3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., andread prayers.
Mr. MAHON presented a petition from certain members of the Commonwealth Public Service in Western Australia praying the House to preserve to them their former rights as members of the public service of the State, and particularly their right to long leave.
Petition received and read.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the advisableness of the Commonwealth securing the services of the champion brass band of Australia - the Newtown Band - to perform in the Australian Court at the Franco- British Exhitftion, as part- of the scheme for advertising Australia, for which this House has just voted£20,000?
– The proposal to send a band to the Exhibition has already been submitted and declined.
Inspection of Suggested Sites
– I observed in the press last week an intimation to the effect that the pilgrimage of honorable members to Tooma, which the Treasurer was to conduct, was also,if possible, to be extended to Tumut. I desire to know whether the breakdown which occurred was arranged by the honorable gentleman in order to prevent the inspection of Tumut?
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether, in view of the reported disappearance of a number of Federal Members who, under his guidance, went to inspect a proposed Federal Capital Site in the neighbourhood of Tooma, he proposes to send out a search party ?
– Yes; I shall send the honorable’ member.
– Now that the expedition to Tooma has taken place with, I regret to say, rather disastrous results to the honorable member for Gwydir, will the Prime Minister tell us when the Federal Capital Site question will, in all probability, be dealt with by this House ?
– As soon as the business of Parliament permits. That may be next week.
Collection of Mails by Motor Car - Cancelled Mail Contract - Cable Code - English Mails- Cabinet Committee of Inquiry - Employment of Asiatics.
– Last week I directed the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the unsatisfactory nature of the motor car service for the collection of letters in Adelaide.’ I desire now to learn whether hrs attention has been drawn to the following paragraph which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser, and was published in the Melbourne press on Saturday last -
The Useof Motor Cars.
Melbourne, March 25.
Reports received by Mr. Mauger (the . PostmasterGeneral) from the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of South Australia with reference to the pillar clearance work of the motor car. service in Adelaide, show that the recent breakdowns have not been continued, and that there is a prospect of the smooth working of the. new cars in the near future. Premature collections from pillars will be specially guarded against. Mr. Mauger has approved of calling for ten- ders for cars to clear pillars in Prahran.
I desire to know if the Postmaster-General has noticed also the following paragraph -
Mail Motors’ in Trouble.
The motors employed to collect letters at Hindmarsh met with two mishaps on the Portroad lastweek. On one occasion, it is said, something went wrong with the steering gear, and the driver ran against a vehicle and was thrown out. In the second instance the motor stopped, and another had to besent for.
I ask the Postmaster-General whether he still thinks the service satisfactory, or whether it can be improved upon ?
– The service is as satisfactory as any service in an experimental stage can be expected to be. Steps have been taken which will make the service quite as satisfactory as the honorable member can desire.
– I desire to know from the Postmaster-General whether he has any information with regard to the£25,000 recoverable from Messrs. James Laing and Company, under the cancelled mail contract, or whether he has given up all hope of recovering the money ?
– The only information I have is that action is proceeding.
– The Prime Minister has, no doubt, observed that there is to be an International Telegraph Conference held at Lisbon in June next, and that there is an idea abroad that the facilities at present enjoyed in the Commonwealth in the matter of the cable code may be curtailed. la other words, it is believed that words, which are not very easily pronounced, are not to be allowed in cable messages, and, if that be so, it will be a very serious thing for Australia. I desire to know whether the Prime Minister will take steps to see that the present facilities we enjoy in this regard are continued. It is most important for a country so isolated as Australia to have the facilities to which I refer. I know of one firm who are spending ;£] 4,000 in the preparation of a code under the old regulations, and if the new rule should come into operation, the business of the country will be much interfered with.
– So far as I can learn, we have no official information of such an intention. There are rumours to that effect, but whether they relate to an alteration of the present practice, or are merely proposals in relation to future business, we are not aware. However, it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall be represented at the Lisbon Conference, andsteps will be taken to protect any rights we now enjoy.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether he cannot expedite the delivery of the English mails? The Commonwealth Parliament House seems to be about the last point of delivery. I heard of English. mail letters being delivered at Toorak and all over the city about luncheon time to-day, but I have only just now received mine.
– I shall make inquiries on the question.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, a question with reference to a Committee which has recently been appointed to investigate affairs concerning the Post and Telegraph Department. I understand that a Committee of three, consisting of Cabinet Ministers, has been appointed for that purpose. Will the Prime Minister tell the House what’ the scope of the inquiry is to be - for instance, whether ‘ evidence from persons outside is to be invited; and generally as to what it is proposed to do?
– Of course, strictly speaking, a Cabinet has no Committees. All its business is done by the whole Cabinet. But in. view of the frequency, number, and gravity of the complaints made with reference to the working of the Post and Telegraph Department, two Ministers - one of whom, the Minister of
Home Affairs, is directly connected with one branch of our postal administration,, inasmuch as he represents the Public Service Commissioner - were asked to render aid to the Postmaster-General in conducting an investigation.
– That is .why I asked the question. I wish to know whether it is proposed to confine the inquiry to the relations between the Commissioner and the Department, or to those between the Department and the public.
– The inquiry is not to be confined to the relations between Departments. The whole range of questions in which the’ public are interested will come before the Committee in one shape or another. The proceedings of the Committee have commenced. Inquiries have been directed to certain officers in the various States, mostly the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, in reference to specific questions relating to the administration of the Department. Their recommendations will be considered when they arrive. Afterwards the inquiry will be extended, so as to be directed to public complaints of any character. When those complaints have been classified, consideration will be given to them. The inquiry is intended to be exhaustive.
– But not public.
– Part of it may be made public as it proceeds.
– That is not usual with Cabinet Committees.
– At the present stage it’ will not be public, but it will receive and register public complaints.
– It will not be satisfactory unless it is public.
– Not satisfactory to the public, the honorable member means? But the matters with which the Committee are dealing more particularly at this moment re- . quire no participation on the part of the public than has already been taken by complaints which must be replied to in the form of reports by officers. As I have said, the intention is not to stop there, but to deal with any further public complaints made with regard to the Department. These complaints will be classified in order that the inquiry may be searching. If the Government find that trie means of investigation at the disposal of the Committee are not sufficient there will be no hesitation about asking this House for further power to deal with the difficulties.
– May I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will extend the scope of the inquiry, so that it may include the relations between the Treasury and the Post and Telegraph Department? I ask that question because I nave received a letter which contains a recommendation that a certain telephone should be constructed. The letter says that the Postmaster-General is satisfied that the telephone is necessary, but that the matter has been referred to the Secretary of the Department for advice on financial matters in connexion therewith. I should like to ask the Prime Minister, therefore, whether the scope of the inquiry will be extended so as to include the relations betweenthe Department and the Treasury?
– The manner in which each year’s Estimates are prepared is fairly well known ; and the manner in which those Estimates are dealt with afterwards by this House is thoroughly well known. Certain sums are voted for certain purposes. If, however, the demands for new services during the twelve months go up by leaps and bounds, far surpassing anything anticipated when the Estimates were prepared - so that if it was estimated that there would be a demand for 5,000 telephones there is actually a demand for 20,000 - the amount of money available is of course far short of what is required.
– That is a difficulty that has been experienced over and over again during the past seven years to my knowledge.
– But the honorable member knows that the demand for new services during the last twelve months has greatly exceeded what could have been foreseen when the Estimates were prepared, even in the light of our experience of previous years.
– The Department introduced the toll system before they were ready for it.
– We were told that the toll system would be found to be so horribly unpopular that possibly our calculations were affected by that prophecy when estimating the number of people who would take advantage of it. The Estimates were also exceeded in consequence of an extension of the area within which lines might be required. Demands out of all proportion to a reasonable estimate of the Treasurer have been made.
– Were the Estimates made by the Treasurer ?
– By the Department first, and then submitted to the Treasurer and the Cabinet.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that Asiatics are being employed in the carrying of mails from Port Hedland to Marble Bar, in Western Australia? If, after inquiry, he is satisfied that that statement is correct, does he propose to take any action?
– I propose to . take whatever action is necessary to carry out the policy of this House and of the Department; that is, that white labour is to be employed in carrying our mails.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question based on certain information he gave on the motion for adjournment on Friday in regard to the appointment of a Committee of this Parliament to devise means of procedure in respect of charges of corruption. I desire to know whether, when this Committee has devised or discovered means of procedure, it is the intention of the Prime Minister to introduce legislation, and if so, whether in that case the charges placed before this House by the honorable member for Lang and the honorable member for Hunter will be immediately investigated ?
– I hope to give notice to-night of the members the Government propose to appoint on tha Committee. TheCommittee will be asked to report a.t once, and that will probably require some action by this House, to be taken as soon as time permits. Afterwards, it will be competent for the House to decide which, if any, of the charges already made shall be. investigated. If they come within the new Act they can be dealt with.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he has noticed the following statement made by Mr. Angus McLeod, President of the Board of Directors of the Australian Natives Association at Perth : -
Perth, March 29.
Mr. Angus McLeod, president of the board of directors of the A.N. A., stated that when the Federal inquiry in regard to Chinese evading the immigrationregulations was set afoot, his association would be ready with facts to show that a number of Chinese had recently entered the Commonwealth. In 1903 a Chinese was allowed, into Western Australia on a special certificate for the purpose of scientific research, and 12 months later he was ironing shirts in a Perth laundry. He was summoned and convicted for the purpose of deportation, but despite the sentence he was still in Perth.
Will the Prime Minister cause inquiries to be made, and does he not think that the time has arrived’ when, in view of the extent of our coastline, all Chinese in Australia ought to be registered?
– I have noticed the paragraph ; and the statement . made as to the Chinaman ironing shirts is correct. But the law has been since altered so as to close the loop-hole through which he managed to remain. The statement as to the influx of young Chinamen is receiving spscial attention, and its accuracy will be known very shortly.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether, in view of the fact that there is great misapprehension as to the shape of the wheat bags it is proposed to introduce, he will secure one of the dimensions described in the regulations, and having had it filled with wheat, will place it in some position in the precincts of the House, so that honorable members can ascertain whether it is a handy shape of bag?
– I think that this question ought rather to be addressed to Mr. Speaker. If Mr. Speaker will give permission, I shall be very glad to have one of the proposed new wheat bags here, and also one of the size advocated by honorable members, so thatwe may be satisfied.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs also get one of the 475 lbs. bags which were carried on the Victorian Railways, at Rainbow, last week?
– I shall be very glad to do so, if the honorable member for Indi will undertake to carry it in.
– These questions are truly national !
– 1 desire to point out that my inquiry has not reference to the size of the bags, but is designed to elicit whether the shape, as described by the regulations, is convenient for handling. Hence, I desire to know whether the Minister, without giving me any flippant answer, is prepared to bring one of the new bags here? If he cannot get a full bag, let us have an empty one. Honorable members will then be able to see the shape of the bags which are to come into use.
Mr. Beale’ s Report.
– Last week the Prime Minister promised to lay upon the table ‘ papers with reference to Mr. Beale’s report on secret drugs and medicines. May I ask him whether he will adhere to that promise, and, if so, when the papers will be produced?
– The papers were before me this morning. They have not yet reached my hands to be laid upon ihe table. Perhaps they will arrive later.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follow -
It is not only a question of re-arming forts and of personnel for guns, but also of garrison troops for land defence of forts.
Viewing the question solely from stand-point of numbers, in the Commonwealth there are 11,801 infantry under training at present. The Garrison Troops stipulated in C.I.D. and Commonwealth officers’ reports as necessary for land protection of forts numbers 9,550. In the event of sudden hostilities there would be a surplus of only 2,351 infantry under training available for land protection at Albany and all the rest of the Continent.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, wbon notice -
– The Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information - ‘
Assistants - Minimum,£60; maximum, £110
Grade I. - Minimum, £114; maximum, £126.
Grade II. - Minimum,£132; maximum, £138.
The class of work is the same, the difference in classification being mainly due to variation in length of service.
Assistant mail drivers - Minimum, £60; maximum, £110.
Mail drivers - Minimum,£114; maximum, £126.
The duties are of the same character, but the grade of the officer is governed largely by his service as mail driver.
– About a fortnight ago, the Prime Minister, in reply to the right honorable member for Swan, stated that he would be prepared to lay before the House the Government proposals in regard to the financial relations of the Commonwealth and States before the coming Conference of Premiers. I desire to know whether the Prime Minister is prepared to make a more definite statement as to the time when we shall have an opportunity to consider those proposals.
– I am not yet in a position to name the day when the pro: posals will be ready to lay before the House.
– It will be this session ?
– Eefore the Premiers meet.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I beg to state -
At Brisbane the Commonwealth submitted complete proposals for taking over the debts of the States, and making payments to their Treasuries, but, the Premiers having resolved that the question of taking over the debts should be postponed, no agreement was attained.
Any consideration given by the Parliament must be to the proposals as a whole. It is hoped that some agreement will be arrived at with the Premiers after their Conference next month. In that event, it will be at once submitted to Parliament.
So far there is no restriction of any kind upon the freedom, either of the Commonwealth or of the States, preventing them from varying their proposals. The announcement already made that it is the intention of the Government to include in their scheme a provision for Oldage Pensions necessarily implies a modification of the Brisbane proposals.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the House with the following information : - .
The number of names removed from the Federal electoral roll during’ the collection made in 1906?
The number of names added to the roll used at the last Federal election?
The number of names, male and female, respectively added to, or removed from, each divisional roll in New South Wales during 1906 ?
– The information is beingprepared, and, when ready, will be laid upon the table.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Federal Capital Site - Further correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales, 25th February to 31st March, 1908.
Pacific Island Labourers -
Statement showing the number of islanders returned, and the number of exemptions, &c.
Repatriation of Kanakas. - Return showing the cost of repatriating kanakas during the years 1906-7 and 1907-8.
Papua- Suspension of R. M. Drummond, late Acting Chief Government Surveyor.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) -
No. 104 - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 36.
No. 104 - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 38.
No. 104 - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 40.
Census and Statistics Act -
Regulation (Provisional) - Declaration by Officer- - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 37.
Statistics of the Commonwealth - Population and Vital Statistics- Bulletin No. 5- Quarter ended 20th September, 1907.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I cannot justly be accused of making speeches of undue lengthin moving the second reading of Bills, and on this occasion I, shall again attempt - I hope successfully - to explain clearly and concisely the objects in view, and the effect of the main provisions of the measure.When introduced, the Bill was accompanied by a memorandum which has been laid on the table of the House, and which I wish embodied in Hansard for future reference. I do not know that it is necessary, to insure its appearance in that publication, that I should read it ; perhaps it will meet with the wishes of honorable members if I merely draw attention to it now, on the understanding that it will be incorporated in the official report as if actually read by me.
– If only the document referred to were concerned, it would, no doubt, be convenient to permit its publication in Hansard without putting the Treasurer to the trouble of reading it; but I feel bound to point outthat, were the honorable gentleman’s request granted, I should have to grant similar requests from other honorable members, and it might come about within a short time that written and, perhaps, lengthy discourses, no part of which had been spoken in the Chamber, would be handed in for publication in Hansard. I think it desirable, therefore, that the Treasurer should read the memorandum he speaks of.
– I am not sure that it would be a disadvantage if some speeches were handed in instead of being delivered.. The memorandum reads as follows -
The bookkeeping clauses of the Constitution, sections eighty-nine and ninety-three, have been found to hamper considerably the finances of the Commonwealth.
The strict system of crediting revenue, debiting actual expenditure, and paying monthly balances. to the States means that, whatever the financial obligations of the Commonwealth for the coming month or the coming year may be, the Treasury must be emptied of cashat the end of each month.
The difficulties were comparatively small in the early stages of the Commonwealth, before the establishment of largenational undertakings and the bookkeeping clauses were never intended to last beyond these preliminary stages. They were made absolute for five years after the imposition of uniform duties, but were terminable after that period at the will qf Parliament. Those five years have now elapsed, and Parliament has power to put an end to the operation of sections eighty-nine to ninety-three by legislation under section ninetyfour.
Section ninety-four is far more elastic than the temporary sections. Those sections contain a special appropriation to the States of all unexpended revenue ; and while they remain in force the Commonwealth is bound to return to the States every penny that is not actually expended. Under section ninety-four the special appropriation by the Constitution ceases and in its place there is a requirement that the Federal Parliament should appropriate to the States all surplus revenue, i.e., all revenue which it does not require for Commonwealth purposes.
In legislation under section ninety-four, therefore, the Parliament may provide for the retention of revenue which, though not actually expended at the end of any given month, is nevertheless required for and appropriated to the public purposes of the Commonwealth, and is therefore not in any sense “ surplus revenue.”
This Bill, after providing that the temporary clauses shall cease to operate, substitutes parliamentary provisions for the samepurpose and enables the Commonwealth at any time to withdraw from the Consolidated Revenue and pay to Trust Account moneys which have been appropriated by the Parliament for anyspecial purpose.
The Bill does not, of course, affect the operation of section eighty-seven (the Braddon Clause) ; but, while the Commonwealth remains during the currency of the Braddon Clause under ah obligation to return to the States three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue, it will have power to retain anything over and above that amount which it requires and has appropriated ‘ for Commonwealth expenditure.
The Bill makes no radical alteration in the method of crediting revenue and debiting expenditure. It, however, makes provision for certain minor adjustments as to which the terms of the Constitution itself were not sufficiently explicit, but as to the justice of which there can beno dispute. For instance, there is a definition of New Revenue. New Revenue is revenue which is credited to the States on a population basis.
Amounts were received from time to time by the Treasury which, although received in a particular State, could not by reason of their nature be credited to such State. Again, the Commonwealth earns interest on money in its hands in London. This interest is not collected in any State, and does not belong to any State.
It has been divided on a. population basis. The expenditure for the production of Gazettes and Federal parliamentary reports is borne on a population basis ; the proceeds of sale, being practically a reimbursement of that expenditure, are also distributed on a population basis without respect to the State in which they are received. Considerable amounts have been received for rebates made by shipping companies in respect of freight from Great Britain to Australia. It is practically impossible to trace the items on which the freight of the various shipments were originally charged, and it has been the practice to distribute such amounts on a population basis. In practice, the greater part of the revenue received by the new Commonwealth Departments, which really do not appertain to any particular State, is being distributed on a population basis; and this Bill lays down definite rules in accordance with which such amounts are to be credited. It has been found, however, that any precise rule which can be laid down for this purpose will cause some anomalies ; and therefore two provisos have been inserted to give a measure of elasticity to the system, and to enable the Treasurer to credit on a population basis any items of revenue which obviously, from their nature, should be so distributed, and, on the other hand, to credit to a particular State, any items of revenue which, from their nature, obviously ought to be so credited.
The necessity for this Bill will, I am sure, appeal to honorable members. Since the inception of Federation we have every year handed over to the Treasurers of the States a sum considerably in excess of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled under theConstitution. I propose to put before honorable members some figures which will clearly show what we have done in that respect.
– Every one is familiar with them.
