3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the statement of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat that a draft Bill embodying a preferential tariff for imports from the New Hebrides is in the Department of External Affairs, I ask the Prime Minister if he intends to introduce and proceed with the consideration of the measure?
– My information is not full enough to enable me to give a complete answer to the question; but the state of public business will not allow of the introduction of the Bill this session.
– Has the Prime Minister considered the advisability of converting into a Royal Commission the Select Committee now inquiring as to the prices charged for stripper-harvesters and drills? Will he take’ action as early as possible to shield Parliament from contemptuous treatment such as that now being shown by witnesses in refusing to give evidence required by the Committee?
– I have indicated that it is the intention of the Government to give those who are conducting the inquiry the powers necessary for compliance with the instructions of the House, and therefore the Committee will be made a Royal Commission at the earliest possible moment.
– In view of the fact that honorable ‘members do not desire to be called together on Monday, if that can be avoided, because of a social function which is to take place then, will the Prime Minister indicate what business he thinks we should get thro.gh this week to permit of an adjournment until Tuesday?
– Let us sit tomorrow.
-i hope that there will be a sitting on Monday evening.
– My desire is to meet the convenience of honorable members. If we can pass the Estimates in time to send the Appropriation Bill to another place on its next sitting day, I shall be glad to have an adjournment until Tuesday.
– If it is intended to sit to-night, we might as well sit tomorrow and on Monday as well.
– I am prepared to do that.
– Does the Prime Minister intend that we shall continue today’s sitting beyond the usual hour of adjournment, or will members who, at the week ends, return to their homes in other States, ha.ve an opportunity to leave today at the ordinary timer
– I wish to consult the convenience of honorable members in this matter. Nothing will be done behind their backs. Every opportunity will be given for arranging pairs, and if it is thought desirable to sit later to-day, or to meet to-morrow, in order to finish our business, I shall be glad to do that.
– In view of the linvted amount of time available for completing the work of the session, does the Prime Minister think that a day should be lost because of a social function of an unimportant character?
-It is not intended to lose a day because of a social function. If the business of the session can be transacted, and we can accomplish what we have to do without extra sittings, it will be a great convenience to all of us.
– May I ask the indulgence of the House to make a short statement which may assist to clear up matters ?
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member for
Parramatta have leave to make a statement ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– During the past week I have co-operated with the Prime Minister for the furtherance of business in every way possible, though those sitting behind him appear not to be actuated by the same spirit.
– Have we not the right to criticise the Estimates?
– Yes.It is the reconciling of conflicting rights which causes trouble.
– Surely we are not expected to act like dumb driven cattle. I, for one, will not do so.
– I suggest that the Prime Minister should do what he indicated late yesterday it was his intention to do, namely, proceed with the consideration of business until the usual hour of adjournment-to-day. If an earnest effort is made in that direction, there should be no difficulty about clearing the businesspaper next week in the time afforded by the ordinary sitting days. Nothing shall be wanting on my part to assist in the completion of ordinary current business next week; therefore I hope that there will be no attempt at heroics. I, and others, have made arrangements to leave Melbourne to-day at the usual hour, returning on Monday for an evening sitting; and I am sure that, with a little cooperation, we shall be able to finish our work next week.
– I wish to draw attention to a practice which is growing up, of asking the Governments of the States to contribute towards the cost of what are wholly Commonwealth services, such as the transport of mails, construction of telegraphs, telephones, &c. Yesterday the Postmaster-General, in answer to a question, said that the Government would be prepared to accept a . certain mail tender, if the Government of Western Australia would contribute so much. Is not this taking too narrow a view of our responsibilities ?
– The Governments of the States charge us for the transport of mails and for all other services which they render.
– I ask the Prime Minister to give the matter consideration. We represent the whole people, and I do not think it right to apply to the Government of any particular State for assistance in the carrying on of services for which the Commonwealth is absolutely responsible, especially in view of the fact that an action of the late Government resulted in an unanticipated change in the financial position of the States?
– I am not in a position to express now an opinion as to the rights or wrongs of the specific case which the right honorable member has in his mind; tout the whole matter will have fair consideration.
Tenders for Ventilating Fans
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether, in view of the fact that tenders are being called for the provision of ventilating fans in the General Post Office, Melbourne, he is prepared to give an opportunity to Australian manufacturers to tender? At present the latter are debarred.
– At present I am not advised as to the position; but may have the information later on.
– In view of that answer, I should like to know whether the Prime Minister is prepared to announce what is the fiscal policy of the Government - whether they are protectionists or freetraders ?
– The Government will have no hesitation in declaring their policy at the proper time.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government to re-open the fiscal question before or at the next general election ?
– I think my reply to the honorable member for Batman is also a reply to the honorable member for Robertson. The Government will declare their policy at the proper time and place.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether in the matter referred to by the honorable member for Batman, he is not simply following the precedent of his predecessor in the Government whom the honorable member for Batman su pported ?
– The honorable member’s assumption is correct. Since replying to a former question, I have ascertained that the fact is as now stated by the honorable member for Cook. Not only was this specification prepared when the Deakin Government were in office, but several of these fans were installed under their authority. Three of them are now installed in this building.
– In view of the declarations of Ministers, repeated almost every day of the week, that they are following the precedent of their predecessors, even into the minutice into the administration of their work-
– The Reid-McLean Government did the same.
– In view of the declaration that the Ministry are slavishly following their predecessors in every particular, will the Prime Minister say why they turned the late Government out of office?
– The honorable member assumes a fact, and then builds up an argument on it. No such declaration has been made or is necessary.
– It is made every day by members of the Labour Party.
Free Railway Travelling - Uniforms
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in considering the matter laid before him by the right honorable member for Swan, he will take into consideration the desirability of requesting the States to carry the Defence Forces free on the railwavs.
– That and all other matters in the same connexion which have been referred to will receive consideration at the hands of the Government.
– In view of the very strong recommendations made by a responsible officer, to whom the question of uniforms for the Defence Forces was referred, does the Government intend, notwithstanding the efforts of one peacocky ex-member of the forces, to carry out the reform at once ?
– The Minister of Defence, when he has all the evidence before him, will act on his own responsibility in this matter.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– I have not heard anything of this matter, but will have inquiries made, and furnish answers in due course.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 3rd December, vide page 2697) :
Department of Home Affairs
Division 21(Administrative Staff), £11,135
Upon which Mr. Page had moved by way of amendment -
That the item “ Secretary,£900 “ be reduced by £100.
.- Can anything be done to facilitate the carrying out of small jobs in the different Departments, so that the inconven ience of the delays, which are now constantly occurring, may be removed? Perhaps the Post and Telegraph Department might be permitted to spend up to £100 or£200, without making reference to the Department of Home Affairs. Over and over again money is voted and not spent, because of the time taken up in the preparation of plans, and so forth. I know that the delay is not the fault of the Department of Home Affairs, because we are dependent on the Works Departments of the various States. However, I still think something might be done to galvanize those responsible’ into quicker action. We ought to have some means of insuring that works, after being approved by Parliament, are carried out, instead of being in abeyance at the end of every year, the result being that the money that has been voted for them is returned to the States.
.- The only ground upon which the Minister last night upheld the adoption of this item by the Government was the action already taken by this Committee in raising the salaries of two other departmental heads. The Minister, of course, wants to see the head of his Department treated as well as are other heads. I am not sure whether this gentleman ever asked to have his salary increased. The labourer knows the value of his hire, and, if no appeal has been made for an increase, I fail to see why the Committee should indorse the Ministerial proposal. The work of this Department is capable of material improvement. I know of no other Department that appears so effectually to prevent rather than assist effective administration. It seems to be the brake upon the wheel of the State coach. There should be some means of evolving a better administration of the Department. Tt is all very well for the Minister to lav the blame elsewhere. He first says that the States Public Works Departments are responsible for the delays, and then he says that it would not be economical or advisable to alter that state of things. We are informed that the States Public Works Departments are a stumbling-block in the way of effective administration.
– We say that nothing better than the present arrangement has yet been devised.
– I admit that the Minister has not had time to evolve a better policy, nor am I making this criticism in any factious spirit. A good deal of the trouble, however, can be laid at the door of the Home Affairs Department itself and its circumlocutory methods. They are capable of vast improvement, in spite of what its officers say. Even when they know that matters have been delayed from other causes, they have not shown any desire to be more expeditious themselves. If a Department knows that delays have been caused by authorities outside its own control, but fails to exhibit any particular anxiety to push on matters affecting the interests of the people of the Commonwealth, when it does come within its power to do so, it cannot expect to escape the responsibility. I shall vote against the proposed increase. The officer evidently thought he was well enough paid. We are not warranted in giving additions in salary at this stage to the heads of Departments, while the overtime due to many of the employes of the Commonwealth remains unpaid. The men who worked weeks and months during many weary nights and days to keep their Department going when it was in extremis should have consideration before we increase the salaries of those who are already amply paid. Until justice has been done in that regard I cannot conscientiously support a proposition of this kind, especially when every day country members are receiving letters, which they are sending on to their constituents, regarding important matters affecting their daily lives, although, so far as expenditure is concerned, the amounts involved are small - letters couched in these terms : ‘ ‘ This work cannot be done, as funds are not available,” “This work cannot be done until funds are available,” “ This matter will be considered when funds are available.” “ The matter is under consideration, and you will be communicated with later; but we have to inform you that at present no funds are available.” While we are forwarding such letters to our constituents every day, they read in the morning papers, that we are increasing the salaries of the chief officers of the Departments. Until we have the means to perform services which are of vast importance to the people of the country. y;p are not justified in fairness or equi[ v 1 in granting those advances. It is beside, the question whether this gentleman is or is not entitled to the proposed increase: There is a time when an employer can be liberal towards his mana lo] ger, but that is when he has treated the rank and file of his employes equitably. While the men who can least afford to .do without that to which they are entitled; who are most affected by the withholding of any sum due to them, have to stand out of their money, and are not paid in proportion to their services, it is not just for a body of intelligent men to vote additional salaries to officers who would not feel the loss of the proposed increases. These matters have been brought before Parliament previously, and therefore I am not divulging any information that may be regarded as the property of any particular body. 1 am dealing simply with an aspect of the case which is a slur upon the administration of the Department concerned. The members of this House will be blameworthy if they pursue the course of giving advances to well-paid officers, while neglecting to do justice to those who have too long been unjustly treated.
– The honorable member for Gwydir is quite right in his desire to improve the condition of all officers who are worthy of the positions they occupy, but I disagree with his assertion that the Permanent Head of the Home Affairs Department should not receive ^900 a year. The office should carry a salary of ^1,000 a year. It is one of the most important in the Commonwealth Public Service. The Home Affairs Department is a most important one. The millions of pounds which pass through it constitute a responsibility which should carry with it the payment of £1,000 a vear to the officer in charge. The whole of the expenditure upon the establishment of the Federal Capital will pass through the Department. I notice that the Accountant receives the paltry sum of £552 « )’earThat officer should not be asked to accept les? than £600 per annum, and the salary of the Secretary of the Department should be increased proportionately. It is imperative that the officers of such a Department as this should not look for allowances from any outside quarter, and I trust that the Minister will not yield to ami- protest against the proposed increase. The Secretary of the Department is a most efficient officer, who has in his time refused an. offer of an engagement at ^2.000 a vear.
– We are dealing not. with the officer, but with the office.
– Quite so. When we have high-class men filling important offices we should be prepared to pay them well. In view of the large expenditure controlled by the Department, I hope that the Minister will not agree’ to a reduction of the item.
.- It is difficult to understand the plea advanced by the honorable member for Gwydir, that the Secretary of this Department should not be granted an increase of salary on the ground that he has not asked for it. If we are to lay down the rule that no officer shall receive an increase unless he applies for it we shall give rise to a most undesirable state of affairs. I agree with the honorable member that the Post and Telegraph Department is starved, but that cannot be attributed to the fact that increases of a few pounds per annum are being granted to a few officers. Apparently the Labour Party desire to pack away a large sum of money for some other purpose. It would be far better to expend it in an effort to develop the commerce of the country.
– Far better to do that than to pay old-age pensions, I suppose?
– One may be strongly in favour of old-age pensions and yet disapprove of the method by which it is proposed to finance them. I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, in no carping spirit, for an explanation as to the item, “Allowance to Chief Clerk for acting as Secretary, ,£159.”
– That officer acted as Secretary whilst Colonel Miller was away valuing the transferred properties.
– I have no doubt that in the absence of the Secretary the Chief Clerk had more onerous duties to perform.
– He had to attend to all the duties of the office of Secretary of the Department.
– Then I have no objection to the allowance. I should like, however, to have an assurance from the Minister that it will not be taken as a precedent, and that officers will not be given a little more work merely to enable them to secure mere pa v.
