinguished “ in regimental duties, field engineering, drill.
In other words he had passed with such credit that not much more could be said about him. Since that time certain matters have arisen which are likely to put him out of his position, notwithstanding the fact that the four men were told, on being nominated for a lieutenancy, that seniority and promotion would depend on their relative merits. After serving for some time, Lieutenant Bruce left the infantry brigade to join the Field Artillery. In an extract from General Orders on the 21st of June, it is said that
Lieutenant G. O. Bruce, 2nd B.I.B., is attached to the Field Artillery Brigade for instruction for three months.
He went to that brigade for three months, exerted his best efforts to get a commission and failed. According to General Orders he was then brought back to his original brigade. In the meantime, Lieutenant Scott, who had passed his examinations, both theoretical and practical, at the head of the list in all subjects, had remained effective with his brigade. He had been placed in all senior positions whether on parade or elsewhere, got the position of senior subaltern in his company, and had control in the absence of the captain commanding. He had always shown that he was fully qualified. When a captaincy became vacant some little time ago he made application for it, and naturally expected to get it, but he was told,’ by his company commander I suppose, that he could not be recommended, as the company commander had already decided to recommend Lieutenant Bruce. Lieutenant Bruce is, I understand, the nephew or some other relative of one of the most influential warehousemen in this city, and social influence has been used to have him pushed forward notwithstanding his lack of qualifications. If the General Officer Commanding does not know of these facts he should be informed of them, so that justice may be done. I should not have le erred to the matter here, but for the fact that the case was laid before the Minister for Defence nearly a fortnight ago, with a request that he would cause an inquiry to be made into it, and no answer has since been received from him. Therefore, it seemed to me that the only way in which to get the wrong righted was to bring it before honorable members, and, by a sort of public outcry, cause justice to be done. If social influence is to be used to obtain the promotion of unqualified men over the heads of others, it will be small matter for surprise if our forces go to pieces. We had hoped that under the General Officer Commanding promotions . would be made solely with regard to merit and seniority, but the use of social influence apparently began with Lt.-Col. Reay, and has been continued in this instance. I ask that the Minister in charge of the Estimates will make a note of what .1 have said, and cause an inquiry to be made into the facts of the case ; and I hope that, if they are as” I allege them to be, he will remedy the grievance, and promote Lieutenant Scott to the position which he should occupy. I should have referred to the case of Lt.-Cols. Braithwaite arid Reay but ‘for the circumstance that the matter was fully ventilated in the Senate some time ago. I think that every member o£ the Committee must regret that two officers so capable as they were have been lost to the service, and will take care to see that in this case no similar injustice is done.
– As it seems likely that a great many honorable members will leave for their homes after a test vote is taken upon these Estimates, I wish to impress it upon the Minister, while there is still a good attendance, that the Tasmanian Forces should not be left in their present anomalous position. I understand that after the test vote to which I have alluded has been taken, the remaining Estimates will pass through Committee with considerable rapidity ; and, therefore, I ask the Minister for Home Affairs, who is now in charge of them, if he will allow an amendment to be moved without debate, immediately after the test vote, to allow the sense of the Committee to be taken on the subject upon which I am about to speak. ‘
– The position of the Tasmanian Forces is owing wholly to the want of money.
– It is not a matter of money so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. I addressed myself to this subject when the Budget was under discussion,, and I was followed by nay honorable colleague,’ Mr Cameron, who spoke against the proposal which I thought it desirable to advocate, and in favour of retrenchment in the interests of the State finances. I desire to point out, however, that the honorable member is one of the bitterest opponents of taxation in any form, more especially when the imposition of new taxation is likely to result in additional burdens being placed upon the landed proprietors of Tasmania. The question of retrenchment in connexionwith the Commonwealth Forces in Tasmania was not raised during the State elections there. During those elections the battle was fought upon the question of reducing various local establishments, decreasing tha salary of future Governors, lessening the number of representatives in the State Parliament, doing awa)’ with the University,’ and other subjects of local importance. The expense of the Commonwealth Forces in Tasmania was not touched upon. I am sure that if that question had been raised during the elections the present Premier of the State would not have received the very large support which he has received. He himself did not mention it during the elections. But since getting into power1 again he has, with the kind co-operation of that member of the Ministry who is one of the representatives of Tasmania, induced the Treasurer to submit- estimates in which the position of the Tasmanian Forces is quite anomalous. I hope that the good sense of the Committee will lead to the decisionthat this matter, like other matters of Federal concern, is one entirely for the determination of the Commonwealth Parliament, without regard to the wishes of any State Minister. If similar recommendations had been made by the Premiers of the other five States and had been adopted, the Federal Commonwealth Forces would have passed into nothingness like the baseless fabric of a vision. The Treasurer stated during” the Budget debate that the arrangement of which I complain would remain in force for only one year. . I desire to point out, however, that the Tasmanian Forces were told that in 1901, and, believing the statement to be true they, although under the disabilities which attach to militia, consented to continue to serve without pay for a period of twelve months. The year 1902 came, and they were again allured to take up the same position. This year, however, they feel that they must make a stand, because they can no longer suffer the injustice of their position . They rely upon the promise of the General Officer Commanding that, under Federation, all the forces would be placed upon the same footing. I am afraid lest, smarting under the sense of injustice, the Tasmanian Forces will cease to exist, unless Parliament comes to their rescue and rights their grievance. I find that I made a slight error in regard to the number of men concerned when last I spoke, though I took my figures from information which I gathered during a conversation with the Minister for Home Affairs. I have now ascertained that the authorized peace estab-. lishment is - field force 882, garrison artillery ninety-two, and . engineers sixty - a total peace footing of 1,034 ; but Tasmania will this year be content with a field force of 550, fifty engineers and seventy members of the garrison, or 670 altogether. That is the force I desire to see provided for in the Estimates, so that Tasmanian soldiers may be treated in the same way as are the soldiers of the other States. I do not desire that in Tasmania the military light shall fade into Cimmerian darkness, while it continues to burn brightly in the five other States of the Commonwealth.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I have been asked to protest against the treatment to which the rifle clubs are being subjected. Every obstacle seems to be placed in the way of the formation of rifle clubs,. and of the good work which they desire to do. The members of these clubs protest against the regulation which requires them to purchase their own rifles. I am speaking on behalf of the members of many of the rifle clubs in Queensland, who are quite prepared to revert to the old regulations. It is a great pity that difficulties should be raised when there is every prospect of successfully carrying out a good system’ of citizen soldiery. It seems as if there were a desire to turn out simply the old machine-made soldier. I, therefore, appeal to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to take steps to repeal the present regulations,’ and place the members of rifle clubs in the position which they formerly occupied.
– They are in quite as. good a position as they were formerly.
– No they are not, because they have to buy their rifles, where as formerly they were not required to doso. The action of the Department is retarding the progress of the rifle club movement, and I hope that the matter will receive the sympathetic attention of the Minister. Only a small amount is placed on the Estimates for the encouragement of the senior cadet movement. This department of the citizen forces is deserving of’ every possible encouragement because it forms a connecting link between the cadets: and the infantry regiments. I would ask’ the Minister whether, in the event of further senior cadet corps being established in Queensland, before the introduction of the next Estimates, every facility will be afforded to those who are taking an interest in the movement. I hope that the Minister will be in a position to give a favorable reply.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister to one fact in connexion with an interjection which he made when the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking. That honorable member referred to the reduction’ in the rates of pay of the partially-paid forces, and the Minister interjected, that in view of the large lump-sum reductions made last year and the year before, it wasimpsssible to avoid hurting somebody. That is perfectly true. I was opposed to the reduction made last year, and I was no friend of the reduction made on the previous Estimates ; and from what has occurred since I am quite satisfied that lump-sum reductions are undesirable. I contend that the cost of the permanent forces, other than the garrison artillery, could be very largely reduced if aproper system were followed. The citizen soldiers of Australia do not require to be wet-nursed by an excessive number of permanent soldiers.
– How many are there ?
– There are 564, independently of the permanent artillery.
– That number includes engineers and all other branches of the Defence Forces.
– I know exactly what branches of the forces are included. The cost of maintaining these permanent men is about £100,000 per annum, and I have no hesitation in saying that if a proper system were adopted that sum could be reduced by £20,000 without impairing the efficiency of our defences. I say, further, that if that sum were saved in the direction indicated, it would suffice to maintain the pay for the partially-paid soldiery at the rates previously in force in New South Wales and Victoria - that is, allowing for the fact that a large number of men do not earn their full pay.
– The pay is the same now as it used to be in New South Wales.
– No. Formerly the infantry in New South Wales received £7 8s. per annum, and the pay has been reduced to £6 8s. In Victoria, the infantry received £7 10s., and their pay has also been reduced to £6 8s. per annum. If £1 per annum were added to the pay of these men, not by increasing the rate per diem, but by providing for a larger number of parades, and giving the men an opportunity of earning the money, an increase of efficiency would be secured.
– They had only eighteen days’ parade in Victoria previously, and, therefore, the period of training has been reduced by only two or two and a half days.
– The men could earn £7 10s-. at the same rates at which they can now earn a maximum of £6 8s.
– The General Officer Commanding considers that sixteen days training is sufficient.
– Extra training should result in greater efficiency. ‘ The Minister says that all these things cannot be helped when large lump-sums have to be cut off the Estimates, but I think they can be helped.
– I do not think they can be helped.
– I hope that we shall obtain from the Minister more satisfactory replies than are indicated by his interjections. Otherwise, I shall feel constrained to vote in such a way as to express my views regarding the direction in which retrenchment should be carried out.
– A saving of £20,000 upon the permanent forces would not make up for the £60,000 which has been cut off the citizen forces.
– No ; but if a reduction of £20,000 were made in one case, the amount could be utilized in the direction I have indicated.
– Of the permanent men to whom the honorable and learned member has referred, 204 belong to the instructional staff. Surely he would not dispense with those?
– I should do away with the 108 men of the Royal Artillery who are employed upon instructional work, and would transfer them to garrison duty.
– That would not effect a saving.
– No; but I say that a saving of £20,000 a year could be effected in connexion with the permanent staff.
– I should like to know how it could be done.
– When I am Minister for Defence I shall show the right honorable gentleman. However, I suppose there is no use in discussing such an unlikely conitingency. Out of a total reduction of 329 individuals in the permanent forces of Australia this year, as compared with last year, 311 men belonged to the permanent artillery. I contend that these figures justify my statement last night that the retrenchment effected in the permanent forces had taken the wrong direction. Three hundred and eleven men have been taken away from the guns, where they ought to be, and only eighteen men have been discharged from other branches, where the duties could be performed by a still less number than that retained. The Minister says that the General Officer Commanding takes a different view of the matter. He probably knows more about military affairs than I do, but I have given a great deal of. attention to these matters.
– Has the honorable and learned member read the papers which I laid on the table ?
– Yes ; and I have no hesitation in saying that I know more about their contents than does the Minister. At any rate, I can assure the Minister that I have endeavoured, by the care which I have devoted to the consideration of them, to equal the care which he devoted to their preparation. The principal tables embodied in the papers are founded upon those which I prepared and submitted in connexion with last year’s Estimates.
– I simply desire to ask the Minister whether he has provided, or will provide, reasonably ample facilities for members- of rifle clubs to travel with a view to taking part in practice, and to compete in matches. I feel sure that the right honorable gentleman will agree that this affords one means of securing efficiency in this particular arm of the service, and that nothing conduces more to the proper efficiency of the men than adding to their qualifications in marksmanship. Under the State laws the members of rifle clubs had almost unlimited facilities for travelling to matches, and I hope that the Minister will make proper provision for securing the necessary facilities in this direction.
– I desire to support the contention of those honorable members who nave asserted that the retrenchment in the Defence Department has not been carried out in the right direction. A feeling exists throughout the partially-paid forces that they have had to bear the brunt of the retrenchment. It has been abundantly demonstrated by the honorable and learned member for Corinella that savings might have been effected in a different direction’ altogether, without affecting the efficiency of our defences. The public expected that when the Defence Department was transferred to the Commonwealth a considerable saving would have been effected in the expenses of administration and military control. It was thought that there would not be the same need for large military staffs in each State ; and we were justified in supposing that the amalgamation of the States Departments would have resulted in economy of management. We find, however, that the pruning knife has been applied principally to the citizen forces. The men do not object to bear their share of any reduction which may be considered necessary, but they feel that the reorganization effected has not been conducted upon proper lines. Men are being called upon to perform clerical duties instead of working the guns ; and in many other respects the present administration is not satisfactory. I hope that the Minister will take notice of what has been said during this discussion, that provision will be made for the expansion of our citizen forces as occasion requires, and that the permanent forces will not be kept up to their present standard.
– Notwithstanding the desire of the people of the Commonwealth to give full support to the citizen forces of Australia, Parliament is apparently powerless to give effect to their wishes.
– No; it is not powerless if it goes to work in the right direction.
– Parliament has been absolutely powerless up to the present time. Notwithstanding the promises that consideration would be given to our citizen forces we find that the vote for rifle associations represents a considerable reduction upon the amount appropriated last year.
– That is due to the reduction in the appropriation for ammunition.
– We want to know the cause of the reduction. Although it was promised that inducements would be held out to members of rifle clubs and others to become efficient rifle shots, the money appropriated for the purpose is being gradually reduced . Some three years ago a wave of enthusiasm was experienced in Victoria in regard to rifle shooting, and doubtless the same remark is applicable to all the other States. Every young nian desired to become proficient in the use of that weapon, and all that was needed to stimulate his ambition was an opportunity to obtain a rifle at a reasonable cost.
– We have done nothing to discourage .them.
– Why, the action of the Minister has actually resulted in the disbandment of some rifle clubs.
– We cannot be expected to give them the facilities for. travelling which they formerly enjoyed.
– The travelling facilities have nothing whatever to do with the discouragement which has been experienced by members of rifle clubs. To my mind the facilities which were offered for travelling to rifle practice in Victoria were abused to a very considerable extent.
– Abused’ by the members of rifle clubs ?
– Yes. I give the authorities credit for attempting to curtail the possibilities of abuse in that direction. I come into contact with a considerable number of members of rifle clubs, and their chief complaint is that they are not in a position to pay for ammunition and to purchase rifles.
– They were . always required to do that under the State Government.
– Only to a very limited extent. Under the State Government they were granted a certain amount of ammunition free of charge.
– They get that now.
– The quantity of free ammunition to which each member is entitled has been reduced.
– Oh no! They are allowed 200 rounds free and 200 rounds at half price.
– Then how does the Minister explain the fact that £12,000 was devoted to the purchase of ammunition last year, whilst this year only £8,000 is provided for that purpose?
– Probably there is some ammunition in stock, so that it is not necessary to purchase so much this, year.
– If we are to become alarmed because the purchase of an adequate supply of ammunition for an efficient rifle reserve would cost a few thousand pounds, the sooner we abolish this make-believe business the better.
– There are 7,000 men in Victoria who do not possess rifles.
– Last year we spent £26,000 upon small arms ammunition.
– That is so, but this year the amount to be expended is less.
– Because last year we had to pay for a quantity of MartiniHenri ammunition which we still have in stock.
– What provision has the Minister made to equip the members of rifle clubs throughout the States with rifles? Last year, apart from the purchase of rifles, the total amount expended upon rifle clubs and associations was £36,000, whereas this year only £32,000 is to be devoted to that purpose. That is a considerable reduction. Does that reduction imply that further facilities are to be provided for the encouragement of rifle clubs ? The general complaint last year was that a gradual reduction was taking place in the number of members of rifle clubs.
– We have not disbanded any rifle clubs in Victoria.
– No ; but they are a gradually decreasing quantity.
– They get the same encouragement that they received formerly. Of what have they to complain?
– They complain that they are not able to obtain rifles.
– They were never able to obtain them free of charge previously.
– In the first instance, they were promised that they should get rifles. They were informed that they could obtain the use of rifles by the payment of a small charge, and also that they would be given a supply of ammunition. I have been told that the ammunition supplied to them is a gradually diminishing quantity, and, judging from the Estimates, that is so.
– No, there is a good stock of ammunition in hand.
– I indorse the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Indi, that travelling facilities should be given to members of rifle clubs who desire to compete in inter-club and Inter-State matches ; but I hold that to allow that privilege to be abused in the way in which it was some years ago would have an injurious effect upon the organizations themselves. I do not think that the Committee would hesitate to vote whatever money might be absolutely necessary to provide rifles and ammunition if an unrestricted supply were required to encourage men to join rifle clubs in greater numbers than they are doing at the present time. It has been the ambition of Australians to become expert marksmen with the rifle ; but instead of gratifying that ambition the Government have done all in their power to suppress it.
– The discussion of this matter reveals a state of affairs which is neither complimentary to the Government nor to this Committee. Speakingthis afternoon the honorable member for Parramatta declared that he would not support any further reduction of the Defence vote, because the previous attempt to curtail expenditure in that Department had resulted in a saving being effected in the wrong branches of the service. No more serious charge than that could be made against an Administration. When the Estimates were under consideration last year, the Committee almost unanimously decided that the Defence vote should be cut down in a manner that would not lessen the amount which was paid to those who’ were actually performing necessary work and qualifying themselves to defend the country in case of need. But instead of the wish of the Committee being respected, it is quite evident that the Minis-: ter, in common with all previous Ministers of Defence, has fallen a victim to the wiles of an Imperial officer. It is true that Major-General Hutton has reduced the expenditure upon the Defence Department, but he has done so by cutting down the numbers and pay of those whose services are most essential.
– It is the Minister who has done so and not the General Officer Commanding. I am responsible for these Estimates.
– I admire the stand which is taken up by the right honorable gentleman. But does lie justify his action in cutting down the militia forces and injuring the rifle clubs ?
– I have not disbanded a man.
– But the policy which has been adopted has caused volunteers to be disbanded, and the present action of the Minister will cause a considerable reduction in the number of members of rifle clubs.
– I do not think so.
– I venture to say that it will. Those organizations contain fe%ver members to-day than they did originally.
– The number is not very much smaller.
– There has been an actual decrease. The point, however, which I desire to make is that, in each State before the accomplishment of Federation, the staffs of the military forces were” always able–
– There are very few less militia now than there were when the Commonwealth took over the Defence Department. The decrease, represents only about 800. Prior to Federation there were 15,800 members of that force, and at the present time there are 15,013.
– Does the Minister think that result is satisfactory 1
– Considering that we have reduced the Defence expenditure by £250,000, I think that it is very satisfactory.
– Personally I think that £500,000 is ample to expend upon our Defence Forces. If economy and retrenchment were enforced amongst the staff officers, I venture to say that we should secure a better force for an expenditure of £500,000 than we now obtain for an expenditure of £677,579, which is the amount proposed. We have a right to demand that Parliament shall exercise absolute control over the military policy of the
Commonwealth. If the. ex-Minister for Defence desires to support the General Officer Commanding in gathering around him a very expensive staff, and in starving the persons who perform the actual field work–
– Who is starved ?
– There has been a general reduction in the payment to the militia and volunteers. I should like to know how the Minister can defend the proposal that a charge of £3 15s. shall be made to members of rifle clubs for the new magazine rifles 1 It simply means that the policy of the Government and of their military adviser is that no poor man shall join a rifle club, and own a rifle. Does the Minister think that every one who desires to qualify himself to become an efficient marksman is possessed of £3 15s. which he can afford to hand over to the Government for a magazine rifle?