– The honorable member may be familiar with the amounts, but there are others who are not. The following sums have been returned to the States in excess of the three-fourths to which they wereentitled: - For the halfyear ended 30th June, 1901, £577,845; in 1901-2, £888,741; 1902-3, £1, 145,234; 1903-4, £745,33;1904-5, £735,286; 1905-6 £829,910; 1906-7, £805,766. The total amount so paid for the six years was £5,728,114
– That statement does not apply to all the States. Queensland, for instance, has been receiving less than her three-fourths.
– I am aware of that. I have quoted these figures inorder to show first of all that the Commonwealth has returned to the States revenue that which rightly belonged to us, and which could have been utilized in carrying out various works, for which a demand has been made on many occasions. In the second place, the figures show that the accusation of extravagance made against! us by representatives of the States, and repeated over and over again with a desire to injure the Commonwealth, is absolutely without foundation.
– The unfortunate feature of the situation is that while some of the States have had returned to them more than their three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue, others have had paid to them less than the three-fourths.
– We have made a distribution according to law, so that neither the Government as a whole, nor the Treasurer, can be held blameable in that regard. The result of the system hitherto adopted has been that works which should have been spread over a number of years, and paid for out of the surplus revenue, have been held in abeyance, and that certain services have no doubt been starved. This year, all the Depart- ments are making urgent demands for works which, as I have said, should have been spread over a number of years. In submitting the Additional Estimates, I shall make a statement as to our present expenditure, and the demands of the Departments, which I think will astonish honorable members.
– Why wait until the Additional Estimates are submitted? Why does not the honorable member tell us frankly what he proposes to do?
– I shall speak frankly ; but I cannot now put before the House the actual amounts proposed to be expended, since the framing of the Additional Estimates has not yet been completed. It is sufficient to say that I am called upon this year to find money, in many cases, for works, which, had we been able to make the provision for which this Bill provides, would have been spread over a number of years.
– The honorable gentleman would have been able to keep a nest-egg.
– The money would have been spent.
– The money has been spent by the States, and not by the Commonwealth, which is in greater need of it. Whilst sections 89 and 93 of the Constitution are in force, it is necessary to hand over to the States every penny of the revenue that we do not spend during the financial year. Perhaps the principal object that I have in view in introducing this Bill is to enable the Government to keep in hand sufficient money to meet our liabilities in respect of works which this Parliament has declared shall be carried out, so that the liability incurred in respect of any one year shall not be carried forward to burden the next financial year.
– The States will feel the burden, no matter how the money is dealt with.
– If the present state of affairs is to continue, I do not think that we shall be able, in any one year, to find the money necessary to meet the demands for various works.
– How long is this Bill to remain in operation?
-It will remain in force, at all events, until 1910.
– That is not far ahead.
– We shall need, not only this year; but next year, and also in 1910, the arrangement for which it provides.
– If this Bill be carried, what money will it enable the Commonwealth to retain every year?
– I have mentioned the amount of surplus revenue returned during previous years.
– Does the Treasurer mean to say that this Bill will enable the Government to retain the whole of the onefourth of Customs and Excise revenue to which the Commonwealth is entitled ?
– It will, and we shall also be able to retain any revenue from other sources. Last year, in addition to the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue that we were entitled to retain, we received from various services - chiefly from the Post and Telegraph Department - something like £300,000 stated to be profit. That sum went into the general revenue, and instead of being devoted to the carrying out of works of which the Post and Telegraph Department was in urgent need, was handed over to the Treasurers of the States, the Commonwealth being left to obtain, in some other way, the revenue required for pressing public works.
– We have always had plenty of money.
– I can only say that, ifthe demands upon the Treasurer are to continue in the same proportion as has recently been the case, we shall shortly find ourselves in a different position. We have to be very careful.
– The Commonwealth has now assumed control of lighthouses and quarantine.
– We have. The Post and Telegraph Department has entered into a new contract with the Railway Departments of the States for the carriage of mails”, and we have a. number of new services to provide for.
– But revenue is a recurring crop.
– I do not think that our Customs revenue can be so described. If the new Tariff is to have the effect that we anticipate, we shall have for some years a somewhat decreasing revenue.
– Is there any evidence of a falling off in revenue?
– There is. I cannot say for the moment what have been the returns for the last fortnight, but prior to that our Customs and Excise receipts fell back to the estimate that I made last year.
– They ought to do so.
– The fact that they have gone back to’ that estimate shows that the Tariff is not likely to permanently increase our revenue.
– The honorable gentleman estimated that, as compared with the returns for last year, the Customs and Excise revenue for this year would show an increase of £1,000,000.
– An increase of £800,000 odd.
– What is the total excess up to date of Customs and Excise revenue for the financial year?
– I anticipate that the excess over my estimate will be about £1,000,000, or a little more. Some honorable members declared that we should have an increased revenue of about £2, 000,000 or £3,000,000, but that prophesy is not likely to be realized.
– We reduced to a considerable extent the duties proposed by the Government.
– That is not so.
– I must ask honorable members not to make such frequent interjections. The Treasurer is moving the second reading of a Bill, and on such an occasion, above all others, ought to be listened to in such a way as to enable him to have a complete record of his speech in Hansard, and to put before honorable members the information they desire to obtain. That cannot be done while interjections are constant, and in such circumstances the Minister must - necessarily lose the thread of his speech. The Bill we are discussing deals with surplus revenues in the abstract, and I do not think that I can allow in the discussion of it any reference to the question of whether or not the Tariff is producing more or less revenue than did the first Federal Tariff, or more or less revenue than the Treasurer estimated. Such questions are entirely apart from the purposes of the Bill, as I understand it. No side issues should be introduced. If they are the debate upon the motion must become interminable.
– The Commonwealth now proposes to enter upon a large expenditure in respect, first of all, of har bor and coast defences, as well as upon other works which I shall not now enumerate.
– The Treasurer’s memorandum states that -
Those five years have now elapsed, and Parliament has power to put an end to the operation of sections eighty-nine to ninety-three by legislation under section ninety-four.
What modifications of sections 89 to 93 of the Constitution does the Minister propose ?
– The Bill virtually repeals those sections.
– But a Bill which repealed sections of the Constitution would be unconstitutional.
– I think that, under section 94 of the Constitution, it will be found that we can make a redistribution.
– I know, but this Bill does not propose to do that.
– I should prefer if these matters were raised in debate, and not while I am moving the second reading of the Bill. It is intended now to enter on large expenditure for the purpose of harbor and coastal defence, and £250,000 appears in the Works and Buildings Estimates under this head. It is practically impossible to expend any considerable portion of this sum before the end of the financial year, although there will be large expenditure on Commonwealth works and buildings. If these moneys are voted, and the present system continues, we shall have to re-vote the money, and place it as a charge against next year’s Estimates, and, in the meantime, we must pay the sum of money under the present system to the States. The revenue of next year will have quite sufficient claims on it without being burdened with this expenditure, a large proportion of which essentially belongs to this year. The Customs and Excise revenue of the present year is abnormally large. I expect to receive at least£1,000,000 more than I anticipatedwhen delivering my Budget in August last; and I desire to earmark a portion of this revenue for these special defence and other works.
– Will the States not have to be paid for the buildings, or some arrangement made?
– Perhaps it is, too late to say it, but the £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 we have spent ought, I think, in the first instance, to have gone at any rate in partial payment for the buildings; but, as it is, we shall have to find money for that purpose hereafter. The right honorable member for Swan told me the other night that I had about £1,000,000 or thereabouts in trust funds, but, having made inquiries, I am able to say that that is not so, although there are some trust funds.
– According to the public accounts, there was £340,000 on the 31st December last.
– The special trust funds legalized by the Amending Audit Act on the 31st December, 1907, amounted to £104,740, made up as follows -
These balances include amount’s advanced to public officers.
– On the 31st December the amount was £340,000.
– I am speaking from the Treasury books, as prepared by the Treasury officials, and I venture to think that they are correct.
– I also got my informationatthe Treasury.
– Does the Treasurer think that this has anything to do with the Bill?
– I think it has everything to do with the Bill.It is asserted that the Bill is not necessary, because these moneys are held in trust, and I say that there is a grave doubt as to whether the moneys are’ legally held in trust.
– Cannot the Treasurer inaugurate a new trust account?
– I question whether there is any power at the present moment, except under section 13 of the Audit Adt. It has been stated that the Treasurer has been in the habit of remitting amounts to London, and not distributing amongst the States the unexpended portions of trie remittances at the end of the financial year. Atpresent the balances of London accounts over the various States amount to £250,804 ; and that is to whatthe right honorable member for Swan, I think, was referring the other night. But it must be remembered that all remittances which have been sent to London have been accompanied wfth definite orders on contractors ; and the orders having been given, and the drafts purchased, the expenditure has been considered as final. As I said, I desire to earmark a portion of the revenue for special defence and other works; and it would, perhaps, be legal to do this without further legislation. The Amended Audit Act of 1906, for instance, gives the Treasurer power under section 13 to create a harbor and coastal defences trust fund, and to pay into such fund any money appropriated for the purpose of the account. It is not intended, however, to rely upon the authority contained in the Audit Act, as there is some doubt whether a transfer to the trust fund might, after all, be held not to be expenditure within the meaning of section 89 of the Constitution; and that is why I am introducing this Bill). Honorable members know that this is the section which, up to the present time, Has regulated the bookkeeping of the Treasury.
– I should like the Treasurer to . explain how far he is modifying our powers relating to the bookkeeping. It may be clear to the Minister, but it is not clear to us.
– If the honorable member will permit me to proceed, I shall give any information he desires at the conclusion of my remarks. Section 89 of the Constitution directs that the Commonwealth shall credit to each State the revenue collected therein by the Commonwealth, and shall debit to each State : (a) the expenditure therein incurred solely for the maintenance or continuance, as at the time of transfer, of any Department transferred from the State to the Commonwealth; and (b) the proportion of the State, according to the number of the people, in the other expenditure of the Commonwealth.
– The Minister is leaving the accountancy side of the bookkeeping alone.
– Yes, except so far as concerns the trust funds. The bal-. ance is directed to be paid over monthly to the States.
– That is the point, and the onlv point.
– Probably it is the great point.
– And there is an endeavour to interpret “new revenue.”
– Probably, but the interpretation of “ expenditure” is the more important.
– We have to find the interpretation of” expenditure,” for the purposes of the Bill, in the Bill itself.
– Yes, but not the interpretation of the words in the Constitution. So long as this section stands, there is a doubt as to the legality of crediting any amount to a trust fund in the manner desired. That is not my opinion, but the opinion of the law officers I have consulted. The words “ debit to each State the expenditure therein “ might possibly be held not to include payments to a trust fund with a view to further expenditure. It has been thought wise, therefore, to ask Parliament to exercise the powers which it undoubtedly possesses, under section 94 of the Constitution, to virtually repeal sections 89 and 93, and to provide a new basis for distributing its surplus revenue.
– We cannot repeal an English Act.
– We cannot actually repeal, and, therefore, I use the word “virtually.” The Constitution gives us power to alter these sections. The present Bill will effect the object I have indicated. It directs that from a date to be fixed by proclamation new bookkeeping provisions are to be followed by the Treasury instead of the old provisions enacted by sections 89 and 93 of the Constitution.
– A new system of bookkeeping.
– New bookkeeping. I know the Treasury officials are not anxious about it, but if we wish to do what we conceive to be right for the country, this must be done.
– What do the States Treasurers think of the proposal?
– Well, I can guess.
– The Minister does not propose to alter the bookkeeping provisions ?
– Only so far as the trust funds are concerned ; I am not dealing with the distribution on aper capita basis or anything of that sort.
– Has the Treasurer any figures showing how this Bill will affect the different States?
– I have not, but I shall obtain them before the discussion is closed. I think I may say that it practically means that the State will have very little more returned than the threefourths.
– They will have no more?
– They will have very little more. The most important of the new provisions will be found in clause 4, sub-clause d. The word “ expenditure,” which this Bill declares shall include payments to trust accounts, does not refer to the word recurring in section 89 of the Constitution - a section, as I have explained, that it is desired virtually to repeal - but to the word “ expenditure “ contained in the Bill.
– Who says ‘that? It is only an opinion, and I say the contrary.
– When the Treasurer is now directed by Parliament to debit certain expenditure to the States, he is told that this expenditure may include payments to trust funds established under the Audit Act. The immediate effect of the exercise by Parliament of the powers conferred on it bv section 94 of the Constitution will be that without any doubt a considerable sum may be paid into a trust fund for future expenditure, which would otherwise have been handed over to the States.
– Where is there power to make trust funds at all?
– Section 8t of the Constitution gives that power.
– There is power under the Constitution : I think under section 81, as the honorable member for Flinders points out. For a period of five years we could not do it. but that term has passed. We can do it now under the section indicated.
– Thiswill really be a suspense account.
– It is a suspense account for works authorized by this Parliament. I also want honorable members to take notice of the fact that the States will this year get at least £750,000 more than was anticipated would be returned to them. That is mainly owing to the increase of revenue from Customs and Excise. There will be an increase of £1,000,000, three-fourths of which ‘the States will get. So that they will be in a very good position indeed.
– The Treasurer led them to believe that they would get more.
– No, I did not. I calculated, in the Budget, that the States would have returned to them £103,000 more than their three-fourths after the Commonwealth had taken its one-fourth.
– In addition to the £750,000?
– No, £103,000 above the three-fourths to which they are entitled. I think the estimated increase of revenue was £870,000. Now, however, it appears that the increase will be £1,000,000 more, of which they will get £750,000. So that they are really placed in a splendid financial position.
– Will the Minister make the .matter a little plainer ? Does he mean that under his proposed scheme the States will get £750,000 over and above their three-fourths ?
– No. The £750.000 is an amount additional to that which they would have received if my estimate had not been exceeded. In view of the fact that a very considerable sum will in any case be paid this year to the States Treasurers, the Commonwealth is perfectly justified, as long as it obeys section 87 of the Constitution - the Braddon section - in retaining the amount which it requires for purposes to which it is committed. Now, sir, I desire to say a few words in regard to one or two other matters which are dealt with under this Bill. In framing the clauses which are to supersede the sections of the Constitution which direct the book-keeping of the Treasury, the opportunity has been taken to give certain specific directions not given by the Constitution. For instance, the Constitution does not provide for the crediting of any revenue on a population basis. Section 89 directs that, the Commonwealth shall credit to each State the revenues collected therein by the Commonwealth. It does not provide for the crediting of revenue received outside the Commonwealth, as, for instance, interest on moneys in London. Nor does it provide that such items as “ forfeited deposits on contracts for new works,” and “ part cost of erection of telegraph and telephone lines,” shall be credited, as is manifestly fair, on a population basis. In the matter of the erection of telephone and telegraph lines, for example, the case is this : Some private individuals very often pay to the Post and Telegraph Department an amount! of money to defray part of the cost of the construction of a line which they are anxious to obtain. That money goes into the Consolidated Revenue, and does not belong to any particular Sta’te.
– The Treasury must pay it to some State. What do they do with it?
– We have- probably without absolute legal authority - returned it to the States per capita. The money goes into the general revenue, and is distributed on a population basis. The Treasurer has in the past taken the responsibility of so crediting such amounts ;’ but as the opportunity now arises to legalize this practice, advantage is taken of it in this Bill. In certain exceptional cases also expenditure in a State has not been debited to the State as directed in the Constitution. For instance, an arrangement was made, in which the States of New South Wales and Victoria concurred, that the expenditure on the’ border Customs Houses should be equally divided between the two States instead of the State on whose side of the- river a particular station happened to be being debited with the expenditure. Technically, I do not think that that is legal. Therefore, I am proposing to make it legal under this Bill. It is the proper thing to do. Section 89 of the Constitution directs the Treasurer to debit to a State the expenditure “ therein.” -To meet the difficulty I have explained, and others of a similar nature, -as they occur, the word “ therein “ has been omitted from clause 4 of this Bill. In the observations- which I have made, I have explained the technical features of the measure. In doing so, I have tried to be brief, and to the point.
– If the interpretation were given by the High Court, it would be of more value.
– But the honorable member knows that we cannot get an interpretation by the High -Court unless some person takes a case there.
– The Treasurer is proposing to repeal certain sections of the Constitution.
– The Bill does propose to legalize some things which the Treasury has done.
– The Government have no power to alter the Constitution.
– I have tried to explain the Bill - and think I have succeeded - in such a way that it may be understood by any lay mind. It is an important Bill. It is a Bill that will no doubt be criticized very acutely - and probably very adversely - by some of the States Treasurers.
– By all of them.
– It will not be criticised adversely by the Commonwealth Treasurer at all events, and I think the matter appeals to the Commonwealth more than to any other party. The States Treasurers ought to consider that they have received in the past the immense sums of money to which I have referred, and that they are going to receive, at all events this year, another very large sum of money if the actual three-fourths of last year is taken as a basis.
– About £1,400,000 additional this year, if the Treasurer’s estimate be right.
– Quite so; I think it comes to about that amount - that is, having regard to the estimate which I made in the first instance, and the actual returns that are coming, in from Customs and Excise. Admitting that the honorable member’s estimate of £1,400,000 is correct, I think that the States Treasurers should not grumble in view of the very large sum of money that is being returned to them.
– It is their money, although it is a large sum.
– It will be their money when they receive it. What I desire to impress upon the House and upon this Parliament is, that the works which the Commonwealth has to do, and the works that are ahead of us before 19 10 - that is, before we can make any adjustment with the States at that period - are of such a character that t’hey require the Treasurer and Parliament to see that we have the money to carry them out. They are works which are of a necessary character.
– Is the Treasurer contemplating any especially large expenditure within the next two years ?
– I do not know that there will be any large expenditure except this - that the expenditure of the Post and Telegraph Department has sprung up to such an extent this year that it really frightens me j and I am not easily frightened in regard to financial matters. If what the Department requires for next year - and probably it is right in requiring it in the interests of the public - is voted, the expenditure will certainly be very large indeed. I have to find this money, and I have to look ahead to see what we are to do to provide it. Already I have been asked to find extra money to be expended, not this year, but next year, on the Post and Telegraph Department alone, amounting to £300,000.
– The Department ought to be put in commission.
– I am not speaking about what ought to be done, nor am I complaining. But I was attacked to-day by the honorable member for Corio in regard to finding money for works for Post Office purposes. The fact is that the demands have been so heavy during the past year that I cannot find the money until Parliament votes it.
– The Treasurer has set down a great deal more on the Estimates for post and telegraph purposes this year.
– And I have only been enabled to do that because of the expansion of the revenue from Customs and Excise.
– Through the taxation of the people.
– If the money were not raised in that way, it would have to be raised in some other; and I ask the honorable member whether he would like it to be raised by means of direct taxation ?
– Direct is always better than indirect taxation.
– I venture to say that if the Tariff had not been made as high as it is - and it is not half high enough yet; it is lower than any other protectionist Tariff in the world - we should have been in difficulties in carrying out works that the Post and Telegraph Department say must be carried out.
