3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
.- The following statement appears in this morning’s Age: -
THE DEAKIN CABINET.
An Opposition Canard. federal intriguers at work.
The Opposition leaders were very busy in the lobbies at Parliament House yesterday circulating alarmist rumors with reference to the political situation.A story was industriously passed from man to man last evening to the effect that the Prime Minister was, on account of his health, about to withdraw from politics altogether; that Sir John Forrest, whose alleged uneasiness has been much discussed, will resign; that Sir William Lyne is about to assume the Prime Ministership ; and, finally, that the Tariff is not to be tabled till the end of next month. In view of the strenuous endeavours to secure acceptance of this concoction, it is as well that it should be known that the whole story is a fabrication.
The last sentence is perfectly true. The whole story is a fabrication on the part of the writer. I have consulted the deputy leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Whip, and learn from them that the statement is absolutely false. Honorable members are so accustomed to these infamous concoctions that some of them seem to regard this as a matter of amusement. That is a sign of the degradation to which the reading of deliberately manufactured items of false intelligence reduces the people of Victoria. I contradict this statement because of the promise I gave that, during the illness of the Prime Minister, no attempt would be made to disturb the political situation. In view of that assurance, if the statement were true, I and those who follow me would have committed a gross breach of faith. The gentlemen connected with the Age may be amused by the publication of these statements, but I regret that they are published.
– Who takes notice of the Age?
– It was merely by accident, and in an unguarded moment, that I took up the newspaper this morning, and the statement which I have read was the first item that met my eye. I regret that some of the gentlemen of the press who have the privilege of frequenting the lobbies of this Houses - and we are always glad to see them - take advantage of their position to circulate these false statements.
– I know nothing about the statement complained of, and when T read it was as much surprised as the leader of the Opposition could have been. I am pleased to be able to announce that to-day I received a communication from the Prime Minister, in which he states that he is progressing favorably, and improving in health.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Reports have been received, but it is considered inadvisable at the present time, while investigations are in progress, to make them public.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether - in view of the fact that on 15th July, 1907, the House of Commons carried without a division a resolution affirming that the permanent unity of the Empire will not be secured by a system of preferential duties based on protective taxation of food, and that on the question .being raised in this House on 14th December, 1904, by notice of amendment given by me in the following terms to resolutions tabled by the Honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Deakin) : - “ The continued loyalty to the Empire of the people of the Commonwealth to no extent depends upon the preferential treatment of their products on importation into the United Kingdom,” the resolutions were not proceeded with - he .will, for the purpose of eliciting an expres sion of opinion by this House, table, and the* give Ministerial prestige and support to, a resolution affirming that the permanent unity of the Empire does depend on or will be secured by the institution of a system of preferential duties based on protective taxation of food products qf foreign countries on importation into theUnited Kingdom?
– There does not seem to be any necessity for taking the action mentioned by the honorable member.
Mr. MALONEY (Melbourne) [2.39I- I move -
That, in any scheme of pensions, provision, should be made so that any person risking hia or heT life to save that of another human being, shall become entitled to a full old-age pension, and, should the rescuer lose his or her life inthe attempt, his or her next of kin shall become entitled to a double pension.
So far as my reading informs me, there isonly one country in the world in which an. endeavour has been made to bring about what I propose; that country is France,whence so many new ideas have come. It has been suggested in France that relatives who were dependent upon any person who had lost his life in attempting to arrest a criminal, or to rescue another from drowning, or death in other forms, should receive a pension equal to double the amount paid to the relatives of soldiers who had died in warfare. Most, if not all, European nations, and the United States of America, make very fair provision for the relatives of those who fall in battle. I shall not weary the House by giving instance after instance of bravery in attempts? to save life. The medals which are so frequently .granted to persons who have, risked their own lives to save others from death or injury, by water, fire, and other dangers, are a testimony to the bravery displayed in civil ‘ life. Of life itself we know to-day no more than, if as much as, was known under the Ptolemies of ancient Egypt. Our scientists have culled and tabulated- facts concerning it, but what it really is we donot know. As a philosopher has said, wecome into life with a cry, we exist mostly with a moan, and die with a groan. But the poverty and wretchedness caused to relatives by the death of the bread-winner of a family are only too patent, and the State can do much to mitigate these evils. The United States pension list has been spoken of as one of the worst in the world.’
It was brought into existence largely by the terrible Civil War, and to-day $140,000,000, or £28, 000,000, are annually paid in pensions to the relatives of men who lost their lives in attempting to slaughter their brother citizens. I cannot, however, find any pension list for the benefit of relatives of persons who died to save life. But the States of New South Wales and Victoria have done more by their pension systems for ameliorating the conditions of aged poor than has been done anywhere else. Victoria pays £200,000 per annum in old-age pensions, and New South Wales £490,000, or more than twice as much. But Victoria pays more in pensions to her public servants than is paid to the public servants of New South Wales, the aggregate old-age and Public Service pensions of New South Wales amounting to only , £30,000 per annum more than those of Victoria.
– The establishment of such a scheme has been twice proposed in the French Chamber of Deputies, and I am under the impression that it has been carried. But in France the Legislature adopted as the basis of the pension the amount payable to his dependents when a soldier fell in battle, which, as the honorable and learnedmember for Parkes is aware, is higher than that which would be payable if he died in time of peace. In Australia we have establishedno standard upon which we could base a pension for a display of conspicuous bravery, apart from the pen-‘ sions which are payable in respect of the Public Service of the States, and in the form of old-age pensions. If my proposal be carried, the credit attaching to it must belong to France for having taken the initiative in this connexion. But I ask, why should we always require a precedent in matters of this kind ? Why should we not make our own precedents ? No matter how little we may know of life we cannot fail to acknowledge that both sexes universally admire the possession and display of courage. Without desiring to recapitulate instances in which such courage has been exhibited, I may, perhaps, be pardoned for quoting the well-known words of Gordon -
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.
I am sure that all of us have some personal knowledge of men who have not hesitated to risk their own lives in an attempt to save those of their fellows. I shall mention only one of these instances - that of the diver at the Bonnie Vale mine in Western Australia, who day after day donned his diving suit and descended into the dark depths in an attempt to rescue a miner who was entombed there. The hero was manly enough to acknowledge upon every occasion that I heard him speak that there were hundreds of men in Australia who if they had possessed a knowledge of diving and of the mine in question, would have done precisely what he did. The Italian Consul acknowledged that until I informed him of the fact - upon the occasion when I was asked to take the vicechair at a meeting convened for the purpose of recognising the bravery exhibited by Diver Hughes - he was not aware that the hero had a wife and family dependent upon him. Of course every nation has its own courageous sons. Personally I do not believe that men usually stop to weigh che danger which confronts them when they are suddenly aroused to action. But when a man knows that probably he will not return alive from his self-imposed task, it must be a bitter thing to reflect that his little ones, his wife or others who are dependent upon him, will be thrust upon the cold charity of the world. I do hope that the representatives of New South Wales will look with a kindly eye upon the motion. I am pleased to acknowledge that that State has done far more good by means of its pension list than has Victoria. In this State we pay in pensions to public servancs more than is paid by the whole of Australasia. Further, the pension list of Victoria aggregates nearly double the amount paid in civil pensions in New South Wales. The amount paid in old-age pensions by New South Wales totals £496,000 as against £177,000 paid to retired public servants. In Victoria we pay £343,000 in pensions to public servants alone. I do not wish for a moment to point the finger of scorn at the payment of these civil pensions, because they are payable by virtue of an honorable undertaking, which should be respected. What I desire to impress upon honorable members is that New South Wales, which is an older State than Victoria, and which possesses a population of at least 200,000 in excess of our own, has done more than we have done to eliminate miser)’ in its midst. Do ‘we think that men who have spent their lives in the civil duties of life should be honoured as we honour those who jeopardize their own safety in attempts to rescue their fellows from death? However, I do not wish to discuss the merits of that question. I do hope that we shall soon establish a civilization of humanity, the foundation of which will be the abolition of war. I trust that the time will speedily come when we shall matte war between nations as difficult as it is in England between individuals. When the mother country did away with the duel system, to my mind she did away with a system which was an outrage upon civilization - that of human killing human. Our civilization will never be perfect until we have abolished war between nations and consigned that infamous system to oblivion. I trust that those who cannot see their way to support the motion at the present time will be able to do so when we come to deal legislatively with the question of old-age pensions.
– I am quite sure that every one sympathizes with the humanitarian spirit exhibited by the author of this motion. I have never known the honorable member to rise in this House - even when questions of the most mathematical or economic nature were under consideration - without seeking to draw the debate into some humanitarian channel. Not only do I sympathize with the humanitarian spirit which he displays, but I also desire to see bravery rewarded. At the same time, the honorable member does not appear to have considered some of the difficulties which stand in the way of giving effect to his desire. He has neglected to frame his motion in such a form as to achieve his purpose. In the first place, I am very doubtful whether, under the Constitution, we can twist the authority to legislate in respect of old-age pensions into an authority to grant rewards to persons who may not be entitled to that pension by reason of their age. If we can do so, we shall be converting this House into an organization for the reward of good deeds. That is a constitutional objection which I venture to urge.
– Would the honorable and learned member challenge the granting of a reward to a retired commandant?
– That is provided for in the Constitution. If the honorable member for Melbourne desires his motion to have any effect - if he wishes it to partake of the nature of a direction to the Government, quite apart from the constitutional difficulty to which I have referredhe should look more closely into the subject. In this motion he wishes us to affirm -
That, in any scheme of pensions, provision should be made so that any person risking his or her life to save that of another human being shall become entitled to a full old-age pension.
He does not say whether the person who risks his life is to be granted a reward as an old-age pension.
– The old-age pension is used by me simply as the unit.
– Evidently the honorable member intends that if a boy of fourteen years exhibits conspicuous bravery in an effort to save life, he shall at once become the recipient of an old-age pension.
– Of the equivalent of an old-age pension.
– The honorable member should frame his motion in such a way, that it will have some effect. He has really embodied in it something which will have no effect whatever. What the honorable member wishes to insure is that however young a person may be who has displayed conspicuous bravery, he shall be entitled to a sum of money equivalent to that which he would receive as an old-age pension if he were sixty-five years of age. But the honorable member does not provide for that in his motion. He has simply asserted that if a person exhibits commendable bravery, he shall be made the recipient of an old-age pension.. In the latter portion of his proposal he affirms that if a would-be rescuer loses his or her life in an attempt to save that of others, his or her next of kin shall become entitled to a double pension. He does not provide that the next of kin, if she happens to be a widow of twenty years of age, shall immediately receive the equivalent in money of a double old-age pension. Consequently the motion will not achieve what the honorable member desires it to achieve. Doubtless his wish is that if a man or woman exhibits bravery in an effort to save life he or she shall become entitled to some award. But at least he ought to safeguard his proposal in some way, because if a substantial reward were offered we might expect all sorts of wild, senseless attempts made to save life, and the qualification which the honorable member would make the basis of the reward would undoubtedly be present. The attempt would have been made. I would suggest to him that he should so amend his motion as to provide that if the act of any person is adjudged to have been one of bravery, such as would have merited reward by a body appointed for the purpose, that person, irrespective of his or her age, shall be entitled to a sum of money from the Commonwealth - provided the constitutional difficulty which I have already pointed out is overcome - equivalent to that of an old-age pension. I merelyrose for the purpose of showing that the form of the motion would not effect the purpose which the honorable member has in view.
– While the honorable and learned member for Parkes was laying down a constitutional difficulty-
– I did not lay it down. I pointed it out for the consideration of honorable members.
– I took the liberty of interjecting while the honorable and learned member was speaking, “ Would the honorable and learned member challenge the reward to a retired commandant?” His reply was that that was provided for by the Constitution. Perhaps he is not aware that this Government, against the express wish of the House, paid a sum of money to a certain officer, irrespective of any retiring allowance to which he might be entitled under. the Constitution. Surely that was the time when a constitutional objection of this kind should have been raised. I quite agree with the criticism of the motion by the honorable and learned member. The idea has occurred to me that if we are to offer rewards at all they should be granted only upon the certificate of the Royal Humane Society, or some other kindred body. My own view is that if effect is to be given to a motion of this kind, the reward should be made to follow immediately upon the performance of the act of bravery. I am not so sure that unless a proposal of this sort is safeguarded in some way, there will not be a large number of applications on behalf of persons whose deeds exhibit very little of bravery , and whose lives were never seriously imperilled. But as the mover of the motion has pointed out, his desire is not to press this motion to a division with a view to compelling the Government ^ to take immediate action. He merely wishes to place a humanitarian proposition before the House, and to endeavour to secure some useful means of rewarding persons who have upon occasions either risked or lost their lives in an effort to save the lives of others. He also desires to prevent those dependent upon them for support from being cast upon the charity of the world. I think it is the duty of the Commonwealth to see that any person who risks his life to save that of others, should be suitably rewarded. I support the motion with the proviso suggested, and I trust that its essential provisions will be embodied in the Bill which I hope will be brought forward in connexion with the payment of old-age pensions.
.- The motion is characteristic of the mover, who, as we know, belongs to a worthy profession, whose chief mission is, as far as possible, to save life. I am sure that we are al: ready to recognise valour and to applaud the action of one who risks his own life in order to save that of another. Some objection has been raised to the motion on the ground that it does not fully express the object which the honorable member for Melbourne has in view, but I think we should have regard only to the principle which underlies it. With that principle I am heartily in sympathy, and would suggest that the Government might very well consider it when drafting an Old-age Pensions Bill. It would be necessary for them to- obtain from the Royal Humane Society statistics for the Commonwealth, which would enable them, by actuarial calculations, to ascertain what sum would be required to give effect to this scheme. I do not think it would involve a very heavy expenditure,’ although, as the honorable and learned member for Parkes has said, we must not lose sight of the fact that many young people save life, and that this system would apply to them. It is a by no means uncommon occurrence for a lad to save the life of another.
– We have had the case of a girl nine years of age saving life.
– We ought to do all in our power to encourage deeds of heroism. The public, through the Royal Humane Society, show their appreciation of efforts to save human life by granting medals and certificates, and if we took action in the way proposed by the honorable member for Melbourne, we should emphasize the fact that we are getting further and further away from the idea of olden days that the loss of a life here and there is a matter of no consequence. One of the aims of every well-ordered community is to save human life, and to build up a race of strong, healthy people. The underlying principle of the motion is, as I have said, a good one, and it ought not to be necessary to bring pressure to bear on the Government in order to induce them to consider whether or not effect could be given to it. If the proposal is unconstitutional, then several actions taken by us recently must be fairly wide of the mark so far as their constitutionality is concerned. With all due respect to the honorable and learned member for Parkes, I submit that the proper time to consider what steps should be taken to prevent the abuse of such a system as that proposed by the honorable member for Melbourne, is when a Bill providing for its adoption is submitted for our consideration. We might make a start by recognising those cases in which awards are made by the Royal Humane Society, and in that way the determination of whether or not-‘ a person was entitled to the pension on these grounds would be left to that body. -I should like the acting leader of the Government - the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is undoubtedly a humanitarian - to say whether or not the Government are prepared to make inquiries with a view of ascertaining whether the scheme could be carried out. I have only to repeat that the principle underlying the motion has my fullest sympathy.
Debate (on the motion by Mr. Hutchison), adjourned.
. -I move -
That a report be obtained from all the postoffice officials who are acting as returning officers, as to whether ‘they are satisfied with the present arrangement, which entails the work of returning officers being added to their postal duties.
I ‘have been led to submit this motion by the hope that it will lead to our considering very early this session the question of whether or not post office officials should be required to act as returning officers. I am one of those who believe that the present arrangement under which postmasters, whether they desire to or not, are required ‘to act as returning officers, is a very injudicious one.
– What was the arrangement in New South Wales prior to Federation ?
– Outside men are engaged as returning officers in connexion with State elections, and I hold that it is unwise to thrust extra duties upon the officials of the Postal Department. Whilst I am thoroughly .opposed to sweating, I take the view that our post offices should not be overmanned. The staff in each should be only sufficient to cope with the dutiesrequired of it.
– But the Public Service Commissioner will not recognise that principle.
– -Then there must besweating in the Department.
– There is.
– If the staff in a post office is only sufficient to cope with the postal duties that it is called upon to discharge, it is unfair to the officers that they should be called upon to do outside work* Most honorable members have no conception of .the immense amount of- work whichthe duty of conducting an election entailsupon a returning officer. There is much tobe done, not only during the actual progress of an election, but all the year roundThe unsatisfactory position of these officersis intensified by the way in which the Electoral Department as administered. To my mind, that Department is a most patheticinstitution. There is nothing like it in the heavens above, the earth below, or the waters under the >earth, and the instructions, which it issues lead to much unnecessary duplication of work. Tons of worthlessliterature are distributed amongst the returning officers.
– That is not the fault of the postal officials.
– Certainly not. I am simply pointing out how the work of the postal officials, acting as returning .officers,, is unnecessarily duplicated owing to the action of the Electoral Department. During the last ‘election campaign the honorable member for Richmond, who was thenMinister of Home Affairs, left Melbourne for his electorate, and it was ‘announced in the press that during his absence the Department would be administered by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Within twenty-four hours of ‘the honorable member’s appointment as Acting Minister of Home Affairs, a telegraphic message was sent to every returning officer stating that the practice of sending particulars by telegraph from each polling booth on the day of polling was not to be carried out according to the’ usual regulations. The returning officer at Broken Hill informed me that this? rendered it necessary for him, in the midst pf his other work, to- send out fifty-two letters to the various, polling booth officers within the electorate of Barrier. It is most unfair that a returning officer, in the midst of his other duties), should be called upon as this one was to issue a mass of correspondence. It would appear that shortly after the sending of this telegram a deputation waited on the Acting Minister of Home Affairs, with- the result that another telegram was issued instructing the returning officers that they were to revert to the original system. This necessitated the despatch of another batch of fifty-two letters by the returning officer for Barrier. I chanced- to meet him shortly after he- had received these instructions, and when he inquired what I would do in the circumstances, I promptly replied that I should not send out any further instruction’ on the subject. Whether or not he acted on my advice I cannot say. Such rapid changes are- absurd. This case- is typical of many of the ridiculous instructions issued by the Department. The central office in Melbourne has absolutely no conception, of the work entailed upon returning officers- by the issue of a new direction. As soon as the last general election was over the Chief Electoral Officer sent out a circular inviting the various returning officers to f urnish a report, and to suggest reforms that, might lead to an improvement in the conduct of the elections. The returning officer for Barrier suggested, amongst other things, that more polling booths should be established in the electorate, pointing out that we had there
Only about one-fourth of the number provided in connexion with the State election for the same division. It seems that under the present law there Can be only one polling booth for a polling district, and this- official wrote asking that more should be allowed.. The Department, in reply, requested him to group the names 5n the Barrier district, in the way that he thought necessary for new polling booths ; but this, he told me, would mean six months’ work at eight hours a day, and, therefore, he immediately dropped the idea. I understand- that instructions, have already been- issued to the returning officers, in view of another election, to send in a report containing the names of all the officers whom they desire to have employed under them, and also the names of the places where more polling booths are required. This work would occupy two or three weeks, m and, moreover, might prove absolutely useless. I suppose we. all hope that there may not be an election until nearly three years hence ; and, of course, a’ great many things may happen in. that time. The most striking illustration of the utter uselessness of much of the work that returning officers are requested to do under, the Acc is the difference between the amount of their work and that done by the States returning officers. The returning officer at the Barrier, before he undertook the Federal work, was. employed in a similar capacity by the State.
– Is he a post office official?
