3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Wireless Communication with ‘New Zealand - Postal Commission - Let- terbox Fronts - Works, Western Australia - Undergrounding of Telephone Wires, Fremantle.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether he will communicate with the Government of New Zealand with a view to arranging for the establishment of wireless telegraphic installations in. the Dominion and the Commonwealth to insure the maintenance of communication in time of war, should the cables be cut ?
– I have, had a brief communication with the Prime Minister of New Zealand on this question, and shall have pleasure in communicating with him again regarding it. He is now returning to the Dominion from the Imperial Naval Conference.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if, in his opinion, there is any prospect of the investigations of the Postal Commission being concluded at an early date, and if, before they are finished, he will take into consideration the advisability of suggesting a personal inquiry into the postal system of New Zealand?
– I am unable to express an opinion regarding the probable termination of the labours of the Postal Commission, and feel some delicacy about making any suggestion to its members. Perhaps the honorable member could bring the matter directly before them.
– On more than one occasion I have written to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department regarding private letter-boxes, and to-day I received the following reply : -
Owing to a shortage of private box fronts, and unavoidable delay in obtaining a supply from America, it has been found impossible to fully meet requirements of country post-offices.
Has the Postmaster- General, or the Department, at any time endeavoured to obtain private letter-box fronts locally? It is ridiculous to have to send to America for them.
– There has been a shortage in letter-box fronts for some time past, but since I have been in office a contract has been let for their supply. I have made inquiries as to whether they can be made in Australia, but have not received any very certain evidence on the subject. The execution of the contract cannot be delayed pending the determination of this question.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice - 1.If he is prepared to give any information as to the work tobe done in connexion with under-grounding the telephone wires and other works to be carried out by his Department at Fremantle?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Defence Bill - Chief of General Staff - Inspector- General - Drum-Major Rashleigh - Fremantle Military Quarters
– I wish to know from the Minister of Defence if the Defence Bill is vet ready?
– Yes, in a sense, though not yet quite ready for the House. I expect to introduce it in a day or two.
– That being the case, will the Minister take steps to. refute a statement appearing in the principal columns of the Argus this morning to the effect that he has been prevented by the state of business in the House from bringing down the Bill.
– I have not seen that statement.
– It is stated in the Argus that -
The Minister of Defence (Mr. Joseph Cook) has had to delay bringing down his Defence Bill owing to the slow progress of business in the House - and it is suggestedthat this is due to the action of the Opposition. Now that the honorable gentleman’s attention has been called to the matter, will he take steps to contradict this lamentably misleading statement ?
– I cannot undertake to correct every press mis-statement. The preparation of the Defence Bill has not depended on the business of the House. I hope to have the measure ready in a day or two.
– Is it the intention of the Minister to proceed with the Bill be- fore the honorable member for Brisbane returns from London ?
– I propose to proceed with the Bill within a few days.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
Training for war -
The Chief of the General Staff is also the Chief of the Commonwealth section of the Imperial General Staff.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : - 1 to 4. The District Commandant, Victoria, reports to the following effect :
No records exist prior to 1863.
The records show that he served as fol lowsJoined 1st Ballarat Volunteer Rifle Corps 1865.
Transferred to Geelong Artillery 1877.
Transferred to 1st Class Militia Reserve 1890, and is shown as serving therein for the years 1891,1892, 1893, and 1894.
As the 1st Class Militia Reserve ceased to exist in 1903 he is no longer a member of the Military Forces.
The distinctions for long service which are granted to Commonwealth soldiers serving in Victoria are as follow : -
Long and Efficient Service Medal, which is granted to members of the Victorian Military Forces for 15 years effective service and who started their service in a Volunteer Corps.
The Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal for 20 years’ effective service.
Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct for 18 years’ service in the Permanent Forces.
Ex-Drum-Major Rashleigh has been awarded (a) and (b), and is ineligible for (c).