– He need not do so. It is not necessary that every man should have a rifle of his own.
– But the ordinary rifleman desires to have his own rifle. Indeed, some members of rifle clubs are very particular upon that point.
– A great many of them are willing to pay for the rifles. In Victoria they have bought 12,606 rifles.
– That is the highest compliment which . a rifleman can pay to the organization to which he belongs. The members of rifle, clubs do not desire to be remunerated for their services. They join those organizations chiefly because they desire to be able to serve their country in time of need. That surely is the most patriotic and responsible duty which any citizen could undertake. I wish to express my opinion in regard to the belief which is fostered in some quarters that Imperial officers are much superior, whether as commandants or instructors, to those who have been trained in Australia, and that considerations should be extended to them which are not given to citizens of the Commonwealth. A feature of all our naval and military movements is that the Imperial officers and “ Tommy Atkins “ are held to be infinitely superior to Australians. That contention cannot be correct. After twelve months? training the ordinary British soldier is considered to be fit to go into the ranks and to be capable of doing anything which any other soldier may do, and yet we are asked to believe that, because an “officer has been trained in the Imperial Army, he is superior to one who has received his military education here. There is no justification for such a belief. We have certainly no evidence that the Imperial officers engaged in the South African war acquitted themselves more creditably than did officers who were sent from Australia and other colonies, and I protest against the constant reiteration of the statement that, without Imperial officers, our army would be useless. The General Officer Commanding does not hesitate to say again and again that Australian officers who consider themselves to be well conversant with military tactics know very little indeed on the subject, and that their crude notions would lead to disaster in time of war. That assertion has yet to be proved. In the very early days of the South African campaign the opinion was expressed - and, no doubt, it was engendered by feelings of patriotism - that the Boers would immediately be crushed ; that they could not withstand the superior discipline of the British Forces. But, was that prediction verified? In the same way, if we were called upon to resist the attack of an enemy, Australian officers, knowing more of the tactics which would be necessary for the kind of warfare that would be carried on here, would be able to do greater credit to themselves than would any Imperial officers. I am not one of those who expect our troops to derive any great advantage from Imperial commanding officers or instructors. On the contrary, I consider that we shall secure the greatest benefit to the Commonwealth by encouraging the belief amongst Australian citizens that they are equally capable and worthy of governing and of filling the highest positions in the army and navy.
– In deference to the wishes of those who are anxious to return to their homes, I do not propose to discuss these Estimates as fully as I should otherwise have done.
– Why should they not be discussed ?
– The question before us is a most important one. I reluctantly agreed last year to the proposal to re’duce the Estimates by a lump sum, and, I think, that in doing so I placed my position clearly before the Committee. As a member of the New South Wales Parliament I had some ‘ experience of the results of reducing Estimates in this way, and of leaving departmental officers to work out a scheme of retrenchment in accordance with the wishesof the Legislature. Our experience th ere was that the work was invariably commenced at the wrong end. I feared that the same result would follow our experiment of reducing last year’s Estimates by a lump sum, and my fears have been largely realized.. Our desire was that instead of building upa large force of permanent officers and men, we should place more reliance upon our citizen soldiery, and that our expenditure should be in the direction of expanding and efficiently equipping our citizen forces. We find that the Estimates have been reduced in accordance with the promise given last year ; but that economies have been effected not amongst the more highly paid officers and men of the permanent forces, as desired by the Committee, but by impairing the efficiency of our citizen soldiery and. limiting the opportunity for the expansion of the system. We are told by the Minister that no further reductions can be made. A re-adjustment has taken place ; but with what result 1 We find that the permanent forces, instead of the citizen soldiery, absorbthe greater portion of the sum of £677,804, which we are asked to vote for the currentyear, and that the Minister has not allowed himself any margin for the encouragement, of citizen troops. I recognise the impossibility of bringing about a reform by means, of a lump sum reduction of the Estimates, or by reducing a particular item, as proposed by the honorable member for Maranoa. We cannot secure what we desire by merely reducing any item. The Committee must clearly set forth the line of policy which it wishes to be observed, and intrust the work of carrying out that policy to a competent man. The General Officer Commanding is one of theofficers who is largely responsible for carrying out the wishes of the House. I do not know whether the Minister has conveyed to him our desire that a system of citizen soldiery, rather than of” permanent forces, shall be encouraged-
– I have said that I have done so.
-I do not know whether Major-General Hutton has intimated that he can go no further in giving effect to the policy for which we have declared ; but, fortunately, more officers are available, and. if the present General Officer Commanding is unable to give effect to our determination, let us obtain the services of another officer who will do so. On the other hand, if the fault rest with the Minister, let us intrust the administration of the Department to some one else’ who will .carry out the wishes of the Committee. The Minister in charge of these Estimates has just handed over the administration of the Defence Department to a colleague. I trust that the present Minister for Defence will succeed where his predecessor has failed, and that our desire that the Commonwealth should rely chiefly upon a citizen soldiery for its defence will be more fully recognised in the future. I trust that the Department will encourage the formation of rifle clubs and detatchments of Australian Light Horse in country districts, and that these forces will be provided with up-to-date equipment, without which a Defence force is practically useless. Let us supply our forces with adequate equipment, and instead of building up an expensive system of permanent troops, as we have done in the past, give every reasonable encouragement to ou;,citizen soldiery.
– I regret to find it again necessary to direct the attention of the Minister to the position of the “Victorian Rangers. That branch of of our Defence Forces has been most shamefully treated. I could have understood that treatment if it had been necessary for the purposes of retrenchment ; but the action taken by the Department will have precisely the opposite effect. It will more than treble the expense which was formerly incurred in the maintenance of this force. Originally the Victorian Rangers were purely a volunteer force, and I have been assured by their officers that as such they were most attentive and assiduous in the discharge of their duties, and did all that was possible to make themselves efficient. They volunteered in large numbers to serve in South Africa, and acquitted themselves most creditably whilst there. I ‘have also been informed by their commanding officers that the Rangers, although a purely volunteer body, outdistanced all competitors in rifle shooting at the recent Sunbury encampment. Notwithstanding these facts, this force, above all others, was selected to be either converted into the Australian Light Horse or disbanded. Most of the Rangers are working men, residing in country towns. They cannot afford to keep a horse, and therefore cannot avail themselves of the proposal that they should become members of the Australian Light Horse. If they could do so they would at once become a partially-paid force. They have now been told that that they must accept either one or other of the alternatives I have named, and a large number who are unable to avail themselves of the first are compelled to submit themselves to the second. In view of their record - in view of the fact that they proved themselves to be the most efficient rifle shots at the Sunbury encampment, and that they rendered most excellent service in South Africa, it is shameful that their services as volunteers should not be retained.
– According to some people they have no right to be volunteers. .
– If they were allowed to continue as volunteers a saving of considerably over £2000 a year would be effected, and a preliminary expenditure of about £900 would be avoided. I would urge the Minister to inquire into the position of these men. I trust that if he discovers, after a careful investigation, th;.t it is impossible to retain them in their present position - although to any ordinary individual it seems remarkable that it should be so, having regard to the fact that they cost the State practically nothing, and are ready to give their best services to the Commonwealth when called upon to do so - he will allow this branch of the service, as an alternative, to be merged into rifle clubs.
– I do not think that they are unanimous.
– I have said that they were anxious to remain as they were ; but that after the matter had been discussed in this House, the alternative was put to them that they must either be converted into Light Horse or be disbanded. Rather than submit to disband ment a considerable number of the Victorian Rangers have agreed to join the Australian Light Horse. Now, a large number of others, as I have said, have not been able to. do so, and they have had to submit to disbandment. That is what I complain of, and what these men have a perfect right to be dissatisfied with. I should like to know whether the Minister will look into the matter, and ascertain whether it is not possible to retain the men in their present position and, if not, whether the right honorable gentleman will give facilities to merge the men into rifle clubs, in order that they may not be compelled to altogether -withdraw their services from the country.
– I confess to some difficulty in arriving at a conclusion with regard to this debate, although I have listened to the greater part of it. To my thinking, if it has any purpose whatever, it should eventuate in a motion to dispense with the services of the General Officer Commanding. That would certainly be logical, and surely more to the purpose than hostile criticism, which ends in nothing. If the military experts in this Chamber consider that the Defence Department is going to the dogs so rapidly, as apparently they do, the proper proceeding is to table a motion recommending the dismissal of the General Officer Commanding, or else to move a vote of censure on the Government. The proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, made during the Defence Bill discussion, is preferable to the practice we are now following. He desired that the control of the naval and military forces should be withdrawn from the present highly paid expert - a man with an European reputation - and vested in some members of this House, and other persons picked up from outside. That would certainly be a scratch combination. I dare say that the affair would look very well with General Mauger commanding, supplemented by Major-General McCay, and with the honorable member for Maranoa, who certainly has . had practical experience of soldiering, occupying the very prominent position of Chief of the Staff. Seriously, I think that a good deal of time has been wafted, and that, in order to direct the discussion to a concrete issue, something different might be. done. I can fancy the difficulty that an officer brought out from the old country has in placing the scattered forces of this Commonwealth on a proper footing. I can imagine also that his difficulty must be accentuated a thousandfold by the attitude of honorable members of this House, who, without having had his experience or possessing his expert knowledge, offer him suggestions which probably he knows very well cannot be earned out ; or which, if adopted, would result in the disorganization of the forces. I can just imagine what any successful general, who had conducted campaigns in the old world, would say if he had to endure a fusilade of this kind. Would Washington have won his victories if a nagging Parliament had been behind him, hampering every effort he made 1 Would the victorious Germans have conquered France, if their chief general had had his hands tied by members of the legislature telling him to do this and not to do that 1 It is proper that Parliament should fix the cost of this Department and give genera] directions regarding its expenditure, but we ought to stop there, and not attempt to regulate every minutiae. We should lay down principles, and leave details to others. Now, in my view, nearly threefourths of the money expended upon the land forces of Australia is practically wasted. What we need to do, in my opinion, is to foster the creation of rifle clubs, to teach every man how to shoot, and to give all facilities to practise shooting. That is all that we need bother ourselves about at present, so far as concerns the land forces of Australia. The bulk of our outlay should be upon a fleet to protect our shores. But if we bring a man out from England, who possesses the highest expert knowledge, surely we ought to take his advice. If we are involved in law, why do we consult a lawyer ? Because we realize that he knows more about law than we do. If we go to consult a physician about bodily ailments, we do so because he knows more about physical disorders than we do. Similarly, why should we incur the expense of obtaining expert military advice at all unless we follow it? That is the view which I take. Of course, I may be very presumptuous in offering an opinion. I never shouldered a rifle,, and I have not had that extensive experience in military affairs which, I am sure, justified the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in propounding his elaborate scheme for the management of the Defence Forces. However, to come down from the clouds to a practical matter, I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to a point which, small’ as it may be, is of considerable importance to some of my constituents. Some time ago, a number of them put their hands in their pockets and built a drill hall in an important town in Western Australia, with which the Minister is well acquainted. I refer to Menzies. They paid £400 for this hall, and handed it over to the Defence Department. But they have never received a penny in rent or a shilling in compensation for it, and they can get no satisfaction out of the Defence Department or from any one connected with it. These people paid the money to shift the hall on to Government land, and now, because there is some hitch in getting the land transferred from the State Government to the Commonwealth, they are out of their money, and have remained so for about three years.
– Was the hall built on private property?
– It- was purchased by these military enthusiasts out of their own resources, and shifted on to Government land. It is in use by the contingent stationed in the place, but neither rent for the building, interest on the outlay, nor the original purchase money, has been received by those who undertook the responsibilities in connexion with it in the first instance.
– What is the trouble about it ?
– The trouble is that these people want to get back the money paid for the hall.
– They cannot get the transfer arranged, I suppose ?
– As I have said, there is some hitch about transferring the land from the State Government to the Commonwealth Government. It is a matter which the Minister might look into.
– I will have a look into it.
– Then, again, the rifle clubs in Western Australia have been paying three times as much for their ammunition as has been paid by the rifle clubs in Victoria. That is another point which 1 would respectfully ask the Minister to look into.
– It is not my intention to prolong the debate, but there is a matter which has been brought under my notice, and to which I should like to direct the Minister’s attention. It has regard to the system which has been adopted respecting promotions. I do not believe in a hard and fast rule of seniority governing promotions. I believe that promotion should be by merit. But where seniority is coupled with meritorious service and success in examination, some strong reason should be given before an officer is superseded by one who is junior to himself - who has had the same, if not greater, opportunities, to perfect himself in his work, but who has not passed anything like the same examinations. The case alluded to by the honorable member for Bourke has also been brought under my notice by a friend of mine who is conversant with all the facts. It is a pity that these subjects have to be brought up in this Committee. But I am afraid that although they be trifling in character and few in number, they would be considerably added to if that natural reticence, coupled with a desire to observe discipline, which characterizes most of the officers in our defence forces, did not operate against the further ventilation of them in Parliament. I deprecate the discussion of questions of discipline, and even of advancement, in Parliament’; but where a manifest wrong has been done, or is being contemplated, and where an officer has taken every step which he can take in accordance with the regulations to protect his rights, and to prevent himself being superseded by one who has not anything like the same claims, then I think this Committee is the proper body before which to ventilate the case. I should not speak upon the matter if I had not made careful inquiries into the merits ‘of it. I have .read the various Gazette notices affecting the case, and I have also scanned the reports with regard to the examinations. Having done so, I cannot for the life of me understand why Lieutenant T. G. L. Scott, the officer referred to, should have been passed over in favour of a junior officer who has not passed his examinations so creditably. The position is this : Four officers received their commissions on the same day. It was stated in the Gazette notice that their seniority was to be reckoned according to. merit. They went up for examination, and their names were published in the order which they were to keep. But Lieutenant Scott, the gentleman who headed the list, has now been placed below the gentleman who was lowest on the list, and who is to be promoted over his head. Lieutenant Scott has passed his examination for a ‘ captaincy. The other officer, Lieutenant Bruce, has not. Yet, for some reason or other, Lieutenant Scott has been placed lower on the list than Lieutenant Bruce. The only reason that I think can be given is that Lieutenant Bruce proceeded to South Africa.
– What reason is given officially 1
– The authorities give no reason at all. Of course, when an officer asks the colonel commanding his regiment for a reason, he is told that that is not within his province, and that he is not to expect anything of the kind.
– I think inquiries were made about the case.
– Did the Minister for Defence make those inquiries ?
– Yes, he did.
– Were all these officers in the same regiment ?
– Yes, and they were gazetted in order of seniority according to merit ?
– Scott was ahead in both theoretical and practical examinations.
– What is the reason of the course which has been taken?
– We desire to know the reason.
– No reason whatever has. been given, and the only reason which can be suggested is that Lieutenant Bruce went to South Africa. I think he arrived there after the war had ceased. I do not know that he saw any service. I have no desire to say a single word against him. I have merely said that he was last on the list in the examination, and, in the circumstances, I think I am justified in saying that.
– He might have more ability than the other man.
– He did not show it in the examinations.
– I find that in the theoretical examination Bruce obtained 81 per cent, fo- regimental duties, Gordon 98 per cent., Scott 98’6 per cent., and Woods 92 per cent. For drill, a most important department of work, Bruce obtained 62-3 per cent., Gordon 82-9 per cent., Scott 90 per cent., and Woods 82 3 per cent. The aggregate results were Scott 94 -3 per cent., Gordon 90-45 percent., Woods 87-15 per cent., and Bruce 71-65 per cent. In the practical examination Scott secured 84 per cent., Woods 84 per cent., Bruce 80 per cent., and Gordon 75 per cent.
– Was this before or after Bruce went to South Africa %
– I think it was before, in 1897. Lieutenant Bruce left the regiment for a time, and was attached to the Field Artillery Brigade for instruction. He subsequently ceased to be attached to the Field Artillery Brigade, and later on resumed duty with his old regiment. As the honorable member for Melbourne knows very well, if a man loses his opportunity of promotion in a case like this he has but a very poor chance of retrieving his position later on. Personally, I will be quite satisfied if the Minister will promise an inquiry.
– Yes, I will. I have received no recommendation up to the present. The matter has been referred to the General Officer Commanding, and when any recommendation has been made I will draw his attention to what has been said.
– I am so certain of the merits of the case that I am prepared to leave it in the hands of the Minister. I understand that no recommendation has yet been made to the Minister, but the officer commanding the regiment, has made a recommendation to the General Officer Commanding. It is expected that Major-General Hutton will indorse the recommendation and send it on for confirmation.
– The officer commanding the regiment has recommended the promotion of Lieutenant Bruce ; that is the trouble.
– Yes ; that is the cause of the trouble.
– Is the honorable member speaking of the Lieutenant Bruce to whom the honorable member for Bourke referred ?
– Yes. I happen to know personally some of the particulars of the case, and I thought it as well to mention it to the Committee and to the Minister. I have made most careful inquiries and scrutiny of the official documents and Gazette notices, and I have failed to discover any reason for the recommendation which has been made with the exception of that of active service by Lieutenant Bruce. I am prepared to admit that active service should give a man a very big pull ; but the length and character of that active service should be taken into account before a more efficient officer, who may never have had an opportunity of going into active service, should be passed over in this fashion.
– I have taken a note of the various matters brought before the Committee, and inquiries will be made regarding them. A good deal has been said about the re-organization of the forces, and the opinion has been expressed by some that the Government have not sufficiently considered the wishes of honorable members in preparing thepresent Estimates. If thewhole question were fully looked into, honorable members would see that the difficulties were far greater than they appear on the surface, and it would have to be confessed that a real effort has been made to comply with their wishes as expressed in- this Chamber last session. I have taken the trouble to ascertain what reductions have taken place in the Defence Department since the transfer of the States Defence Forces to the Commonwealth. The principle observations made by honorable members have been directed to what appears to them to be an inclination on the part of the Government to apply the reduction which this House desired should be made to the rank-and-file, and, as far as possible, to leave the permanent officers of the force, untouched. I do not think an examination of the facts will bear out that statement. I find that since the transfer of the Defence Forces of the States to the Commonwealth on the 1st March, 1901, the Department has reduced the establishment of commissioned officers by fifty-four, which includes six officers from, the Naval Forces. Forty-eight of the fifty-four were colonial officers who have been retired, and six were Imperial officers whose engagements have terminated. Against this total reduction of fifty-four officers the following additions or appointments have been made : - Major-General Sir Edward Hutton, General Officer Commanding, who was lent to us by the Imperial Government, and who came here on a three years’ engagement ; and two other Imperial officers, Lieut.-Colonel plomer and Major McLagan, who were appointed for three years by the States of Queensland and New South Wales prior to the Commonwealth assuming control of Defence matters, and consequently we were in no way responsible for their being engaged. Five officers from the Militia of Queensland were appointed to the Instructional Staff in July, 1901. There is another officer, Major Reade, who is a CB., with a record of distinguished service in South Africa. He is now appointed to the Instructional Staff, but he was an officer of the partially-paid forces of South Australia. His appointment was made not long after the transfer. Then there was the appointment of Lieutenants Long-Innes and E. H. Reynolds, who were cadet officers, and who qualified themselves by competitive examination for appointment in the Permanent Forces. They were appointed in April, 1901, almost immediately after the transfer.
