House of Representatives
19 July 1906

2nd Parliament · 3rd Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 1523

QUESTION

FOREIGN INSURANCE COMPANIES

Mr MAHON:
COOLGARDIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. I understand that he proposes to introduce a Bill for the protection of persons who have assured in foreign life assurance companies which have now ceased to do business in Australia, and I should like to know when that Bill will be brought in. I desire to be also informed whether policies in exist ence before the withdrawal from Australia of the companies affected will come within the scope of the measure?

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister for External Affairs · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · Protectionist

– We propose to introduce a measure at a very early date ; but the endeavour to extend its scope as far as possible has raised intricate legal questions whose determination may require yet another ten days or a fortnight. I hope that the Bill will’ be brought forward, either in this House or in the Senate, at the end of that time.

page 1523

QUESTION

MILITARY PARADE UNIFORMS

Mr CROUCH:
CORIO, VICTORIA

asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -

  1. Is it proposed to use coloured uniform other than khaki at various parades in corps where khaki is at present the only colour of their uniforms?
  2. Who will bear the cost of this change -

    1. to officers;
    2. to other ranks?
  3. Is not this change advocated by some military authorities because some corps have never been clothed in khaki as previously decided?
  4. Why was not the previous decision to universally usekhaki carried out ?
Mr EWING:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

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

  1. Commanding officers have been given per mission to use their own discretion in the matter. 1. (a) The officers.

    1. Clothing and corps contingent allowance.
  2. Not that the Minister is aware of.
  3. Because the late Minister was informed by commanding officers in each State that there was great dissatisfaction with regard toclothing the men in the Commonwealth uniform as prescribed by the late General Officer Commanding. The Military Board, with consultative members present, then went into the whole matter, and decided that commanding officers who so desired could retain the full dress in use prior to Federation,’ but must adopt the khaki uniform for service, ordinary parades, camps, &c. At the same time, certain modifications in the fulldress Commonwealth uniform were made by the Military Board, thereby reducing its cost.

page 1523

QUESTION

DEFENCE FORCE RIFLES

Mr TUDOR:
for Mr. Maloney

asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -

  1. Does he consider it advisable in the in terests of Australian defence that our Forces should be armed with a rifle that is the equal in efficiency in every respect to the rifles adopted by foreign Powers?”

    1. If so, would the Minister of Defence have any objection to authorize that the modified short service rifle be compared and tested for efficiency witha more efficient design of the service rifle?
Mr EWING:

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

  1. Yes. The rule followed in the past has been to adopt the rifle used in the British Army.
  2. The Minister would have no objection.

page 1524

QUESTION

PRESS COMMUNICATIONS BY MILITARY OFFICERS

Mr KELLY:
WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the Minister representing; the Minister of Defence, upon notice -

  1. Are there any regulations dealing with the relations which officers may have with the press ?
  2. Will he lay a copy of such regulations, if any, on the table of the House?
  3. Are officers free to give interviews to the press if they so desire?
  4. Was Captain Creswell given permission to give information of the results of his recent mission to England to the Melbourne Age before furnishing the same to this House?
  5. If not, will the Minister take steps to prevent the recurrence of such episodes?
Mr EWING:
Protectionist

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

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes. They are as follow : -

Extracts from the Regulations for the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth - 163. Members of the Naval Forces are forbidden to publish or communicate to the press any information, without special authority, either directly or indirectly. They will be held responsible for all statements contained in communications to their friends, which may subsequently be published in the press. 164. They are not to attempt to prejudge questions under investigation by the publication, anonymously or -otherwise, of their opinions, and they are not to attempt to raise a discussion in public aboutorders, regulations, or instructions issued by their superiors.

Extracts from Standing Orders of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth - 115. Officers and soldiers are forbidden to publish or communicate to the press any information, without special authority, either directly or indirectly. They would be held responsible for all statements contained in communications to their friends, which may subsequently be published in the press. 116. They are not to attempt to prejudge questions under investigation by the publication, anonymously or otherwise, of their opinions, andthey are not to attempt to raise a discussion in public about orders, regulations, or instructions issued by their superiors.

  1. No.
  2. No. Captain Creswell in the report to the interview referred to distinctly states that he “ can say nothing specific concerning the outcome of his visit to England,” and that his “ report is confidential, and must go to his Minister.”
  3. The Minister is not aware (hat he has infringed the regulations.

page 1524

QUESTION

INTERNATIONAL INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE

Mr TUDOR:
for Mr. Maloney

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-

  1. Whether he is aware that an International Conference on matters pertaining to labour and industrial conditions generally has been convened by the Swiss Government to take place shortly atBerne?
  2. Is he aware that many Governments were represented at similar Conferences at Dusseldorf in 1902, and Vienna in 1905, and that the result of such Conferences has been of great importance ?
  3. Whether the Swiss Government has invited the Government of the Commonwealth to participate in the Berne Conference; and, if not, will the Government take the necessary steps to secure representation at the Conference?
Mr DEAKIN:
Protectionist

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

  1. The Government have received no information respecting a Berne Conference.
  2. The International Congress on Working

Men’s Insurance met at Dusseldorf in 1902, and at Vienna in 1905. This Government was represented on both occasions. The next meeting of that body will be held at Rome in 1908.

  1. No invitation has been received to participate in a Berne Conference. Inquiries made at the Swiss Consulate in Melbourne show that the Consul has not been advised respecting any such Conference.

page 1524

CANTEEN BILL

Second Reading

Mr MAUGER:
Melbourne Ports

– I move - .

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I have introduced the measure because, upon two occasions when the abolition of military canteens has been proposed,during the consideration of the Military Estimates, the question has been divided upon, late on Friday afternoons, when many honorable members have been absent, and, as I feel that a majority are in favour of the proposal, I have taken this course to secure an expression of opinion in regard to it. In this action I am strengthened by the revelations concerning the Queenscliff canteen . made during the progress of the Hawker inquiry, and by the facts stated1 in a return laid on the table of the House last session. The information asked for in that return was, first, the receipts from military canteens throughout the Commonwealth, during the preceding twelve months ; secondly, the expenditure during that period upon the establishment and maintenance of the canteens; and, thirdly, the profits, if any, on the sale of intoxicating liquors in the canteens, and the manner iri which those profits had been applied.

Mr Liddell:

– The honorable member does not propose to abolish the Parliamentary refreshment bar?

Mr MAUGER:

– That matter is not now under consideration, but, if my honorable friend has the courage to make the proposal, I shall be glad to support it. The receipts from military canteens throughout the Commonwealth during the period between the 1 st July, 1904, and the 30th June, 1905, amounted to .£15,032 18s. The return is .by no means complete, because it is stated that it is impossible to determine how much of that amount was derived from the sale of intoxicating liquors only, the sum representing the total receipts from the sale of intoxicating liquors, as well as other drinks, and cigars, tobacco, and other refreshments and provisions. The expenditure of the canteens, including the purchase and) maintenance of stock, was £13.778 17s. 8d., and the profits, “ if any,” on the sale of intoxicating liquors, £1,306 2S. 7d.

Mr Frazer:

– “ If any “ - that is a doubtful sort of’ return.

Mr MAUGER:

– The return is most incomplete and unsatisfactory, and seems to have been devised to hide the facts rather than to give the information sought for. There is a foot-note to this effect: -

The way in which such profits have been applied. Maintenance; additional room, canteen. New South Wales ; social and gymnastic fund, Tasmania ; hospital donation, insurance, library, band, ‘instruction and instruments, music, stationery, rifle shooting, prizes, sports, amusements, sundries. It will be seen that this is not a balance-sheet, as it does not take into account stock on hand.

Neither is it a return giving the information asked for. The first point which I wish to make is that our military canteens have been managed in an extremely unsatisfactory way. That is shown by some of the evidence taken during the Hawker inquiry At Queenscliff, Gunner J. P.” O’Toole was in charge of the canteen. Now. military experts in America declare that it is degrading to commissioned and noncommissioned officers and to privates alike that soldiers should be compelled to act as barmen, in dispensing liquors for the benefit or detriment of their fellows, but that is the position occupied by Gunner O’Toole. He appeared to be anxious to hide the real facts; but, after a good deal of pressing, admitted that there were two prices for the officers’ and sergeants’ mess, and two retail prices. He also said that if officers gave their signatures, they could obtain whisky at 4s. per bottle, while common soldiers, whose pay is about 2s. a day, were charged 5s. 4d. a bottle.

Mr Frazer:

– That arrangement should be wiped out.

Mr Crouch:

– It has been wiped out since.

Mr MAUGER:

– The canteens themselves should be wiped out. Cross examination elicited the fact that if a gunner wished for ale, instead of for spirits, he had to buy, not a bottle, but nine gallons, a quantity equal to the contents of about fifty bottles, for which He had to pay a whole week’s wages.

Mr Hutchison:

– It is “ a way they have in the army.”

Mr MAUGER:

– Yes; but it is radically wrong. It ought to be made easy to do right and hard to do wrong; but, apparently, men are encouraged to buy drink wholesale, and to spend a very large proportion of their miserable wages in purchasing it. It ma,y be asked, Is there a precedent for the abolition of canteens ? Has any other country done what is proposed? What is being done in this matter in Great Britain, the United States, and Canada? I believe in making precedents where thev do not exist, if it is necessary to depart from old established practice. Australia has led the way in adopting voting by ballot, adult suffrage, and many other reforms, and, if we had no precedent to guide us, it would be a good thing to set an example to the world in the abolition of canteens. But we have the American experience to guide us, which is exceedingly interesting and instructive. As far back as February, 1881. President Hayes issued the following order : -

In view of the well-known fact that the sale of intoxicating liquors in the army of the United States is the cause of much demoralization among both officers and men. and that it gives rise to a large proportion of the cases before the court marshals, involving great expense and serious injury to the service, the Secretary for War is urged to take suitable steps to reduce the sale and abandon the practice.

So far as I can understand, that order had a temporarily beneficial effect. For a considerable time, strong efforts were made to reduce the consumption of drink, and to remove the inducements held out to the men to partake of strong liquors. The improvement, however, did not extend over a very long period, and the American Government then decided to legalise and regulate canteens, and place them under the direct control of the military authorities. In 1889 the canteen was formally recognised by the Government, and among the conditions imposed were the following: -

To supply general articles for the soldiers’ use - gymnastics, billiards, &c.

The sale of ardent spirits was strictly prohibited. Beer and light wine being allowed.

That was a distinct step in advance. The military and medical authorities, in common with temperance advocates, recognised that drink was demoralizing the American soldiers ; that it was destroying their physical constitution, and undermining their discipline. In view of the agitation which is now proceeding in Victoria against gambling, it is also interesting to note that the following order was also issued : -

Gambling or playing any game for money or any other thing of value is forbidden.

That orderhad a very good effect, and gambling became practically unknown in the American Army. Officers and noncommissioned officers testify that this rule in connexion with the canteen has worked beneficially.

Mr Crouch:

– Does the Bill deal with gambling?

Mr MAUGER:

– No; I merely mentioned that matter incidentally.

Mr Crouch:

– The honorable member lias never heard of gambling as an evil among Australian soldiers?

Mr MAUGER:

– I am afraid that it is an evil among all sections of the community. I do not know that soldiers are any better or worse than others. Although the sale of ardent spirits was prohibited in the canteens, the consumption of wine and beer went on to such an extent that in 1890 the following prohibition of canteens was passed by Congress by a very large majority : -

No alcoholic liquors, beer, or wine shall be sold or supplied to the enlisted men in any canteen or post-traders’ store, or in any room or building at any garrison or military post.

From the very outset, this law was almost a dead letter. It was found to be defective, and the Attorney-General of the United’ States reported against its application. It was generally disregarded, and the canteen became degraded to the position of an open public-house bar. The opposition to the canteen first appeared in army circles. This is a point to which I should like to direct the special attention of honorable members. In 1890 the Army and Navy Journal began to publish severe criticisms of the canteen system, and two years after, Colonel H. C. Corban, now Adjutant-General of the United States Army - an indisputable authority - stated in his report : -

The saloon feature of the canteen should be done away with without further experiment. The sale of beer superintended by a commissioned officer, and served by non-commissioned officers and soldiers is not conducive to discipline.

That is what I urged in directing attention to the fact that when a gunner was giving evidence in connexion with the inquiry to which I have alluded, he appeared to be anxious to shield his officers. Colonel Corban continues -

The men who drink spend the greater portion of their wages in beer.

Honorable members will notice that beer and light wines were dealt with in the report. Colonel Corban then deals with the argument which has been used in some quarters in favour of continuing the canteen. It has been urged that if you donot supply the soldier with drink in the camp or barracks he will go to the nearest public-house, where, being free from supervision or regulations, he will be very much more likely to drink to excess than if he were kept to some extent under observation.

Mr McWilliams:

– If soldiers start to drink in a canteen they will very soon go outside to obtain more.

Mr MAUGER:

– Colonel Corban makes this very pregnant remark, which I” would specially impress upon honorable members who may think that the canteen is a help to sobriety. He says -

The argument that the soldier would get drink elsewhere will not stand the test of reason, nor justify the Government in approving the system herein complained of. Drunkenness should be reduced toa minimum. This cannot be done by an open invitation to drink.

I have not time to quote the whole of this magnificent and trenchant report, but Colonel Corban goes on to point out that it would be just as reasonable for a father and mother to encourage their children to drink at home in the hope that they would become temperate and keep out of public houses, as to supply soldiers with drink in barracks. He shows clearly that “The sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done.” The very fact that it is open to the soldier to partake of intoxicating liquors at any time of the day or night upon Sundays and week days, is an encouragement to drink, and there is no. doubt that the facilities afforded are availed of. From statements made , to me by noncommissioned officers and soldiers at present in our military barracks, I judge that young mien, who are practically total abstainers, enter our Queenscliff barracks, and before very long become habitual drunkards. The alcoholic taste is encouraged.

Mr Bamford:

– The term “ habitual drunkards “ is too strong.

Mr MAUGER:

– I am making the statem)ent on the authority of men on the spot. I am sure that many fine young men, with splendid physique, sound morals, and good prospects, are converted into drunkards owing to the temptations to which they are subjected, through the instrumentality of the canteen. When I asked my informant, a non-commissioned’ officer, if he would be prepared to give sworn evidence in support of his statements to me, he stated that if I could assure him that his position would not be impaired, and that he would not stand the risk of being, reduced1, or of becoming marked by his officers, he would be quite prepared to state, on oath, what he communicated to me prvvatelv. My own experience goes to show that if you afford facilities such as are offered bv the canteens, vou are bound to work great mischief. Colonel Corban says-

The argument that the soldier would get drink elsewhere will not stand the test of renson, nor justify the Government in approving the system herein complained of. Drunkenness should be reduced to a minimum.

Here follows a pregnant sentence, to .which I would specially direct the attention of honorable members -

The exchange with an open saloon would be a first r;tte thing to recommend for adoption in the army of the enemy.

From what I have read I judge that the secret of Japan’s phenomenal success in the late war lay in the fact that her soldiers were sober. They were not given to the use of intoxicating drinks, and’ therefore their minds were always clear and free. The testimony of leading; soldiers and medical men goes to show that the successful fighter in the field of battle, as well as in the industrial world, is the man who keeps hisbrain clear.

Mr Johnson:

– Is drink excluded fromthe German army?

Mr MAUGER:

– Partially only. The authorities have attempted to reduce the consumption of drink by offering premiumsand rewards, but they have not excluded it absolutely.- General Howard, who was in command of the War Department of theEast, stated in his report to the Secretary for War in 1890 -

Commanding officers have generally, agreed’, with me that it would be well to abolish the sale of beer altogether.

In his report of 1893, Surgeon-General: George M.. Sternberg made an attack onthe canteen. He said -

The young men who would not leave their barracks for intoxicants of any kind areled into bad habits -by the ease with which beer may be obtained, and the official sanctiongiven to its use.

That emphasizes the statement I made withregard to the Queenscliff Barracks, to theeffect that the facilities for obtaining intoxicating liquors at any time of the day or night encourage the soldiers to purchase it, and lead to their contracting bad habitsbefore they know that they are being injured. That is the experience all over the world. Now I wish to come to the prohibitory period. In 1899 the following order was issued by the Naval Department of the United States of America. Honorable members will notice that it is conclusive,, penal and mandatory.

Navy Department, 3rd February, lSqo. After mature deliberation the Department has decided that it is for the best interests of the service that alcoholic liquors on board ship, or within the limits of naval stations, be prohibited.

Therefore after the receipt of this order’ commanding officers are forbidden to allow any malt or alcoholic liquor to be sold or issued’ to enlisted men, either on board ship or within the limits of navy yards, naval stations, or barracks, except in the medical department.

John D. Long,

Secretary.

This order was issued in 1889, and from the latest reports presented by the War Department to Congress I learn that it hasproved effectual in reducing drunkenness, encouraging, temperance, and assisting thrift. Further, the number of naval’ court martials has been decreased as theresult of this very striking and important order. I now come to the time when the existence of canteens was absolutely prohibited in America. It was as late as 1901 that Congress, by a large majority, reenacted its . former measure in language which officialdom could not evade. The following is the law of America in regard to canteens at the present time: -

The sale or dealing in beer, wine, or any intoxicating liquors by any person in any post exchange, or canteen, or army transport, or upon any premises used for military purposes in the United States, is hereby prohibited. The Secretary for War is hereby directed to carry out the provisions of this section wilh full force and effect.

That law was very strenuously opposed at the time of its introduction. The whole force of officialdom was arrayed against it,, and efforts were made, both in Congress and by naval and military officers, to secure its ineffective working. But the results have been eminently satisfactory, and the latest reports show that drunkenness has decreased, that the number of court martials has been reduced, that the men are tetter in health and pocket, and that discipline has been vastly improved. In a letter sent bv the Secretary of War to Surgeon-General G. H. Evatt, it is stated that not only has the law been in everyway successful-

Mr Crouch:

– What is the date of that letter ?

Mr MAUGER:

– It is dated the 10th March last. In this communication to SurgeonGeneral G. H. Evatt, CB., the Secretary of War says that the prohibition has been eminently successful. He also points out that the American Government were not satisfied merely with prohibiting the sale of wines, spirits, and beer in canteens. They have gone a good deal further, and have voted very considerable sums of money for the purpose of providing billiards, gymnasiums, and all kinds of recreation for officers and men. The details of this action are exceedingly interesting. In the Act, which was approved upon ‘30th June, 1902, Congress appropriated 500,000 dds. for the construction, equipment, and maintenance of suitable buildings at military posts and stations, for the conduct of post exchange, school, library, reading, luncheon, and amusement rooms and gymnasiums. In 1903 an additional sum of 500,000 dols. was appropriated for the same purpose, and in the following year a further appropriation of a similar amount was_ made. Last year the sum appropriated In this connexion was 35,000 dols., making a total °f 1,535,000 dols. In other words, the canteen has been made a public-house without the drink - a place where men can read and derive amusement, and where they can spend their spare time without being in any way injured. But the American Congress has gone still further. It has taken a step somewhat similar to that recommended by our Old-age Pensions .Commission. It has determined that no old soldiers’ home - there are many homes for old soldiers in America - shall be in any way subsidized by the American ‘Government if it permits a canteen to be established there, or allows its inmates to secure intoxicants. It will thus be seen that not only have the American Government abolished the canteen, but they have voted large sums of money to supply a substitute for it. In addition, it has been enacted that no home for old soldiers shall receive Government support if it provides its inmates with intoxicating liquors. I hold in my hand a very interesting testimony from Colonel Ray, the Commanding Officer at Fort Snelling. It is contained in a report which was presented to the War Office, in March of the present year. When questioned as to the effect of the abolition of the sale of beer and’ wines in the army he said -

Nor do I find that beer is any more necessary for a soldier than it is for the employes of any great corporation, and I find that retail beer saloons are just as much a nuisance on a reservation and called a canteen, as they are off and called a saloon.

He then goes on to say -

There was no disorder in the post, that the discipline existing among the troops was not of the character developed by beer, and that the statement that disorder existed owing to the abolition of the canteen was not only false, but was an insult to every officer and enlisted man of the command, in implying that the laws of Congress, either to establish or abolish a canteen, could not be enforced in any part of the army of the United States without disorder.

Onehonorable member has asked what is being done in this connexion in other parts of the world. I might inform him that Amenca leads in this matter, but Canada is following closely in her footsteps. In the German army, orders are continually being issued directing attention to the evil effects arising; from soldiers partaking of strong drink. In Japan, the sale of strong drink is absolutely prohibited so far as the Government and military authorities are concerned. The leading medical men connected with the Army in Great Britain are also awaking to a sense of their ‘duty in a most remarkable way. The most striking utterance in this connexion is that of Sir Frederick Treves, who, it will be recollected, accompanied the British troops in their march to Ladysmith. I will not detain the House by reading the whole of his remarks, but the following extract is particularly pertinent to the question under consideration : -

As a work producer, alcohol is exceedingly extravagant, and like other extravagant measures, it is apt to lead to a physical bankruptcy. It is well known that troops cannot march on alcohol. I was with the relief column that moved on to Ladysmith. It was an extremely trying time, apart from the heat of the weather. In that column of 30,000 men, the first who dropped out were not the tall men or the short men, or the big men, or the little men - but the drinkers, and they dropped out as clearly as if they had been labelled with a big letter on their backs.

Before I conclude my remarks, I wish to direct the attention of the House to a very striking illustration of the extravagance that is induced by the Government recognition of military canteens. I am confident that if the people of Great Britain could realize what is involved in it, they would immediately demand a change. My authority for the statement which I am about to make is the Daily News, which publishes an account of the sale of liquor, which was left over after the South African war. The article in question states -

Turning to wines, there were 1,500 cases of Allsop’s ale, containing, it was calculated, 96,000 bottles, while there were, roughly, 1,600 cases of champagne-

Mr Bamford:

– The men in the ranks did not drink that?

Mr MAUGER:

– They did not. The article illustrates some of the results of the system of supplying drink to the officers of the army - drink for which the British public have to pay. It continues -

There were roughly, 1,600 cases of champagne, to say nothing of a large quantity of other wines, liquors, cigars, and groceries, the list of which reached the auctioneers too late for insertion in their catalogue. Such were the crumbs only which fell from the British Officers’ mess. What must the feast have been like?

Sir John Forrest:

– Who wrote that?

Mr MAUGER:

– It was published in the Daily News. I contend that in this matter, medical and social science are upon our side, and that the experience of the American people goes to show that both our soldiers and the community generally, have everything to gain by carrying the Bill which I have the honour to submit for the consideration of the House. I am sure that inpassing the measure, honorable members will be keeping themselves in touch with the most advanced moral sentiment of the day, and I sincerely hope that they will agree to its second reading and speedily make it the law of the land.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

.- As I am associated with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat in the introduction of this Bill, I desire very heartily to support it.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Does the honorable member second the motion for its second reading ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– Yes, sir. I am responsible, with the honorable member, for the introduction of the Bill. I have no desire to unduly occupy the time of the House in discussing it, because the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has made out a sufficiently strong case to appeal to all thinking men. It must be admitted that the men who abstain from alcoholic stimulants usually possess a much better constitution than do those who become steeped in alcohol. The effect of the use of alcohol is to reduce the stamina of men and to undermine their constitutions. The other day I was met with the objection that the abolition of military canteens would deprive those who are now employed in them, and who are not engaged in military service, of their occupation. I have no desire whatever to see any man displaced from his employment, but I do not think that the passing of this Bill will have that effect. Certainly, I’ should like to see those who find employment in military canteens direct their energies into some more beneficial department of industry, in which they would accomplish more good for themselves and fortheir fellow men. That the existence of these canteens is a real evil, nobody who has visited military canteens in encampments and barracks, under certain conditions, and at certain times, can doubt. It may be that of late years the extent to which the vice of drunkenness prevails is not so great as it was. For that we have reason to be thankful, but we should endeavour as far as we can to remove from military men the temptation to employ their leisure in having recourse to stimulants. I have here an extract from Light, a Sydney newspaper, in reference to the death of a man, which was alleged to have been caused by Sunday drinking. The paragraph is as follows: -

Death from Sunday Drinking.

