3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers;
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General, without notice, in regard to the grossly unfounded charges he made against the sobriety of large bodies of men in my electorate, whether he is correctly reported to have unconditionally withdrawn those charges, and apologized for making them?
– In the first place, I made no such charges. 1 repeated a statement which I have absolutely withdrawn, and have expressed regret for having made it.
– In view of that reply, I should like to know whether the Postmaster-General has withdrawn the statement simply because his informant will not come forward and support it, or whether it is because he believes it to be untrue ?
– I am delighted to say, without any reservation, that I believe the statement was not founded on fact. I said so the moment I was in a position to say so, and I repeat that belief now. No one was more delighted than I was to hear that the statement was not founded on fact.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he is correctly reported in the press as. stating that his Department has invited the opinions of the members of the Defence Forces generally on the new organization foreshadowed by the Prime Minister at an earlier stage of the session?
– We are glad to get information from any source.
– Has the Department invited information?
– Yes, from all the officers.
– And the rank and file?
– And also the men. Any help that may be given by the Defence Forces, or by any section of the public, to the Government, and subsequently to Parliament, will, undoubtedly, be welcomed.
– In view of the answer given by the Minister of Defence, that the members of the Defence Forces, including, I presume, the cadets, have been asked to forward criticisms of the Government’s defence proposals, I should like to inquire whether he has asked for orreceived any criticisms from the Military Board, the Council of Defence, or the InspectorGeneral?
– I cannot say in detail from whom the criticisms of the scheme have come, but I can assure the honorable member that I informed the special officers to whom he has referred that they had an absolutely free hand to state what their views were, irrespective of Government policy.
– After the scheme had been unfolded.
– I do not desire to enter upon the consideration of the question further than to say that the Government feel, as I am sure the House does, that the general question of the defence of Australia is primarily a question for laymen. Mr. Haldane satisfied the House of Commons that the question of defence was not solely for experts, thebroad question of the principles in accordance with which the nation should proceed to provide an effective defence being a matter for Parliament to determine.. An invitation has gone out to every one, not only to the Defence Forces, but to the public generally, to furnish criticisms of the scheme, and we should be glad to’ receive a statement of the views of anyone, including the honorable member for Went worth, who may have been otherwise engaged during the last few months.
– I do not think that the
Minister of Defence quite realized the question I put to him. I consequently ask him specifically whether he has asked the Council of Defence to give him its opinion on the new organization proposals of the Prime Minister in the terms of the rule, which reads -
The Council of Defence inquires into, discusses, and records opinions upon matters submitted to it by the Minister affecting -
The general policy of the Naval and Military defences of the Commonwealth and of the several States.
Measures necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth in time of war.
The total expenditure on defence and its distribution.
– The honorable member states that I did not understand his question ; it is not gratifying to know that he did not appreciate my reply. The Council of Defence deals with such matters as are submitted to it by the Minister. The broad principle underlying the Government proposal was a matter for the Government to decide, and they accept the responsibility for it.
– And the distribution of expense ?
– The experts deal with technicalities. The House may be sure that no Minister would take any step involving technicalities without consulting his experts, although he might not in all cases follow their advice. .
– It will assist my mental limitations if the Minister of Defence will give a simple affirmative or negative reply to my question. I wish to know whether he has invited or received expressions of opinion regarding the defence organization outlined by the Prime Minister from the Military Board, the Council of Defence, or the Inspector-General ?
– I have no desire to attempt impossibilities, so I will leave the question of the mental limitations of the honorable member severely alone. The Government defence policy was formulated by the Ministry, and they accept full responsibility for it. Before the Prime Minister laid his proposals before the country, the officers who aid the Government in the administration of the affairs of the Defence Department were not consulted with regard to the main principles of that scheme, because these can be decided by Parliament alone. But every one of those officers in his individual capacity has been approached and asked to make any suggestions that he may deem fit.
– I wish to ask the Minister whether we are to understand that no officer of the defence forces was consulted by him or by the Government before the military scheme embodied in the Prime Minister’s speech of the 13th December last was unfolded ? If neither the Military Board, the Council of Defence, nor the InspectorGeneral was consulted, I wish to know whether any other officer in the defence forces was taken into the confidence of the Government before that scheme was put before this House?
– I have already stated several times, in reply to the questions put by the honorable member for Wentworth, that there is only one body which can deal with the question of the general principles underlying the defence scheme, and that is Parliament.
– Did the Minister consult any officer of the Defence Forces before the scheme was placed before this House?
– Every one of the officers was consulted by me from time to time.
-As it is quite evident that some officers in the military forces have been interfering in political matters by supplying information to certain honorable members, I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether he will consider the advisability of retaining those officers in their present positions if he can ascertain who they are?
– I feel that it would be deplorable if any member of the Defence Forces acted disloyally to the Ministry or the Parliament - as he would be doing - by taking action of the character suggested. I only hope that no such incident has occurred.
– I desire to ask the Minister whether, before deciding upon any policy in the future, he will take into his confidence the military expert of the Sydney Daily Telegraph?
– In this instance, I think I may definitely reply “ No.”
– In view of the statement that honorable membershave apparently obtained information from officers of the Defence Department upon military questions, will the Minister give a simple “Yes “ or “ No “ to questions put by members of the Opposition, so that they may be in the same position in regard to knowledge of the affairs of the Department as are the honorable member for Coolgardie and his friends ?
– The suggestion that any section of the House is in a better position to ascertain what is going on in the Defence Department than are members of the Opposition is. without foundation.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General, without notice -
– In answer to the lastquestion, there is no objection whatever. The answers to the other questions are as follow -
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister the following question without notice -
– The question of the relative importance of particular Bills is really immaterial to the matter in hand. I am unable to. give the promise the honorable member desires, because I have no knowledge . as to the time the Senate will be occupied with the Tariff, and I am quite, certain that whatever that time may be, we have before us quite sufficient business to occupy us. But it is the intention of the Government, if the opportunity arises before the session ends, to submit the question to which the honorable member refers. If that does not prove a means qf finally determining the site, it ‘ is . intended to make this one of the first measures submitted in the next session.
– I do’ not expect an answer on the spur of the moment ; but may I ask the Prime Minister to take into his earnest consideration the fact that there are opportunities of dealing with the question now, whilst the Tariff is occupying the attention of another branch of the Legislature. The honorable gentleman will, I think, agree, with me that, in spite of long sittings, the time occupied over the Tariff by the Senate will be ^considerable ; and I ask him to con-. sider at what period he will afford an . opportunity for dealing with and disposing of this question. If he can do so it will give rise to a large measure of satisfaction, certainly in the State which I represent.
– Although not invited to give a reply I should like to say that if circumstances occur from which an assurance arises that this question can be promptly disposed of, no time will be lost. Until some such tendency appears we are bound to take into account matters of pressing urgency which -can be dealt with at once. Whilst it is the desire of the House to dispose of this question as soon as possible, we wish to enter upon its consideration only when there is a good prospect of bringing it to a conclusion without unnecessary de-‘ lay.
– Will the Prime Minister kindly inform the House what assurances he refers to, and in what way these assurances can be obtained ? The honorable gentleman says, that if he receives an assurance that the matter of the Capital Site will be promptly dealt with, an opportunity will be afforded to honorable members to deal with the question at an* early date. I .shall be glad to co-operate with other honorable members in securing for “ him the requisite assurance if he will appoint me his agent for the purpose.
– When I spoke of an “assurance,” I had in mind the common knowledge gained by honorable members of the temper of the House. Honorable members are at times prepared to take a forward step that at other seasons would imply much loss of time. I did not suggest that the right honorable member should give me a formal assurance respecting the matter, nor that any other honorable member should do so, but was alluding to the fact that one often acts upon knowledge of opinions in the House acquired by association with honorable, members inside and outside. If, as I hope, there has been a ripening of judgment, so that the House will be prepared to come to a definite decision, the Government will be ready to give honorable members an opportunity to do so.
– I desire to put to you, Mr. Speaker, a question, without notice, relative to the exhibition in one of the’ lobbies of some photographic views, bearing a statement to the effect that they arc photographs of Canberra, “the .proposed site of the Federal Capital.” As such views, as well as maps relating to the dis- tribution of the various electorates, when hung in the lobbies, have a sort of official imprimatur, I should like to ask by whom it is proposed that Canberra should be the site of the Capital?
– The Prime Minister of New South Wales communicated with me saying that he would like to send certain photographs of a proposed Capital Site - Canberra - if I could find in the building any place in which they could be viewed by honorable members. I intimated that I was prepared to find space to hang them, and the photographs were forwarded.
– Will similar opportunities be given, Mr. Speaker, for the exhibition of views of Tooma, another proposed site?
– So far as space will permit, views of any other proposed site will be shown.
– I desire to ask the
Minister for Trade and Customs, without notice, whether he is correctly reported in the Melbourne Argus as saying in answer to a deputation on the question of patent medicines that, under the new measure which the Government intends to introduce power will be given to the Governor in Council to permit the formula of any particular proprietary article to remain undisclosed ?
– I have not read that report, but I shall be very glad to look at it, and see if I have been correctly reported. Honorable members know what is in the Bill referred to, and I informed the deputation of its provisions.
– Apart altogether from any newspaper reports I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs to say whether or not he informed the deputation which waited upon him that the Bill relating to the importation of drugs and patent medicines would give the Governor-General in Council power to order that the formula of any proprietary medicine need not be disclosed.
– The Bill which has been introduced gives that power.
– I desire to ask the
Prime Minister, without notice, what is the present attitude of the Government towards the Naval Agreement? Will the Government refrain from taking steps in the direc tion of disturbing the existing agreement until Parliament has been afforded an opportunity to discuss the question?
– The Government have no power, if they so willed, to alter the agreement in any respect without the consent of Parliament. The present position is that we are awaiting a reply from the Admiralty to the last telegram we sent; and, until that reply is received, it will be impossible for further steps to be taken.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether, in reference to the offer by the Premier of Victoria of part of the domain of the Governor- General as a hospital site, he can state what is the tenure or term upon which the Federal Government hold the Government House and lands? Further, I should like to know whether the Prime Minister was consulted in regard to the offer?
– I am not in a position to speak as to the particular tenure under which the Commonwealth Government House and the adjoining land are held by the State. Government House is very generously lent to us by the State of Victoria ; and its land tenure has been and is a matter of indifference to us. We have occupation, and nothing more. How the land may be dealt with is a matter for the people of Victoria.
– Was the Prime Minister consulted in regard to the offer?
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether he can inform me if an arrangement has been made in connexion with the procuring of a site for a naval depot in Sydney?
– I must ask the honorable member to give notice of that question. Steps have been taken, but I cannot trust my memory as to details.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs what has been done in regard to the case of Harris, Scarfe and Company, of Adelaide ?
– Action is now being taken. I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of the question, in order that I may look into the matter.
– Is there any truth in the rumour that the matter has been settled ?
– Absolutely none.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether any representations have been made to him with a view to obtain the consent of the Government to an amendment of the Papuan land regulations, so as to allow of the compulsory purchase of ‘ native lands. And, if so, what action does the Government propose taking in the matter?
– The only alteration of which I am aware was not in the regulations, but in a draft Land Bill submitted to the Government of the Commonwealth by the Acting Administrator of Papua. That Bill contained certain provisions that, perhaps, might be loosely described in the honorable member’s phrase. The Commonwealth Government required these, provisions to be withdrawn before assent to the measure was given. Except for that, I am not aware of any alterations or proposed alterations.
– Has the Prime Minister any objection to lay on the table the report of the officers appointed to inquire into the alleged smuggling of Chinese into Australia? In the event of there being any objection, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether such smuggling has been stopped?
– It does not appear desirable to lay this particular report on the table of the House, because it incidentally mentions the various modes which are supposed to be adopted for the illicit introduction of Chinese. Ever since the report was obtained, each steamer has “ been tested in regard to these particular methods of introduction j and the officers- are satisfied that the prevalent opinion that the introduction of Chinese, wherever it took place, was of units - one, two, or three persons - is correct. On several occasions one or two men have been captured. In the last instance of which we have heard two escaped for one who was seized. There is a comparatively trifling influx, but we are satisfied that it is kept trifling only by constant vigilance and varied methods of inspection.
– As a number of members voted for certain protectionist duties on the understanding that the prices of protected manufactures would be regulated, and employes in such industries would secure stipulated wages and conditions of service, will the Government give such members an opportunity of reconsidering their Tariff votes in the event of any circumstance beyond the Government’s control preventing the new protection proposals from .being introduced ?
– I should be very sorry to admit, even by inference, that .we think the introduction of the new protection scheme “will be placed beyond Government control. If by any combination of circumstances it were so placed, I believe and hope that the obstacle would be temporary. Until such an -emergency arises it would not be reasonable to make a statement as to what may be done, inasmuch as the particular cause of the difficulty would first have to be ascertained. No one would look forward with equanimity to once more considering the Tariff; but it was passed by this House with the publicly announced intention of the Government to supplement it with what is popularly known as the new protection, and whatever may be the result of present proceedings, the Government is absolutely bound by its undertaking.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce this session a Bill for the transfer of the bonded debts of the States to the Commonwealth?
– The honorable member is putting before me a rather large order.
– The Minister has been talking lately about the matter.
– The newspapers sometimes say that I talk when r do not. It. is the intention of the Government at the earliest date possible to deal with this question. I do not know whether the present session will be a long or a short one, but I feel that the matter will be dealt with this year, and probably during the present session.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral any information to give the House respecting the proceedings taken for the re- covery of the sum of £25,000 under the guarantee given in connexion with the cancelled mail contract? I read the other day that the honorable gentleman had communicated by cable with Captain Collins, asking him how the matter stood, and I presume that he has some information on the subject to give the House.
– I would say, in the first place, that the Department of External Affairs alone despatches cablegrams relating to matters arising beyond the Commonwealth, and, in the second place, that action is proceeding.
– I wish to ask the Post master-General whether the new oversea mail contract has yet been completed and signed ?
– Yes; absolutely.
– Has the Prime Minister yet arrived at any decision regarding the appointment of an InspectorGeneral of Customs ?
– I have not yet received a recommendation from my colleague, who informs me that the matter is under his consideration.
– I desire to give notice of my intention to move -
That a Royal Commission be appointed to inquire into the administration of and the general conditions prevailing in the working of the Postmaster-General’s Department of the Commonwealth Public Service.
At the same time I should like your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether this notice of motion would prevent the discussion of the question in Committee of Supply. If it would, I should like to defer my notice until to-morrow.
– Notice of motion No.1 on the notice-paper reads -
That a Select Committee be appointed with power to call for persons and papers to inquire into and report upon the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic systems of the Commonwealth and the working thereof.
The motion of which notice has just been given by the honorable member provides for the appointment of a Royal Commission. I think that it should.be moved by way of an amendment upon notice of motion No. 1. The honorable member could achieve his object by moving that the words “ Select Committee “ be left out of the motion, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Royal Commission.” I do not think that the two notices of motion should appear on the notice-paper. As to the further point raised by the honorable member, neither the presence of notice of motion No. 1 nor of any other such notice as the honorable member proposes would preclude a general discussion upon the administration of the Department on any fitting occasion. It would, however, preclude a discussion on the advisableness of remitting to a Royal Commission or a Select Committee the work of inquiring into and reporting upon the administration of the Department.
– I propose, sir, to adopt your suggestion in regard to moving an amendment on the notice of motion already given.
– I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, whether this notice of motion would clash with that which I gave some few months ago in regard to the appointment of Commissioners?
– I would point out to the honorable member that that consideration raises another issue, but there is no reason why his notice of motion should not remain upon the business paper even though other motionswere already there, or might be put there in the manner suggested. The presence of his motion will in no way preclude a discussion taking place upon the administration of the Postal Department.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and ‘Customs whether the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act of 1906 does not provide that a reduction of £5 per machine in the price of harvesters manufactured in the Commonwealth should be made on 1st February last year, and that a further similar reduction should take place on the 1st February of the present year. Can the Minister inform the House whether either of these reductions has been made, and if not, does he intend to take any action to give effect to that portion of the Act?
– I shall be very glad to make inquiries, and to supply the honorable member with the information that he desires.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether the statement is true that a purchase has been effected of land at Maribyrnong for the establishment of a cordite factory there; and, if not, before he arranges for the purchase of any site, will he afford the House an opportunity to consider the matter?
– The Government will not accept the responsibility of taking any definite action of the character suggested without the approval of the House.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether designs for the proposed Commonwealth stamp are to be called for in Australia only, and why expensive steel plates are to be used. I further desire to ascertain whether he intends to stipulate that these plates shall be made in Australia?
– The report upon the matter to which the honorable member refers cannot be acted upon for some two years, and the question, therefore, has not yet received consideration at the hands of the Government.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether any steps have been taken to appoint a British judge to the New Hebrides Joint Commission, and is it a fact that a French Judge has already been appointed? I should also like to know whether he will endeavour to have the centre of British administration transferred from Fiji to Sydney.
– I understand from statements made by the officers of a vessel which has recently visited the New Hebrides group that a French Judge has already arrived there. The British Judge has not yet been appointed. The attention of the British Government has been called to these statements. In regard to the question of the removal of the central control from Fiji to the Commonwealth, I may say that some time ago representations were made as to the desirability of this course being adopted. That control might much more conveniently be exercised from Sydney, both in the interests of the New Hebrides and of the Commonwealth.
-I wish to ask the Postmaster- General whether he will lav upon the table of the House all papers, reports and correspondence in connexion with the recent promotion of Mr. Blakney, of the General Post Office, Hobart?
– I have no objection to do so.
– As the Postmaster- General has unreservedly withdrawn the gross aspersions which he cast upon the coal miners in the electorate of Newcastle, I desire to draw his attention to an equally unfounded andcruel aspersion cast upon the parents of children - both of the wealthier and poorer classes - in my electorate. I wish to know whether he will withdraw the stigma which he placed upon them when he declared that some children were without shoes because their parents were addicted to the use of intoxicants.
– The right honorable member is quoting only half of my utterance in that connexion.
– Withdraw it, and the incident is closed.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat-Minister of
External Affairs) [3.39]. - I desire to inform honorable members that the honorable member for Bourke has been chosen, and summoned by the Governor-General, as a member of his Executive Council, and also becomes a member of the Cabinet.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of
External Affairs) [3.40]. - With the permission of honorable members, I move -
That this House desires to express its deepest sympathy with Lady Linlithgow and family in the great loss sustained by them by the death of the late Marquis, and to place on record its regret and grief at the untimely decease of the first Governor-General of Australia, whose abilities and kindness had endeared him to its people.
There have been within the last few days so many references to the late GovernorGeneral of Australia that the task - for indeed it is a task - which devolves upon us to-day, so far as the formal expression of our feelings is concerned, has been greatly lightened. It is unnecessary to repeat what has necessarily been said everywhere. The Marquis endeared himself to the whole of the citizens of the State in which we stand by many years of successful governorship. After a return to the Mother Country he was appointed to the high and arduous post of first Governor-General of the Commonwealth, and in that capacity presided at the inauguration of the new Federation in which the people of Australia have reposed their trust. The burden of responsibility that fell upon him was grave. His strength which had been impaired by repeated illnesses, was at times seriously threatened. But we all remember the courage with which he bore up against every physical disability and admirably discharged all the obligations which were cast upon him. We are all acquainted with the singular charm of manner which won him friends wherever he appeared. We all know the unfaltering courage with which he discharged all the duties attaching to his high position. He returned to Great Britain, where his standing was recognised by the party to which he belonged, when he was selected as a member of the then Government. He filled more than one responsible office with distinction. Indeed, from the time when, as a young man, he first set foot upon the shores of Victoria, he displayed a remarkable natural aptitude for public affairs, readily and sympathetica lly placing himself in touch with public opinion, whilst at the same time being resolute in the fulfilment of his duties. The life filled with success in so many different official positions has now been brought to an untimely close. The regret of his widow and children is shared by the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, and by those who knew him in the Mother Country, where he was recognised as one who might be expected to hold even higher offices in the future. Upon this occasion eulogy is superfluous. Nothing said here can mitigate the blow that has fallen upon his family or assuage Australian griefs. While still young, and in the fulness of his intellectual powers, his physical strength, so often threatened, at last gave way. We have to deplore the first loss of its kind in our short history, one which is felt individually and personally by the community, and especially by the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.
.- Shortly before the meeting of the House, the Prime Minister acquainted me with his intention to make the motion just submitted, and requested me to second it.
In doing so I indorse every word which he has used in regard to the first GovernorGeneral of Australia, who’ gave first to Victoria and then to the Commonwealth the very best of his great abilities, and of his most estimable and lovable nature. I think I express the feelings of the House, and of those whom we represent, when I say that, although he was not Australian born, his name and memory will occupy a distinguished place in the annals of our Public Service.