– In what State were they appointed 1
– In New South Wales. Then Lieutenant De Passey was given a commission in South Australia. He was a warrant officer who had done good service in South Africa, and was given his commission at about the time of the first meeting of the Federal Parliament. There were two other appointments conferred on deserving warrant officers, R. E. Page and R. E. Sheldon being given second lieutenant’s commissions. These fourteen appointments of officers were the only new ones made since 1st March, 1901, and all were made during 1901, before the necessity for retrenchment was ascertained.
– Major Reade’s appointment was a very good one. He is a splendid officer. *
– I believe he is a very good officer, and he came with a very good record. These fourteen officers can scarcely be called new appointments, as, excepting the Imperial officers, they were all in the Defence Force as Militia officers, but, deducting them from the fifty-four; it will be seen that there has been a total reduction of forty officers since the transfer of the Defence Department to the Commonwealth. The total number of permanently employed commissioned officers, including the Instructional Staff, appearing on these Estimates is 103 - eighty-eight military officers and fifteen naval officers - as against 143 when the transfer of the Forces to the Commonwealth took place. It must be admitted that a reduction of forty officers out of 143 is a tremendous reduction. No less than one-third of the whole of the officers have been retired since 1901. Honorable members know very well that there has been a reduction of the Estimates for the Permanent Forces, including the Instructional Staff, as shown in the Estimates for 1903-4, from £217,091 to £193,721, which is a reduction of £23,370, or over 10 per cent, on tha Permanent Forces alone. The Estimates for the partially-paid forces have been increased from £150,274 for 1902-3 to £152,176 for 1903-4, an increase of £1,902. There has been a reduction in the expenditure on volunteers from £34,715 in 1902-3 to £22,283 for 1903-4, caused to a large extent by’ the conversion of volunteers into partially-paid forces.
– That is what all the trouble 1 is about.
– When one remembers that we have reduced these Estimates during two years by £259,633 of which £62,381 represents reductions in the’ permanent forces, including the instructional staff, it cannot be said there has not been a really bond Jide effort on the part of the Government to meet the wishes of this House as to the reduction of expenditure in the Defence Department. If everything is not exactly as honorable members would desire, all I can say is that that must happen in any case of general reductions. We have heard a good deal about dissatisfaction ; but how could it be otherwise when the expenditure has been reduced by a quarter of a million? The altered state of affairs cannot be as satisfactory or as agreeable to those affected as would a continuance of the old conditions; and the wonder is that there is not much more dissatisfaction. But reductions have been made - officers have been retired, and the forces have been put on a uniform basis - and, if only a little breathing time is given, there is every hope that we shall get along even better than we have been doing, Whatever’ may be said as to the General Officer Commanding, it cannot be suggested that he has not thrown himself, heart and soul, into his work. He has not come here for three years’ pleasure, but in order to increase his reputation, and to render us valuable service.
– And very good work he is doing.
– Considering the great difficulties the General Officer Commanding has had to encounter in consolidating the whole of the forces and placing them on a uniform basis, we may be congratulated on the fact that there is not much more dissatisfaction than there appears to be. I take with several grains of salt the opinions expressed by honorable members as to what ought to be done, or what they would advise in the way of military administration if they had the opportunity.’ I suppose that most of us have received a good deal of that kind of advice in our experience. Even in parliamentary life men promise to do great things if they are installed in Ministerial office, but when they are installed matters are usually found to go on pretty much as before. There is too little regard given to the qualifications which the General Officer Commanding possesses. If we were to import an expert for the construction of railways, water-works, irrigation works, or other undertakings of that character, we should not be inclined, I -think, to hamper him very much in regard to the number of persons he required to assist him. We would not treat or speak of such an expert in the way in which some honorable members seem disposed to treat and speak of the General Officer Commanding ; if we did, the expert would probably refuse to continue the work.
– I wish the General Officer Commanding would “ take the office.”
– When we engage an officer for a short time to do certain work it is not usual to keep complaining of him while he is fulfilling his duties. Let a man in that position be allowed to finish his work, and then is the time to complain if we are not satisfied. In addition to all his other duties the General Officer Commanding has the technical administration, nnder the Minister, of a large department, involving the expenditure of something like £600,000 a year ; and, as the military adviser of the Government, he is responsible for the discipline and equipment of the whole, of the forces. If the General Officer Commanding is not assisted in his work, and given an opportunity of doing his best, it will not be to our advantage ; and for that reason, during the time I was Minister for Defence, although I desired to carry out the wishes of the House and to exercise my own judgment, I was very anxious to aid the General Officer Commanding in the -important and difficult duties of his office.
– Did the right honorable gen.tleman allow the General Officer Commanding to do every thing he desired, and give him every thing he asked for ?
– Certainly I did not ; but I did my best to assist him in the work he had to carry out. As to rifle clubs, I recognise that a cheap and efficient way of defending the country is to instruct citizens in the use of the rifle. One of the last of my acts before I left the Defence Department was to leave on record the following minute : -
The rifle club system being a most efficient means of training the citizens of the Commonwealth in the use of arms, and a most valuable adjunct to the Defence Force of the Commonwealth, I desire to encourage and perfect this organization to the fullest extent.
The regulations should be amended so as to provide an increased contribution for the formation of new rifle ranges of £20 for clubs of thirty and £40 for clubs of 100, instead of £10 and £20 as at present.
A capitation grant of 5s. per annum for all eflicients should be given for the purpose of enabling rifle clubs to meet their expenses, and maintain their rifle ranges. I have written to the right honorable the Treasurer asking him to make provision on the Estimates for a sufficient sum to enable a half-year’s capitation to be paid during this financial year.
Some additional privileges in regard to railway travelling should be conceded also to efficients, to enable them to more easily enter into rifle club competitions.
Members of rifle clubs qualified to impart instruction in recruit drill should be encouraged to act as instructors to members desiring such instruction, being paid a fee for such services.
The Treasurer has acceded to my request, and, therefore, the clubs will have some li’ttle money for ordinary corps expenses, instead of the members being compelled to dip their hands into their own pockets.
– Did the General Officer Commanding make that recommendation t
– No ; I made the recommendation of my own motion. Provision is not made on the Estimates, but the Treasurer intimated his willingness to comply with the request, on my undertaking to mention the matter to honorable members when the Estimates were under consideration.
– And as to the supply of rifles ?
– In that respect there is some difficulty, arising altogether from economical causes. In “Victoria no rifles have ever been supplied to the clubs, but in New South Wales and other States rifles have been supplied. In Western Australia there are not as yet, I think, any legally organized clubs, but I believe there is a willingness on the part of those who support the movement in that State to provide their own rifles. In Victoria, where the rifle club system has flourished to a far greater extent than in any other part of Australia, there has been no complaint made about members having to supply their own arms. With that fact before me I felt a difficulty in introducing a system which would result in a considerable drain on the public purse. At the same time, I fully recognise the force of the arguments placed before the Committee by several honorable members, and I propose to ask the Minister for Defence to consider whether some easier means cannot be found of providing rifle clubs with rifles. I do not know whether the request will result in rifles being supplied absolutely free, but, while I do not like promising anything for another Minister, I think I may say that something will be done in the direction suggested. I think I may promise to recommend the Min ister to make a reduction in the price of rifles, and also to take steps for loaning rifles to clubs. Those who are not willing to purchase rifles at the small price we mav be able to arrange, will, perhaps, be content to share rifles lent to the clubs. There is a similar plan, I understand, in Victoria and the other States, the clubs lending rifles to members who make themselves responsible for their safekeeping. The honorable member for Maranoa, the honorable member for Bland and others, referred to the desirableness of reductions in the Head-QuartersStaff. I have given that matter consideration, and though, as I have already said, I must be very careful about making promises when acting for another Minister, I am willing to undertake that as vacancies occur - and vacancies will probably occur by the transfer of Lieut.-Colonel Owen, and on the expiration of the term of engagement in the case of Lieut.-Colonel Plomer and Major McLagan - the Minister will consult the Prime Minister and the Cabinet before new appointments are made, so that the matter may be thoroughly thrashed out, and a decision arrived at as to how far any reductions are possible. Inquiry may be made as to whether the clerical staff of the Head-quarters Staff and other branches can be reduced, and to what extent returns and correspondence can be avoided. As to the point raised by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Hartnoll, the Treasurer will make a statement which I think will prove satisfactory. As to the cadets, I undertake that communication will be made with the States Governments, in order to ascertain what plan can be arranged by which the children in the schools may best be drilled and trained. It is surrounded with some difficulty, because the Education Departments are not under the control of the Commonwealth. But I have not the slightest doubt that the States will be only too willing to work with the Commonwealth in regard to the training and drilling of cadets. Until the Defence Bill is passed, we shall have no authority in regard to cadets.
– Except under the State law.
– I think it is questionable how far the authority extends in several of the States. “We thought it would be better to get legislative authority before we took any steps, but that will not prevent negotiations from taking place between the Commonwealth and the States. I believe that we shall have a great many more rifles than honorable members have anticipated. With the rifles on order, there will be sufficient magazine rifles for the peace establishment of the forces, and .this is independent of the Martini-Enfield rifle, of which we have 34,000 in the Commonwealth. With the rifles which are provided for on the Estimates, and with those which are on order, we shall be able, not only to do all that is necessary in regard to the peace establishment of the forces, but to comply to a very large extent with the requirements of the rifle clubs. I hope that I have referred to all the matters which have been brought under my notice. All I have to say now is that, notwithstanding the adverse criticism - which we must expect, I suppose - I thank honorable members for their intimation that they are now prepared to pass the Defence Estimates without amendment.
– The question of the expenditure in Tasmania has been pressed very strongly on the Committee by its representative, Mr. Hartnoll. When the Estimates were submitted to me, I found that a very large extra expenditure was proposed for the State. Last year its Defence expenditure came to £’ 15,000, and this year we have provided a sum of £21,000 - an increase of £6,000 in that little State, When I was asked to provide a considerable sum for the purpose of paying the volunteers in that State, I felt that it would place a very great strain on its finances. Knowing the great struggle which the State Government has had for a long time in consequence of the loss of Customs revenue through Federation, I felt bound to press very strongly on the Defence Department the advisability of delaying that further expenditure for at least twelve months. The Minister for Defence very strongly urged that it should be incurred ; but ultimately, on my appeal, he gave way on the understanding that the money should be provided in the next financial year. After that, some requests were made from Tasmania ; but the blocking of the expenditure should be put down to me, in the first instance, if any blame is attachable to any one. If any attempt were made to force this additional expenditure on the State independently of the effect upon its finances, I should have to oppose it very strongly indeed. I have always held a strong view as to the functions of a Committee of Supply. While honorable members have a perfect right to cut down the Estimates of the Treasurer - of course, without impairing his ability to carry on the King’s Government -they should not, unless the circumstances are very extreme indeed, attempt to increase the amount of the expenditure which he proposes, because, in addition to the fact that the responsibility is on his shoulders, there is the important fact of his acquaintance with all the circumstances of the case. I feel that the volunteers in Tasmania have a grievance, inasmuch as the volunteers in other States have now been converted into partially-paid forces. Were it not for the condition of the finances in Tasmania, I should not have raised any opposition to this request. However, if I find during the course of the year that the revenue which the Commonwealth collects for the State has increased, or that- other expenditure has diminished to such an extent as to allow me - while still giving back to the State the promised amount, as I always try to do if possible, because it is the basis of the State Treasurer’s expenditure - to make this provision in whole or in part I shall be very pleased indeed to place the volunteers in the State in the same position as the men in the other States. I hope that the expenditure will be kept within the proposed amounts, and that the revenue will increase. In both or either of these events I shall be very glad indeed to make the necessary provision. If my honorable friend is satisfied with this promise, I hope that he will not press the matter any further.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. McDonald). - As I understand that an arrangement has been made for an early completion of the remainder of the business in Committee of Supply, I desire to know if it is the pleasure of honorable members that I should put the Defence Estimates en bloc?
Honorable Members. - Hear ! hear !
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 39 (Australasian If aval Forces), £106,000; division 40 (New South Wales Naval Forces), £4,870 ; division41 ( Victorian Naval Forces), £17,296 ; division 42 (Naval Brigade), £1,785; Queensland Naval Forces, division 43 (Permanent Staff), £3,695 ; division 44 (War Vessels), £4,935 ; division 45 (Naval Brigade), £4,122; South Australian Naval Forces, division 46 (Permanent Staff), £5,713 ; division 47 (Head-quarters Military Staff), £13,572 ; division 48 (Ordnance Department of Head-Quarters), £l,440j; division 49 (General Services), £57 ; Thursday Island, division 50 (Royal Australian Artillery), £7,161; division 51 (Ordnance Department), £105 ; division 52 (Militia or Partially-paid), £2,462 ; division 53 (Rifle Clubs and Associations), £50 ; division 54 (Camps of Training and Schools or Instruction), £260 ; division 55 ( Maintenance of Existing Arms and Equipment), £223 ; division 56 (Ammunition) £400 ; division 57 (General Contingencies), £200 ; King George’s Sound, division 58 (Royal Australian Artillery), £4,425 ; division 59 (Corps of Australian Engineers), £177 ; division 60 (Australian Army Medical Corps), £108 ; division 61 (Maintenance of Existing Arms and Equipment), £80 ; division 62 (Ammunition), £200 ; division 63 (General Contingencies), £125 ; division 64 (Postage and Telegrams), £30 ; New South Wales, division 65 (District Head-Quarters Staff), £3,890; division 66 (Royal Australian Artillery), £34,199 ; division 67 (Corps qf Australian Engineers), £6,673 ; division 68 (Permanent Army Service Corps), £2,305 ; division 69 (Australian Army Medical Corps), £1,444 ; division 70 (Ordnance Department), £6,203; division 71 (Rifle Range Staff), £708 ; division 72 (District Accounts and /’ay Branch),£l, 727; division 73 (Instructional Staff), £16,436 ; division 74 (Militia or Partially-paid), £51,544 ; division 75 ( Volunteers), £7,309; division 76 (Cadet Corps), £1,180 ; division 77 (Rifle Clubs and Associations), £5,750 ; division 78 (Camps of Training and Schools qf Instruction), £5,000 ; division 79 (Maintenance qf Existing Arms and Equipment), £2,598; division 80 (Ammunition),£12,669 ; division 81 (Warlike Stores), £1,859 ; division 82 (General Contingencies), £7,925 ; division 83 (General Services), £1,286 ; division 84 (Postage and Telegrams), £500; Victoria, division 85 (District Head-Quarter’s
Staff), £3,150 ; division 86 (Royal Australian Artillery), £26,887 ; division 87 (Corps of Australian Engineers), £6,342 -r division 88 (Australian Army Medical Corps), £713 ; division 89 (Ordnance Department), £7,072 ; division 90 (Rifle Range Staff), £351 ; division 91 (DistrictAccounts and Pay Branch), £1,235 ; and division 92 (Instructional Staff), £9,000 y agreed to.
Division 93 (Militia or Partially-paid), £49,355.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- The Minister for Home Affairs will remember that last session, or early this year, his attention was. drawn by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo to the special circumstances of the corps in Castlemaine and Bendigo, and that in March he received from the General Officer Commanding a letter, of which he sent a copy to that honorable and learned member. It wasstated that the Minister would allow certain duplications of the regimental staff in Castlemaine and Bendigo, in addition to theordinary establishment of a regiment under the re-organization scheme. But no provision is made on the Estimates for that purpose.
– Are they duplicated now?
– Yes. The present different battalions are being combined intoone regiment with only one head-quarters ; but, owing to the special circumstances of the two places, it was desired to recognise a little more independence in each of them than would be thecase ordinarily with a regiment. I think that £150, or at the most £200, is sufficient to do all that is necessary. There was practically, a promise given by the Minister that it would be done. He sent a letter, saying that there would be no difficulty in making the arrangement, and mentioning certain details. If he will see that the arrangement is carried out it will give satisfaction.
– I shall see to it.
Mr. HARTNOLL (Tasmania). - I desireto say a few words in reply to the observations of the Treasurer. I am in the unfortunate position that I must be satisfied with the statement which he has made. I recognise that if I were to persist, and the Committee, in a spirit of fairness, were to support my contention, it would create a. crisis. As we have had so many crises lately in the Parliament, certainly I have no wish. to aggravate the situation. I have always had the feeling that the Treasurer - no doubt at the solicitation of friends - departed from the true Federal principle that all the people within the Federation should be treated alike. I am constrained to think that the first desire of the Minister for Defence at that time must have been to intimate to the militia in Tasmania that they should lie placed on exactly the same footing as the volunteers in other States. I feel quite certain that he must have submitted to the Cabinet estimates which placed the volunteers in all the States on the same footing, and that it was some malign or, perhaps, friendly interposition which created this difficulty. I do not know whether the men will he willing to rely on this, the fourth promise which has been given to them in three consecutive years - that if they would only wait for another year they would be placed on an equal footing with their comrades in the other States. I recognise the futility of taking further action. In view of the limited attendance and of the intimation which has gone round to. the Government supporters and those who have a kindly feeling towards the Treasurer, no other course is open to me than to accept his promise, which I do in the hope that the finances of Tasmania will become so buoyant that he will be able to place its field force on the same footing as that force in the other States.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 94 (Volunteers), £3,560; division 95 (Cadet Corps), £1,862 ; division 96 (Rifle’ Clubs and Associations), £19,002 ; division 97 (Camps qf Training and Schools of Instruction), £5,000 ; division 98 (Maintenance of Existing Arms and /Equipment), ±’3,833 ; division 99 (Ammunition), £9,400; and division .100 (Warlike Stores), £7,956 ; agreed to.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that country corps are put to rauch greater expense in the maintenance of ranges than are corps in a city like Melbourne. For instance, metropolitan regiments pay ls. 6d. per head to the Victorian Rifle Association for the use of their range, which comes to £38 per regiment, whereas the Eighth Regiment has to keep up ranges in both Bendigo and Castlemaine at a cost of about £1 25 a piece. -Where th : new targets are used, a skilled mechanic is practically necessary, but for any range a suitable man cannot be obtained for less than 30s. a week and quarters. If the cost of the ranges I have mentioned is put as low as £100 a year, that makes the cost to the regiment £200 a year, as against the £38 which is paid by metropolitan regiments. Application has been made to Headquarters by some of the officers concerned, to have the charge upon their corps funds reduced to an amount equivalent to the similar charge upon the funds of the metropolitan corps, because, if that is not done, they will be unable to keep going.
– In other words, they want about £150 more for the regiment to which the honorable member has referred if the ranges cost £125 each.
– Yes. It must also be remembered that a country regiment like that which I have mentioned is at a disadvantage in other respects. It has, for instance, to keep orderly-rooms in no fewer than three centres of population.
– I was informed that £2 per head was a sufficient allowance ; otherwise I should have increased the amount. Some of the regiments, I understand, have money in hand.
– Many of the commanding officers have saved a few pounds, because they anticipated that they might require more money when this new scheme came into operation, but the saving has been due really to the stopping of recruiting, and the delay in clothing the men. During the next two or three years, however, there will have to be a large outlay.
