3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 11 a.m., and. read prayers.
Mr. LIDDELL presented three petitions from fishermen, their wives and dependents, at Port Stephens, at Lake Macquarie, and at Dora Creek, praying for the remission of duties on fishing nets and cork floats.
Mr. WATSON presented a similar petition from fishermen at Botany.
Mr. FULLER presented a similar petition from fishermen at Shoalhaven; in the Illawarra district.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK presented two similar petitions from fishermen at Hawkesbury River and Tuggerah Lakes.
Motion (by Mr. Liddell) proposed -
That the petition from fishermen at Tuggerah Lakes be read.
Question resolved in the negative.
-Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask whether you have noticed in the newspapersof this morning, a remark made by the honorable member for Echuca ?
– Alleged to havebeen made.
– The remark is reported in both of. the Melbourne morning newspapers, arid is as follows : -
They opened the meetings of the House with prayer, but at the same time some members might sneer and other members might be irreverent whilst the Lord’s Prayer was being said’ in unison.
I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether you have noticed any lack of reverence or devotion during the reading of the opening prayer, or whether, in your opinion, every honorable member here is not quite as devotional as the unctuous member for Echuca?
– I may say thatI noticed the report in the newspaper this morning, and came to the conclusion that the honorable member for Echuca must have been misrepresented in some way. In my opinion, the conduct of every member of the House has, on every occasion, during the reading of prayers, been characterized by the utmost reverence.
– May I make a personal explanation ? I did not hear the whole of what has been read by the honorable member for Barrier, andI have not readthe newspaper report; but I certainly had no intention whatever of reflecting on any member of the House. I have been careful in what I have said - more careful than the Honorable member who accuses me and describes me as “ unctuous. “ It is just possible that there may be some members who regard the. prayer in the way which has been stated.; but there is no reflection or insinuation whatever in the words I used. I referred to just the mere possibility that some honorable members might so regard the prayer.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been called to the following paragraph which appears in the Melbourne
Argus of this morning, as cabled from New Zealand, conveying the information that the Government of the Dominion had decided to place on the list of those who are prohibited from receiving mail matter, a number of residents in the Commonwealth : -
The following is a list of persons, institutes, and companies who are prohibited by the PostmasterGeneral from obtaining delivery of postal matter : - Dr. Austin Improved Electric Belt Co., Dunedin; Dr. F- Bell, Sydney and Melbourne ; F. Chapman, Port Melbourne ; Electro-Medical and Surgical Institute, Sydney and Melbourne; Freeman and Wallace, Sydney and Melbourne; H. Freeman, Elizabeth-street, Sydney; Howard Freeman, Sydney and Melbourne; Freeman and Wallace Institute, Sydney and Melbourne; F. Howard, Elizabeth-street, Sydney ; Irving Homoeopathic Institute, Sydney ; ‘Kane Institute, Melbourne ; Dr. James Kidd, Fort Wayne, Indiana ; Marshall Bros., chemists, Park-street, Sydney; R. J. Poulton, chemist, Bourke-street, Melbourne ; Herr Rasmussen, Wellington, New Zealand ; A. J. Tarrant, medical belt expert, Chris’tchurch, New Zealand ; J. I. Tiefen Beck, manager Freeman and Wallace Institute, care of Queen Victoria Market P.O., Sydney, George-street, Sydney ; Dr. Wallace, Sydney and Melbourne; Dr. W. Carter Watson, Sydney ; Institute of Medicine and Electricity, 78 and So Hunter-street, Sydney ; Dr. White, Sydney and Melbourne,
A Government Gazette forbids the forwarding of correspondence for the Empire Agency, Melbourne, and N. Paul Allison, Sydney.
I should like to know whether the PostmasterGeneral’s attention has been called to this matter, and whether he will look into it, and see if he cannot, in the interests of the Commonwealth, make similar prohibitions ?
– The honorable member for Lang directed my attention to this matter some three months ago; -and I immediately placed myself in communication with the New Zealand’ Government, and with the Crown Law officers of the Commonwealth. I learnt that the New Zealand Act gives infinitely greater powers than does the Commonwealth Act, and that the New Zealand Government are enabled to do what I have no power to do. The whole matter ,is receiving consideration, but I may say that before I can take similar steps to those taken in New Zealand, an amendment of the Postal Act will be necessary.
– I desire to know from the Postmaster-General whether we are making any sensible advances towards the recovery of .the £25,000 due under the late cancelled European mail contract?
– Yes, we are making exceedingly sensible advances.
– -In what direction are the sensible advances being made?
– In the direction of a satisfactory consummation of the whole affair.
Savings Bank Claim, New South Wales. - Sessions of the Commonwealth Parliament. - Conduct of Business. - “ Contingencies “ Expenditure. - Military Officers : Promotion. - Claims of Colonel Price and the late Colonel Bayly. - Public Servants’ District Allowances. - Appointment and Transfer of Public Servants : Inland Districts. - Hours of Postal Business. - Public Service Inspectors, Postal Department. - Broken Hill Post Office and Telephone Exchange. - Construction of Trawler at Cockatoo Island. - Building of War Ships in Australia. - Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. - New Protection. - Australian Light Horse Corps.- - Site of Rifle Factory. - Telephone Rates : West Maitland and Sydney. - Ministerial Responsibility. - Volunteer Rifle Corps. - Formation of Companies of Bushmen.
In Committee of Supply :
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding Seven hundred and eighty-seven thousand four hundred and ninetysix pounds be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1908.
When .having this Supply Bill prepared, I gave instructions that no debatable items should be included; and, so far as has been reported to me, I do not think there are in the schedule any items of such a character. One item, namely, the payment of ,£25,000 to the Government of New South Wales, ought, I think, to be especially referred to. That amount has been owing to the New South Wales Government for two or three years, or, perhaps, longer, and I thought it wise, seeing that the Premier of New South Wales was asking for payment, that I should meet the liability without further delay.
– That money was paid long ago.
– The honorable member is mistaken.
– I paid it once, at any rate.
– That was not this £25,000.
– The matter was settled by Mr. ‘Carruthers and myself.
– I can assure the honorable member that I paid the money myself only the other day. The honorable member knows to what the payment refers.
– Quite so.
Sit WILLIAM LYNE. - I was informed by the Under Secretary that the New South Wales Government desired that the money should be paid; and, therefore, I paid it out of the Treasurer’s advance. Another item in the schedule is in order to recoup the Treasurer’s advance by £50,000. Until the Estimates are passed I have to use the advance account in order to carry out certain works ; but I have been ‘ very careful not to make any expenditure yet to be voted by Parliament, unless under very exceptional circumstances. Advances having been made, the account must be recouped.
– For what period is Supply asked ?
– For two more months. I had an idea of asking for Supply for three months, but I thought it better to wait until we were nearer Christmas in order to see whether there was any necessity for an extended period. We shall then be in a better position to know the state of- public business ; and, if it be necessary, I do not think any objection will be raised to Supply being then granted for one month.
– 1 have looked through the schedule of the Bill, and I see no item in it of an unusual character, except that of ,£25,000 referred to by the Treasurer. May I ask what that payment is for? Sir William Lyne. - It is the amount of money which was in the Savings Bank of New South Wales at the commencement of Federation. The honorable member for Swan, as ex-Treasurer, knows all about the matter.
– The money was owing, I know.
– Under the very unusual circumstances we are placed in at present, with the Tariff to consider, I admit that the Government had no other course but that of obtaining Supply instead of proceeding with the Estimates; and I think there will be no difficulty in passing this Bill. But two months is the longest period for which any Administration ought to ask for Supply.
