3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister of Defence, uponnotice -
Whether, in view of the important part moulding will play in the proposed small arms factory, particularly in regard to detailed brasswork not hitherto undertaken in Australia, he will send a moulder to America for experience, in company with the engineers, blacksmiths, and wood-turner it is proposed to send?
– There is no brasswork in the rifle to be manufactured except the small butt plate.
In Committee ofSupply: (Consideration resumed from 25th August, vide page 2605).
Department of Home Affairs
Division 4(Defence), subdivision 2, (Victoria)£29, 594.
– I understood the Minister of Defence to promise, when we were last considering these Estimates, to make a statement regarding the proposed expenditure on defence material, and to reply to the complaints about the administration of his Department in New South Wales. Is he prepared to do so now ?
– I intend to make a statement regarding proposed expenditure on material when we come to the division dealing with it. There were no complaints about the administration of the Department in New South Wales, but I promised to supply information about several items as we come to them.
.- Before the division is passed, we should have an explanation from the Minister of Defence or the Minister of Home Affairs why the revotes are so many and so large. Parliament is constantly being asked to re- vote money for works which it has authorized, and which should have been carried out. The failure to. expend money within the year in which it is voted is a matter requiring the serious attention of Ministers.
– No doubt.
– Is the Ministergoing to throw the responsibility on some one else ?
– What else can I do?
– We were not in office lastyear.
– I have no desire toblame the Minister, but the policy which has been pursued in the past is certainly at fault, resulting, as it does, in delay. It ‘is a shame that those who are desirous of getting practice in the use of weapons of warfare should be prevented from doing so because the necessary facilities are not given with sufficient expedition. Rifle ranges, post-offices, and other public requirements should be provided where they are needed with the greatest possible despatch. I hope that the Minister will impart some energy to his officers, and that, next year, the revotes will be fewer and smaller.
– The complaint of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is well grounded. What is really needed is an arrangement which will prevent the unnecessary duplication of work by officers of the Defence and Home Affairs Departments. A better arrangement than the present would be to allow the Defence Department to control the expenditure necessary for defence works. The present dual system is most unsatisfactory. In quite a number of instances, expense and waste of time have occurred because, after one set of officershas recommended expenditure, another set has declared it to be unnecessary. The officers of the Defence Department have often recommended works as necessary and urgent, and the Minister has approved of them, but, on the papers being referred to the Department of Home Affairs, its officers have gone into the matters again, and declared the expenditure to be unnecessary. The Defence Department should know better than the Department of Home Affairs what works are required for the proper carrying out of its business, and should be absolute in regard to its own expenditure.
.-! agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the time has arrived when an alteration of policy should be made. At present *we are largely dependent on the services of State officials, and until we can get our public works constructed under the direction of Commonwealth officials, there will be a constant carrying over of unexpended balances from year to year. In these Estimates the proposed revotes total ,£52,000. There is something wrong in administration when, although the public is constantly urging the construction of new works for necessary services, there is no proper provision for expending the money voted for them. I regret to find such a small sum allocated for the construction of rifle ranges. I am sorry the Minister of Defence has not made the expansion, of the rifle club system throughout Australia an important feature of his land defence policy. I do not know what provisions the Defence Bill will contain respecting rifle ranges, and the establishment and extension of rifle clubs, but I can see in the rifle club system the germ of a possible future extension of our Defence Forces,, which would be of very great additional value in building up a permanent land defence. I know that at present the permanent forces do not look with a kindly eye upon the rifle clubs, but regard them as outside the regular forces. I regret that the Minister has not seen fit to break down that prejudice, and to take independent action to give considerable encouragement to the development of this very inexpensive method of building up the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth. I recognise that that would require the introduction of quite a new policy. The present system does not make for the efficiency which the amount of money allocated for the purpose would warrant, but, if some system of compulsory training in shooting could be introduced into the organization of the rifle clubs, it would go far to supply the lack of compulsory training of those who have reached manhood, and do not belong to any regular force, as distinguished from those who as youths will receive compulsory training in the cadets, under what I understand will be the Government proposal. Although the Minister has so far neglected to give proper encouragement to rifle clubs, which are really the only effective means of ‘ building up the Defence Forces in country districts, I hope the discussion on the Estimates in this Chamber will induce him to give special attention to that phase of the question when he introduces the Defence Bill. It would be possible, by establishing centres of competition among rifle clubs, to introduce an efficient compulsory system of shooting. That would be a most inexpensive way of establishing a compulsory training for adults, who would not be reached by the compulsory training for youths, while it would carry on and complete the training of the senior cadets after they reached manhood. Every important town throughout the Commonwealth, at reasonable distances apart, could be made a centre for rifle practice, and clubs could be established in each district, with reasonable assistance given by the Government to the building up of rifle ranges. By that means there could be competitions so many times a year, with a system of compulsory service for a certain number of hours or halfdays per year for every adult, unless he could furnish reasonable excuse, with instruction at the hands of competent officers’, who would visit the various centres for the purpose. That would help to build up an efficient defence force without causing the serious inconvenience or the dislocation of business which a complete system of compulsory military training for adults would necessitate, and it could be done at a minimum of expense. The South African war showed that if, even on the eve of a war, you can mobilize men who are efficient in the use of the rifle, the work of training them can very soon be accomplished, more especially if they have already served their term as senior cadets. We know that Australia, with’ its large distances and the peculiar formation of its country, would, in the event of invasion, have to conduct a war in much the same way and under the same conditions as the Boers fought in South Africa, and the question of efficiency in shooting must be the most important phase of the land defence policy of the future. I hope this discussion will move the Minister of Defence arid the Government to make an extended policy in connexion with rifle clubs, and compulsory training and shooting, important features of the Defence Bill which we hope will soon be introduced.
.- I wish to call the attention of the Minister of Defence to the fact that in many parts of New South Wales application has been made to his Department, times without number, for facilities for rifle clubs to practise shooting, in order that they might become thoroughly efficient, and I am amazed to find, on looking through these Estimates, that in only one case in New South Wales is provision made for a rifle range, and that is at Baulkham Hills, which is practically a suburb of Sydney. I put a question to the Minister recently in regard to the repeated applications that have been made from the large centre of Junee, where there is one of the best rifle clubs in New South Wales. I was met first with the reply that the cost was too great, as it would take from ,£1,300 to ^1,500 to provide a range. On the last occasion that I put the question I understood the Minister’s reply to be that ranges were only provided for military units, and that, where there was no military unit in existence, even if the great body of the settlers in a district desired to make themselves efficient shots, it was not the policy of the Department to provide a. range for them to fire over.
– That is so. That is the regulation.
– Then is there a military unit at Baulkham Hills?
– Well, there is a military unit at Junee.
– Does the honorable member want anything, more ?
– I want the truth.
– That is the truth. It was put there for military purposes.
– Provision is made on these Estimates for rifle ranges in Victoria as follows: - Item 3, rifle ranges, re- vote £963, new service .£300. total ^t.263; item 6, rifle ranges generally, new service £600 ; item 9, Port Melbourne rifle range, new service ^652; item 12, rifle ranges, new sendee £995 ; item 14, Castlemaine rifle range re-vote ^140, new service ^135, total ^275 ; item 15, Kerang, site and construction of rifle range, re-vote ^300 ; new service £400, total £,too. Does the reply given to me by the Minister apply to the whole of those cases? Even if it does, my experience, without desiring to decry those who form themselves into volunteer corps or military units, is that they are not as enthusiastic in regard to rifle shooting as are the members of rifle clubs. The first thing which should be remembered by any Government that desires to build up an effective defence force, is that it is of no use to put a rifle into the hands of a man unless he understands how to use it. I have tried to assist the honorable member for Wimmera to obtain a rifle range in New South Wales which would also serve residents of Victoria, and I think that in matters of this kind we should not take into consideration any question of State boundaries. More than two years have elapsed since residents of Swan Hill applied for the establishment of a rifle range on what is practically unoccupied country, which would en-, able them, as well as their neighbours on the other side of the river to obtain good practice. Those who own the land, however, have raised various objections to its occupation, one of their principal objections being as to the direction of the proposed firing line. I do not think that the Department should hesitate to say what should he the firing zone. The Minister has power to resume any land for this purpose, and he ought not to allow land-owners to block the Department, as many of them have done. The riflemen at Junee have proved themselves effective shots, having quite recently won a district competition, in which clubs from Cootamundra and Albury took part, and an enthusiast outside the local club is also bringing on the cadets remarkably well in the use of the rifle. The difficulty in the way of the establishment of a range there is that the owner of the desired land will not surrender it. Recently, with the honorable member for Wimmera and the honorable member for Grey, I visited Junee, and we inspected the suggested site. A more suitable site for a rifle range could not be found.
– Order ! I would remind the honorable member that we have already dealt with the Estimates relating to rifle ranges in New South Wales.
– I thought, sir, that I was dealing with Australian, and not with mere State Estimates, but in the circumstances, 1 shall ask why facilities that are granted to Victorians are denied to the people of New South Wales. With the exception of a small sum for a rifle range at Baulkham
Hills, we have no provision for rifle ranges in New South Wales. Some consideration ought to be given to these matters. I have pleaded times without number for the establishment of suitable ranges in various parts of my electorate, as well as at Swan Hill, and if the Minister desires to do good service he should not hesitate to resume any piece of land required for the purpose where the owner refuses to Hand it over, except at an exorbitant price. Why are the powers of resumption not exercised?
– They are constantly being exercised in connexion with the Department of Home Affairs.
– In many cases Crown lands are held under annual leases from the State Government. Where such land is required for the purposes of a rifle range the Minister should appeal to the State either to cancel such leases, with compensation to the lessees, or to refuse to renew them. If that were done, at the outside not more than a delay of twelve months would take place in providing suitable ranges. Unless such facilities are offered to our riflemen, the very base of our defence system will be shattered. Constant practice is necessary to enable riflemen to become expert marksmen, and once perfection had been secured in that direction, they could be brought into the military system and taught the general principles of military organization. I hope that the Minister will lose no further time in providing a rifle range that will serve the residents, not only of Junee, but the surrounding district, and so satisfy them that they are being treated in the same way as are residents of other parts of the Commonwealth.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth) [u.io”.- The problem before the Minister of Defence is more difficult than the honorable member who has just resumed his seat appears to imagine. The honorable gentleman has to consider not only whether certain residents of certain districts shall be enabled to learn the noble art of shooting, but how to perfect the vast organization of his Department so that when our riflemen have become expert marksmen they may be so trained as to make it possible to “use them in action, and so equipped as to enable them to be brought without delay to the scene of action.
– I must ask the honorable member hot to enter upon a general discussion of the question of defence.
– I shall not do so. sir. Some honorable members seem: to forget that the Defence Forces have to bc treated as one general organization, and not purely as they affect the voting strength of any electorate. What is’ most required in Parliament and outside of it is absolute knowledge of what the general organization of the Department lacks. The strength of a chain is the strength of its weakest link, and the strength of an organization like that of our Military Forces is that of its weakest unit.
– We might have too much organization.
– The honorable member forgets, apparently, that the actions which have shed credit upon the courage of Australian manhood could not have been engaged in by our troops if they had had to rely upon their own field transport organization. Any one dealing with the questions of organization and equipment-
– I remind the honorable member that we are dealing with a subdivision relating to rifle ranges in Victoria, and that I allowed a general discussion on the first item.
– Then I shall deal with Hie defence organization in Victoria.
– I referred only to rifle clubs.
– I am pointing out that there are other essentials apart from effective shooting without which our rifle clubs’ marksmen cannot be utilized. There are services, in which our whole organisation is deficient, which would enable our efficient and trained riflemen to become something more than the members of rifle’ clubs are at present - to become soldiers: as well as rifle shots, and to enter a scene of action. ‘ A mob of men, however well they may shoot, is useless unless it can be brought into action, and manoeuvred and kept in’ action, and it is easier to train men to shoot than to bring into existence an efficient organization. Without organization and brains, men, however well trained, become merely a horde. The problem was well put byLord Roberts.
– Would not the honorable member vary the organization according to the class of country to be dealt with ?
– Australia would be the most difficult country in which to operate without proper ammunition trains and so forth. Does the honorable member know that the Field Artillery in Victoria at present could not go into action, because of its want of ammunition waggons? Does he know that there it not an ammunition waggon for any infantry regiment in Australia ?
– We are dealing now only with rifle clubs.
– The honorable member is discussing the question of rifle clubs, but that is not the only matter for consideration under the Estimates. The honorable member would do well to consider that, after all, we ought to approach this question apart altogether from the point of view of a man who is always pushing a barrel for his own electorate - that we ought to regard the defences of Australia as a whole.
– And in proper order !
– I have to differ from the honorable member as to what is the proper order, if he considers the rifle clubs the most important. The Minister of Defence is thoroughly seized with the gravity and importance of the question of equipping and preparing for war in a business-like way.
