3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
– In presenting a petition from certain persons in the neighbourhood of Wagga and elsewhere, which is an addition to that which I presented a fortnight ago, I wish, Mr. Speaker, to draw your attention to the manner in which it is signed, and to askyou whether you think it should be received. It is a petition in reference to the Tariff.
– In favour of the Tariff?
– No; against the Tariff, and it refers also to the duty on wire netting. It would appear to have been signed by Alfred Deakin, Harry Foran, myself, and a number of others whom I do not know. I should like to direct the attention of the House to this example of the manner in which some petitions are prepared.
– Is the honorable member in order in dissecting a petition before it has been presented to the House, and we have decided what shall be done with it?
– The honorable member has asked me whether the petition can be received, and is stating the grounds for asking my opinion. He is entitled to take this course.
– All I wish to do is to direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that signatures are attached to the petition which were not put there by the persons whose names they bear. I have not analyzed the list of signatures, but the two or three names which I have given caught my attention-. I am quite willing that the petition should be received, but I wish the House to understand its nature.
– It is impossible for me, before perusing the petition, to determine the issue stated by the Minister. If there are attached to it signatures which are forgeries, and others which may or may not be so, it is competent for the House to receive it or not as it pleases. If the Minister moves that it be received, I shall put that question.
– I suggest that its consideration might be deferred until a later hour of the day.
– I think that, in order to attain that end, the better course would be to negative the motion for its reception. If, later on, any honorable member desired to call attention to the petition, he could do so.
– I take the point that the Acting Prime Minister had no right to present the petition, because, under the Standing Orders, the member presenting a petition must certify that it is in order, which means, amongst other things, that there are no forgeries in it, that it contains nothing offensive, and that it concludes with a prayer. I understood that the honorable gentleman was addressing you on a question of privilege, because a person who forges a signature to a petition to this House is guilty of a breach of the privileges of the House. I submit that it was improper for the petition to be presented without the certificate of the Minister that it is in order. If a petition doss not bear that certificate, an honorable member cannot present it, and the House cannot receive it.
– It seems to me that the question which should be asked is whether the Acting Prime Minister is prepared to say that certain signatures, bearing the names of well-known public men, are forgeries. If he is, I take it that he will not be in order in presenting the petition; but if he is not, I fail to see how the House can reasonably Be expected to come to a determination in regard to, the matter.
– There may be local Alfred Deakins.
– I submit that both the honorable member for Corio and the honorable member for Lang are wrong, and that the only thing a member presenting a petition has to do is to see that it is respectfully worded, and concludes with a prayer, lt would be impossible for an honorable member to say whether all the signatures attached to a petition were or were not forgeties.
-The Minister, in presenting the petition, mentioned that it was similar to one presented a fortnight ago. If this be a copy of that petition, which was in order, it must also be in order, being respectfully worded, and concluding with a prayer. But he also raised Ihe question whether certain signatures attached to it are genuine. I see that some of the signatures which he mentioned have been struck .out, .and therefore do not appear on the petition.
– Only one has been struck out.
– The signature of the Prime Minister may, or may not, have been attached to the petition by him, though I think it probable that it was not. How-, ever, that is a matter of which the House or I can have no knowledge until it has been inquired into. The Minister has a perfect right to present a petition which is respectfully worded and contains a prayer; but I think it was proper for him to warn the House in regard to certain facts relating to it. I see no reason why the motion, that the petition be received should not be put, for the House to agree, to or reject, as honorable members may think lit.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the petition be received.
– I take it that the Acting Prime Minister has already intimated to the House that his own signature, amongst others, has been forged. ;
– My signature has been struck out.
– The honorable gentleman had no right to present to the House a petition which he knows to be a faked one. He was trifling and playing tricks with the House in doing so. His action was entirely out of order.
.- I take it that there is nothing to prevent the House from rejecting the petition. I do not think that we should receive a petition to which are attached forged signatures.
.- Mav ‘l draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to this fact. You say that the House can have ::o knowledge as to the genuineness of the signatures. The honorable member for Hume, however, stated when he presented the petition that attached to it is a forgery of his own signature.
– I did not say that. The signature bearing my name has been struck out.
– You, sir, and’ the House must take notice of the Minister’s statement that a forgery of his signature is attached to the petition.
– I did not say that.
– I understand that that, signature has since been struck out; but the honorable gentleman when he presented the petition said that his name was attached to it; and that the signature was a forgery. If that be so, the petition must be informal and void.
– I did not say that any signature was a forgery.
– I understand from what has been said that the petition contains signatures believed to be forgeries. But I presume that it also contains legitimate signatures.
– That may or may not be so.
– All the signatures may be faked.
– I should like to call attention to this phase of the question : It would be possible for any person to nullify any properly prepared petition if the fact that all the names attached to a. petition are not genuine is to be a ground for rejecting it. Is it fair, because of the wrong-doing of persons into whose hands the petition has fallen, to punish those who have signed it in good faith ?
.- I shall vote for the reception of the petition; because, as it has been held that by the elimination of certain signatures it has been so purged as to render it fit for presentation, there is no reason why, by refusing to receive it, we should penalize those who have signed it in good faith.
-If the question goes to a division, I shall vote for the reception of the petition, as I consider it the highest prerogative of the electors to be able to petition the House at any time. It is impossible for honorable members to scrutinize the signatures to a petition, and say which are and which are not genuine.
Question - That the petition be received - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Liddell) proposed -
That the petition be read.
Amendment (by Mr. Watkins) proposed -
That the following words be added : “ including the names attached thereto.”
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to submit a motion in regard to the petition which has just been read.
– I cannot accept a motion now, except one dealing with a point of order. The only motions which can be received on the presentation of a petition are that the petition be received, and that the petition be read; and both motions have been dealt with in the present case.
– I desire to submit a motion, because, in my opinion, it is necessary that there should be some investigation in order to ascertain how far the petition is genuine.
– The honorable member cannot submit such a motion without notice, except by leave of the House. If the honorable member desires, I shall ask the leave of the House. Is it the pleasure of the House thatthe honorable member have leave to submit a motion without notice ?
– Mr. Speaker–
– If there is any dissent the honorable member cannot submit a motion.
– As a matter of personal explanation, I desire to say that I. did not intend to raise any objection to the proposal of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, but merely to ask that a similar course might be adopted in reference to other petitions if necessary.
– I did not take the opposition to the motion as coming from the honorable member for Lang; I heard at least three other objections.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH presented a petition, signed by 2,500 women resident in Sydney, praying that the House will lower the Tariff on household necessaries.
Mr. BOWDEN presented a petition from the wage-earning and income-drawing women of the Holroyd district of the Nepean electorate, praying that the House will reject any proposals for increasing Customs duties.
– Irise to make a personal explanation. Last night the Acting Prime Minister charged me with having made some statements which were absolutely incorrect concerning something which he had said about the Premier of New South Wales. I understood the Acting Prime Minister to say that Mr. Carruthers had increased the expenditure of New South Wales to the extent of £2,000,000 while he had been Premier. When, later on, I attempted to prove that that was not the case, by quoting the actual figures, the Acting Prime Minister indignantly denied that he had made any such statement ; and his denial, of course was accompanied by the cheers of honorable members opposite. So indignant were his denials that I thought at one time he was likely to take a fit. I was inclined to believe that perhaps, after all, I might have been mistaken, but I determined, before saying one word upon the matter, to wait patiently until I had an opportunity to see the Hansard report. In the Hansard proofs supplied to me to-day, I find that it is reported that, during the course of my speech last night, the Acting Prime Minister interjected -
Did the honorable member say I had increased the expenditure of New South Wales by £2,000,000 ?
The report proceeds as follows -
– Yes. The Acting Prime Minister has endeavoured to saddle upon Mr. Carruthers the responsibility for an increased expenditure of£2,000,000 on the part of New South Wales. He tells me that he meant to indicate that Mr. Carruthers was responsible for the increase in question.
– I said so.
– Said what?
– That Mr. Carruthers was responsible for this increased expenditure of £2,000,000 on the part of New South Wales. Those are the honorable member’s words.
– Then they are wrong. I have not seen the Hansard proof.
– Then the honorable member had better not talk of what he knows very little about. The report continues -
– I think the honorable member is mistaken.
– Mr. Carruthers has increased the expenditure, and the Commonwealth has supplied him with the money.
– Hear, hear; I said that.
– I turn now to the Hansard report of the short speech which I delivered, I think, by way of explanation, and in which I quoted the correct figures regarding the expenditure of New South Wales. Will it be believed that, five minutes before making the indignant denials to which I have referred, the Acting Prime Minister had made use of the expressions.I have quoted? I said in the explanation that I made -
Amongst other statements made by him was one that Mr. Carruthers, during his term of office as Premier of New South Wales, had sent up the expenditure of that State by £2,000,000 per annum.
– That is absolutely true.
– Absolutely incorrect.
– I have the figures here.
– I quoted them, too.
– That was a distinct statement made five minutes before the honorable member’s indignant denial.
.- By way of personal explanation, I desire to say that I have not yet seen the copy of Hansard to which the honorable member has referred. I do not know what were the exact words thatI used, but if I made the interjection quoted by the honorable member, I followed it up with a statement to the effect that the expenditure of New South Wales had increased by over £2,000,000 since the establishment of Federation. I quoted figures in support of my contention. I think that if the honorable member will read the report of the speech made by me in reply he will find that I said that from the inception of Federation up to the present period the expenditure of New South Wales had increased by over £2,000,000.
– I was not referring to that statement.
– Honorable members heard what I said. I have not seen the Hansard report, but I am quite satisfied that I never sought to place on Mr. Carruthers the responsibility for the full increase of £2,000,000 in the expenditure of New South Wales.
– On a question of privilege I wish to say, Mr. Speaker, that I feel that as the result of the vote on the question of whether or not the petition presented by the
Acting Prime Minister should be received I have been associated with what is generally accepted by honorable members as a forgery. I have no desire to be associated with any forgery, and I therefore move -
That the petition presented by the honorable member for Hume be referred to the AttorneyGeneral for immediate investigation as to its accuracy and alleged forgery.
It is necessary for the honour of the House that such an investigation should take place.
.- I do not think that any good purpose will be served by referring the petition to the AttorneyGeneral. As before us now it does not contain the one signature that we know, because of the statement by the Acting Prime Minister, to be a forgery.
– We do not know what is the position with regard to the other signatures.
– I do not think they can possibly come within the category of legal forgery, and even if they did we could, as a House, deal with them. It is not for the Attorney-General to take action ; it is for this House to deal with a breach of privilege on the part of a man who sends in a petition to which a signature has been attached without authority. We can appoint a Committee to inquire into the matter. We do not need to ask the Government or the Attorney-General to discharge the functions of a Committee of this House in the way proposed by the honorable member. On that ground, therefore, I object to the motion. It should be amended to provide for the petition being referred to a Committee of the House for report. I may be wrong, but that is the position I take up. I would also point out that the petition, so far as the signatures to it are concerned, is perfectly valid. The question of forgery has a significance in relation only to the signature alleged to be forged. All the other signatures are properly on the petition, and it is properly before the House.
– I agree with the honorable member for Angas that this is a question with which the House should deal.
– I am prepared to agree to an amendment to that effect.
– I suggest that as the question at issue is whether or not there has been a breach of theprivileges of the House, the petition should be. referred to a Committee to report as to its bona fides or otherwise.
– If it be the general desire of the House that the motion shall be varied, it will be necessary for an honorable member to move an amendment, since the honorable member for Hindmarsh,. having already spoken, cannot propose the suggested alteration.
– I move -
That the words “Attorney-General’’ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words’ “ Printing Committee of this House.”
– I accept the amendment.
– One of the greatest privileges enjoyed by British subjects is the right to petition Parliament, and I feel that that right would be abused if we allowed such a proceeding as has taken place this afternoon to be repeated. On other occasions I have taken exception to petitions containing mis-statements being presented to this House, and I feel that we should not be doing our duty to the country, or to that great House which we endeavour to follow, if we were to allow the right of petition to become the sport and plaything of parties.
– I support the amendment, and suggest that the Printing Committee should be asked to report upon the question. The honorable member who presented the petition must have received it from some reputable source.
– I received it with a covering letter, which is among the papers.
– Then it must have come from a reputable source. Can the honorable member tell the House who sent the letter ?
– The letter is here.
– The letter comes from a firm of solicitors in Wagga. Their name appears on the first page.
– Then that is an evidence of the genuineness of the petition. In every public petition - no matter what its object may be - there appear signatures which have been attached without authority, perhaps by boys or other irresponsible persons, who are fond of a practical joke. The fact that such signatures have been appended to a petition, however, does not vitiate it. We have to remember that a letter from a wellknownfirm of solicitors accompanies the petition now under discussion, and that there are attached to it many names which must be well known to the Acting Prime Minister.
– I know some of them.
– Do you not think, Mr. Speaker, that this is a storm in a teapot? I should have voted for the reception of the petition even had it been in favour of the Tariff, for I recognise that the right to petition Parliament is one of the greatest privileges which the people enjoy. We are wasting time in discussing this matter. The petition should be referred to the Printing Committee.
.- On referring to May, I find that the practice of the House of Commons is not to receive a petition on which any erasure appears. If we are to be guided by the precedents of the House of Commons–
– There is a similar provision in our Standing Orders, but in this case the erasure appears not on the petition itself, but among the signatures to it.
– I presume that the signatures form part of the petition.
– Order. I must ask the House to permit honorable members to make their speeches as they please, and, if they desire to raise a point of order, to address it to the Chair. The reply about to be made to an honorable member by the Speaker should not be anticipated, and there should be no attempt to prevent any honorable member from expressing his own views. If we are not careful in this regard weshall lose the right of speech by individual honorable members. Every honorable member, so long as he does not transgress a standing order, has a right to say what he pleases. He is not to be limited or confined to a statement of what others may desire him to say. I therefore ask honorable members to allow every honorable member to make his own speech according to his own plan, and not to try to compel him to say that which they desire.
– I am afraid that it is rather late now to take the objection I have indicated ; but it certainly seems to me that if a petition has been mutilated and bears a signature which an honorable member knew, before presenting it, to be a forgery–
– I did not say that it was a forgery.
– The House does not know that.
– I cannot now revert to the question of whether or not the petition was in order and should have been presented ; but if I could, I should give the same ruling that I did at the outset, and say that the petition was in order. There was no erasure on the petition. The question before theChair is whether or not the amendment moved by the honorable member for Laanecoorie shall be agreed to.
– I earnestly hope that honorable members will see that proper steps are taken to guard one of our most important privileges and the right of the citizens of the Commonwealth to approach this House by petition. It seems to me that the question which has now been brought so prominently under our notice involves a very important principle. Quite apart from any insult which may be offered to the House by the presentation of a bogus petition, we should insist upon conserving our rights and privileges. If we cannot rely implicitly upon the genuineness of the petitions which are presented to us from time to time I am afraid that we shall have to look very much closer into those documents than we have been accustomed to do. The petition presented by the Acting Prime Minister differs from many petition’s presented to this House. In most cases it is quite impossible to analyze the signatures attached to these documents, but from my personal knowledge I am convinced that at least one signature to the petition under consideration is not genuine.
– Does the honorable member say that that fact ought to vitiate the petition ?
– I do not say that. I do say, however, that those who have been instrumental in having this petition submitted to the House ought to be made to feel their responsibility. I cannot take exception to the fact that the Acting Prime Minister himself drew attention to two or three signatures to the petition which are not genuine. I repeat that, to my own knowledge, at least one of those signatures is not that of the person whose signature it purports to be.
– How does the honorable member know that? There may be more Alfred Deakins than one.
– It is our duty to guard the privileges of this House, and to see that another insult of a similar character to that which has been offered is not put upon it.
– I am of opinion that the honorable member for Laanecoorie has made a mistake in moving for the appointment of a Committee of the House to investigate the genuineness of the petition. The matter ought really to be investigated in the first instance by the Attorney-General. If the results of his inquiries lead him to believe that forgery has been committed, and that the offence can be sheeted home to the guilty parties, it will then be proper for this House to take action. What would the Printing orany other Committee do in the matter? Thatbody would have to employ the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to undertake the work of investigation for them. Let us suppose that the honorable member for Kooyong, who is so familiar with the signature of Mr. Harry Foran, of the Domain, Sydney, is convinced that’ the signature purporting to be his is not genuine. How can he establish that it is a forgery ? The honorable member for Kooyong would be called upon to prove that there is no other Harry Foran in Australia. He would have to produce the Harry Foran whom he knows so well, and also a number of other Harry Forans, in order to prove that the signature attached to the petition is not theirs.
– I rise to a point of order. I have not the privilege of knowing the gentleman to whom the honorable member for Corio has referred, and I object to a very serious business being converted into a farce.
– I wish to say, in reply to the honorable member–
– Order ! The honorable member for Corio distinctly resumed his seat.
– I was speaking when the honorable member for Kooyong rose to a point of order.
– I distinctly saw the honorable member for Corio resume his seat before the honorable member for Kooyong spoke.
– I interrupted the honorable member.
– If the honorable member for Corio asserts that he had not concluded his speech. I will permit him to proceed. But in that case, I would point out that he ought not to have resumed his seat. Whenever an honorable member resumes his seat it is an intimation to the Presiding Officer that he has concluded his speech.
– I merely desire to say that I resumed my seat because I saw the honorable member for Kooyong rise to a point of order. It is utterly absurd for that honorable member to urge that I am converting a serious business into a farce. I repeat that in order to establish the fact that the signature of Mr. Harry Foran which is attached to the petition is not genuine it would be necessary to produce every Harry Foran within the Commonwealth. When it has been proved that the signatures to the petition are forgeries it will be time enough for a Committee of this House to act. I support the proposal of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, because its adoption will probably lead to the discovery of the persons who - if they have forged Mr. Harry Foran’s signature - ought to be punished.
– We should certainly be jealous of the privileges of this House, and if it is possible for us to act without reference to the Attorney-General’s Department, I think that we ought to do so. I disagree with the view of the. honorable member for Kooyong that the signatories to the petition must sign it in person. Standing order 76 provides -
Every petition shall be signed by the parties whose names are appended thereto, with their names, and by no one else, except in case of incapacity by sickness.
Now we know perfectly well that some of the alleged signatories to this petition are sick, and consequently they may have deputed others to sign the petition on their behalf.
An Honorable Member. - Does the honorable member think that Mr. Deakin authorized somebody to sign it for him?
– He may have done so.
– Shame !
– I understand that Mr. Deakin has been in the locality where the petition originated, and he may have authorized some person to sign the document for him. But I would point out that probably there is more than one Alfred Deakin. In New South Wales I know a family by the name of Deakin, and in all probability there is more than one Alfred Deakin in Australia.
– But the address of the Alfred Deakin who is supposed to have signed the petition is given as “ Melbourne.”
– In all probability there is more than one Alfred Deakin in Melbourne. Then who is to say that Harry Foran did not authorize somebody to sign upon his behalf?
– Has not this farce lasted long enough ?
– The privileges of the House should be jealously guarded, and I think that in referring the petition to a Committee for investigation honorable members are taking the proper course.
.- The trouble in connexion with this petition has arisen from the way in which the Acting Prime Minister introduced it. At the outset he awakened the fiscal proclivities of honorable members, and apparently they have not been able to escape from them since. I take it that the Acting Prime Minister ha.d a duty to perform before he presented the petition to the House. His duty was to examine the document and satisfy himself as to the bona fides of its signatories. If he entertained any reasonable doubt of their bona fides he should have referred the petition back to the persons who sent it to him, with a request that it should be corrected. But instead of doing that, he brought the matter forward in a way that was undoubtedly calculated to inflame the minds of honorable members in regard to the fiscal meaning of the petition. The position appears to me to be a very simple one. Nobody suggests that the whole of the signatures to the petition are forgeries. It seems to be generally recognised that a number of them are perfectly bona fide, and it is monstrous that those who have signed the petition in good faith should now find it proposed to be thrown under the table simply because one or two individuals, with no sense of responsibility, and with only a weak sense of humour, which I regret to say has been reflected in this House to-day, chose to attach certain names to it apparently by way of a joke. The right to petition Parliament is a very important one, and I hope that this House will hesitate before it interferes with that undoubted right of the people of the Commonwealth. The petition appears to contain a number of names which are forgeries. If honorable members are satisfied that that is so, it is their privilege to lodge a complaint with the Attorney-General, and it is his business to follow the matter up. But, if we admit the genuineness of the petition as a whole, then the House cannot refuse to accept it.
– That is ridiculous.