– The honorable member for Hunter suggests that the Labour Party desire to utilize certain moneys of the Commonwealth for a hidden purpose. There are some honorable members who are prepared to vote increased salaries to highly paid officers whilst they withhold the same consideration from those ;r. the lower grades of the service. Those who criticise this proposed increase of salary recognise the ability of the officer concerned, and are anxious that a fair salary should be paid to him, but they object to undesirable distinctions being drawn between heads of Departments and those on the lower rungs of the ladder.
– I suppose that the honorable member would pay all alike?
– No, but there are men who, after spending practically a life-time in the lower grades of the service, are receiving only small salaries, whereas those who get to the top of the ladder and are able to reach the ear of a Minister secure an increase year after year. I freely admit that Colonel Miller is an able officer.
– His ability has saved the Commonwealth thousands of pounds during the last two or three years.
– And he has been assisted by officers of ability, whose services are not recognised on these Estimates. The Secretary is deserving of praise for the way in which he discharges his duties, but I am not prepared in recognising his abilities to create anomalies. There should be some well defined policy in regard to the granting of increases of salary. It is proposed to increase the salar)’ of the Secretary of the Department from .£800 to .£900 per annum. The next increase is in the salary of the Meteorologist, an officer of recent appointment, who cannot be said to be entitled, by long service, to additional remuneration.
– A condition of his appointment was that ,he should get periodical increases of salary.
– Had that been made clear at the time of the appointment, my objection would be answered. I was not aware of the existence of such a condition when I first voted for the salary. It is proposed to give him an increase of £50. The accountant of the Administrative Staff, however, is to get only j£?o, a paltry increase considering the importance of his position. The chief clerk, a very able officer, whose duties are onerous, is left out in the cold. There is no recognition of his ability and long service, although a special grant of ^159 is proposed as compensation for Secretarial work recently performed by him. That, no doubt, is extra work. He is to get no permanent increase of salary. Last year, in the Public Service’ Commissioner’s office, there was a Secretary to the Com- missioner, at a salary of j£6oo, and an Examiner, at .£400. Now there is only a Secretary and Examiner at a salary of £520, so that one man appears to be doing the work of two for ^480 less than they were paid. There is no proposal to increase the salary of the Director-General of Public Works’
– The salary was increased last year.
– That disposes of my objection, though I would point out that no increase is proposed to either of his subordinates - the Director of Public Works, located in Sydney, who gets £600 a year; and the Victorian Director, who gets £520. I should like to see a more systematic arrangement of salaries. In my opinion, the fixing of all salaries should* be placed in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner. I do not see why distinction should be drawn between the’ position of the rank and file in this matter and those at the top of the tree. If the Commissioner can arrange a scale of increments for the small men, why cannot he do so for the big men?
– He has power to do so.
– I do not think that he has. I should like to know whether the increases which are being discussed have his approval. There must be dissatisfaction under the present system. The heads of Departments come into direct contact with Ministers, from whom they can get sympathetic responses to their requests for increases; but the rank and file are bound by hard-and-fast rules. This must breed discontent, and although I’ regret that I have to oppose the proposal of the Ministry which I am supporting, f feel it my duty to protest against what is being done. We Labour men, who wish to secure a reform in this matter, have been accused of being actuated by ulterior motives, and members of the; Opposition are always ready to assist the Ministry in greasing the fat sow j but we cannot shirk our responsibility. We are prepared to submit our case to the electors. Criticism has been levelled against the Department of Home Affairs because of the slowness with which public works are carried out. I am disposed to think that the Department is made the scapegoat of other Departments. It cannot properly be held responsible, so long as it is dependent upon the officials of the States for the preparation of plans and specifications, and the supervision of pub- lie works. The officials of the States have plenty of work to do in carrying out the instructions of their own Governments. They naturally do first the work of those who pay them, the Commonwealth needs being a secondary consideration, and looked upon as providing extra tasks, for which no remuneration is given. Until we have a supervising public works staff, it will be unfair to blame the Department for delays in the carrying-out of public works.
.- I have listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Calare, who put his case very well. No member should apologise for criticising the Estimates. It is caddish to attack a man because he is not always ready to vote for large salaries. I am not a skinflint, and have no objection to large salaries ; but I find fault with the present system. Those who are under the limelight get all the good things. The heads of Departments, coming, as they do, into direct contact with Ministers, obtain favours, and thus we have got what is cai led ‘ ‘ souperism ‘ ‘ The Minister of Home Affairs, being an Irishman, will know what that is, and how objectionable is the practice which the term covers. I refer to the system of the Permanent Head of a Department receiving favours which are not enjoyed by those lower in the ranks. Why should the Permanent Head be selected for advancement, and be freed from the review of the Public Service Commissioner, who has been appointed, at a high salary, in the interests of the country ? I am against any one, whether he be messenger or Permanent Head, being underpaid; and if it is true that .£900 is a proper salary for this office, then it is clear that for the last four or five years the officer has been sweated, and is practically a creditor of the Commonwealth. It will be remembered, however, that the work of this officer is no more now than it was in the early days of the Commonwealth; in fact, his staff was not then in proper working order, or trained or equipped, and, therefore, there should really be now less responsibility. I notice that when an honorable member attacks a salary, he is supposed to almost apologize, and say something nice . about the ability of the officer; but I do not see why we should not confine ourselves to the office and leave the individual officer out of the question. If a man, in a position of this kind, does not save the country thousands of pounds, he has no right to be there; and if he does save money, that is what he is engaged and paid for. It is manifestly unfair that Permanent Heads should be recommended for increments, while nothing is done for the officers in the lower positions. I agree with the honorable member for Robertson that officers who realize their responsibility should be well paid ; but I know that in another Department I have discovered many officers with high salaries, who shirk their responsibility, and allow junior officials to do the work. I do not understand why, when an honorable member desires to oppose an increase of salary, he should lie compelled to remove his boots, as though about to enter the holy of holies, and ask to be excused for the step he . is taking. The salaries of two other permanent Heads have been brought up to ^900 ; and I do not see why the officer under discussion should be made a scapegoat. What I am attacking is the principle of these recommendations being made quite apart from the Public Service Commissioner; and the sooner we make up our minds that the Minister should not have this power, the better it will be. In the present instance, the late Minister of Home Affairs put this increase on the Estimates, and we have his successor declaring that the officer concerned is a most able man. I have no desire, however, to be drawn into a discussion of the abilities of the various officials.
– We should have to alter the Public Service Act in order to carry out the honorable member’s idea.
– Exactly ; I know nothing more distasteful than to be called upon to discuss Colonel Miller or other officials. All important work should be amply paid, and there is no doubt that in this Department there is required a most capable organiser.
– The honorable member is very spacious now !
– I desire to show that I am not the narrow-minded individual that has been suggested. There are honorable members who, adopting a -lofty tone, look down on any poor unfortunate member of the Labour Party, or any one else, who dares say that any salary is too high. The idea is conveyed that any member, who takes exception to the Estimates in this way, has no idea of proportion ; but I think that, in my chequered career, I have obtained as extended a mental horizon as most other men. It is absolutely caddish to attack honorable members on either side of the House who raise objections “to increased salaries, and to tell them that they are not able to rise to the occasion.
– Those who talk of “ rising to the occasion” would not pay such salaries themselves.
– I think the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and I can show that we are quite able to look beyond our own little back-yard and take as comprehensive a view of public affairs as those broad-minded, statesmanlike gentlemen who associate with those accustomed to speak in thousands. The Minister of Home Affairs knows how objectionable the principle of “ souperism “ is.
-There is no parallel.
– Is there not 7 A Minister defends an increase of salary for a Permanent Head, but he has no time to battle on behalf of a messenger !
– I think that the heads of Departments ought to be exempt from the control of the Public Service Commissioner.
– There I differ very materially from the right honorable member.
– Parliament has the power to judge.
– What power has Parliament? The Minister recommends an increase of salary, because he is in daily contact with the Permanent Head, and we are asked “ to take the recommendation in good faith, in the absence of any means of arriving at a proper conclusion. If an honorable member has had pleasant relations with an officer, he may be unconsciously biased in his favour and vice versa. I take the same view of the increases to the heads of the other Departments we have already dealt with : and I hope that by this time next year, if it is thought necessary to have such increases, the Public Service Commissioner will be asked to also review the salaries of the lower officials.
.- In reference to the tenders for ventilating fans. I think that the replies of the Minister of Home Affairs to my questions are very unsatisfactory. We are told bv the honorable gentleman that the reason a certain fan is stipulated for now is that the previous Administration favoured it. Parliament House is, of course, within the control of the State, but, in; the case of the Post Office, at any rate, the responsibility is with the Commonwealth.
– Did the State Government stipulate that these particular fans should be used at Parliament House?
– I do not know ; but the Victorian Government, and also the Harbor Trust, do much that they should not in connexion with public supplies. It is very strange that Australian manufacturers should not be permitted to tender ; anc! it would appear that if the present specifications stand, there will be created a monopoly such- as I understand the Labour Party, to be pledged against. The tenderer is allowed to charge any price he likes, being told that a certain kind of fan must be used, and must come from the Old Country. At the proper time I shall move that the item referring to this matter shall be struck out.
– The honorable member for Dalley is quite mistaken when he says that the work performed by the Permanent Head of this Department is not quite as arduous and responsible as it was some time ago ; as a. matter of fact, the actual work and the responsibility have been increasing year by year. This officer is not one who quietly sits down and allows things to go along as they may, but he takes a great interest in his work. For some considerable time past he has been actively engaged in connexion with the transferred properties; and I am happy to know, though I am not at liberty to divulge the amount, that he has reduced the possible expenditure of the Commonwealth by a considerable sum. It has further been said that, while increases are given to some of the heads of Departments, no consideration has been given to men of the lower grades. That also is an absolute mistake, because, from figures which I had supplied to me, when I anticipated having to defend these Estimates myself, I learned that the total increments in the year 1906 amounted to £52>I53- The Public Service Commissioner shows in the following memorandum the exact position : -
As increments to officers of the clerical division, class 5, and all officers of general division are provided on the draft Estimates by “the Departments concerned, the Commissioner is unable to say what provision in this regard has been inserted in the iqoS-9 Estimates. It is difficult to give the actual increases in any given financial year for the reason that under the Public Service Act the year closes with the 31st December, and the Commissioner’s returns are made up on that date, whereas the Treasury financial year closes on 31st July. Details of the expenditure on increments actually paid foi the calender years 1906 and 1907, have, however, been compiled, and from these may be gathered a fairly approximate idea of the probable expenditure that will be incurred for 1908-9 on increments. The total increments for the two years was as under -
From these figures it is fair to assume that the ordinary expenditure on increments for 190S-9 will be approximately about the same as that for 1907, but in addition extra increments are provided for this year for raising the maximum of the 5th class clerical officers, also for increasing the grading of the General Division. These two extra sums are as under -
The above being added to the anticipated increases for 1908-9 will make the approximate amount for increases for the present year £62,004. It must not be assumed that the cost of the service will be increased by this amount. As against the increase must be allowed the savings that are made throughout the year by retirements, deaths, and the filling of vacancies at the minimum salaries of the classes. The savings under these headings amounted to £55,176 last year.
The amounts provided in the Estimates of expenditure for the current financial year, at the instance of the Commissioner, for promotions and increments in the Public Service, are as follow : -
It must be admitted that the officer whose salary is now under discussion is very earnest and energetic in his work. The way in which he carried out the gigantic work in connexion with the visit of the American Fleet was really marvellous.
– Leaving the name out, any officer occupying that position ought to be equally energetic.
– The honorable member is quite right; but we do not always get them, lt was I who originated the Home Affairs Department, and I waited for three or four months before appointing a Permanent Head, knowing that Colonel Miller was then in South Africa, in order to secure his services, as I knew him in New South Wales, to have been an energetic, earnest, and able officer. That is how he came to be appointed to that position. He has been dealing with the question of transferred properties, and, when that matter comes before the House, honorable members will see the immense amount of work that he has done in connexion with it, and the savings, if I may call them so, that he has effected on behalf of the Commonwealth. AH these matters should be considered. “When you have a man at the head of a Department about whom you need -not worry, but who is always on the qui vive to do what ought to be done without being told to do it, he ought to be regarded as a man to be kept. Our officers in these Departments get less than do officers in corresponding positions in the services of two or three of the States.
– Why did they leave the States services, then?
Colonel Foxton. - Some of them regretted it.
– Name one.
– There is a great deal of sentiment affecting the minds of some; but I do not mean that these particular officers received higher salaries when they were in the State services. My point is that corresponding positions - at any rate, in Victoria and New South Wales- - command higher salaries. We have, in selecting our officers from the State services, sometimes taken them from lower positions and given them an opportunity to step up. Colonel Miller did not receive so large a salary when in the New South Wales service ; but he has proved himself an earnest and good man, and the office which he holds is not paid as well as are corresponding positions in two or three of the States. The Under Secretary for Works in New South Wales used to get, I think, somewhere between ^1,200 and £1,500 a year, and this position is in much the same category. I hope the Com mittee will not refuse to pass the small increases that are proposed, especially as a large sum of money has been given - and properly so - to the lower grades of the service, showing that whilst we have considered the higher officers we have considered the lower ones also.