.- There is nothing I can add to the very proper eulogy passed on the deceased statesman and first Governor-General. My recollection is that he gave dignity and distinction to his office, and displayed the true qualities of a man. More could not be said of him, and I, like others, regret that one so distinguished has been lost to the Empire.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to convey the foregoing resolution, through His Excellency the Governor-General, to the Marchioness of Linlithgow.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Audit Acts - Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1906-7 (dated 17th December, 1907).
Judiciary Act and High Court Procedure Act - Rules of Court - Amendments, &c. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 125.
Public Service Act - Recommendation and approval of promotion of Mr. W. H. Sharwood, as Chief Clerk, Crown Solicitor’s office.
Excise Act 1901, and Excise Tariff 1906 (No. 16 of 1906) - Agricultural Implements Regulations - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 122.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) Parts III. and IV. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 124. .
Regulations Amended - Parts III., IV., and V. - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 17.
Customs Act - Regulation No. 130 Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1908, No.18.
Public Service Act -.
List of Permanent Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service,1st January, 1908.
Papers relating to the promotion of Mr. H. W. Liston to the 4th class, PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Central Staff.
Regulations Amended -
No. 74. - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 13.
No. 142. - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 24.
No. 104 (Provisional). - Statutory, Rules 1908, No.19.
No. 104 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 25.
No. 104. - Statutory Rules 1908, No.23.
Kiama, New South Wales- For Defence purposes.
Curlewis, New South Wales- As a site for a Post Office.
Sandy Bay, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Papua - Annual Report for the year ending 30th June, 1907.
Immigration Restriction Acts -
Return of -
Persons refused admission to the Commonwealth during the year 1907.
Persons who passed the dictation test during the year 1907.
Persons admitted without being asked to pass the dictation test during the year 1907.
Departures of coloured persons from the Commonwealth during 1907.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return respecting Contract Immigrants admitted or refused admission into the Commonwealth, &c, during 1907.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended, &c. -
Telegrams, Counting and Charging ; Public Telephones - Statutory Rules1908, No. 2.
Telephones ; Post Cards ; Newspapers ; Prepayment ; Meteorological Telegrams - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 6.
Letters, &c, liable to Customs Duty - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 7.
Payment by Receiver; Money Orders; Urgent Telegrams; Telephone Exchanges - Statutory Rules1908, No. 10.
Correspondence Addressed to Miners - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 22.
Supply Bills - Business of the Session - Additional Estimates - Federal
Capital Site - Post and Telegraph Department : Administration - Public Service Commissioner - Temporary Employes - Public Service : Boards of Inquiry - Senate Election : Re-. turn of South Australian Writ - Sugar Bounty - Repatriation . of Kanakas - High Court - Parcels Branch, Sydney Post Office - Treasurer’s Advance Account - Defence Policy : Militia Recruiting : Registration of Rifle Clubs - Letter Carriers’ Salaries - Allowance Post Offices - Melbourne and Sydney Telephone-Telephones in Rural Districts - Country Postal Services - Electoral Office, District of Grey - . Telephone Guarantees - Franklin Harbor Mail Service. - Telegraph Messengers - Officers of Public Service Associations.
In Committee of Supply :
– I move -
That a sumnot exceeding£760,499 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1908.
This, like its two predecessors, is a Bill to grant supplyfor two months. When it is passed, the Government will have had Supply for ten months. I ask for Supply now because, to enable the Public Service to be paid next week,” the measure must be passed through both Houses by Friday at the latest, and I wish for two months’ Supply to give an opportunity for the consideration of the Estimates, which I hope will have been dealt with before that time has elapsed.
– When will the consideration of the Estimates be begun?
– As soon as the state of public business will allow ; I hope next week. I shall probably give notice to-morrow, or very shortly afterwards, of my intention to bring down Additional Estimates for a considerable sum. Supply is needed, not only to pay the Public Service, but to meet other imperative demands. If I thought that the Estimates in Chief and the Additional Estimates’ would be dealt with within a month, I should not ask for more than a month’s supply. The sum asked for is based on the appropriation of the Estimates in Chief, with the exception that provision is made for special payments in connexion with the ocean mail contract and contingencies in the New South Wales branch of the Post and Telegraph Department. I shall attempt to get the Estimates through as soon as possible, and I hope that they will be passed before the Tariff is returned to us by the Senate. I do not wish to open up now a discussion for which a better opportunity will be afforded when the Additional Estimates are before honorable members, which make provision for some very important undertakings.
– Are any such undertakings provided for in this Bill ?
– None, except the two which I have mentioned.I am now asking for Supply amounting to £760,499, and the last Supply Bill was for £704,457, the difference being made up by an appropriation of£31,000 for the ocean mail contract and of £21,000 to be expended in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department in New South Wales. One of the reasons why I am anxious to get Supply is that, in consequence of the demands for money, mostly from the Postal Department, I have only£3,000 left unappropriated of the£175,000 already voted as Treasurer’s Advance. I wish to recoup the advance partly by means of this
Bill, and partly by means of the Additional Estimates. I. ask for another -£25,000 now. I have granted out of - the Treasurer’s Advance £37,645 to the Department of the Postmaster-General for new works, and about .,£30,000 more has been paid in salaries to additional officers and to temporary hands. It is the- Postal Department which is chiefly responsible for the drain on the Treasurer’s Advance.
– The Postmaster-General will not carry out approve,d works in New South Wales.
– When we come to the Additional Estimates, honorable members will learn what claims were made, and what new appointments were asked for, in connexion with this Department.
– The Minister will not allow his colleague to do anything.
– I have refused to spend money not voted by Parliament. Mr. Wilks. - The Postmaster-General has said that the honorable gentleman is a miser.
– I may have been a miser with the money of the public, though I do not think that I can be accused of having been a miser in regard to what little I have had of my own. I desire to point out that in 1906-7 the permanent officers in the Postmaster-General’s Department numbered 10,932-, and in 1907-8 they number ir,6oi, an increase of 669, which I have approved. The Additional Estimates provide for further appointments to the number of 901, or a total, over that period, of 12,502, showing an increase of 1,570. I have not refused to appoint any permanent officer or officers for which the certificate of the Public Service Commissioner has been given, though I have refused to make permanent appointments otherwise, and that is the reason I have strained the Treasurer’s advance to the extent I have.
– How many additional appointments has the honorable gentleman made ?
– Between 600. and 700. In addition, of course, there are temporary hands numbering over 800 in New South Wales, and some 3,900 throughout Australia. When I submitted the Estimates last year I told honorable members ‘ that there were applications for the appointment of 1,000 new. permanent hands, and I have agreed to over 600 of these appointments being made. It is not a good system to have so many temporary hands, and I ‘ suggest that, except for manual work, the system be altered. I hope honorable members will support rae in getting this Supply Bill through as soon as possible, because I desire to pay for works which have been in abeyance for a considerable time, and I cannot use the Treasurer’s advance anymore until it has been recouped.
.- I accept the assurance of the Treasurer that this Bill contains only provision for the ordinary annual services.
– It is the same as the last Supply Bill.
– As a general rule, a proposal for two months’ Supply is objectionable, and when honorable members realize the’ importance of maintaining their hold of the Government they will be slow to permit such a practice to be followed. One great hold which Parliament has on the Government is the way in which it opens, or keeps closed, the public purse. On- the present occasion, however, we must admit that a special state of things prevails, in view of the fact of the delay caused by the Tariff, which has been before Parliament for so many months. Without forgetting1 what I think is a sound rule I do not propose to offer any strong opposition to the Bill under the , certainly most unusual circumstances. I think it advisable to take advantage of the present opportunity to discuss one or two matters of public importance, because when the Additional Estimates are submitted our observations may be limited to the items therein. At any rate, I invite the Prime Minister, either in the course of this debate ox tomorrow, to make- some definite Ministerial statement as to how he proposes to deal with the public business. This, although it is a resumption of business after a convenient form of adjournment, is practically a meeting after prorogation for another session, and -the Prime Minister ought to give a clear outline of the course he proposes to adopt. That would be a great help to honorable members generally, and it would afford an opportunity for making suggestions in regard to the public business. In any case, at the beginning of a new session, which this practically is, it is a good practice for the head of the Government to submit his programme. We should have a definite indication of Ministerial policy. The leadership, although really in the hands of the honorable member for Wide Bay, is not constitutionally so, and, so far as public business is concerned, I cannot ask him for a Ministerial statement, but have to go through the timehonoured, in this case, farce of asking. the Prime Minister for a declaration.
– Allow me to say that I know no more than does the honorable member, though I know my own mind on the subject.
– That is more than many of us do sometimes. My experience is that the man who “knows his own mind” either has not a mind at all, or is unduly positive. However, so far as the present situation is concerned, I desire to draw public attention to the condition of the Post and Telegraph Department. The revelations which have been made through the public press demand our very earnest attention. I suppose that in this Department there are more officers than in any other in the Commonwealth Public Service. I do not pretend to know the inner working of the Department. I am never invited to any of the picnic celebrations in Sydney to which Ministers and members in the Labour corner are asked.
– I have never been invited there.
– The honorable member does not live in Sydney, though I do. I may say, however, that I have had the honour of being invited to the great celebrations in Melbourne, and have always been treated with the utmost courtesy. On any question affecting the Public Service, there should be no party lines; and the less such lines are introduced into the annual celebrations of the Public Service, the better it will be forall.
– Far better for the service.
– Far better for the service. One of the most objectionable things I have seen of late years is the tendency to give a party complexion even to the festive celebrations of officers of the Public Service That is mast lamentable, because it is eating into the independence and impartiality of the Service. I should be glad to see this tendency stopped. However, I have come to the conclusion, so far as the man outside the Department and the Government may do so, that there are too’ many cases of. individual hardship and injustice in the working of this Department. I have always been identified with the policy of pretty stiff economy in the Public Service. I believe in the most rigid policy in the way of removing undeserving officers and preventing the inclusion, of unnecessary officers. But when officers are necessary and deserving, they, should be treated on ai high standard of fair-minded liberality. I am afraid that there are hundreds and hundreds of men in the Post and Telegraph Department who are not treated in that way - whose salaries are not sufficient. I know of one man of twenty years’ service, who is in charge of an important branch, and has no black mark against him, and whose salary is £160 a year.
– The salaries are higher now than before Federation.
– Hear, hear.
– I do not wish to be too general in my remarks, or to say that allthe officers are underpaid. But if only twenty or fifty employes are treated in the way I have indicated, we ought to wish to see justice done to them. A proper state of feeling is created in a public “department when cases of injustice are met and removed. I have another excellent officer in my mind, who has been twenty-three years in the Telegraph Department, as head of an important sub-branch, and, although there is not a black mark against him, his salary is only £160. I suppose that a man might be employed as a watchman and commence at £120 a year. This man came to me, and, though making no complaint, pointed out that his prospects were so wretched that he wished, if possible, to be removed to some other Department where the chances were better.
– The officer was breaking the regulations in approaching the honorable member!
– -If so, I put him on the right track, because I advised him to make his application through the Department in which he is employed. I have heard of similar cases in the Customs Department,, and I am sure that the Minister of Trade and Customs has never been distinguished by illiberality of any kind. The honorable gentleman knows -that in the Department which he controls there are excellent men who receive salaries of only ^120, .£130,. and .£150.
– Hear, hear.
– While I would be the last man to encourage extravagance or unnecessary appointments, I will heartily support the Postmaster-General in ‘ any effort he may make, by paying fair salaries, to put the Department on a proper footing. I have also been told of many cases of overwork in this Department. We know of many cases in the Public Service where men are not overworked.
– We need a better regulation of the work.
– A more equal distribution of the work of the Departments would often remove the strain without adding to the public expense, but I hope that very strong measures will be taken to do justice to ‘those who are overworked and underpaid in the great Department over which the Postmaster-General presides. I do not wish to discuss the Additional Estimates
– They will be submitted in a very short time.
– I hope that they will not be of a very controversial nature, because time is very valuable, and we have a number of important measures to deal with. The Capital Site question is worthy of consideration, and the mind of the House in regard to it might be ascertained in a comparatively simple way Dalgety appears in an Act of Parliament as the chosen site, and the Government, without doing any injustice to the Minister of Trade and Customs, who was the leader of the movement in favour of the selection of the site, might test the question of whether or not the Capital shall be established there. My suggestion is that there be inserted in the Additional Estimates an item providing for an expenditure in regard to Dalgety. I do not suggest that the Government should make it a Ministerial question. We have all through voted upon it as individual members ; Ministers have exercised that liberty in all that they have done in respect of the matter. If Dalgety still commands a majority in the House the sooner we know it the better. If it does it is time the matter was settled. If, on the other hand, honorable members do not share the view held by members of a previous Parliament it is time that that fact became known.
– Then if that be the rule to follow it will be open to every new Parliament to arrive at a different decision respecting the site of the Capital.
– We are always in a position to amend any measure; the only question is whether it is right to do so. It must not be supposed that because Dalgety was selected there was an absolute majority in favour of it. A number of us voted for its selection because we could not secure a site which we considered a better one.
– The right honorable member said that he would be one of the first to resist an attempt to alter the decision of the House in respect of the selection of Dalgety.
– So I should be if the proposal were to alter it in a way that I did not like. When I made that statement I thought that an attempt was to be made to vary the decision by selecting a worse site than Dalgety. If there is now a chance to vary the decision in a direction that I approve of I am no longer as flint.
– Was there a suggestion that the decision should be varied when the right honorable member made the statement in question?
– I happened to know that there was a very strong movement in favour of a site which in my opinion was not evenassuitable as Dalgety.. Dalgety was not my choice. A number of us voted for it, not because we thought it the best site, but because we preferred it to some others that were suggested. If one cannot get the best site, surely one should not vote for what one believes is the worst. The only course open is to vote for that which is nearest to the best, if we cannot obtain the best. I should have stood for Dalgety with the Minister of Trade and Customs at a time when I thought that, if the decision were varied, we might get something worse. The honorable gentleman always endeavours to obtain as good a thing as he can, and when he can, in the public interest.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie was referring to the right honorable member’s solemn assurance, when Prime Minister, that any attempt to alter the selection of the House would meet with his determined opposition.
– Does the Minister remember the solemn assurance that he gave me, and the industrious way in which he subsequently undermined my Government? He is one of the most splendid engineers that a man could have working for him, but one of the worst that he could have against him. He did splendidly on my job, but was very bad when he was undermining against me. The honorable member was always thorough in what he did. I voted for Lyndhurst, and, naturally, when that site was rejected I exercised my discretion, and selected as the choice of two evils;-
– How will the right honorable member vote if he has to choose between Tooma and Dalgety?
– For Dalgety all the time.
– The honorable member has not visited Tooma, or he would not make that statement.
– It takes so long to reach it.
– It is more accessible than is Dalgety.
– It was agreed at the Conference of Premiers” which met to consider the Constitution that, although the Capital was not to be within 100 miles of Sydney, it should be at a reasonable distance from that city. The selection of Tooma would be a gross evasion of that agreement, which was signed by each of the members of the Conference.
– And the selection of Dalgety is a breach of the agreement.
– I agree with the honorable member, but if I have to submit to a breach of it, I shall take that which I think is the least. When the Seat of Government Bill was before us, I was forced into what I think was a wrong choice. If the House is still in favour of Dalgety, the Minister of Trade and Customs is entitled to have that fact announced, and the matter dealt with ; but if it is not, do not honorable members think it is time that the people of New South Wales were made aware of the position? If the House is against Dalgety, and does not intend to go on with the proposal to establish the Capital there, it ought to let the people know what it means to do.
– A great deal of friction would be saved in that way.
– It would rid us of a burning question in New South Wales.
– Surely New South Wales is alone to blame for the present situation.’
– When I was addressing a meeting in Sydney a week ago, I said that the major part of the blame must be borne by the representatives of New South Wales in the Parliament which dealt with the Bill.
– Does the right honorable member say that all the representatives of New South Wales should have voted for one site?
– No ; I made the statement in question in fairness to the representatives of Victoria and other States, pointing out that instead of putting all the blame on. them the peopleof New South Wales should cast ashare of it upon their own representatives. We ought to give the public some indication of our views. We ought either to say that we do not intend to establish the capital at Dalgety ; or that we intend - if we do - to leave things as they are for the next few years; in any case, we should remove this burning question from the domain of Federal politics.
– Will the right honorable member say whether it is not a fact that in the event of the Government of New South Wales conceding the territory which the Commonwealth seeks to obtain under the Seat of Government Act, the question would be immediately settled ?
– I do not know that it is a fact, but I trust that the selection of the site will be dealt with apart from extraneous questions. I hope that the fact that New South Wales generously agreed under the Constitution to give the territory required for the Seat of Government will not be used as a pretext for annexing a much larger area in that State than is legitimately required for the purpose of the Federal Capital.
– Will the right honorable member say that the objection on the part of New South Wales to the Seat of Government Act is that it provides for the acquisition of an area exceeding the number of square miles mentioned in the Constitution ?
– That is one of the objections.
– Is it the chief objection?
– I do not know. It is easy for us to say that the people of New South Wales think that such and sucha thing ought to be done, but we cannot positively say that we know what they think. The only thing that I, as a representative of New South Wales, commit myself to in this regard is that the people of that State look to this Parliament to settle the matter without further delay. They may differ just as much as some of us do as to the way in which it should be settled, but I think that honorable members representing New South Wales will say that I have correctly indicated the general feeling. I repeat that the Government may test the question by including in the Additional Estimates an item for a. small expenditure on Dalgety, it being understood that its inclusion is not to bind the Government to that site, and that every member of the Ministry shall be free to vote as he pleases.
I have no objection to the word “ Dalgety “ being used in making such a test, since it appears in the Act. If a majority do not approve of that site, it will be open to honorable members to omit the word. A motion to omit it would give us an opportunity to settle the question, and to express an opinion upon it free from the complications arising from a Bill containing a number of items in respect to which honorable members hold different opinions. It would enable us, for instance, to deal with the question apart from any consideration as to the area of the territory to be acquired. I hope that the Government, if they are really anxious to bring the question to a speedy settlement, will adopt this suggestion. There is another matter upon which I wish to speak strongly. Many conveniences have come from federation, but in the light of experience there is one great disadvantage arising from it. Instead of the Federal administration of the Departments being an advantage to the public, it is becoming a serious and grossly aggravated disadvantage. I refer specially to the centralization of the administration of public business. To-day the administration is centred in Melbourne; later on it will be centred in the Federal Capital. There is a disposition to take the administration of even minor matters out of the hands of the chief officers of the Commonwealth in the different States, and to refer them for settlement to the central offices in Melbourne.
– I decentralized the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs, and there has been no trouble in regard to it.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to quote from the last report of the Public Service Commissioner in this connexion. That gentleman possesses a personal knowledge of the matter from the very nature of the position that he holds. He says -
At the Seat of Government each Department possesses what is termed a central office, where the permanent head exercises his functions. The Customs Department has outports throughout the coast-line of the Continent, and the ramifications of the Postmaster-General’s Department extend throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. Each Department is represented in the several States by chief officers - highly paid and responsible officials who, subject to control by the central office, administer the Department within the territorial limits of the State: The intention of the Legislature was, I take it, that a chief officer should, subject to the control and direction of his per manent head, be personally responsible for the proper conduct of business in his State -
He is certainly held to be so. The Commissioner continues -
I cannot think it was ever intended that matters with respect to which a chief officer is himself authorized by law to deal, and of which by virtue of his greater knowledge of local conditions, he is better qualified to deal, should be made the subject of a ceremonious reference to the central office, which reference, in a large number of instances, can only be a matter of idle formality.
– That is the point to which I previously referred. I vested the Collectors of Customs in the principal ports of the Commonwealth with great powers.
– When did the Minister do that?
– About six months after the right honorable member for Adelaide vacated office.
– But this report was framed subsequently.
– I think that the Public Service Commissioner’s remarks refer to the Postal Department.
– He is referring pointedly to the Customs Department.
– I think that the evil of which he complains is more pronounced in the Postal Department.
– That is very likely. But that it is pronounced in the Customs Department can be proved by a multitude of instances. Surely the Collector of Customs in Sydney is a man of sufficient discretion to be trusted to decide comparatively small questions ! Yet there is a marked tendency - whenever any slight trouble arises - to divest the Collectors of their proper, duties, and to have all sorts of- small matters decided by the head office. When such matters are forwarded from a number of out-offices there is naturally a clog’ in the work of the head office, which results in public inconvenience.
– Sometimes a very small Customs matter involves a very important principle.
– That may be so, but we all feel aghast at the idea of every question which arises in Sydney having to be transmitted to Melbourne for decision.
– That can be done in five minutes now.