– That cannot be clone without money.
– And I am prepared to vote the money in order that the business may be done as thoroughly as possible; and it certainly cannot be done if we approach the question in that party spirit which the interjection would seem to suggest. I should like the Minister to bring down a statement showing-
– Another memorandum ?
– No statement of the kind has been made to the House since that submitted by Colonel McCay, when honorable member for Corinella. What I desire is a statement showing Parliament and the people exactly the state of our organization - where it is deficient in equipment, and what is necessary to perfect it - and then, having had the matter placed beforeus, we should proceed to put the defences ona sound footing in a comprehensive way. One matter referred to is the shortage of the first line equipment ; and I do not care in the least in this connexion where the money comes from so long as it is provided. I think that the proper time for such a statement as I have suggested would be on the consideration of the first item of the Defence Estimates.
– I desire to say a word or two in regard to rifle ranges, but, before doing so, I must point to the fact that, for the last three days, questions have been perseveringly addressed to me as to why money voted has not been spent. Is that for me to say, seeing that I have only just succeeded to the Department? Why should questions be addressed to me by honorable members who formed the preceding Ministry, and who had control of this very Department?
– The Minister is looked upon as the official head of the Department.
– But the questions have been persistently addressed to me for the past three days ; and I may say that I do not intend to answer them. If answers are required they could be much better supplied by my honorable friends opposite, because, as members of the previous Ministry, they are in a position fo know why the money was not spent. Honorable members may question me until Doomsday, but I am not going into the musty and shady past. I prefer to assume that my predecessors did what was right in the administration of the Department, and that is all I wish to say about the matter. I suppose there are good reasons why the money voted has not been spent in many of the Departments.
– I suppose there was not the money to spend.
– My own impression is that the idea was that those in authority could not spend the money and at the same time save it for old-age pensions - the previous Government no more than any other could do impossibilities. I venture to say that this largely explains why there are so many unexpended votes on the Estimates. I have no fault whatever to find with that policy; and, at any rate, I have no desire to further refer to it.
– If money is voted it ought to be expended.
– In reply to that I have to say that, on the present Estimates, so far as my Department is concerned, there will not be found notes indicating that there will be less expenditure than that actually provided for; I have taken care to strike those notes out. I should very much like to see these Works Estimates passed, though it certainly appears as if we shall not readily achieve that end. This is the third day they have been under discussion; and I appeal to honorable members as to whether it is not time that we made some progress with business. It is no use honorable members opposite throwing out taunts, because the plain fact is that there are men waiting for these Estimates to be passed in order to obtain employment.
– That “ won’t wash!”
– The honorable member would find it would “ wash “ if he were in the Department, and were applied to every day for work the granting of which depends on the passing of the Estimates.
– We battled for weeks to get the Budget earlier, so as to be able to pass these Estimates before the recentadjournment.
– If honorable members who interject do not wish me to answer the many questions which have been asked,I am not particularly anxious to do so. I should like, first of all, to relieve the mind of the honorable member far Riverina in reference to the Baulkam Hills rifle range, which, I may say, is in my electorate. The honorable member will find that part of the money is a revote for the purchase of a site for a range at that place.
– There is£300 for a new service.
– That is for the making of a range.
– In the Minister’s electorate ? This needs inquiring into !
– I hope it will be inquired into, because a great dereliction of duty will be found somewhere in the past. Why . £250 could not be spent in a whole year, in the purchase of a piece of land, is one of the mysteries I have not yet had explained to me.
– My complaint is that a purchase is made in the one case, and not in the other.
– The simple reason is that the range at Parramatta is being purchased for military purposes, and not solely for rifle club purposes. It is not the rule of the Department, so far, at any rate, to purchase rifle ranges merely for rifle clubs. Where there is a range for military purposes, rifle clubs are formed, and, indeed, where there are no ranges, clubs are given £75 to enable them to provide for themselves. That is the principle on which the Department has proceeded throughout the Federal régime.
– Is anything allowed for the rental of ranges?
– Not ordinarily, but, of course, special cases are provided for. The rule of the Department is not to find ranges for rifle clubs solely, but to get the latter, as far as possible, to utilize the military ranges.
– How can that be done where there are no ranges?
– In such a case I think we ought to help the rifle clubs in some special way, as, in fact, we do help them. The theory of the Department, in granting the£75, is to help clubs to furnish their own ranges; and, though I admit that does not go far, other help is given in addition. In the case in which the honorable member for Riverina is interested, there are no military units to be served; and the desired range is for rifle club purposes only.
– And for cadets.
– Yes; but it is not a military range.
– If there is a good rifle club and sufficient cadets, it will pay to provide a range.
– Even if it costs £1,400 for the ground alone? Surely, there is reason in all things?
– An annual rental equal to 5 per cent. could be obtained.
– The Minister of Home Affairsjust reminds me that that kind of statement, though very often made, does not work out in practice.
– Ask the honorable member for Wimmera, or the honorable member for Grey, if my statement is not likely to work out in practice.
– However, I am not concerned, excepting to provide ranges, if there is a possibility of doing so ; I have no motive in the world, except to provide facilities if I can.
– I do not impute any motive to the Minister.
– Does the honorable member think that for a single rifle club the Department ought to pay£1,400 for a site?
– Undoubtedly I do.
– Then all I have to say is that, if that is to be the policy, some millions more will have to be placed on the Estimates.
– If we desire to defend Australia, we shall have to find the millions.
– I ask the Minister not to pursue this matter of the rifle range at Junee, to which I prevented the honorable member for Riverina from referring.
– I was not aware of your ruling, sir; and I was simply trying to supply the information I have. If the honorable member for Riverina can suggest a means of obtaining a cheap site for the rifle club at’ Junee, he may take it from me that every assistance will be afforded him.
– The Department refused a drill hall which was offered to them as a gift !
– Cheap things are very often nasty, though I do not know whether that applies to drill halls. The matter referred to by the honorable member for Wimmera is causing the Department a great deal of anxiety ; and, though I have said nothing about it so far, I am anxiously cogitating as to what I can do for the rifle clubs of Australia. The present position is in every way unsatisfactory and unfair, from the point of view of both the clubs and the Department. The cost aggregates a huge sum annually ; and the result is that only about 40 per cent, of the riflemen are efficient. Just where the trouble lies, is a matter I must investigate. It is of no use setting up expensive ranges, and providing facilities for shooting, if only 40 per cent, are efficient. On the Other hand, if the reason is that more encouragement is required, we are faced with a problem to be grappled with, and solved in some way.
– The Minister must admit that men cannot be made effective without practice.
– I quite admit that.
– What is the standard of efficiency ?
– The standard laid down in the regulations. The whole question is a very difficult one. The rifle clubs are supposed to form part of our second line of defence, but to make them really useful for that purpose a great deal of J re-organization must take place, and I do not doubt that their members will readily submit to whatever arrangements may be necessary to make them a useful force.
– Too little money is being asked for.
– We have first to determine what direction our expenditure shall take. . I think that more will have to be spent on rifle clubs, and that we must insist on a larger return from them, from the military point of view. How best to make them of value for a second line of defence is a problem which I am now engaged in considering. I hope to put them on a better military footing, giving them more encouragement, and obtaining more valuable military service from them. The compulsory training of the cadets will inthe future create different material for the formation of rifle clubs from that which at present exists, making them much more efficient for military purposes than they are.
– Many of the present rifle club members have been drilled.
– Yes, but many more .have not been.
– Only a small proportion has been drilled.
– That is proved by the efficiency returns. Only a little over 40 per cent, are efficient. I am not aware that Victoria has been given preference in the matter of rifle ranges, but, in the case which has been referred to, special provision had to be made owing to the closing of a large range.
– Was that at Kerang?
– Yes. With regard to what was said by the honorable member for Wentworth, it will be my policy to make honorable members fully acquainted with everything taking place in the Department, so far as that can be done in the public interest. I am now engaged in preparing a statement detailing what has been done, the existing state of affairs, and what is needed to make our army efficient and ready for the purposes for which it is maintained. That statement will be in the hands of honorable members before very long. I hope that the Committee will pass these Works Estimates as soon as is possible, consistently with reasonable discussion.
– Had the Ministry had its way, we should still be aimlessly discussing the Budget.
– That is not so. I have been informed by the Prime Minister that he was the first to suggest that the Works Estimates should be given preference.
– After the Opposition had spent the afternoon in protesting against having to continue the Budget discussion under circumstances which made that discussion useless.
– In any case, what does it matter? My honorable friends are no doubt desirous of getting these works taken in hand.
– Quite as much as is the honorable member.
– Then the Estimates will be passed in a couple of hours.
– - The Minister of Defence contrived to preface his statement with remarks of a general application which ought not to pass without reply. Whatever the subject with which he may be dealing, he contrives to make the same introduction, which, on this occasion, was more pointed and personal than usual. He told the country that the Opposition was responsible for postponing the carrying out of public works, and thus for keeping men out of employment.’ What are the facts? The delivery’ of the Budget was delayed without justification for a longer period than in any previous year. Then, when the accumulation of work was so great that any other Government would have been stimulated to extra exertion, a ten days’ adjournment was forced on the House, without there being any excuse’ for it.
– I prevented the Minister from dealing with these matters.
– After he had said what he wished to say.
– The honorable member may reply to what the Minister said, but he may not enlarge on the subject.
– I shall be most brief. I cannot help expressing my contempt for the Minister’s tactics. The blame for the delay which occurred in the presentation of the Budget must rest wholly on the shoulders of the Government.
– I ask -the honorable member not to go into the matter more fully.
– It was because of a suggestion made by me at the instance of the honorable member for Wide Bay that the Works Estimates were brought forward.
– That is not so.
– I suggested to the honorable member for West Sydney that the Budget debate should be postponed to enable the Works Estimates to be proceeded with.
– Nothing of the kind. When, on Wednesday night, I was asked how far we wished to go, I replied that, personally, I had nothing more to say, but I understood that others wished to speak, and the House did not adjourn until about half -past ir. I have been in Parliament for about fifteen years, and know that the Estimates cannot ‘be passed without’ late sittings. In the New South Wales Assembly it is customary to sit until 3, 4, and 5 a.m., when. Estimates are under consideration. As the Government has an obedient majority, it should get this work pushed on. The Opposition has not criticised at undue length, and it is atrocious to accuse us of “stone-walling” Estimates which have been under consideration for only a few hours.
– Not much more than three hours.
– Moreover, a large part of the sum asked for comes under the heading of re-votes. I hope that the Minister of Defence will refrain from speaking, if he cannot adjust his remarks to the standard of decency which civilized communities now regard as essential to ordinary debate. He seems to be incapable of uttering thr”ee consecutive words of which two are not deliberately insulting and the third inane.
– The honorable member never makes a speech without insulting some one.
– I have not yet got the information that I asked for from the Minister of Defence, and I resent his statement that we have been three days discussing these Estimates.
– I said that this was the third day.
– There is the misrepresentation. That statement is absolutely incorrect. The Budget was being debated on Wednesday afternoon, and 1 was on my feet before tea. I wanted the Budget debate adjourned, and divided the Committee on it. When I came back we were told that the Government wanted to go on with the Works Estimates. I asked the Treasurer - “Are you going to pass the first line of. the Estimates first?” He said “ Yes.” “ Then,” I said, “ I shall go on.” This was close on 8 o’clock on Wednesday night, which was the first day that the Minister of Defence talks about. The Prime Minister then whispered to the Treasurer, who thereupon said- “ We will agree to the Budget debate being postponed, although it is unusual.” The moment the Government agreed to adjourn the Budget debate I sat down to allow the Works Estimates to be gone on with. Yet we are accused of wasting time. The Minister of Defence knows that yesterday was private members’ day, and the Works Estimates could not be gone on with. Two Government supporters - the honorable member for Maribyrnong and the honorable member for
Fremantle - took up a good deal of the afternoon, and the evening was occupied bv a legitimate discussion of grievances.
– Order ! If the honorable member goes into details of that kind the discussion will take an entirely different form.
– I wish simply to state the facts. To-day only a little over an hour has been occupied on these Estimates. Where, then, does the Minister of Defence get his three days from ?
– On a point of order, I submit the honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the item before the chair.
– It is most difficult for me to confine honorable members to actual items in the Estimates. On four occasions this morning I have called different honorable members to order. They must have known at the time that they were not complying with the desire of the Chair or the strict rules of debate; but it is easy for honorable members, if they wish’ to do so, to evade the ruling of the Chairman in matters of this kind, and the result is that irrelevant discussions are provoked. An interjection will often be made from one side or the other which means more than its mere words convey, and other honorable members think themselves in duty bound to reply to it. The words have been uttered, and honorable members do not regard it as sufficient that they should be withdrawn. If that sort of thing is to go on we shall be involved in endless discussions, and it will not be possible for the Chairman to control the proceedings. I can only maintain effective control with the assistance of honorable members. I almost feel it necessary to apologize to the Committee for having to make these remarks, because I do not think it is right for a Chairman to do this sort of thing. I ask the assistance of honorable members now to confine the discussion to the matter before the Chair.