– How does the honorable and learned member think that we can provide for an additional allowance now 1
– Something might be taken out of contingencies, or an amount might be placed on the Supplementary Estimates. I think that the right honorable member will admit that it is not fair, under the circumstances I have mentioned, to give a country regiment only the same allowance as is received by .a town regiment. If we were on the same footing as the city regiments we should be ready to stand or fall with them, but it is too much to expect us to get along upon an allowance of £100 a .year when we have a handicap of £150 or £170 a year. Of course, all the regiments will be under the same conditions in regard to clothing ; but does the Minister know that, so far, no one has been able to get the cloth required for the new uniforms ? I ask the Minister to take a note of the complaint which I have made.
– I will make a note of it, and will bring it before the Department. I am not the Minister for Defence now.
– The matter has already been brought under the notice of the Department. The request is a reasonable one. We have borne the expense in the past, because we were then getting a little more money than we are getting now ; but it will require rigid economy to keep going on £2 per head, without having to bear a heavy load which city corps have not to bear. It is unfair, when £2 per head is given to a regiment which pays only £38 a year for its rifle range, that only the same grant should be given to a regiment paying £200 a year. Will the right honorable member bring the matter under the notice of the Minister 1
– I hope he will add that he considers the request a reasonable one. As it is not unlikely that what I have said has been heard by the Secretary of the Department, perhaps some good result may follow from the speech.
– I forgot, when speaking just now, to refer to a matter brought under my notice by the honorable member for Gippsland. I regret that I cannot give him much information, but the case of the Victorian Rangers, which he has mentioned, is an instance in which the reorganization of the forces has to some extent disturbed the existing system. The Rangers are a volunteer regiment whose members are scattered over the rural parts of the State, and have distinguished themselves as soldiers. In many places, such as Echuca, Swan Hill, and other districts in the north and north-west, the members of the force have been changed from volunteers to light horse men in order to .make up the complement of the light horse regiments. A similar conversion has been made in respect to militia infantry in New South Wales, at places like Cooma, Wagg Young, and Albury. My own opinion, quite apart from what the military experts may think, is that scattered infantry companies are not so useful as mounted troops, and I have rather encouraged the latter, with a view to substituting mounted, men for infantry corps.
– All these men are good horsemen, and would be ready to serve as mounted men’ in case of need.
– As they are horsemen, and have horses, we are not doing them any great injury in making them members of mounted corps, especially since they are to receive £7 8s. a year for sixteen days’ drill, whereas formerly they were volunteers and got nothing.
– A large number of the men cannot afford to belong to mounted corps.
–£7 8s. a year will go a long way towards providing a horse, because there are only sixteen drills in the year, and some of them may not be mounted drills. It is mounted men that are wanted in a district like Gippsland, although in the towns and larger centres of population we require infantry and garrison troops.
– The men who went to South Africa were made mounted soldiers straight away, and there were no better mounted troops there.
– I have just been informed that the Minister has not yet received a report in regard to the Rangers, but I know that General Gordon visited the districts in which this corps existed, and I shall therefore try to learn from him what dissatisfaction really exists. The honorable member for Gippsland says that he has seen some of the officers, but I think that before the general feeling of the men can be known we must wait for a full report.
– I know that my information is accurate, because I got it from the men themselves.
– My honorable friend is so intimately acquainted with the people, of his district, that, no doubt, he is correctly informed with regard to their feelings on the subject ; but I should have thought that, if there is one place in Australia where men in every way fitted for mounted infantry can be obtained, it is the fertile district which is so well represented by him. However, I promise to look carefully into the matter.
– If it is not possible to retain the men as Rangers, will the right honorable member see that they are merged in the rifle clubs ?
– I will.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I understand that the metropolitan corps in New South Wales are not required to pay ls. 6d. per head towards the maintenance of rifle ranges. If that be true, ‘ I think that as the men receive exactly the same allowance as do the members of the Victorian forces, the latter should not be subject to any deduction from their allowance.
– I shall inquire into that matter.
– I do not wish the Minister to make the charge a general one, but to abolish it altogether.
– I notice that in division 122 the first item is “Commandant, £650.” The gentleman who occupies that position is the officer who was responsible for the Brayton Grange scandal. He was censured by the Government, and yet the)7 had rewarded him by giving Kim a command in South Australia. If he had received his just dues he would have been swung up by the neck, because I look upon him as nothing more nor less than a murderer.
– The honorable member should not be so harsh.
– I repeat that he is nothing more nor less than a murderer. He has left women in Queensland without husbands, and mothers without sons. No one was more severe upon him than the Minister himself.
– I did not go so far as the honorable member has done.
– The Minister thought that he should be punished, and yet he afterwards appointed him to a command in South Australia.
– No, he was appointed to that position before he returned from South Africa.
– I was not aware of that. That, of course, detracts somewhat from the force of my remarks. . There must be something radically wrong with this officer, because Major Tunbridge, who was one of the smartest officers in the Commonwealth service, and whose loss was deplored by the people of Queensland, could not get on with him. Then, again, the South Australian Commandant was responsible for the muddle over the refusal of a guard of honour for the Governor of South Australia, Sir George Le Hunte, upon his arrival in that State. It was owing to his folly and stubbornness that the whole of the confusion took place, and yet he seems to have escaped without amy censure. He should certainly not have been rewarded with a staff appointment. If that is the way in which the Government intend to reward those who do not do their duty, I fail to see how they can adequately treat conscientious and efficient officers. I should like to know what has been done in regard to the latest escapade of the officer referred to.
– Both the General Officer Commanding and myself were very much annoyed that there should have been even an apparent want of courtesy to the Governor of South Australia upon his arrival in that State. It appears that the State Government did not wish a guard of honour to be furnished, because the expense would be charged against the State, and the Commandant having ascertained the fact, thought that was all that was required of him. Instead of telegraphing to head-quarters, or acting upon the instruction which was given at the time of the transfer of the Department te the Commonwealth, that States Governors were to receive the honours from the military to which they had been previously accustomed, he was satisfied with the intimation from the Premier of South Australia that a guard of honour was not required. However, he was informed afterwards that the General Officer Commanding disapproved of his action, and that he should have telegraphed to head-quarters if he had any doubt about the matter. In order to prevent a similar contretemps in the future, we have made provision by which guards of honour, if composed of citizen soldiers - volunteers or partially paid - shall be paid for.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 102 (General Services), £286 ; division 103 (Postage and Telegrams), £800. Queensland Military Forces. - Division 104 (District Bead-Quarters Staff), £2,623 ; division 105 (Royal Australian Artillery), £10,154; division 106 (Corps of Australian Engineers), £1,799 ; division 107 (Ordnance Department)’ £2,000; division 108 (Rifle Range Staff)’ £110 ; division 109. (District Accounts and Pay Branch), £1,400; division 110 (Instructional Staff), £7,569 ; division 111 (Militia or Partially-paid Forces), £26,119 ; division 112 ( Volunteers), £824; division 113 (Cadet Corps), £1,270; division 114 (Rifle Clubs and Associations), £1,745 ; division 1 1 5 ( Camps of Training and Schools of Instruction), £3,400 ; division 116 (Maintenance qf Existing Arms and Equipment), £ 1 , 1 27 ; division 117 (Ammunition), £1,600 ; division 118 (Warlike Stores), £847 ; division 119 (General Contingencies), £5,300; division 120 (General Set-vices), £440; division 121 (Postage and Telegrams), £400. South Australian Military Forces. - Division 122 (District Head-Quarters Staff), £1,586 ; division 123 (Royal Australian Artillery), £2,415; division 124 (Engineers), £239; division 125 (Ordnance Department), £1,527; division 126 (Rifle Range Staff), £120; division- 127 (District Accounts and Fay Branch), £565 ; division 128 (Instructional Staff), £2,189; division 129 (Active Forces), £13,495; division 130 (Reserve Forces), £2,694 ; division 131 (Cadet Corps), £260; division 132 (Rifle Clubs and Associations), £2,595 ; division 133 (Camps qf Training and Schools qf Instruction), £1,200; division 134 (Maintenance qf Existing Arms and Equipment), £1,050; division 135 (Ammunition), £3,075; division 1 36 (Warlike Stores), £1 20 ; division 137 (General Contingencies), £3,855 ; division 138 (General Services), £135 ; division 139 (Postage and Telegrams), £285. Western Australian Military Forces. - Division 140 (District Head-Quarters Staff), £1,510; division 141 (Corps of Australian Engineers), £50; division 142 (Ordnance Department), £270; division 143 (Rifle Range Staff), £254 ; division 144 (District Accounts and Pay Branch), £460; division 145 (Instructional Staff), £3,105; division 146 (Militia or Partially Paid), £5,689 ; division 147 (Volunteers), £3,588: division 148 (Cadet Corps), £450 ; division 149 (Rifle Clubs and Associations), £2,850 ; division 150 (Camps of Training and Schools of Instruction), £1,500 ; division 157 (Maintenance qf Existing Arms and Equipment), £529 ; division 152 (Ammunition), £3,400 ; division 153 (Warlike Stores), £1,320; division 154 (General Contingencies), £2,485 ; division 155 (General Services), £538 ; division 156 (Postage and Telegrams), £350. Tasmanian Military Forces. - Division 157 (District Head-Quarters staff), £1,460; division 158 (Royal Australian Artillery), £1,233; division 159 (Engineers), £230; division 160 (Ordnance Department), £680; division 161 (District Accounts and Pay Branch), £370; division 162 (Instructional , 5ta#), £3,036 ; division 164 (Volunteers), £6,236; division 165 (Cadet Corps), £200; division 166 (Rifle Clubs and Associations), £150 ; division 167 (Camps qf Training and Schools of Instruction), £1,400; division 168 (Maintenance qf Existing Arms and Equipment), £235 ; division 169 (Ammunition), £3,725; division 170 (Warlike Stores), £468; division 171 (General Contingencies), £1,530 ; division 172 (General Services), £130 ; division 173 (Postage and Telegrams), £150, agreed to.
– I have a few words to say concerning the administration of this Department, especially in Western Australia. On a previous occasion I ventured to express the opinion that this Department is not keeping pace with the necessities of the people in the Western State. Were 1 in a position to compare the total expenditure of the Department during the years prior to Federation with that incurred since its transfer to the Commonwealth, I could prove that, especially in the new and rapidly developing portions of the State, the Department has failed to fulfil its duty to the people. The only figures available for purposes of comparison with the expenditure since the Commonwealth assumed control of the Post and Telegraph Department are those for 1899, and I find that a true comparison could hardly be made, because it appears that the expenditure under the State and under the Commonwealth is ranged under different headings. I admit at once that the expenditure by the State upon new post and telegraph offices, repairs to old buildings, and new telegraphs and telephones, during 1899-0, does not compare favorably with the expenditure upon those items by the Commonwealth for 1902-3, or the proposed expenditure for the current year. But in connexion with an item of greatest importance to a scattered electorate such as I represent, namely, that relating to new mail services, I think the PostmasterGeneral will find that a very considerable reduction has been made in the amount allocated compared with that which the State expended when the Department was under its control. Without unduly dwelling on that point, let me direct the serious attention of the Postmaster-General to the necessity of providing for a greater expenditure, and of devoting a larger share of his attention to those portions of Australia which are being opened up by our pioneers. (The people of the cities and more thickly-populated localities can very well look after themselves. They have no difficulty in reaching the departmental ear. Not so with those who occupy and develop far inland parts of our territory, whose wants can find no utterance except through their representatives here. It is all very well to supply telephones and telegraphs and other conveniences to people who are already surfeited - if I may use such a term - with all the blessings of civilization. To those who live in the remote and sparsely settled parts of the continent, a reasonably good mail service is an inestimable boon, and these are the people for whom the Postmaster-General should display all the solicitude he can spare; and seeing that the present PostmasterGeneral has come fresh to his office, with all the buoyancy of a youthful Minister, it is to be hoped that he will set himself resolutely to the task of giving due attention and care to the wants of those who live in the remoter districts. He must recognise that the coastal communities depend to a very large extent not merely for prosperity but for their very existence upon the presence in the remotest parts of the continent of a contented and prosperous people. I am now under the necessity of directing attention to the administration of the Deputy Postmaster-General in Perth ; and, before the Western Australian section of these Estimates is dealt with, it is essential that the Postmaster-General should say distinctly what he proposes to do with that official. If there is one officer in tho whole of the Commonwealth who is notoriously disloyal to the Federation, and notoriously incompetent for the proper discharge of his duties, it is the Duputy PostmasterGeneral at Perth. The PostmasterGeneral must be aware, from the records of his Department, that this officer has been guilty of insubordination. He must know also from what has taken place in this Chamber, and from the charges which have been made, and which have never been answered, that this officer unites to the ferocity of a Russian Czar all the trickery’ - if not worse - of a Tammany boss. I use these words advisedly. In dealing with his officers this man, in some cases, has been absolutely merciless.
– He did not appear to be so in connexion with the last case of embezzlement in which he actually went into Court and gave testimony which resulted in a young man being acquitted of a very serious charge.
– I do not pretend for a moment that he is merciless to all his subordinates. What I say is that he is merciless and ferocious to some of his officers, and guilty of the grossest favoritism in the case of others. I am not such a fool as to make the other statement. The records of the Department will prove that he has been guilt)’ of insubordination. In this connexion I shall instance a case which occurred some time ago. In spite of instructions from the Postmaster-General that no more transfers to remote stations should be made without his approval, an officer was sent from Coolgardie to Eucla. This man had undergone all the hardships . of early gold-fields life and was in poor health. Instead of being sent to a place where he would have a chance of recovery, he was ordered to proceed to Eucla, where a boat calls once every three months, and where he would be very lucky if he saw a strange face once in three years. The’ officials in Melbourne do not appear to have sufficient backbone to stand up to this man and suspend him for his breach of instructions. I should like to occupy the position of Postmaster - General for twenty - four hours. If I did so this officer would be out of the service. Apparently the Government is greatly embarrassed in dealing with this officer. He has not yet reached the statutory age at which he can retire, and the Government have not the pluck - although they have plenty of evidence - to lay a charge against him. I am sorry that the Minister for Home Affairs is not present, because I desire to say nothing against this officer which I am not prepared to utter before his dearest friends. But even they will not offer unqualified defence of his administration. He knows nothing, and apparently does not desire to learn anything of the needs of any part of the State outside Perth and Fremantle. Upon every possible occasion he has blocked reform. In this connexion I will give the Committee two instances, and I do not- wish honorable members to assume that others cannot be given. I will quote two gross cases in which this man has endeavoured to prevent the people from enjoying the benefits of a mail service. It is generally understood in Western Australia that the old settled population are very desirous of building up Perth and Fremantle at the expense of the remainder of the States.
– That is quite true.
-It is the same in every other State.
– But there is less excuse for it in Western Australia than there is in any other State.
– About 320 miles north of Perth there is a seaport which at one time had pretensions to be a rival to the port of Fremantle. I refer to Geraldton. From Geraldton a railway runs to the Murchison gold-fields. As honorable members are aware, a large population is settled upon those fields. Upon the other side, going up from Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, railway communication is now being extended in a line almost parallel with the railway which proceeds from the coast at Geraldton to the Murchison gold-fields. The mails from that part of the country usually travel by way of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. Between the points of termination of the Murchison railway and that of the line running through Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, there are a great many important mining centres. The residents desired that a mail service should be established between these two points. The Murchison railway terminates at the town of Nannine, and the Coolgardie railway at a place called Leonora. A little more than 200 miles ‘ from Leonora is the important centre of Lake Way. It lies, as it were, upon the frontier of settlement. The trade of that district has always been with Geraldton, and geographically still belongs to it. The people desired that a mail service should be established between these two points, and in obedience to their request I pressed the matter on the attention of the exPostraasterGeneral. After going into the matter very fully, the honorable gentleman decided to call for tenders for the establishment of the mail service in question. Upon several previous occasions a similar request had been refused by the Deputy Postmaster-General of Perth. He pointed out that no necessity existed for such a service, and contended that it would not pay. In fact, he used all the stock arguments that a crusted Conser vative can find against any reform, however necessary it may he. The PostmasterGeneral, however, ignored his recommendation, and towards the end of May invited tenders for the initiation of this mail service. Early in June atender was accepted, and the contractor was notified to take up the work. Naturally, I assumed - although I called at the Postmaster-General’s office to ascertain whether it was so- - that this mail was running. I was informed by the Secretary that it must be running, otherwise the Department would have had an intimation to that effect. What happened ? Not until the 29th August did I learn that the mail service in question had not been established. Although a contract had actually been accepted in the early part of June, the initiation of the service was deliberately delayed by this officer during the whole of this period, evidently because he did not wish the trade of that portion of the State to be concentrated in Geraldton.
– What is the name of that district?
-The mail service to which I refer is that proposed to be established between Nannine and Lake Way.
– Is it running now ?
– Unfortunately no. I asked the Postmaster-General to demand an explanation from this officer regarding the delay which had occurred in the establishment of this mail service, and I was informed that the following wire had been received from him : -
Re the delay in arranging the Nannine contract. It is due to the following obstacles : - My inability to obtain definite reply from Allen, notwithstanding two reminders, till 20th July.
Fancy a responsible officer waiting from the 6th June till the 20th July for the contractor to initiate this mail service - a service which was urgently required. The telegram continues -
He then refused to accept the contract, but referred me to his partner, Grey. The latter, on his arrival at Perth, called at my office on the 6th August, but could not give a definite answer till he had made inquiries. His definite reply, conveying his refusal, reached this office on the 14th August.
The absurdity of that statement is apparent when honorable members hear that the firm of Allen and Grey have been carrying on business in Nannine for many years, and there was no part of the district within hundreds of miles of that township with which they were not acquainted. The telegram continues -
On the 20th I wired to the postm aster at Cue -
He was not in any hurry to proceed with this matter. He heard from Gray on the 14th August that he would not take up the ‘ contract, and he allowed six days to elapse before taking action with a view to obtain some one else to carry out the contract. The telegram continues - to ascertain whether the next tenderer, Clarkson, would accept, and received reply Clarkson would call and see me.
There is more proof that he was proceeding in a very leisurely fashion. Why should he have wired to the postmaster at Cue, when he knew that Clarkson was a business man in the district1! Why did he not communicate directly with him and ascertain his intentions 1 If a man tenders for an important contract of this kind, he must surely be prepared to take it up ; and Clarkson, or any other man in his position, should have been ready to give an answer forthwith. The message continues -
He called 266h August, but could give me no definite ‘reply unless allowed week to make inquiries.
This discloses a most extraordinary state of affairs. I believe Clarkson’s firm has been established in Cue for years. Mr. Clarkson must have been acquainted with its resources, capabilities, and population, yet he was given a week to make inquiries as to whether it would suit him to perform the work for which he had tendered. The Deputy Postmaster-General goes on to say that -
I therefore sent on 27th ult. the wire you refer to.