An inquest was held by the City Coroner concerning the death of a carpenter lately residing in Paddington, on Sunday. The deceased had been drinking on Saturday night, and on the following morning visited the canteen at the Victoria Barracks, where it is said he had a drink or two. He subsequently went to a wine shop in Dowling-street, and had about three glasses of wine. He became very ill, and so serious did his condition become that he was taken to the Sydney Hospital, but on arrival at that institution life was pronounced extinct.

The Coroner said that it was evident that the deceased, who was drunk on Saturday night, was supplied with liquor at the canteen and wine at the shop despite the Sunday Liquor Act. He found that death was due to alcoholism.

Why are not the dispensers of this “ liquid damnation “ proceeded against for doing this “ hurt to one of his Majesty’s subjects “ ? It is time that such doings should be put a stop to.

I am not prepared to say positively that this man was supplied with drink at the canteen on the Sunday in question, but the coroner, who doubtless had all the evidence before him, seemed to believe that he was. It may be that the drink so supplied did not accelerate his death; but, on the other hand, there is a strong probability that it had something to do with it. If the law of the land prohibits the sale of intoxicating drinks in public houses on Sundays, it should certainly apply to military canteens. At the same time, one must recognise that intoxicating liquor, whether imbibed in excess on Sunday or any other day, is equally injurious. There seems to be an impression amongst a certain class of the community that if drink be. not supplied in military canteens, there will be a strong temptation for soldiers to break barracks, and that they will be supplied, perhaps, with inferior drink in low-class hotels.

Mr Hutchison:

– If they broke barracks that would be an offence for which they would be punished ; so that they would not do so very often.

Mr JOHNSON:

– Quite so. I was about to say that there might be some cases of the kind, but I -do not think that such an argument has any general application. The rules and regulations of the service would militate against such a practice, and such cases, if they ocurred, would probably be isolated ones. I understand that the trouble is that after the duties of the day are over, the men, for want of other forms of amusement, have a tendency to spend their leisure in the neighbourhood of these canteens ; that they do so merely for the purpose of passing their idle hours in convivial company, and that they are thus encouraged in the practice of drinking. Some young fellows from the country, who join the forces, are often led into temptation in that way. I am assured that they join the forces as raw recruits, with no special liking for alcohol, but that they go into the billiard rooms, which are usually adjoining or in the proximity of the canteens, and that the penalty of losing a game, by use and custom, is that they must “shout.” It is with the practice of “ shouting “ that the .evil of intemperance begins. It is said that the majority of the offences committed in barracks are traceable to the fact that the offenders have first become inflamed with alcoholic stimulants. I have here a statement by a military man of some years’ experience, whose name I am not at liberty to disclose, but he is a man of some authority. In reply to my request that he should state in writing what he considered to be the evils associated with the sale of intoxicants in canteens, he wrote me a letter, and I propose to quote that portion of it which refers directly to those evils. He says -

The disadvantages of the institution are that young fellows, as recruits from country districts, in joining mingle with those from whom it is their constant endeavour to secure as many free drinks as possible. Kind acts are done to gain the confidence of the young soldier with- the sole intention of bringing him to the bar counter to satisfy their thirst. As a rule, they are pressed at first to take some small lubricant, and which I know in some cases has been extremely distasteful ‘ at first, but occasional indulgence gradually transformed the youth into a confirmed drinker. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but I am speaking of the majority that fall a victim to the evils derived from the liquor bar. All places of recreation are either adjoining or in very close vicinity to the bar. which is highly detrimental to the welfare of any young fellows. Moreover, in my opinion if there were no canteen young men would go in considerably more for educating themselves intellectually, and naturally would live in greater harmony. An artilleryman at the present lime requires far clearer intellect than in days gone by, for the science of modern armament requires all the skill and care that a sober man can put into it, without his wits being deadened through the influence of liquor. Fully twothirds of the crime among soldiers originates directly or indirectly from the sale of liquor, as every facility is offered to procure it. It is very difficult for a person so inclined to stop drinking at the right moment, for they have a good time when having a round of drinks, and do not feel the effects till called upon for duty on parade.

These are the statements of one who has lived for years in military barracks, and who may therefore be regarded as competent to express a matured opinion on the question. In the circumstances we ought to pay some regard1 to complaints which come from persons occupying such positions. T do not think it has been shown at any time that alcoholic stimulants are necessary to promote efficiency and general usefulness in connexion with military service, but numberless instances of very serious results accruing from the dispensing of stimulants within barracks have been brought under our notice. Sufficient has beer, said tq convince all reasonable-minded men that it is undesirable that canteens for the sale of intoxicating liquors should be fitted up ir. military barracks, and that being so, I shall content myself with the statement that I have very much pleasure in seconding the motion for the second reading of this Bill.

Mr EWING:
VicePresident of the Executive Council · Richmond · Protectionist

– I have had an opportunity of discussing the subject-matter of this Bill with the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister, and both have assured me that thev are in full sympathy with the end desired to be attained. They feel that at the present time, in view of the efforts of the Government to promote a citizen soldiery, and especially having regard to the fact that the boys of the nation, as cadets, may possibly be brought into contact with military matters in a way that has not previously been the case, there is a special obligation laid upon the Government in this regard. There is no need’ for me to labour the question. It has been ably stated by the mover and seconder of the motion, and it only remains for me to repeat that the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister are in agreement with the proposal, that personally it has my warmest sympathy, and that I am therefore prepared to agree to the Bill proceeding into Committee.

Mr. KELLY (Wentworth) r.3.28].- It is a matter for congratulation that the Bill before the House is absolutely non-party in its aspects, and! that all sections of the House are not only in sympathy with it, but are anxious that the object at which it aims shall not be defeated. I have risen to suggest to the honorable members in charge of the Bill the advisableness of taking into consideration its possible effect upon the Victoria Barracks, Sydney. I make this suggestion in no hostile spirit to the Bill. As honorable members may know, the Victoria Barracks are in one of the most crowded parts of Sydney, and the consideration I wish to put before the House is that if the men are prevented from obtaining liquor in the canteen they will secure it outside.

Mr Ewing:

– Hear, hear; that is true.

Mr KELLY:

– That is a very serious consideration. I do not know what the conditions are at Queenscliff, but those under which liquor is provided at Victora Barracks, Sydney, are by no means bad. They are infinitely better both for the men and every one concerned than are the conditions obtaining in the publichouses in the immediate vicinity. I suggest this matter very seriously for the consideration of the honorable members in charge of the Bill. I know that they do not wish the object which they have in view to be defeated - they dc not wish by making the one law equal in its application to canteens in camp and canteens in barracks to actually defeat the temperance object, so far as barracks are concerned. If we drive men from properly regulated canteens, such as that at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, to the public houses in the vicinity, we may be doing them an infinite injury, and I should like to hear the views of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on that aspect of the question.

Mr CROUCH:
Corio

– I am glad that the honorable member for Wentworth has put ‘before the House the view that injury may be done to our soldiers by abolishing canteens, and- compelling them to go for drink to the public houses in the neighbourhood of the barracks. When, in 1903, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports moved the insertion in the Defence Bill of that year of a provision for the abolition of military canteens, I opposed his amendment, because I thought that, although the carrying of it might conduce to temperance inside the barracks, it would probably lead to .an increase of drinking outside,. At Queenscliff, where the great majority of the men are of the best and most sober character, there are seven hotels, and I feared that, if those men who take drink could not get it within the barracks, they would go outside for it. The amendment was defeated by two votes, but, not long afterwards, some of the men from Queenscliff saw me about the matter, and said that the views which I had expressed were net those of the majority of the permanent men there, and one or two of them, at my request, saw the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on the subject, and asked him to persevere in his opposition to the canteen system. Furthermore, within the last two or three days, I have received from a non-commissioned officer at Queenscliff, who knows what he is writing about, a letter in which the following passages occur : -

I see that Mr. Mauger’s Bill comes on for second reading on the 19th. I have sounded a good many and listened to the others here, and I can say positively that if a vote as to the abolition of canteens or otherwise was taken here 75 per cent, would vote for its abolition, and that would include almost, without excep-tion, all the heavy drinkers in the regiment, the feeling amongst these old topers being that if it was taken away from their elbows, as it were, they would have a chance of squaring up. At present it is alongside them all day, placed there by official sanction. I have during my time here, on several occasions, seen young lads of 19 or 20 land here hardly knowing the smell of liquor, and in twelve months’ time develop into heavy drinkers, to the ruination of their careers. Tt is argued that if canteens are abolished that soldiers will go out of barracks to get it, and, getting drunk in public, will disgrace the corps and cause crime. It is not so. Men, as a rule, start drinking in barracks, then, wanting more, an’d realizing that barracks is no longer a safe place, go into the town and get drunk there, whereas if they had not had a start in barracks there would have been no trouble. Ninety ner cent, of the crimes here are caused directly or indirectly by drink, and I am quoting the opinion of all the senior N.C.O.’s I have asked about the matter when I say that the abolition of a.vnteens will mean the almost entire abolition of crime. The man in barracks has tea daily at 5. p.m. He has no means of getting anything more to cat till next morning. If hot coffee, sandwiches, &c, were provided in barracks at a small fee in the evenings it would be greatly appreciated.

Mr Kelly:

– In Svdney the proportion of alcoholic drinks sold in the canteens is yearly becoming less.

Mr CROUCH:

– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has stated that in the United States a grant is made to provide non-alcoholic beverages for ihe soldiers in barracks, and similar provision might well be made in his Bill. These men have not homes of their own, and larders to which they can go. Their meals are regulated by the clock, and if in the evenings the- cannot get refreshments, such as are furnished by the temperance canteens instituted by Lord Roberts and the Army Temperance Association for the soldiers in India, they are forced by their inclinations to go outside, where they are exposed to the temptations to which the honorable member for Wentworth has referred. The writer continues -

It is asked - “ If the canteen, with its profits, is to be abolished, where is the money for the upkeep of sport, &c, to come from?” The total amount paid to the sports at present are cricket or football club (in season) per year, ^20; rifle club, per year, £20; total, ^40. This is the highest it has ever been. The canteen fund for eleven years paid Lieut. Rielly ^60 per annum for coming to Queenscliff once per week and tutoring the R.A.A. Band. Major Hawker cancelled this arrangement; one of the few good things he did. The members of the Sports and Rifle Club each donate is. per month to their respective clubs. A small increase on this amount would meet the loss caused by the withdrawal of the canteen grant. If the members of the R.A.A. want sport they should pay for it just as civilians do. The regulations compel a single man to live in barracks and make it his home. That being so, it is the duty of the authorities to see that recreation rooms, library, and billiard rooms are properly equipped and furnished, and not as at present left to the canteen fund to maintain. At present a man- pays is. over the bar in order that about 1/2 d. of it may be spent in his interests. There is no doubt that the presence of canteens on military stations and in encampments lowers the moral tone of such places, and no one realizes that fact more than the men themselves.

In further support of the position I am putting, I wish to refer to a case which occurred at Queenscliff some years ago, and may be remembered by some of the Victorian representatives, the accused being found guilty of manslaughter, because he was drunk at the time the act was; . committed. In that! case a man named Pollock, while drunk, shot a. comrade named Briner. I have here the depositions of the case, and will read sufficient to show that the drinking commenced in the canteen. The first witness, Thomas Francis McGregor, being sworn, stated1 -

I am a gunner in the Victorian Permanent Artillery, Queenscliff. I knew deceased Briner He was also a gunner. I remember being in his company on Thursday, 9th inst. I met him in the canteen in the barracks. “I had been in company with Pollock and Gunner Muir that evening. We left the barracks between S and 8.30 ; returned about 9.30. We had some liquor - about five drinks - at different hotels. Pollock had beer. On returning we had a drink at the canteen. I saw Briner there. I then left and went to my room.

That evidence is corroborated by that of other witnesses.

Mr Bamford:

– Did the men drink at the canteen before going out ?

Mr CROUCH:

– They, met in the canteen, and afterwards had five drinks round the town, finally returning to the canteen for another drink. As an instance of the abuses which have existed in connexion with the canteen system, I wish to read a copy of a list of prices sanctioned by Major Hawker for the Queenscliff canteen. It is as follows: -

May, 1905.

R.A.A. Canteens (Victoria.)

Prices to be charged to sergeants’ mess or officers. - Sergeants’ mess and officers may obtain the undermentioned goods at the prices placed against each item on signing a requisition for same. These requisitions must be attached by the canteen steward to his stock-sheet, otherwise he will be debited with the ordinary sale prices.

The ordinary price-list is the price charged to the men. The first column is the price charged to officers; but I am glad to say, through complaints made by me last year, there is now only one price-list.

Mr Ewing:

– Is that an absolute copy of the list, or a comparative statement of prices made as the result of a calculation?

Mr CROUCH:

– It is a copy of the official price-list for officers’ and sergeants’ messes, and the second column shows the ordinary prices charged to the men. The existence of such a list in itself is an argument for the abolition of barrack canteens. With regard to the abolition of encampment canteens, while I have not seen at the annual encampments abuses such as have been mentioned. I do not think it too much to ask the militia and volunteers to do without alcoholic liquor forthree or four days, with the object of benefiting the permanent men. I think the Bill should be amended so that it will apply to both officers and men. At present it is proposed to provide against the sale or dealing in beer, wine, or intoxicating liquors in military camps. If we are going to prevent the men from purchasing liquor in camps, we should not permit any liquor to be brought in for consumption at the messes of officers or non-commissioned officers. It must be made penal to have liquor upon the ground.

Mr Salmon:

– That could be done by regulation.

Mr CROUCH:

– The whole purpose of the Bill could be achieved by regulation for that matter. We should prohibit the introduction of liquor into camps under any conditions. I believe in meting out equal treatment to all ranks. I do not approve of permitting officers to have liquor while privates are precluded from obtaining it. I acknowledge that, in the light of experience, and the testimonyafforded by those who have been brought into actual contact with the canteen system, I have had to change my opinion upon this question. Although in 1903 I was opposed toany amendment of the Defence Act which aimed at the abolition of canteens, I am very glad that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has brought forward this measure.

Mr HUTCHISON:
Hindmarsh

– I have had some experience of camps in which there have been canteens, and,on the whole, they have been very well conducted. On one occasion, I was present at a camp at which no provision was made for a canteen, and, whilst I had no desire to find fault with the way in which other camps were conducted, I regarded the experiment as a decided success. I personally know of young soldiers who, if liquor were available in camp, would certainly become the worse for it. These same men attended the camp at which there was no canteen, and did their work exceedingly well, and were much more creditable to the Force than they would have been if liquor had been obtainable. The testimony that we have had placed before us as to the lines upon which canteens have hitherto been conducted, shows that they ought to have “been abolished long ago, and I hold that liquor should be entirely excluded from military encampments.

Mr LEE:
Cowper

– We cannot pass legislation to meet a case such as that referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth. We cannot prevent the soldiers in the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, from having easy access to public-houses, but we can at least deprive them of some of the facilities which are now offered to them to obtain intoxicating liquors. I am very glad that the Government are supporting the Bill, because I believe that it will tend to the benefit of our soldiers. Captain Mahan, the great American naval authority, is decidedly in favour of the abolition of liquor from military camps, and it is a matter for regret that, although the United States Senate passed a law abolishing canteens, the President did not give effect to it. I quite agree with the honorable and learned member for Corio that intoxicating liquors should be entirely excluded from military encampments, because if we prevent the privates from obtaining drink, we should place a similar embargo upon officers.

Mr Ewing:

– The honorable member must recognise a great difficulty would attach to completely carrying out his desire in that direction.

Mr LEE:

– I admit the difficulty, but I think that we should aim at meting out equal treatment to officers and men.

Mr Mauger:

– This is a Bill, not to prohibit, but to prevent the Government from dispensing liquor.

Mr LEE:

– I should like to see the measure go further, but I admit that it takes a good step forward. I am glad that the Commonwealth Government have shown a strong disposition to discourage the sale of intoxicants, but I do not think that we should be quite satisfied until we have cleaned up our own canteen. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made a very able speech, and I trust that the Bill will be passed. We know that alcohol has a most demoralizing effect upon our soldiers. Lord Roberts, when he was in South Africa, wrote to the people of England and Australia begging them not to give drink to our young men when they came back from the war. It is well known that 65 per cent, of the crimes committed in connexion with the Army are directly attributable to drink, and I feel sure that we shall bring, about a great moral improvement and take an important . step forward if we pass the measure now before us.

Mr. McCAY (Corinella) [3.52) - It may be within the recollection of some honorable members that this matter came up for consideration during the few months that I had the honour of being Minister of Defence. At that time I undertook to amend the regulations relating to canteens, with a view to ascertaining if certain admitted evils might not be more effectively coped with. These regulations were drafted, and, I may say, in passing, met with the approval of the various temperance bodies and others who were interested. I must admit, however, that they have not achieved as fully as I should have liked the object with which they were framed. I confess, further, that, being strongly in sympathy with the movement to prevent canteens from becoming a source of temptation, I have to consider whether, in view of the fact that regulations which practically go as far as regulations can without absolutely prohibiting the sale of liquor, have failed, we are not forced to take the decisive step . of prohibiting the sale of liquor in canteens, and thereby placing, the members of our soldiery, whether permanent or citizen, under the same conditions as the rest of the community with regard to the purchase of liquor. Of course, it is known that no other section of the community are exempt from the. operation of the State licensing laws in the same way as are our soldiery in regard to military canteens. While I have no desire to unfairly force ray views upon others, I have felt constrained to consider whether there is any way in which we could guard against the mischiefs that Ave fear - more, I think, than the mischiefs that exist - ‘ other than that proposed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I must confess that I see no alternative between enforcing regulations that will not accomplish all that we desire and abolishing the system of selling liquor in canteens. I do not think that the Australian Army, either permanent or citizen, consists of a host of hard drinkers, as the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports might lead the casual listener to think. The great majority of the men in our Forces, like the great mass of the community, are a very sober, law-abiding set of people. There are among soldiers, as among other classes, some men who take more than is good for them; but, speaking, of them as a body, I have no hesitation in saying, after a very lengthy experience of citizen soldiers, that their temperance is very noticeable. As an officer commanding a regiment, I have had something to do with canteens, and I frankly admit that the Commanding Officers will be relieved of a certain amount of anxiety and responsibility if the matter of dealing with canteens is taken out of their hands. At the last encampment I did not have a canteen in connexion with my regiment. I did not want it myself, andI did not think my regiment wanted it. On the whole, the weight of evidence shows us that there is no choice between the risk of exposing some members of the forces to the temptation to drink unwisely, and abolishing the danger altogether. After having tried an experiment which met with the approval of those interested, but which did not prove so satisfactory as one might have hoped, I propose now to support this measure.

Mr SALMON:
Laanecoorie

– I quite agree with the attitude of the Government on this question. We have decided that as far as possible we shallrely for our defence upon a citizensoldiery, and that the training of our soldiers shall commence at as early an age as practicable. Under these circumstances, we cannot begin too soon to insist upon a good example in the direction of temperance. I have had some years’ experience in the Defence Forces, and from the peculiar position that I have occupied as a medical officer, I have had exceptional opportunities to judge of the results of the canteen system. I am very glad to say that notwithstanding the existence of the canteen in camps, the cases of drunkenness have now been reduced almost to a mini mum. These results have been brought about in spite of the canteens, and not because of them. In my opinion, the position of the men at Queenscliff and Victoria Barracks in Sydney has become one of danger, owing to the canteen being constantly at their elbow, and I think that it is one of the first duties of this Parliament to take measures to remove an undoubted temptation. The honorable and learned member for Corio suggested an amendment, but I trust that he will not press it, because his wishes can be carried out by means of regulations. After all, the matter to which he referred is one of discipline, and I am sure that those who are responsible for the conduct of our camps will, in the event of the Bill being passed, recognise that they must altogether prohibit the introduction of liquor. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill.

Mr McWILLIAMS:
Franklin

.- I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill. I have been in camp on several occasions, and, although I must admit that the sobriety of the men generally has been particularly noticeable, I cannot ignore the fact that the only trouble that I have ever known to occur has arisen through the men having a canteen at which they could obtain liquor. The canteen is a source of danger, not so much to men of mature years as to young fellows who are not in the habit of taking much liquor. Perhaps, in order to appear a little bit soldierly, or through a sadly mistaken idea of friendship they are induced to drink a glass or two of liquor, and, being unaccustomed to it, they get into a condition into which they would not fall if the canteen did not exist. But if we decide to abolish the canteen we must be careful that a stringent regulation is framed to prevent the admission into camp of large quantities of liquor for consumption at the officers’ and non-commissioned officers’ mess. The abolition of the canteen system will fail to a very considerable extent if we permit the free introduction of liquor into camp for the purpose to which I have referred. Before concluding, I cannot avoid recalling a statement which was made to me not very long ago by a military officer. He said,” You members of Parliament have a pretty good cheek to talk about abolishing the canteen in camp, seeing that you have a canteen of your own.” That is a point which may be worthy of the consideration of this House upon a future occasion. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee :

Clause i. (Short Title.)

Mr BAMFORD:
Herbert

– I should like to know if it is in accordance with Parliamentary practice that you, Mr. Mauger, should occupy the chair in Committee when your own Bill is under, consideration ?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Mauger:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA

– I do not know of anything against the proceeding to which the honorable member refers, when the other Acting Chairmen of Committees are absent.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 2 -

The sale of or dealing in beer, wine, or any intoxicating liquors by any person in any military camp or canteen, or any army transport, or upon any premises used for military purposes by the Commonwealth, is hereby prohibited.

Penalty : Twenty-five pounds.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

– I move -

That all the words down to “ prohibited “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words, “A person shall not by himself, or by his servant or agent, sell or deal in any spirituous or fermented liquor of an intoxicating nature in any military camp, canteen, army transport, or premises used by the Commonwealth for military purposes.”

The amendment will have the same effect as did the clause in its original form, notwithstanding that its wording is different.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Mr EWING:
VicePresident of the Executive Council · Richmond · Protectionist

.- - I suggest to the Committee that it would be wise to specify a date when this Bill should come into operation. We might fix a tentative date - say, 1st October next - upon the understanding that if, after full consideration of the difficulties and interests involved, it is necessary to alter it, that alteration can be effected in the Senate. Consequently I move -

That the following new clause be inserted : - “ This Act shall come into force on the 1st October, 1906.”

Proposed new clause agreed to-.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

.- As I know of one case in which it is probable that a civilian who is employed in connexion with a military canteen will lose his employment as the result of the passing of this Bill, I think that it should be a recommendation to the Military Department that any persons who are deprived cif their employment consequent upon this legislation, should, if possible be appointed to other positions in the Department.

Mr McCay:

– Tn what kind o’f cases will they lose their employment?

Mr JOHNSON:

– I , know that the canteen accountant at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, is not a member of the Military Forces. He is a civilian, and if this Bill be passed, he will probably lose his employment.

Mr McCay:

– His is a very rare case.

Mr JOHNSON:

– It is one case, at any rate. I have no desire to see anybody needlessly thrown out of employment consequent upon the operation of this Bill, and I would like the Minister to take the case of the individual to whom I have referred, and of others who may be similarly situated, into his favorable consideration, with a view to ascertaining if some other work cannot be found for them. There should be other avenues of employment open to them in the Defence Department. For instance, in the clerical or storekeeping branch, an accountant’s services might be utilized. I have no doubt that anybody who suffers as the result of the operation of this Bill will have his case favorably considered bv the military authorities.

Mr CROUCH:
Corio

.- I would suggest that the following new clause should be inserted -

Provision shall annually be made by the Defence Department for a dry canteen, and a supply of non-intoxicating liquors in all barracks.