– I have confined myself strictly to what you allowed the Minister of Defence to say. Surely no member is to be allowed to make a statement without liberty being given to other honorable members to reply to it, especially if it conveys a serious misrepresentation.
– If I have to act on that principle, then it will be necessary for me to take extraordinary steps to prevent any interjection from any member of the Committee. In the circumstances, I must ask the honorable member to be as brief, in his reference to the matter, as possible.
– Am I to understand that an absolutely incorrect charge can be made against an honorable member opposite, and that he will not be allowed to reply to it? I hope that is not so. Is it not a fact that a charge that cannot be justified was hurled at honorable members on this side by the Minister of Defence?
– When the Minister said that we had been three days on this question, and were blocking the Estimates. Have we not a right to refute that charge ?
– If a deliberate charge is made, an honorable member has the right to reply to it ; but I do not thinkthat would justify me in allowing the whole Committee to debate the question. If that were so, it would only be necessary for one honorable member to rise and make a charge, and then the debate would take quite a different form.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I desire to remove a misunderstanding concerning what was done this morning. I have not the slightest recollection of doing anything, except to remind honorable members that this was the third day on which we had been discussing the Works Estimates.
– It is not. They were not touched yesterday.
– No; they should have been discussed after dinner last night.
– It was grievance day.
– Grievance day is never, or hardly ever, taken advantage of when Estimates are before the House. We ought to have been discussing these Estimates last night. My complaint is that there is no need for grievance day when we are in Committee on Estimates. ‘ That, in itself, is a grievance opportunity, and we are hearing nothing now .but grievances concerning matters of public policy. I made no charge of any kind this morning; and any statement that I did is absolutely incorrect.
– If it had not been for the statement of the Minister of Defence, we should have been further ahead than we are. He is continually provoking unnecessary discussion. He said that we on this side ought to be able to furnish replies to some of the questions that we asked. I furnished a reply, and tried to assist the Minister ; but he took so little notice, that he is evidently not troubling about the business. I am going to ask for a reply now.
– I tell the honorable member at once that he cannot get replies to questions put in an insulting way.
– The honorable member is an insulting brute - a pig.
– I ask both the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw their statements.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that I was paying no attention to the business, and generally indulged in a series of insulting statements in regard to myself. I resent that, and tell him that he cannot get information from me in that way. I withdraw anything I said that is contrary to the rules of debate.
– I also withdraw my remark. In order to assist the Minister, I took only about two minutes to give him the benefit of what I had discovered while in the Fisher Ministry. I pointed out why a great deal of the money that should, have been spent was not spent, and showed how the Defence Department was hampered. Works urgently required by the Department, favorably reported on by officers of the Department, and approved by the Minister, are sent on to the Department of Home Affairs, and the whole process is gone through again. I put it that, as the Minister knew how he was hampered, and what our experience was - and I am sure I could not have put it more respectfully-
– And I told the honorable member in reply that I would do my best to remedy the existing state of things. Could I say more?
– I wanted to learn whether the Prime Minister proposed to take steps to put an end to that unsatisfactory state of things. I believe the officers of the Home Affairs Department are just as conscientious as are the officers of the Defence Department, but surely the latter are better judges of what the Defence Department urgently requires than are the officers of any other Department which is not in touch with the work. The present duplication of work not only prevents the money being spent, but prevents works that are urgently required from being undertaken. Matters in regard to the rifle ranges are in a most unsatisfactory position. The Minister first wants a cheap rifle range, and that cannot- be got. When I interject that he will not take anything that is cheap when it is offered to him, he says it might be nasty. The Government cannot get rifle ranges unless they are prepared to pay for them. The Minister will not take a cheap one because it is nasty, and he will not take a dear. one because it costs too much. What sort of a Department is it to be if it is run on those principles,? If rifle ranges are necessary, the Government have the power to resume the land on reasonable terms. I hope they will use that power.
– Two criticisms of a general character have been levelled at the Department of Home Affairs in addition to that which has been answered by the Minister of Defence in regard to the question of rifle ranges. Reference has been made to the large number of re-votes which, as honorable members are aware, represent liabilities incurred during the last financial year. There must always be a certain number of such re-votes ; but, as I have already assured the Committee, plans and specifications are in readiness to enable many works to be proceeded with as soon as these Estimates are passed. I am sure that honorable members are not attaching any blame to the present Administration, since we have been in office for only a short time ; but I shall endeavour, with the assistance of my officers, to have these works expedited so that the re-votes in next year’s Estimates may be as small as possible. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has referred to the duplication of work by the Department of Defence and the Department of Home Affairs. My honorable colleague, the Minister of Defence, has promised to do what he can to get rid of that difficulty, and I assure the Committee that I shall join with him in pushing on with necessary works. The sooner these Estimates are passed the less will be the possibility of any big re-votes being sought next year.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 3 (Queensland), £23,526
.- Notwithstanding that I may provoke the wrath of the Minister, I desire to make a few remarks regarding this subdivision and to congratulate the honorable gentleman upon the alteration that has taken place in the attitude which he used to take up when in Opposition as to the supply of information regarding the Estimates. I wish to know whether it would not be possible to give fuller details in the Estimates regarding the proposed expenditure on rifle ranges. We find in this subdivision an item of £785 for rifle ranges, but in the absence of any details it is impossible for me to know whether that item makes provision for alterations and additions to rifle ranges as well as for the establishment of new ranges for which I have asked from time to time. I suggest that in future, particulars of any proposed vote exceeding £25 be given in the Estimates.
– Will the honorable member give me the name of the clubs, that he has in mind which have asked for additions
– I shall do so. On this item of £789, £317 is a. re-vote.
– Surely the honorable member does not want more for rifle ranges in Queensland, having regard to the provision of only £355 for rifle ranges in South Australia?
– I want a great deal more. In the matter of rifle clubs Queensland is the only live State in the Commonwealth. I bring under the notice of the Minister the fact that an amount approximating to £70 was spent by the members of the Stannary Hills Rifle Club in preparing a range, and urge him to reimburse the club either the whole of that amount, or that part of it which in the opinion of the State Commandant should be refunded. The honorable member for Wimmera suggested that rifle shooting should be made compulsory. I do not know that it would not be a good system to inaugurate, but it would be unreasonable to compel men not only to practise rifle shooting but to buy their own rifles and purchase their own ammunition, and, on top of that, to supply their own ranges. I wrote to the Department asking that a refund be made to the Stannary Hills Rifle Club, and in reply received a letter pointing out that an inspection of the range had been made and that a certain amount was to be expended, but really ignoring my request.
– I shall look into the matter.
– Some time ago the honorable member for Richmond, who was then Minister of Defence, informed me unofficially that the Department contemplated fortifying Magnetic Island, which is in Cleveland Bay, Townsville. There is a fort on what is known as Kissing Point, but as a defence proposition it is of no great value. I learned from the honorable member that it was proposed to do away with that fort and to fortify Magnetic Island, so as to provide a harbor of refuge for shipping on that part of the Australian coast. I should like to know whether or not that project has been abandoned.
– I will refer the matter to. the Minister of Defence.
– To return to the question of rifle clubs, I would point out that clubs are constantly being formed in my electorate, and that the greatest difficulty is experienced in obtaining ranges, notwithstanding that in most cases it is proposed to establish them on Crown lands. I do not know with whom the responsibility for the delay rests, but believe that it has occurred in connexion with the State Lands Department.- I trust that the matters to which I have called attention will receive the favorable consideration of the Minister.
– I shall inquire into them.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 4 (South Australia), £3,350.
.- The request made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat for more money for rifle ranges in Queensland is most entertaining, when we compare what has been done in that direction, and what is proposed to be done this year, with what has been done in South Australia, where we have been pleading for years for a little expenditure to keep up the enthusiasm of rifle club members. Still, 1 shall cheerfully assist him, and shall not complain of the treatment extended to South Australia. I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister the proposed site for buildings for military head-quarters in Adelaide. When I put to the Minister a question on the subject a few weeks ago I received a vague reply to the effect that the site had been selected by “ responsible officers.” I do not know whether the Minister is prepared now to say who they are. I have heard of no officer in the Military Forces having taken upon himself the responsibility of selecting the site in question. It may be that some officer in tha Department of Home Affairs has made the selection. If that is so, I suggest that the Minister should take the opinion of some of the leading military men, either in the Works Department or ‘in the Department of Defence.
– I have ahead given instructions that nothing is to be done in the matter pending a further and fuller investigation.
– Will the honorable gentleman himself inspect the site?
– I am going to try to do so.
– Then I shall content myself with the statement that the site at present selected is most unsuitable.
– I am informed that it was selected years ago by the State Government.
– I have no information as to that, but from direct knowledge, and, may I say, some slight acquaintance with military matters, I can assure the Minister that it is most unsuitable. I am glad that orders have been given that no action is to be taken until further inquiries have been made.
– A little time ago, accompanied by Senator Pearce, I inspected this site, with which I had been familiar for years, and I know that in the opinion of several members of the staff it is most unsuitable. It is too small and its shape too irregular. Shortly before he died, the late Premier of .South Australia expressed his willingness to grant for the purposes of the military head-quarters building the site of the present police barracks. That would have been a most desirable one to acquire; but subsequently he withdrew it from selection. Later on, in the course of an interview I had with him, I suggested that the site of the Destitute Asylum, which is not far away from the present building, would be in every way suitable. Mr. Price did not say whether or not he was agreeable to part with it, but he asked what would become of the inmates of the asylum if it were ‘ handed over to the Commonwealth. I pointed out that there would be no difficulty in that regard because the State Parliament had been talking for years of the desirableness of removing the old people from the asylum, which is entirely unsuitable for their accommodation. I believe that if the matter were pressed upon the State Government we should be able to secure that site, which is one of the most suitable to be obtained in Adelaide.
– As the Minister has stated that he intends to have the fullest investigation made regarding the site for military headquarters’ buildings in Adelaide, and, if possible, visit the place himself, there is no necessity to say more than a word or two. I indorse the remarks of the two previous speakers as to the unsuitableness of the present site on the river, flats. When the Minister is looking into the matter I should like him to consider the advisableness of removing the parade ground and military barracks from their present position. The parade ground is an utter absurdity, being no larger than an ordinary school ground.
– Unless there are expert instructors squads of the troops are hopelessly intermingled in their drill.
– That is so. As it is intended to very largely augment the forces, more room will be necessary. But there is no possibility at the present site for extension in any direction, and the erection of further buildings will only render an ultimate removal more difficult. This is State Government land, which, no doubt, will be handed over to the Commonwealth; but I suggest that there are much more suitable sites to be found in the park lands near Adelaide, in regard to which an exchange might easily be arranged. -
– I desire to do the best I can for the Military Forces, and the very moment it was represented to me that this site was unsuitable I gave orders for proceedings to be stopped, and further investigation made. If honorable members who reside in South Australia have any suggestions to make, I shall be glad to hear them, and, if possible, I shall run over in the near future and have a look at the place.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sub-division 5 (Western Australia), ^£12,801.
.- I desire to refer very briefly to a matter I have previously brought under the notice of the Department, namely, the desirableness of removing the present rifle range from the site at Karakatta. This range, while quite suitable years ago, is gradually being surrounded by settlement, and for some time back has been getting exceedingly dangerous. There have been some narrow escapes ; indeed, I am not sure that there has not been an actual casualty from a stray bullet. The site is unsuitable, both by reason of the settlement and of the inefficient service it affords for the rifle. It is too small, and it is no uncommon thing for men to be unable to get to the targets during a whole afternoon. The Department has promised to consider the matter of removal, but I notice an item of expenditure here for the erection of a storeroom, which does not indicate the likelihood of a change. Is anything being done in the way of looking for a new site?
– The honorable member’s apprehensions can be allayed at once. We are looking for a new site, and the Premier of Western Australia is very gallantly coming to our rescue. That gentleman has indicated his desire to assist in finding a suitable site on Crown lands, which he will make available when found ; and I hope that before long the difficulty will be removed.
– The storeroom referred to is in no way connected with the rifle range, but is intended to provide accommodation for the use of artillery.
– And will that be erected even if the range be removed?
I hope that theCommittee will consent to the erection of the barracks on the site indicated at Fremantle.I had considerable trouble in connexion with securing this land, which was offered by the Town Council, and approved by the Minister of Home Affairs when he visited the State. If the barracks are erected there they will be a credit to Western Australia, and to the Commonwealth. At present there is industrial depression in the West, and it would be a good thing if this work were expedited so as to afford some employment. In the preparation of the plans, and so forth, I feel sure that the Minister of Home Affairs will do his best to see that Donnybrook stone and other local materials are used. This stone is somewhat similar to Sydney freestone, and has been used in the erection of some of the finest buildings in Western Australia.