– No. He assured me that there is absolutely no comparison between the work done by the- two sets of officers. Of course, in the case of the Barrier I am prepared to admit that while he was acting for the State he had only one electorate to look after, whereas the Federal electorate now under his charge comprises four- State electorates,, so that considerably more work may be expected. But if we turn our attention to. South Australia we shall find further arguments in favour of the view I am presenting. I shall not. say a great deal, on this point, however, because I trust the. honorable member for Boothby, may have a word- or two to say about, it. The returning officer for the Boothby electorate is also returning, officer for the State, electorate of East Torrens, South Australia. In that State there are no “ single? barrelled.” electorates, the divisions returning from two to five, representatives, and East Torrens, is. what is called a “ five-barrelled “ electorate. This State electorate really has more votes, and is more extensive that the Boothby electorate; but the returning officer holds, as did the returning- officer at the Barrier, that there is no comparison between the work required in the one case and in the other. Our whole electoral system requires to be put on a better basis. I shall not say much in this connexion now, because Mr. Lewis is Chief Electoral Officer no longer. I felt that a mistake was made when he was- appointed, and, in my opinion, we are now paying the penalty, to some extent, for that mistake. I understand that it was Mr. Lewis’ idea that the returning officers in the various districts should be post-office officials. His reasons were, first, that the officers would be compelled to do the work; whether they liked’ it or not, and, secondly, that thev would be obliged to- take whatever remuneration was offered; seeing that if they did not, the alternative would be their leaving the Department. I know that a large number of postmasters strenuously object to acting as returning officers. The late postmaster at Broken Hill - I forget his name for the moment - when he was transferred to Newcastle, was asked to take charge of the electoral work at the latter place ; and, I am’ told, on good authority, that he protested. However, he either had to take the office or leave the Department; and to-day he is not only postmaster but electoral officer at Newcastle. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst post-office officials on account of their being called upon to do this work ; and such a feeling, does not tend to smoothness in the conduct of elections. If we have returning officers who are performing the duties on compulsion, and not because they are willing to perform them, we cannot expect good results. In times past, postmasters have, I know, been able to thrust a good deal of the work on to their subordinates, but the latter are beginning to object to being called upon to work overtime unless they are paid. As I said before, the returning officer at Broken Hill is not a postal official, but a business man, who has been connected with the Federal elections ever since the Commonwealth was inaugurated, and took part in two previous State elections. He is an officer who has given satisfaction to all classes of the community. Further, I believe he has given satisfaction to the Department, if only because, as I gather from the returns, the election for the Barrier was conducted more cheaply than the election in any other country district in New South Wales.
– Does the honorable member make cheapness the test?
– I am merely saying that, for these reasons, the officer must, I think, have given satisfaction to the Department, the cost being lower only in the case of one or two of the Sydney electorates. In my opinion, if we had not had the services of this business man, and the work had been thrust on the postmaster, the result would have been disastrous. The present postmaster at Broken Hill is a man of ‘ great ability, in whom I have the greatest confidence, and for whom I have the greatest respect, and he is highly thought of by the Department. Since his appointment to Broken Hill, he has done good and valuable service, but the post office there has been terribly undermanned, so much so> that when -.one of the letter carriers took ill, it was impossible to supply his place, and the public were notified that they must come to the post office and get their letters in that particular district. Previous to the last election, and until very recently, that condition of things prevailed ; but, since then, four or five extra officials have been appointed, indicating that, in the opinion of the Department, the office must have been undermanned. If the extra electoral work had been thrust on the postmaster, I venture to think that, under the circumstances, the work and his anxiety to do his duty to both Departmnets, would have undermined his health. The present returning officer desires to resign, because of the work that has been thrust upon him, and also because of the remuneration which is paid. If the gentleman does resign, I know, and not merely from hearsay, that the postmaster at Broken Hill will accept the position under protest - that he will accept it only on the understanding that should he refuse he must cease to be an official of the Post Office. He has quite sufficient postal work to do. That work is increasing, and there is every indication that it will continue to increase; and extra duties must not be imposed on him if he is to satisfy the public and the Department. If the Federal elections were conducted as sensibly as the State elections seem to be, there might not be the same strong objection to the employment of the postmasters ; but, in view of the great work imposed, either in consequence of the way in which the Department is administered, or in consequence of the way in which the Act is framed, I contend that it is extremely injudicious to continue the present system. The duties of a postmaster and of a returning officer are entirely different; a man may be an excellent postmaster, and yet not a good returning officer. I shall refer to the case of Mr. Croft, postmaster at Gawler, only very briefly, because I am sorry to say that he is now before the Court in Adelaide. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Croft personally, but I understand that he has efficiently performed the duties of postmaster for a great many years. He is within two ears 0 of the time when he could claim his pension, but, on account of the work imposed on him by the Electoral Department he seems to have blundered, and to have got himself into his present unfortunate position..
– He was appointed just before the election, the other returning officer having retired.
– That is so; and though he appears to have performed the work of returning officer in the way he should not have done, his records in the Postal Department are, I believe, very good. I am anxious to have an expression of opinion from the officers in the Department as to whether they are satisfied with the present arrangement. It might be suggested that the officers will naturally say they are not satisfied, on the score of the remuneration ; but I think we may ask them freely and frankly if they are satisfied with the prevailing system, and, if they are not satisfied, to give their reasons. I should also like to have a report from the Minister or the Under-Secretary as to whether, in the opinion of the chief officials of the Department, the proper working of the Post Office is in any way interfered with through postal officials having to do electoral work. I shall not occupy more time in speaking to the motion, as I wish to give other honor”able members an opportunity to express their views on the subject. I hope that, if they feel as I do, the Government, when it introduces its promised amending Electoral Bill, will dissociate the electoral from the postal work.
.- Although I support the motion, I do not know that it is worded quite as it should be. If reports were obtained from every electoral officer throughout the Commonwealth, the result would be a very voluminous document. What the honorable member for Barrier no doubt desires is, that the opinions of the postal officials who do electoral work shall be ascertained, and a statement furnished by the Department of the number of officials who are opposed to the continuance of the present system, the number who are in favour of it, and the number who are indifferent. Such a statement would tell us all that we really need to know, and the information could be obtained easily and at little expense. While I should like the postal officials to be relieved of this duty if they dislike it, I admit that we cannot consider them only; the public convenience must be our first concern. It is, however, of value to know whether our electoral .machinery is being worked by men who like their duties, or by men who feel, as some do, that these duties have been unjustly thrust upon them. When the present system was first proposed, I had doubts about its satisfactory working. A reason which, as much as any other, influenced the Government of the .day in adopting it was that the postal officials are entirely under the control of the Commonwealth.
– And many of them have spare time on their hands.
– Not in the big offices.
– No doubt the officials in charge of small country post-offices often have a great deal of time on their hands which they can usefully .employ in performing the work of the Electoral Department; but in busy offices the postal officials have no time to spare! Probably in such cases men who are excellent postmasters show themselves to be indifferent returning officers. Where the postal work is not heavy, the officials in charge ought, of course, to make good electoral officers. Probably, however, the higher officials in the Department hold the opinion that the present system interferes with promotions and transfers, because the needs of the electoral branch have always to be considered, although the postal work is of more importance. Sometimes transfers could be effected easily, and promotions made rapidly, if only the postal work had to be taken into consideration, whereas at present thev are hindered by reason of the difficulty of getting men who can do postal work and electoral work equally well. For the proper performance of the work of an electoral registrar, the longer a man remains in one district the better qualified he becomes, because he gets to know the electors of the district, and can choose as assistants the men who are best able to help him. A great deal in the conduct of elections depends on the assistants thus chosen. If a man shows himself, particularly capable in the postal business, he must, of course, be promoted rapidly, until he reaches one of the more important offices which his organizing abilities entitle him to control. The Electoral Department has sometimes come in for unmerited criticism, owing, I think, to a disposition on the part of the postal authorities to consider almost any one good enough for electoral work. Consequently, men who are unfitted for this work sometimes have it thrust upon them. I do not say that the South Australian returning officer who burnt the ballot papers after the last election was totally unfit for his work ; but he had strongly objected to having it thrust upon him. He is an old man, within two years of the retiring age,, and did not. wish to do electoral work, which at Gawler, where he was postmaster, is very heavy, that town being the centre of the large electoral district of Angas, and containing its chief polling place.
– Generally he did his work very well.
– I believe so. A postal official ought not to be called upon to do this work unless it is impossible to get any one who is equally capable to do it. In South Australia many of the- State- returning officers’ are not public servants outside the scope of their electoral work, and where suitable men can be obtained outside the service, I think it is wise to appoint them. In one or two instances in which such men have been displaced by public servants, it has been to the disadvantage of the Electoral Department. As a rule, the returning officers who are not public servants are enthusiasts, who paY great attention- to their duties, and are particularly successful in the conduct of elections. The honorable member for Barrier pointed out that the work entailed in the conduct of Federal elections is much greater than in the conduct of State elections, and referred to an instructive case in my own district. The Commonwealth and South Australian Electoral Acts are almost identical, providing for precisely similar method’s of registration, filling up of claims, transfers, and voting. Moreover, the Commonwealth division of Boothby and the State electorate of Torrens are almost coterminous, the one returning officer being in charge of both Commonwealth and State elections. I visited this gentleman just before last nomination day, and he then contrasted the immense volume of papers, correspondence, instructions, and other printed matter sent to him by the- Commonwealth authorities, with the small volume sent to him by the State authorities, although the State electorate is a little larger than the Commonwealth division. Pointing to a bookcase, he said, “ A little more than a week ago we conducted a State election. In that bookcase is contained all the material necessary for carrying it out. All the ‘remaining space in this office is occupied by Commonwealth papers. Another room is partly filled with similar papers, and in a portion of the balcony which has been railed off for the purpose still another half ton of Commonwealth papers are stored.”
– How does the. honorable member account for that state of things?
– I cannot account for it. Here are two Departments,, one being administered by the State authority, and the other by the Commonwealth.. The services of the same officers are utilized by each. The only difference between the Departments is in regard, to their adminisstration, Yet in the one case a. very small quantity of space suffices for official papers, whereas in the other a very considerable space is required. At the last election a great mistake was committed in having the votes counted at so many polling places. If we intend to impose upon the presiding, officers at small polling places, the duty of deciding whether or not votes are informal, we do not want those officers to be constantly removed from one centre to another. Under the existing system, postal officials are chiefly charged with the performance of electoral duties, and so long as that condition obtains we must necessarily have a large number of new electoral officers who are unfamiliar with the law.
.- I am very glad that the honorable member for Barrier has brought this question under the notice of the House. I . believe that the greater portion of the bungling which took place in connexion with the recent elections was due to the practice - from motives of economy - of piling all sorts of additional duties upon postal officials. Not only are they compelled to act as registrars and returning officers, but they are obliged to discharge many other duties. When the Public Service was classified I was under the impression that the salaries payable to the various officers were fixed in accordance with the Commissioner’s view of the value of the services which they rendered. Evidently I was under a misapprehension. At the present time postmasters are called upon to act as clerks of courts, registrars of ‘ births and deaths, and Customs officers. For these extra services they do not receive a single penny. I know of no time in the history of South Australia when greater discontent existed amongst the postal officials than exists to-day. That discontent, I may say, is general throughout the State. The point which was raised in this connexion by the honorable member for Boothby is a very important one. These postal officials cannot be located at any one centre for a prolonged period, and the result is that new officers are constantly being called upon to discharge electoral duties. Indeed, the administration of the Department would be ludicrous if it were not alarming. A great deal of the bungling which has occurred is due to additional work being piled upon postal officers who formerly had quite enough to do. I should like to see this motion go further, because I believe that if an officer renders additional services to the Government he should be paid for them. Under the administration of the State Government postal officials in South Australia who performed work in connexion with the Savings Bank received an extra sum for their services in that connexion. But under the administration of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that each officer has been classified, and that, in some instances the salaries payable in respect of certain offices have been reduced by more than £.100 a year, the Government have practically said to our postal officers, “ You must undertake all sorts of additional work without any extra pay.” I do not think we shall ever secure efficiency in connexion with electoral matters so long as postal officials are called upon to discharge these duties. The frequent changes which have to be made will always result in bungling. If additional duties are thrust upon public servants, in opposition to their wishes, we shall never get the best service of which they are capable. I am satisfied that the Government will realize this when it is too late.
– The motion under consideration evidences that private members’ business is not always unimportant. The honorable member for Barrier has raised a question which, I believe, will have to be seriously considered when the Electoral Act is being amended. Many of the suggestions which he has made will, doubtless, be accepted by the House. Under cover of this motion, he has protested against the conduct of elections under the existing system. He has declared that one reason for the bungling which characterized the recent elections was that postal officials are compelled to perform electoral work in the capacity of returning officers. I may add that our Electoral Act also permits of other officers, such as Customs officials, being pressed into the service. To my mind, economy should not be the dominant consideration in the conduct of elections. It is our duty to place in the hands of the electors, machi nery which, will enable them to quickly and effectively record their votes. As has been remarked by the leader of the Opposition, there is only one day in a thousand when the free and independent elector is in a position to exercise his power. Hitherto, the exercise of that power has been largely prevented by a faulty Electoral Act, which, among other defects, permits of the employment of postal officials as returning officers. It has been said that this system was copied from that which obtains in Victoria.
– There is not a single postal official in Victoria who is connected with the Electoral Department of the State.
– I have a vivid recollection that the ex-member for Balaclava, Sir George Turner, stated that the reason why the Commonwealth utilized post-offices and school buildings in connexion with the conduct of elections was founded upon motives of economy. The same spirit seems to have seized upon the returning officers, who vie with each other to conduct the elections as cheaply as possible. In my opinion, the true test of efficiency of an Electoral Act is not the cheapness with which elections can be conducted, but the effectiveness of the machinery. Under the existing system, many faults can be traced to the employment of public servants as electoral officers. It must be recognised that if a postal official gives proper attention to his ordinary duties he has no time to devote to the work of a returning officer. A postmaster called upon to act as returning officer has really to devote the whole of his attention to electoral matters for six weeks prior to polling day, and for four weeks afterwards. He has at the outset to appoint subordinate officers, arrange for their payment, and secure polling booths, whilst so soon as polling day is over he has to draw up reports -and attend to a hundred and one matters arising out of the election. It is a mistake to assume that the present system is an economical one. During an election campaign a postmaster when, called upon to act as returning officer, must be relieved of his ordinary postal duties. The relieving officer is paid by the Post and Telegraph Department, and the expense so incurred is not debited to the Electoral Department, so that we have no means of correctly ascertaining the cost of a general election. The Electoral Act is so complicated that we require to have as returning officers men who have not to give their attention to other matters. A busy postal officer, even assuming that he has the aptitude to act as an electoral officer, cannot devote to a study of the Act the time necessary to enable him to master its many details. It is a well known fact that so many mistakes occurred at the last general elections that practically every honorable member could have been unseated if his return had been contested.
– Do not say that.
– The point I wish to make is that the Act is so complicated that it is impossible for a returning officer, having other duties to attend to, to make himself conversant with its provisions, and see that they are completely observed. The extent of the work falling upon him, and the mass of literature which he has to assimilate may be gauged by the statement of the honorable member for Boothby, that a returning officer in South Australia was able to put within a very small compass all the papers to which he had to give attention in connexion with a State election, whereas those issued to him in connexion with a Federal election practically filled a large building,, and demanded the attention of a librarian.
– That explains the muddling that sometimes takes place.
– Exactly . I wish in the first place to free postal officials from this extra, work, and I would remind honorable members that in this connexion we must have regard not merely to the economical administration, of the Act, but to the effectiveness of the whole system. It is all very well for us to say that we should not employ postal officials in this capacity, but have we considered how their places are to be filled ? I have given some thought to this question, and have a suggestion to make. The weakness of the present system has been amply demonstrated, and I feel confident that the time will soon come when the Department of Home Affairs will find it necessary to create a separate Department to deal with the Electoral law, and to appoint a number of permanent returning officers. The control of two contiguous electorates might be placed in the hands of one official who, with an assistant, could attend not only to the work of conducting an election, but collect the rolls, and see to their purification from time to time. At the present time, in. estimating the cost of a general election, we do not take into account the cost of employing the police to collect the rolls. I have always held that if the police were freed from this duty, they would be in a better position to attend to the work for which they were primarily appointed - the suppression of crime and the maintenance of order. During the last few years their work has been greatly increased under various States Acts, and under the Commonwealth Electoral law we have added still further to their duties. If my suggestion were adopted, it would be no longer necessary to employ the police to collect the rolls. The permanent returning officer and his assistant would in each case be responsible for the correctness of the rolls as well as for the proper conduct of an election, and, in the event of a bungle, we should have no difficulty in sheeting home the responsibility. At present, owing to mistakes such as those which occurred in connexion with the Senate election in South Australia, and also at the polling for the return of a representative for the electorate of Echuca, the Government are put to much expense in conducting a fresh election, and the blame cannot be sheeted home to .any one. Returning officers naturally desire to be as economical as possible, and the returning officer for Dalley proved at the last general election that he was no exception to the rule. I have no desire to make any attack upon him, but he vied with others in endeavouring as far as possible to keep down expenses, desiring no doubt to demonstrate his fitness for the position. The result of the economies practised in my electorate, however, was that we might as well have had open voting on polling day. The booths were certainly not so fitted up as to provide for an effective system of voting by ballot. That state of affairs was not peculiar to my own constituency, and was undoubtedly due to the adoption of a cheeseparing policy. The returning officer for Dalley had charge of an important post-office, and whilst he was engaged in attending to his duties under the Electoral Act, had to be relieved by a competent officer from the Sydney General Post Office. The work of a post-office must be seriously disorganized under such a system. I dare say that many honorable members have, at some time in their career, acted as deputy returning officers, and I would ask them, bearing in mind their experience when they first acted in that capacity, to say what would be their confusion on being called upon suddenly to administer so complicated a piece of electoral machinery as is the Commonwealth Act.
The returning officers, however, have to select their assistants in a haphazard fashion, and it is not surprising that mistakes should be made by men who are absolutely new to the work. We have city and post-office directories compiled by private enterprise - publications which are remarkable for their accuracy - and it should not be difficult to secure as assistants to the permanent returning officers men able to prepare and correct rolls with satisfactory results. Nowadays, when a man wishes to ascertain the address of a citizen, he never thinks of looking at a voters’ roll. He invariably turns to a directory, and finds that the information there obtained is rarely inaccurate. The honorable member for Barrier has suggested that private citizens should be called upon to displace Government officials as returning officers. I agree with him that it is wrong to employ public servants in that capacity, but the scheme which he suggests does riot meet with my approval. Under it, a man who had been a. political partisan might suddenly be called upon to act as returning officer, and on the eve of polling day might appoint as deputies a number of men sharing his own political views. To overcome the difficulty, we must get rid of one class of ‘public servants, and create another. The cost of the Electoral Department is money well spent if it results in well conducted elections, and I’ hope that when the Electoral Bill is introduced, my proposition will be seriously considered. The honorable member for Barrier has enabled us to point out in advance what we consider to be the objectionable features of the present system, and I am sure that the Postmaster-General recognises that the work of his Department is seriously^ disorganized by the employment of postmasters as electoral officers. The public servant who is called upon to act as returning officer is at once brought into the realm of practical politics. His duties necessarily bring him into contact with the retiring member, or his friends, as well as the other candidates, and he is attacked by outside business people who think they should have been selected to assist in the conduct of the election. The ordinary duties of a postal official are of an almost judicial character, and I hold that he should not be associated with politics. In the interests of the Department itself it is unwise that any of its officers should be required to attend to duties of a semi-political character. Whilst I take this view of the situation, I recog nise at once the weakness of the system under which John Smith is taken out of his shop, and, at practically a moment’s notice, required to act as returning officer. If he is a busy man he is fully occupied in earning his own living, and cannot afford the time, unless he be a student, or is fascinated with politics - in which case, I suppose, he would probably be a candidate - to study the Electoral Act. That Act consists of several hundred sections, and I question very much whether even a member of Parliament, if he were suddenly asked, could give a clear interpretation of any one of them. How then can we expect a busy citizen, even assuming that he has a judicial mind, to fully comprehend all the provisions of the Act, and be responsible for the conduct of an election ? One of the Justices of the High Court the other day lamented the fact that he could not pin the responsibility for negligence at an election on any official. To meet this deficiency, I suggest that an Electoral Department should be created. The idea I have is that two contiguous Federal electorates should have one permanent presiding officer, who, with a small staff under him, would appoint officials, and, in the intervals between elections, see to the rolls and undertake general registering work. The honorable memberfor Gray made a mistake when he told us all the Post Office officials had this work placed on their shoulders without remuneration ; the honorable member forgets that the returning officers also act as registrars, though I admit ‘that for performing the duties of the latter office in between elections they receive only the miserable pittance of ^25 per annum. Postmasters should not be registrars if they are to do their own legitimate work efficiently. The honorable member for Barrier seems to be afraid that if the postal officials were asked whether they would like to be relieved of the extra duties the answer might not be of the character he expects - that all might not be for or all against. It is here that human nature comes into play. There are officials who consider that the office of returning officer gives them a desirable social status ; and public servants, like other people, sometimes do not object to bring themselves under the public eye. Many of the officials might think nothing of the £25 per annum, but might think a great deal - foolishly, I think - of the temporary distinction and power attaching to the duties of a returning officer ; they are prepared to give ten weeks’ slavery, and run the -risk of displeasing a large number of persons, in order to exercise supreme authority for a few hours. That may be an honorable ambition, but it is not one that should be gratified at the expense of efficiency in their legitimate work. I am surprised that the PostmasterGeneral has not before now represented to the Department of Home Affairs that the electoral duties impose a severe drag upon the Post Office officials. If those officials say that, in performing the duties of returning officers, they wish to fill in their leisure moments - to play at politics - they make .the admission that their offices are overmanned, and that they are not overworked. Under such circumstances, it would be the duty of the PostmasterGeneral, without sweating, but on proper lines of administration, to see that the offices are not overmanned. I take it, however, that in most cases there are not more postal officials than are required, and that the extra work is therefore detrimental to the discharge of their legitimate work. It is time we had some one who could take charge of the elections, and be responsible for their conduct. Recent revelations have shown ‘ 1 the man in the street 1 ‘ the negligence that is rampant in electoral matters, and I cannot see how the responsibility is to be pinned to any person without an Electoral Department properly administered. As in the case of the Post Office, it is not desirable that the administration should be centralized in electoral matters, because centralization in both instances means weakness. If there were an Electoral Department, the returning officers could be told distinctly, and in time, what their duties were, and there would not be the countermanding of instructions of which we have heard this afternoon. The head of such a Department would properly drill and examine men for the positions of political experts, and such a system would cause a saving and promote efficiency, while it would enable 3*ou, Mr. Speaker, the High Court, and us, as members, to sheet home the responsiblity for negligence. The officials in such a Department could not afford to be political partisans. They would be civil servants, whose sole occupation would be that of electoral experts, and any abuse arising from partisanship, prejudice, carelessness, or ignorance, would mean the loss of their office. The official in char ere of such a Department must be a highly competent organizer, and highly paid, because we cannot get the man qualified foi such an office at a cheap rate. I do not measure salaries by the amount, but by the character of the official, and the quality of the work performed. We could afford topay highly for the services of the most competent organizer available, and, having; taken that step, we ought to see that he ismade solely responsible for the efficient performance of his duties.