Mr Salmon:

– Surely ‘we ought not to put that provision in an Act df Parliament. The matter with which it deals is one for regulation.

Mr CROUCH:

– I take it that some provision of the kind must be made. The regulations might permit of such an arrangement being given effect to. At any rate, I can see that an attempt might easily be made to defeat the object .of this Bill by rendering it unworkable. If no liquor is supplied in barracks between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. it is obvious that men who are quartered there will be driven elsewhere to obtain refreshment. If the Bill is intended to be a temperance measure, it is unfair that we should drive men to hotels. We should provide them with hot coffee and other comforts. Nobody who has not experienced it, can appreciate the discomfort of life in a barracks. If the honorable member for Lang, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and the honorable member for Laanecoorie knew anything about it-

Mr Salmon:

– I know something .about it.

Mr CROUCH:

– The honorable member would not remain in barracks for three consecutive nights unless comforts of some sort were provided. He would take to drink straight away

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

.- If this Bill be carried in its present form, there is nothing, to prevent effect being given to the desire of the honorable and learned member for Corio, by mEans of regulation.

Mr McCay:

– The present regulations enable il to be done, though they do not direct that it shall be done.

Mr JOHNSON:

– The Bill is intended to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors in military canteens, and I think it would be unwise to load it with provisions of the character suggested.

Bill reported with amendments.

Motion (by Mr. Johnson) agreed to -

That the Standing Orders be suspended to allow the Bill to be passed through its remaining stages this day.

Report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

page 1537

REBATE OF DUTIES: NEW HEBRIDES

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

.- The motion standing in my name reads as follows : -

That, with a view to promote and encourage settlement by people of our own race in the Southern Pacific Islands - particularly in the New Hebrides group - it is desirable to allow a rebate of duties on all produce grown by British and Australian settlers in those islands coming into the Commonwealth.

I desire to amend the motion by inserting after the word “ group “ the words “ and Papua.”

Mr SPEAKER:

– That can only be done with the concurrence of the House.

Mr Bamford:

Mr. Speaker-

Mr SPEAKER:

-The matter is not open to discussion. If the honorable member for Herbert objects to the amendment of the notice of motion, it cannot be moved in the proposed amended form.

Mr Bamford:

– I do object. I am entirely in favour of the amendment, but 1 aru riot in favour of the motion.

Mr JOHNSON:

– Of course, the motton itself will really include Papua; but I only desired to specialize that territory in connexion with the New Hebrides. Upon other occasions I have spoken at some length upon the importance of peopling the South Pacific Islands with members of our own race for the purpose of establishing trade relations, which in course of time - owing to the immense fertility of a number of those islands - must become very important and considerably add to the development of our commerce in the Pacific. Honorable members are aware that at the present time there is a scheme in progress to cut a canal through the Isthmus of Panama. That scheme was projected about a quarter of a century ago, but was not then proceeded with. When it was first mooted, however, I clearly saw that, in the event of effect being given to it, a great deal of our commerce, which now flows through the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Red Sea would be diverted into an entirely new channel. I saw that a very large portion of it would be diverted into the Atlantic Ocean, and that, passing through the Panama Canal, it would cross the Pacific to the shores of Australia. I realize, as every thinking man must do, that the completion, of ‘this canal must bring about a great transformation so far as both the North and the South Pacific Oceans are concerned. From comparatively quiet, unfrequented waters, they will be transformed into, perhaps, the busiest ocean highways of the world, along which the great bulk of the commerce, not only of Great Britain, but of Continental countries and the east coast of America, will flow to Australia, as well as to ports on the west coast of North and South America. The Pacific Ocean, comparatively unfrequented as it is, will a few* years hence become alive with the commerce of the civilized nations of the earth, and it is most important that Australia should consider what will be the effect of that transformation upon her ow.ni commerce, and her trade with other nations, which flows across these seas. One of the first things to be guarded against is the occupation by foreign Powers of the most important group of islands lying close to what will be the main route of traffic between Panama and Australia. It is essential for the protection of our commerce on these seas that those islands shall be effectively “ policed,” and that cannot be done unless they are in the possession of Great Britain, or are at least under a British protectorate. With that object in view, every encouragement should be given to the people of Great Britain and Australia to settle in and develop the islands of the Pacific. We ought to grant every facility to those of our own race and blood, and who speak our own tongue, to settle in these islands, and so secure a preponderating influence im relation to any international adjustment which may have to be made hereafter in reference to their control. The New Hebrides group is not far removed from the trade route between Panama and Australia, and, in the opinion of myself and others, and particularly in the opinion of naval experts, they are, from. a strategical stand-point, the most important group in the Pacific. They are so regarded because of their comparative freedom from the dangers of navigation, in the shape of coral reefs, which characterize most of the islands in the Pacific Ocean, and because of their spacious harbors, which afford a safe anchorage for ships of large tonnage. These harbors are well sheltered, have a safe approach, and afford the best facilities for the establishment of coaling stations and for naval armament and equipment purposes. It is mainly because I view the importance of the group from that stand-point that I am induced to table this motion. As honorable members are aware, the island’s at present appear to be the subject of friendly controversy between the French and the British nations. _ But unless some satisfactory basis of settlement - satisfactory to Australia, I mean - is arrived at shortly, the struggle for supremacy between these two Powers in regard to the settlement of the group, which maybe claimed late! on to give the right to proceed from effective occupation to ultimate control, is likely to develop less friendly relations between ourselves and our French neighbours. As the disputes in regard to land tenure, which are at present the subject of a good deal of discussion, may ultimately be determined by the question of effective occupation, it is most important that we should encourage British and Australian’ settlers, bv every legitimate means, to take up land in those islands, and assist in the development of their resources. I must certainly give credit to the Prime Minister for the statesmanlike attitude he has always adopted in regard to this question, and for the interest he has invariably displayed in it. It is d!ue to him also to say that an arrangement was entered into between his Government and Burns, Philp, and Company, by which the latter were to take up certain land in the island, and afford facilities for the immigration of Australian settlers there. The company carried out that arrangement, so far as they were able to do so, and conveyed a number of Australians to the islands, either free of charge, or at nominal rates. The outcome of this arrangement was that a number of Australians took up land in the New Hebrides with the intention of developing the resources of the group. As honorable members are aware, copra is the principal article of export, and it is necessary that the settlers, while waiting for their cocoanut trees to reach maturity, shall have some means of obtaining a livelihood. It takes from seven to ten years for the cocoanut tree to reach the bearing stage, and the settlers in the meantime have been devoting their attention to the production of maize, coffee, and arrowroot. Maize, so far, has been the principal product on which they have relied for their maintenance, pending the turning of their cocoanut plantations to profitable account. It is unfortunate, however, that while these facilities have been placed at the disposal of the settlers - whilst we have given them an improved means of communication bv increasing the mail subsidy - we have on the other hand raised a Tariff wall which prevents the introduction of their products into Australia. Increased mail services can avail them nothing so long as their products are shut out of our markets. In consequence of our action a number of the settlers in the islands have been reduced, in some instances, to absolute penury, and in nearly all cases to a condition bordering more or less on destitution. They have made several appeals to the Commonwealth Government to assist them, not by monetary grants, but by treating them as fellow Australians - as citizens of the Commonwealth, endeavouring to help in the work of building up the Empire in these seas. There is no doubt that, even under the most favorable circumstances, courage and hope, as well as skill, are needed by those who leave these shores to live under the conditions obtaining in the islands, and to do the work of pioneering there. But when, after encouraging our people to settle in the group, we deliberately set up’ obstacles in the way of their progress, and close the only profitable, market open to them,tt we are guilty of something worse than folly. The effect of this action on our part is likely to be very serious. We may not feel it immediately, but there is not the slightest doubt that, unless we take steps to remedy the evil we have created by our failure to afford reasonable encouragement to these settlers, we shall realize later on, in a very unpleasant way, perhaps, the blunder we have committed. I am glad to say that in nearly all the principal newspapers of this and other State capitals articles have recently appeared expressing opinions which coincide with my own I am glad that a most instructive article of this character has appeared in the Age newspaper, because it is not often that I can speak in terms of commendation of the matter appearing in that journal!. As the writer puts the case for the settlers in the New Hebrides very concisely, I may ‘be pardoned for quoting what he says. The article appeared as a leader in the Age of the 25th June last, and is as follows : -

About the, time the Commonwealth was created there was so great a danger of the New Hebrides passing completely under the domination of the French that the Government was obliged to take practical steps to avert an issue so menacing to Australian national interests. Strong representations were made to the Imperial authorities, and soon afterwards an agreement was entered into between the Commonwealth Government and Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co., whereby the lands belonging to that company in the group were thrown open for British settlement. In consequence about sixty Australians were induced to settle in the islands and undertake the cultivation of cocoanut. The situation was thereby temporarily saved, for the influx of the new colonists turned the tide in favour of British supremacy. They* ‘set about the task of establishing themselves m the most sanguine spirit, and a bright future apparently lay before them. The idea was that they should derive their main income from copra - the product of the cocoanut - but as the cocoanut palm does not come into bearing for about seven to ten years after being ‘ planted, they expected to make their living in the meanwhile by growing maize and coffee for the Australian market. It was that prospect which persuaded them to leave. their homes on the mainland and embark their capital and enterprise in the work of asserting and maintaining Australian interests in those lonely Pacific islands. The Commonwealth Parliament at once proceeded to reward them for their patriotism by breaking all its implied promises and treating them as outcast aliens. It passed a Tariff which very properly put a high duty on foreign grown maize and coffee, but as it neglected to provide any rebate on British grown produce entering Australia from die New Hebrides, it showed in the most practical fashion that it regarded the British settlers it had enticed there as no better than foreigners and enemies. That Tariff still stands unaltered. The fact has already produced results injurious to the Commonwealth. Twothirds of the Australian colonists have exhausted their capital and have been compelled to abandon their embryo plantations and quit the islands for want of a market in which to dispose of the products of their toil. Australian selfishness has ruined them, and those who still survive are being brought nearer to the same ruin, by the same cause, day by day. The French settlers, on the other hand, are flourishing. They are subsidized by the French Government to the extent of ^34,000 per annum; their produce is allowed to enter Noumea practically duty free, and they enjoy the full rights of French citizenship. France realizes the enormous strategical importance of the islands, and is willing to make any reasonable sacrifice to secure them. She has lately offered British settlers the same rights and privileges as their French rivals now enjoy if they will become naturalized as French subjects.

Not only are the French settlers in the New Hebrides subsidized by “the French Government, and by a company operating from France, but their produce is admitted into French ports practically duty free, because, while in the first instance duty is charged upon it, a very large rebate is allowed, and the balance collected is returned to the French authorities in the islands, to be expended in improvements, such as the making of roads, and the providing of wharfage accommodation, and other facilities for the transport of commodities to market. The British settlers, on the other hand, are heavily handicapped, because they cannot send their produce to French ports without paying heavy duties, and Australia, instead of giving them treatment similar to that given to the French settlers by France, has raised against them a Tariff wall, which keeps out their products, and these are then thrown back on their hands, often to rot, because in that climate maize cannot be kept very longwithout being spoiled. Therefore, not only are great inducements held out to the British settlers to forget that they are Britishers, and to remember that they are being treated by Australia as aliens and outcasts; but the people are being tempted by the fear of starvation and destitution to avail themselves of the undoubted advantages which would follow French naturalization. The article continues -

So far this offer has been refused, but there is good reason to fear that it may some time be accepted. The British settlers are growing tired of being penalized and ruined for their patriotism. For five years we have been denying them the means of livelihood, although they exiled themselves to serve us. We shall have our own negligence and niggardliness alone to blame if they turn round and assist the French to obtain sole control of the group. It is said that such a proposal has been made, and’ that there is grave danger of the matter being seriously taken up.

We are loth to believe that anything could induce a body of British subjects to renounce their nationality; but there can be no doubt that the British settlers in the New Hebrides are very sore at the unjust treatment which the Commonwealth has meted out to them. At the present time a petition is in course of signature in the islands which is intended to be forwarded to Mr. Deakin, asking for preferential tariff treatment of British grown produce. We are, however, very well aware of the duty we owe to the petitioners, and it will be a lasting memorial to our discredit if we wait for the arrival of the petition to transact it.

Coming from an organ like the Age, which cannot be charged with leanings towards freetrade, these are very strong sentiments, and show the unwisdom of looking at the question from a fiscal stand-point. We should approach it with the desire to do what is best in the interests of the Empire, of Australia, and of the settlers themselves, and regard it as altogether outside fiscal considerations. The article concludes -

The Federal Government should immediately introduce a short Bill granting a substantial rebate of the Tariff on all British grown produce entering Australia from the New Hebrides. It could be passed in a single’ sitting, for we doubt if one member could be found to vote against it. This is a matter that concerns our national honour, which we pledged to the settlers whom we persuaded to go to the islands, but which we have yet failed to redeem. For other reasons we cannot too soon put this matter to rights. Interests which go to the very root of our future national welfare demand that British occupation of the New Hebrides should be paramount and permanent. This can only be effected by opening our markets to the British settlers. In no other way can British development of the islands be .promoted. The men who are fighting our battle for us there ask nothing but the rights of Australian citizens, and many of them are Australians. They must live while they are struggling for a foothold. Hitherto we have watched their efforts without lifting a hand to help ; indeed, we have done what we could to foil and hinder them and bring them to starvation. .In a word, we have been playing blindly into the hands of France, lt is not yet too late, perhaps, to remedy our folly, but we cannot afford to waste a single day in setting about it.

I thoroughly indorse what I have read. The clangers pointed out are by no means imaginary; they are only too real. In that opinion, I am supported by the statements contained in letters sent by British residents in the New Hebrides to friend’s in Australia, and, in particular, by a letter which I have received from the brother of a settler, who has been kind enough to give me a good deal of information about the conditions of settlement in the New Hebrides. The amount expended by France in the development of these islands is wholly out of proportion to the return which she gets from the French settlement there. But the European nations now realize that the Pacific may be the scene of the ‘naval conflicts of the future, and therefore recognise the importance of guarding, their interests by securing territory there. A generation ago, most of the Pacific islands, with the exception of those over which Great Britain exercised a more or less careless protectorate, were in the undisturbed possession of the aboriginal inhabitants, but to-day, owing to the want of foresight and activity on the part of the Downing-street authorities, foreign nations have established possessions in many places within a few days.’ journey of Australia, and at a convenient striking distance, should unfriendly relations between them and Great Britain arise. We cannot blame these nations for taking advantage of the situation, but we should reproach ourselves for not having been sufficiently alive to the value of the islands from a strategical, as well as a commercial, stand-point. At that time no national complications could have arisen from the hoisting of the British flag upon islands which are now in the possession of foreign Powers. In many cases where the British flag was hoisted, the British authorities did not appreciate the hold that they had upon the islands, and’ some were afterwards practically filched from them. I need only refer to Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa, New Caledonia, and German New Guinea, over all of which the Union Jack once floated. I have the authority of the late Mr. Seddon for the statement that the New Hebrides were included in the original charter to New Zealand. And it is indisputable that they were largely discovered, surveyed, charted, and missionised by British effort, and at British cost. Gradually the islands to which I have referred have passed away from the British sway, and have been brought under foreign control. At present there is no chance of the New Hebrides being taken under the sole protection of Great Britain unless at the cost of some great sacrifice, either of money or territory, or probably both. The islands are now under dual control, and France strongly desires to take” complete possession of them. If we are not very careful, they will pass away absolutely from us, by reason of there probably being in a short time no longer any British interests in the islands to be safeguarded. I wish to quote a “letter which I have received from a settler in the New Hebrides, who says -

The situation in the group, from a British and Australian stand-point, is one of extreme gravity. And on the question of prompt action or otherwise by the Commonwealth Government the fate of the group on the score of national control now virtually’ hangs. The French Government see what an ‘immense advantage they have, in the fact that Australian settlers here are treated by the Australian Government as aliens and foreigners, and their products shut out of their only market by prohibitive tariffs. This has already practically ruined many settlers, who, after exhausting their small capital, have had to abandon their plantations. Small wonder that these ruined men are bitter in soul, and in the struggle between patriotism and destitution, are strongly tempted to yield to French inducements to change their allegiance from the British to the French flag. Surely the small amount of produce that the Australian settlers send into the Australian market cannot seriously be regarded as competition that can hurt Australians, who are their brothers. And look at the issues at stake from the nation’s stand-point. The Australian settlers cannot hold out much longer against the templing bait of the better trading opportunities offered them by the French authorities, and once they yield, the case for French control, on the ground of effective occupation and French trading interests being paramount, will be unassailable. So for God’s sake do try to get the Australian Parliament to realize what apathy or neglect must mean. The control of these islands by a foreign Government means practically that the Gibraltar of the Pacific is, through sheer folly, stupidity, and apathy, lost to our nation, for whatever nation holds the New Hebrides holds the key to the whole of the Southern Pacific trade routes once the Panama Canal is an accomplished fact. But this you know as well as I do, because you have often proclaimed the same fact.

The writer is in a very unfortunate position. He sold out his property in Australia, and invested all his money in the New Hebrides. He assures me that he has practically lost everything, but he is still endeavouring to prevent others from falling into the snares set bv the French settlers in the direction of inducing them to accept French naturalization. Another letter has been addressed to Senator Smith by a New Hebrides settler, who, in reference to the petition sent to the Prime Minister, says -

The main point dealt with is the unsatisfactory condition of British development here, owing to the abandonment of plantations in embryo by men who have exhausted their capital, and find it impossible to continue planting, through the lack of a market to which they can send their produce, such as maize, millet, &c. Another argument touched upon is the danger of a movement being inaugurated among British settlers to assist the French in their efforts to obtain complete control of the group. Such a proposal has actually been made, and I have reason to believe that there is grave danger of the matter being seriously taken up. . . .

To renounce one’s nationality is a grave step to take, but under the peculiar circumstances it is an Act that would find condonation even among the most patriotic. One’s sentiment of patriotism is apt to become deadened when one’s own country refuses to regard one as anything but a foreigner. This is a particularly sore point with Australians here, especially as we claim to be trying to colonize in the interests of Australia. ….

There can be no successful efforts at development until the one obstacle, the tariff, is wholly or for the main part removed ; and our petition embodies a request for a rebate’ of at least three.fourths of the amount of tariff on all British-grown produce from the New Hebrides.

The amount of produce imported into Australia from the New Hebrides is very small, and, even from the point of view of a pronounced protectionist, could’ not be regarded as likely to exercise any appreciable influence upon our markets. I gather from an official return laid upon, the table, on 10th August, 1904, that the quantity of maize sent to Australia was 18,266 centals.

Mr Deakin:

– What period does that cover ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– The vear ended 30th June, 1904.

Mr Deakin:

– There must have been a great deal more imported.

Mr JOHNSON:

– The quantity I have mentioned was carried in vessels owned by Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company.

Mr Deakin:

– For the calendar year 1904, the importations amounted to 34,000 centals. During the previous year a larger quantity was imported, but there has been a heavy drop since.

Mr JOHNSON:

– In any case, the amount imported was very small in comparison with” our requirements. The return which I have mentioned shows the produce which has been carried from the New* Hebrides to Australia in vessels owned by Burns, Philp, and Company during the year ended 30th June, 1904. I find that 2,026 tons of copra, valued at ^24,312, were sent to Sydney, and admitted duty free. Eighteen thousand two hundred and sixtysix centals of maize, of a value, including duty, of ^4,112, were imported. The amount of duty paid was j£i,37o. Of coffee, 86,480 lbs., valued at ^2,162 ci.f. at Sydney, was imported, and the duty paid amounted to ^1,081. Of the duty 6,500 lbs., valued at £50, was imported, and the duty paid amounted to ^13 10s. It will thus be seen that our importations from the New Hebrides are scarcely worth taking into account when compared with our local production, and their introduction into our markets free of dutv could not interfere to any appreciable extent with our local producers. It is of the highest public importance, not only from the commercial, but also from a strategical stand -point, that we should increase our interest in these islands. We have to consider the important position which the islands occupy in regard to the great Pacific trade route to the old country, which will be opened up when the Panama Canal is completed. Above all things, my reason for wishing to see British supremacy maintained in the islands is that effective policing of the. South Seas by the British Navy may be rendered possible, in the event of our unfortunately becoming embroiled in hostilities with any of the great naval Powers who have established themselves in the Pacific, or, in fact, with any ether Power. Let us hope that that occasion may never arise, but, at the same time, hold ourselves prepared for the worst. It would be a grave mistake to allow matters to drift, and to permit foreign nations to absorb all the islands of the Pacific, thus depriving us of any strategic base of value from which we could conduct operations for the protection of our commerce. I have included the New Hebrides group in my motion, because it possesses harbors unrivalled in the Pacific. Havannah Harbor, in the island of Vaté is perhaps one of the finest in the world. It has an entrance which is fully a mile wide, and a depth of water which is capable of floating the largest battle-ship that is likely to be constructed. Even close in shore a depth of from 15 to 20 fathoms can be obtained. It is a harbor which is splendidly situated - for a naval base, because it is almost naturally fortified. At any rate, the cost of fortifying it would be very small indeed. I believe that it might be made absolutely impregnable at a comparatively small cost. The French realize its importance to a far greater extent than do the British authorities, if we. are to judge by the apathy which they exhibit in connexion with these islands. There is another harbor in the island of Mallicollo - I refer to Port Sandwich - which has also excellent facilities for shipping accommodation and for a naval station. But the best feature about these islands is that the harbors of which I have spoken are approachable in all kinds of weather - an advantage which cannot be claimed for many harbors in the South Pacific, most of which are surrounded by dangerous coral reefs. Much more could be urged in support of this motion. I am very anxious to see British settlement take place all over the Pacific, unhampered by tariff or other restrictions, and more particularly am I desirous that it should be encouraged in the New Hebrides, in order that when the time comes - as come it must - when their national control must be determined, we may be able to demonstrate our effective occupation, and the paramoun’tcy of British interests in that group.

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– I ask the honorable member to consent to an adjournment of this debate. The figures which he has quoted from the paper which he has read - to give one illustration - do not agree with those which have been furnished to me. In fact, the two sets of figures seem to be utterly irreconcilable, and I shall be very much better able to reply to the honorable member if I am first permitted to obtain an answer to the joint communication which the late Premier of New Zealand and. myself forwarded to the mother country, in reference to the various matters with which he has been dealing. That reply I hope to receive before this question again comes on for discussion.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Deakin) adjourned.

page 1542

QUESTION

TOLL TELEPHONE SYSTEM

Mr WEBSTER:
Gwydir

.- I move -

That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary and advisable to adopt the toll or call system throughout the telephone service of the Commonwealth at the earliest possible date.

During the recess a heated controversy has been waged in the metropolitan press in connexion with the proposal of the Government to introduce into the Commonwealth a system which has been generally adopted in countries where the telephone is largely used. No doubt there are many honorable members who thoroughly agree with that proposal, because they have satisfied themselves that the change which has been outlined is urgently required, not only in the interests of the Department, but in the interests of the public. Throughout the large cities of Australia the Government have been subjected to verv strenuous criticism because thev propose to introduce the toll telephone system. City residents strongly object to any change from the flat system - the system under which a yearly rental is paid for the use of the telephone irrespective of the number of calls made by, or the services rendered to, the subscriber. Abundant evidence can be found in almost every civilized country in favour of the adoption of the toll1 system. The other day, when I asked the Postmaster-General whether it was the intention of the Government to make that system compulsory, I was sorry to receive the reply that it was not proposed to make it compulsory in the case of the present subscribers.

