3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MAUGER presented a petition from Mr. John. Robertson, of Ascot Vale, praying the House to appoint a Committee or Commission to consider his plans in reference to an alteration of the Australian monetary system.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the following . paragraph which appears in to-day’s Arms, under the heading “ Postal Administration - Chambers of Commerce Resolution” -
BRISBANE, Thursday.- At the sittings of the conference of the associated Chambers of Commerce to-day Mr. Knox (Melbourne) moved - “ That this meeting is of opinion that the management of the post and telegraphs and telephones will be best secured by the establishment of a permanent and non- political commission.”
It was recognised throughout the Commonwealth that the administration of these departments was not what it should be.
Mr. Winchcombe, of Sydney, having spoken in the same strain -
Mr. Knox said that many officers in the department were harassed by impracticable regulations. He did not wish to remove any Ministerial responsibility. What he desired was to see the details of administration intrusted to a nonpolitical board.
Has the representative of the Corner Party expressed the opinions of the Ministry, and, if so, does the Prime Minister intend to make the question a vital one? The Government will go out, as sure as fate, if that is done.
– I have not seen thereport, but am loth to nip in the bud any attempt at such a difficult task as the reconciliation of entirely non-political administration with complete political responsibility.
German and British Boundary
– On referring to the cablegram published in yesterday’s Argus, I found that the allegation there is’ that Ger man officials have entered into disputed territory on the borderland of Papua, and have imposed taxation on British miners working there. The Prime Minister’s reply to a question yesterday, however, seemed to acknowledge that the land belongs to Germany. Is it the case that the country is German territory, or have German officials made a move merely to strengthen their claims to territory in dispute?
– We have no official statement as to the locality of the occurrence, but we are directly, though unofficially, informed that the miners do not doubt that the territory belongs to Germany. According to information which reached us practically from them, they are satisfied that they were on German territory.
– Does the Government intend to accept that rather vague information, or will steps be taken to have, the boundary properly defined?
– As I said more than once recently, we are endeavouring to get the German Government to authorize its officials in German New Guinea to meet our representatives and arrange for the definite marking of the line of territorial division.
Ninth Victorian Light Horse - Pensions - Colonel Cox
– Has the Minister of Defence considered the complaint made on behalf of the left wing of the Ninth Victorian Light Horse Regiment as to the tendency to centralization, and the application for the formation of an independent regiment of light horse at Bendigo ? If so, when will he be in a position to make known his decision?
– The matter has been under consideration, the honorable and learned member having made various repre- . sentations with regard thereto; but I am not yet able to announce a definite conclusion. There is a great pressure of work, and the question is a knotty one, but I shall give the honorable member a reply as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister considered the advisability of establishing a pensions system in connexion with the Defence Department? That has been suggested many times during the last year or two.
– The matter has been under consideration, but although the end in view is an admirable one there are serious difficulties. I suggest for the consideration of the honorable member one of those difficulties, viz., whether it would not be well to consider the question in relation to all public servants. I think that every one is in favour of the general principle, and shall not lose sight of the matter.
– I wish to ask a question in reference to the now celebrated Colonel Cox case. The Minister promised that he would do his utmost to obtain for that officer the pay and privileges attaching to his rank from the time he was promoted to it, in other words, to remunerate him, like other officers, for the work he has been doing.
– I gave instructions that that should be done, and I think that they have been complied with.
– If not, they will be?
– Yes. The officer in question will be paid for his work at the rate belonging to his rank. I think the whole matter is now complete.
Statement by Premier of New South Wales.
Mr.HUTCHISON. - I desire to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether he has observed in to-day’s Argus a telegram from Sydney headed -
LONDON IMMIGRATION BOARD.
The Commonwealth Donation. Mr. Wade’s Criticisms.
The paragraph states -
The Premier, Mr. Wade, stated to-day that some time ago he made inquiries concerning the objects and methods of the Central Immigration Board in London, and the information he collected does not induce him to favorably regard Mr. Deakin’s action in giving £100 of the funds of the Commonwealth, and incidentally of the States, towards assisting the institut on. ….. As a matter of fact, Mr. Wade thinks it probable that when the Prime Minister understands just what he has done he will be inclineto ask the Board to disgorge the£100 donation.
Can the Prime Minister give the House any information in regard to this matter ?
– I did notice the remarks of the Premier of New South Wales in the Argus to-day, and brought them with me expecting that they would form the subject of some comment. Let me say, in the first place, that it is an undesirable precedent that expenditure of Common- wealth money for Commonwealth purposes should be criticised by State Premiers, particularly when the sums are trifling, because such action calls for a reciprocal course of criticism on the part of Commonwealth Ministers and members, which would not conduce to the proper transaction of the business of the two Legislatures concerned..
– What is the Prime Minister referring to?
– To a telegram sent from Sydney yesterday,and published in the Argus of to-day, headed “ London Immigration Board,” it should be “ Central Immigration Board “ - “ The Commonwealth Donation.” Then the paragraph gives the Premier’s criticism at length. . Mr. Wade thinks ill of the Central Imimigration Board. I do not challenge his right to his own opinion. But from the statement made, one would suppose that this Board sent, or sought to send, no immigrants from the Mother Country except city dwellers, and that we had given a donation for the purpose of assisting the Board to send city dwellers. That inference, which might be derived from the perusal of this statement by Mr. Wade, is quite unwarranted. The Central Immigration Board is largely composed of those who have been associated with the different Dominions of the Empire. Amongst its active members, when I was in. London, was Lord Jersey, an ex-Governor of New South Wales, Lord Ranfurly, an ex-Governor . of New Zealand, Lord Brassey, an ex-Governor of Victoria, and a number of other noblemen who have held office in the Dominions. Sir Clement Kinloch Cooke, its chairman, has long been associated with Imperial questions, besides, the Board is. in close association with the different Agents-General of the Australian States and with the representatives of Canada. At the meeting held in London the other day, I noticed that there were present, and taking part in the proceedings, the Agents-General of Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, the High Commissioner of Canada, Lord Strathcona, representatives of the South African Colonization Society, and other bodies. So’ that the Central Immigration Board, what-, ever it is and does, includes a large number of influential men associated with the oversea Dominions. At that meeting, the first resolution carried stated that it was the object of the Board to provide “ desirable, suitable immigrants” for the colonies.. The operations of the Board are not large, but it is the only body of the kind existing, so far as my knowledge goes, in the Mother Country ; and inasmuch as the official Government Emigration Board declines to. advise settlers in any respect as to the part of the Empire to which they should go, or, until lately, as to whether they should remain within the Empire or not, little or nothing is to be expected from that body. This Central Immigration Board, however small be the scale of its operations, is the only body at present existing available for the promotion of immigration from the Mother Country. Now, what is the Commonwealth “donation”? The sum of £100, to be employed on the following conditions -
No cheque to be drawn on this account for any other purpose than Australian emigration.
The money is only to be used to assist cases which are accepted by the Agents-General of the various Australian States.
– The Prime Minister does not anticipate very great results?
– Not from£100.
– We have only had two immigrants through the Board.
– The Board had not had the advantage of this assistance at that time. The second condition is -
Those conditions are imposed in order that it may be ascertained that the immigrants are suitable and desirable settlers for Australia.
– The Prime Minister took alot of precautions over that£100 !
– They are simple precautions in regard to the expenditure of a small sum of money for the encouragement of the only association of the kind existing in London. The matter scarcely calls, I think, for much comment from anybody, and least of all from the Premier of a State whose policy is said to be the encouragement of immigration.
– It is the only hope that he has of living politically.
– The honorable member for Kennedy should not believe that! He should not hug that delusion !
– I take this opportunity of devoting more serious attention to the matter thanis involved in this particular case, because I hope that this will be the last occasion on which Commonwealth
Ministers will beinvited to reply to criticisms from State Ministers of their manner of exercising their own policy, and especially as to such minute details.
– I think a mountain is being made out of a mole hill;
– I was just about to say that the implication that we have acted in such ignorance that the Premier-
– The Prime Minister is doing the right thing.
– The greatest enemy the Commonwealth has is the New South Wales Premier.
– Order ! A question has been asked, and is now being replied to by the Prime Minister. I ask honorable members to maintain that proper silence which is necessary to enable the Prime Minister to be heard. If any further information is required after the reply is given, it will then be possible for honorable members to ask for that information. At the same time, I must ask the Prime Minister not to debate the whole matter, but simply to give such information as may be necessary.
– I should like to ask you, sir, how’ far the Prime Minister is permitted to go in answering questions put by an honorable member?
– He must give the facts.
– The Prime Minister - to the accompaniment of plaudits from the Labour Corner for some reason or other - is proceeding to criticise a speech delivered by the Premier of New South Wales. I submit that he should take some other course if he desires to do that, and not reply to that speech under cover of an answer to a question.
– I have already reminded the Prime Minister that he should not exceed the limits of a reply to a question - that he should furnish his reply without debating . the matter. If I had considered that that intimation to the Prime Minister was necessary before, I should have made it before. I think that, so far, the Prime Minister has not exceeded the limits which are properly open to him. At the same time, I repeat the suggestion which I made just now, that his answer should not assume the character of a speech in debate.
– We have had . a fairly critical speech already.
– Perhaps the honorable member will understand my motives when
I say that I do not propose in future -to reply in this House to criticisms made by State Ministers upon Commonwealth affairs; and I wish, before taking that, course which might otherwise appear to require some explanation, to give my reasons for making my answer somewhat longer than it would otherwise be. Let me refer to other charges equally baseless and of exactly the same kind. I. find in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, of the 7th of last month, a report of a speech made by the Premier of New South Wales. ‘
– Is this in order, Mr. Speaker?
– I am not aware of what the Prime Minister is going to say.
– In that speech the Premier of New South Wales said -
The Federal authorities had purchased many thousand copies of a certain publication, and had requested the State to take over several thousands in order to have them distributed through its agents abroad-
– Order ; I think that the Prime Minister is dealing with another matter now.
– It refers to the advertising of the Commonwealth, and comments bv the same Premier upon it.
– If it arises out of the question which has been asked, the honorable gentleman may proceed.
– I cannot say that it does arise out of the particular statement to which my attention has already been called. It is a’ similar statement on the same subject made by the same public man. Of course, if you, sir, consider that to refer to it will not be in order, I shall fake another opportunity.
– It is not what I consider, but what the Standing Orders require that must govern the matter, and I am afraid that they require that I should not permit the honorable gentleman to proceed.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether he has seen the article which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, having reference to the immigration question, and comments by the Premier of New South Wales on the subject, and what he intends to do in the matter ?
– I do not propose to make another speech.
– The honorable gentleman’s masters demand it.
– The statement made is that, on the 26th March, we wrote offering a certain number of copies of a handbook to the Government of New South Wales for circulation in the East and Oriental countries. Two commercial agents had waited upon me in the course of their visits to Australia, and had explained the need of some handy compendium of Australian information in China, Japan, and the Straits Settlements, and in the various centres where they were operating. Our own Statistical Handbook was not ready - indeed it is not yet ready - and I, therefore, selected the cheapest compendium of the kind known to me. It was published in New South Wales, and I obtained two thousand copies at a cost of £100. I asked the Premier of New South Wales if he would allow his representative in the East to circulate some copies for the benefit of Australian trade and commerce. Before I received any reply or acknowledgment from him, in the course of a public statement, the Premier of New South Wales said -
The Federal authorities had purchased many thousand copies of a certain publication, and had requested the State to take over several thousands in order to have them distributed through its agents abroad.
I might mention that the number offered to the New South Wales Government was 750, and not several thousand. ‘
As a matter of fact, the same publication had been previoutsly offered to the State Government separately, and ha’d been rejected-
I am informed by the publisher that the same publication was never offered to the State Government. A different publication altogether, and a very much more expensive one was offered to that Government, and declined. The Premier of New South Wales proceeded to say - because it contained nothing new and could only take the place of quite as complete and up-to-date information issued forth by the Government Printer.
The information contained in the handbook could contain nothing new, since it comprised statistics of all the States, and of the Commonwealth, added together in a convenient form. Though probably it was not as complete and up-to-date as some information since issued by the ‘ several States, in regard to statistics affecting those States, it was certainly the most uptodate publication dealing with all the States and with Australia as a whole. The Premier pf New South Wales further said -
Now the Federal Government had gone to the expense of this large purchase-
An expense, as I have said, of .£100 - and it coolly asked the Government of New-South Wales to undertake the distribution of their purchase, and at the same time to pay 40 per cent, of the cost of an article it did not want. Surely this should demonstrate to the Federal Government the uselessness of attempting to carry out a work which should be left solely to the State.
The publication which was offered by the New South Wales Government instead of this, was no doubt an excellent publication, but it related only to New South Wales. The publication about which these comments were made included full information with regard to New South Wales, giving that State its proper place as the oldest settlement, but that information was coupled with similar information as regards all the other States. It’ was, therefore, an Australian publication.