– This Bill will carry us on to the 14th January.
– Under any circumstancesI do not think that Supply ought to be granted for a longer period than twomonths. The honorable member for Lang- points out to me that there is an item of £135,000 under the heading of miscellaneous services. Will the Treasurer explain that amount ?
– Before this Supply is voted I think that the Government should give us some indication of the political outlook so far as the business of the session is concerned. We appear to be drifting along without any definite plan of operations, and it has occurred to me that we might very well lighten the labours of each branch of the Legislature by a little consideration. Why, for instance, cannot the Senate be closed “ when Supply has been granted, for say a couple of months, while this House completes its consideration of the Tariff? Why not allow honorable senators to return to their homes to look after their own private affairs ? Then, when we have dealt with the Tariff, why should not honorable members be given a holiday ? We cannot do all the work attaching to Federation in a day or a year. The time is fast approaching when something will have to be done to curtail the duration qf our Federal sessions. It is becoming impossible for honorable members to attend here and to do anything besides, and especially does this remark apply to representatives of distant States. I suggest that honorable senators might very well be allowed to return to their homes whilst we complete our consideration of the Tariff, and that subsequently we should be granted a holiday whilst the Senate is dealing with the Tariff Bill. That course might be adopted without in any way seriously impeding the legislative work of the session. But if the Government continue to pile up measures in the Senate we shall be able to do nothing with them when they are sent down to us. I submit that something ought to be clone to meet the wishes of honorable members of both Chambers in this way. The suggestion which I have thrown out is a feasible one, and one the adoption of which would afford relief. At any rate something must be done to shorten the term during which honorable members - and particularly those who come from distant States - are obliged to remain in Melbourne. Otherwise we shall have to settle down here to a sort of political perpetual motion, and that I do not think would be good for the country. Certainly it would not conduce to good government. Administration is just as important as is legislation - a great deal more so, in fact. If we had better administration we could do without very much of the legislation that we are called upon to enact. No Government can attend to its administrative functions properly at the same time that its members are called upon to attend here week after week and month after month during two-thirds of the year, or longer. The suggestion which I have made, would, if acted upon, be in the best interests of the country. With regard to Supply, I would call attention to the immense amount that we are asked to vote under the heading of “ Contingencies.” If honorable members will look through the schedule they will find that no less a sum than £135,000 is sought to be appropriated under that heading.
– But in the Estimates in Chief nearly all these contingencies are itemized.
– I think that the honorable member will find that there are a very large number of items which are not specifically set out even upon the Estimates in Chief. Take one or two departments by way of illustration. Under subdivision 1 of the Department of External Affairs we are asked to vote £700 by way of salaries, and £1,100 by way of contingencies.
– The money which is sought to be appropriated for contingencies is allocated upon the Estimates in Chief.
– Under what heading ?
– If the honorable member will look at page 8 of the Estimates in Chief he will find that the contingencies are specifically set out there.
– Then it is a pity that there is no marginal note in reference to the matter upon these Estimates. I do not think that we can insist too strongly upon the state of the finances being made clear and intelligible to hon- orable members. Out of £787,000 that we are now asked to vote, no less a sum than £135,000 is grouped under the heading of contingencies.
– We have followed the plan which has been previously adopted.
– Surely it would be sufficient to have one group of contingencies in the Department instead of a score. My remark is particularly applicable to the Defence Department. There we are frequently called upon to vote £100 by way of salaries, and £200 or £300 by way of contingencies. We ought not to vote money blindly in that way. There is just one other matter to which I desire to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence. I have a very serious complaint to make against the Department over which he presides. It seems to me that a certain action by that Department’ amounts to nothing more nor less than a piece of gross favoritism. For three months I have been patiently waiting to see justice done to a man, and perhaps I had better wait a little longer. The Minister told me the other day that the case was being looked into.
– To what case does the honorable member refer?
– I prefer not to mention the name of the individual here, but I have no objection to giving the honorable member the information privately. It seems to me that a grave injustice has been inflicted upon a man who has done as much for the credit of the Australian forces as has any individual in those forces. To-day he is suffering disabilities, both in rank and pay - and, indeed, in every other way - for no reason whatever. I am not sure, however, that there is not a reason, and that that reason is not that he is a simple clerk instead of a man with, money and social prestige.
– No more serious charge than that could be made.
– When the time comes I shall be prepared to lay all the facts of the case before this Chamber. The case is an old one, but it has only just come to an issue. It has reference to the appointment of an officer to a rank which, the authorities could not deny him. But although they have given him the rank and the position nominally they have denied to him what has been- granted to officers with far less service.
– The place to ventilate a matter of that sort is in this Parliament. -
– The place to ventilate it is where it can be ventilated to the best advantage. I have not yet lost faith in the ability of the Minister of Defence to deal with it, and in view of his statement the other day I prefer to trust him a little longer. .
– Every honorable member of both Houses of Parliament must realize the truth of the statement made by the honorable member for Parramatta, that under present circumstances our sessions of Parliament are unduly prolonged, and info an extremely inconvenient time of the year. It is highly desirable, both in the interests of administration and of honorable members who desire to return to their homes so that they may place themselves in touch with their constituents, that the abnormal length of sessions should be curtailed, and that in some way or other the legislative business of the country should be transacted in a less number of months and close at a more convenient time of the year. I fully admit that. To restore a more healthy condition of things should be the aim of all sections of the House.
– Could not we adopt the practice -of appointing Grand Committees, as is done by the House of Commons?
– Though far from being unfavorable to the appointment of Grand Committees, I have yet to learn that their appointment has much expedited business in Great Britain, where the Legislature is in a chronic condition of overwork.
– But the British Parliament has more work to do than we have.
– That is true. But whilst recognising the force of the remarks of the deputy leader of the Opposition we must recollect that we are still in the constructive Federal period. At the present moment we are dealing with the most complicated, the most arduous, and the most burdensome task which can await any Legislative Assembly, that of reviewing the whole of our commercial and industrial conditions. In our only previous experience of a similar kind, we were compelled, with very great reluctance, but in obedience to the necessity for concluding a state of commercial unrest, to allow a session to overflow. The same obligation rests upon us at the present time. Then the Tariff has to be supplemented by certain measures to which the deputy leader of the Opposition has referred. These must be disposed of before we can think of concluding the session. I take it that in making his suggestion the honorable member has some knowledge of the wishes of honorable members in another place, and shall endeavour to learn from my colleagues in that Chamber if there is a means of arranging the businessto meet their convenience.
– I have not spoken to honorable members of another place in regard to the matter.
– I thought that perhapssome of them had spoken on the subject tothe honorable member. If we can, without retarding legislation, so readjust our business as to meet the wishes of honorable members elsewhere, we should endeavour to do so. I am satisfied to take the suggestion made by the honorable member for Parramatta as the starting-point for fresh inquiries.
– I am thinking about this House as well as the Senate.
– Quite so. Having entered upon the work of the second session of this Parliament, and desiring to* leave a complete and satisfactory record, we must look to some extension of the ordinary adjournment or some readjustment of the next session as perhaps the best way of counterbalancing the excessive demands which will be made upon us during the present one.
– It seems to me that we are going to be here all next year.
– If I could secure the permanent assistance of the honorable member in his capacity as deputy leader of the Opposition, we might avoid such a contingency.
– The trouble is that the Government wish to do everything at once.
– We are usually content, after a short discussion, to take a vote on any question, and, I think the honorable member will admit, to accept in the meekest possible spirit even a temporaryreverse or two.