– But did the honorable member ever know of a decision being given in five minutes except when he asked for it? The ordinary member of the public does not get things done in five minutes. Mr. McLachlan goes on to say -
I, of course, do not profess to have that technical knowledge of departmental affairs which permanent heads have acquired throughout a long official career in special work, nor have I any desire to interfere in the internal administration of departments, for which, under the law, permanent heads are responsible ; but I feel competent to speak with some authority; on matters arising under the Public Service Act, and do not hesitate to. say that more decentralization would lead to much great expedition in the conduct of business; would eliminate a large amount of the circumlocution that now exists ; prevent delay ; and tend to the greater efficiency of the service.
That is the. result of the observation and experience of a highly qualified officer.
– He is referring to small matters relating, perhaps, to the purchase of a broom.
– The purchase of a broom would not affect the public very much, though it might introduce a number of microbes into a particular spot. The Public Service Commissioner goes on to say -
In matters affecting the Public Service, the Commissioner is, under the Act, represented by an inspector in each of the States who has a full knowledge of local conditions, is conversant with the qualifications of all the officials therein employed, is in constant touch and relationship with the chief officers of Departments, and by whose recommendations the Commissioner is, of necessity, to a large extent guided in the various administrative actions he performs.
He then proceeds to point out what the -present system requires. He says -
Under the present system, all recommendations by chief officers affecting appointments, transfers, promotions, &c, are sent to me through the central offices, a procedure which gives rise to unnecessary delays and duplication of work, and serves very little purpose.
We must recollect that if an officer, in the course of these changes, feels aggrieved, he always has his remedy. He is not prevented from bringing his case before the proper authority by way of appeal. But it does seem to me that right through the Federal service there might be a more generous recognition of the officers at the head of affairs in the centres of the different States. They might be trusted a little more. Of course, I recognise that the pressure of red tape and routine, even in the best of public services, is enormous. But if that evil, which is a serious one when associated with one or two offices located in a city, is intensified by an administration which spreads over a Continent embracing 3,000,000 square miles, we can easily see that unless it is very thoroughly checked, the effect of Federation will not be to increase efficiency, but to increase delay and complications. I hope that Ministers in their respective Departments will encourage the transaction of local business at the local centres. There is no act of any officer at a local centre which would not afterwards be subject to review if it happened to be mistaken. But the complaints’ which I hear - and which other honorable members frequently hear - of the delays to which members of the community are exposed in dealing1 with Federal authorities represent a state of things which ought to be improved. The honorable member for Coolgardie, I think, was very hasty this afternoon in jumping to the conclusion that, because the Minister of Defence was asked certain questions in reference to the defence policy of the Government by the honorable member for Wentworth, distinguished officers in the Defence Force had inspired him to put those questions. In so acting he jumped at a most ungenerous and unfair conclusion. Had this scheme been submitted to the Boards which had been created to assist the Government upon matters of defence- had it been submitted to the Military Board, the Council of Defence, or the InspectorGeneral - when this avalanche of attacks came upon Ministers-
– Where is the avalanche? I cannot find anybody who is opposed to the scheme.
– That is one of the happiest experiences which a, man can have who is a philosopher. The Minister of Defence views this matter after the fashion of Mark Tapley. Yet, as a mere detail, he had to issue a very important memorandum which multiplied the area and length of service by five. But I do not wish to discuss the merits of the scheme yet. We shall have to deal with it in a more practical way when it comes before us. But I desire to ask the Minister whether he did consult the Military Board, the Council of Defence, or the Inspector-General before the scheme was unfolded to this House? The fact that he could not say this afternoon that he did is conclusive evidence, to my mind, that he did not. Had the scheme been placed before the Council of Defence we should have heard something about it long ere this. It was rather a bit of amusing fencing in which the Minister indulged, and whilst I do not set up any high standard of decorum, I must say that he strained the limits of parliamentary decency very far in his systematic evasion of the questions put to him.
– 1 told the honorable member for Wentworth that no Government ever submitted for the approval of officials the principles upon which they proposed to act.
– That being so, it ought to have been easy for the Minister to say that he had not done so. In not consulting the officers of the Department he considers that he has merely acted in the way that any Minister would act. If that be so, surely nothing was to be gained by declining to say frankly, “ I did hot consult these authorities, because no Minister- would have done so.” That would have saved halfanhour of the public time this afternoon.
– Does the right honorable member wish to be fair to me?
– Undoubtedly, I do.
– Two questions were put to me this afternoon, one relating to the principles embodied in the Defence proposals of the Government, and the other to their details. i said that the officers of the Defence Department were not consulted in regard to the principles, but that in regard to the details they. were.
– If the Minister really made an honest effort to give a straight answer to the questions put by the honorable member for Wentworth, I merely wish to express mv sympathy, either with his want of capacity or-
– I said, “Yes-No.”
—The Minister did not. He would not even do that. I have had rather a longer experience of Ministerial life than has had .the honorable gentleman, and I quite join: issue with him upon ‘ his statement. I do not believe that any Ministry in the world ever submitted a military scheme to Parliament without first seeking the advice of its military authorities. The idea that a layman can sit down in his office - a man who cannot possibly know much of military matters, except those of which he has dreamed - and frame a scheme of defence without consulting experienced military authorities in reference to it-
– I said that, in regard to the principles underlying the scheme, the military authorities were not consulted, but that in regard to its details they were.
– Were they consulted at all?
– Before the Prime Minister delivered his speech upon the defence proposals of the Government ora 13th December last had that scheme been submitted to the Council of ‘ Defence ?
– No; it had not.
– I am obliged to my honorable friend. We all know that it had not. If it had, he would not have had to apply’ to the cadets of Australia for their opinions. It is a marvellous thing that the Council of Defence was not asked to assist the Government in framing a scheme of defence for submission to Parliament ; but that, after the scheme had been framed, and submitted, the rank and file and the cadets were asked to express their criticism upon it, and to offer suggestions in regard to it. In any other Parliament such a procedure would be received with derision. Before this Heaven-born scheme had been submitted to Parliament, it could not stand the test of examination even” by’ the Council appointed to advise the Government. Surely the Council could have given valuable advice on many of its bearings. Had such advice been obtained in regard to its financial aspect, the Government would not have made such blunders as it has made. The Minister of Defence did not pursue a sensible course in ignoring the Council before the submission of the scheme to Parliament, and. after its submission, in asking for suggestions in regard to it from’ every member of the force. I do not object to a Minister getting all the advice that he Cf.n. But how can one expect to get a good military scheme by ignoring the Council of Defence, and calling some particular officer to the counsels of the Ministry? Before Mr. Haldane submitted his military scheme, it had been threshed out for months by the eminent soldiers of- the Empire, whose best professional advice was at the service of the British Government. I do not say that our Government should have taken the principle of its military scheme from their advisers ; but surely it is better that a shipwright shall see the ship before it is launched, than that any number shall look at it afterwards.
– The great thing is to get a good ship, is it not?
– Yes; but most men who are not shipwrights would take the advice of shipwrights before proceeding to build. The honorable member’s scheme1 - which might have- been an excellent one - is so disfigured by amateur work that we may never have the pleasure of considering it. In conclusion, I wish to know if the Treasurer can tell us the nature of the Additional Estimates ; do they cover a large expenditure ?
– In connexion with the Public Departments?
.- I wish, first, to express my personal opinion in regard to the duration of the present session, and, in doing so, I shall not speak for the party which I represent. My idea is that we shall best serve those who have sent us here by proroguing directly we have dealt with immediately urgent business, and commencing a new session early in the next financial year. It is important that we should have an interval, however short, in which to rest and visit our constituents before dealing with the great issues which will shortly be placed before us.
– I hope that we shall have a recess of about eight months.
– That would create the same bungle later on that we have had this session.
– I do not think that it is necessary to meet in July. There are ways of preventing that, if both Houses like to agree in regard to them.
– We have just had three months to spend with our constituents.
– That is practically the only time since the elections that we have had free to spendin our constituencies. No good will result to the country if we sit continuously from now to Christmas. I have never known a long session to produce good results, even though consumed in the discussion of a Tariff.
– What about the Federal Capital question? That must bo brought on.
– I think that it will be to the benefit of Australia if the present session closes before the middle of May. We could then have a recess of about three months, giving the Government supply to tide it over at least the first month of the comingfinancial year. Having fully considered the great issues to be brought before us, we could deal with them with our minds made up as to the course to be adopted.
– That arrangement would cause us again to sit here in summer.
– In many electorates the summer is not a convenient season for visiting constituents, whereas the early spring and summer are much pleasanter seasons for our Melbourne meeting than is the winter here. Personally, neither heat nor cold inconveniences me; I am considering the matter from the. stand-point of the public good. As to defence, I think that we have yet a long way to go before arriving at any definite scheme for the defence of Australia. The procedure adopted by the Government, in asking every soldier to furnish his private opinion as to the best means of improving our defence, has one large, and several subsidiary, defects. I understand that the criticism of the privates must be forwarded to the Minister of Defence through a succession of officers - corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, major, colonel, and major-general.
– That is not quite accurate.
– I make the statement on the authority of a captain who is a member of this House.
– I asked the Prime Minister that the criticisms of the men should be allowed to go direct to the. Minister of Defence; but my request was refused, on the ground that the State Commandants should see all these opinions.
– Any one who has served in theranks will know what sort of criticism is likely to be obtained under that system. Criticism to be of value should be honest and thorough.. A corporal looking to his captain for promotion to the rank of sergeant is not likely to reflect on the captain. Even the most honest will lean to the view of his commanding officer, if he can discover it ; at any rate, he will find a great likeness between his own view and that of the man who is in a position to affect his promotion.He may be none the worse soldier for that. The training of men in the ranks is to have no will of their own, but to obey their commanding officers absolutely, these being supposed to know so much more than their privates that the exercise of individual judgment by the rank and file almost amounts to mutiny. I hope that the Minister will make it known that every private may send his criticism of the military position direct to the head of the Department, and I hope that the honorable gentleman will himself reviewthe whole of the correspondence. He has abounding good nature, and we are always delighted to see and hear him, because we know that beneath a humorous exterior he has a very good heart. He is to be congratulated upon the manner in which he has endeavoured to deal with this very difficult question. Coming now to the Public Service, I admit at once that more decentralization is desirable. I do not say that it is good that the Customs officers of the different States should give individual opinions on Tariff matters - there must be one governing opinion ; but, as regards minor matters of administration, more power in the settling of disputes should be given to the chief executive officers of the States. I go further than the Public Service Commissioner in this matter. When in office I came to the conclusion that our Public Service is not as Federal as it ought to be, and I embodied my ideas in a memorandum, in which. I stated that in the re-arrangement of offices in the Customs Department officers should not be regarded as belonging to one particular State, but should- hold themselves liable to be called upon at any time to be sent to any part of the Commonwealth. Until we have a Commonwealth service which is Federal in fact as well as in law we shall not have the Federal spirit necessary to make us a nation. The unwritten law at the present time is that no officer shall be moved out of his State.
– The honorable member is mistaken. I have moved a number of officers from one State to another.
– The Treasurer may have transferred a number of high officers. To the credit of the service be it said that, when an officer desires, because of illhealth or other sufficient reason, to be transferred from one part of the Commonwealth to another, the transfer is generally made. The Public Service Commissioner is an excellent man, but he did not approve of that’ idea, and, with all respect, I think he was in error. Nothing would do greater service, especially in the Customs Department, than for the younger officers to be compelled to move about the Continent. This would give them extended knowledge and experience of the Commonwealth, and the experiment would, I venture to say, result in less complaint from the public. I have always held that the people of New South Wales have a right to have the Federal Capital within their territory. We must remember, however, that the New South Wales people, on the first vote on the Constitution Bill, decided in favour of Federation without any stipulation as to where the Federal Capital should be placed.
– The honorable member might also say that on the second occasion there was a very much larger aggregate vote.
– I admit that to the full, but it does not affect the point, seeing that the Constitution lays it down that the Federal Capital shall be in New South Wales. On the second occasion, referred to by the honorable member for Parramatta, there was much more excitement on the question in all the States, and, therefore, a larger vote was cast. The choice of the Commonwealth Parliament of. a site for the Federal Capital was deliberately made after careful debate. I saw no unfair combinations, or any desire evinced to injure New South Wales when the Dalgety site was selected.
– The first vote for the Dalgety site was not as large as the first vote for one of the other sites.
– That means’ nothing. One of the ablest Presidents of the United States had only one nominator on the first occasion, but that did not prove him to be unfit for the office. While New South Wales may have a legitimate grievance in the fact that such a length of time has elapsed without a site being finally selected, I am suspicious that there is a non-national sentiment in and around Sydney on the question. New South Wales representatives, the newspapers, and some of the people of the State, seem to regard this as not a national question, but as one which concerns New South Wales only. Even if it were stipulated in the Constitution that the capital should be as near as possible to Sydney, we should still have to remember that we were choosing a site for the national capital. We should doubtless be all quite willing to give Sydney all it desires, other conditions being equal.
– Does the honorable member not think it statesmanlike to consider. the feelings of one State that was a partner to the bond about the Federal Capital?
– I have always said so. I have already expressed the view that this question should receive early attention.
– Does the honorable member not consider that the spirit of the bond should be observed?
– If representatives of New South Wales, who are against the present choice, will show me how that choice is against the spirit of the bond. I shall be prepared to waive my strong views.
– It is the letter of the bond, and not the .spirit.
– Which am I to take- the spirit or the letter of the bond?
– Cannot the letter and the spirit be the same?
– I shall not pursue the question further, because I shall have another opportunity of debating it. I may say, however, that it has afforded me some amusement to read official notices issued by the Government of New South Wales, and to hear the opinions expressed thereon during discussions of this question. At any rate, in my opinion the Federal Parliament is not meeting in the best position; it is not meeting where the people of Australia expected it would meet eight or ten years after the consummation of Federation. I am strongly of opinion that the people in general are greatly misled in regard to the expense of a Federal capital. Nothing is more mischievous or wrong than for public men and great journals to speak of the “enormous cost” which will accompany the establishment of the Commonwealth city. At the present time, as the result of our meeting in Melbourne, we are paying interest on nearly half-a-million of money, and that interest could easily be saved if we were within territory of our own. In my opinion, it would mean less annual expenditure to build and maintain a Federal Capital than will be involved in a few years if we continue to sit in Melbourne. For that reason I regard the matter of the Federal Capital as one of urgency; and I hope that New South Wales representatives will take a broad and national view of the question. I trust we shall have a short, happy, and beneficial session, enabling us to have an early recess, and to return with renewed vigour to our important duties in the next financial year.
.- Earlier in the. session, when the honorable member for Parramatta pleaded for an early adjournment, the honorable member for Wide Bay objected strongly, and said that we were here to do public business, and that long sessions were inevitable in the Commonwealth Parliament. On the present occasion, however, we find the honorable member for Wide Bay pleading for a short session.
– We have already been nine months in session.
– The important work which faced us in November last faces us to-day. Although the honorable member disclaimed that he spoke as leader of the Labour Party, he suggested; that we should now deal with Supply and some other matters and then adjourn.
– I suggested that all urgent matters should be dealt with.
– And I intend to show that there are a great many urgent matters. No man cares to pose as a “ croaker,” and yet in the case of every Supply Bill I have had to appear in that character. There have been five or six Supply Bills during the present session, and still the Estimates are not yet touched. On each occasion of the introduction of a Supply Bill we have the same remarks and apologies, and the same criticism. To-day the leader of the Opposition regarded the practice of giving two months’ supply as objectionable; but he gave way, although I had hoped he would resist the motion if only in order to show the public that our consideration of the Estimates is not a fiction but a reality. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that the criticism of the Estimates, with the consequent control of the public purse, is one of the most serious responsibilities of a public representative. However, if the new order of things is that we are to be governed by Supply Bills, let us make the fact clear. We have lost control of ten out of the twelve months’ expenditure, and in this connexion I have a suggestion to make. The excuse this time is the Tariff ; and my suggestion is that that, and no other excuse, shall serve in the future for a similar number of Supply Bills. We have, as I say, surrendered all control of the Estimates for the present year, and I suggest that beyond the ordinary discussion on the administration of the Departments there be no objection raised. Let the Estimates be passed ; and then, before we go into recess, let the Budget and Estimates for the coming year be dealt with.
– I am with the honorable member in that idea, but we cannot deal with Estimates except for the year in which they are submitted. I am making suggestions to the Prime Minister on the point.
– I understand the Treasurer to say that he agrees with me, and has made a suggestion to the Prime Minister. I recognise that the Estimates must be dealt with in the year to which they relate, and I would point out that a little more than three months hence we shall be able to deal with those for 1908-9. We have many more important measures to occupy our consideration in the meantime ; and if we deal with the Estimates in July, we shall do away with the necessity for the passing of Supply Bills. Their introduction month after month is admittedly a slovenly system of dealing with our ‘ finances, and has been denounced as a most dangerous one. Coming to another question, I contend, and it cannot be denied, that the centralization of the administration of the Departments is a source of much dissatisfaction.
– I do not think that the work of the Department of Trade and Customs is centralized. When I was the ministerial head of that Department I gave the Collectors in the States great powers, and they have certainly exercised them.
– That, at all events, is not the position in connexion with a much larger Department - that over which the Postmaster-General presides ; centralization is its weak spot. We cannot afford to pay £900 or ^1,000 per annum to officers who cannot be intrusted with the responsibility of dealing with even minor matters of administration. A request that a window in a post-office be repaired has to be transmitted to the central office to be dealt with. The Postmaster-General must recognise that the present system of centralization is destroying the effectiveness of the Department. No doubt he is endeavouring, as far as he is able, to institute reforms, and has experienced great difficulty in doing so. One of the best schemes yet suggested for overcoming the difficulty is that proposed by the honorable member for Robertson, who has given notice of his intention to move that, in the opinion of the House, the Department should be administered by Commissioners. Why should the Deputy Postmaster-General in any of the States be unable to deal with even small matters of administration? I could understand matters of policy being referred to the central office, but surely comparatively, trifling questions of administration ought to be dealt with by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in each State. I am not complaining of any officer. My attack is directed against the system, and I hope that Commissioners will be appointed to administer the Department, just as the railways of some of the States are directed by Commissioners.
– The honorable member should not forget that this is a Federal service ; whereas the railways, which are controlled by Commissioners, are States services.
– I have not overlooked that fact ; but I do not think that there are insuperable difficulties in the way of the adoption of the proposal. We have been told that an application has. been made for the appointment of 1,500 men to the Post and Telegraph Department. If that number is required, it is palpable that the Department has been undermanned and inefficiently managed. The Post and Telegraph Department enters as much into the every-day life of the people as does a Water Supply Department, and it has either been undermanned or inefficiently administered. If so large a number of additional hands is required, it is strange that the responsible heads of the Department have failed before this to bring the matter under notice.
– - The honorable member will admit that the service is rapidly expanding.
– I certainly do; and that is another reason why we should lose nO time- in dealing with the question of the undermanning of the Department. I do not wish to pose as a croaker in respect to the establishment of the Federal Capital, but I have no hesitation in saying that the people of New South Wales feel that they have been humbugged and fooled ir» regard to it by the Commonwealth Parliament, It is true that a site has been chosen, but the Parliament of New South Wales has strongly objected to the selection made. The majority of the electors of New South Wales have come to regard as mere by-play our complaints of delay. They look upon every reference that we make to the subject as a mere flash in the pan - as an effort on our part to remind them that we have not altogether forgotten the matter. The Prime Minister was asked this afternoon when he intended to invite the House .to deal finally with the question, and his reply was, “ As soon as I can ascertain the opinion of honorable members.” If he wishes to ascertain our views he can do so through the medium of the very Bill that we are now considering. The only way to bring the Government to its bearings is to refuse to grant it Supply. The representatives of New South Wales should resist the granting of Supply until the Government have shown their bona fides in respect of the intimation that they intend to deal with the Federal Capital Site this session. In December last the Prime Minister told the Premier of New South Wales that an effort- would be made to have the question’ dealt with this session. - Subsequently, in reply to a question in the -House as to’ whether he meant to deal’ with it . during the present session, he answered, “After the adjournment.” Now he says he wishes, -first of all, to ascertain the views of honorable members. What is the use of my appealing for a settlement of the question when honorable members more experienced than I am refuse to avail themselves of the machinery by which the Government can te forced to take action? We should refuse to grant Supply until the Government show their bona fides in the matter. I. trust that the plea of the honorable member for Wide Bay for a short session will be disregarded. We. have only just returned from a three months’ recess. Unfortunately, I differ from some honorable members in that I have nothing to do but to attend to my parliamentary duties. I make that statement openly, and I regret that I have not other matters to which I could devote my attention. But the public of Australia expect something more than mere political placards to be brought forward session after session: They expect us to pass urgently-needed legislation. I do not believe in legislating merely for the sake of legislating, but I certainly think that the Commonwealth requires a Navigation Act and an amending Defence Act. It is almost of as much moment to the public that the banking laws of the several States shall be made uniform. The Commonwealth has now been established for eight years, and yet the same facilities which previously existed for designing speculators to impose ‘ upon confiding investors exist to-day. Keen, shrewd, business men. in this House have repeatedly emphasized the absolute necessity of dealing with this matter, and I hope that they will insist upon action being taken in regard to it during the present session. Then I hold that to allow a Government to carry on the administration of the country by means of Supply Bills, and thus to neglect our control of the Estimates, is not the proper way of conducting business. I trust that the Ministry do not intend merely to pass this Supply Bill, to hurry through the Estimates, to deal with !one or two measures of minor importance, and then to enter upon a recess of two or three months.’’ I believe that if Ave continue in session we. can do effective work, and conclude our labours by next October. I regret that the leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for
Parramatta have not previously seen their way to oppose the granting of Supply Bills, because I know that they honestly regard that practice, as a slovenly method of ‘ transacting business.