– Does the honorable gentleman refer to the Zone Hand)
– No, to a statistical handbook, a copy of which I laid on the table the other day. It included statistics of the various States as well as of the Commonwealth, with notes of the resources and advantages of Australia supported by those statistics. It was a purely Australian production, published in the interests of Australia. I have said that before we received any reply this is the comment offered upon Australian action in the interests of Australia as a whole. I merely wish to add that’ I hope I shall not be asked any further questions with regard to comments of this kind by any other State Premiers, though, as a matter of fact, I do not know of any other Premier who has indulged in this kind of comment. The two instances1 together relate to £200. I propose to disregard comment of this kind, and refrain, from retorting by comment upon even larger expenditures of the several States Governments - even where their nature invites it.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether he has ascertained that the newspaper in whose special supplement he has decided to advertise Australia, advocates a policy in harmony with the policy of the majority of the people of Australia, and whether he is not aware that the newspaper referred to is an uncompromising opponent of the “ Little Englander “ views which are being given prominent expression at the present time in Great Britain? Mr. DEAKIN. - I am in a position to answer the last part of tha honorable member’s question, because it is well known that the newspaper referred to is an uncompromising opponent of what is called “ Little’ Englander “ views.
– What is a “Little Englander”? It is merely a fraudulent description by the opposing political party.
– I think I know very well what the honorable member meant bv a “Little Englander.” It has nothing, whatever to do with English political parties now, but is used to describe persons in the Old Country who hold that England should stand alone, that we have arrived at a time when the Colonies must take care of themselves, and that the policy to be pursued in England should be a policy which considers only that portion of the British Empire and that alone?
– That is not how the term originated. It originated during the Boer War.
– I am not aware that the term originated at that time. Honorable members are aware that I decline to, use British party labels and catch words because they are capable of misapplication ; but I think I have interpreted the term in. the sense in which the honorable member for Wimmera used it.
– Quite correct.
– Taking the view I have stated of the Little Englander policy, I believe that the Standard is an uncompromising opponent of ‘ that policy. But we. had nothing whatever to do with the views given expression to in that newspaper on that or any other matter when we advertised any. more than we have anything to do with the views of other persons with whom we undertake a business transaction. If we believe we can make a bargain for our own benefit, we are not concerned about the political opinions of those with whom we make it.
– Arising out .of the question asked by the honorable member for Wimmera, I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether the London Daily Telegraph is not also an uncompromising opponent of the “Little Englander” party, a very small section of” the Liberal Party in the Old Country - and whether its circulation is not four or five times as great as that of the Standard!
– The honorable member credits me with more knowledge of the circulation of English newspapers than I possess. There are many uncompromising opponents of the particular policy referred to, and among them, the London Daily Telegraph, which has an extremely large circulation.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister ofTrade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether his attention has been directed to a paragraph which appeared in the Age of Monday last. The paragraph in question stated -
If the Minister has seen the paragraph mentioned, will he say what steps the Customs officers are taking now and have taken in the past, to prevent shipments of foreign dates and other foodstuffs unfit for human consumption being landed in the Commonwealth?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. Bowden) agreed to -
That a return be laid upon the table of the House showing (a) the names of all persons employed in the Papuan Civil Service since the 1st January, 1907; (b) the positions they were employed to fill ; and (c) the salaries and allowances paid and made to them in regard to such employment.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 21st May, vide page 11380):
Department of Defence
Proposed vote (Divisions 46 to 188),
– In the Estmates for this Department appear several compensation items. Is there any scheme in the Department by which claims of this kind are met? Apparently, every case is dealt with separately, and the whole thing is done in a piecemeal fashion, with the result that, as I surmise, equal iustice is not done all round. Has the Minister in view any scheme under which these payments for compensation can be made? Under subdivision No. 1 of General Contingencies for the Victoran Military Forces, there appears the item “ Compensation for injuries on duty,£600.” No names are mentioned, and there is a great deal of surmise as to the destination of the vote. Perhaps the Minister will take the Committee into his confidence by giving particulars of this case.
. -The vote of£600 mentioned by the honorable member for Calare is in connexion with the case of F. W. Buley, Ninth Australian Light Horse, who was thrown from his horse and killed when on duty, in the State of Victoria. With regard to the honorable member’s main contention, there is a certain procedure followed in the Department before any of these amounts can be paid. In cases of injury, they have to be certified to by a medical board, and certain regulations have to be followed. They are dealt with on the same principle as has obtained since those regulations were framed under the Defence Act. I shall have no objection to laying the conditions on the table of the House, and if honorable members think that any alteration is necessary, I shall be glad to consider it.
– Will the Minister say why the name is not inserted in that particular case, seeing that in every other case the name is given?
– Frankly, I do not know
– Is the Minister sure that he is not try ing. to get any more money for Colonel Price?
– I. am absolutely sure.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote (Divisions 190 to 195), ^£1.07,720.
.- Under the subdivision “ Miscellaneous “ in connexion with New South Wales, there appears an item of .£5,018 for “interest due to the Government Savings Bank, New South Wales, on advance of £25,000 made for money order purposes.” Will the Minister explain this? I was not aware that the Department was so necessitous that it had to borrow money from Savings Banks to carry on its money order business, particularly at the rate of interest represented by a payment of £5,000 on a principal of £[25,000, presumably for one year.
– These are additional Estimates, which are supposed to cover extraordinary items of expenditure not provided for in the EstimatesinChief. The assumption is that they arose under conditions that could not be reasonably provided for in the principal Estimates. But there are here items of £4,000 for the conveyance of inland mails, not including conveyance by railway, and £8,761 for the conveyance of mails by railway, in New South Wales. It seems extraordinary that such large votes, totalling £12,761, should be required on supplementary Estimates, when provision might have been made for them on the Estimates-in-Chief . The Postmaster-General will find that the tendering for country mails is going _up by leaps and bounds, and the probabilities are that this exceptionally large expenditure is due to that fact. The Minister will find that those large increases are caused by what are called the commercial methods adopted by his Department in dealing-‘ with contracts. The conditions imposed are so stringent that mail contractors have now to allow themselves a large margin in order to comply with them, and protect their sureties. For instance, in the town of Temora, there is a contract for the conveyance of mails between the local office and the railway station. When that tender was let, there was also let for the same period of three years a tender for the conveyance of mails between the Temora post-office and a distant centre known as Ariah Park. Quite recently the Depart ment decided to cancel that contract, and handed over to the railway authorities the conveyance of these mails. I am informed that there was a railway service in existence between these points at the time the contracts were accepted. The contractor for the conveyance of mails between the post-office and the station is now called upon to carry the additional mails without further recompense. The contract contains a provision that he shall convey the mails from the post-office to the railway station so many times a day, “ or oftener, if required,” and although it hasbeen the custom of the Department to regard that provision as referring only to exceptional circumstances, advantage has been taken of it to compel the contractor to carry, these additional mails without an additional allowance. This harsh, autocratic method of dealing with contractors is responsible, amongst other causes, for the largely increased prices shown in the new tenders. Under the old system the Department was prepared to deal reasonably with its contractors, and to consider the equities of every case; but under the present regime it secures itself by well nigh impossible conditions, and insists upon their observance when it suits its book’ to do so. The result is that tenderers find it necessary to allow a wide margin beyond the estimated cost so as to provide against special conditions which the Department may impose during the currency of a contract. It is due to the PostmasterGeneral, to ask whether a little mere of the equities of these cases should not be considered in place of a strict adherence to technicalities? Provision is made in these Estimates for £20,500 in respect of temporary assistance, and the item emphasizes the contention advanced again and again in this House that the Treasurer cut down the Estimates-in-Chief to such an extent that the Department found it impossible to effectively carry on its work.
– We hear almost every honorable member in one breath asking for increased postal facilities in his electorate, and, in the next, urging that expenditure should be kept down!.
– That is not the position in this case. This expenditure relates to established services which must be carried on by the Department. One result of this policy has been to create’ confusion in the Department, to. destroy its efficiency, and to cause dissatisfaction on the part of the general public. In reply to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I should like to draw his attention to an incident that occurred in connexion with the General Post Office, Sydney, towards the close of last year. The” number of postal parcels -and the quantity of postal matter passing through that office, as the result of the Christmas season, increased to such an extent that the staff was unable to cope with the rush. Temporary hands had to be taken on to meet the demand upon the Department, and those hands - many of whom had wives and families to support - were compelled to do without their wages during the Christmas season, because the Deputy Postmaster-General had not at his disposal the money necessary to pay them.
– In Melbourne the Department retired men just before the holidays so as to avoid paying them for a broken week.
– They were retired because the Department had not the money to pay them.
– No; the reason is that the Department was more niggardly than any private firm, and was not prepared to pay them for a broken week.
– I do not think that that is a fair charge to make against the Department. As a matter of fact, it has been starved by the Treasurer. Although the Estimates-in-Chief showed that the expenditure of the Department had been reduced by £20,000, we find that additional hands have had to be employed, and that we have now to vote a sum ot. £20,000 to cover the cost of temporary assistance during the current financial year. I wish now to refer to the item of £1,000 for Sunday - overtime. I am glad to learn from the Postmaster-General that the vicious system introduced in the Sydney General Post Office is being remedied. The authorities withdraw men from their regular staff duties - allowing them time off at inconvenient periods - to place them upon Sunday work.
– There was a roster for the day staff whose members were required to make up, by means of overtime, the loss of time involved by the withdrawal of men from their regular duties to perform Sunday work.
– The men had to break in upon their regular staff duties in order to perform Sunday work. In these Estimates it is proposed to appropriate .£1,000 to cover the cost of Sun day overtime upon the basis laid down by the Postmaster-General. I trust that that sum does not represent merely temporary provision in that connexion. I hope that permanent provision will be made to defray the cost of Sunday work, so that the dissatisfaction which has resulted from the system that has hitherto been followed, will be removed.
– Upon page 43 of these Estimates I notice an item “ repair and maintenance of telegraph and telephone lines and instruments, including all services in connexion therewith, chargeable to contingencies, except those provided for under item 2, .£3,873.” I fear that the .PostmasterGeneral has not made adequate provision for the repair and maintenance of these lines. In my own district the deplorable state of disrepair into which the telegraph and telephone lines have been allowed to fall, is responsible for the very frequent interruptions which take place in the service. Lines which have been erected for thirty years have had no maintenance gang employed upon them during the past ten years, so that when the wires become disconnected it is not safe for the linemen to climb the poles and reattach them. Consequently, interruptions are frequent, and these necessitate delay in the transaction of public business, as well as the employment of men for unduly long hours. I trust that the Postmaster- General will see that a sufficient sum is made available for the maintenance of these lines, in order that the evils of which I complain may be obviated. In regard to allowances to officers stationed in outlying districts, it seems to me that ‘ a better understanding is necessary. As far as I know, the only officers who receive these allowances are those stationed in remote parts of the Commonwealth. But whilst these persons labour under a very serious disability I contend that very frequently officers located in isolated coastal districts are obliged to labour under similar disadvantages. Where an officer is compelled to obtain his supplies by coach his cost of living may be just as high as .that of an officer stationed at Bourke. It seems to me that these allowances ought not to be determined merely upon geographical lines. Local conditions, I contend, ought to be taken into consideration. In connexion with nonofficial post-offices I maintain that a very bad system has been allowed to grow up. It is practically nothing more nor less than a system of sweating, under which officers receive £120 annually, for conducting a post-office having a considerable revenue, and the business connected with money or- ders, Savings Banks, &c, out of which they have to pay not less than 10s. per week to a messenger. That reduces their allowance to less than £100 per annum.
– That is not the case; a minimum wage is fixed.
– The Minister is in error. I have in my mind’s eye a contract office in an important centre where there is a Morse instrument installed. Further, it is a repeating station. The postmaster receives £120 per annum, and the use of the postal premises, but out of this sum he is paying more than 10s. a week to a messenger.
– Yet these persons are begging us through half-a-dozen honorable members not to substitute official offices for contract offices, because they will be then deprived of what they are getting.
– The position is . that unless post-offices can show a revenue of £400 a year the Morse instruments are taken away from them, and they are run upon the contract system. The use of Morse instruments ought to be extended, because that is. the only system acceptable to the people as insuring secrecy. The allowances at offices where there is no telegraph, though, perhaps, a telephone, are very small. The Department, apparently, desire to run these offices on a purely mercantile basis, and, unless a considerable profit is shown on the working, the people in charge are sweated. It must not be forgotten, however, that in addition to the distribution of mails and telegrams, the Department has the responsibility of assisting in the development of the country.
– That is not consistent with the management of the Department bv a Commission on commercial lines.
– That remark does not apply to me, because I am opposed to placing the Department under a Commission, and, if the Government cannot administer the Department in a proper way, there is another remedy, apart from putting it under a Commission. One of the inducements to settlement is the establishment of telephone communication, and of mail services at reasonably frequent intervals. I find it most difficult to persuade the Department to provide telephone lines unless it can be shown that there will be a profit during the ensuing seven years ; and the result is that our pioneers, in addition to other disabilities, are called upon to find guarantees, because the Department refuse to take any responsibility. I admit that, in parts of my electorate, where rapid development has taken place, some facilities have been afforded, but, in one of the most prosperous of districts, including Dorrigo and Bellingen, telephone communication is firmlrefused on the ground that there are nc funds available. That is not the treatment which the people expect from the Common wealth Government, which ought to’ take’ its share of the responsibility in the development of the country. The people in the. district I have mentioned are thoroughly disgusted, and extremely anxious to know whether they are ever to have a telephone, or mails more than once or twice a week. If the money allotted is not sufficient to carry out the works, the Postmaster-General should ask for more, and I have sufficient confidence in the Treasurer, and in honorable members, to know that it would be granted.