– So far as the Treasurer’s experience has gone, has there been any difficulty in meeting the ordinary expenditure monthly out of the month’s onefourth of the revenue?
– I believe there has been some difficulty on one or two occasions, but not since I have been at the head of the Treasury. I believe that on one or two occasions arrangements had to be made that were not, perhaps, of an altogether legal character. But the position is that on the 31st of the month the Treasury is depleted. Suppose a demand is coming in on the 2nd or 3rd of the next month. The Treasurer has no money to meet it. He has to wait until the money required comes in from the ordinary sources of revenue. I say that that is not a proper position in which to place the Commonwealth Treasurer. I desire to say, in conclusion,, that I shall give further details by-and-by. To meet demands over and above the money voted by Parliamentto carry out works required - and properly required - by one or two Departments, I have had practically to exhaust the Treasurer’s advance, until I could get it recouped by the passing of a Supply Bill.
– The Treasurer always has to do that until he gets his Estimates through.
– I do not like to do it. In my opinion, a certain sum of money ought always to be kept in reserve in case a serious demand upon the Treasury suddenly arises. At present, if the Treasurer were put in that position, he would have to resort to a system of financing that I think the Commonwealth ought not to be expected to be compelled to resort to.
– The Treasurer means that he would have to go and consult his “ uncle “?
– I have been able to carry on without having to do that, and do not think that’ I shall have to do it.
– What objection is there to the House considering this Bill after the Premiers’ Conference, in order that the Premiers may have an opportunity of offering suggestions?
-I think that we ought to know our own minds. This is one of the things which the Commonwealth Parliament has to deal with. My experience of Conferences has been such that I never expect very much to come out of them. There is a great deal of talk; but, as . far as I am concerned, if the
Cabinet agrees withme, I shall go right on in the way I have proposed.
– The Treasurer can, without derogating from the rights of this House at all, hear what the Premiers’ Conference has to say.
– I do not think that we should delay matters. I do not know how long the debate will take.
– If the Treasurer goes to the Conference in the mood which he has just expressed, it is not to be expected that much will come out of it.
-I am not saying or thinking anything detrimental to the States Premiers. But we should make up our minds in regard to a question such as this, in which we are so vitally interested. The Premiers’ Conference will have large questions to deal with in the proposals for the transfer of the States debts, without waiting for this matter, which is small in comparison. For the remainder of the year, each month we have to pay to the States money which, if the Bill were passed, we could keep in reserve to meet the appropriations of the Parliament.
– While the Parliament hesitates, the Premiers of the States will continue to do the same.
– I am of the same opinion. I do not feel that it is necessary to wait unduly. If the matter can be dealt with by the Conference, well and good ; but I do not think that we should delay merely that the Premiers may pick holes in the measure. Several Treasurers have already objected to the proposals.
– I think that the Premier of New South Wales merely asked that he might have an opportunity to let the views of his Government be known before the passing of the Bill.
– I have read, on more than one occasion, that some of the Treasurers of the States object to the proposal altogether.
– Western Australia would not join in the last Conference on the subject.
– How does the Treasurer propose to compensate the States for the buildings and other public works transferred to the Commonwealth?
– That does not arise in this connexion; the matter can be discussed when we are considering the transfer of the States debts and other financial arrangements. Of course, there is room for difference of opinion on the subject. It might, for instance, be proposed that all sums paid to the States in excess of three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue should go to reduce the amount to be paid by the Commonwealth after an appraisement had been agreed upon. But in doing that we should be curtailing our powers in regard to the carrying out of absolutely necessary works. I do not think that we should do that, or that we should wait any longer before making a definite arrangement.
– We can carry out necessary public works.
– The Bill is. not necessary to enable us to do that.
– We can spend onefourth of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– The trouble is that we cannot spend fast enough the money voted.
– The Minister’s speech is the clearest evidence that we do not need the Bill.
– Under the present system votes must lapse.
– Whose fault is that ?
– It is due to a fault in the law.
– It is the fault of the Government for not spending the money voted by Parliament.
– In many cases, even when contracts have been called for, the financial year expires before the money voted by Parliament can be spent.
– It is a terrible thing to have re-votes !
– It is improper to swell the Estimates with proposals for re- votes.
– The present system tends to make State members popular and Commonwealth members unpopular.
– I think that the Government has taken a proper course, and I hope that honorable members will finish the consideration of the Bill as earlv as possible.
– I listened carefully to the Treasurer’s speech, and I regret that I am not able to subscribe to his proposals. My opposition to the Bill is not dictated, by any hostility to the Government, but is due to my firm conviction that the measure is unnecessary, and exceeds our constitutional powers. It is the duty of this
House, not only to safeguard and defend the interests of the Commonwealth, but also to safeguard the rights of the States.
– The people of the Commonwealth and the people of the States are one.
– Yes, and I think that we should be, if anything, even more careful in seeing that no injustice is done to the States than in trying to advance theinterests of the Commonwealth. The Bill is a technical measure, and, no doubt, expressions of opinion by honorable members learned in the law will carry more weight than those of non-legal members. I make the pronouncement that this Bill will not be allowed to have effect until the High Court has given a decision upon it. I look upon the Bill asunnecessary and mischievous. Seven and a half of the ten years during which the Braddon provision of the Constitution may not be altered have already elapsed, and as only two and a half years remain, it is strange that, with an increasing revenue, the Treasurer should complain that he cannot do this or that for want of money. Why was it that £800,000 was returned to the States last year over and above three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, if we were short of money to carry on the requirements of the Commonwealth? Why were not the works for which the money was voted carried out? Why are public works frequently not commenced until nearly the end of the financial year, so that the money voted by Parliament cannot be spent? The reason is that the Public Works Department makes insufficient preparation in’ advance, and, I believe, often waits until money is voted before doing so. Consequently voles lapse, and money has to be re-voted. I pass by the provisions of the Bill dealing with new revenue, which amounts to only £12,000 a year altogether, although half the provisions of the measure are concerned with its distribution.
– There is not much objection to those clauses.
– No ; but the Bill is not necessary for those purposes. Its real object is the attempt made in paragraph d of sub-clause 4 of clause 4 to interpret section 87 of the Constitution. We know that Parliament has no power to amend or interpret the Constitution. It might, of course, declare that a provision of the Constitution has a certain meaning, but that declaration would have no effect in determining the meaning, which can be authoritatively settled only by a decision of the High Court. An Order-in-Council, or a Minister’s direction, is as effective as an Act of the Parliament for the interpretation of any provision of the Constitution. Therefore, I think we are being asked to exceed our powers. At a time when we are all desirous to promote friendship and a feeling of common interest between the States and the Commonwealth, there is brought in a Bill to take from the States money to which they are entitled, if the Commonwealth does not spend the whole of its one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue. The provision to which I have referred, as setting forth the main object of the Bill, practically enacts that appropriation of moneys by Parliament shall be deemed to be expenditure under section 87 of the Constitution. The Treasurer admitted that that is practically the whole aim of the Bill; that everything else is merely “ leather and prunella.” The Bill is obviously intended to have effect only until the end of 1910.
– It may be in force longer.
– We have been informed that new proposals are to be submitted in a few weeks - perhaps in a few days - for settling the financial arrangements of the States and the Commonwealth for all time.
– Not for so long as that.
– The Prime Minister said “finally.” Therefore, the Bill, if passed, will be in force only until the end of 1919. when section 87, or the Braddon provision of the Constitution, as it has been called, can be amended. Let us examine that provision. It prohibits the Commonwealth from spending more than one-fourth of the net revenue from. Customs and Excise. The wording of the section is very important, since, it clearly shows what was the intention of those who framed it. It does not provide that the States are to receive only three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue ; it really implies that they shall receive more, because the words “ not more than one- fourth “ are used. Then, again, it should be noted that the section does not provide that not more than that proportion shall be applied towards the “ appropriations “ of the Commonwealth. Under this Bill, however, it is proposed to interpret the words “its expenditure” which appear in section 87 as meaning “ appropriations by Parliament ‘” whether those appropriations be expended or not. What was the intention of the Convention in regard to what should be the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States for the first ten years of the Federation? I propose now to deal only with the ten years period, since at the end of 19 10 the system for which the Braddon section provides may be replaced by another. What was to be done with the revenue obtained from duties of Customs and Excise for the first ten years and thereafter until Parliament otherwise provided? In the first place it was declared that the bookkeeping system should be adopted for the first five years period and thereafter until Parliament otherwise provided - that the Commonwealth should credit revenue and debit expenditure and pay the balances to the several States as provided by section 93. After five years, if Parliament desires, under section 87, the Commonwealth was to pay to the States three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue on such basis as it deemed fair, and also under section 94 all surplus revenue, or, in other words, all moneys not applied towards its expenditure out of the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue to which it is entitled.
– Section 94 means a great deal more than that. It means all surpluses from any source of taxation.
– I am not dealing with that matter, and . there maybe some room for a difference of opinion on the point. Until 1910 we are to hand over to the States three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue and all surplus revenue, or, in other words, all moneys not applied towards the Federal expenditure out of the one-fourth to which the Commonwealth is entitled. The Commonwealth is to make these payments under section 94 on such a basis as the Parliament deems fair. This becomes necessary when we do away with the bookkeeping system, for then we shall have nothing to guide us in regulating the payments, and a system of distribution will have to be adopted by the Parliament. It is perfectly clear tha’t under section 87 the Commonwealth, up to the end of 1910, can expend each year the whole of the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue that it is entitled to retain.
– Does the right honorable member mean that it can expend the whole of its one-fourth only in the year in which such revenue ds collected?
– In the Constitution the word “ annually “ is used.
– The Constitution provides that the money may be applied annually. An appropriation is an annual appropriation.
– I hold that the Commonwealth cannot expend, more than one-fourth of Customs and’ Excise revenue, and that if in any one year it does not spend the whole of that one-fourth, then under section 87 it must pay the balance to the States or apply it to the payment of interest on the debts of the States. Is it reasonable to assume that the words “ its expenditure “ appearing in section’ 87 - that! is to say, the annual expenditure of the Commonwealth - means “.annual appropriation,” and not a penny of the appropriation spent. If that were the true interpretation to’ be placed upon the words, all that we should have to do would be to appropriate each year large amounts, place these large sums in reserve, and thereby reduce the balance returned to the States. We might pass a measure providing for a large expenditure - as we have done recently - and be told that we could not expend much of it during the current financial year, and be able to withhold from the States the amount so appropriated. I do not think that that is the intention of section 87. I cannot place on the plain English of the section any interpretation other than that which I have mentioned.
– What about other moneys, apart from the revenue received from Customs and Excise duties ?
– My contentions are as to the meaning of section 87, though, of course, the larger the amount received from other sources, the less the Commonwealth will expend out of its one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue, and the more it will have to return to the States, out of that onefourth. That is the practice which has been followed for the last seven years, and if might fairly have been allowed to run its course. The Treasurer has not shown any reason for this proposed change. He has not shown any shortness of funds.
– There will be a large increase of expenditure.
– At the end.of the year the Treasurer will find that he has a vastly greater revenue than he anticipated; (Eat his expenditure has not been more than was estimated ; and that he has in hand a very large sum which, in my opinion, under section 87 of the Constitution, ought to be returned to the States. If this. Bill is within our powers, this money will be paid into a Trust Fund - a procedure for which I contend there is no authority. It may be ancient history, but I should like honorable’ members to recall the circumstances under which section 87 was passed. It will be remembered that, as the Constitution left the Convention, it was intended that that clause should be perpetual, but, at. the Conference of Premiers held in Melbourne in 1899, the ten years’ limitation was inserted. Whilst they made that alteration, however, the Premiers allowed clause 94 to remain as passed by the Convention. The AttorneyGeneral will doubtless say that we have in this case another illustration of the danger of making an amendment in a clause without considering its effect upon the whole Bill. Section 94 was intended’ io apply to section 87 as passed by the Convention, but that, section has now to serve a purpose altogether different, I’ think, and much wider than that which was in the mind of the Convention. The Convention did not intend section 94 to deal with the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth ; it was intended to deal only with the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue retained by the Commonwealth.
– We have to read the Constitution as it stands.
– In consequence of the amendment made in section 87 by the Conference of Premiers, it. does not serve the duty that it was intended to serve.
– We have to read the Constitution as it stands.
– Quite so; but in the High Court, a few days since, I heard the Chief Justice declare that the Court would always give full consideration to the intention of the framers of the Constitution.
– As shown in the Constitution.
– No doubt.. The Chief Justice, however, stated that the intention of its framers would always be considered by the Court. I repeat that, at the Conference of Premiers in 1899, section 87, which, as it left the Convention, was intended to exist in perpetuity, was limited to a period of ten years.
– I was a member of the Convention, and I do not think it was the intention that that provision should remain in perpetuity.
– The AttorneyGeneral will tell the Treasurer that it was so. In interpreting section 94, we should not omit to bear in mind its history, and what it was intended to mean as it left the Convention.
– That is a very dangerous principle of construction.
– I am putting the actual facts before the House. Nothing will be settled in regard to the meaning of section 94 until the High Court has had to deal with it ; and it is more difficult to construe now than it would have been had section 87 been placed in the Constitution as it left the Convention. As I said just now, I believe that the words “surplus revenue,” when interpreted by the High Court, may have an entirely different meaning from that which the Convention intended. In my opinion the words were intended by the Convention to apply to the unexpended balance of the one-fourth, which was the maximum the Commonwealth could spend. I wish to make it quite clear, as I have said once or twice before, that there is no doubt whatever as to the power of the Commonwealth to spend the whole of the one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue. But I say most certainly that “appropriation” cannot be deemed to be “expenditure “ as proposed in this Bill. One would think it would not be necessary to labour the point, because the idea that under section 87 of the Constitution appropriation should be deemed to mean expenditure is one that ought to be flouted by every reasonable person.
– “Applied” annually means to expend annually.
– The right honorable member for Swan when in office has paid money on an appropriation in many cases.
– I mean all that London money.
– There was a vote for that expenditure.
– I know ; but it was expended on an appropriation.
– It was the system which Sir George Turner instituted of sending the money Home ready to be paid, and; in any case, my following that practice has nothing to do with the Bill.
– I think the Bill affects the practice.
– We are not dealing now with what we should like to do, or what would be convenient, but with what is statutory and just to the States, even if, in doing justice, we injure ourselves. The Commonwealth may spend the whole of the one-fourth, but, if it does not spend the whole, I contend that the unexpended balance must be paid monthly to the States. Supposing we concede for one moment that appropriation does mean expenditure, what would be easier than for the Federal Government or Parliament to place large sums on the Estimates which we knew could not be required, such, for instance, as the £20,000 for advertising Australia, when we know that we shall spend no more than £5,000? There is also a vote of £250,000 for armaments, although we know we are not going to spend any such sum. What is really proposed by this Bill is to appropriate the whole of the balance, and thus deprive the States of it, although we may not spend sixpence of it. Is that fair?
– An appropriation lapses if it is not used.
– That is so, and very properly so; but there is no lapse in the case of a trust fund. Where is our power to make trust funds, and thus take the money away from the States? A trust fund is a means of holding money until the owner claims it, and I submit that we cannot appropriate £250,000 for armaments, and, placing the money in a trust fund, thus deprive the States of it. I sav that such a proposal is neither reasonable nor proper.
– But I think the right honorable member did something like that in regard to the naval payments.
– I do not think so.
– There is a special trust fund created in that connexion.
– That is paid every month, but we have an appropriation for it, and it must be paid during the year in which it was voted.
– The whole of it is not paid during the year.
– Then it ought to be, because it is an expenditure of the year. According to the proposal and intention of the Treasurer, this money will not be returned to the States, but will be appropriated, to be reappropriated, perhaps, later on to quite another object, because money put into a trust fund can, by Act of Parliament, be taken out of that fund, and expended as we like. This is a subterfuge to keep this money from the States, and, by putting it into a reserve fund called a trust fund, deprive themof their just due. That was not the intention or meaning of the framers of the Constitution, and it has not been done by any Treasurer, under the advice of any Attorney-General, during the seven years of Federation. There are, I believe, twenty-four trust funds already, for the most part legitimate, though there may be one or two not quite so. On the31st December last, according to the public accounts, there was £344,000 to the credit of those trust funds. I believe that was an excessive amount, owing to special circumstances at the particular time; and it has not been so large since, though it has been over£100,000. Trust funds are, no doubt, very convenient, and, speaking generally, when they are bonâ fide, are unobjectionable. But the proposal in the Bill is not bonâ fide; it does not propose a trust fund for a specific purpose, as in the other cases mentioned. The Bill has for its object the placing of large sums in reserve, to be used hereafter, either for the purpose declared, or, probably, reappropriated later on for some other purposes, the States in the meantime being deprived of their moneys, The Treasurer clearly stated that the object of the Bill was to retain these moneys, and place them in reserve funds to be used as necessary later on.
– There will be no moneys beyond the one-fourth.
– If we used the whole of the one-fourth for Commonwealth purposes, I should have nothing to say ; what I object to is taking the money and putting it on one side, and not using it. During the last seven years the Commonwealth Government have tried their best to limit their expenditure. As I have said, time and again, there has been no extravagance on the part of the Federal Government. There may be some matters in which, had we the time over again, we might act differently ; but, generally speak ing, the Commonwealth Government and Parliament have been economical, and tried to return as much as possible to the States. My predecessor, Sir George Turner, went to great lengths in the latter direction, because those were rather hard days in the States, and his efforts were beneficial to some of them, especially Tasmania and Queensland, who suffered a great loss of revenue owing to Federation.
– Queensland occasionally did not get her three-fourths.
– That is so, while some other States were getting very much more than their threefourths. However, the Federal Government did their best all along, and it has been the policy throughout to economize, bearing in view the great obligations that lie on the States Governments. We must not forget that the States Governments have in their hands the settling of the people on the land, and the opening up and development of the country by means of railways, roads, and bridges, in addition to the responsibility of the public education.With a knowledge ot all these facts, I, when Treasurer, desired to give rather than take away from the States. Now, however, we have a proposal to take money away from the States, not, in my opinion, legitimately, or in a bonâ fide way, but, by what I may call a side wind - by altering the procedure which, up to the present, has been acknowledged to be right. If such a step be taken,without any necessity, it will embitter the feeling between Commonmonwealth and States. It is true that, without counting the first half-year of Federation, which was very unsettled, there has been returned to the States, during the six years, over £5,000,000 more than the three-fourths of the revenue to which they were entitled. There is no doubt that the Commonwealth could have spent that money had it been in the interests of Australia to do so. But iin such case the States would have suffered, Tasmania and Queensland very largely. It is now proposed that we should retain this money for the future, and put it out of reach in a reserve fund, called a trust fund, so that later on, when it has accumulated, we may appropriate it, possibly for some other purpose altogether. That was not the feeling that honorable members had towards the States in the early days of Federation, nor is it, in my opinion, the intention of section 87 of the Constitution. However, there is another matter of law to which I should like to direct the attention of the Attorney-General. Besides the objections I have already raised, I have to say further that the Bill is opposed to section 36 of the Audit Act. What does that section say? -
Every appropriation made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the service of any financial year shall lapse and cease to have any effect for any purpose at the close of that year.