Mr Ewing:

– Only in the case of new subscribers

Mr WEBSTER:

– Exactly. All the evidence which I have obtained points to the fact that it is not only reasonable to apply the toll system to new subscribers, but that it is absolutely essential - if we are to secure the full use of the telephone service - that it should be made general throughout the Commonwealth. I have taken the trouble to consult authorities upon this matter, whose word cannot be questioned, and they all emphasize the economy attending the adoption of the measurement system as compared with the flat system. In this connexion, I wish to refer to the utterances of Lord Stanley when Postmaster-General of Great Britain. In a letter to The Times, describing the utility of the measurement system, he says -

There are two systems of charge in London - the unlimited service system and the message rate system. The unlimited service system . ii Lord Stanley’s opinion, is unsuitable for a modern telephone exchange service, and owes its continuance to the force of custom and the demands of a limited number of large users.

The London exchange system is constantly increasing both in the number of subscribers and the number of exchanges.

In again referring to the matter a little later, he says -

It is clear, therefore, that no fixed rate for unlimited use can adequately correspond with such conditions. If fixed with regard to the cost of the service for a large exchange system, it must necessarily be prohibitive for small users, and if fixed on the basis of the cost of a small exchange system, it must soon become unremunerative. In Lord Stanley’s view the proper method of charge is that which was recom mended by the Select Committee “of 1898, under which the payments of the subscribers are fixed in proportion to their use. The measured rate system offered by the Post Office fulfils this requirement, and its advantages have been proved by its acceptance by more than 90 per cent, of the subscribers to the London Post Office system.

The toll system has been in use in the United Kingdom for some time, with the result that it is applied to 90 per cent, of the telephone subscribers there. In corroboration of Lord Stanley’s remarks, I desire to quote “from a report by Mfr. John Gavey, Engineer-in-Chief of the British Post Office, who makes these very pertinent remarks -

I think that the true solution of the question of tariffs is the introduction of the measured service - that is, a moderate subscription to cover the line and the. telephone, with a moderate fee per transaction. That system, if generally introduced, would bring about a great measure of economy, not only amongst the users of the telephones, but in the administration of the service. Under the ordinary method of flatrate charging, the large users get the advantage - -the smaller users are penalized. Again, the large users fill up their lines to the very utmost possible degree ; in other words, they will not rent a second line until they are absolutely compelled to, with the result that subscribers who call them up are, in 50 per cent, of the cases, told the line is engaged. The answering of the call and the testing of the line occupies as much of the operator’s time as the putting through ; the result is that the cost of working on the flat-rate system is much increased, and the smaller user is penalized, and, I think, whatever measure of economy in rates may be anticipated by the Committee or the country at large will depend rather on the general introduction of the measured service of charges than the perpetuation of the flat-rate system.

These statements emphasize a very important point in connexion with the reform which I am now urging. According to Mr. Gavey, the flat system is not only unjust, but it is detrimental to the efficiency of the service, besides being expensive as compared with the measurement system. He declares that under the flat system certain subscribers will use their instruments to the fullest possible extent. It is that fact which accounts for many persons being so frequently told when they wish to communicate with a certain subscriber that the line is engaged. Important evidence bearing on this question was also given by Mr. W. E. L. Gaine, general manager of the National Telephone Company. These authorities - all men of vast experience - speak in no uncertain voice as to what would be the effect of the proposed change. In referring to a meeting at Sheffield, at which he urged the adoption of the measured as against the flat system, Mr. Gaine said -

I endeavoured to show wilh what amount of plausibility I was capable of that this was the most righteous system that could be, that you paid according to use ; but, in the very strongest language, the meeting did not care for that; they would not have it at any price, and one man coming down the stairs when I was enlarging upon the beauties of the system, said he did not care, &c, it would cost him £g$ a year instead of the j£8 or £10 which he was then paying, and he was not going to have it.

That practically is the objection raised by those who use their telephones to the fullest extent under our system. They complain that if they were called upon to pay according to the use they make of the service they would be charged far more than they are under the flat system. Naturally they are opposed even to the partial change contemplated by the Government.

Mr Ewing:

– If they obtain too much for their money some one else must be getting too little.

Mr WEBSTER:

– Exactly. The injustice is, so to speak, a double-edged one. The man who obtains more than that for which he pays is doing an injustice to the State, and is receiving something to which he is not entitled, whilst the person who only occasionally uses the telephone is penalized. He has to pay practically the same as the man who avails himself of the system to the fullest extent. Mr. Gaine, in answer to the question, “And it cuts against popularizing the service,” said -

I think it does. The “toll” system I would take with both hands to-morrow, a small charge and id. a message, and I think you will do a great deal to popularize the service.

I have also a report of the evidence given by Mr. John Gavey before the Select Committee of the House of Commons, in which he emphasizes the opinions expressed bv other witnesses to whom I have referred. He said -

Evidently the fear of being charged with the tolls for the excess conversations immediately eliminated all frivolous and unnecessary talks.

That is another aspect of the question. The introduction of the measured system confers a great benefit on subscribers generally by eliminating the unnecessary and frivolous talking which goes on, to the detriment of those having, legitimate business to transact over the wires. I am satisfied that these gentlemen, who are responsible advisers of their Departments, realize the true trouble at the root of the telephone system. Mr. Gavey went on to say -

Differential toll might be imposed somewhat of this character : - Suppose the first 1,500 messages were charged at a penny and the next 1,500 at a halfpenny, and then all beyond that at a farthing.

That proposal was practically, made to override the objection of those who use the telephone to its fullest extent. I believe that it is under the consideration of the Government, and that they will have some suggestion to make to the House with, reference to the scale of charges and the limited number of calls to be allowed under the new regulations. Evidence was also given before the Committee by Sir William P reece, one of the greatest authorities on telephony in the British Empire. He said -

In America (in Buffalo) they started a system of charging only for the work done - they call it “ a toll.” It is a bad term, but it has got introduced, and we cannot help using it. It means this : That in Buffalo they commenced (in 1S80, about) to charge their renters only for the service rendered, at so much per talk. In Switzerland, and partially in Stockholm, and partially in certain parts of France, they have adopted this toll system. Now, sir, my view is this : That this toll system, in itself, is an extremely fair mode of charging, because you really extract from the user of the telephone something, fro raid, for the service you render him. When you ask, say, two men to pay £20 each in London, the one may send twenty messages in a day, and the other man not twenty messages a month, so that the incidence of the charge is unfair.

These eminent men agree that our present system is not only ineffective and unjust, but also pernicious, from the stand-point of the administration of the service. We have further evidence by equally competent authorities. I have here the testimony of the American Telegraph and Telephone Company, to whose allied systems no less than 2,500,000 telephones were connected on 1st January, 1906. Surely a company controlling so vast a system, and having such a wide experience, should be able to speak with authority on this subject. In their annual report for 1904 they say -

But little need be added to what has been said in former reports with reference to the effect of the operation of the so-called independent telephone companies upon the interests of the Bell company. In some cases their, competition, particularly in view of the rates at which they undertook to supply service, and which they themselves, to a large extent, now publicly acknowledge to have been entirely inadequate, has undoubtedly operated as an embarrassment to the logical progress of the business.

Mr. J. J. Carty, then chief engineer of the New York Telephone Company, made these observations -

Under the flat-rate method of charging in large cities the more times the customer uses his telephone during the day the greater is the expense to the telephone company. This is due, not only to the increased number of operators required, but also to the increased switch-board sections needed for them, and to the increased trunk line plant. By the method of flat-rate charging there is no motive for the telephone company to encourage an increase in the number of calls. For this reason, a flat-rate plan would have to be so engineered, and the rates would have to be so established, that extension stations, desk stands, and other auxiliaries tending to make the use of the telephone easy, and therefore more frequent, must be discouraged.

The existence of the flat rate in such cases would not only be attended by all of these consequences, but many others, one of which in particular is of great importance. I refer to the excessive use of the subscribers’ line which such a rate engenders. The consequence of this excessive use is that the busy calls attain such serious proportions that it is difficult, if not absolutely impossible, to give satisfactory service. This trouble from busy calls has at times attained such serious proportions that engineers in various places have exerted extraordinary efforts to mitigate the evil, but without success. This difficulty having been caused by commerical methods could not be overcome by the engineer employing physical methods. The solution of this difficulty lay with the business management, and consisted in the adoption of a proper system of message rates. Once such a method was put into force, all of these difficulties which I have enumerated as pertaining to the flat rate, and many others which I have not taken the time to explain, disappeared.

He then went on to refer to the effect of the flat rate system, and the wisdom of its adoption, saying -

As soon as the message-rate system was adopted all of these difficulties disappeared, and many positive advantages, not even suspected as residing in the message-rate plan, developed. Under the flat-rate system there was every temptation for the subscriber to send as many calls as possible over one line. This, as I have already stated, resulted in overcrowding the line, and was attended by bad reactions of every kind. Those having but small use for a telephone could not afford to pay the high flat rate which that method of working made it necessary for the telephone company to charge. The consequence of this was that only those having a large number of calls installed a telephone, and those having small use of the telephone made it a practice to use the telephones of their neighbours, or did not employ the telephone at all. This practice on the part of the small user was a natural one, in view of the fact that under the flat rate the telephone subscriber considered that it cost him nothing to allow his neighbour to -use his telephone. All of this resulted in a system largely composed of overloaded lines. Under the condition obtaining in our large cities, the relief of an overloaded line can be obtained only at the expense of a second line, which, in most cases, meant doubling the cost of the telephone service. For this, and many other reasons, the desired relief could not be obtained under the flat-rate system.

I think I have read sufficient to show that the leading authorities throughout the world agree that the system in force in Australia to-day is insufficient to meet the demands of the public. They agree practically that it interferes with the economy and efficiency of the service. They all emphasize the point that the person who uses the telephone to its full extent obtains more than that for which he pays. It must be recognised that the greater the number of calls the greater the cost of administration. It has been calculated that fourteen calls a day practically cost as much as the subscription paid by the subscriber, having regard to the necessary addition to working expenses of the amount required for a sinking fund, and to cover interest. That is to say that, when an operator has answered fourteen calls, the subscriber making them has obtained full value for his money. Every subscriber who uses a telephone more than fourteen times a day gets a service for which he does not pay. About 1 per cent, of the subscribers in Australia use their ‘telephones over 100 times a day, and 10 per cent, fifty times a day, while a very large number use them more than fourteen:, but less than fifty times a day. But every subscriber who exceeds fourteen calls is getting, a service for which the Department is not adequately remunerated. A person using the telephone forty times a day, if he were allowed the maximum number of 600 calls per annum, and charged id. for each additional call, would be asked to pay ^27 10s. per annum for his telephone service, and, although that is much more than any subscriber pays now, the service would be a very cheap one at the price.

Mr Ewing:

– Under the present system the Government loses as much as .£20 per year on some telephones.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I believe that there are cases in which the Government loses considerably more than that amount. Not only does the Department lose revenue, but the service is rendered ineffective, and thus great annoyance is caused. When a line is used to its fullest extent, the effectiveness of the service is necessarily interfered with, many subscribers being prevented from getting the numbers for which they ask, and having to make five or six calls before they can secure connexions. This is very disturbing to their tempers, and results in nervous injury to the operators of the switch-boards. Subscribers, not knowing why they cannot be connected, often assume that the operators are not paying proper attention to their work, and the language used on these occasions is often such as ordinary men would not care to listen to, while sensitive girls have been seen by the superintendent to burst into tears as the result of the insults offered to them. No man would like his daughter to be placed in a position where she might be treated in this way. I hope that the Government will not hesitate to make the proposed change. They should not pander to those who Iia ve been protesting so largely of late against any increase in the rate. I believe that if the change were set about at once, the new system could be in thorough’ operation before the end of 1909. When it is brought about, subscribers will be charged for the service actually rendered to them, and no one will have to pay for a service he does not get. Some persons grumble because it is proposed to charge £d. a call for every call exceeding a certain maximum; but that is an absurdly cheap rate at which to send a message over a distance of, perhaps, five or ten miles, a reply being obtainable for which no charge is made. Before the invention of the telephone, urgent messages had to be despatched either by telegram or by special messengers, a system always much less satisfactory than the telephone, and much more costly. Owing to their brevity, telegrams were frequently misread, and no answer could be obtained to them without extra payment, while the tip-keep of messenger staffs was in many cases very large, and in neither instance could communication be entered upon in anything like the time that is taken when the telephone is used. But. while metropolitan subscribers are grumbling at this small charge, if the people in the country ask for a telephone exchange their request is not even considered until proper guarantees are signed to cover possible deficiencies in revenue during a number of years’ work.

The people in the large centres of population have hitherto obtained a cheap telephone service to the disadvantage of small subscribers, and of those in country districts. Of course, many whose telephones now are used very frequently would be glad of the adoption of the toll system. Hotel telephones, for instance, are used at all hours of the day and night for the purpose of frivolous inquiries, and often attendants Be constantly kept busy answering the calls of persons who wish to know if certain visitors are staying there. If one halfpenny had to be paid for each call, calls would be less frequent, but the departmental revenue would be increased, while the hotel proprietors, as most of them recognise when the position is explained to them, would be put to less expense fo’ attendance. Some of the business men who at present pay only £9 a year, for their telephones - 1 per cent, of them - get a service worth .£100 a year, and would have to pay that sum to the Department if they were charged Jd. each for all their calls Over a certain maximum. On the other hand, there are many small business places where the calls are not more than four or five, or even two a day, and at present they have to pay as much as those who use their telephones continually. That in itself indicates the need for a change - not a half-and-half change, but one which will give the community the full benefit derivable from the toll system. The Government have indicated that they are disinclined to apply the toll system ,to the subscribers who are at present paying the flat rate. If they do not, it will be years before the benefits of the change are fully felt. In America the toll system wasadopted many years ago, and owing to the small annual charge made under that system, the subscribers under the flat-rate system have not increased, but, on the contrary, have gradually diminished, until’ they cow number only 1 per cent. The extension of telephones under the measured system has been verv great in other parts of the world. In America there was an increase of as many as 500,000 subscribersin one year, and in Germany the annual calls increased from 20,000,000 to 100,000,000 a year, while d’uring the last four years, there has been a further increase of 40,000,000 calls. In New York in 1893 there were 10,000 instruments in use, and, in 1904, 140,000, only 1 per cent, of which are at present- under the flat-rate system. The American Telegraph and Telephone Company increased the number of their subscribers by 500,000 in one year.

Mr Johnson:

– From what is the honorable member quoting?

Mr WEBSTER:

– From a number of eminent authorites to whom I have referred. The report of the American Telegraph and Telephone Company for 1905 - the latest report to hand - shows that instead of .the profits increasing as the number of subscribers is added to. the reverse is the case. The cost of administration becomes greater, and, generally speaking, the expenses increase in far greater proportion than the receipts. In large cities it is more expensive to properly equip the ‘ service than in smaller communities. For instance, wires have to be carried under ground at very great cost, and other expenses have to be incurred which are not entail,ed in the towns. It has been found in America, Germany, and in England that a higher charge must be made in the large cities than in the towns. Therefore, we are told that we cannot expect any material reduction below the amount estimated bv Mr. Hesketh, who suggests that a fixed rate should be charged for 600 calls per annum, and that subscribers should be called upon to pay Jd. for each additional call. He’ contemplates, however, that the new system will be much cheaper than that now in vogue. In Switzerland the measured system has resulted in considerably reducing the average number of calls per annum. Prior to its introduction, the average number of calls per annum for telephones was 800, but afterwards the subscribers were so far influenced’ by their fears that they might exceed the number of calls allowed” for the fixed charge that the average number of calls was reduced to 544 per annum. It must ‘be remembered, in connexion with the charges now made for business and! private telephones respectively, that many business houses do not use their telephones more than two or three times a day. whereas many private telephones are in use upwards of fifty times per day. It is, therefore, anomalous that the business man should have to nay £g per annum for his service, whilst the owner of the private telephone should be called upon for a fee of only £5- The measured system appears to me to be the only, means bv which we can make charges upon an equitable basis.

If, in connexion with our postal system we were to say to business men, “ You can post as many letters as you like for £10 per annum, whether it be two or three or a sack full,” we should be laughed at, and declared unfit to manage the affairs of the country. And yet that is practically what we are doing with regard to our telephone system. We offer a man an annual service at a fixed fee irrespective of the extent to which he avails himself of it. I trust that the Government will realize the necessity of adopting the measured system as soon as practicable. Experience in other countries has shown that the introduction of that system cf charging has resulted’ in a large extension of the service, and a great increase of revenue. The public could be provided with telephone facilities at a much cheaper rate, and the service could be extended to an almost unlimited extent. I recently interested myself in obtaining a telephone exchange for Gunnedah, in my electorate. I communicated with the Department, and’ they ‘made a proposal to establish an exchange on condition that fifteen subscribers were obtained under the fiat system at £8 per subscriber per annum. Upon the matter being represented to the business people of the town, only five persons proved to be willing to join the telephone exchange under those conditions. Matters were allowed to remain in abeyance for some time, and subsequently I urged upon the townspeople the desirability of subscribing to an exchange upon the measured system. That system has not yet been adopted, but an offer was made to the townspeople to establish an exchange and to charge subscribers on the measured system £4. per annum for 600 calls. This great reduction in the annual fee had a marked effect. Within a very short time, twenty-nine persons indicated their willingness to become subscribers, and within a month that number of agreements were forwarded to the Department. Subsequently, five other agreements were signed, and the townspeople are now waiting until the Government have the courage to bring the new system of charging into operation. This example is sufficient to indicate the large field that awaits exploitation by the Department. Then again, it seems to me that we might very well avail ourselves of the party-Iine system which has been adopted in the United States, England, and elsewhere. In America, three and four subscribers ma’y join in the use of the one line, for which a much-reduced charge is made.

Under this system, great inducements are offered to a large number of persons to avail themselves of the telephone service. It has been proposed that we should allow two persons to use the same line at a charge of£.5s.perannum each, as compared with£5, and it may be possible to permit a larger number of subscribers to share in the use of a line at a still further reduced fee. I have every hope that electricians will soon be able to overcome the difficulties which now arise owing to the possibility of persons connected with the same line being able to overhear conversations to which they are not supposed to listen. Under a system that is now being tested, I believe that it will be possible for twenty subscribers to use the one line without interfering with each other. If present expectations in this regard are realized, it will be impossible to fix any limit to the development of the system. The Government have in Mr. Hesketh, an officer whose heart is in his work, and who understands the whole of the mechanical, electrical,and commercial aspects of the service. He has been to America and’ has gained a great deal of valuable information. I should like to quote a few of his remarks with regard to the extension of the telephone service. He says -

To briefly condense the conclusion, it is impossible to avoid after a close study of American conditions, I believethat to establish any telephone system upon secure lines - lines which will induce the greatest number of people to partake in its privileges, is not to leave the outside districts until the large centres are fully provided for, but to build from the outside districts in towards the large centres, or, at the very least, to give to the outside districts an equal share of attention.

It were better to leave the cities to press their requirements, and to go out offering the advantages to the country districts, than to do the reverse. The business men in cities know the use and convenience of a good telephone system ; the farmer may not. Therefore special care should be taken that the advantages are pointed out to him, and that he is given every facility for sharing them.

Mr. Hesketh’s statements clearly indicate that up to the present time the telephone system has not been used to advance the welfare of the persons who are developing this country. He argues that the system should be developed in the country districts and worked in towards the centres of population. I want the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to recognise that that is a cardinal feature in Mr. Hesketh’s report. The Vice-President of the Executive Council represents a country constitu ency just as I do, and he must realize the advantages which telephonic communication would confer upon rural residents.

Mr Ewing:

– It is an absolute necessity to country life.

Mr WEBSTER:

– Undoubtedly. It is one of the factors which tend to make endurable the lot of persons settled upon the land. I have no desire to delay the House by quoting from the whole of the material in my possession, because I have already, sufficiently shown that the adoption of the toll system is urgently required in the interests of the telephone service itself. If we send officers to other countries to ascertain what is being done there in the way of providing telephonic facilities, we must be prepared to pay some regard to their reports, and we must face the problems presented to us - not in a halfhearted manner, fearing the opposition of a few city merchants, but in an absolutely fearless and just way. Let us so regulate our telephonic charges that each subscriber shall pay for the service which he receives. That is the basis upon which the Department should be administered. There is no excuse whatever for the Government hesitating to substitute the toll for the flat system at the earliest possible date.

Mr McWilliams:

– Does the honorable member favour the scale of charges which was framed by the Government, and which was afterwards withdrawn ?

Mr WEBSTER:

– I am not too sure about that. The scale to which the honorable member refers was an exceedingly liberal one, as compared with the charges that are levied in other countries. I admit that the Government showed a lamentable weakness in withdrawing that schedule. There is no country in the world which offers more liberal conditions than those which were proposed.They proposed 600 as the miximum number of calls allowed for a fixed fee, and1/2d. for each additional call. In Switzerland, the maximum number of calls is 600, and for each additional calla charge of1d. is made.

Mr Thomas:

– I think the honorable member is mistaken.

Mr McCay:

– What is the minimum charge in Switzerland?

Mr WEBSTER:

– It is£6 10s. per year.

Mr McCay:

– And is a charge of1d. made for each additional call?

Mr WEBSTER:

– Yes.

Mr Thomas:

– Is that the information contained in Mr. Hesketh’s report?

Mr WEBSTER:

– No.

Mr Thomas:

– Then, I think that the’ honorable member is mistaken. *

Mr WEBSTER:

– For the benefit of the honorable member for Barrier, I will quote the evidence tendered by Mr. Babington Smith before a Select Committee of the House of Commons upon the charges levied in Switzerland. He says -

I should like to express a very clear opinion that if it can be effected the right thing to do would be to get rid of the unlimited service rale altogether. What is the present tariff? £17 for an unlimited service; but I may remind the honorable member that under the message rate you can get a telephone for £6 ios., and I may perhaps add, that of the Post Office subscribers 90 per cent, take the message rale, and not the unlimited service rate ; that is to say, £6 ios. covering 360 calls.

Mr Thomas:

– But the honorable member was speaking of Switzerland.

Mr WEBSTER:

– Yes, I was mistaken.

Mr Thomas:

– In Switzerland I think that the Department charges a nominal fee and Jd. per call from the jump. That is what the Government ought to do here.

Mr WEBSTER:

– In England, where the telephone system is controlled by the Government, the annual charge is £6 ros., whereas our charge, under Mr. Hesketh’s scheme, would be £7 Further, in the United Kingdom 360 calls constitute a maximum, and thereafter a charge of id. per call is levied. I hold in my hand the figures relating to the charges imposed in Switzerland, Germany, and other countries, but there is no need for me to quote them, because I shall have another opportunity of doing so before the session closes. I am extremely sorry that the Government have yielded to the clamour of the large telephone users in the cities of Australia. It seems to me that the metropolitan press control the Government of the Commonwealth. The newspapers of the different capitals teemed with correspondence upon the Government proposal to introduce the toll system, and the Government, listening to the appeals of interested parties, immediately withdrew their scheme, which consequently did not come into force upon ist July, as was originally intended. It may be their intention to fix 750 calls as the maximum allowed for a fixed annual fee, and they may intend to charge £d. per call for the’ first couple of thousand calls in excess of the maximum. If any such proposal is brought forward I shall oppose it. It would be unfair to impose differential rates in regard to the telephone service. I understand that Mr. Hesketh has supplied to the Postmaster- General a later - and a very lengthy and able report - upon this matter. I believe that that report has been before the various officers in the different States, and that it is ready for submission to this House. I should like to have seen it before proceeding with this motion. If the Government do not agree to substitute the toll for the flat system within a period of three and a half years, the reform of which they speak will be a mere make believe - a reform which is unworthy of them and of the gentleman who is controlling the administration of the Postal Department. Upon behalf of the farmers and settlers in the country - of those who do not enjoy telephonic facilities 10-day, Gut who live practically isolated from their fellows - I appeal to the Ministry for consideration. While meting out justice to city subscribers we can at the same time act fairly to residents in the country. There is no justification for the Government resisting my appeal, whilst greasing the fatted sow. City merchants raise their voice against the granting of any concessions to the farmers, and yet, in connexion with the working of a socialistic institution like the Post Office they are prepared to accept five times the amount of service to which they are legitimately entitled. It is they who are getting the benefit of the socialistic machine. They do not object to that, but they are the first to protest against the application of the same system to people who are far more deserving of consideration at the hands of the Government. By placing the telephone charges upon an equitable basis, we shall clearly show that we have the interests of the people at heart, we shall increase the number of subscribers one hundred-fold, we shall give relief to those who cannot afford to pay the present rates, and we shall provide a more effective service. Our telephone system is absolutely out of date. In Svdney the metallic system is not yet in vogue, although it is in operation in Brisbane. In the latter city, subscribers do not suffer from many of the inconveniences common to the single-line system. In order to enable us to establish that improved system throughout the Commonwealth we must obtain revenue from some source. If we do not, the reform will be delayed for many years. By adopting the toll system we shall at once secure the means to enable the metallic circuit to be introduced throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and we shall then be able to connect our telephone wires with numbers of subscribers who cannot be connected under the single-line system. The system calls for reform in regard to its mechanical, administrative, and financial aspects, and I trust that the Government will see that that reform is carried out so that the people may derive to the full the benefit of this great modern convenience.