– One cannot help noticing the great difference there is between the expenditure .proposed in South Australia and the expenditure proposed in other States ; and it is a difference which may be observed through Estimates after Estimates.
– South Australia does not ask for more expenditure - that is the reason.
– Why, I have been pleading for expenditure in that State, ana I have been refused !
– I am speaking pf the responsible executive officers in South Australia.
– If the Department in South Australia can be conducted so much more cheaply than in any of the other States, it would.be a good thing to transfer some of the executive officers from South Australia into the central office.
– The expenditure in’ South Australia, as compared with the receipts, is quite equal to that in New South Wales.
– That is not so, but, even if it were, it is no explanation of the fact that, in Estimates after Est:mates, the proposed expenditure in South. Australia is lower, in proportion to population, than in any other State. ‘
– The honorable ‘member will find that that is not so.
– But I have juslooked at the Estimates-in-Chief, and find that it is so. In some of the States there is a large and constant increase of expenditure in proportion to population. Of that I do riot complain ; but I do complain that, while in South Australia, the Post Office is more profitable than in any other State-
– No; in that connexion New South Wales is first, and then come Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia in’ the order named.
– I should like to see the figures, in view of the fact that, at the inauguration of Federation, the Department in South Australia was very much more profitable than in any other State.
– In New South Wales the progress has been most phenomenal.
– In recent years, certainly ; but I point out that, while the population of South Australia is one-tenth of the community, only one-twenty-fifth of the total expenditure is proposed for that State; in other words, with 10 per cent, of the population, South Australia receives only 5 per cent, of the expenditure.
– That is, on these Additional Estimates.
– No, in the EstimatesinChief the proportion remains. Either in South Australia there is a much better class of administrative officers, or the South Australian service, as compared with that of other States is being starved; and I am inclined to think there is a little of both. The methods of management have been -better in South Australia, and there has not been so rauch leeway to make up. Facilities which are granted readily to other States are refused to South Australia.
– Perhaps because the population of the State does not warrant their concession.
– My comparisons are made on the basis of population. I have on several occasions brought before the Chamber the unfair way in which South Australian telegraphists have been classified, and the unjust reduction in the salaries of South Australian postmasters. I do not blame the Postmaster-General for this; it was due to the classification of the Public Service Commissioner. But although the South Australian postal revenue is good, and owing to the vast distances to be covered, and the sparseness of the population, the difficulty of providing postal facilities is as great in that State as in any other, except, perhaps Western Australia - the expenditure is much less than in any other State. It has been said that the executive officers there have not asked for more. If that be so, some of them might well be transferred to the other States to reduce expenditure there, though, personally, I do not believe that there is extravagance in any State. Whilst among the contingencies provided for in respect to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania,, there are repairs and maintenance of telegraph and telephone lines, temporary assistance, overtime, meal allowances, allowances to officers’ stationed in outlying districts, printing, postage, telephone directories, and postal guides, such provision is not made for South Australia.
– The cost of salaries in South Australia is 49 per cent, of the postal revenue - the highest percentage in any of the States except Western Australia.
– That is due to the great extent of the State, and the way in which its population is scattered over its surface;
– In Victoria, the erection of telegraph lines cost only onethird of the cost in New South Wales. That shows the expensiveness of managing a service spread over a big area.
– The difference in regard to cost of management is not so great as in regard to cost of construction.
– Relatively to population, the postal expenditure in South Australia has been less than that of the other States, except Western Australia. I remind the Postmaster-General that he is at the head of the whole Commonwealth Department, and cannot be governed wholly by the consideration whether facilities of communication pay in any particular locality. I ask him to see that facilities which have been given in the other States are given in South Australia. For instance, we need telephone exchanges in the eastern suburbs of Adelaide.
– No reductions were made in the requests submitted by the South Australian Deputy PostmasterGeneral in connexion with these Additional Estimates.
– Then it is not that the Postmaster-General or the Treasurer is refusing facilities, but that the South Australian Deputy PostmasterGeneral will not recommend them?
Mr.Mauger. - These Estimates cover only maintenance and current expenditure, not large capital expenditure.
– They contain some very big items.
– Very little is provided for public works, and nothing for new exchanges.
– I would not complain if the same facilities were given to South Australia as are given to other States. But in that State no payments are made for overtime, Sunday work, and meal hours, nor are allowances given to officers in outlying districts.
– It has not been necessary to provide additional payment for Sunday work, because there has been a sufficient number of persons to do it.
– If the Minister visits South Australia with the Cabinet Committee, he will hear loud complaints there on the. subject. It is all very well for him to sit in his chair and say that everything in South Australia is right.
– I do not say so.
– I have reason to believe that the South Australian Deputy Postmaster-General has recommended a large number of improvements, but, apparently, no provision has been made for carrying them out. As to the granting of allowances to officers in outlying districts, to which I referred last night, it is felt that these officers have been unfairly treated. They are worse off under the Commonwealth than they were under the State administration. There is great discontent in the South Australian postal service.
– That is due, in the main, to the fact that the South Australian officials were paid extra for doing what was State work, of which they have been deprived by the Public Service Commissioner.
– That remark applies only to the case of postmasters.
– And to the telegraphists, too.
– No. What the telegraphists say is that their stations on the overland telegraph line are so important that many of them should be in a higher grade than that in which they are classified. Does the Minister propose to visit South Australia in connexion with the Cabinet inquiry ?
– I ask the honorable member not to go into that.
– I shall not discuss the matter; I merely wish to say that if he visits the State -the Minister will find that it is generally believed that there is good ground for thinking that South Australian officers have been treated differently from those in the other States.
– They suffered more by the classification than those of other States.
– There is no doubt about that. Surely the Minister has some authority in regard to the fixing of allowances. If not, it is a bad state of affairs, though one which the Chairman will not allow me to discuss now. I wish to know whether the Commonwealth stamp printing has been transferred to the Treasurer.
– We shall be unable to do anything in that matter for about eighteen months.
– Surely the Minister does not mean to suggest that no action is to be taken until then ? I am not speaking of the adoption of a uniform postage stamp.
– But the one hinges very largely on the other.
– That is not so. An officer has actually been appointed to take charge of this work. Is he to fool away his time for the next eighteen months pending a decision with regard to’ uniform postage stamps?
– That officer has been transferred to the Treasury.
– But he will supervise the work of printing stamps for the Postal Department. I wish to know whether the arrangements in that connexion are approaching completion. The work is at present being carried on by officers employed in the Adelaide General Post Office, and the new scheme has been hung up so long that they do not know what their position is. They are unable to make any arrangements as to the future pending a settlement of the matter.
– I shall endeavour to complete my part of the work. It is a matter for the Treasurer.
– The Treasurer is not present and I have to appeal to the Postmaster-General.
– Quite so. I shall bring the honorable member’s remarks under the notice of the Treasurer.
– In conclusion, I would draw attention to the remarkably small amount these Estimates provide in respect of the South Australian branch of the Department as compared with the provision made for other States. The inference to be drawn is either that the manage ment in South Australia is superior to that in the other States, or that facilities granted in the rest of the Commonwealth are in excess of those enjoyed by the people of South Australia.
.- Whilst acknowledging the efforts that are being made by the Postmaster-General to place in order the affairs of this huge and growing Department, I wish to direct his attention to two or three questions that are deserving of serious consideration. I agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Cowper on several matters to which these Estimates relate, and more particularly with his remarks regarding contract post-offices. The provision made for temporary assistance in Victoria, as well as in the other States, .is altogether too large. If this is a growing Department the PostmasterGeneral should be in a position to determine whether it is necessary to appoint more permanent officials. It is not in the interests of good government that a very large proportion of the service should be employed only temporarily.-
– And temporary hands can be’ employed for only nine months.
– Quite so. We cannot expect temporary hands to take the same interest in the work of the Department as a permanent staff.
– Many of the permanent hands spend half their time in breaking in the recruits.
– That is so. Then, again, as the honorable member for Cowper has said, a great deal of sweating takes place in connexion with contract post-offices. If a revenue of £200 per annum is sufficient to warrant the appointment of an officer to a semi-official post-office, there is no reason why a staff officer receiving a reasonable salary should not be selected for the position. I fail to see why a distinction should be drawn between the semiofficial and staff offices. As scon as the revenue from a semi-official office reaches the minimum which warrants the appointment of an officer, a permanent official should be placed in charge. Another matter to which I desire to call attention is the need for reform in connexion with the telephone extension system in country districts. In rural districts, and, indeed, throughout the
Commonwealth, the telephone exchange radius within which a uniform charge is made for connexions has been increased from one mile to two miles. A uniform charge of £4 per annum is made for connexion with an exchange within a radius of two miles, and a scale ,of fees varying according to the distance covered, has also been adopted for extensions. It often happens that a man has to pay as much for an extension from his place of business to his private residence, or- to a branch ‘office or stables, as he has to pay for connexion with the exchange. A .subscriber whose business establishment is close to the local exchange, but who perhaps from considerations of health has taken up his residence in a- suburb on the outer edge of the two miles radius, is charged just as much for an extension from his business premises to his home as he is for being connected with the exchange. In the first place he pays £4 for connexion with the exchange, and if he wishes an extension to his home a mile and a half away, he has to pay an additional sum of £4, or perhaps £4 10s. On the other hand, if he resides within a quarter of a mile of his business premises he may have the extension made for £2. The point that I wish to emphasize is that if it is advisable to have a uniform charge for connexions with the exchange within a certain radius, it is equally desirable to apply the same principle to extensions.
– So we do. Subscribers pay pro rata for extensions.
– That is not the position. Under the present system a subscriber whose premises are a mile and a half from the exchange pays no more for being connected with it than does one who is only a quarter of a mile distant. Why should not the same principle be applied to extensions. This is a matter of great importance, not only to the general public, but to the Department itself. It should be the policy of the Department to encourage extensions.
– There is no cheaper system in that regard in any other part of the world.
– That Is no reply to my contention. My desire is to ascertain why the Department should differentiate between extensions and connexions. I repeat that if it is advisable to fix a uniform charge for connexions within a certain radius of a telephone exchange, it should be equally desirable to have a uniform charge for extensions within a given radius.
– The cost of construction is more in the matter of extensions.
– As a matter of fact it is less, for whilst a double line is necessary in the case of the original connexion a single line is only required for an extension. I approve of the policy of the Department in making a uniform charge for connexions within a certain radius, and would urge upon the Minister the desirableness of applying the same system to extensions. I hope that he will look into this suggestion and not dismiss it wilh the remark that the system is the. cheapest in the world. If it is, we ought to be proud of it, and should endeavour to make it still cheaper and more effective. Life in Australia is different altogether from, what it is in many other parts of the world. We have a vast territory only sparsely populated. Population in rural districts is widely scattered, and our aim should be to make the telephone system so cheap that .people separated from each other by long distances may be linked by the wires, and rural life thus made more attractive.
– They can be connected at a cost as low as 10 1/2d. per week.
– I am discussing what I regard as an anomaly,’ and my contention is not met by a mere statement that the system in force in the Commonwealth is cheaper than those of many other countries. I hope that the. Postmaster-.General will give his attention; to the matters that I have brought under notice.
.- I have a few observations to offer with regard to the Estimates relating to this important Department. Provision ‘is made for £14,600 in respect of additional salaries, and one cannot fail to note the marked disparity between the amounts set down under this heading for expenditure in each of the States. In round numbers, provision is made for £6,000 in the case of New South Wales; Victoria, £5,000; Queensland, £385 ; South Australia, £2,213; Western Australia, £602; and Tasmania, £407. It seems reasonable to assume that increases are more likely to be necessary in the larger States which are now being more speedily populated than the smaller ones, but judging by these Estimates that is not the position. Notwith standing these very extensive increases we are still told that there is sweating in the Department.
– “Sweating” is a relative term, and it would be well to define instances.
– The charge of sweating has been hurled at the Department bv members of the Labour Party, whilst complaint is made, more particularly by other sections of the Committee, that the welfare of the people is not considered by the Department as it was in times gone by. My own experience in connexion with postoffices in country towns satisfies me that the number of mere youths employed is altogether excessive.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, but that is the policy of the Public Service Commissioner. He thinks that it is a good policy - and there is a great deal to be said in favour of it - when making additions to the service to appoint youths of sixteen.
– A large number of youths are employed, and after they have served a probationary, period they are discharged. There is no” more important concern connected with the work of government than that of seeing that His Majesty’s mails are placed in the custody of persons who are fit to take charge of them. From that point of view the employment of youths is not a sound system.- Whilst the increases of .salary provided for officers upon these Estimates are very considerable, the non-classification of officers has’ prevented postmasters from receiving the increments to which they are entitled.
– They have been lost sight of somehow.