Mr. FAIRBAIRN (Fawkner) [4.24I- I understand this motion to have a twofold meaning - first, that the Post Office officialsare overworked when they are called uponto undertake these electoral duties, and, secondly, that the electoral duties are badly performed. I do not quite like the way inwhich this motion has been submitted. Indeed, the honorable member for Barrier somewhat anticipated my comment in this regard. If we were to ask these officialswhether or not they considered themselves overworked, the answers would carry noweight, because we all think we are overworked. I, myself, feel that I am very much overworked.
– There is also the danger to discipline in the Department.
– I am sure we may anticipate what the reports would be. Still I sympathize with the honorable member for Barrier in his opinion that the postal officials ought not to be called upon to do this electoral work. These officials have very important duties to perform, and I think they do their work thoroughly. Indeed they already, have too much to do. As to the electoral work, I think it is exceedingly badly done, and I sympathize entirely with the honorable member for Dalley in his suggestion’ that there ought to be a ‘permanent returning officer with subordinates. I should like to go a step further, and see whether we cannot get the electoral work, not only of the Commonwealth, but also of the States, done by the same set of officials.
– The Government have been trying to bring that about for some time, and the Act was altered especially to enable it to be done.
– I am very glad to hear that from the Minister, because such a plan would effect a great saving of money and give greater efficiency. Electors, both Commonwealth and State, would then vote in the same way, either by striking out the name or placing a cross against it.
– Striking out the name is the better plan.
– I do not desire to express an opinion on that point, but merely urge that we ought to adopt one plan or the other; I do not care which. A great many of the forms might be simplified. I feel that a greater efficiency might be achieved by amalgamating the Departments. In Queensland and New South Wales there would be no difficulty whatever, because the franchise in both instances is the same as that of the Commonwealth.
– Not quite the same in Queensland.
– The Legislative Councils are nominee, and, therefore, have no franchise, and the- Legislative Assembly in Queensland is elected on universal suffrage.
– The Queensland franchise is not quite the same as that of the Commonwealth, because in the former case those who receive charitable relief do not vote.
– The late Queensland Minister, Mr. Airey, is in favour of working in co-operation (with: the Commonwealth in electoral matters.
– There is a good deal of common sense in the man who favours such a> course.
– But that gentleman was defeated at the last Queensland election.
– I am sorry that the State has lost the services of so valuable a man.
– His services have been retained in the Legislative Council.
– Then he is not lost, but gone “ before.” I hope Ministers will seriously take this matter into consideration, and place it before their colleagues in another place. I know from personal experience that the rolls are in a dreadful condition. I do not blame the police for this, because the police had a great deal to do, and the work is not altogether in their line. As the honorable member for Dalley pointed out, the work of the police requires checking, and I have made the suggestion in the House before that the directories - what the honorable member ‘would call “ private enterprise “ directories - would be very useful in this. connexion.
– Thev would be of very little use when the franchise is adult suffrage, because the names of many of the electors would not appear
– I do not quite agree with the Minister. Personally, the first thing I do in the case of an election is to buy a directory and check the names off street by street.
– The honorable member must find thousands of! electors’ names omitted.
– I am only saying that the directories would be useful in checking the roll’s. It took me- three days to get one gentleman round to my way of thinking,, and then I found, to my horror, that he was not on the roll.
– Was it not possible to get him on the roll then?
– The time had passed. Although this gentleman was the oldest resident in that particular suburb, I found to my disgust that his name did not appear on the roll. He ought to have appeared on the ratepayers’ roll, but his name was not to be found either on that or the Commonwealth roll.
– It was his own fault.
– I dare say, but. it was my misfortune. However, that is a matter which, under proper departmental management, would be gone into. It should, be the. duty of returning officers to determine how their work can best be done, and I am sure that if matters were left to their discretion, they would find means of doing it as well as possible. If the electoral departments of the Commonwealth and the States could be amalgamated, we should get, I think, greater efficiency. I commend this suggestion to the attention of the Minister. I heartily sympathize with the aims of the honorable member for Barrier.
.- The honorable member for Barrier has served a good purpose by bringing this matter forward, though the motion does not go far enough. I do not wish to act as an apologist for the Electoral Department, knowing, as I do, that it would be possible to make many beneficial changes in its arrangements; but I feel bound to say that the Commonwealth electoral methods are far better than those of Victoria. I do not know that Victoria was represented at the Conference of electoral officials ; but I believe that the State Government decided to have nothing to do with its recommendations, one of which was that an attempt should be made to make the Commonwealth and State rolls uniform. My fear is that if we take away from the postal officials the control of electoral matters, we shall have to appoint in their places either persons who, having acted as political partisans have obtained some knowledge of electoral matters, or persons who will know little of what is required of them.
– On one occasion an officer in my electorate gave two ballot-papers to a man who had not a vote.
– That was plural voting” with a vengeance. That case should be set against the instance complained of by the honorable member for Fawkner, in which, after taking three days to bring a man to his way of thinking, he found that that man’s name was not on the roll, and could not be placed there. The Commonwealth Electoral Act is, however, more liberal than that of Victoria, because names can be placed on the Commonwealth rolls within three weeks of an election, whereas no one can vote in a State electorate whose name has not been on the roll for twelve months. I think that there should be uniformity in electoral matters so far as it can be obtained. For instance, there would be fewer informal votes if one system were adopted for indicating the elector’s preference, whether by striking out the favored candidate’s name, or putting a cross opposite to it. The honorable member for Dalley seems to think that the postal officials were asked to undertake electoral work by Sir George Turner, because he had found an arrangement similar to that now complained of to work well in Victoria. But so far as I know, no person connected with the Victorian Postal Department - at any rate in the metropolitan area - ever had anything to do with elections until the Commonwealth Electoral Act was brought into operation. If the motion is carried - as I think it will be - I trust that the Minister will furnish an even more complete report than is asked for, and that in drafting an amending Electoral Bill care will be taken to provide more effective means of checking the rolls, so that persons entitled to vote shall not be disfranchised. Steps ought also to be taken to simplify the forms used, so that the instructions distributed may not be so voluminous.
– Thev are not so voluminous as the Victorian instructions.
– I know by visiting the returning officer for Yarra that the volume of instructions issue.d by the Commonwealth Department is by no means so large as the honorable member for Boothby would have us believe. The papers sent to him, if piled on the table of the House, would not make a heap a foot high.
– The heap would not be three inches high.
– I cannot understand why the Commonwealth instructions issued to a South Australian returning officer should be greater in volume than the instructions issued by the South Australian electoral office, because the Electoral Acts of the Commonwealth and South Australia are so much alike. I trust that good will come of this discussion, and that a better electoral system will be obtained, though the present is the best that has ever been in operation in Victoria.
.- Economy has been too much studied in con nexion with the Commonwealth electoral system. It seems to be thought that the Commonwealth elections should not cost more than is expended on the elections of any one of the States. In Queensland at the last Commonwealth election thousands of persons were given no opportunity to have their names placed on the electoral rolls, although they had resided in the State for considerable periods. The method of grouping names according to the polling booths in a division is politically insane. What often happens is that a constable takes a man’s name and puts it on the roll, but when an election occurs a long time afterwards, that man has moved to a different part of the electorate. On presenting himself at the polling booth, he is asked, “What is your number?” a question which he cannot answer, because he has not had an opportunity to see the roll. Probably his name” does not appear on the roll for the polling booth at which he presents himself, and the chances are ten to one that, although properly enrolled for the division, it is not discovered at all, and he is therefore disfranchised. In my division there are 138 polling booths, with a separate list of names for each, so that the presiding officer at any one of them might easily overlook a name which is not on his own list.
– The present system is extremely cumbersome.
– Yes; and it causes thousands of men to be disfranchised.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
– That the grouping according to polling booths be done away with, and an alphabetical list of the electors of the division given to the presiding officer at each booth, so he could at once discover whether a name was or was not upon the roll.
– One roll for each constituency ?
– Yes. In Queensland, if an election takes place during a period of wet weather, thousands of people are unable to go to the poll. Of course, the Department is not responsible for that, and we are always glad to get rain there. But many other persons are disfranchised for reasons which are the fault of the Department. For instance, I know of a district in which thousands of men are congregated. They have come there from all parts of Australia. But the electoral officials are so neglectful of their work that many of these men were unable to vote at the last election. When I spoke to the post office official at Cloncurry about the bad state of affairs there, he said, “ It is no business of mine. Why do not the people apply for a polling booth?” But for eighteen months it was known that there were places where 100 or 150 votes could be polled, and yet no provision was made for polling them. One official told me that he had enough to do in attending to his postal duties without bothering about electoral work. If the postal officials are to continue to perform electoral work, the Government should insist upon its being done properly. If it cannot be done properly by them, other oersons should be appointed to take charge of it. I do not agree with those who say that the present system is altogether bad and vicious. The underlying idea is a good one, though it has not worked out well in practice. The idea was to place the control of. the Electoral Department as far as possible under Federal authority. That was the motive underlying the appointment of postal officials throughout the Commonwealth to conduct the elections for this Parliament. It seems to me, however, that in discharging these duties a great many officers feel that they are being called upon to render additional service under somewhat exacting conditions. Another matter which was responsible for a good deal of trouble during the recent elections has reference to the counting of votes. In some of the States the presiding officers were permitted to count the votes in particular boxes, with disastrous results. In South Australia the practice was so disastrous that several applications for the unseating of successful candidates were made to the High Court, acting as the Court of Disputed Returns. In Queensland the head of the Department took the stand that nobody should be permitted to count the votes except the registrars in the different divisions of the State. Consequently, that officer, in the case of the Kennedy election, was occupied for a whole week before the returns were complete so far as Charters Towers was concerned. There is no doubt that a very efficient count was made, but, nevertheless, it involved considerable trouble, and threw a great responsibility upon the registrar. In other places, the registrars appointed assistants to undertake the supervision of the whole of the elections, because they themselves were unable to personally look after the work. I maintain that if it be necessary to appoint postal officials to conduct our elections, provision should be made to relieve them of some of their other duties, so that they may discharge their electoral duties efficiently. If the Postal Department is of opinion that the Electoral Department should be charged for the services of these officers, that course might ver.y well be adopted. Until something of the kind is done, I am satisfied that the bungling which we have witnessed will be continued. Then an amendment of the Act is necessary, not only in connexion with the compilation of the rolls, but in regard to the method of voting. The compilation of the rolls should be altered, and the present method of grouping them around polling booths should be abolished. It is a portion of the machinery which practically disfranchises a large number. Other sections of the Act dealing with bribery, corruption, the hiring of cabs, and candidates’ expenses, should also be amended. In regard to candidates’ expenses, we should either make the limitation imposed by the Act effective, or repeal the provision. Certainly we should take drastic steps to prevent a continuance of the existing disgraceful condition of affairs. I know of electorates in which as much as £600, £700, and £800 were expended in one centre, notwithstanding the limitation imposed by the Statute. I hope that when the new Bill is introduced, the Government will take steps to overcome these anomalies. I think that the honorable member for Barrier is to be congratulated upon having submitted this motion, because the discussion which has taken place will have the effecc of allowing the
Minister of Home Affairs to know exactly the opinions entertained by honorable members in regard to the conduct of the last elections.
.- To my mind, a great deal may be said in favour of the suggestion which has been made by the honorable member for Dalley. But the point which, chiefly impressed me was that its adoption would probably involve the Commonwealth in an enormous expenditure. If we were called upon to organize and maintain a Department throughout all the States and in each electorate purely for electoral purposes, it would necessitate the appointment of a very large staff indeed. But, at least, a Department of that character would make for greater general efficiency than exists at. the present time. Although much has been said concerning the unsatisfactory method of conducting elections under the- existing system, I claim that a great deal of blame has been laid upon the shoulders of postal officials which is not altogether warranted. So far as my experience goes, those officials have performed their work in a wonderfully efficient manner considering the disabilities under which they laboured, and especially in view of the fact that at each election they had’ practically to work under a new Act. In many instances, postmasters have been obliged to appoint deputies in some of the polling booths of the division over which they presided. It stands to reason that one man could not be personally responsible for the supervision of all the booths within his electorate. In my judgment, the trouble which has been experienced in many cases is due to the appointment of inexperienced men, who have had no knowledge whatever of the electoral law.
– They are becoming better versed in it now than they were.
– A great many officers who were placed in charge of booths had no knowledge of our electoral law, and were quite unable to give accurate replies to voters seeking, information. Further; no definite plan has been followed in the arrangement of polling places. I have seen booths in which there was absolutely no privacy, but merely an improvised desk, and what could only be. called a partition by courtesy. The elector was supposed to enter one of these compartments for the purpose of recording his vote, but a person in the; next compartment had merely to turn his- head to ascertain for which candidate he was voting. That, it struck me, was a matter which ought, to be remedied. Another evil which, should be removed has reference to the practice which, obtained in a great number of polling booths, of allowing persons to walk in and out without question, and not merely to enter the compartments set apart for voters, but to interfere with and. give personal, directions to the voter. I believe that postmasters are as anxious to guard against these abuses as are any other presiding officers. If we adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley there is no guarantee that we shall abolish these evils. It seems to me that all presiding officers and poll clerks should be thoroughly instructed in their duties some time before the- election. If possible, they should be familiarized with the law by the holding of mock elections. There is a good deal to be said in support of the complaints of. the honorable member for. Kennedy in regard to the grouping of voters round polling places in the different electorates.. The present practice has led to a great amount of confusion. So long as: an elector’s name appeared on- the roll for a particular division the old plan of allowing him to vote in any portion of that division without any reference to the particular neighbourhood in. which he re. sides was. very much preferable to the present system. The: motion under consideration opens up a. very wide field for discussion, and one feels almost tempted to ventilate a number of grievances under cover of it. But as it is proposed to amend the Electoral Act during the current session, perhaps, it would be wise for me to bring forward those grievances then. The best course to adopt is either to bring forward these matters when the amending Bill is under consideration, or to make suggestions in writing to the Minister, who could deal with them when drafting it. I wish to draw attention to the extreme parsimony practised by the Department, which, under the direction of the Minister, I understand, refuses to allow any sum to be set apart to provide refreshments for the presiding officers and poll clerks. These men, at the last general election, were, I am informed, in many instances, required to remain in the booths throughout the day and far into the night without any refreshments. That is carrying economy to a point that will not commend itself to the sympathy of the’ House, and I trust that we shall not resort again to such extremes in economy. One suggestion I wish to make is that the amending Bill should extend to members of Parliament themselves the provisions of the section in the principal Act, which prohibits candidates from making donations or presenting gifts to clubs, institutions, and so forth, within three months prior to the date of election. There can be no question that the practice of making, and seeking, donations is, in many cases, becoming a positive scandal. It does, in fact and in essence, in a great number, of cases, amount to bribery on the part of donors, and to intimidation, and almost to blackmail, on the part of some of those who seek the gifts, and opens the’ door to unscrupulous men of means to practically purchase their seats by means of monetary or other gifts. I hope that the section governing bribery will be ma’de much more comprehensive than it is. I have no doubt that the various suggestions offered during this debate will be noted by the Minister of “Home Affairs, and chat, as a result of it, we shall have some improvement in the electoral law before the next general election takes place.
.- There are two sides to the question before us, since it has a bearing upon the efficiency of the Postal Department, on the one hand, and the effectiveness of the Electoral Department on the other. When the Electoral Bill was under consideration it was decided, mainly, I think, in the interests of economy, that, ,as far as possible, civil servants only should be employed to administer the electoral law. The opinion was expressed that we should be able to exercise over such officers a control that would be impossible if private citizens were engaged. The policy adopted by the Public Service Commissioner, however, has an important bearing upon this question. In days gone by many officers receiving high salaries had very little to do, but in the Federal Public Service nowadays merit is taken into consideration in making promotions, and men are transferred from time to time to positions where they have to earn their salaries. It must be recognised that if we impose much outside work on our postmasters, by appointing them returning officers, either the Postal Department must suffer or our electoral law must, in some cases be ineffectively administered. The work of returning officers varies considerably. In Victoria the Federal electoratesare comparatively small.
– They are quite big enough for us.