– So long as it is drawn up in accordance with the forms which this Parliament has prescribed, the doubtfulness of some signatures does not invalidate it. The majority of the petitioners appear to have complied with those forms, and, therefore, I say, with very much earnestness, that we should hesitate before we do anything to interfere with this great right of any democracy, and with, this great right of the democracy of Australia.
– I think it is very unfair for the honorable member for Perth to endeavour to cast blame upon me for having presented a petition which I knew contained some bona fide signatures. I know some of the signatories to it well.
– And I know some of them, too.
– I think that the honorable member does. If I had declined to present the petition I should have been preventing some persons whose signatures are bona fide from approaching this House. The facts are that the petition was got up at the show which was recently held in Wagga.
– The Acting Prime Minister knows something about it?
– I presented one portion of it previously. It was sent to me by a gentleman whom I know very well - a member of a reputable firm of solicitors in Wagga. .
– Then, it is a genuine document.
– So far as the document as a whole is concerned, there is no doubt that it is. But I have heard from many persons that there is a number of names attached to the petition which are not genuine, arid that some of the signatories did not know what they were signing. When I saw my own name attached to it I thought that the matter was being carried a little too far. I am satisfied that some of the persons whose names are attached to the petition did not sign it, and that others who did sign it did not know what they were signing.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister say that he did not sign it at the show ?
– I did not happen to be there. I know, as a matter of fact, that the petition was got up ih a manner in which it should not have been got up. I could mention the name of the gentleman who was the main instrument in getting it up ; it is attached to the petition. He is a reputable man living near junee. I could not refuse to present the petition; but I should not have been doing my duty had I not directed the attention of the House to the fact that attached to it are signatures which I know not to be genuine. There may be many others besides those which I mentioned which are not genuine. I am quite aware that petitions are presented to the House which in their essence are not bona fide, because persons sign them without knowing their contents. Numbers of those who signed this petition did not know what they were signing, and they told me so. I do not think that any blame attaches to me for presenting a petition sent to me from my constituency by a gentleman who signed it, and who, I know, acted bona fide. But, on the other hand, I was justified in pointing out that some of the signatures attached to it are not bond fide. In informing the House of the nature of the petition, I did not say a word against those who had signed bona fide, and with the best intentions. I understand that the petition was placed in charge of some one who asked those passing in and out of the show gates to sign it, and that many of those who signed did not take the trouble to read it. It is not right that petitions signed in that way should be allowed to sway this House. Persons signing petitions should know what they are signing, and the petitions should be bona fide. I complain that petitions are presented’ which are not bond fide. I think that honorable members generally are of opinion that it was my duty to direct attention to signatures attached to the petition which I knew not to be genuine. I could not undertake the responsibility of striking them out.
– Would the honorable member have called attention to the matter had the petition been in favour of the Tariff?
– Of course, I should have taken the same action in that case.
– I doubt it.
– The honorable member’s insinuation is not that of a gentleman. Does the honorable member think that I would not have taken the same action had the petition been in favour of the Tariff, and had I known that there was something wrong in connexion with it?
– I take leave to doubt that the honorable gentleman would have made so much fuss about the matter had the petition been in favour of the. Tariff.
– I made very little fuss about it ; it is the House that has made a fuss about it. Using very calm language, I directed attention to the weak spot of the petition. I was not excited, nor am I now. It is the House which has taken the matter up. I should have been blameworthy had I refused to present a petition sent to me from Wagga by Mr. Mitchelmore, or had I struck out signatures attached to it.
.- The discussion seems to have centred upon the question whether petitions should be received, irrespective of what they contain. I agree with those who assert that the right to petition Parliament is one of the greatest rights possessed by the people ; but that right may be destroyed if “it is abused or allowed to be tainted at the source. Once it comes to the knowledge of honorable members that a petition is tainted at the source, the statements contained in it cease to influence them.
– Is the ‘ honorable member prepared to scrutinize the signatures attached to every petition, to ascertain whether they are genuine ?
– Why not?
– It would be absurd to attempt such a thing.
– Every legislative chamber has laid down the rule that petitions must conform in certain respects to what is thought to be proper, and that otherwise they shall not be received. I do not agree with what the Acting Prime Minister has said in regard to the manner in which this petition was signed. We have nothing to do with that. What we are concerned with is whether a petition is respectfully worded and complies with the Standing Orders, and whether the signatures attached to it are genuine. With the knowledge that we have of some of the signatures attached to this petition, can there be any doubt that in some respects it is not bona fide?
– Suspicion attaches to certain signatures only.
– There may be other signatures which are not genuine.’ ‘
– The point which I wish to emphasize is that if petitions are tainted at their source they cease to be of value. If an investigation proves that persons have wilfully forged signatures to a petition, they should be punished by the Law Courts. It is the duty of every selfrespecting Chamber of Legislature to see that the right of petition, which is one of the chief privileges of the people, is not abused for party purposes.
.- Having heard the speech of the Acting Prime Minister, it seems to me that there is need for neither motion nor amendment. We have his assurance that the petition is genuine.
– I did not say that. I said that it came to me from a leading solicitor of Wagga, and that attached to it are some names which I know not to be genuine.
– The honorable member has no reason to believe that the petition itself is other than genuine. He has told us that he saw several persons sign it.
– I did not say that.
– I think every honorable member understood him to say so.
– He described how certain signatures were obtained, and from his description it was natural to infer that at the Wagga show he had seen persons signing the petition. At any rate, he has told us that there are signatures attached to it which are genuine, and I maintain that if one signature is genuine, the petition must be regarded as genuine, although there may be a number of other signatures which are not genuine, signed, perhaps, by some wag possessing a peculiar sense of humour. I maintain that a petition to which one genuine signature is attached should be received as a genuine petition. From what the Acting Prime Minister said, there seems to be no doubt in his own mind as to the genuineness of this petition, although he takes exception to the manner in which signatures were obtained to it. Under the circumstances there is no need for further action by the House.
– It seems to me that the honorable member for Lang misses the point of the objection to this petition, which is that a right which British communities have long enjoyed has, in this instance, been apparently abused, and if notice is not taken of the matter, it will tend to bring the practice of petitioning Parliament into still greater disrepute than it is in at the present time.
– Even so, does the honorable member suggest that this is the first occasion on which this sort of thing has happened?
– No. The methods adopted to obtain signatures to petitions are so loose and open to abuse of every kind that petitions have practically ceased to be of any value, so far as influencing Parliament in regard to matters of policy is concerned, and, on being received, are practically thrown into the waste-paper basket, no one taking any notice of their contents. Of course, attention is paid to the petitions of private individuals praying for the redress of grievances ; but it would be preposterous to expect members of Parliament to depart from fiscal principles to which they were pledged, merely because of the presentation of a petition signed by Brown, Jones, and Robinson, praying the House to adopt a certain policy. The petitioning of Parliament has come to be an absolute farce, except when individual grievances are concerned. In my opinion, honorable members should not consider -themselves bound to present petitions merely because they have been forwarded to them from their electorates, and I think that the Acting Prime Minister should not have presented this petition, seeing that he knew it to be improperly signed. If any one sent me a petition from my electorate, in connexion with which I could easily discover some fraud, I should regard it as an act of discourtesy, and should return it, with the intimation that I would not present a petition which was not in proper form.
– That would be a perfectly proper course to take.
– If a petition, containing a number of signatures falsely applied, either in joke or in earnest, were sent to me, I should regard the sending of it as an act of discourtesy. Those who get up petitions should insure, as far as possible, that abuses do not occur. As to the motion before the Chair, I have no objection to an inquiry. Personally, I do not think that it will achieve very much; but if it brings home to the public the fact that Parliament is not inclined to allow petitioning to become a farce, it will do a certain amount of good.
– This petition is badly worded. It speaks of “ Wearing apparel and other machinery.”
– I shall vote for the referring of this matter to the Printing Committee for investigation. I think that when, in future, petitions are presented to this House, not only should they be read, but the names and addresses of those signing should also be read. In a great many cases such a course would disclose the fact that a number of signatures had not been authorized by the persons whose names they bore.
– A petition might have 5,000 signatures attached.
– The number of the signatures is immaterial, the question, being : Are they genuine ? Is the right of petitioning Parliament for the redress of grievances to be abused for party purposes ? Are petitions to be manipulated in the interest of a party, in order to mislead Parliament as to public opinion on any subject ?
– On one occasion I presented a petition which it took two men to carry into the chamber.
– The honorable member has condemned the action of the Acting Prime Minister, . and has applauded the statements of the honorable member for South Sydney, at the same time voting for the reception of the petition. During the division I heard an honorable member say– .
– The honorable member ought not toretail private conversation.
– I am not going to repeat anything which should not.be repeated. Every member has the right to express his opinion and give reasons for his vote; and one member has openly said to-day that he will vote in favour of the request of the petition because it is a free-trade petition. There is nothing wrong in such an attitude; but I desire to give one instance to prove that we should do right on the present occasion to decide on an investigation. Not long since a petition was presented from my electorate, as the honorable member for South Sydney said, behind my back. That petition possessed great interest for certain persons, but everything in connexion with it was, for certain reasons, kept as quiet as possible. However, I went to the Minister, to whom the petition had been sent, and, having obtained a copy, together with the names,
I made some inquiries on my own account. The result was that in six cases out of ten I found that the signatures were absolute forgeries, while, in the case of the other signatures, I found that the electors had had. placed before them two petitions with directly opposite objects. If the elector proved not to be a true party man, be was asked to sign the second petition ; and the facts disclosed a grave state of affairs. We desire to be approached by petition, but petitions must be genuine. In the face of what has occurred to-day, can we in the future place any reliance on petitions which may be presented to us? I shall support the motion in order that there may be the fullest investigation, and in the future I shall endeavour to have our rules so amended’ as to permit of the publication of the petitions and signatures, in order that those whose names have been forged may have redress.
.- I am in thorough agreement with the motion, because I feel strongly that petitions ought not to be presented to us in a frivolous manner. To me it is a’ wonder the whole of Australia is not petitioning the House to have the business of the Tariff proceeded with. Here we have before us a monstrous Tariff, which is a burden on the people generally; and approaching Christmas, as weare-
– I ask the honorable member not to debate the Tariff.
– The Tariff is much more important than the petition under discussion. We are now nearly at the end of September, and it is quite time that we proceeded in earnest with the business of the House.
– If the honorable member is so anxious, why does he not move that the question be now put?
– I do not desire to take that course.
– - The greatest authority on parliamentary procedure, Sir Thomas Erskine May, lays it down in regard to forgery and fraud connected with petitions–
– Is the honorable member speaking to a point of order?
– I am replying to the debate.
– The honorable member has no right of reply on a motion like this.
– As this is a question of privilege, I desire to make an explanation.
– If the honorable member desires to call attention to a point of order, I can hear him, but I dp not think I can hear him on any other point.
– Honorable members do not seem to be clear in this matter, and it is necessary for me to explain my reason for raising this question as one of privilege. I merely wish to explain that I took that course on account of what is laid down by May, when dealing with forgery and fraud in connexion with petitions, as follows: -
Any forgery or fraud in the preparation of petitions, or in the signatures attached, or the being privy to, or cognisant of, such forgery or fraud, is liable to be punished as a breach of privilege, and is considered and dealt with by the House as a matter of privilege.
I wish to explain in regard to the amendment
– The honorable member is proceeding beyond a point of order.
– I desire to make what I regard as a very important explanation.
– An honorable member may make a personal explanation in order to put himself right with the House in a matter in regard to which he has been misunderstood. If the honorable member says that this is a matter in which he has been misunderstood or misrepresented, he is perfectly entitled to make an explanation, but he is not entitled to bring further argument to bear on the question, or to repeat arguments which have already been used.
– I have been misunderstood, and that is why I wish to explain. I said that I was willing to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Laanecoorie. Honorable members are not aware, I believe, that the Printing Committee is now a joint Committee of both Houses, and I am sure they will agree that we cannot allow the privileges of this House to be discussed by members of another place.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension. The words which the honorable member for Laanecoorie has moved to insert in lieu of “ the Attorney-General “ are “ the Printing Committee of this House.” It will be seen that there is no reference to any other Committee than a Committee of this House.
– I am satisfied with the explanation.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That the Petition presented by the honorable member for Hume bereferred to the Printing Committee of this House for immediate investigation as to its accuracy and alleged forgery.
– On several oc casions I have been asked questions by members of the Opposition in regard to the New Hebrides, and I beg to say that I have to-day received the following very important letter, which bears on the subject -
Melbourne, 17th September, 1907.
The Secretary to the Prime Minister, Australian Commonwealth.
On Friday last, the13th instant, there appeared in the Argus a short article on the New Hebrides, which from its wording might be thought to have emanated from the Foreign Missions Committee of our Church, or from some one in authority in our Church. We have been requested by the Foreign Missions Committee, which met to-day, to write and state that the Committee knows nothing of it - does not indorse it, and is at a loss to think who could have inspired it, as it is contrary to the facts of the case. We have pleasure in acknowledging that the Prime Minister, the Honorable Alfred Deakin, has done what he could to help our interests in the Islands, and the statement that the Federal Government declined to send on any document for us to the Colonial Office is without foundation, the fact being that at the request of our Committee the Department for External Affairs did send home what we asked, and met us in the most friendly spirit.
Moderator, Presbyterian Church of Victoria.
Secretary, Foreign Missions Committee.
-I desire to make a brief personal explanation. On Thursday last, on the authority of the Treasury officials, I made a statement showing the expenditure of the States out of revenue since Federation, and I gave the totals under the various headings as supplied to me. I understand, however, that the Treasury officials subsequently found that the figures supplied to me were notquite up-to-date, and they sent a corrected return, which was inserted in Hansard. The effect is that the totals which I quoted do not agree with the totals in the tabulated statement appearing in Hansard. I understand from the Chief Parliamentary Reporter that alterations will be made in the second edition and the permanent volume, with the object of making my totals correspond with the totals given in the tabulated statement; but I find it necessary to make this explanation in case it may appear to any person reading the temporary issue of the record that I was so careless as to quote incorrect figures. I .should like to also add that, according to the Melbourne Age of to-day, the Premier of Western Australia has ventured to cast some ridicule on the figures which I gave as showing the gain to Western Australia since the Federal Tariff came into operation. His remarks were apparently evoked by the fact that a meeting of protectionists at Perth recently used my figures to discount the inventions of the State Actuary concerning the Tariff. The honorable gentleman said that the chairman of the public meeting repeated “ Mr. Mahon’s absurd statement that the State had gained ^2,240,000 on account of Federation.” The Premier went on to say -
Surely Mr. Mahon knew that the amount relumed to the State was not a gift, but its own money made up of taxes, paid to the Custom House and the Excise Department by its own people.
I wish to say that I never desired any such inference to be drawn from my remarks. The essence of my contention was, of course, not that this sum was a gift from the Commonwealth to the Federation, but that it represented the amount which the Federal Government had returned to the State out of the State’s own contribution to the Customs and Excise. I referred to the return as a “ gain “ simply because the Actuary of Western Australia, on whom the Premier of that State is now relying, and who is placing exaggerated and fanciful Estimates before the people, referred to the fact that the Treasury deficiency which he anticipated from Federation would be a loss to the State. Seeing that there has been no loss in the sense of there’ being a deficiency. I referred to the amount received as a gain to the Treasury. The Premier of Western Australia, therefore, . is simply throwing ridicule on the State official when he attempts to challenge my figures. I desire to add, in reference to the tabulated statement to which I first referred, that I am of course very pleased to have up-to-date figures. Further, ft is only just to say that no person connected with either Hansard or the Treasury can be held to be in any way blameable for the discrepancy between the figures.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether it is a fact that the post-office at Murwillumbah was during the recent fire saved only by the strenuous efforts of the post-office officials, and, if so, whether lie will see that those officials are suitably rewarded?
– I do not know that I shall see that the officials are rewarded, because I take it that they were only doing their duty.
Consideration of Items - Duties on Dressed Timber and Magazines.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister when he intends to invite honorable members to proceed with the consideration of the Tariff?
– I have said over and over again that it is the intention of the Government to ask honorable members to deal first of all with the New Works and Buildings Estimates, and also with two or three Bills. As soon- as they have been disposed of - and I trust their consideration will not long occupy our attention - we shall proceed, without inter- ruption I hope, with the consideration of the Tariff.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question with further reference to a question asked by me yesterday as to a promise alleged to have been given bv him to a deputation of timber merchants that, under the new Tariff, no higher duties than heretofore would be charged on dressed timber. Is the following excerpt from a press report of his reply to the deputation correct?
Sir William Lyne (further consulting the list) said his intention was that the duty should be the same as it was before. If they had not paid the increased duty before the Tariff was brought down they would not have to pay it now. There was no doubt as to what his intention was.
Mr. Langdon, with a relieved air, said that if this was the case there was no necessity to argue the matter further. He again drew attention to the anomaly by which they were compelled to pa)’ as high a rate of duty for threeeighths of an inch as for the full inch.
I f that is a correct report of what was said, how does the Acting Prime Minister reconcile it with his reply to my question yesterday, which was a denial of what I have just read ?
– I did not make the statement attributed to me ; the report is incorrect. What I referred to, and what the newspaper report refers to, though the report is not accurate, is the thickness of the boards. Hitherto the surface of an inch board has been taken as the measurement ; but, in accordance with a footnote in the report of the Tariff Commission, the Customs officials have been charging for the surface, no matter how thin the boards are. What I said was that I did not think that was intended, and that I would ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to look into the matter, in order to see whether or not there was some error. That is what the newspaper report refers to, though the reporter has apparently not caught the point.
– I should like to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question relating to magazines. By way of explanation I may mention that last week, in Adelaide, and this week in Melbourne, it was pointed out to me that there were two pressing difficulties. One related to the giving of orders for the delivery of Christmas issues of magazines, and the other to the fact that if the merchants chose to take these imports without advertisements the staff in Adelaide would not be able to deliver the first clear of advertisements before the second mail de- livery would come round. I should like to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, seeing that the wisest of Ministers could not frame a Tariff free from anomalies, he will agree to ask the Committee to deal at once with the item of magazines.
– This matter relates more particularly to the detailed work of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and, without consulting him, I could not reply to the honorable member’s question. The policy of the Government, however, is that,as far as possible, the items shall be taken seriatim. If we once departed from that rule, then every honorable member would desire us to give precedence to certain items, and numerous difficulties and complications would arise. I should like precedence to be given to some items, but at present I can only say that the Government intend to deal with them seriatim. I regret very much that I cannot agree to the honorable member’s request, and I am sure he will recognise that we should bring a hornet’s nest about our ears if we departed from the course I have indicated.
Mr. MAUGER laid upon the table the following papers : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at-
Canbelego, New South Wales - As a site for a Post Office.
Young, New South Wales - As an extension to Postal property.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I understand that a condemned torpedo was destroyed some time ago, and this may have caused some misapprehension.
Protection of Workers and Consumers
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Ministry to abandon the method of protecting labour provided by the “ Excise Tariff 1906,” and to substitute another therefor, was the result of a doubt as to the constitutionality as well as the efficacy of the provisions for the purpose in the Act referred to ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
I had desired yesterday to make a statement on this matter and to submit the Government proposals, but was unable to do so. I hope to be able to make the statement at an early date, and to explain the new Excise proposals which will differ considerably from those now in force.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Minister of
Defence, upon notice -
Range; 200 yards. 10 shots with each kind of ammunition.
Elev ammunition as previously supplied.
Colonial Ammunition as now supplied.
Masters, 3,0,0,0,0,0,0, 2,0,0 - 5?
– I had seen the statement referred to by the honorable member, but am unable to inform him of the origin of the ammunition. I am, however, having full inquiries made, and hope to be able to supply the honorable member in a few days with information on the subject.
asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
Now that the Prime Minister is sufficiently recovered to grant an interview to a newspaper on the subject of Australia’s military arrangements with the Imperial authorities, will the Acting Prime Minister induce the Prime Minister to favour the Commonwealth Parliament by supplying an answer to the equally important question, already so frequentlyasked, as to the Ministry’s declared intention of terminating the existing Naval Agreement?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
An inquiry as to the meaning of a statement of Mr. Haldane was answered by referring the questioner to the published reports of the Imperial Conference. As already frequently stated, Mr. Deakin will review the Naval Agreement when he is able to resume parliamentary duties.
” SWEATING,” GENERAL POST OFFICE, SYDNEY.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
Mr. Webster quoted showed that the statements in the latter reports were exaggerated. I hope to be in possession of information as to the exact present position by the time I visit Sydney about the end of this month. 2 and 3. See answer to No. 1.
asked the Acting Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Postmaster-Gen’eral, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows
Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
Commonwealth Revenue and Expenditure
Additions, New Works, and Buildings, Department of Home Affairs
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 17th .September, vide page 3360):
Division 1 (Home Affairs), £6,000
– - I - I should be glad if the Acting Prime Minister would explain the item -
Towards the cost of erection of store at Darling Island, Sydney, for the purposes of Departments of the Commonwealth, ^6,000.