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
If he will give instructions that Donnybrook freestone - which has been used with great success in other public buildings in Western Australia - shall be used in the construction of the new military quarters at Fremantle ?
– Yes; to such extent as it may be decided to use stone in the buildings.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be given on account of ill health to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs seen the statement in today’s Argus that a strike has taken place among the operatives of a Queensland sugar mill, and that farmers, bank officials, solicitors, dentists, civil servants and others are working to keep the mill going? Will he ascertain whether the statement is correct, and, if it is, whether the civil servants referred to are in the employ of the Commonwealth?
– I have not read the statement, but shall cause the desired inquiry to be made.
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following paper : -
Papua - Ordinance of 1909. - Timber (Consolidated).
Miners’ Accident Fund - Case of P. Boyham
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has been asked to advise as to whether payments under the Miners’ Accident Fund of New South Wales are to be treated as income under the Old-age Pensions Act.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to questions asked 8th September, re P. Boyham, will the Department explain why they paid is. for a fortnight instead of reducing it gradually ; also, did they expect this old-age pensioner to exist for a fortnight on such sum of is. ?
– An amount of 14s. 3d. was overpaid to the pensioner on account of a fraudulent statement made by him. No prosecution was instituted, but the Department took the first opportunity of recovering the amount overpaid.
Alleged Obstruction : Application of the Closure - Defence Bill - Gratuities to the Widows of Public Servants - Retiring Allowances - Oldage Pensions Administration - Insanitary Condition of Post Offices - Stores Supply and Tender Board, New South Wales - Payment of Minimum Wage by Contractors - Light Horse, Deniliquin and Condobolin Districts - Rifle Ranges - Mail Contract Regulations - Postal and Telephone Facilities in Rural Districts - Expert Investigation, Telephone Department - Public Ser vants’ Furlough and Holidays - Military Reserve, Liverpool - Supply Bills - Works and Buildings Estimates - Death of the Late Speaker : Newspaper Statements - Flinders Island : Post and Telegraph Service - Tasmanian Mail Service - Rifle Clubs and Military Forces : Efficients - Duties of Chief of General Staff and Inspector-General - Parcels Post : Contracts - Undergrounding of Telephone Wires : Rates of Wages - Naval Forces : Long Service and Good Conduct Badge - Coinage - Wireless Telegraphy : King and Flinders Islands.
In Committee of Supply :
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding ^562,017 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1910.
As honorable members on a former occasion seemed to desire it, I intend at this stage to make a few observations in connexion with the Supply Bill to be introduced. It covers expenditure necessary in connexion with the various votes appearing in the Estimates, which have been, or are still to be, considered by the Committee of Supply. Honorable members are aware that Estimates for additions, new works, and buildings to the amount of .£1,054,124 have already been dealt with, and that an amount of £1,721,208, representing special appropriations, covers statutory payments in connexion with which no action by the House is necessary at this time. A balance of £5,092,289 is included in the votes appearing in the Estimates for carrying on the” services of the various Departments of the Government. For this purpose temporary Supply to the extent of £562,017 is now being asked for. I am glad to be able to inform honorable members that so far the revenue of the Commonwealth from the two principal sources of Customs and Excise and the Post Office is well up to expectations. Up to the 7th of this month the Customs and Excise revenue of the present financial year exceeded the amount received during the corresponding period of last year by £ll:&4- The revenue from the Post Office, telegraphs, and telephones for the same period shows an increase of .£44,436 on the amount received from these sources during the corresponding period of last year. The estimate presented by the Government of revenue from Customs and Excise for the whole year showed a decrease on the revenue received during the previous year of .£43,985, but up to the 7th of this month the actual receipts show an increase on the previous year’s figures of £77,384. In was estimated that the revenue from the Post and Telegraph Department would exceed that of the previous year by £140,993, and up to the date mentioned we received towards making good that estimate an increase upon the revenue received last year of £44,436. It will therefore be seen that on the results from the first two months and seven days of the current financial year the prospect that the estimated revenue for the year will be realized is excellent. I shall be very glad to give any information that honorable members desire in regard to the Bill. It contains no unusual provisions, and covers merely the votes required for one month for carrying on the services of the various Departments.