– No doubt. But the electorate which I have the honour to represent is nearly as big as the State of Victoria. It extends 300 miles along the Queensland border, and comprises 134 polling places. In connexion with the State -elections, the number of polling places in my constituency is much larger. There is a vast amount of work to be attended to by the returning officer for so large a division, and in selecting a postmaster to act in that capacity, the Department has to take into consideration the question of whether he can be readily communicated with by the central office, and be able in turn to keep in close touch with his assistants. In some districts inmy electorate a mail is delivered only once a week, and it takes something like three weeks to .receive a reply to a letter sent from one part of it to another. Usually the official in charge of one of the largest post-offices in an electorate is; appointed as returning officer, and it isbelieved that a man of ability and experience will thus be secured to administer the Act. As the number of big post-offices in a rural constituency is very limited, the field of selection is comparatively small, and it is sometimes found that a capable postmaster is quite ignorant of the work falling to the lot of an electoral officer. Hitherto the postmaster at Bourke has acted- as returning officer for Darling. Bourke has a tri-weekly mail service fromSydney, and mails are regularly despatched’ thence to the Queensland border. Owing to the transfers that are made from timeto time bv the Public Service Commissioner, a postmaster who has proved himself a capable administrator of the Electoral Act may be succeeded by one whohas had no experience, and has no knowledge whatever of local conditions. Several new areas, comprising 10,000 electors, were added to my constituency shortly prior to the last general election, and the returning officer who was called upon to act in that electorate for the first time, experienced very considerable difficulty. Being somewhat new to the work, and unfamiliar with the district, and becausealso of the parsimony of the Department, he appointed as a presiding officer at one of the largest centres a man who was not in the Public Service, and had had practically no experience. This gentleman acted as presiding officer at the last State election, and on the day of election left his polling place and drove a distance of twelve miles in order to vote against a man for whom he had an antipathy. I was not surprised to learn that one of the officers appointed by him to take charge of ‘a distant polling place allowed an elector to record his vote after the poll had closed, and the constable and other officers had left. The elector was admitted by this officer, who instructed him how to vote. This took place at a booth something like 200 miles away from the town in which the returning officer was stationed, and it is not surprising that many incidents giving rise to dissatisfaction should occur in such circumstances. When I inquired why an inexperienced man had been appointed as presiding officer over the head of one who had had forty years’ experience, and in whom every one had the fullest confidence;, T. was told that it was because the charges of the latter were too high. Having regard to the fact that elaborate instructions as to the charges allowed by the Department are issued to the returning officers, I think that the excuse offered was not a reasonable one. Every Department of the Commonwealth has, so far, been conducted on economical lines, but I am afraid that we are trending in the direction of securing cheapness at the cost of efficiency. At every general election we have had many discreditable occurrences, and the transfers made in the Postal Department from time to time have not always been satisfactory from the point of view of the proper administration of the electoral law. I would suggest that the Postmaster-General should obtain from inspectors and other leading officers in the Department .reports showing whether the present system of requiring postmasters to act as returning officers militates against the efficiency of the postal service. I feel sure that we are imposing an undue” amount of work on these men. The returning officer at Bourke had to set aside a special room for the transaction of electoral business, and found it necessary to enlist the services of one of his postal assistants. Any one who is familiar with that part of the Commonwealth will recognise the difficulties which this officer experienced in carrying out his work. He had to make inquiries as to the most desirable presiding officers to appoint; to arrange for special vehicles, and also for horsemen to convey ballot-boxes and ballotpapers to the remote parts of the electorate, and to attend to a mass of correspondence. The parsimony of the Electoral Department is such that many experienced men outside the service have absolutely declined to act as deputies or poll clerks. The result is that the returning officers have been forced to accept the services of any Tom, Dick or Harry on the look out for. a job. Is it any wonder that in these circumstances mistakes have occurred, particularly when we remember that many of these men, . absolutely new to the work, never saw the instructions issued by the Department? I doubt very much whether even members of the Commonwealth Parliament could pass an examination on the Electoral Act; which they themselves framed ; and we cannot expect some person, who is appointed merely because he desires a billet for the day, to be familiar with its provisions. The desire for economy, on the part of the Department, entails considerable risk. When a presiding officer is appointed to a booth, say, in some small place, there is no compulsion to appoint a poll clerk or scrutineer ; and the result is that if that presiding officer be a strong partisan, he may be tempted, in the absence of any check, to pack the ballot-box. I have mentioned this matter to the heads of the Department, but on each occasion I have been told that the candidates have the right to appoint scrutineers. That is perfectly true; but, in my own electorate, for instance, there are 134 polling places, and the candidate is limited to an expenditure of £100. Of course, I do not say that packing a ballot-box has ever taken place in Australia, but there have been cases in Victoria, arid also in Queensland, where the supply of ballotpapers have run out at a polling place, although a number more than sufficient to cover all the names on the roll had been sent up. These occurrences are due to permitting smart and unscrupulous men to conduct elections; and the Department should be no party to such a risk, simply from a desire to economize. I think the suggestion I have made might be acted upon by the Postmaster-General, even regarding the question from the departmental point of view. It has been hinted that some of the postal officials have leisure time; but, with the present organization, I do not think they can have much, if any. I do know that there have been numerous complaints, several from places in my own electorate, of the shortage of men in postoffices; and it is admitted by the Department that there is a shortage. However, it takes about six months before an additional man can be appointed ; an agitation is followed- by a long interval, necessary to convince the Department, and then there comes into play the slow method of filling vacancies. In the meantime, the other officials are working overtime; and we can well see what the addition of the electoral work must mean to them. I do not disagree with the idea that, as far as possible, public servants should be employed for this work, but I think the idea may be carried too far. For instance, the appointment of postmasters as registrars works very well, because they have means of knowing the movements of electors better than any other class; and I do not think there is much complaint on that score. But, in view of the growing postal work, particularly in the larger offices, where the divisional returning officers are located, I think it would be wise to secure permanently the services of some person who knows the district, and can, even at a distance of 200 or 300 miles, select the best men for the work at election time. There is no class of work in which personality counts for so much as in election work. In the Darling division, even at the first Commonwealth election, the Department had the good fortune to select a very able man who did not hesitate to use his own judgment, and be guided by commonsense. When he could not get replies to his telegrams from head-quarters, he acted on his own initiative and responsibility ; and had there not been in the position a man of such courage, there would have been a big bungle over that election. But we cannot find such men in every place. The Public Service Commissioner, when he appoints a postmaster, appoints him for postal work, and not for electoral work ; and the two classes of duties do not seem to work well together. The amalgamation of the duties may be all very well in closely-settled places like Victoria, where there are not adverse conditions in connexion with the mails, and so forth, or immense areas to cover, as in the case of Queensland. In some places, it might be better to obtain the services of an experienced person from outside the Department, always taking care, of course, that he is not a partisan. In the case which I cited a little while ago, the results were due to a lack of knowledge on the part of those who recommended the appointment. I brought under the notice of the heads of the Department the fact that that man was a partisan and inefficient, but nothing was done. Perhaps, as I obtained a large majority, it was not deemed necessary to look into the matter very closely ; but had the result been otherwise, the heads of the Department would have heard a great deal more about it. The honorable member for Barrier has done a good thing in submitting this motion. Our electoral laws ought to be made as efficient as possible ; and I trust that the officials of the Postal Department, from the heads down, will express their views, so that these may be before -us when the electoral law is under consideration.
– I move -
That the words “ post office,” lines 1 and 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “Federal.”
In my district, a Customs officer has charge of the elections; and if the postal officials are asked to express their opinion in regard to this extra work, I think the same opportunity should be afforded to all Federal officers who may be concerned. Many honorable members have complained as to the conduct of the elections; but, perhaps, it is those who were not returned who should complain more bitterly. In my own district, although the official referred to had had no previous experience, he had brains, and so applied himself to the study of the Electoral Act that there were no complaints, even from defeated candidates. As to the absence of names from the roll, that will always be the case while so many people move from district to district without taking care to see that their names are not transferred. In some parts of my electorate, many names were not on the roll, some through the fault of the electors themselves, and others through the fault of the police officer ; but the rolls in all the other districts, I understand, were very complete in this respect. The Parliament of Tasmania, I may say, has adopted, for the House of Assembly, the five Federal electoral districts, so that the Federal rolls may be used. Under these circumstances, there are two classes interested in having the rolls correct, namely, candidates for the Legislative Assembly and candidates for the Commonwealth Parliament ; and the result cannot fail to be satisfactory. Up to the present, the Federal rolls, have not been as perfect as they might have been; but in Tasmania the elections have been carried out very well.- If, however, certain Federal public servants are to carry out the duties of electoral officers, they ought to be sufficiently rewarded for the extra work. The officer in my district worked until past midnight for many weeks before and after the elections in order to complete his work ; and the small sum he received in no way remunerated him for the extra labour. However, as he was an officer of the Commonwealth Government,, he, of course, could not refuse to do the work. I do not see why the Department of Trade and Customs or the Post and Telegraph Department should, as is now the case, be. debited with a portion, of the expense of the elections. We are told that these officials are employed by the Government, and that this is just a little extra work thrown upon them. If that be- so, then I think their salaries should be reduced in the Customs or the Postal Department, and the saving included in the electoral expenditure, so that each Department may show the actual cost of its administration. This amendment, I believe, will carry out the desire of the honorable member for Barrier to have an expression of opinion from the Federal pubTic servants as to- whether they are- satisfied to discharge this extra work; and I do not anticipate any opposition from him.
Amendment agreed to.
– I have no complaint to offer in regard to either the matter or the manner of the speech in which the honorable member for Barrier submitted this motion. Huge machinery had to be manipulated, and it has to be admitted that there were grave mistakes and omissions. This debate has furnished a large amount of information, which I trust will be put to a useful purpose. At the outset, we must remember that a Select Committee of this House, which sat some years back, laid great emphasis on the fact that the employment of public officers for the purpose of conducting elections must be largely beneficial, both to the public and to the service. This is the unanimous finding of that Select Committee as set out in their report -
Your Committee affirm the advisability of the appointment, where possible, of officers of the Public Service of the Commonwealth to ..fulfil electoral duties’ on the grounds that they are Subject to control and discipline; official reports are easily obtainable as to their fitness; arrangements can more easily be made- for their instruction in official duties, and. they are less likely to be engaged Tn party politics.
– When was that opinion expressed ?
– Just before the last general election.
– What has been the. experience of the honorable member since then ?
– That where it is possible to use public officials without increasing their work unfairly and irksomely, it is better to do so than to employ persons who are not in the service.
– Is the honorable member of opinion that the Postal Department is overmanned ?
– No. In a great many instances it is a mistake to use postal officials for electoral work, and, when temporarily administering the Postal Department, I urged the Deputy PostmastersGeneral to ascertain how far electoral work could be performed by postal officials without interference ‘with their ordinary duties. We admit that searching inquiry should- be made to ascertain the amount of overtime which has to be worked by postal officials to keep up their electoral work, and how far their postal duties are interfered with by it. Every effort will be made to get the fullest information on the subject, and if it is found that electoral work cannot be done satisfactorily by the postal officials, other arrangements will be made for- its performance. Many urgent requests were made prior to the election for the proclamation of additional polling booths; but, while I should have liked to comply with a number of them, I found, it impossible to do so, because of the manner in which the rolls had been compiled. This defect will be remedied.
– That is verv. satisfactory.
– We intend that the electorates shall’ be divided in such a way that fewer rolls will be needed, and that each presiding officer may be able to ascertain easily whether a man living, within a reasonable distance of the booth is enrolled. Each counting place will have a complete roll.
– I do not think that that will entirely remedy the- defect which has been complained of.
– Every effort is being made by the Government to assimilate the electoral machinery of the States and’ the
Commonwealth. A section of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides for that being done, and two Conferences of electoral officers have been held to consider the matter. We hope that one set of machinery may be employed, the same rolls and polling booths being used for both Commonwealth and State elections. This will remove much of the confusion that now exists in the minds of electors. The defects of the present system have been recognised, and efforts will be made to remove them.
– Every Minister of Home Affairs tells us that.
– Many of the defects to which reference has been made became apparent only at the last election. We cannot prevent the mistakes of stupid officials who will not carry out direct and plain instructions.
– Are- such officials allowed to continue doing the work?
– They should not be allowed to continue to carry on the work. Mr. Justice Barton pointed out, in connexion with an election petition which he heard recently, that had the instructions issued from the head office been observed, the great bungling which occurred would not have taken place. We cannot do more than’ give direct and explicit instructions to the officials upon whom we have to rely.
– I have been told that subordinate officials were overwhelmed by the multiplicity of instructions, and thus confused.
– If the honorable member takes the trouble to ascertain for himself the number and character of the instructions issued, he will find that they were fewer than they have been represented to be, and so clear and explicit that any one could understand them.
– But now and again a telegram was sent from Melbourne saying that such and such a rule was not to be observed, and then the order was countermanded.
– There has been some exaggeration in this matter. I have here a summary of the instructions issued, and am confident that, had ordinary intelligence been used, many of the mistakes which occurred would have been avoided. A Conference of electoral officers has been held since the elections, bv which mistakes then made have been carefully considered. The amending Bill will be drafted with a view to carrying out the recommendations of the Conference, and meeting the suggestions made by honorable members during this debate.
– The instructions issued in regard to the telegraphing of returns to head centres were unending.
– That is a very minor matter.
– Not to the candidates.
– I do not know how the candidates were affected.
– Is not the honorable gentleman always anxious to know as soon as possible whether he has been returned?
– The instructions issued were intended to insure the making known at the earliest moment possible of the fullest information available.
– One of the greatest blunders made at the last election was in regard to the instructions for the sending in of returns. In some places it was thought that the votes should be counted as they came in, and the Act was ignored altogether.
– Common intelligence could not have been brought to bear in those cases. The instruction was that as the numbers were made up they were to be telegraphed to the centres.
– Returns had to be sent in at stated periods.
– Yes; Senate returns, not returns for the House of Representatives. When the amending Bill is introduced, honorable members will have an opportunity to review these instructions. I take it that the honorable member for Barrier does not intend to press his motion, his object being merely to ventilate thismatter. He contends that the postal officials have enough to do in carrying out their postal work; that the electoral work should be given to others, and improvements effected in our electoral machinery.The suggestions made during the debate will be noted, and will .receive careful consideration.
Mr.. PAGE (Maranoa) (5.40]. - The candidates for Federal honours who were nominated for the large country constituencieswere as anxious as were the metropolitan candidates to know the results of the voting, and every effort should have been made to give early publicity to the returns. But the instructions issued from Melbourne on the subject were so frequent and confusing, that they put me in , mind of the song -
First she would and then she wouldn’t,
Then she smiled and thought she couldn’t,
She thought she should and thought she shouldn’t.
Conflicting instructions were sent along at brief intervals, and the administration was such as one might expect to see burlesqued in a comic opera. In my division, there are185 polling places, but it must be remembered that that division is as large as the State of New South Wales. I asked the present Attorney-General, when he was Minister of Home Affairs, to see that no man had to go more than 30 miles to record his vote. The honorable and learned member told me that those who lived further than that from a polling booth could take advantage of the postal voting provisions of the Act. That was ridiculous advice. Votes recorded under those provisions require the attendance of Justices of the Peace, medical practitioners, or Commonwealth officials as witnesses.
– Or policemen.
– We hardly ever see a constable in the Maranoa District, and do not need them. Besides, the distances to be traversed are so great, and the mail services so slow, that in many cases those who did apply to he allowed to vote by post were unable to have their votes recorded. In some parts of the country a fall of rain amounting to not more than an inch would completely dislocate the mail service. Yet, only three weeks were allowed for the sending out of ballot-boxes to the South Australian border. Had there been rain the elections in the Kennedy and Maranoa divisions could not have been held. The returning officer for Maranoa has nearly been driven into a lunatic asylum by the amount of work which he has had to do. He has been going night and day, and on Saturdays and Sundays, but could get no assistance until, on my arrival in Melbourne a few weeks ago, I personally represented his case to the authorities. Directly I explained the position to them, assistance was granted to him. Had he gone out of his mind, probably half-a-dozen men would have had to be sent to do his work. Yet the Department refused him assistance in order to save a few pounds. The secret of the inefficient manner in which elections for this Parliament have been conducted is to be found in the inordinate desire of the Department of Home Affairs to secure economy. That Department wishes to be able to point to the fact that elections are conducted very much cheaper now than they were under the old system. That cheapness, however, is being attained by the sweating of postal officials who are unable to rebel against extra duties thrust upon them, because they have been threatened that if they do so their services will be dispensed with. Does the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs think that the Postal Department is over-manned ?
– I have said that the whole thing needs inquiring into.
– Each officer in the Postal. Department has his time fully occupied in the discharge of his ordinary duties. Why should the Electoral Department ask him to perform its work after he has discharged his ordinary duties?
– The Sydney General Post Office is said to be a regular sweating shop.
– I believe that the post offices in all the big centres are sweating shops. So far as the division of Maranoa is concerned, I want the Minister to subdivide it in a similar fashion to that which is adopted in connexion with the State electorates in Queensland,For instance, the State electorate of Barcoo embraces the subdivisions of Barcaldine, Blackall, Alpha, Tambo, Isisford and Windorah. Consequently an elector knows precisely where to look for his name upon the roll. Upon the polling day for the last election a number of . persons interviewed me at Roma, and stated that their names were not upon the roll. I asked them where they resided when they applied to have their names inserted upon the list. They gave me this information, and I then looked at the particular group and found that their names were upon the roll. The position is easily explained. All the information which they could give to the officer of the polling booth was that they ought to be upon the roll for either the Charleville or Barcaldine subdivisions. The roll was consulted, and their names not being found there, they were obliged to walk out of the booth. I contend that if the different stations in and around the chief centres of population were grouped, everybody would know precisely where to look for his name. Then I want more polling booths established in the division of Maranoa. In ray opinion 30 miles is quite far enough for polling places to be separated. How many polling places are there in the electorate represented by the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs ?
– About six.
– And what is the area of his electorate? I will undertake to say that his constituency does not embrace an area of more than 5 square miles, and yet there are six polling places ‘ within it, whereas in my electorate, which covers an immense tract of country there are only 185 polling places, many of which are from 70 to 140 miles apart. Under such circumstances how could a large percentage of the electors record their votes? i ask the Minister to give the electors in these large constituencies improved facilities for voting. If that be done, I am satisfied that the percentage of those who record their votes will be much greater than it was at the last election.
– - f take it that the criticism which has been indulged in by honorable members is not prompted by any desire to assail the Minister in charge of the Electoral Department, but springs from a desire to prevent the recurrence of what occurred at the last election. The chief objects to be attained in electoral matters are efficiency and purity. These can be attained only by the appointment of officials who know their work. i do not charge the postal officials who recently acted as returning officers with any dereliction of duty in this connexion. They had too much work thrown upon them. I happen to live near the South Melbourne post office, and during the campaign i had to keep very late hours. But it did not matter at what time I returned to my home the postmaster’s light was always burning. How that officer withstood the strain of the extra work imposed upon him I do not know. He further laboured under the disadvantage of having no space in which to keep all the documents connected with the election. The ‘postmasters were really to be pitied, and if the last election evidenced anything, it is that the conduct of future elections should be entirely removed from the postal department. We have been told that the object of utilizing the services of postal officials as electoral officers is to save money. If there be anything which discloses parsimony on the part of the Government it is their electoral administration. I hold that if elections were to cost twenty times as much as they do, the elec tors would be quite satisfied so long as the men of their choice were returned.
– The honorable member is, of course, speaking figuratively?
– Yes. It was this wretched parsimonious system which was responsible for the small percentage of electors who exercised the franchise at the last election. We have been assured that only fifty or sixty per cent, of those whose names appear on the rolls actually voted. But, as a matter of fact, not more than 80 per cent, of them are eligible to vote. There is an additional 20 per cent, whose names should not be upon the rolls. Under the existing system, if a man removes from one house to another, notwithstanding that he is still resident in the same division, he almost invariably applies to have his name placed upon the roll. When he removes to a new division, he rarely takes the trouble to notify the officials of the fact, and, accordingly, his name is again inserted upon the lists. Thus the duplication of names is enormous. I admit that, prior to the last election, fair facilities were offered to persons to secure the insertion of their names upon the roll. But the postal officials were unable to meet the situation satisfactorily, because they were not conversant with the boundaries of the various electoral divisions. Of course, I recognise that the chief object of employing these officers was to diminish the likelihood of political bias. But at the present time there are men who have resided in the same house for twenty years whose names do not appear upon a roll. In some instances the name of the wife or the daughter figures upon the lists, but those of the husband and sons do not. To my mind the only effective way to achieve purity of elections and a proper roll is to appoint a registrar for every division, instead of trusting to the insertion of the names of voters in a haphazard fashion when the elections are approaching. These registrars, in my opinion, should be paid - not granted a small honorarium. It should be their duty to place every eligible person’s name upon the roll, and to remove the names of those who have died, or who, from other causes, become ineligible to vote. Then, when the elections are approaching these registrars should be appointed returning officers. They would have the whole business at their fingers’ ends, and would a lmost instinctively know whether a man in a particular division had voted or not.
These officers might be political partisans, but in that matter we should have to_take our chance. That partisanship might be overcome by permitting every candidate to have a scrutineer at each polling place in his division, who would be remunerated for his services out of the Commonwealth revenue. By adopting this plan, we should secure the compilation of a proper roll, and the purity of elections. I admit that the adoption of the system would cost a lot of money, but I take it that the people of Australia are desirous of securing the election of the candidates whom a majority favour. What a foolish thing it is to talk about compulsory voting when there is a large percentage of eligible persons who want to vote, but whose names do not appear upon the rolls? It is within the experience of all honorable members that upon polling day they, are rushed by a number of persons who sympathize with their views, but whose names do not appear upon the lists. Of course, they are disfranchised as the result of their own negligence. Their excuse invariably is, “ I have been living in my present home for years, and I naturally thought that my name would appear upon the rolls.” I have no desire to condemn the Electoral Department, but I believe that a satisfactory roll could be compiled by adopting the ulan which I have suggested. We should take care that no elector is disfranchised, and that those who are charged with the duty of conducting the elections are fully instructed before, and not after, polling day. In this way only shall we be able to remove many of the difficulties that have been experienced, and build up an electoral system that will be .satisfactory to the people.
,- In view of the conciliatory speech of the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, I do not propose to press the motion. I understood the honorable gentleman to say that the Government intend, at the next general election, to have more polling booths, and I wish to know whether he meant to convey an intimation that it is proposed to create more polling divisions? Can we have more than one polling booth within a polling division?
– The proposal is to divide the rolls in the way I have indicated. That will enable polling places to be placed at any time where circumstances warrant them.
– When a polling division is declared a roll is prepared in respect of it, but it is sometimes found that there should be two booths within the one division.
– There is nothing to prevent that requirement being carried out.
– I am satisfied with the Minister’s assurance, and in asking: leave to Withdraw mv motion, desire only to say that I do not think that the time we have devoted to its consideration hasbeen wasted. It has afforded honorablemembers an opportunity to express their views, and I trust that the suggestions thrown out during the debate will prove of great assistance to the Ministry in> framing the amending Bill.
Motion, as amended, by leave, withdrawn.