– But there are trust funds.
– This is not a bond fide trust fund at all. The section goes on - and any balance of the moneys so appropriated which may then be unexpended shall lapse, and the accounts of the year shall be then closed.
– Did the trust funds lapse when the honorable member was Treasurer ?
– I do not think they did. But they were bona fide trust funds. This, however, is an attempt to make a trust fund of that which is not a trust fund at all. This Bill says that, notwithstanding what the Audit Act provides, sums, having been appropriated, shall be regarded as expended. There is to be a reserve fund ; that is what it means. The term “Trust Fund” is a subterfuge. It is not a trust fund in the true sense at all. A trust fund is a fund established in relation to moneys that do not belong to the Government, and which have to be paid when the owner comes along ; or it is a fund established for departmental convenience. Why, in these late days, should this attempt be made to fake money away from the States and keep it in reserve for some other purposes? This is not a matter of likes or dislikes. It is a matter of the interpretation of the Constitution, by which we are bound. . The question at issue will not be settled until we have an authoritative judgment upon it by the High ‘Court. I await with some curiosity the course my honorable friend the leader of the Labour Party will take in regard to this matter. I am anxious to know whether he will do justice to the States. I am of opinion that the facts must appeal to him that this is an attempt - am unjustifiable one - to- try to get money that is legally due to the . S’tates put aside to be used hereafter for various purposes. I am certainly surprised that my honorable friends, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, should have subscribed to this Bill. I can well understand the Treasurer wanting money to be put aside to be used by him. I do not suppose that he has looked very closely into the technicalities of the measure. But that remark cannot apply to the. Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. I cannot understand how they can have allowed such a Bill to be introduced. Every measure introduced by the Government must have the imprimatur of the AttorneyGeneral. How the AttorneyGeneral can tell us that what it is proposed to- do under this measure is- in accord with section 87 of the Constitution, I cannot understand. The Bill will do a great deal of harm. It certainly can do no good. ‘ It must irritate the States. The question concerned is not likely to be settled until we obtain a decision from the High Court ; and we have figured in that Court already. I do not see why we should encourage these difficulties which necessitate our appearance in’ the High Court in opposition to the States, especially during these last years of the operation of the Braddon section. I desire to say, in conclusion, that the opinions which I have . expressed are those which’ I honestly hold, and which have actuated me ever since I have been a member of this House, and while I was the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. . My desire is to do justice to the ‘States as well as to uphold the interests of the Commonwealth. This is an unnecessary Bill. It is a mischievous Bill. It is a Bill which, in mv opinion, exceeds our powers under the Constitution. I therefore move -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “this Bill be read a second time. this day six months. “
– I beg to second the amendment.
– I expected that we should have some reply from the Government in regard to the constitutional points that have been raised by the right honorable member for Swan. I can well understand the warmth which my right honorable friend displayed in dealing with what, according to his view, is an attack upon the States, and upon States rights, under the Constitution. I cannot, for my part, agree as to that attack from the constitutional point of view. I may add that when the Bounties Bill was before this House, the- course which has now been proposed by the Government was suggested by myself.
– Hear, hear.
– I had anticipated that there would be some little acknowledgment of that fact, but it is a matter about which I make no complaint at all.
– I merely omitted to acknowledge it - quite unintentionally.
– It is a mere personal matter, about which I do not feel one way or another. But, on that occasion, I went pretty fully into what I thought was the true view of the Constitution. I do not intend to say very much more at this stage on that point, except this - that I think my right honorable friend the member for Swan’s condemnation of the Bill, and his indignation at such a measure being brought forward; were to some extent based upon a misapprehension of the section of theConstitution to which he referred.
– That is the way in which the section has been interpreted in practice anyway.
– I certainly should be very sorry to impose on honorable members a long constitutional argument; and the only excuse I can make for going, into the matter at all is that, as the right honorable member for Swan feels grave doubts about the. question, I ought, as a matter of ordinary courtesy to him, to do so. I think that even if we do not entertain strong doubts we ought to express our opinions. The view which Iput on a former occasion is this : The matter all depends upon the proper interpretation to put upon two or three sections of the Constitution. With regard to the view that has been put, that advice has been given, and that a practice has been adopted by the Department, that argument would be very strong except for this fact : that during the five years, until October, 1906, no other practice could be followed except the distribution which the section expressly provided for. The following seems to me to be the scheme under which the financial sections of the Constitution were drafted.
– The course now proposed was never suggested before.
– I do not know that it could have been suggested up to October, 1906. What I submit is this : thatthe whole frame of the Constitution, its basis, so far as finance is concerned, is first of all section 81. That section gives us that general power of appropriation which every self-governing community has through its Parliament. If it is to be a Parliament at all - anything more than a municipal institution - it must have a general power of appropriating its revenue. That section says -
All revenues or moneys raised or received by the Executive Government of the Commonweal th shall form one Consolidated Revenue Fund tobe appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by this Constitution.
To leave out of consideration the” charges and liabilities “ for the moment, let us see what would be involved in the meaning of the term “appropriation.” “Appropriation “ does not mean merely appropriation for the ordinary current services for the month, or for the year. It covers the putting of money to any purposes - for, as I understand it, this year or next year or any other future time - so long as those purposes are legitimately purposes of the Commonwealth, and are authorized by an Act of Parliament. I might take a very simple instance. Suppose this Parliament borrowed money, and desired to create a sinking fund for its repayment. That is the simplest example of all. You may have two kinds of sinking funds. You may have a sinking fund whereby Parliament annually pays towards the repayment of the debt certain moneys, by means of which it provides for principal and interest. But there is another and a more usual kind of sinking fund, such as is established in nearly all the States of the Union. You borrow money, say, in England, and you agree with the lender that you shall pay him annual interest, and, when the time for redemption comes, the principal. In the meantime Parliament may say, “ We shall create a sinking fund, putting aside annually enough to enable us to pay the debt when it becomes due.” That would be making a trust fund.
-It would be an annual appropriation.
– Such action would come within the meaning of the ordinary purposes of a parliamentary appropriation. My right honorable friend has asked, “ Where is the authority to make a trust fund?” I saythat there is authority to make a trust or other fund, or any pocket or reserve we may wish to make, so long as the ultimate purposes of the expenditure are Commonwealth purposes. Now, we. must see how far the general power is cutdown by subsequent provisions. Section 87, on which he laid very great stress, was undoubtedly introduced for the benefit of the States, and the full meaning must be given to it from, that stand-point. I should be the first to join with my honorable friend in reprobating any attempt to twist language in order to deprive the States of “the legitimate guarantee which that section affords them.
– It was meant to be very plain.
– I think that it is plain. It says that -
During the period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth, and therealter until the Parliament otherwise provides, of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise, not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.
What is the difference between tha’t and the expression in section 81 ? To be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth, is to . be applied to the purposes of the Commonwealth, or to be applied towards the expenditure of the Commonwealth. All the money which we appropriate is expended, if not this year, next year or some other year. It is the expenditure of some year. . We may appropriate this year for one hundred purposes in connexion with which the actual expenditure will not take place this year.
– It is not necessary to distribute funds derived from other sources than Customs and Excise, although the Treasurer has been doing it.
– But there is an absolute limitation. If ft applies to twelve months, it must mean three-fourths within those twelve months.
– The limitation is- not a limitation of the actual expenditure, but of the amount which may be taken for the purposes of the expenditure. A stream of revenue is flowing past, and section 87 of the Constitution says that the Commonwealth shall not take more than one-fourth of it. Suppose we returned to the States only three-fourths, could their Treasurers say to us, “ You have returned to us three-fourths, and have purported to apply the rest. We wish to go into your’ books and estimates, to ascertain whether you have actually expended’ during this month the moneys which you have not returned to us “ ? That was . not intended by the Constitution. Such a provision would have rendered the government of the Commonwealth almost unworkable.
– It is curious thai the practice which the honorable anc learned member says is not necessary has. under legal advice, been followed foi years.
– I should like to see any contrary opinion that has beerexpressed by an Attorney-General.
– It is useless to smother up legal opinions on the subject.
– I am not aware of any legal opinion to the contrary.
– No such opinion has been given.
– There is certainly a letter by Mr. Justice Isaacs to me on the subject.
– Applied annually towards expenditure must not .be taken to mean applied to annual expenditure. We should be prevented from performing a very large number of the functions ordinarily performed by every British Government, if it were different.
– We have not been prevented so far.
– Owing to our very abundant revenues, we have not found it necessary to put aside funds to meet contingencies ; but, as I ventured to suggest when the Bounties Bill was before us, anc” we were asked to agree to the appropriation °f £53°>O0° to be expended over a period of fifteen years, as a matter of ordinary prudence, such’ as a business man would adopt in the conduct of his own affairs, wc should put aside, out of our present large and abundant revenue, something to meet our future obligations, in years when the revenue will probably be greatly diminished.
– We should no: undertake obligations which we cannot meet. We have the Constitution before us in black and white.
– Does the honorable anc learned member carry forward into section 94 the interpretation of all surplus revenue as revenue unappropriated or not expended i
– That is the view I put before.
– The honorable and learned member did not believe in the ap propriation of money for bounties.
– I opposed the Bounties Bill strongly ; but I supported the measure for granting a bounty for the production’ of iron.
– The honorable and learned member opposed the other Bill.
– I think he said that we should consider the financial position before granting the bounties.
– Yes. I suggested that it would be a prudent thing to do, and what a business man would do.
– This has nothing to do with the Constitution.
– I agree with my right honorable friend that, no matter how desirable the course which I have suggested, its desirability does not make it constitutional.
– What is surplus revenue ?
– I referredto the matter to show that, if we adopt the view which the right honorable member for Swan contends for, we shall be prevented from carrying out a large number of functions which every Government should be able to perform. I gave, as an instance, the making of a sinking fund for the payment of debts. Another instance is the providing for bounties the payment of which is spread over a large number of years. Then there is the making of provision for the payment of contracts which, perhaps, cannot be carried out in less than five or six years.
– That is the strongest instance that can be given.
– It is highly desirable, and indeed necessary, that this Parliament should have power to put aside revenue to meet future obligations. That being admitted to be desirable, we must ascertain whether the power has been taken from us. It would require a very clear and explicit provision to deprive us of powers ordinarily exercised by every Parliament invested with the control of taxation and expenditure. All I find is a general power of appropriation. Section 87 contains a limitation introduced to protect the States during a particular period. That provision declares that the Commonwealth is not to apply annually, or to take annually for its expenditure, more than a certain proportion of the revenue coming in. To read that as showing that what is meant is annual expenditure cuts down the power of appropriation given by preceding sections to an exceedingly smallpoint. The Constitution provides a further limitation. Not only is there a limit upon the amount which the Commonwealth Parliament can apply, but a method is prescribed for distributing, during the five years immediately succeeding the imposition of uniform duties of Customs and Excise, the balance to be returned to the States. They must be given at least three-fourths df the Customs and Excise revenue which is annually collected, and mav be given more; and section 89, read with section 93, recognises that the Commonwealth must give the States so much, and that it may give them more, and that the amount which must be paid to the States must be distributed for a certain period in a particular way.
– And the balance must be paid over.
– Yes. After five years have elapsed, Parliament is to make such provision as it may think fair for the payment of all surplus revenues, using the most general term possible.
– Does surplus revenue mean balance? Are the terms convertible?
– “Surplus revenue” is used only once.
– The word “ balance “ is used in section 87.
-.- It refers to the unapplied balances. I have always understood the words “surplus revenue” in these provisions to have a particularly wide application, and to mean the revenues which the Commonwealth is goingto return to the States.
– The word “ balance “ was used when section 87 was perpetual.
– It would not make the slightest ‘difference to my argument if section 87 were perpetual. It seems to me that the words “ surplus re venue “ in section 94 mean simply the money that the Commonwealth Parliament has to return to the States.
– Section 87 governs the position, and the word used init is “ balance.”
– The word “balance” is used in that section for the purposes of the section. The words “ surplus revenue “ are used in section 94 to cover everything. It may incl ude moneyraised by direct taxation, fees from patents, post-office, and other revenue.
– It would scarcely apply to such revenue, because the amount to be paid to the States is a proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– The returns from the post-office are revenue; but could it be said that, if the revenue from, stamps and telegrams throughout Australia is not actually spent in paying the Commonwealth servants, it must be returned to the States ?
– That is what has been done in the past.
– The practice has not been quite as exact as that.
– Then, according to the argument of my right honorable friend, the Constitution has been broken. If the Constitution were read as he reads it, the system of government would be absolutely unworkable.
– We still come to what is meant by “ surplus revenue.”
– The question depends on what is the meaning of” surplus.” My contention is that, reading these provisions together, “ surplus “ means money that has not been appropriated by Parliament; It is a very simple meaning ; there is nothing to cut it down. It gives full effect to our right as a Parliament to appropriate our money as we think fit for Federal purposes; it also gives full effect to the provisions of section 87 for the protection of the States.
– But what about the question of policy ?
– That is another matter. If I believed, as does the right honorable member for Swan, that in passing this Bill we should transgress our constitutional powers, or that we should be attempting, by means of an Act of Parliament, to place upon the Constitution an interpretation thatwe have power to . do something that we could not possibly do, I should feel as. indignant as he apparently does. But I do not regard this proposal in that light. Subject to one important consideration, to which I shall refer in a moment, I think that this is a very reasonable business-like proposition to make, and that it does not impinge upon the rights of the States.
– It is curious, if this power is so clearly conferred by the Constitution, that it has not occurred to any one before to seek to use it.
– I am afraid that sometimes it does not occur to us to do that which we ought to do. Having regard to the view I have expressed, I should not in ordinary circumstances have the slightest difficulty in giving my entire support to this Bill, but I must say that I feel that it is very unfortunate that it should have been brought forward at the present juncture. When I suggested, whilst the Bounties Bill was under consideration, that the course for which this measure provides should beadopted, we were contemplating that largeiron works which were then in progresswould soon be absorbing the large bountiesproposed, under that Bill, to be paid. Weknow now that that exigency has passed; away for the time being. Therefore, that particular cause of urgency no longer exists. I think I find myself in absolute agreement with the right honorable member for Swan in believing that even in the exercise of our undoubted rights we ought to be as careful as we can not to wound the susceptibilities of the States; although it may be that sometimes demands couched in language that is altogether too strong are made upon us by some members of the States Legislatures. I read recently that the Premier of New South Wales had requested - and perhaps the same request also emanated from other quarters - that the Premiers of the States should have an opportunity at the forthcoming Conference to place their views before us with regard to this Bill, so that the Parliament might, with a full knowledge of what were the views of the States authorities, exercise its powers in this regard: Why should we not afford them that opportunity ?
– Is it wise that w.eshould submit questions of great national policy to the determination of the Premiers of the States?
– No; but there is a difference between doing that and adopting the course which has been suggested by one if not more of the Premiers of the States. I said as strongly as I could at an early stage this session that I thought that Conferences of States Premiers had repeatedly gone rather too far ; but that is not exactly the present situation. My contention is that ultimately the constitutional power and the constitutional duty of settling these financial questions rests upon this Parliament.
– Surely, in common courtesy, we should consult the States Treasurers? .
– That is so; but the Constitution gives us the power, and imposes upon us the duty, of effectually settling the financial question according to the best of our own lights. I go even further, and say that if the Premiers of the States unanimously arrived at a conclusion which we did not consider offered the best solution of the problem as affecting the future of Australia, we should abdicate the rights that are vested in us if we were to give way to them. Honorable members cannot expect me to put more strongly than that the view that I hold in 46 regard. I hold, however, that when we are called upon to exercise our extremely important duties in regard to the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth, and are asked, on the eve of a Conference of Premiers, ‘to delay what is, after all, only a fractional part of the settlement of the financial question - to ~.tay our hand until those representing States interests have had an opportunity to put their views before us - we ought not to regard such a request as unreasonable. It would have been infinitely wiser for the Government to bring in this proposal as part of a general scheme for “the settlement of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. I therefore regret that we are forced now to vote upon the Bill. I should very much prefer to 5ee its further consideration postponed by the Government; but if we are forced to vote upon the actual merits of the Bill, then, thinking, as I do, that it is not only within our constitutional powers, but embodies a. prudent and sensible course to adopt, I shall feel compelled even now to support it.
-451- - I should hare preferred, before speaking, to hear a statement by a Minister as to the attitude which the Government intend to take up respecting the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Swan. The right honorable member is an ex-Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and has takai the grave course of moving what is tantamount to the rejection of the Bill. Nevertheless, not a word either of approval or of disapproval or a definition of the attitude of the Government is forthcoming. In accordance with their usual attitude, the Government have simply put their proposals before the House, with little or no explanation.- The sooner a departure from that absurd, unhealthy, and disastrous state of things is made the better. We have already experienced what results from the refusal of the Ministry to open questions of this kind to fair and general debate, according to old-time methods of parliamentary procedure. Such proceedings will not help the Commonwealth to unravel the skein of difficulty which the Constitution has weaved in regard to the relations of the Commonwealth and the States. I anticipated that the Attorney-General would at least make some reply to the statements as to the unconstitutionality of the Bill.
– I have asked the Attorney-General to do so later on.
– I should have thought that as soon as such an amendment as that now before us had been moved, a reply on behalf of the Government would be made. I am afraid that the Ministry does not realize the gravity of the position. We cannot even regard as altogether satisfactory the statement made by the Treasurer as to the extreme course that the Government contemplate. Coming to the Bill itself, I should have expected to hear the honorable member for Flinders express the opinion that he has just voiced. If I remember rightly, this Bill embodies a criticism which he made some time ago. I should not go so far as to say that the Ministry have pirated or plagiarized his proposal, and have incorporated it in this measure, but the fact remains that this Bill follows closely upon the suggestion which he made.. And what does the Treasurer say about it? We have had from him a general statement that in some way or other the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution had hampered him. Not much evidence has been furnished as to the way in which those constitutional provisions do hamper him ; we have to take his bare statement that they have done so. When questioned as to whether he is contemplating any large, extraordinary expenditure - and that, I hold,’ would be the only justification for this departure at the present time - the Treasurer says that he does not contemplate any expenditure outside the ordinary channels. He says that he has no large, ambitious schemes in contemplation, and if, as he also said, he has no difficulty in financing month by month any of the claims for expenditure which are made upon him, why does he want to take this additional power at the present time? I put those two questions to the Treasurer. I asked him in- the first place whether he had in contemplation any large scheme of extraordinary expenditure, and he said that he had not ; that he simply anticipated an expansion of the ordinary expenses as provided for in the Estimates year by year. In the next place I asked him very plainly if he could tell us whether during any month of the year he had any difficulty in financing the needs of the Commonwealth out of our one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue, and he again replied in the negative. Why, then, is this proposal, so drastic and far-reaching as it affects the relations of the Commonwealth with the States, brought forward at the present time? After hearing the arguments fro and con as to the constitutionality of the Bill, and having read the Constitution, so far as my abilities will permit me, I have no doubt as to the constitutionality of the procedure proposed . by the Government. There is no doubt that we can vary the arrangements with regard to the disposal of, our surplus revenue; that we can if we choose create these proposed trust accounts-
– The honorable member might take the example of all special appropriations which do not lapse under the Audit Act.