– I am sure that we are all pleased with the ideals of the honorable member for Parramatta and the Prime Minister ; but in dealing with public questions we have to consider not ideals but facts. We can never look forward to very short sessions of the Federal Parliament. We have two Houses elected on the broadest possible franchise, and are entering upon a class of legislation which is out of the old groove. No homiletic arguments as to what we ought to do will have any effect on the views of the people with regard to the pledges that we made at the last general election. Honorable members are paid in order that the work of the country may be transacted. We come here, not to look after our own private business, but to discharge the legislative duties set us by the electors.
– They do not expect us to sit all the year round.
– The honorable member does a great deal to keep us in session all the year round.
– I do not think that that is a fair statement. In connexion with the consideration of the Tariff, I have proposed amendment after amendment without making a speech.
– I can only say that the honorable member takes the fullest advantage of his rights and privileges under the standing orders.
– As he is perfectly entitled to do.
Mr.FISHER. - I make no complaint, nor have I ever made any, regarding the attitude of honorable members. I may have suggested now and again that they should restrain themselves.
– I believe that rhe last time the honorable member spoke he took the Opposition to task for remaining silent.
– I do not think so. I said that the Opposition promised, threatened, and cajoled the Ministry, and that we were in doubt as to whether the Ministry were the Opposition or the Opposition were the Ministry. That difficulty has not been entirely removed.
– The Ministry are the Labour Party.
– In any event, we are sure to have fairly long sessions. It is said that we have now only one important question before us. But each session will bring with it questions of far-reaching im- portance. We are now entering upon social legislation, to which in a democratic Parliament there can be no end.
– We have now before us three big questions - the fiscal, the defence, and the social question.
– The Tariff Question may be divided into three parts. We have first of all the Tariff proper, then we have the question of the new protection, and, finally, the question of preference to consider . Even the mother of Parliaments would take a considerable time to deal with any one of those questions, and we may be sure there will be further subdivision’s of the Tariff as we proceed with its consideration. Whilst I am entirely in agreement with those who desire short sessions, I am forced to the conclusion that there is no hope of that desire being fulfilled, and it is just as well for us to settle down to the discharge of the duties devolving upon us, and to do the best we can in the circumstances. The charge made by the honorable member for Parramatta that a capable officer who rendered distinguished service as a member of the Defence Forces has been treated far less favorably than have others who do not possess the same attainments, and cannot show the same service, is one of the most serious that could be made against a Department. Unless an absolute injustice can be shown to have taken place, such matters should not be discussed in the Parliament; but I understood the honorable member for Parramatta to say that he considered an absolute injustice had been suffered by this officer. Cases against the Department have, before this, been proved, and I feel strongly that if the Defence authorities endeavour to assimilate the governing powers of older military and naval bodies, and to shunt menmerely because they have no social position, the guns of the Parliament should be turned upon them, and they should be done away with.
– That is not the issue in this case.
– The honorable member for Parramatta said that he understood that the officer’s failure to secure advancement was due to want of social influence, or because he was merely a clerk. If anything of the kind is taking place in the Department, I would at once remove all the officers responsible for it. No greater injustice could be done to a man. In a democratic country and a democratic Parliament we can recognise only merit, and I hope that the Ministry will take notice of this very serious charge. Since the honorable member for Parramatta is an old Parliamentarian, I was surprised to find him following the line adopted by the honorable member for Indi in regard to the voting of contingencies. I have never known a. full schedule of contingencies to be attached to a temporary Supply Bill, but I think it is desirable thatthe Minister responsible for such a Billshould cause to be prepared, but not necessarily printed, a schedule to be laid on the table of the House, so that honorable members would be able to ascertain exactly all the details of the proposed vote for contingencies. That is the only safe way to conduct the financial operations of a country.
– Then why is the honorable member surprised at my suggesting that it should be done ?
– The honorable member may have made such a suggestion, but I did not hear him do so.
– His suggestion was that such a schedule should be added to the Bill.
– I suggested that there should be a marginal reference to the items, and that there should be fewer headings.
– It is usual for contingencies to be grouped in a Supply Bill ; but it would be well to have prepared a certified schedule giving all the information possible. The government of a country cannot safely be carried on unless the whole of its financial transactions are put before Parliament with the fullest detail, so that honorable members may at any. time examine them. On these grounds I am entirely with the honorable member ; but at the. same time I recognise that, with the best possible intentions, honorable members may sometimes mislead the people by attacking a vote for contingencies. Such attacks leave on the public mind an impression that contingencies are expended in an underhand direction. It would be much better, as I have said, to publish the whole of the items, so that the public might know that the administration was perfectly straightforward and honest, and that the public exchequer was being properly protected.
– With regard to the question of contingencies I would point out that in the Estimates in chief, which have already been circulated, all the items are set out in the fullest possible manner. As a printer I naturallv have some sympathy with the suggestion that there should be attached to every Supply Bill a printed schedule, showing every item in a vote for contingencies that we are asked to pass, since it would provide more work for the craft ; but beyond that I do not think any advantage would be gained. The Estimates cover all the items of contingencies dealt with in this Supply Bill, and under the Audit Act not one penny voted by way of contingencies can be applied to any purpose other than that shown by the respective headings in the Supply Bill.
– I have not suggested that there has been a new departure.
– No; but I think that the honorable member has overlooked the fact that the details of the contingencies which we are now asked to vote are already before honorable members. The honorable member referred to subdivision No. 2 of Division No. 1 of the Department of External Affairs, and if he will turn to the Estimates he will find the whole of the items set forth. Take for example the items in Division 2 of the Senate. They are as follows -
That is a typical instance.
– I do not think it a very typical instance.
– The honorable member will find in other parts of the Estimates contingencies dealt with in even greater detail. When Sir George Turner was Treasurer he caused to be prepared a list of headings for contingencies, and that list applies to the Estimates of every Department. If there are any extraordinary items peculiar to one Department they are added to the regularly recurring ones. No Department can have votes for contingencies unless they appear in , the Estimates primarily in the form adopted by” Sir George Turner. I think that the arrangement made by him was a very proper one, as it enables us to ascertain the details of even small items.
– The heading, “contingencies” is misleading.
– I admit that, but I think that a distinction is drawn between salaries and expenses other than salaries. All expenses other than salaries are called “contingencies.” The honorable member is correct in suggesting that a far less misleading term might have been adopted. These are perpetually recurring items, and not as the term “contingencies” would lead one to suppose, items of expenditure’ which cannot be foreseen. For seven years we have classed as contingencies all expenditure other than that upon salaries, but such expenditure is itemized in the Estimates, and the Auditor-General will not allow money voted in a Supply Bill for contingencies to be spent except proportionately to the expenditure of each year under each item. Therefore, the only result of setting out .the items in the Supply Bill would be to largely increase the cost of printing; honorable members would not have more information than they have now:
– No schedule is wanted.
– I do not think that a schedule is wanted. The Treasurer is asking for only what previous Treasurers have asked for, a vote in advance, based on the expenditure of last year.
– The honorable member is not replying to my criticism. The sum of £135^000 is set down for contingencies. That sum, multiplied by six, gives the expenditure on contingencies for a year at over £750,000. So large an amount ought not to be so classified.