.- I judge, by the amount asked for, that the Bill is intended to cover one month’s supply.
– That is so.
– I congratulate the Treasurer on the fact that, from a revenue point of view, the operations of the first two months and seven days of the current financial year have been satisfactory. In a generous mood, I might say that doubtless the increase in the revenue is due to the fact that the Fusion Government have been in office. I am satisfied that the members of the Government are as willing to accept flattery of that kind as they are ready to heap unmerited condemnation on the Opposition. Amongst the pettinesses which have been displayed in this Parliament are the statements of various members of the Government regarding the Opposition. I do not think that, in my parliamentary experience, I remember ever before to have known Ministers so ready, both outside and inside the House, to give the public the impression that they are prevented from carrying on the business of the country by the actions of honorable members in Opposition. I do not think I ever knew a body of men, so competent otherwise, who were so anxious to misrepresent the position of their opponents in order to excuse their own impotence as a Government.
– Do not say that.
– I am glad to see the Minister of Defence present.
– The honorable member is a fine man to suggest impotence on our part.
– If the Minister of Defence will allow me to say so, I am pleased that he did not receive serious injury in the accident which recently befell him. Our fight, after all, is a political, and not a personal, one. As for the suggestion of impotence on my own part, he knows in his own mind, whether he will admit it or not, that no threats have ever been able to influence my judgment. Since the honorable gentleman has called attention to himself, I should like to draw attention to the fact that a member of the Ministry to whom we are asked to grant Supply has told the public that they are going to stifle discussion in this House; that they are going to apply the “gag;” that they are going to compel the expression of .their views in legislation, not by reason or argument, but bv using a majority that was not obtained on any policy put before the country. That majority was obtained by compromising on political principles, with the object, openly and avowedly admitted by the leaders, of protecting their seats, at the next general election. The honorable member for Maribyrnong and the .honorable member for Bourke know that that is so.
– I do not.
– The admission was openly made by the Prime Minister.
– Is the honorable member sure that he is not dreaming ?
– The honorable gentleman has said that the Government are kept in duress by a minority in this House, and that they are going to apply the “gag.” My reply to that, here as it has been outside, is, “ Let them, proceed in their own way.” But could a more paltering position be taken up by a Government than that which has been adopted by the present Ministry in relation to the Defence Bill? More than a month ago, the Minister of Defence applied for leave to introduce the Bill, but we have not yet seen it. The Prime Minister some six months ago waxed eloquent about the necessity of calling Parliament together at once to deal with the important question of defence, and yet the Defence Bill has not yet been submitted. Does that not indicate impotence or something worse on the part of the Government ?
– What has the honorable member to say as to the impotence of his own Government, which remained in office for something like eight months, and did not produce one Bill? That was both impotent and impudent.
– I hope that the honorable member will not lose his temper. He knows full well that we had a draft Defence Bill ready. The honorable member would endeavour to lead the people to believe that the Labour Government had an opportunity to introduce that and other measures, when, as a matter of fact, honorable members opposite, for reasons best known to themselves, prevented the Government proceeding with any measures. Whatever they may say of us in other respects, they cannot say that we were lacking in courage. The first and only Bill that we had an opportunity to introduce remains on the notice-paper. Had the opportunity offered, we should have introduced others.
– Poor things ! It is time that this whining was stopped.
– I think that it is time that the honorable member stopped whining. Poor thing !
– The honorable member has not ceased whining since he has been in Opposition.
– It is not long since that the honorable member for Parramatta, in a speech at Ipswich, referred to the present Prime Minister and his party as fowls out in the rain ; few, wet, and feeble ! Then again, the right honorable member for Swan, when in the Opposition corner, used to breathe out threatenings against the Prime Minister for continuing to pass legislation with the support of the Labour party.