– In view of the explanation which I made last night, in submitting in Committee the resolution upon the message of His Excellency the_ Governor-General, I think it unnecessary to do more now than to move formally -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
,- I rise to oppose the second reading of thisBill, which, in my opinion is sarcely opportune. In common with many other large schemes which the Government contemplate, I think it might well be deferred until the Commonwealth has settled down into something like working order. The position -of the smaller States is a serious one. That of which I am a representative will be called upon to pay a large sum towards the cost of making this survey, and I am confident that it will derive no benefit from the outlay. The Treasurer last night gave forcible expression to his views, and I am sure that he has the sympathy of the House. He has fought hard from the first for the making of this survey, and the construction of the line has become practically the object of his life. I respect his feelings, but at the same time, having .regard to the attitude he has always taken up, do not think we should pav too much attention to his views upon this subject. It cannot be said that his remarks last night were offered in that calm, judicial spirit which carries conviction with it.. The right, honorable gentleman declared that he had practi-cally led the people of Western Australia to accept the Constitution Bill, by declaring that the Federal Parliament would agree to the construction of this line; but he has done so much to expedite the passing of this Bill that I do not think he has any reason 10 reproach himself. Another point that I wish to make is that we have no satisfactory guarantee that South Australia will consent to the making of this survey. Certainly, if I understand the Attorney-General rightly, the Premier of that State has declared that he is willing that a survey should be made through South Australian territory, but I contend that before taking this step we should have before us an Act passed by the South Australian Legislature giving the necessary sanction. If it be true that we have power to enter South Australian territory for the purpose of making the survey what is the meaning of the ellause relating to the construction of the railway line iri the Northern Territory agreement. Another point to be considered in connexion with this aspect of the question is that the) South Australian railway with which the transcontinental line is to be connected; is ot a different gauge from that_ which it is. suggested we should adopt. We do not know whether South Australia will be prepared to join with Western Australia in securing a uniform gauge.
– The Port Augusta line is not of the same gauge as the Western Australia lines. It is a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge.
– And it is proposed that the transcontinental line shall have a 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge.
– Then the lines at each end will be of a different gauge.
– That is so, but Western Australia has promised to alter its gauge, in order to secure uniformity. Another objection which I have to this. Bill is that the cost of the survey should be borne by South Australia and Western Australia, who will derive a direct benefit from it. If, as the Attorney-General would have us believe, the project is an excellent one, why should not the two States most directly concerned make the survey at their own cost? It would, in such circumstances, pay them well to expend £20,000 on such a work. I fail, at all events, to see why Tasmania should be asked to contribute to the cost of a survey of a line which will in no way benefit her.
If the work is to be carried out satisfactorily - if, as has been suggested by the honorable and learned member for Flinders, exploratory work is to be done in connexion with it - the cost, instead of being £20,000, will probably amount to .£50,000 or £60,000. The making of the survey will be a step towards the construction of a line, which, according to some estimates, would involve an outlay of £4,500,000. Experience shows that estimates are usually exceeded, and the probability is that it would cost something like £5,000,000 to lay down a properly equipped railway. The making of the survey will be but the thin end of the wedge - a proposal for the construction of the line itself is fairly sure to follow. According to the figures presented to us, the line would not be a paying concern for some years. Optimists declare that Western Australia will make such ra.pid progress that the railway will soon pay, but the statistics at our disposal show that at the present time the western State is practically at a stand-still. Thev certainly do not indicate that she is likely to make much advancement for some time, and the probability is, that, instead of the line becoming a payable one, ten years after its completion, we shall find ourselves still called upon to bear a heavy loss. So far as I have been able to ascertain, it will not open up country of any great value. Almost all the reports refer to the country to be traversed as grazing land, and thev all show that it lacks the one condition to successful occupation - a reasonable water supply. Even the Treasurer, in his own work, admits that the country lacks water, although he states that, along some of the ranges, it might be tapped at a depth of 30 feet.. The evidence of the existence of a water supply along the line of route is not satisfactory, and if the country is poorly watered, the line will not prove anything like so advantageous to Australia as many fondly anticipate. I think I have shown practical objections to the passing of this Bill. They will appeal, at all events, to those who are not citizens of the States of Western Australia and South Australia, and thev are sufficient to warrant me in opposing the second reading. I shall vote’ against the motion.
– I should like to obtain some information upon one or two matters affecting this Bill. It will’ be remembered that the Bill submitted to the last Parliament was amended in one or two respects, and that provision was made for certain contingencies. I desireto know whether any provision is made to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth in the direction of reserving land along the proposed route?
– The resolutions passed by both Houses of the State Parliament of Western Australia are still binding.
– Do I understand thac those resolutions will hold good in connexion with the proposal before us, seeing that this is a new Parliament?
– The resolutions have never been withdrawn, and no difficulty is anticipated.
– But those resolutions apply only to Western Australia ; we have no undertaking of a similar character on the part of the Parliament of South Australia. Whether any steps have been taken to that end I do not know ; but we ought to safeguard the interests of the public. As soon as a survey has been made, and there is a prospect of the line being constructed, speculators may take up lands ahead of settlement, and thus reap all the advantages which the line, constructed at the cost of the Commonwealth, would give in the way of added values. In order that we may safeguard ourselves, I shall, when in Committee, move an amendment in clause 2 of the Bill, to the followingeffect : -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ Provided that no money shall be expended in connexion with railway surveys or construction unless the Governments of the States, within whose territory it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall construct railways, previously agree to reserve from alienation, and place under Commonwealth control, all available Crown lands for a distance of twenty-five miles on each side of any proposed line.”
That amendment is similar to one which was proposed when this question was under consideration on a previous occasion ; and the object is to protect the Commonwealth from speculators who may - and, of course, I cannot blame them for doing so - take advantage of the work in order to enrich themselves at the public expense.I do not intend to traverse at any length the proposals made, because I have already done so on a previous occasion. I should like, however, to draw attention to one item in the report of the Engineers-in-Chief, regarding the desirability or otherwise of constructing this line. Paragraph 2 of the report is as follows -
Asto the advisability of constructing the proposed line at the present time, we beg respectfully to suggest that, in view of the direct monetary loss involved, this is largely aquestion of policy and sentiment depending on many issues regarding which we have no information, and we hope we may be excused from expressing any other opinion than that, if the past progress of Western Australia is maintained, the line will ultimately be a necessity and a financial success.
In regard to the latter part of this paragraph, we all know that when any area of land becomes populous, there is no doubt as to the necessity for railway s, nor can there be any doubt as to such lines proving a financial success. But, unfortunately, we know that this line will traverse a vast area of country, where, at present, not a solitary soul is living. What the character of the country is we have no means of knowing in the absence of reliable information. But, so far as the information available is concerned, the impression which is forced on our minds, by a perusal of the reports, is that this country is very largely a waste tract, and that only over a certain portion of it can we hope for profitable settlement, so necessary to a diminution of the losses which it is admitted must follow the construction of the line. Those losses the Engineers-in-Chief estimate at £68,000 per annum, extended over a period of ten years, making a total loss to the Commonwealth of £680,000 on the working of the railway. So far as I have been able to discover, there does not seem to be any hope of materially reducing that loss by means of settlement along the line, except for a distance of, perhaps, onethird of the route, which the honorable member for Fremantle has told us is suitable for agricultural purposes. Nobody seems to know definitely what the remaining two-thirds of the land is like, but, from the information we have, it is not likely, unless there is some great mineral development, that we shall obtain any revenue for many a long day from the greater part of the land. At any rate, if the land is practically valueless at the present time, I cannot see that there should be any objection on the part of the South Australian Government to give the concession aimed at bv my amendment. On the other hand, if the concession be made, and development operations reveal rich mineral deposits, or some other means of obtaining revenue from the land, the amendment will, to that extent, safeguard the interests of the public, and, perhaps, reduce the loss which otherwise seems inevitable.
.- I did not address the House when this question was before us last night; and now
I desire to say that I have not altered in the least the stand I took when this question was before a previous Parliament. I have absolutely no objection to the construction of this railway line, because I believe such a line would do a great deal of good. But my opinion is that the line is one which the States directly interested should themselves construct. I have never been able to see the slightest reason why there shouldbe a Federal railway built to connect two States railways; the proposal is to dovetail in between two States systems a Federal line, going, really, from nowhere to nowhere. However justifiable the line may be as a general utility line, there is not the slightest justification for calling on the States which have had to construct their own railways, to contribute to the cost. I have a great deal of sympathy with the right honorable member for Swan. No one can help admiring the pertinacity and ability with which he has advocated this railway. I go so far as to say that, if the construction of the line is sanctioned, and it is constructed by the Federal Government, the people of Western Australia will owe it almost wholly to the splendid efforts of the right honorable gentleman. It is quite clear, from the statement made by the right honorable gentleman, that certain pre-Federation pledges were made in regard to a transcontinental line. But some of us held that none of those who made the pledges had the slightest authority, either direct or implied, to commit the whole of Australia to such a scheme. We know that certain other pledges were given in the little State of Tasmania. The advocates of Federation pledged themselves that revenue in Tasmania from the Customs under the Commonwealth would not be more than £10,000 less than under the State Tariff. In fact, some of these gentlemen stated that2½ per cent., and certainly not more than 5 per cent., of loss would be incurred; but the reduction in the revenue from Customs in Tasmania has been equivalent to 60 per cent. If the pledges in regard to the transcontinental railway are to stand good - if the whole of this Parliament have to stand by these pre-Federation pledges - we in Tasmania are perfectly justified in asking that the pledges shall remain good in relation to the revenue of Tasmania. One of the objects of this Bill is the development of territory, and I point out that in Tasmania there is splendid territory which we are unable to develop simply for want of the necessary revenue. Yet, under these circumstances, the people of the States - the revenues of which have been depleted by Federation - are told, “Although there are necessary public works in your own States which you cannot carry out for want of revenue, you are to be handicapped still further by being compelled to contribute to expenditure on public works in other States.”
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Any pledges which, prior to Federation, may have been given to Western Australia by prominent politicians in the other States were given without’ authority, express or implied, from the people of those States. If the Commonwealth undertook to fulfil all the promises made by prominent politicians when advocating the acceptance of the draft Constitution,the problems which would have to be faced would be many, and of enormous difficulty. Many of the electors from the State from which I come accepted in good faith what unfortunately have proved to be very unreliable prognostications of what would happen Under Federation. Our loss of revenue has been very muchlarger than was estimated. I do not wish to make what is proverbially called a poor mouth ; but, from end to end of Tasmania, necessary public works are left undone, and our railway employes and other public servants, in both the higher and lower branches, have to be content with lower rates of remuneration than are paid for. similar services in the other States. These low rates are paid, not because the people of Tasmania wish to underpay their servants, but because, owing to the loss of revenue which the State has sustained under Federation, it is impossible to pay them whatthey really earn. We are asked to be generous to Western Australia, but we must be fair and just to our own people first. I admire the pertinacity with which the right honorable member for Swan has stuck to his position. If . the proposed railway is made, the people of Western Australia will have to thank the right honorable gentleman for his untiring effort tohave it approved by this Parliament. He told us last night that he does not regard the sanctioning of the proposedsurvey as the fulfilment of the pre-Federal pledges to which he alluded. He said that he did not desire promises to vote for the survey and not for the railway. Inmy opinion, the Commonwealth is being asked to embark upon a policy which will land it in unjustifiable expense. I can understand the desire on the part of the people of Western Australia to get railway communication with the eastern States. The advantages which would ensue from such a connexion would be mutual. But the construction of railways is a matter which the Constitution has left within the province of the States, and if the people of Western Australia and South Australia desire to have a route surveyed for a line which will connect their railway systems, they should pay for the work themselves. If afterwards they find that a connecting railway would be a profitable thing to make, but a work which they are not able to carry out, unassisted, let them come to this Parliament for help.
– Australia is federated now.
– Yes ; but the construction of railways is not a matter which is under the control of the Commonwealth. We are being asked, not to make a railway within Commonwealth territory, but to dove-tail a Commonwealth line in between two State lines over which we shall have no control. Even if we allow the proposed survey to be made, the permission of South Australia must be obtained before the Commonwealth can construct a railway in her territory. There seems to be too much bartering in connexion with Federal affairs, and a condition in the Northern Territory transfer agreement reads like a threat on the part of that State not to give permission unless the transfer is sanctioned. Last night the Treasurer had a good deal to say about the refusal of the Government of South Australia to carry out a promise which had been made by a former Premier of that State. No great desire for the construction of the line, but rather hostility to the project, has been shown by the people of South Australia. Surely the businesslike way! of going about this matter would be to secure the land through which the railway will run before spending money on surveying a route for it.
– It is all Crown land.
– The honorable member talks as if the line would go wholly through Western Australian territory.
– If the line went wholly through Western Australian territory the position would be easier. It does not matter whether the land is Crown land or privately owned. Much of it is South Australian territory, in which we cannot construct a railway without the permission of the State authorities. Before embarking upon schemes for railway construction, or the acquisition of territory entailing large expenditure, we should see that the finances of the States are placed on a sound and solvent basis. I do not think that any of the States is likely to became insolvent, because the resources of each of them are so great ; but some of them are now forced to heavily tax their people in order to obtain sufficient revenue to carry on the publicservices. The direct taxation of Tasmania, just prior to Federation was a little more than 12s. per head of population, but now it is more than 26s. per head. Notwithstanding this large increase, development is retarded, and expenditure cut down, with the results which I have stated. The Treasurer made a strong point of the statement that the people of Western Australia were induced to enter Federation on the distinct understanding that this railway would be made, and read letters which he had received from the leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister, Mr. Justice Barton, and others, bv! which, he said, the understanding was conveyed. But these gentlemen had no authority to bind the future Parliament of Australia, to which they had not been elected, and therefore the people of Tasmania do not feel called upon to honour their promises.. Not a single argument has been advanced why Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales should be called upon to construct a Federal railway between two other States.
– This is not the honorable member’s per capita argument?
– When the Treasurer introduces a truly Federal system of finance, under which the States shall receive, as well as pay, upon a per capita basis,I shall be found supporting it. That is a fair position for an honorable member to take up.
– Not upon the present occasion.
– I would remind the Treasurer of a speech which I heard” him deliver in Hobart some four months ago, in which he declared that there could be no true Federation of the Australian States until such a system was adopted.
– I can assure the honorable member that I have never made that statement.
Mr.Mcwilliams.-I shall oppose this Bill, not because I entertain any illfeeling towards Western Australia, but be- cause the construction of the proposed railway would inflict a serious injustice upon States like Tasmania in that they would be called upon to contribute to its cost, although they cannot afford to build developmental railways within their own borders.
.- Honorable members who had the honour of sitting in the first and second Parliaments of the Commonwealth will recollect that this Bill has been before us upon several occasions, though, for some reason or other, it has never been agreed to by both branches of the Legislature. As I have previously spoken upon it, I do not propose to occupy much time in discussing it this evening. Nevertheless, I feel that I should not cast a silent vote upon such an important question. The passing of this Bill by the Parliament will involve not merely an expenditure of £20,000 upon a trial survey, but an outlay of ,£5,000,000 or ,£6,000,000 upon the construction of the proposed transcontinental railway.
– The honorable member believes that the country which it will traverse is worthless.
– I desire the people of Western Australia to prove that it is not a waterless waste. I have consistently opposed this Bill, and I know of no reason why I should alter my. attitude towards it. The expenditure of £20,000 upon a trial survey is of very small moment as compared with the outlay of ,£5,000,000 or ,£6,000,000, which will be required to construct the line.
-r-The cost of its construction is estimated at £4,500,000.
– It is ‘not at all unlikely that the undertaking will involve an outlay of double that sum. The engineers who framed that estimate have not travelled over the ground, and are not in a position to make a thoroughly reliable forecast. I am aware that some honorable members intend voting for the Bill under the impression that they are not committing themselves to support . the proposal for the construction of the railway. In my opinion, having admitted the principle they’ will be in duty bound to vote for the construction of the line. They can only be released from that position ‘ by a . report that the line will prove unremunerative. In .considering this Bill I have to bear in mind that I am a Queensland representative, and I have no hesitation in saying that that State cannot afford to become a participator in this great venture. Much as I would like to support the Treasurer, I shall be obliged to vote against the Bill. If the proposed railway is of such importance to Western Australia as has been represented, surely the people of that State can afford to expend £20,000 in a survey of the route. If they did that they might have good reason for requesting this Parliament to sanction the construction of the line, because their action would show that they had some confidence in their own country. At the present time, however, they have not sufficient confidence in it to warrant them spending the small sum of £20,000. Dur ing the recent election campaign I was repeatedly asked if I would support this measure. The question, I can assure honorable members, was a very live one in Queensland. I had no hesitation in assuring my hearers that I would not be a party to penalizing Queensland to that extent. In opposing the Bill I am, therefore, merely giving effect to my hustings pledges. Why does Western Australia require this preference over all the other States? The Constitution provides that every State shall receive equal treatment - that a preference shall not be given to one State over another. It further declares that there shall be no discrimination as between State and State. Yet in this Bill it is proposed to bestow upon Western Australia and South Australia a substantial advantage over the sister States. Why should we specially legislate in their interests ?
– What about the sugar bounty ?
– That bounty was forced upon the sugar-growers of Queensland, who never asked for it. Had they been left alone, they would not have expected .any assistance from this Parliament. I do not feel that Queensland is under any obligation to the Commonwealth Legislature. Do not forget that, upon a population basis, that State will be required to contribute £4,000 as her proportion of the expense of carrying out this preliminary survey. Queensland might, with an .equal amount of reason to that exhibited by Western Australia, appeal to this Parliament to sanction a . preliminary ‘survey of a railway route from Brisbane to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
– And she might; claim that such a line was necessary for defence purposes.
– That claim might be advanced with a much greater show of reason. Is it possible, I ask, that the projected line of railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta will pay even within the lifetime of any one- present in this Chamber ? I do not think it will pay working expenses for many years.
– We shall lose £250,000 annually upon it.
– Victoria will have to contribute a large proportion of the shortage. Only last’ night the Treasurer admitted that the undertaking in the initial stages would involve a loss of .£60,000 annually.
– I did not. .1 said that it would pay from the outset, and I have said so in writing.
– I wish to congratulate the right honorable gentleman upon the very excellent speech which he delivered in support of the Bill. I have had the pleasure of listening to almost every speech which he has made since he entered this House, but I confess that I never heard him to such advantage as I did last night. Of course, I do not suppose for one moment that anything which I can say will influence a single vote upon this Bill. Nor will the speech which the Treasurer himself delivered influence a solitary vote. Honorable members had- made up their minds upon the subject long before the Bill was brought forward. The expert engineers who have reported upon this project estimate that during the first ten years after its construction it will involve the Commonwealth in an annual loss of £60,000.
– I do not agree with -.them.
– Each State will be required to contribute its proportion of that loss. Of course, the capital for its construction will have to be borrowed. Australia is very fond of borrowing. Assuming that the undertaking costs £5,000,000, Western Australia’s proportion of the interest bill will be very small indeed. I think that Tasmania will be required to pay “interest upon about £400,000 per annum. Western Australia will have to be responsible for the’ payment of interest on about £500,000, while South Australia comes next on the list with a responsibility for the, payment of interest on about £600,000” per annum.
– There will be some receipts from the railway.
– But it is estimated that there will be an annual shortage of £60,000.
– What proportion of that shortage will each State have to make good ?
– The interest on the capital outlay will have to be paid by the States, who will also have to make good any shortage of revenue.
– No; the estimated loss of £60,000 a year covers all outgoings.
– I estimate that Queensland will have to find interest on a total of about £750,000 per annum.
– Western Australia has to make every year a contribution of that amount in respect of the sugar bounty.
– I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman does not like the presentation of these facts. “Victoria and New South Wales would have to meet interest on the balance of the £5,000,000 which it is estimated would be the cost” of the line.
– Western Australia gives Queensland more in respect to the sugar bounty than she would have to pay l .y way of interest on the cost of making the railway.
– The Commonwealth will soon have to give Queensland something like £500,000 a year by way of bounties. I wish now to read a short extract from a leading article on the transcontinental railway, published in -the Age of 2nd July”, 1906.
– Do not quote the Age to me, or I shall have to leave.
– The Age is one of the best newspapers in Australia, and it is the Government organ. After referring to the delay in dealing with the Tariff - delay which seems likely to continue for some months longer - the article proceeded -
And for what is all this postponement to be made? In order to submit to the House one of the most iniquitous jobs that ever disgraced the detestable principle of Party Government. ‘
– Does the honorable member believe that statement?
– I am merely reading an extract from a newspaper, and it is immaterial whether I believe it or not. I think, however, that the right honorable gentleman will admit that it is correct.
– I do not.
– ‘ The article continues -
The Desert Railway Survey Bill is on again. Everybody knows the contemptible motives that have united the leaders of the three parties in support of this Bill.
– I hope the honorable member will not disgrace himself by becoming a party to that sort of thing. I do not care a straw about the article. It is not true, and the honorable member knows it.
– I must ask the right honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I shall do so, Mr. Speaker, and say that the honorable member is quoting that which he knows to be incorrect.