.- Not one honorable member who has spoken against the proposed increase has said a word against Colonel Miller’s ability as an officer. It is simply a question of principle with me. No doubt he is worth the money ; but, in view of the state of the finances, I do not think the time is opportune to give the increase. As to State officersbeing better off than those in the Commonwealth service, when I have been in Brisbane dozens of officers have come to me toask me to do my best to get them positions in the Commonwealth service. State officers say that Commonwealth officers are better off and have greater privileges, particularly with regard to the income tax. The cry throughout Queensland was that the State officers had to pay that tax while Federal officers escaped it. I asked the Public Service Commissioner on one occasion if he had many applications from Stateofficers. He told me that he has more applications from them for Federal billetsthan he has from Federal officers. Consequently our service cannot be too bad. I remember one particular instance of a Hansard reporter from Queensland. He came here, and the work apparently did not suit him during the first few weeks of the session, so he went back again to the State service. In moving to reduce this item, I had no animosity whatever against Colonel Miller, nor have I against any other officer in the service. We have a fine lot of fellows, and a worthy lot of officers. I believe in a highly paid service, because it means a highly contented service, but I have in my mind’s eye a case where one particular head of- a Department in the Commonwealth service has been able to get two increases, while an officer under him has not secured any. His application had to go through the man who had already obtained those two increases. That shows that the man who can get the ear of the Minister is in the best position..
– Are we going to do any business to-day ?
– If the honorable member is anxious to do’ business, I am prepared to sit down.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney [f 1.50]. - Objection can be taken to the way in which some of the salaries of the Secretaries of Departments are dealt with. For instance, four Departments are always kept at the same level of pay, although there is a difference in the responsibility and in the amount of work. There should be a corresponding difference in the salary. There ought to be a grading as regards those four Departments that would give salaries corresponding to the importance and amount of the work. In my opinion this question should have been dealt with by the Public Service Commissioner, but, of course, he -claims that he has not the power, and Ministers have taken upon themselves the responsibility. With regard to the matter now before the Committee, we have already passed two of the proposed increases, and as a division has been taken on them and the fight has been concluded, it is absurd to propose to deal differently with the two cases remaining. As honorable members have expressed their views, they might well let the other items go.
– I am not in accord with the view that the Secretaries of Departments should be subordinated to the Public Service Commissioner in regard to their salaries. In the interests of the Public Service itself the Minister should have some one near him who is independent of the Commissioner. The Secretaries of Departments have statutory powers under the Public Service Act. To make them dependent upon the Commissioner for increases of salary would not be likely to encourage that independence which they now have - responsible, as they are, only to the Minister and to Parliament. By the Public Service Act a great many duties are cast upon the Secretary of a Department, and he has the responsibility of efficiently manning his Department by making recommendations to the Commissioner. He has statutory powers independent of Ministers. To subordinate him to the Commissioner would be to strike a blow at the theory of the Public Service Act. He is at present on an equality with the Commissioner in thi service.
– The Commissioner does not <lo many unfair things.
– I did not mean to imply anything of the sort. I have the highest respect for the present Commissioner. But the principle of the Public
Service Act requires that the principal officer of a Department shall be independent of the Commissioner, and to that end he has statutory powers as well as great departmental responsibility to the Minister, and is of the same status as the Commissioner.
– There cannot be two kings.
– The Commissioner’s powers are well defined. The powers of the two are not likely to clash. If they did, this House would have to settle the question. The present arrangement ‘.s wise, and my experience is that .it works well. Unless it is found to work badly, we should not disturb it. There are only four or five officers in this position in the whole of the service. I quite agree- that those closest to one come- more directly under one’s notice, but that cannot be avoided. We cannot avoid heads of Departments, being brought more directly in touch with Ministers than are officers in remote parts of the Commonwealth; but the position would be the same, even if they were under the Public Service Cimmissioner
– Every officer in ‘the Public Service Commissioner’s office obtained a rise last year.
– It would appear, then, that the increases in those cases were granted indiscriminately. I have not heard of any undue clashing of authority, so far as the Public Service Commissioner and the heads of Departments are concerned. Probably those who framed the Public Service Bill did not fully realize what would be the true legal position under it ; but on the whole it has worked well, and. in this respect, I hope that it will not be disturbed.
– I should not have spoken but for the renin “ks just uttered by the right honorable member for Swan. I find myself utterly unable to indorse his view. The Public Service Act, to my mind, breaks down at the very beginning, if it does not control the high officials of the Service. I come from a State where the Under Secretaries of Departments are under the control of the Public Service Board, and I have never known the slightest difficulty to arise from that fact. On the other hand, I have known difficulties to arise in the Federal Service where such officers are not under the Commissioner.
– I have not heard of any difficulties.
– I do not wish to rake up the past, but I am afraid that the divorcement of high officers from the control of the Public Service Commissioner of the Commonwealth has resulted in some of the ablest men in the Service going out of it.
– We have only four or five officers of this class in the Service.
– As soon as the Secretary of a Department is placed without the control of the Public Service Commissioner, we have co-equal authority.
– We have, and it has been exercised in . the Federal Service.
Colonel Foxton. - Is it not in the nature of a mutual check?
– No, we cannot have that.
– The head of a Department has no power to increase salaries.
– But he has. power to talk to the Commissioner in a way that I think is not desirable. In nine cases out of ten where a conflict arises between the Commissioner and the head of a Department, the Minister will be with his Secretary. One of the reasons for this is that the Secretary has the ear of the Minister while the Public Service Commissioner has not. The Service would be improved if every member of it, from the highest to the lowest, were placed under the Commissioner. In order that that may be done, the status of the Commissioner himself might with advantage be raised. It is too near the status and position of some officers who are without his control, and who are immediately under the eyes of Ministers. The moment we begin to set up men with equal authority and responsibility, human nature begins to work and there is trouble. That has been our experience in connexion with the Commonwealth Service. In New South Wales, where the Public Service Board controls every appointment from the top to the bottom of the service, there has never been the slightest trouble.
– I can indorse all that has been said by the honorable member for Parramatta. I wish it to be clearly understood that I shall vote for this amendment, not because 1 desire to attack any officer, but because 1 have to carry out a pledge that I have given to my constituents. Every member of the Service, from the humblest individual who sweeps out an office to the highest salaried officer, should be under the same rule, and have equal chances of advancement. We find, however, that the Public Service Commissioner has no control over certain officers. My contention is that if he is fit to control men who will ultimately become heads of Departments, he is fit to control! those who already occupy such positions. I can speak of the great .capacity and! mental equipment not only of Colonel Miller and Mr. Garran, but of other officers. Mr. Knibbs, for instance, is now producing one of the finest statistical works published outside the United States of America. As honorable members are aware, the Government of the United States probably spends £10 to every -£i expended by other countries on the collection of statistical information ; but Mr. Knibbs is producing for the Commonwealth a. work that will rival even some of the finest statistical productions of America. I should like to ask honorable members’ whether they are aware of the abominable system observed in every Department in regard tothe female office cleaners. This Parliament for the first time in history determined that men and women in the service should receive equal pay for equal work, and that a minimum wage of ^104 per annum should be fixed. That provision, however, is being evaded in many ways. I have only one instance of the kind that I can absolutely prove, and I can certainly show that the Public Service Commissioner has taken one man out of his turn. I can> forgive him for that, because the case was an exceptional one, and no doubt if I occupied his position there would be more. I have received many reports to the effect that this course is repeatedly followed by him j but such inquiries as I have been able to make have not borne out that complaint. I repeat, however, that there is an abominable and iniquitous system followed in regard to the women cleaners,- and that it should be abolished. I have found Colonel Miller an able man with a judicial mind, and ready comprehension. There is one officer in his Department who, as the result of action recently taken by him, Wil save not only the Commonwealth, but every State a very considerable expenditure. I allude to Mr. Oldham, the officer in charge- of the electoral branch, whose action in abolishing the present absurd system of collecting the rolls will save Victoria more, perhaps, than any other State, a very considerable expenditure. I repeat that those who think that I shall vote against these increases because of personal considerations will do me an injustice. I am pledged to try to bring every officer of the service under the same rule and charter. No one can deny that heads of Departments have many opportunities to meet Ministers, and that the personal equation is one that we cannot get away from. We should endeavour, however, as far as possible, to minimize its effects. I should have been glad had our party been able to take up the reins of administration with a majority of one behind it. We should then have been able to get away from precedent, and, in regard to any proposed expenditure that we believe to be unwise, to have voted as our consciences dictated. In this case we are making no attack upon an individual, but are simply endeavouring to remedy what we believe to be wrong.
– I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister of Home Affairs the delay that has taken place in regard to the acquisition of a site for a’ new post-office at Lithgow. When the honorable member for EdenMonaro held office as Postmaster-General, he selected a site there; but so far as I can ascertain no further action has been taken, although plans for the new building have been prepared and submitted to the Department. The owner of the land in question put it under offer to the Department, and has held it ever since.
– I have recently given instructions that the purchase of the site is to be proceeded with at once.
Question - That the item “Secretary, £900 “ be reduced by£100 - put. The -Committee divided.
Majority .:. … 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the item “Incidental and Petty Cash expenditure,£400,” be left out.
I take this action in order that I may obtain from the Minister a reply to my question whether the specifications for tenders for fans, to be placed in the Melbourne General Post Office, will be so altered as to give an Australian manufacturer the opportunity to tender. At present “Sirocco” fans are specified. They are imported fans, and I wish to give a local man a chance. I gave notice earlier of my intention to take this action to test the feeling of the Committee.
– That is so; but I would point out that the item has nothing to do with the fans in question. Probably the work to which the honorable member alludes is provided for in the Works Estimates, which have been passed.
– The words “incidental expenditure” may cover this work.
– Were I to accept that suggestion, I could not shut out the discussion of any item.
– This appears to me to be the only way in which I can obtain an answer to my question, unless I move the Chairman out of the chair.
– This seems to me not to be the place to discuss the matter. ‘My honorable friend should have asked this question when the first item of the division was before the Committee, and, I have no doubt, could raise the matter in connexion with the Estimates of the Postmaster-General.
– Or in connexion with the Estimates for the Public Works staff.
– Yes, on division 24.
– My experience is that every opportunity is given to honorable members to obtain information by means of amendments such as this, and I hope that the Minister will not take advantage of any technicality.
-There is an orderly way of doing business.
Dr.CARTYSALMON. - The honorable member has been told that he should have brought the matter up under Estimates which have been passed, a very familiar way of side-tracking one who wishes to ask inconvenient questions. We expect different treatment from Ministers. Mv view is that a member can attach what significance he pleases to any motion in connexion with the Estimates.
Colonel Foxton.-If the amendment relates to a specific item, the discussion must be confined to that item.
– Yes. Otherwise we should have irrelevant discussions on every item.
– Great latitude is allowed in dealing with Estimates, almost any excuse serving to connect a discussion with an amendment. I ask for consideration to an honorable member who desires to do what is frequently done when Estimates are under discussion.
– The Government has no desire to burke discussion, but the Minister in charge of the Estimates is entitled to make such statements as he may desire to make in due order. The honorable member for Batman will be afforded an opportunity, at a later stage, to put his question, and will receive a reply to it.”
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 22 (Electoral Office),£6,818.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [12.25]. - During the discussion of the last division of the Estimates, I said that there was one officer, who, in my opinion, had reason to regret leaving the State service for that of the Commonwealth. In case it should be thought that I made that statement without warrant or due consideration, I desire to say - although I have had no communication with the gentleman himself - that the clerk in charge of the Electoral Office in Queensland at . £360 a year, has, I think, reason for regret on the score indicated.
– Is that Mr. Lawson?
Colonel FOXTON.- Yes; and I have known him for a great number of years, during which he has held many very important positions in the Public Service of the State. At one time, as an accomplished draftsman, he was second in command to the Surveyor-General ; but, unfortunately for himself, and through no fault of his own, he was retrenched ; and, like many other public servants, out of employment for a time. He was appointed to a very important position in Townsville; and I think that, while he was in the State service, he cannot have had less than . £450 or . £500 a, year for many years.
– He was taken over by the Commonwealth at the same salary hewas receiving in the Electoral Office of the State.
Colonel FOXTON.- Mr. Lawson was brought from Townsville to take the position of Chief Clerk in the Home Secretary’s Office, and, during the absence, through illness, for a considerable time, of the Under-Secretary, he acted for that gentleman. Mr. Lawson is an exceptional man, so far as administrative ability is concerned.
– He is a very good officer.
Colonel FOXTON.- He has had wide experience; and, in my opinion, is good enough for almost any position in the Commonwealth service. My fear is that owing to his appearing on the Estimates at£360 a year his value may not befully known to the Public Service Commissioner.