Upon the receipt of the telegram the PostmasterGeneral directed that fresh tenders be invited forthwith, but up to the present time no advertisement respecting tenders for this mail service has appeared in the Government Gazette. I believe that the Department is now inquiring the reason of this delay. An equally scandalous case arose in an adjacent district. Every one who has been on a gold-field is aware that new rushes are constantly breaking out, which demand some little consideration at the hands of the Postal authorities. I am pleased to say that when the Minister for Home Affairs was at the helm in Western Australia he took care to see that so far as the resources at his command! would permit, the necessary facilities werepromptly supplied to people so situated. The right honorable gentleman, from timeto time, has been criticised somewhat freely, and I consider it only fair to acknowledge’ that when he was Premier of Western Australia he left no legitimate demand unsatisfied. An alluvial field broke out at a place known, as Black Range, situated practically midway between Lawlers and Mount Magnet,, which are some 200 miles apart. The peopleat Black Range have to go to Lawlers toconduct their mining business, because the field is within the jurisdiction of the wardenwho sits at that town. But instead of providing Black Range with a mail service from > Lawlers, the Deputy Postmaster-General, established postal, communication from Mount Magnet, and refused to allow a mail to run from the other side of the country. I am informed that he actually endeavoured to induce the Mines Department to transfer this gold-field to thejurisdiction ,of another warden, in orderthat he might have .some tangible - excuse for his refusal to establish a service from Lawlers. Happily, that attempt failed. With the assistance of thepeople of the district, we have been able to satisfy the Postmaster-General that such a mail service is absolutely necessary, and hehas directed that tenders be called for it immediately. These are i wo clear cases in which public desires and public interestshave .been thwarted by this official.. Surely, if any class in a community deserve consideration and sympathy at our hands, it is the people who go out into these arid wildernesses and attempt to establish settlement there. I think I haveproved in regard to both these matters that this officer has been biased, and that his action certainly calls for a strong reproof, if nothing more serious, from the PostmasterGeneral. Reverting to his treatment of” his subordinates, I would strongly advise the Minister not to permit his Perth deputy to allocate the increases which are to be given to deserving officers. I believe we have now a very able and impartial servant in the Public Service Inspector at Perth, and I think it is the duty of the Postmaster-General to see that that officer, who by this time must befully acquainted with all the details of theCommonwealth service in that State, should apportion these increases.
– I think that the honorable member is simply recommending what is now the practice.
– The practice up to the present time has been to allow Mr. Sholl an unfettered discretion in the distribution of these increases.
– It is not so now.
– It was so when the last division was made. The Postmaster-General has not taken action in this direction a moment too socn. Another matter of which the officers of the Department complain with good reason, is the practice of retaining some of them for many years at outlying stations. I know of one man who has been stationed at Eucla for not less than seven years. Other officers have been kept at remote stations for four, five, and six years, whilst others again remain permanently at Perth and other salubrious places along the coast. I am satisfied that the Inspector will do his best to see that this grievance is redressed ; but no harm would be done if the Postmaster-General offered an incentive to its early removal. It is palpably unfair that one section of officers should be stationed all their lives amid the pleasant surroundings of a city, while others are compelled to go into the back country, for practically the same remuneration, and to submit to all kinds of inconveniences, hardships and discomforts. There should be a fair division of the advantages and disadvantages of the Department in a State such as Western Australia. As an illustration of the loose way in which the reins of administration are held in Perth - and the Minister for Home Affairs will not be pleased to hear of this - I may mention that long after the Coolgardie water supply was available to the people of that city, the men in the local post and telegraph office, instead of obtaining their supplies from this source, which had been provided at great cost to the country, were actually buying water from outside parties.
– Why ?
– Simply because that had been the practice ; and nothing was done by the Perth deputy until a subordinate officer drew attention to the waste.
– Were they paying more for the water obtained from this outside source?
– Thousands of pounds more.
– I do not propose to refer to the many cases of embezzlement which have occurred in the Department in Western Australia during its administration by the present Deputy Postmaster-General, because I believe that the Minister is seized of most of the facts. They speak for themselves, and are sufficiently scandalous to call for his intervention. I would ask honorable members to try and imagine the arrangements of an office in which it is possi. ble for an official to get away with over £900. of departmental money. That was one case.
– It occurred long ago.
– I admit that it did ; but it happened under the rule of the officer whose administration I am now criticising. Several other cases have since occurred, but as the Public Service Inspector is now stationed at Perth, and will be able to see that justice is meted out to any delinquent, I do not think the Committee need take any action in the matter. I should like to refer to the hardships suffered by some of the postal officials stationed in outlying districts. These are matters which demand the attention of both the PostmasterGeneral and the Public Service Inspector. At some of the remote stations the isolation of officers is as complete as if they had been condemned to solitary confinement. They endure the unbroken solitude of Selkirk on Juan Fernandez, without the solace which rendered his lot tolerable. Not infrequently men exiled for years to these lonely outposts become mentally affected. Others are reduced to the condition popularly described as “balmy,” and nearly all absorb from their surroundings some painfulpeculiarity of character which, in after life, distinguishes them from their more favoured fellows. An anecdote, not altogether of doubtful authenticity, was related to me by a recent visitor to one of these far-off stations. An officer had died at his post and was buried on a gentle eminence which overlooked the station buildings. To this spot the visitor noticed that the man in charge paid repeated visits during his intervals from duty. A little acacia had been lovingly planted over the grave of the deceased official by one of his comrades. The visitor, being curious to unravel the officer’s motive in so frequently wandering towards the embryo graveyard, on one occasion followed and watched the man’s movements. This is -what he saw and heard : Going up to the little tree the officer caught one of the topmost branches, and, giving it a hearty shake, opened a long interview by asking - “ Well, old fellow, how are you . now 1 “ Then ensued a long dialogue in which the tree, apparently endowed in the imagination of the survivor with the spirit of the dead man, appeared to return more or less satisfactory answers to various interrogatories. I believe the visitor represented to the Perth authorities the mental condition of the officer, but so far as I know he is still at the station interviewing the acacia, and occasionally signalling to brother officers his interpretation of its occult communings. Although this story may seem amusing to some honorable members, it fairly represents the mental condition of many of these men on the remote stations. I would again impress -upon the Minister that, in all fairness and justice, it is desirable that some alteration should be made by which the men who have enjoyed long periods of service in the cities should take their share of the hardships of life in the country. Returning to the point at which I started, I wish to ultimate that if the Minister cannot assure this Committee that Western Australia will not be much longer harassed by the maladministration of his chief officer at Perth, I shall, when the time arrives to do so, move a reduction in that officer’s salary.
– There is a matter which I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister. It has regard to the recent appointments of telegraph messengers. It will be within the recollection of honorable members that an examination was held, and that as a result various ‘ appointments were made. “ A blank space was provided to be filled in with the name of the place to which those who were examined desired to be appointed. Subsequently it was discovered that it was impossible to fit in the new appointees to the places to which they most desired to go. They were given an opportunity of choosing alternative places. A number of them, in their anxiety to enter the Government service, did not particularize another place, but named the whole State. Now, trouble is beginning to arise. These lads are being sent, in some cases, hundreds of miles from their’ homes. They have salaries commencing at 10s a week. I see clearly that there is a difficulty so long as we observe - and very properly, too - the order of merit, in filling these positions with satisfaction to the lads themselves, to their families, and,” I beg leave to add, in my opinion, to the State. Because, when children of tender years are taken into the service, and are placed in positions which entail, at some period or other, considerable responsibilities, the absence of the home influence is a very important factor. The Department should be warned of the consequences that in some instances will probably ensue. I recognise the difficulty in which the Department is placed in complying with the principle laid down by the Government, and indorsed by Parliament, that merit should be the predominating factor with regard to appointments. When these lads accept appointments they have to sign an agreement that they will not apply for a transfer for a period of twelve months after engagement. Considering the small amount of salary they are paid, and the tender years at which they are taken into the Government service, greater facilities for transfer or exchange should be arranged for within the Department. That there must be hardships goes without saying, but these are the youngest servants of the Commonwealth, and will form , its future citizens; and it would be well, at this critical period of their lives, that we should not allow anything to be done which would place them in a position whereby their future and their usefulness as citizens would be endangered. I “sincerely hope that the Minister - whose sympathy, I feel certain from his past political and social history, will be with the lads - will, if it can be done, find means by which this grave additional expense of boarding out the lads with strangers will be avoided. I am satisfied that better results would then accrue to the service.
– Some three weeks ago I drew the attention of the Postmaster-General to what then appeared to me to be rather a serious breach of a contract made with some of the officers of his Department. The men to whom I refer are letter carriers employed in Victoria. Under an arrangement made some years ago with the Victor ian Government, letter carriers entered the service at £6 per month, whilst those who occupied the position of porters received £9 per month. The difference in salary was made because the amount paid to the porters was a fixed sum, not liable to any substantial increase, and there was no right of transfer or appointment to better situations in the Department. The men engaged as letter carriers, on the other hand, took a lower salary, because it gave them the right at a later stage to rise to better positions, carrying much more substantial salaries than the porters could ever hope to receive. Since the Public Service Act was passed, that oldestablished rule, which was practically a contract and was reduced to writing, has been to a certain extent varied. At the time when I spoke last, on the 27th August, some eight men who had been acting as porters, were given superior positions as sorters. I laid the facts before the PostmasterGeneral, and he very kindly promised to have the matter laid before the Public Service Commissioner. The result of his sympathetic statement was that an indignation meeting, which was to be held by the letter carriers of Victoria, was turned into a meeting of satisfaction. But, unfortunately, nothing has been done since that date. I should like to know from the PostmasterGeneral whether he has actually prepared a statement for the Public Service Commissioner, and, if so, whether he has sent it on 1 If that has been done, what has been the result of his remonstrances or suggestions to that officer ? A point which, perhaps, he may not have noticed, because I did not make it at the time I spoke previously, is that these men claim that under section 84 of the Constitution they are entitled to the positions for which they ask. They claim that their rights and privileges are being invaded to an extent which is not allowed by the law. I therefore hope that the honorable gentleman will make a strong representation to the Commissioner. I would ask him to note, first, that there was a contract existing between these men and the previous head of the Post and Telegraph Department, in Victoria. Next, I ask him to note that that contract was reduced to writing, is tangible, can be produced, and that these men were engaged under its terms. In the last place, I wish the honorable gentleman to observe that, under section 84 of the Constitution, their rights are being violated unwarrantably. To illustrate how unfairly the present system operates, I propose to state the case of two men, A and B. I do not desire to give their names, although I could do so. They joined the Department at the same time - in 1886. They both. joined as porters. Two years afterwards A relinquished the salary he was receiving, £10 a month, and agreed to take £7 a month and become a letter carrier, because of the higher position that he hoped to obtain in due course. From 1888 - that is to say two years sifter he joined the service - he has been acting as a letter carrier. Since that time he has received about £200 less in salary than B, who has -acted all along as a porter, has received. The astonishing circumstance about the whole business is that, under the regulations which the Public Service Commissioner has brought into being, this porter who joined at the same time as A did, and who has already received about £200 more than the letter carrier, is one of those who is to be promoted to the new position of sorter. So that the sacrifice made by A, in relinquishing something like £200 in the hope of getting a superior position later on, goes for nothing, and his legal rights under the contract with the Victorian Government have been swept aside. He has not attained to the superior position which he hoped to-reach, while the other man, who sacrificed nothing, and who has been receiving the higher salary, hasbeen placed over his head. I give this instance to show how unfairly the system has operated. .1 am bound to say that I do not think the Public Service Commissioner knows of the circumstances. I feel confident that Mr. McLaughlin is a fair-minded and honorable man, and that if he were aware of .the circumstances he would at once rectify the error. Therefore I was delighted when I heard the Postmaster - General promise on the previous occasion that he would lay the matter before the Public Service Commissioner, and would have the grievance rectified. I will say no more on the subject now, except to ask that the Minister will give us an intimation as to what he has done or proposes to do. There is another matter upon which I desire to touch briefly for the purpose of eliciting information. It will be recollected that in older to obtain the minimum wage, which we provided for in the Public Service Act, persons occupying clerical positions in the Post and Telegraph Department had to undergo an examination. As one of the surprising results of the examination it was found that all the female officers who had presided over their several offices for some time failed in the examination, whilst their subordinates, and junior appointees in many cases, passed the examination. This led to very great injustice, and the Deputy PostmasterGeneral for Victoria, Mr. Outtrim, I believe, actually certified that the female officers in charge of branches, and who failed to pass the examination, were in many, if not in all, instances better officers than those who did pass the examination and obtained the minimum salary of £110 per year. When the matter was previously mentioned, Senator Drake, who was then PostmasterGeneral, said that it would be brought before the Public Service Commissioner in such a way that a solution of the difficulty would be found. I mention the matter again for the purpose of discovering what has been done to enable these women to get the minimum wage, seeing that they have been certified, as fit for their positions by the Deputy Postmaster - General, and have occupied those positions, with, credit to themselves, for some time. My own opinion was and is that it was never intended that the payment of the minimum wage should be dependent upon- an examination. It was intended to be a living wage, paid for services rendered, and the institution of an examination of those occupying clerical positions, though it may be the law, is really a contradiction of what honorable members of this House intended in passing the Bill. It may be that we carried the provision in such a way that an examination became necessary, but I am sure that we did not do that knowingly. I have spoken to a number of honorable members on the subject, and they agree with the opinion I am expressing that the provision for the minimum wage had nothing whatever to do with any examination of the persons in these positions.’ It was felt that they were occupying positions for which they were entitled to receive a minimum wage upon which they could live. Future advancement or promotion might very well be based upon examination, but with respect to the appointments which officers then held, it was intended by honorable members that the minimum wage should be paid irrespective of any other condition than service. I ask that the Minister when replying to the debate will give the Committee some idea of what he is doing or what he intends should be done in connexion with the matters to which I have referred.
– There are one or two matters which I should like to bring under notice of the Minister in connexion with the working of his Department in Victoria. I propose first, to refer to a matter which I brought before the House some time ago in the form of a question. It may not be known to some honorable members that racing clubs here have telegraph offices established on their grounds, and telegraph operators are sent to these offices from the General Post Office. It would appear that some person holding a responsible position in the Victorian Post Office, gave the secretary of one of the racing clubs in Melbourne authority to exercise a censorship over telegrams transmitted from the office on the grounds of the club, with a view probably of extending a similar right to the secretaries of all proprietary racing clubs in this city.
– Have I not answered a question in connexion with this case ?
– Yes. It is evident that some person must have authorized the secretary of the racing club to which I refer, to take this step, as the club published in their official programme a statement to the effect that the secretary would exercise a censorship over telegrams sent from the ground, and that telegrams in cipher would not be sent on any consideration. The result was that persons desiring to send telegrams from the office on the ground were really prevented from doing so. I asked whether the person who authorized the secretary of the racing club was brought to book in any way, and I must confess that I did not receive what I considered to be a satisfactory answer. The reply given me was that no ‘ one authorized the secretary to take this step. If that reply is correct I should like to know why the secretary of this racing club has not been prosecuted for the loss of revenue which the Department suffered on’ the occasion in question 1 We can understand that the object of the action taken by the secretary was to compel persons who desired to bet to pay 5s. or 10s. entrance money to enable them to go to the race-course managed by the club instead of allowing them to do their betting in Melbourne. When I I asked whether the club in question had been required to make good the loss of revenue suffered by the Department on the occasion, I was told that as no one had been authorized to do what was done, there was no one who could be held responsible. The position is this - either the secretary of this racing club was authorized by some I official to take the step he did, or any person
I may enter a telegraph office and compel one of our public servants to do as he pleases. I trust the Postmaster-General will go further in this matter, and will not allow the secretary of a racing club or any one else to control telegraph operators, and thereby cause a loss of revenue to the Commonwealth. There is another matter I have , had brought under my notice. Honorable members are aware that since the transfer of the Departments to the Commonwealth, and prior to the passing of the Public Service Act, there were a number of men in the employment of the Department as temporary officers. With, I believe, one exception, all of the men who were temporarily employed as line repairers prior to the date of the inauguration of the Commonwealth, 1st January, 1901, were taken on permanently. The one man who was not taken on was in the employ of the Department for about three years. He has now been dismissed, and is not given an opportunity to qualify for permanent employment. He has been told that he is physically unfit for the work, and if this is really the case I should like to know why the Department kept him on for three years. If the man was physically unfit to perform the work it should have been found out long ago, and as it was not found out, we are compelled to assume that there may be a lot of other weaklings in the Department. I do not imagine such a thing for :a . moment, because I believe the authorities of the Department take good care that > all in their employ are able to do the work for which they are paid. I endeavoured to find out how it was that this man was not recommended for permanent employment as well as other men, who in some instances were temporarily employed for a shorter period. I have already, in dealing with this matter, said that this man is quite willing to submit himself to any doctor whom the Government might choose to examine him ; they would not do this, so he was examined at his own expense subsequently, and the doctor gave him a first-class certificate to the effect that he was physically well able to do the work. I have <here a letter which I received from the Public Service Commissioner, but which -evidently emanated from the General Post Office in Melbourne. It is dated 4th September, and reads as follows : -
Sir, - Referring to your letter of the 19th ult., respecting the claims of C. M. Tucker, formerly temporary assistant line repairer, PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Melbourne, for permanent employment, I have the honour, hy direction, to inform you that the Commissioner has had inquiries made in the matter, and before transferring temporary line-repairers to the permanent staff the qualifications of the men were carefully considered, and the reports show that Tucker is not fitted for the heavy work of a line repairer. While his general health is iu no way questioned, it is stated that he is not strong enough to take the end of a pole, as other men do ; and a weak man lifting poles is considered not only a danger to himself, but to others.
– But the honorable member has said that he was at this work for three years.
– He was doing this work for three years, and he was evidently well able to hold up his end of the log for that time. I may say that the permanent men have an organization of their own, and this man’s brother happens to be the secretary of that organization. It is believed by many persons that it is because of that he is being penalized, and is not being given permanent employment. The only excuse the Department can find is that the man is not able to take up a telegraph pole under his arm, and walk away with it like a modern Samson ; as if any man in the employ of the Department can do what it is here said this man cannot ‘do. I know that the Postmaster-General has been considering, this and other matters which have been brought under his notice, and I should like to ask him whether, if he finds that this man has not received fair play - and from the evidence before rae I contend that he has not - he will see that he shall receive the same treatment as other men in the Department.
– The honorable member must amend the Act. The Public Service Commissioner has control of all such matters.
– How does the honorable gentleman desire that the Act should be amended? If he thinks that these temporary men should be allowed to hang on to the Department from year to year, he must see that this man would have been kept on for a number of years under such a system.
– Honorable members have taken all power out of the hands of the Minister.