– Mr. Murdock, a special officer of the Department, is at present in Western Australia in connexion with this business, with orders to expedite it as much as possible.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 6 (Tasmania).£10,068.
.- Under this head last year there was voted £8,259, and only £2,972 was spent. For this I do not blame the present or past Ministries, but the cumbersome method under which the work is divided between our Department of Home Affairs and the States Departments. At Georgetown, Tasmania, for instance, when the cable was laid across the strait, it was known for many months that a post-office would be required ; and yet, owing to the present system, the State officer received the commission to do the work so late that the builder had only about eight weeks in which to complete it. We all know that a building erected in a hurry may prove defective, and there ought to be some improvement made in connexion with the Department, or, as was suggested by the honorable member for South Sydney some years ago, it should be abolished. However, that is a question which may be deferred until the Estimates of the Department of Home Affairs are before us. It seems rather peculiar that under the heading of new works there should have been £40 voted for drill halls last year, and nothing spent, and that it should be proposed to re- vote £19 for this work. I do not know how many drill halls can be obtained for £19, but if the money is for finishing some building, why was it not spent last year? As a matter of fact, the information supplied on these points to honorable members is so meagre that it is extremely difficult to learn what is being done. We are supposed to be the guardians of the interests of the people of Australia, but, until we are given more information as to the lands we purchase, the buildings to be erected, and the money to be expended, we cannot properly do our duty. I hope that in the future, whatever Government may be in office, we shall be kept fully seized of the facts, because I am convinced that, in some localities, money is not spent well or wisely.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 5 (Post and Telegraphs) ; subdivision 1 (New South Wales), £64,581; subdivision 2 (Victoria),£55,621 ; subdivision 3 (Queensland), £26,448. agreed to.
Subdivision 4 (South Australia), £11,651.
.- I desire to draw the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to the proposed expenditure of £600 on the Adelaide Telephone Exchange. I am aware that no radical alteration can be made at the present time. Much of the money spent on the building was, in my opinion, wasted. But the judicious use of the sum we are now being asked to vote will do much to make the place more healthy for those who are constantly employed there. The Minister cannot be expected to visit every postoffice that is being altered, but when large expenditure is contemplated in one of the capital cities, affecting thehealth of from sixty to eighty employés, his personal attention is desirable, and I shall be very glad if the Minister can see his way to visit Adelaide to look at this building, and will permit honorable members to accompany him. He should not allow himself to be entirely influenced by the officers responsible for the present arrangements. My conversations with them have led me to the opinion that, having been responsible for the building, they regard it as their child, and do not desire to have alterations made. But the health of those employed there should be studied, so that their work may be performed satisfactorily, and the Minister may not be worried with continual complaints, which will be inevitable unless alterations are made.
.- I wish to know whether the £300 set down for the eastern suburban telephone exchange is simply for the purpose of a site, or makes provision for the commencement of the building.
– It is for the purpose of establishing a telephone exchange at Norwood.
– The money will go towards construction of the building ?
– The total cost is estimated at £1,000.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs to have the alterations at the St. Peter’s Post-office expedited as much as possible. It is two years since that, on the application of the local municipal council, the Department determined that these alterations were necessary, but, although money was voted for them last year, nothing has yet been done. I visited the place at Christmas time, twelve months ago, and found that the men employed there were working under disgraceful conditions. As honorable members are aware, the Christmas holiday season is a very busy time in the post-offices, and at St. Peter’s sorting had to be done anywhere, mail matter being even taken ouside to be sorted. Since then the business of the office has increased by reason of the growth of population. One of the two or three living rooms provided for the use of the postmaster has been added to the public accommodation, but the arrangements are still inadequate. Persons doing business with the office are served through a hole in the wall, and there is no counter. There have been so many changes of plan that it would seem that the officers of the Home Affairs Department do not know their own minds. The first proposal was to bring the building out to the street alignment; but, after it had been communicated to the municipality, and agreed to, it was discarded in favour of a proposal for adding another story. That the council thought an improvement on the first plan, but the Department has since put forward a third proposal, whereby the postmaster, instead of being accommodated above the present building, will have quarters in a new building covering the existing yard. It is very rarely that a house in South Australia is without a decent piece of ground, and I hope, therefore, that the Department will, if possible, avoid taking this yard. It may be that the departmental officers now fear that the walls of the post-office are not strong enough to bear a second story, though, if so, they might have been expected to find that out sooner. The second design would certainly give the best looking building and the most convenient accommodation. In any case the work should bepushed on with.
– The working plans and specifications for the St. Peter’s Postoffice are now complete, and I shall make an inspection of them to fully acquaint myself with the position. I appreciate what has been said by the honorable member for Boothby as to the need for yard accommodation. The proposed vote is to provide quarters for the postmaster, those which he now uses being required for the convenience of the public. The work will certainly be pushed forward. In regard to the Adelaide telephone exchange, it has been reported to me, as the result of a special inquiry, that the ventilation, which was very bad, has been improved. The honorable member for Adelaide will be glad to learn that lavatories and other accommodation have been provided for the. female attendants; the lighting of the building has been bettered, and, altogether, the office is much more convenient and healthy. I shall be glad of an opportunity to visit Adelaide to see the place for myself, and when there is a sufficient amount of work to justify the trip, I shall take it.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 5 (Western Australia), £17,958, and subdivision 6 (Tasmania), £5,313 agreed to.
Postmaster-General’ s Department.
Division 6 (Telegraphs and Telephones), subdivision1 (New South Wales), £197,310.
– An amount is set down for “ construction and extension of telephone lines, instruments, and materials,” and another amount for “ construction and extension of telephone lines, instruments, and material, including construction of conduits and placing wires underground,” but no details are given. There are certain extensions in which I am interested, and I wish to know whether they are provided for. The sum of £12,000 is set apart for new trunk lines. What lines are they? What new switchboards or extensions are content plated? And what lines are to be purchased ?
– I shall be happy to let the honorable member see a schedule which has been prepared giving the information he seeks.
– I wish to know the particulars before these votes are passed. Only lump sums appear here. There are a number of works which it is very desirable should be undertaken, and, having had’to deal with them as Treasurer, I know prettv well which ought to be provided for. They may, of course, be included in this vote. To what does the item of £30,850, for “ new switchboards or extensions,” refer? What is comprised in the vote of £106,050, for “ construction and extension of telephone lines, instruments, and material”? There are a number of such works required in various electorates. Some of them are very important, and ought to be carried out, while others which have been asked for ought not to be undertaken. I want to know whether they have crept into this vote or not. There should be a complete schedule also regarding the item of £37,530 for the “construction and extension of telegraph lines, instruments, and materials,” and the item of £12,000 for “ new trunk lines.” The Minister might let me see the schedules in all those cases.
– I was unfortunately called away when the Queensland items were under discussion, but I may be allowed, by leave of the Committee, to ask the Minister a question regarding them. Some time ago, I approached the Department with reference to the purchase of a site at Herberton. Property is rising in value there, and a site was offered at a reasonable price. Is it included in the item £2,379, for “ purchase of sites,” in division 5, subdivision 3 (Queensland)?
– We shall ascertain for the honorable member.
– Some of the items in this subdivision are very heavy. Will the Postmaster-General give the Committee details regarding items 1, 2, and 5 especially?
– I have before me complete schedules showing the proposed destination of all these important votes. For new telegraph lines and extensions, in New South Wales, a distance of 2,238 miles is provided for, absorbing , £33,598. There is a complete enumeration of all the lines proposed, and any honorable member is at liberty to look through the list. Every item has been reported on, and recommended by the officers of the Department. Under the heading of “construction and extension of new telephone lines,” it is proposed to spend £45,947 in New South Wales, and the following synopsis is given -
With regard to telephone trunk lines, New South Wales, trunk lines to the length of 608 miles are to be constructed, absorbing £11,869. A complete enumeration is given here of the lines proposed, and all are recommended by the Department. The next list is that of “new switchboards or extensions.” For new switchboards, £23,414 is proposed to be spent in New South Wales. With regard to cables and conduits, 90 miles of cables, absorbing £17,590;and3 miles of conduits, ab sorbing £5,288, are to be provided in New South Wales, making a total cost under this item of £22,878. A complete enumeration is given of all the proposed new routes of lead-covered cables in the metropolitan area and also in the suburban and country districts of New South Wales. There is a provision for metallic circuits absorbing in the case of New South Wales £9,000, and a complete description is given of the destination of that vote. I shall hand these lists to the honorable member for Hume, as he was the first to draw attention to the matter, so that he may have time to look through them and make any comments that he considers necessary on particular items.
– lt is a physical impossibility for any one to look through those lists and speak at the same time. I do not propose to try it, but I have no doubt that every item included has been recommended and is urgently necessary. I do not take exception to the greatness of the amount that is to be spent, so much as to the fact that it is not still greater. We ought to get from the Postmaster-General a statement of how much ought to be expended this year on works in his Department in order to make the service completely efficient to the satisfaction of his departmental officers and the public. The Treasurer, in his Budget speech, stated that an amount of £700,614 was provided this year for “ additions, new works, telegraphs and telephones, including £10,000 for wireless telegraphy,” but that the whole excess of expenditure for this year over last ‘year amounted to only about £300,000. It is obvious that the Department cannot be put on a business-like footing for an extra £300,000. We have to find the necessary money. The people have a right to expect an up-to-date service, and this sum will not give it. I do not know how many exchanges have been established, but the honorable member for Hume, to whom the complete lists have been handed, may perhaps act as vox populi vox Dei in the matter, and let us know all about it later. No doubt they are all enshrined in blue in those documents, but I feel sure that literally not half of the money required to put this Department on a proper footing is to be spent this year. It is the Department which of all those under our control comes nearest to the daily lives of the people. I would point out that the Budget and the expenditure foreshadowed in it was based entirely upon the conditions that existed prior to the late Premiers’ Conference, and there ought now to be such a re-adjustment of these Estimates as will enable this great Department to be put upon a sound healthy business footing, and not to be starved any longer. We may have arguments as to whether we should spend £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 on defence, but there can be no two opinions about the necessity of putting the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in a proper condition. It is only a question of having the money. Since the difficulty that existed when these Estimates were framed has now passed away, or will pass’ away if the House adopts the Premiers’ Conference agreement, or any modification of it, we have a right to’ expect that they shall be regarded only as an instalment of what is to be spent.
– I have a list showing the amount which it is proposed to spend on new works in succeeding years.
– If the PostmasterGeneral can give us an outline of the amount by which it is proposed to supplement these Estimates so far as his Department is concerned, we shall be in a much better position. Knowing that we shall have an opportunity to deal with the question on the Supplementary Estimates, we might pass these Estimates without further discussion.
Sitting suspended from / to, 2. 75 p.m.
– In reply to the question put by the honorable member for West Sydney, as to how these various items have been made up, I beg to inform the Committee that, on taking office, I found there was an overwhelming demand for works of various descriptions, not only to meet local requirements, such as extensions and so forth, but also to place the Department generally in a state of efficiency. In order tq obtain proper advice as to what items should be submitted to Parliament, I convened a Conference of the electrical engineers of the Department in the various States, with instructions that they should report to me on the new works required to place the telephone and telegraph services in a thorough state of efficiency, including those which could be executed during the current year, if money were provided, and those which must necessarily be deferred until the two following years. I requested the Conference to set down the various works in their order of urgency and importance. The Conference met in Melbourne, considered trie whole of the applications, and the reports and official documents that had been forwarded to the Central Office from the several States, and submitted to me a report from which I shall read one or two paragraphs that are material to the question. They reported that the amount required in the several States for new works should be divided between extensions and reconstructions of existing services. They found that there was a total of £1,828,052 required for these purposes. Of that sum,. New South Wales required £656,258, Victoria £622,398, Queensland £160,000, South Australia £144,241, Western Australia £198,511, and Tasmania. £46,644. They also submitted schedules showing the estimated expenditure on the various works, prepared on the assumption that it would be spread over three years, and that the funds would be available at any time during that period. In accordance with my instructions, they reported that they had prepared schedules of expenditure based on the requirements necessary to bring about a state of thorough efficiency in the telephone and telegraph services of the Commonwealth, as far as it was possible to do so within the three years’ period, and that their estimates were for the requirements as known at that time. They pointed out that new demands are daily being made upon the Department, and they made out the schedule which is now in the hands of honorable members. I have had nothing to do with its preparation. The Conference merely obeyed the instructions given to them to prepare a schedule containing all the most important items necessary for this year, and arranging them in their order of importance. ‘ They recommended that, for the year 1909-10, upwards of £600,000 should be expended ; for 1910-n, £910,600; and for 1911-12, £525,000.