– Quite so. But if the honorable member will refer to the Estimates, he will find’ every item of expenditure on contingencies there set out in detail, so that it can be readily identified and checked. If the Treasurer and the other Ministers were empowered to spend this large amount as they pleased, the situation would lie very! serious ; but, under the system of bookkeeping fixed by Sir George Turner, contingencies are held to cover all expenditure other than salaries, and the sum so spent must be in accordance with the appropriations of Parliament. In the Estimates the contingency expenditure is itemized in every subdivision. Take, for instance, subdivision 2 of division 44, which deals with the contingency expenditure of the Department of Trade and Customs in the State of Western Australia. Nearly £4,000 is there set down for expenditure under contingencies, but each item of expenditure is given ; so much for postage and telegrams, printing, bank exchange, travelling, stores, fuel and light. This is information to which honorable members have a right.
– On page 215 of the Estimates, £7,000 is set down as remuneration for the Railway Departments for performing postal and public telegraph business. Does expenditure of that kind rightly come under the heading of contingencies ?
– I have already indicated that, in my opinion, the wrong term has been chosen; but, as I have shown, the fullest information is given in respect to expenditure under this heading, and if it be true that -
That which we call a rose
By any other name would arnell as sweet - it does not matter much what heading we employ, so long as we are informed in detail how the money is spent. I admit that the term “ contingencies “ is somewhat misleading, because, as generally used,, it means unforeseen expenditure.
– It conveys a false impression.
– It may convey a false impression to persons outside; but we cannot complain of want of information in respect to the expenditure under this head. To pass to another matter, Parliament recently voted a sum of money for the establishment of a rifle factory, and as to my mind the manufacture of rifles is an urgent matter, I think that the Government should by now have fixed upon a site for the factory. After the site is fixed, some time must elapse before the factory can be erected and the plant installed, and, therefore, I urge expedition in the matter. I think that Parliament is prepared to give Ministers the fullest assistance, and I acknowledge that the Minister of Defence has shown some appreciation of the local requirements ; but I wish everything to be done to get the factory into working order at the earliest moment possible, to provide for the better protection of Australia.
– - Should the factory be located in. Federal territory?
– - T do not think ‘that that matters much. Similarly I have never agreed with those who think that the Federal Capital needs a port.
– Any area taken for the erection of a rifle factory should be under Commonwealth control.
– Under the Lands for Public Purposes Acquisition Act, we can acquire for our purpose land which will become Commonwealth territory, and I do not think we need fear that we shall be hemmed in by the authorities of the State in which the factory is located.
– We shall become verv Federal in spirit when we have to defend ourselves. There will then be no question of State as opposed to Commonwealth rights.
– I wish also to refer to the case of the late Colonel. Bayly, which was a peculiarly hard one. A proposal to compensate him was brought before Parliament a good while back, and honorable members were distinctly sympathetic, the medical certificates as to the cause of the colonel’s illness showing clearly that he had suffered from exposure during the South African campaign. I think that his claim would therefore have been passed had it not been associated with another, to which there was a great deal of opposition. Strangely enough, the claim which was so strongly opposed has since been admitted, while nothing has been done in regard to the case about which honorable members were sympathetic.
– In whose case was something done?
– In the case of Colonel Price. . A large number, if not a majority, of honorable members were opposed to the recognition of his claim, but, subsequently, the Government paid it without consulting Parliament, and that action was afterwards ratified. In the case of Colonel Bayly, which, in my opinion, was ten times as strong as that of Colonel Price, nothing was done.
– Colonel Price was injured while on service.
– Colonel Bayly suffered because of exposure in the field, on active service ; but Colonel Price was injured by a fall on the deck of a vessel, on his way to Queensland, in time of peace.
– Colonel Bayly was one of the most’ hard-working officers this country ever had.
– Yes, and even though he is now dead, something might be done for those dependent on him, who could do with assistance.
– I am dealing with . the case now, and it will be brought before the House as soon as possible.
– Colonel Bayly was stricken down when but a young man, as the result of exposure on service, and had not time to make provision for his family. Therefore, I urge that something be done for him.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson) set down under the heading “contingencies,” and find that they total£124,000. If we pass this Bill we shall, although the proposals for expenditure will be again reviewed when the Estimates are under consideration, have to agree to them because the money will have been spent. As has been pointed out, the contingency expenditure is . itemized in the Estimates, but once we vote Supply, we shall not be able to control it. In one case in the Estimates, in which £9,000 is set down under the heading “contingencies,” ten sub-heads of expenditure are enumerated, and the particular sums to be expended under each set out separately, whereas, in this Bill, we are passing a lump sum, which may all be spent under any one of the ten heads, thus anticipating the decision of Parliament in regard to the Estimates. This is not a business-like way of proceeding. Parliament would certainly have more control of expenditure if it gave Supply for one month instead of two. The honorable member for Wide Bay had something to say about Parliament sitting from January to December. No doubt, if the Government brought forward a programme containing sufficient work for such a long session, Parliament would keep on sitting; but, as a matter of fact, Parliament does not sit perpetually. The honorable member for Wide Bay apparently desires Parliament to be in session all the year.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member was opposing the idea thrown out by the Prime Minister that our sessions ought to be shortened, and pointed out that there was social legislation in regard to which the will of the people must be obeyed. The honorable member indicated that, in order to carry out this legislation, it is necessary for us to sit from January until December.
– No; what I said was that we ought to carry out the promises we made when elected.
– But there must be some common sense in the management of public affairs, and the practice of Parliaments from time immemorial has been to pass the most important and urgent legislation, leaving other measures to be dealt with in subsequent sessions. Much of the domestic legislation referred to has not been put into operation, as witness the Australian Industries Preservation
Act, which, for all the good it has done, might never have been passed into law. I hope the Government will act on the suggestion thrown out by the Prime Minister, and confine the sessions to fewer months in the year, when much of the legislation which, would be passed if there were perpetual sessions would, as the result of experiments elsewhere, be shown to be unnecessary. The question of compensation to military officers has again come up for consideration. Colonel Tom Price was given a grant by the Government, and Parliament was called upon to ratify the Executive act in order that the Government might keep faith. The Government, after counting heads, I suppose, came to the conclusion that Colonel Tom Price was entitled to some .compensation, though I may say that was not my opinion when the question was before us on the last occasion. Colonel Bayly fought in South Africa, and there, in consequence of exposure, developed a disease which was disastrous in its results. In the case of a man who takes his part in the defence of the Empire, and who, when on active service, becomes incapacitated, we are only doing our duty when we see that he is provided for.
– I am glad that the Public Service Commissioner has decided to place officers in the out-districts, so far as their allowances are concerned, in Class I. instead of Class II.
– That will host a lot of money.
– That may be; but, nevertheless, the Public Service Commissioner has only done justice. I might suggest that officers in those districts, who are married and have families, ought to receive a larger allowance than do single men. Some of us, who belong to the Labour or Democratic Party, find fault with private employers who express themselves as having no concern as to whether their employes be married or single. Mr. Walpole was denounced for making a statement to that effect on behalf of the National League, and Mr. Teasdale Smith, of the timber combine in Western Australia, was condemned rather energetically for taking a similar view, and contending that all the duty of the employer is simply to pay a certain amount for certain work done. Under the circumstances, it would be somewhat inconsistent if we were to show similar indifference towards the public servants; and, therefore, I trust the Minister will see his way clear to make some extra allowance to married men in the backblocks. Such a step would not only be good from the point of view of population, but it might be the means of inducing the older and more experienced men to give their services in outlying districts. I also suggest that men, who have been in these country districts for, say, four or five years, should have the right of transfer to some other part of the Commonwealth. It is somewhat unfair that men should be asked to remain in the back-blocks for, it may be, sixteen years.
– I suppose the honorable member means that there should be the right of transfer to any part of the Commonwealth.
– Yes; I’ think it is time we should cease to be provincial. In this connexion I regret to hear of the objection to an official being brought from. Queensland to undertake duties in the Melbourne Post Office - an objection raised simply because the man comes from Queensland.