– I admit that power has been given to the Public Service Commissioner ; but the honorable gentleman wilt see that it is the officers of his own Department who will not recommend the Public Service Commissioner to employ this man. Any person applying for temporary work as a line-repairer is compelled to register at the Post Office, and the officers in charge there have practically complete control and are in a position to say who they will have as permanent men. I do not think that it was ever the intention of this House when we passed the Public Service Act that such a state of affairs as that should exist. In connexion with the line repairers’ branch, an anonymous letter was sent to me some time ago, complaining of the way in which it was worked. I do not, as a rule, take notice of anonymous correspondence, and I would not raise the question which this anonymous correspondent desired me to raise. I submitted it to the Secretary of the Department, and asked him whether he could do anything with it. His reply was that the letter was anonymous, and he could therefore take no notice of it. I then said that I would ask a question in the House about it One complaint, I remember, was that in the absence of ordinary work the temporary hands were employed on one of the railway lines in taking down the insulators, and washing and replacing them. Another statement was that on the Footscray-road the arms of the telegraph poles were sawn off and holes drilled for the reception of others, thus weakening the posts. I asked the Secretary if he would have an independent inquiry made, and he replied in the affirmative ; but the man who was appointed. to make the inquiry, instead of ascertaining whether there was any truth in the statements made in the letter, went to each man and asked if he had written the document or knew anything about it. I have not been able to see the report which was made as the result of the inquiry ; but that was the state of affairs in the line repairers’ branch about twelve months ago. So far as I know, ho report has ever been presented to this House or to any one in authority on the subject. There is another matter in which the Treasurer is, no doubt, interested, but which has received no attention during the discussion of the Estimates. I refer to the case of the transferred officers in the Post and Telegraph Department in Victoria, who, according to a State law passed just prior to Federation, are entitled to increased salaries. The question has already been before the Supreme Court of
Victoria, and a decision given in favour of the men. The Victorian Government, it appears, declined to pay these officers forthe time they were in the employ of that Government during the two or three months, before the transfer of the Post and Telegraph Department to the Commonwealth. Two test cases were heard in the Full Court, and, as I have already stated,, a decision was given that the men wereentitled to the extra money. I notice that no provision is made on the Estimatesto meet the demands of these men in case of” the Commonwealth or the Supreme Court again deciding in their favour ; and I desireto know whether the absence of that provision will prevent justice being done to thesemen, who, according to law, are entitled tothe extra money, and should receive it atthe earliest possible moment. Even after the cases had been decided by the SupremeCourt, the Victorian Government refused to pay ; but on the men putting in 50 or 100 writs day after day, the Government climbed down and settled two or threemonths ago.
– It’ is not so longago as that.
– When I raised thequestion in the House six weeks or twomonths ago, the honorable and learned member for Indi, who was interested in the case, as a barrister, stated thatthe Victorian Government had intended, to appeal to the Privy Council, but had received high legal opinion from England thatthey practically had no case. These men are anxious to know whether the Commonwealth Government intend to pay, or whether another appeal will have to be made to the law courts. There -is no desireto threaten the Government, and the men will be perfectly satisfied with a straightanswer one way or the other, because they are naturally desirous of having a settlementafter a lapse of two years and a half. I contend that these men ought not to be compelled to resort to law when other membersof the’ service, who receive salaries of £600 to £700 per annum, are being paid increases from £10 to over £200 per annum month after month under the same Act, and if themen who receive small salaries are compelled to fight in the law courts, those who receive higher salaries should also have to justify their claims in the same manner. I know that the Prime Minister has stated that the* Attorney-General is looking into the matter
That is as far as we have been able to get, and I hope the Treasurer will to-night express a definite opinion as to whether these men are or are not entitled to the extra money. Twelve months ago the Premier of Victoria urged the Commonwealth Government not to pay the men, because, in his opinion, such a step would impoverish the State of Victoria.
– That was not the reason.
– That was one of the reasons which the Premier of Victoria gave.
– No ; it is not fair to say that that was the reason given.
– Since then the Premier of Victoria, in a “speech somewhere, said he was anxious for the Federal High Court to be established, because these men ought to be compelled to fight their case there. Perhaps then the Premier spoke as a lawyer, who is anxious to bring “ grist to the mill “ of gentlemen in the same profession.
– Surely the honorable member does not mean that 1
– I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the Premier of Victoria would be delighted if he could get those men to work for less than they are entitled to, or if he could keep from them money due under a law which he as a member of the State Parliament did not vote against. I have noticed in the press lately that a . number of females engaged as cleaners at the Melbourne Post Office are asking that in common with others employed by the Commonwealth they should be paid the minimum wage of £110 per annum. These women, who do harder work than others who are receiving the minimum wage, are entitled to some consideration, along with others who occupy similar positions in the Commonwealth service. They are practically permanently employed, some of them having been in the service for twenty years ; and if their remuneration cannot be raised to the standard which they desire, their case should be looked into, and, at any rate, some concession made in regard to holidays. These women never have any leave of absence, while other employes, who are in receipt of high salaries, enjoy an annual leave of two or three weeks per annum. Some of these women are widows with families, while others have ailing husbands; and, considering that they start work at six in the morning, and. have to return in the evenings and work until about 9 o’clock, something ought to be done tomake their lot a little easier.
– ThePost and Telegraph Department, though not important as a revenue producer, is perhaps the most important service transferred to the Commonwealth from the point of view of theconvenience of the public. As to the administration of the Department, I do not know that I can say anything but what iscomplimentary, considering that the effortsof all the States have been directed to curtailing expenditure. If we have met with rebuffs from both the present and the late PostmasterGeneral, we must recognise that the States have demanded retrenchmentin all the transferred Departments, and that this is likely to operate against the extension of facilities during the operation of the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution. At the same time, retrenchment may be carried to excess. In a country like ours, where people may concentrate in one spot to-day and in another to-morrow, every encouragement to settlement ought to be given by the provision of the ordinary conveniences of ‘life. TheTreasurer, no doubt, regards revenue as the one great essential to good government; but unless inducements are offered by providing settlers with those comforts and facilities which all ore supposed to enjoy under our advanced civilization, settlementon what are called the waste landsof Australia will be retarded rather than encourage’d. I have” on many occasionsinterviewed both the pre.sent and the late Postmaster-General in regard to providing postal and telegraphic facilities for settlers on the repurchased estates in Queensland. The other night, when dealing with the question, of the Crown lands in New Guinea, I said that the alienation of large areas of land was one of the many causes of the railways of Australia not paying. The Governments of Australia, now recognise the fact, and to-day, in Victoria, Queensland, and other States, largeestates are being repurchased with theobject of settling a yeomanry population, and thereby increasing the traffic on therailways. But where there is settlement thereought to be postal and telegraphic facilities. Although it might entail a present loss, still our aim should be to make the lot of these people as comfortable as possible, by affording them as many conveniences as- -we can do without incurring undue expenditure. It is only just to the Department to say that on every occasion they have met me as far as they have been able. Until recently we had in Queensland a Government which, so far as I can learn, brought pressure to bear on the Commonwealth Government to keep down the expenditure on the transferred departments. We can pursue a penny wise and a pound -foolish policy in regard to economy. The reduction in the postal and telegraph rates was a wise act. Although the multiplication of telegraphic and postal conveniences may involve a present loss, still it will result ultimately in a great gain to the revenue of the Department. Just, as people wish to go to the sea side or the city when railway facilities are provided, so people who did not care to write a letter will communicate with their friends when ^postal facilities are provided. I have had considerable experience in railway traffic, and I know that the cheap excursion trains bring a number of young persons from the country districts to the centres of civilization. Just as new traffic is always created by the running of excursion trains, so new revenue will be created by the provision of postal and telegraphic facilities. We ought not to look for an immediate profit. We ought to be influenced by the higher consideration of the occupation and development of our waste lands. We have millions of acres of land waiting to be occupied, and on which thousands of persons might be settled, and that should be our chief concern. The duty of this Parliament is not to strive to make ends meet, but to promote the settlement of Australia, and to build up a nation that will take a proud place among the nations of the world in time to come. In all the States men who have been reared under civilized conditions have to live under primitive conditions. They have to forego many of the conveniences and conventionalities of civilized life when they go into the wilds of Australia to develop its resources. Just for the sake of saving a few paltry pounds we fire denying to them necessary conveniences. While we, should safeguard every pound that the public have entrusted to our care, we should not be parsimonious in these matters. We should make the residents in the cities and large centres of population help to bear the burden of providing postal and telegraphic facilities for the settlers in the country. I am reminded that the letter carriers have addressed to honorable members a communication on the subject of their grievances. It comes, not from one individual, but from the Queensland branch of the Letter-carriers’ Association. Written on the 12th September, it reads as follows : - .
At a largely attended meeting of the above Association held on Monday evening, 7th instant, it was unanimously agreed to invite your intervention, to prevent a very serious hardship, us well as an injustice being imposed upon a large number of employes - between eighty and ninety - of the Mail Branch, Gr. P.O., Brisbane, through the stoppage of an allowance for overtime and working on public holidays, which had been paid by the Queensland Government for about thirty years prior to Federation, and paid by the Commonwealth Government from the time the Postal Department was taken over, until the 30th June last. This allowance, known as “ English Mail Allowance,” varied from £26 per annum, downwards, according to salaries - the majority of which were under £170 per annum - and was by Special Regulation, Queensland, 1890, confirmed as “payment for all claims for overtime and holidays.” At the same time, “ Overtime Regulations,” which were inapplicable to the peculiar system of the Mail Branch, were suspended. The adverse conditions which officers of the Mail Branch had to contend against, such as extra early, late, and irregular hours, and being compelled to get meals in town - none of which affect those in other branches of the Department - and which led to the payment of this allowance in the first instance, upwards of thirty years ago, have up to the present time been neither removed nor modified. The new regulation re overtime issued by the Public Service Commissioner, while removing none of the disabilities under which we labour, practically amounts to a reduction of income, by sums ranging: from £26 per annum downwards, to upwards of eighty officers. We believe that the conditions existing here are peculiar to Queensland, and the new regulation, which may suit offices where overtime is only occasional, is totally unsuited to our case. Experience in Queensland has proved that the payment of a fixed sum has been an incentive to diligence instead of, as the Commissioner appears to think, an inducement to loitering over the work. Notwithstanding periods of adversity and retrenchment in this State, and many changes of Government, the English mail allowance has never been suspended or curtailed, but has been passed by Parliament year after year. The deprivation of this allowance, which has been regarded as part of our salaries, and on which we have based our calculations when financing for the upkeep of our households for so many years past, will prove very embarrassing to us, the majority being in receipt of less than £170 per annum. In March last, owing to the stoppage at that time of the allowance for three months, a mass meeting of officers interested instructed a committee to draw up and forward a petition to the Commissioner, through our Deputy PostmasterGeneral, embodying the above, with other reasons, for the retention of the allowance, but up to the present no reply whatever has been received. We were led to believe that Federation would better our condition, while we had a public assurance from the Honorable J. G. Drake that there would be “ levelling up but no levelling down “ in the transferred State Departments.
So far as I am aware, the grievances of the letter carriers have not been redressed. I do not know whether the Postmaster-General has been aware of what has been going on.
– I was not aware of the circumstances until I read that letter.
– From what I know of the honorable gentleman, I feel sure that if tiny injustice is being suffered it will be remedied.
– It was my intention to bring the grievances of the letter carriers before the PostmasterGeneral. This afternoon I received a copy of the letter which has just been read. I was not aware that any other representative of Queensland had been communicated with, nor did I know until five minutes ago that a deputation had been appointed to wait on the Postmaster-General to-morrow - at what hour I do not know. I have not been asked to join the deputation, perhaps owing to the fact that I am leading the Opposition tonight. I wish to emphasize the remarks of the last speaker on the subject of the allowances to the men in the mail, branch at Brisbane. They claim to be paid for extra early, late, and irregular hours. For thirty years the Queensland Government paid the men a sum ranging from . -£26 per annum downwards. The withdrawal of the allowance is a very serious matter to them. No doubt many of them have families to provide for. Their request is deserving of every consideration at the hands of the PostmasterGeneral. The allowance was withdrawn very soon after the Public Service Commissioner entered upon his work. Ithink that the question ought to be reconsidered “Virtually the salaries are now, to the amount named, smaller than they were previously. These men have to live out in the suburbs in order to obtain cottages at a sufficiently low rent, and, therefore, they are at the expense of getting their meals in town when they are called upon to attend at these irregular hours. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to take the matter into his favorable consideration, in order to see if he cannot grant the relief asked for.
– While congratulating the honorable member for Oxley upon having risen to the position of acting leader of the Opposition so soon after joining their ranks, I must also congratulate him upon having brought this question before the Committee. As he has stated, an arrangement was made to bring it before the Minister, but unfortunately it was not known to us then that the honorable member had received this letter. The men of whom he has spoken have a just grievance, and I am sure that the Postmaster-General will see that justice is done to them. It was, of course, expected that under Federation there would be uniformity throughout the postal service, but at the same time it was understood that the rights of transferred officers would be preserved. Their statutory rights are preserved by the express words of the Constitution, but their complaint is that, although for a period of upwards of thirty years annual appropriations have been made by the Queensland Parliament as an allowance for overtime, and for extra work done in connexion with the sorting of the English mails, that allowance is now taken from them. It must be remembered that the overtime which they are called upon to work does not mean, as is usually the case, staying an hour or two longer at the office after the ordinary work of the day is done. These men have to come on duty at extraordinary hours, and have to put themselves to great inconvenience to give the quick despatch of letters which the public desire. The allowance which they have hitherto received is in reality a substantial addition to their salaries, and, depending upon its continuance, many of them have entered into financial obligations extending over long periods, so that the sudden deprivation is a matter of serious consequence to them. I would point out that the men concerned do not live within the divisions represented by any of the members who have spoken. We do not desire to use political influence in the administration of the Department, but speak purely in the interests of justice. The men, we consider, have a serious grievance, which demands fair treatment at the hands of the Commissioner. I hope that the Minister will consult the Commissioner on the subject, and I think that if he makes inquiries into it he will be able to strongly recommend special consideration for them. Another matter to which I wish to refer is the question of telephone guarantees for extensions to new centres. In my own division there are places like Clifton, Stanthorpe, and Goombungee, all of which promise to become large centres of population ; and the people there are pressing very strongly, and, to my mind, very justly, for telephone communication. I can understand that the Minister should require some guarantee, in order that the Department may not incur loss in connexion with extensions, but a sort of promise was made some time ago that the advisability of reducing the amount of these guarantees would be considered. At the present time the sums asked for are so high as practically to block extensions. I do not ask for the abolition of guarantees,” because I recognise that some system should be adopted to prevent the extension of the telephone, at the public expense, to centres which are never likely to be able to give a sufficient return ; but some discretion should be shown by the Minister. When officers report that places promise to become large centres of population, it is wise to extend the telephone system to them under less stringent conditions than the present regulations prescribe. I might specially mention the case of Clifton. That is a township situated in the very centre of the Darling Downs district, and close to some of the large estates which have been repurchased. The land is being rapidly taken up, and is increasing in value, while the population is growing. The residents are therefore asking for telephone communication. But, under the present regulations, a few men are required to guarantee a very large amount in order to obtain what is a convenience to the district generally. Cannot the Minister have mora elastic regulations framed, so that it will not be impossible for rapidly growing townships to obtain telephonic communication which, if granted, will in time become a valuable source of revenue to the Department “? If the Minister gives the matter careful consideration, he will see that a more liberal arrangement will not only increase the revenue of his Department, but at the same time give valuable assistance to those’ who are engaged in developing the resources of the country.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General what is to be the policy of the Government with regard to new telegraph lines. There are several places in my electorate - out in the Never-Never - which are now quite cut off from communication in times of flood. It is a strange thing, in this twentieth century, to have townships in which there is neither a telephone nor a telegraph office, although thetelegraph line runs through them. That,, however, is the position of many Queensland townships. When the Department are asked to give telephonic communication they say - “ What about the revenue ? We want a guarantee of so many pounds per annum before doing anything.” There are twotelegraph lines running through the township of Jackson, in my electorate, and. although the people have asked for telephonic communication with the nearest railway station,’ which is thirty or forty miles distant, the Department will not agree to the erection of the wires until they obtain a cash guarantee. But what is. every one’s business is no one’s business. No one is ready to take the matter in hand and give the guarantee, and consequently nothing is done. I rose, however, to speak more particularly in regard to telegraphic communication. There is in my electorate aplace called Stonehenge, which is 100 miles from Longreach and forty miles from. Jundah. Jundah is further west than Stonehenge in a direct line, but it isonly forty miles distant by road, and telegraphic communication could be given, by a line going direct, which need not be more than 35 miles long. Thecountry is perfectly level, being the watershed of the Thompson River, which runs into Cooper’s Creek, so that there are noengineering difficulties to be feared. Theline has been promised as soon as funds are available, but if we go on as we aregoing now, I do not think that funds will_ ever be available for new works. I should like to know from the Minister what objection there is to the people erecting a private line - not a telegraph line, but a telephoneline. I know that a telegraph line would not be allowed.
– Does the honorable member mean a line going across privateland entirely, or a private line which would have to cross public property ?
– In Western Queensland there are hundreds of miles of telephone lines which are carried on the fences, one of the wires being used for the purpose. I saw in the newspaper, a few days ago, that the Minister was about to frame new regulations in regard to telephone charges, and I ask, therefore, if a line such as I speak of would come under them 1
– I doubt it.
– The people in the country should be as much considered as the people in the town. These men are pioneers who are preparing the way for further settlement. They are, indeed, the very backbone of the community. With regard to the matter brought up by the honorable members for Darling Downs, Moreton, and Oxley, I may say that I received the same communication as that read by the honorable member for Oxley. We arranged for a small deputation to wait upon the PostmasterGeneral and bring the matter under his notice to-morrow, but I suppose that, now that the matter has been referred to here, that deputation will not take place. I hope, however, that the Minister will give < these men a square go. In the concluding part of the letter, the men say -
We were led to believe that Federation would better our condition, while we had a public assurance from the Honorable J. Gr. Drake that there would be “levelling ‘up, but no levelling down “ in the transferred State Departments.
That is the keynote of the whole communication. It is desirable that we should have a contented service, and this can only be secured by giving the men their dues. With regard to the matter which the honorable member for Yarra has brought under notice, it strikes me as peculiar that it should take three years to find out that a man is not competent to lift the end of a pole. I should be sorry to think that any official of the Post and Telegraph Department of Victoria would discharge a man merely “because his brother was the secretary of a trades union. ‘ It was reported, in the first place, that the man referred to was not physically fit, and, after he had met this statement with a medical certificate to the effect that he was sound in wind and limb, and fit to do anything, the officer who was responsible for the adverse report regarding him turned round and said that the man was not fit to lift the end of a pole. I think that the officer who took three years to discover that a man was not fit to lift the end of a pole, when he was supposed to be lifting poles every day, should be discharged for neglect of duty. The Postmaster-General says that the difficulty has arisen in connexion with the Public Service Act, but I would point out that the Public Service Commissioner could not appoint a man who was stated to be physically unfit for the work which he would be called upon to do. There is something wrong somewhere, and I hope that the Minister will carefully investigate the matter.
– On every occasion that the Estimates are discussed, I feel more and more convinced of the absurdity of our attempting to. deal with matters of detail connected with the administration of the Government Departments. Honorable members in most cases act upon the strength of ex parte statements, whilst the other side is known only to the Ministerial head of the Department, and therefore no good is accomplished by the discussion brought about. I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the complete cessation of work in connexion with telephone and telegraph extensions since the transfer of the Department to the Commonwealth. The wants of the people are no less than before, but the conditions now imposed upon, them are such that the advantages of telephone and telegraph communication are placed beyond their reach. Instances have occurred in my own district, and the same thing obtains in other portions of the Commonwealth, and particularly in the backblocks, in which it has been utterly impossible to obtain any extension of existing facilities. The absurdity of the regulations relating to private lines may be illustrated by a case with which I am personally acquainted. A business firm having a central establishment in one railway town in my own district, and branches in two other towns, also on the railway line, distant five and ten miles respectively, are required to pay £50 per annum for the use of a line constructed for their benefit, upon poles erected within the railway reserve. That seems to be an altogether exorbitant charge, and I cannot imagine’ how it could be considered fair or reasonable. Persons who are prepared to construct telephone lines at their own expense for a distance of fifteen or twenty miles, find it difficult, if not impossible, to treat with the Department on reasonable terms, because of the exorbitant charges proposed. I believe that the Postmaster-General is in sympathy with those who desire to extend postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities, but the executive officers of his Department are apparently not prepared to assist in carrying out the wishes of Parliament. Our desire is not only to continue the present postal facilities, but to extend them in every direction, and yet the officials seize every opportunity to place obstacles in the way of extensions, and to diminish the facilities now enjoyed. I hope that the Minister will make an effort to curb this disposition on the part of his subordinates, especially where the more sparsely populated or remote districts are concerned.