– How much are we expending this year in excess of the amount expended last year?
– Some .£200,000 or £300,000.
– Then the proposed expenditure is something like ,£300,000 of what the Conference proposed?
– No; we are proposing to expend ,£663,000, less £89,000, which it is estimated cannot be expended during the current financial year, leaving a balance of £564,000, as indicated by the
Treasurer, or nearly twice as much as was expended last year. All these works have been reported on, and recommended for execution. I have had nothing to do with the preparation of the list. One or two complaints of omissions have been made to me, but having had them investigated, I do not think that I can interfere. If any honorable member brings forward an omission from the list of works proposed to be carried out this year which he would like to have investigated, I shall see that inquiries are made, but I did not feel called upon to investigate the multitudinous items in this schedule. I shall be pleased to take a note of any criticisms which honorable members may have to offer, and to do what I can to rectify omissions.
.- I wish to take advantage of the statement just made by the Postmaster-General to reiterate my strong objection to the financial policy which has characterized the administration of his Department since the inception of Federation, and which is in evidence in the Estimates now before us. At page 76 of the Budget papers, there -is the statement that the proposals of the Government for the ensuing year involve a payment out of current revenue of £136,000 for buildings and sites in connexion with the Department, and £564,000 out of revenue” from the current year under the heading of “ Telegraphs, telephones, and special cables.” These two sums give us a total of £700,000. That amount is to be paid out of the revenue for the present year for reproductive works which will produce revenue for a long course of years. I am glad that events in connexion with the recent Conference of Premiers have made it likely that the Government will not submit a proposal for issuing Treasury bills in connexion with these Estimates, because the project of raising money in that way, on the ground of a deficiency in the revenue for the current year at a time when that revenue has to bear the burden of an expenditure of £700,000, on works of utility, which will be used for at least thirty years, is to my mind a system of ffinance which cannot be justified either on the part of a political assembly or a body of business men. If the affairs of the commercial community of Australia were conducted upon such principles, the business of the Commonwealth would be reduced to universal confusion and ruin. I denounce again the absurdity of burdening the cur- rent revenue - whose legitimate service is the meeting of current expenditure - with these enormous charges. They cannot be justified on any principle of sound finance. In this way we are absolutely destroying the efficiency of the Department in some cases. Since the establishment of Federation, a committee of experts was appointed to determine the amount that would be required to place the Post and Telegraph Department in a position to carry out its work efficiently. That committee reported that such efficiency could not be secured unless there was an expenditure on the Department of something like £2, 000,000. In the face of that official report, this pernicious system ‘of starving and crippling the Department in the attempt to pay out of current revenue burdens which should be distributed over a number of years has been persisted in, and has reduced the convenience of the public to a minimum’, has been a source of widespread disgust and irritation, and is absolutely without justification. It is a kind of finance that would disgrace an establishment of juveniles, and I am sorry that it has been perpetuated and intensified in these Estimates. Millions of money in excess of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue to which they were entitled have teen returned to the States, and surely those who do not believe in borrowing might well have applied some of that surplus revenue to placing our Federal services on a satisfactory footing. We must all take our share of responsibility for having allowed the Department to become a by-word throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Its officers have been exposed to all sorts of criticism. And for what reason ? Because they have not had a chance to do their work honestly and fairly. It would be just as ridiculous to ask an expert to do his work without the requisite machinery as it is to expect the officials of the Post and Telegraph Department, and especially those of the Telephone Branch of the service, to carry on their arduous duties under present conditions. Those engaged in the Telephone Branch of the service throughout Australia have most arduous duties to perform, and they are held up to universal odium, not because they are inefficient or unfaithful, but because they have never had a chance to transact public business in a proper way. The first reason for this is that the appliances necessary for effectively carrying on the telephone service have never yet been supplied. We must take the responsibility for that, and it is our duty to put an end to so discreditable a state of affairs. The position is the same in regard to our military service. I cannot dwell on that subject at present, but it is sad to think that the two great administrative Departments which were handed over to the Federal Parliament have been so miserably muddled during the last eight years.
– Starved in the interests of the States.
– Whatever the cause, it is unjustifiable. Our rotten system of finance has come to a head when we find on the one hand a proposal to take out of current revenue this year £700,000 to build works which will last for from thirty to fiftyyears, and simultaneously to issue Treasury bills to cover a deficiency in the public revenue. This £700,000 is to be ‘charged to the revenue of this year. One of the worst features of finance is the manufacture of deficiencies, and it is for that reason I have expressed my opinion in such strong terms.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) (2 . 30].- [f we follow the example of the right honorable member for East Sydney, we shall’ really have another Budget debate, and that is not my desire, although, as yet, I have not spoken on the financial proposals of the Government. However, I may say that I differ entirely from the right honorable member, because I think that this money should be found out of current revenue. We are told that, in consequence of the action of previous Treasurers, the Post and Telegraph Department is in a state of inefficiency j but I ask the right honorable member what was his attitude when I endeavoured to obtain money in order to put matters right ? On more than one occasion I have expressed very strongly the opinion that it is a wrong principle to starve the Departments merely in order that money may be returned to the States.
– Does the honorable member not think that it is a bad policy to construct permanent post-offices out of current revenue?
– It is a good policy to pay everything possible out of revenue. I remember that when the right honorable member for East Sydney, as State Premier, issued, or proposed to issue, a loan, repayable in thirty years at so much each year, I opposed him, as I oppose him now. As I say, I never was in favour of depleting the Departments in order to return revenue to the States ; but when any proposal to the contrary was made, we found so many honorable members here acting as the representatives of the States, instead of as Federal representatives, that it was very hard indeed to overcome the difficulty.
– The honorable member did not know then that he could keep the money.
– The moment I did know, I asked that a law should be passed, to enable us to keep the money, but in that I was not supported by the honorable, member and others opposite ; indeed, there was a great outcry, and the matter was finally taken to the High Court.
– The honorable member was not the whole Government,’ was he?
– I was Treasurer.
– A Treasurer cannot do as he likes.
– I forced the measure on, but I received no help from the present Treasurer.
– The honorable member speaks in the first personal pronoun every time.
– The Treasurer’s speeches are worse than a noted speech of the late Sir Henry Parkes, which was all the first personal pronoun. If it had not been for my persistence, the measure to which I refer would not have been passed. However, I maintain that this £700,000 odd ought to be paid out of revenue.
– Not by the issue of Treasury bills, surely?
– No ; I am more strongly against the issue of Treasury bills than the right honorable member ever was, and shall oppose the system whenever I have the opportunity. When the revelations as to the state of the Post and Telegraph Department came down on us like an avalanche, I, not being Prime Minister, could not curb the expense of the Department, and I was not going to promise expenditure that I could not provide for. The time has arrived now when the money should be provided, though not by the issue of Treasury bills; and next year all the money required can be found unless some ridiculous compromise is made in the meantime. We have no official infor mation from the Government, but I should like to know how the Treasurer is going to pay £9,500,000 for this and the other services in 1920, when, according to his own statement, he will have only £5,500,000 to pay it with. I only mention this casually, because it will come up for discussion on the main Estimates.
– The honorable member is now out of order.
– I am not, because the matter was referred to by the right honorable member who preceded me. In the meantime we should husband our resources. A short time ago it was declared that £3,000,000 would foe required to put the Post and Telegraph Department in order, and I claim that the schedule which has been supplied to us. in typewritten manuscript ought to have been printed so that we might give it the consideration it deserves. I have glanced over the items, but it has been impossible in the time at my disposal to make myself master of the contents. I desire, however, to call the particular attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the proposed expenditure on the telephone trunk” line from Sydney to Woolongong, including Bulli and other places. The amount set down is £840, but I know that when I was Treasurer I was asked to provide £2,000 for this work.
– Perhaps the £840 is the balance required.
– No, because the work was not commenced when I was Treasurer, though, of course, it may have been commenced lately. There is a marginal note saying that close on £”2,000 will be required for re-poling before the line can be erected; and this would seem to be an additional sum that does not appear elsewhere, and as to which, but for the marginal note, I should have known nothing. If it is proposed to spend only £840 on a work which was estimated to cost £2,000 it is unduly reducing the estimate. There are a number of other items which I cannot follow very accurately, but I suppose we may take it that we shall be asked to vote much larger sums foy-and-by. If that be so it is not right, because we should know exactly what every work is going to cost.
– We cannot spend all the money at once.
– But the whole of it could be spent this year, seeing that we are only in the first months.
– Does the honorable member think that we should know what we are voting for?
– Then what about the post-office tower and clock at Corowa ?
– The tower is now built, after twelve years, and a very poor one it is.
– Where is this “blooming” clock?
– The “blooming “ clock is in a much finer electorate than that represented by the right honorable member. The clock that has been going in the right honorable member’s constituency is now running down, and will soon stop, never to go again - so far as he is concerned. The right honorable member says that it is ridiculous finance to build these permanent works out of revenue, thereby inferring - though he glossed the suggestion over - that borrowed money should be used. In the schedule which I have in my hand there is provision made for country telephone exchanges, but we do not know where those exchanges are to be. I have persistently asked for exchanges at half-a-dozen places in my electorate and been refused until the money is voted; and I should like to know whether those are included in the works shown in the schedule? I should also like to know where are the metropolitan exchanges that are to cost £23,000, and the new telephone cabinets, and so forth, to be provided at a total cost of £38,137 ? We are entitled to have a list of all these works. The information as to switchboards is given more in detail, but I know that there has been a great deal of trouble in this, regard at various places. Has the switchboard at Sydney been brought up to date? For eight or nine years that work has been in progress, and it is about time that it was completed. I wish to know whether the Postmaster- General intends to bring forward additional Works Estimates, and, if so, how the necessary money is to be found. According to the statement of the Treasurer, a great deal more expenditure than is provided for will be needed this year.
– The electrical engineers say that we have provided enough for the year.
– When I wasopposing their claims, and those of a number of others, they would have taken £2,000,000 for one year, could they have got it.
– They propose to spread the necessary expenditure over three years.
– Ten months of this year have yet to run, so that there is plenty of time for the carrying out of necessary works.
– The staff would have to be doubled to do all that is necessary in one year.
– I know that very many applications for works were sent in to the Department from outlying parts of New South Wales, and probably of the other States, but, so far as I can make out from the list which has been supplied to me, the expenditure that is to take place will affect chiefly ‘ populous centres. I should like to know, therefore, whether the Postmaster-General will, later, present additional proposals, and what applications are not to be dealt with? This is a very important matter for country districts. I often receive, not only from my own electorate, but also from the two adjoining electorates, letters asking me to apply for telephone exchanges and facilities.
.- The honorable member for Hume has just mentioned what I think is a growing evil. No representative can fairly do his duty to his constituents unless he is treated as on an equality with his fellow members in regard to the. presentation of applications tq the Departments. The honorable member for Hume apparently concerns himself in departmental matters, not only with his own electorate, but also with the adjoining electorates. He is recognised as an engineer .and navigator of some ability.
– This is a time of shipwrecks.
– That must be a painful reminder to the honorable member for Hume. It is a great pity that the public should think that it can get attention from the Departments only if its needs are made known by members possessing special influence, or a particular type of political ability. The more innocent of us have been under the impression that an urgent want has only to be made known to be rectified. Certainly none but proper cases should be submitted to the Department, and they should go through the members of the districts concerned.
– If a member were ill, should not another act for him?
– Certainly. I am referring to what might be termed the burglarious intrusion by one member into another’s sphere of action. I hope that the Treasurer and Postmaster-General will not pay attention to those who seek to interest themselves in departmental representations not concerning the electorates they represent.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney was right in saying that the finances of the Commonwealth are rotten. Indeed, they are putrid; but he has done nothing to help me to establish a national postal banking system which would place them on a sound basis. A vast amount of credit must be raised to operate our potential activities. The Postmaster-General and the Treasurer hardly know where to look for it. We sit helpless; although we have the power to create it, we have not the brains to concentrate, solidify, combine, and utilize it for the benefit of the people. This year £5,132,000 will have to be expended for which there is no provision in the Estimates, and next year £17,000,000 more. For the Dreadnought ,£2,000,000 will be needed.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter now.
– Then I shall reserve for the Budget discussion the statement which I have prepared. If .we had our financial institutions operated by the Commonwealth and the States, we could say to the Postmaster-General, “ You shall have a credit on the ledger of £2,000,000 to carry out these great public works which Australia requires.” There is a vast difference between doing that and floating Treasury bonds, or raising a loan. The same rate of interest must be chargeable - or 4 per cent. - but under my proposal it would be payable only on balances. The receipts from the Departments would be continually going into the Government banking institution, and the money taken out on Saturday to pay the working men would filter through tradespeople back to the bank before 3 o’clock on Monday afternoon, ready to be loaned out again next day.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing these matters now.