– We have power to create these special trust accounts, and, as I think, to make provision for any extraordinarily large additional expenditures which may from time to time come under the purview of this Parliament. I do not attack the constitutionality of this Bill ; I attack its wisdom, its inopportuneness. Like many of the other financial proposals of the Government, it is tentative, paltry and entirely inadequate to meet the financial situation. As such it comes fitly from a Government that has been proceeding on those lines through the whole course of its existence, and is to-day only fulfilling the promise of its career made from the beginning of its existence. I, therefore, confine myself to the consideration of the question whether it is wise, after the lapse of nearly eight years of the ten that have to run “before a re-arrangement of the whole financial position must take place, to deal with the matter in this piecemeal way.
– We are promised the financial proposals this session.
– Precisely. It seems to me to indicate a peculiar attitude on the part of the Government toward these great questions of public concern, that this legislation should be introduced. Last year the Government submitted a definite and comprehensive scheme at the Brisbane Premiers’ Conference.. That scheme was accepted by both Commonwealth and States, as the right honorable member for Swan made quite clear this afternoon, and yet. the Government do not hesitate to up set that whole arrangement, and to submit in its place this paltry, insufficient attempt to keep from the States surplus revenue which has hitherto been paid over.
– Will the honorable member support the scheme of the right honorable member for Swan?
– I may say that I propose to move a prior amendment.
– I am referring to the financial scheme of the right honorable member for Swan, which the honorable member for Parramatta says has been cast aside.
– In its broader features, I think that scheme was a good one.
– And the honorable member will give it the whole of his support?
– I shall not give the whole scheme the whole of my support, but I shall give the- whole of my support to some features of it.
– The honorable member is on safe ground !
– The honorable member would not expect me to agree with every detail of the scheme? I do say, however, that, in my opinion, it is the best scheme proposed by a Treasurer up to date, and I believe that, shorn of one or two of its provisions which, I think, err a little on the side of generosity to the States - though that is a good side to err on - the scheme, on the whole, is a statesmanlike proposal for the settlement of this muchvexed question. But now we find the new Treasurer coming in and upsetting that scheme in this piecemeal way. Such legislation, I think, is unwise; and, as I shall propose in my amendment, I think we ought to wait until the whole relations of the States and the Commonwealth can be taken into account. I propose to move, if the prior amendment is withdrawn to enable me to do so, that all the words after “ That “ be omitted, in order to insert “ the consideration of this Bill be postponed until the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States can be dealt with as a whole.” It is not a question of what we have a right to do under the Constitution. It has-been the curse of this Parliament in the past that we have been fighting for some supposed rights we have under the Constitution - rights which we could turn against the States to their detriment and to our advantage. That is entirely a wrong attitude to assume. We ought not to consider whether we have this or that right, but we ought to work well’ within the rights which are plain on the face of the Constitution, so that he who runs may read, and, by degrees, acquire the further confidence of the people, in the hope and belief that they will, in time, trust us with such further amendment of the Constitution as the unfolding of our functions and powers may require at their hands.
– If the honorable member gave that advice to the States, it would be very beneficial !
– I do not think that such advice can hurt either Commonwealth or States. I do not pretend to say that the States do not transgress their functions; but are we not inviting them to do so when we strain ours?
– They have trailed their coat on the ground!
– If I may use an illustration, we are in the position of Britishers defending the frontiers of India against the Russians at Herat, when the people outside are nibbling all the time in an endeavour to get nearer and nearer the position in order to menace it. The vast expenditure on those frontiers has to be maintained from year to year, all because of that nibbling ; and so, when we assume the attitude I have indicated in regard to our rights under the Constitution - when we or the States begin nibbling on the borders of the Constitution, and straining at this, that, and the other right - it devolves on those who are concerned to take steps, to defend themselves, and assert their position.
– Are we the outsiders “nibbling” at the States?
Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- I am afraid that both Commonwealth and States are nibbling.
– And the honorable member is tugging on the parochial side.
– No. An honorable member who stands up for a sane, wise, and moderate use of Federal powers is the best guardian of the Constitution, and not the man who tries to strain the Constitution to the detriment and possible injury of the States.
– The honorable member forgets that the same people who elect us elect the States members.
– I do not forget ; and I suppose it is wonderful that we do not agree. We are all one people, but somehow or other we. seem to work in two different directions, which clash and conflict. It is our duty to try to avoid conflict; and the better way is to confer frankly and fully with each other, so as to understand where the points of difference are, and where justice is, in the matters on which there is difference’ of opinion.
– It is a pity that some of the States have not taken up that attitude.
– But are we free from blame? The High Court is engaged hearing appeal after appeal on this question of constitutional power; and I am sure the honorable member is not prepared’ to say off-hand who is right and who is wrong. Wherewe are not certain, our duty is not to move unless some great public compulsion is put. upon us.
– What is the use of the Constitution?
– If we keep within the limits of our ascertained powers - those which are obvious - there is plenty for this Parliament to do for many a year.
– Did the New South Wales Premier think of that when he seized the wire netting?
– I do not think that referencewill help us to discuss this matter.
– If the Federal Government had taken the proper course then, they would have straightened matters out.
– Anyhow, I ask whether it is wise, after the lapse of eight or ten years, to make this violent irruption into the relations at present existing between the Commonwealth and the States. Would it not be wiser to wait until we can deal with the finances as a whole, as I hope we shall be able to do in a way to avoid all friction, and provide that, there shall be no mistake hereafter ?
– Wait until we are bankrupt!
– The figures show that for the last six full years we have returned to the States surpluses of over £800,000, which we could not spend. Are we bankrupt, when we cannot spend moneys which are given, to us to spend?
– And yet. the honorable member says there is no money for old-age pensions!
– I have never said such a thing. I understand the
Treasurer is now asking for power to appropriate a large portion of that money to any purpose that Parliament may deem fit.
– And why should Parliament not deem any purpose fit?
– If the Treasurer desires to submit a proposal requiring extraordinary expenditure, there is no need for this Bill in order, to finance it. Of what does the Treasurer complain? He says that sometimes he has not any money left at the end of the month.
– That is only a portion of what I said. According to the Constitution we should never have a penny at the end of the month.
– But the Treasurer will have money when the new month begins. The Treasurer has told us he has never had a month in which he could not meet current claims out of the onefourth of the revenue.
– I did not say that. The honorable member asked me if I at any time had had to ‘arrange matters, and I said that I believed I had had to do so once or twice.
– And because of that the Treasurer proposes to rearrange the whole financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States with respect to the surplus ! If the Treasurer had in contemplation any large scheme of public expenditure which was absolutely necessary, he would be quite justified, perhaps, in asking Parliament to upset the present relationship, but the honorable member says he has no such - scheme.
– I did not say I had not any large scheme. The honorable member surely considers that the Defence proposals represent a large measure of expenditure.
– But there is nothing in that to justify an alteration of the present financial relations of Commonwealth and State. If the Treasurer has in contemplation over and above what is provided at present, any- further huge vote in prospect of which he desires to accumulate large funds, and which cannot be financed in the ordinary way, there might be some reason for the Bill, but there is no need for such a- measure, in view of the ordinary monthly expenditure. There is no need to warn the States that they may not expect any surplus ‘in the future as on the past.
– If we carry out our works as we should, I do not know where the States are going to gelt any surplus from.
– May I ask the Treasurer what he proposes to do about the transferred properties? These properties have been vested in the Commonwealth for seven- years, and the Constitution clearly says that the moment they become so vested, we shall take all their current obligations. Yet for seven years we have left the States to pay the interest on those properties, and now it is proposed to deprive them of part of their share of the revenue.
– The one- fourth?
– The surplus of the one-fourth, which the Treasurer has not been able to spend.
– The honorable member misunderstands.
– I understand that the Treasurer wants this Bill so that he may pay into a trust account the balance of the one-fourth now paid to the States.
– No ; I only want to make trust funds of sums of money appropriated by Parliament, and nothing more.
– Precisely. But it will be time enough to take this power when the Treasurer comes to Parliament and gets an Appropriation Bill passed involving such an extreme course as this.
– We cannot take such a course until we pass this Bill.
– The Treasurer has no such large schemes in his mind as will prevent there being plenty of time to make a broad and wise re-arrangement of the whole financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. Until that can be done, it is far better to leave this tinkering little proposal alone, and discuss the subject in its larger aspects. I urge the Treasurer, even now, not to persevere with this Bill. I say very frankly to him that I wish to take no course that would embarrass the Government, having regard to the position of affairs on the Tariff and other matters, but I cannot, and will not, vote for this Bill. I ask the Treasurer now, in the interests of a fair, amicable, and reasonable attitude being assumed, both by the States themselves and by the Treasurer when he meets the Premiers next month in Conference; not to persevere with this Bill, which is bound to anger the whole of the States.
– Have they not been angry all the time? They have made statements against the Commonwealth which they have no right to make.
– Is it not a fact that at the last Conferencethey agreed to proposals submitted by the honorable gentleman’s own Government? That does not look like angry antagonism.
– They did what? They never did agree.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- Substantially, they did.
– I beg pardon, they did not.
– They agreed substantially to the Government’s proposals.
– They did not.
– They did.
– They did nothing of the kind.
– As far as the financial scheme of the Government was concerned, they did.
– They agreed to everything that we went down upon.
– The Treasurer has raised another matter to which I should like to address myself for a moment. - This Bill does not touch the larger financial problems at all. For instance, the Treasurer says that the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution are hampering him. He means only a small part of the bookkeeping provisions and their ramifications. This Bill will leave the bookkeeping provisions intact so far as accounting for the revenues of the States is concerned.
– I said very little about the bookkeeping sections.
– The Treasurer said that the bookkeeping sections of the Constitution have been found to hamper considerably the finances of the Commonwealth.
– That is quite true.
– He could not have said very much more about them than that. But he did not say what he should have said - that the hampering was only caused with regard to the check which he felt was imposed upon him so far as relates to the disposal of surplus funds. The bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution, if this Bill goes through, will continue as before, with all their routine, and with all the troubles and anxieties to our merchants which exist at the present time. One of the urgent problems facing this Parliament is, how to do away with those bookkeeping provisions as far as the mere accountancy side of them is concerned, and so far as they affect the trading relations of the Commonwealth. It is that which is giving trouble. When every merchant has to dissect a suit of clothes to find out what he has to pay on the cloth, on the buttons, on the linings, and on everything else before he can do his business, he is naturally irritated. It is that system which we want to abolish. It is that side of the bookkeeping sections which we want to do away with as quickly as we can do it on a fair basis. The Treasurer is only dealing with an atom of the bookkeeping sections. The hampering will still remain, though the Treasurer will only be benefited to the extent that moneys at present paid away to the States need not be immediately spent.
– And our not having to re-vote and re-raise the money wanted.
– And if it is revoted, who is deprived of revenue but the States? Have they ever complained of the Treasurer causing such sums of money to be re- voted? Suppose he cannot pay a £50,000 bill at the end of the month, and the money has to be re-voted next month. Do the States complain?
– The States do not, but the Commonwealth should.
– If the Treasurer is not hampered in these respects, what does he want this Bill at all for, unless to save money to meet some extraordinary expenditure? I should say it would be for the States to suggest some such trouble as the Treasurer has suggested, so as not to deplete their revenue unduly one month and inflate it the next. The Treasurers of the States are just as keenly interested in having a steady expenditure rather than a spasmodic and intermittent one, as the Commonwealth Treasurer himself can be. It is as much to their interest to know what their monthly commitments are, and what their monthly payments are to be, as it is, to the Treasurer’s. But they make no complaint, because there happens to be a specially large demand one month and an especially easy one the next.
– I should think they would not.
– If they make no such complaint, why should the Treasurer? The money is there and if the Treasurer cannot pay it one month he can pay it the next. Where is the trouble? I tell the honorable gentleman candidly, that I expected him to say to-day, in justification of this Bill, that he had in contemplation some extraordinarily large expenditure over and above what he has found it possible hitherto to account for in the ordinarymonthly fashion.
– When the honorable member sees the Additional Estimates he will know that I have.
– Then this Bill should wait until we have the Additional Estimates before us. If that be the reason for it those Additional Estimates ought to have been on the table long ago. But when the year is entirely closed it seems that the Treasurer is going to bring forward Additional Estimates for the year.
– The honorable member will have them soon enough.
– I hope that if they are reasonable, we shall pass them.
– I say that it is impossible to make them reasonable on the previous basis.
– I say againand this is all that I want to say - that if that is the only reason for bringing in this Bill, then those Additional Estimates ought to have accompanied the Bill, so that we might see the real reason which the Treasurer has for bringing it forward. Otherwise, he has shown no reason for this violent interference - and it is a violent interference- with the relationships which have existed for eight years, and which must terminate in two more at the outside. I say, therefore, that the Treasurer is going about this business in the wrong way. The real question for us to consider is not whether we have a right to do this under the Constitution. That is a very arguable question. It is no doubt a very interesting question for lawyers to talkabout. But the practical question for us is, as to whether it is wise for us to do this kind of thing at this time.
– I never brought forward a proposal which the honorable member has not asked me to postpone.
– If the Treasurer had postponed some proposals which he was asked to postpone, the Commonwealth would have been in much better Odour to-day than it is.
– I have given up trying to get it into better odour with some people. If we do our duty we need not be afraid of any one.
– Since that is the declaration of the Commonwealth Treasurer, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, all that I have to say is that it only emphasizes more strongly the obligation resting upon us to try to induce this Parliament to extend the fullest possible consideration to the States, and to meet them-
– There has been a lot of consideration.
– And to meet them with the utmost amicability.
– Are they to be amicable also?
– The Treasurer says that he has “ done with “ them.
– I say that I am not going to be drawn this way and that way, because some people think one thing and some another.
– The honorable gentleman is drawn “ this way,” as he puts it, because he has to be drawn. I am not speaking in a personal sense, but because of the terms that exist in relation to the States and the Commonwealth. The Treasurer is tied to the States for ten years, and cannot get away from them for that term. Since he is tied to them in these vital relationships, and in regard to the financial question, why begin to flout them with regard to comparatively small matters so far as we are concerned, but very important matters so far as they are concerned? I say that if we pass this Bill we are still tied to the States. The bookkeeping sections will not be abrogated. We shall still be tied to the States by the Braddon section. Therefore, the Treasurer need not try to shake himself free in this airy and easy way. He cannot do it. The relationship is there. What he is trying to do is to escape from one part of this relationship without doing either the States or the Commonwealth very much good.
– One or two of the States are inclined to make themselves angry without any cause.
– The Treasurer has no reason to complain of some of the Premiers.
– No, not of some of them ; especially the Premier of South Australia.
– It seems to me, with regard to this matter, that the same thing is happening as with regard to some of the other Departments. We have first one Treasurer, and then another, proposing different schemes, and different methods of administration. The result is that there is nothing but chaos. We have new schemes following new schemes until the people outside are bewildered, and small wonder if the Premiers of the States are bewildered, too. The same thing has happened with regard tothe Post and Telegraph Department and the Defence Department. No one Minister is there for long, and there is constant cause for criticism.
– The Ministry has been in office for a long time.
– Yes ; but Ministers have continually changed their portfolios. To-day we have the PostmasterGeneral busily engaged in undoing nearly all thathis predecessor did.
– A good job, too.
– I think so. The same thing is happening in the administration of the Defence Department and of the Treasury. When all seemed plain sailing for a final re-arrangement of the financial problem with a minimum of friction, the Treasurer said, “ The scheme will not do. It must be set aside.”
– It is a good thing that it was not accepted.
– Seeing that the Government is annually agreeing to different schemes, the Premiers of the States may well be anxious. We should try to deal effectively with the bookkeeping sections of the Constitution.
– The Bill does not affect that.
– Why has it been brought forward at this juncture? Why has the consideration of the Estimates been interrupted to enable it to be put through ?
– Because it is a very important measure. We wish to be able to meet the demands upon us.
– It is so important that it should form part of the finan^ cial proposals of the Government.
– If the States will not agree for ten years to come to our proposals for the transfer of their debts to the Commonwealth, must we wait ten years before dealing with this matter, too?
– The two are quite distinct.
– Then why does the honorable member say that they should be dealt with together?
– If the Treasurer is anxious to attack financial problems let him, first of all, settle the question of the transferred properties. How are the States to pay interest on the money borrowed on those properties, if the surplus revenue is not paid to them? Are they to meet their interest obligations out of their three-fourths share of the Customs and Excise revenue?
– The honorable member is opposed to the Commonwealth having money which would enable it to pay the interest, or at least part of the interest, due on the transferred properties.
– If the Treasurer will say that he intends to pay into a trust account the money required to pay the interest, we shall be glad to help him to amend the Bill so that it may be done.
– I shall think the matter over.
– The honorable gentleman knows that it is not his intention to do that. The States must take strong exception to the proposal to keep back from them the surplus revenue while the obligation to pay interest remains with them. Under the Constitution, they are not expected to do this, and it is only because theyhave received the surplus month by month that the matter has been allowed to lie in abeyance so long. The whole question is one which should have been’ settled before a Bill like this was introduced.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Even at this stage it would be wise for the Treasurer not to persist in pushing the Bill through, and thus adding to the friction in the relations between the Commonwealth and the States. It would be better to deal with the business which must be completed before the session can close. The fact that able lawyers join issue as to the constitutionality of the measure should give us. pause.
– The honorable member for Flinders supports our position.
– He is certainly one of the ablest constitutional lawyers either in or out of the Chamber. The Minister has failed to present reasons of urgent public necessity for passing the Bill. I believe that there will not be peace between the States and the Commonwealth until the financial knot has been untied, and each is made independent, so that each may exercise freely its functions and powers without interference by the other. Only to-day I came across this statement’ of Richard Cobden, who, I hope it will not be forgotten, was a great social philosopher as well as an advocate of free-trade : “ Unsettled questions have little regard for the peace of nations.” The financial question, while it remains unsettled, will have little regard for the peace of the Commonwealth. The solution is financial independence.
– The honorable member is trying to prevent that solution.
– I am trying to prevent the honorable member from increasing the irritation which now exists. A -larger scheme is” becoming hourly more urgent. The difficulties confronting the Treasurer in regard to the distribution of surplus money are but small, and should stimulate him, not to the introduction of measures like this, but to the consideration and settlement, if possible, of the larger financial questions whose solution is necessary for future peace. There are many aspects of the financial question, and the most important and pressing seems to me the completion of the purchase of the properties transferred by the States to the Commonwealth.
– The valuation is being proceeded with.
– That has been going on for seven years.
– No; only for two years - that is, the detailed valuations.
– Then for’ five years Ministers have- done nothing. At any rate, after seven 5’ears we have not yet arrived at a solution.