.- There is just one matter connected with the Defence scheme of the Government to which I desire to invite attention. It relates to the action of the Ministry in consulting the officers and men of the Defence Forces in regard to that scheme. Personally, I think that in asking the men who will be chiefly affected by this great national upheaval, and who know most about its effect, to express their opinions upon it, they have acted wisely. But I am satisfied that at the present time the public do not realize that the proposals of the Government involve compulsory drill on the part of employes, and the attendance of youths, for eighteen days annually during a period of three .years, in a training camp. Personally, I do not object to these proposals. On the contrary, I approve of them. It is, however, only right that the public should know of them, and I am convinced that they are not yet seized of their very revolutionary nature so far as the economic and family life of the Commonwealth are concerned. But I wish especially to’ point out the manner in which the Minister of Defence has allowed his instructions to be rendered nugatory by the officers of his Department. When the Prime Minister announced that the officers and men of the Defence Forces were at liberty to express their opinions of the Government scheme, I asked that they should be permitted to communicate them directly to the Minister, instead of being required to send them through their sectional commanders, who, in turn, would forward them through their captains and commanding officers, by whom they would be transmitted through a Brigadier to the State Commandant. I hold that the men should have been allowed to express their opinions untramelled.
– They should either have been allowed to do that, or they should not have been permitted to express their opinions at all.
– They are at .liberty to write exactly what they think fit.
– In this connexion I wish to quote the statement of a very experienced militiaman - a second lieutenant who has had a long service in the ranks. This officer remarked to me, “I should very much like to communicate my opinion of the scheme to the Minister, but I have to remember that my commission has not yet been confirmed.” I think that in taking that view he showed himself to be a wise man. As a matter of fact, only one officer out of the battalion to which I am attached, which comprises 29 officers and 406 men, communicated his views to the Minister, and he did so from a sense ot duty because ,he thought that the battalion ought to be represented. I now wish to show how some officers at Head-quarters who do not believe in the scheme proposed by the Government have attempted to block it. An order was issued by the Department that all the opinions of the members of the Defence Forces should reach the State Commandant by a certain date. Accompanying the order, in the case of my own battalion, were fourteen copies of the Prime- Minister’s speech. These had to Suffice to supply about. 435 officers and men. Attention was publicly called to this matter, and then the Prime Minister announced through the press that every man in the Forces who wished to do so was nt liberty to express his opinion of the scheme through the State Commandant. What was the result? On the 14th and 15th January last, almost SUEcient copies of the Prime Minister’s speech were distributed in the Metropolitan Orderly Rooms, Melbourne, and . the replies had to reach the State Commandant by to a.m. on 16th January. So that officers and men were allowed .only about twenty-four hours in which to formulate their criticisms of a scheme which the Minister had taken months to prepare, and to’ which he .had devoted a tremendous amount of attention.
– That shows that the Government did not expect much to result from the criticisms.
– If much was not expected to result from such criticisms the officers and men should not have been invited to forward them.
– Each Commandant was asked how many copies of the Prime Minister’s speech he required, and I understood that these were supplied.
– Upon the second occasion to which I have referred a fair number of copies were made available. But although these were distributed on 14th and 15th January last, the explanatory statements regarding the scheme were not forthcoming till February.
– Did not a report of the Prime Minister’s speech appear in the newspapers a month before that ?
– A very fair report of that speech was published in the newspapers on 14th December. But the details which were published in February were really necessary to enable one to understand the scheme.
– Will the honorable member be satisfied if a sufficient number of copies of that speech are distributed now?
– I can assure the Minister that if he will permit any member oi the Defence Forces to communicate his opinion of the scheme direct to himself within the next fortnight he will get some very valuable criticisms. Personally I hold strong opinions as to the value of the control of the Defence Forces by means of committees. In 1905 I opposed that amendment of the Defence Act, and I think that it has been a failure. In my opinion, . the creation of a Council of Defence and a Military Board have made it impossible to sheet home responsibility to any of the officers of the Head-quarters Staff. I am able to express my opinion freely, because I am a member of this House; but there may be many other members of the Defence Forces who might like to make a similar criticism but find it impossible, because if they criticised they would for ever afterwards be justified in regarding themselves as marked men. I myself have faced a good deal of that sort of thing, and can afford to disregard it. I consider my commanding officer one of the best; but if an ordinary member of the Forces thought his commanding officer inefficient, the State Commandant incompetent, or the system of appointment unsatisfactory, he would hardly risk saying so. In my opinion, it is unsatisfactory that the Military Board should be composed of juniors who are always struggling to obtain better positions, with constant changes as the result. Last year the Chief of Ordnance and the Chairman of the Military Board were stated in the press to be competing for the appointment of the Victorian Commandantship. As an ordinary soldier, I could not make these things known, or if I did, I could never expect promotion at the hands of those whom I had criticised, and yet they are a very necessary part of the fair criticism of the scheme. Indeed, it would be asking too much of’ the higher officers. They might be proof against the temptation to express displeasure at criticism, but the general opinion is that they are not. Subordinates ought not to be asked to jeopardize their future by forwarding perhaps vitally necessary criticism of the Defence scheme through seniors upon whom they may have to animadvert.
– To obtain genuine and sincere criticism, the report should be made direct to the Minister, in confidence.
– Not necessarily in confidence, because every man must be responsible for what he writes.
– If they were not regarded as strictly confidential, the senders would have no security.
– Surely the Minister would not allow the Commandants to see reports sent to him direct?
– The Inspector-General should see everything. He is so thoroughly above the intrigues of the Department that lie would not be affected by what he saw, even if he were himself criticised. Do I understand that during the next fortnight the Minister will allow members of the Defence Forces to write to him direct?
– There is a difficulty in regard to the regulations, and, furthermore, the matter has been dealt with by the Prime Minister. However, I shall make a. statement later.
– After consultation with the Prime Minister?
– If the Minister is going to observe all the regulations, the criticism he asks for cannot be forthcoming. But as an absolute military crisis is approaching, observance of the regulations should be made subservient to the national good. While the regulations prohibit men from writing direct to the Minister, they also prohibit them from criticising .their commanding .officers ; but as they are to be waived for one purpose,” “why not waive them for another? I am satisfied that the honorable gentleman will consult the Prime Minister on this matter, and I urge him to bring about the only arrangement which will allow him to get valuable information.
– I desire to emphasize, briefly, the unsatisfactory state of the Post and Telegraph administration in New South Wales; I have recently had an opportunity to see how the telegraph service works there, particularly in my own electorate, and I declare that if a telegram is despatched from Sydney to a place 200 miles out in the country, there is no guarantee that it will reach its destination within five or six hours, unless the sender pays double rates for it as an urgent message. ‘ One has only to visit the country post-offices, and make a few inquiries, to understand how unsatisfactory are the arrangements of the service, which at present, as the Postmaster- General must know, is suffering from insufficiency df officers and insufficiency of material and works. The other day I was in a postoffice where six of the eleven persons employed were temporary hands - boys.
– That is a rotten state of” things.
– Yes. The young fellows are taken on for six months, and their term is extended to nine months ; but just as they are becoming efficient they have to go.
– There are too many temporary officers. That is an abuse of the Public Service Act.
– Yes. It can easily be imagined that very indifferent service is often obtained from lads who know that within a month they will be discharged. Such lads often treat their superiors very insolently. Indeed^ in most of the country towns the supply of persons who would be acceptable as temporary hands has run out, and the Department has to take boys who are absolutely unfitted for their positions. If salaries were provided for permanent hands, there would be the best educated lads in the district to choose from. I should’ like to know why the Postmaster-General does not appoint a sufficient number of permanent hands to enable the Department’ to be properly worked. Why is public money being spent on temporary service which is unsatisfactory, when good permanent service could be obtained for the expenditure?
– For less.
– Then why not get permanent servants? I believe myself that persons are willing to take less for permanent positions than they ask for temporary positions.
– I propose to make a full statement of the case when the Estimates come under consideration.
– We do not know when that will be. It seems to me unnecessary that the present state- of affairs should continue. The other day I saw a lad, a temporary employ^, delivering letters, which is surely a man’s work.
– Where ?
– At Cootamundra.
– I have given instructions, time and again, that boys shall not be employed in letter-carrying.
– Although the Minister has said that they are not to be employed, it often happens that the only letter-carrier in the district is sent away, and the local postmaster has to get the letters delivered somehow.
– Very often so little money is allowed that only the services of boys can be obtained.
– Yes. Another matter to which I wish to draw attention is the need for more expenditure on telephone and telegraph lines. Instead of making this expenditure now, when the revenues of both Commonwealth and States are buoyant, and the money can well be spared, the Treasurer is handing back to the States sums which are not required by them.
– And which he need not hand back.
– Yes; though he talks of bringing in a Bill to prevent him from having to return this surplus. Now that money is plentiful, the Ministry should not only increase the wages vote, but provide the capital expenditure necessary to carry out urgent works required by the Post and Telegraph Department. If this is not done now, adverse seasons will come, revenues will diminish, and nothing will be done without further trenching on the paltry increases and allowances of the officials. I hope, later in the session, to say a few words in regard to a matter referred to by the leader of the Opposition - the poor prospects before many of our public servants. If the Treasurer and PostmasterGeneral carry out the reforms which I have suggested, the postal administration of the Commonwealth will be greatly improved.
– I suppose it is quite unnecessary to point out that temporary Supply Bills are most pernicious in principle, and amount really to the passing of the Estimates without consideration. When we have made one more step, we shall have covered the whole ground of a year’s Supply. This action shows us to be quite unfitted for the transaction of affairs in accordance with business methods. No ordinary business man would adopt a method which I regard as discreditable to every honorable member, and particularly ‘ to every responsible Minister. No business man would spend millions of money without considering the scheme as a whole ; but here we have one step taken at a time, though each step, based on temporary supply, commits the Government to the entire expenditure. Any blame for the present lax system I must share as a member, but Ministers cannot be excused for continuing the old system. As to the Federal Capital, we have been considering this question for a number of years ; and it is time that this Parliament showed that it is earnest in the matter. The honorable mem-. ber for Wide Bay talked, about the broad view which he desired the representatives of New South Wales to take, and he spoke of the first vote on the Constitution Bill, when the people of New South Wales, by a majority, declared in favour of Federation. The leader of the Opposition was against that Bill, but when he withdrew his objection, it went through flying. Why did the leader of the Opposition withdraw his objection? He had made a compact in regard to the situation of the Federal Capital ; and that contract has not yet teen complied with. I have heard that the leader of the Opposition, as representing New South Wales, suggested to Sir George Turner, as Premier of Victoria, that the Federal Capital should be anywhere beyond 80 miles ‘from Sydney, but that Sir George Turner insisted on a limit of 100 miles, or otherwise the Capital would have been at Moss Vale, which was then favoured. The Constitution Bill would not have been passed by the people of New South Wales, but for the provision in regard to the Federal Capital. There were five States in favour of Federation; and why did they not federate irrespective of New South Wales? Because it was known that Federation could not be financed unless the mother Colony were included. The people of New South Wales were humbugged into believing that the public men of the other States who favoured Federation were honest. Why should there be any hesitancy about settling this question of the Federal Capital? In New South Wales several local Governments have lived on this question, because members of the Parliament have had eligible sites within their constituencies, and no Premier has had backbone enough to single out any particular site. Even the present Government favours Lyndhurstwhich we know to be impossible - simply because a member of the Government has some interest in the place. It is the placing of the interests of individuals before the interests of the community that is doing all the harm. The Minister of Trade and Customs has within his electorate two or three possible sites.
– The trouble is that the New South Wales members cannot agree amongst themselves. .
– That is the way the people of Tasmania and Victoria talk. We representatives of New South Wales do not profess to be of one mind; but decline to go any further away than Dalgety, and desire to be closer to Sydney on the main line. The Canberra site, I may point out, is in the constituency of the Minister of Trade and. Customs, and I must say that I think this question will, when it is settled, put the honorable gentleman out of office.
– Then why should I help the honorable member to settle it?
– The question ought to be settled, because the honorable gentleman and others are politically trading on it, in view of the local feeling which the question raises. We who represent the whole of Australia, and not only our particular States, ought to take a broad view, but, so far as I can see, the Prime Minister is resolved to do nothing until he is compelled to move.
.- It is a mistake to assume that any disinclination exists on the part of honorable members from other States to definitely select the site of the Federal Capital. The honorable member for Robertson charges the House with breach of faith in having so far failed to make the selection. The answer to that is a reference to the Constitution, which contains no arbitrary direction in the matter. No time is specified. If it were intended that this question should be settled within a particular time, I apprehend the framers of the Constitution would, as they did in respect to the Customs Tariff, have fixed a time limit which must not be exceeded. In my judgment many arguments might be advanced to show how advisable it would be to postpone the settlement’ of this question for another fifty years. Australia, as a glance at the map will show, is practically unoccupied, the settled portion being confined to a fringe of the coast ; and we ought to wait for some years before deciding such an important question as that raised by the honorable member for. Robertson. I am sure that the peopleof New
South Wales are too reasonable to hold that they only are interested in this question. All the States are concerned in the selection of a site which will not only suit this generation, but will meet the needs of Australia for all time. That is a point of view which representatives of New South Wales continually leave out of consideration. When this question again comes up for review, I shall endeavour to give a vote in the interests of Australia ; and I see nothing in the written Constitution, or in the Convention debates which preceded it, to justify the contention that the Federal Capital should be close to Sydney. It is only the immense influence of the enormous population of Sydney, and the commercial interests of the local newspapers that have kept this question in front in the objectionable manner with which we are familiar. I know no honorable member from other States who desires to settle the capital at Dalgety, Lyndhurst, the New England table-land, or anywhere else except in the best interests of the Australian nation. That is the point of view from which we ought to regard the matter. The question is where shall we, in the interests of the future of Australia, place the Capital, and not whether it shall be at Moss Vale, Goulburn, or on the heights of North Shore. If it would satisfy the people of New South Wales I should be prepared to support a proposal that the Parliament hold its sittings in Sydney for the next ten or twenty years.
– They have not asked for such a thing.
– I would prefer that to the making of an inopportune selection, which would bind the people of Australia for all time.
– Under the Constitution the course suggested by the honorable member could not be followed.
-We have recently secured an amendment of the Constitution, and a further amendment of it is not impossible. The establishment of the Seat of Government at Sydney would be a distinct advantage to that city. Representatives of Victoria again and again disputed the contention that it was advantageous to Melbourne to have the Seat of Government here ; but it has been proved that it means a very large annual expenditure which must have a beneficial effect upon the trade and commerce of this State. . Therefore as an alternative to the selection of an unsuitable site, I should favour making Sydney the
Seat of Government for the next ten or twenty years. I supported the selection of Lyndhurst, and have not yet voted for Dalgety, but rather than accept the dictation of the State Parliament, I should vote for its selection.
– Even if the honorable member did not believe that Dalgety was the best site to select in the interests of Australia?
– The leader of the Opposition told us this afternoon that if he could not secure the selection of what he conceived to be the best site, he would have no hesitation in voting for the next best.
– It was understood and agreed by all parties when Dalgety was selected, that the decision was final.
– I do not pretend to interpret section 125 pf the Constitution, which provides that the Seat of Government shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be within the territory which “ shall have been “ granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth ; but since the representatives of New South Wales seek to place upon this Parliament the responsibility for the delay in determining the question, T would remind them that Mr. Alexander Oliver, the ablest Commissioner ever appointed by the State Government, after inspecting all the sites that were then under offer, deliberately selected Dalgety.
– And one of the Premiers of New South Wales offered it for selection.
– That is so.
– He offered Bombala, not Dalgety.
– Dalgety is only 50 miles from Bombala, and there is no reason why, if we secured the necessary territory, we should not include Bombala within the Federal area. Another justification for any delay on the part of this Parliament is the reluctance shown by the - Government of. New South Wales to cede to the Commonwealth the necessary area. I should not be in favour of the acquisition of any territory as the Site of the Federal Capital to which access could not be gained either from another State or by sea. I have an eye to the future. We are all familiar with the complications which arose in the United States of America when the South took up arms against the North. If the Federal Capital were isolated - if it were established on a small area in New South Wales, which could” not be reached except through territory over which we had no control, we should be practically under the domination of the State Parliament. lt would be able to interrupt our supplies and place various impediments in the way of the advancement of the Federal territory.
– How could it cut off our supplies?
– It would, of course, be ah act of war to refuse to carry our supplies over the railways; but stranger things have happened.
– We have to remember that we are dealing, not with foreigners, but with our own people.
– The Federal Parliament has not necessarily much control over a State Parliament.
– The same people . create both the ‘Commonwealth and the States Parliaments.
– But the people of the other States cannot influence the domestic legislation of New South Wales.
– So far as a port for the’ Federal Capital is concerned, I think that Jervis Bay is infinitely preferable to Twofold Bay.’
– That may be. Twofold Bay is certainly not- very spacious, but it may be a good and safe port. The real trouble seems to be a difference of opinion in New South Wales itself. If the representatives of -that State had come to an agreement they could have carried, in any vote on the question, any site which they had made up their minds to select.
– Does the honorable member put forward that plea as an excuse for not doing his duty ?
– I seek no excuse, for I contend that I have done, and am doing my duty. There is nothing in the Constitution to compel this Parliament to select any site within a specified time, neither was there any understanding that it would.
– Is not that the voice of the man who would deceive?
– It is the voice of the people of Australia ; whereas the honorable member is merely echoing the views of the capitalistic morning newspapers of Sydney.
– Had this view been put before the people of New South Wales, they would riot have voted for Federation.
– It might also be said that the people of Western Australia would not have entered the Federation had they foreseen some of the things that have followed upon it. When the Seat of Government Bill was under consideration, I voted with the object of securing the settlement of the question,. I supported the selection of Lyndhurst, and since I think that at every ballot I voted with the honorable member for Robertson, I regard as distinctly unfriendly his reproach that I have failed to do my duty in this matter.
– The honorable member is all right.
– The honorable member has no justification for complaint against the representatives of Western Australia. The right honorable member for Swan, for instance;, took the trouble to personally inspect all the sites.
– But did nothing.
– He presented to the House one of the most valuable reports that we have received on the subject.
– But he gave us no legislation!, although he -was a very strong man in the Ministry.
– One honorable member could not- hope to do much in the way of passing legislation unless he had the support of the House. I come now to another matter. Those who complain about the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department are entitled to a good deal of sympathy. I heard the leader of the Opposition refer to the sufferings . of postal officials, and speak of an officer who, after twenty-two years in the service, is receiving only £160 per annum. I do no!: know, whether the right honorable gentleman ever reads the reports of the debates in this House or examines the Acts we have passed. If he does, he must know perfectly well that the salary of the officer to whom he referred is paid to him under an Act passed by this Parliament, and that therefore there is no justification for any complaint against the Department. Wages and salaries are paid’ according’ to the divisions fixed by the Public Service Act, and if there is any complaint to be made, it must be levelled, not against the Public Service Commissioner, or the PostmasterGeneral, but against this Legislature. Complaint has also been made as to the large number of temporary hands employed in the Department. In that respect, too, the Parliament and not the Department or the Postmaster-General is to blame.
– This Parliament has vested the Public Service Commissioner not merely with the powers ordinarily conferred upon such an officer, but has given him - or he has taken - the power to interfere with the internal management of the Departments. At the present time an officer .cannot be appointed or promoted except upon the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner. The Executive Council can, of course, refuse to confirm his nominations, but the exercise of that power would not meet the difficulty which exists. The difficulty is the refusal,, not of the Executive Council, but apparently of the Public Service Commissioner to nominate more permanent hands.
– That is incorrect.
– I have my authority for the statement.
– And so have I.
– The trouble is due to the refusal of the Public Service Commissioner to make the necessary permanent appointments.
