3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he has seen the report of a speech made at Brisbane yesterday, by Mr. J. M. Paxton, President of, the “Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, in which he stated that -
I do not know how the various Customhouses, other than Sydney, are manned ; hut, with an intimate. knowledge of the state of affairs in the Sydney Custom-house, I say, without the smallest hesitation, that it is grossly undermanned, and that, in consequence, the public have to submit to delays which are anything, but creditable to the public service, to say nothing of resulting losses.
Can the Minister say whether the condition of affairs in the_ Customs House at Sydneyis as stated? If it is, will he immediately rectify it so that the commercial community of Sydney- tHe great trading centre of the Commonwealth - will have less occasion’ to complain ? Furthermore, I desire . to know whether there is similar reason for complaint in respect of the Department in the other States, and whether the Minister considers that his staff is inefficient or the service undermanned ?
– So far as I know the Department is not undermanned, and, certainly, it is not inefficient. The employment of additional ‘ hand ‘ rests to. a certain extent with the Public Service Commissioner. Very few complain” have been made lo my knowledge, and notwithstanding that the Department’ is charged with the- administration of the new Tariff, and has to deal with many difficulties due to the preference provisions, everything has been working smoothly. Honorable members will recognise that when heavy consignments come to hand at any port, some delay and trouble is bound to ensue. Every trader wishes to have his consignments dealt, with immediately ; but- it would be impossible to employ a staff capable of meeting every emergency. I shall be glad to loot into the representations made and to remove as far as possible any cause of complain The desire of the Department and the Cvernment is to work as amicably as possiblewith the merchants with whom they have business relations.
– Following upon the question asked by the honorable member for Dalley, . I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, who stated that he was not aware of any complaints as to the undermanning of his Department, whether he does not know that the Chamber of Commerce at West Maitland - one of the most important commercial communities in the Commonwealth - made a complaint that its members were considerably inconvenienced by the undermanning of the office at Morpeth? Is it not a fact that an urgent request was made for favorable consideration of this complaint, and that the Minister failed to give it that consideration?
– I took it that the honorable member for Dalley’s question related more particularly to the Customs House, Sydney. I am aware that some complaint was made by a Chamber of Commerce at an important centre in the honorable member’s electorate. The honorable member himself took special care that I should give that complaint every consideration, but I regret that the report which I obtained from my officers was such that I was unable to comply with the request which the honorable member so warmly indorsed.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs. a question “relating to the compilation of the rolls. In one part of my electorate I recently saw a man delivering forms of application for enrolment, and I wish to know whether the Department has determined to adopt that method of compiling the rolls, and, if so, whether the Minister thinks that such a crude system is likely to be effective?
– I should imagine that it was a State official whom the honorable member saw. I know of no Commonwealth officer so employed, but will have inquiries made and furnish the honorable member with an answer to-morrow.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs able to give any information as to when a new compilation of the rolls is to be made ? In the electorate which I represent, within the last six or seven months, upwards of 700 men have gathered at a place where a rush has occurred, and no one can say whether or not their names appear on the roll for the electorate. At a number of other mining centres in my electorate large bodies of men have gathered within the last twelve or eighteen months, and the position is the same in regard to them. Without desiring to debate the matter,I should like to point out that many of these men are sure to make additional applications for enrolment if steps be not taken without delay to compile a new roll, and that the result will be that we shall not know whether there are 20,000 or 30,000 electors in the electorate. Will the Minister take the matter into consideration and have an early compilation made?
– My recollection of the facts is that provision is being made for the compilation of a new general roll early next year. As to the other matters mentioned by the honorable member, he must be aware that any person entitled to vote can be enrolled at any time, and that polling places may be declared wherever there are new aggregations of population.. There is nothing to prevent a man being placed on the roll whenever he desires. We are endeavouring, as far as possible, to work in conjunction with the States in the compilation of the rolls, and their cooperation is being sought in every case I shall have inquiries made and inform the honorable member of the result.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs state what progress is ‘being made with the negotiations between, the Commonwealth and the States for the joint compilation of Federal and State rolls, or, in other words, for the preparation wherever possible of a joint roll for Commonwealth and State elections? In South Australia, within a week, two elections - one in connexion with the State Parliament, and the other in connexion with a vacancy in this House - are being held in the same district. It seems extraordinary that in respect of the same voters it should be necessary to have two sets of rolls: and to employ two distinct sets of electoral machinery.
– As the honorablemember must be aware, the CommonwealthAct provides for the Commonwealth and the States working conjointly in the compilation of rolls. As far as possible, our officers have made every advance towards the adoption of that procedure. I said some time ago in this House that all the States, with the exception of Tasmania and South Australia, had agreed to this arrangement, and I believe that every State has now practically complied with our request. As I am merely acting for the Minister of Home Affairs I cannot be expected to be familiar with all the details; but I shall have inquiries made.
– I give notice of my question for to-morrow.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs aware that 972 names have been struck off the roll for the electorate of Darwin ? The returning officer states that he waited twenty days for replies tonotices of objection which he sent out, and that, failing to obtain any, the nameswere removed from the rolls. It is well known that working men, and particularly miners, rarely reply to letters. Will the Minister have inquiries made into this matter?
– The practice is to issue notices of objection to those who are thought to be disentitled to be on the roll. If a man receives such a notice, and does not think it. worth while to reply, the Department can hardly be blamed if his name be struck off. Where the officers charged with the work of compiling the rolls and keeping them pure have reason to believe that a man is not entitled to be enrolled, they are justified in taking action.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether notices have been sent out in the metropolitan electorates similar to those which have been sent out in the Darwin electorate, and, if so, whether Revision Courts have been held for the purpose of striking off the roll the names of persons to whom objection has been urged? I also wish to know whether it is the intention of the Department to issue a new roll, brought up-to-date”?
– No Revision Courts are held in connexion with the Federal electoral rolls. Regarding the other point raised by the honorable member, I wish to say that. if he will give notice of a question, Iwill have inquiries made.
– I wish to know whether a returning officer has. power at his own sweet will to remove from the electoral roll the name of any elector, or, whether he is not bound to show cause why such action should be taken Before the elector’s name is struck off ?
– I am afraid that the honorable member will have to put that question to the Attorney-General. I am not able to answer the legal point involved.
– I wish to ask the Minister whether any special notices have been issued to the returning officers: of the
Commonwealth requesting them to notify all persons whose names they consider ought not to appear upon the rolls ?
– Not that I am aware of. If an elector residing in one division removes to another he should apply to have his name transferred to the electoral division in which he has taken up his residence.
– Very of ten he does not do that.
– In order to ascertain the truth of the claim which he makes, notice of it must be sent to the division, from whichhe has removed. The Department is bound to’ take that action to prevent one man’s name from appearing upon the roll half-a-dozen times. I know of no special notices having been sent to returning officers.
– Idesire to ask the Minister whether he will see that returning officers are instructed not to strike off the electoral roll the name of any person unless they have previously filed the grounds upon which such action is taken?
– The matter mentioned by the. honorable member will be brought under the notice of the Minister of Home Affairs, and nothing will be done which is not in accord with the provisions of the Act’.
– In view of the fact’ that an elector is entitled to vote in any division - solong as his name appears upon the electoral roll - will the Minister see that the practice of striking names off the roll isdiscontinued ?
– I should certainly say that no elector’s name will be illegally struck off the roll. The names of those who are entitled to be on the roll will be kept there.
– I wish to ask the Minister whether it is a fact that instructions have been issued to returning officers to hold themselves in. readiness for a general election?
– I amnot aware of it.
– I desire to ask the Minister whether he will request the Minister of Home Affairs to impress upon the electoral officials that the Commonwealth pays a large sum for the purpose of insuring that the name of every person who has a right to vote, shall appear upon the electoral roll, and not for an opposite purpose?
High Court Decision
-Hasthe AttorneyGeneral any further information than appears in the press to-day, in reference to the decision given by the High Court, sitting in Sydney, yesterday, in the case of New South Wales versus the Commonwealth? According to the press reports the Court held that the rate of compensation payable to a mannamed Heffernan, who was transferred from the State to the Commonwealth service, wasprescribed by the State Act at the time of transfer, and not under the Commonwealth. Act. Has the Attorney-General any further information as to the scope of that decision, and more particularly its effect as interpreting section 84 of the Constitution dealing with accrued and accruing rights?
– I received last night a brief telegraphic message, stating that the Commonwealth had been successful in its contention that the Governor-General and not the Governor of the State had the power to fix the rate of compensation. I cannot say what is the exact scope and effect of the judgment until I obtain the full text of it, but as it is of considerable importance, I shall secure immediately a complete report, and make it available to honorable members.
Regrading of Postmasters - Postal Accommodation at Goodwood.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether the work of regrading postmasters and other officials in his Department has been completed, and if so, when the regrading will be gazetted?
– The regrading of postmasters will be gazetted on Saturday next.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral cause further and fuller information to be obtained in regard to the postal accommodation at Goodwood before the work of altering the present building is commenced ?
– The honorable member was good enough to give me notice of his intention to ask this question, and I have given instructions that the matter is not to be completed until there is an opportunity to review it in the light of the most recent information.
– Will the Prime Minister have an investigation made as to the truth of the rumour that when the Orion left Tasmania she was overloaded?
– I presume that it will be necessary to make inquiries of a State official. I know of no Commonwealth official from whom we can obtain the information desired.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he can tell the House when the session, now extending considerably over nine “months, is likely to come to an end. Statements appear from time to time in the press as to the intentions of the Government ; but whether or not those reports are correct I do not know. The newspapers appear to be able to obtain informationthat we cannot secure. Is the Prime Minister able to say what business he contemplates taking before the close of the session, or whether the close of the session is to be co-terminous with the close of this Parliament? I think it is time. that the Prime Minister told the House what is likely to happen during the remainder of this session.
– With the Tariff still undisposed of, it would be premature to make a definite statement. I think, however, that I can undertake to say that next week a definite statement will be made as to the proposals of the Government. I assume that by that time we shall have had a further, message from the Senate in respect of its requests, and shall have finally disposed of them.
– Do I understand that the Prime Minister is unable to say, before the Tariff is dealt with, what business the Government contemplate takingthis session; or is the business to be taken this session dependent on some other contingency ?
– I understood the honorable member’s question to relate to the date when the session would close.
– He also asked what business would be taken.
– I said that any estimate formed to-day would be too general to be of service, but that next week, when we had disposed of the Tariff, I should be able to state, not only what business we proposed to deal with this session, but when the session would close.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether he noticed in the cables published to-day a statement in reference to the new territorial army in England, to the effect that Viscount Wolseley and other military leaders declare that the training of the field’ artillery there is insufficient, and that if that branch of the service were called upon to face a disciplined Continental army, it would be more likely to disable its friends than the enemy ? In view of his knowledge that under the territorial army scheme the members of the partially-paid field artillery in England are required to undergo a longer period of training than are the Australian Field Artillery, does he not think it necessary for us to have a small permanent force to instruct its members and to form a nucleus of a larger permanent force?
– The Government is perfectly aware of the urgent necessity of proper training in connexion with the field artillery. What the honorable member suggests, however, in connexion with such training, might perhapsbe found to be illegal under the Defence Act in its present form. Suggestions to the Cabinet will be made. We are in agreement with Viscount Wolseley’s views.
– I observe that a new journal has just been published, which is edited by a gentleman known to politics - Mr. Randolph Bedford. I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether any payment has been made to him out of the vote for advertising Australia in connexion with the issue of the Clarion, and, if so, will he lay the papers relating to it upon the table of the House ?
– No payment has been made to Mr. Bedford in connexion with the current issue of the Clarion, but some time ago after that gentleman had paid a visit to Papua, a special number of a journal bearing the same name was published.
– This is a different journal altogether.
– I am under that impression. But some time ago there was issued a newspaper about the size of Australia ToDay, very largely illustrated. The particular number to which I refer contained some pages relating to Papua, with illustrations. My recollection is that some copies of that number were purchased for -circulation, but I shall be pleased to supply all particulars.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether he can inform the House if the contract for the construction of the Commonwealth trawler is being proceeded with, and when the vessel is likely to be finished ?
– About aweek ago I made inquiries in respect of this matter, and I found that nearly the whole of the parts were ready for assembling, and that probably by the beginning of next year the trawler will be ready for. use.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will lay upon the table of the. library the papers mentioned last night in reference to a number of persons coming to Australia under contract in connexion with a certain industry?
– I understand the honorable member’s question to refer to the piano industry. I shall have pleasure in laying those papers upon the library table.
Mr. Beale’s Report
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 19th May, vide page 112 16) :
– I promised last night that, before I proceeded further with the Estimates, I would make a general statement and I anticipate that I shall be in order in making it now. The total amount provided for in these Estimates is,£57 1,028. I know that some honorable members regard that sum as a very considerable addition to the Estimates-in-Chief, which we passed at the beginning of last April.
– Does not the Treasurer himself so regard it?
– No doubt. On the 7th of April I gave a very long list of figures in regard to the items contained in these Estimates which was published in
Hansard of that date. I do not propose to again traverse those figures, but before resuming my seat, I may have occasion to refer to them incidentally once or twice. An honorable member has interjected that the amount asked for is large, and’ no doubt it is; and, as Treasurer, I do not for one moment say that the expenditure in at least one of the large Departments may not be absolutely required. But, in view of one or two questions, which have been asked to-day in regard to the undermanning of the Customs Department, it would appear that, in the opinion of honorable members, the expenditure is not large enough; and that is a matter for consideration and examination.
– As to whether there is undermanning or undermanaging.
– That is another question, to which I do not desire to refer more than incidentally.
– The Treasurer will have to refer to it !
– I do not know that I shall ; but I ask honorable members, if they will be kind enough, to place themselves in my position as Treasurer - speculatively, at any rate - so that they may realize my feelings’ in regard to the extra sum of money required this year. I have been accused by some of my colleagues and honorable members, and also by the public outside of being an extravagant individual ; and while I may admit that’ I am extravagant with my own money, I am not so with public money. Any man in the position of Treasurer has to guard the financial interests of the Commonwealth very jealously ; and I must say. that I was rather astounded at the abnormal increase in the expenditure this year. I was placed in the position that I had to husband to ‘the fullest’ extent the Treasurer’s Advance, in order to meet only a portion of the demand made upon it.
– Why did the Treasurer not ask for an increased sum in the original Estimates?
– As I shall show presently, I did ask for a very considerably increased sum in the original Estimates; and I have had practically to exhaust the Treasurer’s Advance. When I made my previous financial statement, I informed honorable members that the Treasurer’s Advance was even then practically exhausted. There is one position in which a Treasurer does not like to be placed, and that’ is where he is open to a charge of having allowed the expenditure to extravagantly increase. My desire is. to guard myself, and show that I have used every possible exertion, almost to shutting down the lid of the Treasury chest, to keep the expenditure not only within the sums voted, but within the Treasurer’s Advance. I recognise, of course, that, for some reason or other, a large amount of money is required more than has been expended in previous years. I am not called on at this stage to go into details as tothe why or wherefore, but there is the fact ; and it is also a fact, as I have already said, that Ihave done all in my power to keep the expenditure within what appeared to my mind reasonable bounds. However, the expenditure has so risen that these Additional Estimates are required, and I must ask the Committee to pass them without any undue delay. In view of the Additional Estimates having been submitted, heavy demands are beginning to be made on the Treasurer’s Advance.
– How much of the money asked for in these Estimates has been spent ?
– A good deal ; but I do not know exactly how much. At any rate, claims are coming in, and the reason given is that the Additional Esti- . mates are on the table.
– The Treasurer means to say that he has really anticipated the expenditure under these Estimates.
– I have been compelled to anticipate some portion.
M.r. Wilks. - This is worse than Supply Bills !
– The honorable member will admit that I have tried to keep down the expenditure; but, at the same time, I have to find the money for works which have been entered upon.
– The Treasurer is really asking for an indemnity ?
– If the Committee do not pass these Estimates, then, I suppose, I should be dealt with in some way or other ; but I have an idea that, if fault be found with me, it will be rather for not asking for money enough. I am asked not only to carry out the works comprised within these Estimates, but also to authorize the invitation of tenders for about £300,000 worth to be constructed next year.
– New works?’
– New works; and the provision is in addition to the money which is being spent this year.
– The money under these Estimates cannot be spent this year.
– The honorable member is quite right, but that is a matter with which I shall deal presently.. As I say, I am asked to authorize the invitation of tenders for works in the Post and Telegraph Department or in the Department of Home Affairs, whichever it may be, but I desire it to be clearly understood that the calling of the tenders and making every preparation, does not give consent to the expenditure of the money. I desire to relieve myself of the responsibility of saying that the works should be carried out in anticipation of what Parliament may decide next year.
– The Treasurer desires to have a parliamentary vote before sanctioning the expenditure?
– Yes; and I shall bring the matter before Parliament. I do not feel at all disposed as Treasurer to take the responsibility of agreeing to such an expenditure without the consent of Parliament.
– How could the Treasurer spend more money without authority ? Out of the Treasurer’s Advance ?
– Yes; that is the way in which the Treasurer’s Advance has been very nearly swamped.
– Why did the Treasurer allow it?
– I have been blamed for notfinding money for a variety of purposes.
– But the. Treasurer’s advance is only£200,000.
– That is so. Now we have before us the Additional Estimates, which will probably replace all the expenditure made out of the Treasurer’s Advance, and thus enable me to use the amount of Treasurer’s advance again. The late Treasurer knows exactly the circumstances under which; such expenditure is made. “A Treasurer has to be extremely cautious to see that he is not left in the position of having no money to the credit of the Treasurer’s Advance, if any emergency arises ; but that is the position I have been in two or three times.