– The item relates mostly to a re-vote.
– I notice that it includes ^2,000. in respect of new service.
– The total estimated cost of these stores will be .£30,000, and this item represents part of the expenditure upon them. The land, which is alongside the Royal Navy Stores at Darling Island, has been acquired from the State Government for Commonwealth Storage Purposes, to take the place of premises at present rented. On the site is intended to be erected a plain steet-framed brick six-story building of fire-proof construction, 234 feet by 41 feet, where bulk goods for the Defence and PostmasterGeneral’s Departments may be received, stored, and despatched from by either sea or rail . Modern quick-lifting and carrving machinery, suitable to the weights to be handled, is proposed to be provided-, in order that a minimum of time and labour may be utilized in transferring stores direct from the ship’s tackle into the building and dispersing same by rail or vice versa.
– I understand that the item is to provide for the completion of the work?
– To enable the work to be canned on.
– Included in these Estimates is an item £1,565 for a post-office at Cloncurry, to which some exception has been taken by one or two honorable members. Cloncurry is in my electorate, and, although objection was taken to the item last night on the ground that the town is only a small one, I would point out that it is the centre of a very large district, and the chief distributing point for mail services to distant places. If other honorable members who are advocating the erection of postal buildings in their electorates can make out as good a case as we can do for this item, they will deserve success. The revenue of the Cloncurry post-office from postal matter alone last year was£980, whilst the revenue from telegrams and telephones amounted to £1,083, and the commission on money orders to £99, making a total of£2,162. The working expenses for the same period amounted to £636, leaving a credit balance of £1,526. It will thus be seen that the profits derived from one year’s operations would pay for the erection of the new building. Cloncurry will probably be the centre of one of the largest mining districts in Australia.In mining circles generally it is regarded as the hope of Australia.
– The price of copper is coming down.
– But the copper ores found there are of unparalleled richness, and it will be possible to work them at a profit when the ores of many other districts cannot be treated. Few honorable members have the slightest conception of the importance and the extent of this vast mineral belt of country. It is rich in copper and other minerals, and promises to be one of the greatest mining fields in Australia. Apart from the fact that an enormous sum is being expended on the mines in the neighbourhood of the town itself, we have to remember that a railway to Cloncurry will be completed within two or three months, and that it will then be the distributing centre for mining districts within a radius of from 150 to 200 miles. At the present time mails are being run from Cloncurry to Winton, towards Richmond, Normanton, Camooweal, Boulia, Mount Elliott, and other places.
It is a large distributing centre. My complaint is that the Government have not made any effort to erect a permanent building there. The buildings which have been constructed from time to time have practically been eaten away by white ants. In localities where stone is available surely the post-offices should be constructed of that material. If we take into consideration the cost incurred in hauling the timber necessary for the construction of a postoffice a distance of 500 miles by rail, and the cost of conveying it a considerable distance by boat, we must come to the conclusion that the expenditure involved in erecting a stone building would be very little more than that of erecting a wooden structure, whilst it would form a better asset to the Commonwealth. I may mention in this connexion that even cedar buildings have been erected in that portion of Queensland, because it is generally supposed that that class of timber is not attacked by white ants.
– Why not call for alternative tenders for the construction of the post-offices there?
– The Department appears to think that the construction of a stone building would involve a considerably increased expenditure. But even if that be so it would form a permanent asset.
– What about cedar buildings ?
– Where cedar is employed dry rot usually sets in.
– The white ants will attack cedar, too.
– They will eat anything.
– There are some timbers in the north of Queensland, such as ti-tree, which the white ants will not attack.
– I saw at Port Darwin a case in which the white ants had gone through a stone wall.
– I have not seen them eat through a stone wall, but I have seen them eat through galvanized iron. I had intended to offer a few general observations as to the finances upon the Estimates relating to additions, new works and buildings, but I feel that the debate upon that matter has practically concluded.
Colonel Foxton. - The honorable member would be out of order if he did.
– The interjection of the honorable member has reminded me of the fact that in speaking upon the Budget he made the extraordinary statement that owing to the shortness of labour in the cane-fields of Queensland, 30,600 acres of cane had to stand over last season.
Colonel Foxton. - No. I said “ tons “ of cane.
– If the honorable member will look -up Hansard he will find that he referred to acres, and not to tons.
Colonel Foxton. - No
– If the honorable member desires to correct his statement by substituting “tons” for “acres,” of course that will make all the difference. But he distinctly stated that 30,000 acres of cane had to stand over last year owing to the shortage of labour in the cane-fields.
Colonel Foxton. - Oh, no.
– I am quite prepared to accept the honorable member’s assurance, but not only is he reported to have made that statement, but he actually repeated it in reply to an interjection.
Colonel Foxton. - Is it so recorded in Hansard ?
– Yes. Probably the honorable member did not intend to make the statement, but, nevertheless, he did make it. He confined his remarks in that connexion to the Mosman district. From the information which I have received, it is not a fact that 30,000 tons of cane in that district had to stand over last year owing to the shortage of labour. It was not the scarcity of labour which led to that quantity of cane standing over, but the fact that sufficient crushing power was* not available to deal with it. As a matter of fact, there was ample labour available throughout the season. Despite the statements to the contrary which have been made from time to time by the owners of large sugar estates, it is a fact that numbers of men have sought employment in these places, and have been unable to obtain it. Further, since this Parliament enacted legislation for the abolition of kanaka labour in Queensland, these planters have stated, year after year, that they would be absolutely ruined because of their inability to obtain a sufficient supply of labour. But is it not a fact that to-day we are producing twice the quantity of sugar that we did prior to the enactment of that legislation? Is it not also a fact that the whole of the growers’ requirements, so far as labour is concerned, have been met?
– Is that remark true of the most northern districts of Queensland ?
– Yes. There is a certain class of planter in Queensland - the honorable member for Brisbane, who assisted to pass the Bill introduced into the Queensland Parliament by Sir Samuel Griffith in 1884, which provided for the abolition of kanaka labour, knows him very well - who would move heaven and earth to retain cheap coloured labour. These planters have never honestly attempted to work their plantations with white labour. They comprise the party which assists to return the honorable member for Brisbane to this House.
Colonel Foxton. - Oh, no.
– The honorable member comes here to advocate their cause.
Colonel Foxton. - I have nothing to do with them at all..
– I know who finds all the money for electioneering purposes. I know who is behind the whole show in connexion with the party which runs the honorable member. .Before telling the Committee that there was a shortage of labour in the cane-fields of Queensland, I think that the honorable member should have made himself more familiar with the actual position of affairs. He is well aware that the planters of that State - owing to their continuous outcry about) the scarcity of labour - have obtained permission from the Government to indenture a certain class of labour for work in the cane-fields. Not long since they imported a number of Spaniards for that purpose - men who cannot speak English, except the few words which they were’ able to pick up on the voyage to Australia. What has been the result? Nearly all these men have left their employment, and are now drifting about Queensland competing against those who are endeavoring to obtain a reasonable wage for the work which they perform. The foreigners are content to accept whatever wage they can get. I say that if immigrants of this class are to be brought to Australia under the auspices of the sugar planters, they will inevitably come into competition with workers engaged in other pursuits. I hope that the Government will take into their serious consideration the fact that these new arrivals are not fulfilling the agreement under which they were introduced. It is not a good thing to have them scattered all over the country. I had intended to speak upon the general financial policy of the Government, but I feel that there is no particular interest in the debate at the present moment, and consequently I do not propose to weary the Committee any further. In conclusion, I wish to assure the Treasurer that I am not at all satisfied with the general statements which have emanated from the Government in connexion with the financial position of the Commonwealth.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [4.58]. - I should have been much indebted to the honorable member for Kennedy for affording me the opportunity of correcting any mistake which I had made in my speech if there had been one. But I find, upon reference to Hansard - and the correctness of its report is certainly not due to any alteration of the proof upon my part - that instead of having referred to 30,000 acres of cane I am reported to have said - ‘
The labour question was a serious issue last year, and it is going to be still more serious this year. I know of a district in which there is a central mill . where 30,000 tons of cane stood over.
The Attorney-General interjected -
In what district?
To which I replied -
In the Mosman district.
Later on the Attorney-General again interjected -
The output of sugar is not decreasing ; it is increasing.
In reply, I said -
That may be so in the south, but it is not so in the north, unless as the result of good seasons. The fact that 30,000 tons of cane were left standing is the strongest proof honorable members can have of the condition of the industry.
It will be seen, therefore, that I referred to “ tons “ and not to “ acres.”
– The mill-owners in the north of Queensland have increased their crashing power this year very materially.
Colonel FOXTON.- I am dealing now with a statement which I made upon a previous occasion. What I then said - and what I am reported to have said in Hansard - is correct so far as my information goes. It may be that there were other causes for this cane not having been cut, but upon that point the information supplied to the honorable member for Kennedy is entirely different from that which has been supplied to me. The fact remains that this quantity of cane did stand over. My object now is to show that the remarks of the honorable member as to the statement which he alleged I was reported to have made, are entirely wide of the mark. I am reported in Hansard to have said exactly what I intended to say. I am very glad to hear the voice of the honorable member for Kennedy, because as _ Chairman he is to a certain extent muzzled ; but, unfortunately, on this, occasion he does not seem to have taken advantage of his opportunity with the best results, so far as the first item is concerned. As regards the second, he said that the party which desires to have cheap coloured labour for the North was the party behind me at the elections, and that it found the funds in connexion with my return to this Parliament. I do not know what authority he had for that statement, and I should like him to name any person or body pf persons in any way contributing funds which were used to bring about my return. I am under the painful impression that I paid all the expenses of my election. If he is aware of a secret fund which was employed to assist in securing my return, I shall be glad if he will inform me of the particulars concerning it.
– Will the honorable member say that he paid for all the literature circulated in and around Brisbane on behalf of his political party, some of which contained untrue statements?
Colonel FOXTON.- I have nothing to do with literature ‘dealing with matters of general policy. If the honorable member desires to know my personal expenditure in connexion with the election, , he can consult the account which, in accordance with the Electoral Act, has been duly filed by my agent.
– He must first pay a fee of 2s.
Colonel FOXTON. - Perhaps that would deter him from the venture. I give the statement that any person having any interest in the maintenance of cheap coloured labour in the North was responsible for my return the flattest denial.
– I do not know that the circulars to which I have referred assisted the honorable member in his electoral campaign ; but they were intended to do so.
Colonel FOXTON.- The coloured labour question is of no more importance in, Brisbane than in Melbourne. It is of no importance until one gets into the tropics, and is as far from Brisbane as Sydney is from Melbourne. 1 Some honorable members cannot realize the immense extent of Queensland. The district of Mosman, to which I referred in making a statement about 30,000 tons of cane, is nearly as far north of Brisbane as Brisbane is north of Melbourne.
– There are kanakas nearer to Brisbane than is Mosman.
Colonel FOXTON. - Yes ; but not many of them.
– A good job, too.
Colonel FOXTON. - I am informedI was not in the House at the time - that the Acting Prime Minister has stated that I said that the planters of Queensland are not in favour of the continuance of the bounty for white-grown sugar.
– That was the impression the honorable member left upon other honorable members.
Colonel FOXTON.- Perhaps in the same way as the impression was left upon the honorable member that I said acres instead of tons.
– I am not the only person who thinks that the honorable member said that.
– The honorable member said that the granting of bounties was an infringement of State rights.
Colonel FOXTON.- That is a totally different statement. It certainly never entered my head, and I did not intend to convey, that the people of Queensland, or those connected with the sugar industry, favour the abolition of the bounty. I remember to have said that some of those interested are of opinion that if both bounty and Excise were abolished, thus again enabling cane-growers to employ coloured labour without penalty, it would be a good thing, while others are opposed to such a course, but that, in any event, it would be impossible by their abolition to place the Queensland sugar-grower on exactly the same financial footing as he occupied before the deportation of kanakas commenced, seeing that 4,000 or 5,000 of his skilled field labourers have been sent out of the country. Referring to the interjection of the honorable member for Herbert, my remarks in regard to the bounty being an infringement of State rights may have misled the Acting Prime Minister and the honorable member for South Sydney. I stated that considerable dissatisfaction exists throughout Australia in regard to Federation, and, in reply to an interjection, I said that some of the legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament has been subversive of the rights of the States. I was asked to give an instance in which the legislation of this Parliament had infringed upon the rights of the States, and, in reply, I mentioned several Acts, including the Sugar Bounties and Excise Acts, the passing of which, in the opinion of lawyers, and in my opinion, went beyond the rights given to us under the Constitution. I did not refer to the passing of the Sugar Bounties Act as a grievance of any person in Queensland. I merely mentioned the Act as a bald legal instance, in the view of constitutional authorities - the question has never been determined by the Courts - in which the Commonwealth Parliament, perhaps unwittingly, but certainly not without warning, overstepped the strict bounds of the Constitution. I am glad to have had the opportunity afforded to me by the speech of the honorable member for Kennedy to put myself right in this matter. It would be absurd to say that Queenslanders, or those connected with the sugar industry in Queensland, desire the abolition of the bounty.
– I was astounded at the statement attributed to the honorable member for Brisbane, especially in view of the circumstances in which it was supposed to have been made. I was not present when he made it, but I read a report of the debate. He seems to have been indulging in vague talk, which is unfortunately too common with some honorable members, about the dissatisfaction, or - to use his own word - exasperation prevalent amongst the public in regard to the conduct of Federal affairs. Honorable members thereupon asked him to give an instance in justification of the statement that such exasperation existed. He seemed rather taken aback by the request.
Colonel Foxton.- Not at all.
– The honorable member was indulging in one of those wild flights which aretoo commonly made by honorable members who, because they are opposed to some of the measures of the Commonwealth Parliament, wish to excite the feeling of the people outside against Federation as an institution.
Colonel Foxton. - The feeling is there.
– The tenor of the honorable member’s remarks, as reported in Hansard, is that the Commonwealth Parliament went outside the Constitution, and thereby exasperated the States beyond power of endurance. That kind of vague, wild talk needs only to be pricked to be proved the bubble that it is. In this instance the pricking was done by the making of a request for details.
Colonel Foxton. - Which I supplied.
– According to the Bansard report, the honorable member said -
Honorable members have asked me to name one or two measures passed by the Commonwealth which constitute an encroachment upon State rights. To begin with, I think it very doubtful whether the Sugar Bounty Bill was not” an encroachment upon the rights of the State of Queensland.
That was an astounding statement to come from ai Queensland representative.
– A very definite one.
– Yes.” There is surely no doubt as to what was meant. The honorable member expressed the opinion that the Bounty Act is an encroachment ‘ on Queensland State rights.
Colonel Foxton. - No
– The words used are-
To begin with, I think it very doubtful whether the Sugar Bounty Bill was not an encroachment upon the rights of the State of Queensland.
Colonel Foxton. - I was regarding it as a question of principle.
– The honorable member may try to get away from the statement, but he said in cold blood that the passing of the Sugar Bounty . Act, from which Queensland derives most benefit, was an infringement of the rights of that State.
Colonel Foxton. - An infringement of the rights of all, the States.
– If the honorable member wishes to amend his statement, he is at liberty to do so; but he said the other night that -
To begin with, I think it very doubtful whether the Sugar Bounty Bill was not an encroachment upon the rights of the State of Queensland.
Colonel Foxton. - I meant to say of all the States.
– The honorable member’s statement will not bear examination. Queensland has benefited materially from the treatment accorded to its sugar industry by the Commonwealth Parliament.
Colonel Foxton. - What about the Excise ?
– That has been largely returned to growers employing white labour, and, even so far as growers employing black labour are concerned, the general treatment of the sugar industry under Federation has been beneficial. I can bring forward men engaged in the industry who will support my statement that our legislation has resulted in obtaining higher prices for Queensland sugar. I admit that that enhanced price is at the expense of the taxpayer generally ; and those planters who employ coloured labour have participated to the extent of several pounds a ton.
– For which the other States are paying.
– That is so. Personally I have supported this legislation right through ; because I” believed it was only a fair attempt to overcome the state of affairs that State legislation had most unwisely allowed to be built up. We must be prepared to do something to tone down a revolutionary change such as that involved in the deportation of the kanakas. But, while that is so, it seems to me to ill become a gentleman representing a Queensland constituency to complain that this legislation is an encroachment on the rights of that State.
Colonel Foxton. - Not of that State alone, but of the States generally.
– I am willing to accept that as a correction ; but, even from that stand-point, how can the complaint be justified? According to Hansard, the honorable member mentioned the Bounties Act as a violation of section 55 of the Constitution. That section lays it down that taxing measures shall deal only with taxation ; in other words, that the House shall not b’e able to tack one measure to another - to an Appropriation Bill, for instancein order to insure its passing, so as to avoid the suspension of the payment of salaries and other financial operations. But how that section can be said to be violated by the passage of a Bounties Bill I cannot understand.
Colonel Foxton. - I meant connected with the Excise.
– The honorable member knows well enough that, under another section, of the Constitution - not section 55 - we . are entitled to levy Excise, and, under still another section to give bounties with or without ‘reservation. The honorable member should further know that the Bounties Act, as such, was passed after we had made, apparently, a. constitutional slip by allowing originally a rebate of the Excise. We altered the whole procedure so as to avoid the possibility of any constitutional objection being taken. As I say, I cannot see how the honorable member can hold that the Bounties Act violated the rights of the States.
Colonel Foxton. - I was speaking generally of all the legislation to which I referred.’ There were one or two other measures, I forget which.
– So far as I can see, the honorable member did not indicate any other measure but that relating to the sugar bounty.
Colonel Foxton. - I did.
– I have looked through Hansard, and have not been able to discover any that the honorable member referred to but the sugar bounties measure. If that is all the honorable member can point to as an encroachment on States rights, it seems to me that he has a very weak case.
Colonel Foxton, - That is not all ; I mentioned three measures.
– What were the others ?
Colonel Foxton. - The Excise Act of 1906
– If these are the only measures which can be pointed to as indicating an anxiety on the part of the Federal Government to violate or encroach on States rights under the Constitution, it seems to me that the honorable member’s contention rests on a very slender basis. However much the honorable member may disagree with the legislation or with the policy of the measures passed by the Parliament, however much he may disagree with the majority for the time being - he should try to distinguish between attacking those measures and attacking the institution of Federation.
Colonel Foxton.- I did not attack the institution of Federation, but the action of parties. Federation is all right !
– The honorable member, in the wild, vague statements in which he indulged, was certainly adding fuel to whatever flame existed amongst the antiFederalists throughout Australia. .
– Does the honorable member suggest that all the feeling against Federation is on the part of antiFederalists ?
– I assert that a very large proportion .of those who howled for Federation, with the idea that, as the honorable member for Parkes put it some ten years ago, the success of Federation would mean the ousting of the Labour Party from politics, are now against Federation, simply because they find that the Labour Party are in Federal politics,, and have an influence.
– Did the honorable member for Parkes ever say that?
– I saw it so stated in an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald announcing the candidature of the honorable member for Parkes for the Federal Convention of 1897.
– I doubt if the honorable member ever made a statement like that.
– I am walling to make a little arrangement with the honorable member to prove what I say, if the honorable member wishes. Undoubtedly some of those who were for Federation are now against it ; but, mainly, that dissatisfaction exists amongst those of more conservative mind, who did not expect that Federation was going to turn out exactly as it has turned out. And because they have been beaten by the electors they are proportionately disgruntled at the present time. At the same time, I am satisfied that, if Australia were polled to-day, and even if New South Wales were polled today - and I speak from the result of the election the. other day, and from my experience of meetings, and so forth - we should find that the objection to Federation that is so loudly voiced, has not the solid body of voting power behind it that some honorable members think. It would be found, I feel sure, that the people, when appealed to, would stand by the institution of Federation - that they would respond to the appeal with enthusiasm. I notice in New South Wales, where the Premier’ the other day went out of his way to talk revolution and a lot of other silly nonsense, that his supporters are now busy pointing out-
– The Premier of New South Wales did nothing of the kind.
– He did talk about revolution; he said that if the Federal authorities went on as they had been doing they might have to think of revolution.
– He did not say any such thing.
– The honorable member’s hardihood is surprising.
– The Premier did not say any such thing.
– If the honorable member is only speaking through ignorance, I can excuse him;’ but I assure him that friendly newspapers reported Mr. Carruthers as having said what I have indicated.
– The newspapers did not put the Premier’s remarks in the way the honorable member is putting them.
– The Sydney Morning Herald the next day devoted a leader to reproving Mr. Carruthers.