– I must ask the right honorable gentleman also to withdraw that remark.
– I shall do so, sir.
– I am sorry that the Treasurer has thought fit to leave the Chamber. The article continues -
Mr. Reid had to pledge his party to the Bill in order to try and get the support of Western Australia to free-trade. Mr. Watson had to espouse the cause because most of the Western Australian members are included in his party. Mr, Deakin had to take it up in order not to alienate the sympathies of the Western contingent, and with an eye to the next election. Fortunately, there are many members of all parties who have grit enough to do what they know to be right in spite of party entanglements ; and we may hope to see the Bill meet this session a more decided rejection than it did last. But for the exigencies of Party Government the measure would not find twenty supporters in the House. It is nothing short of an iniquity- a spoliation of the States. One sentence answers everything. If Western Australia wants the survey made it is her business to make it. It is outside the Federal business.
I agree with the writer that it is the duty of Western Australia to carry out this preliminary survey at its own cost. Many other articles relating to this question have been published, but I do not intend to read any of them. I have before me one headed, “The Transcontinental Swindle,” but I know that the Treasurer would Have nothing to do with even the semblance of a swindle.
– The whole of his political life is as clean as is that of any other honorable member.
– I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa that no one has a cleaner political record than has the Treasurer. At the- same time, I may be allowed to give expression to my own views, since I remained silent last night whilst the right honorable gentleman gave utterance to many sentiments of which I utterly disapproved. I am somewhat sorry that I cannot see my way clear to support the Bill; but I do not think that the State of which I am a representative can fairly be asked to contribute ,£4,000 towards the cost of making a survey of a projected line that would be of no advantage to it. I am, therefore, justified! in opposing this measure in a legitimateway as far as I possibly can.
.- After the excellent address delivered last night by the Treasurer, one feels some diffidence in opposing a measure upon which he feels so strongly. We must congratulate the right honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Fremantle on the very lucid manner in which they put before the House the case for the construction of this line. I think, however, that a great mistake has been made in regard to it since the inception of the Federation. The Treasurer, as well as other advocates of the railway in Western Australia, have from time to time endeavoured to make the people of the eastern States believe that a distinct promise was made during the Federal campaign that the line would be constructed. Extracts from letters, speeches, and newspaper articles were read last night by the right honorable member for Swan, with a view of showing what was said with regard to the project by States Premiers, and others prior to the inception of Federation. When they are examined, however, it is found that they constitute nothing more than an advocacy of therailway by individuals, without any attempt to commit the eastern Statesor any assurance that the Commonwealthwould agree to its construction. Most of the public men in question simply “ hoped “ -that the consummation of Federation would bring about the construction of the line. The people of Western Australia believed that the hope would be realized, and that as the outcome of Federation we should have what has been described as two steel bands connecting the east with the west! A lot of electioneering nonsense was indulged in. I can imagine the Treasurer travelling all over Western Australia, and delivering orations such as that to which we listened last night when, almost melting into tears, be sought to show how great would be the future of Australia when the east was bound to the west by iron bands. When he made these orations in the West, the people there believed that his promises were of value - they had so much faith in him that they were confident that he would be able to secure the earning out of this work just as he has carried out other great works for which he deserves c much credit. In this connexion I think it well to say, in passing, that he was not alone responsible for many of the works, and more particularly the Coolgardie water supply scheme, for which he is so highly praised. It was the engineer, Mr. O’Connor, who made the Coolgardie water scheme possible. The Treasurer had the good fortune to be at the head of the Government in Western Australia at the time, and to be able to provide the money necessary to carry it out; but the master mind was that of the man who laid down his life for the work, and who has never received the credit to which he is entitled in respect of it.
– No one has admitted more generously than has the Treasurer Mr. O’Connor’s claim to share in the credit for that work. He has referred to it in nearly every speech he has made on the subject.
– I am sure that he has.
– At the same time that does not diminish in the slightest degree the credit to which the right honorable member for Swan is entitled.
– When we hear the right honorable gentleman saying, “ I - I, the great emperor of the west, did so and so,” we have to bear in mind that others are equally entitled to praise. The Treasurer should receive that credit which is his due, and no more. Some honorable members have said to-day that if this line be constructed it will be because of his efforts. As a matter of fact, all the representatives of Western Australia have been from time to time just as ardent in their advocacy of the line as he has been. The honorable member for Perth, when speaking upon the question last night, indicated that the feeling in Western Australia was not unanimously in favour of a line running from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. Some time ago the honorable member for Coolgardie showed that one of the greatest necessities of the goldfields was the construction of a line from Esperance to Kalgoorlie, which he proved would provide cheaper carriage, and be of much greater service to them than would that now proposed. He pointed out that the Esperance Bay line was opposed bv the people of Fremantle and Perth, because its construction would cut off much of the traffic between those centres and the goldfields.
– That line is now being built.
– Its construction was agreed to only after much opposition. It was only recently that the gold-fields influence was strong enough to force the work on the Government.
– But the gold-fields are against it.
– They recommend it, and when it is opened it will be of great assistance to them. I can quite understand that the honorable member for Fremantle should try to throw cold water on the proposal for a railway between Esperance and the gold-fields ; but what we have to consider is the value of the railway for the survey of which we are asked to vote some £20,000, and what the adoption of such a proposal carries with it. The sum mentioned may prove inadequate, and then doubtless we shall be asked to supply a further amount. Some honorable members take the view1 that no more money will be required; but what would happen if, the survey having been made for half the distance, all the money was found to have been expended? Would honorable members, under such circumstances, allow the survey to be abandoned ? If the Treasurer, in such a case, were still on the Treasury benches - as I hope he will not - he would point out that the survey had been made half way, and that an additional sum must be provided in order that the Federation might not be made to look ridiculous. Even honorable members, who all along have been against this project, and are now sick and tired of the question, would feel themselves almost compelled to assist the Government in completing the survey. Then, honorable members have said that if they vote for this Bill, they do not commit themselves to approve of the construction of the line. That, in my view, is a ridiculous position. When honorable members have made up their minds that a survey is warranted, they have made up their minds that a railway is practicable, and that, in a very short period, the enterprise will pay, or nearly pay, and not entail a heavy annual loss upon the people of the .Commonwealth. What is the intention of those who are so keen on having the railway constructed? The Treasurer last night said he would follow up the survey with the railway - that those who were making the survey should have behind them the men with picks and shovels- ±0 lay the rails.
– They would not lay many rails with a pick. ‘
– I dare say not. The honorable member is conversant with “railway lines, though not perhaps with engineering of another kind; and I would point out to him that there must be some picks and shovels in order to lay a. line over this desert of “ sin, sand, sorrow, and sore eyes.” When the honorable member for Oxley was speaking the Treasurer, before his anger got the better of him, denied that he had ever expressed the opinion that the annual loss would be ,£60,000 or £70,000; but only last night the right honorable gentleman indicated that, ‘in his opinion, the loss would be somewhere in that ‘neighbourhood. When the right honorable gentleman was in the midst of his great oration, the honorable member for Wentworth and myself had the temerity on one or two occasions to interject. At one point of the right honorable gentleman’s speech I, in imitation of the lordly style so often assumed by him, waved my hands and inquired, “What is a million”? The
Tight honorable gentleman immediately asked, “ What is a loss of ,£60,000 or £70,000 a year “ ? Such a loss might be a mere nothing to some people, but it would be a matter of great concern to the people of Australia. That, however, is rot all the loss that would be incurred. When this question was before a previous Parliament Mr. Kennedy,; the late member for Echuca, and myself , in opposing the proposal, had all the reports on the subject laid before honorable members. Under the circumstances, it would be only a waste of time to quote these documents again tonight; but I may say that the engineers who travelled and examined a portion of the route estimated the annual loss at about the figure I have indicated. And it must be remembered that the project was looked at through rose-coloured spectacles. We have to consider the difficulties of transportation, and calculate the number of passengers likely to be carried, and the enormous cost of the haulage of goods over such a route. Then there is, perhaps, the most important matter of all - the great difficulty <of the water supply.
– Who has said that that is. a great difficulty?
– I refer the honorable member to the book in which the Treasurer describes his exploration trip across the desert, when he nearly died from the want of water.
– That was not on the same track as the route of the railway.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– I have read the book. People ride across this country on bicycles now..
– The Treasurer on more than one occasion made tracks across the desert parts of Australia. One of his trips was further north, and he describes it in his book; but he did not seem to enjoy the extracts which, on a previous occasion; were read to him by the honorable, member for Wentworth. When the Treasurer, as an explorer, took the southern track, it will be remembered that he encountered terrible experiences, and these are depicted in his book. For days the party were without water, and at last thev found a bucketful in a rock-hole - just sufficient to give the horses a mouthful, and to make themselves a billyful of tea.
– Does the honorable member remember that portion of the book in which the Treasurer describes how the party ran back “ appalled by the dreadful view “ ?
– I remember finding that passage for the honorable member to read to the House ; and if honorable members desire to see something thrilling, I advise them to read that description. We admire the Treasurer for the work he did when, taking his life in his hands, he traversed Australia; but, after reading his book, we do not admire his proposal to construct a railway over that track. The difficulties of the water supply are enormous.
– They are not greater than those which at one time were experienced between Bordertown and the river Murray.
– The honorable member cannot deny that the difficulties of water supply in this desert’ are enormous.
– Where is the desert?
– I mean the desert in both South Australia and Western Australia. In good seasons that country has been traversed by the rabbit, which, however, has a wonderful power of sneaking from place to place. There are certain seasons, when, with a fair rainfall, a number of waterholes and a certain amount of grass may be found ; but, speaking generally, there is, for all practical purposes, no water supply. This, in conjunction with the facf that there is no fuel supply, presents a great difficulty in railway construction. When we realize the discomfort there would be in such a railway journey, we can imagine that most people, other than martyrs to sea-sickness, would rather face the tenors of the Great Australian Bight.
– That is why people travel by land between Sydney and Melbourne?
– I cannot blame the honorable member for being intensely interested in this project. But does he for one moment compare the railway journey between Melbourne and Sydney with a similar journey between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie ?
– On a line of the description under discussion, the system ought to be much more up-to-date than on a line between Melbourne and Sydney, or Melbourne and Adelaide.
– I am certain that a line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie would need to be very much up-to-date. I am not quite so certain that it would not be necessary along portions of the line to erect barriers, at enormous expense, to prevent the rails from being sanded up.
– There is no sand.
– Then all the tales we have been told from time to time about “ sin, sand, sorrow and’ sore eyes “ are untrue ?
– They are untrue. ;
– Is there no sand ? Are there no sore eyes in those parts of Western Australia? Why, this was the reputation which was given to the country on the Western Australian goldfields in the early days.
Hang Coolgardie, hang the track,
Hang the road both there and back ;
Hang the flies and hang the weather,
Hang the gold-fields altogether !
Could any poet have written those lines if be had not been suffering from sore eyes? That is a description of the country which it is proposed to traverse with the railway. Such are the terms in which disappointed men have spoken of it, and they must have truly believed it to be a land of “ sand and sorrow.”
– The honorable member knows better than that.
– How can I know better than that? The honorable member for Melbourne has never been across that country.
– I have earned my living; in Western Australia.
– The honorable member may have lived in Western Australia, but he has never lived in the midst of a waterless desert ; he has always had the good’ sense to pitch his tent in pleasant fields. He has always sought fields where the capitalist can enjoy himself.
– I was out beyond Kalgoorlie for twelve years, and I do not look the worse for it.
– The honorable member does not look anything like the Treasurer, who has stuck close to the coast. Possibly he may have lived a few miles out from Kalgoorlie.
– I lived out on this sandypatch which the honorable member has pictured.
– Then the honorable gentleman admits that it is a sandy patch-. Those who have crossed it say that it is practically valueless country, which will not carry more than a bandicoot to the square mile, and occasionally, according to the Treasurer, a wambooti, which I believe to be a diminutive kangaroo. There is great scarcity of animal life owing to the want of water, and this want of water, together with the want of fuel, will add to the cost of maintaining a railway there.
– The Treasurer stated that water can be made on any part of the route.
– It has been suggested that water canbe obtained by the sinking of bores. To verify statements of that kind an initial survey of the country should be made by the Government of Western Australia as far as the eastern boundary of the State.
– Would the honorable member accept absolutely the report of a Western Australian official upon thiscountry ?
– The honorable and learned member’s official experience has taught him that engineers often view railway projects through rose-coloured spectacles. He told us last night that whensent out to view the country they always return with an olive branch in their mouths.
– But if a survey of this district is to be made, would it not be better to send an impartial officer on behalf of the Commonwealth ?
– I think that the Western Australian Government should make a preliminary survey before the Commonwealth incurs any expense whatever. We have no assurance that permanent water is to be obtained along the proposed route. Then the country between t:he border and Port Augusta in South, Australia has not been surveyed, though it is believed to contain large areas of morass which it will be difficult to cross. Is the South Australian Government prepared to survey this country, or to let Western Australia surveyors go over it ? A preliminary survey of the whole route should be made by the Governments interested before anything is done by the Commonwealth. If it were thought advisable, a surveyor might, in the interests of the , Commonwealth, accompany any party sent out. The preliminary survey having been made, we should be in a position to decide whether a more detailed survey was worth while. I cannot understand the position of the honorable and learned member for Flinders and others, who say that in voting for this survey they do not commit themselves to the construction of the proposed railway. To my mind that is an absurd contention.
– In voting for the survey they admit that Western Australia has a claim upon the Commonwealth in respect to the making of the proposed railway
– Yes. I have shown that the working of the line will involve considerable expense. The cost of haulage would”” be very great. ‘ and the discomforts of the journey so considerable that the passengers would be very few, while not much freight is to be expected. The’ cost of getting fuel and water will be enormous.
– Where can fuel be obtained between Melbourne and Svdney, or between Melbourne and Adelaide?
– If it were as easy to obtain f fue”’ between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta as between Melbourne and the capital of either South Australia or New South Wales, the construction of the proposed line would be less difficult.-
– There is plenty of firewood on the track.
– Possibly the honorable member in his wanderings on the track has crossed this country. If that is so, I should like to hear of his experiences. Did he not, when he reached a condenser after long suffering from thirst, wish, as he found water again trickling down his throat, that he had the neck of a giraffe, that he might enjoy the draught more thoroughly? We do not know that there is firewood of any value on the route, or an adequate water supply. The right honorable member for Swan says that the railway could be made for ,£3,000,000, but the Chief Engineer of Western Australia, estimated the cost at £4,400,000. If the experience of the States in the matter of railway construction is to be repeated, it would probably cost . over £5,000,000 to make and equip this railway. It must be constructed on a gauge that will allow trains to be run through from Melbourne to Fremantle, and thus provide for the through conveyance of mails and passengers. This will make it an , expensive line. Probably, too, means will have to be taken to prevent sand from drifting over the track and covering the rails.
– There is no sand there. .
– We know that in parts of New South Wales after a long drought the fences, even in good country, are completely covered with drifting sand. The same thing is likely to happen in the dry district of which I am speaking, where, ir> places, rain seems not to have fallen for years. ‘ The Treasurer has practically admitted that the annual loss in working expenses will be from £60,000 to £70,000, and to that must be added an interest charge of ,£150,000, supposing that the £5,000,000 required to make the line were borrowed at 3 per cent. Western Australian members may laugh at these figures, but if Parliament sanctions the construction of the line, the laugh will certainly be with them, because the propor tion of the loss which they will have to bear will be very small. It will fall principally upon Victoria and New South Wales. But South Australia, Queensland, a.nd Tasmania will also have to bear their share.
– They would also share in lbc profit. ‘
– What profit would there be ? What would any business man in Aus.tralia offer for the chance of the profit to be derived during the first ten years after the construction of the line ? There would be no offer, because there is no prospect of obtaining a profit for the next fifty years. That loss will have to be borne by the eastern States of Australia. What will they receive in, the nature of a quid froquo? Last night the Treasurer spoke of the volume of the sea-borne traffic between the eastern States and Western Australia since Federation was accomplished. Does he mean to suggest that that traffic will be diverted to the proposed railway? Are honorable members foolish enough to believe that a railway of this great iength can ever take the place of water carriage? I well recollect when I was in England hearing that the Great Western Railway Company in England bought up the Great Western Canal for the purpose of destroying water carriage competition. That canal was practically closed in order that the railway company might have its fling, notwithstanding thatthe traffic along the canal had to be drawn by horses. How, then, can we expect the proposed railway to successfully compete with water carriage? The honorable member for Fremantle has admitted that a railway from Esperance to Kalgoorlie is in course of construction. That means that the cheapest possible way of sending goods from the eastern States to the gold-fields will be via Esperance Bay. A very small proportion of the goods at present conveyed by sea from the eastern States to Western Australia will be diverted to the proposed railway. Only the most expensive of perishable products will be able . to pay the heavy freights which must necessarily be charged upon the line. The eastern States will be required to bear the brunt of the burden. I very rarely admit that the Age is right in its contentions - so rarelv that when I find myself entertaining the views expressed by that newspaper, I involuntarilv pause to inquire whether I am not politically wrong. But on the present occasion I must admit that the quotations made by the honorable member fcr Oxley, the reading of which drove the Treasurer from the Chamber in a state of intense indignation, contain a great deal of truth. The first Government of the Commonwealth brought forward this Bill in order that it might retain the support of the Western Australian representatives. Some of the followers of that Administration agreed to vote for the survev in order to save the “face” of the Ministry. The same thing happened in connexion with the Watson and the Reid-McLean Administrations. Supporters of the Watson Government sank their individual opinions, and agreed to vote for the trial survey of the route, but for no more. “Upon this question the Age may lay the flattering unction to its soul that it is right. The proposal embodied in the Bill is one of very great importance to the people of Australia. I believe that some day this transcontinental line will be constructed, because it will become a necessary work. But there are many undertakings of a much more urgent character. We have to consider greater questions, both internally and externally. In the first place our population must be very considerably increased. The honorable member for Fremantle, in his advocacy of the Bill, exclaims, “ Let us open up the country.” I should be very sorry to take immigrants from the green fields of Cornwall, the lovely hedges of Devonshire, or the grand wolds of Yorkshire to Esperance Bay, and to place them upon a farm adjacent to the proposed railway. What a vista would open to them? Instead of the dairy cow which produces their beautiful cream and butter, they would have to take goats and camels with them, because the animals would have no opportunity to get anything to eat save spinifex and gum leaves, and these only in the more favoured portions of this remarkable region. Yet the honorable member asks us to fill up this portion of the country. What a rush for dairy farms there would be along the route of the projected line ?
– There might be a rush for gold.
– I am astonished to hear that the honorable member, of all others - in view of the memorable speech which he delivered in this Chamber upon the question of Socialism - is lusting after gold. But possibly he is only lusting after it on account of other honorable members who desire to peg out their claims, as it is reported they did in the Northern Territory. I do not know where they pegged out those claims-
– Is not that dummying?
– I would not like to prefer a charge of dummying against any honorable member.
– There are no dummies in this House.
– There is not much danger of dummying along the route of the proposed railway. From the descriptions of the country, I gather that whenever immigrants are taken off to their little ranches in this lovely region, it is highly probable that the immigration officer who accompanies them will never return, because he will be executed on the spot. He will not be hung to the nearest gum tree, . because there are no gum trees in the locality, but his body will be hung upon the nearest telegraph pole, and his bones will be left to whiten in the desert. I cannot imagine that this country can be opened up for the purposes of settlement. Whilst the honorable member for Franklin was speaking, I observed that he held in his hand a copy of a romance. Apparently he felt that the proposal to construct this railway was so very romantic that it might well have figured in one of those admirable novels by Jules Verne, who wrote of things which afterwards became accomplished facts. The transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie toPort Augusta will some day become an accomplished fact, but its construction will be due to a considerable increase in our population. The hands of our brothers and sisters in Western Australia and South Australia mustfirststretch across this waste. When that time comes they will create the necessity for constructing this line. But when will that time arrive ? I wish that I could become an ardent advocate of this railway within the next five years. I could wish nothing better for Western Australia, but fear that my dreams in that respect have no hope of realization. As members of a Federal Parliament, it is our duty to deal with far more urgent questions before attempting to carry out this work. Incidentally, I may say that the great question upon which the general election was fought was that of Tariff revision ; but because the Government are not yet ready to submit the Tariff resolutions the businesspaper is for our delectation stuffed with chestnuts. The Treasurer last night read a letter written by you, Mr. Speaker, when Premier of South Australia, in reference to this line, and I think that the allusions which he made to it were most unfair. The fact that since writing that letter you have been transferred from the Parliament of South Australia to that of the Commonwealth absolves you from any responsibility in respect to it. The leader of a Government cannot commit his successors to the fulfilment of a promise made by him, although as an honorable man he would endeavour, as far as possible, to see that it was carried out. It could not be said that a promise made by the leader of the Labour Party, when Prime Minister of Australia, was binding upon his successor, the present leader of the Opposition. It is for the people to determine whether a promise made by the leader of a Government should be fulfilled by his successor. The Premier of South Australia promised to bring in a Bill dealing with this question simultaneously with the introduction of a like measure in the Parliament of Western Australia. Has the Western Australian Government fulfilled her portion of the contract ?