– That is one great reason why the regular expenditure should be provided for in a regular way.
– I quite admit that, but it was not possible to domore than has been done thisyear. Of course, if we were to carry every thing out in a strictly technical way, the Appropriation Bill would be passed at the earliest moment after the meeting of Parliament, so that the money might be voted before it was expended. Under such circumstances, a Treasurer would not be called upon, as I have been during the last eight or nine months, to find money out of his Advance Account.
– The complaint is that a lot of this money should have been provided in the Estimates-in-Chief last year.
– I shall read the figures in a moment, and show the increased expenditure this year as compared with last year.
– Then, according to the Treasurer, sufficient money was not provided last year?
– So it seems; but who is to foretell the expansion of the expenditure? The amount provided last year was so great that my predecessor, who prepared the Estimates, thought there was more money than would be required, and before I took charge reduced the amount by £60,000 or £70,000. The right honorable member for Swan, as Treasurer, called the attention of the heads of Departments to the large claims, and begged them to reduce their Estimates. This they did to the extent of about . £30,000, and then the right honorable member further reduced them, as I have already stated, to the extent of £60,000 or £70,000.
– I told the heads of the Departments that they could have the money afterwards if it were really necessary.
– Well,they thought the money was necessary, and gave me a lot of trouble in providing it. I have been blamed for not having found considerable sums of money for the provision of. temporary hands in the Public Service. When I could find the money I did so, but I had to keep a. close -eye on the Treasurer’s Advance. These demands come on the Treasurer at the last moment,’ and if the advance account would bear the strain, well and good; but my opinion is that a Treasurer is called upon to criticise any expenditure beyond the sums voted on the Estimates. I never criticise any item voted by the Committee, but I do hold that if a Treasurer is not to criticise any expenditure beyond the ordinary votes, it is hard to see what he and the Auditor-General are in their positions for. That is all I have done during the whole of the troublesome financial times. In reference to the payment of temporary hands, and also permanent hands, all I have raised my voice against has been the expenditure of money not voted on the Estimates. In the year 1906-7 the ordinary expenditure amounted to £4,514,520, and it was estimated that for this year - 1907-8 - it would be £5,148,118. The ordinary expenditure under the Additional Estimates £159,746, together with £2,438 expenditure under the Officers’ Compensation Act,’ makes a total of £5,310,302. In 1906-7 the total expenditure was £4,987,301, of which £472,781 was for new works, and this year the expenditure on new works, under the Estimates-in-Chief, was estimated at £686,824, and under the Additional Estimates, £411,282.
– Why does the honorable member ask for £250,000 for harbor and coastal defences?
– In connexion with the Defence scheme.
– The money is being asked for before the scheme has been adopted.
– Yes ; but I shall deal with the matter later. The total expenditure provided under EstimatesinChief and Additional Estimates is £6,408,408, of which £1, 098, 106 is pro vided for expenditure on works. The revenue for 1906-7 was £12,832,266, and the expenditure £4,987,301; the sum paid to the States being £7,844,965. This year the revenue will amount to £15,315,200,and the expenditure to £6,115,374, while, unless the Surplus Revenue Bill is passed, the States will receive £9,199,826.
– How unreasonable they are not to accept £6,000,000 and cry quits !
SirWILLIAM LYNE. - Any Treasurer who gave more would find himself inthe Slough of Despond within ten or fifteen years.
– With the proposed increases, he would find himself there in two years.
– How much more than the three-fourths was returned to the States last year, and is to be returned to them this year ?
– Last year, over and above the three-fourths, the States received £805,766”. It is estimated that this year the three-fourths returnable to the States will amount to £8,772,762, and that there will be a balance of£427,064,. which must also be paid to them, unless the Surplus Revenue Bill is passed, in which case we can appropriate the money to our own purposes.
– Is that allowing for votes which cannot be spent?
– I think so.
– Last night the Treasurer said that further Estimates were to come. Are they also allowed for?
– I think so. The Additional Estimates for 1905-6- amounted to . £107,852, and for1906-7 to £157,135.
– That is merely to adjust the votes?
– There are no further Estimates to be brought down in respect to expenditure of thisyear?
– The expenditure in connexion with elections, voided apparently through the fault of Commonwealth officers, and one or two other small items, have to be voted.
– But the amounts are only trifling?
– Yes, so far as I know. This year the three-fourths returnable to the States will be very large, because the revenue isbooming, and their representatives wish us to base the payments of future years on it.
– They have not said so.
– I attended the Conference of Premiers and Ministers, and know what was said.
– I ask the honorable member not to go into that question.
– I have to show that the surplus revenue, over and above the three-fourths returnable to the States, is neededby the Commonwealth.
– But if the Treasurer discusses thefinancial relations of the Commonwealth and the States,we shall all have to do so.
– I do not object, to that, because I feel that I am on a sure foundation.
– If I were to allow the Treasurer to discuss the requirements of the States in regard to surplus revenue, a general discussion might arise, such as should not take place on these Estimates. The present discussion is a little irregular, but I have permitted it because I took it to be the will of the Committee to allow the honorable member’s statement to be made this afternoon instead of last night.
– It is only by retaining the surplus of £427,064 to which I have referred that we can carry into effect an old-age pensions policy at the present time. It was at first estimated that the surplus would be only £103,992.
– Are the- States not to receive any of the surplus revenue this year ?
– The threefourths returnable to the States this year is estimated at £8,772,762, whereas if we do not retain the surplus,they will receive £9,199,826..
– But the revenue in succeeding years will not be so high as it islikely to be this year.
– No. It is estimated by the departmental officers that, whereas this year the revenue from Customs and Excise will be about £12,000,000, next year it will be about £1,000,000 less, and in the following year less by , £1,500,000 at the very least. My officials inform me that they do not anticipate a revenue of more than £10,000,000 for the year after that, unless a great change takes place.
– They expect that there will be an increase in our manufactures.
– Partly for that reason and also because we cannot expect a continuance of the boom experienced during the present financial year.
– Then it will be bad for the States.
– It will. Last year they received £805,766 in excess of the three-fourths returnable to them.
– The people of the States and the Commonwealth are the same.
– They are, but we have to see that the Commonwealth remains solvent.
– The Commonwealth is in a position of affluence.
– I am not referring to any question of solvency at the present time; but I desire to emphasize the point that we must look ahead. I have at hand a statement of the estimated expenditure of the Commonwealth twelve years hence, and it showsthatin 1920 we shall probably have an expenditure of £9,519,000.
– It is very desirable that the statement should be read.
– It is largely speculative. Every one must recognise the difficulty of forecasting, with anything like accuracy, the expenditure of the Commonwealth in 1920.
– The honorable member might give us a rough outline of the estimate ?
– I asked the Department to prepare for my own guidance a statement of the approximate expenditure for 1920. The officers were very chary about making such an estimate on the basis of our present expenditure, because they pointed out that they might be tied down to it, and blamed if it were not accurate.
– Surely we should have an opportunity to test it.
– I shall give an outline of the estimate on the condition that the officers of the Department are not to be considered as being bound by it.
– Does it relate to automatic expenditure ?
– As nearly as possible. I think that the Government Statistician’s figures have been made the basis of the calculation as to the increase of population, which will necessarily involve an increased expenditure. I did not wish to lay the paper on the table without the consent of the officers, because I told them that I should not use it in such a way as to bind them to what, after all, was a mere approximation. This estimate allows for an expenditure of £1,500,000 in respect of old-age pensions. In the first place, . it shows that the amount provided in the Estimates for 1907-8 was £5,967,992. From that sum £580,000 is deducted in respect of the’ sugar bounty, to be’ abolished in 19 13, leaving a total of £5,387,992. Then it is estimated that there will be an increase of £685,000 in the expenditure of the Post and Telegraph Department. It is assumed that the increase of that branch of expenditure will be equal to the increase in revenue if the population increases only at the rate experienced since 1901. An increase of £402,988 is also estimated in the Defence expenditure.
– That estimate takes no account of policy?
– Then’, again, the deficiency in connexion with the administration of the Northern Territory in 1905-6 was £121,000, and it is estimated that a further expenditure of £25,000 will be required, so that a total of £146,000 is set down in respect of the expenditure of the Territory for 1920. Provision is also made for a deficit of £50,000 on the working of the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie .railway ; £210,000 in respect of the deficit in connexion with the Oodnadatta to Pine Creek railway; and £93,000 in respect of in,terest and sinking fund on the cost of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line. Then we come to an estimated expenditure of £450,000 in respect of .interest and sinking fund on transferred properties, a further sum of £50,000 for advertising and immigration ; £20,000 for general elections; £24,000 in connexion with the census, and £20,000 for additional pay to members of Parliament.
– Is a further- increase proposed?
– No. The sum’ of £20,000 represents ah amount not included in the Estimates for 1907-8. An expenditure of £50,000 is estimated in connexion with further States services to be taken over, and an expenditure of £30,000 in connexion with the ‘office of High Commissioner and provision for other increases. As a margin for under estimates and increases not specified, £400,020 is set apart.
– Is that to meet additional expenditure arising from increased population?
– This estimate takes into account expenses arising from increased population, and the total, as I have said, is £9,519,000. That does not include expenditure in the erection of London offices for the Commonwealth, or in connexion with the Federal Capital.
– In other words, there, will be an increase of about £3,000,000, as compared with the expenditure for the present year.
– An increase of about £3,400,000. I have given these figures, which are only approximate, with the object of showing that it would be unwise to base our future financial arrangements upon the revenue’ received during the financial year now closing. We have had a boom year, and the Department believes that during the next few years there will be a heavy fall in the receipts. We shall have, for instance, a great increase in our manufactures.
– And consequently decreased importations.
– That is so. Another reason is that we cannot .expect a. repetition of the boom experiences of the present year.
– I take it that the honorable member has quoted these figures with the object of showing that according to the estimate of his officers, our expenditure in 1920 will have swollen to £9,519,000?
– That is so; but I repeat that neither the Department nor I must be held to be bound by those figures. It would be manifestly unfair and unwise to base our anticipations as to future returns on the abnormal revenue of a boom year. I hope to be able to present the Estimates for next year very early next session, and I am informed that they will show a very large increase.
– The honorable member is trying to frighten the States.
– I am not; but I think they ought to know the truth. No one can accuse me of having either reduced or increased the figures of the Department.
– It is about time the States were told the truth.
– I wish to deal fairly with the States.
– They have been generously dealt with.
– They have.
– I hope that they will receive more generous treatment in the future.
– I hope so. too. At the same time we must look to our own financial future.
– It is very evident that the present Premiers of the States will not help the Treasurer if they can avoid doing so.
– I have noticed that the Premier of New South Wales has been attacking me, but I shall let that pass.
– He merely asks for what is fair.
– And for that to which he is entitled under the Constitution.
– And we are giving him what he is entitled to up to 1910. I do not know that it is necessary for me to enter, into any further details. I have endeavoured to make the position as between last year’s expenditure and the estimated expenditure for the current year, pretty clear. It is my duty to’ make it perfectly plain, not only to this Committee, but to the country, and I have attempted to do so as briefly as I possibly could. I wish also to warn honorable members that next year application will be made for an increased expenditure. Consequently it behoves us to be extremely careful.
– Will the proposed increases be for specific purposes, or merely for general purposes?
– For general purposes. The Estimates now . under consideration include a sum of £280,000, which it is proposed to appropriate for defence purposes. There are two items under this heading in connexion with which there may be a recurring expenditure - I refer to the’ establishment of a cordite factory and of a small arms factory.
– How are the Government going to spend this £280,000 during the next month?
– It will not be spent during that period.
– Then it will lapse.
– It will, unless the Surplus Revenue Bill be passed.
– Even then the Government will require a special Act.
– I do not think that the vote will lapse at the end of the current financial year . if the Surplus Revenue Bill becomes law. At any rate, that is my information at the present time. That is the reason why I am so anxious to secure the passing of that measure. The practice of voting certain amounts for, particular purposes and of being compelled to re-vote them is a bad one.
– It is extraordinary that that practice prevails in all English speaking countries.
– That is not so. In New South Wales, the Government can expend money which has been appropriated for a specific purpose, after the close of the financial year.
Mr.WILKS. - The Treasurer himself introduced a special Act to enable that to be done.
– I know that money has not to be re-voted there each year.
– It is very much better that it should have to be re-voted.
– I wish to see as efficient a check as possible imposed-
Mr.harper.-Under the present system, if this money remains unexpended at the end of the financial year, it will pass out of our hands.
– Exactly ; and we shall be required to re-vote it out of other moneys. That is the embarrassing position that we occupy to-day.
– The difference between the position of the Commonwealth and that of New South ‘Wales is that any money voted by the New South Wales Parliament, which has not been expended at the close of the financial year, will remain in the Treasury, whereas in our case it is paid overto the States.
– Quite so.If in addition to the amount required during the current financial year, large sums are to be expended next year they should be voted early during that year. I do notsay that a very large sum is not required for the expansion of the Post Office, of the Defence Department, and of practicallyevery Department connected with this great continent. Consequently, we have to look the position fairly in the face. We haveheard many times that the postal ‘ service ii crippled on account of undermanning What is the reason for that?
– Is’ it not dueto want of management?
– I should no like to say so.’
– I say so.The service is managed infinitely worsenow thanit was prior to Federation.
– We can discus: that matter, upon another occasion.
– Why does not the Treasurerremedy the evil ?
– I am not the Postmaster-General. Upon all sides we hear complaints that extensions of telegraphic and telephonic works, and of works generally, are not carried out: What is the reason for this ? The truth is that in the past the Commonwealth has acted meanly in regard to these services. We have a country that is not anything like the country it will be when we have developed these services. It is not a small island like the United Kingdom. It is an immense continent, possessing an area as large as that of the United States, and we haveonly commenced to develop it. Our first requirement is good communication by means of telegraphs and telephones, and our next good railway accommodation. With the last-named, of course, we have at present nothing to do. It isin connexion with these services that a large expenditure will be required. I do not think that it is right to undertake these works only in the centres of population. The outlying portions of the country requireto be brought into closer touch with those centres. For that reason we shall have a growing expenditure.
– But the revenue should be growing, too.
– I shall deal with the matter when the financial proposals submitted by the Government . to the recent Premiers’ Conference are under consideration. If the honorable member for North Sydney will take the trouble to look into this question, he will find that all reliable authorities concur in stating that in the matter of Customs revenue and population there will not be that expansion which some honorable members seem to anticipate. We have to be prepared for all these things.
– Be careful now. No stinking fish.
– I do not think I can be accused of crying “ stinking fish.”Nobody will stand up more for the development of Australia than I will. But as Treasurer, I do not wish to have to cut and carve in order to advance money for public works in respect of which appropriations have not been made.
– The honorablegentleman suggests the simple plan that the States should do the cutting and carving.
– I do not wish to deal with the position of the States at all, but I should like to ask where they would have been if they had not received from the Commonwealth the money that they have received? If there be proper organization, if the work which our officers are required to do is efficiently performed, if the service is not over-manned, and if money is voted only in connexion with the most useful public works, it is hard to say how far we may go with justice to Australia. But if, on the other hand, there is disorganization in the Departments, we know that there will bea great expenditure.
– Australia cannot be run upon half-a-crown.
– Exactly. People do not realize what it is to run Australia in the way that we shall have to run it in the near future. I . do not wish to occupy any further’ time in discussing this question. I hope that the few figures which I have supplied, and the remarks which . I have made, will convey the information that I desire honorable members to be placed in possession of.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta; [3-55]-Itakeitthata general financial debate at this stage will not be permitted by you, sir, nor do I think that it is desirable, because all that has been said by the Treasurer - and I thank him for the information with which he has furnished us - will be very appropriate when we come to consider the Surplus Revenue Bill - if we are to consider it - which I hope will not be the case this session.
– Does not the honorable member desire it to be considered this session ?
– I hope, that it will not be considered this session, and 1 trust - as my amendment upon the businesspaper indicates - that it will not be considered” until the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth are in process of adjustment. 1 wish to make only one or two remarks concerning the latter portion of the Treasurer’s speech. I refer more particularly to the rough outlook that he gave us of the probable requirements of the Commonwealth during the next ten years. _ He began by saying that he anticipated a fall in the revenue of £2,000,000 during the year after next. May I remind him that the States will suffer as well as the Commonwealth as the result of any shortage that may be experienced in our revenue ? If, during the year after next, we are short by . £2,000,000, it will mean that under the present arrangement the States will be returned £1,500,000 less than they have received. The Treasurer, however, spoke as if the Commonwealth alone, would suffer from any decrease in our revenue. I say that the States and the Commonwealth alike will suffer when that unfortunate time comes. That there ‘ will besome shrinkage in our Customs revenue nobody will dispute. It is inevitable. We may earnestly hope, however, that we shall not experience such a large shrinkage as has been foreshadowed by the officials and the Treasurer.
– If the honorable member could carry out his free-trade policy, would there not be a larger shrinkage?
– That is a very interesting academic problem which has little to do with the point under discussion.
– It does not necessarily follow that because there is a decrease in the . Customs revenue, bad conditions will prevail in the States.