– I never threatened the Prime Minister.
– The right honorable member said that as long as the Prime Minister received the support of the Labour party he would decline to give him any assistance in passing legislation.
– I did not say that.
– The right honorable gentleman, despite his ability, wit, and good nature, sometimes lost his temper when sitting in the Opposition corner, and threatened the Prime Minister for continuing in office with the support of the Labour party.
– I did not threaten the Prime Minister. I was always on excellent terms with him.
– I quite agree that the Prime Minister possesses an affable man ner, which enables him to keep on friendly terms, personally, with all with whom he is associated politically.
– Was the Treasurer friendly with the Prime Minister when he forsook him while he was on a bed of sickness ?
– I do not propose to revert to the time when the Treasurer left the former Deakin Ministry; but the Prime Minister will admit that whilst he was ill, and in political difficulties, he did not lack the support of our party.
– The Labour party turned him out of office.
– From time to time the Prime Minister received private warnings long before we intimated to the House the reasons why the Labour party could not continue to support his Government.
– The fact, not the reason, was stated.
– Must I read again the detailed reasons given as to why the Labour party could not continue to support the former Deakin Administration?
– I should be glad to see them in print. I do not remember having heard them.
– The Prime Minister has the most convenient memory of any man in the ‘Commonwealth.
– The reasons were given in ample detail in this House. I do not say that the suggestion that they were not given is a wilful misrepresentation ; but I repeat that they were fully stated at the time, and that the language employed should have satisfied any reasonable person who was prepared to draw fair conclusions from it. I said that we, as a party, had continued to support the Government of the day as long as we could do so in the public interest.
– As long as the Labour party could get what they wanted out of them they supported them.
– ‘What did we desire to obtain from that Government? Nothing more than the passing of legislation which we had, pledged ourselves to our constituents to support. We had pledged ourselves to endeavour to carry certain legislation, and we entered this House determined to attempt to do so. Some members of the present Ministry, as well as others sitting behind them, were returned pledged practically to the same principles. Where are they to-day? They are associated with those who spent most of their time on the public platform villifying the propositions of the Prime Minister and those who supported him.
– It is antonishing that we never understood it !
– It is not more astonishing than some other events in the House. I do not desire to go into ancient history, but I can remember the Prime Minister’s speech at Ballarat before the Reid-McLean Government was turned out. Everybody read that speech in one way except the Prime Minister himself.
– There was a casual statement made, without a chance of contradiction.
– It was a correct statement.
– It was absolutely incorrect.
– I disagree with the Prime Minister, because, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, it was regarded as a notice to quit to the Government.
– That opinion may have been expressed ; but the honorable member puts it forward as a fact, and that I challenge.
– The Prime Minister knows that I never challenged his word at any time, nor do I now, when he says it was not his intention to oust the Ministry. I am putting the statement forward as a counter to what is being said by members of the present Government.
– How did the Prime Minister act ? .That is the thing.
– That belongs to the dead past.
– It belongs to the living present.