– He has not refused to make any permanent appointment’s in New South Wales.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was pointing out to the honorable member for Gwydir that the PostmasterGeneral was not to blame for the number of temporary hands employed in the Postal Department or for the number of such employes required to carry on the government of the country generally. The honorable member appeared to think that the departmental chiefs were responsible for the large . excess of temporary hands engaged in the service, and for the failure to make permanent appointments. Certainly in the last report of the Public Service Commissioner there is a sentence which lends some . colour to that assumption. The Commissioner says -
Another pernicious practice is that of employing temporary hands for lengthened periods in cases where permanent appointments are justified, and should be made.
I propose to show that the Public Service Commissioner is responsible for the neglect of the Departments ‘to recommend the appointment of permanent officers. For instance, in his report for 1966, page 1633. Vol. 2, of Parliamentary Papers, I find the following -
Every requisition submitted by Departments for an increase of staff, whether by way of permanent appointment or temporary assistance, is carefully scrutinized and inquired into by my inspectors, so that, before sanctioning the increased expenditure, I may be fully advised as to whether the extra assistance is actually necessary, or whether the requisite help cannot be secured by a re-arrangement of staffs.
Now, the plan which is adopted may be very briefly outlined. Let us suppose that the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in a distant State capital requisitions for extra assistance. Instead of his requisition coming direct to Melbourne and being dealt with by- the PostmasterGeneral - which is the course that should be adopted, because if the Deputy Postmaster-General is not competent to decide whether extra assistance is really necessary, he is not fit for his position - it has to await a report by the Public Service Inspector, who at the time may be 1,000 miles distant. That officer at length presents himself at the office of the Deputy Postmaster-General, and probably says to him, “ I doubt whether you have made the best arrangement possible. Why cannot you take a man from this position and place him in that position, thus rearranging your staff so as to obviate the necessity for the appointment of. additional permanent employes?” The inspector next forwards his report to Melbourne, ‘ where it has to be inquired into at the Commissioner’s office. After the report has been scrutinized the Deputy Postmaster-General at ‘ Perth will probably be advised by the Department that his requisition for so many permanent hands will be granted. An advertisement will then have to be inserted in the Commonwealth Gazette, and all the necessary formalities gone through in connexion with the filling of the vacancies. So that the honorable member for Gwydir, who is inclined to blame the Department for circumlocution, ought to remember the cumbrous machinery which we have established, and which has to be put into operation before permanent appointments can be made. In spite of the paragraph contained in the last report of the Public Service Commissioner, I maintain that the stand which he has taken up from the beginning has tended to multiply the number of temporary hands employed, and to impede the appointment of permanent officers. He goes on to add -
A lax scrutiny is also exercised with regard to the necessity of filling vacancies caused by retirements, resignations, and dismissals. . . . By pursuing this policy I hope in time to gradually reduce and keep reduced the staffs to the last possible limits consistent with efficiency.
That policy in itself is right enough. I hold that every man in the public service should earn his salary. But when the Departments are blamed for the number of temporary hands employed, I have a right to point out that the trend of the policy adopted by the Public Service Commissioner has been to create the difficulty which now exists, the responsibility for which he and some honorable members of this Chamber are inclined to place upon shoulders which should not bear it. The Commissioner adds -
I hope . . not only to check unjustifiable attempts to swell the number of hands in Departments, but by keeping the staff down to the lowest limits to compel officers to look round for simpler and more up-to-date methods.
That is a very desirable thing no doubt. But the Public Service Commissioner knew perfectly well from the beginning that there were more temporary hands employed in the various Departments than there ought to have been. The figures and his comments on temporary employment prove that. Yet, while pretending to deprecate the practice of calling in temporary hands, his policy is such as compels the adoption of the alternative. Just when a temporary employe” is beginning to render effective assistance he is cast adrift.
– Does not the Act provide that he may be employed for six months, and reemployed .after an interval of nine months ?
– No. Six months is the maximum period for which he may be employed, but if he is a desirable officer, the limit may be extended to nine months.
– Just when he becomes “thoroughly efficient, his services have to be dispensed with.
– I admit that; but Parliament is responsible for that state of affairs, and not the . Postmaster-General. Parliament deliberately decreed that no temporary hands should be employed for a longer period than nine months. The Commissioner, however, must have been aware that an unjustifiable number of temporary employes was engaged in the various Departments.
– I happen to know that he is absolutely opposed to the employment of so many temporary hands.
– He may be nominally opposed to it. But in his report he states that his policy is to gradually reduce anc! keep reduced the staffs of the various Departments to the lowest possible limits. If that be so, it follows that the Departments. must be undermanned, so that when an emergency arrives it becomes absolutely necessary to engage temporary employes. The Commissioner himself, and not the Department, is responsible for this evil.
– I do not think that the honorable- member is quite fair, to the Commissioner in making that statement. I know absolutely that the Commissioner is not responsible for the number of temporary hands employed in the’ different Departments. Upon many occasions he has asked me not to engage temporary hands if I could avoid doing so.
– Has he not declared his objection to the appointment of permanent hands, because, in the event of a depression occurring, there would not be positions for the men to fill ?
– And quite right, too. We ought not to overload the service unduly.
– Then why is the Minister blowing hot and cold?
– I am not.
– What is the meaning of the Commissioner’s expressed determination to keep down the staffs of the Departments to the lowest possible limit ? Does it not necessarily follow that in time of emergency extra assistance will have to be engaged ?
– He does not say that.
– But that is the natural effect of his policy.
– I know from the Commissioner himself - having been in:timately associated with him - what he desires.
– I have quoted the words of his own report.
– I am sure that the honorable member does not wish to be unfair to him.
– The Commissioner’s report is much more likely to represent his deliberate view than are his intermittent expressions of opinion.
– Exactly. We can all be virtuous in public. The Commissioner knew perfectly well that the number of temporary employes in the Departments was rapidly increasing, because he had the figures before him. Apart from the exemption list, which runs into thousands, the number of temporary hands employed in 1904 was i,755; a”d their cost was £24,481 ; in 1905, the number had in- creased to 1,833, costing ^32,511; and in 1906 it had still further increased to 1,936, costing .£34,409. It will thus be seen that within three years the increased cost of these temporary employes was just about £10,000.
– Has the honorable member the rate of increase for last year?
– No. Honorable members who peruse the Commissioner’s report will discover that he occasionally forgets the position which he occupies under the Public Service Act, and apparently is stretching out to assume a measure of control of departmental business which the law does not clearly give him. I admit that the demarcation between his functions and those of the Secretary of the Postal De:partment and the Comptroller-General of Customs is very indistinct. At the same time, it seems to me that if these gentlemen are competent to hold the positions to which they have been appointed, they should not be hampered by outside interference to the extent which now prevails. I sympathize very much with the complaints which have been made in regard to postal administration generally. But I would point out that, after all, the number of complaints emanating from the city and suburbs are infinitesimal when compared with those which might readily be laid against the Department by the residents of far inland centres. I have said something about this before ; but it cannot be too often repeated in this Chamber that there is a tendency to increase the facilities of communication in cities and towns, where the population is dense, and can make its influence felt, .and to starve outlying centres. Great complaint is made if a delay of half-an-hour occurs in the delivery of a letter in a Melbourne suburb enjoying three deliveries a day ; but what about the people in the back country who receive only one mail per week or fortnight? Should we not give more -thought to the pioneering population who are combatting the difficulties incident to the settlement of a new country ? Let me recount what happens when I ask for a new mail service or telephone line to an outlying centre, where perhaps there are 300 or 400 miners 30 to 80 miles distant from a medical man. A guarantee is demanded, though generally there is no local body possessing the legal qualifications necessary to enable it to give such a guarantee. My request for this necessary facility is flatly refused unless the Department is satisfied that the revenue will cover the expenditure. But, while country services are starved, the Commonwealth spends about £150,000 a year on an ocean mail service, and some £45,000 on a telephone line to connect Melbourne and Sydney. I have always contended that, inasmuch as the bulk of the business between the capitals of Australia and Europe is now transacted by cable, regular and rapid steamer communication is not of so much importance to us as it was. We could very well pay for the carriage of our oversea mails by a poundage rate, and would save nearly £100,000 in doing so. The so-called mail service is really a rapid and more certain service for the transport of perishable produce, for the’ advantage of certain favoured classes. To the bulk of the community it would matter little if letters were a week or two longer in transit. While money is squandered on those who are full to repletion, the country is absolutely neglected. Iunderstand that of legitimate charges were made against it, the Sydney-Melbourne telephone line would be seen not to pay anything like expenses. That line is maintained, notwithstanding that the. business men of the two cities have a good telegraphic service, and a rapid train service which enables letters to be sent from one city to the other in about seventeen hours.
– No guarantee was required in connexion with that telephone line.
-No; but I can get nothing done unless I can satisfy a postal inspector that the work will pay its way. I dare say the experience of other honorable members is the same.
– It is thought unfair to ask a guarantee from Flinders-lane.
– The merchants of Flinderslane can better afford to give guarantees than can the workers in the back country, who need every penny they have for the promotion of their industries. But it is almost impossible to make an impression upon the representatives of the favoured localities, who, being in the majority, can carry things their own way. Still I shall on every occasion enter my protest against the neglect of country districts in the matter of Postal administration. I understand that this Supply Bill gives the Government money sufficient to enable it to carry on to the end of the financial year; but before it is passed we should have information from the Treasurer in regard to several matters connected with our expenditure. For instance, we should have a statement regarding the Queensland sugar bounty, which is costing £500,000, or a little more, this year. Is it to be increased or reduced? And what is the position of the taxpayer in regard to it ?
– No alteration can be made until 191 1.
– Parliament can always amend its legislation.
– To make any alteration would be to break an agreement.
– Whatever justification there may be for the protective duty which has raised the price of sugar from about £12 to £18 or £19a ton, very good reason should be shown for paying £500,000 a year to the sugar planters of Queensland.
– The honorable member was speaking very sensibly in regard to the Postal administration.
– Apparently the honorable member, although cordially approving of my previous remarks, objects to my comments on the sugar bounty. I recognise that we have to some extent committed ourselves; but that does not absolve the Treasurer from giving us information in regard to the matter. In the Bill . £500 is provided for the repatriation of Pacific Islanders. These people were brought to Queensland by the State Government, for the benefit of a State industry, and to meet the expense of repatriation£5 was paid by the planters for each kanaka imported. As the Commonwealth Government ultimately made itself responsible for the repatriation, the money should have gone to it, but I am afraid that it has been dealt with by the Government of Queensland in a manner which would bring about the imprisonment of a private individual. The. Queensland Government is very loud in its complaints against the Commonwealth, but it should make some explanation of its action in throwing on us the whole cost of the repatriation of the kanakas. I suppose it was necessary that the Commonwealth should undertake that responsibility ; but as the islanders were imported by the Queensland Government solely for the benefit of that State, the money obtained from the planters to pay for their repatriation should be handed over to the Commonwealth. Another matter upon which I wish to touch is this - the High Court being the creation of this Parliament, we should be jealous of its position, and very careful to see that it is not flouted. The Constitution places it above all the other courts of the country, and its interpretation of the law is binding on them. Perhaps it may seem sacrilege to lawyers for a layman to deal with, these matters, but I feel in duty bound to draw attention to a statement by the Chief Justice published in Saturday’s Argus. It has reference to a case which came before the High Court on appeal from the Supreme Court of Victoria, in regard to which the Chief Justice said -
Those orders are a deliberate overruling of the decision of this Court, which ordered that the inquiry should go on before the hearing by the Privy Council.
The orders in question were those of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
There is also an order as to costs in the second order. That is to say that a successful suitor in this Court is ordered to pay costs for asking the Supreme Court to obey an order of this Court. So far as the order of Mr. Justice Hodges is concerned, there is no necessity to give leave to appeal, but the position is different as to the other order. . In the meantime this Court had decided on an appeal from Mr. Justice A’Beckett that the Supreme Court had no power to stay in such a case. Another episode also occurred before me in chambers^ when an application was made to me to treat the defendants as in contempt, and I held so, and I withdrew the stay granted by Mr. . Justice Hodges.
It is a serious thing for the highest Court in the land to be flouted, and if that tribunal has not the power to punish those who disobey its orders, we should confer that power upon it. I do not know whether the Court possesses the power necessary to enforce its orders ; if so, it is certainly strange that it should permit itself to be treated with contempt. I cannot see any reason why Chief Justice Madden or Mr. Justice Hodges should be privileged to flout the High Court any more than Bill Jones or any other individual in the street.
– The Judges are only lay-: men in relation to the High Court.
– I think they are a little more, seeing that they are Judges in their own Court. But in this case they deliberately treated with contempt . an order of the High Court, and I think the AttorneyGeneral ought to take notice of the matter.
– The High Court can protect itself.
– Then why did it not do so?
– It did do so in this case.
– It did not. It merely made a protest, of which no notice was taken. How. did the High Court protect the successful litigant, when he was mulcted in heavy costs because the Supreme Court would not carry out the order of the High Court? This matter is certainly worthy of the attention of the Government. If the High Court haspower to protect itself, and will not do so, there is an end of the matter; but it is to be assumed that if the Court possessed the power, it would not - allow its orders to be flouted. If the . High Court does not possess the power, then this Parliament ought to confer it. There are many other matters to which I could refer, but I shall content myself with those with which I have already dealt.
.- It must have come as a surprise that the Treasurer, on the re-assembling of Parliament after the Christmas adjournment, should at once ask for two months’ supply.
– On the occasion of the last Supply Bill, I said I should, if necessity arose, ask for further supply when the House met.
– I quite understand it is necessary to ask for supply, but I am npt satisfied as to the urgency of two* months’ supply. Admitting the necessity for providing for salaries and current obligations, I think it would have been much better to have asked for supply for one month, and then, if occasion arose, to ask for further supply. The Treasurer, in hisbrief explanation, said that this was a matter of urgency, and that there was not time to prepare the Additional Estimates in one month.
– The Estimates are already prepared and before honorable members, but I said there was no time tobring down the Additional Estimates. These, however, will be ready in a few days, and I hope will be before us next week.
– However that may be, I think it would have sufficed to ask for supply for one month, and then, if necessity arose, I do not think honorable members would have refused supply for another month. There have been three months in which to prepare the Additional Estimates. I have great objection to’ the finances being conducted in this way.
– So have I.
– We are face to face with the fact that when we grant this twomonths’ supply there are only two months of the financial year left unprovided for, so that we have practically passed the Estimates on Supply Bills. However, as the leader of the Opposition has taken no exception to this procedure, I, as a private member, can do no more than express my disapproval of this slipshod manner of conducting the finances. I had anticipated! that the Treasurer would make a more complete statement of the position of affairs from his stand-point, but all we are told, just as we have been told on every previous occasion, is that there is urgent necessity for supply. We are told by the Treasurer that he has already taken .£175,000 of the ,£2.00,000 Treasurer’s Advance Account; and, of the .££75,000, has absorbed all but .£3,000. I understand that £31,000 has been appropriated in connexion with the ocean mail service, and £21,000 in connexion with the contingencies in the Post and Telegraph Department. I think we might have fuller information as to what these contingencies consist of.
– I do not know whether there are any telephone or telegraph . works in the constituency of the honorable member, but such works have to be carried out in other districts.
– No doubt ; and I can say that the telephone service in my electorate is on anything but a satisfactory basis, and is the ground of innumerable complaints. It seems to me that the telephone service is in a thoroughly disgraceful condition. The business has increased at so rapid a rate that the resources of the Department seem utterly inadequate to cope, not only with prospective expansion, but with actual expansion. The two sums I have mentioned account for ,£52,000 of the £:r 75,000, and this, added to the expenditure on new works in connexion with the Department, amounting to ^37,645, leaves £89,645 accounted for, and .£85,355 unaccounted for. Yet I understand that the Treasurer has only ,£3,000 in hand.
– I have only £3,000 unappropriated ; but all the money has not yet been paid, though I may be called upon to expend it to-morrow.
– The position of affairs in regard to the administration and the business, generally of the Postal Department is in the last degree unsatisfactory in all branches. My intention was particularly directed, while I was in Sydney, to the parcels branch, to which I paid two visits in order to observe the working conditions, which I may say are disgraceful from a hygienic point of view. There is absolutely no ventilation except that provided by the doors,’ and the place is overcrowded. The branch is in the basement of the post-office, and the only natural lighting is by means of thick prismatic pavement lights. This basement was origi nally used for military’ stables ; but, since the Commonwealth have taken over the Department,’ it has been utilized for parcels work. Apart from other considerations, the space available is wholly inadequate. My visits were paid when normal conditions prevailed, and I do not know what the place’ must be like under such pressure as occurs, say, at Christmas and Easter. In normal times, in the southern division, I found there were employed three sorters and three assistants in a space of 30 feet by 20 feet, and that, these men had to deal with 150 bags daily. These bags are hung on hooks so close together as to make it almost impossible in a rush of work to distinguish the mouth of one from the mouth of the other; and the sorting has to be done on a table 14 feet by 15 inches wide. It must be apparent that nothing short of a miracle can prevent parcels being accidentally slipped into the wrong bag ; and the fact that so few mistakes are made speaks volumes for the care which is exercised by these men in the performance of their work under such disadvantageous circumstances.
– They are not too well paid for it.
– And they are overworked. There are 150 bags dealt with every day in the southern division, and there is not hanging room for thirty bags ; there are from 700 to 900 parcels dealt with daily in that division. In the western division 600 to 800 parcels are daily dealt with. They cover about 100 bags, and have to be handled in a space only 20 feet by 12 feet. In this division thirty bags, for which there is no hanging room, have likewise to be dealt with. The bags have to be piled up on the floor and dealt with in the best way possible, and that, I need hardly say, is a very awkward way. In the northern division something like 1,000 parcels, equal to about 200 bags, are dealt with every day, including forty bags for which no hanging space is provided. Most of the parcels have to be sorted on the floor. The men are to be seen on their knees scrambling amongst the parcels, and the utmost confusion prevails. As a matter of fact no order-could be maintained under such conditions. The men have to scramble and work under most unfavorable circumstances, and it is surprising that they carry out their duties so well, and with so little cause for complaint. From 11,000 tq 12,000 parcels are daily dealt with in connexion with the Receiving Department. In wet. weather the rain works through the pavement into the portion of the building devoted to the reception of these parcels, whilst the drains over-flow, and a worse set of conditions could hardly be imagined. The floor is of cement, and in winter time it must be very bad for the men engaged. I visited the officers supervising this branch of the Department, and found them housed in a room measuring 17 feet by 7 ft. 6 in. There are usually three men in this room, and when the auditors are checking the books there are five men at work, whilst the greater part of the available space is occupied by furniture. This room, like the rest of the basement, is un ventilated.
– Does not the Public Health Department of the State take action ?
– The attention of the health authorities of the State should be called to this part of the building. It is deplorable that men should have to work under such conditions. The manager’s office, which is immediately under the footpath, and for which again no ventilation is provided, is about 10 feet by 10 feet, and at least 40 per cent. of the space is occupied by furniture. A like set of conditions obtains in that part of the building set apart for the Customs officials. They are cramped in their operations, and have to work under almost intolerable conditions. The space set apart for the public is also cramped and inadequate for the transaction of business. A state of confusion prevails where the vans are loaded, and the accommodation is an absolute discredit and disgrace to a Commonwealth Department of such magnitude. It seems impossible that any man should be able to work in the building and long retain his health; and I am informed that it frequently happens that applications for sick leave have to be made. A proper strong room should be provided in lieu of the existingsafes also. Before turning to another subject, I should like to point out that a piece of land, having 1 frontage of 94 feet to Castlereaghstreet, by a depth of 145 feet, has been offered to the Government at a rental of £1,100 per annum, and I understand that the owners are willing to erect upon it a building in accordance with any design which the postal authorities may submit. The Government would do well to consider the advisableness of either accepting this offer or inviting other tenders from those who may be able to meet their re quirements in this regard. If nothing else can be. done, surely the Government might very well lease some of the adjoining premises. They are sure to be required at some time or other, and even if the Department did not need at the outset to utilize the whole of the premises in question, it could for the time being sublet them.
– Does not the honorable member think that if any substantial additions were necessary we ought to take over the land and extend the postal buildings ?
– I think such a step would be a wise one. Something at all events’ must be done. The General Post Office is so overcrowded that when the postal parcel part of the business expands, as it must inevitably do, it will be impossible to cope with it.
– There has been a suggestion to take over a piece of land.
– We shall have to deal speedily with the matter or the service will break down’ altogether. The question of temporary assistance is also worthy of consideration. The practice has been in times of abnormal business pressure to employ a number of temporary hands. The fault of this system is that men apply for temporary positions in the belief that, having obtained a footing in the Department, they will have a preferential claim for consideration when appointments are made to the permanent staff.