– I am dealing with the statement of the Treasurer that, during the year after next, there will be a shrinkage of Customs revenue amounting to £2,000,000 in connexion with the present Tariff. I am pointing out that if his prediction be realized, the States will be the chief sufferers. Of course, the Commonwealth will suffer with them, but only to the extent of one-fourth of the total loss. I venture to say that the statement of the Treasurer as to the probable Federal requirements of the future will bring some degree of comfort to the State Treasurers. The honorable gentleman has foreshadowed an increase in our expenditure which I venture to say is not a very alarming one - an increase from£6, 500,000 to £9,500,000 during the next ten years. At the recent Conference the States Premiers expressed themselves as being perfectly willing to accept three-fifths of the total Customs revenue in lieu of the three-fourths which they now receive. Having regard to the probable increase in our Federal income during the next decade, I venture to say that the possibility of making a fair arrangement with the States without occasioning either body much suffering is well within our reach. If the figures of the. Treasurer show one thing more than another, they show that which I have just indicated.
– How does the honorable member reconcile a possible increase of revenue with the Treasurer’s statement that there will be a decrease of £2,000,000?
– That decrease is only in the year after next.. I hope the honorable member is not anticipating that during the next ten years we are to have no more population, or no more industries started in the meantime.
– I should say that the Tariff will result in considerable decrease in the revenue if it is effectively protective.
– Even that does not follow. If the Tariff results, as foretold by protectionists, . in a large increase in industrial occupations, and, therefore, an increase in population, these will more than counterbalance any loss of revenue in the other direction.
– But in all probability the States, and not the Commonwealth, would get the advantage of the increased population.
– No matter. The result will ultimately manifest itself in the Customs revenue. I venture to say that the Tariff now in process of final adjustment is going to be very largely revenueproducing - that is inevitable, having regard to the size and present stage of development of Australia.
– If that continues we shall need to have the Tariff revised.
– No doubt the Minister of Trade and Customs would be glad to have a fresh revision ; he has lived on the cry of revision for seven years, and would not object to live on it for another seven years. However, . I do not think that the Minister of Trade and Customs would get the people of Australia to respond to the fiscal cry so easily as he did on the last occasion.
– He will “try it on” again as soon as possible !
– No doubt, but I venture to say that it will be without success. The State’s will not go into a fiscal delirium as the State of Victoria did on the last occasion; to put it bluntly, ‘ ‘ You can fool the people some of the time, but not all the time.” I repeat that, whatever the Tariff, it is inevitable that it must be largely revenue-producing in a young, virgin country like this. I have, all through, taken the view that the Tariff is not suitable for the requirements of Australia, even from the protective point of view; it has been wrongly conceived, and the result will manifest itself as time goes on. I say once more that the statement made by the Treasurer will show to the States Treasurers that they may look forward to some reasonable adjustment of the finances as between the States and the Commonwealth, without either being reduced to a condition of beggardom. Judging from the tone of the Treasurer, one would imagine that whether the times be bad or good - even in the. worst times - we must necessarily go on piling up the Commonwealthexpenditure, while the States are driven to curtail theirs. But if calamity were to come to Australia, we must be prepared, as the Commonwealth, to take our share ; * we must not go on financing ourselves to surfeit arid repletion, leaving the States to curtail in every possible direction.
– Surely, while the Commonwealth is increasing expenditure it is taking over Departments which now are costly to the States, and, consequently, decreasing State expenditure.
– There is no mention of taking over any Departments in the forecast of the Treasurer, who is simply seeking to provide for ordinary development. The only additional expenditure contemplated is that connected with the Northern Territory.
– What about old-age pen-‘ sions and quarantine and lighthouses ?
– We have already taken over these administrations ‘; and the Additional Estimates only provide for a slight increase in the annual cost of control. I am surprised to hear from the Treasurer that the taking over of the Northern Territory is likely to cost the Commonwealth about £500,000 per annum. The honorable gentleman has indicated a very great problem which we shall have to face. If we take the Territory over we must have it made clear whether there is a chance at an early date of its becoming selfsupporting or whether it will represent a burden to be carried on the shoulders of the Commonwealth throughout future years.
– I must ask the honorable member not to deal in detail with that question.
– I think you are right, sir, tempting as the subject is. As 1 said before, the statement made by the Treasurer is most interesting, and ought to bring a grain of comfort to the States Treasurers. The honorable gentleman began by saying that the amount asked for seemed large as compared with the sum voted in the previous year. The Treasurer has gone about the country for a long time declaring this to be the meanest Government with’ which he was ever associated; and yet we find that the Commonwealth expenditure has doubled itself in the last five or six years. This year the expenditure is to be nearly £1,600,000 more than last year, an increase of over 30 per cent.
– The honorable member does not say that there has. been any extravagant expenditure?
– I say there has been a very large expenditure up to the present. I am afraid the honorable member for Calare has only one view of the very serious problem which he has in his mind ; he has only one idea, and that is to spend more money on the Departments. I tell the honorable member candidly that I have another idea. I do not think it is so much a question of the Departments being undermanned as a question of their being undermanaged ; and that is one reason why I strongly support the appointment of an independent Commission of inquiry, with the object of placing the services on a business basis. The figures of the Treasurer show some grave managerial laxity somewhere or other. Take the Department of the PostmasterGeneral,for instance, and on the preliminary page the unevenness of the figures show that there is something wrong in the management. If that be not so, how can we accountfor a proposed additional expenditure of £56,000 in New South Wales, as against only £21,000 in Victoria, £12,000 in Queensland, and £4,000 in South Australia?
– We must remember the big expansions in the business of the New South Wales Post and Telegraph business.
– But relatively there has been the same expansion in the other States, which have all shared in the benefits of the recent boom period. The idea I have just expressed is more forcibly imprinted on our minds when we look at the details. I see that in the Postal Department of New South Wales £20,000 is required for temporary assistance, as against only £5,000 in Victoria. Why the difference? There are other anomalies which seem to tell the same tale. In the happy State of Queensland, no amount is provided for temporary assistance; and there would seem to be singular freedom from all those troubles which are indicated unerringly throughout the Estimates in regard to the other States.
– Does the honorable member think that this shows that the Queensland Department is overmanned in normal times ?
– I am not suggesting anything of the kind, but. merely that the unevenness of the figures requires some explanation.
– If it is not necessary to provide for temporary hands in the Queensland Department, itshows that in normal times there must be overmanning.
– Not necessarily; it may mean that the Estimates have been properly prepared, and that ordinary and adequate foresight has been exercised in estimating the year’s requirements. We must remember that these are additional Estimates, introduced at the end of the year, and. that they represent expenditure over and above the ordinary expenditure, which itself is a large increase on that of last year.
– The complaint is that in the case of New South Wales the Treasurer disregarded the recommendations of his responsible officers.
– That may account for the present position ; but is that not a serious accusation against some branch of ‘the Public Service control ? In the case of the Post Office, the Treasurer has told us that the expenditure this year is increased by over £500,000. while the increase in the revenue is represented by only £167,000.
– It is only fair to state that that expenditure includes new works.
– The expenditure includes little more of new works than did the expenditure last year ; there are new worksevery year, and the Estimates for the new works this year are much about the same as those of last year. Of course, the trouble is that a great deal of the money voted is not, and cannot be, spent within the year, so that the Estimates are not a very reliable guide as to the actual requirements of the year. The Committee might, I think, with advantage, cut a huge slice off this item, and so try to compel the spending of the money within the year. If honorable members will cast their minds back five or six years they will find that in the case of not much more than half of the items of this kind has the money been actually spent within the year in which it was voted.
– That is because there is only about half-a-year in which to spend the money, owing to the late period at which the Estimates are passed.
– That is so, and the position all arises from our working on Supply Bills, which, again, are referable to the absence of the control of the business of Parliament by the Government of the day. We have no ordinary sessions, but enjoy a sort of perpetual motion ; and while that goes on there must be disorganization in the Departments as well as in Parliament itself. What would act as a tonic throughout the Public Service would be a restoration of the responsible control of this House on the part of Ministers. While we drift on from day to day, Ministers are in the unhappy position of having to look for a political existence a week ahead, or, sometimes, a day, with the minatory finger of the leader of the Labour Party pointed at them, as it was last night. They act from day to day with the shadow of death constantly ahead of them. It is said thatthreatened people live long, and the Ministers afford another illustration of the truth of the adage. I wish to know whether the large expenditure proposed for defence is in addition to that provided for in the Estimates-in-Chief.
– No; the defence expenditure was , removed from the EstimatesinChief to these Estimates.
– The amount now asked for is somewhat larger than that which appeared on the Estimates-in-Chief. I hope that the Minister will not spend the money while the defence scheme is still in the air. No concrete scheme has been submitted to Parliament ; we have merely the speech made by the Prime Minister, which has since been revised almost weekly. I do not think that we should be asked to vote huge sums in anticipation of the approval of a concrete defence scheme. Throughout these Estimates, especially in the Post and Telegraph Department, anomalies are. observable which- indicate unevenness of control, although it was expected that, fairly equal control would be the result of Federal administration. I find for example that twenty-three new telephone monitors, who are to be appointed in New South Wales, are to cost £1,138, or £49 10s. each ; while seventeen to be appointed in Victoria are to cost £1,320, or £7713s each. These figures require an explanation. Are these new appointments, or are they promotions?
– They are promotions.
– Similar anomalies abound,showinga lack of proper control and management, the result of which no doubt is, that the labour for which we pay is not employed to the best advantage. Those connected with the Department may be doing what they are told to do, and yet may not be doing the best work for the public, the fault being, not theirs, but due to defective administration. A business-like investigation of the affairs of the Department might show that efficiency can be obtained by re-arrangement and better management, with the appointment of very few additional hands. In the meantime, I accept the Minister’s statement that the additional assistance asked for is required. In New South Wales this year £20,000 is to be spent on temporary assistance, and no doubt other increases on the expenditure of last year will bring the amount up to more than £50,000, showing a strange lack of foresight on the part of those responsible for estimating the requirements of . the year. The sooner we have an inquiry the better, though, as Ministers do not like the subject, I shall not deal with it further now. I suspect, however, that we are not getting value for our expenditure, which this year is to be increased by £530,000, while the extra revenue amounts to only £167,000.
– A large part of the increase is for public works.
– The expenditure on public works is proportionately not much larger than that of last year. ‘ The figures show that there has been bad administration. I do not suggest that the officials are overpaid. I know that many are underpaid, and that sweating takes place ; mismanagement must be responsible for the conditions we deplore. If a larger expenditure is necessary, Parliament will not begrudge any money needed to obtain efficiency, and to give- proper conditions to its officials.; but we should know how the anomalies have arisen, and, if possible, remove them.
– Perhaps they began in New South Wales about 1894.
– Things began to be right in that year. Whatever may have happened in the other States, it is a matter of history that the administration of the Departments in New South Wales has been a record of shocking mismanagement wheneverit has fallen into the hands of the honorable member and his friends. I. urge that before large additional expenditure is undertaken, an independent investigation shall be made, so that matters may be set right. The public believes that the Department is not as efficiently managed as it should be, in view of the expenditure upon it.
– I shall not reply to, or criticise, those portions of the Treasurer’s speech which dealt with proposals to be embodied in the Surplus Revenue Bill, and shall endeavour to avoid repeating what has been said by the honorable member for Parramatta; but it is time to emphasize the fact that the reputation, not merely of Ministers, but also of Parliament and of individual members will be involved, if excessive expenditure is to obtain now, and to continue in the future. Generally speaking, the expenditure of the Commonwealth has not been, in the past, reckless or extravagant. Most of our Treasurers have recognised their responsibility to the people, and have’ stood firm, observing the proper critical attitude towards proposals for expenditure, notwithstanding the temptation to obtain popularity for their Governments by a lavish outlay throughout the constituencies. To my mind, the facts disclose in these and the Estimates-in-Chief, unfortunately, a lack of that care which should insure the preparation of fairly accurate Estimates, and a want of that prudence which should cause large increases of expenditure to be checked. What is the position? The Estimates-in-Chief prepared nearly twelve months ago, showed an increased expenditure of nearly £1,000,000 as compared with that of the previous year. I am not going to say that some part of that increase was not justifiable. Portion of it was incurred under Statutes, and, therefore, had to be provided for, no matter who held office as Treasurer. For instance, there was an increase of £294,500 in respect of the sugar bounty. That increase arose under an Act of Parliament, and the Treasurer could not be held responsible for it. Then, again, there was an increase of £6,000 in respect of salaries of Justices; £25,000 in connexion with bounties, and £15,000 for the Western Australian railway survey ; or a total of £340,500 arising under Acts of Parliament. Next we come to an increaseof £178,000 in respect of works and buildings, an increase of £61,000 in our defence expenditure in connexion with the present defence system, which is so unsatisfactory in its results, and an increase of £166,000 in connexion with new defence works. That last expenditure is to be incurred before we have settled upon the defence policy of the Commonwealth. The Estimates-in-Chief for 1907-8 also provided for an increased expenditure of £61,000 in the Postmaster’sGeneral’s Department, £20,000 in the expenditure of the Department of External Affairs, £3,000 in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, £21,000 in the Department of Home Affairs, £7,000 in the Department of the Treasury, and £35,000 in the Department of Trade and Customs, making a total increase, in round figures, of £950,000. Notwithstanding that extraordinary increase - out of all proportion to the increases of other years - we are now told at practically the end of the financial year, that there have been under-estimates, and the Government ask us to-day to make additional appropriations amounting to £571,000. Surely that is a remarkable state of affairs. Let us briefly examine the directions in which these increases occur. It- is noteworthy that they relate, not merely to special, but to the. ordinary routine expenditure of Departments. What would be the position of a Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain if he created such a situation as that with which Ave are now confronted ? I have no hesitation in saying that he would be swept from, office. It would mean that he had proposed - at a time when there was no war or any great disaster to suddenly call for increased expenditure - an increase of £25,000,000 or of £28,000,000 on the previous year’s expenditure of about £130,000,000 or £140,000,000. It would mean, farther, that after proposing that increase he requested, at the end of the year, appropriations in respect of a further increase of from £12,000,000 to £14,000,000 on the ground that he and the officers of his Department had under-estimated the expenditure for the year, and that the immense increase for which he had originally asked, and which had been reluctantly granted to him, must be supplemented by a further grant of the amount named. The illustration has only to be mentioned to enable honorable members to say, without a moment’s hesitation, what would be the result if ‘ such a proposal as this were made in the House of Commons. We ought to take stock of our position.- Are we going to agree, to these large increases without being thoroughly satisfied, not only that they are necessary, hut that they could not have been foreseen when the Estimates-in-Chief were being framed ? When the ordinary Estimates were under consideration I pointed out that they showed an increase in the routine as well as the special expenditure of every Department. I showed that, in respect of such items as postage and telegrams, printing, travelling expenses, office requisites, incidental and petty cash, there” was an increase of about £14,000 in the ordinary Estimates as compared with, those for the previous financial year. What do we find in these Additional Estimates? We find that in respect of the’ same class of expenditure, which surely could have been correctly estimated at trie beginning of the year, a further sum of £11,000 is demanded. It would seem that the Departments are getting out of hand ; that Ministers are being run by the Departments instead of the Departments being controlled by Ministers.
– Telegrams are often sent when letters would serve the purpose.
– When the Estimates-in-Chief were under consideration, I drew attention to that fact.
– Most of those matters have been investigated, and it has been found that there is nothing in the allegations.
– I am pointing out that these increases relate not only to special expenditure - or that which is over and above the ordinary maintenance of the Departments - but to the .routine management of the Departments, and apart altogether from new offices. It is high time, not merely for the Government and the Treasurer, but for honorable members generally, to look to their reputation in respect of the financing of the Commonwealth. If this state of affairs is permitted to continue, the reputation of the Parliament as the custodian of the finances of the Commonwealth will experience a heavy fall, and the people must become dissatisfied. Then there is other heavily increased expenditure which wholly outstrips the increased revenue. I recognise that, as population increases, our expenditure must go up, and that increased expenditure must be incurred in the collection of additional revenue. The Treasurer has told us that these increases will not be confined to what has been described as a “boom” year, but that further increases will be proposed next year.
– At the same time, he anticipates a decreasing revenue.
– That is so.
– Only in the case of the Customs revenue.
– The Customs Department is our great source of revenue.
– But as compared with others it is not a great spending Department.
– It is not,; but the expenditure in connexion with the routine work of the Department of Trade and Customs shows an increase.
– There must necessarily be a large increase whilst Parliament is passing a Tariff. For instance, an enormous expenditure must be incurred in sending telegrams all over the Commonwealth in respect ofevery Tariff change.
– It is only reasonable to assume thatthe new Tariff must involve increased expenditure, and the increased expenditure of the Department of Trade and Customs is to some extent justified by its increased revenue. On the other hand, the increased expenditure of some of the Departments bears no relation to their increased revenue or the work done in connexion with them. In such cases Ministers should see that the expenditure is not increased unless good reason can be given. On the original Estimates, as compared with those for the previous year, we were asked to grant an increase amounting to 20 per cent. We did so, and now we have submitted to us Additional Estimates providing for a further expenditure of £571,000, or practically a further increase of 10 per cent. We ought to take steps to prevent these abnormal and, what threaten to be, continuous increases. Then, again, we. are asked to vote - and I think, that there is an ulterior object in view in respect of some of these increases - certain sums, such as that for works and buildings, which cannot possibly be incurred this year. It is also proposed to appropriate £280,000 for defence purposes under a scheme of which we have not yet approved. I do not think that we ought to vote those amounts. I recognise that there may be an ulterior object in view, but it seems to me that our expenditure is so abnormal that if we can reasonably reduce the amount appropriated we ought to do so. If in the Postal Department we could point to any equally exceptional “ jump “ in the revenue there might be good reason for approving without objec tion the increased expenditure proposed. We know perfectly well that in a Department such as the Post Office a certain proportion of increased revenue must go in expenditure. But when in one year we are asked to authorize such an enormous increase in the expenditure - leaving out of consideration the works and buildings connected with the Department- that it far outstrips the revenue - notwithstanding that the increased expenditure ought to be less than the increased revenue-
– So it is over a period of five years.