Mr. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).I wish to emphasize some of the remarks made by honorable members in reference to the increments to which the letter carriers are entitled, and the position of the women cleaners in the Melbourne General Post Office. The letter carriers have been involved in serious monetary difficulties by their efforts to establish their claim to the increments referred to, and now find that they will be required to enter upon further litigation. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a definite statement as to the position taken by the Department in regard to the claims of the men, and that we shall have an assurance that no further litigation will be necessary. The men have been driven from pillar to post. They have obtained a judgment from the Full Court to the effect that they are legally entitled to the increments, and if the PostmasterGeneral is satisfied upon that point I trust that he will, honorably carry out the promises upon which the men have relied. The claim of the women cleaners in the Melbourne General Post Office to be brought under the operation of the provision relating to the payment of the minimum wage of £110 per annum, seems to have been established beyond doubt. I do not say that £110 per annum is not to’o much to pay them, but certainly something should be done to accord them justice, and to establish their right to be classified as permanent employes. Some of these women have been in the Department for twenty years. From a return recently furnished by the ex-Postmaster-General, it. appears that the eighteen female cleaners in Sydney are paid £1 per week, except the forewoman, who receiver. £78 per annum, and that in Melbourne there are twenty who are paid £1 5s. ‘ per week, and five who receive £1 per week. Perhaps the Public Service Act could be amended to meet the case of these employes, to secure to theni the privileges to which they are entitled as public servants, and to give them their proper status. I hope that the Minister will be able to make a satisfactory statement in regard to these women, and also in reference to the letter carriers’ increments. The men” have been very much harassed.
– Some of them actually bought houses on the strength of the promised increments.
– Yes ; several men who reside within my electorate entered into obligations for the purchase of properties-, on the faith of the promises made to them, and I hope that the flagrant breach of faith which has been committed will be repaired, and that no further litigation will be necessary. If an assurance can be given to that effect, it will bring gladness to thehearts of many men, and as the whole sum involved is not very great - not more than £30,000-1 trust that the difficulties in theway will be at once removed.
– I desireto know if the Postmaster-General has doneanything towards establishing telephoniccommunication along the coast of King Island, for the benefit of the 600 or 700’ splendid pioneers who have made their homes there. These people urgently require communication with the centre of theisland, so that they may know what is. going on.
– What are they doingthere?
– They are engaged ingrazing pursuits. The island is one of thefinest in the world for grazing cattle. I trust that the Minister will give this matterhis very early attention.
– At this late hour I intend to make but brief replies to the very many questions which have been addressed to meby honorable members, I trust I am sufficiently well known to warrant the conclusion that, although my remarks will be brief, my intentions are thoroughly honest and earnest - that I desire to do what isright to the civil servants and what I conceive to be good for the State. I need scarcely assure honorable members of my regard for the toiling pioneers who have a claim to the sympathy of the Government, when they take up land in the remote districts of Australia. Neither the honorable member for Coolgardie nor the honorable member for Moreton can impress me more strongly than I was previously impressed with the extent of our indebtedness to those who pioneer the country and prepare it forthe settlers from whom we receive a. good price for the lands which we sell. AlthoughIcannot enter fully into all the questions which have been addressed to me, honorable members may rest assured that in every instance in which the Department can derive a revenue which is at all commensurate with the capital outlay involved in any work which may be suggested, it will do its utmost to prevent any complaint on the part of individuals, no matter how far distant they may be from the centres of population. Their interests will not be forgotten, but will be considered along with the greater interests of the cities. Thus . far I address myself chiefly to the honorable member for Coolgardie, the honorable member for Moreton, and the honorable membersfor Maranoa, who have these matters specially at heart, and who have called attention to them. As I am about to enter into a consideration of the Estimates, I wish to enlist the assistance of the honorable member for Coolgardie by informing him that, so far as Western Australia is concerned, considerable attention has recently been given to the working of the Department in that State with a view to installing as its manager an officer who is imbued with modern ideas, and with the energy and enterprise that a man filling such an important office should possess. That is the object we have in view, and the gentleman who now holds the position has sought for a retiring allowance. I dare say that the honorable member for Coolgardie is aware that under the Western Australian statutes he is not yet entitled to retire upon his full pension. But, although he may lack two years of service in that respect, I do not think they ought to constitute a barrier to obtaining such improvements as we hope will flow from the appointment of an officer who is more in touch with the Department, and possibly more in sympathy with the Federation of which he is a servant. If, therefore, in the Acts of Western Australia there are any provisions under which an officer can be retired for the benefit of the State, and under which upon his retirement he can receive that solatium to which those Acts entitle him, the gentleman to whom referencehasbeen mode will be speedily retired. I pass now to the very vexed question of the treatment which should be meted out to temporary employe’s. Their cases are constantly being brought under my observation. Indeed, I have already had occasion to address a minute to the Prime Minister upon the subject seeking his advice, and asking how far I am at . liberty to make such representations to the Public Service Commissioner as will cause him to reconsiderdecisions at which he has arrived. I havebeen waiting during the past two or threeweeks, whilst cases have been accumulating, in the hope that I might speedily be placedin possession of a,completelistof the officers who imagine that they have legitimate grievances in respect of those decisions, so that I might make a recommendation to my colleagues based upon some definite principle.. I have been asked what has been done in. regard to the rather large body of men in Victoria who feel that they have a grievance, and who are strengthened in their viewby the fact that Minister after Minister has very strongly expressed the opinion that the decision of the Supreme Courtshould havedetermined the matter. Itshould, however, be remembered that the Commonwealth Treasurer is but the trustee of thefunds of the States, and that to them hemust render an account. If, therefore,, money is to be spent in a matter of thiskind, it should be expended with the concurrence of the State concerned, and certainly not in defiance of the decision of that State that the money is not due to themen.
– But the State Government, have themselves paid the increments, andadmitted that they are legally liable.
– I do not intend todiscuss the question witlv the honorable member. Speaking from a layman’s standpointit appears to me that these men are labouring under a legitimate grievance to which-, they should not have been subjected so long, particularly “ as the Court has decided in. their favour. But, as I have already pointed out, when the Commonwealth has to deal with money which it holds, in trust for a State, it must take care thatit expends it constitutionally. With that object in view, the whole case was remitted to the Prime Minister; it wasconsidered by the Cabinet, and referred to the Attorney-General for his opinion.
– That was done six months ago.
– The case was referred -to the Attorney-General by his colleagues only within the past two months.
– We”had a deputation in reference to the matter six months ago.
– I am speaking of thecircumstances as they came under my own observation. They have been seriously considered by the Cabinet within the period indicated. Surely honorable members will recollect the special strain to which the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have been subjected during the past two months. The Attorney-General has been obliged to take up important measures, to saturate his mind with their provisions, and deliver the masterly speeches which he has delivered in this House at twenty-four hours’ notice.
– We all recognise that.
– Then honorable members should not regard my statement as a mere repetition of what they have previously heard.
– When are we likely to obtain a reply ?
– So far as the AttorneyGeneral is concerned, I hope that his work during the remainder of the session -will be far less than it has been. I would remind honorable members that they cannot make appeals such as have been made tonight without those appeals coming before the responsible Ministers of the ‘Departments which are specially concerned. I never permit the Mansard record of grievances to pass unnoticed. I always make it a point to send on to each Minister that portion of the report in which he is particularly interested. So, with respect to these officers, I promise, on behalf of the Attorney-General, that the settlement of their claims shall be one’ of the points to which he will give early consideration. I am sure that he will respect my promise, not only on account of the urgency of the matter, but because of its justice. I am unable to enlarge considerably upon the serious question, as some regard it, of what we shall pay to the charwomen employed by the Federal Government. I sincerely regret that the subject has been made so much of in this Parliament. Of course I recognise that no matter how humble may be the calling of any individual in the community, so long as that individual honestly earns his or her livelihood he or she is entitled to consideration and respect. Ministers do not need to be embarrassed by the - serious attention which honorable members are bestowing upon” the charwomen who are employed in the Post office the is remarkable that whilst only £1,500 per annum is spent in cleaning the post-offices of New South Wales, the cleaning of the post-offices in Victoria, which are fewer in number and occupy far less floor space, cost £2,700 per annum.
– But that sum is not paid to the charwomen. I have the list of salaries here.
– I am informed that a goodly number of these dear old creatures-
– They are not old.
– I am told by those who speak with authority that a number of these charwomen have been allowed to remain year after year in the service although they are not able to earn even the money which is paid to them.
– That is not so.
– This statement has been authoritatively made to me. These women are employed for about four or five hours per day, and a request has been made that they should be allowed certain holidays. If they came under the provisions of the Public Service Act they would be entitled to three weeks’ holiday a year, but even under the regulations, they now enjoy fourteen days’ holiday per annum.
– I am told that they do not.
– The post-offices are closed fourteen days a year. They do not remain open on the National holiday, on the occasion of the post-office picnic, on Show Day, the King’s Birthday, and other holidays.
– But the charwomen work on those days.
– It must be apparent to any honorable member that if all the offices are closed, as they are on these occasions, the charwomen must get these days off. It is unneccesary for me to pursue the subject further than to say that I think that due consideration is shown to these women, and that it would be a great mistake on their part to pursue this matter much further. Representations have been made to me from time to time in regard to men who have been employed temporarily in the service for some years, but have not been placed on the list of permanent , officers. That is a matter entirely for the consideration of the Public Service Commissioner. I have received deputations from time to time in reference to this question, but I have always had to say that my power to deal with it is very slight. But whenever I make a promise to submit a case for further consideration, I take care to carry it out. With respect to the whole of these men, whose numbers are now being recorded, representations will be made within the next few days to the Prime Minister, who will, I have no doubt, take such steps as he thinks desirable to bring under the attention of the Commissioner what may be the views of the Cabinet on the subject. If I were to deal with all the matters which have been discussed during this debate, I should occupy so much time that we should not be able to deal to-night with these Estimates. I trust, therefore, that honorable members will take as said much that I otherwise would like to have said. There is a great temptation to enlarge upon the work of the Department, for it can be spoken of in very satisfactory terms, and I think I have shown some forbearance in confining my speech within these limits.
– I would suggest to the Minister the advisableness of reporting progress. Many honorable members are anxious to get away, and I think that further consideration of these Estimates should be postponed until to-morrow.
– If the Estimates can be dealt with to-night we need not meet to-morrow.
– I do not think we should rush these Estimates through in a few minutes for the sake of avoiding another sitting. There are several matters relating to iny electorate with which I wish to deal. I have, on several occasions, brought them under the notice of the Minister, but have been unable to obtain any satisfaction, and I came here with the intention of stonewalling these Estimates.
– The honorable member has not done me the honour of preferring any request to me in regard to them.
– The honorable gentleman must surely remember that I spoke to him only a few nights ago in reference to a very important matter which has been under the consideration of the Department for the past eighteen months. The Department went so far as to call for tenders for the construction of a certain work in my constituency, but I regret to learn that it has now practically decided to withdraw them. I desire some information from the Minister as to when it is proposed to proceed with the work. If he will promise that it will be carried out without delay I will not say another word. Have I his assurance that it will be done?
– I do not know to what work the honorable member is referring.
– I am referring to the construction of a telegraph line at a cost of £1,800. I see that £10,000 is provided on the Estimates for certain works and buildings in Queensland, and I Wish to ascertain some of the details of the proposed expenditure. No particulars are to be found in the supplementary Estimates. The Minister promised to favorably consider my request, and to let me have a statement in writing within a few days as to the course to be pursued by the Department; but I have not yet received any communication on the subject.
– I gave instructions for them to be sent to the honorable member there and then.
– May I take it that the Government will agree to this expenditure of £1,800?
– And the honorable member looks so serious !
Mr. R. EDWARDS (Oxley). - I should like to remind the Postmaster-General that lie failed to reply to the complaint made by honorable members from Queensland as to the stoppage of allowances made for the last twenty or thirty years to eighty or ninety post-office officials in respect of early hours, late hours, and irregular hours of employment.
– I intended to refer to it, but refrained from doing so, as I did not desire to detain the Committee at undue length. I intend to proceed with the matter and obtain a revision.
– There is one other matter to which I desire to direct attention. I find that in the Estimates for 1901-2 the salary provided for the lady supervisor in the Telephone Department at Brisbane was £130 per annum ; but that in last year’s Estimates a sum of £150 per annum was set apart for that purpose: In this year’s Estimates the salary is also fixed at £150. I desire to inform the Minister, however, that this lady received last year, not £150, but the original salary of £130. If she is not to receive the £150, it is idle for us to vote it. I understand that the increased salary has not been pnid to this lady because of some objection raised by the Public Service Commissioner. Apparently . the Commissioner pays no regard to the amount we vote for this purpose.
– I shall take care to at once inquire into the matter.
– I mentioned the subject to the Commissioner, but he appeared to think that I was unduly interfering and possibly damaging the future welfare of this lady by interviewing him in reference to it. ‘ I urge the Minister to see that she receives the amount voted by the Committee. So far, she lias received only £130 per annum, which is much too small a remuneration for her services.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie) - I observe that in sub-division 2 of division 174 there is the item - “ Allowance to officer transferred from New South Wales.” I thought that these allowances had ceased.
– This is the only one. Until this officer is transferred to some other place it has to be continued.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 175 (Expenditure in New South Wales), £837,269 ; division 176 (Expenditure in Victoria), £582,099 ; division 177 (Expenditure in Queensland), £413,373; division 178 (Expenditure in South Australia), £241,089 ; division 179 (Expendii u96 in Western Australia), £273,091 ; division 180 (Expenditure in Tasmania), £108,031, agreed to.
Division 1. (Trade mid Customs) - £5,000.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, whether it would be possible to put into effect a vote which, I understand, is provided for on the Estimates in connexion with a rifle range at Ipswich ? The lack of this range affects two rifle clubs.
– I will have it done if the honorable member will speak to me about it.
– In division number 3, I notice the item “ Sundry offices as required, £3,635.” I wish to know whether the Postmaster-General could give the Committee a list of the offices referred to?
– I have no details. The vote is to meet additions required during the course of the year.
– It is rather peculiar that the amount of £3,635 should be put down as likely to be required. I do not understand why the odd figure should be there, unless the details are available.
– I have the information that the money is required for additions to buildings, some of which are in course of completion.
– I have not the particulars at the moment. The departmental information supplied to me is that it has been found necessary to make additions for increased business, and for the better accommodation of the officers and members of the public.
– The money is to carry on works which have been commenced.
– I should like to point out that the Department of Home Affairs is exceedingly slow.
– It will not be so now.
– I am glad to hear it, because I know that, even in regard to so small a matter as providing private letter-boxes, business has been hung up for nearly twelve months. I should think that so small a requirement as that ought not to occupy the attention of the Minister and the officers for so long a period. Of course, I am aware that the Department has been carried on under great difficulties in connexion with the making of all the initial arrangements.
– The information I have now obtained is that the vote includes Daydawn, £610; Kooky uie, £425; and Laverton, £000, all of which are in the district represented by the honorable member.
Mr. WILKINSON (Moreton). - With regard to the living allowances of officers in tropical regions, I desire to say that J believe’ this matter has been in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner, but I cannot obtain any information as to what has been done. Are the living allowances provided for on the Estimates ?
– Yes, the matter has been* dealt with on .the Estimates.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- Certainly ample allowances ought to be made to officers living in tropical localities, and I should like to know what scale the Minister proposes to apply to them.
– Has the honorable member seen the last regulations of the Public Service Commissioner ?
– I have. There are five classes, if ray memory serves me rightly, under the regulations published by the Commissioner. I think that the circumstances of the men in tropical portions of Australia, and certainly of those employed upon the gold-fields, are such that they should come within the fourth class, the allowances for which are, I think, equivalent to 20 per cent, of the amount of their salaries. The Treasurer might look into this matter, which is not a new one. It has been brought before the PostmasterGeneral, and is rather serious for some of the officers. Of course the cost of living is high in the parts of Australia to which I allude, and the privations of life are considerable. Whatever generosity the Minister can show to men so situated is desirable, and will be appreciated by them.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 2 (Defence), £29,539 ; division 3 (Post and Telegraph Offices), £102,932 ; division 4 (Telegraphs and Teleplwnes), £194,812; division 5 (Maahvnery and Plant, Government Printing Office), £15,000 ; division 6 (Military and Naval), £75,000, agreed to.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 9th September, vide page 4874) :
Postponed clause 11 (Revocation of Certificate).
– There was some discussion upon this clause, and I agreed to postpone it in order to meet the points that were raised by the honorable and learned member for Indi. Holding the same opinion as he did, I think I have prepared an amendment which will meet his criticism: I move -
That the following words be added - “Provided that the revocation shall not affect rights previously acquired by any other person.”
Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
– I move-
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 8, 9, and 10.
I had intended to move the recommittal of clause 4 so as to deal with a question raised by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, but I find that the amendment which I adopted on his suggestion, meets the case.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 8 -
Subject to any laws for the time being in force relating to the qualification of Members of the Parliament and of electors of Members of the Parliament, a person to whom a certificate of naturalization is granted shall in the Commonwealth be entitled to all political and other rights, powers, and privileges, and be subject to all obligations to which a natural-born British subject is eji titled or subject in the Commonwealth.
Provided that this section shall not apply to any law of a State relating to the qualification of members or electors of Members of Parliament of a State.
– It was pointed out at the previous stage by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr.Kingston, that the drafting of the first portion of the clause was capable of improvement. I think that was a fair criticism. In addition to that, a question was raised by the honorable and learned member for Indi, with reference to the effect of this clause as it stood upon the operation of States laws. I propose to meet both of those criticisms. First of all, I move -
That all words down to and including the word “Parliament,” line 4, be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir Edmund Barton) proposed -
That the proviso be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ Provided that where by any provision of the Constitution, or of any Act, or State Act, a distinction is made between the rights, powers, or privileges of natural-born British subjects, and those of persons naturalized in the Commonwealth or in a State, the rights, powers, and privileges conferred by this section shall, for the purposes of that provision, be only those (if any) to which persons so naturalized are therein expressed to be entitled.”
– This amendment guards the provisions of the Federal Constitution, or of any Federal Act or State Act. I do not know whether it is wise to omit all reference to States Constitutions. There may be provisions in some States Constitutions, with which I am not familiar, that this Bill may affect.
– If the honorable and learned member will move to insert after the word “ State “ the words “ Constitution or,” I will accept the amendment.
Amendment (by Mr. Isaacs) agreed to -
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the word “ State,” line 4, the words “ Constitution or.”