– If that were for a permanent position, it would be all right, but this is a temporary position.
– It does not matter whether the position be permanent or temporary, we ought to have the services of the best men ; and iri such matters we ought to set the example of speaking and thinking as Australians.
– There was no objection to a Queenslander being appointed, but there was a sense of injustice being done to another man.
– If the man referred to by the honorable member were the abler man, then certainly there has been an injustice; but there can be no injustice if Be were not the abler man. We must see that merit, and not mere seniority, is the basis of promotion. Another point is, that there ought to be some definite arrangement by which officers, when they are transferred from Sydney, or any other of the capita] cities to country districts, shall at once take up the duties of their new positions. A Post Office official in Sydney was,- in September, 1905, gazetted as postmaster at Wilcannia, but he did not arrive at that place until January, 1907. I doubt very much whether he would have arrived there then, had it not been that, when electioneering, I heard of the matter, and brought it under the attention of the Government. The correspondence, both telegrams and letters, which I received in connexion with this case, was simply marvellous. I was told that the man was ill, and, again, that the Sydney Post Office could not afford to spare him, and so forth ; however, he arrived, as I say, in January, 1907. Such officers should promptly take up their positions in the interests of those already in the back blocks, who would be afforded the advantage of immediate transfer. I have known officers refused transfer, but subsequently granted it on offering to pay the cost of their own removal. I do not think that that is a fair proceeding. If it is right that a man should be transferred, his expenses ought to be , paid, and if it is not right that he should be transferred, he ought to remain where he is. It would be satisfactory to public servants to know that, after having served for a number of years in the back-blocks, they have the right of transfer to some more desirable part of the Commonwealth. The post-office at Broken Hill is still considerably undermanned. One or two appointments ha.ve been made during the past few months, but I understand that quite a number of the officials are working over nine hours a day ; and, as there are no relieving officers, it is impossible for the men concerned to have a holiday for even one clay in the week. The mail arrives in Broken Hill on Sunday morning, and that, of course, involves a delivery on every day of the week.
– Is there a Sunday delivery in Broken Hill?
– The postmen do not go round the city, but persons who desire to tlo so may get their letters at the post office. A number of people there have objected to this Sunday delivery, but the Department refuses to alter the practice. However, in view of the interjection by the PostmasterGeneral, I think that we may hope to see this Sunday duty abolished. I shall be very glad if the Minister would look into the matter. I do not think that the officials at head-quarters have any conception of the additional amount of work which is being transacted by the principal office at Broken Hill. During the past few years, that centre has progressed considerably from the stand-point of population, and the departmental authorities do not ap-. pear to have treated the office there with the consideration that it merited. I should like to see published annually an official report relating to the business which is transacted by the various post-offices throughout the Commonwealth, to the number of officials employed in them, and to the revenue and expenditure of each.
– That work is in hand now.
– I am very glad to hear it. Will it be completed this year?
– We are now waiting so that we may be able to present a balancesheet in connexion with the valuation of the buildings.
– That information will be of very great assistance to honorable members. I think also that some information should be obtained in regard to the telephonic exchange at Broken Hill.
– I intend to visit that centre during the Christmas adjournment.
– I am very pleased to hear the Postmaster-General make that statement. There was a time when there were six inspectors employed by the Postal Department in New South Wa les
– We have arranged to increase the number of inspectors.
– All these inspectors resided in Sydney. Upon several occasions I brought the matter before the House, because I desired that for inspectional purposes New South Wales should be divided into districts. That was eventually done, and I was hopeful that one of the inspectors would have been permanently located in the Western District of that State. But after the subdivision had taken place, I found that the inspector for Broken Hill and Wilcannia was resident at Wagga Wagga, and that the inspector for White Cliffs was located at Orange. Now, I do think that the Department ought to have some knowledge of the geography of the Commonwealth. It is ridiculous to compel an inspector - if his services should be required at White Cliffs - to travel all the way from Orange, and to require the inspector, who resides at Wagga Wagga to travel all the way to Wilcannia. Only a little while ago I desired to secure an alteration in the mail service between White Cliffs and Wilcannia, and I found that the matter quired the services of two inspectors. I trust that the districts will be so rearranged that at least one of the inspectors will be permanently located in the Western -District.
.- Honorable members are deeply engaged in conversation, Mr. McDonald, and, since no one is disposed at this moment to address any remarks to me, “I propose to converse briefly with you. Three- months ago when a Supply Bill was presented to this House, the Government promised that they would not bring forward another similar measure during the current session. They urged as an excuse for this slovenly method of doing business that they desired the Tariff debate to proceed without interruption, at the same time admitting that the passing of Supply Bills involves the surrender by honorable members of effective control over the finances. Personally, I should have been prepared as a protest against the slip-shod manner in which the Ministry, are conducting the business of the country to limit to one month the Supply for which they have asked. If we pass this Supply Bill we shall have voted half the Supply for the current financial year, and consequently when the Estimates in chief come under review we shall not be in a position to exercise any effective control over them. Only yesterday several honorable members charged the Government with maladministration in connexion with the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. If those honorable members are dissatisfied with the administration of the Government they cannot take any stronger action than to refuse the Supply which is now asked for, or to reduce the period which it is intended to cover. Had anybody submitted an amendment in that direction I should have most warmly supported it. But, of course, it is idle to fire blank cartridges at the Treasurer. Some time ago that honorable gentleman promised that at the earliest possible moment he would introduce a Bill embodying the new protection proposals of the Government. I admit that the subject is a complicated one, but I think that ere this he should at least have presented honorable members with a rough memorandum of the intentions of the Government in this connexion. By so doing he would have expedited the consideration of the Tariff. As one who desires to see the operatives engaged in various industries obtain a fair share of the plunder, I should be more disposed to look favorably upon high protective duties if that information, disclosing, an effective scheme, had been supplied to us. There are many honorable members who are strenuously fighting the Tariff, but who might not do so if they were acquainted with the. nature of the new protection proposals of the Government. The honorable member for South Sydney has attempted to excuse the appropriation of such a large _ sum under the heading of “contingencies.” As the honorable mem ber for Parramatta has pointed out, if the amount which we are now asked to expend under this heading be continued in the same ratio throughout the year, it will total no less a sum than £750,000. I ask honorable members to give this matter their serious attention. It is useless for the Treasurer to tell me that I can identify items included in the proposed vote for “Contingencies,” since, as the Bill stands, I am unable to move the reduction or omission of any of them. I come now to the question of defence. The Treasurer has always been an ardent protectionist, and his enthusiasm for the cause, when he is out of office, is even greater than it- is when he is in power. As a member of the present Administration, he has been a warm supporter of the policy of encouraging local industries, and I ami pleased that he has caused an order for the construction of a steam trawler to be placed with the New South Wales Government shipbuilding works at Cockatoo Island. I am glad, not merely because many of my constituents are employed at the works, but because I recognise that an opportunity will be afforded the public to see what can be done in the way of shipbuilding under Government supervision. I trust that the administrative officers, as well as the workers employed in the shipbuilding yards at Cockatoo Island, will be put upon their mettle, and that they will turn out a vessel that will be so excellent an advertisement of the capacity of the Government works as to cause the Commonwealth, as well as the States Governments, to place further orders with them. The Government contemplate the construction of several torpedoboat destroyers and submersibles for coastal defence purposes, and if they find that the State shipbuilding works at Cockatoo Island can construct a trawler equally as well as can private shipbuilding firms - and at a price that is wholly satisfactory - -I am. sure that they will consider the desirableness of having our defence vessels built there. Some people say that we cannot construct warships in Australia. I do not share that view. I do not think that the mere transfer of an artisan from a British to an Australian shipbuilding yard has any prejudicial effect upon his ability. Australians are blessed with the imitative faculty. They are quick to acquire any art, and there is no reason why they should not excel in the work of shipbuilding. I hope that the Treasurer will urge the men at the Cockatoo Island works to do their very best in connexion with the construction of the Commonwealth trawler.