– The work is nearly completed.
– The next matter in order of importance is the bookkeeping arrangement, not merely as it affects the distribution of surpluses, but also as it affects the manner of accounting for moneys received in and for a State, and for the disbursement of money on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth. Then there is the troublesome question of how best to bring about a per capita basis, which, perhaps, must be agreed upon before financial peace can be secured. The settle ment of these questions is preliminary to the transfer of the debts of the States to the Commonwealth, and the making of provision for the expiration of the Braddon section. The right honorable member for Swan did as much as was possible to settle them at the Conference held in Brisbane with the Premiers of the States. No question in the arena of Federal politics can be compared in importance with the financial question. Before any good is done, the Commonwealth and the States each will have to be independent of the other. There will have to be State control of State finances, and Federal control of purely Federal finances. I was reading to-day an essay in the Edinburgh Review of January- last, in which the writer, in discussing the future of the British Empire, makes this statement, which seems to me to apply with equal force to our’ relations with the States -
If we adhere steadily to the principle that local revenues are to be expended locally, and if, at the same time, we give all reasonable encouragement to local self-government and shun any tendency towards over-centralization, we shall steer clear of one of the rocks on which the Roman, ship of state was wrecked. Unskilful or unwise finance is our greatest danger.
That is equally true of our relations with the States ; unwise or unskilful finance is also our greatest danger. No other danger looming up is comparable- with it. My judgment is that the tentative proposal in this measure is unskilful in its treatment of a large question, and is infinitely unwise, having regard to the imminence of the settlement of the larger question which must be faced within the next two years. It would be very much better to postpone the consideration of this matter until we can deal with the whole broad question of finance. When we come to the consideration of the larger question, I hope that the Treasurer will meet the Premiers at the coming Conference, and am sure that with a reasonable attitude on his part, there will be no difficulty in the way. I, for one, have seen year after year a growing disposition on the part of the States towards its favorable treatment.
– I have not seen such a disposition on the . part of New South Wales.
– I am not singling out any one State.
– Such a disposition was not shown in the statement made the other day by Mr. Wade.
- Mr. Wade would not be doing his duty to his State if he did not take up a critical attitude with regard to a Bill of this kind. He is responsible for the soundness of the finances of his State, and since the whole question is now ripe for settlement, he takes up the reasonable attitudethat he should at least be paid the compliment of consultation. The requirements of courtesy alone make it obligatory on the part of the Treasurer to discuss this question freely and frankly with the Premiers of the States.
– How is he to go to the Conference of Premiers if he is not invited ?
– To-day there is a statement that, the Conference having been fixed, Federal Ministers are to be invited.
– Was not the question of whether or not the Prime Minister should be invited to an earlier Conference discussed for some time amongst the Premiers?
– He was invited.
– After a strenuous fight amongst the Premiers.
– It is about time that we asserted ourselves in a reasonable way.
– The more Ministers assert themselves in this discourteous way the further they will be from the preservation of amicable relations.
– What about the shameful imputations that States legislators are constantly making against this Parliament?
– I should like the honorable member to look a little nearer home before he begins to hurl anathemas at others. Let him reflect on the dilatoriness of this Parliament in dealing with the Federal Capital question, and the question of the transferred properties.
– We made every effort to get the States to come to a settlement of the question of the transferred properties. The honorable member for North Sydney took action when he was Minister of Home A ffairs.
– There had been a Government in office for four and a half years before that honorable member was Minister of Home Affairs. No one will make me believe that it should take seven years to value £10,000,000 worth of property.
– If the honorable member’s policy be adopted we shall be seventy years in settling the question.
– I deeply regret this attitude of antagonism on the part of the Treasurer, and his implied discourtesy to the States.
– I want them to be courteous to us.
– I regret the absence of a disposition on his part to meet the representatives of the States f airly, and to talk to them frankly concerning the outstanding issues between us.
– We have always done so, but some of the States have resented our action.
– The honorable gentleman cannot dispose of these matters altogether in the way that he thinks fit. The Constitution, so far as financial matters are concerned, tie’s us to the States for some years, and there is every obligation on our part to consult them and to treat them as they ought to be treated before we begin to deal, as the Treasurer proposes, with this fractional part of the financial scheme. I do not advocate tha’t we should put ourselves under the heel of the States as suggested by the honorable member far Kennedy.
– That is the position that they are trying to establish.
– Does that relieve us of our obligation of courtesy?
– No ; but our position is paramount.
– Let us do our duty as we ought to do it, and then we shall be onstrong grounds to meet any encroachment on the part of the States. Obligations of courtesy require that we should pay. them the compliment of consultation, as we have done so far in regard to the broad general financial question. That is my sole contention. I do not pretend to say that the States are spotless, or that they have not many a time gone out of their way and caused irritation between the Commonwealth and themselves. But that does not relieve us of the obligation of the present position. A Conference of States Premiers is about to meet. It is proposed toinvite Federal Ministers to attend that Conference, and yet we find the Treasurer, immediately before the holding of it, asserting that we should take our own course with regard to the settlement of a section of the financial question. I do not wish to put the Commonwealth under the heel of the States; my desire is to put the Commonwealth in the strongest possible position, and it will be in such a position when it has exhausted the possibilities now open to it for the courteous treatment of the States. I urge, therefore, a postponement of the measure, and ‘ propose to move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “the consideration of this Bill be postponed until the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States can be dealt with as a whole.”
– To put that amendment would be to anticipate the determination of the issue raised by the right honorable member for Swan. It will therefore be necessary for the right honorable member to temporarily withdraw his amendment before the new amendment can be moved.
– If I may be permitted, I should like ‘to say that I did not intend to be in any way hostile to the Government in submitting my amendment, and since that moved by the honorable member for Parramatta is more moderate, and quite satisfactory to me, I desire the permission of the House to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment,’ by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the consideration of this Bill be postponed until the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States can be dealt with as a whole.”
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Parramatta intends his motion to be hostile to the Government.
– The Treasurer is at liberty to say whether or not he will consent to the adjournment of the debate, but must not! discuss the question.
– If it is the desire of the honorable member for Wide Bay and others that the debate on this very important question be adjourned, I shall offer no objection.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Iti Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 27th March, vide page 9794).
Department of Home Affairs
Division 25 (Census and Statistics), £10,808
– Have the Government taken any, steps to fill the gap in our statistics between the .last volume of Coghlan’s Seven Colonies and the first . volume of Commonwealth statistics issued by Mr. Knibbs? There is a gap of two or three years in which we have no complete statistics of the Commonwealth ; and, in order to fill the gap, it is necessary for the Government to take some action. As will be readily understood, the lapse of time makes the statistics more difficult to obtain; and, in my opinion, the years involved are important. .Coghlan’s Seven Colonies covers a very considerable period, and brings the statistics of Australia and New Zealand up to a certain time; and the understanding was that Mr. Coghlan should fill up the gap. When he left for England, he took material with Kim, so I understand, which would enable him to bring his volume up to date; but I have seen a newspaper paragraph to the effect that Mr. Coghlan does not propose to carry out the work. If that be so, the Commonwealth Statistician should do something, or, otherwise, there will be a gap of two or three important years in the early history of the Federation.
– -I can assure the honorable member that there will be no gap. Arrangements have been made, and are being carried out, to effect the purpose the honorable member has indicated, and the whole of the statistics will be brought up to date by the Department.
.- I should like to understand whether it is proposed that Mr. Coghlan should complete the work, or whether the Government Statistician is going to do so. The original arrangement was that Mr. Coghlan should do the work, and I think the Commonwealth will be very well served if that arrangement can be carried out, even if there is some additional expense.
– Mr. Coghlan decided not to complete the work, and therefore the onus has been thrown on the Statistical Department.
– Is it a matter of money ?
– I do nol think so, but rather that it is a matter of personal convenience:
.- The Minister’s attention should be drawn to the item of £3,950 for “ Other printing.” I am not surprised at this enormous sum, having noted the absurdly expensive methods of the office, and the numerous progressive statistics issued. Honorable members receive a monthly progressive report of trade returns, printed on superfine paper, in the most expensive style, a sheer waste of money. At the very most, these report’s are not required more than once every three months; and even that, 1 should say, is unnecessary. We do not need to have printed every month returns of the shipping, and minor details about imports and exports. Such information might be all very well during a Tariff discussion; and even then we did not get the exact figures from the statistical office. In my opinion, the Minister ought to put his foot down, and see that this extravagant expenditure is stopped. The printing bill is already very considerable, and this “ other printing “ is unwarrantable. I should not complain if these reports were issued every half-year, but, even then, I think there is room for economy.
.- I desire to call attention to the large increase of expenditure in this Department. In postage and telegrams I see there has been spent some £300, and I desire to know whether or not it is a fact that in some Departments there is a growing practice on the part of officials to use the telegraphs when not really necessary, in order to save the trouble of corresponding by letter. It would be interesting to know how much of this £300 has been expended in postage and how much in unnecessary telegrams. Then there is another large item of £1,650 for temporary assistance, and I desire to say that, in my opinion, except in circumstances of extreme urgency, a check should be placed on the engagement of such assistance. Although employment temporarily does not give those employed a prior right to permanent appointments, the general impression is in the minds of those so employed that there is some preferential claim. If a staff is insufficient to do the work required it ought ‘to be ascertained what extra assistance is required, and permanent appointments ought to be made to meet the demand. I agree with the honorable member for Coolgardie that the issue of monthly reports is not necessary. I presume that later on these monthly reports will be issued annually in volume form, and will require to be reprinted for that purpose. I think that this item of “ other printing “ might be reduced, and, therefore, I move -
That the item “ Other printing, ^3,950,” he reduced by ^1,000.
– I hope the honorable member for Lang will not persist with his amendment, -more especially as the major portion of this year’s work has already been done, and, consequently, the saving that could be made would be infinitesimal. I have made a promise to the honorable member for Coolgardie, which I repeat to the honorable member for Lang, “that the suggestions made in reference to the monthly bulletin shall be placed before the Minister, and an effort made to effect as much saving as :is reasonable and proper.
.- I have no desire to press the amendment if the honorary Minister assures us that he will give instructions for proper economy to be exercised in this printing. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of honorable members the item of’ £104 for office cleaners. These cleaners are women, and their method of appointment is most unsatisfactory, seeing that there is a separate list kept for every Department. This is the first opportunity I have had to bring this matter forward, and, as we recognise under the Federal Government that women doing the same work as men shall receive similar pay, I suggest that these women cleaners should be ‘taken on in the same way as men, namely, by registration. If that were done charges of favoritism; which I think- have some tinge of support, could not be made. In one case, I regret to 94 there was made a charge of this kind which I shall later on bring under the notice of honorable members.
.- Reverting to the question of statistics, I may say that I have no wish whatever to see the monthly bulletins discontinued. ‘ They serve a very useful function, both here and in the States.
– What’ function do they serve ?
– They place before us as quicklyas possible tabulated information relative to the facts with which they are concerned. Instead of having to wait a year for the information, we get it monthly.
– Who suggested waiting a year? I said three months, and so did the honorable member for Lang.
– I do not see what would be gained by waiting even three months. The sooner the figures are made available the better.
– They only compare month with month and do not give a general survey.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie has said that the work has to be done all over again.
– So it has.
– I take it that when the statistics are made up month by month they are made ready for use in permanent form.
– That shows how little the honorable member knows about it.
– I suppose that the honorable member for Coolgardie knows it all. At any rate the tabulation of these figures is of material assistance in the preparation of the annual volume. I challenge the honorable member to prove to the contrary.
– Just in the same way as a man’s monthly balance assists in preparing his annual balance.
– Quite so, and no banker could get on without a monthly balance.
– But. he does not publish his monthly balances to the world.
– The world wants this information as soon as possible. I have nothing but praise for the way in which our statistics are prepared, and I hope to see the Department go very much further, instead of being contracted in any way. Indeed I rose rather to make a suggestion as to the expansion of the Department rather than for its contraction. I have for a long time had the firm conviction that this Census Department could be made of material assistance to the manufacturers and producers of Australia. It seems to me that if the continent is thoroughly gripped statistically, it ought ultimately to be possible to. forecast with approximate accuracy the manufacturing and productive requirements of Australia for a year or two ahead. I think that if these statistics were made readily available to our manufacturers and producers, they would be of very material assistance to them as indicating the particular industries to which they should devote their capital and energies. I see no difficulty in making; such forecasts upon a reasonably approxima.e basis.I hope to sea the Census. Department grow in that direction particularly. I see no reason why questions relating toestimating the probable avenues of employment should not become addenda to the work of this already useful Department. I’ believe that if its energies could expand, it would be of great assistance both to the unemployed in Australia and to manufacturers and producers. I know that it cannot be expanded in that direction yet, because its present limited sphere has not been fully exploited, and cannot be for some little time to come. I also express the hope that when the yearly volumes make their appearance they will come to us in as handy a form for reference as we have been accustomed to in the books issued by Mr. Coghlan. I do not think that, in relation to the size of the volumes and their handiness for reference purposes, Mr. Coghlan’s work could have been improved upon. But, as far as I have’: seen, I have nothing but praise for the Census Department, and I hope that its work may expand rather than be contracted.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has managed to import a great deal of warmth into the matter. He has also misled the Committee as to the exact position which I took up. What I said was that these monthly volumes were practically of no use, because thefigures contained in ‘them were merely progress figures, which had to Be altered periodically. I. have’ a monthly volume before ma now. I ask any honorable member of what possible use it is to us to know that’ in the month of March, 1907, we imported from oversea £44 worth of bones, hoofs, and horns? Would it not be sufficient to know that we imported £500 worth of bones, hoofs, and horns in the year 1907?
– I should say that it would be of the Utmost importance to a man ‘who deals in those goods to see the importations month by month.
– He could get all the information that he required on making inquiries of the Customs Department. I do not see why the Commonwealth should be called on fo pay for this monthly information for his benefit. Again, it cannot be of much use to anybody to know that we exported £1 worth of currants in March, 1907, and that we exported £8 worth of oversea origin. What practical advantage can be served by the monthly publication of these particulars? I ask honorable members to look through one of these volumes for themselves, and to say whether the statistics are worth printing on this superior paper. Personally, I do not think they are. When we receive a bill for nearly £4,000 for printing for this new office, we ought to begin to inquire whether it is all justified. I regret that the honorable member for Lang has decided to withdraw his amendment.
– Only on the understanding that the Minister would make inquiries with a view to having the amount of printing curtailed.
– That is not a promise of much value. It is merely a general undertaking.. I do not mean to cast any aspersion on the Minister,- but certainly a general undertaking is not so valuable as a specific undertaking. What I desire is the discontinuance of these monthly volumes. In my opinion, it would be quite sufficient for all practical purposes to have the reports issued at the end of every three months. That does not mean that the figures would not. be compiled in the Department at the end of every month. Any honorable member can satisfy himself that these volumes are not read by members of Parliament generally. They lie about untouched. I think we ought to take advantage of the opportunity offered to make a very considerable saving in this very heavy item. With a view of impressing upon the Go:vernment the desirableness of discontinuing these monthly publications, and issuing the statistics not oftener than every three months, I move -
Th.it the item “Other printing, ^3,950,” be reduced by £1.
.- I hope that the honorable member for Coolgardie will not press his amendment to’ a division. I regret very much to hear his remarks. I have always been fond of the study of statistics. It is not often that I find myself in accord with every word that the honor.able member for Parramatta says, but I must pay him the. compliment of saying that I agree with every remark that he made in reference to the statistics published by the Census Office. We cannot have our statistics published too promptly. I take it that these monthly issues are simply like bankers’ monthly balances. A man who is interested even in bones, hoofs, and horns may want to see the amount of imports and exports in any particular month. The honorable member for Coolgardie says that a business man can go to the Customs House and ascertain what he wants to know. I do not know whether the honorable member has. ever tried to get- information of this kind from the Customs House. I once spent three months in hunting up information on a subject; and I say, “ God help the man who goes to the Customs House to get statistics.” These monthly records are not meant to be read from cover to cover, but a member of Parliament, or a member of the public who wants statistical information on any subject for any month, turns to one of these books, and hunts it up. I doubt whether the monthly issues are the cause of much expense. Whether they are or not. can be ascertained by putting a question to the Minister. I shall certainly vote against the amendment. I maintain that we do not spend enough in collecting statistics. The nation that stands foremost in the affairs of the world to-day is America, and there is no nation that spends more on the collection and publication of statistical information. Further, the printing of these books gives employment to men who support the party to which the honorable member for Coolgardie and I belong. I do not oppose his amendment for that reason, however, but simply because I honestly think that we do not spend enough money on collecting statistics. I doubt whether much money would be saved if we discontinued the publication of the monthly statistical volumes. In any case, the figures would have to be made up monthly. “They would always have to be ready to hand, month by month, for the preparation of the quarterly or yearly volumes.
.- I do not wish it to be understood that I desire in any way to belittle the work performed bv the Census Office. I suppose that I can appreciate as -keenly as any honorable member can, the advantages of the information contained in these statistical papers. On more than one occasion honorable members have found the information contained in them to be of considerable service. But it must be remem- bered that Parliament is not sitting all the. year round. If the statements were issued quarterly, I think they would serve all practical purposes. I have no objection to their being issued monthly, except that the cost is altogether disproportionate to the service rendered. And if they do not require to be reset in the annual volumes the ultimate cost will not be so great. It was for that reason that I called attention to what I thought was an opportunity for curtailing expenditure on account of the printing of the Census Office.
– The item is so large partly because the Commonwealth is now undertaking work which Mr. Coghlan used to do for New South Wales.
– Not in the same form.
– Not exactly ; but the work will be quite as good.
– The monthly statements are liable to alteration in the light of fuller particulars, and are, therefore, only approximately reliable.
– Mr. Coghlan used to issue two sets of statistics, one of them being issued quarterly.
– A quarterly issue would lessen the cost. I suggest to the honorable member for Coolgardie that, as Supply for only two months of the year remains unvoted, he should withdraw his amendment. It probably requires only a hint from the Minister to insure a substantial reduction of expenditure in the future.
– If the publications of the Statistical Office are too elaborate, there is too much economy in the publication of the lists of Commonwealth public servants. These have been issued loose, without binding, and the sheets cannot easily be kept together. The cost of printing is so large that a slight extra expense on binding would be amply justified. If the sheets are not bound, the cost incurred in printing will be practically wasted.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 26(Meteorological Branch), £15,996
– I feel sure that, under the able management of Mr. Hunt, the Meteorological Office will become a credit to the Commonwealth, and I wish to point out a manner in which its usefulness may be increased. In New South Wales, prior to Federation, weather reports were sentto selected centres, and exhibited at the local post-offices for public information; but since Federation the number of these centres has been hardly increased. This anomaly, therefore, now exists, that a number of other townships of considerable arid growing importance are not supplied. I urge the Government to increase this service, and make it more efficient. Nothing can be of greater advantage to those on the land than to have timely and regular weather information. Where stations are connected with telephone bureaux it ought to be possible for those who wish for it to obtain weather information from the local telegraph office.