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 -
A woman who, not being a British subject, marries a British subject, shall in the Commonwealth be deemed to be thereby naturalized, nnd have the same rights and privileges, and be subject to the same obligations, as a person who has obtained a certificate of naturalization.
Amendment (by Sir Edmund Barton) agreed to -
That after the word “ rights,” line 4, the word “ powers” be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 -
An infant, not being a natural-born British subject -
– I move-
That after the word “mother,” line 3, the words “ (being a widow or divorced)” bo inserted.
That amendment will meet the objection raised by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir Edmund Barton) agreed to -
That after the word “rights” the words “powers” be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments; report adopted.
– I move -
That for Bill be now read a second time.
I do not propose to detain the House long. I shall not ask for the continuation of the debate beyond my short address in moving the second reading, but will then consent to an adjournment until Tuesday. This Bill has been passed by the Senate. It was considered there at some length, and with a great deal of care, as I perceive from the debates which took place upon it. That may be regarded by honorable members as exempting them from expending as much labour in its consideration as would otherwise have been necessary. I need not call attention at any length to the fact that it was a wise foresight which included the making of laws upon patents amongst the powers granted to the Federal Parliament. That there should be a law of general application on this subject throughout the Commonwealth, instead of the diverse laws which have heretofore existed in the various States, is, to my mind, so self-evident a proposition that I do not intend to take up time in supporting it. When I come to the question of fees, as I shall at the close of the few remarks I have to make, it will, in that respect, be seen how beneficial a general measure will prove as an incentive to inventive talent. The Bill is founded on a report of a Conference of States patent officers that met in Melbourne in April, 1901. That Conference considered a draft Commonwealth Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks Bill which the Government had had prepared, and recommended, amongst other things, that the Bill should be divided into three separate measures, dealing respectively with patents, designs, and trade marks. In view of the fact that this could not, in any circumstances, be a prolonged session, that recommendation was adopted, and so we proceed to the consideration, in the present Bill, of a measure dealing with patents alone. . The Bill is founded on the report of the Conference, and that again is largely founded upon British legislation. Honorable members will see at once that by following the lines of legislation passed in England we shall have the advantage of a long series of decisions which have been given upon patents law to guide us in the application of our own measure. Without wasting time upon minor matters, I may point out a few of the salient provisions of the Bill. Passing over the preliminary provisions, amongst which the most important is the constitution of a Commissioner of Patents and one. or more Deputy Commissioners, I come to division 2 of part II. which provides for the transfer of the administration of the States Patents Acts to the Commonwealth. This we considered necessary in order to enable the Department, when established, to carry out the examination as to novelty as provided for in the Bill. I am here referring to the examination as to novelty provided for in clause 37, and not to that which has, in the form of an amendment, been placed at the end of clause 35. Without dwelling too long upon this topic, I may say that I am of opinion that the amendment made in clause 35, in another place, should be removed, and that so far as the mere examination is concerned it should be sufficient if the Commissioner is intrusted with the determination of so much of the question of novelty as is covered by clause 37, which says that the examiner shall ascertain and report whether -
The invention is already patented in the Commonwealth or in any State, or is already the subject of any prior application for a patent in the Commonwealth or in any State.
The amendment, which does not well find a place in clause 35, which was a clause for the purpose of dealing with merely formal matters, imposes upon the examiner the duty of ascertaining and reporting -
Whether the invention is novel or lias been already in possession of the, public with the consent or allowance of the inventor.
That includes not only the ordinary question of novelty, but also the question of what is known as jus publicum in a patent. We think it would not be wise to commit the examiner in the first instance on the subject of novelty, involving in many cases the taking of vast bodies of evidence, and the performance of functions scarcely germane to the office of an examiner. It is a fact that in Germany and the United States that is done, but it is not done under the law of England as it exists, which has, I think, been found to be perfectly sufficient to enable these matters to be dealt with in a proper way. It must always be remembered that in the great majority of cases applications for patents are not the subject of objections, and that the stage for any objection comes first when a person who may otherwise have objected, and has not done so, finds that he ought to bring some suit for the purpose of establishing his counter right, or is himself the subject of some proceeding for the infringement of a patent. In these cases the whole question is brought before a tribunal constituted for the purpose, and a much more judicial, efficient, and impartial investigation then takes place. As decisions upon these questions will be guides for the future, it is much better that they should be given by courts of the highest learning and knowledge, than that they should be given by. a mere examiner of patents.
– How does the right honorable gentleman propose to constitute the court ?
– The honorable member will find that provided for in one of the earlier clauses of the Bill. The question is one which will be dealt with in Committee, but as the Bill stands now, the Supreme Court means the “ Supreme Court of the State in which the Patent Office is situated, or a Judge thereof.” I think the sufficiency of that provision is a question which may engage our attention; and we may consider whether we should not make it somewhat more extensive. The amendment providing that the whole question of novel tv should be gone into by the examiner, was inserted under an impression that it would assist inventors by saving them expense, that it would encourage inventions, and prevent the register being crowded with useless patents. We think it would not do any one of these tilings. On the contrary, we think it would probably be found to unduly harass inventors. There are instances cited in the reports presented to us of- the experience of Australian inventors in the United States Patents Office, where the system of general examination for novelty prevails, which show the truth of what I say, and prove that this provision would not save inventors expense, but would render the employment of patent attorneys more necessary than before. The American system is the living and pleasure of a multitude of patent agents, to whom its existence is a necessity, and the inventor who runs away with the idea that the United States law was just made solely for his benefit is recommended to visit Washington in order to have his eyes opened. It would not prevent the issue of invalid patents, because Edmunds, <a recognised authority upon the question of patents, when in the United States, was informed by persons who were in a position to know the facts that, in that country, something like 70 per cent, of the patents granted were, when litigated, declared void. That to a large extent is the result of committing to a less learned authority work which should really be done by a judicial tribunal. In the debates on the Patents Act Amendment Bill of 1902, in- England, statistics were brought forward to show that” the proportion of patents upset in Germany, where the same system prevails, is especially great. Summarized, the objections to a general examination as to novelty by an officer instead of leaving the matter to be decided by the proper tribunal, when, if ever, the question is raised, are these -
That is a very striking fact, and it is now acknowledged that the Bessemer steel process is one of the greatest inventions of the age.
Which it does not. In the United States and Germany, where the system exists, quite as many patents are set aside as in other countries, and some authorities contend that the proportion is greater.
These being the objections, when we come to that portion of the Bill, we shall endeavour to restore it to its original form, and confine the examination as to novelty to the searching of the register, for which purpose we must have the transfer of the State Departments, and the determination of the question of whether there has been any prior application for a patent in the Commonwealth or in any State.
– In addition to that, clause 52 enables objection to be made to the Commissioner on the ground of novelty.
– That is so, and objection being made on that ground the objection may be examined into. In the absence of any such opposition we do not think it will be wise to have a prolonged investigation upon that subject, which would, undoubtedly, be of great expense to inventors. In the transfer existing patent applications will not be interfered with except that the Acts will be administered by Commonwealth officials instead of by State officials, the fees, when collected on such patents and applications being received on behalf of the States. Part III. provides for the keeping of a register of patents. These are the ordinary provisions relating to a register of this nature, and I need not detain the House in discussing them.
– I think that is a very important point. Where is the register to be kept ?
– That question will arise, and it may be found, when we discuss this part of the measure, that it is not wise to have more than one central register, or more than one central examiner. It may be found wise, although not yet pro,vided in the Bill, to have receiving offices in various parts of the States to which applicants may address correspondence and documents, and which will be in immediate touch by telegraph or otherwise with the central office.
– There must be one central office.
– There must be one examination in chief, and the register must be kept at the central office, because otherwise there would be instant confusion.
– How can we expect that mechanics, who are the principal inventors, will be able to come to the central office?
– As will be explained afterwards, they will not be required to attend the central office in person. Part IV. of the Bill relates to procedure, and here there is some departure from the English system. Division 1 of this part deals with applications. In England and several of the States the applicant for a patent must be the “ true and first inventor “ - the term used in the Statute of Monopolies, Act 21 of James I. - or a person claiming under “the true and first inventor.” The decisions which have flowed from this expression are, in some cases, very interesting, and I may mention one in which “ the true and first inventor “ was held to include an importer of an invention from abroad. Except for the necessity of giving some elasticity in the administration of an old law as time goes on, the decision was about as far from the original meaning as one could well travel. In the present day, on the other hand, the necessity for that doctrine has disappeared, owing to improved means of communication, which enable persons .to deal with matters for themselves, instead of leaving them in the hands of importers. The Bill adopts the law which prevails in Victoria and Western Australia, by allowing only the “actual inventor,” or some person claiming under him, to apply for a patent. There is another important matter in the same division referring to the examination as to novelty. Until 1902 no examination as to novelty was made in England. An application could be opposed and invalidated on the ground mentioned, but unless opposition was entered the grant of the patent issued as of course, if the application and specification complied with the conditions laid down. But in other countries, notably, in the United States and Germany, a general examination as to novelty is required. The Conference of experts, which was held in the Commonwealth, reported in favour of examination as to novelty to the extent of ascertaining whether the invention had been previously patented or had been the subject of a prior application for a patent. Curiously enough, a committee appointed by the Board of Trade in England arrived independently at the very same conclusion. It is now recognised almost universally that some examination as to novelty should be made, and the question is as to how far this examination should go. There are many grave objections to the practice prevailing in the United States and Germany of requiring a general examination as to novelty. The Bill, as introduced in the Senate, followed the recommendation of the Conference of officers, but an amendment was carried providing for a general examination as to novelty. This was a departure from the general scheme of the Bill, and I think that this House, in its wisdom, will restore the measure to its -original form. Division 2 of this part of the Bill provides for wide grounds of opposition. Any objection on which a patent could be upset after the grant may be taken before the grant issues. This provision, coupled with the examination as to previous patenting, will afford the best security that can reasonably be provided that the patent when granted will not be open to objection. Division 3 provides for the effect of the patent and its duration. The term fixed is fourteen years, as in England and all the British dominions, except Canada, where the term is eighteen years. . Division 4 relates to the amendment of specifications, and follows the English law, so that I need not trouble the House at any length, especially as this and many other parts of the Bill are essentially for consideration in Committee. Division 5 provides for the extension of a patent, and this again follows the English law. Division 6 demands perhaps a little more consideration, because it contains a provision which has been somewhat severely criticised. This division provides for the grant of an additional patent for an improvement. This is in accordance with the recommendation of the conference, and it is purely enabling, seeing that no inventor would apply under this provision unless satisfied that his patent would be safe if he succeeded in getting it. That, again, is a matter which will be considered in Committee, and which 1 do not at this stage propose to discuss. Division 7 provides for the revocation of patents, and is almost identical with the English law. A patent may be revoked in case of fraud or for other good reasons known to modern law. Part V. deals with the working of patents. This part as introduced provided for the working of patents in Australia within five years sifter the date of the granting of the patent, and prohibited the importation of patented articles after four years, the patent being revocable on the application of the Attorney-General if this clause were infringed, and the article were not being manufactured within the Commonwealth. That is a provision which the Senate omitted, but I think there is a good deal to be said for it, and I, or the Attorney-General when he returns, will move the re-insertion of the original clause, for which there is abundant justification. The question of free-trade and protection, in my judgment, scarcely arises, because, if a patent law were regarded from that stand-point, every free-trader would vote against every patent, which in itself is a protection and grants a monopoly. A patent not only establishes a manufacturer or inventor in a better position than others in the same country or wherever the patent operates, but in regard to the process of manufacture itself gives a monopoly to a single person, and guards it for a period of time, so that there shall be no possible competition. That is the nature of the grant of a patent, and it seems to me that a provision that a patent may be revocable unless the manufacture takes place in the country where the patent is granted, is not in the direction of increasing the protection, but in the direction of taking away the protection if good ground be shown. I may mention that a similar provision is in force in Canada, Germany, and in South Australia, so that it is not entirely new or without good warrant. This clause was not inserted for the benefit of the inventor, but for the benefit of the public. I may mention the further fact, which seems to be very strongly in favour of such a provision,that owing to its operation in Germany, manufacturers there were enabled to secure manufacturing rights in the case of linotype machines at a much cheaper rate than in England. The remainder of this part of the Bill follows the English law, which will be familiar to honorable members who have had occasion to look into the subject. Part VI. deals with infringements, and also follows the English law. An important provision of the Bill is that the Court may call in an assessor in any proceedings relating to an infringement ; and the plaintiff must deliver the particulars of the infringement complained of, while the defendant must deliver the particulars of his objection. If the defendant disputes the validity of thepatent he must state his grounds, and if one of the grounds is want of validity lie must state the time and place of the previous application, or the previous use of the patent which he alleges. That is enough to show the nature of the proceeding. Clause 85 provides -
In any action for infringement the validity of a patent shall not be disputed on the ground of want of novelty by reason that a patent for the same invention was applied for or granted more than fifty years prior to the application for the first mentioned patent, if the invention has not been in public use in the Commonwealth or a State at any time during such period of fifty years.
Part VII. relates to the rights of the Crown, and follows modern English law. For instance, a patent under this Bill gives the same rights against the Crown as against the subject. Honorable members will be aware that under English law before modern legislation - and I need only refer lawyers to the case of Feather v. the Crown the Crown was held to have a right to use and make any article subject to a patent without any payment or royalty, or compensation to the inventor. But that has ceased to be the law in England, and, of course, we propose to make a very opposite law here. A responsible Minister of the Crown, however, in administering a Department, whether of the Commonwealth olof a State, may use an invention for the public service on such terms as may be agreed on with the patentee, or, in default of agreement, on such terms as may be settled by arbitration. There is a provision that. the inventor of any improvement in instruments or munitions of war may assign the invention and the patent to the Commonwealth, and the assignment is to be valid, notwithstanding any want of valuable consideration. The next provision of consequence in this part is in clause 93, which is as follows : -
The communication of any invention for any improvement in instruments or munitions of war to the Minister for Defence, or to any person authorized by him to investigate the invention, shall not, nor shall anything done for the purpose of the investigation by such person be deemed publication or use of the invention so as to prejudice the grant or validity of any patent for the invention.
Honorable members will recollect that on occasions, when the question of the Crown taking up an invention and using it for military or other similar purposes has arisen, the inventor, in many cases, has been chary of disclosing his process “to the Crown or its representative, on the ground that that would be regarded as a publication of the invention,and might render the invention publici juris to the extent of depriving the inventor of his rights. It will be enacted here, if the House agrees, that no publication of that kind shall have any effect injurious to the rights of a patentee, so that where it is impossible to judge of the value of an invention except by becoming acquainted with all its processes, this provision will secure the patentee from prejudice. Part VIII. provides for the appointment of patent attorneys ; and this is in accordance with the recommendations of the Conference. It is provided that persons may be registered as patent attorneys on passing the prescribed examination. Any person registered as a patent attorney may be removed from the register; and no person who has been employed as an officer in the Patent Office shall be registered as a patent attorney until he has ceased to be an officer for at least twelve months. The reasons for the latter provision are obvious. Any person who proves that at the commencement of the Act he was bona fide practising as a. patent agent in any part of the Commonwealth, and had been so practising for six months prior to such commencement, may be registered without passing the prescribed examination There is a penalty, which may be as high as £100, for a person describing himself as a patent attorney, unless he is registered or entitled to practise as a patent attorney under the Act. I think that it should extend to his practising or acting as a patent attorney without having the right . to do so, because obviously that would be imposing upon the confidence of the public. Parts IX. and X. contain the ordinary provisions with regard to regulations and fees. The remaining portion of the Bill to which I propose to call attention is the second schedule, which prescribes the fees to be collected. These amount to £13 - £8 up to the sealing, and £5 for the renewal of a patent. At the present time, the fees amount to £5 in NewSouth Wales, £9 in Victoria, £18 in Queensland, £8 in South Australia, £18 in Western Australia, - and £38 in Tasmania. When a person wishes to patent his invention throughout Australia, he has to pay £96, whereas the fees for taking out a patent for the Commonwealth will be. less than one-seventh of that sum.
– That is for purely official fees?
– I am not now referring to the ‘ payment of fees to agents or for drawings, but I shall be making a liberal allowance if I say that, in addition to the official fees, the applicant will’ have to pay £7 in fees for documents and drawings, bringing the total fees for a Commonwealth patent up to £20. Under the present system we may fairly allow £4 for fees in each State for a. like purpose, making an addition of £24 to the £96 for official fees. That would bring the entire cost of getting a patent for the Commonwealth to perhaps £20, as against £120 to secure like rights for all the States under the present system.
– Only £8 have to be paid in the first instance, and £5 at the expiration of seven years,’ when a renewal of the patent is applied for.
– Not more than from £12 to £15 would be payable for seven years, counting the fees to agents and fees for documents and drawings; In any event, the total cost, including agents’ charges, would be probably £20 under the system we propose, whereas it is not less than £120 under the present system. I cannot put that more strongly than’ by quoting from a memorandum of the Board of Trade - it was presented to the Premiers’ Conference last year - certain figures as to patents issued in recent years for the six Australian colonies. In the years set out the six Australian colonies issued patents at the rate of 2,600 a year. If I assume that under the new system only 1,000 patents a year will be issued, that will be more than a liberal allowance for the duplication of patents under the old system. Taking the saving on each patent at about £100, the total saving to the inventive persons in the Commonwealth will be about . £100,000 ft year. That argument alone should be strong enough to induce honorable members to give their attention to this Bill.
– It is a striking illustration of the benefits of Federation-.
– Yes. It is a striking illustration of . the’ benefits of Federation. It is in directions such as these, which are of a practical nature, that’ the advantage of Union will most commend itself to, and must evoke the thanks of, the community.
– In addition to that many law suits have gone on in the different States with varying results.
– The honorable member is quite right. In the different States there have been law suits respecting different patents, but involving the same principle of law, and varying decisions have been given. That, of course, will be obviated under the new system. Having, in the absence of my honorable and learned colleague, the Attornny-General, who was. to have conducted the Bill through theChamber, gone through its main provisions,. I do not think that I need detain honorablemembers any longer than to say that it isfairly drawn, and provides for a goodworkable law under modern principles and methods. It may, therefore, be fairly commended to the judgment of the House, and I shall consider it an honour to this Parliament and the Government if, before we part, it is placed on the statute-book.
– I have not the least intention of making a secondreading speech.
– Move the adjournment of’ the debate.
– I do not think it would be justifiable to take that course at this stage in the history of the Parliament. I think that what the Prime Minister has told us to-night would justify us in agreeing to the second reading of the Bill and discussing its provisions in Committee.
– I promised one or two honorable members that I would not press for the second reading of the Bill tonight, and they went away oh the understanding’ that they would have an opportunity to speak next week on the main question.
– If any honorable members have left with that understanding, I should like to move the adjournment of the debate.
– Strictly speaking, an honorable member cannot move the adjournment of the debate after he has spoken to the main question, but, in the circumstances, 1 shall put the motion.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wilkinson) adjourned.
– I understand that it is the desire of honorable members, especially of a. great many who have left Melbourne, that the House, at its rising to-day, shall adjourn til) Tuesday next. The House has made very good progress this week on the Estimates and otherwise, and Ministers do not begrudge honorable members an adjournment over to-morrow. I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030917_reps_1_16/>.