– I simple desire to give the Committee information regarding finance which it very much needs.
.- I wish to know from the Postmaster-General whether provision has been made for a telephone from Allynbrook to Lostock. I have received no information on the subject, although the honorable member for Maribyrnong when Postmaster -General - a position which he filled with success - gave a favorable reply to a deputation which waited upon. him at West Maitland, and asked that the line might be erected.
– Hear, hear ; but I had not the money.
– How long has the honorable member been waiting for the line?
– Three or four years. I hoped that the Labour party would have constructed it.
– The Labour party was not long enough in office.
– It must have been a very weak Government if it could not construct a few miles of telephone in six months, especially where the local residents are so public spirited that they are prepared to meet nearly the whole cost. Apparently Ministers are overridden by their officers. The line would serve a large dairying district, which, is rapidly growing in importance. The people there are now at great inconvenience when sickness or accidents occur, because they cannot easily communicate with medical men.
– And scores of other districts are in the same position.
– Well, this district is certainly entitled to the communication asked for. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will give attention to its request. The cost of the work would not be much, because, as I have pointed out, the local residents are prepared to bear their share of it, though I do not think that they should be’ called upon to do so. It is the duty of the Government to provide these facilities. Numerous advantages are given in large centres, where the wealthy men reside, but struggling pioneers in country districts cannot get the services that they ask for. That is not right. I hold a brief for the residents in country districts, and if I occupied the position of Postmaster- Genera I the work that I have referred to would have been constructed long ago.
.- We must all have some share in the complaint of the honorable member for Hunter regarding the hardship felt in country districts through the absence of certain facilities. I have myself repeatedly voiced the same complaint. We find the Postal Department exhausting its energies in catering for great centres of population, yet giving scanty attention, if any at all, to the needs of pioneer settlements in the remote parts of Australia. That policy must be reversed if justice is to be done. Now, I wish to refer to an argument used by the right honorable member for East Sydney just now, and previously by the honorable member for Parkes, that all these works, costing about £1,050,000, should be constructed out of loan moneys. While it may be desirable to separate capital and revenue accounts in business, and in the commercial departments of government, it must be remembered that in many of the items which we are now considering the works are merely being renewed. Many of the undertakings are not new works. The argument might be sound and valid, if all the works in this schedule were being undertaken where nothing existed before. Take, for instance, the item of j£37o3° for the construction and extension of telegraph lines, instruments, and materials. Here the only new work is the extension of an existing line ; so that a great part of the vote is merely for the purpose cf restoring machinery and gear which is no longer serviceable. It is an absolutely unsound principle to borrow money to restore works of that kind. They should be renewed from current revenue. A homely parallel will enforce this truth. Take the case of a man who borrows £100 to purchase a waggon and pair of horses. At the end of ten years the horses have gone to the knacker and the waggon is worn out. If he proposed to borrow7 a second £100 to acquire a new team, without having repaid the original loan, no money lender would listen to him. He would be told that he should hare put .aside a part of his earnings to purchase a new team. And this is what we should do to meet the outlay required to replace obsolete and wornout appliances. We have, perhaps, gone rather far in the past in paying for new works that will last many years out of one year’s earnings. But that, at any rate, was an error on the right side; We must not allow the pendulum to swing entirely in the other direction under the pressure of fallacious reasoning or an inexact understanding of the facts. The principle that should guide us is clear. New works, of a permanent character, should be debited to the future, but all repairs and renewals of existing works should be paid for out of current revenue.
– Last year, out of £21,290 appropriated for “ construction and extension of telegraph lines, instruments and materials,” only £14,786 was spent, leaving a balance unspent of £6,504. That is most singular, in view of the fact that nearly every district in New South Wales has asked for the extension and improvement of telegraph lines and instruments within its’ borders. For the last three years I have been agitating for additional telegraph lines, in the shape of duplications of old lines, repairs, or extensions, and have been met on each occasion with the stereotyped reply that no funds were available. I accepted that as correct, but now, to my surprise, I find that no less than £6,504 voted last year for the purpose was not spent. Why was that? It may be that the Department, although they asked for the money, did not know where’ they were going to spend it, or they may not have had sufficient men to carry out the work. In either case, the matter calls for serious consideration by the Committee. We are asked now to increase the vote from ,£2 1,290 to £37,530, but if the Department could not spend within £6,000 of the amount they had last year, how are they going to spend the increased sum this year? I am disposed to think that, even if the amount were much larger, it could be spent, and the work carried out with the greatest advantage to the people and the Department ; but there seems to be a great lack of efficiency somewhere, if the sum of £6,000 could npt be spent in one of the most important branches of the service. The Department has not been as energetic as it ought to have been, not only in pushing on new lines, but in the linking up of existing lines. The people are charged excessive amounts for telephone messages sent over existing telegraph lines by the condenser system, owing to the circuitous way in which the Department does its work. The Department has no proper plan or system, and no definite goal at which it is aiming. Wherever it proposes to construct a new telegraph line, the officers ought to have in view the probable development of the districts, and make their plans accordingly ; but they do not know where their own lines are, how close their duplicate lines are to each other, or where alternate circuits might be made. I find that the Department nas no map of a later date than 1000 to show where the telegraph and telephone lines of the State of New South Wales are, and consequently it is working largely in the dark.
My experience of the Department is that it loses sight of the importance of keeping its instruments up-to-date. It is using the same type of instruments as it used thirty years ago. It follows the expensive method of putting up a duplicate line where it might put in a. duplex instrument. It spends hundreds of pounds in the one case, where £40or £50 spent on a duplex instrument would give better results. The whole Department, and particularly the mechanical branch, is a long way from being up to date. It is the duty of thechief electrical engineer, and the electrical engineers of the States, to keep all their instruments up-to-date. ‘At many of the important telegraph offices in NewSouth Wales the officers do not know what a duplex instrument is. Their telegraph poles are loaded up with lines, whereas they could do the work better on a few lines by the introduction of. duplex or quadruplex instruments instead of the old Morse instrument. The Department is also absolutely out of date in its material. It does everything in the old-fashioned way that was in vogue when telegraphy was first introduced, whereas the introduction of instruments of a later date would not only save cost in construction, but would expedite the business of the country, and enable the workto be done more efficiently. It is proposed to increase the amount for the construction and extension of telegraph lines, instruments, and materials this year by only£22,744 over the amount spent last year. That is an absurdly small increase, for there is nothing like the length of telegraph lines in New South Wales that there ought to be, and that sum will not nearly meet the requirements. If the amount voted cannot be spent, it is quite time the Postmaster-General inquired whether the person in charge of the spending branch ofthe Department could not be replaced by a man who would do the work more efficiently and bring the services up to date. It is proposed to spend this year £38,361 more than was spent last year in New South Wales, on the construction and extension of telephone lines, instruments, and materials, but in face of the number of applications for extensions of the telephone system in that State, that amount is only abagatelle, for the PostmasterGeneral and his Deputy in Sydneyknow that necessary works of that kind have been hung up for years. They have accumulated till they have gone almost beyond counting, and I am sure that every honorable member can produce instances to bear out what I say. I fail to see how the arrears are going to be overtaken this year by a paltry increase of £39,000 in the vote. It is not as if they were works which ought not to be undertaken. Most, if not all of them, have been reported on as being payable. If any of them are not payable, the public are always asked to give a guarantee, and their guarantees are now ready and can be utilized to make the undertakings financially sound. The increased vote for all these purposes for New South Wales this year will not give any* thing like the adequate service to which the public are entitled, and, judging by last year’s experience, even that amount will not be spent. The question of whether the money cannot be spent on more uptodate instruments, instead of following obsolete methods, deserves the serious consideration, not only of the Postmaster-General, but of this Committee.
– The one Department, which above all others needs a thorough investigation into the whole of its system, is the Postmaster - General’s Department. It is impossible togo through the country districts in any of the States without seeing the absolute absurdity of some of the methods now followed. The telephone rates between district and district furnish a striking instance. At one place in Tasmania, you can telephone about 12 miles to Hobart for a penny; but if you want to telephone 4½ miles in the other direction, it costs 9d. That is due to the absurd way in which the line is looped. There is a direct line in the one case, but in the other the line follows a most circuitous course, and the Department charge on the mileage rate instead of having regard to the distance by the direct course. The same state of affairs no doubt exists in many parts of the Commonwealth. Year after year we are invited to pass certain items which are said to be of the greatest urgency, and when the Estimates of the succeeding year are presented we find that a very considerable proportion of the amounts so voted have not been expended. Either the votes are unnecessary or the Ministry have no intention of carrying out the works to which thev relate, and the Department is not prepared to deal with them. Whatever the reason, the Committee is placed in a most unfortunate position, and I trust that the
Government will see that in future works for which provision is made on the Estimates are carried out during the year, so that it will be unnecessary to ask for a number of re-votes. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will give his special attention to this matter, and’ obtain from his officers a definite explanation as to whyworks which were declared in some cases last year and in others the year before to be urgent, and for which provision was accordingly made, have not yet been carried out.
– I will do that.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 2 (Victoria), £219,476.
– I hope that there is on the part of the Postmaster-General an earnest desire that the appropriations to which we are now agreeing shall be expended during the current year. Owing to the want of funds many men have been dismissed from the Department, although there are urgent works to toe carried out; and I trust that it is the intention of the Government to push on with these various undertakings. A great deal has been said as to the mismanagement of the service, and laymen certainly cannot fail to have noticed that the engineers of the Department are very fond of seeing their works in the air. In other words, they insist upon overhead wires, although it has been recognised by practical men in the Commonwealth and in other countries that the undergrounding of wires is the more effective and economical method. I am aware that the conduit system is necessary in our cities, but a cheaper method might be adopted in the suburbs. I am told that the undergrounding of the cables could be carried out at a cost of about 10s. 6d. per wire. Any number of wires may be carried in the redgum or pottery cases that are laid down, and it is strange that the engineers have not adopted that system, which is cheaper and less dangerous than the overhead system so largelyresorted to. The wires in the suburbs of Melbourne have been cabled in many cases, but that work is not so general as is desirable from the stand-point of efficiency and economy. I recognise that the political head of the Department must be guided by the advice of his officers. We employ practical men, and if the Ministerial head is not to accept their advice, it is not worth while retaining their services. Nevertheless, the honorable gentleman should exercise the knowledge that he acquires in the
Department, and see that the system of undergrounding wires is more generally adopted. The tendency nowadays is to do away as much as possible with the overhead system. It is a peculiar fact that, although timber for boxes is plentiful in Western Australia, pottery cases imported from Victoria are used there in connexion- with the underground system, whereas cases made of timber, largely imported from another State, are used in Victoria.
– The pottery cases are now being made in Western Australia..
– That may be so, but the fact that this has been done suggests that the responsible officers are not carrying out the work on common-sense principles. They may say that what is good in Victoria is useless in Western Australia, but surely if the pottery-ware system is found more economical in Western Australia, where there is a plentiful supply of jarrah and redgum, it must be cheaper than the wood-box system in Victoria. I have had to complain more than once of the extravagance of the Department in using copper wire for telephone lines, although iron wire is just as suitable for the purpose. The difference between the cost of copper and iron wire is as 1½d. to 10d., and yet we find that copper wire is almost universally used in our short services. The theorist may argue that the conductivity of copper wire is greater than is that of iron wire; but I would remind the Committee that the telephone line to Bacchus Marsh, which is some twenty-five miles long, is of iron wire, and that it is one of the best in or about Melbourne. Many people urge that it would be unnecessary to resort to the policy of borrowing to make the service effective if greater economy were observed, and I have no doubt that a number of the complaints made in regard to the telephone system are due to the fact that, instead of having a complete circuit, only’ single wires are used. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, and also the honorable member for EdenMonaro, when holding office as PostmasterGeneral, endeavoured to secure the general introduction of the circuit system in order to obtain greater efficiency in the telephone service, but so many applications to lie connected with the various exchanges were received that if. was found absolutely necessary to use only single wires and to earth them at the subscribers’ residences, instead of returning them and earthing them at the exchanges. I hope that now that sufficient funds have been made available, the circuit system will be adopted. The Department at the present time does not place on the one line two subscribers engaged in the same business. For instance, the subscriber who shares my wire is a produce dealer on a large scale, and I can often hear him talking more distinctly about orders for onions than I can hear the man who is endeavouring to speak to me at the other end of the wire. A stop should be put to that system, and the remedy is to provide every subscriber with “a double wire which will be earthed at the exchanges. We may not be able to convince the theorists of the Department that this is the best system, but I think the suggestion is worthy the attention of the Postmaster-General, who I am sure is anxious to make the service as perfect as possible. Several efforts have been made to-day to induce the Government to resort to a policy of borrowing, but if those who are opposed to that policy can show that the demand for more funds is due to inability on the part of some officials to properly discharge their duties, and the waste that goes on, they cannot be expected to give even sympathetic consideration to the proposal. I am opposed to borrowing, believing it to be unnecessary if proper precautions are taken to secure economy in the administration of the Departments. There is also an absence of economy in erecting the wires on poles, instead of having them laid in cables underground. I should like the officials to take notice of the facts I have mentioned, because they have been subject to great condemnation, and, unless they improve in the near future, I am afraid there may be more serious results, especially if their action arises from sheer perverseness, and a mistaken idea that all their work is perfect. It has been proved that the conductivity of iron wire for short distances is all that is necessary, and that the life of such wire is of great length. For instance, a galvanizediron wire was laid down in connexion with the Age office twenty-six or twenty-seven years ago, and, so far as I know, it is in use now. Further, we know that the atmosphere has a certain effect on wires, and that the sag varies according to the material used. A traveller who was here for some time expressed surprise that between two poles could be observed different wires, varying from 500 lbs. to 66 lbs., which meant, of course, varying degrees of sagging. As a layman, I have no desire to condemn the officials, but I do claim to have ordinary common sense, and I think that when the facts are made known they will take some lessons from the experience of the past.