– I regard it as belonging to the past. As a party we supported the present Prime Minister’s measures afterwards, and made it possible for him to remain in office. I make no complaint on the score of his leaving the Labour party ; every honorable member is entitled to leave a party when he thinks that, by so doing, he can better observe his pledges and act in the interests of the country. It has been said that the Labour party assigned no reasons for withdrawing their support from the Deakin Government ; but speaking on the nth November, 1908, in this Chamber, as reported in Hansard, Vol. XLVIII., p. 2136, I said -
I desire to intimate to the House, and to the country, that which I have already privately intimated to the Prime Minister; that the Labour Party can no longer support the Government. I can only say that our relations with the Ministry, personally, have been of the most friendly character. Although from time to time embarrassing circumstances have arisen, we have always endeavoured to cooperate in every possible way with the Government in regard to matters that we thought concerned the welfare of the Commonwealth. There have been situations of embarrassment in which I have always sought, to the best of my ability, to safeguard the interests of the Parliament, and the well-being of the country. Whilst I freely admit “that we have frequently felt the restraint that a large party such as ours must feel in difficult circumstances, I, personally, have always held that, occupying the position that we do, we must treat any Government situated as this Ministry is, in a perfectly straightforward manner. We are taking this course now, because it is, to our minds, one of decency, and of order. The time might come when one party or the other might take such action as would create a crisis, in circumstances that would render it impossible for the country to learn exactly how the situation arose. I have endeavoured, whilst safeguarding the interests of the Commonwealth, to restrain yith- in reasonable bounds .any adverse criticism, and now that I can no longer do that, T think that I am performing what is more a public that a party duty in telling the House and the country the determination at which we have arrived. I have stated our position as plainly as I can, and have only to add that in taking the course which T did ‘during a previous crisis, I had the support of my party, the members of which felt that until at least the Tariff was dealt with there rested upon us the public duty of giving the Government a reasonable support in every situation that a party placed as they were and are might find themselves in.
– I cannot see any reasons given in that extract.
– The best of all reasons - the public interests. Our party was split once or twice; and the Government unfortunately were defeated. The Government were practically breaking up, as is shown by the fact that, on a matter of the greatest public importance, concerning the Ministry, the Prime Minister decided that, instead of voting, he would walk out. Surely that was a difficult situation for one in my position to meet.
– That was a different situation altogether.
– But my party had to decide between one of two courses. In my opinion, it was impossible, in the case of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who was then Postmaster-General, ‘for the Prime Minister to leave his Minister, and allow the matter to be decided by the House ; and the time had undoubtedly come when a perfectly straightforward course had to be taken. If honorable members wish to know whether there was any secret compact between the Labour party and the Prime Minister, I say at once that there was not ; and I need not repeat what I have said a hundred times, both privately and publicly, that no dishonorable request was at any time made by my party at the head of the Government. Again and again it was said by the Opposition that there was a secret compact,, under which pressure was brought to bear on the Prime Minister ; but I say there was nothing ‘of the kind.
– Hear, hear !
– Whatever differences of opinion there might be, we could fight them on a high and honorable plane.
– - I think I have heard of the honorable member saying that he forced the Prime Minister to pass the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– I do not think that I was ever heard to use such words. Unfortunately, I am not the only person, who, by reason of a condensed report, has been made to express views more definite and drastic than any uttered. At any rate, we are asked to vote a month’s supply to a Government in which we do not believe. We should, of course, vote the money cheerfully ; the Government being the only party that can advise the representative of the Crown, Ave must reluctantly give them Supply. I rose, however, principally to point out that since the last Supply Bill was passed, the Government have gone out of their way to give away to the States the best interests of the Commonwealth. There have taken place since the previous Supply, which, I presume, has practically been exhausted, actions by the Government which the party on this side can neither support nor condone. I am of the opinion that the country has suffered very greatly by the combination that now occupies the Ministerial benches, and it is deplorable that an opportunity was not afforded to the country to give its decision on the action of the Fusion party on that occasion. Of course, sooner or later honorable members must go to their constituents ; and, I think, the sooner the better. Reverting again to the threat of the honorable member for Parramatta, who is not only the second man in the Ministry, but, as I understand it, claims equal rights with the Prime Minister-
– I made no threat.