– I have already done so.
– If the honorable member would occasionally visit the works and encourage the men to do their best, I am sure that good results would follow.
– The honorable member is always after Cockatoo Island.
– I said at the last general election that since I found that every honorable member was prepared to do a bit for his own electorate, I intended to take up the same attitude.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Mort’s Dock Engineering Company ought to have been able to construct the trawler? There are good dockyards in my own electorate.
– Had the tender been secured by that company, many of the men in the Cockatoo Island works would have been employed in the construction of the vessel. I regret that the company was not sufficiently enterprising to obtain the contract ; but I hope that the placing of this order with the Government works at Cockatoo Island is the first step towards the establishment of a great ship-building industry in Australia. The industry gives employment to a good class of men, and as we desire to have in Australia a sturdy class of ironworkers and engineers, it ought to receive every encouragement. Reference has been made to the widow and family of the late Colonel Bayly. The honorable member for South Sydney made out a good case for consideration. I had the pleasure of being acquainted with Colonel Bayly for many years, and have no hesitation in saying that he was not only a most industrious officer but the best instructional officer of his time in New South Wales. _ Many of the officers who to-day do credit to the military forces of Australia received their early instruction at his hands. He was a man of highly nervous temperament, but was certainly a splendid instructional officer. It was in that capacity that he excelled, and his widow and family ought certainly to be considered. Colonel Price received from the Government compensation for an accident which betell him, but his case will not bear comparison with that of the late Colonel Bayly and his family. When the question was last under consideration a broader issue was at stake. The question of what compensation should be granted, not only to Colonel Bayly, but to Colonel Price, and the noncommissioned officers and rankers who had been incapacitated while on active service in South Africa was then under consideration. I hold that the widow and family of a noncommissioned officer or a man in the ranks who was killed during that war or the family of any non-commissioned officer or ranker who was permanently incapacitated whilst on active service deserve, if anything even more consideration than do the widow and family of the late Colonel Bayly, since they are likely to be in a position of greater need, and I hope the Government will take their cases into serious consideration. I am sorry that in connexion with this Bill a really genuine attack has not been made upon the Government. When the last Supply Bill was before us I urged that they should be attacked by honorable members, who. like myself, have strong Radical tendencies, and who disapprove of their faulty administration of the harvester legislation. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports yesterday dealt vigorously with that question, but it is useless for an honorable member to protest unless his words are followed by action. I should like to see a majority voting against the Government on this Bill, and should be prepared to vote against them as a protest against the slovenly way in which they have carried out their duties. In the general conduct of business we should be an exemplar to other Parliaments. The honorable member for Robertson spoke of this Parliament sitting all the year round ; I am concerned, not so much with the duration of our sittings, as with the quality of the work carried out.
– We cannot do good work if we sit all the year round.
– That may be, but when we promise our constituents that certain remedial legislation will be passed I think that we should endeavour to carry out our promises as quickly as possible. We certainly ought not to deceive the electors ; if we know that certain legislation cannot be passed during the life of a Parliament we should not hesitate to tell the people soIt is idle, as some of the Socialists did at the last election, to say to the workers- “ On the morrow your paradise will come,” if we do not make some effort to bring about that change. We can do but little,, but I hope that our work, whatever it may be, will be effective. If we rush measuresthrough Parliament simply to put up a placard as to the achievements of a session we shall probably find ourselves in the next session busily engaged in passing amending Bills. Every one has his little dreams, and when I entered the Federal Parliament I cherished the fond hope that, so far as human skill would allow, the Commonwealth legislation would be perfect, or, at any rate, would not need amendment until after the lapse of years. Unfortunately, however, we too have the marks of the beast upon us, and our legislation, like that of the States Parliaments, seems to be invariably faulty.
– I should not ‘have risen but for the remarks of the honorable members for Parramatta and Wide Bay.
– Are there not other members yet to speak on the subject of defence? I wish to know what the honorable member is doing to increase the Light Horse Corps in the country districts ?
– That is a question of money.
– I, too, wish to speak. I should like to know who is blocking the regulations?
– Some of them have been issued, and if the honorable member will wait a week or two longer, he will find it unnecessary to draw attention to the subject. As to what has been said about social influence, whatever may have happened in the past, merit alone is now recognised, and, since we are all agreed that that should be so, it is needless to make a lengthy statement on the subject. This Government is not responsible for the action with regard to which the honorable member for Parramatta has made so many representations. What was done took place five years ago.
– There is now an excellent opportunity to set things right.
– A number of Australian officers proved during the South African campaign that they were fitted’ for higher positions than they ‘had occupied previously in Australia, and were, when on active service, then promoted to them ; but, on their return, these promotions were not made permanent, the officers in question being given only honorary rank. Unfortunately in some cases those who went to war found, on their return, that their places had been filled by others who had stayed at home.
– No; they all had their positions kept for them.
–I have looked into the matter, and have ascertained that, in at least one case, that was not so. In my opinion an officer who has won promotion by service in the field should not afterwards be required to prove, by passing an examination, his fitness to hold it, and the promotions made in South Africa might reasonably have been made permanent. That, however, was not done. In three cases, on the recommendation of MajorGeneral Sir Edward Hutton, they were recognised, but I was not aware of those cases until the honorable member for Parramatta brought the whole question under my’ notice, and I cannot see that there was special ground for exceptional treatment in regard to them. Since then, however, difficulty has arisen by reason of the fact that, while some of those who were promoted and received honorary rank, have since qualified by passing examinations for higher rank, others have not done so. I am aware that the Defence Act empowers the Minister to promote, without examination, for distinguished service, marked ability, or gallantry, and the officer whose case the honorable member for Parramatta has urged is a man in. regard to whom this power should be exercised, if brought into operation at all. But what was done occurred five or six years ago.
– The higher rank given in South Africa was recognised, and the men were satisfied with that ; but they could not be permanently appointed to higher ranks because there were no positions vacant.
– Five men who had obtained commissions were forced to return to the ranks.
– Because there were no positions for them as commissioned officers.
– While I am satisfied that Parliament would sustain me in taking action in the case which has been suggested by the honorable member for Parramatta, I feel that the Department must endeavour to treat all cases uniformly.
– All I ask is that the case which I have brought forward shall be treated as other cases have been, treated when commands have become vacant.
– I am in moral agreement with the honorable member, and will do what I can to find a solution of the difficulty. The honorable member for Bland has urged expedition in the erection of a rifle factory. It has always appeared to me that, until Australia can supply her own requirements in the matter of munitions of war, her defence will rest upon no sound basis ; but while it has been decided to erect a factory ‘ for the making of rifles, it is found difficult to determine which’ is the best site for it. Another important matter with which I am dealing is the making of arrangements for the manufacture of cordite.
– When are we to get Hake’s report?
– That has been furnished. I am also considering the question of the floating coastal defence of Australia, and our military system generally. In all this there is work for experts. I, as a layman, am confronted at one time with four great problems. If business men had to deal with them, the)1) would commence by surrounding themselves with highly salaried experts and large staffs, whereas I have only the ordinary official staff, which is already fully occupied, and therefore delays must be pardoned.