– They appear to have been lost sight of, and I am glad to have the assurance of the Postmaster-General that their classification will appear within a week or two.
– The classification both of officers and offices will appear within the next week or two.
– I come now to another matter, and one which from the public point of view is of considerable importance. “Upon page 43 of these Estimates there is an item which reads - “Increased cost for the conveyance of mails other than by railways.” I note that for this purpose the sum of £[4,000 is to be expended in New South Wales,, and £500 in Queensland, but no similar provision has been made in the case of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. In this connexion I desire to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General a large number of complaints which are being made concerning the decrease of postal facilities in many country centres. Scarcely a week passes in which I do not receive some communication in reference to this matter. Only this morning I received a letter from the shire of Deakin complaining that the mail service to a certain place which for years had been a tri-weekly one, has been reduced to a bi-weekly one. In another locality which formerly enjoyed a mail service twice a week a reduction has been made to once a week. Seeing that it is proposed to appropriate £4,000 to provide increased mail facilities in New South Wales, I am warranted in concluding that an injustice is being done to Victoria. But I have made inquiries into the conditions prevailing elsewhere, and I have found that even in New South Wales the policy of the Department is to reduce mail facilities in country districts. That, I contend, is an unsound policy. If we wish to develop the resources of this country we ought to increase rather than decrease those facilities. The settlement of the country depends largely upon the people being able to receive and despatch their mails expeditiously. Indeed, the granting of mail facilities ought almost to precede settlement. I am quite satisfied that the PostmasterGeneral, in common with every other honorable member, desires to see Australia prosperous, but I venture to say that he is beings over-ruled by his departmental officers. If he were to have his own way he would not lend himself to a curtailment of mail facilities. I should have been extremely pleased if we could have seen an increase under this heading in all the States, because if would have shown that the Department is a progressive one which is devoted to catering for the wants of the people. I should not be surprised to learn that with the reduction of mail facilities which is taking place in. Victoria there is an absolute decrease in the revenue.
– There has been a very large increase during the past three years. .
– I should not have been surprised, seeing the conditions that obtain in Victoria and elsewhere, if there had been a very substantial decrease. I think I am justified in asking the PostmasterGeneral to seriously consider the position with a viewto adopting a policy which will make for progress instead of retrogression. I do trust that both the Postmaster-General and the Cabinet will give due consideration to theserepresentations, and that in future they will see that if mail facilities are not increased, they are not, at any rate, decreased.
– The increased facilities granted in Victoria during the past two years represent an expenditure of nearly £1,000.
– I observe, on page 45 of these Estimates, an item which reads “ Six pole dressers, , £504.” Now, the pole dressers in Victoria occupy a peculiar position. Some time ago, when a proper recognition was given to skilled workmen, these employes received 10s. per day.
– What is pole dressing?
– It is adze work upon telegraph poles.
– This pole dressing is only done in Melbourne. It is not done in the country districts.
– Prior to Federation, when a strong endeavour was made in Victoria to reduce the wages of the workers, the pole dressers suffered a reduction to 8s. per day. They have always objected to this low rate. They contend that the work upon which they are engaged is not labouring work - thatit is practically skilled work, and that they ought to receive 10s. per day. The Postmaster-General -acting, I presume, upon advice as well as upon his own knowledge- directed that these men should receive a fair remuneration, namely, 10s. per day. But immediately afterwards the Public Service Commissioner, who says that he acted upon the advice of practical men in his Department - the virtual head of that Department, Mr. Hesketh-
– The Public Service Commissioner has not appealed to Mr. Hesketb in connexion with this matter. He has not obtained a report from that officer.
– I think that the Postmaster-General’s statement is wrong.
– The Public Service Commissioner obtained a report from his own expert, and from the head of the Stores Branch in Victoria.
– The head of the Stores Branch has never done any pole dressing in his life. Acting on the advice of somebody, the Public Service Commissioner decided that these pole men should be made permanent officers at a minimum wage of 8s., and a maximum of 8s. sd., per day. Now, the men who are engaged in pole dressing are shipwrights, and the wages of shipwrights are 12s. per day.
– Are they full tradesmen ?
– I admit at once that to do pole dressing a man does not require to possess the full knowledge of a shipwright.
– Any handy man can do that work.
– It is not skilled labour.
– I knew that when I attempted to bring this matter before the Committee members of the Opposition corner would exclaim that skilled labour is not required for pole dressing ; and I neverexpected any help from them in maintaining the wages of lower-paid workmen.
– Does the honorable member contend that this is skilled labour?
– Yes, as can be proved in a very short time. I have already pointed out that the Public Service Commissioner advertised for two pole dressers, to be appointed permanently at a maximum wage of 8s. 5d. a day ; and it may be quite possible for him to get two men, able to do the work, who, in view of the permanency of the position, would accept the low wage offered. I am satisfied, however, that if the Commissioner required twelve or twenty men, skilled at the work, he would not be able to obtain them at that rate. The majority of the workmen, I believe, like a Government position on account of its permanency - they regard a constant wage of 8s. per day as better than casual work at a higher rate. But it is a part of my duty, as a representative, to see that the wages of the worker are not lowered in any direction; and I am afraid that, if the Government pay only 8s. 5d. per day as a maximum for this particular class of work, that will become the maximum with outside employers. In the same Department, carpenters are paid only 10s. per day, while those employed privately receive 10s. 8d.; and we all know that there is naturally a tendency for employers to gauge wages by those paid by the Government. The case immediately under discussion may not, in itself, be very important, but the danger is that if the Government adopt a similar rule in all callings there may result most unfortunate effects to the whole community. If the spending power of the lower-paid workers is restricted, then all men in business must suffer. It may be presumption on my part, but I doubt the ability of the officials who advise the Public Service Commissioner, to say whether this is skilled or unskilled work; and, further, I am afraid that they are likely to be biased in favour of paying the lowest wages possible. I suppose I shall have to take another opportunity to prove that this is really skilled labour ; but, at any rate, if permanent men receive only 8s. per day, those who are engaged casually will have to accept the same, because I believe there is a rule that one must not be paid more than the other.
– I have issued quite a number of orders for casual men. to receive more than is paid to permanent men.
– But it is evidently the desire of the Public Service Commissioner to circumvent the orders given to that effect, and by making the appointments permanent save the extra money. The honorable member for Calare made a somewhat vicious attack on the Treasurer in connexion with some small mail contracts, and I also have a grievance in this connexion. A tender was called for the mail service between Stony Point and San Remo in Victoria, and the man who had previously had the contract, E. E. Smith, at£349, did not apply ; and I understand that, in his opinion, it- was not a “ very good thing “ carrying the mails in that particular part of the State. The contract thereupon lapsed; but Smith continued to do the work for, I believe, the same remuneration as had been paid under the contract. A man who resides in my constituency found that a contract had not been taken up, and thereupon he put in an application. He was informed by the Department that the application came too late, but that, under the circumstances, there would be another call for tenders. In due course tenders were called for, and this man put in his price. I may explain that a new tenderer cannot obtain a contract unless his price is, at any rate, 5 per cent. lower than that of the previous contractor, in the event of the latter tendering again ; and the man I have in my mind made his figure lower than the amount which had been paid to Smith. To his surprise, however, he found that the previous contractor, in spite of the fact that he had not thought fit to tender on the first occasion, had his offer accepted at£50 less than had been paid previously. Now, the original contractor should have known all the routine of the business ; and, to say the least, the case is peculiar. I know that I may take other means of sifting the matter; but I must say that such occurrences are not to the benefit of the community. I should not by any means like to make a groundless charge, and I do not know whether or not there can be any leakage, of information ; but the fact remains that the original contractor, although he had not thought fit to tender on the first invitation, was able afterwards to put in a figure less than that of the other man. I notice that while honorable members are very eager for increased postal facilities in their own electorates, or in the Commonwealth generally, they are ever ready to blame the Department for the inevitably increased expenditure. We all know that, although the facilities have been increased at considerable cost, vet the revenue of the Department has also increased ; and I cannot see why the Department should be stinted in the face of past results. I am sure that if the Treasurer would come down with a statement showing real need for further expenditure, honorable members would be found quite willing to place sufficient money at his disposal to make the administration of the Department efficient and satisfactory to the people as a whole.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports deserves more credit for his humanitarian instincts than for his commercial or business acumen. . I trust that the PostmasterGeneral, as a business man, will not allow his Department to be conducted in the loose fashion suggested- by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. If he does, its expense will increase beyond all proportion to the value of the services it gives to the public. However, as the postal administration has been the subject of a great deal of adverse criticism of late, I shall not refer to the subject at greater length now, though I again direct attention te the large appropriations in these Additional Estimates. For the Postmaster-General’s Department, they are exceedingly large, and for temporary assistance alone, £30,106 is asked for in addition to the sum voted on the Estimates-in-Chief. In connexion with all the Departments, nearly ,£60,000 is provided in the Additional Estimates for temporary assistance. In my opinion, it would have been wiser to’ spend a much smaller sum * on permanent hands. It is false economy to spend a great deal of money; year after year, on temporary assistance, when greater efficiency could be obtained by expending, perhaps, less money on permanent appointments. I hope that the Government will recognise the criticism which has been urged against this feature of its administration, and direct the attention of the Public Service Commissioner to the matter. Parliament did riot intend that the power to appoint temporary assistants should be used in such a way as to make the need for such assistance a sort of chronic disease.
– Parliament wished to discourage the employment of temporary assistants.
– Yes. Temporaryhands ought to be appointed only to deal with temporary congestion of work, such a’s occurs at Christmas and Easter. But temporary hands are now being employed throughout the year, to the impairment of the efficiency of the Departments. The Public Service. Commissioner should be asked to consider the advisability of appointing more permanent hands.
– Temporary hands have had to be provided to do work which men should be appointed permanently to do. The Government admits the force of criticism such as that of the honorable member, and the Public Service Commissioner’s attention has been drawn to the” matter. He admits that he made a mistake.
– The Public Service Commissioner is, of course, bound to study economy in administration, but if he admits that the present system is extravagant, and is going to alter it, I have no more to say.t I hope that the employment of temporary assistants will be greatly lessened in all the Departments. Before concluding, I wish to know whether practical steps have been taken to arrange for the issue qf a uniform Commonwealth postage stamp? .
– Practical steps have been taken.
– I am glad to hear that. The time has arrived when we should have a Commonwealth stamp.
– I hope that designs will be ready for adoption as soon as it is possible to change the present system.
– I wish to ask whether consideration has been given to the extension of the metropolitan radius in New South Wales, in view of the large aggrega- tions of population which are continually gathering a little outside the radius, and which by the present regulations are excluded from its benefits?
– The matter must be considered.
– There appear in these Estimates various items for gratuities to relatives of those who have been killed whilst on duty. It seems to be a recognised principle that where men are killed or injured whilst on duty, or in the service of the Department, the Government occasionally take into consideration the claim’s of the injured persons, or, in case of death, of their surviving relatives. I wish, therefore, to take this opportunity of directing the attention of the Postmaster-General to a case that I brought under his notice some time ago - that of a fireman at Bendigo named Swanwick, who was killed whilst on -duty attempting to put out a fire at the post-office. He was practically on duty protecting Commonwealth property, and was killed in the performance of that duty. The Postmaster-General previously promised to submit the question’ to the- Treasurer, but I see no provision for the case in these Estimates.
– We were advised that the man was not in any sense an employe of the Department, and that whatever was done must be done as a matter of grace. He was a fireman, doing his duty as such.
– He -was endeavouring to protect Commonwealth property. I certainly think the case comes within the principle of a number of gratuities that appear in these Estimates.
– It does not.
– A man endeavouring to protect and save Commonwealth property from fire is practically in the service of the Commonwealth.
– Does the same apply to private individuals?
– A fireman occupies an official position. I do not know whether the Department makes any contribution towards the fire brigades.
– It makes a considerable contribution.
– Then that is an official recognition of the fire brigades, who are by that means placed to some extent under the obligation to protect Commonwealth property. The Department recognises that the fire brigades are subsidiary services’ that may be expected, if called upon, to protect Commonwealth property.
– We pay them so much for the protection of property, and for supervision and inspection.
– An annual sum?
– It will not encourage firemen to strenuously perform their duty and risk their lives in the protection of Commonwealth property if the Commonwealth regards them as outsiders and strangers, who are not to be considered.
– The Department certainly could not recognise firemen any more than it could private individuals. ‘
– I do not say that a legal obligation rests on the Commonwealth, but I think a moral one does.
– I speak as a fireman as well as Postmaster-General when I say that such an obligation could not possibly be recognised by the Commonwealth.
– I am sorry to hear it. I am sure the Minister’s pronouncement will be deeply disappointing to the firemen of Australia. I do not believe that Parliament would refuse to grant gratuities in the case of firemen killed in the performance of their duties in protecting Commonwealth property.
– As a question pf grace, it would be a different matter. But if Parliament recognised the claims of firemen on’ duty at Commonwealth buildings, it would have to recognise the claims of firemen on duty at private buildings.