Mr. LONSDALE (New England) [6.16I. -I can support to a large extent much that the honorable member for Gwydir has said. There is no doubt that the telephone system is of immense importance to the commercial community, and that it is also a great convenience to those living in the rural districts to which it has been extended. As to the method of payment, the call or toll system requires that payment shall be made for the services rendered.

Mr Ewing:

– It is right in principle.

Mr LONSDALE:
NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES

– That is so, but it cannot be applied to all branches of the Post and Telegraph Department. If it were applied, for instance, to the mail services, those living in the interior would have to pay very heavily indeed for the delivery of their mails as compared with what would be the cost to those living in the cities. The Department should go into this matter thoroughly and should commence with the preparation of a proper ‘business balance-sheet, showing the capital expenditure and the cost of maintaining the service. One reason why many country districts are unable to secure extensions of the telephone system is that a very high charge is made for erecting the lines. Some weeks ago I referred to this phase of the question, and I desire to again bring it under the attention of the Minister. Before determining upon the rates to be levied, the Postmaster-General should have a business-like balance-sheet prepared, and ascertain what the service is costing.

Mr Ewing:

– The information, .regarding the whole system was made available only about a month ago.

Mr LONSDALE:

– -Quite so. It is idle to talk about conducting this system on business lines unless our words are followed bv deeds. One great obstacle in the way of the extension of the system to country districts is that the persons to be served are required to pay not only for. the erection of the lines, but for their maintenance, a fee of 25s. per annum being levied for the latter purpose. The honorable member for Gwydir said that under the present system a merchant could obtain for a vear a service that would cost him ;£:too per annum under a toll system of £d. per call. I would point out, however, that that would mean 50,000 calls per annum, or in other words, 1,000 a week, 150 a day, 19 per hour, or 1 in every three minutes. I scarcely conceive it possible that any merchant makes such a demand on the service. It is idle for us to base our arguments in favour of the extension of the system to the country districts upon such statements. As a matter of fact, some business establishments have not one but several telephones in use ; and, whilst we seek to do the right thing by the rural districts, we must recognise that in all matters of business we ought to be just and reasonable. The position of these merchants should be considered. The call system is, in my opinion, the best that could ‘be adopted, since under it every manhas to pay in some degree for the services rendered him. It also prevents frivolous conversations over the lines. Another point is that if payment had to be made for each call those having telephones in their private houses would not allow their neighbours to use them as so many of them do at present. Such a practice is forbidden by the Department, but human nature is such that every one seems to delight in obtaining something at the expense of the Government. This use of the telephone service by non -subscribers would not occur if it meant that the subscribers themselves would have to pay for it. I cannot express an opinion as to the number of calls that should be allowed at a fixed rate, but the proposal that the charge should be reduced as the number increases is a wise one.

Mr Ewing:

– Once the correctness of the toll principle is admitted the question as to the number of calls to be allowed is simply a matter of detail for consideration.

Mr LONSDALE:

– That is so. When I first read the correspondence in the press in reference to this subject, I thought that the initial charge proposed to be made by the Government was too high. That charge should be sufficient to cover the cost of connexion, and after the number of calls allowed in respect of that initial charge has been exhausted, special rates ‘should be leviable. The honorable member for Gwydir said that, owing to the absence of the toll system,Gunnedah was unable to secure an exchange. Unless the regulations have been altered, it is open to that town to secure a limited exchange under the present system.

Mr Webster:

– We could not obtain the requisite number of subscribers.

Mr LONSDALE:

– The rates in respect of an exchange having fifteen or more subscribers are£8perannumforbusiness houses, and£5 per annum for private residences, but, strange to say, in connexion with a limited exchange having less than fifteen subscribers - there may be only three or four - the charge under the present system is only £4 5s. That seems to be an extraordinary way of doing business.

Mr Webster:

– That would not be a public exchange.

Mr LONSDALE:

– It is a private exchange by means of which people living in theone town may converse with each other over the telephone wires, just as they would do if they were subscribers to a public exchange. The only difference is that, instead of a switchboard operator being in constant attendance, one of the officers in the post-office has to connect subscribers. Occasionally there may be slight delay in getting connected, but otherwise there is no difference between a limited and an ordinary public exchange. Some consideration should be shown for the residents of country districts, not only in regard) to the telephone service, but in respect to the carriage of mails, because these services can be rendered at less cost to those residing in large centres of population. If the telephone system were established on a business-like basis, we should be able to serve the country districts without making the heavycharges at present imposed. I have endeavoured at different times to secure telephone services for various districts in the electorate I represent, and I fail to understand some of the methods of the Department. On one occasion, when asked to construct a telephone line, they made a demand for a guarantee, but the people who desired the construction of the line said, “ We will have nothing to do with guarantees. We will give you £100 in cash to erect a line.” The Department asked for a guarantee of only£22 per year for seven year’s, yet they refused this offer.

Mr Ewing:

– When was the offer refused ?

Mr LONSDALE:

– About twelve months ago.

Mr Ewing:

– It ought not to have been refused.

Mr LONSDALE:

– That was the view, not only of myself, but of the PostmasterGeneral. Despite what he said, however, the offer was refused until I agreed to do something which I ought not to have been asked to do. Only then did I succeed in obtaining the service for which I sought. As the time allotted to private members’ business has almost expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.

Leave granted ; debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.

SUPPLY (Formal).

Public Service Administration : Removal and Transfer of Officers in the Postal Department : Naval Director : Telegraphic Instruments at the Royal Exchange, Sydney : Telephone Facilities : Patents Offices, Deposits : Federal Capital Site : Long-Service Medals, Naval Brigade : Alleged Combine in Oatmeal : Warrnambool Battery: Lift in Sydney Post Office: Commonwealth Flag Design: Fellmongery Trade.

Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.

Mr CARPENTER:
Fremantle

– There is a matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the Government and the House. A short time since I referred to certain changes recently made inthe post and telegraph service of Western Australia, and I asked the Vice-Presidentof the Executive Council, who was then acting for the Postmaster-General, what method had been adopted in dealing with the officers who had been punished for alleged incompetence. In view of the importance of the case, I wished him to request the Public Service Commissioner to furnish a special report, giving reasons for the manner in which these officers were dealt with.

That has not been done; but I have obtained the papers in the case, and, having spent some time in perusing them, Tam now compelled to take grave exception to the method adopted in bringing forward the charges preferred against the officers concerned, and the manner in which those charges were dealt with. I am in no way affected by personal consideration for the officers who were punished, nor do I wish to make charges against the Public Service Commissioner for anything which he may or may not have done. If I suggest that the case might have been treated differently, I shall do so without wishing to reflect upon the Public Service Commissioner or his judgment, since I know that he holds a position of enormous responsibility, and that there must be times when it is almost impossible for him to determine which is the best course to take, and when he must be guided entirely by the officers acting under and for him. Briefly, the facts of the case are these: Last year Mr. E. J. Young, of the Post and Telegraph Department, Sydney, was sent to Western Australia to inquire into the working of the Department in that State, and, as the result of his report, certain charges were made against the manager of telegraphs in Western Australia, Mr. Snook, and the electrical engineer, Mr. ‘Stevens. There were other charges affecting other officials ; but I wish to deal with these cases in particular. A Board1 was then appointed, consisting of Mr. H. W. Jenvey, who acted as chairman, and is the electrical engineer for Victoria ; Mr. A. A. Dircks, the assistant electrical engineer of New South Wales; and Mr. T. J. Beatty, the superintendent of mails in Perth. As the result of the Board’s inquiry, Mr. Snook has been degraded to the position of postmaster at Bunbury, and has suffered a reduction in salary of ^200 per annum. He is now fifty-three years of age, and, in seven years’ time, will be entitled to retire on an allowance. In the interval, he will, in addition to the humiliation attaching to the transference, have had to pay a penalty, consequent upon his reduction in salary, aggregating ,£1,400. Mr. Stevens, in his turn, has been appointed comptroller of Government Stores in Western Australia. I do not know whether these officers were or were not blamable, or. if blamable. whether they were blamable to an extent warranting the punishment inflicted on them. Honorable members will agree that that punishment is severe, and such as should not be administered to any officer except for the gravest misdoing. The method by which the charges were made and investigated is not entirely above suspicion.

Mr Conroy:

– Doe’s the honorable member suggest unfairness on the part of the Board ?

Mr CARPENTER:

– I think, from my “perusal of the official papers, that there is reason to take serious exception to the method in which the charges were made and investigated, since one of the members of the Board has since been appointed to one of the offices rendered vacant as a consequence of the Board’s determination.

Mr Conroy:

– Probably he did not know that he would be appointed to that office.

Mr CARPENTER:

– That is what I wish to find out, and, therefore, ask for a report from the Public Service Commissioner. While we have a right to demand from our officials the best service obtainable, we should not allow them to suffer injustice. In my opinion, a junior officer should never be allowed to report upon his senior, knowing that the condemnation of that senior’s methods may lead to his own’ promotion. That would be a very dangerous system to establish. I do not know whether Mr. Dircks had any idea-

Mr Ewing:

– In point of fact, both officers undertook the work under protest.

Mr CARPENTER:

– That is not the point. The question is whether Mr. Dircks was in a position to know that if he condemned his superior officer he would have a chance of being appointed in his place.

Mr Ewing:

– The Postmaster-General informs me that if Mr. Dircks could come back from Western Australia he would be only too glad.

Mr CARPENTER:

– I am- not dealing with the ability of the judges, or of those who are judged, but merely with the method adopted in pronouncing judgment and bringing about condemnation and punishment. If in any private or public employment it became known that the bringing of certain charges against an officer would probably lead to the promotion of his junior preferring them, no person holding a high position would feel secure. I question very much whether the method of “ appointing a Board to inquire into charges such as I have referred to is the best; that could be adopted in the interests of the Public

Service. I consider that the appointment of certain officers to look through the Departments under the charge of other officials, and prepare reports which inferentially condemn the administration, without regard to the difficulties under which the work may have been conducted for some years past, is calculated to create suspicion in the minds of some of our best officers, and convey the impression that thev are not being fairly treated. I am not here to urge any excuse on behalf of the officers in Western Australia ; but I would point out that for the past fifteen years events have marched so rapidly that a great strain has been imposed upon the resources of the Department. Towns have sprung up in a few days, and an immediate demand has arisen for postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities. It has therefore been almost impossible to meet the demands in the same satisfactory way that would have been practicable in other States, where the development has been more slow. It is an easy matter where the growth is normal to prepare to meet demands as thev arise ; but when a new gold-field’ is discovered, and men rush by hundreds and thousands into a locality hitherto uninhabited, it is useless for the heads of the Department to protest that thev cannot grant postal and telegraph facilities because they have not the necessary appliances. They are called upon to do the best they can. and it may be that in many cases the responsible officer has not been to blame because he has not provided1 facilities in keeping with the requirements of the case. That is one possible explanation of the complaints that have been made, and have led to the charges against the officers to whom I have referred. However that may be, the one point to which I wish to direct the attention of the Minister, and which relates to the whole service, is whether some better means could not be devised of raising the standard of efficiency, and of pointing out defects and suggesting improvements in the service. During the last day or two a paragraph has appeared in the newspapers to the effect that the secretary to the Post and Telegraph ‘ Department. Mr. Scott, will possibly be appointed as genera] inspector of the Department.

Mr Wilkinson:

– He is a good man, too.

Mr CARPENTER:

– I think that the proposal is an excellent one. The practice of appointing inspectors is adopted by our large banking institutions, and, to some extent, in other Departments of the Public Service. No officer, in public or private service, is perfect and there are few, ,if any, who would not welcome suggestions with a view to effecting improvements in their methods. It would be a good thing if we could appoint an expert in each divi- sion to occasionally visit the various States and look round, not as a spy, or as an » enemy to the officers in charge, but as a ‘ friend, and suggest any improvements that he may consider desirable. It would be preferable to do this rather than to send officers out to do the work in such a way that those in charge, instead of being helped towards the adoption of a better system, are at once singled out for punishment or removal from office. Speaking from my own experience in the industry which I have followed all my life, I contend that there is not a man in any workshop in the world who would not walk about and find’ fault with the methods adopted bv his fellow workmen, and perhaps suggest improvements. The looker on sees more than the player or worker. A man who for many years has been doing a certain thing in a certain way frequently omits to notice where improvements could be effected, whereas valuable suggestions could readily be made by persons looking on from the outside. If a method such as I have suggested were adopted, it would conduce to greater confidence in our public service, and a better feeling among the officers. I have mentioned this matter again, because I think that the Minister has hardly appreciated the importance of the subject, or the effect it may have upon every branch of our service, if it becomes! known that there is a possibility of a junior officer being brought along to inquire into the work of a superior, and, perhaps, to condemn him, with a knowledge that he will be able to profit by such condemnation. That is the crux of the whole matter. I believe that the Public Service Commissioner would himself admit that a grave danger attaches to such methods of inspection, and I hope that we shall receive from him at least some assurance that it will not be continued.

Mr KELLY:
Wentworth

– I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister representing; the Minister of Defence, a matter which, while, it in no way affects him personally, is one that I think may eventually exercise a very serious effect upon the discipline of the great Department over which he presides.

The Minister knows that the one essential in his Department is discipline, and the only way in which it can be obtained is by an absolutely loyal adherence to the spirit and letter of the regulations governing the Department. If a subordinate officer or man in the Defence Forces transgresses the regulations he is invariably given a very short shrift. Very properly the heads of Departments are firm upholders of the regulations; but if it is necessary for the heads of Departments to insist upon their subordinates upholding those regulations it is all the more essential that they themselves should equally honour them. The matter which I am about to bring under the notice of the Minister is not, in itself, one of a very vital nature, except that it does evidence a disregard for the regulations which no high officer of the Defence Department should exhibit. Today, with, a view to imposing some check upon breaches of the regulations, I asked a number of questions in this House. I asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether there were any regulations dealing with the relations which officers may have with the press, and. if so, whether he would lay a copy of them upon the table of the House. The Minister replied that there were such regulations, and he did lay a copy of them upon the table. I then inquired whether officers were free to grant interviews to the press if they so desired, to which the Minister replied that they were not. I further asked if a certain officer had been granted permission to give information relating to his recent mission to England to a certain newspaper. The Minister replied that he had not been granted such permission. Finally, I asked whether the Minister would take steps to see that there was no recurrence of the episode. His reply forms the subject-matter of my present complaint. He stated that he was not aware that the officer in question had infringed the regulations.

Mr Ewing:

– It was not a wry bad infringement in any case.

Mr KELLY:

– I will read the regulations governing the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth, and allow the Minister himself to be the judge of that. Regulation 163 reads -

Members of the Naval Forces are forbidden to publish or communicate to the press any information -

Any information ! without special authority, either directly or indirectly. They will be held responsible for all statements contained in communications to their friends, which may subsequently be published in the press.

Here was an officer of high standing in the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth actually granting an interview to a representative of the Agc newspaper without special authority - an interview which extended over three-quarters of a column.

Mr Crouch:

– How does the honorable member know that he did it without authority ?

Mr KELLY:

– The Minister has said so. The next regulation bearing upon this matter reads -

They are not to attempt to prejudge questions under investigation by the publication, anonymously or otherwise, of their opinions.

I have been compelled to bring this matter forward because of the Minister’s statement that he is not aware that there has been any transgression of the regulations. Surely he must recognise that it is absolutely essential that all officers of the Defence Department should know that it is not their duty to have any dealings whatever with the press.

Mr Fisher:

– Would the honorable member allow them to hold private conversations which might find their- way into the press ?

Mr KELLY:

– I am merely discussing the regulations at the present moment. The officers themselves must uphold those - regulations if they expect them to be upheld by others.

Mr Fisher:

– If the regulations were absolutely wrong, an officer should obey them.

Mr Lonsdale:

– There should be the same law for the officer as for the private.

Mr KELLY:

– Exactly. My point is that high officers in the Defence Department should not disobey the regulations which they are sworn to administer.

Mr Crouch:

– The regulation to which the honorable member has referred is usually interpreted as meaning “information which is detrimental to the service.”

Mr KELLY:

– I do not think that is so, because it is a very rare occurrence indeed for us to read press interviews with officers. But I ask the honorable and learned member for Corio who is to be the judge of what is detrimental to the service? Is it to be the Government, or are we to allow every officer and private to decide the matter for himself? Obviously, such a regulation would be impossible in its working, because under it every man’ would be the judge of what information if was proper for him to give to the press, and the result would be that in a very short time every secret in the possession of the Defence Department would be at the disposal of every one outside. The next point which I desire to discuss is one in regard to which the Government are distinctly blamable. It is a matter upon which we may justifiably ask for some explanation. As honorable members are aware, during the recess the Government took it upon themselves to send the Naval Director to England for the purpose of gaining certain information. Whilst he was in the mother country it was obviously to the benefit of the Commonwealth that he should gain as much information as possible. My quarrel with the Government is that thev recalled the officer in question without affording him an opportunity of attending the Imperial Naval manoeuvres, which were held this year. That is a point on which I wish the Minister to give a full explanation. The honorable gentleman must recognise that the experience which our Naval Director would have gained by attending the Imperial manoeuvres would have been invaluable to the Commonwealth’.

Mr Salmon:

– How would it be invaluable?

Mr KELLY:

– The honorable member does not seem to think that there is any value in naval manoeuvres.

Mr Salmon:

– Yes, I do.

Mr KELLY:

– I can assure honorable members that attendance at naval manoeuvres is a privilege anxiously sought by sailors in every part of the world.

Mr Salmon:

– What advantage would the Commonwealth gain ?

Mr KELLY:

– At the present time we have a Naval Director who has not for very many years been at sea. He is a very valuable officer, but his value would be enhanced by sea experience.

Mr Glynn:

– Judging by reports, a good many of our officers are always “ at sea “ !

Mr Salmon:

– I suppose the honorable member for Wentworth means experience at sea with the Commonwealth fleet - the Protector, for instance.

Mr KELLY:

– The honorable member for Laanecoorie does not seem to realize that the Naval Director is proposing a scheme of torpedo flotillas for the Commonwealth, and that the combined movement of torpedo craft and large ships of war is one of the most delicate operations in naval manoeuvring. I have been told by naval officers in the Imperial service that they would infinitely rather not have torpedo boats on their side when manoeuvring than have to operate with torpedo boats in the handling of which they had not entire confidence. That, I think, answers the honorable member’s interjection. It is essential, if we are to have torpedo flotillas - and I am opposed to them - that the commander should at least have had some recent knowledge of naval manoeuvres. The Naval Director had an opportunity while in. England to attend the Imperial manoeuvres, and I think the Government did not act wisely in recalling Captain Creswell so soon. The Minister knows that Captain Creswell was invited, and actually accepted the invitation ; and yet we find him hastily recalled, and missing an invaluable opportunity to fit himself for his high office. To turn to another subject, will the Government take into their serious consideration the advisability of instituting in Australia some examination similar, or corresponding, to the English examination for “ tactical fitness to command “ ? It is now the avowed intention of the Government - and I have no quarrel whatever with that avowed policy as expressed - to give “ preference “ to Australians in all appointments in the Australian service. I say, advisedly, “ preference to Australians,” not the employment of Australians exclusively.

Mr Ewing:

– Preference to Australians, provided they are fit.

Mr KELLY:

– Provided they are fit. The only way in which we can make our officers fit to hold the high positions to which they aspire is to call upon them to pass the highest and stiffest examination extant. Some of our appointments’ are extremely important. Take, for instance, the high office of Inspector-General. It has been lately urged in the press that the appointment is not an Executive appointment in the technical sense, but an appointment more of a> staff nature than anything else. But I refer honorable members to the explanation of the late Minister of Defence, on the 2nd November, 1904, in this House, as to one of the probable duties of the Inspector-General. The present Treasurer had asked the then Minister of Defence who would take charge of the Forces in time of war, and the reply was -

In time of war the man who should be placed in command of our Forces is the man who knows, so to speak, the individual capacity of the members of the Defence Forces. The man who knows what the officers can do, and what the men can do, is the man who should command, because he knows to what extent he can try them. The man who best knows that is the Inspector-General. Therefore, he would be Commander-in-Chief in time of war.

The then Minister of Defence meant to qualify, and, I think, afterwards did qualify, that statement by saying that the InspectorGeneral would probably be CommanderinChief. There, we see, an enormous responsibility which may devolve on the Inspector-General in time of need. Knowing that he will have to incur, in all probability, that enormous responsibility, it is not too much to ask the Government to be extremely careful to see that Australian officers have an opportunity to pass such an examination as will fit them to undertake it.

Mr Crouch:

– The suggested InspectorGeneral for Australia has passed much more severe examination’s than has the English officer in a similar position.

Mr KELLY:

– I do not wish to deal with persons or personalities ; this is entirely a question of general policy. I think the best method - and honorable members will see the force of what I say - would be for the Ministry to consider the matter in their corporate capacity. It is not the fault of Australian officers that th’ey have not passed such examinations, and they may take it as some bar in the way of their progress that there are examinations of the kind in other parts of the world.

Mr Salmon:

– Some of the biggest failures are those who have passed the examinations.

Mr KELLY:

– And some of the worst fools are those who have not passed them. The remark of the honorable member for Laanecoorie is one made in regard to all professional examinations - that examinations are a test not of ability, but of knowledge. We may find fools passing the examinations - that is, people who are clever only at examinations - but, on the other hand, the men who cannot pass them have not the knowledge requisite for high office. If an officer has not the knowledge on paper he will not have it on the field. , The examination, for practical fitness to command! is an examination of more than a man’s mental fitness and understanding. I know I am speaking vaguely ; and I only wish I had the papers before me. At any rate, all officers of the Imperial service^ who aspire to positions of any importance, are asked to pass that examination.

Mr Crouch:

– And so are officers in Australia.

Mr KELLY:

– Australian officers are not examined in “ tactical fitness to command.”

Mr Crouch:

– All above the rank of major have to pass the examination.

Mr KELLY:

– They have to pass for lieutenant-colonel.

Mr Crouch:

– That includes practical fitness to command.

Mr Salmon:

– What is the point of this particular examination?

Mr KELLY:

– It is a more severe examination than that for lieutenant-colonel. It deals not only with the manoeuvring of large bodies of men, but with questions of supply and so forth; it is really an important examination which fits a, man to hold an independent command.

Mr Crouch:

– That examination deals with the manoeuvring of a regiment, whereas the Australian examination deals with the manoeuvring of a brigade, which is higher still.

Mr KELLY:

– That is not the point. The examination, in England is, I understand, to test a man’s fitness to exercise an independent command. An officer in command of a brigade may very easily be a subordinate officer; indeed!, in most cases I think he is.

Mr Crouch:

– Subordinate to whom?

Mr KELLY:

– To the General commanding a division or whatever the force is.

Mr Crouch:

– We have no divisions in Australia.