– The Herald did not accuse Mr. Carruthers of saying what the honorable member for South Sydney accuses him of saying.
– I will not be certain as to a word or two, but I say the effect of the Premier’s remarks was certainly what I have given, and it is only twisting for the honorable member for Parramatta to say that the Premier’s words mean anything else.
– I understand that the effect of the Premier’s remarks was that revolutions had been brought about with less provocation.
– That was not it; the Premier did not say that.
– I think that is the Premier’s explanation.
– I challenge the honorable memberfor South Sydney to publish a report showing that the Premier said anything like what he is represented to have said.
– The honorable member’s endeavours to pull Mr. Carruthers out of the mud are very interesting.
– Theyare endeavours to stop the honorable memberfrom misrepresenting Mr. Carruthers.
-Misrepresenting ! I do not think it is necessary to endeavour to misrepresent Mr. Carruthers on this point, because he has said so much that we may will leave him, very fitly, to stew in his own grease. But, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Carruthers made so much of the anti-Federal aspect of the situation, and complained so much of the attitude of the Federal Parliament, the two leading newspapers of Sydney, which are behind Mr. Carruthers, and which fought valiantly on his behalf during the elections - and one of them lied with cheerfulness to assist his supporters - are now busily engaged in reproving him for having played such a bad card - for having taken up the anti-Federal side when he ought to have known, if he had any foresight at all, that it was a losing card to play. This, I say, is very significant.
– Let us leave Mr. Carruthers alone, and get to business !
– The honorable member for ‘Flinders having just arrived, a moment ago, to participate in the business of Parliament, seems inordinately anxious that none of us should reply to interjections or statements made before he came in. Perhaps, if the honorable member had been here a little earlier, he might have excused as pardonable a desire to reply to statements which have been made. I have been trying to point out that the remarks from the Opposition benches about the unpopularity of Federation, andof the Federal institution, are not altogether justified.
– There is no more important question that we could consider.
– It is a most important question. Perhaps, if the honorablemember for Parramatta can place no reliance on statements I make, he may pay some regard to the opinions of the Sydney Morning Herald, which is admittedly a reasonably fair paper, and not unfriendly towards Mr. Carruthers. In a leading article on the 14th of this month, after the election–
– I should prefer to see the report of what Mr. Carruthers said.
– I shall get the report in time; I had not expected this subject to arise. I now desire to show what the editor of the Herald, or the Herald as an institution, thinks of Mr. Carruthers’ attitude.
– The honorable member knows that the Sydney Morning Herald has never been very friendly to Mr. Carruthers.
– If the honorable member had been in Sydney during the last ten days before the State election, he would have found the Sydney Morning Herald’ wildly “ barracking “ for Mr. Carruthers.
– And twelve months ago the’ Sydney Morning Herald was “belting”’ Mr. Carruthers.
– That is the inconsistency of the Sydney Morning Herald. If the newspaper had continued the “belting” process until election day, probably a different tale would have to be told now. The inconsistency of the Sydney Morning Herald is shown by the fact that it pointed out all kinds of objections to Mr. Carruthers twelve months ago, whereas when the election approached, it discovered innumerable virtues in his attitude. This is what the Sydney Morning Herald said on the 14th September -
Mr. Carruthers was clearly ill advised in making his forcible raid on the imported wire-netting. It was theatrical and farcical, and laid itself open to the suspicion of being an electioneering trick. Then, on the broader anti-Federal ground, which he chose to take up, his talk of revolution and the like was exaggerated.
These are not my words, but words of the Sydney Morning Herald.
– They do not sub- stantiate the honorable member’s statement that Mr. Carruthers advocated revolution.
– I did not say that Mr. Carruthers advocated revolution, and I hope the honorable member will not twist my words. The honorable member is doing his best to help Mr. Carruthers ; but, at the same time, he need not attempt to distort my meaning.
– The honorable member did his best to hurt Mr. Carruthers.
– Politically I did. I did my level best to defeat him, and, although I did not altogether succeed, I gave him a good shaking up. The article continues -
The common-sense of the country was fixed from the first against his tactics of setting State against Commonwealth, encouraging the idle cry of secession, and appealing to the unthinking against that indissoluble federal compact into which these States freely entered about seven years ago. There is little doubt now that in adopting this line of action the Premier weakened his own case, and arrayed the best minds of thoughtful federalists against him. It was a mistake to be regretted on many grounds, and now that the contest is over that aspect of the case has to be strongly emphasized.
The Sydney Morning Herald, in the closing sentence I have read, seems to state its own attitude -
Now that the contest is over that aspect of the case has to be strongly emphasized.
It was careful not to say a. word about that aspect immediately before the election, when a statement of it would possibly have injured Mr. Carruthers; but now it indulges in the criticism as, one that is demanded by circumstances.
– That newspaper is always wrong, except when it is opposed to Mr. Carruthers. Then, according to the honorable member, it is right.
– No;the Sydney Morning Herald is sometimes mistaken, but it is reasonably fair. The honorable member for Parramatta accused me of placing an unfair interpretation upon Mr. Carruthers’ statement with respect to revolution. This is the way in which the Sydney Daily Telegraph - the smell of whose support of Mr. Carruthers is strong enough to reach the heavens - reported a speech made at Kogarah by that gentleman -
If, said Mr. Carruthers, some one did not have the courage to lead the people of Australia to express their voice according to their desires against the assumption of false power, against the tyrannic exercise of authority by this Federal Parliament, there breathed within their race a spirit which never died, and if even at the risk of bloodshed they had to overcome tyranny and pull the tyrants down, it would be done in Australia.
– He did not say it should be done.
– Such an interjection reminds me of the old story of the man who, in connexion with an Irish election, counselled his partisans not to put the other fellow’s head under the pump. Mr. Carruthers did not say in this speech that revolution must be indulged in or bloodshed attempted ; but, if he did not imply something of the sort, one cannot say what he did wish to suggest.
– What does the honorable member say of Mr. Carruthers’ attitude with regard to revolution?
– I have not the report of the meeting where he made the speech that I had in mind, but I say that in his anxiety to damage Federation - to damage members of the Federal Parliament - Mr. Carruthers suggested that revolution should be resorted to unless he obtained his way in regard to Federal affairs.
– That is a monstrous interpretation of the speech.
– I repeat that the report handed to me, and from which I quoted, is not the report of the meeting . that. I desired to put before honorable members.
– We shall obtain it.
– I shall have no difficulty in doing so, and I think I shall be able to prove that my interpretation is an absolutely fair one.
– I say no.
– The honorable member is entitled to his own opinion. I rose only to protest against the suggestion made by the honorable member for Brisbane, that the legislation of the Federal Parliament - and especially the Sugar Bounty Act, which he cited as a case in point - has improperly encroached upon State rights.
.- Many honorable members seem to think it absolutely necessary to speak in defence of the dignity and the rights of the Federal Parliament. We have the welfare of the Parliament in our own hands, and it appears to me that if we were to devote ourselves more thoroughlyto the business submitted to us, we should so commend our work to the taxpayers of Australia that nothing that might be urged against us by the States Legislatures would be of any avail. I do not intend to occupy the attention of the Committee at great length; but my knowledge of constitutional government is sufficient to satisfy me that in voting for these various items we are practically surrendering to the Government our control over the expenditure to which they relate. We passed a Supply Bill for three months a short time ago, and we are now asked practically to grant further supplies amounting to £819,000. Such a proposed expenditure is of infinitely more importance than is any question as to what Mr. Carruthers or any one else may have done. We find, for instance, that provision is made in these Estimates for an expenditure of £250,000 on harbor and coastal defence, but we have no information as to how this money is to be expended. It is remarkable that, although we have a separate item relating to an expenditure of £15, together with an explanation of how the money is to be expended, we have absolutely nothing to guide us in voting for this enormous expenditure on harbor and coastal defence.
– The leader of the Labour Party is too busily engaged in attacking his own State to look after a matter of that kind.
– He is attacking not his own State, but Mr. Carruthers.
– We have important business before us, and honorable members should insist upon having from the Government an explanation of the way in which this item of £250,000 is to be expended before they agree to it. I stand here as one of the custodians of the public funds.
– The matteris in the honorable member’s own hands. He should not vote for the item without an explanation.
– Willthe honorable member support me?
– Yes. I said yesterday that I should refuse to vote for the item in question without some information in regard to it being afforded us, and there are others of my party who will take up a similar stand.
– Another item with respect to which we need to be enlightened is that of £10,000 for wireless telegraphy. As it appears under the heading of “ Tasmania,” I presume that it relates to the installation of a system of wireless telegraphy between Tasmania and the mainland.
– No; the first expenditure on wireless telegraphy will be in Papua.
– We cannot give an intelligent vote on these items unless we have the necessary information regarding them. Whilst minute details are given concerning small items, we have not before us such information regarding the larger items of expenditure as would enable us to tell out constituents that we have voted for them with our eyes open, and with a full knowledge of what it was proposed to accomplish by such an expenditure.
– I wish in the first place to refer to an item relating to a proposal to erect a post office at Curlewis, which is in my electorate. I cannot understand why the Department, since it has decided that such a building is necessary for the public convenience, should have placed upon the Estimates only half the amount necessary to provide for its construction. I wish to know why provision has not been made for the total cost. Not more than four or five months would be occupied in calling for tenders and carrying out the work, and yet the Government would have us believe that they are in earnest in proposing this work, when on these Estimates they provide only £400 in respect of it. The probabilities are that no progress will be made with the erection of this necessary building until the beginning of the next financial year. In other words, the work may not be commenced this year, and this vote may lapse. That is a deplorable method of financing the Department. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to reconsider the position, and in the interests of the district to see that the full amount necessary for the construction of this post-office is provided.
– It will not involve any loss of time.
– The loss of time threatened can only be avoided by making a demand upon the Treasurer’s advance account.
– The site has not yet been chosen.
– Not only has the site been chosen but it has actually been secured, and plans for the construction of the building have been prepared. When a statement of that description emanates from the Postmaster-General - I admit that he is new to his office - I scarcely know what to think.
– The honorable member is perfectly accurate. My colleague was thinking of another post-office. As a matter of fact, the site for the postoffice at Curlewis has been reserved. It is expected that the building will cost £800, but that only £400 will be required during the current financial year.
– Tenders can be called for the work and the building erected within five months.
– If that be so, its construction will be proceeded with.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs has set a bad example in his administration of the Postal Department. He is in the habit of attempting to divert honorable members from the thread of their remarks by making specious statements. But the fact remains that only £400 has been provided upon the Estimates for the construction of the postoffice in question. That is not sufficient. If the Department admits that the building ought to be erected, why should it not be proceeded with and completed during the current financial year?
– Does the Department intend to let the work in two contracts?
– That is what I desire to know.
– The rule is that the officer reports how much can be expended during the financial year, and that amount is voted.
– The building in question can be completed before next March.
– The officer of the Department says that it cannot.
– I know that it can, and I am prepared to prove it, if the Department will afford me an opportunity to do so. This afternoon I asked the Post- master-General a series of questions as to whether certain statements attributed to him were correct. He is reported to have said that my statements as to the sweating of officers in the General Post Office, Sydney, were exaggerated. He admits that he made the statement.
– I do not. I said that the report from which the honorable member quoted, was alleged upon the authority of a subsequent report to be exaggerated.
– I have not seen any subsequent report.
– It is in my office.
– If the Minister had read the reports upon which my statements were based he would recognise that there is no ground for the assertion that my statements were exaggerated.
– In the reports from which the honorable member quoted overtime is reckoned, . in every instance, from 4.30 p.m., whereas, under the regulations, overtime does not begin till 5.30 p.m. That is one instance of exaggeration.
– The Minister is now getting at loggerheads with the officers of the Department in the GeneralPost Office, Sydney. They have not misrepresented the rule of the Department in regard to overtime. If the Minister had read the reports upon which I based my allegations he would have seen that there was no attempt on my part to exaggerate the position.
– I do not say that there was. I merely say that a subsequent report states that the reports from which the honorable member quoted are exaggerated. That is casting no reflection whatever upon the honorable member.
– Why are the original reports exaggerated?
– Exactly. That is what I desire to put to the PostmasterGeneral. Unfortunately for him, the reports in question are not the reports of one officer but those of the heads of every branch of the Department in the General Post Office, Sydney. A further report by the Deputy Postmaster-General practically corroborates the statements contained in those reports. For the PostmasterGeneral to declare that my remarks were exaggerated–
– I never said anything of the kind.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral imply that a subsequent report, which he has received, challenges the accuracy of the reports from which I quoted ?
– Then I desire to see that report. May I ask the PostmasterGeneral who furnished it?
– I believe it was furnished by the present Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney. I do not for a moment wish it to be understood that I have expressed a personal view in regard to the /natter. I have merely stated that one report from which the honorable member quoted is alleged by a subsequent report to have been exaggerated.
– I understand the position perfectly. With regard to the promise of the honorable gentleman that reports are being called for upon which he intends to take action, I would point out that that has been the course adopted during the past eighteen months. _ The first report was furnished in 1906, when the officers concerned were promised redress. But owing to what was known as the “ amalgamation scheme “ action in this direction was postponed.
– I am told that the ““amalgamation scheme “ is worked out.
– After it had been in operation for two months it was found that instead of reducing the number of officers employed by ten - as it was alleged it would do - in one branch alone four additional men had to be employed. Thereupon the scheme was abandoned. I regret that some doubt has been thrown upon my statement in reference to the late Mr. Clarke. I understand that some provision was made upon the Estimates for his widow by the late Postmaster-General.
– All amounts of that character were struck off the Estimates because the Treasurer thought that they should be introduced in a different form.
– But they have not been introduced in a different form.
– They will be.
– Let me put the naked facts of the case before the Committee. I hold in my hand a document, which I am prepared to allow any honorable member to peruse, and which reads -
In August last year, the late Joseph Clarke, clerk in charge of the Inland Mail’ Branch, sent in notice that he would like to retire in accordance with the regulations, as he was sixty years of age, and had been in the Department forty years. He was entitled to retire on a pension of two-thirds of his salary and “six months’ leave on full pay, as he has subscribed to the superannuation fund since its inception. He was not allowed to retire, and the Acting Deputy PostmasterGeneral told him that his services could not possibly be dispensed with during the consideration of the tenders for carrying the mailsthat were to be dealt with in September. He worked from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. The statements that have been prepared will show that on the night of the 17th October he was found in an unconsciousstate in his room at his office. He was taken tothe Sydney Hospital, where he died the next day from paralysis of the brain, undoubtedly brought about by overwork of the brain. His-medical adviser repeatedly told him to give upthe great mental strain he was subjected to, and if he did not his brain would certainly give way.
What more inhuman treatment could be meted out to any man than that which was-meted out to this officer who was practically refused leave of absence, despite: the warning of his medical officer ?
– He could not retire.
– The question which I’ put to the Postmaster-General to-day related not to his retirement, but to leave of absence for him. While the Department did not say to the late Mr. Clarke, “ Werefuse you leave of absence,” it did say, “You cannot go while ‘ the Inland Mail-, tenders are being considered.”
– There is a great differencebetween an officer retiring from the service and obtaining leave of absence.
– I am well aware of that. What I say is that the late MrClarke was refused leave of absence with aview to retirement. I hold in my hand the evidence of one who ought to know. I do not think that any private institution would have treated an officer of Mr. Clarke’stalent and application in the manner i» which he was treated, by the Commonwealth authorities. Unfortunately there are other men in a position similar to that which he occupied, and it is because I wish to prevent them from being sacrificed on the altar of duty by the sweating which exists that I am taking this action. Mr. Clarke had contributed to the New South Wales superannuation fund from its commencement,, and payment for some hundreds or thousands of hours of overtime was due” to him. His widow asks for consideration in respect to his contributions to the superannuation fund, and in respect to the leave of absence which should have been granted tohim to enable him to recover his health. She has been left with five children, and only one able to help her. Yet the Government has so little recognition of its duty in this matter that it has treated it as of nourgency. This is not the only case of hardship in the Post-office. Another case al* most as hard is that of the widow of the late Mr. McDonnell who served the Department for forty-five years, with credit to himself, and advantage to the public. He asked for leave of absence for six months prior to retirement, but was so worn out that at the end of three months he, too, joined the great majority. It was only an accident that he, like Mr. Clarke, did not die at his post, a victim of the inhumane and inconsiderate administrationwhich has prevailed so long. He, too, had contributed to the superannuation fund 4 per cent, of his salary, his contribution totalling £231. The Department have had the use, of that money, but when the widow applied for some consideration she was told, in a cold-blooded way, that her husband, not having lived long enough to draw a pension, she was not entitled to anything.
– Is that the New South Wales law?
– I am not sure; I should like an explanation from the Minister on the subject. Subsequently when probate of the will was obtained, she applied to the Department for six days’ pay due to her husband at the time of his death, and they had the audacity to deduct from the amount owing 4 per cent, for the superannuation fund from which she was not to benefit. That action seemed to me to amount to systematic cruelty.
– It was in accordance with the provisions of the New South Wales Act.
– At any rate, that Actis not being fairly administered. Although Mr. McDonnell had contributed £231 to the superannuation fund, and had served forty-five years in the Department, his widow has receivedno consideration, whereas the widow of a Mr. Doughty, postmaster at Homebush, who had contributed only £120 to the fund, and had served only twenty-nine years, was refunded the amount of his contributions. That is making fish of one and fowl of another..
– Whatever was done must have been in accordance with the New South Wales Act.
– The point I wish to emphasize is that it is the Federal administration which is responsible for the sweating which drove these men into their graves. I hope that the Postmaster-General will not defer action until he has received lengthy reports from his officials inregard to the present unhealthy and undesirable condition of affairs. I am informed that, during the last twelve months, men in the Telephone Branch have worked as much as 700 hours overtime, and that there is every likelihood that this overwork, which is undermining their health and stamina, will continue. Therefore I ask the Minister to go to Sydney, to meet the men, to let them put their cases before him, to make a personal investigation, and, if he finds that officers are being sacrificed because of the existence of an absolutely undesirable and unjust system, to remedy their grievances, in serious cases at all events, without waiting for reports. The facts which I have set before the Committee are discreditable to those at the head of the Postal Department in Sydney, and to the Commonwealth administration. Another matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer is the inability of the States to come to a common understanding in regard to burdens undertaken, by the authorities of one State for the benefit of the people of another. I have in mind a hospital situated in Queensland, close to the New South Wales border, which gives relief to a large number of New South Wales patients ; but no provision is made for the payment by New South Wales of a subsidy to that hospital. About one-third of its expenditure is incurred in connexion with the treatment of patients from New South Wales, but no contribution to its finances is made by the New South Wales Government.
– Cannot an arrangement be come to between the two States ?
– What I desire is that the Treasurer shall bring the matter before the next Conference of Premiers. If the authorities of the Queensland hospital were to refuse to admit New South Wales patients,’ many lives might be lost, and many persons would be in a direful plight. I wish to prevent such an unfortunate contingency as the hospital having to close its doors against New South Wales patients. Therefore, I hope that the Prime Minister will give effect to mv suggestion. I have not yet expressed mv opinions in regard to the Tariff, and I shall not do so at this stage, because it would not be in order, and opportunities will be presented in the future, when, perhaps, I shall say more than will prove comfortable to those who are opposing some of the protective items.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 2 (Trade and Customs), £22.7.00
– There are one or two items in this division which
I think require a little explanation. I observe that a sum of. £600 is set down for a Customs House at Broken Hill, and there is also £1,000 provided for a launch, both being under the head of new services. Then, in Victoria, it is proposed to provide a laboratory, to cost ,£1,000; and I should like to know what is the purpose of this building, and why it should be situated in Victoria”?
– The building is required to carry out analyses connected with the Customs House. There are similar laboratories in the other States.
– For the erection of a Customs House at Fremantle £7,500 is proposed. £1,000 being a re-vote, and £6,500 coming under the head of new services. If I remember rightly, a ‘large sum was placed on the Estimates for this purpose last year, and also, I believe, the year before.
– The building of the Customs House has not yet commenced ; we have only obtained the site.
– I should like to know what, has been the cost of the site, and also what is the estimated cost of the building, because, in the absence of information, the amount seems excessive.