– I put it as a matter of grace. Every one of the gratuities in these Estimates are matters of grace. The gratuity to the widow of lineman Lewis,for instance, is a matter of grace. It is all a matter of favour. I do not see why the Commonwealth should not’ show favour in the case of a fireman killed in the performance of duty in saving Commonwealth Droperty, as in the case of an ordinary lineman, because the fireman was equally engaged in doing his duty to his country. I am sorry that the ‘ PostmasterGeneral, as an old fireman, is not able to recognise that favorable consideration might well be given to cases of this kind. However, I have done my duty, and if the Minister refuses to see the justice of the claim, I can do no more.
– I am glad to have the assurance of the PostmasterGeneral that an end is to be put to the practice of employing temporary hands. Of course it cannot be absolutely stopped, but its proportions ought to be very much less than they are. I have been told again and again by the Department that the number of temporary hands has reached its present huge proportions because of some special strain put upon the Department, especially in New South Wales, by an undue rush of work which is not likely to last. I was told that principally with regard to the telephone system, and I made it my business to find out what the rush of work was like; and whether it was only temporary. I find that in 1906 the increase in thenumber of telephones granted in New South Wales was 1,200, and in 1907, 3,600, whilst this year, if the increase goes on at the rate shown in the first two or three months, it will be between 5,000 and 6,000.
– It would be more than that if we could supply the instruments as quickly as they are asked for.
– When the figures show such a consistent increase over a term of years it cannot be said that the rush is merely temporary, and that temporary assistance will meet the difficulty. There is no doubt, and I am glad the Minister recognises the fact, that too much ‘has been done on the temporary assistance plan, and that many of the places which are being filled with temporary hands ought to be occupied by permanent officials. The increase in the Supplementary Estimates for temporary assistance for New South Wales alone is£20,500. That seems an enormous sum, but even then we do not seem to get the work done with anything like expedition. I have in my mind the case of a man who wanted a telephone for a building that he was having erected. The auestiori arose as to whether he should make his application at once or wait until the building was finished. It was found that the contractor might want to have the use of the tele- phone, and the application was made straight away. The house is now finished, and although the application has been infor six months, the telephone isnot yet installed.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– There is another matter that calls for the attention of the PostmasterGeneral. In country places where a telephone line to a private house is. desired, the subscriber is often called upon to pay in advance a subscription of two or three years in order to cover the cost of construction. I know of a case in which that course has been pursued in my own electorate. Theestimated cost of the line was £6 or £8, and the intending subscriber paid the subscription for two years in advance. After waiting for three or four months to be connected, he inquired the reason for the delay, and then ascertained that the money paid by him had gone into the general revenue, and that nothing could be done until these Additional Estimates had been passed, because the cost of constructing the line was covered by them. My contention is that money so received by the Department should be placed to the credit of a trust account, and that a subscriber should be speedily provided with the facilities for which he has paid.
– A year’s subscription does not. cover anything like the cost of constructing such a line.
– I was told that the amount paid. in the case to which I have referred would cover the cost of construetion. Whilst dealing with the subject of telephones, I should like to ask the PostmasterGeneral what is being done in reference to the construction of a telephone line to Katoomba ? The honorable member’s predecessor in office called, I think, for a guarantee, and was offered one of 10 per cent. Upon receiving a report from his officers,- however, he said that he did not requireNthe guarantee, because he was satisfied that it would pay, and he promised that it would be erected in time for use during last season. I understood that provision was made on the Estimates-in-Chief, for the construction of the line, but nothing has yet been done. The new season is approaching, and even if the work is started at’ once, I am afraid that it will not be completed in time for ft. Incidents of this kind bring the Department into disrepute. They occur again and again, and when honorable members are unable to obtain a satisfactory explanation from the Department, they naturally feel that reorganization must be necessary. The position of postal officials who have to attend to Savings Bank work also calls for attention. So far as I have been able to ascertain, officers of the Department called upon to discharge additional duties in connexion with Savings Bank branches at postoffices, receive no. additional payment, although the States make an allowance to the Commonwealth in respect of such ser- vices. Moreover, wherever there is a Savings Bank in connexion with a postoffice, the postal official in charge has to take out at his own expense an additional guarantee policy, although no special allowance is made to him for the extra work, responsibility, and expense thus imposed upon him. Some time ago, in answer to an inquiry, I was told by the PostmasterGeneral, if my memory serves me rightly, that provision would be made on the Supplementary Estimates for an additional district inspector for New South Wales. For some six or eight months, we have had an officer acting as temporary district inspector in that State, but a permanent appointment has not been made, and I am unable to find any provision for it in these Estimates.
– That matter rests entirely with the Public Service Commissioner.
– Something should be done. If the Public Service Commissioner has resolved to make such an appointment, and the Postmaster-General approves of it, the sooner it is made the better.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General when it is proposed to issue small booklets of stamps, in the same way as stamps are issued and sold in England. There small booklets containing aboutis.11½d. worth of stamps are issued.
– We issue booklets.
– But only booklets containing a large quantity of stamps. Those I have mentioned are sold everywhere in England.
-Has the honorable member a sample ? If so, I should like to see it.
– I shall have pleasure in supplying the honorable member with one. I have mentioned the matter to his officers, and the issue of such booklets certainly facilitates the sale and use of stamps.
– Booklets containing £1 worth of1d. and 2d. stamps are now issued.
– The idea is that booklets containing, say, 2s. 6d. worth of stamps should be issued for the convenience of . the public.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Home Affairs
Proposed vote (Divisions 2 to 4), £63,822.
.- Will the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs explain whether this proposed vote is to be expended this year, or whether it relates to sums already expended or to be expended next year?
– Certainly not the latter.
– It is hard to believe that so large a sum can be expended during the balance of this financial year.
– A great deal of it has been expended out of the Treasurer’s advance account.
– The- Treasurer’s advance account, all told, is £200,000, whereas the total amount provided in these Additional Estimates, for additions, new works and buildings, is £411,000. It would be interesting to the general taxpayers to learn whether the remaining £211,000 has been expended without the authority of Parliament.
– Many of these items relate to continuous works. When, for instance, a Department starts a big underground work, it must necessarily anticipate a large expenditure.
– The moment Parliament permits a Department, without authority, to expend on any work, no matter how important or urgent it may be, an enormous sum like £211,000, it gives up control of the public purse. It simply becomes a question of Executive action.
– Surely the Government have not expended this £63,822 without parliamentary authority ?
– It would be very interesting to know. Surely, the Government cannot spend all that money on works in one month. There is £411,000 all told.
– Of that amount £284,000 is for special defence provision.
– I ask the Minister whether it is intended that this money shall be spent upon works during this or the next financial year? It is hard to believethat so much will be expended within the remaining month of the present year. Even if the Minister were a Brewster he could not do it. If it is only a placard upon the Estimates, and if the money is not intended to be spent, let us know it.
– Although we are nearly at the end of the financial year we are voting money as if we were at the commencement of the year. The money cannot by any possibility be spent. Before we vote the £90,000 for Post Office purposes, we want to know what it is for. We. have just given the Postmaster-General £107,200 for the ordinary services of his Department. He is now asking for a further vote of. £90,000 for works and buildings alone. It is absurd to say that this money can be even shaped for expenditure within the next five or six weeks of the present financial year.
– Two-thirds of the amount is spent.
– The explanation asked for by honorable members opposite is that a goodly proportion of the money referred to has already been spent out of sums received from the Treasurer’s advance account. It has been used for carrying out such works as the undergrounding of wires, erecting fresh telephone lines, and other related works. If honorable members look at page 61 of the Additional Estimates they will find a sum of £29,000 for New South Wales for the construction and extension of telephone lines, instruments, and material, including construction of conduits for placing wires underground. Practically the whole of this money has been spent, or will be spent, before the 30th June, on necessary works,
Or in purchasing material to carry on such works. I take that as a typical item, but if honorable members want information with regard to any other item I shall be able to give a satisfactory answer. With the exception of the special items mentioned at the end of the Estimates, £260,000 for harbor defence and cordite factor)’, nearly the whole of the money has been expended.
– Then the Government have been anticipating an appropriation ?
– In some cases we had to anticipate appropriations. For instance, a sum of money was voted for the construction of a launch in Queensland. The tenders exceeded the amount provided in the Estimates-in-Chief. We could not very well delay the construction of the launch for the sake of £400 or ,£500.
I Accordingly the Treasurer paid the extra amount out of h’is advance. In addition to that, work in connexion with the Post Office, especially in New South Wales, has involved a heavy expenditure, and the Department is obliged to ask the Treasurer for an advance to prevent necessary works being absolutely stopped and men thrown out of employment. Hence we have anticipated parliamentary sanction on account of works which were urgently necessary or in order to complete works previously authorized by Parliament.
– - The honorable member who has just sat down refers me to page 61 of the Estimates, and points out that £[29,000 has been spent for the construction and extension of telephones, undergrounding, and so forth. I wish to point out the false position in which we are placed with regard to the finances of the country under the ruling of the Chairman given last night. I do not wish to question it, but simply to point out the absurdity of our attempting to control the finances if that ruling is to hold.
– Order ; the honorable member had an opportunity of expressing his opinion on the general discussion of the Estimates.
– All that the Government have to do is to bring down a small main estimate and a large extra estimate, and our control over finance is gone. Here is an item of ,£29,000 on the main Estimates and an item of £63,000 on the Additional Estimates. Under the ruling given last night, we can only discuss the item in the Additional Estimates.
– The honorable member must not discuss my ruling.
– I am not going to do so.
– The honorable member is canvassing the ruling.
– I am accepting it, but at the same time I am entitled to show the position into which we are driven in regard to the control of the finances.
– The honorable member will be quite in order in doing that.
– No matter how excellent the ruling may be, I am entitled to show the effect of parliamentary law, as it exists, upon our control over the finances. I point to a case in which on the main Estimates an item of £29,000 was adopted. Parliament, in voting .that, regarded it as a reasonable estimate. Then the Government comes along with an extra estimate of £63,000, which makes the whole position absolutely ridiculous.
– The honorable member is quite mistaken. The £29,000 is part of the total of £63,000 on these Additional Estimates.
– Are we voting this money twice over?
– Then how can the vote on the original Estimates form a part of the vote appearing on these Estimates?
– The £63,000 to which I referred is a part of the total mentioned by the honorable member for Wentworth.
– Not at all. The £63,000 is on the Additional Estimates for telegraphs, telephones, and so on, and I point out that on the original’Estimates there was a vote of £29,000 for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. All that Ministers have to do is to bring down moderate votes in the Estimates-in-Chief which may appear to honorable members to be absolutely reasonable when those Estimates are being discussed, and immediately afterwards to bring down Additional Estimates, and no matter what the votes appearing on those Estimates may be, we are unable to discuss them, and have lost all effective control of the finances. Such consequences following upon the observance of a parliamentary rule must be regarded as most serious, as affecting the proper control of the finances.
– At page 278 of the Estimates-in-Chief the honorable member will see an amount of £50,000 set down for the construction of lines in New South Wales.
– I am not dealing with that just now.
– But the honorable member has made a statement which is not correct.
– It does not matter what the particular figures may be, I am pointing out that the course adopted by the Ministry in submitting these Estimates removes from this House the possibility of effective control of the finances of the Commonwealth. Ministers need only adopt the simple expedient of bringing down Estimates-in-Chief, including moderate votes, and then bringing down vastly increased votes for the same purposes in Additional Estimates, and under our par liamentary procedure we may not further discuss the questions involved, having once dealt with them on the general Estimates.
– We had a general discussion on these Additional Estimates.
– I know that we did. I point out to the honorable member that if a vote of £50,000 is submitted in the Estimates-in-Chief for a particular purpose he may consider it reasonable and fair, and may have no adverse criticism to offer. But if immediately afterwards the responsible Minister brings down Additional Estimates covering another vote of £50,000 for the same purpose, does . the honorable member not see that a vote of £100,000 for that purpose may turn what was a reasonable proposal into one of a monstrous character? That is the point I am making. We have here Additional Estimates for £571,000, the bulk of which money is to be expended by two Departments, and we are not permitted to discuss the effectiveness of the financial control because of the law of Parliament as laid down by the Chairman.
– I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. I have several times reminded the honorable member that he had an opportunity’ of discussing these matters in a general way when these Additional Estimates were introduced. At that stage a general discussion which occupied two nights took place upon them. When that’ discussion was concluded, I directed that honorable members should afterwards confine their remarks to the particular item before the Chair. It was during the general discussion to which I refer that the honorable member should haveraised the question he is now attempting to raise. I ask him not to continue in the course which he has been pursuing.
– Apparently I have not made my meaning clear, and I hope that you, sir, will bear with me while I try again to do so. You say quite properly that I should have directed my criticism in connexion with these matters 10 the items appearing in the general Estimates. We did discuss them so far as the Estimates proper are concerned ; but we have submitted to-day a. new abstract of expenditure upon works and buildings.
– The general discussion on the Additional Estimates, including the abstract referred to, lasted for two nights.
– Only so far as regards the Estimates proper, and it was agreed all through that these Additional Estimates should be treated separately.. I raise no objection- with respect to the amounts for which we have already voted. The serious expenditure covered by these Additional Estimates is comprised in the abstract covering votes for new works and buildings, and’ I repeat that the Ministry, by the simple manipulation to which I have referred, are placed in a position to control the finances without effective criticism by this House. I shall not pursue the matter further, but I have thought it my duty to point out the position into which we are getting as a result of the manipulation of the. Estimates by the Government.