– Information as to whether it is likely to rain next day ?
– Forecasts have an interest, but they are not so important as records of rainfall, which are extremely useful to those who are dealing in stock, or are following agricultural pursuits. I hope that the Government will take every means to make the Department as useful as possible to the Commonwealth.
.- I rise to repeat a protest which I made once before in reference to the transfer to Melbourne of the Meterological Department, although the Meteorologist declared that this is not the best position for it.
– Where is the best position ?
– He said that Sydney is a better position, because the climatic changes there are not so frequent. The Minister of Home Affairs, however,practically told him that it was none of his business. Another matter to which I draw attention is the fact that, while two forecasts are issued every twenty-four hours for the States of Victoria and Tasmania, only one is published for the State of New South Wales, and there is a feeling amongst those connected with shipping in Sydney that they are not getting as much, or as reliable, informationfrom the Commonwealth as they got from the State. I think that the office should be better worked under Commonwealth control than under State control, and, therefore, I join with the honorable member for Calare, with whose remarks I cordially agree, in urging the Minister to make it as useful as possible.
.- The honorable member for Nepean has brought a very important matter under the notice of the Minister. I wish todrawattention to another which concernsthe interests of
Sydney. It is the practice to fly, from the tower of the General Post Office there, a flag warning persons of the approach of a “southerly,” and some time ago I asked that at night-time this warning might he given by means of a lamp. The PostmasterGeneral told me that the matter came under the Department of Home Affairs.
– I also said that the harbor authorities urged that the light should not be shown. The harbormaster, in personal conversation, and by writing, urged me on no account to sanction it.
-I could understand the harbormaster objecting to tights which might confuse navigation ; but a red light on the top of the Post Office tower would be too high to do so. Many a catastrophe might have been avoided had this warning been given in the past. I speak on behalf of those who earn a livelihood on the water, or pass their time on it in pleasuring.
– Does the honorable member urge his request in spite of the statement of the harbormaster?
– A broader expression of opinion should be asked for. I do not say that the harbormaster is so jealous of the powers of the Board that he would say that a thing was dangerous if he believed it not to be; but I. am of opinion that he has exaggerated. The experience I gained by yachting in my younger days tells me that the light would not create any confusion. Any one on the harbor would have to look upwards at an angle of about 75 degrees in order to see it.I ask the Minister to cause further inquiry to be made.
.- Perhaps the Postmaster-General will tell the Committee whether the harbormaster advanced any reason why this light should not be exhibited ?
– We made inquiries, and I am not at all certain that it was the harbormaster who objected ; but the shipping authorities urged that it should not be done, as the light might be mistaken by vessels at sea, and a disaster occasioned.
– It would be impossible for a vessel along the coast to see a light exhibited from the top of the Sydney General Post Office; the headland would obscure it. A red light need not necessarily be shown. Another colour or a flashlight could be used; but it is certainly desirable that there should be some such warning, if it can be given without risk. I do not desire to set my opinion against that of the shipping authorities.
– We shall have inquiries made.
– It would be desirableto arrive at a scheme whereby shipping in the harbor could, without danger to shipping outside, be warned of the approach of a “ southerly.”
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 27 (Works and Buildings), £120,703.
.- This division provides for an expenditure of £29,824 in respect of rent. It calls for attention that in some of the States the Commonwealth is renting buildings in townships where we should have our own structures. I have often drawn the attention of the House to the want of foresight shown by the Government in failing to purchase suitable sites in new centres - more particularly in Western Australia - and erecting thereon their own postal buildings. We find, however, that year after year the Government continue to pay exorbitant rents to private individuals for inferior accommodation. For a much smaller capital outlay they could provide buildings adequate for their needs, with sufficient accommodation for their officers. Considerable economies could thus be effected. It is a rather sad commentary on the public spirit of the Administration to find in some parts of Australia banking institutions and private individuals erecting expensive buildings, whilst the Government is represented by an iron shed in which the temperature during ‘the summer months is almost unbearable. . I do not suggest that the Government should erect public offices in towns that are purely ephemeral ; I am speaking now of proved goldfields, which are likely to remain for many generations permanent cerftres of population. Although the Government might have to expend a considerable amount in giving effect to this suggestion, they would, in the long run, effect considerable savings. I hope that the Minister will give the matter his attention.
.- This division makes provisions for repairs and maintenance of postal and telegraphic buildings. When last year’s Estimates were under consideration, I drew theattention of the Postmaster-Generalto some very necessary work - the painting of the Marrickville Post-office - which I have endeavoured to have carried out. The Minister then gave, me to understand -that he had obtained from his officers some information which led him to believe that the work had been carried out since I had previously brought the matter under notice. When I went home during the recess, however, I found ‘.that it had not been touched, but that some internal work, which I did not consider of special urgency, and which I had never asked for, had been done. I made a further representation to the Postmaster-General, who assured me that the painting of the exterior would be carried out ; but, although I have made representations to the Department of Home Affairs, have . interviewed Mr. Oakeshatt, who has charge of the works branch of the Home Affairs Office in Sydney, and have repeatedly interviewed the Deputy Postmaster-General, nothing has yet been done. The last report that I received was that a State official had said that the work was unnecessary.
– I am sorry to say that that is continually occurring.
– What right has any State official to say that a Commonwealth work should or should not be . done ?
– At the instance of Mr. Speaker, we ordered a galvanized-iron fence to be erected in a certain place where it was necessary for the protection of children. The State authorities, however, blocked the work for months, until I ordered that it should be done forthwith.
– When Commonwealth work is approved, it is often blocked at every turn by the Public. Works Departments of the States, and will not be carried out until State undertakings have been attended to.
– Where they object to a Commonwealth work they passively oppose it.
– It is worth considering whether the Department of Home Affairs should not have an independent Works Branch. I raise my protest against the delay in carrying out work already approved, and against the unnecessary and unwarrantable interposition of States officials with the object of thwarting the intention of the Commonwealth Ministers in regard to such undertakings. The appearance of the Marrickville Post-office is simply disgraceful. The exterior walls - where street loungers lean against them - are greasy, dirty, and shabby looking, besides being insanitary, and I should like to have from the Minister an assurance that they will, be painted forthwith.
.- The objection raised by the honorable member for Lang applies to almost every Department which has to invoke the assistance of the Works Departments of the States. The latter seem to make it a practice to shelve Commonwealth work as long as States work remains to be done. There may be financial reasons why we cannot establish a Works Department of our own. It would, doubtless, involve an expenditure so stupendous that I do not think we should be justified at present in- undertaking it; but we should, at all events, give the officers of the various Departments more power than they appear to have to carry out works involving a trifling expenditure, without the intervention of the Works Departments of the States. . For some time there has been a proposal to erect a new post-office at Katoomba, and also one at Lithgow. The site for a new post-office at Katoomba has been purchased, and I understand that plans have been prepared, but, although the matter has been in hand for some years, I do not know that a transfer has actually been drawn up. The work was determined upon before I entered this House, and still the townspeople are crying out for it, and the Department is paying a much larger rent than the interest on the proposed outlay would involve. No headway seems to have been made. The case of the Lithgow Post-office is even worse, because the Department has not yet made up its mind where they will place it. Before we adjourned, an item of £1,000 was placed on the Estimates towards this building, and, in my youthful parliamentary innocence, I thought the matter was quite settled. However, nothing has been done; and there is a dispute amongst the townspeople themselves as to where the office ought to be. Owing to the present arrangements the business is in a state of chaos; and I think the Department ought to take on itself the responsiblity of saving where the post-office shall be placed. I understand that the Departmental Inspectors have on two different occasions recommended sites ; and the late Postmaster-General visited the place, and selected one for himself.
– After the late PostmasterGeneral had made his decision, the State officials reported that the. selected ground was unsafe, and strongly recommended that the building should not be placed there.
– Then the Department ought to have selected another site.At the present time, owing tlo want of room, no person can write a telegram at the office at Lithgow without everybody seeing what is written.
– The Minister was there two years ago, and was then going to have things altered immediately.
– Well, nothing has been done yet; and officers and public are alike inconvenienced. I trust that the Department will see that there is no further irritating delay, because I am tired of bringing this matter up again and again.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 28 (Governor-General’s Establishment), £8,189.
.- The expenditure on these vice-regal establishments continues to expand. There is no increase in the cost of maintaining Government House in Sydney, but I think that if the Government were doing their duty a decrease would be shown in this connexion. I have no conception of the purpose for which an establishment for the Governor-General is maintained in Sydney.
– It is done under an Act.
– I know of no Act which compels the Governor-General to live in Sydney, or in one particular spot within the Commonwealth. At all events, it costs £2,585 to keep up the Sydney Government House forthe Governor-General, and seeing that we are providing £4,000 odd for a residence for His Excellency in Melbourne, I think the expenditure in Sydney is sheer waste. Then,’ I should like to point out that this £2,585 does not represent the tdt’al outlay.
– Not by a long way !
– In subdivision No. 3 we find a sum of £698 put down for nonrecurring works atGovernment House, Sydney. If the honorable member for Dalley knows of any additional expenditure concealed elsewhere in the Estimates, I hope he will fake the Committee into his confidence: It is not enough for the Government to declare that the Estimates are similar to those of last year. An establishment of the kind in Sydney is a mere show place, and of no practical value to the. Commonwealth: No man, woman, or child in Australia is better for this expenditurecertainly not those in the back blocks, who have to pay the taxes to keep this establishment going.
– How can we have a Governor-General without properly housing him?
– There is a Government House in Melbourne.
– Does the honorable member think it unfair to have a Government House in Sydney?
– Why not one in Brisbane?
– If the Federal Parliament were sitting in Sydney, I should oppose the upkeep of a Government House in Melbourne.
– One-third of the people of Australia live in New South Wales.
– I do not see the relevance of that fact.
– There is some society in New South Wales.
– Then the Government House there is kept up for the benefit of society ?
– Of course; we cannot live without society.
– If the Government House in Sydney is merely for the benefit of society, I suggest the elimination of the subdivision No. 1. Let society pay for its own entertainment. . The honorable member belongs to a party which is eternally declaiming against class legislation, and yet he is prepared to maintain an establishment carried on solely for the benefit of ohe class of society.
– The humblest people go there.
– Surely a very small number. I venture to say that very few of the honorable member’s constitutents visit Government House.
– When they are not there, their representative is.
– Then they enjoy themselves by proxy. However, I think there is no real justification for this item in the Estimates, and I offer that opinion with all due deference to the Treasurer. If the Government House in Sydney were of any utility, I should not a have a word to say ; but it seems to me a piece of extravagance which the taxpayers of the Commonwealth ought not to be compelled to bear.
.- We “now see the evil of Supply Bills every two or three months. Here is an item in which some retrenchment might be made, but,- of course, no step can be taken because ten months of the financial year have already elapsed. The honorable member for. Coolgardie may not have taken a very popular stand, but it is a good stand, and I hope that on the next Estimates we shall not have the expenditure proposed for the pur-, pose of keeping up establishments for the . Governor-General in various States, One establishment at the Seat of Government is quite sufficient, and, though I naturally should like to see His Excellency visit my own State, I consider the present expenditure extravagant. I may point out, ‘however, that the honorable member for Coolgardie has not presented the matter in its worst light, because, in addition to the £8,189 required for .the establishments in Melbourne and Sydney, we find, on reference tq page 41 of the Estimates, a sum of £2,200 for the Governor- General’s office, which means printing and stationery, telegrams, and so forth.
– We are not discussing that item now.
– I am merely incidentally referring to it. We thus have an expenditure of £10,000 per annum over and above the salary paid to the Governor-General, and I think the public, if they knew the facts, would have a perfect right to clamour against such extravagance. I know it is only beating the air for any man to attack such an august institution as the Governor-General’s establishment. We desire to have the ablest men to fill that position ; but the people are entitled to know that when they pay the salary they do so “all in.”’ If we pay the Governor-General £10,000 a year, and it proves insufficient, we ought not, by such items as those to which’ I have referred, increase the expenditure by. another £10,000. The public ought to know that, directly and indirectly, the GovernorGeneral costs over £20,000 per annum.
– These telegrams and so forth are official, and we do not want the Governor-General to pay the cost.
– No, but the public generally believe that the Governor-General costs £10,000 a year, and, having their own business to attend to, they do not know that there is an additional £10,000 expended. All we can do now is to draw- attention to the matter, because Supply has already been granted for ten months of the year. In ‘ addition to the GovernorGeneral, there are the States Governors ; and, in my opinion, the people pf Australia are paying too dearly for services of this character. At the Sydney Government House £550 is paid to caretakers, charwomen, and in miscellaneous expenditure, while the maintenance of the house is £500, and of the grounds is £1,000, while £30 is expended on ‘ china, glass, and so forth ; and all these charges are duplicated in Melbourne. All this is an argument for the speedy settlement of the Capital Site and the establishment of one GovernorGeneral’s residence there. I believe in paying our Governor-General a salary commensurate with the position which he occupies in Australia. But when we see that the President of the United States receives only £10,000 per annum, and has a civil list proportionate to that, whilst our GovernorGeneral receives £10,000 and has in addition a civil list amounting to quite as much, there is reason for inquiry. If there are to be savings, I believe in starting from the head and not from the lower ranks, where there is less room for economy. I am not cavilling at the amount, but if I were an elector and saw that in addition to the Governor- General’s salary of £10,000 there was an additional expenditure of £IO,000 on his establishment, I confess that I should be staggered. What is the explanation? We are told that the Governor-General entertains largely. Well, we do not expect our Governor-General to be merely a social pivot. We desire him to be a connecting link between us and the Imperial Government. It has to be remembered that many men who have come to Australia to be Governors or Governors-General have done so to enable them to rehabilitate their own fortunes.
– Oh !
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Nepean to say, “ Oh,” but the facts are as I have stated them. I do not say our Governors or Governors-General have made money out of their positions, but I do say that many of them have come to Australia to rehabilitate their own private fortunes. What I mean is that they make a saving by being enabled to live in Australia without incurring the expenditure to which they are put when in England. I consider that an expenditure of £10,000 in addition to the Governor-General’s salary is more than we ought to incur. In my opinion, the honorable member for Coolgardie has done well in bringing the matter forward. No matter is touched more gingerly than expenditure relative to the Governor-General. But it is necessary to criticise these matters sometimes. I suppose that while we expect the Governor-General to perambulate between Melbourne and Sydney, we shall have to incur extra expenditure. I hope that what has occurred will induce the honorable member for Coolgardie to urge the speedy settlement of the Federal Capital question.
– It is .generally agreed that we should have a representative of the King in Australia, and we should- house him decently. To take exception to such items as have been criticised is a mistake. Items such as telephones and postage do not really involve actual expenditure. They are merely bookkeeping entries. Then, again, we have to maintain the houses and grounds which are provided for the GovernorGeneral’s use. The grounds are maintained as much for the pleasure of the public as for the use of the GovernorGeneral. Especially is that the case in Victoria, where virtually no one is excluded from Government House grounds on reception days. As far as I can understand, many of these items are merely bookkeeping entries ; and when they are duplicated it simply means that they are cross-entries. . Then as tq the Government House in Sydney, does any one mean to say that it would be desirable to keep the representative of the King all the year round in the climate of Melbourne, when he could enjoy life in Sydney?
– Why not have a Government House in every country town?
– The GovernorGeneral visits every State in the Union, arid he goes as the welcome guest of the people. New South Wales has provided a residence for His Excellency. What more could she do?
– Pay for it.
– She does pay for it. ‘
– No; the people of the Commonwealth pay for it.
– It has to be remembered that one-third of the people of the Commonwealth live in New South
Wales; and they wish to pay their respects to the Viceroy. The Governor-General “ of Canada has one residence at Ottawa and another in Quebec. Dufferin Terrace, Quebec, is a great public . promenade, and a very beautiful place it is, too, right alongside the St. Lawrence. There is nothing to take exception to in these amounts, unless honorable members wish to break down our present system of Government, and say that we shall have arepublic.
– The expense would be greater then.
– It would indeed be very much” greater. As to the expenditure of the President of the United States, we really do not know what the total amount is. We are told that the. President receives £10,000 per annum, but we do not know what the other expenditure is. Certainly the cost- of maintaining a great establishment like the White House at Washington must be greater than £10,000 a -year. There are items in the Estimates of more importance than this, and I do not think that there is. any reason for cavilling at the expenditure involved in enabling the people of New . South Wales to continue their hospitality to the Governor-General.
.- I believe that the argument of the honorable member for Dalley was intended to show why we should proceed as soon as possible to fix upon a site for the Federal CapitalAt the same time, we should not overlook the fact that when we do have such a place - “ a consummation devoutly to be wished “ - the people of Melbourne and Sydney will still desire to see tlie GovernorGeneral occasionally.
– Instead of having two establishments we shall want three.
– Yes ; there will be three establishments then, which will have to be kept up. I think that there would not be so much comment upon this expenditure if the Governor-General were to distribute his favours a little more evenly between the two’ capitals. Sydney sees too little of the GovernorGeneral in comparison with Melbourne. It must, I think, be admitted by Ministers that His Excellency spends more of his time in Melbourne than in Sydney. He goes to Sydney at Easter for a little while, but I am not sure that he goes at” any other time of the year unless for a flying visit.
– Oh, yes, hedoes.
– At any rate, the people of Sydney would like to see him a little oftener. There is a feeling that Melbourne enjoys something of a monopoly of the advantages accruing from the presence of the. Governor-General and his suite in this city. My only complaint is that we do not see him quite as often as we should like in the principal city of the Commonwealth. There is, 1 notice, a great difference between the cost of the upkeep of Government Houses in Melbourne and Sydney.. There is a difference of £300 in the upkeep of the grounds alone. For the upkeep of the grounds in Sydney there is an expenditure of £1,000 ; whilst on the grounds in Melbourne there is an expenditure of £1,300. Then, again, for the House itself there is £500 for maintenance in Sydney, and £600 in Melbourne. In Melbourne again sanitation and water supply absorb £1,168. There is an increase in the appropriation for the Melbourne’ establishment to that extent, the amount last year being £2,915, whilst this year it is £4,083. Perhaps the Minister in charge will explain what is meant by the item “ non-recurring works” on account of both Melbourne and Sydney Government Houses, and why the whole of the expenditure in connexion with Government House is not placed under one heading? When we have dealt with it under the Department of Home Affairs we should not have to deal with it again in connexion with the Treasury.
– The explanation is. that in the one case the amount is. more or less personal, and in the other it is purely official.
– Would if not be more convenient to have this expenditure placed under one heading under one Department? One would then be able to know what was spent on Government House without having to search through different divisions of the Estimates.
– Will the Minister explain what is meant by ‘the expenditure on sanitation and water supply?
– For some time past the State Premier of Victoria has been asked to come to an understanding with us in respect to this item. In Sydney the State Government pays out of its own funds the expenses connected with sanitation and water supply. In Melbourne, however, after a long series of’ negotiations, the State Premier declined to do so, and as we are, so to speak, tenantsatwill. we must meet the obligation.