– Yes. The Bill in question was passed three years ago by the Parliament of Western Australia.
– Western Australia has not fulfilled all its obligations in respect to that compact, and South Australia is in no way to blame for the position she has taken up. If this line be constructed she will be called upon to hand over a portion of her territory to the Commonwealth, and will also have to bear a proportion of the annual loss on the working of the line. I think, from what I have read, that the people of South Australia have had a rather unpleasant experience of transcontinental railways, and are not likely to display any anxiety to have this project carried out. I had before me a day or two ago an interesting map prepared at the conference of engineers which recently sat in Sydney. This map deals with the future possibilities of Australia, and shows that one of the most feasible schemes of intercommunication between the States is a railway running from Kalgoorlie to Oodna-. datta and thence across to Bourke. A line would also be constructed from Oodnadatta to Daly Waters and Palmerston, and would connect with one from Cloncurry.
– All desert country.
– The honorable member perhaps knows the country well, but he has not thought of travelling over the route of the transcontinental line now under consideration. If the country to be traversed is of such excellent quality, why are not some honorable members prepared to shoulder their swags and walk across it? The honorable member for Fremantle would also have us believe that all the desert lands of Australia are to be found in the electorate of Maranoa.
– Does the honorable member imagine that Oodnadatta is in Queensland ?
– No. I have simply been pointing out that the South Australian Government have to make good the loss on the line to Oodnadatta, and would hesitate to incur further losses by the construction of this railway.
– They are endeavouring to get rid of some of their burdens.
– Quite so ; they want the Commonwealth Government to nurse the baby. I believe that the Government of Queensland are stretching out lines of railway towards the western and northern borders of that State, and if railways are to be of any value to us from the stand-point of defence, it seems to me that we shall require one going further north. It has been suggested that the Port AugustaKalgoorlie line is necessary for defence purposes, but to my mind there is little in the argument. Although on questions of defence I defer always to the honorable member for Maranoa, I feel that the means of communication afforded by such a line as this could be easily cut, and that troops sent along it might suddenly find themselves cut off from their base.
– If we have no troops to send over the transcontinental line, it is useless to build it.
– The honorable member is quite correct. We have to remember that we have a great seaboard, and that it is our duty before entering upon such an undertaking as this to make sure that our sea approaches are safe. I am sorry that at the recent Imperial Conference a suggestion was made which, if adopted, will, mean that our sea defences will be weakened. Although we should strengthen our position by the provision of mosquito fleets and other means of protecting our harbors, I hope that we shall always maintain the closest of ties with the mother country, and have her assistance in the protection of our shores. I do not think itwill be necessary for many years to build railways for defence’ purposes, but I trust that we will make such progress that the necessity for such a line as this will soon become apparent. The time for its construction, however, has not yet arrived, and we ought not to be called upon to carry out the survey. Australia is not in a position to shoulder the heavy losses that the line would entail. We have to remember that the finances of Queensland and Tasmania have suffered under Federation, and that by building this railway we should not lighten their burden. Taking all these points into consideration, I feel it my duty to do mv utmost to prevent the passing of the Bill.”
.- The debate so far has resolved itself into a consideration of the advisableness or other wise of constructing the railway, and not of the question of whether what I may describe as an exploratory survey should be made. The honorable member for Corangamite has spoken of the poor country, and of the disabilities settlers are likely to meet there ; but I have heard the same sort of language regarding the Darling ‘Downs in Queensland, though in the latter case the arguments were used in the interests of the people who had the monopoly of the land.
– Would the honorable member compare this country with the Darling Downs for one moment?
– I should not attemptto do so. But I do not condemn the whole of the country before it has even been seen.
– Has the honorable member seen the Treasurer’s account of this country?
– If I were to read the Treasurer’s account I should get rather a disappointing idea of the country ; but when I hear the Treasurer himself, I am almost inclined to regard it as equal to the Darling Downs. I regret the attempt that is being made to convey to the people that if we pass this Bill we commit ourselves to the construction of the railway. As I stated on a former occasion, I in no way’ commit myself to the construction when I vote for the Bill before us. The whole of the money we are now asked to vote will be spent in securing from officers appointed by, and responsible to, the Commonwealth,, accurate data on which honorable members may come to a conclusion regarding the feasibility of this railway.
Colonel Foxton. - Where is the necessity for the survey if the Commonwealth isnot going to build the line?
– In my opinion, it is part of the duty of the Commonwealth to build transcontinental railways.
– The Commonwealth must first ascertain, through its own officers, whether the line is one which ought tq be built.
– By passing this Bill we do not give the Government carte blanche to do what they please, but only to cause an examination to be made, and report subsequently to us.
– And for that purpose we cannot accent the biased reports of officers of a particular State.
– We must have reports from people who are responsible to this
Government and Parliament. As ‘ to the question just now asked by the honorable member for Brisbane, I express the hope that the Commonwealth will sooner or later build a railway to the Northern Territory by Cloncurry and Pine Creek. I know of 110 other practical way of opening up Australia than by the Commonwealth Government undertaking such works, though they may not be carried out for years. I am not of opinion that only the States should construct railways;, if it be desirable that the Commonwealth should do so, I hope the Government will delay not a day longer than is necessary to protect the public interests.
– And make the rails, too.
– The Commonwealth is in existence to do anything for the welfare of the people.
Colonel Foxton. - The honorable member is aiming at unification.
– I am not a unificationist; but I should not hesitate to allow the Commonwealth Government to do anything on behalf of the whole of the people which can be done better by them than by the several State Governments of Australia. The position is merely that the same people send representatives to a central Parliament to do certain things which -can be done more cheaply and efficiently by that Parliament than by the six separate States Parliaments. I particularly regret the action of the honorable member for Corangamite in. speaking on behalf of Victoria. I have had some opportunity for observation, and I say there is no State which has benefited half as much from Federation as has Victoria. Qf course the Victorians are entitled to all the benefits that arise from Federation, but it does not show a statesmanlike spirit to unreasonably oppose a proposal of the kind now before us. There is nothing in the Federal bond about a transcontinental railway. But this paltry expenditure of £20,000, even if the only result be to conciliate’ Western Australia to a certain extent, will be beneficial. I trust that the matter will not be narrowed down to a mere question of money. I have made it clear that in voting for this Bill I in no way commit myself to support the construction of the line, but I- heartily support the Bill in the hope that the verdict will be that it is worth while to provide the line. I have travelled across the Canadian Pacific Railway, and I have read the discussions when that railway, was first proposed; and
I can say that there was then ‘even more bitter opposition to that project than to the one with which we are now dealing. Even in Queensland some of the railways which were most violently opposed as lines which would never pay have been some of the best paying lines from the start:
Colonel Foxton. - Which are they ?
– The Childers railway for example.
– Does the honorable member think that the transcontinental railway Would pay from the start?
– I am not so foolish as to think so; but if I were assured that it would pay in ten years, I should heartily support its construction, as a legitimate and proper enterprise. But it is only complicating matters to discuss the construction of the line on the proposal before us. The honorable member for Corangamite referred to the great desire for population; and it would seem that there is a similar cry in most new countries. No” doubt the idea of population is a good one, but I am more concerned with the welfare of the people who are already here than with the desire to have great masses of population, with the attendant evils of privation and misery. If the desire for population be gratified, there must come a time, unless new lands are upheaved from the ocean, when the world will be over-populated. The obtaining of a large population’ should not be the chief aim of our legislation. We should consider also the happiness of the people already here. I would rather live in a country sparsely populated, where every one had a reasonable opportunity to live as men . and women should and gain ,a fair competence, than live in the richest and most densely populated country in the world where the conditions were not so favorable to the general well-being. T heartily support the Bill, and hope that, on investigation, the result will be such as to satisfy us as -completely as the project now satisfies the Treasurer.
.- I do not intend to go into this matter at any length. The honorable member for Oxley, and the honorable member who preceded him, expressed fully my feelings in regard to the proposed survey. I do not think that we who vote against this Bill ought to be. charged with’ an anti-Federal spirit. I am just as ardent a Federalist as any man in the House or, probably, in the country. The only argument which I can see to induce us to vote for this Bill would be that, in our opinion, it is a railway that the Commonwealth should construct. If we do not believe that it is a work that should be undertaken by the Commonwealth within a reasonable time, it is not logical for us to vote £20,000 for a survey - a survey for a railway to be built within an indefinite time. The stage has not arrived when the Commonwealth should undertake such a work. The only ground upon which this could be made a Federal enterprise would be that of defence ; and I cannot see that, at the present time, the question of a railway for such a purpose is urgent. Our defence must entirely rest on the supremacy of the Imperial Navy at sea, because, unless we hold the sea, we have no hope of defending ourselves to any good purpose. Seeing that defence considerations are out of the question, I cannot take the view that the Commonwealth is called upon to construct a line between two States. If by voting for this Bill honorable members do not commit themselves to the construction of the line, they commit themselves to the principle of the Commonwealth undertaking the work. That is a principle I am against, at the present time at any rate, and, therefore, I feel bound to oppose the spending of money on the survey. I do not propose to elaborate the other reasons which I have against the Bil], but I feel that I could not allow the second reading to pass with a silent vote on my part.
– I should not have addressed the House had it not been .for remarks which have fallen from honorable members opposite. I wish to make it clear that in voting for the Bill I in np way pledge myself to the construction of the line ; and in this I take the view which was expressed last night by the honorable and learned member for Flinders. Of course, a. great deal could be said for and against the construction of this railway, but that is not the question .before us now. I am prepared to vote for the Bill, but I repeat’ that’, in doing so, I am in no way committed to vote for the railway itself.
.- The honorable member who has just sat down has used an. argument which has been several times repeated, and which, I think, it is fair should be ‘replied to at the outset. Those in this Chamber who’ are true federalists ‘must- realize that there must be a delimitation of responsibility as between the Commonwealth and the States. The Constitution gives the Commonwealth and the States equal powers in respect to the imposition of direct taxation, the making of railways, and other matters. But those who sit on this side “of the Chamber hold the view that the Commonwealth should be very careful not to encroach upon the province of the States. Not one of us believes that the Commonwealth should, except in case of necessity, impose direct taxation, because we recognise that by doing so the revenue required ‘by the States for their various agencies would be seriously impaired.
– It is entirely a matter of expediency, according tq the circumstances of the case. So, too,” is the construction of the proposed railway. The question is whether, under the circumstances, it is the right thing to do.
– Does the honorable and learned member contend that the Commonwealth is bound by some understanding given to Western Australia to undertake this project, or does he think that the work, should be proceeded with on its merits?
– I do not think that there is an understanding binding this Parliament to sanction the construction of the proposed railway, but there is an understanding binding it to sanction an investigation as to the reasonableness of constructing it.
– What is the use of making an investigation if we are not prepared to proceed with the work should the results of the investigation be favorable?
– If a man asks an architect- to give him an estimate of the cost of building a house, he is. not committed to building it.
– A man does not ask an architect for an estimate of the cost of building a house if he intends not to build one. Honorable members who think with me are of opinion that this railway, if constructed,’ should be paid for by the two States primarily concerned. We agree with the honorable and learned member for Flinders that there is no understanding binding the Commonwealth, but we further hold that the development of territory by railway construction is a matter properly within the province of the States. If the Commonwealth is to enter upon railway construction for’ developmental purposes, surely it can find some more fruitful butlet for its energies than this desert about which the Treasurer spoke so eloquently last night.
– The honorable member is spending his energies in talking about it.
– That is hardly a gracious remark, because we listened with considerable interest to the honorable member’s speech last night. It was a pleasure to hear such a closely reasoned and temperate address. I derived peculiar pleasure from his statement of the proposed railway’s unbounded possibilities of financial success. He showed that the railway would earn enormous profits, and made it appear a crying shame for the Commonwealth to deprive Western Australia of the chance of winning them. Are we to be so mean as to filch these profits from that State? Before the Bill goes through Committee, I propose to move an amendment to this effect, that, if this Parliament does not, within five years of the completion of the survey, decide to construct the proposed railway, the States cf South Australia and Western Australia, individually, or collectively, shall refund the money that has been spent. I hope that, as a proof of his bona fides and earnestness, the honorable member will support that amendment. If he is convinced that the survey will result in the construction of the line by the Commonwealth, he can have no objection to it.
– If we spend £20,000, how can we. call upon Western’ Australia and South Australia to repay the money within five years?
– It would be an outrage. ‘
– It shoul’d not be considered an outrage, even by members of the Socialist party, to ask the “ other fellow “ to pay his debts. We are being asked to expend this money on the assurance that the survey will justify the construction of the railway, and if it does not, our’ expenditure should be refunded. Last night the Treasurer, laying his hand on his heart, almost declared his readiness to “ secesh “ if the survey were not sanctioned. He told us that if the dispute could be brought into a court of law, Western Australia would be held to be entitled to secede from the Union because the promises by which she was induced to enter it have not been kept. Of course, he did not speak openly of secession. That is a matter for the platform. He has too great a sense of his public duty to propose such a thing here. But while I admire his eloquence and sincerity, and enjoy the occasional’ display of irritability which provokes his best periods, I am sorry that he is not present to-night to assist me in meeting him half way. Were he here, I would ask him whether the opinions which he quoted last night were the only opinions expressed by public men in regard to this project. He read the messages from the leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for Adelaide, the Prime Minister, and the honorable gentleman the Speaker, whose position in this House precludes him from making the reply to the Treasurer’s statement which, I feel sure, we should otherwise have heard. But has he no other opinions to quote? If he could prove that all the political leaders in Australia, men of every party, who were not fishing for political support, solemnly promised that the railway should be made if Western Australia joined the Union, that promise would bind us, not only to sanction this survey, but to expend the .£4,500,000 which would be necessary for the construction of the line. Of those whose opinions he quoted, only two - the right honorable members for East Sydney and Adelaide - and I am not quite sure about the latter - were Premiers at the time they expressed them. But the point I wish to make is this : The Treasurer admitted last night that, at the Conference of Premiers held in Melbourne prior to the second! Federal referendum, the claims of Western Australia in” the matter of this railway were not entertained, although he urged them to the full extent of his powers. That statement disposed altogether of his contention that the Commonwealth is committed to this work. If he urges that the opinions he quoted should carry weight, how much more weight should be given to his solemn declaration as a member of the Conference that the Federal Capital should be in New South Wales, “ within a reasonable distance of Sydney.” Yet, out of gratitude to the Postmaster-General, whose efforts so largely contributed to place him in his present position, he has, in season and out of season, worked to place the Capital in a far corner of the State, thus breaking the promise to which he subscribed his name. Were he here, I should ask him to explain his action. While complaining that a promise given to him has been broken, he should set a good example by keeping those which hehas made. But I did not intend to deliver a speech on this motion. As I do not possess the professional enthusiasm of the honorable member for Corangamite, I cannot take the same lingering pleasure in the scene at which we are now present. He referred to this discussion as a post-mortem, but it is really an exhumation. The body has already been exhumed three times, inc will be again buried in another place. Still we should not gloat over the misfortunes of the Treasurer, and the other representatives of Western Australia. We admire his abilities, respect him, and many of us, I think, love him for his eccentricities. I rose chiefly to give -honorable members notice that i intend to move in Committee “an amendment such as I have described. i also intend to move the addition of the following proviso -
That the States of Western Australia and South Australia shall place under the control of the Commonwealth all Crown lands for a distance of twenty-rive miles upon either side of the railway.
– I have already given notice of an amendment to that effect.
– Then I shall withdraw my own. The other amendment of which I desire to give notice is a rather important one, in view of the manner in which it is sought to sandwich the proposal for the construction of a transcontinental line into the question of the transfer of the Northern Territory. It reads -
This survey shall be :made only so soon .as the States of South Australia and Western Australia have given an undertaking to permit and facilitate the eventual construction by the Commonwealth over whatever route it may select.
I hope that honorable members will agree to that amendment. In opposing this Bill-
– I thought that the honorable member was supporting it.
– If the honorable member for Fremantle can secure a majority in’ favour of the amendments which I have outlined I shall be glad to record my vote with the “ ayes “ upon the third reading of the Bill. My opposition to the measure is not prompted by any disregard for the people of the great western State. But my first duty, I conceive, is to the Constitution, which I am sworn to uphold, and to the electors who have sent me here. I cannot forget that I am one of the trustees of the public purse of the Commonwealth, and that the proposed railway would not constitute a fair charge upon the Commonwealth exchequer. Holding these views, I trust that honorable members will not accuse me of any lack of sympathy’ with the western State in opposing the Bill.
.- After having listened to the debate upon the initial motion in connexion, with this measure, I was under the impression that its fate had been determined. Personally, I believe it is desirable that Western Australia should be connected with the eastern States by rail. If throughout the whole of the intervening country there was not a single tree or waterhole, I still maintain that the proposed railway should be built.
An Honorable Member. - Why?
– For defence purposes, and in order to connect the people of Western Australia with those of the eastern States. I am satisfied that a great deal . of the country between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie is of a better quality than that to be found in the western portion of New South Wales. I think that at the present juncture the Commonwealth should step in and say, “We will explore this country.” When that has been done it is quite possible that the two States chiefly concerned, namely Western Australia and South Australia,’ may- be prepared to construct the line in the expectation that within a few years it will become a payable proposition. Of course the honorable member for Corangamite has lived all his life in the little garden State of Victoria, and is consequently under the impression that it is only a certain class ‘of country which is fit for settlement. Had he travelled very much he would know that it is possible, even in “ poor country, to conserve water-, for the purposes of stock. In the western portions of New South Wales, the annual rainfall does not exceed 8 inches, notwithstanding which sufficient water is conserved for the purposes of stock. Assuming that the country between Kalgoorlie and’ Port Augusta is capable of profitable settlement, that fact would be a big inducement to Western Australia and South Australia to at once undertake the construction of the proposed railway. ‘ Upon the other hand, if it were demonstrated that that country is a desert, the question would arise as to whether, in the interests of defence, the Commonwealth should not undertake this, national work. I believe that the Treasurer is correct when he affirms that the people of Western Australia -were induced to join the “Federation- because they were promised by the leaders of the Federal movement in the eastern States that this line would be’ constructed. If the Bill be passed, I think, that we should obtain the services of an expert geologist - there is a very clever officer in South Australia who would be only too glad to undertake the trip - to explore the country adjacent to the proposed route from a geological standpoint. As the result of his investigations we might obtain a report which would encourage the States of Western Australia and South Australia to undertake the construction of the line themselves. In the United States at the present time the authorities are talking of connecting the railway systems of the northern portion of the American continent with those of the south, so that they may have a railway running from Buenos Ayres to Washington. It is said that the distance separating the two systems is “ only 4,000 miles.” Yet we are afraid to sanction the construction of a line over 1,100 miles of alleged desert. An honorable member, who has been over this country, spoke last night of the magnificent timber which he had seen there, and I can bear testimony to the fact that some of the finest gold specimens I have ever seen were obtained from Tarcoola. I strongly support the proposed survey, and I hope that, whilst it is in progress, all data likely to prove of value to us in the future will be secured.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Minister may cause a survey to be made of a route for a railway to connect Kalgoorlie, in the State of Western Australia, with Port Augusta, in the State of South Australia.
.- Whilst speaking upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I intimated my intention to move an amendment to prevent the land upon either side of the railway being exploited by speculators. With that object in view, I suggest that certain words be added to the clause to bring it into harmony with what appeared to be the general sentiment of the House when the question was under consideration in a previous Parliament. I move -
That the following words be added, “ Provided that no money shall be expended in connexion with railway surveys or construction unless the Governments of the States within whose territory it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall construct railways previously agree to reserve from alienation and place under Commonwealth control all available Crown lands for a distance of fifty miles on each side of any proposed line.”
My original idea was to propose that there should be a reservation of all Crown lands within a distance of twenty-five miles on each side, but it has been suggested to me that since the country through which the line will run is mostly inferior, a larger margin is necessary to insure some return. I have been looking through Explorations in Australia, in which the Treasurer describes the country through which this line will travel, and I propose to quote one or two passages showing what the right honorable gentleman himself has said about it. After referring to the explorations of Stuart, he writes -
The telegraph line divides Australia into two portions, nearly equal in dimensions, but very different in character. To the east are the busy and rapidly advancing settlements, fertile plains, extensive ranges of grassy downs, broad rivers, abundant vegetation ; to the west a “ great lone land “ - a wilderness, interspersed with salt marshes’ and lakes, barren hills, and “spinifex deserts.” It is the Sahara of the south, but a Sahara with few oases of fertility, beyond which is the thin fringe of scattered settlements of the colony of Western Australia.