– Is it not due to the fact that it was impossible to foresee, in the compilation of the main Estimates, the expenditure which would become necessary as a result of the abnormal expansion of trade ?
– Is not that due again to a shocking want of foresight on the part of Ministers responsible for the administration of these Departments? We voted £819.000 in the original Estimates for new works, and we have before us today Additional Estimates covering a further expenditure of £571,000. That is to say, that in one year we are doubling our expenditure for works and buildings iri connexion with the ordinary services of the Commonwealth. There could be no stronger condemnation of the want of foresight on the part of Ministers associated with these Departments than the facts I am now citing. Honorable members must realize that this year we are going to spend over j£i, 000,000 on works and buildings in connexion- with our Commonwealth services. The expenditure is going up like wild-fire. It is a very easy matter to inflate Estimates in this way and to spend money ; but in a year or two, if the forecast of the Treasurer be correct, we shall have the reckoning, and while- it is one thing to send expenditure up, it is quite another thing to bring it down again to reasonable proportions. We have plenty of money at our hands, because of the irresponsibility, of our position with regard to the finances, and the fact that we raise . four times as much as we require. We throw it about in this way without any effective control by Parliament, because of the manipulation -to which I have referred ; but a day will surely come when we must begin to adopt a more reasonable course.- I have no doubt that the Committee will vote the money asked for in these Estimates, since honorable members appear to take very little notice of what is taking place. Ministers have only to put Estimates on- the table and the amounts asked for will be voted with less than a .quorum of members present. I am aware that all I can do is once more to record my protest against this scandalous bungling of the Federal finances. The Minister and’ those associated with him should have better foreseen what would be necessary.
– We shall show the honorable member what we foresaw presently.
– I have no doubt that the Postmaster-General will show us a great deal. He showed us something last night that quite surprised us, and if he is going to show us something similar in reference to the financial side of his Department, I do not want to see it.
– We came out all right last night.
– The PostmasterGeneral ought to be very grateful to the leader of the Labour Party for helping him out of the awkward situation in which he found himself. It seems to:methat the ultimate test of party government is ability to get out of an awkward situation. But I do not wish to labour this matter. The Committee have evidently ‘ determined that the Government shall have all the money that they want. The PostmasterGeneral has declared that the bulk of the money provided on these Estimates has already been expended.
– That is so.
– Then we must foot the Bill and look as pleasant as possible in the- process. That is a privilege enjoyed by the Opposition equally with the Government.- But I do protest against the manner in which these Estimates have been submitted to the Committee, against the want of control which is manifest in the’ various Departments, and against their absolute unwillingness to forecast their probable requirements for the year. Notwithstanding all the money that we are voting so readily, everybody knows that these Departments were, never in a worse state pf chaos so far as the carrying out of new works and buildings are concerned. There is no money available with which to do anything, notwithstanding that’ we are’ shovelling it out by the million. It all discloses a lack of thorough business control of these Departments, and- the absolute ineptitude into which the Government have fallen, and in which they remain to-day by the help, and grace, and sustenance of the Labour Party. I deeply regret that we have to vote this money after it has been, expended, when the financial vear has .practically expired, and when it is impossible for us to exercise the slightest effective control over it.
.- In regard to some of the items enumerated in this schedule, I hold that there is no reasonable excuse for the Minister telling the Committee at this juncture that the money has been expended. When we adopt the attitude of allowing the Ministry to make enormous payments without authority, trusting to. Parliament to validate their action, we surrender the highest responsibility with which .we are charged. I am entirely opposed to a continuance of that system. Whenever I have submitted a proposal to Ministers in reference to any public work I have had first to be sure that the proposal was a sound one, and then I have had to wait until the Estimates were passed before the work could be undertaken.
– We are all in that position.
– All honorable members cannot be in that position, otherwise we should not now be asked to foot a bill for £63,822, the bulk of which has been expended.. Parliament cannot take too serious a view- of the action of Ministers in sanctioning -the expenditure of large amounts without legislative authorization. If the practice is to continue. Parliament might as well be closed. Apparently, the Government have used funds voted . for. emergency purposes in the form of the Treasurer’s advance, to develop particular areas - a course which could ba rendered necessary only by a lack of foresight when the Estimates-in-Chief were being framed. If that practice is to continue in respect to works of this description - works for which provision ought’ reasonably to have been made upon the EstimatesinChief - I shall give the proposal my .strenuous opposition. I do not suggest that there are not occasions upon which the Treasurer’s advance may prove useful; but the utilization of moneys for the T,rea. surer’s advance- account, .for the carrying out of works which had never been subjected to the searchlight of parliamentary- criticism, is a policy that no Administration can adopt in the interests of the people.
– I quite agree that a protest must be made against this method ofhandling the finances. I have already drawn attention to the matter in connexion with other votes ; but here we have the case of a great work, which was foreshadowed last year, being paid for out of the Treasurer’s advance account, though that account is supposed to be used only in cases’ of emergency. In the EstimatesinChief, £231,000 was provided for tunnelling, and undergrounding of wires - a work, the cost of which should have been anticipated with reasonable closeness - and yet, on the Estimates before us, we are asked to provide a further £86,000, which has been spent without the authorization of Parliament.
– We either had to spend the money, or discharge the men, and stop the work.
– I should not object to the expenditure if it were on an emergent and necessary work ; but the work was foreseen at the beginning of the year, and, on the Estimates-in-Chief, ah adequate amount ought to have been provided. If the Treasurer’s advance account may be used in such a way, it may be used for the purpose of carrying out works, for which .Parliament would not give authority; and we ought not to allow such a practice to continue.
– The complaint is that the Government had no foresight?
– That is it.
– These Estimates could have been introduced at’ any stage of the session.
– Of course; and it will be most extraordinary if Parliament permits a policy of that kind to continue.
– The Government do not desire it to continue .any more than do the Opposition.
– I hope that is so; and, if it is continued, I think Parliament will take the matter into it’s own hands. ‘ Only the other night, an honorable member, in reference to some other matter, said that the policy of thief Government had been accepted by the Opposition, who were supposed to criticise the administration ; and, I desire to point’ out clearly, that the Opposition do not approve of a state of affairs which is inexcusable, in the absence of any emergency.
– The honorable member expresses my view on that point’.
.- In view of the fact that, if there was any urgency, these Estimates could have been presented at any stage of the session, even before the Estimates-in-Chief, I think the position is of sufficient seriousness’ to demand an expression of opinion from at least one of the Ministers, as to whether they think Parliament ought not, in future, ‘ to have complete control over the finances of the Commonwealth.
– I recognise the seriousness of the position; and I am at liberty to say that the Government will be prepared to come down with proposals to prevent this sort of thing recurring.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote (Division 5), £[63,410, agreed to.
Department of Defence
Proposed vote (Divisions 7 and 8),
.- I am sure that no one will object to the proposed vote for the cordite factory, but I think that the proposed vote of £250,000, which represents the new defence policy of the Government, might very well be postponed until the ensuing financial year. The difficulty we are in at the present moment is two-fold ; in the first place, we have the knowledge that, whatever the Government may do, they cannot initiate and pay for this new defence scheme during the month of June, which only remains of the present financial year, and then there is the disadvantage that, while this proposal inherently , embodies a departure in Ministerial . policy, we are debarred, by the Standing Orders, from discussing questions of policy on these Estimates. I do not think that the Minister will ask the Committee to sacrifice its privilege, and sanction the expenditure of moneys, especially such a large sum as this, without an opportunity for proper criticism. Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) [3.4]. - I join in the appeal to the Government not to persist in asking us to vote this large sum at the present time. It is most unusual to vote for a scheme which is still in the air ; in fact, although we have had a speech from the Prime Minister, there is no scheme before us, and it will be quite time to vote the money when the proposals of the Prime Minister find embodiment in a definite scheme laid before Parliament. It is not fair to ask us to vote money in order to carry out a scheme which is only in anticipation. The principle is a wrong one, though I express no opinion on the merits of the scheme itself. My desire is to let the matter quietly rest until we have complete proposals before us, because I believe that a great deal of time would thus be saved. Under the circumstances, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence might, of his own motion, allow this item to stand over until next year’s Estimates, which cannot be far off, in any case. No scheme has yet been put before Parliament, and the money cannot be spent until the defence proposals of the Government have been discussed. Of what use, then, will it be to vote it now? I appeal to the Government to let the matter stand over.
.- There is one aspect of the matter to which I specially direct the attention of the Prime Minister. I know that he attaches very great importance to the retention by the Commonwealth of the control in time of war of the proposed local’ flotilla, and it may, be that, if he finds that the British naval authorities will not thank us for naval cooperation unless We are prepared to put our fleet under the control of the CommanderinChief, he i.will hesitate about constructing the vessels. I intended to ask him yesterday to allow us to see the further correspondence ‘ between himself and the British naval authorities, so that we might know whether they would welcome, or even accept, our co-operation unless given complete control in time of war. I heartily commend to the consideration of the honorable and learned gentleman the suggestion of the deputy leader of the Opposition, that this money should not be voted until the Government has put before Parliament a definite and workable scheme of naval construction.
.- Within the last fortnight I received formal intimation that our representations have been laid before the Admiralty, which has been asked to expedite its reply ; but no reply ‘has yet been received. What the Committee is now’ asked to do is to authorize, not an expen diture of £250,000, but the setting apart of that sum for such naval expenditure as Parliament may hereafter approve.
– If we pass the vote, shall we not thereby empower the Government to spend the money?
– Yes; they could spend it to-morrow.
– Sums are repeatedly voted on the understanding that they are to be spent only in the event of certain contingencies, and in this case it is to be understood that none of the money will be spent on buying or building war vessels until a naval defence scheme has been approved by Parliament. One scheme has been laid before Parliament, but it has not received the indorsement of the Admiralty in all respects. General approval is given to it and to the class of vessels provided for ; but we have yet to learn the terms and conditions on which the personnel will be interchangeable, and the Admiralty’s final views as to control. Nor have we been informed how it is thought the existing Naval Agreement should be altered, if amended during its currency, or, if not amended, what arrangement should be substituted after its expiry.
– There has been a change of political heads in England.
– Only departmental changes ; there has not been a change in the Government.
– I hope that the political change will result in a more rapid advance of our business. All that the Committee is asked to do is to authorize the setting apart of this sum for naval defence, on the understanding that not a penny will lie spent until the authority of Parliament is obtained. The replies of the Admiralty to our questions respecting its desires and intentions are still awaited. I, or sonic other Minister, will then put proposals before Parliament, and it will be for honorable members to decide in what way the money shall be spent.
– If we agree to the item, the money must be re-voted later, because the vote will lapse at the end of the year, unless spent.
– That does not necessarily happen with all votes for proposed capital expenditure. It has been pointed out before that votes for a special purpose, requiring the transmission of money to London, can be preserved.
-: - Where would thismoney be put? If at the end of the year it formed part of the Consolidated Revenue, it would have to be paid to the. States.
– Not if, in the meanwhile, the Surplus Revenue Bill is passed.
– But without that ?
– It has been contended that votes for capital expenditure, when strictly set apart for a- particular purpose, may be placed to the credit of what are practically .trust funds, and that practice has been in existence for a number of years. It would be unfair to ask the Committee to authorize the expenditure of this money now. But I desire to have it voted as an assurance to the Admiralty that Australia is in earnest in regard to naval defence, although willing to make sacrifices to arrive at an agreement. I ask honorable members to take a generous view of what is a national matter.
– This is an unprecedented course.
– No; it has been taken in regard to capital expenditure on defence, when money has had to be transmitted to London.
– In those cases we had incurred obligations for which payments were due.
– The proposed vote is to cover what is really capital expenditure.
– The Government do not know how the money will be spent.
– I hope that before the session ends, Parliament will pass a short measure making it clear that the money can be set apart.
– I hope that Parliament will not do so.
– Could we not provide in that measure for the appropriation of this money ?
– We are asking that this vote should be withdrawn, and then the Government could ask Parliament, to appropriate it in the short measure which the Prime Minister mentioned.
– Why not accept m proposal, because then, even if the money appropriated, or the whole of it, is not afterwards secured to us, we will have shown that Parliament is in favour of a policy of Australian naval defence if it had an opportunity of expending the money? We should be in no worse position, but should, indeed, be in the better position that we had not withdrawn a vote brought forward, and expected to spend some of it during the present year. This vote is a testimony of our earnestness in undertaking naval defence. That is why I attach so much importance to it, although not a shilling of it can be spent this year, or even next year, until Parliament approves of the particular form of naval defence upon which it shall be spent.
.- It was rather difficult to hear the statement of the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member is speaking out of his turn.