– If ‘the honorable member says that he did not say that the gag was to be applied to the Opposition, in order to press through the measures on the notice-paper, he should correct me at once. I have read the same words attributed to the honorable gentleman in three different papers. He had to admit to-day that he had not brought down his Defence Bill. What can we say of an honorable member like that ? The Government want to put another Bill on the notice-paper, when they are making no reasonable attempt to go on with the measures already there. As a Government, they are piling up a large number of measures on the notice-paper, with no distinct or definite desire to go on with any of them. I have discovered what is being whispered around the country by people on behalf of the Government. It is said that the Government cannot get on with business, that they cannot do anything, and on that ground they are appealing to the sympathy of the people. I have heard statements made concerning the obstructive tactics of honorable members on this side, and I have heard, particularly, that the honorable member for Hume has been blamed for outrages in this Parliament that never took place; and that, too, by people who pretend to truthfulness and, many of them, to high religious feeling. Such statements are whispered around, and many persons believe to this day, that the death of the late Speaker was caused by the action of the honorable member. Could anything be more humiliating to a national Parliament than such ideas as that? To what a pass has the Fusion party come when it has to agree to tactics of that sort ! Has a single member on the Ministerial side of the House risen and done justice to the honorable member for Hume? Not one.
– I do not want their help.
– I do not say that they should give the honorable member help; but there are such things as abstract justice and fairness. They know, as well as we do, that the statements made and believed by thousands and tens of thousands of persons outside are absolutely untrue. A word from any one of honorable members opposite would settle the whole question; but they prefer to take the political advantage that arises from a misapprehension in the minds of the people. Do they call it honorable to slink behind misstatements of that kind? While we may be gagged and our argu- ments stopped in this House, there are platforms in the country on which we can find room to stand, and it will be with this Government as it has been with every other party of the same kind. They may live for a brief day ; they may bask in the sunshine of office vhiie misunderstandings and misbeliefs exist in the minds of the people outside ; but the time will come when they will have to face their electors, and then their fate will be decided. Regarding the request for Supply, I should like to ask the Treasurer whether the amounts are based on the Estimates of last yea.r?
.- The Minister of Defence has contracted a habit, during the last few weeks, of putting in the week-ends in making a number of observations which he lacks courage to make on the floor of this House. No doubt, that is his idea of humour ; but repeated doses of it are becoming rather insipid. I wish to enter a protest against it, and even go so far as to suggest to the honorable member the necessity of confining himself, as far as is possible for him, to facts, and of embroidering these as little as possible. When he confined his idea of a week-end recreation to revelations to the press of one State, we endured it ; but now that he has contrived to spill himself over into two States, the matter becomes intolerable. I think there is some sort of excuse for the honorable member for what he says in New South Wales, because the press of that State is very keen, alert, and eager for information. 1 11 formation oozes out of him-
– The honorable member gives them two columns a week.
– I am dealing with the honorable member. He will have an opportunity afterwards of dealing with me. I do not object to that in the slightest; in fact, nothing entertains me more, provided that I have my “go,” than the honorable member dealing with me.
– I do not object.
– The honorable member will have to keep quiet while I am speaking, or go out. Some excuse, as I said, is permitted to the honorable member so far as Sydney is concerned ; but in Melbourne it is otherwise. When the Minister of Defence permitted himself to say on Saturday that the Lloyd George Budget differed altogether from the proposals of the Fisher Government to impose direct taxation - inasmuch as the Lloyd George Budget contemplated the substitution of direct for indirect taxation, whereas the proposals of the Fisher Government related to additional taxation - he made a statement which we all know is quite untrue. Everybody knows that the Lloyd George Budget deals exclusively with proposals for levying additional taxation - and for this- very reason it is meeting with very considerable criticism in England. Events have moved very rapidly since we last met here. It was only the other day that the Minister of Defence separated from us, but since then he -has been thrown out of a vehicle going at full speed, and landed on his feet - a most amazing feat to be performed by a gentleman who is so light-headed.
– That is why he landed on his feet.
– Then yesterday he found himself at an afternoon tea party, and being quite unused to such functions, he mistook it for a salon. The resemblance between the two things is about as great as that between a laughing jackass and a full grown emu. The honorable gentleman finding himself in this giddy atmosphere and surrounded by persons whom we must charitably suppose are totally ignorant of the subject upon which he spoke, ventured into the morasses of party politics - as he understood them - to an extent which he has not done here.