– I shall give the honorable member the information he requires. Early in 1905 the State Collector, Western Australia, reported that it was impossible to continue working in the Fremantle Customs House, owing to its dilapidated and insanitary condition, and the matter was brought under ‘ the notice of the Department of Home Affairs, with a view to early, action) being taken. In April of the same year, the honorable member for North Sydney, then Minister of Home Affairs, suggested that the present post-office - which is exactly opposite the Customs House - would, if renovated and improved, answer the purpose for a few years. The Collector reported against the suggestion, and pointed out that the transfer of the Customs staff to the present post-office would involve considerable time in making necessary alterations to the building. On the 8th of May, 1906, the question of the erection of the proposed new Customs House was brought up at a meeting of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, and it was contended that the State Government should offer to give a central site to the Federal Government, or sell such a site at cost price, to be used for the erection of the building. Fremantle is the chief port of the State, and will remain so, and the old post-office building was most unsuitable for the purposes of a Customs House. Land, 180 feet to Phillimore-street and no feet to Cliff-street, the site of the old railway station), has been secured, to be treated as a transferred property. A building, containing the usual long room and public accommodation, in addition to the accessory rooms for the staff, will be erected. Caretaker’s quarters will also be erected on the portion of the site not occupied by the main building. I may say that I visited the old building myself, and found it so dilapidated and insanitary that I would not undertake to go through it. When I was on my way to and from England I also visited the new site, and found it to be the best available.
– Is the cost of the site included in the Estimates?
– The site is to be paid for as transferred property. The arrangement I made when I was Minister of Trade and Customs was that this land should be taken over at cost price, an3 treated as a transferred property. As to the new launch for Sydney, it is necessary, because the shipping work is increasing, and requires prompt and unremitting attention to avoid complaints of delay. The present small launch is not suitable for the work, being slow and not satisfactory ; but it will be utilized for emergency work.
– It will not ‘be sold ?
– No. As to the Customs House at Broken Hill, the present premises are leased from the municipality at a rental of £175 per annum. It is considered to be more economical and convenient to erect a Commonwealth building, .and a site in a Postal Department reserve is under consideration. In reference to the laboratory, I have to say that, owing to the Commerce Act and an extension of the’ provisions of the Customs Act in regard to compound medicines, &c, the analytical work has greatly increased, both in the Victorian^ branch . and, the Central staff. The work is at present done by the State Government Analyst ; but our requirements, are so large, and are increasing so rapidly, that the work is frequently congested. Many questions are referred to this office from other States, and as the goods are necessarily detained until a decision is given, it is requisite that this Department should be in a position to promptly act, and thus avoid the complaints now received from merchants. It is proposed to establish, the laboratory at the Victorian Customs House. This Department allows the State Government the sum of .£500 per annum for the work at present .performed, but this allowance will cease on the work being undertaken by the Customs.
– Why are- questions referred to the Victorian office, I wonder?
– There are some cases of the kind, but not very many. Everything that can be done by Mr. Hamlet in Sydney is done there, but it is desirable in some cases to have the several analyses necessary made by the same person, or otherwise the results vary a little. The Courts have several times asked that analyses should be similar and accurate.
.- I should like some information in reference to the proposed expenditure on a trawler. Last year we voted ,£8, 000 for this purpose, and it was supposed that that would cover the whole cost ; but now the proposed expenditure has reached £12,000, and there ought to be some explanation. It has been stated, I do not know with what truth, that the design of the trawler provided a large amount of cabin accommodation, but no room for fish. I have never seen ai reply to that statement.
– There was a reply.
– I saw some kind of reply to the effect that the space for cabin accommodation was the most necessary space on a trawler ; but that explanation does not appear to me to be quite satisfactory, It would appear as though sufficient information is not obtained as .to the cost before items of this character are placed before honorable members.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 -p.m.
– Prior to the adjournment for dinner I was asked for some information in reference to the item relating to a trawler and equipment. The information supplied to me is -
The pioneering work in connexion with deepsea fisheries is ari important duly devolving upon the Commonwealth. The waters beyond the three-mile limit must be explored, so as to determine -
What fishes may- be of value;
-In what manner they may be caught. Trawling is most frequently thought of in connexion with such fisheries, and under certain conditions it is the most effective method. But there are other methods, such as great line fishing, which may be successfully applied in any depth down to several hundred fathoms, ;vn’. also over rocky bottoms, where the best fish are frequently found. In addition, there is surface fishing with drift nets - the method b which the herring is captured in mid-ocean near Europe. It appears that Australia is the only civilized country where the authorities have done nothing to establish such an industry. The example set by Canada could be followed with benefit to the Commonwealth, as also might the work done by Cape Colony. The business as outlined in paragraphs i, 2, 3, and 4 of section 2 of the foregoing would be carried on by a steam trawler with expert crew.
I may say that when I was Minister of Trade and Customs I initiated the proposal to procure a trawler bv communicating with Mr. Nansen, Consul for Norway, in London, -who went to a great deal of trouble in sending out to us what were described as plans for the very best class of trawler that could be designed. Those plans arrived, if I remember rightly, just after the Prime Minister and I left for England. When in London I saw Mr.. Nansen on several occasions, and he confirmed what had already been stated as to the value of the plans with which we had been supplier!, declaring that they were for the very best class of investigating trawler. This will be a scientific vessel. When the plans were examined, it was found by our officials that some alterations would have to be made. They were designed for a vessel to be used in a cold climate, where very little provision is made for ventilation and lighting, and in regard to those two requirements alterations were necessary. I saw in one of the newspapers a statement that the plans provided for fittings of an unnecessarily elaborate character. I took the trouble to inspect them, and found. that the cabin accommodation was only that which was1 necessary for the crew, for one or two scientific men who would be required to conduct investigations, and for a pilot, who would have to be taken on whenever the vessel was entering or leaving certain harbors. The statement that the accommodation was too elaborate was, I found, incorrect. “When the plans were final I v dealt with by the officers, the estimated cost was increased, and that is why we provide on these Estimates for a vote of ,£12,000 instead of £8,000.
– It seems a lot of money for a vessel which after a year or two might be found useless.
– The plans, as I have said, provide for a properly equipped trawler. It is not to be an extremely elaborate vessel, and the test of whether or not a vote of £12,000 is necessary is supplied by the result of our application for tenders. If I remember rightly, the tenders ranged from about £10,000 to nearly £20,000.
– Tenders were invited only in Australia?
– Yes, only locally. I believe that the lowest tender has since been withdrawn. It was found that the man who sent it in, and whose works are on the north coast of Tasmania, had not the necessary appliances to construct such a vessel.
– I heard that the Government frightened him.
– I do not know about that, but the Government could not accept a tender from a man who had not the necessary plant unless they had a satisfactory guarantee that the work would be carried out. I think that some of the calculations in regard to the cost of this trawler are absolutely wrong. One was made on the basis of Australian wages being 87 per cent, in advance of those which would be paid if the vessel were constructed in Great Britain. I do not know what is the foundation for such an estimate, but the position to-day is that further action . will be taken. Acting on a suggestion made to me, a letter is to be sent to-morrow to Mr. Carruthers asking whether he will permit the plans to be examined by Mr. Cutler, who surpervises the works at the Fitzroy Dock. If we can obtain an estimate of a reliable character showing that a trawler of the class required can be constructed for a lower sum than that provided on these Estimates, this amount will not be spent. I do not think it wise to mention another alternative open to the Department.
– For the Government to construct the trawler?
– I am not going to say what the alternative is.
– Can the honorable membersay whether or not the vessel could be used for other purposes in the event of these experiments proving of no value?
– I think it could. I believe that it would be fit for almost any class of work for which a vessel, of her size could be used. She will be a good sea-going boat, and we must remember that a trawler for service on the Australian coast must have good sea-going qualifications. We have rough seas, and since trawling has to be carried out very often at a considerable distance from land, it would not do to have a vessel that might be lost in a storm. The plans provide for a vesselon Norwegian lines, strongly recommended by a gentleman who is acknowledged to be one of the greatest experts in the world.
– And, if necessary, this trawler could be used for other work?
– Judging by the plans, I should say there would be no doubt about that. I hope that honorable members will not ask me to go into details as to the alternative open to us. if we cannot construct this vessel in the way now proposed. We shall expend only the lowest sum for which we can secure such a vessel. I do not know that I have any further information at present with regard to this project.
– I do not know, Mr. Chairman, whether I may be allowed to intervene with a personal explanation in regard to an incident that took place this afternoon.
– An honorable member is permitted at any time to make a personal explanation, but if the explanation which the honorable member proposes to make would lead to a general discussion, he would not be in order in offering it at this stage.
– I am not a judge of that point, Mr. Chairman, but I should not think that the explanation I am about to make would have such an effect. I in terpose at this stage only because I think it desirable that my explanation should be made as soon as possible. Whilst I was taking part this afternoon in the general debate respecting the Federal finances, I made a statement with regard to Mr. Carruthers, and the honorable member for Parramatta questioned the accuracy of my quotation.
– Questioned the interpretation which the honorable member put upon Mr. Carruthers’ words.
– I saidat the time that I could prove my statement. I have since obtained a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald of the 2nd September last, in which there appears’ a report of a speech delivered atSans Souci, one of the suburbs of Sydney, by Mr. Carruthers. I presume that the honorable member for Parramatta will admit that the Sydney Morning Herald is not, as a rule, unfair to that gentleman. The report is headed, in black type, “ Revolution.” .
– I rise . to a point of order. Under cover of a personal explanation the honorable member proposes to quote from a speech made by the Premier of New South Wales. I do not want to burke that explanation, but I wish to know whether it will be competent for any other honorable member to make a quotation in reply ?
– Any honorable gentleman who has been misrepresented will have the same opportunity to make a personal explanation ; but it will be out of order to go beyond that.
– I propose to make the quotation without offering, at this stage, any comment. I may reserve comment, if necessary, for some other stage in our proceedings.
– Before the honorable member proceeds to quote it will be necessary for him to recite the statement which he says I questioned.
– My statement, which will be found in Hansard, will be completely borne out.
-It would be very unfair for the honorable member not to recite the statement.
– The honorable member ought not to complain of unfairness. My desire was merely to quote a paragraph from the report, as offering a sufficient justification for a statement which I made.
– The honorable member, will not tell us what that statement was.
– I have already made it, and I am not going to be bothered about repeating it. The honorable member will find it in Hansard.
– The honorable member is the soul of courtesy.
– The honorable member deserves a lot of courtesy. The headings to the report are “Revolution” in black type, “ Mr. Carruthers’ Latest Suggestion,” “Secession Referendum Promised,” and then, in quotation marks, “ If trouble goes on - think of Revolution.” Mr. Carruthers is reported to have said that-
Australia was now in” the hands of tyrants, and not representatives.
He proceeded to make an attack on the Federal Parliament, and went on to say that-
If they- that is the electors - let this trouble, which was caused by a few men who had captured power, and gone behind the backs of the people to effect their purpose, go on, in the future they would have to think of revolution or something of the kind to put an end to it. If they showed themselves determined not to stand it in the beginning, it would fade away. In America they would never have had their Civil War if they had listened to word of reason uttered 50 years before
Mr. JOSEPH’ COOK (Parramattaf [7.59] -Ialsowishtomakeapersonal explanation; but I am entirely at a disadvantage in thatthehonorablemember has declined to say what is his position in the matter.
– I thought that the honorable member had a sufficient recollection of it.
– I have not. The honorable member is changing it the whole time.
– That is not true.
– I call your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the statement by the honorable member that my assertion is not true.
– If the honorable member made that statement, I am sure he will withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Chairman, and will say that the statement is as correct as many other statements made by the honorable member.
– Is it inorder for the honorable member to be insulting whilst withdrawing a statement?
– The honorable gentleman must withdraw the further statement made by him.
– I withdraw the first statement.
– The honorable member must withdraw his original statement unreservedly.
– I withdraw my original statement unreservedly, but I shall interject something elsepresently.
– The honorable member cannot help being abusive.
– Order !
– Is the honorable member to take possession of the Chamber? It seems to be coming to that.
– Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– I will, if I am permitted to do so. But the moment I rise the honorable member-
– Will the honorable member be good enough to address the Chair ?
– I will, and I ask you, sir, to protect me while I do so. The honorable member has quoted a statement by Mr. Carruthers, which he says appears in big black type, and which he declares contains a reference to revolution. I desire to quote a statement made by Mr. Carruthers at the very next meeting which he addressed - a statement which the honorable member for South Sydney did not quote-
– I did quote it to the Committee.
– The honorable member would have acted quite fairly had he quoted it, but of course he omitted to do that. The statement reads -
He had, he declared, emphatically and specially uttered a warning against it.
Therefore, Mr. Carruthers was not fraternizing with the revolutionary spirit, as the honorable member for South Sydney alleged. I have no brief for Mr. Carruthers, and I am not - as the honorable member suggests - always endeavouring to defend him. I simply try to do my duty to my own State. .
– Was not Mr. Carruthers’ act in defying the Customs authorities an act of revolution?
– What has that matter to do with what Mr. Carruthers said ? I am talking about what he said, not about what he did. That gentleman went on to say -
The way to avoid serious trouble in Australia which in future may be left to our children is to tackle it now and nip it in the beginning. Nip it in the beginning and it will fade away.
– Nip what?
– The trouble to which Mr. Carruthers has referred. Of course, the honorable member for Riverina does not believe that New South Wales has the slightest grievance. Some other representatives of that State do not believe that it has any grievance whatever. They are constantly going out of their way to attack their own State.
– Order ! Will the honorable member explain what his remarks have to do with a personal explanation ?
– I am satisfied.
.- By way of further explanation, I desire to say that the honorable member for Parramatta has grossly misrepresented what I said. So far from my not having been fair enough to quote what Mr. Carruthers said in his second speech-
– The honorable member is as slippery as an eel.
– If there is anybody in the world who is more slippery than is the honorable member himself, he must be a beauty. So far from my having failed to quote the remarks of Mr. Carruthers at his next meeting, I wish to say that some hours ago in this chamber I quoted several sentences from his speech, which follow exactly the same lines as does the quotation which I have just made. But it did not suit the purpose of the honorable member for Parramatta to quote Mr. Carruthers’ words in connexion with the revolutionary attack which that gentleman indulged in. His words, however, are in print, despite all the efforts of the honorable member for Parramatta to twist them.
– Personally I feel a deep interest in the trawling experiment sanctioned by this Parliament, and I object to the Government delaying the commencement of operations. They have received full consideration at the hands of the Opposition, and yet nothing whatever has been done. One reads in the newspapers occasionally that the Minister of Trade and Customs, and a number of officials have met together for the purpose of considering the plans of the proposed trawler. But now we hear from the Acting Prime Minister that nothing has been done.
– Tenders have been called for the construction of the vessel.
– But it appears that the tenders received are unsatisfactory. The Acting Prime Minister objectsto an expenditure of £10,000 or £12,000 in securing an up-to-date vessel. If the fishing industry is going to be a great one - such as we believe it will be - an expenditure of a few extra thousand pounds ought not to be considered an obstacle in the way of securing a suitable vessel for trawling experiments. If we commence well, the probability is that the undertaking will prove a success. But the Acting Prime Minister apparently desires to shroud the matter in mystery. He now says that he has an alternative scheme up his sleeve, the nature of which he will not disclose.
– I have no objection to give the honorable member the information privately.
– We all know that some years ago an experiment was made in New South Wales which was highly satisfactory, so far as it went, notwithstanding the primitive appliances which were employed. The Government, however, are doing nothing.
– Yes we are.
– If the tenders which have been received are unsatisfactory, the Government will, in all probability, commence de novo. Because the successful tenderer is a poor man they will not grant him the contract.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Then what is the cause of the delay? Apparently the Government are afraid to give the honest tenderer from Tasmania the contract, notwithstanding that we have nothing whatever at stake. The successful tenderer would have to lodge a deposit, and if he did not supply a vessel up to the standard of the specifications, the Government would be under no obligation to take it over. I say that we ought not to hang this matter up indefinitely. Do not let us nibble at it and allow the incompetent gentleman at the head of affairs to again confer with the State authorities~in regard to it. More than three months have elapsed since he conferred with the experts in Sydney. If the Government are in earnest upon this matter, they ought to get to work within a reasonable period. Otherwise let them Boldly declare that they do not wish to establish this industry. The position at the present time is most unsatisfactory.
– I trust that the Government, before accepting any tender for the construction of the trawler, will see that the working conditions -to be observed by the contractor are such as prevail in the best shops in Australia. I am given to understand that the lowest tender for the contract was that of a firm in Tasmania. I hope that the Government will insist that the men employed upon the construction of the vessel shall enjoy absolutely the same conditions as those which ha ve to be observed by the most . reputable firms on the mainland. Speaking generally, trade unionism is far stronger upon the mainland than it is in Tasmania, and, as the bulk of the work in connexion with the construction of the trawler would be done by boiler-makers, ship-wrights, and engineers, the Government should be careful to see that the best conditions - so far as employes are concerned - are observed.
– I think that the first consideration of the Government should be to ascertain where the work of constructing the trawler can be done* best;
– The working man ought not to come in at all ?
– I do not know that my statement suggests anything of the kind.
– The honorable member knows that the work will be best done in a unionist work-shop.
– I do not dispute that. But I believe that the first consideration of the Government should be as to where they can obtain the best trawler.
– Ought not the working man to be considered?
– I believe that I have just as much sympathy with the working man as has the honorable member.
– The working man is tired of sympathy - he wants some relief.
– The best way to grant him relief is to provide him with remunerative work as far as possible - not with work provided for the purpose of finding him employment. We should give the working man employment at good wages in the making of something which will be useful to us.
– That is a good protectionist speech.
– I do not mind that. It is a speech such as I have been accustomed to make all my life. An extra £3,000 or £4,000 is neither here not there in an important project of this kind. We discussed the question of developing the fish industry of Australia long before the proposition was submitted by the right honorable member for Swan in his last Budget speech. It is quite eighteen months since we debated this project, and since it was heartily approved of by all sections of the Committee. Yet we find that nothing whatever has been done. It does not say much for the efficiency or vigour of our administration. If we cannot within eighteen months obtain tenders for a trawler to cost only £8,000; what shall we do when we begin to build our Australian Navy? I am afraid that it will be a long time before Australia has a fleet built by her own people, if dilatoriness like this is to continue to characterize our administration. Surely there are engineering establishments in Australia which could turn out a trawler, and, in fact, several trawlers, within a year. The fault must be with the Government, and the sooner more vigour and business enterprise is infused into the management of some of our Departments the better it will lie for the Commonwealth. I should like to see the trawler built and put to work, because I think that it will open up a large fish supply, and a good supply of fish is one of the nation’s most urgent requirements. I do not know why the Minister has dealt so gingerly with this subject.
– I should like to know why .£1,000 is set down for a laboratory in Victoria, and, like the honorable member for Parramatta, I wish for more information in regard to the proposed trawler. If we cannot get a trawler built in Australia within eighteen months, God help us when we have to construct our own torpedo boats and torpedo destroyers. Apparently, it has taken eighteen months to find out that the plans and. specifications were wrong, and that the tenders were too high.
– The plans were not wrong.
– The original design was altered.
– The plans which came from Norway were altered to give more light and air.
– And tenders were called for on the altered plans.
– Then why has there been a hitch?
– There has not been enough money available.
– Surely a Treasurer like the right honorable member for Swan would not have objected to advance .a few thousands. There was no opposition to the construction of a trawler when it was first proposed to test our fish supplies ; but now, after a lapse of eighteen months, we are told that the money voted was not sufficient. On what was the original estimate based? Surely sums are not set down haphazard.
– We were told that the vessel would cost about £6,000, but that £^8,000 was asked for to give an ample margin.
– Why should .we pay high* salaries to our officers if they are not competent to give us good advice? Eighteen* months after Parliament voted £8,000 for a trawler we are being asked for another- ^£4,000.
– Which doubles the original estimate.
– Yes. Something must bewrong. Some one must have given wrong, advice, or there must have been a mistake in the estimate.
– As I have , already explained, it is intended that in future the: Commonwealth shall have a laboratory of its own for the making of analyses in connexion with Customs work. ‘ Hitherto wehave been employing the Victorian analyst, paying ,£500 a year for his services. Under that arrangement there have been delays. We ask for £1,000 to equip a laboratory of our own which will enable the work tobe done by Commonwealth officials. These analyses are very important, especially when evidence is required ku connexionwith law suits. With reference to thetrawler, I would point out that_w;hat isrequired is not an ordinary vessel.
– I do not object to the Government getting the best vessel obtainable; but I wish to know if they really intend to build a trawler.
– Certainly wedo. The vessel will be 155 feet inlength, 23 feet in beam, and 11 feet 9- inches in depth. The original plans wereobtained through the Norwegian Consul in London, who was at pains to get us the most approved design from Norway; butas it was evident that the ventilation provided was not sufficient for this climate, thedesign; had to be altered. This took somelittle time, and then three or four monthswere allowed for the inspection of the plans. Three or four tenders were received, at prices ranging from .£10,000 to- £20,000 ; but it now turns out that the lowest tenderer cannot proceed. As . hehas not the necessary plant, we gave him time- in which to obtain guarantees for theproper carrying out of the work, but ultimately he withdrew from the undertaking. That tender came from theMersey. I have since asked the Premier of New South Wales if Ave mav submit theplans to Mr. Cutler.