– I am not concerned about the turn. I rely upon the impartiality of the Chairman. As I understood the Prime Minister, he stated that this was a vote to declare the policy of the Government in regard to coastal and harbor defence. That is an important matter of policy, and we must know exactly what we are doing when we are passing it. I agree with the policy of harbor and coastal de- . fence, but the only question with me is whether it is advisable to appropriate this revenue at this time. I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether, if we pass the vote, the money will be tied up by an Appropriation Act, which will prevent it being used during this or the following year ? That is important. In financial matters I want to know exactly what we are doing. I take it that if the money is not used before the end of June next it will lapse, but that it will not lapse if the Prime Minister purposes bringing in a Bill to appropriate it specially.
– Why could not the Prime Minister bring this item in with the Bill ?
– If I understand the position correctly, the Prime Minister purposes tying up a quarter of a million of money in some way that I do not quite appreciate. Whilst J. am in favour of naval defence, and the establishment of an Australian Navy at as early a date as possible, there are other things that, in the opinion of the electors and of this House, have a prior claim, and that this House has declared to be urgent.
– The honorable member does not think there is any immediate danger?
– That is not the point. I am entirely at one with the policy. I should have been glad to hear the Minister of Defence upon this item. It is a matter of national policy, absolutely above any party question. We are asked by a vote of this kind to start on the construction of an Australian Navy, which will grow, and ought to grow. We should take our full responsibility. The only question in my mind is whether the Prime Minister is proceeding in the best way. If he can satisfy me on that point, I shall be glad, for he certainly has my support in’ regard to the policy itself. We are at the end of the financial year. If the Prime Minister desires to appropriate a quarter of a million of money out of this year’s revenue, he is quite entitled to ask for it, and Parliament may be anxious, to vote it. But we should know exactly what we are proceeding to do in regard to a policy which I believe that the majority of both Houses will indorse. I shall be very glad if they have an opportunity to do so, but I do not wish to embarrass other propositions of which Iam just as much in favour, or to prevent them being proceeded with at the earliest possible moment. For that reason, I should like fuller information before we vote on the Prime Minister’s proposition.
– Apparently my. conversation across the table did not reach the ears of the honorable member for Wide Bay. I pointed out that this sum of money was intended to be devoted to the purpose of naval defence earlier in the year, but owing to the failure to arrive at a complete understanding with the Admiralty as to the character and control of the vessels to be built, it has been impossible to take any steps in that regard. If this vote is removed from the Estimates’ it lapses, the money, goes into the general surplus of the Commonwealth, and, unless that surplus be appropriated by a measure between this and the end of the financial year, it will pass into the coffers of the States. It will not be devoted to the purpose for which it was originally intended - the initiation of a policy to which the honorable member for Wide Bay and, I think, most other honorable members have given a general support. This money being set apart originally, and proposed to be retained as a capital expenditure of that kind, it is better–
– Then the Prime Minister says that the vote will not lapse ?
– If the Surplus Revenue Bill passes, it will not lapse.
– Then it will lapse ‘ without the Bill ? :
– I am afraid that some, if not most of it, would lapse without the Bill.
– And so the Prime Minister proposes to take means to prevent some of it from lapsing?
– I propose to take means to prevent any of it lapsing. I want this sum of £250,000 to be set apart for naval defence, not a penny of it to be spent until the particular proposal, and the conditions of expenditure, are laid before Parliament and approved by it. The money will be put aside and be’ available for its purpose instead of lapsing.
– If it lapses it goes to the States?
– I take it that it will lapse unless some special appropriation is made of it?
– Yes, to be submitted in the form of a Bill before this session closes. By means of the Surplus Revenue Bill we desire to retain this sum for this particular purpose, and other sums in this and succeeding years for altogether other purposes. The one Bill will cover both purposes. Supposing we arrive at an arrangement with the Admiralty early in the next financial year, and come down with specific proposals to submit to Parliament, then, instead of voting the £250,000 out of the revenue of that year, and so- depriving ourselves of that sum, we can put it aside now under my proposition, with the consciousness that by this’ means we are supplying all our needs for the next twelve months, and probably eighteen months - it may possibly be even longer before the whole of the money is expended as capital expenditure - in commencing the. establishment of an Australian Navy.
– Then the Government have made up their minds not to return to the States more than three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue in the future ?
– In the future, yes. In this case, at all events, we have a fairly prosperous year. We have paid a great deal more to the States now, I believe, than we are under obligation” to pay.
– We shall Have paid them this year, without going beyond the three-fourths, nearly ,£100,000 more than they got last year.
– Does the honorable member think there is anything in that?
– I ask the Prime Minister not to discuss that question.
– I bow to the direction of the Chair. I am submitting that this amount ought to be retained on the Estimates at the present time, since Parliament will not part with control over it. It is to be devoted to a special purpose, and to be expended only when Parliament shall approve of - some scheme of naval construction to be laid before it.
– Does the honorable gentleman propose to set forth in the Bill the circumstances under which these vessels are to be. built?
– Not in the Bill to be introduced this session. That measure will simply preserve surplus revenues - this sum for the purpose stated, and other sums this year and in succeeding years for other purposes.
– B.ut before the Government proceed with the construction of the flotilla they will introduce a Bill setting forth the details of their proposal ?
– Setting forth every detail. Not one penny of this amount will be expended except with the assent of this House to the way in which it shall be expended.
– I think that the Prime Minister has given the best possible reason why this proposed vote should not be pressed. He has told us that, in order that this appropriation may not lapse, it will be necessary this session to pass a special Bill. On the introduction of that Bill he will give, at all events, ‘ an outline of the method of expenditure proposed. Surely, in those circumstances, it is not necessary or desirable to vote money at the present time without any real limitation as to the direction in which it shall be spent, and in connexion with a system of defence, to the details of which we may’ strongly object when they are submitted to us, however much we may agree with the scheme in the abstract.
– Nothing will prevent honorable members from recording their objections.
– We can record them when we know what are the details; but we are asked to agree to this appropriation before we know anything as to the method of expenditure proposed.
– That is often done.
– The Prime Minister can only urge the passing of this proposed vote on the plea of necessity, and he has shown that there is no necessity for it. He has said that even if we make this appropriation now, it will be necessary this session to pass a Bill showing for what purpose the appropriation has been made, in order to prevent it from lapsing. In making that admission, he has given away the sole ground on which his plea could be based. We are asked to take the extraordinary course of voting a large sum of money for coastal and harbor defences of which we may approve, but without knowing what the Government proposition is.
– We can say whether or not we approve of the general policy in,volved
– We have no proposal.
– We have had the Government proposal before us long enough to know what it is.
– I am sure that the honorable member for South Sydney, like other honorable members, will be influenced in his decision by the details as to the particular form in which it was proposed to expend this money.
– I am in favour of making a start towards coastal defence by any means.
– Very well ; but we shall not make a start by agreeing to this appropriation.
– We certainly shall.
– No. The Prime Minister himself has said that this vote-will lapse at the end of the financial year unless we pass a Bill, specially appropriating it. If a Bill must be introduced in order to secure this appropriation, there is no reason why we should now make the appropriation for which the Government have asked.
– But that Bill wilt deal also with other matters.
-Why should the Prime Minister not wait until the Surplus Revenue Bill is “introduced, and then state what direction the expenditure is to take?
– I could not state more than I have stated : that it is for naval defence purposes. .
– We have no right to vote these amounts blindfolded - before we have any detailed policy submitted to us. ‘ The Government proposal is an extraordinary one. The policy should be approved by Parliament before we are asked to provide the money necessary to give effect to that policy.
– J am not disposed to go quite so far as did the honorable member for North Sydney, in saying that the Prime Minister supplied us with the strongest of reasons for not voting this amount. The strongest reasons lie in the conditions which surround this proposal. The Prime Minister has given us an assurance which I think should satisfy all of us, if that were the only objection, that this money will not be spent until the whole question . of naval policy has been again submitted to Parliament. But he has also told us that the Government do not intend to expend it during the present financial year, and that the relationship of the Australian flotilla to the Imperial naval authorities is at present so undecided that hel cannot Iven formulate a scheme of naval construction. I would ask the Committee to look at this from a. very broad stand-point. The Constitution provides that the States are entitled to three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue; and it may be that during the present financial year the Commonwealth will approach so closely to an expenditure of its proportion of the total revenue, .that the adoption of this proposal will carry us over that limit.
– We are not likely to get anywhere near it this vear.
– But, by voting this amount now as a capital sum, we shall really allocate money which is not going to be spent during the current financial year. We are, therefore, practically asked to take a step that will enable the Commonwealth to set aside £250,000 . which is really not to be expended, and in that way to reduce the amount that would be constitutionally returnable to the States–
– :In the absence of any provision to the contrary by the Federal Parliament.
– - No doubt; but I think that the honorable member wilt admit that the Constitution anticipates that we should not make provision on our
Estimates for expenditure which we know will not be incurred during the year to which those Estimates relate.
– I do not know that it docs
– I think that I shall be able to satisfy the honorable member that it does. If we are allowed to do that and so reduce the proportion of revenue returnable to. the States, we might with equal justification anticipate a great many other forms of expenditure other thanthat relating to the Navy. Let me take the question of old-age pensions.
– We cannot go beyond the one-fourth.
– Very often the reasonableness of a course is tested by the extremes to which it may be carried. That is a common practice. Suppose that it is admitted that we’ might justifiably say : “ We are going to take a sum of money for the purpose of paying old-age pensions; we admit that a Bill for that purpose is not going to be passed this year, but we will take an instalment -of what we may ultimately require.” That is the spirit in which I understand the Prime Minister to be putting this matter. We take £250,000 thisyear, and may take another £250,000 next year, so that we gradually build up a fund of halfamillion pounds or more for future purposes. We should be equally justified. in saying: We will take a million this year for oldage pensions.”
– No; because that would encroach upon the three-fourths Customs and Excise which has to be paid to the States.
– The object of the Surplus Revenue Bill is to justify by legislation our right to take for Commonwealth purposes sums not provided for in the ordinary Estimates of theyear. I put it to the Committee that if, as the Prime Minister says, this sum of £250,000 is not going to be spent in the present financial year, we might just as well found a fund for old-age Densions in the same manner up to the limit of the full fourth of the revenue. The whole question of the naval policy of the Commonwealth is said bythe Prime Minister to. be in an inchoate state by reason of our not knowing what the Imperial naval authorities are going to do; because, as the. Prime Minister said, the head of the Admiralty has recently changed. But the Government in England has not changed, and the permanent Ad miralty authorities, who are a non-political body, and who, no doubt, advised. Lord Tweedmouth, will, probably, advise his successor in the same direction from time to time. The permanent authorities at the head of the Admiralty, of whom Admiral Sir John Fisher is the chief, are a nonipolitical body, and their attitude will remain the same. Very well ; if that is the case, I do not think that this Committee, because it desires to build up a fund for future naval purposes, and although it may feel now demonstrably in favour of a naval policy of our own, should vote this sum of money. But there is another reason. The Prime Minister seemed, from his speech, to be desirous of demonstrating to the English naval authorities, by this vote, that this Parliament is in favour of a new Australian naval policy. I believe that it is. Personally, I have very grave doubts about the policy in question, but I believe that this Parliament, as a whole, is in favour of it. But I submit that the Prime Minister has no right - no constitutional right - to put before the naval authorities in England this vote as evidencing the determination of this Parliament to embark upon an Australian navy.
– I think, after what the honorable member has said, that the Admiralty authorities will be able to know exactly what the money is wanted for, and when we have voted the money the policy will be assented to.
– It would not be open to us to enter into a detailed discussion on the wisdom of establishing an Australian navy at this stage. We should not be in order now in embarking upon a general debate. If we are not able to do that it is a very questionable point whether the Prime Minister should now have the right to use the fact of our voting this money as an argument for saying to the Imperial naval authorities: “Here you are : Parliament has indorsed our naval policy.”
– I think the honorable member is right there. I do not think it would be right for the Prime Ministerto do what he has stated. But at the same time, I think the Admiralty would see that we are in earnest about the matter.
– Then the honorable member is with me, because the Prime Minister has indicated that what I have described will be the chief use of this vote; and one of the chief reasons why he desires it is that he may be able to say to the Imperial authorities, “ Here you have an indication of the determination of the Australian Parliament to embark upon the construction of an Australian navy.” .
– As a matter of general policy, yes ; as to details, no.
– It is only as a matter of general policy that we can discuss the matter, because the honorable member will admit that he is not prepared to say yea or nay to the question of the foundation of an Australian navy until he knows the whole character of the scheme.
– Therefore we cannot discuss it now, and we cannot commit ourselves in a merely abstract way to the question of the construction of an Australian navy. I will put this case. Suppose that, instead of a proposal for a local flotilla, the Prime Minister put before Parliament a scheme for building one lineofbattleship, and no more, which was to be the nucleus of an Australian navy. I take it that the members of the Australian Parliament would hesitate very much - even those who are in favour of an Australian navy-a-to indorse such a policy. I use that argument for the purpose of showing that Parliament cannot, with the present indeterminate proposition before it, commit itself to this policy, and that the Prime Minister ought not to use the voting of this amount as an argument with the Imperial authorities that this Parliament is in favour of an Australian navy, such as he has proposed.
– The Admiralty is not against the founding of an Australian navy, I think.