– He is an exception if he is now getting less than he received in the State service.
Colonel FOXTON.- But Mr. Lawson was retrenched, and returned to the State service. Under the new system of administration in the Electoral Office, he was selected as the’ most competent for the work of organization. He performed the dual duties of Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth and the State; but, when the duties were separated, I imagine - though I have had no information from him - that he elected to join the Commonwealth service.
– The Government created this office, and invited applications from any person; and Mr. Lawson was appointed as the best of the applicants.
Colonel FOXTON.- I should riot have made these remarks had it not been that I have always understood up to the present time that the Public Service Commissioner resents any representations being made to him by any member of Parliament in regard to the public servants.
– Quite right, too !
Colonel FOXTON.- I am not sure that it is quite right. In any case, that is the reason I have always refrained from approaching the Commissioner on any subject whatever ; I do not think I have ever met him, and, as a matter of fact, if I met him in the street, I should not know him. I have always -understood that, if a Member of Parliament interviewed him in connexion with a public servant, that public servant was likely to have a black mark placed against him. For a strong man, I think that is rather an unreasonable position on the part of the Commissioner. Nothing is more objectionable, of course, than for Members of Parliament to button-hole any official in such a position for the purpose of exercising undue or political influence in favour of any public servant. But if members of either House are possessed of information in ;regard to the ability or character of any officers in the States which they represent - and we must remember that Australia is very large, and that the ‘Commissioner can have no personal knowledge of the vast majority of public servants - the Commissioner might very fairly listen and give due consideration to the facts. A strong man would be capable of doing so, and I understand that Mr. McLachlan, the Public Service Commissioner, is a strong man, and eminently suitable for his position. For the reasons I have indicated, and because I was” challenged in the matter, I have taken this opportunity to mention the name of Mr. Lawson. He lias been only a limited time in the service of the Commonwealth ; and his distinguished record in the State may not be in the knowledge of the Commissioner. For aught I know, this very excellent officer might be regarded just as any other officer might be, who happened to be in charge of this office in Queensland. The Commissioner may know the very good work he is doing now, but not be aware of his exceptional administrative capacity in other directions.
– I think the Public Service Inspector has, in high terms, advised the Commissioner as to the capabilities of this officer.
– The difficulty in the case is that the Commissioner has assessed particular offices according to the value he thinks the services justify, and according to the value of an officer in his administrative capacity.
Colonel FOXTON. - I do not wish it to be inferred that I advocate an increase of Mr. Lawson’s salary while he holds his present office. I am merely pointing out that, with his attainments, he may now be misplaced, owing to his value not being known. I am not saying that the salary is inadequate for the present office, but merely wish to emphasize the point that, if a vacancy in another and higher branch of the service occurs, a gentleman of the attainments of Mr. Lawson should have due consideration. His present office, is most important, but there are still more important offices ; there is a possibility that a gentleman of Mr. Lawson’s abilities may be thrown away.
.- The idea presented by the honorable member for Brisbane is one that might be extended without limit. If I were to attempt to point out the cases of subordinate officers practically carrying their superior officers on their backs, I should occupy the time of the Committee indefinitely with facts as to the whole of the Departments. Surely we have confidence in the present system of a Public Service Commissioner, or we have not. If we believe the Public Service Commissioner to be the best judge of the qualifications oJ public servants, we should support him until we discover that he is unfitted for his position. The honorable member for Brisbane practically indicated that, in the case he presented, the Commissioner had failed to recognise the supreme administrative ability of this officer.
– The honorable member for Brisbane never said any such thing.
– The last words of the honorable member for Brisbane were that, in all probability, the claims of ibis officer-
Colonel Foxton. - I never said that the officer had any claims.
– But the honorable member said that this officer’s ability should be considered.
Colonel Foxton. - I said that it would justify his promotion.
– Where is the difference ?
Colonel Foxton. - I do not like to be misquoted.
– I had. no intention to misquote ; and can only say that that was the impression left on my mind. However, I hope ‘the idea of the honorable member for Brisbane will ‘not be carried out, because it would mean unending trouble, seeing that, in all public services, we have junior officers with more ability, energy, and application: than those who are placed over them. This must inevitably occur, however, since seniority ‘is to some extent recognised. Of course, if there were any striking case of exceptional talent going to waste, there could be no objection to forwarding information to. the Commissioner, always providing that no injury was done to other public servants, although, in that connexion, there is always a danger. The position is so delicate that I would not for one moment think of interfering and indicating to the Commissioner what, in my opinion, was or was not the proper course to pursue.
Colonel Foxton. - The honorable member may do what he likes - I shall.
– Then I cak* only hope that other honorable members will not follow the example of the honorable member for Brisbane, because, in my view, it would render parliamentary government impossible.
– Is it hot better to come in by the front door than by the back door?
– If the present system is not the best, let us criticise and alter it; but we should not discuss every small matter in regard to this or that officer, and indicate practically how the Public Service Commissioner should carry out his duties.
Colonel Foxton. - The honorable member cannot have listened to what I said.
– The honorable member for Brisbane must have an object in making his remarks ; but, if we are to criticise the administration of the Public Service Commissioner, let us do it in the proper way, and at the proper time. The honor able member said that he had not approached the Public Service Commissioner, as the Commissioner resents that sort of thing. It is a good thing for Parliament and the public that he does resent it. I shall be sorry to see the day when some obstacle of that kind does not stand in the way of those who, according to the history of politics, as we read it, have ever and anon been trying to push forward the interests of those with whom their sympathies lie. That sort of influence has been abolished by the existing system, and I hope it will not be resurrected in the way proposed. With regard to the present procedure, how seldom do we find honorablemembers selecting1 the cases of humbler members of the service for advocacy in this Chamber ! We do not find any honorable members informing the Public Service Commissioner through the debates in thisChamber that individuals in the lower ranks of the service have not received justice. When certain honorable membersrise to speak of individual cases, they always indicate some one in a high grade of the service. Therein lies the reason why these matters should not be brought forward in the House in this way. It is a good thing that such action has no effect on the Public Service Commissioner.
– It was- I who asked the honorable member for Brisbane to name an instance of a publicservant who regretted his transfer from theState to the Commonwealth service. It ispeculiar that the honorable member has. named an officer about whose position I probably know more than any other honorable member does. Mr. Lawson wasanxious to get into the Federal service, because he could see there was very littlechance of promotion in the State service.
Colonel Foxton. - I think he was quite wrong, and I was in a position to know.
– I had it from his own lipsthat he was anxious to get into the Federal service and take his chance, as hethought the prizes were more numerous, and the opportunities of promotion greater. From what I have heard, that has beenpractically the case with every other officerwho came from the State services. They were rightly anxious to get into the Federalservice, which I think is much better than the State services are. The honorable member for Brisbane is quite right on the question of influencing the Public ServiceCommissioner. The only chance an honorable member has of letting the Commis- sioner hear him at all is either through the Minister or on the floor of the House. I have had to bring cases forward where public servants have been harshly and cruelly treated by the Public Service Inspector in Queensland, and therefore, through him, by the Public Service Commissioner. When I brought the cases forward in the House, the Minister brought the Commissioner and myself together in the Minister’s room, we discussed the pros and cons of the matter, and settled it to the satisfaction of both the Commissioner and the public servant. No one denies that Mr. Lawson is an able officer. He was the commissioner who divided Queensland into electorates, and did it in a manner that was so satisfactory that there was not a single complaint even from honorable members themselves. This House accorded him a vote of thanks for the admirable manner in which he did the work. I have no doubt that when higher positions become vacant Mr. Lawson’s past career in the State service will be taken into account. We know how it was that salaries in the Queensland State service were reduced. Retrenchment was called for in that State, and the first to suffer were the public servants. Many were retrenched out of the service altogether. As soon as the State began to prosper, Mr. Lawson was one of the first officers to be taken on again. That speaks volumes for him. No one knows Mr. Lawson’s capabilities better than does the Public Service Inspector in Queensland, and I am sure that Mr. Lawson will get a square deal from him if any position for which he is eligible becomes vacant.
,- When the salary of the Secretary to the Department was under discussion a number of honorable members expressed regret that that officer was not under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commissioner, in order that his position should be free from, Parliamentary or political influence. But, as soon as we have disposed of that question, the case of a gentleman, who is under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commissioner, is brought forward. If we are going to discuss the positions of the various officers under the Commissioner, what becomes of the question of political control or influence? This particular gentleman seems to have been under the direction of the honorable member for Brisbane in Queensland. If influence is brought to bear in cases of this kind, the result is likely to be just as bad as in the case of the Secretary to a Department, who is directly under the control of the Minister. If we are to have these divided opinions, and to discuss the cases of individual members of the service, the consideration of the Estimates will occupy a good many more days.
Colonel Foxton. - I mentioned the matter only because I was challenged to name a case.
– It is not advisable to bring cases of individual public servants before the Committee. We all know officers in our respective States whom we consider to be very good and clever; but if we intend to deal with individual cases here, we might as well abolish thePublic Service Commissioner and all his paraphernalia. I shall not occupy time by bringing forward the cases of all the able men that we have in Tasmania.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 23 (Public Service Commis sioner), . £11,058, agreed to.
Division 24 (Public Works Staff),
– In order to test the feeling of the Committee on the question of whether Australian tenderers should be given an opportunity of tendering for the supply of the ventilating fans that I have mentioned, I move -
That the item, “ Director-General,£900,” be reduced by £1.
An honorable member who asks a question of the Minister in charge of a Department is entitled to a reply ; but the Minister of Home Affairs did not think my request was of sufficient importance to offer any reply. He gave as an excuse for the present advertisement the fact that the Government were following the example of the late Government. He implied that they intended to proceed on different lines ; but I have yet to learn in what particular they are going in a different direction from the late Government. Up to the present we are told that they are proceeding on the same lines. It is difficult to discuss this question in view of the Prime Minister’s statement that he was not prepared, on the most important question of the day, to say whether his Ministry was a free-trade or a protectionist Ministry.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member said that this was not the time to do it ; but it is the time so far as I am concerned. The fans were installed in this building under the guidance, we were told, of a protectionist Ministry, and the honorable member who was responsible for that was the late Minister of Home Affairs. Since that time, however, we have imposed a duty. There is now being manufactured in Victoria what is known as the Burkett fan, and it has successfully passed the most severe tests. A trial took place at Bendigo a few weeks ago, and among those present was a member of the State Labour Party, who said that he was so satisfied with the test that he would be prepared to recommend the use of the fan.
– What objection has the honorable member to the fan used with such excellent results in the ventilation of this chamber?
– I have no objection to it. My contention, however, is that while the Ministry professes to be opposed to monopolies, it would seem to be prepared to build a fence round a firm manufacturing these fans abroad, and to prevent any one else from competing with them in the Australian market. They say that the Department requires a fan that is made in the Old Country, and they will not allow a local firm to tender.
– Why not?
– Because they are in favour of monopoly, I suppose?
– That is the only reason I can think of.
– -Because they are following their predecessors.
– Then they have no right to occupy the Treasury bench. The following report appeared in the Argus of 2 Ist October last, regarding the trial of the Burkett fan at Bendigo -
Bendigo, Friday. - The Mines Department axe til lowing inventors of fans trials at the Great Extended Hustler’s Mine. This evening a public trial was given of the Burkett suction fan. Th:s fan, which is styled a 6-ft. Burkett fan, has been working over the “Pups” shaft, since October 9, with very satisfactory results.
The trial was conducted in the presence of Mr. A. H. Merrin, Chief Inspector of Mines, Messrs. Livingston and Cotter, M.L.A.’s -
Mr. Cotter was recently returned to the
State Parliament as a member of the Lahour Party - and Eli Trewern and Wilfred Rickards, of the Mining Managers’ Association. The air was drawn through the main shaft and workings, and up the “ Pups “ shaft. Before the test the temperature below was 835 deg., but afterwards it was reduced to 76 deg. At the first test the fan was drawing 18,400 cubic feet of air per minute, and at the second the exhaust was increased to 20,340 cubic feet per minute. Between the tests it was found that the natural current coming up the upcast shaft was only 8,500 cubic feet per minute.
Mr. Livingston, as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Burkett Company, said the inventor was a Victorian, and the fans were of Victorian manufacture. Mr. Merrin said the mine had been one of the most difficult to ventilate, and the trial had resulted satisfactorily. Messrs. Trewern and Rickards also expressed their appreciation. Mr. Cotter said he was prepared to recommend the fan to his fellow Labour members for the amelioration of the conditions of the miners.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I should like to inform the Committee that the Mr. Rickards, who, according to the report I have read, expressed approval of this fan, is the manager of the deepest gold mine in the world. 1 am at a loss to account for the attitude taken up by the Minister of Home Affairs. In the early hours of this morning I twice questioned him with regard to this matter, but could obtain no reply, and when I questioned him a third time I was informed that the Government were simply following the course adopted bv their predecessors in office. Assuming that the Labour Party are, as they claim to be, the party of progress, surely if the late Ministry did something wrong - and I do not admit that they did - the present Government are not prepared to slavishly follow in their footsteps. We were told yesterday, during the course of a debate on the question of immigration, that there were in Australia a number of men out of work, and I think that I may well inquire, in view of the attitude of the Minister, in regard to this matter, whether he and his colleagues are prepared to throw more men out of employment. Is that their policy? Surely the Government should be prepared to use the locally-made fans, and so to find employment for more of our own workers. The Minister of Trade and Customs knows the manufacturer of these fans, who is one of his constituents.