– But I am dealing with the expenditure for one year.
– If the Department obtained 10,000new telephone subscribers and the work of connecting them with the various exchanges cost five times the amount of their annual subscription, would the honorable member refuse to connect them because the telephone revenue would not immediately respond to the outlay.
– I quite recognise that that might occur. But I hold that the expenditure ought to increase in a less ratio than the revenue. It seems to me that we cannot possibly justify the enormous increase in the ‘expenditure during the past two years - that is, if the Department was previously ‘conducted upon anything approaching proper lines.
– The Department has been seriously undermanned.
– No doubt. But considering that the members of the service got through their work-
– As a matter of fact they did not, because work has been accumulating for years.
– At any rate, they did their work nearly as well as they are doing it this year.
– These Estimates provide for construction works which have remained in abeyance for want of hands to carry them on.
– If the Postmaster-General will separate that construction work from these Estimates he will find that a tremendous increase has taken place in the ordinary departmental expenditure. It may be necessary to employ an army to clean the place up-
– It is not a question of cleaning up, but of construction.
– I am alluding to expenditure other than upon construction works. This tremendous increase of expenditure occurred during one year. That fact seems toargue that in the past there must have been a lack of provision for the work which had then to be done.
– I admit that.
– Consequently there was mismanagement. Under normal circumstances there ought not to be this enormously and suddenly increased expenditure. I am not reflecting upon the Postmaster-General, nor upon any of his individual predecessors. But the Commonwealth Government must accept responsibility for having created this situation. The enormously increased expenditure for one year cannot bejustified without admitting mismanagement in past years.
– As a matter of fact, it dates back ten or twelve years.
– The fact remains that routine work is not merely costing more than it did in the EstimatesinChief for the current year, but we are now asked to authorize the expenditure of considerable additional sums for such work. In short, we are bringing Commonwealth finance into a position which is not creditable to those conducting it, and which will not be satisfactory to the people of the States. I do hope that some effort will be made by Ministers and by the Parliament to re-establish our credit - as regards financial management - with the people of Australia. If we continue to allow our expenditure to increase - not merely in reference to special items, but also in reference to routine work - we must bring ourselves and our financial management into disrepute.
.- I do not think that any good purpose will be served by debating these’ Estimates at length, because, of the total sum. appropriated, the amount which will be expended depends entirely upon the passing of a Bill with which we shall be asked to deal later. Of the £571,028 proposed to be expended under these Estimates, £411,282 represents additions, new works and buildings, including £284,050 for proposed defence expenditure. I should be glad to know whether the Treasurer thinks it likely that the amounts which it is proposed to appropriate in connexion with the various Departments will be expended during the current financial year? For instance, under the Department of Home Affairs, an expenditure of £63,822 is proposed. From my experience of that Department, there is not the slightest possibility of that money being expended before the 30th June next. We know perfectly’ well that after works have been authorized many months elapse before they are commenced. In my own electorate, the erection of two post offices has been sanctioned, but work is only now being commenced, although we are almost at the close , of the financial year. Then, in the Postmaster- General’s Department, it is proposed to expend £63,410.
– I am informed that most of that money has been spent.
– How can it be expended ? The Department could not have commenced works unless money had been appropriated for the purpose.
– I know that I have suppliedmoney out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account to enable works to be undertaken.
– Then, in connexion with the Defence Department, an expenditure of £284,050 is proposed. That, I contend, will not be spent before the close of the financial year. In fact, these amounts appear to have been placed upon the Estimates only for one purpose - in order that the expenditure having been authorized by Parliament, they may be transferred to a trust account and be available for expenditure at some future time.
– To be spent anyhow ?
– The bulk of the £63,410 which it is proposed to appropriate in connexion with the Postal Department has been paid from the Treasurer’s Advance Account, and the total estimated savings on the whole Estimates, which amount to £300,000, are included in the £427,000 whichwill be repaid to the States, if it is not reserved for some other purpose.
– Will not the underdrafts be transferred from one item to another in the ordinary way?
– The savings are in- ‘ cluded in the £427,000, which is the balance over and above the three-fourths of the Customs revenue to which the States are entitled under the Constitution.
– I shall be very much surprised if the Postmaster-General expends all the money which it is proposed to appropriatefor new works and buildings during the current financial year.
-The Department could expend £26,000 more if it could get it.
– I suppose that the erection of post offices is not included in this amount?
– It covers the cost of undergrounding telegraph and telephone wires, the establishment of exchanges, and the installation of switchboards.
– I quite agree with the Treasurer that it is necessary to keep a very strict watch over expenditure of the Postal Department. It appears to me that those in authority are not competent to spend all’ this money in view of the knowledge which they possess. Most of them have never travelled very far from where their offices are situated. The head of the Post and Telegraph Department has, I believe, never been in Western Australia
– He has travelled practically all over the world.
– I should like him to travel over Australia. I do not want him to travel all over the world, except to get knowledge. The immense demands made on the Treasury during the last year in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department certainly deserve the careful scrutiny of honorable members ; and the sooner we have a Royal Commission, oran inquiry by a competent authority, the better for the country. I am certainly not satisfied with the present control of the expenditure of these immense sums of money. ‘ I do not say anything of the Minister, because he is new to the office, and it would be unreasonable to expect him to closely supervise every act of administration all over the continent. The honorable gentleman has not time to visit every place, even if it were necessary to do so, owing to a system of circumlocution which requires his attention to innumerable petty details. I hope, however, that the Postmaster-General will take steps to relieve himself of this unnecessary detail work, and be left free to devote himself to the larger questions which confront him. The Treasurer knows that I do not desire to be unfriendly, politically or otherwise, but I say, again, that the object he has in view, in asking for these two sums of £63,000 and £284,000 is to place that money aside under some power which he hopes to have given him, so that he may deal with it at some future time, in such manner as Parliament may approve, and keep it back from distribution among the States as intended by the Constitution.
– That does not apply to the £63,000.
– I am sure that if this . £63,000 is intended for buildings, the Treasurer will not be able to spend it this year.
– The Secretary to the Treasury tells me that most of that money has already been advanced and spent.
– If the Treasurer looks into the matter, he will find that the money voted for works and buildings in the Estimates-in-Chief, the Supplementary Estimates, and the Estimates now before us, cannot by anymeans be spent, simply because many of the works have not yet been begun, including several in my own State. The Treasurer has told us that last year the Commonwealth returned to the States not only three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, but, in addition, £805,000, whereas this year only the three-fourths of the revenue is to be returned. I deeply regret that, almost at the end of the ten years period - the Braddon provision - the Government should desire to institute a new system. Whatever may be the legal view of the question - and I believe it will be found to be against the action proposed by the Government - there can be no doubt whatever as to the moral view, or as tothe intention of those who framed the Constitution. However, Mr. Chairman, you have ruled that we must not now deal with the proposed Surplus Revenue Bill ; and I shall have something to say on the matter at the proper time. I altogether disapprove of passing votes of large sums of money which there is no likelihood or intention of spending. All that we ought to do is to vote such sums as are likely to be expended during the financial year, and I submit that the proposal in regard to the , £284,000 for defence material is as irregular as it is unprecedented.In the whole course of my parliamentary experience, I have never heard of a Government, in the eleventh month in the year, asking Parliament to vote a large sum like this. It would be far better for the Government to embody such a proposal in the schedule of the Surplus Revenue Bill, or, in some other way, seek the approval of Parliament for placing the money to a trust account. The Audit Act provides that if any money be not spent within the financial year, the vote shall lapse, and a re-vote be necessary ; and I hope, therefore, that the Committee will not approve of this vote of £284,000 being placed to a trust account. I hope that,even now, the Treasurer will realize that the course he proposes is, as I have said, unprecedented and irregular.
– A glance through the Additional Estimates makes it clear thatthe Minister has more in view than is expressed in the schedule. There is provided £3,500 for a trawler and a launch, althoughthere is not the remotest’ likelihood of these vessels being ready for another six months.
– The launch will, I think, be ready before then.
– We are told that only the frames of the vessel and launch are on. the stocks at Mort’s Dock; and, therefore, some months must elapse before they will be completed.
– If the money is not voted this year, it will have to be voted next year out of a falling revenue.
– There is no reason why the money should not be revoted next year.
– But it would have to be voted out of a falling revenue.
– The Minister’s object is,’ by appropriating money now, to prevent it passing into the hands of the States Treasurers, and in thenext financial year to attach the surpluses and deposit the same to the credit of a trust account. The honorable gentleman has, in his mind, something which I can only hint at, namely, an old-age pension scheme ; and he is accumulatingthesefunds with a view to that end. But if Parliament thinks that an old-age pensionscheme is a good thing, Parliament must find the money to provide for it.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that question now.
– I merely refer to it as illustrating the growing system of appropriating large sums of money, which Ministers know cannot’ be spent during ‘ the financial year. This, I regard as unsound financing, because, if Parliament authorizes an old-age pension scheme, Parliament must, as I said before, find the ways and means. The Treasurer is very plausible in his desire to avoid voting money out of a falling revenue next year ; and he has proposed a shrewd way of making sure of the means. The States ought to have the revenue which has already been collected for them.
– The States will get their three-fourths.
– But the States have received, hitherto, more than the three-fourths, and the Treasurers have based their calculations accordingly. It seemsmethat a bad commencement wasmade, but it is now too late in the day toalter the system, unless Parliament sanctions such an alteration.
– The States have no claim on the money.
– They have a claim on it if it is not appropriated, and it is proposed to appropriate it forworks which we know cannot be completed within the financial year. We are proposing to appropriate it for one purpose, but are really putting it aside for another.
– Even if that be so, is not the purpose a good one?
– Without bind ing myself to support any legislation which may be introduced, 1 admit that the purpose is a good one.
– But we should notresort to a subterfuge to achieve it.
– That is so. If it were possible to have the proposedworks carried out with such expedition that the money could be spent during the present financial year, there would be no need to appoint a Commission. It is because the Departments are incapable of keeping pace with the requirements of the country that a Commission of investigation is necessary.. In connexion with all the Departments, expenditure is proposed which cannot be carried out during the financial year.
– I have mentioned the amount of the probable total saying. It: is included in the surplus of £427,000 towhich I have referred. £160,000 has been paid from the Treasurer’s Advance Account to enable works to be carried on.
– Many worksare now being proceeded with ; but the Minister knows that their expedition does not depend on him, since all the arrangements are intrusted to States officials,who will move slowly, in accordance with departmental traditions, push them as he may. We have not the material here to enable much of the proposed expenditure on telegraphs and telephones to be made.
-We cannot get the material without the money.
– The Government are. not called upon to pay for goods until they have purchased them. Recently J asked the Postmaster-General whether large quantifies of telephone wire were not condemned and sold ‘at auction in New South Wales at a loss to the Department. I was promised a reply within a clay or two, but have not yet received one, and have done nothing in the matter, because Iknow that there must have been a loss. Wire which should have been used for the erection of telegraph lines has been used for fencing. But it is not fair or business-like to vote money, nominally for one purpose, to be ear-marked and passed into a trust fund for another purpose. Indeed, it is a corrupt arrangement. The Treasurer would not conduct his private business in that way. He is proposing to deceive the people, to provide for expenditure under a measure which has not yet been presented to Parliament.
– The Surplus Revenue Bill is on the table.
– I am referring to the Old-age Pensions Bill.
– I think that that Bill is ready, too.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the payment of old-age pensions ?
– Of course not. I would go much further in that matter than the Government is likely to go, though I do not think that there should be two sets of legislation dealing with the one subject.
– I askthe honorable member not to discuss the matter.
– I do not propose to do so. Ministers are trying to entrap me : but I have been committed for a Song time to the payment of old-age pensions. At the same time, certain things have to be undone before other things can be done. In my opinion there is an immense amount of leakage and waste in the expenditure of the Departments. The Minister said that he has been sitting tight on the Treasury chest; but, as a matter of fact he is too generous, and has been off the chest as often as a hen is off her eggs.
– A hen always manages to hatch her eggs.
– Sometimes she addles them, and I am afraid that the Minister will addlehis proposals. On these Estimates there is a sum of £2,701 for expenditure in connexion with Parliament. I maybe told that the money is needed to pay for lighting, ventilation, sewering, and other services. But is the Government justified in keeping us perpetually in ses sion? This is the most expensive Parliament in the Commonwealth.
– Then why does the honorable member talk so much?
– For weeks I have said as little as possible. During the first discussion of the Tariff there had to be a fight; but afterwards we could only compromise, and make the best terms we could get. If our sessions were shorter, the cost of Parliament would be less. We have passed a standing order enabling a member who is speaking at such length as to be a nuisance to be silenced. I voted for that standing order, and should be willing to have it applied to’ myself were I making myself a nuisance, and should vote for its application to others, though not so readily. The Treasurer has been off the Treasury chest so often, and has been “ got at “ so many’ times, that the expenditure of the Departments is immense.
– Has the honorable member “ got at “ me?
– I do not thinkso. If the Treasurer had not given others more than he has given to me, matters would be all right.
– I have given the honorable member all that he asked for.
– When I think that a request is justifiable, I fight for it ; otherwise I am content merely to submit it. I do not get much more than I am entitled to, and may get less. Perhaps, when I sit on the Government side of the chamber, I shall get more. The Minister is an extravagant Treasurer. Were he running a private business, he would not allow the expenditure of large sums to be covered by the entry “ Petty cash.” The amount of leakage under that heading is always great; but in the public Departments it runs into immense sums. The PostmasterGeneral asks for supplementary votes totalling £107,720.
– When men are appointed, I have to find money to pay them.
– Why was not the expenditure foreseen and incorporated in the Estimates-in-Chief? The Department is now on its trial, and is this extra expenditure to be made before the result of the investigation is known?
– We should not expend anything on the Department for two years to come if we were to wait for the result of the inquiry.
– That is not so. We are asked to agree to an increase of £1 07,000 in respect of the current financial year, which is almost at an end. This expenditure cannot possibly be incurred before the year closes. As an unexpended balance, it will indirectly assist ‘ to swell the trust funds, and so enable the Treasurer to finance other legislation which he has in view. We could provide in another way for the_ expenditure necessary under such legislation, and I hold that these amounts should be allowed to lapse since Parliament will have no hesitation in re-voting them if satisfied that the expenditure should be incurred. I do not think that the Treasurer has exercised the care that he should display in connexion with the expenditure of the Commonwealth. He has been off the Treasurychest when he should have been sitting firmly upon it. I trust that he will be more careful and not be prepared in future to incur such heavy expenditure.
– The honorable member for Robertson has complained that the Treasurer has not sat as firmly on the Treasury chest as he ought to have done. I can only conclude that the honorable member’s electorate has been more favoured than has mine, for in that part of New South Wales which I represent, there has been a great outcry regarding the delay more particularly in the extension of postal and telegraphic facilities tu isolated districts. The denial of those facilities has caused people to complain with good reason that the Treasurer has sat too firmly on the Treasury chest. I sympathize with him in his desire to keep down expenditure, and shall always be prepared to assist him in preventing anything in the nature of extravagance. I would remind him, however, that a . cheeseparing policy invariably leads, in the end, to extravagance, and to the disorganization of Departments. One reason why the Department of the Postmaster-General is in an unsatisfactory condition is that, at the beginning of the year, provision was not made for the expenditure necessary to enable its functions to be extended in directions to which the Postmaster-General had given his sanction. That is not the sole ground, but it is one of the chief causes for the complaint made against the Department. To my mind the administration itself is at fault. A great deal, of the difficulty that has arisen in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department has been caused by bad management. For that reason, amongst others, I have been urging on the Govern- ment the appointment of a Commission to investigate the working of the Department, and to place before the House such a plain unbiased statement of facts as will enable it to determine where the trouble really lies. I should not be within my rights in giving, at this stage, a detailed statement of my reasons for believing that the Department is mismanaged, but I do not wish to do an injustice to any one in making that assertion. My inquiries lead me to believe that the heads ;of the Depart- . ment’ in New South Wales are free from responsibility for mismanagement. The mismanagement, to my mind, is due largely to the fact that from the inception of Federation the Government have centralized in Melbourne most of their functions, and that the central administra tion here is not fully seized with the needs of the outlying parts of the Commonwealth. These Additional Estimates amply bear out the contention as to the tendency of the Treasurer to starve the expenditure of the Departments. The only reason he has given for his action is that he does not want to be known hereafter as “ the spendthrift Treasurer.”
– Has he not also said that the confusion in the Post and Telegraph Department has given rise, to much ot the trouble which exists in connexion with it?