– Is the Minister afraid that Australia will not spend the necessary money ?
– In the end may it not prove expensive to do without expert advice ?
– Expert advice must be obtained if enterprises like these are to be started sanely. I am not an expert in chemistry, ship-building, the manufacture of rifles, and military organization. It would be very easy to waste vast sums of money on ill-devised plans, and therefore any Minister who has to face intricate problems such as those by which I am now confronted must be allowed expert advice.
– Then the Minister is not satisfied with the Military Board?
– The ‘Military Board cannot be asked to advise; it has been organized rather for purposes of administration. However, I intend to discuss all these matters, with the Prime Minister, and expect that “in the near future a statement will be made to the House in regard to them.
– What is the special difficulty about the site for the rifle factory?
– There is always trouble about sites when a public work is proposed.
– There is an excellent site at Braybrook.
– Yes; and other honorable members have suggested other excellent sites. I hope a decision will be arrived at in the course of a few weeks.
.- I desire to say a word or two in support of the remarks made by the honorable member for Barrier in reference to the allowance to postal officials who are stationed in the backblocks. When a man is sent to these outlying districts he seems to be forgotten by the Department - he is buried alive. In some cases these .officials are so far away from all centres of population that when they get their annual leave it is not worth while taking advantage of it, seeing that the whole of the time would be occupied in travelling from and to the scene of their labours. I have presented the case of these officers to successive Deputy PostmastersGeneral in Sydney, and have urged that when vacancies occur in more desirable portions of the Commonwealth they should, other things being equal, be given the preference. These men do not ask to be brought right into the big centres of population, but merely to be stationed nearer the coast, where the climatic and other conditions are more genial. All the Deputy Postmasters-General, and also the Public Service Commissioner, agreed with the view I presented ; but I can say, from my own personal knowledge, that the desired reform has not been carried out. I have ascertained on inquiry that the great objection to the transfer of men from’ out back districts, in the case of any vacancy occurring nearer the coast, is on the score of expense ; but I think that in this connexion the difficulty is exaggerated. It is unfair to deny an officer the chance of transfer simply because he happens to be stationed so far away.
– In many cases officers are willing to pay the expense of their own removal .
– But officers ought not to be permitted to pay the expense of their removal. I myself know cases in which officers who, although with a- large family they had a small salary, have,- for various reasons, offered to pay the expense of their transfer. Some officers so situated have, on the score of health, to .send their wives and children to more favoured localities ; and it is here that I think our humanitarian feelings ought to operate. It ought to be remembered that there are only a limited number of officers in the back-blocks, who are of the grade to qualify for transfer, and therefore minimize the cost of removal. In any case, justice is more important than money. If officers in the back-blocks have given satisfactory service, and possess the necessary qualifications, they ought to receive justice in the way of transfer. The way in which many men have been kept in the outlying districts for years is heartbreaking. In the old days, before the appointment of the Public Service Commissioner, there were refusals on the part of officers to go into the back country ; but, of course, under the law now, there is power to enforce transfer. No reasonable man would complain of being sent to the back-blocks if the term of service there were limited to say three years; on the contrary, I think it would be recognised that more frequent change of officers would be good for the service and the officers themselves. Some compulsion, should be exercised, so that public officials may take turns in serving, for reasonable periods, in places which are not climatically desirable.
– Does the honorable member think we shall ever have that done?
– We can only get it done by insisting. I have suggested that if some of the heads of the Departments, who object to the transfers, were sent for a year’ or two into the back-blocks, their feelings might become more sympathetic. The honorable member for Coolgardie represents an immense district in which the disadvantages of isolation may be even greater than in New South Wales ; and I think I may say the same of other representatives from Queensland and other States. I appeal to the Postmaster-General to take an active interest in this matter, and see that some change is made in the administration. Promises have been made to the effect that transfers should be more equitably arranged; but those promises have in many cases not been carried out. Indeed, I know of instances where preference has been given to the wrong man on the score of expense. We cannot expect good service if men are given cause for reasonable discontent. The suggestion of the honorable member for Barrier that married men, in- the outlying districts, should receive consideration, is one that calls for serious thought. I am not sure that the climatic allowance is sufficient in many cases ; but if the term of service in these districts were shorter, there would not be so much complaint as at present. There is a feeling on the part of officers that if once they go into the back-blocks, they are forgotten, though many of them go on the understanding that they do so for only a limited term. Public servants are, of course, prohibited from exercising political influence, and, therefore, they feel somewhat helpless in the matter. Many are situated in isolated spots, where no proper schooling, or other advantages, are to be had ; and the present arrangement is both unreasonable and unnecessary. I hope the Minister will see that no excuses are allowed to stand in the way of the reform which I have indicated.
– The« Minister is only the instrument of the Public Service Commissioner.
– Then the Minister ought not to be the instrument of the Public Service Commissioner.
.- The cases of Colonel Price and Colonel Bayly have been mentioned ; and I should like to call the attention of honorable members to the fact that in our Defence Forces there are many similar cases of hardship. I particularly refer to the case of a man named Mitchell, who served in the war in South Africa. This man was caretaker at a court-house, and yet he gave up his comfortable appointment in order to take part in the war as a member of one of our contingents. He is a man in the prime of life, with a wife, and a family so young that chey cannot work for their own support; and he is suffering from an incurable disease, which, I am afraid, may not allow him to enjoy many more years of life. It is difficult to obtain any evidence that his disease was contracted when on active service; but, in such cases, there ought to be some provision whereby the Minister may, at his discretion, allow compensation. The fact remains that here is a man who has been a good and faithful servant to the country, and yet he is left to-day practically without a roof to cover his head. Of course, we have our benevolent asylums, patriotic funds, and so forth ; but these are not sufficient to meet such’ cases as I have mentioned. An employer is responsible to a certain extent for the welfare of any servant who has served him faithfully and well; and there ought to be some system of insurance so that deserving men may not be allowed to starve. The Minister has informed me that he cannot do anything in the matter, and has referred me to the local patriotic fund. In any case, however, I think that- Parliament should endeavour to make some provision for this man Mitchell. I am afraid that we shall find the defence service unpopular if cases of hardship of this kind are treated with indifference. Officers of the army feel that, should they die, there will be no provision for their widows and families, and having regard to the comparatively small salaries which they receive, and considering the standard of life they have to observe, it is obvious that it is only with difficulty that they can make any savings. As I said before, there ought to be some system of insurance or pensions with, a view to relieve these men of anxiety. I should like to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the telephone service between West Maitland and Sydney. This is one of the best paying lines in the country, as has been proved by a paper laid on the table of the House j and I wish to know why something cannot be done in connexion with the rates charged?
– For the simple reason that there is a regulation rate.
– That answer simply means that the administration is nothing but a hide-bound administration.
– -Why should there be an exception in the case of the West Maitland line?
– Are there not exceptions to every rule? Have we responsible government when a Minister binds himself down firmly bv rule? The Treasurer always declares that his back is broad enough to bear any responsibility, and I should like to know why the Postmaster.General cannot take up a similar attitude.
– It is’ absurd to suppose that I can take the responsibility of making a differential rate.
– Ministers sit on the Treasury benches and-
– Exist only for the honorable member to abuse.
– I am not talking so much to Ministers as to my constituents, and in order to show the haphazard way in which, their affairs are conducted by men who are paid to carry on the business of the country. When I approach the Postmaster-General with a request for this small concession he pleads that regulations have been made, and that if a concession be made in one -case it must be made in all cases. That is a very rotten argument to advance. He also says, “You had better apply to the chief of the Department - the Secretary for example.” I am not going to do’ that.