– What is his name?
– He is a Mr. Marshall. I have no personal interest in the matter, but stand here as a representative of the working classes. If the Labour Party are jio! prepared to advocate the claims of the nien whom they say they represent, I am. Never in the history of this Parliament has there been witnessed such a spectacle asthat now presented by the Minister of Home Affairs. Is he prepared, with his colleagues, to go to the country and declare that he does not believe in the use in the Departments of the Commonwealth of an article of Australian manufacture? Is he prepared to say that he and his party prefer an imported article? The honorable member’s silence is practically an admission that he is not prepared to give the local manufacturers of these fans an opportunity to tender for those required by the Department. He was not dumb when he was sitting in the Ministerial corner. The Minister who then failed to give what he regarded as a satisfactory answer to a question put by him had a lively time. But a change has come over him. To-day the honorable gentleman appears to be able to adapt himself very readily to his altered circumstances. What will the working classes say when they learn that the Labour Ministry is not prepared to stand by an Australian manufacture? Surely the honorable gentleman does not wish to shelter himself behind the plea that he is following the course laid down by his predecessor?
– How is it that the honorable member had nothing to say when a member of the late Government, of which he was a supporter, took up the same attitude ?
– I had something to say about the matter. I am not tied to the skirts of any Ministry. I am prepared to support the’ Government while I believe them to be doing right, but if their present attitude on this question is continued they will not be able to count very long on my support. I am not going to stand long behind a Ministry that is not prepared to assist local industry. The Minister of Home Affairs has ignored my request for information, and I wish to tell him at once that he will have to look elsewhere for his support if he is going to treat me in this way. I was returned as a protectionist in opposition to the Labour Party, and the Labour leagues in my own electorate to-day are selecting a candidate to oppose me at the next general election. I do not complain of that, but I do complain of the stand taken by the Minister on this question. Had he said that he would consider my representations, or that he did not think the locally-made fans were suitable for the purpose for which the Department requires them, the position would be different. But he was prepared to allow my amendment to go to a division without giving a single reason why the specifications of the contract in question should not be ‘ amended. 1 could quote testimonials to show that the Australian fan costs £50 less than the imported fan, and needs only half as much motive power to work it.
– Then why does not the Australian manufacturer tender?
– Because the Sirocco fan is specified.
– fs it a patented fan?
– Yes ; made in the Old Country. Seeing that the Australian fan is so much better, why does not the specification require that it. and not an imported fan, shall be submitted? Ministers show no desire to expedite the passage of the Estimates, and I trust that the Committee will reduce the item to let the people know those who support the policy of giving work to our manufacturers, and recognise the value of Australianmade goods. Had the late Ministry been in power, the importance of this matter would have been recognised. Although this Ministry speaks about going further and faster, so far it has moved very slowly, and in this matter has taken a. step backward.
– I think that the honorable member for Batman was entitled to receive from the Minister the information for which, he asks, without being put to the trouble of making a long speech to compel an answer.
– He was defining his attitude towards the Government.
– He had a right to do so. No doubt the Minister, having so recently taken office, is not yet conversant with all the details coming under his control ; but his natural courtesy should lead him to give what explanation he can as soon as possible.
– There has been widespread dissatisfaction because the Victorian Government, notwithstanding a resolution of the State Parliament against the practice, has imported goods which could be manufactured here. Our manufacturers, in addition to the protection which they get from the Tariff, ought to be put on an equal footing with manufacturers abroad in tendering for Government supplies. In this case it has been notified in the Gazette that-
Tenders will be received …. for Ventilation of General Post Office, Melbourne, with Fans, Motors, Piping, etc., complete.
– I had not seen that advertisement before last night.
– The seventh paragraph of the specification mentions a Sirocco fan, which, I understand, cannot be madehere, and therefore I ask the Minister to authorize an alteration which will allow Australian manufacturers to compete. Fans are made in an establishment located in the electorate of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and in other parts of the Commonwealth, and both protectionists and free-traders are agreed that fair play should be given to Australian manufacturers by putting them on the same footing, in the matter of tenders, with manufacturers abroad. I do not know anything about the merits of the Australian fan, but the statement of the honorable member for Batman, that itis £50 cheaper, and requires less power, should be carefully examined. I am glad that the late Postmaster-General did so much for the comfort of the attendants in the telephone exchange. The medical members of the Committee will indorse my statement that no occupation puts a more severe strain on mental energy than does that of attending to telephones. When a member of the State House, I frequently drew attention to this matter, and the result has been a considerable shortening of hours. I have stated emphatically that a female telephone attendant ought not to be on duty formore than four hours a day, if she is to continue her work for the natural term ofemployment, which would be about 20 or 25 years. Let honorable members who are not acquainted with the nature of the work visit the Exchange here, in Sydney, or in some other important centre, and remain there for ten minutes during a busy part of the day. Any one doing so would be disinclined to accept employment there himself for twice the remuneration he receives as a member of Parliament. Even in this building we require fans and other devices to keep the atmosphere fresh and cool, and similar conveniences are much more needed in a building where the roof is glass and galvanized iron, and not very high above the heads of the operators.
– I cannot help thinking that the Minister has an explanation to give. I have seen him in this mood before, and I have a shrewd suspicion that he has been quietly preparing a reply which will completely answer the statements of the honorable member for Batman. That is my interpretation of his sphinx-like attitude. A gross injustice has been done to local manufacturers if the specifications prevent them from tendering. Many years ago, in New South Wales, finding that Mr. Sandford could not tender for Government iron work because foreign brands were always specified, I brought the matter under the notice of my then chief, the right honorable member for East Sydney, and he had the prohibition removed. Every honorable member must be of the opinion that we should give fair play to our inventors, manufacturers and producers, and I shall be glad to hear from the Minister why the advertisement asking for tenders for the installation of fans in the Melbourne Post Office has not been so drawn up that our manufacturers may tender. There should be a complete and careful examination of every invention on the market, to ascertain whether it can do the work required. I am sure that there will be no difficulty in getting fair play for our manufacturers from the Minister.
– The honorable and learned member for Corio, having been out of the Chamber for some time, is not perhaps aware that this is the first opportunity offered me to give the required information. Whatever others may do, I shall not transgress the Standing Orders. Until the item was reached, any remarks about these fans would have been irrelevant to the question before the Chair. This, then, is the earliest moment at which it would have been orderly for me to intervene in the debate. Since the item was reached I rose once or twice, but other honorable members were called on by the’ Chairman.
– It seems to me that the division was being put.
– No, the division had not been put, nor do I think the question of a reduction of the item had even been stated. Now, as to the complaint of the honorable member for Batman. He could have had all the facts by simply asking for them quietly from the Secretary to the
Department or from me. He chose to adopt another course. It pleased him to keep the matter secret until after midnight, when, with much theatrical display, as if a general election were imminent-
– I am not afraid of a general election if the Minister is.
– He made his disclosure. I find myself unable to sympathize with theatrical attempts to make political capital out of some alleged departmental irregularity. Neither on this occasion nor henceforward shall I lend myself to such paltry projects. The honorable member for Batman has produced some advertisement to which my name is attached. As every one knows, all Departments of Government issue these notices in ordinary course, without any reference whatever to the Minister. As a matter of cold fact, I never saw this notice, and did not even know of its existence until he produced it. However, since the matter was brought up, I have found that, on the recommendation of the Director-General of Public Works, an order was given by the late Minister of Home Affairs as far back as 17th January of this year, authorizing an expenditure in connexion with the ventilation of Parliament House by means of these fans.
– It is nearly time that the advertisement was put in.
– There is an amusing side to this incident. That advertisement was published by the late Government for the supply of Sirocco fans for Parliament House; but the) honorable member for. Batman, who was a supporter of that Government, did not up to that time discover any departure from true fiscal principles.
Mr.McWilliams. - Did the late Government advertise?
– We may take it that they advertised and took all other customary steps. On the 17th January, 1908, Senator Keating, whose protectionist loyalty will not be impeached even by the honorable member for Batman, authorized this expenditure, on the recommendation of an expert officer, the Director-General of Public Works, who is presumed to know the most suitable class of fan for large public buildings. These Sirocco fans are mentioned as special appliances, and both the experience of the Department, as well as the expert knowledge of its officers, are in their favour. In addition, local tenderers were informed by the Di rector-General that if they could provide equally suitable locally-made fans, they were free to submit proposals to that end.
– Is this a patent fan?
– It was, but is not now, protected by patent. The expenditure having been approved by Senator Keating, the Secretary of the Department never thought it necessary to lay this particular advertisement before me. The Government, which the honorable member for Batman was following so loyally until a few days ago-
– Better than the “ followers “ of the present Government are following the Minister.
– We shall not quarrel as to that. I am informed by the Department that the patent rights of these fans have expired, and that, therefore, there is no reason why they cannot be manufactured locally, if it can be done with satisfaction to the Department.
– But is “Sirocco” not a registered trade name?
– Although it is a registered trade name, I am informed that the patent rights have expired, and that, therefore, it is open to Australian manufacturers to make them free of patent fees. The mere fact that the specification requires Sirocco fans does not prevent any Australian manufacturer competing for this particular work.
– The specification requires a particular kind of fan.
– Yes, a Sirocco fan.
– Not a particular make?
– Not a particular make.
– A particular class of fan?
– The Sirocco fan is described as one with a maximum draught of 6,000 cubic feet, for the extraction of air from the roof space.
– The specification is not confined to a particular firm?
– Certainly not. It is open to every Australian manufacturer to tender.
– The Minister feels free to accept an Australian tender?
– If so advised by the competent expert of the Department. I am not an expert in fans or engineering appliances - not even in underground engineering - and, therefore, it would be idle for me to put my opinion against the view of an expert.
– I admit all that the Minister says, except as to the underground engineering.
– In that I shall never seriously rival the honorable member. There was one point made by the honorable member for Batman, who imported such a remarkable volume of heat, or, perhaps, I should say, new-born zeal into this incident.
– It is not new-born, but about two vears old.
– The honorable member for Batman said that, while the Post Office was a Commonwealth building, Parliament House belonged to the State, the inference being that the State Government in some way influenced the selection of some particular class of fan installed into the latter.
– That is not correct.
– If it were not correct, his point would be pointless. Nothing could be more fallacious than such an inference, because the State Government never interfered in any shape or form with the installation of the fans in Parliament House, the Commonwealth authorities selecting the fan which they thought most suitable. Then something was said about a Tariff not being in existence when these fans were selected; but, as a matter of fact, the Tariff had been in force for nearly twelve months.
– That is only a short time.
– Whatever the object of the honorable member for Batman may be - and possibly his action may do him good politically - he could have saved the Committee considerable time if he had come quietly to me and had submitted to him all the documents at my disposal. I have given an explanation of the whole transaction, and can say that nothing would please the Department and the Government better than to be able to instal in the Post Office and elsewhere fans made by Australian manufacturers and workmen. That is our ambition, not merely in regard to fans, but in regard to every other requirement. Any assertion to the contrary is mere bunkum. Now, as to the charge that I have been unduly silent on these Estimates, the honorable member for Parramatta has complained of my Sphinxlike attitude; as if there was anything to conceal. Nothing of the sort. I am prepared to give the fullest information when sought with a bond fide purpose. But I shall not be dragged into a timewasting wrangle when time is so precious. My object is that these Estimates shall be passed in reasonable time so that those of the other Departments may be completed this afternoon, and next week be left free for the other urgent and important measures which await consideration.
.- In thefirst place, I have to thank the Minister of Home Affairs for his kindly wishes, and, in the second place, I desire to point out that though he has talked all round” the question, he has not yetgiven an answer. I now desire to ask the Minister the straight question - Is he prepared todrop the word Sirocco, and to intimate in the specification that Australian fans may be used ?
– Why did not the honorable member put that question to the lateGovernment ?
– Had I known that thelate Government were importing foreign, fans, I should have asked the question. [ am given to understand that at that time the local fans were not capable of doing the work, but that they have since beenbrought up to date; and all that the Australian manufacturers ask for is fair play.
– I understood that thehonorable gentleman had been interested) in this matter for two years.
– To which matter does the honorable member refer? I do not wish to force this question to a division ; but if the Minister is not prepared to eliminatethe word “ Sirocco “ from the specificationsI shall persist with my amendment.