– He has helped to create that confusion by refusing lo provide the Department with the money necessary to enable it to efficiently carry oh its work. The Treasurer says that he does not wish to lay himself open to -a charge of extravagance. Whilst it is certainly desirable that he should not do so, it is equally desirable that he should be known as an efficient administrator- as an administrator capable of looking ahead and providing for the legitimate needs’ of the several Departments. The gravamen of the charge made against him is that he has denied to departmental heads the funds necessary to enable them to carry, on their work effectively, and in that way has prevented the electors of the Commonwealth from obtaining the facilities to which they are entitled. If the money so saved were kept within the control of the Commonwealth there might be some excuse for the position taken up by the Treasurer. But he seems to have been endeavouring to effect savings merely to provide increased amounts for the Treasurers of the States to expend. Whilst the control of expenditure exercised by some of the States Treasurers has been exemplary, that cannot be said of the administration of the -States Treasurers generally. The more extravagant a Treasurer is the more he wants’ to expend, and the ‘honorable gentleman will find the most vigorous complaints coming from those States Treasurers who have been most improvident. That being so, his policy is not likely to commend itself to the electors. The complaints in regard to the cutting down of expenditure have centred chiefly round the Post and Telegraph Department, which has a most important bearing upon the electors of the Commonwealth. What is the position in New South Wales? We find that for. many months important works and mail services, as well as telephone and telegraphic extensions, recommended by the Deputy Postmaster-General of that .State, and approved by the Ministerial head of the Department, have been held up. It must not be forgotten that such extensions are not sanctioned until careful inquiry shows that’ there is a prospect of an immediate return of revenue, and of their ultimately becoming payable concerns. Despite those safeguards, works that were recommended and approved some months ago have not yet been carried out. Those interested in them have been inquiring the reason for the delay, and have had to be informed by “the postal authorities in Sydney that it has been owing to the failure to provide the necessary funds. The Treasurer has endeavoured in some cases to meet the difficulty by means of advances from the Treasurer’s Advance Account. I contend, however, that such expenditure should not be provided for out of that account. It “is expenditure that can be foreseen and proVision should have been made for it in the Estimates-in-Chief. Had that been done the trouble which the Government have experienced would have been avoided,- and there would not -have been complaints as to the denial of facilities which should have been granted some time’ ago.
– It is evident that some of the States rights party do not desire the Federal Government to spend money in these directions ; they want the money to be handed over to the States Governments to expend.
– I shall noi discuss that question now. Every oric familiar with the conditions under which the Post and Telegraph Department has been endeavouring to carry on will recognise that they are not in the interests of the Commonwealth nor of the people primarily concerned. Such a ‘policy should be terminated as speedily as possible. Listening to some of the statements from the Opposition side of the House as to the extravagance of the Treasurer, one would imagine that the chief complaint against the honorable gentleman is that he is asking for an appropriation of £284,000 in respect of defence expenditure which cannot be incurred during the present financial year. I wish to tell the Committee that the chief complaint against the Treasurer is that he cut clown the expenditure of the Departments when the Estimates-in-Chief were being framed, and that he has left them in a starved condition. The consequence is that many people in isolated parts of the Commonwealth have been denied postal and telegraphic facilities which they should have enjoyed whilst the earning capacity of that Department has been considerably limited. Whilst’ the States have benefited under the Treasurer’s policy members of the States Parliaments are complaining of the disadvantages under which the electors are suffering because of his curtailment of legitimate expenditure. Representatives of State electorates comprised in the Federal’ constituency of Calare have written to me on the subject. I hold in my hand a communication tearing upon this matter, which is typical of hundreds of others. It appears that early last, year the Government approved of the establishment of a telephone exchange in the town of Molong. A sufficient number of subscribers was forthcoming, and all preparations were made for carrying out the work. So far, however, the undertaking has been “ hung up,” owing to the refusal of the Treasurer to make the necessary funds available. A few days ago I received . the following letter from the gentleman who represents that district in the New South Wales Parliament -
Dear Sir, - Will you shake the Postal Department up re our Molong town telephonic exchange. I paid £4 in November or December last with my application for connexion, and I believe that several others did likewise, but up to now not a step has been taken to erect the poles and instal the system. The Department has had mv ^4 for six months or more.
How can our Postal administration be satisfactory when such conditions obtain? Nevertheless, I think that if we put all the blame upon the . Postmaster- General we shall be saddling the wrong individual with responsibility. In my opinion, the Treasurer is responsible for this condition of affairs. The Postmaster-General has done his best to secure telephonic facilities for the citizens of Molong, but his hands have been tied, because the Treasurer has iefused to supply the money requisite to carry out this revenue-producing work, ls it any wonder that the Commonwealth is getting into disrepute amongst the citizens of the States?
– Does the honorable member think that by turning a handle I can produce sovereigns or notes ?
– The Treasurer should have made proper provision for these works in the Estimates-in-Chief, and thus have obviated the necessity for submitting Additional Estimates.
– Of my own volition I should have practically doubled the expenditure at the beginning of the year. The honorable member is talking nonsense.
– I presume that the Treasurer was informed by the Postmaster-General that these works had been approved, and that provision should be made for them.
– At the commencement of the year I was not so informed.
– Then I must saddle the Postal Department with the responsibility in this connexion. No criticism on the part. of the States Treasurers can so effectually discredit Commonwealth administration as the sort of thing to which I have alluded. The state of affairs’ which obtains in country districts is a disgrace to those who are responsible for it, and the sooner we ascertain who is responsible the better. I do not wish to traverse the statement made by the Treasurer at length, but I consider that he is making a fatal mistake in attempting to build up a reputation as an economic administrator by starving the Departments, and by refusing to supply the necessary funds to enable urgent public works to be undertaken. He ought, rather, to watch the legitimate expenditure of the Departments, and to make provision for it.
– If I were to do what the honorable member suggests, I should not have half enough money.
– I do not ask’ for any special concession. I contend that it is the Treasurer’s duty to provide money for works which have already been approved. Yet the carrying out. of these works is frequently deferred for months, owing to his refusal to make the requisite financial provision. Under the guise of preventing extravagant expenditure I shall not countenance starving the Departments and denying to the public reasonable facilities to which they are entitled.
.- It appears to me rather unusual that we should be asked to. authorize the expenditure of more than £500,000 in the form ot Additional Estimates. It evidences one of two things : either that we are now making an extraordinary effort to redeem ourselves from the charge of having starved the various Departments, or we are becoming extremely reckless at the close of the current financial year. The case cited by the honorable member for Calare is not one which is peculiar to his own constituency. As a matter of fact, many important public works have been “ hung up “ owing to insufficient money being provided upon the Estimates-in-Chief, despite the fact that their remunerative character has been amply demonstrated. In this connexion, I might instance the erection of a telephone line between Coolgardie and Norseman. Whilst the Government have deliberately refused to proceed with that work, the Western Australian Government have deemed the prospects of Norseman to be sufficiently encouraging to justify them in constructing a railway between those two centres.
– I cannot get an expenditure of £15 incurred to enable a post-office to be painted.
- X think that I am citing an instance of departmental parsimony which is even more convincing. So impressed are the Government of Western Australia with the prospects of Norsemen that they have actually constructed a line of railway half the distance between that centre and Coolgardie, and the balance will be completed as soon as possible.
– I suppose that that railway is being built out of borrowed money ?
– I believe that a loan was raised for the purpose. Does the Treasurer think that an unusual course in Australia?
– But the Commonwealth does not borrow.
– I should like to know what bearing that fact has upon the refusal of the Government to erect a telephone line between Coolgardie and Norseman?
– How much is the railway costing per mile?
– Probably about £1,400, and there are about 100 miles to bo traversed. The telephone connexion would cost a few hundreds. But the Government willingly grant telephonic communication between Melbourne and Sydney without asking for any guarantee in connexion with that undertaking. I do not favour reckless extravagance, and the Treasurer may rely on my assistance in the investigation of the merits of any case submitted. It appears to me, however, that the great cities, in the matter of postal, telegraphic and telephonic facilities, are given consideration which is denied to the outlying portions of Australia ; and in the future I hope there will be no differentiation in this connexion. The people out-back are doing service of considerable value in the maintenance of the cities ; and it is to be hoped that the latter will not forget the fact. I shall not now refer in detail to the items in the Estimates before us, but merely point out that the States which can reasonably claim to be the most necessitous in the way of postal and similar facilities, appear to be left out in the cold. Whereas the sum proposed to be expended under the control of the PostmasterGeneral for. new works is £21,000 in New South Wales, £3,800 in Victoria, £2,000 in Queensland,and £9,000 in South Australia, there is no provision whatever made in the case of Western Australia; and it is this disregard of the interests of the public, and also of the officers of the Department, that led me to support the proposal of the honorable member for Gwydir for an investigation. I do not think that the proposed expenditure, even at the. eleventh hour, will removethe necessity there is for a thorough inquiry into the whole administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. On a previous occasion I referred to what is, in my opinion, the unfair treatment of the postal officials who are stationed in districts in Western Australia where the climatic and other conditions are far from satisfactory. When this Department was taken over by the Commonwealth there was a considerable reduction in the allowances paid to officers in the outlying portions of that State. The basis on which the allowances were computed was that Perth stands to Western Australia as Melbourne does to Victoria, and, therefore, no special consideration wasgiven in the case of officers stationed in Perth and immediate neighbourhood. After some agitation on the part of the officers, who demonstrated that the cost of living in Perth is 5 per cent. above that of living in ‘Melbourne, the Public Service Commissioner granted them an allowance in that proportion. The officers on the gold-fields now say that, as their allowance was computed on the basis that Perth stands in relation to Western Australia as Melbourne does to Victoria, they are now entitled to extra consideration - that is, to a proportionate increase in their allowance.
– In one or two cases it is as high as 50 per cent.
– Then these must be cases of messengers, and so forth, at £40 a year. The whole details can be ascertained on referring to the classification of officers as set forth in the report of the Public Service Commissioner; and on salaries of £200, the allowance is, I think, 15 per cent. on the first £100, and 5 per cent. on all over that amount. Thegreat bulk, however, are men receiving from £140 to £160 a year, and in their case the allowance means from £16 to £18. That is by no means reasonable, considering the disabilities under which these men and their families live - far away from civilization, or, at any rate, from great centres of population. These allowances were made on the assumption that the cost of living in Perth is as cheap as in Melbourne, but, in my opinion, the cost of living in the former city is at least 10 per cent. higher, particularly since the new Tariff came into operation. Under thecircumstances, it would be only just to grant to the officials on the gold-fields and other outlying places an additional 5 per cent. ; and I think I convinced the Postmaster-General as to this when I previously discussed the question.
– I. am quite with the honorable member.
– When the small official is in question, the Government put the responsibility on the Public Service Commissioner, but when the highly-paid man is concerned as in the case of Mr. Oxenham, the matter is taken entirely out of the hands of the Commissioner.
– The Government will not give satisfaction to Parliament, or to the people, by endeavouring to relieve themselves of the responsibility. I admit that the Public Service Commissioner has some power, but that power is limited by the votes passed by this Parliament ; and if a vote for the special purpose I have indicated were passed, I do not think the
Commissioner would be likely to take a contrary view.
– I do not interfere with or question any’ expenditure made under a vote ; I only interfere when expenditure is proposed which isnot covered by a vote.
– I should like to know from the Treasurer whether he is prepared to see that a vote is proposed for the purpose I have indicated. I recognise the difficulty of having the matter dealt with in these Estimates, but the Estimates for the next financial year are not far off ; and if I have an assurance from the Treasurer that he will consider the matter, with the object of making provision in those Estimates, I shall have achieved all thatIcan though not all that I desire, unless the Treasurer will pay the amount out of his Advance Account.
.- The condition of affairs in the Post and Telegraph Department, which has called forth from the honorable member for Calare some hostile criticism, appears to be very unfortunate. I feel that it would be wrong to place on the shoulders of this PostmasterGeneral, or any particular PostmasterGeneral, the blame for the present state of affairs; but I cannot help saying that on the shoulders of the Ministry there does rest an amount of blame that they have not, as yet, shown any active disposition to rid themselves of. The honorable member for Calare said something about the Treasurer’s refusal to place at the disposal of the PostmasterGeneral such moneys as are necessary for the more efficient administration of the Department ; and I most emphatically say that had the Treasurer made himself familiar with thestate of things, which is perfectly well known to almost every adult citizen of the Commonwealth, he would have done something long before now. The honorable gentleman’s attention has perhaps been so distracted by his most praiseworthy efforts to understand and perform the duties of the various Ministerial offices to which he transfers himself that he is a little in doubt as to where he really is. .
– He has appointed himself Supervisor-General of the Departments.
– I do not know whether the honorable gentleman is a Poo Bah, but, at all events, he does the business very well ; and if he could only tear himself away from those fascinating financial prob lems, which no doubt weary, not only himself, but other people, and give some attention to the Post and Telegraph Department, we might have, some good results. In the meantime things are in a very bad way. There are in Sydney quite a number of persons whoare continually asking me, amongst others, why this state of things is permitted to go on. The position of affairs inthe General Post Office there - and I speak of Sydney because I know something about it - is anarchy, tempered by bureaucracy. I do not know whether it is the Minister, the Secretary to the Department, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Mr. Hesketh, or some other official who is to blame; but I am quite persuaded that it would be to the interest of the Commonwealth for some one to take a long holiday, and to allow the Department an opportunity to recover Itself. No one interviews Ministers and departmental heads less frequently than I do. But whenever I visit an official, he tells me very politely, and with an air of great regret, that he can do nothing, since Mr. . So-and-so is the only man who can move in the matter. If an office boy or messenger is needed for the post-office in Georgestreet West, an application has to be sent to the Deputy Postmaster-General, and by him from one to another, until it. reaches the Secretary to the Post-Office, who sits on it in masterly fashion, and in due time hatches out a monstrous pile of correspondence, and, finally, when the matter is settled, the boy has passed into decrepitude and old age. Officialdom regards this as the proper and natural procedure which cannot be improved, each official seeming to look upon some other as the blot on the Administration without whom all would go well. I do not pose in the matter as another Daniel come to. judgment; for I shrewdly suspect, that all are workingin an environment which contaminates and spoils them.
– Is this a picture of Socialism ?
– If the honorable member really wishes to know anything - he rarely does, since he thinks that he knows everything - my reply is that this is a picture of the condition of things over which he presided some years ago, and, so far as . I know, did nothing to remedy, although he has criticised it ever since. However, I am dealing, not with the man who isthe cause of it, but with the possibility of improvement.
– The honorable member is showing that he knows nothing about it.
– That leaves me practically untrammelled. The honorable member is an Admirable Crichton, who roams through all philosophy and all knowledge, speakingon every subject with an equal degree of accuracy and interest; but, unfortunately, there are other members of the Committee who think that they cannot earn their parliamentary allowance unless they sit here and listen to him.. Personally, I cannot be charged with doing so; though, in listening to my speech now, he may be brought to realize the condition of mind to which he so frequently reduces others.
– The honorable member does not listen to me, because he is busy stating the case for labour elsewhere - at a good fee.
– It is better to state the case for labour than to desert it.
– The honorable member deserted it long ago, in everything but name.
– The honorable member has done nothing for labour but betray it.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the item.
– The honorable member for Parratmatta should not be permitted to make interjections. He is never satisfied unless he is the focus of attention; and the audience to which each speaker is addressing his remarks.
– It is a pity that the honorable member does not know how to behave himself.
– My advice to the honorable member is to die. That is the only thing which I think he could do decently ; and it is an act which every man in the country would applaud.
– You are a dirty little rat.
– I have never understood until now why the Trappists impose silence as a primary rule of their monastic establishments, though I have often been sorry that the honorable member’s religious predilections have not permitted him to join the order.
– This is how the honorable member earns his money.
– I shall be very much obliged if the honorable gentleman will let me get on with my speech.
– You are an abusive little rat.
– When I see the honorable member, whoresembles Shakspeare in appearance very much, the controversy as to whether Shakspeare or Bacon wrote the plays attributed to the former comes into my mind. I am inclined to think that there is a good deal in the theories of the Baconians, for the honorable member grunts a good deal, and is certainly a very great bore.
– What has this to do with the Estimates?
– If I am to be interrupted in this unmannerly way-
– The honorable member must confine himself to the item.
– If it is disorderly to compare an honorable member with Shakspeare or Bacon, I apologize to both.
– The honorable member would make a fine bust.
– Coming back to the Sydney General Post Office, I say that things there are almost intolerable. Many men are working under conditions which are nearly hopeless, without a prospect ofamelioration. Their hours are long, their pay small, their opportunities for promotion almost farcical, and, as the suggestions of the Postmaster-General for adequately manning the Department have not been adopted by the Treasurer, matters are daily becoming worse.. The PostmasterGeneral, however, has showed such readiness to rectify one grievance about which I complained to him, that it is only fair I should mention it. The letter carriers of New South Wales who use horses - and perhaps those of the other States - are paid a forage allowance of, I think, as. per diem, but some bright genius conceived the brilliant idea of effecting economy by stopping this allowance when the men were onholidays, thinking, I suppose, that when the horses were not being worked they would not need to be fed. But as there is no decent man who would not himself go without a mealrather than that his horse should go hungry, the holidays, instead of being a source of pleasure to the unfortunate letter carriers, are the very reverse. I am informed that it is now proposed to alter the regulation. This is very good so far as it goes, but it is but a drop in the bucket ; and, as the representative of a number of postal employe’s, I cannot rest content without a detailed statement from the Treasurer as to what he intends to do.
– He may shortly be out of office.
– 1 shall be sorry to see him leave office before he has done what I wish to be done. My constituents are continually reminding me of a state of affairs which T know to be little short of disgraceful, and the fact that it has existed for some time is no reason why it should not be remedied at once.