– He ought to know all about them, seeing that he has been a member of every political party.
– Quite so.
– I have not belonged to more parties than have some honorable members opposite.
– On many occasions, I have ventured to ask the honorable gentleman his ideas about defence, but he has resolutely declined to express them. Yesterday, however, in the fullest possible way, he told them to a number of ladies at an afternoon tea party. There was not a detail which he did not expose, not a turning into which he did not meander, not a culdesac in which he did not stick. To-day he meets us with a smile upon his face, being evidently under the impression that it is the smile which British statesmen are wont to assume upon coming out of salons. I take absolute exception to his conduct in this connexion. If he has anything to say upon defence, this is the place in which he should say it. His statements should be made, not at an afternoon tea party, but upon the floor of this House. -Here, however, he does nothing except make asinine, inane, and insulting interjections. He has recently declared that the Government are going to use the “ gag,” and I understand that they have decided to confine its use to members of the Ministry, and to tried and tested supporters thereof. The Minister of Defence seeks to impose on the credulity of the electors by leading them to suppose that the Government would do some work but foi the Opposition. I take up a copy of the business-paper-
– It ought to be photographed.
– Nothing but a cinematograph can encompass its inordinate and rapidly growing length. Its tail is the only thing of importance upon it, and that was put there by the Fisher Government. The business-paper does not contain one solitary measure dealing with the policy of the Government except the wretched proposal to hand over to the States the Commonwealth .bound body and soul for ever. That is the only effort which they have made at giving effect to their policy during the past few months. What has prevented them from going on with their policy? Yesterday afternoon the Minister of Defence spoke upon the subject of defence. But what has he done in reference to it? Where is the Defence Bill ? He knows perfectly well that when he sat upon this side of the chamber he opposed every effort made by the gentleman who is now his leader - or, perhaps, his follower - to deal with the subject of defence. Yet he now talks about defence as if he understood it. He declares that he is in favour of some sort of compulsory training, but of what sort he does not say. We have a right to expect the Government to conduct the business of the country in a business-like fashion. On the top of the notice-paper to-day appears the following notice of motion, in the name of the Prime Minister -
That on each sitting day, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take place of private members’ business.
Why was the consideration of that notice of motion postponed ? Simply because the Government have not a sufficient number of supporters present to carry it. Why do they not apply the gag now? Merely because they have not the numbers to enable them to do it. That is all. I regret that the Postmaster-General is not present, be cause I desire to bring a matter of some importance under his notice. It has reference to a general principle relating to public servants. When an officer has been in the Public Service for a certain number of years, and retires, he is, under certain circumstances, entitled to a retiring allowance. But if he has been in the Public Service for the same number of years, and happens to die in harness, his widow is not entitled to anything. The particular cases which I have in mind occurred within the Postmaster-General’s Department, but they concern the whole of our Commonwealth service, and I think that Parliament ought to lay down some rule in connexion with them. When an officer has served a certain term of years in the Public Service he is entitled, upon retiring, to a gratuity.
– Under State law.
– Quite so.
– That is provided for by the Constitution.
– But if a man who has been in the service thirty years dies in harness leaving a widow she receives nothing. Had he resigned, and had his resignation been accepted while he was in articulo mortis his widow would have received a gratuity. It seems to me that what we require to do is to establish a rule. The widow of an old servant who during his life would have been entitled to an allowance on retiring, should get a gratuity upon his death. Of course, that rule could apply only to officers who had been sufficiently long in the service to entitle them to the allowance. I will quote three cases. I can supply the names to the Treasurer privately ; I have reasons for not supplying them publicly. One man was a postmaster; another was the head of the shipping branch of the mail sorting Department of , the General Post Office^ Both officers had been in the service over twenty-three years. They died in harness, leaving widows and families. No allowance or gratuity could be given to their widows, owing to the fact that the officers had not retired before they died. The Government were approached, but the usual official stereotyped reply was forthcoming, that the regulations did not provide for such cases and nothing could be done. But it appears to me that it is perfectly in accordance with justice that the widow of an officer who has faithfully served his country for so long a period as to entitle him to a retiring allowance had he retired during life, should get some recognition when he is cut off while actually in the service. Another case is that of a. linesman, killed while following his occupation. Perhaps it is proposed by the Post and Telegraph Department to deal with that case satisfactorily.