Mr KELLY:

– The honorable member is surely rather exaggerating the unimportance of the Australian forces, if he means that a brigade is the full strength that will be ever placed in the field.

Mr Crouch:

– We have never, at any time, drilled as divisions in Australia.

Mr KELLY:

– That does not in any way get rid of the fact that if ever our forces are to go into the field, and to be of any use, it must be in greater strength than one brigade. However, I do not wish to be led into an academic discussion on a subject in which the honorable member is proficient. I was going to deal with those who had risen to high positions before it was necessary to pass an examination for lieutenant-colonel, but, perhaps, it might be invidious to say anything on the subject. I think we may take it for the moment that the officers who have qualified under the old system are fully capable to fill their positions. For my part, I should prefer to think that the Australian officers already in the Forces are worthy in all respects, but the suggestion I am making is intended for Ministerial consideration in order that the status of Australian officers may, if possible, be improved.

Mr Salmon:

– The late General Officer Commanding promoted all these officers.

Mr KELLY:

– I do not wish to question their general competence to hold their positions.

Mr Salmon:

– The honorable member could not very well do so, in face of the promotions made by Major-General Hutton.

Mr KELLY:

– One might do so in some cases, but I have no wish to go into contentious matters.

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

– How is it that these honorable members have all swung round to Colonel Hoad?

Mr KELLY:

– I hope that honorable members will not mention any names.

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

– I have a recollection of Colonel Hoad being criticised by some of these honorable members.

Mr Crouch:

– The honorable member should not point to me. I have always regarded Colonel Hoad as a most efficient officer.

Mr KELLY:

– When his name was mentioned in this House 1 said that, from what I had heard, I thought he was a very excellent staff officer, although I did not think he was good enough for this appointment.

Mr Salmon:

– I had in mind an officer in New South Wales, who could not pass the examination for a lieutenant.colonelcy. but was promoted by MajorGeneral Hutton.

Mr KELLY:

– I am not questioning any one of those statements, but I had hoped that honorable members would not view these matters from the provincial standpoint of Vittoria or New South Wales. I merely make this suggestion for the consideration of the Minister. The Cabinet should consider thees questions, and. except so far as technical matters are con cerned, should not be guided therein by the advice of officers who have not passed these high examinations.

Mr CROUCH:
Corio

.- This is the first time during the present session that I have claimed the attention of the House on grievance day. I rise now to refer to a grievance which is almost five years old. It relates to the case of a lady who claims to be the designer of the Australian flag. It appears that at the exhibition organized by the Barton Government, at which the prize for the best design for an Australian flag was awarded, the exhibit of this lady, owing to some oversight, did not secure the recognition to which it was entitled. The name of the lady in question is Mrs. Rose Shankland Knight, wife of Mr. Andrew T. Knight, State-school teacher. Prior to the Government exhibition a competition was promoted by the Herald, and Mrs. Knight sent in the design of a flag which was identical in all respects with that subsequently adopted by the Commonwealth, on the advice of experts, as the national emblem. This design was shown by Mrs. Knight to Colonel Williams, editor of the Ballarat Courier, who commissioned his chief reporter, Mr. Cotton, to interview her, and subsequently, after the Australian flag had been selected bv the Barton Government, sent to compliment her. Mrs. Knight has written several letters asking that her claim, not for the money prize, but for the honour of being the designer of the Australian flag, should be recognised, but has received’ no acknowledgment. She is able to produce, if desired bv the Government - and I presume that thev would like to ascertain who was really the designer of our national emblem - a .copy of the interview between herself and the reporter from the Ballarat Courier, as well as the notes made bv Mr. Cotton, and a communication from Colonel Williams, and also the evidence of people who know she sent in her design to the Herald competition Perhaps the best course I can pursue is to communicate with the Minister of External Affairs to see if he cannot acknowledge Mrs. Knight’s claim to be the designer of the Australian flag.

Mr Ewing:

– Will the honorable and learned member give me the lady’s name and address “later on.

Mr CROUCH:

– I shall do so.

Mr Ewing:

– Very well, I shall have the claim investigated.

Mr CROUCH:

– Another matter to which I desire to refer relates to the Department of Trade and Customs. In consequence of the number of hides and sheep skins now exported from the Commonwealth, many fellmongers here experienced great difficulty in finding employment at their trade. These exports have affected the fellmongery trade to such an extent that a lot of fellmongery yards and sheep skins basil factories have been closed. I do not know whether a remedy is to be found in the Anti-Trust Bill which has left our hands, or whether it is provided by a section of the Customs Act, which prohibits certain exports. I have no desire to interfere with our export trade, but in a matter of this kind we must have regard for the greatest good to the greatest number. When I find that the export of hides is assuming such large dimensions owing to the labour available for their treatment in foreign countries, being 50 per cent, cheaper than that obtainable here, I cannot help thinking that the matter is one of which the Department should take some notice. It appears that the hides exported from the Commonwealth in 1905 were of the value of £3,879,398, the exports from Victoria alone being of the value of £1,152,583. In 1901 the hands employed in the fellmongery trade totalled 1,831; in 1903 they had fallen away to 1,640, and in 1905 there were only 1,000 so employed. These figures show a decrease of 831 hands in less than five years. Let me give a few figures relating to the Geelong factories. It is from information supplied by the local men that I am able to present these statistics to the House. There were 745 men employed in the Geelong tanneries in 1899-1900, and now there are only 78. In Connor’s tannery there used to be 30 hands ; there are now only three ; in Mun.day’s tannery there were 65 hands employed, there are now only 15 ; in the Australian Tannery Company’s yards there were 60 men employed, there are now only 25 ; in Gardiner’s tannery there were 30 hands employed, but there are now only 15; whilst Douglas and Company had fellmongery yards employing 60 men, but are now employing none in that branch of labour. The value of the leather manufactured in Victoria between 1899 and 1903 fell off to the extent of £77,512. A return furnished by . the Department shows that in the year’s 1901-2-3, the Commonwealth exported 20,300,000 sheep skins, valued at £3,091,811, and 894,393 hides, valued at £787,587. In 1904, 4,338,962 sheep skins and hides, to the value of £100,610, were exported; whilst in I9°5» 7,52 I,000 sheep skins and 171,173 hides were shipped. To quote a writer, Mr. E. Plumridge, a great authority on this question -

These sheep skins and hides are exported to foreign countries, such as France, Germany, and Belgium. The wages paid in those countries averaging fully 50 per cent, less than in Australia, and the hours worked being very much longer.

It appears that the wages paid in Belgium average from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 2d. per day of ten hours, whilst the wages paid in Australia would be 6s. per day. In addition to these difficulties, the industry has to compete against the fact that these hides are taken as ballast in ships which are subsidized by foreign Governments. A bonus is also paid by these Governments to vessels conveying the largest number in a given time. I am told that some of these facts have been brought before the Tariff Commission.

Mr Fuller:

– We went thoroughly into the matter.

Mr CROUCH:

– I hope that there is a possibility of obtaining a report from the Commission which will give some satisfaction to the industry. Something needs to be done when out of twenty yards which were being used some years ago only six are now engaged in the industry. I find that other countries have met this difficulty. I myself wrote in reference to the subject, at the request of some of my constituents, to the Consul-General for the Argentine Republic in Sydney. I have not received a reply from him, but I have here a letter which .gives an account of an interview with the Consul for the Argentine in reference to the subject. The letter is from the manager of the Australasian Leather Trades Review. He says -

Dear Sir, - In accordance with your request, I interviewed the Consul for the Argentine Republic, and although he is not in a position to fully answer the questions contained in your letter, the following information relative to the export duty on hides, skins, and wool, and the average prices realized for those articles, should be of interest. By the Tariff regulations of the Argentine Republic, the price for adjusting duties on cow hides is fixed at 6£d. per lb., and the export tax is id. per lb. On salted hides the duty is £d. per lb. Sheep skins (lambs, dirty and washed, in whatever condition, quality, or price), are valued for the Tariff purposes at <td. per lb., and the duty is 3/4 of a farthing, the same figures being applic able to salted sheep skins. Wool is valued at 41/2 per lb., and the duty levied is the same ason sheep skins. The average prices realized at the end of 1905 for sheep skins and salted hides were as follows : - Sheep skins, full wooled, first quality,91/2d. per lb. ; second quality,9d. per lb. ; inferior,8d. per lb. Cross breds - first quality, rod. per lb. ; medium, 91/2d. per lb. ; irregular, 9d. per lb. Hides (salted), 47/8d. to 51/2d. per lb. The Consul for the Argentine cannot state when these export duties were introduced, consequently we were unable to institute a comparison between the prices ruling prior to the duties being imposed, and those in force at present. In our next issue we are publishing a full report of the proceedings before the Tariff Commission, when evidence was tendered by Mr. James Munday, Mr. Palmer, and yourself .

I am told that the imposition of these export duties has not had the effect of decreasing the price of skins at the place of shipment. The duty has been paid by the exporter. If that be so, seeing that our fellmongers have lost their employment, and that the tanners have suffered so largely, I think that the Government might give favorable consideration to the proposal to impose an export duty. That could be done, in my belief, without injury or loss of price to those who export skins, whilst it would give employment to a large body of men who otherwise would materially suffer. It is a great national question to which at a later time I hope the House will give full and just consideration.

Mr LONSDALE:
New England

– I desireto make a few remarks with respect to the removal of postmasters. Two or three cases have come under my notice which indicate a want of care and judgment.

Mr.Ewing. - The honorable member knows that the matter is under the control of the Public Service Commissioner.

Mr LONSDALE:

– -Yes; but our criticisms may be conveyed to him.

Mr Ewing:

– I will see that they are.

Mr LONSDALE:

– I know of a case where a postmaster has been removed because his salary was higher than that which is considered to be appropriate to the office which he occupied. But if that office were re-graded to-day, it would be found that the business has so much increased that the Department would be justified in retaining the postmaster. He does not wish to be removed, the people in the neighbourhood do not wish him to go, he satisfies the Department, and the only reason given for his removal is that the Public Service Com missioner considers that his salary is too high for the office, stating that he can only re-grade offices every five years. It appears to me to be absurd to remove a man from an office in the position I have indicated, because it is a rule of the Department to re-grade offices only every five years. I know of another case of an opposite character. A post-office is situated in a growing district, and the business has advanced so greatly, the office has become so important, that the grade of the present postmaster is too low for it. He was placed in that office for reasons of health. The health of his family has improved, and lie is satisfied to remain where he is, but the Department insists on his being removed, because the office has advanced beyond his grade. However, he is being removed to another progressive district, where, again, the office may grow beyond his grade. If an officer is not likely to improve in his grade, the Department should not remove him to another advancing district, but to one of a more stationary character. But to remove an officer to a progressive district, where the grade of the office is likely to go up, and then to remove him somewhere else, is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth. It involves an expenditure of public money which ought not to take place. This proceeding should be inquired into. No doubt it has not been brought under the notice of the Commissioner.

Mr Ewing:

– The honorable member knows that every officer has the right of appeal, and that until the appeal is decided he will not be removed.

Mr LONSDALE:

– I suggest that, quite apart from the officer himself, these removals should be made on some system. In the end, of course, officers must go whither they are told. The common-sense method I have indicated should be adopted. In many of these cases promotion is dependent upon the report of a superior officer. I admit at once that it is a very difficult position to deal with ; but cases have come under my notice where there can be no doubt that the reports of superior officers standing in the way of promotion have not been fair. I have no doubt that these reports are prejudiced. The Commissioner should look into the system, and devise a means of checking the reports of superior officers. I recognise that it is very difficult to get a perfect system. Until we get some officers of unusually perfect human nature we are not likely to attain perfection in these matters. A number of cases have come under my notice which I am not at liberty to mention. If I were to mention the factsthey would support my representation, but I should be giving away the case of the officers concerned. I am speaking with a full knowledge of all the facts, and 1 have no doubt that it is prejudice on the part of superior officers which stands in the way of certain officers getting to a higher grade. . I am not one who would seek to use influence or. behalf of an officer, because I hold that the less we interfere in these matters the better ; but where I believe that a wrong is being done, I am prepared to stand by an officer with all the strength I possess. That is the attitude which I have always taken up. I do not believe in helping men who cannot advance ontheir own merits,and want a lot of assistance. It is a mistake and a wrong to interfere on behalf of such men. But where officers are being injured, throughno fault of their own, where they are being prevented from getting promotion by the prejudice of a. superior officer, they are entitled to assistance. Some system of checking the reports of superior officers should be discovered. It must be clear to every one that military and naval officers should be compelled to obey the regulations in just the same way as are privates. Where a deliberate breach of the regulations is brought before the Minister he should deal with the officer, or, at any rate, he should get the case dealt with by the proper Board.

Mr Ewing:

– There are degrees of offence.

Mr LONSDALE:

– I quite admit that, but strange to say it is not considered that there are many degrees of offence when a private is the offender. As a rule, he is dropped upon pretty heavily. It appears that degrees of offence are considered only in the case of higher officers.

Mr Ewing:

– That ought not to be the case.

Mr LONSDALE:

– Exactly,. The House should insist upon fair treatment being meted out to officers and privates alike. Do not punish an officer in a certain way because he is an officer, or a private in a certain way because he is a private, but mete out equal treatment to all ranks.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– Is not that done now?

Mr LONSDALE:

– I do not think so. Evidently, there is one officer who has committed a breach of the regulations ; but, so far as I know, he has not been called to book. He may be a very valuable officer, but, nevertheless, he ought to be dealt with. I think that he should have a chance of defending himself. If he can prove that he has not broken the regulations, that is another matter..

Mr Ewing:

– It was not a very dreadful offence; but the less talking there is the better.

Mr LONSDALE:

– If a soldier or a member of the Naval Brigade had gone to the press and revealed some information, what would have been done with him? Would the offence have been regarded as trifling when committed by a private as it apparently is when committee by an officer? The offence is really greater when it is committed by an officer. What is the use of the Minister suggesting that, in this instance, there was a trifling offence? Either it was an offence, or it was not. The punishment should be greater for the officer than the private, but, strange to say, it is always the opposite. I understand from the press that the Naval Director did not remain to attend the naval manoeuvres.

Mr Kelly:

– He did not return against the will of the Ministry, surely !

Mr LONSDALE:

– I understand from the press that the Naval Director came back without being recalledby his superior officer - that is, the Minister.

Mr Kelly:

– Does the honorable member mean to say that this officer forewent the privilege of attending the naval manoeuvres ? What reason can there be for his returning?

Mr LONSDALE:

– I do not know. I cannot peer into the mind of theofficer, but I understand that he did not attend the naval manoeuvres. The Minister can say whether the officer was asked! to come back. If he was not recalled, why did he return? I understood that the Minister intended him to go to the manoeuvres. A great deal has been said about the necessity for our having Australian officers. If that be so, surely our officers shouldgo to those expositions, which are calculated to give them the best information and training. Like myself, my sons and daughters are all Australian, and sick of hearing the cry of preference to Australians. If Australians can show that they are better officers, they have a right to preference. Every Australian, I think, has a right to get a position upon his merits. But if an Australian is not the best man available, he has no right to get an appointment merely because of his place of birth. The sooner we stop this silly talk about having only Australian officers, and appointing men to various positions solely because they are Australians, the better it will be for Australia. In my opinion, these remarks are degrading, to Australians.

Mr Brown:

– The complaint has been made that there has been a preference against Australians.

Mr LONSDALE:

– There should be no preference against Australians. I should always be ready to stand by a man if a preference against him had been shown. Let us have straightforward competition, and if Australians can succeed by their merits in getting to the top, let them do so ; if they cannot, let them take the positions which their abilities entitle them to hold. Men should not be appointed to positions merely because they have been born in this part of the world.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– Would the honorable member employ a German officer because he was said to be better than an Australian officer ?

Mr LONSDALE:

– No; because at any time Germany may be at war with Great Britain, and Australia would be concerned in such a war. But is Australia ever likely to be at war with Great Britain ? These are the remarks that are made by men who profess to be in favour of giving a preference to Great Britain. It makes my blood boil when men ask for preference from Great Britain, and, at the same time, take up the miserable position that we should not appoint British officers to positions for which they are better qualified than are our own citizens. Why do not honorable members recognise that Australia is part of the Empire? When it is merely a matter of speaking from public platforms, they are great supporters of the Empire; but when they should give help to the Empire, they try only to get asmuch as they can for themselves.

Mr Salmon:

– About whom is the honorable member speaking?

Mr LONSDALE:

– About the honorable member, and others who take the same course.

Mr Salmon:

– The honorable member has no right to say these things.

Mr LONSDALE:

– My statements are absolutely true. The other night a member of the Opposition, because he wished to allow British goods to be imported into Australia, was told by an honorable member supporting the Government that he was not an Australian. That shows the contemptible feeling which honorable members opposite have in regard to Great Britain.

Mr Salmon:

– I understand that the honorable member has declared that I, with others, talk about the Empire, but that when anything is required from us, we try only to get as much as we can from ,the Empire, without giving anything in return. I consider that statement a gross reflection upon my loyalty, and in utter contradiction of my relations with the Empire, and I think that it should be withdrawn.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– Surely the honorable member does not take the speech seriously ?

Mr Salmon:

– These statements go into the press, and do harm.

Mr SPEAKER:

– If the honorable member for Laanecoorie considers the remarks of the honorable member for New England offensive, I ask the latter to withdraw them.

Mr LONSDALE:

– I bow to your ruling, sir, and withdraw them. I do not know that I can say what I really mean on this subject and be in order. Speaking about British officers, and our treatment of the Empire-

Mr Salmon:

– Australian officers are British officers, too. Why does the honorable member discriminate between them ?

Mr LONSDALE:

– A number of honorable gentlemen, if they could prevent it, would not allow any one not born in Australia to hold a position here. They should not try to escape from the consequences of statements by raising quibbles. There may be Australian officers who are better than English officers.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– Is the honorable member a military expert, too?

Mr LONSDALE:

– No. What I wish to say is that if we have officers who are better than or equal to officers born in other parts of the Empire, they should be appointed to vacant positions ; but preference should not be given to any man merely because ‘he is an Australian. Every man should be dealt with on his merits, and, in the matter of appointments, it should be neither an advantage nor a disadvantage to a candidate to be an Australian. Qualifications alone should be considered. In my opinion!, it would have been a good thing if Captain Creswell had been able to attend the manoeuvres. I understood the honorable member for Laanecoorie to say that his attendance would not have done much good, and to interject that some of the biggest failures in the British Army had done well at examinations.

Mr Salmon:

– I did not say that Captain Creswell’s attendance at the manoeuvres would not have done him good.

Mr LONSDALE:

– Every one knows that ability to pass an examination is ‘not necessarily a proof of fitness for a position. It mav only show the possession of a good memory. There are doctors who, having brilliantly passed examinations, are not successful in the treatment of patients, while other medical men who have not done well at examinations have been very successful in their practice. But those facts would not justify us in abolishing medical examinations, or in declaring that those who have not passed examinations are better than those who have done so. Examinations are a test of knowledge, and should^ as far as possible, be practical. If our officers can take part in naval or military manoeuvres, they thereby gain a training which they would otherwise be without, and I think that if Captain Creswell could have remained for the English manoeuvres he should not have been recalled, or, if he was not recalled, he had no right to return. I do not wish to discuss the Tariff, but I feel bound to express my disgust at what has been said regarding the fellmongers’ grievance. In Victoria, whenever there are two or three men who are not doing well, some Member of Parliament comes forward to champion their cause, and an attempt is made to lay the great primary industries of the Commonwealth under tribute to give them assistance. That is the result of the’ political training of the people of this State. Fast legislation has taken all the grit out of them, so that they now -wish to be shielded from every wind that blows, and to be protected from competition of every kind. The other day there was a great howl in the Victorian newspapers because of the action of the Geelong Harbor Trust in buying some barges in Tasmania. I cannot imagine anything more contemptible than that. Let us develop a stronger and nobler spirit, and divest ourselves of that intense selfishness which would sacrifice the interests of the community at large for the sake of affording a few days’ employment to a certain section of workmen. Why should one of our primary industries be sacrificed for the sake of a few fellmongers? The people who buy our wool wish to treat it in their own way, and they should’ be at perfect liberty to do so. Why should we reduce the price of one of our staple products by retaining it here? I hope that the Minister will take a note of my remarks with regard to the postmaster to whose case I referred, and that he will make inquiries into the matter.

Mr SALMON:
Laanecoorie

.- I am very loth to say anything, upon an occasion of this kind, but I feel that the extraordinary remarks of the honorable member for New England regarding the party to which I belong call for some protest. One is often staggered to learn from the newspapers that the most remarkable ideas are held concerning the views expressed by honorable members of this House, but I think that such speeches as that to which we have just listened are primarily responsible for any misapprehension that may exist. The honorable member has stated that the members of a certain party in this Parliament were so utterly selfish, so completely blind to the benefits that have been showered upon us by the motherland’, and altogether so unjust and unfair, that they were prepared to disregard ability and merit and to give preference to an applicant for any position, merely because he happened to be an Australian. I contend that that is an absolute travesty of the view held by honorable members on this side of the House.

Mr Lonsdale:

– I accept the responsibility for all those statements.

Mr SALMON:

– I freely acquit the honorable member of any blame, because I do not believe that he realizes what he has been saying. I deeply sympathize with him.

Mr Lonsdale:

– I sympathize with the honorable member.

Mr SALMON:

– I do not seek to induce the honorable member to alter his opinions, because I recognise that that would be hopeless. I do not ask the honorable member to qualify or withdraw anything that he has said concerning the party to which I belong, because I realize that it is impossible to change his present frame of mind. I am proud to belong to the party which holds the view that if an Australian is as fit as any other applicant for a position in Australia, he is entitled to the preference.

Mr Lonsdale:

– I say that too.

Mr SALMON:

– I arn not prepared to go beyond that. I think that what I have stated should be sufficient to dispose of the honorable member’s attempt to ally me with any party having such ignoble aims and such unworthy motives as he has indicated.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

.- The honorable’ member has evidently misapprehended the remarks which fell from the honorable member for New England. All honorable members on this side of the House can heartily indorse the view that he ‘nas just put forward. We object, however, to the attempt that is being made by some of those who utter the cry of “ Australia for the Australians,” to limit our choice in the selection of our militaryofficers to those of purely Australian birth. We think that if that spirit is acted1 upon, it will be detrimental to the best interests of the service of the people of the Commonwealth, and of the Empire. We should ii, dee applicants according to their merit and anility quite regardless of their place of birth.

Mr Bamford:

– How are we to judge unless we have an opportunity of examining the applicants?

Mr JOHNSON:

– Examination is one of the tests that should be applied. But some of those who utter the cry “ Australia for the Australians” apparently hold that Australians alone should be permitted to become applicants for positions amongst us, and that all others, even though thev might be more capable, should be excluded from the possibility of obtaining appointments. It seems to me that some people utter the cry “Australia for the Australians “ in order to thinly disguise their disloyalty to the mother country.

Mr Webster:

– That is unfair.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I do not say that that applies to the honorable member. He cannot speak for every one. I do not reflect upon any honorable member of this House, but I maintain that the cry “ Australia for the Australians “ has been used for the specific purpose I have indicated. Those of us who believe in lovalty to the mother country and to Australia, strong! v resent the manifestation of any such spirit as I have referred to. Loyalty to the mother country does not involve disloyalty to Australia. The lesser is included in the greater.

Mr Webster:

– Which is the greater?