Silting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When we adjourned for dinner, I was pointing out that the conditions prevailing in the Sydney General -Post Office are the result of undermanning and of the undue employment of temporary hands, as well as of the rigid and unjust regulations governing promotion. I shall not deal further with that phase of the question except to say that, in my opinion, action should be taken without delay to put an end to such conditions. I now wish to make a few remarks with reference to the telephone system, so far as I know it, in Sydney. The general consensus of opinion in that city to-day is that the telephone system is most unsatisfactory. Whether, that. branch of the Department is undermanned, I do not know ; but I do know that if is almost impossible to do business- on the telephone. The insulation is so defective that when one secures a connexion through two branch lines it is’ with the utmost difficulty that one can carry on any conversation with the party at the other end of the wire. I can with ease hear a ‘person speaking from Melbourne or Newcastle to’ Sydney, so that the matter.’ of distance has no bearing on this question ; but when recently I rang up Rockdale from Sydney, and called my daughter, who has very acute hearing, she found it utterly impossible to clearly distinguish, one word that was said. If that were a rare occurrence, it might be passed ; but it is the usual condition of things.. Then, again, when one gets a number, one is liable without any cause to be cut’ off in the middle of a conversation. The explanation obtained as the result of a complaint is of the most perfunctory and unsatisfactory character, and a statement of a grievance certainly does not result in the non-recurrence of the offence. A Department which exists primarily to enable people at a distance to communicate with ease should make an effort to provide satis factory means enabling them to do so. I have heard it said that the telegraphic and mail branches of the Sydney General Post Office are being neglected in order that the telephonic branch of the Department may be developed. If this be so, the result, so far as the latter branch is concerned, is certainly not at all satisfactory. I am sorry that the Postmaster- General is not present, for I should like to impress upon him that telephones are now so widelyused not only in business, but bv the public generally, that the system ‘should be approximately perfect, and that it should at least compare favorably with those of other parts of the ‘world. Another matter to which I desire to refer isthi. use of a large number of instruments of obsolete pattern in the public telephone bureaux as well as in the houses of private subscribers. These are very defective, and serve only to accentuate the otherwise unsatisfactory .results of the whole service. The extension of the telephone system to settlers is another point worthy of attention. Every effort, should be made to mitigate the rigors of life in the back country, and telephones should be placed at the disposal of settlers at the lowest possible price. I venture to say that one of the chief reasons why so many people object to settle on the land is the dreadful isolation that life in the country too often means. A perfect system of telephonic communication would, to a great extent, mitigate that isolation. I understand that in country districts in America much use has been made of the system, and it is certainly not less needed in the back country of Australia. Yet the price asked in the first place, and the difficulties in securing exchanges experienced bv those who are prepared to pay the price, are such as to cause great dissatisfaction. I wish now to refer to the. item in these Estimates relating to harbor and coastal defence, for which we are asked to vote £250,000. I should like to know exactly to what use it is proposed to put that sum? I gather that it is intended to construct, here or elsewhere, torpedo-boat destroyers and submarines. I shall not deal now with the question of what class of vessel it is desirable to build, but I would strongly urge upon the Government the a’dvisableness of having the proposed flotilla constructed here. ‘ I understand that something was done in the direction of inviting tenders from shipbuilders in Great Britain for the construction of one of these vessels, with the object, apparently, of obtaining a pat: tern boat, together with plans, so that other vessels might ultimately be constructed here.
– Some of those who quoted prices proposed to build subsequent vessels, or parts, in Australia, or to establish yards here.
– The more profitable and sensible plan would be to construct the whole of our flotilla here. What we really want is an expert to superintend the work. Whether it is advisable for the Government to hand over the work to contractors who will carry it out here, or to secure the services of an expert, and to . build them itself, is a matter that should be considered. In the State of which I have the honour to be a representative, we have a very efficient ship-building and naval construction yard, and I think it may be fairly urged that the cheapest and most sensible course that ‘the Government could adopt, is to construct the vessels directly in Australia, provided that the services of a competent superintendent can be secured. I am willing to admit that the success of such an undertaking would depend upon obtaining such a man. It is useless for any ohe here to speak of his fitness for superintending such a- work. We must secure the services of a man familiar with the construction of these vessels. The number of such persons is naturally limited, having regard to the circumstances under which vessels of this class are constructed. T believe that only one firm in England has constructed submarines for the British Government.
– For the British Government, yes.
-Torpedo-boat destroyers are built, I believe, by, at the most, four firms in Great Britain. It is obvious, sol far as submarines are concerned that, since the type is not yet fixed, we should be extremely careful before launching upon any expenditure that may be rendered almost useless by new discoveries. But while such a remark will apply to all kinds of vessels, and particularly to submarines, we ought not to hesitate to make some sort of a beginning. That beginning, I contend, should be made here under the superintendence of a competent man. I believe that the services of such a man can be obtained, and, in the circumstances, we might fairly ask the Government, without any unreasonable delay, to make a detailed statement of their intentions. The general policy of the
Government in this matter is quite clear, and has been laid before the country for some time. I believe the country approves of it, and I believe that a majority of this House is in favour of the Government proposal. We ought not, however, to stop short at a declaration of policy ; we should at once proceed to business, and begin the construction of the proposed flotilla.
– Just as we are now proceeding with, the construction of the Government trawler.
– I am glad that the Government have made a start with the building of that vessel ; and I do not think that I am going out of the way in asking that some concrete step should be taken to-, wards the construction of this flotilla. The proposed expenditure for the establishment of a cordite factory is very necessary, and I shall not oppose it. Before resuming my seat, I wish to emphasize the point that it is very necessary that such steps should be taken as will enable a thorough inquiry to be made into the administration of the Postmaster-General’s . Department by the permanent officials themselves. In the Postal Department officialdom has grown to such an extent that to-day it is not a question of what the Postmaster-General may think should be done, but of what the permanent officers think should be done. Whether that is a good or a bad thing I Ho not venture to say. but if Ministerial responsibility for that Department is to be abandoned we ought to be told so. If the only function of, the Postmaster-General is to come here and make explanations, we ought to know it. Whenever we wish to accomplish reform in this Department we ultimately find ourselves up against some official - either Mr. Scott or Mr. Hesketh, or one of the Deputy Postmasters-General - and beyond them it is utterly impossible to go. In short, one becomes involved in a regular network ‘of red-tape. Let me give an illustration in this connexion,. Some time last. September a telegram was sent from a certain place in New South Wales to hie in Melbourne. It was subsequently transmitted from Melbourne to Sydney, but instead of being delivered to me, it was very carefully enclosed in an envelope - which was duly stamped - and sent back to Melbourne. As the wire referred to a matter which demanded immediate attention, I naturally made some inquiries into the occurrence, and the result of the official investigation reached me about four months afterwards. The blame was duly apportioned between the local postmaster, the letter-carrier, and myself. But the Department itself declined to accept the least responsibility in connexion with the occurrence. It showed me in the most positive way - in a way at which I could not cavil - that we were all equally to blame. That is the sort of treatment we get at the hands of this Department. Consequently a departmental inquiry into its administration would inevitably prove a mere cul de sac. What we require is an inquiry with a view to setting some of the postal officials in their proper places, and to severely delimiting their duties to the needs of the Department.
.- In view of the very severe condemnation by the honorable member for West Sydney of the trend of officialdom towards inefficiency to which we have just listened, and of the fact that the Postal Department has always been cited as a shining example of the benefits of Socialism, I wonder whether our friends in the Labour corner still hold the opinion that it would be wise to place the whole of the industries of the Commonwealth under similar conditions - to those which obtain there. If the Treasurer had been anxious to prolong the session to its utmost limits, he could not have devised a better plan than that of submitting Additional Estimates which involve so much contentious matter. From the beginning to the end of these Estimates, appropriations are proposed which Ought to be refused. The various items clearly evidence the evil of submitting interim Supply Bills as frequently, as they have been submitted in this Parliament. They also demonstrate that, as a result of this loose practice, honorable members are never in a position to clearly understand what is the estimated expenditure for the current year. We are now within six weeks of the close of the financial year, and yet we are asked to authorize the appropriation of more than £500,000 in the form of Additional Estimate’s. It is absolutely unnecessary to consider a great number of the items contained in these Estimates at the present time, because, as the Treasurer is aware, it will be utterly impossible to expend during the balance of the current financial year the money proposed to be appropriated, and under ordinary circumstances all the unexpended balances will have to be revoted. Therefore it is simply farcical to ask for these appropriations unless there is some ulterior object in view. When we come to analyze the amounts which it is proposed to appropriate in connexion with the various Departments, we get some most astonishing results. We have already voted for the services of the year by way of special appropriations, £929,283; forordinary appropriations the sum of £4,218,835; we have authorized a further’ expenditure of £819,874 upon new works and buildings, making a total on the Estimates-in-Chief of £5,967,992,’ and yet we are now asked to vote a further sum of £571,028, thus bringing the aggregate expenditure for the year up to £6,539,020.- When we have figures like these before us at such an early stage in our Federal history, the States Treasurers have some justification for charging the Commonwealth with extravagant ‘ expenditure. In connexion with the Department of External Affairs, it is proposed to vote an additional £8,299, and the expenditure proposed in other Departments is as follows : - Home Affairs, ,£10,424 ; Trade and Customs, £12,867; Defence, £11,336; and Postmaster-General, £107,720. These amounts represent appropriations in connexion with the ordinary votes. They evidence a most extraordinary condition of affairs. Of course, there are other Departments in . which expenditure is proposed, and to which I have not referred. I have merely quoted the expenditure in connexion with the larger Departments. The total expenditure under ordinary votes is set down at £159,746. But in addition to this, I find that for additions, new works and buildings there are enormous additional sums asked for in connexion with’ three of the Departments. Connected with the Department of Home Affairs, an expenditure of £63,822 is proposed, which, added to the £10,424 to be ‘ appropriated under ordinary votes, makes the total additional expenditure connected with that Department £74,246. In the Postmaster-General’s Department if is proposed to expend £63,410 upon additions, new works, buildings, &c, which, added to the £107,720 intended to be appropriated in connexion with ordinary votes, makes the total new appropriation for that Department £171,130. In the case of the Defence Department, there is additional expenditure to the amount of £284,050, which has to be added to the £11,336 put down under the heading of .ordinary votes, thus bringing the total additional estimates for this Department upto£295,386. Does any member of the Committee believe that that money can be, or is intended to be, expended within the next six weeks?
-In the Post and Telegraph Department, we shall expend more than £20,000 over and above that provided in the Estimates.
– I do not see how that can be, unless the money is to be absolutely thrown away.
– Much of it has been spent already ; and the votes will be exhausted before the end of the year.
– I doubt it very much; in fact, the Treasurer has admitted that the whole of the vote cannot be exhausted within the year. The suggestion was made by the honorable member for Robertson that it was intended to use the money we are now asked to vote for a purpose to which I shall refer later. Let me now refer once more to the Estimates for the Post and Telegraph Department.
– Has the honorable member not worried the PostmasterGeneral about postal requirements in his district?
– I have not worried the Postmaster-General much about the administration for a considerable length of time; because I found it was of very little use. About six months ago I did ask thatan amount should be placed on the Estimates to cover the cost of painting a very shabby-looking post-office in my district. I believe the estimated cost was something like £15; and I was assured by the Postmaster-General, in error, that the work had been completed ; as a matter of fact, the work has not been done yet. In the face of a little item of that kind, for which I was informed by an official recently that no money was available, we are now asked to vote these huge sums, the greater proportion of which we are given to understand by the PostmasterGeneral has already been spent. I find that the total estimated revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department for the year ending 30th June next amounts to £3,190,000. while the estimated expenditure according to the Estimates-in-Chief, is £3,105,277, made up of ordinary votes, £2,805,277, and votes for new works and buildings amounting to £300,000. There isnow an additional £171,130 asked for, bringing ‘ the total expenditure up to £3,276,407, showing an excess of expenditure over revenue of £86,407.
– The honorable member must not forget that that expenditure includes the capital expenditure for the year, which, in the accounts of the States, would appear under the heading of loan expenditure. We pay for these works out of revenue.
– I quite recognise that fact.
– If the honorable member allows 10 per cent. in the case of the buildings, he. will find that there is a very considerable margin.
– But if that suggestion be accepted, we must allow 10 per cent. ever since we commenced.
– Without these additional votes now asked for, there is a surplus of about , £86,000 shown in the case of the Post and Telegraph Department ; even allowing for the capital expenditure referred to by the Prime Minister; but with the additional votes, the balance is on the other side of the ledger. The Treasurer has made a speech purporting to give information to the Committee as to the proposed new expenditure ; but I think few of us can regard the speech from an informative stand-point with any degree of satisfaction. The honorable gentleman has admitted that much of this money cannot be expended before the end of the year; and I strongly, suspect, with good reason, that there is* some deep design to form a sort of trust account, wherein these unexpended balances may be kept, to be utilized later on for some other purposes than those for which we are now asked to vote the money. In fact, the Treasurer practically admitted that an old-age pensions scheme was, amongst other purposes, in his mind.
– Does the honorable member object to a proposal which means the payment of old-age pensions ?
– That is another question, which, as the Minister of Trade and Customs knows, I am precluded by the Standing Orders from discussing just now. I insist that we ought to have straightforward finance ; and if this money is required for old-age pensions, we should be told so, and not be led to believe that it is required for some other purpose. When it was suggested by the honorable member for Robertson that a trust fund of unexpended’ balances to provide- money for an old-age pensions scheme was in contemplation, the; Treasurer endeavoured to throw dust in the eyes of the Committee by asking a question precisely similar to that now addressed to- me by the Minister of Trade and Customs. The real purpose of these Additional Estimates is to prevent any surplus Customs and Excise revenue, over and above the constitutional three-fourths, being available for distribution amongst the States for the future, and if the intention of the Government is to use money for other purposes than that for which it was voted at the time, I think it is most improper. If the Treasurer desires to provide a fund out of which to pay old-age pensions, he should say so in a straightforward way, and ask Parliament to vote the money for that specific purpose.
– Parliament will have to vote the money before it can be spent on old-age pensions.
– Yes, at a later stage and in a new financial year when we would hear a plausible tale of unexpended balances from the previous financial year being available. I know the Treasurer’s methods. He would not hesitate even to spend the money, and then ask Parliament toratify his actions. We have seen that sort of thing done; and we know the ways of tricky Treasurers.
– When has that been done ?
– I am not permitted to go into details, but, even in this Parliament, we have had the Treasurer come down with Estimates, and, when we have taken exception to certain of the items, we have been calmly told that our objections were of no use, because the money had already been spent out of the Treasurer’s Advance. Then, as a result of passing Supply Bills, we have almost lost control of the public finances. We have been obliged to vote sums of money because they have been expended, although we have not approved of the expenditure . The one satisfactory statement made by the Treasurer was that, in view of the magnitude of the proposals for expenditurein the coming financial year, he would submit his Estimates early. If he does so, it will be an improvement upon the practice of the present Government. But will he be in office in the coming financial year?
– Some one will be in office.
– I hope that it will be some one whose views differ entirely from those of the present Treasurer. Any Treasurer coming from this side of the chamber will show more consideration for the rights of the States than he has shown.
– Some one has said that any change in the Treasurership must be far the better.
Air. JOHNSON. - These Estimates, in my opinion, have been unduly loaded for an ulterior purpose not made clear by the Treasurer ; a view shared with many honorable members on this side, and, perhaps, on the other, too.
– The purpose is quite clear; it is part of an attempt to frighten the States.
– I hope that the Committee, in dealing with these Estimates, will vote only such sums as may reasonably be expected to be expended before the 30th June next. Expenditure which cannot take place until next year should be provided for on the Estimates-in-Chief for that year. We must cut our coat according to our cloth, and until we know what our revenue is likely to be, it is useless to discuss proposals for expenditure. ‘ That is my idea of sound finance. If I read the signs of the times correctly, the probability is that before many months are over some one else will be at the head of the Treasury, and that the present occupant of the office will no longer control expenditure.
.- Many complaints have been voiced by honor able members in regard to the administration of the Commonwealth Departments. It may well be that what is wrong is due chiefly to defective methods. This is a matter whichwe should take into serious consideration. It would be strange indeed, seeing that Federation brought together so many different systems of book keeping and administration, if our methods were perfect. Our Departments are controlled by officers who were reared in the services of the States, and are acquainted with different practices, and it would not be very strange if, instead of the best system being adopted by the Commonwealth, the most antiquated had come on top. Many reforms are required. In the first place we need simplicity. The public accounts should be presented as clearly as a company’s balance-sheet.
– A grave reform needed is the burial of the present system.
– Expenditure on new works should be capitalized, and we should know how much is invested in the transferred Departments, and the interest returned by them. Although Ministers and officials have been blamed, they may not be at fault. . Most of them, I think, are doing their best; but, under a bad system, it may easily happen that, although working very hard, they are not giving the best service to the public. Information should be more readily obtainable. Methods should be adopted which would enable reasonable information to be procured with the minimum of trouble. This would lighten the work of the Departments. Accounts should be analyzed, and proper statements put before us at least twice a year, showing to the decimal part of a penny the cost of everything that is being done. That is the practice pursued in regard to enterprises not nearly so important as the work of a Government Department. The best methods known to the world should be adopted, and should be adhered to permanently. I have been told that certain employes in Victoria, were promised, thirty years ago, that their work would be classified, and that, although they are now grey-headed men, the classification has not yet taken place. The bringing forward of Additional Estimates is evidence of the want of a proper system. With the Departments growing rapidly, many of the higher officials are practically recommending increases of .salary and promotions to themselves. No doubt Ministers do their best ; but they’ cannot know everything.
– The Public Service Commissioner has absolute control of the service.