– When was the honorable member asked to do it ?
– When I spoke to the Postmaster-General upon .the matter an hour ago he said, “ Will you come down to my office and talk the matter over with the Secretary to the Department.
– I said nothing of the kind and the honorable member knows it.
– Then I misunderstood the Postmaster-General.
– I asked the honorable member to come round to my office and talk the matter over with> a view to seeing what could be done.
– I decline to go cap in hand to any officer - to stand on his doormat and await his pleasure-
– The honorable member is grossly misrepresenting the position, and he knows it.
– The PostmasterGeneral must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I really cannot understand how the memory of the PostmasterGeneral can be so short. A large body of men in my electorate are asking for this concession. The line in question is one of the best paying lines in the country, but because it is situated a little outside the 100-miles limit, its users are charged at the rate of is. lod. for the first three minutes’ conversation. They consider that the fee ought to be reduced) and I wish to know why the Postmaster-General cannot make this moderate concession ? In order to establish the fact that my request is a reasonable one, I called for a return, some time ago, as to the cost of the line. I may mention that it was opened during the administration of the first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton. At that time, the regulations provided that the Department must be guaranteed against loss upon its work. Public spirited men came forward with the desired guarantee, which proved altogether unnecessary, because the line has paid from its opening. The capital cost of the undertaking was ,£2,300. The cost of maintenance and working, from March to December, 1904, was .£254; and in 1905 and 1906, it was .£300. That amount includes not only the cost of operating the line, but the usual 10 per cent, upon the capital outlay, to provide for maintenance, interest, and sinking fund. The receipts from the line, from March to December, 1904, totalled £146 ; in 1905 they amounted to £352 ; and in 1906 to £398. Consequently, from March to December, 1904, there was a loss of £108 on the undertaking, but in 1905 there was a profit of £49, and in 1906 °f ;£95 It is a line which is gradually increasing in popularity, and yet the Department, is so purblind that it will not recognise that if the present charge were reduced the receipts would be augmented.
– Would not a reduction of the charge affect the charges made upon other lines?
– At present I am addressing my remarks to the PostmasterGeneral. I am very much afraid that so far my representations have been of no avail. But I shall not rest until I have obtained a reasonable reply from the Government, and I confidently look forward to the time when a reasonable Ministrywill occupy the Treasury benches. Then, perhaps, the people for whom I am plead.ing will receive something like the justice that they demand.
– I desire to say a few words upon the administration of the Defence Department. I have no wish to add in the slightest degree to the burden which the Minister of Defence is called upon to bear. He is charged with the wise expenditure upon defence of £137,000. He has dealt largely with the necessity which exists for providing munitions of war. But surely men are just as essential as are munitions of war, and it is upon the rank and file aspect of the question that I wish to make a few observations. At Burraga, in my constituency, there are some 130 men who are anxious to form a volunteer rifle corps. But owing to the fact that the Department cannot afford to incur further expenditure in equipment, the formation of this corps has been allowed to hang fire. I have been told that the maintenance of each unit costs about ,£13 per annum. But I would point out that if we are serious in our proposal to initiate a compulsory system of adult military service which would in some measure be comparable to the Swiss system, we should be only too glad to receive the offer of a number of men to place their services at the disposal of their country. . Surely the Department will at least make a point of preparing the way for those who are so anxious to serve. I trust that the Minister will make a note of my representations, and besides incur ring expenditure upon the establishment of small arms and ammunition factories will - prior to introducing any measure providing for compulsory military training - make provision for enrolling those who volunteer their services.
– For some time pa’st I have been patiently awaiting an. opportunity to ventilate a serious grievance under which country districts labour in connexion with defence matters. I refer to the embargo which is placed upon them in the matter of the formation of companies of Australian Light Horse. The present attitude of the Defence Department towards this important branch of the service,, so far as rural districts are concerned, is one of hostility. As an instance of the way in which those districts are treated, I have only to cite the case of Condobolin. In that centre a company of Australian Light Horse was formed. In passing, I may mention that this particular locality was well represented in the South African war, where some of its residents greatly distinguished themselves. As a matter of fact, one of them was selected as a representative of Australia to attend the coronation ceremony in London. After their return from South Africa, a number of the young men of this district determined to establish a company of Australian Light Horse. They did so, and enrolled about forty comrades from the adjacent farms and stations. They then went into active training, expecting that the corps would obtain official recognition. But although they have been carrying on operations for the past four or five years, they are no nearer securing that recognition today than they were at the beginning. Recently I have received an application for the formation of a corps of Australian Light Horse at a place near Cowra, and in reference to a similar application from Temora I have been informed that “ the matter is under consideration.” I can quite understand what that means if the policy which the Department has hitherto pursued is to be adhered to. It will be readily recognised that during the South African campaign the most suitable men for our contingents were drawn from the inland districts. We have there men who practically live in the saddle, and who, by reason of their training as horsemen, constitute the best material for the formation of such companies. But because the military authorities think that companies of light horse should be located in big centres of population, their members are drawn either from the farming districts close by or from the ranks of those who indulge in riding as a pastime or an exercise, and who, as horsemen, are not by any means so proficient as are those on the farms and stations of the inland districts. I was driven from pillar to post in the course of my inquiries in connexion with the request for the formation of a company of light horse at Condobolin. The Defence authorities here would tell me that it was a matter with which the authorities in Sydney had to deal, and when I went to them they would refer me back to the central administration. The Defence Department contend that until Parliament agrees to an enlarged scheme, and provides additional money for the purpose, they cannot take any action. I do not think that there is any occasion for a heavy expenditure in connexion with this movement. If the Minister would agree to the formation of companies of bushmen, and provide for their necessary drill and instruction, a valuable adjunct to our citizen defence forces would be secured, whilst many of the expenses inseparable from the formation of companies in large centres of population would be a,voided. I hope on another occasion to deal more fully with this question, but, in view of the postponement of the Estimates, I have availed myself of this opportunity to bring it before the Minister, and would urge him’ to do something in the direction of forming bushmen’s contingents in various country districts. I hope that when we are called upon to deal with the Estimates, the necessity to ventilate this grievance will have disappeared.
.- Since I am foregoing my right on this occasion to ventilate certain grievances, I hope that the Treasurer will, later on, extend some little consideration to me. Whilst the Tariff was under consideration last night, the honorable member heckled me, notwithstanding that earlier in the day I had not availed myself of an opportunity to ventilate several grievances. I find, on looking through Hansard, that during this session I have not spoken altogether for more than a few hours, and, therefore, no one can justly sa.y that there has been any waste of time on my part. I shall avail myself of an opportunity, perhaps by means of questions, to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General several matters to which I had intended to direct his attention during this discussion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution reported and adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
That Sir William Lyne and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir William Lyne and passed through all its stages.
Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. - Award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– - - I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he has heard of the award made this morning by Mr. Justice Higgins in the Excise cases that have been before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court for some days ?
– I have not.
– Mr. McKay has been ordered to pay the Excise.
– I d I desire to. know whether the Government are prepared to have the decision of the learned Justice printed and distributed broadcast?
– It would be most impro- . per to have the judgment printed at the expense of the Commonwealth. It will be published by the newspapers.
– I have not seen a copy of the decision, and have no information other than that which has just been given as to its effect j but I would remind the honorable member for Darwin that it will be published by newspapers throughout Australia.
– O - Only a synopsis or summary of the judgment will be given.
– If that be so, and if it can be printed, the Government will see that it is printed in full.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 November 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071108_reps_3_41/>.