Mr JOHNSON:

– Loyalty to the Empire, of which Australia is a part. We can best show our loyalty to Australia by being loyal to the Empire as a whole. Many of those who utter the cry “ Australia for the Australians “ should reflect that if there were anything in it thev would have no right to be here, because Australia should have been left to the aboriginals. If their fathers and mothers had not come from the motherland, they would not have had the privilege of calling themselves Australians. If it had not been for the enterprise, courage, and colonizing capabilities of those who preceded us in Australia, many of those amongst us would not have been here. I am not speaking for myself, because my parents did not come to Australia. The cry of “ Australia for the Australians “ is uttered by many persons who would exclude from participation in the benefits we enjoy those of our own kith and kin who live in other parts of the Empire. I have no sympathy with that kind of spirit. If we should preserve Australia for the Australians, to be logical we ought to argue that this country should never have been taken from its original inhabitants. Consequently, we should regard ourselves as intruders and interlopers. The mere accident of birth-place ought not to impel us to prevent persons coming here from the mother country to assist us in building up a great nation. Personally, I welcome, every member of our own race who will come to Australia, and help us to establish a new Britain in the southern seas. I infinitely prefer the cry of “Australia for the Empire “ to that of “Australia for the Australians.” It is a very much grander and nobler cry. I have no desire to dwell upon this subject, but, as the question has been raised, it is just as well that there should be np misapprehension regarding the attitude of honorable members upon this side of the House, who have adversely criticised this absurdly narrow and selfish sentiment. The doctrine of “Australia for the Australians “ is essentially a dangerous one in connexion with the administration of our military and naval Forces. Upon the efficiency of those services may depend the lives and property of many thousands of our people. It is of paramount importance that we should secure the best possible men for positions of responsibility in our Defence Forces. Reference has been made by the honorable member for Wentworth to the return of Captain Creswell from England at this particular juncture. Probably the Minister representing the Minister of Defence is in a position to tell the House the reasons for that officer’s sudden return. Was he recalled by the Government, or did he come back of his own volition? It seems most peculiar that, after having received and accepted an invitation to attend the British naval manoeuvres, in June last - where he might have gained knowledge of the utmost value - he should suddenly have decided to hasten back to Australia. The invitation which was extended to him should have been regarded as a very great compliment to Australia, and it seems to me that in neglecting to avail himself of it, a slight, almost amounting to an insult, was offered to the British authorities. If he returned to the Commonwealth of his own volition, I think that the House is entitled to be furnished with the reasons for his action. If, on the contrary, he was recalled at the instance of the Government, we are equally entitled to know the motive which actuated them. I am not aware of anything of an urgent character to account for his sudden return. Perhaps the Minister can offer some satisfactory explanation of this peculiar circumstance. He may also be aware that in military and naval circles there are rumours current that there were reasons for Captain Creswell’s sudden return, which, so far, have been kept in the back-ground. I am in possession of some private information upon the subject - information which I am not at liberty to disclose here. I do hope that the Minister will see his way clear to give the House some explanation of this matter. Captain Creswell is an absolute stranger to me, and, consequently, I am not making these observations from motives of a personal character, but merely from a desire to gain reliable information. Another matter to which I wish to direct attention has reference to the regrading of some of the post-offices’ in New South Wales. I do not know how the scheme which is being carried out affects Victoria and the other States, but I do know that in some parts of New South Wales this regrading - involving as it does the transfer of postmasters from one district to another- may seriously dis- organize the work connected’, with the forthcoming elections. In some cases these postmasters are returning officers and eelctoral registrars. The trouble is that new men taking up their duties - although they may be familiar with the routine work in other districts - are unacquainted with the officers with whom they will have to deal in the conduct of the elections. I refer to such officers as poll clerks. This is a very important matter.

Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– It has not been lost sight of.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I have already suggested to the Postmaster-General that it might be advisable - where these postmasters are performing electoral duties - to delay their transfer till after the’ general election:

Mr Ewing:

– That might be a solution of the difficulty.

Mr JOHNSON:

– Of course, it would not be a solution of the difficulty in all cases. It would, however, certainly do away with the risk of seriously disorganizing the work of the elections. Notwithstanding the representations which have been made, I am aware that in one or two cases men occupying these positions have received notice of their appointment to other offices.

Mr Ewing:

– If they have made any protest the consideration of the appeals will occupy some time.

Mr JOHNSON:

– If the consideration of the appeals will extend over the interval between this and the close of the elections, such a delay would, of course, make all .the difference, so far as the work of the forthcoming ; elections is concerned. I have a matter connected with promotions to refer to. I have no desire to mention names, as I do not care to treat these cases as personal matters, but a special case has been brought under my notice - that of a man who has a very delicate wife, and a couple of children who are attending superior schools. One of the children, I understand, is going up for a somewhat stiff examination. This man is being removed to a country office many miles inland, and in a climate which is admittedly unhealthy. The man’s wife is so delicate that she requires to consult her medical adviser more or less frequently, and he has certified that the climate will be absolutely dangerous to her health if she is removed to this place. It is 30 miles from the nearest doctor, and in such a place it would be impossible for his wife to get the medical attention necessary in her case. There is no superior school in the district to which the man could send his children, and, having spent a good sum of money on their education, with a view that one of them should take certain honours, it is hard that the father should be compelled to remove to this bush place, where it will be impossible for his children to pursue their studies as they are able to do at present. The salary attached to the office is insufficient to enable the officer to permit his wife and children to remain in Sydney, or to send his children to a boarding-school. lt seems to me that it should be possible to arrange transfers which would not entail inconveniences such as these. It might be possible to find amongst unmarried men of robust constitution persons who would be eligible for these isolated posts, and to whom public schools’ and doctors are not matters of any great importance.

Mr Webster:

– There are scores of men with delicate wives in worse positions in the country who for years have been anxiously awaiting removal.

Mr JOHNSON:

– Admittedly. I have no desire to interfere with the early removal of such officers ito more suitable places. I merely suggest that in making these exchanges, if possible, a selection should be made from single men of robust constitution to fill such places as the officer in question is to be removed to. The suggestion, is one which I think may well be brought .under the notice of the Minister, that it may be submitted to the Commissioner for adoption, if possible.

Mr FULLER:
Illawarra

– There are one or two matters to which I should like to refer before the debate closes. Statements of a very serious character have been made in connexion with the recant visit to England of Captain Creswell. It has been asserted by several honorable members that this officer deliberately left England without taking advantage of an excellent opportunity afforded him to witness the naval manoeuvres about’ to take place there, and that he came back to Australia without being recalled by his Minister. In the circumstances it appears to me that the matter is one of so serious a character that, if the Minister does not give a satisfactory answer to the statements made, the adjournment of the House should be moved in order to deal ‘ with it. I trust that the Minister will be able to give a satisfactory answer to the statements which have been made by honorable members, and to statements to the same effect which have appeared in the press of the Commonwealth. About a fortnight ago I directed the attention of the Postmaster-General to a condition of affairs in the Sydney Post Office, which for a long time past has been causing inconvenience to thousands of people in that city. I refer to the state of the principal lift in the office. It is over five months since that lift got out of order, andi,, although I drew attention to the matter a fortnight ago, when I had occasion, the day before yesterday. to go to the post-office in connexion with the business of my constituency, I still found the notice, “ Lift not working.” From inquiries I made it would appear that from lot to 150 persons use that lift daily when it is in working order. Thousands of persons must therefore have ‘been inconvenienced’ during the time it has not been working. The fact that the principal lift in the Sydney Post Office, where so much business is transacted, should be allowed to remain out of order for over five months, is certainly a disgrace to the Department.

Mr Ewing:

– Was not something said concerning the matter a week or two ago?

Mr FULLER:

– Yes, I asked the PostmasterGeneral a question on the subject, and the honorable gentleman said that he would make inquiries. When I visited the Sydney Post Office the day before yesterday, I found that nothing had been done, and the lift was still closed. The VicePresident of the Executive Council was in charge of the Post Office Department for some time during the last four or five , months, and I think the honorable gentleman ought to discover who is to blame in connexion with this matter.

Mr Ewing:

– I shall send a wire on the subject to-morrow. *

Mr FULLER:

– Another matter to which I should like to direct attention was the subject of a question yesterday bv the honorable and’ learned member for Parkes. I refer to the removal of telegraphic instruments from the Royal Exchange, Sydney. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is aware that the Royal Exchange is situated in one of the most important business centres of Sydney. It is in the midst of the big warehouses, and close to the wool warehouses on Circular Quay. The telegraphic instruments provided at the Exchange were a convenience, not only to the commercial people employed in the immediate vicinity, but to hundreds of country people visiting Sydney in connexion with the wool sales.

Mr Ewing:

– What has happened?

Mr FULLER:

– The instruments have been taken away, and no telegrams can be sent from that office.

Mr Ewing:

– Not from the Exchange post-office?

Mr FULLER:

– I am informed that telegrams are not accepted there, but have to be sent to the General Post Office. I feel sure that the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, and also the Minister of Trade and Customs, both of whom know the position of the place, much recognise the necessity for keeping that office available to the public for the sending of telegrams.

Mr Ewing:

– There surely must be some mistake.

Mr FULLER:

– Under such circumstances, it is no wonder that Commonwealth representatives of New South Wales cannot walk down the street without being met by business people and others who complain of “Melbourne rule.” The people have found out that there is a great difference as between the administration now and the administration when the Post and Telegraph Department was controlled by the local authorities. The feeling which I have indicated is a growing one; and Ministers ought to do all in their power to see that it is removed, because it only tends to produce irritation and ill-feeling between the people of New South Wales and the people of other parts of the Commonwealth. I should like to refer to another matter connected with my own constituency. During the absence of the Postmaster-General in Europe, I drew the attention of the Minister administering the Department to the lack of telephone facilities in the important centre of Bulli. The Minister representing the Postmaster-General is a native of the district, and knows it to be one of the most important coal-mining centres in Australia. Some considerable time ago the PostmasterGeneral agreed that a telephone exchange should be established there, and I may mention that it was to be established on the toll system. Mr. Nelson, the Chief Electrician of the Department in Sydney, visited Bulli and met the residents; when the difference between the two systems had been explained, it was unanimously agreed to adopt the toll system. I have not been able to ascertain all the facts, but, for some reason or other, although this meeting took place long before the PostmasterGeneral went to Europe, the telephone exchange is not yet in working order. A very large amount of business is done at Bulli, and the Minister knows the necessity there is for quick communication with Sydney and other parts of New South Wales.

Mr Ewing:

– I thought the exchange had been constructed.

Mr FULLER:

– So did I until the other day ; and I cannot understand the reason for the delay. I have received a complaint in this connexion from the local Progress Association, and I take this opportunity to bring the matter under the notice of the Minister, feeling sure that he will have inquiries made.,.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister who administers the Patents Act a case which well illustrates the difficulties arising from the fact that “there is only one Patents Office. A certain resident of Sydney applied for a patent, and the time for his making the deposit of £5 expired on a certain Saturday. On the previous Friday the applicant went to the General Post Office and obtained a post-office order for the amount, which he posted in time to reach Melbourne on the following day, in the . ordinary course. The Patents Office, however, closes- at 12 o’clock on Saturday, and, as the letter did not arrive before that hour, it was held that the time for lodging the deposit had expired. The consequence is that this man has lost his patent. This case shows the necessity for patents offices in Sydney, Adelaide, and other cities-

Sir William Lyne:

– There is an office in Svdney.

Mr CONROY:

– But, unfortunately, the money had to be lodged in Melbourne.

Sir William Lyne:

– How long ago did’ this case occur?

Mr CONROY:

– Two or three monthsago.

Sir William Lyne:

– I have>- found similar cases, and I think that now deposits may be lodged with the representative of the Commissioner in Sydney.

Mr CONROY:

– The Minister certainly has power to make regulations to prevent 1 the repetition of what is undoubtedly an> injustice, which ought to be rectified. Regard ought to be had to the date on which this money was posted in Sydney, and the mere lodging of the money at one of the Commonwealth Departments in time to arrive in Melbourne in the ordinary course, ought to be deemed sufficient compliance with the Act.

Sir William Lyne:

– I think such cases have been provided for in the latest regulations, under which, as in New Zealand, the post-mark will be taken into consideration. .

Mr CONROY:

– I am glad to hear that statement from the Minister. I do not know whether the application in the case I have cited can be reinstated ; but that is a question for the Minister to determine. It might, of course, happen that this particular patent was of no particular value, though the contrary might be the case.

Sir William Lyne:

– If the honorable and learned member will send me a memorandum of the man’s name and other particulars, I shall make inquiries.

Mr CONROY:

– I shall be glad to furnish the particulars. I should now like to ask the Minister when we are to have the itinerary settled for the proposed visit of inspection to the proposed Capital Sites, because time is steadily going on?

Mr Webster:

– In the meantime the Commonwealth is paying ^6,000 per annum as rent in Melbourne.

Mr CONROY:

– I am not complaining about the amount that has to be paid in rent, because I presume that when we establish the Federal ‘Capital, the interest on the new buildings will represent more than that amount. At present we are paying only part of the interest on the expenditure on the buildings occupied. In any case, the money is supplied by exactly the same set of citizens, and, as I say, any change must involve extra expense. However, the Constitution provides that there must be a Federal Capital, and it is only right and proper that the Constitution should be put into operation. Every honorable member will agree that it would have been infinitely better had there been inserted in the Constitution a provision that, if the site were not selected within three or four years after the establishment of Federation, the Parliament should meet in Sydney. Had that been done, we should probably have heard nothing of the bush capital for many years.

Mr Bamford:

– At all events, not from New South Wales.

Mr CONROY:

– Nor from the representatives of the other States. In order to keep honorable members in touch with thought in the great centres of civilization throughout Australia, and to prevent delay in the delivery of the numerous letters that must be addressed to them, the site of the Capital should be near, if not on, the main line between Melbourne and Sydney. The Federal Capital must be easy of access. When we reach it we shall probably have from 100 to 150 officials stationed there, and it is not fair that we should take them away from all the benefits of civilization. Honorable members would not care to reside with their families in some out-of-the-way place where they could not obtain the facilities for educating their children that offer elsewhere, and we should recollect that the officers of our staffs will be equally desirous of having some adequate opportunity for the education of their children. When we arrive at a truer sense of what our legislative functions are we shall not have long sessions, and if the Capital be established away from the main lines of communication, we may have practically a deserted village during eight or ten months of the year. A hardship would thus be imposed, not on honorable members, but on the officers and others who must necessarily take up their residence in the Capital. I should be delighted to see the Ministry make an effort to determine this question. We have in this case an illustration of the fallacy of neglecting to make a big question a party matter. Honorable members are free to vote for this site or that, without regard to what will be the effect of their selection, and the position in regard to this question is an indication of what would happen in the absence of party government. In such circumstances no decision is arrived at, except under great outside pressure. ‘ This has not been made a party question, and consequently it still remains undetermined. I trust that there will yet arise a Ministry which will make this a party question and settle it.

Mr Ronald:

– Did we not select a site?

Mr CONROY:

– We selected a site without consulting the State that ought to have been consulted. At the time the question was raised whether many honorable members did not make the selection, not because it was the most suitable, but because it would be the least disagreeable to the bulk of the members of this Legislature.

Mr Webster:

– Because of their political necessities.

Mr CONROY:

– That may have had something to do with the decision. It certainly did not create in the minds of the bulk of the people of New South Wales the belief that it was intended as a sincere step towards the settlement of the question. That being so, there rightly, prevails in the great mother State a feeling of irritation at the dilatoriness of the Federal Parliament in dealing with this matter.

Mr Wilson:

– If the honorable and learned member had voted for Tooma, it would have been all right.

Mr CONROY:

– Surely the honorable member would not have me vote for a site which might be within the letter, but would be completely outside the spirit, of the law. That would be a breach of fa’ith which ought not to be suggested in this House.

Mr Storrer:

– That is a reflection upon the majority of honorable members.

Mr CONROY:

– The majority in this House did not vote for the selection of Tooma. The honorable member must be quite unaware of the decision of the Conference of Premiers that the Capital should be within a reasonable distance of Sydney. I believe that the limit proposed by the present leader of the Opposition was seventy-five miles, whilst that suggested by the right honorable member for Balaclava was 200 miles. As a compromise, it was decided that the Capital should be within a distance of not less than 100 miles from Sydney.

Mr Webster:

– Those facts have only recently “ slipped out of the bag.”

Mr Watkins:

– They were not known at the time.

Mr CONROY:

– That is so. I am satisfied that the general sense of fairness of this House is such that Dalgety would not have been chosen had those facts been brought before the House at the time.

Mr Webster:

– And thousands of pounds would have been saved.

Mr CONROY:

– I quite agree that probably there would not have been such a waste of time. The honorable member for North Sydney made a statement as to the understanding arrived at, but, curiously enough, it escaped the notice of the House.

Mr Webster:

– That was a statement in the newspapers. He himself did not know that it was authenticated.

Mr Bamford:

– The whole thing was childish in the extreme.

Mr CONROY:

– I quite agree with the honorable member as to that. I thought from the commencement that there should be no limitation as to distance, and I am quite satisfied that, had that been the case, the State that would have gained is New South Wales ; because she, being the mother State, the first Federal Parliament would of necessity have met there, and, as no pressure would have been brought to bear upon Parliament to move away from Sydney, it is extremely likely that it would have met there for half a generation to come, if not for ever. I complain that we do not seem to be any nearer a solution of this question than we have been from the beginning. There does not seem to be, on the part of the Government, that eagerness to settle it which they ought to exhibit. If they were to state that this is a moribund Parliament, and that an entirely new body of men should be elected before it would be wise to re-open the question, that would be an excuse to which a good deal of weight ought to be attached. But the Government has” not put forward that as a reason for mot pushing on with the question. I have no hesitation in saying that, with our knowledge of what took place at the Premier’s Conference, if the matter were re-opened it is extremely likely that a satisfactory solution would be arrived at without any trouble. I am in some difficulty* with regard to this subject, . because two or three of the newly suggested sites happen to be in mv electorate. But merely because they are there, I am not precluded’ from referring to the question. I have been particularly careful, in all the speeches I have made, not to make any statement beyond what I conceive to be the actual facts in relation to the sites that have been suggested. I suggest to the Government that arrangements should be made as soon aspossible for a visit to the sites brought under our notice by the Premier of New South Wales. The sooner the visit takes place, the greater the probability of a settlement being arrived at.

Mr. WATKINS (Newcastle) [9.4^– I wish to refer to a matter which I have previously brought under the notice of the Minister representing the Defence Depart- ment. I refer to the necessity for providing long-service medals for the members of the Naval Brigade, such as are provided for the members of our land Forces. I have never received a satisfactory answer from the Department in respect to this matter. If there is any one Department under the Commonwealth which more than another is particularly skilful in evading an awkward question, and in giving no satisfactory reason why a request should be entertained, commend me to the Defence Department.

Mr Ewing:

– Was not the reply that the naval authorities in England did not grant long-service medals?

Mr WATKINS:
NEWCASTLE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP; FLP from 1931

– The statement was made that long-service medals were not granted to members of the Naval Brigade, because they were not given to the Navy in England. But I always considered that that reply was unsatisfactory, because in Australia the Naval Brigade is practically a part of our land defence Forces. There is no reason whatever why the members of it should be differently treated. Even as regards England, it appears to me to be ridiculous that a long-service and goodconduct medal should be given to one branch of the Defence Forces, and withheld from theother. The last time’ I brought up this matter, I was informed that it had been referred to the Attorney-General for his opinion as to whether we could institute an Australian long-service medal. Nearly twelve months have since elapsed, and while I admit that the Attorney-General presides over an important and busy Department, still, a year is a reasonable time to allow for an answer to be given to a question of that description.

Mr Isaacs:

– I have not had it.

Mr WATKINS:

– The AttorneyGeneral now informs us that the question has never been referred to him.

Mr Ewing:

– We shall have to see that he gets it.

Mr.W ATKINS. - How far can we give credence to replies given by Ministers if that is the position ?

Mr Isaacs:

– The question may have been referred to some officer of the Department, but it did not come before me personally.

Mr WATKINS:

– We had an assurance that the question was to be referred to the Attorney-General’s Department, and I hope that a reply will be given by the honorable and learned gentleman himself. At any rate we ought to know whether the members of the Naval Brigade are to receive what is undoubtedly fair treatment.

Mr WILSON:
Corangamite

.- The honorable member for Werriwa has referred to this Parliament as moribund. Judging from the action which the Opposition sometimes takes when it is operating in full force, I must say that it appears to me to be a very lively corpse. I dissent from the honorable member’s remarks with regard to the Federal Capital Site, and as to the visit which it is proposed to make to newly-suggested sites.

Mr Kennedy:

– I thought the honorable members of the Opposition were a unanimous party.

Mr WILSON:

– We break out occasionally. Ours is by no means a caucus party. We are quite free to express our own opinions. I suggest that our best plan is to leave over the Capital Site question, and to defer the proposed excursion until the next Parliament, when perhaps many ofus may be saved the necessity of making it. My principal object in rising, however, was to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Defence Department to the case of the men dismissed from the Warrnambool battery. No information has as yet been given with respect to that matter. The subject has been as much in evidence within the last few weeks as I could make it - indeed it has beenquite as much in evidence as have been those honorable members who were previously members of the New South Wales Parliament.

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

-It is time the grievance was remedied.

Mr WILSON:

– I hope that the Minister will see that the matter is pushed forward, so that the information may be given to the House, and those concerned may learn their fate as soon as possible.

Mr Webster:

– What is wrong with the battery ?

Mr WILSON:

– I do not know that there is anything particularly wrong with the battery, except that it is not supplied with proper guns, that men have been improperly dismissed,, and that a proper instructor is not supplied to them. The particular point is that the guns supplied to them are unfortunately obsolete, and I believe that it is unsafe to fire them. . As I was under fire from these guns on one occasion, I cansay thatthey can fire - perhaps those standing nearer to them than

I was were in greater danger - for the shells were dropping round us in a very lively manner. I hope that the Minister will make a note of my representation, and give me an answer as soon as possible.

Mr Ewing:

– Judging from mv last inquiry, I think that it will be a few days vet before the matter can be dealt with. I shall give the honorable member an answer as soon as possible.

Mr WILSON:

– The last promise I had was that the honorable member was seeking for fresh information. I anticipated that it would not have taken very long to get it, and that then the Minister would give his decision, because he has ample power to cancel the discharges of the men. if they have been improperly or harshly discharged. There is another matter which is, I think, of serious importance to the bulk of the people of Australia, and it is one affecting their food supplies. It has been brought under my notice that in the case of oatmeal - a food which is more particularlyused by poor persons - there is existing in Australia a sort of combine which is to the detriment of the public. I hope that in the interests of poor persons the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister of Trade and Customs will make an inquiry. I cannot say that my figures are exactly correct, but I believe that they are very nearly so. Oats have been purchased at from 2s. 3d. to 2s. ad. a bushel. It takes 56 -bushels of oats, weighing 40 lbs. to the bushel, to make a ton of 2,240 lbs., which brings up the price of oats to £7 14s. a tons Wheat, which is sold at 60 lbs. to the bushel, is purchasable in the market at 3s. 4 1/2d. per bushel, and it takes 38 bushels to make a ton of 2,240 lbs. Of course, a tor. of flour is reckoned at 2,000 lbs. ; but in order to make the comparison complete I have brought the ton to 2,240 lbs. in each case. At 3s. 4 1/2d. per bushel, a ton of wheat comes out at £6 8s. Flour in small parcels is quoted in the market at £7 10s. a ton. Allowing for what the millers get in the way of offal, such as bran, it leaves a difference of £1 2s. for the cost of milling and distributing. On the other hand. I find that oats which cost £7 14s. are being distributed wholesale as oatmeal at about’ £18 a ton. Allowing £r 16s. a ton for the cost of milling and distribution, because the offals are not so valuable as in the case of wheat, and also allowing for distributers’ profit, and everything else, it brings the total cost of oatmeal UP to £,9 i°s- a ton. But instead of being distributed at anything like that sum, I believe that the wholesale price is close upon -08, if not actually ‘,£18.

Mr Kennedy:

– Has the honorable member considered the relative values of the waste of the two products ?