– Temporary employes when engaged are specially told that their employment does not give them any preferential claim to be placed on the permanent staff.
– I know that they are; but those with whom I have come in contact seem generally to believe, notwithstanding, that a temporary appointment will give them a preferential claim to permanent employment. At any rate, from the departmental point of view, the principle is very bad. The constant putting on of temporary hands instead of being of any real service is, at the outset at all events, a great hindrance to the Department.
-Ido not wish to interrupt the honorable member, but I may inform him that this “matter will come up for consideration when the Supplementary Estimates are submitted. In connexion with them I am going to make certain proposals.
– I did not wish to make more than a passing reference to the matter. The worst feature of this system is that just as .the men become familiar with their duties, and are able to render efficient service, they have to make room for others, who have to be drilled again from the commencement in the work of the office. Permanent officers have to be taken from their usual employment to instruct them, and to the extent to which they are so diverted from their regular work the efficiency of the service is impaired. Coming to the question of the Federal Capital, I certainly take exception to the contention advanced by the honorable member for Coolgardie that there is no need for the Federal Parliament to consider the settlement of the matter for the next fifty years. He seems to forget altogether that New South Wales agreed to join the Federation on the strength of a compact to which every State was a party. So far no serious attempt has been made to honour th.at compact.- It seems to me to be dishonorable for the representatives of any of the other States to try to defer indefinitely the settlement of a question which, to the people of New South Wales at all events, is of vital importance. It is all very well for the honorable member to talk of viewing this matter from a national stand-point. As a matter of fact we do.
– There is a question of national honour involved.
– I was just about to point out that the honour of a nation is involved in the observance of a solemn compact to which every State has been a party. The fact that the representatives of New South Wales are repeatedly calling attention to the want of a serious attempt to grapple with the question shows that they consider it ought to be finally dealt with at the earliest possible moment.
– This Parliament settled the question two years ago.
– The previous Parliament certainly did deal with the question, but did not finally settle it. It is well known that when honorable members were restricted in their choice to three sites they were forced into the position of being unable to give effect to their wishes. They were compelled, by the way in which the divisions were taken, to choose between two sites, neither of which they .approved. As a result some honorable members were obliged to vote for Dalgety in preference to another site, of which they did not approve, but which they considered was even less eligible.
– Surely every honorable member cannot expect to get his own way in this matter.
– The fact that the Government have since opened up negotiations upon the subject with the Premier of New South Wales shows that they do not regard the selection made by a previous Parliament as final.
– I think that it was the Premier of New South Wales who opened up negotiations with us.
– The fact that the Government have agreed to again submit the question to Parliament shows that they recognise that it has not been finally disposed of.
– For the benefit of the Western Australian representatives, who seem so enamoured of Dalgety, I should like to say that if their approval of that site is prompted by the belief that we shall be able to obtain a navigable and safe harbor at Twofold Bay, they ought -to reconsider the position. They ought to recollect that within 75 miles of another suggested site a very much more eligible harbor is to be found - I refer to Jervis’ Bay.
– That is about 85 miles distant.
– It is not quite so far, but that is near enough. As a harbor that bay is immeasurably superior in every respect to Twofold Bay. As a matter of fact, Twofold Bay is no port at all.
– It is not a bad port.
– It all depends upon what we call a port. I have visited Twofold Bay upon fully twenty occasions, and I know that it is really open to the whole of the Pacific Ocean.
– Oh, no.
– I say that it is. i know the place perfectly well, and I know the depth of water to be obtained there, because I have studied the soundings. On the southern side of Twofold Bay there is a little bit of a harbor called Boyd Harbor, which offers an anchorage for vessels of small tonnage during the prevalence of south-easterly weather.
– There is a verygood harbor upon the Eden side of Twofold Bay.
– Its area is exceedingly small. Vessels like the Asturias would never attempt to seek a place of shelter there. Of course, I am aware that the construction of a breakwater has been suggested.
– It is not a bad little harbor.
– It is not a bad harbor for vessels of small tonnage, but even a steamer like the Wakatipu cannot proceed to the head of the wharf, and when an easterly swell is on a steamer moored at the end of the wharf with a portion of her length projecting beyond it will roll with the swell, with an easterly sea coming in.
– I do not wish at the present juncture to enter into a discussion of the defence policy of the Government, because I shall be afforded an opportunity to do so when the details of that policy are under consideration. But it has occurred to me that the very persons whom the Minister did not approach prior to the disclosure of the Government scheme were those who should have been first consulted. I refer to the Military Board, the Council of Defence, .and the Inspector- General.
– What about the best authority in the Commonwealth - Colonel Bridges? He was not consulted.
– What surprises me most, however, is that while the Minister was inviting expressions of opinion upon the Government scheme from every private in the Defence Force he did not propose that our military officers should be elected by the members of that force. If the latter are competent to express an expert opinion upon the defence policy of the Government they are surely capable of determining who are the most eligible officers. The practice of asking for Supply Bills is one that is in my opinion too much indulged in by this Government. It is demoralizing both to the Government and the Parliament. At the same time I recognise that during the life of the present Parliament the government of the country has been carried on in such a slipshod fashion that the introduction of such measures has been inevitable.
– Ministers say that I am sitting on the Treasury chest so tightly that they cannot obtain any money from it.
– In that connexion I believe that they have every reason to com plain, because the action of the Treasurer prevents necessary expenditure upon developmental work.
.- The statement that the Prime Minister declared that every member of the Defence Forces was at liberty to offer suggestions upon the defence scheme of the Government’ lacks confirmation. Personally I do not think that he ever made it.
– Oh, yes, he did.
– Then he must have been up in the clouds at the time, because I feel confident that the average man in the ranks would not trouble himself about what was the best defence scheme for the Commonwealth.
– Half of the members of the Force were invalided after reading the Prime Minister’s speech.
– According to one military expert this afternoon that is so. But the farce was completed . when the Prime Minister declared that the men were not at liberty to send their suggestions direct to the Minister of Defence, but were required to transmit them through their commanding officers. In all seriousness I ask’ whether he thinks that a man would be so foolish as to declare himself adverse to the ideas of his commanding officer when he had to put his suggestions in writing and transmit them through half-a-dozen official channels? If I did not desire to be a marked man I should think as the officer thought to whom reference was made this afternoon, and say nothing. Of course we shall be afforded an opportunity to discuss the defence scheme of the Government at a later stage, but I am of opinion that it requires remodelling. At the same time I am a hearty supporter of it as it was explained by the Prime Minister prior to the adjournment of the House in December last.
– I presume that the honorable member would have had more faith in the estimates of expenditure in connexion with the scheme had it been submitted to the Military Board and to the Council of Defence.
– The Minister of Defence was so much on the defensive that I do not know whether the Military Board - or the Council of Defence was consulted. No doubt the Ministry must take responsibility for the scheme. In my opinion, if the country is good enough to live in, it is good enough to defend. But, as we shall have another opportunity to deal with the scheme, I shall . riot refer to it at greater; length now. The Prime Minister last session told us that the Defence Force had passed through three stages, the G.O.C., the D.O.C., and this, I suppose, is the third stage. I am satisfied that he is on the right t)rack, and I hope that honorable members opposite, together with those on this side of the chamber, will assist the Government to make it effective. Coming to another matter I wish to read the following letter, which I have received from the manager of the Federal Service Gazette -
Brisbane, 5th March, 1508.
I am desired to draw your attention to an article entitled “ Boards of Inquiry,” appearing on page 12 of the current issue of the Federal Service, a copy of which has been posted to you as usual, and to solicit your’ assistance with a view to drawing early attention to the injustice done to officers in country districts in consequence of the new Regulation 267A.
There is every justification for considering the regulation ultra vires, but it would be a- serious hardship for an officer to be forced to commence n civil action to obtain redress, and it appears to be a matter which calls for prompt action in Parliament.
The principle at stake is that two provisions of the Public Service Act have been reversed in their interpretation by means of a regulation, and unless strong action is taken by way of protest there is no guarantee- that the Act will not be further tampered with while Parliament is in recess.
It is understood that the Acting Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Brisbane, has taken strong exception to the publication of this article, on the grounds that the “Federal Service” is conducted by officers of the Department, and -also that certain representations have been made to the Commissioner on the matter with the object of preventing further attention being directed to it through the columns of tlie paper. It is not anticipated that any attempt will be made to suppress the free publication of officers’ views in their own journal, but it is desirable that your influence should be sought to draw public attention to the matter, and with a view to obtaining concerted action on the part of theQueensland members, copies of this letter have been directed to each of them with a view to facilitating early action.
It is very much regretted that this request is necessary at a time when the House is fully engaged with important business, but the urgency of the case,, and the fact that no other avenue of redress is open has made it necessary to seek the assistance asked for.
What was complained of was a statement appearing in the Federal Service Gazette under the heading - “ Boards of Enquiry. Tampering with Justice. Extraordinary actions in Queensland. Divisional representatives debarred from attendance. Public Service Act flouted. Parliament ignored.”
The report which followed was this - -
In consequence of certain information received, a representative of the Federal Service waited on the Clerical Division representative for Queensland (Mr. Wm. Thomson), to make inquiries into the manner in which certain Boards of Inquiry have been conducted recently. Mr. Thomson, in response to a question, admitted that four Boards of Inquiry had been appointed in Queensland during the last month, at which he, as Divisional “Representative duly elected under the Public Service Act of 1902, will not be present, and will be prevented from being present by the action of the chief officers of the Departments concerned and the Public Service Inspector. This extraordinary state of affairs naturally prompted inquiries as to whether there were any special reasons for the action taken, and the information was given that although Mr. Thomson had protested against this procedure, he had been informed that the Commissioner had decided that the action taken was quite legal, and, therefore, it was not necessary for the representative to be present to hear the cases.
Sub-section 4 of section 46 of the Public Service Act of 1902 provides that -
Every such Board shall, after fully hearing the case, report to the chief officer the proceedings and evidence taken, and their opinion thereon.
Mr. Staniforth Smith was responsible for that provision, and when moving it in the Senate he said - Hansard, Vol. VII., page 9720 -
I propose that the board should go thoroughly into every appeal, and submit the evidence taken by it, together with a recommendation to the Commissioner, who would either adopt the recommendation, or read the evidence carefully and come to a decision himself. By that means celerity would be obtained. Instead of the Commissioner receiving a letter, which, judging by past experience, he would throw into the waste-paper basket or merely file away, he would obtain a recommendation from a properly constituted Board, together with the evidence, taken by it, and he would thus be in a position to decide every case. I think that such a Board would be an improvement upon appeal direct to the Commissioner, because it would enable an aggrieved officer to have his case heard locally.
The regulation objected to is 267a. I am always suspicious of anything numbered a or b, because I regard it as an afterthought, often containing something not obvious to the ordinary reader. It is as follows -
When a charge against an officer has been referred to a Board of Inquiry, and the officer is stationed in a- locality far removed from the capital of the State, or would be subjected to considerable expense in travelling to appear before the Board of Inquiry, the Chief Officer, with the approval of a Public Service Inspector, may appoint a competent person or persons to take evidence on oath, at the place where the offence is alleged to have been committed, concerning the inquiry, and such evidence shall be forwarded for the consideration of the Board of Inquiry, who, after considering such evidence, shall report to the Chief Officer the proceedings and evidence taken, and their opinion thereon.
How can it be said that the Board has heard and taken evidence when that evidence has been taken by some one else at a place 200 or 300 milesaway? Recently at Bowen the Police Magistrate took evidence, and sent it down to the Board at Brisbane. As men of the world, we know that one can judge better whether a witness is telling the truth if he has an opportunity to question him and observe his demeanour, than if there is merely a statement of his evidence to read. The Act should be carried out in its entirety. If the Department chooses to throw away its privileges let it do so, but the representative elected by the Service should be present to hear the evidence taken. .
– The Act provides for the taking of evidence in the absence of a Board.
– It provides that the GovernorGeneral may make that arrangement. My objection is that that has been embodied in a regulation.
– I see that if the Chief Officer considers the offence to be sufficiently serious the investigation may be by Board, but if it is not serious, that step need not be taken.
– In such case the head of the Department deals with the matter, but the case which I have mentioned was referred to a Board. The evidence was taken by one man, and then sent down to Brisbane; and this was what was sent by the man who heard the evidence -
Having heard the evidence, which enables me to form a better conclusion than could be formed by merely reading it, I am of the opinion- and so forth.
– He had already decided the case.
– Quite so; and he said he was in a better position to give an opinion, because he had heard the witnesses. All that is asked is that the representatives of the public servants, who are charged, shall be present at the inquiry, and I do not think that the request is too much.
– Was the charge a serious one ?
– The case was one in which a registered letter, containing a nomination paper, had been held back, and the person charged had no one to represent him, although that was his right under the Act.
– The same has been done in Tasmania.
– The Act says distinctly that the Board shall hear evidence, and I consider that it was altogether wrong on the part of the Commissioner to take the action he did. If the Department or the Public Service Commissioner do not care to send a representative to the inquiry, that is all right ; but I should like to refer honorable members to what was said when the Act was under discussion in the Senate on the 22nd January, 1902. Senator Staniforth Smith, on clause 50, in introducing an amendment- providing for proper representation, said -
I see that by clause 46 a tribunal is created to inquire into charges made by superior officers against civil servants, but there is no appeal board appointed to hear complaints made by members of the Civil Service against the actions of their superior officer.
That amendment moved by Senator Staniforth Smith is embodied in the Act to-day ; and this was what was said by Senator Drake, who represented the Government in another place -
The Board, when constituted, hears the case and sends a representative with a recommendation to the Commissioner, whose decision is to be final.
How can cases be adjudicated upon when the evidence is heard 300 or 400 miles away and forwarded in writing ?
– What does the honorable member think of a similar inquiry where the person charged was not present ?
– I should call it a most unjust proceeding.
– Under sub-section e of section 80 of the Act, which deals with regulations, the Government may takepower to constitute a Board in any part of the Commonwealth for the purpose of investigating charges against officers. That is an extraordinary power which really overrides the section to which the honorable member for Maranoa is referring.
– Yes, that section overrides the whole Act.
– If a Board is constituted under regulation it overrides the power of the Statute.
– Yes ; and that is what has been done.
– There is power to constitute a different kind of Board, which does not provide for a representative being present.
– Regulation 265 is as follows -
A Divisional Representative shall not sit on a Board of Inquiry to determine any matter in which he is personally interested, but in any such case the Commissioner may appoint any other officer from the same division to act in his stead.
Section 46 of the Act provides -
Every such Board shall, after fully hearing the case, report to the Chief Officer the proceedings and evidence taken and their’ opinion thereon.
How, in the face of this,can the Commissioner provide that the evidence shall be taken by one man and forwarded to another? If public servants may be deprived of their rights by regulation the sooner the law is altered the better. In other States public servants have protested against such proceedings, and yet they are now being carried on in Queensland. I should like to know what the Government intend to do in regard to this matter. The expenditure of a few pounds would secure the presence of “a representative.
– The presence or absence of a representative is a serious matter to the person charged.
– In the Bowen case it was a most serious matter to the person charged; indeed, it involved the person’s position in the Department. If the Government does not take some action I cannot allow the matter to drop.
– Are the officers in such cases seriously affected in regard to their positions ?
– They might be dismissed.
– In Tasmania a woman was dismissed who had not been present at the inquiry.
– I do not see how a public servant could be dismissed without a proper hearing of the case.
– I can assure the honorable member for East Sydney that such cases have occurred, and if the public servants have not some one to voice their grievances the Commissioner will ride rough-shod over them.
– Which Commissioner ?
- Mr. McLachlan, the Public Service Commissioner.
– He is the best man in the service.
– That is the opinion of the Treasurer, but it is not my opinion.
– The honorable member does not know the Public Service Commissioner very well. .
– Can we regard him as a good Commissioner when he issues such regulations as I have quoted?
– The Government, and not the Commissioner, issue the regulations.
– Then the Government are to blame. I saw recently a copy of a letter sent to the Public Service Association in Brisbane, in which the Postmaster-General, who has been advising postal employes in Victoria to form unions so that they may make their voices heard, stated that he did not recognise a union any more than he did an individual. That being so, why does he tender to postal employes in this State the advice to which I have referred? If the Government are responsible for the regulation I have named, the sooner they amend it the better.
– They issued it at the direction of the Commissioner.
– Of course. The Minister need not try to shield him.
– Can the honorable member bring any charge against the Commissioner ?
– What am I doing but making a charge against him.
– When the honorable member gets to the bottom of the matter, he will find that the complaint is not correct. I am not going to remain quiet while the Commissioner’s name is being bandied about in this way. He is one of the best officers we have ever had.
– I am going to tell the Minister the truth about himself, and Mr. McLachlan too.
– Then let the honorable member tell it ; he seems to know all about the matter.
– I can produce documentary evidence in support of every assertion I have made.
– I shall take care that I know all about the matter tomorrow.
-So shall I. If I do not have an explanation from the Minister, ] shall move the adjournment of the House day after day until I receive one that I regard as satisfactory.
– I do not care what the honorable member does.
– I know that the honorable member does not.
– The honorable member should attack, not the. officer, but the Minister.
– I am doing so, and I say that this regulation, whilst framed by the Commissioner, was fathered by the Government. The Ministry knew that in accepting that regulation, they were not doing what was right.
– They did not.
– The Government knew that they were trying to curtail the privileges of the men.
– Nonsense ! The honorable membershould wait until he hears the other side.
– I want to hear the other side. I hope that the Treasurer will tell us why this regulation was framed, and why it is applied to Queensland and not to the other States.
– If it is applied to the officersin one State, it is applied, I think, to those in every State.
– A deduction of a few pounds per annum from the salary of a man who receives only £110 per annum is felt more severely than is a proportionately higher deduction from the salary of a man receiving £350 a year. The Public Service Act confers certain privileges on the officers of the Commonwealth service, and I do not think that the Government should endeavour, in an underhand way, to deprive them of any of those privileges, or to indulge in sharp practices.
– We do not do anything of the sort.
– On the face of it, this appears to be a piece of sharp practice.
– This is the first I have heard of the case, but I shall make myself familiar with the facts to-morrow, and tell the House all that I know about the matter.
– That satisfies me.
.- Although the discussion has been somewhat protracted, the ventilation of grievances which has taken place will result in a saving of time when the Estimates in chief are reached. I do not think that it would be advisable to discuss the Government scheme of defence until the Bill relating to it is actually before the House. It may be a much better scheme than the preliminary sketch of it. that has been presented to us suggests, but I should like to express the hope that the Government will push on with the question of defence. I hope that it will not allow the Bill to find its way to the bottom of the notice-paper, to be rushed through at the end of the session-. I trust that the Government will give the House an early and adequate opportunity to deal with it in a comprehensive and liberal manner. Unless that be. done, the uncertainty and unrest which exist in the Naval and Military Forces will become accentuated and almost unbearable. The doubt which has hitherto been prevailing amongst the naval and military organizations of the Commonwealth has, to some extent, resulted in the unsatisfactory state of affairs described by the Prime Minister. I hope, therefore, that every effort will be made to push on with the Bill without delay. I recently saw in the press a statement that, pending the consideration of the new scheme by Parliament, an order had been issued by the Minister preventing further recruiting to the ranks of the militia.
– If that is so, it is altogether wrong.
SirJOHN QUICK. - If recruiting has been stopped, a very serious blunder has been made.
– It has not been stopped.
– I am glad to hear it. The statement appeared in several papers. It was announced with the utmost circumstantiality, and prevented a number of young men in my own electorate, who desired to join the militia, from doing so. If such a proposal were contemplated, it is a great mistake, and’ I hope that the Minister will’ not be a party to anything of the kind. Another complaint I have to make is that rifle club’s have been refused registration and the granting of facilities pending the consideration of the new defence scheme.
-That is absolutely incorrect.
– I was told by a constituent of’ mine, Mr. James Dempster of West Shelburne, that forty men had been sworn in as members of a rifle club in that district, but that the Department had refused to register the club on account of either want of funds or lack of policy.
– The rifle clubs have never been called in question. There has never been any doubt in regard to them.
– Has this rifle club been refused registration? I shall be delighted to inform those forty men tomorrow that they may go on with their project.
– It is an absolute fact that the military section do not want rifle clubs.
– Quite so. But it is the policy of this Parliament that rifle clubs shall be established. That policy is recognised in the new scheme propounded by the Government. It would be disastrous if, pending its consideration, anything were done to prevent the formation, equipment, and encouragement of rifle clubs, or to prevent men from joining the militia.
– The honorable member may inform those interested that the policy of the Government is to encourage rifle clubs. I do not say that there may not be some little difficulty, but the rifle club movement has been extremely successful.