– These are practical , water and sewerage rates?
– Yes. The money is paid to the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works.
– Is anything paid to the Sydney Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage?
– No, or, if so, U is paid by the New South Wales Government.
.-] quite see -that, in view of the refusal of the State Government, it is necessary foi the Commonwealth to pay this amount. We have to thank the people of Victoria for their, hospitality in housing the Commonwealth Parliament and GovernorGeneral in the temporary Seat of Government ; but it must be borne in , mind thai the public spirit of New- South Wales, under more difficult circumstances, is at least not less than that of Victoria, for New South Wales does not charge us for this item, while Victoria does. I rise to point out that, while we properly recognise the advantages which we enjoy here, there, is, in the instance before us, evidence of a growing restiveness in .certain official Victorian quarters at our continued residence here, in view of which it is desirable that we should, at the earliest moment, get into quarters of our own al the Seat of Government in New South Wales, when chosen.
– It has been chosen.
– When the Federal Capital Site is finally decided on, I am glad to believe that it will not be where the Minister of Trade and Customs desires to have it, but- at a site within the spirit of the Constitution. I merely point the moral of the demand of the Victorian Government for an increased payment for the water supply and sanitation of Government House.
.- The Minister has stated that the Commonwealth is a tenant-at-will of the Victorian Government. I understand that we have a lease of these buildings for as long as
Ave choose to occupy them, and I ask whether there is not a similar arrangement in regard to Government House ? The Premier of Victoria, in his too-frequently expressed desire to belittle Federation. wishes to build a hospital on Government
House grounds, not, I think, because they afford the best site available, but because he does not wish to have the GovernorGeneral where he is. If, however, the Commonwealth holds Government House on the terms I have indicated, we should have to be consulted before anything could be done.
– I find from the officers of the Department that my statement is correct, but that, we are not in danger of losing possession of either Government House or this building, because we may hold them as long as we choose to occupy them. The two non-recurring items about which I have been questioned are for the replacing of broken china, the upholstering of furniture, and the making of slight alterations in the two Government Houses.
Proposed vote agreed to.’
Division 29 (Miscellaneous), £37,900.
– Can the Minister, in reference to the proposed expenditure of £1,500 for lighthouses, tell the Committee when it is proposed to transfer the control of lighthouses to the Commonwealth? In 1901 the then Minister of. Trade and Customs informed me that the transfer would be made in about six months, but, although six years have elapsed since then, nothing has been done. . If the Minister can make an authoritative statement on .the subject, it will be a great convenience to a large number of men whoare preparing for examinations to enable them to be transferred’ from the nonclerical to the clerical division of the State service.
– Information relating to lighthouses, beacons, and buoys has been collected from various authorities, including those interested in shipping, throughout Australia, and last week provision was made by the House for the payment of an assistant lighthouse engineer, who will shortly be appointed to advise the Government on the- subject.
– Has any part of the vote of ,£1,500 been spent?
– A large part of it has been spent in obtaining .the information of which I spoke. ^ Probably a Bill will be introduced next session to transfer the control of lighthouses, beacons, and buoys to the Commonwealth.
– I wish to know, in reference to the proposal to vote £1,000 to cover the expense of choosing a site for the Federal Capital, whether it is intended to have any more excursions into New South Wales for this purpose. The result of the expedition to Tooma last week is that the whereabouts of several legislators is at the present time unknown ; they have apparently got lost in the wilderness, and a number of motors, which were used to negotiate impracticable . roads, have been disabled. I should like to know whether the cost of repairing these ‘cars will be borne by the Commonwealth or by their owners. If a site is not soon determined upon, the cost of exploring expeditions will be greater than would suffice to erect all the buildings necessary to accommodate the various Departments at the Seat of Government. Is it intended to have any more excursions, and further delay in the settlement of this question ?
– I have not seen Canberra yet.
– Then the sooner the honorable member does so the ‘ better. I move -
That the item “ Expenses in connexion with choosing the site of the Capital of the Commonwealth, £1,000,” be reduced by £s°°-
. -I agree with the honorable member for ‘ Lang that these trips are becoming very expensive ; but I wish to direct attention to another direction in which economy might be effected. At the present time, hundredweights’ of instructions, regulations, rolls, and forms are distributed by the Electoral Office throughout Australia. Not only does the preparation of this matter cost an. enormous sum, but its transport is also very expensive. In my opinion, there is room for a great deal of saving, both in printing and in carriage.
– Must not the honorable member confine his remarks to the amendment of the honorable member for Lang?
– It would be more convenient to dispose, first of all, of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lang.
– In order not to block discussion, I ask. permission to temporarily withdraw my amendment.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the amendment be withdrawn ?
.- I object, and I do so for the reason that I wish to discuss the question which it involves. There is some justification for objection being raised to the recurrence in the Estimates, year after year, of an item covering expenses in connexion with choosing a site for the Federal Capital. The Government are entirely responsible for the present position. Whilst the question is treated as being undecided, honorable members, and particularly those who were returned at the last general election for the first time to this Parliament, are fully justified in visiting the various suggested sites. Believing that the decision of the last Parliament is to be reviewed, they desire to place themselves in a position to be able to make a wise selection.
– The last inspection resolved itself into a motor reliability contest.
– Next to Dalgety, I think that the Tooma site is the best.
– It would be much better to build the Capital on tne other side of the river.
– I think that the suggested site of Tooma is a very convenient and beautiful one, but Dalgety is my first choice. I am absolutely opposed to provision being made for these excursions, for the reason that a majority of honorable members in the last Parliament determined that Dalgety should be the site of the Capital. That being so, the present position is due to the indecision of the Government.
– The PrimeMinister stated, in reply to a question this afternoon, that the Capital Site question would probably be dealt with next week.
– I hope that it will be brought forward in such a way that we shall be able to carry out the decision of both Houses of the last Parliament that a certain site should be secured. Parliament having already decided the question, there is no room for further discussion, and I hope that this will be the last occasion on which provision will be made in the Estimates for the cost of inspecting suggested sites.
– It is inadvisable, on an item such as that immediately under consideration, to enter upon a discussion of the Capital Site question, but the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has endeavoured to advance his own views upon it to such an extent that some reply is necessary. I deny that a majority of members of the last Parliament was in favour of the site that was chosen.
– Was it not necessary that the Seat of Government Bill should be passed by an absolute majority, in . both Houses?
– It was; but those who carried Dalgety were honor-, able members who voted against the only other site then left in the running with it - a site, the selection ofwhich would not have been a fulfilment of the spirit of the compact made with New South Wales ; but would have created a feeling, not merely of irritation, but of anger in that State, and would have strained the bonds of the Union.
– Then we shall have to repeal the “Seat of Government Act before we can make another selection?
– I voted for the Dalgety site, and so did many others who, with me, from the first favoured the selection of Lyndhurst.
– Surely the honorable member would not approve of each Parliament reviewing the decision of its predecessor upon this question?
– Until the final stage has been reached we have a right of review and cannot be deprived of it-.
– I ask the honorable member not to enter upon a general discussion of the question.
– I have no intention to do so. I shall only say that I hope that when the Parliament is considering this question - and I am not advocating any particular site - it will have regard to what was meant by the concession granted to New South Wales, and will not endeavour to make it a valueless one or a concession in effect to some other State.
.- We were told by the Minister a few moments ago that the item relating to the cost of inspecting suggested sites for the Federal Capital was non-recurring. As a matter of fact, it has appeared on the Estimates year after year. Last year we appropriated £1,000 for this purpose, and only £100 was used. It will thus be seen that the item is very much in the natureof a bunch of carrots. Are we to be captured by such a device ? The honorable member for Wentworth was told this afternoon by the Prime Minister that theFederal Capital Site question would probably be dealt withnext week. That being so, the necessity for the item disappears. If the whole question is to be ‘e-opened, then new members must naturally desire to avail themselves of every opportunity to visit the suggested sites, but <ince the Prime Minister has said that next week we can deal with this question there is no necessity for the item to remain on :he Estimates.
– I wish to emphatically controvert the assertion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that the Capital Site question has been closed. Unfortunately that is not the position. The Seat of Government Act does not fix the site. True, it names Dalgety, but it was passed for the purpose of facilitating negotiations between the Commonwealth and the ,State concerned, and before the Dalgety site can be finally chosen further legislation will be necessary. There should be an opportunity of judging as to the merits of the different sites, and the statute was intended to enable us to so judge. So far as I am concerned, I should be glad if honorable members who desire to do so would visitLyndhurst, Armidale, Cooma, Dalgety, and Canberra, so that they may be placed in a’ position to arrive at a. conclusion.
– I desire to call attention to the item of £23,500 in connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act. I think a large saving might have been effected with much better service as the result. Hundredweights of printed matter are destroyed as of no use by returning officers, and yet the administration is so bad that forms absolutely necessary are not to be had at the polling booths, with the result that in South Australia a large number of people were deprived of the franchise. Here there is room for much inquiry, and I may point out that the working of the Commonwealth Act has been very defective as compared with the working of the South Australian Act. There have “been mistakes which would not have occurred if we had been working under the State Act to which I have referred. However, I now desire to call attention to the vote of £1,500 towards the expense of making inquiries and preparing plans for additional lighthouses required on the coast of Australia. Do I understand that the Commonwealth is at the present time expending money on lighthouses and so forth, which are not under their control ? In some States there are no light dues at all, and, therefore, this will prove a very unprofitable administration. I hope that before undertaking any responsibility the Government will consider the advisability of imposing light dues throughout Australia. In South Australia, the light dues show a profit over expenditure, but that is not so in Queensland and some other States, and, therefore, I hope the Government will act with caution until such time as proper legislation is introduced and passed.
– I should like to know whether any arrangement has been made in regard to paying the expenses of those concerned in the recent South Australian election legal proceedings. Is it proposed to recoup the candidates their expenses, seeing that all the trouble arose through the acts of departmental officers?
– I think the Treasurer two or three days ago said that the whole matter was before the Department - it is a question of law.
– If nothing can be done under present circumstances, an Act ought to be passed, because neither of the candidates ought to be called upon to bear this expenditure. I should now like to draw attention to the item of £500 towards compiling a map of Australasia. When is that map going to be placed before us ? Is the Treasurer waiting until we can see on it the site of the Federal Capital? This item has appeared on the Estimates year after year, and the work is apparently no nearer completion.
– As to the item of £23,-500, expenses in connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act, I think there may be something in the contention of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that saving may be effected in the printing and so forth, though I do think at the last general election there- was an effort made at cutting down expenses, which gave rise to a serious problem from the point of view of the secrecy of- the ballot. This difficulty is more particularly felt in country districts. For the first time the Department introduced the principle of dispensing with a poll clerk at a great number of booths, with the result that the whole of the work had to be done by one officer, who was very often a local resident with, perhaps, some bias. A great deal of suspicion was aroused on this account. .
– The Act itself destroys the secrecy of the ballot.
– I am now dealing, not so much with the question of the secrecy of the ballot, as with the proper return of the votes recorded. The departure I have indicated was made on the score of economy, and the result was that at a number of polling booths in the country, where there were from 50 to 100 voters, the whole administration was in the hands of one man, on whose discretion and honesty everything depended.
MrMcDougall. - Were there not cases of returning officers and poll clerks canvassing candidates over ballot-boxes ?
– That may be; but all I am pointing out now is that the employment of two clerks would minimize the possibility of maladministration. The State Government of New South Wales would never think for one moment of conducting an election under such conditions. I do not say that there were any malpractices - I do not know of any - but the conditions are such as to invite maladministration, and the remedy is the employment of two officers. This would mean very little extra expense, and the additional security would more than compensate for the outlay. Unless something is done to protect electors in isolated places the Commonwealth system may be brought into disrepute; and I desire to enter my emphatic protest against saving money at the sacrifice of properly conducted elections.
.- I should like to have a little information from the Treasurer with reference to arrangements for completing the lighting on the Queensland coast. Last May, when the right honorable member for Swan was Acting Prime Minister, he visited North Queensland. I took occasion to write to him prior to his leaving Melbourne, asking him to investigate this matter. I had had communications, personal and otherwise, with several members of the Torres Straits Pilots’ Association, who urged upon me, when I was last at Thursday Island, the absolute necessity for extra lighting upon the coast between Cairns and Thursday Island. It is a very dangerous coast, and at present it is not nearly so well lighted as it ought to be.
– I think that about thirty new lights have been asked for.
– I am sure that new lights are absolutely necessary on the coast to which I have referred. The
Queensland Government has kept a number of lights going without receiving any revenue, and under all the circumstances they have done very well indeed. They could hardly be expected to place additional lights on the coast since the Commonwealth is about to take over this work. It is advisable that we should do it thoroughly when we are doing it at all.
– We cannot do any more until we take over lighthouses.
– Are any stepsbeing taken to provide for some of the lights that are requisite?
– I think so, but I am not sure.
– Have not the Government invited the shipping companies to’ make representations?
– Yes, that has been going on for a long time.
– When the right honorable member for Swan returned from the north, I had a letter from him, in which he said that he had consulted some of the pilots; who convinced him of the necessity of having more lights on that coast. I hope to have an assurance from the Treasurer that Queensland is not being neglected in this matter.
– Queensland is never neglected.
– There is a vote upon the Estimates in regard to compiling a map of Australasia. What is being done inthat matter? Is it proposed to take in New Zealand and Fiji? We have heard something about the necessity for more lights on the western coast, but very little is said about the Queensland coast. Going down that coast lately, I found that the ship anchored because the captain could not pick up a certain light. In the morning he found that if he had kept on his course five minutes longer, he would have picked up the light quite easily. But he said that the coast was so dangerous that, although he had been on it for about twenty years and knew it very well, yet if he could not pick up a light to the minute he always went to anchor. Beyond Thursday Island also more lights are urgently necessary. I hope that the Treasurer, who is a practical business man, will look into the matter. I also notice a vote for the payment of gratuities to officers who have made suggestions which have led to the adoption of reforms and economies. I should like to know whether this is a newly-established system, or whether it has been in operation for any length of time? If so, what good results have followed from the suggestions made by officers? It seems to me to be a good idea to give gratuities of this kind. It is quite common in commercial houses to do this sort of thing, but in private concerns the men who make the suggestions are those who get the money. On what basis is this Commonwealth money distributed ?
– In relation to the electoral administration, I should like to make an observation regarding the striking of names off the rolls. There seems to be something very lax in this direction. Electors have told me that their names have been struck Off the rolls, although they were on for years previously, and voted at the last election.They do not know why it has been done, nor why their names did not appear on the supplementary rolls. Possibly one reason, so far as the large centres are concerned, may be that the returning officers are most inadequately paid. Some of their assistants get nearly as much for temporary work as they do for a whole year’s service. As to gratuities to officers, I desire to point out that some time ago I had the pleasure of looking through a new mail van. In the old vans there was no room for the proper sorting of letters, and it was always a marvel to me how the work was done. In the new mail vans there are ingenious arrangements by means of which the work can be expeditiously done. I understand that some of the officers who are doing the sorting work gave advice to the Department as to the best method of constructing the cars. If those suggestions were valuable, I hope that the officers will have a share in the vote upon this Division.
– They could not get a share of the Home Affairs vote.
– I have already consented to three or four awards for valuable suggestions made in my Department.
– I am pleased to hear that. The amount seems very small for this one Department. I hope that real encouragement is being given to officers, and believe that enormous savings are likely to be made if consideration is fairly given to suggestions made.
– The matter of the valuation of properties taken over from the States has been before us for several years. I believe that the whole of the properties have now beenvalued.
– That is so.
– Everything is in readiness for the Commonwealth to do what, in fairness, it should have done several years ago, namely, to come to an arrangement with the States Governments to pay for the properties thus taken over.
– We could not do that until they were valued.
– But seven years have elapsed since Federation, and the valuation has only just been completed. Some of the States have been very anxious to have the matter settled. I am aware that objection is taken to cash being paid. That is a matter of arrangement between the States and the Commonwealth, but certainly the States should be relieved of the payment of interest for money borrowed on the properties taken over by the Commonwealth.
-Does not the honorable member think that the States have been relieved by the large amount of money we have paid to them?
– Whether the Commonwealth has been generous to the States in returning money does not affect the point that there was a distinct agreement between the States and the Commonwealth in regard to these properties, which should be paid for in some shape or form. There was a square deal between the Commonwealth and the States, and the Commonwealth should carry out its part of the agreement by relieving the States of the interest on the cost of construction. I hope that no time will be lost in giving attention to this matter, . and that there will thus be removed what, in some of the States at least, has been a cause of friction.
– The honorable member for Robertson has asked a question with regard to the preparation of a map of Australasia. The work is in the hands of the Department Of Lands in New South Wales.
– They have been a long time over it.
– The information supplied to me in reference to the matter is as follows -
I have the honour to inform you that the action taken by this Department up to date, is the computation of the projection on which the map is to be compiled. This projection will be laid down shortly upon linen, and the sheets forwarded to the Department of Home Affairs, Melbourne, with a view to the various States being asked to showin outline the main coast lines, features, &c., upon the sheets of the projection. Accompanying such sheets will be a memo. showing what is desired the States should add to the sheets with a view to uniform action being taken by the several States.
– Nothing has been done; they have simply sent over a piece of calico.
– That is allI know about the matter.
– Were tenders invited for the preparation of the map?
– I am not sure. I have been asked a question with regard to gratuities paid to officers. Each Department pays its own gratuities, andofficers are permitted to communicate directly, with the Minister. There is no go-between that can take the credit ofany suggestion that may be put forward. No matter how humble the officer, he may send his suggestion direct to the Minister. Several such suggestions have been rewarded. With respect to the transferred properties, the valuations are now complete, and Colonel Miller is preparing a report which should be in the hands of the Minister in a few weeks, when action will follow, though how soon I cannot say. There will be no undue delay, As to the taking over of the control of the lighthouses, the authorities of the States have been consulted, and advice has been obtained from ship captains, pilots, and all others likely to be able to give information of value. Something has also been dorie in the preparation of plans, and Parliament has made provision for the appointment of an officer to further assist the Government in this matter. Nothing more can be done until the States Departments are transferred to the Commonwealth, and, in all probability early next session, for that purpose a Bill Will be introduced.
.- The taking over of the control of lighthouses, beacons, and buoys is a very important matter, and I hope that a Bill will be introduced to give effect to it early next session. On the Queensland coast, in particular, the increased volume of trade, which has necessitated the employment of ships of larger draught, carrying of course, bigger and more valuable cargoes and a larger number of passengers, has made it increasingly necessary to improve the lighting of the intricate waters of the
Barrier and Torres Straits. Ships’ officers, pilots, and all connected with shipping are unanimously of the opinion that this improvement is urgent. Considerable attention should also be given to the lighting of part of the coast of Western Australia and of part of the Victorian coast. I cannot be accused of speaking in a provincial spirit in. this matter, because New South Wales has, perhaps, the best lighted coast in Australia.
Proposed vote agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 March 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080331_reps_3_45/>.