– The work which he has to take in hand is out of all proportion to the energies of any one man. The Minister is charged with starving expenditure, and asked to make more appointments. -It is time that Australia recognised that she requires for her Public Service the best men procurable, and that brains must be paid for. Well-paid, brainy men, who will devote their energies to the perfection of systems for best serving the public interests are better than hosts of underpaid men. It does riot always lessen work to increase the number of workers ; it often increases it, by creating a need for extra supervision, and increasing bookkeeping. We expected under. Federation the effecting of economies, uniformity of system in bookkeeping and administration, and a better service; but, although Ministers and officials try to do their best, complaints are rife, and no improvement is effected. This is because we have not tried to rectify our systems. Other Governments, however, have regarded it as important that the best system should be ascertained and adopted.
I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the report of what is known as the Keep Commission, which was appointed by President Roosevelt?, and directed to ascertain - where and in what respects our present Govern ment methods fall short of the best business standards of to-day, and to recommend measures of reform.
This is not ancient history. The report of the Commission has not long been pub- fished, and it pointed to an appalling state of affairs prevailing in the Public Service of the United States. When such a condition of affairs can prevail in America, notwithstanding the reputed smartness of the people of that country, surely, having regard to the short life of the Commonwealth, we need not be surprised if our own Departments are in an equally bad position. The trouble in connexion with our Departments is due, not to Ministers or officers, but to the system.
– Who is to be held responsible for the system?
– I do not know; perhaps the honorable member may be blamed for it. The honorable member for West Sydney referred to-night to the honorable member, and in connexion with one of our public Departments, pictured to the Committee a state of affairs so bad that, if it is not overdrawn, it is time that we seriously set to work to secure improvements. As the outcome of the report of the Keep Commission, one ledger is now being kept where 400 were formerly written up.. There is no reason to believe that the ledger-keepers under the old system were not working harder than is the one ledgerkeeper employed under the new regime.
– I dare say that the position is the same here.
– I should not be surprised if it were. We need an inquiry such as that for which the Keep Commission was appointed. We need to appoint a Commission, consisting of the’ ablest men we can select, to inquire into the administration of the service. I wish it to be distinctly understood, however, that in making this statement I make no charge against any Minister, or public servant. Notwithstanding that there is so much room for dissatisfaction in connexion with our public Departments, every man in the service may be doing his best. The Keep Commission consisted of men holding very high positions in the service of the United
States of America. It comprised the Honorable Charles A. Keep, Assistant Secretary to the Treasury ; the Honorable Frank H. Hitchcock, First Assistant PostmasterGeneral ; the Honorable .Lawrence O. Murray, Assistant Secretary of Commerce and’ Labour; the Honorable James R. Garfield, at that time Chief of the Bureau of Corporations; and the Honorable Gifford Pinchot, Chief of the Forest Service. Amongst the discoveries that it made was the fact that one of the Departments had been purchasing ink year after year at three’ dollars a dozen, ‘whilst another Department was being supplied with the same brand of writing fluid at a uniform price of 1.70 dollars per dozen.
– The honorable member does not Suggest that that state of affairs’ exists here ?
– It may do. We do not know what mav be going on. - Then again it was found that the morning’s mail regularly reached the desks of the persons for whom it was destined not earlier than noon of the following day. We do. not know that the position is not the same in the Commonwealth service. In an article published in the American Review of Reviews for February, it is pointed out that -
It was the “ Keep Commission,” officially known as the Committee on .Departmental Methods, that brought to light not only a number of startling facts …. but revealed at the same time errors and irregularities in method which demanded immediate correction in’ the interest of efficient and economic Government. Many of the indicated reforms have already been made, but others must await the sanction of Congress.
Abuses that grew out of the spoils system were found to be still in existence - as in one division where sixty-five men were employed copying letters in longhand into huge tomes that were never referred to. In one of the offices where the system of bookkeeping recommended by the Commission has been installed, a single ledger is now made to serve the purpose for which 400 were formerly employed, and the one is no larger than any of those which it has replaced.
There may be hundreds of men in the Commonwealth service who are trying to do their best under a very bad system, and many of them may be very poorly .paid. M contention is that it is better to have one capable man and to pay him well than to have twenty-three poorly paid officers. The discoveries of the Keep Commission should serve as an “eye-opener” to us, and we should profit by them. The article continues -
In many instances the Committees found two - and in some cases three and- four - clerks doing precisely the same work. And in not a :f.iw cases it was work that it has been advisable to dispense with altogether. . . . The investigation which has uncovered these conditions, thereby effecting a saving of millions of dollars annually to the taxpayers, has actually cost the Government about $2,000. All those employed in the work rendered their services without compensation, and without taking time from their regular duties. This fact in itself is a striking illustration of the new spirit of devotedness that has entered our civil service, and is fast pervading its ranks.
Why should not the same feeling pervade the ranks of the Commonwealth service? It is pointed out in this article that -
The Commission carefully selected seventy employes of the Government with varied experience, and formed them into sub-committees, which were used as probes to search the innermost recesses of the administrative machinery and discover the actual existing conditions.
I think that we need to do something in the same direction. It is idle, for iis to sit here as the elect of the people, and to blame the employes of the Commonwealth for failing to do this and that, when we have made no effort to concentrate the work of the Departments. The Departments taken over from the States have been groping in the dark just as we have been, and we do not know whether, in the work of amalgamating the several systems of the States the best have not been discarded and the worst adopted. Business people recognise that there are new methods of bookkeeping that are well worth looking into. I know, of a gentleman in Melbourne who allowed his son to undergo a business college course here, and then sent him to England, whence he will proceed to America, with the object . of inquiring into various systems of business management. I hold that the Government should look into those systems and cause the best of them to be adopted “in our big Departments. I should be the last to blame an employe’ of any Department for not doing what was right, if I knew that he was simply overwhelmed with papers and dockets which were a mere duplication of work. I should rather pity him, and try to ease his labour.
– Is there not too much redtape in our Departments’?
-Certainly ; and I’ hold that the red-tape system should .be abolished. The writer of the article from which I have quoted points oUt that -
To-day there are individual bureaux that havemore employes than the entire departmental1 service had in 1853, and the responsibilities o* their chiefs are incalculably greater than were those of the men who held similar positions fifty years ago. Nevertheless, there has never been any attempt to reclassify the positions dr to adjust the salaries with reference to these changed conditions, so that at the present time the most startling anomalies and inequities exist. Not only is there a great diversity of compensation for’ the same kind of work, but persons receiving the higher salaries are in many cases rendering the simplest routine service, while’ others in the lowest grades are performing duties of the most exacting character.
One might reasonably imagine this to be a description of one of our own Departments. Tt describes exactly the trouble that we are endeavouring to combat in Australia. Here is another interesting statement regarding the effect of the old system obtaining in the public Departments of the United States -
These conditions have the effect of attracting to the Government service two distinct classes of men : First, those who have little ambition, and no stomach for the struggle of the strong, and who find in a Washington clerkship a peaceful haven and a modest competence for life.
It is stated, further, that -
The recommendations of the Commission, which will require Congressional approval, contemplate a complete reclassification of the service, and a corresponding readjustment of salaries. The proposed system :l 1 In S to attract a higher grade of recruits by doing away with the $50 and $60 a. month clerks, and making the salary for the lowest grade $900 a year.
I think our desire is that the public servants of Australia shall be as well treated as are those of any other part of the world. I am sure that we can never accomplish what we desire, unless we employ skill and talent such as were available upon the Commission which has been appointed in America. We should all feel proud if we could say that our Commonwealth Departments were conducted better than any other similar Departments, and we should all be supremely happy if we were never obliged to ask Ministers a question which was calculated to annoy them. I blame no Minister and no Government employe for the position which the Postal Department occupies to-day. We must recognise the necessity of formulating a system1 which will practically run itself. I invite the attention of the Treasurer, who has just entered the Chamber, to the following extract from the report from which I have Quoted -
As- an example, the Treasury, which formerly only balanced its books once a year, at the expense of great time and trouble, , now has a double entry system of bookkeeping in force which enables it to strike a true balance at the close of each day’s work.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that a similar system is not in operation here?
– I am explaining the system which obtains in a country where men are just as smart as they are in Australia. I am reading what appears to me to be common-sense from a report by some of the ablest men in the world. The .article continues -
In a certain branch of the Government where large and numerous financial transactions are carried on, the officials were accustomed to take 90 days to render an account, but are now ready to do so daily. If a disbursing officer makes his last payment, for intance, at 10 o’clock in the morning, he can give a complete account of his affairs at noon the next day. The Auditor of the Treasury, who has been in the habit - and necessarily so under the old system - of settling disbursing officers’ accounts largely on faith, now has all the cheques and vouchers before him with which to verify them. ‘
There are many other passages in this article which I should like honorable members to read for themselves, but there is one to which I desire to direct special attention. It is as follows -
Hardly .any “check is placed on waste or peculation. It would seem that every employe of the Government in Washington, from Cabinet Minister to coloured messenger, uses 23 pencils each month, or a total of 7,000,000 pencils a year, at a cost of $150,000.
How do we know what is going on here? It is to stop” this sort of thing that I advocate a system of analyses of supplies such as obtains in connexion with all big concerns. Contractors, for example, know to the decimal part of a penny the exact cost of the oil and fuel necessary to run a locomotive, and even of the waste -which is used to clean it.
– Does the honorable member think that Ministers have nothing to do but to count pencils?
– Under the system that I - advocate, if a Minister devoted only half-an-hour each month to the subject, he would be able to ascertain ‘ whether any waste was going on. We should have all our officers graded, so that at a glance one would be able to see whether, as the result of back-stairs influence, a particular officer was getting a higher salary than another, notwithstanding that he was performing less work. I was so impressed by the business-like methods adopted by the Commission to which I have called attention that I felt I was justified in bringing them under the notice of honorable members.
.- During the course of his remarks the honorable member who has just resumed his seat said that he blamed nobody for the condition of affairs- which obtains in the Post Office.
– He said, in effect, that it was due to years of rust.
– I did not hear him say that. I cannot help thinking that the bulk of the blame for the present position must be laid at the door of the Treasurer, who has refused to make funds available for necessary works.
– Is that what the honorable member says of me, notwithstanding that I found the necessary money for a rifle range in which, he was interested ?
– If . the Treasurer would part with money in connexion with postal.- works as readily as he did in connexion with the rifle range in question, there would not be much cause for dissatisfaction. But in his Ministerial capacity the ‘honorable gentleman exhibits a penuriousness which, if displayed in private affairs, would speedily make him wealthy.
– The increased expenditure does not show that.
– But the Treasurer will not recognise that he is dealing with an expanding Department. As a country representative I receive numerous communications from business centres in my electorate asking for telephonic facilities. Whenever the Department is approached it explains that a certain contribution on the part of the residents will be necessary. The latter perform their portion of the contract, and the Postmaster-General almost invariably writes that the work has been approved and will be proceeded with without delay. What happens subsequently is evidenced by the following letter, which is a very fair sample of the correspondence which I receive in reference to postal matters -
About six months ago I signed an agreement with the Commonwealth Postal authorities, paying at the same time one year’s subscription, &c, for a telephone service from Burrowa to a point about six miles from the latter place, which the postal authorities were to erect upon their own telegraph poles. I have completed the erection of a telephone line from, my residence to the place where the Government were to erect a line for me upon their telegraph poles as agreed upon, whilst the Post Office have” not even made a start upon their portion.
– And they cannot make a start until these Estimates have been approved.
– I ‘ asked the PostmasterGeneral why the Department had not carried out its part of the agreement, and he informed me that no funds were available. I understand that the money which we are now asked to vote has been” already expended.
– It has.
– Then what are my unfortunate constituents to do?
– Surely the honorable member does not mean to say that a fresh set of Estimates will have to be submitted to enable these works to be carried out?
– I do not say that; but. the Postmaster-General does. He says that this “money has already been expended. If that be so he ought to have placed a larger sum, upon these Estimates. Are we again to ask the Treasurer to trench upon his Advance Account in order to enable necessary works to be undertaken ? I repeat that that honorable gentleman does not seem r6 realize that the Post Office is an expanding institution. If the Surplus Revenue Bill had already been passed I could understand the attitude which he takes up in this connexion.
– Do not blame me for not having passed the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– I do not, but I do blame the Government for handing back to the States moneys which ought to be spent on payable Commonwealth services. I am disappointed at the Additional Estimates, because no provision is made for’ works which ought really to be carried out. While, on full inquiry, a number of reasons may be found for the inefficiency of the past, and while a better system and, may be, better officers may result, I am satisfied that until we are prepared to spend the requisite money we shall never improve the services to that degree which will satisfy the public. 1 hope the Treasurer will mend his ways, and not allow the services to be starved as. they have been in the past.
.- Some comment has been made on the introduction of the Additional Estimates so soon after we have dealt with the Estimates-in-Chief .; but for that I think honorable members, as a whole, ought to take some share of the blame, particularly the Opposition, who are supposed to be the critics of the Government. We have been living for a long time on Supply Bills, and it is generally admitted that that is a most undesirable system. However, what has taken place seems to’ have been by tacit consent ; but henceforth there ought to be a definite understanding, so that there may be a more satisfactory conduct of the financial business of the Commonwealth. In regard to the Post and Telegraph Department, there is some difficulty in ascertaining who is to blame for a state of affairs which, if permitted to continue, will make the Commonwealth most unpopular, and give State rights advocates what they have not had in the past, namely, some reasonable ground of complaint. Even in so small a matter as the appointment’ of an additional messenger, it is stated that funds are not available, to pay his wages. I am quite ashamed of having to send the departmental replies on to people in the country districts, who cannot understand how it is that the great. Commonwealth, with its immense income,* cannot find sufficient money to carry on the most ordinary work of the post offices. When it is explained to the people that all” expenditure has to be approved by the House, they ask why the House has riot sanctioned it; and, of course, there is no answer. It is very possible that the House, as a whole, is to blame for allow- ing matters to come to such a “pass. In the case of many applications which are made to the Department and where the work is delayed, no explanation whatever is given. Sometimes we are told that there is a shortage of material ; but, if that be so, somebody must be to blame. Only to-day I heard of an application for a telephone to be fixed in a new building within two blocks of the Ballarat Post Office. The application was made, the agreement signed, and the cash paid a month ago, but now the applicant is told, without any explanation, that he will have to wait at least another month before he can get his telephone..
– I am not to blame.
– I find in the Department a great disposition on the part of officers to pass on the blame from themselves to others. From my experience of the Central Office and Mr. Scott, I believe that gentleman to be a prompt business man ; and attempts have been made, quite unjustly, in New South Wales, for instance, to make the central administration responsible for delay that has taken place. Then there is also a disposition to put the blame on the Public Service Commissioner, in many cases most unjustly. There is no doubt that the Commonwealth Government have improved the status of the service, and acted liberally in the matter of wages, while greatly extending postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities to the public. It may be that this extension and development has proved too much for some of the officers ; but, whatever the cause, the whole system is wrong, and our first duty is to find out where the cause really lies. In the Sydney office, with which I am most familiar, there appears to be, not so much a shortage of hands, as a lack of organization. There is too much “ red tape “ amongst the officials themselves, as is shown in the case of any little inquiry, which is attended by ,a great deal of unnecessary clerical work entirely foreign to private business. ‘ “In the case of a private firm, the foreman or the man in charge would, in the case of any dispute, have the parties before him, and dispose of the matter in a quarter of an hour; but in the Department there are applications, reports, minutes, and so forth, the preparation .and consideration of which occupy much time. The Commonwealth is not responsible, because the system to which I am now referring grew up when the Department was administered by the States Governments.
– I think it has been intensified under the Commonwealth.
– Whether that be so or not, there is a great deal too much “ red tape,” which wastes the time of the officers and leads to the neglect of the public. A good illustration of this occurred the other day in Sydney. In the case of an applica tion for a telephone to be attached to a new building within a very short distance of the General Post Office, an officer of the Department had called twice. When it had been decided by the. applicant’ what sort of instrument he would have, and how. many, he telephoned asking the officer to call again. The reply came, by telephone, that written application would have to be made before the officer could call. A reference to the manager of the Telephone Branch elicited the same reply ; and it was not until an intimation was given by the applicant that the Deputy PostmasterGeneral would.be consulted that the officer telephoned asking at what’ hour it would be convenient for him to call. It is ridiculous to compel business people to send in formal applications of the kind, when a word over the telephone ought to be quite sufficient. Personally, I think .it possible that sufficient power and responsibility have not been placed in the hands of the Deputy Postmasters-General. Instead of being left free to generally supervise the Department in the State, a Deputy Postmaster-General is made a slave to clerical work, most of which could be. done by a chief clerk. It is the absence of some definite responsible person which makes it so difficult to ascertain the true cause ofa delay which is often absolutely inexcusable, the stereotyped excuse always being that there are no funds available. I do not know who is responsible ; but the system is certainly bad, and should be altered. I should like to know whether the 480 appointments in New South Wales and the 315 appointments in Victoria, for which provision is made in these Estimates, are additions to the staff.
-Yes ; they are appointments to the permanent staff.
– Undoubtedly there has been a shortage of linemen and fitters in the telephone construction branch. Probably better organization of the clerical and. other departments in the General Post Office would do a great deal to secure efficiency, but shortage of men and material has in many cases resulted’ in delay in the construction of necessary works.
– The appointments provided for will meet the deficiency for a few months ; but if the business of the Department goes on increasing at the present rate, we shall later on require still more hands.
– Then provision is being made only for the current financial year?
– There have been 1,574 new appointments this year.
– There is £20,000 set down to provide for temporary hands in New South Wales.
– That money was paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account.