– What the Admiralty say is this - “ We should like you to continue your money contribution, but if you are determined to make it in “ kind “ instead of in money we should like it to be in the- form of a class of vessels which would be useful to us ; but we should require to have complete control of. them in time of war.” This House has said that it will not agree to that.
– This House has not said anything on the subject yet.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member is quite right. The House has not said so, but the Prime Minister said it, and it seemed to me, from reading his speech, that the House acquiesced, because the leader of the Labour Party said “ That would be impossible.” Those were his very words. If the House is not in favour of that- system of control, it may be many months, and even years - we may even witness a change of Administration in England - before the Prime Minister can get the British Government to come into harmony with him with respect to the personnel, the distribution of vessels, and the interchange of officers between the. two navies. I submit, therefore - without putting the point in a party spirit at all - that on the grounds that I have advanced this vote ought not to be used as an argument to help the movement with the British Imperial naval authorities. It ought not to be used as indicating that the Parliament of the Commonwealth is unconditionally in favour of a new naval policy for Australia; and we ought not without some prospect of actual expenditure to reduce the amount which is constitutionally divisible amongst the States. On these grounds I think that the Prime Minister would do well to withdraw the item at the present time, and bring it forward when he is able to lay details before us as to the kind of local navy which he proposes that we shall have.
– The honorable and learned member who has just sat down has endeavoured to impress the Committee with the idea that if we vote this sum of money it will be the indorsement of a policy about which we know nothing, and will be committing this country.
– The Prime Minister said that he would only use it as an argument in regard to naval defence.
– That would be undesirable and incorrect. The general policy - that is to say, that we should have some sort of Australian navy - has been before this House and this country, as well as before the Admiralty authorities for some considerable time. Further, the main details of that policy have also . been before this country, this Parliament, and the authorities at Home. So that the atter in doubt, as it appears to me, is’ not whether ‘ we shall have a navy, or one line-of -battle ship, or a number of smaller ships. To the latter scheme the Prime Minister and his Government, so far as 1 understand are committed: That is to say, to some collection of torpedo boats and destroyers, and possibly some submarine vessels.
– But Parliament has never been consulted about that yet.
– Parliament is being consulted now.
– I am not saying that Parliament has been consulted, but that that is what the Prime Minister has set forth to the world as his policy. We know nothing of the details as to the cost and character of the vessels ; their speed ; the proportion of submarine to torpedo boats and destroyers ; who is going to construct them, and when and where and under what conditionsthey are to be constructed. We know nothing, either, as to the manner in which the Admiralty will be prepared to help us in regard to the supply of officers and so on. But if we vote this £250,000, we shall affirm our approval of the general policy of the Government, and we shall give an earnest - and it is about time We did - of our intention to do something besides talk about this matter. If we were able to-day to assent to a proposal which would give the Government power to at once take action to put the fleet, which is now on paper or in the air, into being, three years at the very least must elapse before that fleet could be put into commission. In these circumstances, unless we do this now, a year must be wasted. It appears to me that nothing more is being asked of us than that we should assent to this vote, with the knowledge that we shall have another opportunity of considering details, and of vetoing the whole thing if we think fit. That is all that Parliament can ask for. That, by assenting to this vote, we shall be committed to anything more than that, I utterly deny. If the Opposition opposed- the Government’s scheme, it has Been open to them for some time past to do so definitely. I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable gentleman leading the “constitutional” corner just now-
– To which leader does the honorable member refer ?
– To the right honorable member for Swan. He would have taken steps in a constitutional way to test the matter by moving a vote of censure in connexion with this most important feature of the Government’s policy. As the right honorable gentleman has not attempted to do that, it is only fair to assume that this House tacitly, approves of the Government policy in this regard. . If the Committee does not vote the amount asked for to-day in a general way, it must be said that honorable members do not know their own mind.
.- I must protest against the inference which the honorable member for West Sydney seeks to draw from the passage of this vote, regarding it as an admission that the House of Representatives is in favour of some naval scheme of the Government which has not yet been placed before us, and as to the details of which we have no knowledge whatsoever. I strongly protest against any such assumption. We do not yet know what our minds are on this subject. We have had speech after speech, and scheme after scheme, from the Government during the last four or five years, and we do not now know what is really the scheme at the back of the Ministerial mind. To assume that the passage of this vote, on the express understanding with Ministers that none of the money is to be spent, is to be regarded as an indication that the House of Representatives will approve of some Ministerial naval scheme which has not yet been put before it, is preposterous.
– Parliament is adopting the policy of public meeting.
– No; the policy put before the House by the Prime Minister.
– How can the honorable gentleman say that when he knows that whenever the Prime Minister has put a scheme before Parliament he has altered it in essential details a few days later.
– That is not correct.
– The naval policy of the Government has not been altered.
– It has been essentially altered.
– Not in the least.
– I can give a very brief history of the alteration in the naval policy of the Government during the last few years.
– Ah !
– The Prime Minister apparently regards an alteration of naval policy in a few years as a matter for laughter.
– I do.
– I admit that the honorable gentleman appears to think that it is not unreasonable that he should alter such a policy in a day or two. He laughs at us for the criticism that he is capable of changing his mind on such a matter within two or three years, but I remind honorable members that this money, if voted, cannot be expended for a year or two, and what guarantee have we that the Prime Minister will not again change his mind before this money is expended? Really Gilbert missed the opportunity of his lifetime when he failed to take up his residence in this chamber. We areasked to give the Admiralty an earnest of our intentions by voting money which we do not intend to. expend. I wish to ask the Prime -Minister to say definitely whether he will take the voting of this money as an indication that the House of Representatives is pledged to his policy.
– Pledged to naval defence.
– Does that mean to the Imperial Navy or to his own proposed flotilla.
– Australian naval defence by an Australian naval flotilla.
– We are beginning to get at it now.
– We have been there all the time, but the honorable member has not been able to see it.
– If that be so, it is because we trusted to the Ministerial assurance. Now we are definitely informed that the passage of this vote will be taken to mean that every honorable member who consents to it approves of the establishment of some’ flotilla manned in some way which Ministers mav decide, and that the proposal meets with the approval of Parliament.
– Then it will not pledge us that far?
– The boodle will be captured.
– The honorable member for Darwin puts it very pithily when he says that the boodle will be captured. When the boodle is captured, Parliament will be powerless.
– Parliament is to be captured.
– The proposal is to capture the boodle and Parliament at one and the same time, and Parliament will then be powerless. I sincerely hope that honorable members will not be so blind to the basis on which Parliament rests, as to permit the Ministry to play fast and loose with the privileges of this House in any such way. If we give up control of the public purse, what chance shall we have of controlling the policy of the country? The moment we pass this vote, we shall be held to have approved the Ministerial policy with regard to naval defence. I should like to bring one matter of some significance under the notice of honorable members in the Labour corner, who appear to be anxious to support the Ministry in this matter, in the belief that they are proposing something of which the Labour Party can approve. If honorable members of the Labour Party are in earnest in demanding that the first charge on the public purse shall be in aid of the establishment of old-age pensions, they will abrogate that demand absolutely so far as £250,000 is concerned, by agreeing to pass this vote.
– It would be a wrong to the aged people.
– It would, undoubtedly. Yet I suppose every member of the Labour corner will rally behind the Government.
– Perhaps- I should have excepted intelligent members of the party like the honorable member for Darwin. I take it that honorable members who have been endeavouring to make a placard of old-age pensions during the last six or seven years are not prepared to sink the whole thing for some visionary scheme, the details of which we still know nothing.
– We can have both.
– Can we? We are dealing now with the first £250,000 of public money, and it is possible that under the Surplus Revenue Bill we shall not be able to provide the fund which would be required for the payment of old-age pensions.
– We shall have no more when this is voted, because the. balance will be required to pay interest on the transferred properties.
– I say that any member of the Labour Party who is prepared to vote in this reckless way to ear-mark £250,000 of Commonwealth funds for the purpose proposed, before provision is made for the payment of old-age pensions, is writing himself down as a mere placard bearer, and mere deceiver of the Australian public, when he poses as a champion of old-age pensions.
– We cannot get this money for old-age pensions.
– We cannot if it is earmarked.
– Why cannot we provide money for old-age pensions by means of a land tax?
– For the simple reason that a Federal land tax would not be imposed for revenue purposes, but for the purpose of breaking up large estates.
– Does the honorable member think that this money will be spent before the defence scheme is submitted to Parliament ?
– It will be earmarked, and, consequently, we should not be able, to use it for old-age pensions if we desired to do so.
– We can look after our own scheme.
– I cannot understand why it should be necessary for the Prime Minister to give the Admiralty an earnest of the intentions of this Parliament. At the Imperial Conference he represented that Australia was clamouring for an Australian Navy. Does he suggest that the Admiralty authorities did not believe him?
– Surely the statement of the Prime Minister should be good enough for the Admiralty !
– Is the honorable member in favour of an Australian Navy?
– I am not in favour of an isolated navy. I am in favour of Australian co-operation in Imperial naval effort, either on . the Australian coast or elsewhere.
– Is the honorable member in favour of allowing the removal of war vessels from our shores in time of trouble ?
– I believe in fighting the enemy wherever, he may be found. I do not believe in clinging to a crevice like a timorous cockroach, in the hope that the enemy will. not find us. I do trust the Prime Minister will see the necessity for consenting to an adjournment of the debate till next week.
– I. also appeal to the Prime Minister to agree to an adjournment of this debate.
– And keep the Senate waiting for business?
– The Senate does not meet till Wednesday.
– But we have to deal with the Tariff on Tuesday.
– This is such an important matter that it ought to be fairly discussed.
– Would the honorable member like to discuss it separately?
– I do not see the necessity for discussing it at all at the present juncture, in view of the Prime Minister’s declaration that it will again come lip for consideration in connexion with the Surplus Revenue Bill . Even if we vote this money now he does not propose to spend it for many months. If the honorable gentleman cannot see his way to postpone the item, I ask him to consent to an adjournment of the debate, so as to enable honorable members from the adjacent States to catch their trains.
.- I intend to support the Government upon this question, but I think that it would be a pity if a matter of such importance were disposed of at the fag-end of a sitting, when honorable members upon both sides of the Chamber are unable to do justice, to if.I desire to obtain certain information from the Ministry, but, like the acting leader of the Opposition, I wish to catch my train, and I know that it would be impossible for me to do justice to the subject at the present stage. I, therefore, join with the honorable member for Parramatta in asking the Prime Minister to allow the vote upon this item to stand over until next week,
– At the close of the session one is placed in many embarrassing positions, in which one’s desire for the transaction of public business comes into conflict with the convenience of honorable members. All have their right to be afforded an opportunity to express themselves upon, public matters at a time when their arguments are likely to receive the attention to which they are entitled. 1 am in an embarrassing position now. I attach the greatest importance to this particular vote . I believe it commands the support of the great majority of this House and of another place. To postpone the debate, or to agree to the omission of the item with a view to bringing it forward again, must mean a further prolongation of the session, which has already been abnormally long and exhausting. However, as I am compelled to make a choice, in order to meet the convenience of members in another place, who might otherwise meet without having business before them, I propose not to press the item. I shall submit it to the House next week in the form of a separate Bill.
– I have been asked by the honorable member for Corio and others, on various occasions, to deal with the whole question of the manufacture of cordite on a commercial basis. There is neither time nor inclination on the part of the House to further discuss matters, but it will be found that any action taken by the Government will be on a commercial basis. I shall take all necessary action, and proceed on the best lines, and confidently look for the approval of the House.
Division 7 (Special Defence Material) £24,050, agreed to.
Division 8 (Cordite Factory) £10,000, agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; and reports adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, covering resolutions of Supply, adopted.
That Sir William Lyne and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
The following Bills were then presented by Sir William Lyne, and passed through all their stages : -
Additional Appropriation Bill . 1907-8.
Additional Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1907-8.
– There are two sets of Additional Estimates, amounting to . about £200,000, for the years 1905-6 and 1906-7. Of course, this money was all spent in. the time of my predecessor, the right honorable memberfor Swan.
– What was the expenditure for?
– All sorts of things.
– If the money was spent in the time of the right honorable member for Swan all must be right.
– If honorable members will allow me, I should like to go back into Committee and pass these Estimates to-night. Otherwise they must be made the first business for Tuesday.
.- I understand that the expenditure covered by these Estimates has already been voted, and that it is necessary to pass them merely for the adjustment of the accounts. That being so, I see no objection to the course proposed.
– As the House has determined that the Committee of Supply shall sit again on Tuesday next, the course proposed by the Treasurer can be taken only by the leave of honorable members. Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply forthwith?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Motions (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1905-6 for the several services hereunder specified, viz. : -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year1906-7 for the several services hereunder specified, viz : -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1905-6, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding£1,900.
That there be granted to His Majesty, to the service of the year 1906-7, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding£59,997.
Resolutions reported, and adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, covering resolutions of Supply, adopted.
That Sir William Lyne and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
The following Bills were then presented by SirWilliam Lyne, and passed through all their stages : -
Additional Appropriation Bill, 1905-6 and 1906-7.
Additional Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, 1905-6 and 1906-7.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I presume that when we meet on Tuesday we shall proceed with the consideration of the Tariff?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080522_reps_3_46/>.