– The honorable member for Batman is taking a very arbitrary stand. The Minister has made a statement that his highly paid and highly efficient officers inform him that no embarrassment will be caused to any Australian manufacturer by the inclusion of the word “ Sirocco “ in the specifications. All that is intended to be conveyed is that the Department desire to have a particular type of fan.
– But can that type be made in Australia ? That is the point.
– I understand that there is no particular feature about it that differentiates it from any other fan, and therefore it can be made in Australia equally with any other country.
– Is it more effective than other fans?
– The Director-General, a highly skilled officer, who is paid to advise the Departments in these matters, thinks that this is the particular kind of machine that can do the work more efficientlv, and, I understand, more quietly than any other machine.
– Does the honorable member refer to Colonel Owen?
– He is not very much given to Australian things.
– I will go so far as to say, regarding the policy of the Government, that if it is discovered that any embarrassment is caused to Australian manufacturers by the use of the word “Sirocco,” the Government will revise the specifications.
– Hear, hear. That is a very fair statement.
– It would be making a plunge in the dark for us, who are not definitely or skilfully informed personally in the matter, to go behind the advice of the Director-General of Works. The honorable member for Batman need not worry about our policy. We shall have to stand or fall by our general policy, but the desire of the Government is to encourage every kind of Australian manufacture on fair and legitimate lines, and to give the benefit to local manufacturers.
– No blame appears to be attachable to the Minister in this case. He has done what any other Minister would do in similar circumstances. At the same time, while we are told that Australian manufacturers can tender, the word “ Sirocco “ remains in the specifications, and unless it is removed, local tenders for a fan which is not on all fours with the particular kind mentioned are likely to be rejected. I should like to see an open field for all manufacturers, Australian and European. We must have a machine that can do its work, and if it cannot be made in Australia, we must get it from Ireland, where this particular kind is made. There is no reason, however, why Australian manufacturers should not be given an opportunity of making a fan which presents all the advantages of the Sirocco. I exonerate the honorable member for Batman from any blame forbringing the matter forward.
.- I wish to thank the Prime Minister for his courteous reply. It is very satisfactory, and I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 25(Census and Statistics), £12,744, agreed to.
Division 26(Meteorological Branch)
. -I wish to call attention to the item of £1,000 for “ Installations for signalling flood and storm warning.” Last year £200 was voted, and only £12 spent. I am pleased to note the increase in the vote this year. The lives of many people are dependent upon a timely warning in the case of flood. I applied to the Department last year for a flood-warning station at Rosevale, about 32 miles above Ipswich, but the Department could not grant the request, although it would have cost only a few pounds. The matter, however, is of such great importance to thousands of residents below the point named, that I take this opportunity of calling the particular attention of the Minister to it. I understand that the Department obtained from the State Hydraulic Engineer a report which was altogether misleading. One does not care to bump up against officials and official reports, but that gentleman reported that the Bremer River took its rise in the Little Liverpool Range, when as a matter of fact it takes its rise 30 or 40 miles distant. A tributary from the Little Liverpool Range flows into the Bremer, so that the river drains a large area of country, including portion of the Darling Downs. A flood warning at the point suggested would enable the residents of the city of Ipswich, which contains from1 2,000 to 15,000 inhabitants, and also of the city of Brisbane, to get timely notice. This is not an isolated case. There are several localities in my own electorate which need such stations. Fortunately, we have not had any serious floods since 1893, but what has happened before will happen again, and it is only fair, in the interests of humanity, that if a few pounds expended by the Department of Home Affairs can save life, the money should be spent. I urge the Minister not to be parsimonious in administering this vote, but to establish flood-warning stations, which are not expensive, wherever they are badly needed.
– I am pleased to see that a larger amount is proposed to be appropriated for the item mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton. Has this sum of £1,000 been put on the Estimates in consequence of requests from myself and other honorable members for necessary warnings to be posted at places where the public may take advantage of them? Last year, only -£12 was spent, although I persistently tried, ‘ but failed, to secure this relief in my electorate for many people whose stock,, and even lives, are at times in danger. This is a matter of serious importance to some parts of the Commonwealth. In the northwestern portions of New South Walessome of the best stock districts in Australia - there are occasions when it is absolutely necessary, with the river coming down so rapidly, that people should get notification of the rising of the waters. If they do not get warning, the topography - of the place is such that they are absolutely unable to remove their sheep from the flooded land to the surrounding sand ridges. Will the Minister state why the £zoo voted last year was not spent in giving this necessary relief? I could mention cases where there have been large sacrifices of stock, and in one or two instances even loss of life, through the neglect of provision for proper warning. Whenever I send applications of this kind on to the Department, I am informed that the Commonwealth has already expended the amount of money which it undertook to spend under some conditions laid clown in the early days of the Federation, and that since that fund has been absorbed, the only way in which more money can be obtained for the purpose is by appealing to the State Government to bear the extra cost of the warnings asked for. That sort of thing is not worthy of the Federal Parliament. Life and stock should not be endangered for want of a notice posted up at the local post-office. Provision can be easily made, especially in cases where telegraph or telephone wires are already erected. The Commonwealth should have sympathy with people who are faced with dangers over which they have no control, and which come upon them so suddenly that if they do not get proper warning they are helpless. I appeal to the Minister to make this vote of £1,000 a reality and not a pretence. Let us have at least some indication of the bonn fides of the Government in the way of granting a relief which every man who represents a country district knows is absolutely essential to the welfare of the people on the land. I compliment the Department on increasing the sum asked for on these Estimates. If we are entitled to pay £500 towards the Imperial Institute,- we are surely justified in making provision to protect the lives and property of the residents of the Commonwealth. I hope the Minister will give the Committee an assurance that every effort will be made by the Department to meet the demands which have been made by myself and other honorablemembers for the granting of this relief to people in country districts.
.- Everybody will agree with the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member ‘ for Gwydir as to the necessity for making greater provision for warning people against the danger of floods. Some larger provision is required, especially in the districts mentioned by the honorable member for Gwydir. Both honorablemembers dwelt on the small amount expended last year, but the vote on thoseEstimates was only a preliminary one, I am informed that on the Estimates for last year provision was not made for the whole year, as the branch was not inaugurated until the 1st January, 1908, at which date it was difficult to estimate requirements. The experience of the last twelve months has enabled the Department to gauge more accurately the amount which will be required for the current year. Anr officer of the Department has during thelast few months spent a great deal of his time in Queensland, being specially commissioned to examine and report on the matter. The Department is now considering the whole project; hence the larger vote which we now propose, andwhich we hope to utilize during the current year.
– What is trienature of the provision?
– I have not all the details, but at a later stage, if the Committee so desire, I shall furnish fuller particulars. The Department of Meteorology was only taken over on 1st January last, and in view of the preliminary work involved in the organization of such a very large branch of the service, there was not time to fully consider the project. I can assure the Committee, however, that during; the coining year this matter will be very carefully considered, and that an effortwill be made to provide reliable and uptodate stations from which warnings of approaching floods may be sent to people in the various localities lower down these streams.
.- I am the representative of a district which suffers, I suppose, more from periodical inundations than does any other part of the Commonwealth.
– And which) is also largely benefited by them.
– As the honorable member, who is an authority on agriculture, rightly remarks, these inundations also benefit the lands over which they flow. It is well known that the Hunter River periodically overflows its banks. It has many tributaries such as the Cockfighter, the Williams, and the Paterson, which at times rise very rapidly, and as the honorable member for Gwydir has said, settlers in such localities sometimes suffer heavy loss of stock, because of their receiving no warning of an approaching flood. Those living in the district in which I reside are at times in hourly danger of their lives. It is only by receiving timely warning of approaching floods that they are able to avoid, not only serious loss of stock, but loss of human life. Large sums have been expended by the settlers to keep the flood waters from their lands. I have repeatedly received from constituents applications for the supply of better information as to the occurrence of floods, but when T have brought them before the responsible Minister I have invariably been told that the Department can do no more than it is doing. The Minister of Home Affairs has told us lhat the Department of Meteorology was only recently transferred to the Commonwealth, and that consequently it is not yet in a position to supply much information on this subject. I would remind him, however, that the Post and Telegraph Department, since it controls the telegraph stations, must play an important part in the dissemination of warnings. I fail to see why telegraph offices should not remain open after ordinary hours, when floods are imminent, so that timely warning may be sent to those in danger. The officers in charge ought to be well paid for overtime in such circumstances. It is only in a few cases, however, that this concession has been granted. I would urge the Minister toconfer ‘with the Postmaster-General, with a view .of inducing him to adopt a more liberal policy than we have hitherto had in this regard. Some time has elapsed since heavy floods took place in my electorate. The last occurred in 1893, whenan enormous stretch of territory, comprising some very valuable land was inundatedand great loss sustained. It is quite possible that before long we may have another inundation of the kind, and I therefore appeal to the Minister, while the sunyet shines, to complete arrangements for the dissemination of warnings of approaching flood’s. I am sure that the Government are anxious to assist those on the land, and’ I ask the Minister to have inquiries made, and, if necessary, to stretcha point in helping those residing in districts liable to be inundated to meet soformidable a danger.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 27 (Works and Buildings),
Mr. JOHN THOMSON (Cowper> [3,j:7]- - -A- week or two ago I moved for a return showing the rents paid for buildings occupied for Commonwealth purposesin the capital cities of the different States, and in order to keep down the cost of compilation I did not ask that it should extend to buildings so used in country districts. =1 was greatly surprised by the information I obtained as to the rents we are paying’ for premises in the capitals of the States where permanent buildingsare likely to be required for all time. In most cases the rents so paid show a very large percentage on the cost of the buildings, and I am sure that we could cut down by one-half the rate of interest which those rentals represent if we were to borrow money at 4 per cent, to enable us to erect buildings of our own. As a rule, suitable premises cannot be obtained, and another point to be remembered is that most people think they have a right to charge a high rent for buildings required by- the. Government. We have very often to pay heavy rents in respect of premises that are wholly unsuitable for our purpose, and we could certainly accommodate ourselves much better by building offices of our own. I recognise that a number df the buildings included inthe return to which I refer will not be required when the Federal Capital is established. Many of them, and more particularly some of those occupied by the Commonwealth Government in Melbourne, will not be required when we remove to our permanent abode. But those are not the buildings that I have in mind. In many cases we are renting buildings for use as drill halls and post-offices, although we could secure much better accommodation by erecting our own premises. I am sure that the Minister is prepared to receive suggestions in a sympathetic way, and I would ask him before agreeing in future to rent any premises to consider whether the exigencies of the case might not be better served by the erection of Commonwealth buildings. In country districts, in many cases, we are leasing buildings for postal purposes that are unsuitable, not only because they lack the accommodation required for the officers as well as for the public, but because they have not been constructed with due regard for the prevailing climatic conditions. Last night I brought under the notice of the Minister the desirableness of Australian material being used as far as possible in the construction of Commonwealth buildings. I then brought before him an illustrated catalogue of building maaerials, and more particularly of Australian marble, prepared by the Technological Museum authorities in New South Wales, and he promised that where possible those materials would be used. I trust that the Minister will also agree, wherever possible, to acquire premises of our own, and I would suggest that with this object in view the Department should be allowed a larger vote to enable it to secure suitable sites in growing centres of population. I do not complain of the practice that has hitherto been adopted of renting premises for postal and other purposes in new towns or districts until the likelihood of “their permanence and expansion has been determined. Iri such places buildings are -secured on lease for one, two, or three years, and I suggest that during the currency of such leases, the Government, -where satisfied that towns are likely to be permanent, should anticipate development by securing suitable sites for their requirements there. I know of cases in which the Department has been put to great expense owing to the failure to secure lots early in the development of rising towns. When it has sought to secure a block of land, it has found very few allotments available, and has had to pay a high price to obtain a suitable site. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to these suggestions.