– Will the Minister take a note of my complaint, and see that these matters are rectified ? ‘
– We cannot say when the new scheme will be brought before Parliament and finally dealt with. In: the meantime there should be no cessation of the normal continuity of the . Defence Forces, both, naval and military, and of efforts to induce men to join the ranks. I take the opportunity of saying that I entirely concur with the observations made by the leader of the Opposition in reference to the underpaying and sweating of some of the hands in the Postal Department. I had made some notes on the subject before the right honorable member spoke, and will certainly join with him and the Postmaster-General in appealing to the Treasurer and the House to take action for the removal of those grievances. The leader of the Opposition brought under notice cases in which certain men had been underpaid.
– The honorable member knows that the Department does not. fix these salaries.
– I do not blame the Postmaster-General. It is the result of the “grading” system fixed by the Public Service Commissioner. I find that the highest rates of wages paid for lettercarriers - taking their case as a typical one - is from ,£132 to .£138 per annum. Letter-carriers in the next grade receive from ,£114 to .£126 per annum. There is still another grade, comprising assistant letter-carriers; who do exactly the same work as is done by those in the first and Second grades, and who receive the magnificent salary of from £60 to £110 per annum. I know that this is a fact, because in. response to an appeal for the appointment of additional letter-carriers to relieve, the pressure of. the staff at Bendigo, the Department, after a long-continued agitation -on my part, decided to appoint an assistant letter-carrier at the magnificent salary of £60 per annum.
– What age is he?
– I do not know. But I do know that he is an assistant lettercarrier, and I find that the salary of these officials ranges from £60 to .£110 per annum. This officer has to perform the same kind of work as the first and second grade letter-carriers. I believe that there is what is known as an allowance postoffice for the conduct of which a lump sum is paid to the individual who carries it on. Out of this lump sum provision has to be made for the payment of the letter-carrier. I invite the attention of honorable members to the following extract from a communication which I have received from a lettercarrier connected with an allowance office -
I may state for your information that I have been engaged in the local post-office here for the past seventeen years without any complaint against me. But during the depression a’ very large reduction was made in all Departments,’ myself, in particular, being reduced from £63 per year to £42 per year, which was paid me by the Department.
The writer is not a mere lad but an old man who has grown- grey in the service, and who at the age of 50 years finds himself in receipt of about ,£42 per annum, or 16s. per week. He adds -
Since the time of the reduction I have received at the rale of £42 per annum, which means only r6s. per week. Work at this office has considerably increased.
In justice to the Postmaster-General, I may say that these low salaries are fixed by the Public Service Commissioner under the powers conferred upon him by the Public Service Act. At the same time the GovernorGeneral in Council has ratified these regulations, and to that extent the Government are. responsible for them. In deciding the amount to be granted for the maintenance of a country post-office, I maintain that provision should be made for the lette,carrier receiving a living wage. If the person in charge of a country o’ffice cannot afford to give more than 16s. per week to a letter-carrier, it is conclusive proof that the allowance received from the Government is not sufficiently substantial. I ask those who believe in the payment of a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work to join with me in urging that these grievances shall be remedied.
– How many hours ner day does the officer to whom the honorable member has referred work?
– He gives the whole of his time to the post-office in question. I do not suppose that he can obtain another billet whilst he is engaged in lettercarrying. I believe that there is really some ground for complaint regarding sweating in the Postal Department. This is a great revenue-earning Department-
– It is not. This year it willbe , £400,000 to the bad as compared with last year.
– That may be the result of mistaken policy in other directions. The honorable member for Coolgardie illustrated how the Department has lost money by erecting an expensive telephone wire from Melbourne to Sydney. That line is barely paying working expenses, altogether apart from interest.
– Nonsense ; I say that it is paying interest.
– I beg my colleague’s pardon, it is not. I have the figures before me now.
– A large expenditure was incurred last year for the purpose of duplicating communication between the two capitals-, notwithstanding that at that very time honorable members were begging for the construction of a few telephone lines in the outskirts of their districts.
– For whose benefit was the telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney erected?
– I cannot say. It may be that it is largely used as a Government telephone - as a means of communication between Ministers in Melbourne and Ministers in Sydney. I doubt whether it is such a great public convenience as it was anticipated it would prove. Certainly its construction was not justified at the expense of poorly paid letter-carriers and at the sacrifice of postal facilities in rural areas.
– Yet the Government propose to sacrifice £200,000 upon the adoption of penny postage.
– I do not intend to discuss that matter at the present juncture. I hope that the Treasurer will agree to grant the Postmaster-General financial assistance for the extension of postal facilities wherever they may reasonably be required. I understand that the PostmasterGeneral is favorably impressed with the need for extending telephone communication into rural districts, and I most heartily approve of that policy. In America, the extension of the telephone into rural areas has done a great deal towards reconciling people to country life, and has tended to improve their condition.
– It is doing the same thing here.
– I hope that the Postmaster-General will endeavour to grant an extension in every case where there is a substantial population to be accommodated. If the guarantee is insisted on in every case people will not get up petitions.
– In America they do not give 2.000 calls for £6 ayear.
– I have been asked by constituents in Strathfieldsaye, Kamarooka, Raywood, and other parts of my electorate, to obtain telephone extensions ; but when petitions showing a good case have been got up they have always been replied to by a printed departmental circular demanding a guarantee. Was any guarantee demanded prior to the construction of the telephone line from Melbourne to Sydney? I boiled with indignation when that work was agreed to without the application of the conditions which are always enforced in regard to ordinary country extensions.
– The work was carried out by the Reid Ministry, which the honorable member supported.
– I do not believe in guarantees.
– We had not an opportunity to discuss the proposal. I hope that the Postmaster- General will persevere in his efforts to remedy grievances, and that the Treasurer will strongly support him in effecting improvements.
– I wish to again protest against the action of the Government in starving country postal services. I do not know who is responsible, but in connexion with the last renewal of mail services hundreds of small services were discontinued which had been carried on by the States foryears. They may have appeared unimportant to the Secretary to the Department; but country people get very few of the advantages of government, and the least we can do is to extend their postal facilities.
– The honorable member’s constituency is a universe in itself.
– That is a reason why it should have a little more consideration. A typical case in which a mail service which had been in existence for years has been discontinued has been brought under my notice by two members of the South
Australian Parliament, whose letter I intend to read. There was formerly a mail twice a week, and on tenders being- called for the service an offer of ,£70 was received. According to the Department the revenue is only .£58 16s. 7d. per annum, showing a loss of .2, I- 3s. 5’d., because of which the service was abandoned. The ^Postmaster-General goes through the country promising improved telephonic, telegraphic, and postal facilities ; but he ought to know that the departmental regulation requiring a guarantee of 10 per cent, on the cost of construction ‘kills many a proposition at the start. I know of cases in which the departmental estimate of revenue was equivalent to 5 per cent, on the actual cost of the work, plus expenses of attendance. Yet a guarantee based on 10 per cent, of the cost of construction has been demanded. Such a demand is extortionate, the Commonwealth does not borrow money, but if it did it would not pay move than 5 per cent, for it. Even in districts where the life of a telegraph pole is only twelve or thirteen years, the Department, making a charge of 5 per cent., would get back its outlay in addition to the revenue from the line. I do not wonder that Federation is held in contempt in country districts when they see every facility being granted to a town, and centralization governing everything. No guarantee was asked for in connexion with the Melbourne-Sydney telephone ; but “no country connexion will be considered without one. The letter which I received from the members of the South Australian Parliament is .as follows -
If you will kindly procure the petition which was presented to the Deputy Postmaster-General by us, you will see that good and substantial reasons were given why this service should not be discontinued.
In addition, there is an offer to carry out the1 contract at the price originally paid.
As representatives of a country district in the South Australian State Parliament we must protest against the growing tendency to curtail the postal facilities previously enjoyed by settlers in the outlying portions of this State. It seems to be fast becoming the rule that’ no postal facilities are to be granted unless a profit can be shown on each particular service.
We wonder whether the same care is taken to see that each of the many daily deliveries Tn the cities are paying propositions,’ also that each city person who has .1 telephone at his elbow all day is paying full cost of same.
We also note by this morning’s press that the Chamber of Manufactures have been notified of the intention of the Federal Government to introduce a Penny Postage Bill as early as possible.
Might we suggest, that, before the cost of posting a letter is reduced 50 per cent, to the city man, with all his conveniences, at least none of the necessary requirements of country patrons of the Postal Department are cut off.
I hope that the Minister will reconsider the question of guarantee. I do not wish to move an adverse motion in regard to the matter; but I cannot find out from any one why the 10 per cent, guarantee is required.
– A guarantee in regard to what?
– In regard to the extension of any telegraph or telephone line. Suppose a telephone extension is asked for, and that the Department is informed that it will cost .£250.’ They m once require a guarantee of ,£25, plus (he cost of the attendance at the dead en. I. While they make this excessive charge, however, they make no allowance whatever in their calculations for the revenue to be. earned on the already existing lines in consequence of the extension.
– They do now.
– It has not been done in the estimates I now have before me.
– I will make inquiries, but 1 have given instructions that the Department shall take into account the additional revenue earned on existing lines.
– It has only, been done very recently, if at all. Every extension must necessarily contribute a certain amount of additional revenue to the existing system, and it is fair that that should be taken into consideration in relation to the extension of any telephonic service. 1 also have a complaint to make in connexion with the Electoral Department. If ever I felt ashamed of this Commonwealth and its administration, I did during the last few months, when I visited a town in my electorate called Petersburg. There is, in the main street of that town, a substantial town-hall ( and public institute - a very respectable building, erected by the people themselves. A few yards from it, in the same street, there is a post-office - quite a decent little stone structure. But the Electoral Department required some place which the Chief Electoral Officer of the District of Grey could use as an office. A doctor at Petersburg invited me to go and look at this building which the Commonwealth’ had put up. To my amazement I found that they had erected, between two substantial buildings, a plain little galvanized iron structure, 12 feet bv 14 feet. This they called a Commonwealth office. The window in it was about 2 feet square. In this little place our electoral officer is supposed to do the great amount of work that falls upon him in connexion with the district of Grey.
– Is that in a cold climate ?
– No. Petersburg is considerably north of Adelaide. This galvanized iron place is the laughing-stock of the town, and I felt positively ashamed of the Commonwealth having put up such a place in the main street between two decent buildings. I do not know who is responsible for it, but if I remain a member of this House that building will have to be removed. It is a disgrace to all concerned.
– Is the honorable member able to say whether there were rooms available in the post-office?
– I do not know, but I should think that the Department could have added a little to the post-office, especially in view of the fact that the whole tendency is to make our postmasters act as electoral officers. The present post-office building is not big enough to afford any accommodation to another Department, because there is now a telephonic exchange in it, but arrangements could easily have been made for an addition to the building for the purposes of the Chief Electoral Officer.
– I was not aware that the Chief Electoral Officer needed a special office. Most of our officers do without an office, I think. It is so in my electorate.
– What does the officer do with his dockets then? Prior to this building being erected, the dockets accumulated by the officer were sufficient to fill an ordinary-sized van, closely packed from top to bottom. There is a great amount of correspondence, all of which has to be kept in order in some place.
– Theremust be a great amount of business to do in the electorate of Grey, as compared with other _ constituencies.
– There are about 140 polling places. What does the Chief Electoral Officer do in the electorate of Wide Bay?
– He has merely a small room.
– I do not know where he stores his dockets and correspondence then.
– He is an excellent officer.
– He may be, but he must have a place for his material. At any rate, I venture to say that it was disgraceful to put up this corrugated iron shanty in the main street of Petersburg.
– Perhaps it is only a temporary structure.
– Then there has been a waste of money. I always find that to do a job properly in the beginning is the cheapest method. I venture to say that if such a building had been put up in the main streetof many towns the people would have been up in arms.
– I think the honorable member is right on that point.
– I also desire to mention another matter. It relates to a mistake which, in my opinion, has been made in connexion with a new mail contract. I refer to the Spencer Gulf mail service accommodating Franklin Harbor. Hitherto, there has been a service from Wallaroo to Franklin Harbor, which insured to the people the advantage of a regular boat service. The Adelaide Steamship Company always complained of having to go to Franklin Harbor. For some unknown reason, the postal authorities called for alternative tenders - one for the delivery of mails at Arno Bay twice a week, to serve the Franklin Harbor district, and the other for delivery at Arno Bay, and once at Franklin Harbor, via Wallaroo. This suited the company, because they had a monopoly, and knew no one else would tender. Consequently only the tender for the Arno Bay service was put in. The service from FranklinHarbor to Wallaroo direct - a four hours’ run across the gulf - has been cut off. At least a thousand settlers around Franklin Harbor are put to great inconvenience,’ and the only party advantaged is the steamship com pany. 1 did not hear of the arrangement until the tender had been accepted, but I made a protest against it. The Department called for fresh tenders from Wallaroo to Franklin Harbor, and I understand the company then put in a tender of £500 fora weekly service. The Department considered the price too high. I suggested recently to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of South Australia that the company should be asked to put in a lower tender for the work. The Department may argue that they must regard the matter only from the postal stand-point, but they should take into consideration another important aspect. The steamer was supposed to run to Franklin Harbor once a week, but it no longer carried the mails: there, and so it was liable to be taken off the trip at any time. In the week I was there it was taken off. People from Franklin Harbor have now noregular means of crossing; the gulf. I believe there is no doctor on their side, and it is necessary to go across to Wallaroo for medical attendance. When I was there five ladies drove in over 30 miles, expecting to cross as usual from Franklin Harbor by boat, as people had done for twenty years. They found that no boat was running, as there was no longer a mail contract. They had then to drive 36 miles over rough roads on a wet night to Arno Bay, and be taken off at the end of a jetty which the vessel cannot come within a quarter of a mile of. They had to go down an iron ladder with a high sea running, be rowed over to the ship, and get on board as best they could. I felt extremely sorry to see the conditions brought about by that change in the mail service. While it is no part of the duty of the Postal Department to provide the people of the district with boat facilities, it should take into consideration the results of its action. I believe the previous service was cheaper. Arno Bay is no place at which to land women, even in the best of health. The Minister should endeavour to re-establish the twenty-year-old service from Wallaroo, and induce the shipping company to reduce their price for the contract to a reasonable sum. The present ‘ state of things is a serious grievance to the district. ‘ If no option had been given in tendering, the company would have tendered for the Wallaroo and Arno Bay service combined. I do not know who is responsible for the Department’s action, but I know that the steamship company had been trying to get out of the responsibility for the previous service for a long time. The Department has now played into their hands, and put the settlers to great inconvenience.
– It is most extraordinary that after an election has taken place, and an honorable senator has been returned to the other branch of the Legislature by a majority of 7,000 votes, he and the people he represents should be kept out of their parliamentary rights under the extraordinary circumstance that two or three votes polled at some remote part of South Australia will take several weeks to come to hand. We are told that in consequence of the absence of those votes it is impossible to make a return to the writ issued for the South Aus tralian Senate election, to enable the people of the State to be represented in the Federal Parliament. This is a matter of serious consequence, because if our laws are in that state they are a disgrace to us. However, I find, from any reference that I have been able to make to them, that there is absolutely no reason for the delay that has taken place in connexion with the return of this writ.
– It is rumoured that the delay is due to a desire that the Opposition shall not have the assistance of the new senator in dealing with the Tariff.
– I have no wish to attribute any motives in connexion with the matter. I should of course like to hear an explanation from the Government, and I am speaking subject to any that may be given. I say that I can find nothing in the law dealing with the matter which justifies this extraordinary delay. Paragraph e of section 160 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1902 is the only part of the Act in which reference is made to any necessity for a return of all the votes polled, and it does not refer to the Electoral Officer for the State. It provides -
The Divisional Returning Officer shall certify by indorsement on his’ copy of the writ the number of votes given for each candidate by electors enrolled for the division, and forward the copy of the writ so indorsed to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State.
The divisional officers in this case have forwarded to the Commonwealth officer for the State copies of the writ indorsed with the number of votes, which show that of the two candidates one has been elected by a majority of 7,000 votes, and the Commonwealth officer for the State is aware that a copy of the writ indorsed with two votes is travelling across the Continent. In the circumstances, unless there is some legal obstacle to his returning the writ with a declaration of the return of the successful candidate, such an intolerable state of things as is involved in this delay should not be permitted to exist, because according to that view of the law if some one intercepted the person taking the writ indorsed with the two votes to the post for transmission and stole it out of his pocket there could be no return at all. I am happy to say that the law does not lend itself to any such ridiculous position.
– The Returning Officer asked for permission to declare the result of the election.
– I am very glad to hear it. That was a common-sense procedure on his part. The position of the Electoral Officer for the State is set out in section 161 of the Act to which I have referred. It provides that when the copies of the writ are sent back by the divisional officers with the numbers of Votes polled for each candidate indorsed on them it is his duty to ascertainthe total number of votes polled by each candidate, and in the event of an equality of votes he is given a casting vote for the purpose of deciding the election. All that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer has to do is to ascertain which candidate has been returned by a majority of votes. No duty is cast upon him to wait until he can tot up all the returns sent in by the divisional officers. Honorable members will bear in mind that I am dealing only with this particular case. There might in other cases be an element of uncertainty which would render it grossly improper for the electoral officer not to hesitate as to the action he should take. I am dealing with a case where a majority of 7,000 votes has been recorded for one candidate, and two votes are in transit.
– Section 161 of the Act refers to the total number. That is the difficulty.
– No, the Commonwealth electoral officer for the State is not required to certify as to the total number.
– The section quoted says that he must ascertain the total number.
– But he might ascertain the totalnumber by telegraph. The law does not say that he shall not do so in that way. If he has 7,000 votes returned with copies of. the writ, he can ascertain the other two by telegraph. It would be an astonishing effect of the law to suppose that when the Commonwealth electoral officer for a State gets returns of copies of the writ, showing 7,000 majority for one candidate, whilst two votes have not yet come in, although he knows they are on the road, he cannot declare that the man with a majority of 7,000 has been returned. The moment he is absolutely satisfied,, as in this case he must be, for if the two votes were counted in a particular way they would only make the majority 6,998 instead of 7,000, the law does not impose any obstacle to his returning the writ. We passed a special Act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1902, which sets out the form of the writ. It does not call upon the electoral officer to return the number of . votes polled, but calls upon him to certify-omitting refer ences to the nomination and other preliminaries -
And we command you to indorse on this our writ the names of the senators elected, and to return it so indorsed to our Governor in and for our said State on or before - and then the date is mentioned. The only blank in the form of the writ which the electoral officer for the State is required to fill up is that left for the insertion of the names of the successful candidates. There is nothing to prevent the returning officer in this case returning the writ with the indorsement that Mr. Joseph Vardon has been duly elected. When he indorses the writ with the name of the successful candidate it is complete, and may be returned, and when it is returned the person declared to be elected can take his seat. There is a further provision in section 167 of the Act of 1902. I need not read from it any words which do not bear on this case, but it provides that -
Any delay, error, or omission in the………… return of any……… writ……… may be remedied ………… by proclamation.
So that if there happened to be some technical defect in the way of the transmission of the writ before the two votes referred to had been received, power is provided by the law to prevent that error from invalidating the election. If the electoral officer for the State did return the writ with the name who could complain?How could the two electors whose votes have not been returned have any standing to complain that their votes were not counted against the 7,000? There is always a remedy in the High Court if an improper return has -been made, but when a man has received a majority of 6,998 votes, how could two persons for any conceivable reason in the world, appeal against the return? The Court of Disputed Returns was expressly made a Court of good conscience, without regard to legal forms and technicalities. Who could appear before that Court with a. petition that the person whose name was inserted in the writ should’ be declared unlawfully elected because some two votes had not been totted’ up against 7,000? I await some explanation of the matter - because if the delay complained of is due to any action taken by the Government, that action was nodoubt considered - but I say most solemnly that in my view there has been too much of mistake in this matter all through. It is no reflection upon the learned AttorneyGeneral to say that he has made a serious mistake, because even more distinguished lawyers have been found to make mistakes. But it is an unfortunate thing that the law officers of the Federal Government should have made a. mistake which has kept a man out of his seat for all this time.
– The right honorable gentleman forgets that advice .was also given by the State law officers, and that some responsibility rests with them.
– I am sure that the honorable and learned gentleman does not desire to divide the responsibility ?
– Certainly not.