– Is he in charge of the New South Wales Government dock?
– Yes. I understand that he has under his control the plant and a staff for building such a vessel as we need, and that he can turn out good work. If we cam obtain from him a reasonable estimate, I do not see why we should not employ him instead of placing ourselves under the heel of persons who ask a great deal too much.
– The amount which has already been voted for a trawler and equipments is £7,984, <ind an additional £4,016’ is now asked for, or £12,000 altogether. Would the Ministry accept a tender at that price?
– Yes; if it was considered reasonable.
– Then why has not the tender of a man on the Mersey whose price was £10,000 been accepted?
– We .were prepared to accept it, but he had not the necessary plant.
– Do I understand that the Government will call for fresh tenders ?
– I said that I intend to ascertain whether the work can be done by the New South Wales Government.
– If £8,000 is anything like a reasonable estimate of the cost of a trawler, it seems to me that it would be better, instead of paying £12,000 to get one made in Australia, to purchase a suitable vessel in England, Scotland, or some other part of the British dominions. I do not see why, for the sake of building our first trawler in Australia, we should pay £4,000 or £5,000 more for it than would suffice to buy as good or a better boat. The Government ought to obtain some information as to the price at which a suitable boat could be obtained abroad, and if the price of such a vessel be somewhere about £8,000, we ought, in my opinion, to reduce the item to that amount.
– What foreign country does the honorable member represent?
– I represent Australia; and if I assist in obtaining a suitable boat from the United Kingdom or elsewhere for £8,000, I am a better Australian than the man who would be prepared to pay £12,000 for a similar boat simply to have it manufactured within this country.
.- Do I understand that the tender referred to by the Treasurer was accepted?
– I said that the Government were prepared to accept the tender, and held the matter over in order to give the tenderer an opportunity to obtain the necessary security.
– What was the amount of the tender?
– I think it was about £10,000, but I am not sure.
– What was the amount of the guarantee required?
– I cannot say ; that was in the hands of the Minister of Home Affairs
– I should like to know what was the amount of the guarantee, and also the reason for increasing the amount of the vote above that passed by Parliament. Is it a fact that the item, has been increased owing to the enhanced cost of materials due to the Tariff?
– This item was on the Estimates long before the Tariff was imposed.
– Municipal bodies are complaining that that Tariff has increased the cost of building materials, and it is a reasonable assumption that the addition of £4,000 is due to the fact that the Government know the trawler cannot be built for the same sum now as before the Tariff was introduced. It seems to me that the Government have realized that the Tariff will increase prices, and that provision must be made accordingly.
– - Amongst the items is £1,000 for a launch at Sydney, and, as that is a large sum for a boat to be used in “connexion with the Customs, I should like to know what kind of launch is contemplated.
– A large sum ! Does the honorable member know what Mr. Thomas Dibbs’ launch cost?
– That is a magnificent pleasure yacht.
– I explained this item before; and I cannot repeat explanations just because honorable members do not happen to have been present. This is a launch to replace the present launch, which is unfit for duty.
– I think that for the purpose of the Customs two launches at £500 each would be better than one launch at £1,000. I know something of these matters, and, in my opinion, a launch could be got for a much less sum than that proposed. Then I should like to know something about the . proposed laboratory in Victoria.
– I have already explained that item.
– Yes, and I read a similar explanation in the press months ago. Will this laboratory be able to do the work for all the States.
– No, not the whole of the work.
– Will it be necessary to go to an. expense of £1,000 for a laboratory iri each of the States ?
– I think it will be necessary to do so in New South Wales.
– I do not think so; the work is there done by the State analyst, and we pay so much to the State Government for the service.
– It would be much better to defer the establishment of a laboratory until we have a Federal Capital, where there could be a magnificent central institution, similar to that to be found at the Sydney University. If we undertake the work in detail, we shall find it a most expensive method, for we shall require three or four laboratories, at a cost of £1,000 each, whereas a central laboratory such as I have indicated could be provided for ,£2,000.
.- The Minister in charge of these Estimates is an ardent protectionist, and is, therefore, desirous of having the proposed trawler built in Australia. But the lack of enterprise of many of the engineering firms in Australia is such that for eighteen months it has been found impossible to obtain a satisfactory tender for a vessel of such small dimensions as a trawler. I had hoped that Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company might have undertaken the work, but they did not get the order. .There are, however, other engineering firms in Port Jackson which might have been thought to have sufficient enterprise to meet the Government in this matter. The sum originally placed on the Estimates for this purpose was ,£8, 000, and we now find that increased by almost 100 per cent. I ask honorable members, whether freetraders or protectionists,’ to seriously consider this question. Our engineering firms lack something ‘ if they cannot build a vessel of this character. Day after day we find certain newspapers in Australia urging that we should build an Australian Navy, but the rank absurdity of the suggestion is shown in face of the fact that up to the present we have been unable to produce- a trawler. These are unpleasant facts, but we have to face them. I understand that three tenders were sent in, but that, although questions were asked in regard to them, no satisfactory information could be obtained. I have been told on good authority, however, that the lowest tender came from Tasmania, and that the firm which tendered did not get the contract because they were unable to provide the stipulated guarantee.
– Possibly the tenderer could only build vessels of wood.
– The trawler must be an iron vessel, but the ship- wright of to-day works both in iron and wood. It does not follow that, because a man has hitherto built only wooden vessels, he would not be able to build a vessel of iron. Since the question of protection has been introduced, I may say that I am going to kick over the traces pretty freely in matters affecting my own electorate. I have been a consistent free-trader for years, but 1 have come to’ the determination just indicated, on seeing other honorable members, who call themselves free-traders, “scooping the pool” for their own electorates. We were told by the press that this trawler was to be a magnificently appointed vessel; in other words, that it was to be a yacht for the Treasurer. I read that the Treasurer was very much annoyed at the press descriptions of the vessel - at the suggestion that it was to be used, not only for trawling, but for Cabinet meetings and other fancy political work during trips round the Sydney harbor, for example. It was, I think, the great protectionist organ, the Melbourne Age that mentioned these particulars, and as this paper has taken me up, I am, of course, a made man. Ithink the Treasurer ought to have anopportunity to-night to repudiate the> insinuations which have been made regarding the vessel. I do not believe that the Treasurer would use public money, ostensibly for a trawler, but really for insidious political purposes. I know that the Treasurer, two days after the descriptionappeared, ‘ said that he had looked at the specifications, and that, outside the space required for scientific purposes, there was not room to “ swing a cat.” 1Tow if theincrease from £8,000 to ,£12,000 means a vessel of over-elaborate equipment, then the estimate ought to be reduced. I ami desirous of seeing the vessel built in Aus– tralia, but if it be proposed to go to extremes and pay £12,000, when an £8,000 vessel would suffice, I shall oppose the item. The trawler is intended only to voyage along the coast and test the fishing grounds ; and the Treasurer knows that the best vessel for the purpose is not one of the character described by the newspapers, but one of the tug-boat type, possessing good horse-power. It should be manned by those who are accustomed to rough it in all sorts of weather, and should not be fitted lip for yachtsmen taken from Port Phillip or Port Jackson. I fail to see why such a vessel should cost £12,000. There axe some scientists who would like her to be fitted up in a fanciful way.
– I have examined the designs, and can say that this is not to be a fancy vessel. As a matter of fact, I thought that more cabin space ought to be provided.
– The Treasurer must remember that what he considers Spartan simplicity would be regarded by many other men as oriental grandeur. The honorable gentleman likes to do things in a big way. When he was in office in New South Wales the Government had at their disposal a fine vessel on which public men and distinguished visitors were entertained.
– Did he do it very well over there?
– He did. It had always been the custom for the Premier of New South Wales to do what he did in this respect, and I do not think that New South Wales has lost by practising such courtesies. I do not say, however, that we should go from one extreme to the other. If the Treasurer has in mind the building of a vessel for pleasure purposes, let him come out into the open and say so. Do not let us spoil a trawler to mate a bad pleasure-boat. I hope this vessel will be built for practical purposes, and not for Saturday afternoon pleasure excursions. How is it that engineering firms on the mainland were not able to tender successfully for such a vessel?
– I am unable to say.
– Did they make any explanation ?
– The only explanation that I had was that an allowance had been made for an advance of 87 per cent, on the wages paid in Great Britain.
– That seems ridiculous. Larger vessels than that now under consideration have been successfully built in Sydney. I would remind the Committee that I have had a certain notice of motion oh the business-paper, and that so far as the fiscal question is concerned, I have slipped, not only on iron, but on shipbuilding. If the Government would grant a bounty to encourage ship-building, there would be no difficulty in securing the local construction of vessels of this character. No doubt some firms are standing out for a good profit ; but I am glad, to hear from the Acting Prime Minister that the intention is to build a good serviceable trawler, and not “ a razzle-dazzle ‘ ‘ steamer designed to catch, not fish, But votes. The Minister should give a public denial to the statements that have been made, that this is to be a pleasure yacht, and he should also give the names of those who have sent in tenders, the amounts at which they tendered to do the work, and the reason why an increased vote is sought.
– I am now in a position to give a little more information in regard to this trawler. She is to be a vessel of 400 tons burden, and the Minister of Trade and Customs has reminded me that after the statement published in a Melbourne newspaper as to the elaborate fittings, the representatives of all the States at the Fisheries’ Conference examined the specifications, and the designs, and unanimously approved of them. They held that they did not provide for such an elegant vessel as had been suggested.
– We are to take over the lighthouses. Might not such a vessel be utilized in conveying stores to them ?
– Quite so. I have no doubt that if she were not required for trawling purposes, she might at any time he utilized in the direction suggested by the honorable member. I can say no more than that she will be seaworthy and fit to undertake such work.
– She ought to be comfortably fitted up.
– Her fittings will be comfortable, but not elaborate. On examining the plans I was struck by the extent of the provision made for coal carrying, as -well as for fish wells. It is necessary that such a vessel should have a considerable coal carry ing”’ capacity, for she may often proceed some distance from a port at which she could coal, and she will have to carry with her a supply sufficient to enable her to steam from point to point. So far as the officers and crew of the vessel are concerned, too much consideration for their comfort has not been shown.
.- I should like to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether or not any portion of this proposed vote of ,£12,000 is to be expended on refrigerating machinery for the trawler.
– I cannot answer that question at the present moment, because I have not the specifications before me. I shall obtain the necessary information later on. I presume that the trawler will be fitted with refrigerating machinery, because there must be some provision for preserving the fish that are caught.
– The cost of refrigerating machinery for such a vessel would be considerable, and if this vote does not cover such an item, we shall be starting on an expenditure which will be much larger than is now supposed.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 3, subdivision 1 (Defence, New
South Wales), £23,038
.- Th The first item in this division relates to additions to fortifications for which, under the heading of “new services,” a sum of ,£273 is provided. There is also a re-vote of .-£44. There is a further item of £1.00 for new works fortifications, and I should like some information with regard to all these matters, as well as in respect to the Sydney . forts. Has anything been done since the Prime Minister some twelve months ago made a very alarming statement with regard to their condition? It was said, not only by him, but bv an eminent military authority here, that the fortifications and the guns of Sydney Harbor were in a very unsatisfactory condition - that the guns were of an obsolete type, and that the fortifications were out of date. When the Estimates were before us last year, I referred to the small provision made for fortifications for New South Wales, as compared with the amounts set apart for the same purpose in Western Australia. The amount expended last year in Western Australia alone was far in excess of the total amount provided under the same heading for all the other States. I find on looking through these Estimates that a similar state of affairs prevails. “Under this heading there is a total of £5,923 for additions to fortifications, and towards the cost of construc tion of fort and acquisition of site at North Fremantle and Arthur’s Head in Western Australia.
– There are two new forts there.
– It seems to me that having regard to their comparatively small practical value, they are costing an enormous sum. It must be remembered that Fremantle is practically protected by Rottnest Island.
– That is eleven miles away.
– The position of these forts is such that no vessel could be fired on from them except at close range, since Rottnest Island would otherwise intervene. In the Estimates for 1905-6, £21,292 was provided for these two forts.
– What about the new guns to be mounted there?
– I shall deal with that matter presently.
– Will the honorable member be good enough to tell me the particular items to which he is referring ?
– I am comparing the sum which is provided upon these Estimates for fortifications in New South Wales with! the amounts which it is proposed to expend under that heading in some of the other States, and particularly in Western Australia. I am pointing out that, in 1905,, the amount which was voted for fortifications at Fremantle was £21,292. This year we are asked to vote £5’75° towards defraying the cost of erecting those fortifications. I do not know whether the .£21,292 has already been expended.
– There is nothing in the item under consideration which has reference to expenditure upon Western Australian defences.
– I am merely instituting a comparison between the expenditure which it is proposed to incur upon fortifications in New South Wales and that which it is proposed to incur under that heading in Western Australia. It is not very long since one of our highest military authorities .declared that the fortifications in Svdney Harbor were of an unsatisfactory’ character, aand’ that the guns mounted there were of an obsolete v pe. If that be so, surely the principal port of the Commonwealth’ ought to receive more consideration than Fremantle. If the forts in Port Jackson aare in the condition described, surely an expenditure of .£273 is
– The £5,750 Provided upon these Estimates for the fortifications at Fremantle represents, I think, an unexpended balance.
– The honorable member is discussing matters which are not contained in the vote under consideration.
– It is necessary to discuss this particular matter because of its bearing upon the whole subject of Fortifications. I wish to know whether any report has been obtained as to the present condition of the fortifications in Port Jackson. Are the guns there of an obsolete pattern? Are the fortifications old-fashioned? If so, why has not a sum been placed upon the Estimates to enable them to be brought up to date? The amount set down for improving fortifications in a little State like Western Australia
– A little . State !
– It -is a little State from the stand-point of population and its maritime trade.
– Fremantle is the third port in Australia, viewed from that, stand-point.
– It is not to be compared with the ports of Sydney and Melbourne. The approach to Fremantle would be a dangerous one for large warships, and the port could not be shelled from the sea, because of the high land of Rottnest Island intervening. The total- expenditure proposed in New South Wales under the heading of “ Fortifications “ is£317, that for Victoriais£572,ofwhich , £375 is to be expendeduponadditionalworks, and £197 upon new works. In Queensland, the expenditure under this heading is £330, of which . £200 is a revote.
– If the honorable member is going to roam all over the Estimates in this fashion we may have a second-reading speech upon every item.
– I am merely showing the amounts which it is proposed to expend, under the same heading, in the various States as compared with New South Wales.
– The honorable member’s purpose is not a right one.
– Surely I have a right to know how this money is to be expended. If the fortifications in Port Jackson are in the condition in whichthey have been represented to be, why has not a sum of money been placed upon the Estimates to
– If the honorable member will look through one of the last pages of the Estimates he will find an item of £50,000, which is to be expended upon lights, guns, and emplacements in connexion with our fixed defences.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the matter of whichI am speaking. No doubt it would suit the Acting Prime Minister if we voted this money blindly without asking for information. But I have to satisfy my constituents.
– I am not going tolisten to a second reading speech upon every item.
– We shall speak upon whatever item we may choose.
– I will not remainto listen to the honorable member.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Will the honorable member continue thediscussion of the item?
– I will if I am permitted to do so. Under the heading of “ fortifications “ the total expenditure proposed in Western Australia is £5,923,as against £1,319 in all the other States.
– A sum of £50,000- is provided in the Estimates for our fixed’defences, which include defences in Victoria and New South Wales.
– The right honorable member will be able to tell the Committee all about that matter at a later stage. I donot intend to oppose these items, solong as I obtain the desired informationin regard to them, and that informationis satisfactory. But I cannot consent tovote blindly upon them, and without ascertaining what is the reason for the small’ votes, under the heading of “ fortifications “ in the case of the larger States, as compared with the apparently excessive votein the case of Western Australia.
– The £5,750, which it is proposed to expend upon the fortifications of Fremantle, represents portion of a revote of £8 , 060 lastyear. If the honorable member for” Lang will look at page 281 of the Estimates he will find there an item which reads “ Guns, lights, and emplacements for fixed defences”, £50,000” That £50,000 will be expended in accordance with the recommendations of the Imperial Defence Committee. The total sum to be expended in that connexion is ,£280,000. As. however, the Government did not feel justified in asking Parliament to vote that amount during one year, it will be distributed over probably four years.
– Will that expenditure cover fortifications rind big guns?
– Yes. Fremantle is exactly in the same category as the other States so far as guns, lights, and emplacements for fixed defences are concerned. This item appears separately in the Estimates because it was under consideration prior to the receipt of the recommendations of the Imperial Defence Committee. That Committee approved of the erection of fortifications at Fremantle, and also of alterations being effected in the fortifications of Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne, and other ports.
– Does the £5,750 form a part of the £22,290 which was originally voted ?
– It is a portion of a revote of ,£8,000. So far as Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Newcastle, and other ports which may be in the minds of honorable members are concerned, the recommendations of the Imperial Defence Committee will, generally speaking, be -carried out; but lights which are found to be defective will be dealt with first of all. The Svdney lights will, I understand, be in order within three or four months.
– Does the ,£5,000 include expenditure upon guns?
– No; that is for the .construction of forts. The guns were paid for previously, and 6-inch mark 7 guns will be used in all the coastal forts in Australia, it being thought wise to adopt the recommendation of the Imperial Defence Committee in this respect.
– Are the 9.2 guns at Sydney to be done away with?
– My opinion as a layman is that they should be left until the last, and that the worst guns should be removed first.
– To my mind, the honorable member has not furnished an adequate explanation of the items to which attention has been drawn b” the honorable member for Lang, merely throwing dust in his eyes. That, of course, is his affair. But the Committee cannot- be expected to vote £23,000 odd without requiring explanation in regard to the various items. I should like to know why separate proposals for expenditure are made in regard to rifle ranges. For instance, item 3 provides .£4,972 for rifle ranges without specifying where the money is to be expended; then £^317 is set down for the Adamstown rifle range; £330 for the extension of the Cootamundra rifle range; and £394 for the extension of the Lismore rifle range. There is another amount of £853 for rifle ranges generally, in regard to which no details are supplied ; £1,000 for a rifle range at Long Bay ; £1,350 for a rifle range at Singleton; ,£27 for a rifle range at Telegraph Point : and .£750 for miniature rifle ranges for cadets - a very proper expenditure this. I should like to know how this money “is to be distributed. Finally, there is ,£1,000 for grants to rifle clubs for ranges.
– The details in my possession show that it is proposed to spend ,£97 in connexion with the Adamstown rifle range, .£50 at Araluen, ,£274 in carrying out various works at the Armidale rifle range, and another sum of £33 ; £52 on the Ballina rifle range, .£65 at Bangalow, £52 at Bathurst, and an additional ,£276 in connexion with purchases from the Northern Rifle Association and on premises; ,£85 on the Berry rifle range, .£277 at Braidwood, £28 at Bredbo, £115 at Bungendore, ,£51’ at Casino, ,£58 at Dubbo, .£180 at Flemington, and .£299 on rifle ranges generally, providing light, portable steel disappearing targets for field firing for metropolitan regiments and corps throughout the district. At Goulburn it is proposed to spend .£30; at Gulgong, £60; at Everall, £^182; at Kiama, .£19 ; and another ,£235 for providing a sheltershed, offices, and fence; at Lithgow, ,£76; at Lismore, £50; at Manilla, £100; “at Michelago, ,£20 ; at Molong, ,£83 ; for country corps generally, .£75; at Mudgee, £43 ; at Muswellbrook, .£27 ; at Penrith, £50; at Randwick, £183; at Scone, £89; at Singleton, ,£27; at Tamworth, £4.0 ; at Tenterfield, ,£164 ; at Windsor, £55 ; at Wellington, .£76 ; at Muswellbrook, ,£50 ; at Raymond Terrace, ,£32 ; at Scone again, £18 ; at Wallsend, £[35 ; at East Maitland, .£65, and another .£290 in installing four additional targets. Then £394 is provided for the extension of the rifle range at Lismore. As to the ,£750 set down for miniature rifle ranges for cadets,
I am informed that these ranges have been specially designed. It is considered dangerous to allow cadets to fire on the open ranges used by military units, and, consequently, a type of range has been approved which will enable them to get rifle, practice with safety to themselves and to the public. These ranges are constructed generally on school premises. The sum of £1,000 is provided to make grants to rifle clubs for the construction of and alterations to rifle ranges, the maximum grant which a club may receive being £75, subject to certain regulations.