– They will try to prove that the honorable member is wrong !
– Of that, of course, I cannot complain. No doubt they will say that I have had no practical experience, but my retort is that they are theorists, pure and simple, and rely on what is done in other countries, without paying due regard to the different ‘effects on the wires of the atmosphere of this part of the world. As a matter of fact, I suppose it is quite possible that there is a difference in the effects of the atmosphere as between Queensland and Victoria ; and this should be taken into account. Without charging the officials with any want of ability, we may assume that they either have too much to do, or that those who are under them do not furnish the necessary reports. I am inclined to think, however, that the fault lies, not with the under -foremen and others, who do the practical work, but with the heads of the Department.
– Mr. Hesketh told the Postal Commission that he and his officers were continually making tests on the lines suggested by the honorable member.
– That is what any practical man ought to do. In Melbourne, there seems to be an absence, not of a desire to do the work, but of an organizing head to devise proper methods of securing efficiency and economy. In any case, it is evident there is something wrong. I ask the Postmaster-General, as soon as these Estimates are passed, to put the works in hand, so that employment may be provided.
– I shall do so.
– The Postmaster-General is to be commended for his attempts to grapple with the great problem of the re-organization of the Department, more particularly when he is without the report of the Postal Commission. But the vote appears to me to be altogether inadequate to Bring the Department to a proper state of efficiency, only £180,000 more than was voted last year appearing on the Estimates. The PostmasterGeneral has, I “think, taken the right course in calling his officers, together ; and I understand that those gentlemen have reported that about £600,000 will be required each year, for three years, in order to raise the Department to the proper standard. The officers have drawn attention to what they call the most important work; but there is only one means by which this great business concern can be made efficient, and that is by voting the necessary money to carry out the necessary, though, it may be, not the most important services. Even since the Estimates have been before us I have received a communication to the effect that a very necessary work, which has been approved by the Department as one likely to prove profitable, cannot be proceeded with until next year, because no provision has been made for it this year, although it has been in contemplation for two years. Serious consideration should be given to the suggestion by the right honorable member for East Sydney, that the Department ought to be conducted on purely business lines, and, as in Great Britain, dissociated altogether from the calculations of the ordinary revenue and expenditure in the Budget.
– How would country districts fare under such a system?
– As’ should be done in Australia, the authorities in England, when important and reproductive works are required in country districts, provide for them in a business way with borrowed money. If that were done here, I am convinced that 90 per cent, of the requirements of Australia could be met, though I am quite willing to admit that there are sparsely settled portions of the country where i* would not be reasonable to expect services to pay from the outset. In my opinion, the great financial strength of the Department should be brought to bear, in order to develop the remoter districts; and some of the large profits earned in the metropolitan area might be used in this way with benefit to the country industries, which build up the national wealth and make the city profitable.
– If that were done, there would be no need to borrow.
– There would be need to borrow in order to carry out reproductive works, which are interest bearing, and would be immediately profitable. Instances have been brought under my notice of services of the kind that would pay as soon as constructed, but, up to the present, the Department has failed to take the proper business view and grip of the position. I hope that the Postmaster-General, in the light of this discussion, may find it advisable to bring down Supplementary Estimates, in order that this great Department, with -the difficulties of which he is so heroically grappling, may be brought to a state of efficiency.
– Would the honorable member favour Treasury bills?
– Yes, for reproductive works.
.- No Department can be run on heroics. The correct thing to do is to tell the people what is necessary, and to make provision for it, though I have heard nothing from any Minister during the discussion to indicate that more money is needed. I desire to facilitate the passing of these Estimates as expeditiously as possible ; but it is most inadvisable, if we desire to discuss the financial business of the Commonwealth, to endeavour to rush them through on the plea that there are people out of work.
– I point out to the honorable ‘member that a general discussion was allowed on the first item, and that he must now confine himself to the subdivision immediately before us.
– I can connect my remarks with the question by referring to the plea that, until the Estimates are passed, some persons who are dependent on the Department will lack work, and urging that such a plea is not sufficient. No opportunity is presented to discuss matters in detail, or even in principle ; and, as a Ministerial supporter has suggested, if the Government are not in a position to go on with the works, these Estimates ought to be withdrawn, with a view to submitting others. In my opinion, the whole of the Estimates should have been withdrawn until the Government had brought in the new financial proposals which, I understand, are to be submitted.
.- I am desirous that the Works Estimates shall be passed early, so that, next year, we may not have so many re-votes. There should have been available more than one copy of the schedule prepared by the Minister showing what works are covered by. the items in these subdivisions. I looked through the schedule, and found that, while three or four pages were devoted to detailing New South Wales works, the Victorian expenditure was covered by a couple of lines, practically no details being given, so that I could not ascertain what proposals are to be gone on with. Money is provided for the construction and extension of telephone lines, including the construction of conduits and placing wires underground. Is a new contract to be let for underground tunnelling in Melbourne? Certain tunnels have already been constructed, all of them being to the east of Swanston-street. No doubt, they are part of a plan which has not yet been completed. I presume that the provision now being made is to carry the telephone wires in the west parts of the city into, these tunnels, and I shall be glad to know that the work is being gone on with. Apparently no new tunnelling is to be undertaken this year. I have been unable to ascertain what new exchanges are to be instituted in the Melbourne metropolitan area. I have already pointed out that populous neighbourhoods like Richmond, Collingwood, Fitzroy, and Carlton, are without exchanges. There is a contract office in East Melbourne, which, I believe, the Department intends to make an official office, when the lease expires. It would make a suitable place for an exchange, to relieve the Hawthorn and Yarra, as well as the city and central exchanges. I hope the Postmaster-General will not forget that there are telephone users within the metropolitan area who are now called upon to pay mileage because of their distance from an exchange. The Yarra exchange was placed at South Yarra nominally only until the new Windsor exchange could be finished. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, mainly on my representation, increased the distance, within which no extra charge for service is made, from one to two miles from an exchange.
– That raised the cost of the service.
– Yes ; but had it not been done, more exchanges would have been needed. There are twice as many more exchanges in Sydney as there are in Melbourne, and, consequently, very few subscribers there have to pay extra mileage. There is great need for additional trunk lines. No doubt the Department has provided for what it considers the most urgent cases. I would point out the need for an improvement in the service which is given to Sorrento, Dromana, Portsea, Flinders, Mornington, and Cape Schanck. All those places are connected with the one trunk line, and at holiday times one has to wait an hour to get connexion. I trust that the Department will take that fact into consideration. Many business men like to spend the holidays down the Bay, and while away from town, wish to use the telephone, to know what is going on at their offices.
– Does the honorable member say that an exchange is needed at East Melbourne?
– At Richmond or East Melbourne. The people in that district should not have to pay mileage rates.
– I shall make a note of the honorable member’s complaint.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 3 (Queensland), £68,870.
.- The Queensland officials are quite ready to spend any money that may be voted for public works. Last year Parliament voted £42,774, and £47,472 was expended. The Queensland telephone system, however, has been starved. Although £68,870 is provided for this year’s expenditure, that is not enough. The amount set down for trunk lines - £8,500 - is too little. It would pay the Department to erect a new cable of 100 wires between .Ipswich and Brisbane. The traffic from the Esk, Boonah, Lockyer, and Darling Downs, has to be carried ever the lines between Ipswich and Brisbane, and I believe there are only five trunk lines and two phantom lines to deal with it. with the result that there is congestion and great inconvenience.
– Provision is made for a new line from Brisbane to Laidley.
– One was erected a few months ago, and I understand that another is in course of erection between Brisbane and Toowoomba. The Darling Downs and north-western traffic radiates from Ipswich, and there is also a large suburban traffic there. I do not know if an additional line to Beenleigh is provided for.
– This is a township where two trunk lines centre, which are connected with Brisbane by only one trunk line and, consequently, the public has to wait for hours to get communication. Lines like those from Beaudesert to Brisbane, and the Esk trunk line, pay handsomely. Last year, the return from the latter was something like £350
– The honorable member should ask leave to continue his speech next Tuesday.
– The trains to the other States will not wait.
– Honorable members opposite have taken up most of the sitting, and I intend to say now what I have to say-
– Where did the honorable member get the information which prompted him to attribute to me the statement that “now that ‘Fat’ was not in office, telephones would not be constructed “ ?
– I do not know that I should be in order in discussing that matter now.
– Will the honorable member honestly say where he got the information, because it is not true?
– I am informed that a deputation waited on the then Prime Minister at Mooretown, to ask for certain postal facilities, and that that was the answer they got from him.
– I was not at Mooretown at all.
– Did not the honorable member pass through it?
– Yes, I think on a Sunday.
– At any rate that is what one of the deputation told me.
– I never used, and would not use, the term.
– Another line hung up for want of funds is the one from Southport to the Tweed Heads. It was recommended by the Department. It is estimated that it would pay from the start. There are several other small country lines to which I shall not direct attention at this stage, but those that I have mentioned are of great importance to the whole district, and, in fact, to the greater part of Queensland, as they affect the base of the trunk line system of Queensland. I trust the Minister will give the matter his attention and see that they are provided for as soon as possible.
– I shall do that.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 4 (South Australia), £72,056.
:- Is the item of£6,450 for the construction and extension of telegraph lines, instruments, and material, intended for new works or for replacements?
– It is for new works.
– Does the item of £31,495 for the construction and extension of telephone lines, &c., refer to the work of undergrounding the wires in Adelaide?
– It refers to the whole State.
– Does the item £14,201 for trunk lines include a line from Port Lincoln to the hundred of Cummins ?
– There is an appropriation of£1,334 for that line, a distance of 42 miles.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 5(Western Australia), £65,740, agreed to.
Subdivision 6 (Tasmania), £20,095.
.- I wish to say in reply to the honorable member for Moreton that in discussing the Estimates there should be no question of whether this or that side takes up the time. In any case this side cannot be said to have taken up much more time to-day than the other side has. Seeing that we have passed votes for works to the extent of over a million pounds to-day, no one can be said to have obstructed business, and it was uncalled for on the part of the honorable member to allege that there had been obstruction. We ought to have more information when dealing with these Estimates. If the documents which Ministers have in their possession regarding proposed works were placedon tables in the Library or the Queen’s Hall, so that honorable members could examine them, we should probably get on much better and more pleasantly than we do now. Under the present arrangement it is impossible for any honorable member to know what is to be spent in his district or State, or in any other State. I hear that works and buildings that have been passed by the Home Affairs Department are of practically no use. I do not wish to go into matters connected with the Post and Telegraph Department that come before me, but I believe a large amount of money is wasted in the Commonwealth by the administration of the Home Affairs Department, and the way in which it carries out works. If we had more information on these questions it
Avould be a great deal better for us and for the people of Australia. Of course I know that an arrangement has been made this afternoon to pass the Works Estimates before the House adjourns, but I shall refuse to take notice of arrangements of that kind’. I want information as to the items for Tasmania. A sum of £1,450 is put down for the construction and extension of telegraph lines, instruments, and material, but no detailed information is given. The same objection applies to the other items. I hope that when next Estimates of this kind are brought before Parliament, papers in reference to the works in the various States will be made available to honorable members.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 7 (Wireless Telegraphy), £10,000, agreed to.
Departments of Treasury and Defence.
Division 7 (Government Printing Office), £800; division 8 (Stamp Printing), £3,400; division 9 (Rifle Clubs and Ranges), £18,272; division 10 (Special Defence Material), £78,150; and division ir (New Special Defence Provision), £121,000, agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Division- 12 (Expenses in connexion with acquisition of site for offices of the Commonwealth in London), £5,000.
.- This item is apparently included for no specific purpose, and no explanation of it has been given.