– I hope the honorable member will not make a donkey of himself. Why not quote my description of the country through which the railway will pass?
– If the Treasurer is going to address me in that insulting manner, I shall not hesitate to read several passages from his work, although I have promised not to speak at length. The passage quoted includes any possible area which the proposed line will traverse.
– If the honorable member seeks to misrepresent me, I must interrupt. I shall be satisfied if he will quote from my book passages showing the nature of the country through which the line will pass.
– These interruptions must cease. I did not hear the remark of which the honorable member for Lang complains.
– I withdraw it.
– At page 264 of his book, the Treasurer writes -
In bringing this report to a close, it is not necessary to refer much to the reasons that induced me to keep more to the south than I originally intended. It will readily beseen after perusing this journal, that it was a neces sity, and that we could not get further north It is a marvel to me that we got through a all ; the season was an exceptionally dryonein fact, a drought - our horses were of avery ordinary kind, and the country most wretched
– That was a description of central Australia - of country in the 26th parallel, whilst that through which the Une will pass is in the 32nd parallel.
– I accept the right honorable member’s explanation, but the character of the country does not appear to materially differ between these parallels. The reports published by the Treasurer are certainly not sufficient to justify the belief that a profitable return will be obtained from the railway from agricultural or pastoral sources.
– If the land is so bad, why does the honorable member wish to secure reservations?
– Although it may be poor agricultural and grazing country, there is a possibility of its proving rich in mineral resources, and we ought therefore to take steps to prevent it being exploited by speculators, who may apply its wealth to their own private use without benefit to the revenue when it should be a source of income to make good any deficiency in the cost of working the line. I shall not make any further quotations from the Treasurer’s work, since I have promised not to occupy much time, but will content myself by urging the Government to accept the amendment.
.- It would be far better if this amendment were put in the Bill for the construction of the railway. It seems to be a sort of implied authority to construct the line, as it provides that no money is to be spent unless a certain thing is done. The conclusion to that is that if the reservation is made the money may be spent. I recommend the honorable member for Lang to dissociate his proposal from the comparatively small outlay required for the survey.
.- That objection was raised on a previous occasion, and the honorable member for Parkes pointed out very properly that the mischief would probably have been done by the time the survey was arranged for, so that before a commencement could be made with the construction of the railway all the speculators would have been on the ground. That is the very thing we want to avoid. Tt would be very much wiser to make the reservation in connexion with the survey, as otherwise it would be said that the proposal was brought forward too late.
.- I move -
That the following words be added : - “ Provided that the States of Western Australia, South Australia, or both, individually or collectively, undertake to reimburse to the Commonwealth the cost of the survey in. the event of the Commonwealth not deciding within five years of the completion of the survey to construct the line.”
The principle is clear. My object is to give honorable members who have told us what a marvellous financial transaction the construction of this railway will be, an opportunity of proving the value of their assertions.
.- I propose to move only one further amendment. I think all honorable members will support it on the principle that the person who pays should have the control of the work. I move -
That the following words be added : - “ So soon as the States of South Australia and Western Australia have given an undertaking to permit and facilitate the eventual construction of the line by the Commonwealth over whatever route it may select.”
I wish to prevent any State from endeavouring, for reasons of local development, to dictate to the Commonwealth, which will have to find the money, -the exact route the line is to take. Under the Constitution we have no power to drive even a survey peg in any State without the consent of that State, and without some such special provision as I now propose being made beforehand, a State may afterwards dictate to the Commonwealth the direction the line is to take.
– The. Constitution does not say that the Commonwealth shall not survey a line.
– If the Commonwealth has no right to construct a railway through any State without that State’s consent, it cannot survey the route of the railway without that State’s consent, because the survey is only the initial work of the railway. Unless we have some such safeguard inserted we may eventually be put in a false and dangerous position by the possible provincialism of one or other of these two States.
– Timeo Danaos et donaferentes
– That is why I fear the honorable gentleman’s proposals all through this Bill. He must realize that we have a right to ask something. He has never treated me with the courtesy I am sure I deserve. I have always endeavoured to meet him half way all through this measure. If in the course of my public duty I have found it necessary occasionally to point out the inconsistencies of his position I can hardly be blamed. If I find it my public duty to point out that he is mainly responsible for the extraordinary tangle in which this Survey Bill is now, surely I am not to blame. I have always pointed these things out in the fairest and most open way. Now that the right honorable gentleman has graced the Chamber with his presence I should like to ask him whether he has any further authorities to give to the House in the connexion in which he used them last night?
– The honorable member asked me that privately, too.
– Because I hoped to be assured publicly that the right honorable gentleman had.
– I will not answer the honorable member.
– I can only assume that the right honorable gentleman has no other communications to make, although he told the House yesterday with his hand on his heart, that he had only, gathered these things together at a moment’s notice, and that if he had time he could give the House many other authorities from other sources such as would overwhelm us with a sense of shame at the gross way Western Australia had been treated by the public men of Australia. The right honorable gentleman is in a more cautious mood to-day, and refuses even to answer a civil question about the authorities of which he spoke so flamboyantly only last night. However, I can see that the right honorable gentleman has very little interest in this railway ; with him. as with others from the West, it is just a fine electioneering advertisement. If the right honorable gentleman cannot get the satisfaction of always having this railway held up before the people of the West as a bait - if he cannot twit his colleagues in the ranks of labour with being honorable members who are not interested as keenly as he is himself in the welfare of Australia - if he is to complain that he is sent alone to the Federal Parliament to carry out this work, it is rather singular that he cannot help a humble member like myself by giving the little information for which I am entitled to ask. All through these discussions I have treated the Treasurer with the utmost courtesy and. consideration, and I think honorable members will regret that I have never in return received either that patience-
– Order !
– I quite agree that, in the enthusiasm of the moment, and in my anxiety to drink at the well of knowledge, I may be transgressing the scope of my amendment, in which I hope to have the hearty cooperation of the Treasurer.
– What is the use of the amendment? Western Australia has given consent by Act of Parliament.
– The Treasurer has shown that this amendment is unnecessary, so far as Western Australia is concerned, and surely South Australia could not grumble if asked to subscribe to the same principle.
– The honorable member surely does not desire to ask Western Australia to do what that State has already done ?
– It would not be necessary, except that, otherwise, the good work might be hindered if South Australia only were mentioned. The clause might be subject to misinterpretation, because South Australia would ask, “ Why is Western Australia not requested to comply with the same condition ? “ Why not carry on our business in a business-like way? In spite of the fact that this is not a party question on which alone party agreements are usually made, I have done everything I possibly could to help Ministers to conclude the. business to-night, in accordance with the arrangement made.
.- It is a mistake, in my opinion, to submit this amendment, because it implies that we have not the power to make the survey unless an Act of Parliament is passed by the State affected. We have the power, under the Constitution, of railway construction, though we may not have the power - and even this is doubted - to construct lines, except with the consent of the State. We have the power to construct Federal lines, and we may have the power to do so, even if the States do not consent. On this point, I prefer to follow Professor Harrison Moore, who, in his work on the Commonwealth, threw out the suggestion! that that power may lie with the Commonwealth. It is now proposed that we shall declare by inference that we cannot even make a survey, with a view to deciding the policy of constructing a line, without the consent cf the State ; and “ State “ in the Constitution means a State acting through an
Act of Parliament, and not through the Government of a State. The proposed amendment may seem all right, but we must beware lest we do not, to some extent, throw some doubt on the scope of our power.
– I intend to support the amendment. We have it, on the authority of the Treasurer, that South Australia has already shown decided hostility to the construction of this line ; indeed, the right honorable gentleman went so far as to state, with exceeding strength and feeling, that the Government of South Australia had not only shown hostility, but had committed a breach of faith to himself and the people of Western Australia. South Australia has never consented to the construction of the line.
– South Australia has consented to the survey.
– So far as we can judge by the action of the South Australian Government and Parliament, they have, up to the present, shown no desire or intention to consent to the construction of the line, except under special conditions, which we see now inserted in the proposed terms for the taking over of the Northern Territory. What is the good of surveying a line through the State of South Australia without having first obtained the consent of the Government of that Scare to its construction? Certain honorable members, and, I believe, some of the Ministers also, have stated publicly on the platform that, while they are prepared to vote for the survey, they will not be prepared to vote for the construction of the line. Is it not sheer hypocrisy, when men state deliberately that they intend to vote for a survey as a kind ofsop, or nominal execution of a promise, while they are not prepared to vote for the construction of the railway. It is time that humbug and barter in connexion with the Federal administration ceased entirely. Let us do business on straightforward lines. We have had enough humbug in connexion with the mail contract in the past, andalso with the tenders now under consideration. The business proposal before us is to expend£20,000 of the taxpayers’ moneyin a survey for a railway througha country in which we do not know that we have the power to construct a line. Such a proposal would not be enter tained for a moment by business men,and if it were not that three Governmentsof the Commonwealth had followed eachother in rapid succession in making it, itwould not now be before us. I venture tosay that if a project of this kind were submitted as a business arrangement to any number of business men in this country, it would be scouted, and I feel confident that no State Government would enter upon the survey of a railway line under such conditions as those with which we are confronted. I trust that we shall have a division. Let us see who are those members who are opposed to proceeding on such unbusinesslike lines. But if we are to have a survey made, and if ultimately the line is to be built, I trust that there will be no squeezing in connexion with it, and that efforts will not be made to take the railway by a particular route to develop some particular interest in some particular State.
.- By a large majority last night the House endorsed the proposal for a survey. The majority who voted in that direction must take the responsibility. I was one of the minority, and will be no party to standing in the way of the Ministry doing their business. I have no sympathy with any efforts to prevent the will of a majority being given effect to. Whenever I find that I am in a minority, I adopt the course of letting the majority take the responsibility for what they have decided upon.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) pro posed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.
– Will the Minister give some explanation of this motion?
– I understood that it was arranged that we should to-night have the second reading speech, to be made by the Minister in charge of the Bounties Bill.
– I could not ask the Attorney-General to go on with that Bill at this hour.
– It would be a great convenience to honorable members if the speech were made, and we thus had an opportunity to peruse it in Hansard before we met on Tuesday next.
– The honorable member has been wasting the time to-night.
– I ask that the Treasurer be requested to withdraw that imputation against the House, that we have been wasting time in dealing with his own measure, (because it is not merely an imputation against myself.
– If the remark is personally offensive to the honorable member for Wentworth, I have no doubt the Treasurer will withdraw it.
– Mr. Speaker-
– The honorable member has already spoken.
– I only asked a question.
– This is not question time.
.- I am very much dissatisfied with the motion proposed for the adjournment until Tuesday. I have come from New South Wales prepared to do the business of the country, and shall be obliged to remain in Melbourne to-morrow without anything to do until the express leaves for Sydney. I heard to-night that some arrangement had been made to secure an adjournment until Tuesday, but it was twenty minutes to five after I had lost all chance of making any arrangement to return to New South Wales to-day. My great objection is that we are wasting time now, and that the whole of to-morrow will be wasted, whilst towards the end of the session measures will be rushed through without sufficient consideration. If at this early stage of the session, the Government are not prepared with sufficient business to occupy the attention of the House during the ordinary sitting days, I am afraid there will not be very much done this session.
– The honorable member shall be told next time in time to catch his train.
– If these arrangements are to be made for the adjournment of the House, honorable members should be informed of them as soon as they enter the Chamber. Some honorable members appear to make light of the fact that one whose home is distant 500 or 600 miles from Melbourne should be dissatisfied with what is now proposed. Such an arrangement may be very well for Ministers who have made their homes in Melbourne during the session, and for those who are nermanent residents of Victoria, but it is a serious inconvenience and injustice to those who come here from a great distance. Before sitting down I should like to ask the Minister of Defence if there has been any inquiry-
– On the motion for the adjournment, such a matter might very well be brought up, but on the question now befcrf the House, the only point open for discussion is whether the adjournment at the rising of the House to-night should be until Tuesday next, or some other day.
.- I was surprised tolearn to-night that it was arranged to adjourn until Tuesday. Every member of the House should be given timely notice of these adjournments. It is ail very well for those who can take trains, and go to their homes at no very great distance from Melbourne, but what about honorable, members who come from Tasmania, Western Australia, and Queensland? If we are to do only three days’ work in the week let that be generally understood. It appears to me that a few honorable members desire to dominate Australia, and make arrangements with the Government to suit their own convenience, whilst the other members of the House are left in complete ignorance of the arrangements which have been made. I am willing to sit five or six days in each week, to do the business for which we come here, as any business men would. But it appears to be almost hopeless to expect Parliament to carry on its business on business lines.
.- I think this would be an opportune time to suggest the adoption of a course followed in the Parliament of the school-house of Europe. Would it not be well to call a roll of honorable members at the commencement, the middle, and the end of a debate ?
– W,hy not every half-hour?
– If that were done honorable members who attend to the business of the House would get credit for doing so, and a member who was not in his place when the roll was called might be fined. We are paid to do our duty here, and if a referendum were taken on the subject, I am satisfied that the people would say that honorable members who attend to their work should be paid, whilst those who absent themselves should be fined. There is something in the demand that if there is to be an adjournment of this kind, the fact should be made known. That might easily be done through Mr. Speaker, and then the feelings of honorable members would not be ruffled as they appear to be at the present moment.
– I protest against the proposed adjournment. I did not come here to kick my heels about Melbourne, but to represent my constituency in the Federal Parliament. I have had a little experience of Governments in this House before, and I suppose that, in a few weeks’ time, the Minister of Trade and Customs, with the Treasurer alongside of him, will be sitting tight, and asking us to remain at work until 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning to pass some particular item in the Tariff. I can inform Ministers that I shall not remain here to keep a quorum for them. After n o’clock I shall go home. It would appear that two or three honorable members from New South Wales and a few from South Australia are able to get at the soft side of Ministers, and make some arrangement by which they can return to their homes on the Thursday afternoon, leaving the rest of members to conduct the business of the country. We know that at the close of a session important measures do not receive the attention which their importance demands. If the Government had no business to go on with, why did they not inform honorable members that it was intended that the House should meet only three days in the week, instead of four? Ministers misled theHouse, in asking, as they did, at the beginning of the session, that we should sit on Fridays from 10 till 4 o’clock, if it was not intended to do so. If a division is called for on the motion, I shall vote against, it.
.-! have frequently protested against a motion of this kind. It is only fair to say that the representatives of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia have dominated each Government at the week-end far too much.
– Almost all the representatives of Victoria have been here all day.
– If the honorable and learned member remains here long enough, and the practice of previous sessions is pursued, he will find, in proportion to numbers, fewer representatives of Victoria present than those of any other State. We are pleased to see a number of new members in’ regular attendance at the beginning: of the session ; but the honorable and learned member will probably find the old practice resumed before the session is very old. If there is an adjournment of this kind to be made, it ought to be made known at the beginning of the week. If it is wrong in the public interest to adjourn under such circumstances, it is infinitely worse from a private point of view, because certain honorable members are tied to Melbourne, while those who are aware of the proposed adjournment can go away and get all the advantage of it. No good purpose can be served by calling for a division against the motion. We can only protest, and submit to it.
– The leaders of the parties were consulted, I suppose ?
– There are certain things which it is inadvisable for even the leaders’ to agree to.
– There was no caucus or* our side.
– The honorable members who are most vitally concerned are not consulted at all.
– The leaders ought to consult the members of their parties.
– I am not protesting from that point of view. An announcement should be made at least twenty-four hours before an adjournment of this kind takes place. It must be evident to the Government from this discussion that anything might happen on an occasion of this kind,. which would mean, not only an adjournment from Thursday to Tuesday, but a much more lengthy adjournment, and, possibly, other and more serious consequences. Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs) [11.8]. - I must express my regret that one or two honorable members should have taken exception to the proposed adjournment. It was not my -wish to adjourn the House over Friday. I was asked to do so by the leaders of the parties.
– Does it suit the Ministerial policy ? Has the Minister any business to go on with?
– There is no lack of business on the notice-paper. If the debate on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bil! had not proceeded so long as it did to-night, other business would have been taken. There was an arrangement that the discussion on that Bill should not occupy the whole of this evening, and that an opportunity should be given to proceed with the second reading of another Bill. The honorable member for Cook has lectured the Government on what they have done, but I think he will find by -and -by that the Government have to make such arrangements under certain conditions in order to carry on the business of the House.
– He had the same right to speak as the Minister has.
– I quite admit that, but there are some old honorable members whose experience may be relied upon to show them what is the proper course to take. The Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill has provoked a lengthy discussion, both yesterday and to-day, and if i had not made the arrangement I made to-night it could have been blocked for another day.
– None of us knew anything about the proposed adjournment. We were kept in the dark.
– It is not my duty to go round to members of the Opposition and tell them what is proposethed to be done. In fact, I thought they all knew that it was intended to adjourn over Friday.
– It is only fair to say we knew nothing about the matter.
– It was news to me when I heard that honorable members on the other side did notknow, and I regret the fact. If I had had the slightest knowledge that they did not know of the arrangement I should have made an announcement to the House. What I wish to impress on the honorable member for Cook is that to-night we have completed and passed on to the Senate a very important measure. If he bad been here longer he would have known how easy it would be to prevent the completion of the measure to-night, and I do not think he would have said that I was unwise in making an arrangement by which I got the Bill completed for the Senate. Probably, if it had been intended to sit to-morrow, it might not have been ready to send to the other Chamber this week.
– I think that an earlier announcement of the proposed adjournment ought to have been made to honorable members.
– I was not aware that honorable members did not know of the proposed adjournment. I quite agree chat it is not fair for certain members of the House to make an arrangement at the last moment and then to leave without letting the members of their paTty know of it. In the future, if a proposal of the kind is made to me, I shall certainly make an announcement to the House. I did what I did purely in the interests of advancing the business of the House to a certain stage to-night. I do not wish to create any bad feeling in the Chamber such as we have had created in the past. So far, everything has been going on very amicably, and I do not wish unnecessarily to disturb the present good feeling.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether any investigation has been made as to a suitable locality for the establishment of an arsenal and small arms factory ; whether Brigadier-General Gordon has been instructed to prepare a report on the subject; and, if so, whether he has prepared a report favouring Lithgow as a site?
– The general principle of the manufacture in the Commonwealth of small arms has received consideration from the Government, but there has been no consideration with regard to any special locality. I think that I previously informed the House how General Gordon’s visit originated. He made certain representations to me, saying that he had information with regard to the manufacture of small arms, and I informed him that I should be glad to see him. We discussed the matter in an informal way. I believe it is his opinion that Lithgow would be a suitable locality, but in mating a definite reply to the honorable member I may say that the question of locality has not been considered by me or the Government, and that we have many steps to go before we get to that point.
– I asked the Treasurer yesterday if he would give us more detailed information than has yet beenplaced before the House as to the character of the survey which it is proposed to make under the Bill which was read a third time this evening, and the Attorney -General has shown me a statement of particulars which I should like him to read, so that it may be published in Hansard.
– I am glad to afford the House the information to which the honorable and learned member refers. Yesterday I asked the Treasurer, who has made the arrangements with Mr. Kernot, what is contemplated, and in reply the right honorable gentleman has furnished the following statement -
There are two routes through South Australia to be examined - one from Port Augusta vid Tar. coola, passing some forty miles north of Eucla, and thence to Kalgoorlie ; the other from Port Augusta through the Gawler Ranges vid Fowlers Bay, and the head of the Great Australian Bight, passing about ten miles north of Eucla to Kalgoorlie. Both routes would practicallytaverse the same route through Western Australia. The Tarcoola route wouldprobably cost about half a million sterling more than the more southern route.
– Is provision to be made for explorations’ to the north and south of the proposed routes with a view to determining the character of the country?
– The Western Australian Government has notified that it is prepared to send out a prospecting party with which it would be possible for the survey party to co-operate. I shall represent to the Minister of Home Affairs, who has charge of the Bill, that it is the desire of honorable members that, as far as possible, the nature of the country through which the line will pass shall be ascertained.
.- Will the Acting Prime Minister, when replying, tell the House what business he proposes to take on Tuesday next?
– The Postmaster-General will move for leave to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to postal rates; the second reading of the Bounties Bill will be moved, and perhaps the debate on it commenced ; and probably the Quarantine Bill will fill up the evening. The Papua Bill and the Seat of Government Bill are ready.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.19p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 July 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070718_reps_3_36/>.