– I should like to know why in some cases the amount provided for a rifle range is set down as a special item and in other cases a lump sum is provided without details being given.
– Large amounts are set out separately.
– Where the amounts are small, they are. lumped together?
– Yes, the money being distributed as required.
– Is any provision made for the supply of telephones on rifle ranges? Many clubs suffer great inconvenience owing to the fact that when a shot is challenged some one has to make a trip of 800 or 900 yards in order to settle the matter, and there is a fine of 2s. 6d. on the challenger if the challenge should prove to have been unnecessary. A cheap system of telephone communication would save, not only a good deal of running about, but considerable expense. The Orange range is a case in point.
– I am much obliged to the Minister for the information which he courteously gave in detail, in reply to the questions I asked previously. He has answered a great many questions which have been raised during the past few months; and it would seem that the money is pretty well distributed. It appears, however, that no provision is made for the Rylstone and Tambaroora ranges.
– The matter referred to by the honorable member for Macquarie is under consideration. If we were to give telephone conveniences to every country rifle range, the cost would amount to a large sum.
– The Orange range is an important one.
– The question of supplying telephone communication on that range is under consideration, and though I cannot promise that the Government will go to any great expense, attention should be paid to the larger ranges in this connexion. We cannot undertake, however, to provide a similar convenience on every* little country range.
– I do not advocate that.
– The matter has been brought under the consideration of the Minister, who will see what can be done.
.- I see there is an item of £500 towards the cost of dredging a boat harbor at Swan Island ; and according to a foot-note, the total cost is to be £1,000. It appears to me that £1,000 is a large sum to vote for merely dredging out a boat harbor. Has this reference tlo the dredging of that portion of the Bay where the torpedo boats are moored? I paid a visit last Saturday morning to Swan Island, when it was pointed out to me that the place where the Childers ought to moor was so shallow that she could not take a berth. It is clear that some dredging is necessary there, and I should like to know whether that is the place referred to in the Estimates?
– The explanation supplied to me is that this expenditure forms part of the scheme to enable destroyers and torpedo-boats to be berthed at Swan Island, and at the submarine mining and naval depots. Further, the present channel is too narrow for safe navigation, and it is proposed to widen the same at the curves .
.- I should like to know whether instructions have been issued by the Defence Department to have the Ipswich rifle range terraced? I am not an expert, but it appears to me that this work is unnecessary. However, if it be necessary, I hope the Department will bear the expense, and not call upon the clubs to bear the burden. The range at Ipswich has been in existence for about twenty years, and there has never been any accident, or any complaint as to its safety. I see also that there is £1,000 provided towards the cost of the construction and site of the Brisbane rifle range, and on reference to a foot-note, I find that the total’ cost is to be £5,000. I should like to know if a site has been decided upon, or anything further done to secure a practice-ground for the Brisbane troops ?
; - In reply to the first question, the honorable member will see that a sum of £380 is provided for rifle ranges in Queensland, £250 of which is for the North Pine range, and .£130 for alterations and improvements at the Cairns range. In reply to the honorable member’s second question, the information I . have is that there is no. proper rifle range at Brisbane at present, and the vote of ,£1,000 is the first instalment towards the cost of providing one. As pointed out on the Estimates, the total cost is ,£5,000, and negotiations respecting the site are now proceeding.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson) £9.38]. - I should like some information in regard to the Protector, for alterations to which I observe that ,£475 is provided. The Protector is an old corvette, that has been in service for over twenty years ; and we are constantly spending money on her. We ought to be told whether she is being used as a training ship, or is merely kept in commission in order to find billets for men. The Protector must by this time be out of date, and each year further expenditure is proposed for her repair. The question is whether it is worth while spending any more money on the vessel.
– The Naval’ Director reports that, apart from the Queensland gun.boats and the torpedo boats in Hobson’s Bay, the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth are dependent for their sea training on the Protector. If this vessel is not available, there will be no sea training for the Naval Forces. Since the Federal reorganization of the forces, the Protector’s work has been considerably increased, and will continue to be so until new vessels are provided. To enable her to carry out the additional work, she is now undergoing -an extensive refit after twenty-two years’ service. To complete this work, and fit her for service as the Commonwealth drill ship, alterations are necessary. These alterations are not called for to enable the vessel to carry out her regular duties of ^service in the South Australian gulfs, but are needed to carry out efficiently the work required of her under the Federal reorganization, namely, the training of the “Naval Forces of the various States.
– I should like to know whether the general items under South Australia have any reference to the Northern Territory. If provision is not made in these Estimates for the defence of the Northern Territory, other provision ought to be made at the earliest possible moment. Port Darwin is not the back-door, but the front door, of Australia, and it is certainly as necessary to have that port protected as to protect Thursday Island. In fact, the defence of Thursday Island is somewhat in the nature of a farce, so far as any practical purpose is concerned.
– I am informed that the matter referred to by the honorable member is receiving consideration, and that almost immediately an officer is going to Port Darwin to inspect and report.
– I should like to have some information as to the item of ,£900 under the heading “ Launceston - magazine.”
– I wish to draw the attention of tha Minister of Defence to the fact that although nearly every little hamlet in Australia has a rifle range either already in existence or provided for in these Estimates, Parramatta is still without one. I take not the slightest exception to any of these items, but I wonder what a place like Parramatta has done that it seems impossible for it to secure a range. It has a population of from 10,000 to 12,000 and is the centre of a large district, in which there are several corps. The Minister is pursuing a policy in regard to rifle ranges generally for which I have the greatest admiration, but I cannot induce him to consent to buy a site for a range at Parramatta. I do not hesitate to say that it is neither more nor less than a scandal that this state of affairs should continue, and that troops and. riflemen should have to go eight miles to practice. The land there may be a little costly, but I have yet to learn that an expenditure of a few pounds should stand in the way of proper provision being made for the riflemen of such a large and growing district. I wish the Minister to explain why action has not been taken, and to say whether he will take into consideration the advisableness of purchasing a site, even although the land mav be somewhat costly. There are corps of infantry and troops of Australian Light Horse in the district.
– I agree with the honorable member that there ought to be a rifle range at Parramatta, and I have given a considerable amount of time to an investigation of the facts. The difficulty of securing suitable sites for riflemen in populous centres is becoming more and more pronounced, as the range of our rifles is being increased. A. modern title has a range, not of a few hundred yards, but of a mile or two, and as the country becomes more settled the difficulty of securing suitable ranges in many places is greatly increased. Within the last week or two I caused to be sent to the Commandant of New South Wales a special request that responsible persons in Parramatta should be interviewed with a view of ascertaining whether or not a suitable site could be obtained. I have a note of the matter, andam endeavouring to remedy the grievance, because I think it is right that it should be remedied. ‘ For the last ten or fifteen years, a site near Melbourne has been used as a rifle range, but the time is fast approaching when we shall not be able to devote it to that purpose.
– The honorable member is referring to the Elwood range, which has been used for twenty-five years?
– Yes. It is on the bay, and unless we can induce boating parties and. shipping to keep two miles out, we shall have to put a stop to rifle shooting there. We will give the riflemen suitable accommodation at Williamstown.
– There is plenty of room in Harris Park, Parramatta, for a rifle range.
– It is a splendid park, and I repeat that the request made by the honorable member for Parramatta is a reasonable one.
– Meantime it occurs to me that where riflemen are subjected to these disabilities, the least the Department can do is to come to their relief by enabling them to travel free of cost to distant ranges. Not only does the Minister refuse to provide riflemen at Parramatta with a local range, but when they travel seven or eight miles to obtain practice they have to pay their own fares.
– That is not the regulation applying to other parts of Australia. The Department carries riflemen free of charge to the nearest range.
– That is not theposition at Parramatta. I called the attention of the Minister the other day tothe matter.
– What I told the honorable member was that a certain sum was set aside, and given to each corps for travelling expenses, and that when that amount had been expended the Department was powerless in this regard.
– The Minister is not placing at the disposal of these corps a sufficient sum to allow of their obtaining adequate rifle practice. He ought to place more at their disposal.
– We have to see how much more is wanted.
– I suppose the Commonwealth would ‘ be bankrupt, if it had to carry the few riflemen, who are under these disabilities, to a range where they could secure proper practice. If there is to be any differentiation the regulation should be so elastic that riflemen who are at a distance from a range would be carried free of charge. These men are suffering disabilities, and I wish to see them provided with a range nearer home. If theMinister will see that they are meantime under no financial disability in obtaining practice, I shall be satisfied. Those whowish to fit themselves to defend their country ought not to have to dip their handsinto their pockets as these working men have to do.
– I am sure that the honorable member thinks that the Treasurer and the Government generally have beenfairly generous in dealing with rifle ranges and clubs.
– Not so far asParramatta is concerned.
– I am speaking of the general principle. As I understand the honorable member’s point, it is this : In town A, or adjacent to it, there is a rifle range; but in town B riflemen have to travel a certain distance in order to obtain practice. The honorable member wishes toknow whether the Department will discriminate in the direction of providing travelling facilities for those who at town’ B have no local range on which to practice. I think that the proposal is a reasonable one, and will do the best I canin the circumstances.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sub-division 2 (Defence, Victoria)^ £13.304-
.- There is another matter to which I think the Minister should give consideration. Although he says that the Treasurer and the Defence Department are fairly generous in dealing with the rifle clubs, I hold that he ought to see that the treatment of the rifle movement generally is sufficiently generous. There is not1 the least doubt that rifle ranges must be established close to our towns, and the longer we delay the complete settlement of this question the greater will be the cost of securing suitable sites. The rifleman has become an absolutely necessary part of the defence system. Quite recently the Minister informed the honorable member for Bendigo that he was unable to increase the corps there, because there was no provision in the Estimates for an increase. There is no doubt that many who would like to join the militia and volunteer forces have not an opportunity to do so, and consequently they have to confine their energies to rifle shooting. And yet we find that in many cases they are handicapped by a total, absence of reasonable accommodation for rifle practice. I take it that the honorable member for Parramatta desires that a rifle range shall be provided for every town that can show that it is entitled to it. But there is a much more serious question to be faced, and the delay on the part of the English authorities in dealing with it has cost the British Government thousands of pounds. I refer to the reservation of permanent sites for the training of troops generally.
– The honorable member has in mind large areas. I think that we shall be able before long to submit to Parliament a proposal for a suitable national training ground for almost_all the States.
– That is for each State ?
– I think so.
– About four years ago a Bill providing for the resumption of land at Langwarrin and Frankston was introduced in the Victorian Legislative Assembly. Knowing that the troops in this State had been exercised on portion of the land proposed to be resumed, I brought the matter under the notice of the then Minister of Defence, who called for a report. That wise and military-learned gentleman, Brigadier-General Gordon, reported that there was not the slightest objection to the proposal, as the land was not required. What was the outcome of this?
Last Easter a public-spirited citizen, Sir Rupert Clarke, had to be asked to place at the disposal of the Department completely new ground for the Easter manoeuvres. This was necessary because certain land had been excised from the Langwarrin reserve, and, on the report of the then State Commandant, not only had no protest been raised, but it had actually been approved by the Department. A man would heretofore have been dismissed for that sort of thing had there been in authority some one who knew how to sheet home the responsibility for error. After the Government had spent thousands of pounds in excavating dams to provide a permanent water supply at Langwarrin, and had also cleared and fenced in the reserve, certain land was resumed, and the reserve was rendered useless as a training ground. This was due to the fact that a stupid State Commandant ventured to furnish to the Department the report to which I have referred. I think I can appeal to the Minister of Defence to support my statement, although he was not in office at the time to which I refer. I ask him is it not a fact that Brigadier-General Gordon reported that the land proposed to be resumed at Langwarrin was not required for defence purposes, and that the Langwarrin reserve was found unsuitable for the Easter manoeuvres? Two new sites have been submitted. I brought under the notice of the Minister a Vast State forest near Bacchus Marsh, and mentioned the names of certain local residents who knew all about the land. Two officers were sent to the district to report. They spent only a short time there, and local men who knew that there were thousands of acres of Crown lands in the neighbourhood were not even approached. A most suitable site for a national training ground, within easy distance by rail of Melbourne, Castlemaine, Bendigo, and Ballarat, was thus passed over. What is now suggested in this connexion? The selection of Point Nepean - a narrow peninsula which can only be reached by sea - has been recommended, because an official at headquarters
– Who has recommended it?
– The present Commandant of Victoria, Colonel Stanley, a man utterly without knowledge of infantry requirements, who was once stationed at Eagle’s Nest. The honorable member for
Laanecoorie knows what sort of a place the Nepean peninsula is.
– It is the worst place that could possibly be selected.
– It was the spot at which an attempt was made to establish the first convict settlement in Victoria. That attempt had to be abandoned because it was found that the locality was totally unsuited for the purpose, and, accordingly, in 1804, the convicts were removed to Tasmania. It is waterless, almosttreeless, and hardly accessible. I wish to impress upon the Minister the absolute necessity for securing a report upon this matter from a military authority other than the State Commandant of Victoria. Let us obtain the opinion of a military authority from South Australia or Queensland - at least, from some competent person.
– What place does the honorable member desire to see selected?
– Any place which is a suitable one. I think that the claims of Bacchus Marsh should be considered.
– Inwhat electorate is that?
– It is in the Corio electorate.
– The Wombat State forest is in the electorate of Mernda. I suggest that the claims of Bacchus Marsh might be considered because of its accessibility], its cheapness, the enormous area which is available, and because it is mountainous and wooded country.
– Is there any flat land there which would be suitable for military manoeuvres ?
– There is plenty of flat land available, and, moreover, it touches both the railway to Bendigo and that to Ballarat. I suggest that the Minister should personally visit this site. Should he resolve to inspect Point Nepean he might possibly reach there in a week, but he could visit Bacchus Marsh in a day. As an encampment ground for militia or citizen troops, and for actual field work, the Bacchus Marsh site is well worth inspection.
– I wish to say a word or two in regard to the desirableness of making provision for carrying riflemen by rail, free of charge, to the nearest place where they can indulge in rifle practice. The Minister has merely to make a larger grant for the purpose. The States would then receive so much less revenue from the Commonwealth, and the Railway Departments would suffer no loss.
– The trains would run in any case.
– We have to pay the Railway Departments for the carriage of riflemen.
– That is so. But as a consequence of paying them a larger sum the States would have a less amount returned to them by the Commonwealth. No extra expenditure would be involved in providing this convenience to members of our rifle clubs.
.- We all recognise that, for the purpose of providing artillery ranges in Australia, not only for to-day, but for all time, it is necessary to secure large areas. The area rendered necessary by the use of modern field guns is not less than, say, 15 miles by 10 miles.
– Does the Minister mean to suggest that we have field guns which will carry 15 miles?
– No. But a large area is needed to permit of artillery practice, and to enable military manoeuvres to be carried out.
– Has the Minister ever visited Aldershot?
– No. But a knowledge of the evolution which has taken place in arms during the past few years induces me to say that it is imperative that the guns with which our field troops are supplied shall be capable of carrying several miles.
– A large area is not necessary for the purpose of manoeuvring troops.
– I know that in all civilized countries the authorities are reserving or endeavouring to obtain as national training grounds for the troops, areas which measure not 15 miles by 10 miles, but much greater areas. The ground reserved for the purpose in Canada is a very large one, and the same remark is applicable to other countries. The training grounds which we acquire must be accessible, and must not cost too much, and it is these factors which make the problem of selection a difficult one. In each of the States we are endeavouring to obtain an area sufficiently large to meet all requirements, and one which for all time will be suitable for the purpose to which it is to be devoted. I trust that we shall secure such areas ere long. Before Point Nepean is selected as a national training ground for the troops
I promise honorable members that they shall know a little more about it. I shall always welcome any suggestion for the improvement of the forces, irrespective of whether it emanates from an officer or anybody else.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 3 (Defence, Queensland), £6,410 ; subdivision 4 (Defence, South Australia), £3,234; subdivision 5 (Defence, Western Australia), £9,460, agreed to.
Subdivision 6 (Defence, Tasmania), £10,600
.- With regard to the shortage of officers, it appears to me that the Military Forces of the Commonwealth are not as popular as they ought to be.
– The question of the shortage of officers is not involved in the consideration of this . item.
– I would remind the honorable member for Hunter that we are now dealing with the Tasmanian Estimates.
.- 11].- In view of the statement of the Minister in regard to the necessity for acquiring a large area to enable our troops to be manoeuvred and to admit of field artillery practice, I wish to say that a more unsuitable site for the purpose than Point Nepean could not be selected. That point is simply a narrow neck of land which is not more than one and a half miles wide at any part. The nearest railway station - Mornington - is quite thirty-five miles distant. I trust that the Minister will look carefully into this matter. Point Nepean is the most unsuitable site for the purpose which can be found in Victoria.
.- I do not see the utility of asking honorable members to authorize expenditure upon rifle ranges when we have not sufficient officers to direct the troops shooting upon those ranges. For that reason I think that I am entitled to draw attention to the present shortage of officers.
– The honorable member must not take up that line of argument.
– Then I suppose I mustresume my seat.
– If officers in high positions in our Defence Force have ever exhibited incompetence they have certainly shown it in the selection of a training ground for our troops. Some reform will have to be instituted in connexion with our Defence Force. Year after year we are asked to vote large sums of money, and yet we hear the same old cry. What is the use of the Minister declaring that an area of fifteen miles square is required in Victoria to permit of the manoeuvring of troops? I do not suppose that the field of Aldershot, where the whole of the British Army is manoeuvred, consists of more than 2,000 acres.
– The big guns cannot be fired there.
– In manoeuvring troops, it is not necessary to fire big guns. I saythat in Australia we are living in a fool’s paradise. If 5,000 or 6,000 Japanese were to land in the Northern Territory tomorrow, how should we expel them ?
An Honorable Member. - We should have to leave them there.
– Where we can put 5,000 men in the field, the Japanese can put 50,000. The Minister has said that he requires a tract of country fifteen miles square to permit of the troops of one State being manoeuvred, notwithstanding that not a quarter of that area is required to manoeuvre the whole British Army. In England, the field guns in and around the military depot practise at Shoeburyness, and in the northern counties they practise on the Mersey. God knows we have plenty of sea room in Australia to enable artillery firing to be carried on. We do not need to provide for land ranges. From the western parts of England the troops, are taken to Dartmoor, wherethey can fire over miles of wasteland; but the field guns and fort guns are tried at Shoeburyness. At Woolwich, the head-quarters of the artillery, where manoeuvring is going on all the year round, I do not think that there is a reserve of more than 2,000 acres. Why, then, should such a large area be needed in Victoria? The Minister’s officers are hoodwinking him. We have the authority of the honorable members for Corio and Yarra for the statement that they have recommended the reservation of a narrow neck of land not easily approachable by land or sea, and without railway communication, a preposterous site. Any one could be trusted to choose a better site than that. Yet it has the recommendation of an officer high in the Commonwealth service. The Committee should take this matter in hand; otherwise the military authorities will only draw their salaries, and do nothing.
– The honorable member for Hunter was arguing that rifle ranges are useless unless a sufficient number of properly-trained officers are ‘appointed to direct the operations of the men, and was ruled not to be in order in doing so. I would point out that an honorable member might think that the proposed expenditure upon barracks in Tasmania would not be justifiable unless properly trained officers were provided to supervise the men to be accommodated there, and if he could not discuss that matter he might be prevented from adequately stating his reasons for or against the proposal. . In the absence of information about officers, he might feel inclined to vote against the proposed expenditure on barracks.
– An honorable member would not. be in order in following the course suggested. The proper time to discuss the qualifications, of or need for officers will be when the Defence Estimates are before the Committee.
– I am very loth to differ from the honorable member for Maranoa, who possesses a good deal of knowledge in regard to military matters; but I have watched the field artillery at practice in the National Park, near Sydney, during the last two Easter encampments, and by what I have learned in doing so, as well as by what I knew previously, I am convinced that large areas of country should be reserved for artillery ranges. It should not be difficult or expensive to get suitable areas for the purpose. As an honorable member has suggested to me, suitable land should be obtainable in Australia at no great expense. In every State within reasonable distances of the chief centres of population, there, are large areas of almost useless land, which it would not cost much to resume . and set apart for artillery practice. It is true enough, as the honorable member for Maranoa has said, that in England manoeuvres are conducted on comparatively small areas, and that artillery practice takes place on the sea-shore, the guns being fired out to sea. But the field artillery practice proper is conducted’ on a special range, to which battery after battery of the Royal Horse Artillery and the Field Artillery is sent for a certain period each year, to practice shell firing.
– At Dartmoor, I think. Every battery on the Home establishment is sent there for a certain part of each year.
– I have told the Committee what I know. I have taken part in these manoeuvres.