– In this division provision is made for the upkeep and maintenance of the public buildings under our own control - a matter concerning which there is much complaint. We are asked to vote this year for the State of New South Wales £18,300 for repairs and maintenance, £5,500 for sanitation and water supply, and £3,6_00 for fittings and furniture, a total of £40,633. Last year £42,452 was appropriated, and. only £36,748 expended, leaving an unexpended balance of £5,500. Many of the officers who have to live in these buildings have been seriously inconvenienced by being called upon to give up part of their private quarters for the accommodation of the public. Of course, they are promised that other provision will be made for them ; but these promises are often not carried out. I know of a case in which the. front room of the postmaster’s private quarters has been taken for the transaction of postal business, and, although he has been promised other accommodation, nothing has yet been done for him. Of course, the general assumption is that there is no money available; but I find that last year £5,500 of the sum voted was not spent. I hope that the Government will see that the votes of Parliament are spent, so that our officers may not be unnecessarily inconvenienced. Besides, the proper upkeep and maintenance of our public buildings is very important, and very often the expenditure of £1 on repairs would obviate a much larger expenditure later on.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie - Minister of Home Affairs [3.29]. - So largely do I share the views of the honorable member for Cowper, that some time ago I urged the Post and Telegraph Department to acquire premises of its own in Western Australia. That policy should certainly be pursued in agricultural and pastoral townships. It- has been reported that some of the towns on the goldfields may disappear by reason of the riving out of ore, and that, therefore, it is wiser to rent premises there. Still, as the Commonwealth annually pays, by way of rent, the very large sum of ,£29,669, something should be done to reduce this expenditure. I thank the honorable member for
Cowper for having drawn my attention to a very valuable publication. I hope that, wherever possible, Australian marble, timber, and other material, will be used in our public buildings. That is a policy which’ I have always supported. The expenditure upon the upkeep of our buildings in painting and repairs does not vary much from year to year, and there is not much opportunity for reducing it, except, as I have mentioned, by substituting our own buildings for rented premises. The view is held by some that the Commonwealth does better by renting buildings, because then it can move its quarters should the business centre of the town change, or should a settlement decline in importance. Where settlement is permanent, however, we should certainly have our own premises. In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Calare, I would point out that it cannot be expected that every £1 voted by Parliament will be expended before the end of the financial year. The existence of the unexpended balance to which he has referred, is due to the fact that the works could not be carried out before the votes lapsed.
– I notice that it is proposed to vote £950 for the repairs and maintenance of Parliament House, and £1,518 for sanitation and water supply, the appropriation last year being £2,297, and the expenditure £1,247. I wish to know whether the amount set down for this year will cover the cost of the work recently carried out in these buildings, or whether further votes will benecessary?
– The cost of sewering these buildings has been defrayed by the State of Victoria, but we pay 5 per cent. on the outlay. That, I think, is a reasonable arrangement.
Colonel Foxton. - The charge is an annual one.
– Yes. We shall continue to pay it so long as we occupy these premises.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 28 (Governor-General’ s Establishment), £9,227.
.- In this division provision is made for the upkeep of Sydney Government House. I do not rise to object to the Governor-General having a residence in the capital of New South Wales, or to the amount set down for its maintenance; I wish to call attention to what, to my mind, is a seriousomission, namely, that nothing is set downfor a summer residence in Hobart.
Colonel Foxton.- Or elsewhere.
-If we paid the attention to the comfort of the GovernorGeneral, which, I think, we might, Hobart would naturally be chosen as the site for a summer residence for him. The Governors of the States have each a town and a country residence, the Governor of Victoria spending the hot weather at Mount Macedon. When the GovernorGeneralwishes to get away from the heatof Melbourne, he ought to go, not to Sydney, but to a place where the climate is cool - Katoomba, for example, or somewhere in Tasmania. As I understand that Supplementary Estimates are being introduced, I ask the Minister to take into consideration the suggestion that adequate provision should be made for a summer residence for the Governor-General in Tasmania.
.- I wishto know from the Minister of HomeAffairs, how many days a year, during the last three years, the Governor-General has occupied Sydney Government House, and how many days he has occupied Melbourne Government House.
– The time spent in. each has been about the same.
– The honorable member, I am sure, is mistaken. There is a feeling in Sydney that the Governor-General spends too little time in the State Capital. It is proposed to vote £2,585 for the upkeep of a Government House in Sydney, and, in addition, £1,053 for non-recurring works, and it is a pity that there should be such a large expenditure of this kind, if the residents of the northern capital are not to have the benefit of the Vice-Regal visits for longer periods than in the past. We all recognise that there are certain social and business advantages in connexion with the residence of the Governor-General in a city; and it is felt that the claims of Sydney from the natural beauty of its surroundings, its status as the mother city, and the chief commercial centre of Australia, have not been recognised as they should have been. A little hint might be conveyed that, if it suits the convenience of His Excellency, the people of Sydney would take it not unkindly if he could make his occasional visits a little more prolonged than those of his popular predecessor.
– The GovernorGeneral cannot go to Sydney while the Federal Parliament is sitting.
– But there are five or six months in the year when Parliament is not sitting.
– The honorable member need not discuss the matter further. I undertake to convey the suggestion to His Excellency.
– I should like to call attention to what some honorable members may regard as a_ trivial point, but one which I think is rather serious. Government House in Melbourne is really a magnificent one ; and the chief virtue of the building is that the public entertaining rooms are remarkably large, and eminently suited for their purpose. In Sydney Government House the “entertaining rooms can be described in terms the very reverse, and the private apartments have to be invaded on the occasion of any large entertainment. Some people may not approve of such functions, but we know that it is necessary, commercially and otherwise, to extend hospitality to foreign visitors and others occasionally. The Government ought to consider the desirability of providing additional room, because, as I have said, the accommodation at the present time is altogether inadequate. At the time of the visit of the American Fleet it was proposed that there should be additions of a permanent character, but that Idea, for some reason, was vetoed, and a marquee erected.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [3.45].- I do not know that it was advisable to raise this, question of the Vice-Regal residence in Sydney. There are other State capitals in Australia besides Sydney and Melbourne.
– But they are not so Important as Sydney.
Colonel FOXTON. - That I admit; but we must remember that Sydnev is not the Federal Capital. I do think it savours somewhat of - well, I would rather not give it a name - to complain. that the GovernorGeneral does not spend sufficient time there. It is only natural that the people of the other capitals should desire to have visits from His Excellency, though I do not say that such visits are expected as they appear to be in Sydney.
– I only say that the Sydney people would be glad to see the GovernorGeneral a little more frequently.
Colonel FOXTON. - But considerable provision is made for His Excellency’s residence there, whereas it would be very much more to the purpose if a summer residence were provided for him elsewhere.
– We could not have a summer residence in Brisbane.
Colonel FOXTON. - No, but there might be a winter residence there. H, as is said, the climate of Melbourne is not considered sufficiently cool at certain periods of the year, and a summer residence is deemed necessary for the State Governor, I think some such accommodation should also be provided for the Governor-General. I may say that’ I sometimes go to Brisbane in the summer, in order that I may get cool. I repeat that Sydney is not the Capital of Australia.
– It should be.
Colonel FOXTON.- I am quite of that opinion, but that is another subject. At any rate, if the Capital had been in Sydney, I am sure there would have been no Vice-Regal residence in Melbourne.
– J shall have the pleasure in conveying to “His Excellency the desire of the people of all the cities of Australia, to see as much- of himself and Lady Dudley as possible during their stay in Australia.
– I do not think that the undertaking of the Prime Minister disposes of the question. No doubt the people of Sydney desire to see His Excellency, but unless the visits are to be more frequent, I am not in favour of continuing this large expenditure on the maintenance of Government House. The honorable member for Hunter makes a claim for more accommodation at the Vice-Regal residence in Sydnev, but I can testify that there is more accommodation than is required. It was not until recently that it was discovered that a ballroom would be a convenient addition, but it was decided at last that it was a drawingroom, and not a ballroom, that was required, and a drawing-room was built. However, there is the finest ballroom south of the line at Melbourne Government House.
– Do not forget the fine. 0 ballroom at Perth.
– Why should wc trouble about providing ballrooms ?
– There must be certain social functions, although the honorable member himself does decline every invitation. If the Governor-General has no intention of visiting Sydney more frequently, we ought to strike this item out, and use the money in providing a good country residence, say, in the neighbourhood of Hobart.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 29 (Miscellaneous), £74,107.
-5*]- - I notice that £500 is set down tor expenses in connexion with choosing the site of the Capital of the Commonwealth, and I ask the Government to consider whether, in view of the survey work that will have to be done, the amount is sufficient, or whether the Prime Minister and Treasurer will make arrangements for further expenditure should it prove to be necessary. I notice that there is a large increase in the amount devoted to expenses in connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act, and I should- like to know the reason. Then, again, it is proposed to devote another £1,000 towards the cost of compiling a map of Australia, which appears to be an interminable work. We have not only been called upon to pay considerable sums in the past in this connexion, but we arc asked this year to double the amount as compared with that of last year.
– I am willing to reduce that item by £500.
– In any case, I should like to know when the map is likely to be completed. The work goes on year after year, and I can only suppose that the compilers are waiting for new townships and the Federal Capital. The time occupied and the money spent have been more than sufficient to provide for the most perfect map.
– I see that £500 is set down for the expenses of making inquiries and preparing plans for additional lighthouses required on the coast of Australia, and that, while £1,500 was appropriated last year, only £58 was spent. I should like to know what is. the nature of the work to be undertaken - what lighthouses it is proposed to erect, and what steps are to be taken toward assuming the Commonwealth control of ocean lights, beacons, and buoys generally. A number of flags, Venetian masts, shields and other decorations- of a similar character were obtained in connexion with the visit of the United States Fleet. It would take a lot of money to replace them. Can the Minister state what has’ become of them, and whether it is proposed to store them for use on future occasions, keeping them up to date and ir» good repair, as a sort of permanent stock, in order that the Commonwealth may not be put to unnecessary expense under this head for any future festivities? I understand that the Sydney City Council have sold their decorations, but I hope the Commonwealth will not follow that bad example. If stored, they would mean a considerable lessening of the expenses during any future outbursts of patriotism or hospitality.
– - Does the Minister intend to take the necessary steps to afford means of communication with the lighthouses along the coast, particularly those located on islands away from the shore ? We had a recent instance of a serious and unfortunate occurrence at one of them. At some of the lighthouses along the New South Wales coast the keepers have no proper means of communication with the mainland in case of sickness or accident. This unfortunate state of things is due, not to any want of sympathy on the part of those in authority, but to the divided responsibility as between the Home Affairs Department, the Post and Telegraph Department, and the States. We cannot have proper communicationwithout mail or telegraphic or signalling facilities, and I ask the Minister when going into the matter to arrange for periodical visits, or communicationby boat, mail, or telegraphy, with the lighthouses, so that we on the mainland mayknow that the men stationed there are all right, and that they on their part may feel that they are within call of assistance ire cases of emergency. I notice an item of £500 towards the cost of establishing anAgricultural Bureau. I am sure that is not all that the Government consider should be spent in that direction, but that they are fully seized of the importance of doing everything possible to forward the interests of our agricultural industries. -I recognise the splendid work that has already beendone by the Agricultural Departments of the States, but the researches which they are able to make are naturally restricted’. Work of Australian interest is being carried on in New South Wales, but that is being duplicated to a large extent in the other States, and large sums of money are being spent on scientific investigations which could be much better and more cheaply done by a central Commonwealth
Bureau, more particularly with regard to the diseases of animals and plants. I am sure that the States Departments will be made available to assist the Federal Government in carrying out scientific research by means of the Commonwealth Bureau. I hope the Minister will devote his energy to pushing this matter forward in order to assist our producers. Steps might be taken by this branch of Commonwealth activity to ascertain if possible the condition in which our goods arrive in the markets of the world, and the particular desires of our customers abroad. Work of that kind can be undertaken in a national way much better and more cheaply by a Federal system than by individual States. I do not advocate the doing of anything to duplicate the work which the States are now performing, or to anticipate their usefulness in any way, but a great deal can be done in that direction to assist the primary producers. We should aspire to achieve what has been already done in the United States and Canada, by having an Australian University at the Federal Capital, with a Chair of Agriculture. Now would be the time to take preliminary steps with that end in view. We talk- a. good deal about putting people on the land, and we must do something to make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before. This is a matter well worthy of consideration. The «x- Attorney-General did some valuable pioneering work in that direction, which should be available for the present Minister.
– Although the programme shadowed forth by the honorable member for Cowper is a very extensive one, I shall do my best to promote the objects which he has mentioned, so far as lies in my power. With regard to lighthouses, we propose that as soon as the engineer is appointed the vote submitted will be utilized to cover the cost of making the necessary inquiries. Everything will then be done so far as the money available will allow to supply the necessary connexions between the lighthouses and the mainland, not merely in regard to the territory referred to by the honorable member for Cowper, but with reference also to “Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, King Island, -and other places. I hope that some day the whole of the coast find the islands will be connected by wireless telegraphy. We should have, at any rate, some system of the kind By which the wants of the lighthouse-keepers may be immediately made known on the mainland. I am inclined to think that the honorable member for North Sydney was right in regarding £500 as a very small vote for the surveying and other work in connexion with the selection of the Capital site. That sum will not go very far when we begin making a survey, but if additional funds should be required, I apprehend that the” Government would fulfil its obligations in the matter. It would be the duty of any Government on an occasion of that kind to see that the money requisite to carry out the work which Parliament authorized was provided. The expenses in connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act are, as the honorable member for North Sydney stated, admittedly rather high. But the vote this year includes the canvass for trie rolls, printing of the rolls, the payment of the registrars, the payment of the divisional returning officers, maps, forms, clerical assistance, stationery, postage, and telegrams. With regard to the map of Australia, I understand that it is being compiled by the Lands Department in Sydney, and the delay is due to the fact that it has to be sent to the various State Governments to plot on it the information required to complete it. If honorable members will allow this vote to pass, the Appropriation Act having been drafted on the assumption that the totals are to stand, not more than £500 will be spent on this matter during the current half year. I do not know at present how the matter of the flags, masts, and decorations mentioned by the honorable ‘ member for Lang stands. I believe the Commonwealth Government purchased the decorations and flags in connexion with this building. I do not know what was done in regard to the Sydney decorations, but I will have inquiries made and obtain the information that the honorable member for Lang is anxious to secure. “
.- I am glad to hear the statement of the Minister that he intends to do what he can in connexion with the proposed Federal Department of Agriculture. He will find on the file rather an interesting “communication -from the Queensland Government expressing sympathy and agreement with the objects of the Bureau as set out in our memorandum. They say that they can see that such a Department will be for - the common good, the intention being, of course, to have a Department that will cooperate with the States. The Minister will find also that Mr. Swinburne, who was recently Minister of Agriculture in Victoria, agreed that a Department of this kind could be of great assistance in scientific investigation. I hope the Minister will press the question forward. He will find that expressions of opinion favorable to the establishment of such a Bureau” have been received from several public bodies in different parts of Australia.