– I shall be glad to explain the item. Last year £5,000 was appropriated for this purpose, and only £635 was spent. That was in connexion with arrangements that afterwards fell through. At present, so far as I know, the Government have no proposal in hand in regard to the matter, but a sum of £5,000 has been included in these Estimates so as not to abandon altogether the project of securing in London a site for Commonwealth offices - a proposal that found a good deal of acceptance among honorable members last year. Of course, nothing can be done to bind the Government and the country to the acquisition of a site without the approval of Parliament, nor have the Government any idea of doing so. At the same time we might well keep this sum on the Estimates, because it is possible that offers that would of course be placed before Parliament may be made. The position now is not very different from what it was last year when a similar sum was voted. I assure honorable members that the Government do not desire to enter into any binding arrangement with anybody without such arrangement being subject to the full concurrence of Parliament, and we may fairly ask the Committee to trust us in this matter. Anything we do will be subject to the full concurrence of Parliament. The existence of this vote will not lead us to do anything that we should not do if it were not passed. Preliminary arrangements are always entered into by Governments in regard to any matter which they consider to be in the interests of the country. I have no information that will justify me in saying that the Government have anything in view in this regard at the present moment, but we do not know what may happen, and if anything does happen there is no reason why we should not have this vote. Provision is often made for things that may happen without any present intention of spending the money. I am prepared to give an assurance on behalf of the Government that we have no intention of taking any binding action in this matter except subject to the full concurrence of Parliament, and in those circumstances there is no reason why the item should be struck out.
– After the Treasurer’s explanation nothing short of striking out the item will meet the case. The right honorable gentleman said the Government did not intend to do anything, and why then in a time of financial stress, should they want to put £5,000 aside for no purpose. We could make better, use of the money”. . If it does happen that a site is offered, and it Becomes necessary to make investigations and prepare specifications, the Treasurer has an advance of £200,000 which can be used for the purpose. I do not question the Treasurer’s word, but the item was brought under the attention of the Prime Minister and the Government earlier in the afternoon. The Treasurer now says in effect : “ We have nothing in our minds ; we do not contemplate doing anything, but we ask the Committee to permit this sum of £5,000 to remain idle for twelve months.”
– I did nol say that.
– At the time when the Treasurer had to seriously consider how the Commonwealth was to meet its obligations, and had decided to ask the Parliament to agree to the issue of Treasury, bonds, he placed this item on the Estimates, although he did not know what it was for. At all events, he has not told the Committee what is the object of the item. ‘ I therefore move -
That division 12 be left out.
– I hope that the honorable member will not- press his amendment. We have agreed, without a division, to items amounting to £1,050,000, and surely the honorable member does not wish to divide the Committee on the question of whether anitem of £5,000 should be omitted. By omitting the item, we shall allow the impression to go forth that we do not desire to do anything to secure the establishment of central offices in London. I am certainly not prepared to accept the amendment, and would remind honorable members that an assurance has been given on behalf of the Government that no definite step will be taken without the approval of Parliament.
Question - That division 12 be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
That there be granted to His Majesty, to the service of the year 1909-10, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings,&c., a sum not exceeding£1,054,124.
– I desire, Mr. Speaker, to move the suspension of the Standing Orders, to enable the Bill to be passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to move the suspension of the Standing Orders?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Leave is granted.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to pass the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1909-10 through all its stages without delay.
Resolution adopted, and resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Glynn do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest and read a first time.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The Government should admit that the Opposition have been generous in their treatment of the Estimates that have been under consideration to-day. The seriousness of some of the items in the schedule would have justified a more extensive examination than that to which they have been subjected, and the supply of more information than Ministers have furnished. I desire to obtain from the Postmaster- General a statement as to the proposals of the Department in regard to the installation of wireless telegraphy. The position would be serious if we were to adopt a system not in sympathy with that adopted by the shipping community, and bring into use instruments different from those employed at present on the vessels of the Imperial Squadron on the Australian station. I consider that the selection of the particular wireless telegraph system that is to be adopted is of very great importance to the Commonwealth. Another matter to which I wish to refer is of a more provincial character. The citizens of Kalgoorlie have been subjected to considerable danger on account of the defective condition of the telephone poles in that town. There have been periodical cyclones, and very narrow escapes have been reported in consequence of the falling of poles.I understand that provision is madeon these Estimates for the undergrounding of wires, and I trust that the work will be proceeded with without unreasonable delay. In regard to the item of£5,000 for the Commonwealth offices in London, I take it that we have an absolute assurance from the Government that no agreement will be entered into without the sanction of this Parliament ? That is to say, the same policy will be pursued in this respect as was pursued on a former occasion, and any agreement will be subject to ratification by Parliament.
– That being the case, I cannot see the necessity for placing this money on the Estimates.
– It may be required in connexion with preliminary arrangements.
– We have a staff of officers who are capable of furnishing plans and specifications; but as long as Parliament is not to be committed I am satisfied.
– I should like to say that I, as Minister of Defence, am as keenly interested in the matter of wireless telegraphy as the Postmaster-General is. I hope that when we get command of this money we shall see whether something cannot be done without delay to inaugurate a system of wireless telegraphy around our coasts which will be of infinite value from a defence point of view. In fact, I cannot conceive of anything more important to Australia in reference to. defence, and I hope to see such a system inaugurated soon.
.- I candidly admit that I think these Estimates have been rushed through too rapidly. There has not been sufficient time for their discussion. On some items further explanation should have been given. There is an item on page 22 of the Bill about which I should like to have information.It relates to machinery for stamp printing at the Government Printing Office. I object to the way in which Commonwealth work is being done at present at the Printing Office. I have nothing to say against the men in charge. They may be the most capable men in the world. I do not object to Mr. Kemp, or to Mr. Cook, or to any other of the principal officers. But while there is divided control we cannot have a satisfactory system. The Commonwealth has only a few officers in the office. We are now spending£4,200 for stampprinting machinery.
– I am prepared to give any information.
– My own opinion is that when Federal work is being done there should be a Commonwealth officer in charge.
– We have a stamp printer.
– We should have an explanation as to whether the machinery in question is the only machinery for stamp printing in the office.
– We have taken over from the State . £3,000 worth of stamp printing machinery ?
– Are we then duplicating that machinery?
– No, but we are spending , £250 on a new Caxton High Art printing machine for printing stamps.
– Are all the stamps for the Commonwealth being printed in Melbourne ?
– No. Some are printed inQueensland andin New South Wales.
– From my point of view it does not matter where the office is situated, but once we have a Commonwealth Stamp Printing Office the whole of our work should be done there. When we deal with salaries on the main Estimates I shall have something to say about the payments made to officers who supervise our work in the Government Printing Office.
.- The machinery for which we are now paying is - Additional monotype casting machine, £500 ; machine for stereotyping room, £100; press for lithographic room,£52 ; additional matrices and parts for linotype machines, , £360. The whole amount was £1,012 ; but that sum has been reduced on these Estimates to £800. In regard to stamp printing, we are paying £3,113 to the State of Victoria for machinery taken over. We are also buying a Caxton High Art printing machine to place the office in a position to turn out high class work, costing £250, making a total of £3,400.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Premiers’ Conference: Finance Agreement - Japanese Doctor at Broome.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I expected the Prime Minister to be present to indicate when he intends introducing what I presume will be a Bill to deal with the new phase of the Commonwealth financial policy. The memorandum that has been circulated during the sitting officially intimates that the Commonwealth has come to an agreement for the allocation of revenue between itself and the States ; and it is only fair that we should know when the Government measure is to be brought down. According to the memorandum, the agreement means that in the year 1910-n the Commonwealth will benefit, according to the schedule, by£2,373,100, while in the year 1920-21 it will benefit to the extent of £2,642,313, as compared with what would have been the position if the Braddon section had been continued. These figures show an actual increase of only1s. per head of the population. It is evident that the agreement has been brought into existence to get the Commonwealth Government over what I call the Fusion rocks - that it is only useful for a year or two - and that afterwards there will be no increase in the revenue, All the figures are based on a prospective revenue of £2 8s. 6d. per head, which is actually higher than that received at present. It is estimated that the revenue now is £2 9s. 7½d. per head, butactually it is 3s. per head less. The Government have chosen to take a high basis for the Customs and Excise return; and it is shown that if the Commonwealth is to be carried on with the Customs and Excise revenue alone, under the agreement, we are, not only to remain at bedrock, but, ‘as I said at the Hobart Conference, are to be hobbled for all time.
.- As the agreement which the Government recently concluded with the State Premiers intimately affects our Customs and Excise revenue,I should like the Treasurer to say whether he will afford the House certain information before proceeding next week. The Government propose to pay to the States for all time 25s. per head of the population, whatever its numbers may be. To enable the House to decide whether’ a permanent arrangement of the Government is just and desirable, it is necessary that we should have data bearing on the question whether our present receipts from Customs and Excise are normal and likely to remain at their present high level in perpetuity. The Treasurer might, for instance, supply a return showing the Customs revenue per’ head over a series of years in countries similarly circumstanced to Australia - say, Canada and the United States.
– That would not suit the purpose of the Government.
– But it is very necessary to our purpose, who have to safeguard the revenue and make provision for the expansion of the functions of the National Government. We ought to have this data supplied prior to, or accompanying, the Government explanation of the agreement.
– The revenue all depends on the Tariffs.
– On the Tariffs as applied to the total volume of imports into each country. If we are to reach an intelligent conclusion, we should know the numbers of the population, the total value of imports from foreign countries, and the average Tariff. Then, I think the Treasurer might easily obtain particulars, for the last fifteen or sixteen years, of the Tariff collections in the various States.
– We cannot make a comparison unless the Tariffs are the same.
– It is not difficult to find out what the average Tariff was in the various States. At any rate, we require the fullest information, which the right honorable gentleman seems very disinclined to give, although it must be readily accessible to his officers. Passing to another matter, namely, the much-discussed introduction of a Japanese doctor at Broome, speaking last evening, the honorable member for Boothby declared that the admission of this doctor was of no more importance than the admittance of an ordinary Japanese labourer or pearler. As the representative in this House of the people of Broome, I wholly, disagree with that expression of opinion. While I am opposed to the introduction of any Japanese into Australia, I would point out that the utmost effect of bringing in an individual Japanese labourer is to displace a labourer of our own race. That is admittedly unfortunate, yet the result goes no further. But the admission of this Japanese doctor may have much wider and more serious consequences. These do not endwhen he displaces the present medical practitioner at Broome, who. gives entire satisfaction to the whole population. His admission makes the entire white community, containing some women, dependent in illness or accident on a coloured professional man. This fact may surely be emphasized without one being suspected of any racial antipathy. It is repugnant to our natural instincts to have to depend in a delicate - and it may happen a dangerous - exigency on an alien practitioner whose qualifications may not inspire confidence and who imperfectly understands our language. At any rate, these considerations go to show that, there is no parallel between the introduction of an ordinary labourer and the. admission of this Japanese doctor.
– The honorable member’s own colleague, too !
– Well, what of that? I am only following, though at some distance, the frequent example set by the right honorable gentleman himself. We have seen him repeatedly offering, after he left the last Deakin Government, the most strenuous opposition to measures which he had helped them to incubate in Cabinet. If I err in reflecting on a late colleague, I do so in illustrious company. But I have really said nothing derogatory to my friend the honorable member for Boothby, who spoke without having heard my previous remarks, and who is probably unaware of the strong local feeling on this matter. Indeed, the honorable member himself admitted ‘that he had not full information on the subject. As to his further remark that he hoped honorable members who had resisted the admission of this Japanese doctor would be equally active in opposing the admisson of a Japanese labourer, it can have no reference to me. Nothing that I have ever done which could have been avoided; and nothing that I have left undone which might have been done, brings me within its scope. As to this point, I think the honorable member for Boothby spoke without intending any reflection ; while as to the former, I think he is in error in his conclusion, to which I again repeat my complete dissent.
– I would point out to the Treasurer that, when we were discussing the first Tariff, we had information as to the amount, per head of population, raised by Customs duties in other countries.
– It had not much influence on the discussions here.
– I used it, and the other information set before us, to the best of my ability for the advantage of Australian industries. I think that the return asked for should be given, and another return showing the amounts per head raised by the various States through the Customs prior to Federation. If the Government will not supply this information we shall have to move for a return, and if the morion is opposed, it will be known that Ministers are afraid of shedding light on the subject.
– I regret that I have no definite information as to when the agreement with the Premiers will be brought forward for discussion, though I believe that the Trime Minister contemplates the introduction of a measure at an early date, and may give notice of it on Tuesday.
– I shall object to go on with the Budget until that has been dealt with.
– I do not think that the information which has been asked for regarding Tariff results would be of much use. Something might be gained if we could apply the Australian Tariff rates to the imports of other countries, but such a return might cost a great deal to compile, and would not be of much use. However, I shall look into the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090827_reps_3_51/>.