– The public expects its reasonable demands to be met, and Parliament is prepared to make provision for meeting them. We should do more than make provision for a month or two in advance. The proposals for expenditure which after investigation have been approved by Departmental officers should not be delayed because there is not money’ to carry them out.’ Furthermore, the money required should be provided, not from the Treasurer’s Advance Account, but from sums voted by Parliament in advance. The last Postmaster-General said that his desire was to put a telephone into every farmer’s house. Farmers who have applied for telephone connexion have written asking me why their applications have not been granted, but I can give them no satisfactory answer. They say, “ The Commonwealth has so much money that it does not know what to do with it, and hands back to the States such large sums that they can afford to reduce taxation, and yet, when telephone communication is asked for, the reply is made that funds are not available.” Although we have had two sets of Estimates before us within a month, if proper provision for extensions has not yet been made, another set of Estimates should be brought down.
– These Estimates will provide for the present year.
– The country expects the Treasurer to keep a check on expenditure ; but past experience should enable the Postmaster-General to estimate the probable expansion of his Department from year to year, and to provide for it in a manner which will enable Parliament to criticise the Government’s proposals, instead of merely having to sanction expenditure after it has been made. By agreeing to Supply Bills, we have destroyed the opportunity ‘ for effective criticism. More than half the money provided for in these Estimates is for Defence, and as I am favorablydis- . posed towards the Defence scheme,I have nothing to say against the Government proposals. But I again emphasize the niggardliness of the provision made for the growth of the Post and Telegraph Department, which gets bigger and more important every day. as the public takes advantage of the conveniences which it affords. I shall deal with other postal and telephonic matters when we are discussing the Estimates in detail.
.- Additional Estimates, covering sixty-three pages, and providing for the expenditure of £411,282, constitute a formidable document. Of the amount to be voted. £107,000 is for expenditure in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and £63,000. for additional works for that Department; £284,000 - or more than half the total - being for Defence. It would, however, be waste of time to criticise the various items, because the expenditure which they cover has already been made.
– Nearly two months of the financialyear have vet to run.
– The principle that the representatives of the people are the guardians of the public funds is a fiction, and the public should know it. The Treasurer,in introducing these Estimates, gave reasons and excusesfor them.
– I did not give excuses.
– My complaint in regard to the Additional Estimates,’ as well as in regard to the EstimatesinChief, is that most of the money we are asked to vote has been expended, Parliament having lost its control of the expenditure by passing a series of Supply Bills. The Treasurer has been ‘cute enough, however, to use the occasion as an opportunity to ascertain the views of members in regard to future financial proposals, and many of them have risen to the burley which he has thrown out.
– Honorable members generally are in favour of the proposed legislation.
– My view is that it should not be discussed until it has been laid on the table. The Treasurer says that he wishes to leave behind him a reputationfor economy, as though he had followed in the worthy footsteps of Sir. George Turner. He said that he had not only shut the lid of the’Treasury chest, but had also sat on top of it. Yet, while wishing the country to regard him as the most economical and careful Treasurer it has had, he poses as Lord Bountiful, and says that he would like to spend more money, at the same time curtailing the State expenditure.
– I did not say that.
– The Treasurer said that he would have liked to make prisoners of millions of sovereigns which have been returned to the States, and to which they were entitled under the Constitution.
– Last year the States received over £800,000 more than their three-fourths.
– The Constitution requires that any surplus shall be returned to the States each month : but the Treasurer wishes to get possession of all surplusmoney, and he finds that he can do so only by increasing estimated expenditure. That is not in the interests of the taxpayers, if it is done merely to prevent revenue from being paid to the States.
– The surplus should be ear-marked.
– That should have been provided for in the Constitution.
– It can be clone without amending the Constitution.
– I do not intend to express my views in regard to the Treasurer’s financial proposals’ until they are formally submitted. Everything hinges on the financial arrangement made in the Constitution. The public clearly understand the effect of the Braddon section, which must remain in force until 1910, and I think that at the next general election, which, in the ordinary course of events, will take place in that year, the Government should be prepared to submit to the electors a wellthoughtout scheme to take the place of that provision.
-The Braddon section does not automatically expire in 1910.
– No, but a new system to take the place of that for which it provides may then be brought into operation. It is highly important that at the next general election a. well-thought-out scheme with respect to the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States should be submitted to the electors. I. know of nothing, better than a modification of the Braddon section. I have read the various schemes that have been proposed by honorable members, and have also noticed the fight put up by the States Treasurers for the interests of the States. To-day the Commonwealth returns to the States sixeighths of the Customs and Excise revenue. If the remaining two-eighths is not sufficient to provide for. Commonwealth expenditure, we should return, for a’ certain period, only five-eighths to the States, retaining three-eighths.
– That is practically the Government’s offer.
– They are not offering to return five-eighths of the Customs and Excise revenue to the States.
– That is so. The Treasurer desires that these Estimates shall be passed, so that the unexpended balance may still remain in the Commonwealth Treasury. The weak spot in the administration of the Public Works branch of the Commonwealth service is that, for some reason or other, plans are not in readiness to carry out works for which provision is made on the Estimates.
– The trouble is that we do not pass the Estimates until about six months of the year to which they’ relate have expired.
– Exactly, but the Public Works branch of the Department of Home Affairs has not plans in readiness to carry out many of the works for which votes are passed. The Treasurer referred to-day to a law which existed in New South’ Wales, under which the unexpended balance of any vote, passed in respect of a Department was placed to the credit of that Department for the next financial year. I believe that he was responsible for that legislation. The difficulty is that, in the case of the Commonwealth, at the end of the financial year, all unexpended balances must be returned to the States. Apparently the Treasurer finds that the proportion that we are entitled to retain is insufficient to finance the projects which he has in mind, but our position in regard to the carrying forward of unexpended balances is very different from that of the States. I have nothing to say in favour of parsimony, for, as the result of a parsimonious administration, we may subsequently have to incur very heavy expenditure. I admit that the great proportion of the public servants of the Commonwealth do their work well, but the general public, who have to foot the bill, are not satisfied with the way in which our Departments are run. They do not know whether the troubles of which they complain are clue to inefficiency or undermanning, but they certainly wish them to be remedied. A Cabinet Committee is now supposed to be inquiring into the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and it is rumoured that it will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to carry on the investigation. The public themselves are familiar with the defects ofthe Department ; they know that it is not run, as it ought to be, in their interests, and their desire is not to ascertain the cause but to secure a remedy. I am told that a Royal Commission, consisting of mercantile men, will be appointed, and we may be sure that it will recommend that the control of the Department be vested in Commissioners. .
– Does the honorable member know something as to what is to be done?
– The honorable member’s party knows very well which way the cat will jump. The Treasurer to-day asks us not to criticise these Estimates, but merely to pass them, and so to indemnify him in respect of moneys already expended. I object to the Estimates being introduced in serial form. We had, first of all, the EstimatesinChief. Those were followed by Supplementary Estimates, and we are now asked to deal with Additional Estimates. The Departments of the Commonwealth should be able to present complete Estimates early each year. My contention is that we should refuse to grant Supplies until the Estimates are dealt with. Until we refuse to pass Supply Bills we shall never have proper control of the Estimates. I shall not waste the time of the Com mittee by pretending to criticise these Estimates, for the time has passed when we could be said to have them under control. Within the next week or two the Government will ask us to pass a Bill covering Supply for the first two months of the next financial year, and, as honorable members are anxious to get into recess, that will probably be done. If it is, we shall at once lose our power as custodians of the Estimates for the next financial year. I have protested again and again against the passing of Supply Bills, but, apparently, to no purpose. Under these Estimates we are asked to vote a sum of £284,000, which cannot possibly be’ expended during the present financial year. The defence scheme to which that proposed vote relates has not yet been agreed to by this House.
– Then we should not pass it.
– It is only a farce to pass such an amount; it is mere make believe.
– What game are the Government playing?
– They wish to secure as large an appropriation as possible, so that the trust funds may be increased and- used in connexion with other legislation which the Surplus Revenue Bill suggests. I do not believe that the Commonwealth should play second fiddle to the States in respect of matters that are distinctly of Commonwealth concern, and I fail to understand why the Prime Minister and the Treasurer should be waiting for the Premiers of the various States to formulate a policy with respect to our financial arrangements. It was thought that with the establishment of Federation the occasion for Conferences of State Premiers would disappear. In pre- Federation days we had, a Federal Council which possessed no Executive power, but met to discuss questions such as those which the States Premiers met to deal with last week. The Premiers of the States’ meet only to discuss questions affecting more than one State, and yet we find the Prime Minister and the Treasurer waiting on them before formulating a policy in regard to the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. I should like the Government to. submit a well-thought-out scheme to the people.
– And an honest scheme.
-If we do not approve of the Government scheme we shall reject it. The Commonwealth Parliament ought not to shelve its own responsibility in this matter. If the Government of the day are strong enough to carry their scheme it will come into effect.
– It will be the Commonwealth scheme for the time being.
– When the right honorable member was in office in Western Australia he used to play the part of the strong Premier, and that is what the Premiers of the States are doing to-day. If we allow them to invade the Federal province we shall weaken our position in the estimation of the public. At the same time we should mind our own business. We certainly ought not to invade the provinces of the States Parliaments or of the States Governments. If we are dissatisfied with the powers that we possess we must ask the electors in a constitutional way to extend them ; but I do not think that they willbeprepared to grant any extension until we prove ourselves worthy of those we already possess. I do not propose to deal with these Estimates in. detail, for to attempt to debate them would be little short of farcical. Some honorable members may exercise their ingenuity in airing grievances in connexion with them, but 1 do not wish to do so. If we are to adopt the system of passing Supply Bills from month to month, do not let us delude the people into the belief that their representatives can be watchful custodians of the public funds. I objectto such a system, and think that we have no higher duty than that of keenly scrutinising public expenditure.
– I do not propose at this late hour to enter into a discussion of these Estimates, because, as has been pointed out again and again during the debate, a large proportion of the sum that we are asked to vote has been already expended. The Treasurer spoke to-day about returning to the States a fixed sum of . £6,000,000 annually.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– The Treasurer laid it clown that no matter how much the States might borrow to develop their own resources, they ought not to receive a larger sum from the Commonwealth.
– I must again ask the honorable member not to deal with that question.
– I am very glad that the honorable member for Fremantle quoted from the report of the Commission which investigated the working of the Public Service in America. Some time ago I intended to bring that report under the notice of this Chamber; but eventually I decided not to do so, because I was satisfied that honorable members would exclaim, “ Oh, this is merely another Yankee notion.” I am very pleased that the honorable member for Fremantle, who is a’ first-class business man, has quoted from that report, with a view to showing that even Australians have something to learn. My condemnation of the Government is not prompted by any dislike of them. I blame them merely because they have failed to appoint a Commission to investigate the working of our Public Service.
– A Cabinet Committee is inquiring into the administration of the Post Office at the present time.
-That Committee has neither head nor tail. It is neither male nor female. Politically, it belongs to the neuter gender. Ministers are not to blame for the existing condition of affairs. If the leader of the Opposition, or the honorable member for Flinders, or the right honorable member for Swan, or the honorable member for Wide Bay, were at the head of a Ministry to-morrow, they would have to contend with the system which how prevails. The evils associated with that system are the result of promotion by seniority. My complaint is that the Ministry refuse to appoint a Royal Commission to attack this evil in the way that President Roosevelt attacked it. It is true that he placed his own; friends upon that Commission, but they were honest men. Personally, I should be perfectly willing to trust any member of this Committee to select the members of a Royal Commission to investigate the working of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. I will guarantee that such a body would recommend an improvement upon the wretched system which is responsible for all the trouble that we are experiencing. I do not know that we can improve upon the Ministers that we now have. They are simply a fair average of the members of this House. There are no Napoleons here, and very few Grouchys. I do trust that even at this late hour of the day the Government will have the courage to face this question, and to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon the efficiency of the Public Service. We may possess the best system of accountancy in the world, but if so, it is strange that business men outside have to Take cognisance of every little detail connected with their expenditure; banks balance theirbooks every afternoon, whereas we do not. Surely the same system can be introduced into our Public Service. Why should the system adopted by the Government be an antiquated one? Why should it be one that obtained 2,000 or 3,000 years ago? It is the system that Jeremiah and all the good old gents adopted thousands of years ago. I should be sorry to ruffle the composure of Ministers, who have trouble enough on their hands at present. But if they had the courage to emerge from the ruck and to say, “ We want the best system in the world,” surely they would get it. . Able business men are to be found both in Melbourne and Sydney, and they find that they have to attend to details, otherwise they would land themselves in the Bankruptcy Court. I am satisfied that there is anenormous waste going on in our Commonwealth Departments. That is why Socialism is unpopular to-day.
– Who says that it is unpopular?
– The Postal Department, owing to the inefficient system which obtains there, is making Government institutions unpopular, and no doubt the . “ boodleiers “ are doing their best to destroy them. Surely no. honorable member would like to see the. Post Office controlled by private enterprise. In Tasmania, some post offices are overmanned, whilst others are undermanned. Some of the officers there complain that they are overworked whilst others have no work at all. These are matters which require investigation. I believe that the Commonwealth is losing thousands of pounds annually as the result of the inefficiency of some of the Departments. Would it not be better to retire all those officers who were promoted because of their seniority, and because they happened to possess political influence in days gone by, and to put efficient men in their places? I wish to see something done to make the Postal Department progressive and up-to-date. If, at intervals, the various Deputy Postmasters-General were transferred from one State to another, they would get away from family influences, and that would be a good thing. It seems to me that theyare all interwoven in the woof and warp of matrimony, so that a sort of family circle ‘ has been established. If they were transferred from State to State at intervals, this family interest would be burst up, and by-and-by we should get efficiency.
Mr.Bright, of Brisbane, has brought about quite a reformation in the Melbourne Post Office, where the officers are dancing like bob-tailed bulls in clover - they never knew before what it was to have a real head over them. And if Mr. Bright has done so much for the Department in Melbourne,’ a’ Melbourne man might be able to do as much for it in Brisbane. I wish that honorable members would understand that since Federation they have to fill a double capacity. They owe a paramount allegiance to the Commonwealth and a subordinate allegiance to the States; but the interests of both are interwoven. Commonwealth and States are composed of the same people, have the same interests, and involve the same financing ; and it must not be forgotten that if we destroy the power of any of the States, we destroy our own power - that if we empty the pockets of the States we empty our own pockets. We are all one, and we must not forget the fact. A few days ago, President Roosevelt addressed a great conference of States representatives at Washington on the subject of the conservation of forests, the preservation of water rights, and generally on those Subjects which make it clear that there is a country to preserve not only for the present generation, but for future generations. That is the spirit I desire to see abroad in Australia. I suppose it makes no difference what honorable members may say in regard to these Estimates, but I should like to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the fact that there is a contract in existence to carry the mails from Magnet Junction 10 miles to Magnet in Tasmania, I notice by the newspapers that the directors of the Magnet mine have ordered the men there to move out of their little homes, and as 400 men, women, and children’ depend on this railway for the conveyance of their food, I desire to know whether the Government have power to compel this monstrous boodleier company not only to carry the mails, but also to transport means of subsistence. This is avery serious matter, and if the Government have no legal power, I think that, on the score of humanity, we ought to find some means of compelling the company to do what is right. In the Post and Telegraph Department we require efficiency and progress, and it ought to be conducted on the same basis as any successful business corporation. The old slipshod system must go. I firmly believe that a thorough investigation would reveal the fact that the work is double-banked to an enormous extent - that twenty and thirty men are doing the work of one man - and if the Government know that this is so, why has the Postmaster-General not the courage to- attack the position?
– I have already called attention in a general way to items, the necessity for which ought to have been well within the knowledge of those who prepared the Estimates-in-Chief. There is not a major instance, but an instance of what appears to be an unnecessary omission from the Estimates-in-Chief, under the heading of “ The Library.” In the EstimatesinChief, a sum of £1,500 was cut down for books and bookbinding, including insurance against fire, being similar to the amount voted in the previousyear. In the Additional Estimates, however, a sum of £400 is provided, although there are only six weeks of the financial year to run.
– I am, informed by the Library Committee that some exceptional purchases of books from a library have been made, and that those books have to be bound.
– There is another instance in the item of “ office requisites,” for which £25 was set down in” the Estimates-in-Chief, whereas now we are asked to vote £65 additional.
– That is in consequence of it being necessary to provide special cabinets for the card catalogue which has been adopted.
– But we find the same sort of thing running through all the Departments, and some explanation is necessary.
– I have already mentioned that the Library Committee inform me that there are exceptional circumstances in each case referred to by the honorable member. The first is the purchase of an unusual number of books, mainly, I understand, valuable Australian works, from a library ; and these, of course, had to be secured at once, andneed to be bound. The second increase is caused by at; extension of the card catalogue system, under which the Library is now worked. Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 4 (The Library),£476 ; division 5 (Refreshment Rooms), £190; division 6 ‘ (Water Power for Parliament House).£220 : division 1 (Electric Light- ing) £400; division 8 (Queen’sHall), £48 ; and division 10(Miscellaneous), £170, agreed to.
Visit of the American Fleet.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I beg to report that the honorable members who have been invited to act as a Committee to assist the Government in undertaking and carrying out the reception of the United States Fleet are the honorable member for Calare, the honorable member for Corio, the honorable member for Wide Bay, the right honorable member for Swan, the honorable member for Kooyong, the honorable member for Hunter, the honorable member for Darwin, the honorable member for Robertson, and the honorable member for Cowper. I am informed that the senators who have been invited to act in a similar capacity are Senators Chataway, Gray, Story, Henderson, E. J. Russell, and McColl. Those gentlemen are invited to meet in the Minister’s room to-morrow at 12 noon.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10. 28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 May 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080520_reps_3_46/>.