Mr WILSON:

– Yes, I have made allowance for the difference in the price of oafs and flour, and also’ the difference in the value of the offal. I know as well as the honorable member that the value of wheat offal is much greater than that of oat offal. If we make a comparison between this market and the English market, we find that, as a general rule, oats are more expensive in England than in Australia. Oatmeal is being distributed in Glasgow at £13, and in Melbourne at about ,£18 a ton.

Mr Conroy:

– The millers take advantage of the duty of £9 6s. 8d. a ton.

Mr WILSON:

– I do not say that there exists a combine, but it looks to me very much like as if, amongst the millers and workers in this commodity in the different ports, there has been some arrangement entered into whereby the cost of oatmeal to the people is made excessive.

Mr Webster:

– A ring among the millers.

Mr WILSON:

– I shall be very glad to hear the honorable member for Moira if he can throw any light upon the subject. If there is no combine in existence, there is an end to the matter, but if there is a combine in existence it is the duty of honorable members and those connected with the Department to see if something cannot be done to set the matter right. Seeing that we have set our faces against the existence of trusts and combines, which are acting to the detriment of the public, we should be’ very careful to see, first of all, that poor people, who are dependent to a very great extent upon flour and oatmeal for their sustenance, do not suffer. I believe that I am doing only mv duty in .mentioning the facts. I hope that inquiries will be made, in order that people may get their foodstuffs at the lowest possible price, always taking into consideration the expense in connexion with the preparation and distribution of the article.

Question resolved in’ the negative.

page 1571

JUDICIARY BILL

Second Reading

Debate resumed from 18th July (vide page 1438), -on motion by Mr. Isaacs -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

– I certain lv feel very considerable difficulty in dealing with this measure, because, in the first place, I am very anxious to avoid unnecessary expense. I am one of those who are aware that there is no expenditure which serves a better cause than does the provision of additional Justices when they are really required. If there are not sufficient Justices to carry on the work of a Court, then, no matter what our objection on the score of expenditure may be, additional Justices should certainly be appointed. If that is not done the delays of the law, always in themselves vexatious enough, and also the costs of any cause are largely increased. When litigants are delayed it means that enormous expense is involved, because of the number of witnesses who have to be kept waiting until the cause is tried. ‘ For instance, in Sydney last month the Justice appointed a day upon which to determine a country cause. Forty-two witnesses had started to come down to the Court, when they were informed that, owing to the pressure of business, His Honour would be unable to attend, and the cause had to be delaved for a week longer. As a consequence, the expense of forty-two witnesses was entailed for one week! longer thar otherwise would have ‘been the case. I can also cite a case with which I had some connexion a few years ago. Owing to the Equity Judge being unable, to hear and determine the cause on the day appointed, because of the pressure of other causes upon him, the expenses were increased bv the sum of no less than ^1,200.

Mr Webster:

– That was owing to mismanagement.

Mr CONROY:

– A very large part of that expenditure was incurred for witnesses’ expenses’ alone. One or two witnesses had to be brought from New Zealand, and a very heavy expenditure was involved in keeping them in New South Wales. If we take it upon ourselves to refuse to appoint more Judges, when a case seems to have been made out for an addition to the Bench, we must act under a full sense of the heavy responsibility thrust upon us, because, whatever regard we may have for economy in administration, it behoves us to see that there are not too few Justices for the hearing of appeals. Consequently, when the proposal to add to the High Court Bench was first mooted, I felt that I should have great difficulty in dealing with it.’ In my opinion, it would be preferable that Justices should want cases than that suitors should want justice, and,rather than bring about the denial of that justice which it should be our primary aim to secure, we should provide more than enough Justices. But, after carefully considering the whole matter, I feel unable to agree to the appointment of more Justices.

Mr Webster:

– Will not the honorable and learned member agree to any fresh appointments ?

Mr CONROY:

– Not at the present time. No doubt, under the Judiciary Act as it stands, the Justices have too much to do, and, if the Act is not amended in certain particulars, it will be necessary to increase the Bench, not by two only, but by at least four. The honorable and learned member’ for Indi will agree with me that the appointment of two more Justices will not provide for the constitution of another Full Court, and that the appointment of at least three would be necessary for that purpose. In addition, there is the work of the Arbitration Court, so that four., and not two, new appointments will be needed if the Act is not amended. What is necessary is to reduce the number of appeals. We should not permit appeals to the High Court from a single Judge. Of course, two Justices could constitute an Appeal Court; but it would create great dissatisfaction in. the mind of a litigant if a decision were given against him because the senior Justice happened to hold one opinion and the junior Justice another. Therefore, it will be unwise to have an Appeal Court of less than three Justices, and it is not proposed to constitute a second Appeal Court. But the facts put before us show that, if the Judiciary Act remains unamended, there will be work, not for two only, but for four more Justices, white an amendment of the Act will make any new appointment unnecessary, unless, of course, it is thought wise to have an Appeal Court of five instead of three. When the first Judiciary Bill was before us. some four years ago, I, with the honorable and learned member for Angas, pointed out that, if the original jurisdiction provided for were given to the High Court, and appeals were allowed from a single Judge, we should, within two or three years, require, not only five Justices, which was the number fixed by the original Bill, but at least seven; and I ventured to prophesy that, if we allowed the measure to be u construed as it could and would be construed, seven Judges would, within ten years, be too few, and High Court Benches of three Justices each would be required for each State.

Mr Frazer:

– Does the honorable and “learned member desire that all litigants shall have to go through the Full Courts of the States to get to the High Court?

Mr CONROY:

– Litigants wishing to appeal to the High Court should go through the Supreme Courts, and, unless the matter was very important, an appeal should not be allowed from the Supreme Courts. The High Court should sit only as an Appellate Court. If appeals are multiplied too much, it increases, instead of diminishes, law expenses. Prior to the establishment of the High Court, the appeals from Australia to the Privy Council did not average more than twelve a year, and there is not much difference between the expense of an appeal to the Privy Council and the expense of an appeal to the High Court.

Mr Isaacs:

– Nonsense.

Mr CONROY:

– The average expense of the 223 appeals to the Privy Council has been £210 each, and I know of appeals to the High Court which have cost over £1.000 each.

Mr Frazer:

– Such cases would have cost £10,000 each if the appeal had been to the Privy Council.

Mr Isaacs:

– To what cases does the honorable and learned member refer?

Mr CONROY:

– I can give the names to the Attorney-General in private. When’ half-a-dozen parties are represented by counsel, expenses soon mount up. I know of a case in which the brief .of the learned counsel was marked with a fee exceeding one hundred guineas, to which, of course, had to be added refreshers. Parties before the High Court are always represented by counsel, but, in scores of cases, poor litigants need not be ‘represented by counsel before the Privy Council, and have to incur no further expense than that of printing documents, such, as have to be printed for an appeal to the High Court. By endeavouring to cheapen law, we have enormously increased its expense to many litigants. At the last sitting of the High Court in Melbourne, there were twelve appeals to ‘it ; but if the Judiciary Act had been properly framed, nine of those appeals would not have been heard. What we should do is to amend the Judiciary Act so as to bring the work of the Court within reasonable limits. I admit that there is something to be said for strengthening the Bench so as to have an Appeal Court of five instead of three. To honorable members who take that view I have nothing further to urge. But that is not the ground on which we are asked to consent to the appointment of two extra Justices. If it had been contended that at the time that we passed the original Act excitement ran high, and that there was a grave doubt as to the work the Court would be called upon to do, or as to the appeals which would! be made, we might have been asked to reconsider the position, and to increase the number of Justices. With those who take the view that five Judges- on the Bench would probably ad’d to the weight of the Court my objection will go for nothing, but 1 wish to particularly point out our failure to recognise the fact that our own legislation has enormously increased the number of cases that have come before the High Court. I do not altogether like to say, “ I told you so,” but upon looking up the debates I find that I was one of those who pointed out what would result from the passing of the Act in its present form. 1 pointed out that if we gave to the Court- the original jurisdiction contemplated - there was no necessity for it, because we had1 all the necessary machinery in full operation - we should enormously increase the work of the Justices. I urged that instead of having one Full Court, we should, within two or three years, require at least two Courts, and that, if cases were to be speedily disposed of, we should within ten years be called upon to appoint 17 or 18 Judges. So far my prediction has been fulfilled. I need only refer to the speech of the Attorney Genera! for proof of this. He referred to the work that had been done by the Justices, and showed that my forecast was a perfectly correct one. The honorable and learned member for Angas also delivereda very able speech upon the same point. Any one reading that speech to-day cannot fail to be struck by the foresight displayed by the honorable and learned member, and we must be thankful that we have amongst us some men who would grace any debating assembly in the world. I particularly refer to the honorable and learned member, because he was one of those who pointed cut that we were exceeding our powers in taking away the right of appeal from the Supreme Courts of the States to the Privy Council, and that we were wrong in deciding that the High Court alone should hear such appeals. The judgment which has since been given by the Privy Council in ‘ the Outtrim case fully bears out what was said on that occasion. We took il’ upon ourselves to give extended powers to the High Court, and I venture to say that within the next two or three years we shall find it necessary to appoint another five Justices in addition to those whose elevation to the Bench is now contemplated. Our Judiciary Acts invests the Justices with so much power that it is only because they have refused to exercise their original jurisdiction, that they have been able to cope with the work. By making litigants go to the High Court straight away we do not diminish the expense to them, but rather increase it. The Justices of the High Court occupy an almost unique position - I am employing the exact words of the Attorney-General - and we ought not to add to their number if we can avoid it, especially in a moribund Parliament. If, by making the Court, as was first intended, a strictly appellate tribunal, we can get along with the. present number of Judges, we ought to do so. I was one of those who stated that we ought to limit the powers of th-b Court, because I foresaw that before long we should be called upon to strengthen the Bench. If we allow the Act to stand as at present, we shall only play with the question by appointing two extra Justices. If the report presented by their Honours goes for anything, we should appoint at least four more Justices. Already there are some remanets in at least two of the States, and, therefore, some litigants will be prevented from obtaining an early decision of their causes, and will be involved in extra expense. We should constitute two Full Courts, so that sittings might be held simultaneously in different States for the hearing of appeals. The alternative is to amend the Judiciary Act in the direction of taking away some of the rights of appeal that are now given. If we had made such an amendment before this, nine of the twelve cases which were recently dealt with in Victoria would have absolutely disappeared.

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

– What were they?

Mr CONROY:

– Appeals from the decision of a single Judge.

Mr Isaacs:

– If the right to appeal from the decision of a single State Judge were done away with, litigants would have to pass through two Courts instead of one, in order to reach the final appellate tribunal.

Mr CONROY:

– The Attorney-General knows very well that that is not correct. Does he think that litigants ought to have the right to appeal from Court after Court ? He knows very well that in the great majority of cases litigants are satisfied with the first decisions that are given. Before the High Court was established, the decisions of the States Supreme Courts - irrespective of whether they were right or wrong; - stood. There was a certain amount of finality about them.

Mr Frazer:

– In the majority of cases, according to the judgments given by the High Court upon appeal, they were absolutely wrong.

Mr CONROY:

– The mere fact that we have constituted the High Court does not of itself argue that the Justices composing it are endowed with such an infinitely better knowledge of jurisprudence that we are entitled to say their decisions are always right, and those of the Supreme Court Judges are always wrong.

Mr Frazer:

– I do not say that they are infallible, but I would much prefer to accept the decisions of the High Court than those of any Full Court of a State.

Mr CONROY:

– The two Justices of the High Court who for a time filled the position of acting Judges in New South Wales, were regarded during their tenure of office as very sound and sensible men, but no greater weight was attached to their judgments than was attached to those of their brother Judges, whose opinions they are now so easily able to supersede.

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

– The most puzzling thing to me is the marvellous way in which our High Court Justices always agree.

Mr CONROY:

– There is no doubt that in the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Commonwealth possesses a jurist of very high powers indeed

Mr Glynn:

– The Court itself is one of which the Commonwealth has reason to be proud.

Mr CONROY:

– I think that the Court is one to which nobody in Australia need be ashamed to point, because it possesses men of very great abilities indeed. But it is not too much to say that a great many of us do not regard that Court as infallible, and we are just as likely to disagree with its judgments as we are with the judgments of three or four of the Judges of the States Supreme Courts.

Mr Glynn:

– I think that the Appeal Court at Home upsets about 50 per cent, of the decisions of the Divisional Courts.

Mr CONROY:

– Some honorable members appear to think - and the AttorneyGeneral encourages the belief - that by affording litigants an opportunity to appeal direct to the High Court, we enable them to effect a saving. To the majority, I venture to say that that process involves an additional expenditure.

Mr Isaacs:

– I entirely disagree with the honorable and Learned member. In addition. I think that he ought to consider whether we have the power under the Constitution to do what he suggest

Mr CONROY:

– Then we ought so to frame our laws that the number of appeals to the High Court will be .limited in the same way as are the appeals to the Privy Council. We cannot constitute two Courts of Appeal, and if the records to which reference has been ma’de show anything, it is that at least two Courts of Appeal are wanted. I say that two Courts of Appeal are not necessary. How can we constitute two Courts? Every one of the cases which have been quoted would require to have been heard by three Justices. Either we are going too far, or we are not going far enough. The appeals which are now being made to the High Court are so numerous that the position is becoming a very serious one. Before that tribunal began to upset the decisions of the States Supreme Courts, litigants were satisfied, That is not the case to-day. I will guarantee that the expense incurred in appealing to the High Court has considerably increased the cost of litigation. Before the establishment of that tribunal, there were about twelve appeals annually from the decisions of the States Supreme Courts. These appeals cost, upon an average, about £210, or ;£2:5°° a- year. I will undertake to say that no party can appear before the High Court without incurring an expenditure of from /”30 to £40 on either side. If we assess a great many of the smaller appeals at from £80 to £100, what a large sum they represent. In view of the multiplicity of these cases, I hold that we are considerably increasing the cost of litigation. Honorable members themselves are conscious of that. What did the Attorney-General do when the Australian Industries Preser vation Bill was under consideration the other day ? He limited the power of appeal from the decision of a single Judge. In fact, he provided that there should be no appeal from his decision. In scores of instances that is what obtains to-day. In this connexion I particularly refer to the various Courts of Petty Sessions throughout the States. In numbers of cases their decision is practically final. It surely will not be said that we are diminishing the cost of ‘law when we now find that in all these cases an appeal would lie to the High Court. As I say, we have enormously increased the amount of litigation which can !be proceeded with, and that is not to the benefit of the people of Australia.

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

– I understand that litigants have an option, and can go either to the High Court, or to the Full Court of the Supreme Court of a State.

Mr CONROY:

– They can, in some cases. Mr. Joseph Cook. - Then in case there is a congestion of original business that should not lead to a denial of justice, since litigants have that option.

Mr CONROY:

– There would not be a denial of justice where they have that option, nor would there be a denial of justice, even if we did not appoint fresh Justices of the High Court. But the High Court should! so frame its rules and regulations as r.ot to allow appeals to be made direct to it.

Mr Isaacs:

– The High Court could not* do any such thing.

Mr CONROY:

– If we were to amend our Judiciary Act, and permit appeals only under certain conditions, it could. At the present time a lot of this work is forced upon the High Court as the result of our legislation. This was clearly foreseen when we were passing that legislation, and at the time I pointed out what the result would be. I said that in two years’ time the appointment of additional Justices of the High Court would be asked for, and it is manifest, if the figures which have been quoted are correct, that two Courts should have been asked for before, if some power such as I suggest is not to lie exercised.

Mr Frazer:

– Would the honorable and learned member force litigants to go to the State Full Court before they can ge” to the High Court?

Mr CONROY:

– Most unquestionably. I would not allow an appeal to the High

Court from the Supreme Court of a State, except in a matter in which an appeal would lie to the Privy Council. Such a matter should be allowed to go to the High Court. I thought that when we were establishing this Appellate Court we proposed to do so practically in lieu of the Privy Council, and that consequently there would be no more appeals to the High Court than there had been to the Privy Council ; nor would there have been if we had framed our legislation properly. I pointed out at the time that if we framed our law as proposed, the number of our appeals would be enormously increased. I have been justified by the event. In the Outtrim case the other day the Privy Council decided that section 39 of our Judiciary Act is absolutely ultra vires.

Mr Isaacs:

– No; they have given no decision on the subject yet.

Mr CONROY:

– I assure the honorable and learned gentleman that they have decided that, and have also decided to hear the appeal.

Mr Isaacs:

– They may so decide, but they have not done so vet.

Mr CONROY:

– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who is one of those who took the same stand as I did in this matter, assures me that what I state is a fact. The honorable and learned gentleman congratulated me on being one of those who, with himself, had taken the view that section 39 of the Judiciary Act was ultra vires, and he told me that the Privy Council had held that that was the case.

Mr Isaacs:

– They have given no judgment yet.

Mr CONROY:

– I certainly understood that from the newspaper reports of the case. The reports telegraphed out to the newspapers showed that -the Privy Council entirely set aside the argument used that they were prevented from hearing the appeal , and decided that the section to which I have referred is ultra vires. I wish to see the High Court made an Appellate Court pure and simple.

Mr Isaacs:

– What original jurisdiction would the honorable and learned member take away ?

Mr CONROY:

– The whole of the original jurisdiction under section 30 and following sections of the Judiciary Act. Section 30 provides that, in addition to the original jurisdiction conferred by the Constitution, the High Court shall have original jurisdiction in all matters arising under the Constitution or involving its interpretation.

Mr Isaacs:

– Surely the honorable and learned member would not ta[ke the interpretation of the Constitution from the High Court ?

Mr CONROY:

– Surely the AttorneyGeneral is not going to put that limited meaning upon the words quoted, considering that that means that it has original jurisdiction in regard to every matter arising under section 51 - not section 73.

Mr Isaacs:

– No, no.

Mr CONROY:

– I am one of those who give a different reading to the section.

Mr Isaacs:

– Will the honorable and learned member look at: the next subsection, No. II. ? It is not given as arising under any laws made by the Parliament.

Mr CONROY:

– What is more, in all our legislation we are proceeding to invest the High Court with original jurisdiction.

Mr Isaacs:

– That is quite a different question.

Mr CONROY:

– I am pointing out that this is being done. It is done under the Patents Act, Trade Marks Act, Copyright Act, and Arbitration Act, and it is proposed in the Australian Industries Preservation Bill. In all these measures1 we have conferred, or propose to confer, original jurisdiction on the High Court.

Mr Isaacs:

– Would the honorable and learned member repeal all those measures?

Mr CONROY:

– I do not desire to repeal them, but I say that we should put the High Court in the position of an Appellate Court, pure and simple. If we do not, the expense will be enormous, and it will not be merely a matter “of the appointment of two more Justices. If the appointment of only two more Justices were involved, the matter would not be worth arguing about.

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

– It seems to me that the more we increase the status of this Court, the more it is bound to attract business from other Courts.

Mr CONROY:

– We are framing our laws in such a way that the whole of the business must go to the High Court, and I remind honorable members that later on we shall not be in a position to take away a great deal of this original jurisdiction. I am not now arguing as to whether five Judges should constitute the High Court. Honorable members may have a perfect right to say that there- should be five Judges; but if we continue on the lines which we have adopted so far, we must have two Courts. We cannot deny justice to the people, and we shall deny it if we do not provide sufficient Justices to hear their cases.

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

-i do not quite agree with the honorable and learned member in that, because there is the option.

Mr CONROY:
WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; LP from 1913

– What we should do is to make the High Court an Appellate Court, pure and simple. If we did, three Justices would be able to do the work. I do not say that if that were done there should be only three Justices of the High Court. It might be advisable that there should be five, and I should not be disposed to quarrel with those who would take that view.

Mr Kelly:

– Has not the High Court original jurisdiction as well as appellate jurisdiction?

Mr CONROY:

– I am pointingoutthat that is precisely the source of the serious danger confronting us.

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

– Where does the danger arise, since litigants have the option of going to the Full Court of a State, if they feel that they will be crowded in the High Court?

Mr CONROY:

– Because the High Court, like all other Courts, will try to appropriate all the work for itself. There is not a Court that does not do that. Honorable members will not find in history an instance of any body of lawyers who have not tried to collect all the work into their own Court. The Ecclesiastical, Probate, and Divorce Courts have all tried to do so.

Mr Isaacs:

– How could they? The High Court cannot collect business.

Mr Deakin:

– I wish we knewwhat Court could deal with the honorable and learned member.

Mr CONROY:

– If I were convinced that a Court was competent to deal with me I shouldreadily submit to its jurisdiction. I do not desire to labour the matter, but merely to point out where we are going. If the House decides still to march on in the same direction there is no more to be said. My objection is to the very large expenditure that this Bill would involve. We are taking away from the great bulk of suitors the opportunity to appeal to the readiest and handiest Court ; and if there are not Courts sitting constantly in the cities, we shall have a serious state of affairs in which the appointment of two, or half a dozen, or a dozen Justices wouldnot be sufficient.

Mr Frazer:

– Surely the litigant is the best judge as to the Court for his case ; if he prefers finality in one Court, would the honorable member prevent him from going to it?

Mr CONROY:

– The honorable member will see that many cases have to go through several Courts. Let the honorable member multiplythe cases of last year by £100 only, allowing £50 expenses on either side ; and if He can show a litigant who could, at that expense, take through a case that lasts over a day,I should be glad to meet that litigant and his solicitor. So far from diminishing the expenses of appeals, it is proposed to increase them to an enormous extent.

Mr Isaacs:

– The honorable member would double the expense.

Mr CONROY:

– The Attorney-General is quite wrong. If the power given to appeal to the High Court were only that given in the case of the Privy Council,we should notgetverymanymore cases than are taken 10 the latter tribunal.

Mr Isaacs:

– Nearly all the appeals in New South Wales are from the Full Court to the High Court, and that means double appeals.

Mr CONROY:

– But as soon as people get over the idea that the High Court exists for the purpose of upsetting every decision of the Full Court of a State - as soon as the Supreme Court of NewSouth Wales understands what the decisions of the High Court are - appeals will decrease in number. During the last two years the High Court, by its. decisions, has been making a body of law which will diminish the chance of appeal unless appeal be made on the principle of the toss of a penny, and in view of the many decisions of the Supreme Court that have been upset. It is not good there should be that feeling of antagonism, and I do not desire to see it stranger than it is now. My point is that unless we amend the Judiciary Act we shall have to greatly increase the number of Justices - that is, we shall have to do so unless the High Court is made an appellate Court pure and simple. There is always a prejudiceagainst the appointment of extra Judges; but I take it to be an axiom that Judges should be appointed whenever they are wanted. The Attorney-General has come forward with an argument in favour of the existence of a second Court, but he has not proposed Judges for that Court, and ihe necessity for it would be obviated if tho High Court were made what it was originally intended to be. I do not say that a Court of five Judges is’ not better than a Court of three Judges, but it is as well to look the matter straight in the face, and recognise the fact that, unless we amend the Judiciary Act, two Judges will not be nearly enough, but that, on the contrary, we shall have to appoint at least three more, and possibly a fourth. ‘At all events, if appeals continue to increase in the same proportion, or in anything like the same proportion as in the past, we shall have to provide next year for at least two more Judges ; and while we are at work we might as well consider whether it would not be well, by an amendment of the Judiciary Act, to render such appointments unnecessary. The one argument that could then be brought forward in favour of extra Judges would be that their appointment would strengthen the Court and give greater weight to its decisions. Sometimes appeals are heard in the Supreme Courts of the States by five or six Judges, and I remember two occasions on which a Full Court of seven Judges sat to determine very important points of law. It would be very unsatisfactory if a decision by seven Judges of a Supreme Court should be upset by an appeal Court consisting of only three Judges. The Attorney-General has never appealed to us on these grounds, but says that the Court is to deal with extraneous matters entirely ; so that the one strong ground I thought he had in defence of the Bill, he has thrown away. Under the circumstances I am unable to give that support to the second reading of the Bill that I might otherwise have been glad to extend.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.

House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 July 1906, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060719_reps_2_32/>.