.- I wish to touch upon the question of the lighthouses and communications therewith. Last year we appropriated £1,500 for this purpose, but only £58 was expended, and on the present Estimates, provision is made for an expenditure of only £500. It is necessary that this work should be immediately taken in hand by the Commonwealth. During the last few years the lighthouses along the coast have been neglected to some extent by the States in the belief that they would shortly be taken over by the Commonwealth. On the coast of Tasmania, we have a lighthouse which was connected with the mainland by cable ; but that cable broke some years ago, and the damage has not been repaired. It is absolutely necessary that there should be a ready means of communication between Tasmania and the lighthouses along its coast, as well as with the islands in Bass Strait. I asked the late Postmaster-General some time ago whether he was in earnest in regard to the proposed establishment of wireless telegraph stations on these islands, or whether he was merely exhibiting a political placard. His reply was that, so far as he was concerned, he was very much in earnest, but I find that these Estimates make no provision for wireless telegraphy. Some explanation of the omission is. necessary. Every lighthouse along the coast should be connected with the mainland for the safety not only of the lighthouse-keepers and their staff, but of those who go down to the sea in ships. The sooner the lighthouses are taken over by the Commonwealth the better, for the States Governments, believing that they will soon be transferred, are not likely to maintain them as they ought to be. The people of Tasmania are very anxious that they should have a readier means of communication with King Island and Flinders Island than they possess. Some time ago a vessel was wrecked off one of those islands, but news of the occurrence did not reach Launceston until three weeks later. 1 have brought this question before the House again and again during the last five years, but, although Melbourne and Sydney have been connected by telephone nothing has been done for those who are struggling to make a living on these islands. I trust and believe that the Minister will do what he can to further their interests.
– I am surprised to find that of the sum of £1,500 voted last year towards the expenses of making inquiries and preparing plans for additional lighthouses required on the coast of Australia only £58 was actually expended. This year, it is proposed to allot £500 to that work. . The dangers of navigation inside the Barrier Reef are so great that at night vessels have to anchor, and even in broad daylight they can only grope their way, so to speak, along that part of the coast. It is a disgrace to Australia that more lighthouses have not been erected there. Occasionally vessels get on the reefs in broad daylight, and are floated off again. We all remember the case of the British man-of-war, with the Governor-General on board, which went on one of these reefs while the sun was shining.
– So that an additional lighthouse would not have prevented that occurrence.
– No; but the incident serves to illustrate the dangers to navigation on that part of the coast at night time. When a man-of-war which undertakes marine surveys meets with such art accident, need we look for further proof of the necessity for more lighthouses? There has been great loss of life by shipwreck inside the Barrier reef.
– The whole of that part of the coast is dotted with coral reefs ; we should need something like 1,000 lighthouses there.
– A mariner who has been navigating that part of the coast for many years informs me that thepresent danger would be reduced to a minimum by the erection: of five or six lighthouses at points that he has indicated tothe Department. Then, again, the entrance to Port Darwin is one of. the most dangerous in Australia. A mariner whofor thirty years had been entering that port ran his vessel - having on board the parliamentary party which recently paid a visit to the north - on a mud bank there. He-, was making a special effort to land the party before daylight, and had he made a slight deviation from the course that he actually took, would have run his vessel oh the rocks.
– It was broad daylight when the vessel ran on that mudbank
– The honorable member was not there. The master of the vessel found that the point on which he was stranded was not where he believed it to be. I shall not remind honorable members of our experience when we boarded another vessel from the one in question, which was also stranded owing to the want of a warning light. We were cold that it was the work of a local hairdresser to light a certain lamp, offering at night the only guide to the large mail steamers running between Australia and the -east, which call there periodically. The Australian coast generally needs to De much better lighted than it is, and it is disgraceful that only £500 should be set apart for this work.
– We have not yet taken over the Department.
– But it is proposed to vote only £500 to cover the cost of making inquiries and preparing plans for additional lighthouses. A considerably larger vote should be passed to enable such plans to be prepared.
– That vote was placed on the Estimates to enable us to obtain reports and information.
– I believe that as so. Honorable members will remember that the ex- Treasurer was eloquent in submitting the vote on last year’s Estimates, hut after carrying it, he found use for only £58. I say it is a disgrace to the honorable gentleman if he sat upon the Treasury chest and refused to find the money for a purpose so necessary, when it is known that commerce of great value and even human life, are frequently sacrificed as the result of the inadequate lighting of our coasts. I hope that the new Minister will not be guilty, as the ex-Treasurer appears to have been, of having such a fund at his disposal and neglecting to use it.
– I wish again to remind Ministers of the sad occurrence which recently took place at the Althorps lighthouse, and to emphasize the necessity of at once providing for some means of communication with that place.
No one knows better than the Minister in charge of this Department that a very large number of people pass close to the Althorps every year, and no one can say what might happen should the light not be showing.
– Could not vessels pick up another light there? What about the light at Cape Borda?
– They would have to past the dangerous part of the coast before they could pick up the other light. I suggest that amongst the inquiries, the expense of which is provided for by this vote, the Minister might take into consideration what it is possible to do to make everything safe at the Althorps. Last year we hurriedly agreed to a vote of £5,000 in aid of an expedition to the Antarctic regions. If we could afford to spend money upon such an expedition we should be able to provide sufficient to secure the protection of at least 100,000 people who pass the Althorps every year. The sooner communication is established with the lighthouse there, whether bv wireless telegraphy or in some other way, the better.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to item number 10, “ Gratuity to officers who during the preceding twelve months have offered valuable and practical suggestions leading to the introduction of useful reforms and greater economy and efficiency - £200.” I find that last year Parliament appropriated £200 for this purpose, and the enormous sum of £5 was spent out of that vote. As I understand the leader of the Opposition wishes to obtain some information, I shall return to the matter later.
– As some honorable members are obliged to leave to-night for Sydney, I have risen for the purpose of asking the Minister what he proposes to do about the continuation of the business to-day. If the honorable gentleman would make a statement, it would probably help us very much.
– I hope that the Committee will rise at the earliest possible moment. We should like, if possible, to pass the Treasurer’s Estimates, and then honorable members might return to their homes to meet here again at 4.30 o’clock on Monday.
– I think there can be no objection to an arrangement of that kind. So far as I can see, there is nothing particularly debatable in the Treasurer’s Estimates, and on the understanding that that is to be the only business dealt with between this and Monday, no objection will be offered’ from this side.
.- I would like honorable members to give their serious attention to the item to which I have referred. It is intended to encourage members of the Public Service to devise improved methods to bring about economy and efficiency. No doubt there is room for greater economy. The fact that last year only £5 was spent out of this vote must mean either that our public servants are not very intelligent or that some obstacle is placed in the way of those who would otherwise be prepared to suggest improved methods. We know that in this twentieth century, without the prospect of reward, it is “ mopus “ every time, but here a reward in hard cash is offered, and it should bring about the reforms desired. If in the course of a year reforms that are sufficiently acknowledged by a reward of only £5 can be suggested, the sooner this vote is struck off the Estimates the better. I am, however, personally of opinion that some obstacle must be placed in the way of junior officers who would otherwise be prepared to suggest reforms. There is one other item upon which I should like to have some information. I refer to the vote of£31,500 - expenses in connexion with the reception of the United States Fleet. Perhaps the Minister will say whether that is the total expenditure involved.
– Yes, that is absolutely the total expenditure.
– Then I must say that the entertainment of theAmerican Fleet in the two principal cities of Australia was carried out very economically, and Colonel Miller, and the Committees having charge of the affair, must be complimented upon the result of their efforts. I was prepared to hear that a very much larger sum had been required.
– I hope that the Minister will take the item to which the honorable member for D.alley has referred into serious consideration. It is an important vote, and one which should be followed by good results. Up to the present time, it has not been . very much availed of, and I have been informed that rewards to officers in the lower grades axe to some extent blocked by reason of the fact that the recommendations relating to them have to pass through the hands of their superior officers. If that be so, I hope that steps will be taken to insure that those recommendations shall be forwarded direct, either to the heads of Departments, or to Ministers themselves. I should like the Government to outline their intentions in regard to the matter of the storage of timber for seasoning purposes. Is the work to be undertaken in a systematic way, so that in the near future the Commonwealthwill possess a valuable stock of well-seasoned timber for experimental and other purposes?
– Regarding the question of the taking over by the Commonwealth of lighthouses, I have already explained the position. It is understood that the late Government intended to take over this service in January of next year. In reference to the storing and seasoning of timber, the broad principle followed is -
Tostore for Commonwealth purposes various valuable rare or otherwise important Australian timbers so that in time to come theremay not only be a supply of such timbers for Commonwealth . use, but that the supply may be well seasoned. The more definite purpose should be determined, and it is thought that (he project cannot with advantage embrace ordinary timber for building construction for the Commonwealth, but should be to store certain timbers for -
Important buildings of a national character, such as in the Federal Capital or in London or other parts of the world ;
Technical appliances of Departments;
Furniture of a high class;
Important buildings in the several capitals of the States.
The Premiers of thevarious States have been communicated with, and they are all aware of what has been done.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Departmentof the Treasury.
Division 30 (The Treasury),£11,793.
– I may inform honorable members that the Estimates for this Department contain nothing of a debatable character. The increase in the total amount is due to a vote of £3,600 on account of the Tariff Commission, and to votes in connexion with other Royal Commissions. Only one considerable increase of salary not subject to the Public Service Commissioner’s recommendation is proposed - an increase of ,£100 to the Secretary of the Department, Mr. Allen, to which, I am sure, no honorable member will object.
– I move -
That the item, “ Secretary, ,£900,” be reduced by £100
– Why, . Mr. Allen is the officer who, above all others, is most entitled to an increase.
– And he was promised this increment by Sir George Turner.
– I have already indicated the reason underlying my action. I submit the amendment as a protest against the principle which has been adopted in the allocation of these increases.
– ! am sorry that the honorable member for Calare Has seen fit. to again table an amendment in respect of the proposed increase to a departmental head. I voted with him upon two occasions in that connexion as a protest against increasing the higher salaries, but I recognise when I am beaten. I object as much as he does to high officials receiving increments - especially officers who are under political control - whilst the claims of other officials are ignored. A repetition of these amendments may be regarded as an attack on the officials interested. This is not desirable.
.- I am sure that no honorable member can cavil, at the proposal to grant a salary of £900 a year to Mr. Allen. I think that that officer is worth more. Only this morning, I argued that the matter of recommending increments to our public servants should be in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner. In reply, it was contended that if such a position obtained, that officer might not be disposed to treat the permanent heads of Departments too kindly. Here is an illustration of how the existing system works out. The Assistant- ComptrollerGeneral of Customs is receiving £1,000 per annum upon the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner.
– It was upon the recommendation of the Minister, too.
– Surely the office of Secretary to the Treasury Department is more important than is that of ‘ the Assistant Comptroller-General of .Customs. I mention this fact as a reply to the argument which was advanced by the honorable member for Swan. I would urge upon the
Prime Minister the necessity for amending-, the Public Service Act in the direction of placing all these officers under the controlof the Public Service Commissioner.
– That matter will certainly receive consideration.
– In view’ of the promise of thePrime Minister, I ask leave to withdraw, my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 31 (Audit Office), £18,070; division 32 (Government Printer),. £17,991; division 33 (GovernorGeneral’sOffice), £2,150; division 33 a (Miscellaneous), £3,610 ; division 34 (UnforeseenExpenditure), £700 ; division 35 (Refunds of Revenue), ,£100,000 ; and division 36- (Advance to the Treasurer), £’200,000,. agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until’ Monday next at half-past 4 o’clock p.m.
House adjourned at 4.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081204_reps_3_48/>.