– I know that a very eminent counsel, who is not connected with the Government in any way, made the same mistake, and I say that it is most unfortunate that such a mistake .was made. This mistake having been made, and a man having been elected by a majority of 7,000 in a great State, it is a monstrous shame and disgrace to the Commonwealth that he is not in his place in the Senate. Unfortunately, in the present state of things, one vote in that Chamber would mean all the difference in the world in regard to certain decisions. Surely honorable members who attach vital importance to the will of the people being expressed in the Parliament cannot sit idly by while the voice of a great State is strangled on a miserable technicality which does not exist in the law at all ! There would be some excuse if the law were in such a monstrous condition that a miserable technicality could prevent the voice of the people of a State from being heard. The Attorney-General may be able. to point out some difficulties which [ have overlooked, - but I cannot find any. I can find no necessity for more than the indorsement of the writ with the name of the successful candidate. Any other information would be foreign to the writ and to the law which settled its terms, and left only that blank, with the previous blanks in regard to nomination, and so on. I do not know how long this disfranchisement of these thousands of electors is to continue. Suppose that the two votes do not arrive for the next six weeks or two months. Is South Australia to continue to be unrepresented because the right’ man has not been returned? Is everything to depend upon the two wretched pieces of paper which are travelling “somewhere over the great interior of Australia? Is there no power in the Federal Government to seek the man in possession of them? Is there any provision in the Act which prevents the electoral officer from doing what should be done? If the Government have not interfered, I have nothing to say. But if the electoral officer asked for advice, and especially if he was willing to do his duty, and was stopped by any official interference or advice,, the matter assumes a most serious aspect. If he has sat idle in his office, I think that he has grossly neglected his duty. If, however, he has been willing and ready to return the writ, and his action in returning it has been delayed by some authority-
– He asked the Crown Law authorities for permission to return the writ.
– If he was prepared .to return the writ, and was stopped by the Federal authorities, a gross wrong and an abuse of the law and the_ rights of the people has been effected by the Government. The law does. not say that the returning officer shall not do his duty and fill in the writ when the man whose name ought to be there has been honestly returned beyond the shadow of a doubt. The law does not paralyze the hands of the Government, and if they have paralyzed the hands of the electoral officer, they have assumed a very extraordinary responsibility. I shall be glad to know what provision there is in the law which prevents that officer from filling in the name because of the absence of two solitary figures when there is a majority of 7,000. I think that the Government will, admit, that there has not been any great attempt to embarrass or reproach them in any way in connexion with this matter, but it has gone to a stage at which it cannot be allowed to remain without a strenuous protest. . The voice of South Australia is being stifled day after day. Does the law stifle ‘ its voice ? Is it the Government who are stifling it, by preventing the returning officer from doing what he is desirous of doing- the right thing which the law does not prevent him from doing? What power is this that is above the law. that can enter the office of the Electoral Department and stop a man from taking his seat in the Senate at a time when vital issues are concerned? We see that night after night the determination of important questions has been dependent upon one vote. Why should that one vote of South Australia be strangled? Is it’ because it might go in a certain direction? If it were likely to go in the other way, would the man be kept out? Would these cobwebs be spun in order to prevent the force of public opinion from being registered in the Senate? I shall be very glad indeed if the Government can point to a word in the Electoral law which can, with any show of reason, or justice, or decency, prevent the filling in of the writ with the name of Joseph Vardon.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney has, with considerable warmth, put certain aspects of the case before the Committee.
– I gave my honorable friend notice, too.
– The right honorable gentleman was kind enough to give me notice of his intention, and I made inquiries of the Department To ascertain exactly what the facts were. There was no motive in the mind of the Government to keep any constituency out of its representation. The election took place, and the votes of two absent voters were outstanding at a certain polling place. The law provides that a person, no matter where he may be, is entitled to record his vote’. If he is out of his electoral division he may record his vote at, say, Alice Springs. At this election two electors who belonged to the Adelaide division were out of their area, and recorded their vote in Grey division under the provisions for absent voters. Under the regulations, an absolute duty is cast upon the officer.
– Which regulations can be altered in a moment.
– These regulations were in force at the time of the election, and are still in force.
– Because the Government did not suspend them, in order to do justice.
– We cannot suspend the regulations while an election is pending.
– But after the election was over it could have been done.
– These were the regulations under which the election was conducted, and these two votes were given under them. They require that every absent voter ‘s ballot-paper containing a vote shall be sent to the returning officer. A duty is cast upon the divisional returning officer to examine every absent voter’s ballot-paper received by him pursuant to the regulations. He has to take these votes and count them. By section 160 an absolute duty is cast upon him not to close his scrutiny until he . has received all the votes. The general provisions are contained in section 155. Section 154 says that the result of the poll shall be ascertained by scrutiny. In order to get the result of the poll the returning officer has to count every vote.
– If there is a majority of 7,000 votes he knows the result of the poll.
– The Act casts the duty on the officer to receive every single ballotpaper.
– But the Act does not tell him to suspend the return of the writ.
– The Divisional Returning Officer has to certify by indorsement the number of votes given for each candidate, and, before he can certify on his copy of the writ he has to take into consideration every single vote outstanding, including those of absent voters ; he cannot give the certificate by law until all these votes have been counted. Under section 161, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer must, from copies of the writ forwarded to him by the Divisional Returning Officers, ascertain the number of the votes; and he cannot do so until he gets the copies of the writ from the Divisional Returning Officers. The Act requires each Divisional Returning Officer, first, to count all the votes before he can send any information to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. This may be a legal technicality ; but it is a duty cast on the officer-; and every elector has the right to have his vote recorded. The vote of a man at Alice Springs is just as important as the vote of a man in the city ; and I am only now dealing with a pure question’ of law. In “this instance, the Divisional Returning Officer asked whether he could, seeing that he had not received certain votes, give his certificate, and he was told that he could not do so until all the votes had been received. The next proposition by the honorable member for East Sydney is that we could take advantage of section 167.
– I do not say that the honorable member should have anything to do with the matter at all.
– At any rate, it is suggested that advantage should be taken of that section. But the right honorable member misconceives the object of the section. The Act provides for any delay which may arise, and “ delay “ must be interpreted to mean something arising from accident or unforeseen circumstances. But the circumstances in this case were of an ordinary character ; that is, the votes would, in the ordinary time of transmission, reach the officer on a certain date. I may say that in Queensland I have had to wait five weeks before I could Be declared elected, owing to a vote required from a distant place.
– It is an idiotic idea !
– The power to set aside the provisions of the Electoral Act can be exercised only under extraordinary circumstances.
– It would not be necessary to exercise the power if the man were returned.
– The object of this provision in the Act is to meet delay . arising from accident, such as floods or destruction of documents; it is then that the Act may be suspended and the election declared valid. But such did not happen in this case.
– Was there not a delay in the return of ballot papers ?
– It may be that the votes took a long time in coming, but that is not “ delay “ under the Act. The proclamations issued in this connexion contemplate some unforeseen contingencies, which are the only grounds under which the GovernorGeneral in Council may suspend the Act. It so happens, however, that only to-night we have received a telegram informing us that probably what amounts to legal delay has arisen, and that these votes may be kept back by reason of floods - in other words, “ the act of God.” In anticipation, a rough draft of the necessary proclamation has been prepared, and will be put into operation declaring the election valid.
– Thank Heaven ! I hope the proclamation will be issued at once.
– It will, and every effortwill be made to enable the honorable senator to take his seat. I may say, further, that before this particular instance came under the notice of the Department instructions were given for amending regulations to meet any contingencies of the kind.
.- I do not at all rely on the section referred .to by the Attorney-General. What I say is that the writ which is sent to the State Electoral Officer requires only the insertion of the name of the person who has been elected. The Attorney-General is perfectly right about the duties of the divisional or subordinate officer. On that officer the Act is mandatory, and he cannot send in his copy of the writ until he has counted all the votes. That,’ however, does not’ touch the question which relates to the position of the State Electoral Officer in reference to the return of the writ. The law does not put on this latter officer the duty of waiting until the. report of every Divisional Returning Officer is indorsed on the “writ. Under section 161 the moment the State Electoral Officer has the figures before him” returned on copies of writs, which show, say, a majority of 7,000, while only 2,000 or 3,000 votes have yet to be received, he may be satisfied that there must be, at any rate, a majority of 4,000 or 5,000; and there is nothing to prevent him from at once filling in the name of the successful candidate, and returning him as duly elected. The officer need not be satisfied that a candidate has been elected by so many or so few. Now, however, that this incident is of the past, I may be allowed to project -my remarks into the future. I am glad that the flood has arrived, and that on its generous bosom Joseph Vardon will at last come to his rights. If the man who carried these papers had been swept down a river, according to the Attorney-General we should have had to wait an eternity for the return of Mr. Vardon. Putting aside this matter altogether, I beg of those who are responsible for the administration of the Department not to erect cobweb difficulties in the way of the return of a representative when the fact of his due return has been made certain.
– I agree with the right honorable member for East Sydney that there has been a great deal of bungling in connexion with the recent election to fill the vacancy in the representation of South Australia iri the Senate. I should have been glad had the right honorable member, in dealingwith the trouble which took place in the first instance, displayed the same warmth as he has exhibited to-night. When the matter first went before the Court on appeal, it was stated that a good many ballotpapers had been inadvertently burned. We have since learned that they were not. and I have ground for suspecting that if they were examined some remarkable disclosures would be made.
– Any suspicion of unfair playshould be probed to the bottom.
– Exactly. While I am satisfied that the learned Judge who dealt with the case in the first instance did all that could be done in the circumstances, believing that some of the ballotpapers had been destroyed, I feel that a scrutiny should be made of the papers which have since come to light. I asked the Attorney-General privately whether they could not be examined by an official, and I think his reply was that nothing could be done in the absence of an order by the Court. It seems remarkable that it should be possible for any kind of fraud in respect of an election to go unchecked. I am told that if these ballot-papers had been examined, it would have been found that Mr. Crosbie was elected by a substantial majority, and that the whole trouble would thus have been avoided. A strict investigation should be made, and in the. interests of future elections the missing papers which have come to light ought, if possible, to be examined. I certainly sympathize with those who have stated to-night that the postal facilities are not what they ought to he. There can be no excuse for the present state of affairs, seeing that we have the necessary funds to provide all that is wanted. We have returned to the States over ;£6, 000,000 that the Commonwealth could have expended had it desired to do so. We ought not to hand back to the States moneys that are required for Commonwealth purposes. The States authorities themselves are complaining of the inadequacy of the postal facilities], and yet we are returning to the States surplus revenue which might well be expended bv the Commonwealth.
– We shall not hand back very much more.
– I am afraid not. because the expenditure in connexion with the new Departments recently taken over will soon mop up our surplus revenue. In many districts, telegraph messengers have been abolished, on the ground that the business done at the offices at which they are stationed would not warrant their retention. My information is that the Department is losing a great deal of business as the result of the delay in the delivery of telegrams in these places.
– Telegraph messengers are being appointed in shoals.
– I do not object to their services being dispensed with where proper arrangements can be made for the proper delivery of telegrams, but delays in delivery must result in a loss of business. Statements have appeared in the press that it is proposed to expend a large sum ‘ on the printing of Commonwealth stamps.
– That is a long way off.
– I do not think it is necessary to print ‘ stamps from steel plates. Such plates must be renewed at least once a year, and cost over £100. ff the Sovereign died the original cost of preparing the plates might have to be once more incurred. Such. plates are not necessary for the production of first-class stamps. I desire now to call attention to the following paragraph published in an Adelaide newspaper of 6th inst. - .
The Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner (Mr. D. C. McLachlan) has given his ruling as to the claims of unions to take action with reference to employes’ grievances. A deputation from the Telegraph and Telephone Construction Branch Union in one of - the States recently desired to be heard. As the secretary of the union, who has ceased to be connected with the Department, was to form one of the deputation, the permanent head raised an objection and consulted Mr. McLachlan. The Commissioner, in his reply, agreed with the permanent head, and said that any representations affecting Departmental administration should be_ made by the officers themselves without the intervention of any person not connected with the service.
Does the Postmaster-General agree with that decision? Is the Commissioner to take up the position of an autocrat and say who shall and who shall not be the officers of the union connected with the service? Such a state of affairs ought not to be tolerated. It would be just as reasonable for the members of the service associations to say under what heads of departments they will work. They have the right to form their own unions and to select their own officers. I am familiar with the opinions held by the Postmaster- General regarding the formation of unions, and I bring this matter forward because it is not the first case of the kind that has occurred. We had a similar experience in connexion with the Adelaide Tramways Trust. The House should take care that Commonwealth employes are not deprived of the full rights of citizenship. If the PostmasterGeneral intends to support the action taken by a head of the Department in this case it will be necessary for some honorable member to move that in the opinion of the House the officers of the Commonwealth should be treated as ordinary citizens. It is a matter of accident ihat a man enters the public service instead of obtaining private employment, and he should have as much right to exercise the privileges of citizenship as he has when employed’ outside the service.
– A public servant could abuse the Government if the honorable ‘member’s proposal were carried out.
– He .should be at liberty to abuse any one whom a private citizen may, attack.
– If a public servant abused me I should quickly deal with him.
– Is not a public servant as much interested in the good government of a country as is a private citizen ?
– Our public Departments would be in a state of chaos if effect were given to the honorable member’s proposal.
– I have never known public servants to abuse the power which has been granted to them. Why should not a public servant air his grievances outside the service? Surely it is better that he should do so than that those grievances should rankle inside the service and make it seethe with discontent. I am sorry that the Commonwealth should seek to curtail the privileges of State servants in any way. It was the right honorable member for Adelaide who many years ago conferred this right upon the civil servants of South Australia, and experience has shown that it has never been abused. I shall not occupy the time of the Committee any further, because I shall be afforded an opportunity upon another occasion of dealing with the administration of the Customs Department.
-I trust that the Committee will permit me to interpose for a moment for the purpose of making an explanation in regard to the statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh thatif a count had been made of the burnt papers for the Angas Division, he was satisfied that Mr. Crosbie would have been elected. When he made that statement I was not aware that there was a gentleman within the precincts of the House who knows a great deal about this incident. As a matter of fact, a count of the ballot papers for the Division of Angas was made prior to their destruction, and they showed a majority of about three to two in favour of Mr. Vardon.
– No, in favour of Mr. Crosbie.
-I am assured by a gentleman who was interested in the count that on the first occasion there was a majority of three to two in’ favour of Mr. Vardon, and that upon the second count 7,000 votes were recorded in his favour, as against 3,500 in favourof his opponent - a majority of about two to one.
.- I am very hopeful that the Government will afford me an early opportunity to bring forward my proposal in regard to the chaotic condition of the Postal Department.
– What about the motion of the honorable member for Robertson, which is set down for to-morrow ?
– My proposal was placed upon the business-paper long before that of the honorable member for Robertson. I hope that I shall be afforded an opportunity to submit my proposal, and that it will prove acceptable to the House.
– The whole question might be discussed to-morrow upon the motion of the honorable memberfor Robertson.
– If the motion of the honorable member for Robertson has been submitted as an after-thought, I do not think that the honorable member for Parramatta will favour allowing it to supersede my own proposal. Such tactics would be unfair.
– Is nobody, save the honorable member, to take any interest in the Postal Department?
– Long before the honorable member was returned to this Parliament I had moved in the matter.
– Concerning the question of the Federal. Capital Site, I am just as anxious as is any honorable member to expedite its settlement. During the next five or six weeks we oughtto be able to do all the inspection of eligible sites that is necessary, and we should then be prepared to come to a decision in respect of them.
– The honorable member evidently wishes to expedite the settlement of this vexed question, seeing that he requires five or six weeks in which to inspect the different sites. He has already arranged two visits of inspection, both of which had to be cancelled.
– The honorable member does not wish to see the different sites.
– I do not think that the House ought to wait any longer upon the honorable member’s personal inspection of sites.
– The decision of this question ought not to be hurried, seeing that it will bind the Commonwealth for all time. However, I am prepared to expedite its settlement as much as is any honorable member. When the Estimates are under consideration, I shall have something to say upon the administration of the Postal Department.
– I wish to urge upon the Government the necessity for taking action during the current session in regard to the final selection of the Federal Capital. I do not agree with the suggestion thrown out by the right honorable member for East Sydney that the sense of the House should be again taken upon the selection of Dalgety, because, if we decided against that site, our action would preclude it from being again brought forward. That’, I contend, would not be advisable, seeing that Dalgety might be the second choice of a number of honorable members. It would be my second choice, and therefore I do not wish it to be’ excluded, though at the same time I wish for a chance to exercise my first choice. I mention the matter now, for the question is a burning one, . and I intend to keep pegging away in connexion with it, because I do not wish to incur the opprobrium which has been cast upon New South Wales representatives for not having brought about its settlement. . The change in the personnel of the New South Wales representation has been largely due to the annoyance of the public because of that.
.- I speak with considerable diffidence at this late hour, as I am practically a new member in new surroundings. What I have read about the. Federal Parliament does not make me inclined to presuppose that it would be anxious to grant two months’ Supplyto a Government which had not announced what it intended to do during that period. The Capital Site question has just been declared one of urgent public importance, demanding settlement at the earliest moment, but we have no expression of the Government policy in regard to it. I have risen to point out to the honorable member for Macquarie that perhaps a fitter way of safeguarding the rights of electors who strongly object to further delay in the settlement of the Federal Capital question would be,’ before voting two months’ Supply, to get from the Government a definite assurance as to when they propose to deal with the matter.
– I will take that course,if the honorable member will follow me, or I am ready to follow the honorable member.
– Having this enthusiastic promise of support from another young and innocent member, I ask the Treasurer if he can see his way to allow progress to be reported, so that we may hear what the Prime Minister has to say about the policy of the Government before proceeding further with the Bill.
– I want to send the Bill to the Senate to-morrow.
– Then two months must pass before we shall have another opportunity to insist on a statement from the Government.
– Unfortunately there is a lot of other financial business to be brought in.
– Will the Prime Minister make a statement as to the policy of the Government ?
– I intend to say to-morrow what business is to be taken.
– Under these circumstances, I can do no more than offer a modest and Christian protest against this unusual procedure.
– I am loth at this hour of the evening to raise a note of discord in a debate which has been proceeding on the lines of a mutual admiration society’s meeting; but I am alarmed at the statement which has come from the member in charge of the Capital Site question, that we are to devote live or six weeks to the further inspection of Capital Sites.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member’s mentor says it. -But I would remind the honorable member for Gwydir that he has already arranged and had to abandon two trips to Tooma, because no one would go there. He has changed his tune considerably in regard to the Capital Site question.
– There is the compact.
– The honorable member stated some time ago that the bringing of that document to light has made a great difference in his opinion ; but now he is off to the far back country again as eagerly as before.
Mr.Webster. - The honorable member fears that if the Tooma site is seen, the others will immediately be put on one side.
– No; but if a further investigation is necessary, surely a fortnight would suffice. ‘
– There are two other inspections which have to take place.
– Do I understand that this announcement, coming as it does from the honorable member, is official ? . He seems to have taken charge of the Capital Site question.
– It is necessary for some one to do so, to keep the Opposition up to its duty.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK. - We shall do our duty ; but the honorable member wishes to take a great deal of time for the performance of his duty.
– Has the. honorable member read the speech of the honorable member for Gwydir in regard to the Tooma site ?
– I heard it; it was a magnificent speech, the effort of his lifetime. But surely he should be satisfied with one investigation of the site? 1 appeal to him not to throw the slightest obstacle in the way of the early settlement of the Captial Site question. Instead of making insinuations against others, he should do what he can to give an opportunity for the matter to be dealt with before we get to the serious business of the session. Now is the time to deal with it. When the Tariff is returned from the Senate, there will be.no opportunity. Yet the honorable member proposes to while away some weeks in further investigations.
– Why should we wait for him?
– I should like the Government to say why we need wait for the honorable member for Gwydir? But, apparently, he has only to beckon with his little finger and the Treasurer follows him. The Government ought seriously to make up their minds as to the settlement of this question. The matter ought not to be delayed any longer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain Supply and to pass a Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
– I do not propose to object on this occasion, but I must ask Ministers in future, if they intend to move the suspension of the Standing Orders at a late period of a sitting, to give earlier notice of it.
– Ithought notice was given.
– No. The suspension of Standing Orders is a serious matter. I offer no objection on this occasion, but I must do so in future if notice is not given.
.- I have no objection at all to the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as is necessary ; but I am rather alarmed about the wording of the motion. It would be much better to say “so much of the Standing Orders as will enable,” and so on. I do not like to be a party to the suspension of the Standing Orders as a whole, because it might lead to trouble.
– Probably the honorable member is right. .
– The form adopted in the motion submitted by the Treasurer is precisely that which has been adopted throughout in the procedure of this Parliament so far as I remember. The motion only suspends so much of the Standing Orders as may enable a particular matter to be dealt with. It does not suspend any others.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means, covering Resolution of Committee of Supply, adopted.
That Sir William Lyne and Mr. Deakin 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.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of
External Affairs) [11.32]. - I move -
That, unless otherwise ordered, the House shall not sit on Mondays.
As there is no present necessity for our continuing the sessional order with regard to Monday sittings, I submit this motion to obviate them until the need arises.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.33p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 March 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080311_reps_3_44/>.