– The service journals say that, since the Boer war, battery after battery is sent to a special ground for a certain period each year, to practice shell firing. It is not possible always to determine the effect of a shot when it is fired out to sea.
– The firing I referred to is done mostly on the sands at low tide.
– That is only another way of getting land practice. It is necessary, in order to judge of the effect of shell fire, to know where the shells fall, or where the shrapnel is projected, and for this land ranges are required. Furthermore, a large area is necessary for practising firing with live shell. The’ ground set apart should be sufficiently extensive to provide a variety of ranges, so that the gunners will have to exercise their judgment in sighting guns and setting fuses. It ought to be possible to provide approximately new rangesfrom time to time, to give the officers practice in determining distances, and to get as nearly as possible service conditions. In my opinion, an area measuring at least ten miles by five is necessary to do what is needed in this respect, and to enable provision to be made for disappearing and moving targets. In New South Wales the artillery now have the permission of the National Park trustees to use part of the park; but its use is restricted by the fact that the public go there too. Apparently there is at present no other land close to Sydney available for the purpose. Artillerymen are specialists who require a good deal of training, and it ought to be possible to obtain waste land near Sydney, and other large cities, on which they could be afforded opportunities for adequate practice. Possibly at some season of the year, such land could be used for depasturing stock, which would provide a return to set against the outlay.
– The New South Wales Government is offering very suitable land at Liverpool for 10s. an acre.
– Unfortunately, there is a good deal of poor land within a few miles of Sydney, and some of it could be reserved for artillery practice. The longer reservation is delayed, the more expensive it will become, because settlement is constantly increasing, and values are rising. I think that there is Crown land which could be obtained without much cost, and I strongly urge that a reservation should be secured. In New South Wales for the last two or three years the Defence Department has had to rely on the goodwill of private land-owners to obtain ground on which to manoeuvre the infantry troops, and when the last Easter” encampment was about to be held, several owners refused permission to the authorities to take the troops over their land, fearing, perhaps, that their fences might be injured, or other damage done. The Commonwealth has spent a lot of money in drilling the troops, but the annual manoeuvres which are indispensable for the training of officers in the management of men were almost blocked by the difficulty in obtaining the necessary ground. This difficulty is likely to increase as the country becomes more closely settled, and more largely cultivated.
– This land will become the property of the State as soon as the Labour Party imposes its land tax.
– The honorable member is exhibiting an ignorance of our proposals which is common to those on his side of the Chamber.
– The honorable member for South Sydney must be a mighty superior man, seeing that he is so fond of charging others with ignorance.
– I am charitable in assuming that ignorance prompted the interjection, because it would be wilful misrepresentation for any one who understood .bur proposals to say that a progressive land tax means nationalization. However, I shall not deal with that subject now. In my view, it would be wise for the Defence Department, with the. authority of Parliament, at the earliest possible moment to set about acquiring waste land for the training of troops. Such land may be acquired to-day comparatively cheaply, but in a few years it will be very expensive to buy.
.- Tasmania may be a small place, but these items have evoked considerable discussion. I quite agree with the honorable member for South Sydney as to the necessity to secure large blocks of ground for the purpose of rifle ranges ; and I am supported in my view by the experience at Sandy Bay. There the small piece of ground used as a rifle range became dangerous as the population grew, and some other site had to be purchased at a large sum. Then, for the purpose of manoeuvres, large spaces are necessary, and, in my opinion, it would be well if the volunteers devoted some attention to shooting in the country, instead of confining their attention to rifle ranges. On the rifle range a man knows the exact distance, and, arranging his sights to a nicety, can score bull’s eyes. But in the bush, or in the country, where he might have to meet an enemy, such as our troops met in South Africa, he would be confused as to the distances ; and some shooting practice in this connexion would be of great benefit. I know that as a youth I found grea*t advantage from firing at trees, and then ascertaining how far I was out in my judgment. So far as I can see, the Estimates in reference to Tasmania are satisfactory, and I believe that the money will be well spent.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 4, subdivision 1 (Post and Telegraph, New South Wales), £34,246.
– The Department has recently come to a decision which has had the effect of creating great disabilities as between the citizens of the Commonwealth in regard to telephone charges. A guiding principle in the administration should be to guard, as far as possible, against differentiating between citizens in regard to the privileges which they enjoy. And yet in populous centres like Melbourne and suburbs, and Sydney and suburbs, ‘ we find people living side by side, one paying £j or £8 for a private telephone, and another enjoying the same advantages for £5. In other words, this decision of the Department has had the effect of an all-round increase in the amount paid for private telephones. It is only a matter of time when the users of telephones shall have changed their residence, for this all-round increase of a very serious character to take place without any formal announcement. This is neither a straightforward nor a wise policy in a branch of the service so prosperous as is the telephone branch. Whatever may be placed to the credit of the previous Postmaster-General, I venture to say that this new regulation will stand to his discredit and that of whoever sanctioned or carried it into effect. It is a wrong policy, which ought to be abandoned at the earliest possible moment.
– What policy is that?
– The policy which creates a few arbitrary telephone exchanges, perhaps, in sparsely-populated places, and compelling those who lived in the larger centres to use those exchanges, and pay £7 or £8 per annum instead of £5. We have cases of persons in a small suburb where there happens to be an exchange, getting facilities for £5 a head.
– With twentylive people to talk to, whereas the others have 4,000 to talk to.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong, because the men to whom I allude have the whole range of the metropolitan service.
– The honorable member was talking about a small country exchange.
– I was talking about a small suburban exchange.
– Why should smaller suburban centres not have the same facilities as the larger centres?
– Why should the large centres not have the same facilities as the small centres? I am not complaining of small centres having facilities, but of large centres being cut off from facilities. In the suburbs of Melbourne, which are crowded centres of population, the subscribers who have no exchange must be connected, it may be, with an exchange in a small centre of population two or three miles away, where there happens to be an exchange, and have to pay £2 or £3 a year more than they have been accustomed to pay. The difficulty was previously got over by measuring the distance from the local post office to the residence of the subscriber. But that plan has been abolished, with the effects I have indicated. The new system affects my electorate as harshly, if not more harshly, than it affects any other electorate throughout the Commonwealth. The conservative policy which has marked the administration of the Postal Department recently is driving us back to a condition of things from which we have slowly and steadily emerged during the last fourteen or fifteen years. There ought to be a Minister strong enough to reverse a policy which has been inaugurated by the permanent officials in Melbourne. We are gradually drifting under the bureaucratic control of the officials, all through our not having Ministers strong enough to arrive at independent conclusions’. There is creeping into important Departments top much of government by Under-Secretaries. We find the Defence Department and the Post and Telegraph Department paralyzed by reason of the conservatism of the officials ; and the sooner this is ended the better ; the sooner we have control by responsible Ministers, the more likely we are to .have good, government. I understand that the present Postmaster-General some time ago promised to investigate this telephone matter again; and I shall be glad to hear whether anything has been done towards righting the wrongs to which I have pointed in populous centres where the telephone system pays handsomely.
– Is the honorable member arguing that a man whose telephone costs twice as much to install as the telephone of another man should pay no more for the convenience than that other man has paid ?
– I am speaking of cases where telephones are installed at the same rate in every case. What has been done, is lo fix a few arbitrary centres, and make everybody communicate through those centres, instead of providing exchanges where the population is. I contend that exchanges ought to be inaugurated in busy centres of population. Would the honorable member for Laanecoorie say that it is right or constitutional that a man should pay only £5 for his telephone while his neighbour pays £8 ?
– For the same service?
– For two totally different services.
– The honorable member is entirely incorrect.
– One man is on the toll system and the other is on the flat, system.
– That is not so; they are both on the flat system, and the, difference arises because one of them has changed his address, although he may have moved 1 00 yards nearer the post office.
– A man ought to know that if he changes his residence he must pay toll rates.
– I say that he must not pay toll rates unless he wished to do so. I am speaking of people who pay fiat rate*.
– And who have moved their residence?
– Then in such a case a subscriber has to pay loll rales.
– Wherever there is a busy centre; and 200 or 300 subscribers, there ought to be a local exchange, seeing that in the country an exchange is provided for fifteen or twenty subscribers. The present system is a reversion to the old rates and conditions of fifteen years ago. .
– The honorable member for Parramatta and myself had this matter out on the floor of the House some two months ago. His answer, to me on that occasion was that I was “ bluffing again.” The position is that certain imaginary centres were created, some of them by the honorable member. ‘ The system was to imagine that there was an exchange where none existed, and to charge from that place instead of charging from the place where the wire actually stretched from.
– Why not make the charge imaginary, too?
– That is what the honorable member for Parramatta wants to do. The honorable member contended, .that two persons with the one service, living next door to each other, are being charged two different rates. When asked by the honorable member for Laanecoorie how that came about, he said that it was in consequence of one man changing his residence. If the honorable member knew what he was talking about, he would know that under the present system no more persons can come in under the old flat rate, and that if a man moves even next door She must come in under the toll rate. There is a very great, difference in the. services given under the toll and flat rates. Honorable members will remember the storm that was raised in this House and . in the country when we attempted to bring subscribers under the toll rate, which is the only business system possible, making them pay for the services they were getting. A number of these persons are still on the flat rate, and are getting a very much greater service than they pay for - in many instances a service which it costs us more to give than they pay. It is only a question of a little time when everybody will be put on the one footing, and the toll system established all round. The honorable member for Laanecoorie struck the nail on the head when he asked what the effect of the imaginary centres would be. The honorable member for Parramatta says, “ Charge from the nearest post office. ‘ ‘ If a man lived within half-a-mile of a post office the honorable member would charge him for that distance only, even if the Department had to put in seven miles of wire from the nearest exchange. He would charge him the same rate as the man who had only to get half-a-mile of wire.
– The honorable member is “bluffing.” He. is trying to mislead the Committee.
– That is the honorable member’s whole argument. The object of the present system is to insure that a man shall pay for the service he receives. If that is followed out to its logical conclusion everybody will be placed on the one footing, and the whole system will be made a toll system, to which the honorable member for Parramatta objects. The man who gets half-a-mile of wire will pay for half-a-mile, and the man who gets five miles will pay for five miles. It will then be possible to make those gentlemen, who now cost us £20, £30, and ^40 a year for services for which they only pay £9 a year, pay for the cost of the service we give them, even without charging any profit. That will enable a man who only wants to use his telephone two or three times a day in the small villages, which the honorable member for Parramatta sneers at, to get his telephone for is. a week, because it does not cost the Department any more.
– The honorable member ought to be . ashamed of himself. I did not sneer at any small village.
– That is the honorable member’s whole line of argument. I am giving facts. The honorable member referred to villages. I do not blame him for standing up for his own district, but he has no right to abuse me and others in this Chamber because we do not happen to agree with him.
– I will do so, as long as the honorable member makes incorrect statements and misleads the Committee.
– There is no incorrect statement about what I am now saying. What is the difference between a small exchange and a large one? It is the difference in the service. In the Sydney .or Melbourne Exchange a subscriber can ring up thousands of others, whereas in a ‘country exchange the number is limited to twenty or thirty. If a difference is made it oughtto be in favour of the man who has the small service. With regard to what I call imaginary centres, the honorable member’s own words were “ Charge from the nearest post office.” He points to a case in his own district. The people are within one mile of the post office, but four or five miles from an exchange.
– The Government will not give them an exchange.
– I have repeatedly called the honorable member for Parramatta to order, but he takes no notice. Will the honorable member cease these interjections ?
– It is. not possible to put exchanges everywhere except at very great expense. My contention was that until we could give men in the country districts and those living away from centres of civilization some telephone connexion, we should have to go a little slower in the big centres, and let them put up withwhat they have already. How are we to maintain a telephone service if we have to put in five miles of wire for a man and give him a service on the basis of half a mile, when the interest on the cost of the wire and the cost of maintenance come to more than he will be charged with - that is, according to the honorable member’s theory of “Charge from the nearest post office “? To suppose centres of that kind will not pay. If we adopted that practice the Department would have to bear the loss and the man who gets the smaller service would have to make up for the man who is getting something that he is not paying for.
– Why not reduce the maximum number of calls for metropolitan subscribers ? Why adopt a maximum of 2,000calls as against 750 in every other country ?
– I was advised by my officers that we could afford to give that number. This is a service that we do not want to make money out of, but it must be made to pay. The reason why we are not getting all the subscribers under the toll system is very evident. The howl that went through the country, encouraged by many honorable members on the other side, when we brought some subscribers under the toll rate, will be remembered. Deputations waited on the present Minister of Defence, who was then acting for me in that capacity, and the newspapers said that we dared not introduce the toll system. But where are the advocates of the flat rate system to-day? They keep very quiet because they know that thetoll systemis the proper one, and has come to stay. Its introduction has created such a demand for telephones that it is difficult to keep up with the demand, but when we are able to cope with the demand, and can give a reasonable service, then will be the time to put every man on the same footing, making him’ pay for what he gets and having no imaginary centres.
– Come down from the stump.
– The honorable member becomes angry about this question, because as he plaintively says “ It affects my district.” If the honorable member’s scheme of imaginary centres is adopted, there will be nothing to prevent a man, who lives 15 miles from Melbourne and only one from the nearest post office, from having 15 miles of wire put in and being charged as though he were within 1 mile of the exchange. It would be very nice for the man, but with such a system how could we give people in the country districts telephones? When I spoke of imaginary centres I said as a chance shot that probably the honorable member for Parramatta introduced them in New South Wales. I produced the evidence next day, and the honorable member promptly moved the adjournment of the House, stormed, and talked about “ bluffing.” The policy of the Department at that time - I leave it to my colleague to deal with what obtains at present - was to put men in such a position that they would get a service at the least possible cost, but that each should pay according to the service he received.
.- I think that the Minister of Trade and Customs has dealt very unfairly with the issue put before the Committee by the honorable member for Parramatta. The question, as I understand it, is this : The Post and Telegraph Department, by its regulations, says to the people of any district, “ If you can get twenty-five persons to connect with the telephone system we will make an exchange for you.”
– Anywhere in Australia. Now, however, the Department desire to alter that arrangement by saying that because it does not suit them to establish fresh exchanges in certain places they will establish a 3-mile limit. The consequence is that a subscriber who is more than one mile, and less than three miles, from a telephone exchange has to payextra mileage, although there may be 500 persons in his vicinity who are subscribers to the telephone system, and who wish to have a local exchange. The point is that this extra mileage is charged, not because it is necessary, but because it suits the convenience of the Department not to establish new local exchanges.
– Under the regulations any two persons can have an exchange established at any post office. The number used to be fifteen.
– More misleading statements !
– It is simply because it suits the Department to carry the telephone lines to central exchanges rather than to establish local exchanges that the mileage rates are charged. But the service supplied is no different whether a subscriber is connected with a local exchange or with acityexchange, which may be miles away. As the service is the same, the charge ought to be the same. Exchanges should be established according to the convenience of subscribers, not. according to the convenience of the Department; and if the Department chooses to create centres rather than have local exchanges it ought not to charge for the extra mileage.
.- The honorable member for Nepean has put the question at issue very well. I will give a concrete case, the force of which will, I think, be recognised by the PostmasterGeneral. The regulations provide that new telephone exchanges cannot be established within 3 miles of each other. The example that I shall give will be a Victorian one. Hawthorn is a populous centre, not far from Melbourne. Camberwell is also a populous suburb of this city. Canterbury, however, is not a populous suburb. There is a telephone exchange at Canterbury. Consequently, the Canterbury residents get the benefit of a cheap telephone service. The Camberwell people, who are connected with the Canterbury exchange, have to pay extra mileage. That is to say, telephone subscribers in the populous area of Camberwell have topay more than do telephone subscribers at Canterbury. The reason given is that, there being another exchange at Hawthorn, it is against the regulations to establish an exchange at Camberwell, and the Camberwell residents, consequently, have to be connected with the Canterbury exchange.
– What is the difference in cost?
– A subscriber at Canterbury gets his telephone for £5 per annum. A subscriber who lives more than a mile from the Canterbury exchange pays £6. If, however, he lives.it Camberwell, he has to pay £7 per annum. Thus the telephone subscriber in Camberwell is put to extra expense because the exchange happens to be located at a less populous centre like Canterbury. Camberwell happens to be situated between the two exchanges, Hawthorn and Canterbury, and, therefore, it is not permitted to have an exchange of its own. The idea of the honorable member for Parramatta is to popularize the telephone. Does not the exPostmasterGeneral think that subscribers ought to pay for services rendered?
– Does not the honorable member think that the subscriber who lives in a place necessitating the erection of11/2 miles of wire ought to pay interest on the extra cost?
– I believe that the exPostmasterGeneral is merely defending the policy of departmental officers. What. objection is there to establishing more exchanges? Why should there not be an exchange at Camberwell, which is a populous centre, rather than at Canterbury, which is not? What reason is there for requiring a distance of 3 miles between exchanges? I quite sympathize with the hope expressed bytheex- Postmaster-General some time ago, that people should be able to have telephones for1s.a week. I see no reason why the convenience of a telephone should be confined to the well-to-do and professional classes. I believe that the day will come when a man who desires to let his houses will have to connect them by telephone with an exchange, just as gas and water are laid on at present. Why should not a poor man or woman have all the advantages of civilization? The telephone is a convenience that should be placed at the disposal of everybody, and the more it is popularized the more productive of revenue will the system be. Take the case of the wife of a working man who, having no maid-servant, has to do her own housework. It would be very convenient for her to be able to communicate by telephone with the butcher, the grocer, and the baker. I hope the Postmaster- General will make an effort to popularize the system. If it is to be popularized the present hard and fast rule in regard to the number of exchanges must be broken down. I trust that two years hence in districts where there are now three exchanges there will be six, and that in time where there are six there will be twelve. My desire is that the poor, as well is the rich, shall have the benefit of the telephone service. I should like to know why subscribers at Camberwell should have to pay £7 or ,£8 per annum when subscribers at Canterbury, a mile distant, have to pay only £5 per annum. When the honorable member for Parramatta held office as Postmaster-General in New South Wales, he rendered good service, and was the first to make an attempt to popularize the telephone system. He certainly supplied the suburbs with a satisfactory service. I think that it is only right that I should mention this fact, since I find that honorable members are prepared to allow party considerations to weigh with them in dealing with these matters. If the Acting Prime Minister were a subscriber he would not like to be called upon to pay £y per -annum for the use of a telephone when a man 200 yards away from him had to pay only £5 per annum.
– And a man nearly fifteen miles away had to pay only ^5.
– Quite so. Why cannot the Postmaster-General break down the rule, which provides that there shall be a distance of three miles between the exchanges ?
– It would be quite impossible for the Department to establish the number of exchanges that have been -suggested by honorable members. I have -already made provision for more than my officers, thought the revenue would warrant, and. to provide exchanges in many places in the way suggested by honorable members would be to do away very quickly with our. -surplus. I regard fictitious centres-
– What does the honorable member mean by “ fictitious centres 1 ‘ ?
– I refer to the creation of an imaginary centre, where there is no telephone exchange, and no post office. To say that a subscriber should be charged as if his service came from such a centre is to suggest something that would be wrong in principle, vicious in application, and cap able, of being used in a way that no Minister should be able to use the service. At the same time I am strongly of opinion that the present arrangement must be altered.
– Does the honorable member regard a centre with 300 subscribers as imaginary, and another with only 50 subscribers as real?
– I regard as imaginary any so-called centre, where there is no postoffice or exchange. The system that I am endeavouring to work out is that every subscriber, as far as possible, should be placed on an equal footing, having regard to the cost of the service which is being rendered to him. In other words, I hold that the price should be fixed for the telephone itself.
– If the honorable member carries out that proposal there will be no difficulty.
– I am going to try to do so. A price should be fixed for the telephone itself, and the only additional charge should be in respect of interest and capital cost in making the connexion between the residence of the subscriber and the Exchange.
– In order that that system may work fairly, the exchanges must be equitably distributed.
– Undoubtedly, and we shall endeavour to do that. I admit that the present system is capable of vast improvement, and that charges are made that are irritating, and seem to be unfair.
– What about Canterbury ? Is not that a case in point?
– Canterbury is one, and Richmond is another. At Kew. the charge is much higher than it is in Hawthorn, but the system must be carried out on the basis I have indicated. In preparing the estimates we have gone into the question of providing exchanges, and have endeavoured to meet the enormously increased demand’ for telephone services. The number of applications being received for telephones is unparalleled. We are endeavouring, as I have said, to meet these applications, but questions of the kind raised during this debate cannot be settled in a week. I promise that the matter will receive my early and earnest attention, .and that I shall endeavour to evolve a scheme that will be equitable on the basis I have indicated.
House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070918_reps_3_39/>.