– But there ought to be a general rule based upon the sound principle which is embodied in the Workmen’s Compensation Act of Great Britain - a measure which admirably expresses the principle that ought to underlie the relations between an employer and an employs. That principle is that when an employe loses his life in the discharge of his duties, whether the employer is directly responsible through negligence or otherwise, the duty is cast upon the employer to do something to compensate the next-of-kin of the deceased. Where the injury to the employe is not fatal the compensation granted in England amounts, roughly speaking, to the equivalent of three years’ salary or wages. The principle of the Workmen’s Compensation Act of Great Britain embodies the most up-to-date law inthe British Dominions dealing with this question. It is that principle which I say ought to be adopted in the Commonwealth Public Service. An officer who is temporarily or permanently incapacitated -I do not mean through passing sickness - ought to be treated as a workman is treated under the Workmen’s Compensation Act of Great Britain, and in case of death his next-of-kin should get an equivalent of three years’ salary. The same principle should apply to persons who would have been entitled to a retiring allowance had they not died in harness. The first case which I have mentioned is that of the postmaster who had been in the service thirty-seven years. He was as truly killed while following his occupation as though he had been hit on the head by a falling beam. He lived in premises that were unwholesome. I have been into the office many times. Here I would call the attention of the Postmaster- General to the disgracefully insanitary condition of many post-offices in New South Wales. I went into a post-office in Oxford-street, Sydney, only recently. I have many times complained about the conditions under which shop girls have had to work in the large drapery establishments, but I declare that this post-office absolutely reeked with the vilest odours to such an extent that it was impossible for one not habituated to such an atmosphere to stay on the premises without nausea. There is an office in George-street the conditions of which are very bad in the matter of ventilation and ordinary accommodation. The man to whom I refer was undoubtedly killed through constantly breathing bad air and through insanitary accommodation. But his widow gets nothing. We properly boast that we recognise the duty that an employer owes to his servants, and the Commonwealth ought not to be behind-hand in setting an example to other employers. We ought not to leave it to the Department to settle these cases. The Department is naturally against doing anything for anybody, on the ground that it has not sufficient money at its disposal. That is a reason that cannot be lightly disregarded. The Post and Telegraph Department, as a matter of fact, does suffer from want of funds. If £500 were given to the widow of a man there would be so much less to spend on telephones. But such a matter ought not to be left to the recommendation of the Department. There ought to be a rule having the force of law ; and that rule ought to be based upon the principle I have just indicated. Another matter which I should like to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral has regard to contracts for the conveyance and delivery of materials for and on behalf of the Public Service. With respect to the conveyance of materials for the honorable gentleman’s Department, a certain firm quite recently tendered under the terms of the schedule, which I hold in my hand, and which was supplied by the Stores Supply and Tender Board, New South Wales. The amount of the tender was below the price set forth in the schedule, but it was not accepted, and the tenderer received a letter, dated the 17th August last, in which he was told that following the practice, the Department had arranged with a certain firm for the conveyance of all parcels weighing less than five hundredweight at its contract price, and had not accepted a tender in theterms of the schedule. The letter contained a statement to the effect that it was not intended to vary this arrangement during the currency of the contract. I cannot understand why the tender of the man who offered to carry goods at 5 per cent. below the rate of the other firm was not even considered, nor can I understand how the Stores Supply and Tender Board of New South. Wales is able to call for tenders, and the Department to ignore them, making an arrangement with an outside firm. Since both firms are working under the same award there can be no question of sweating, as they are compelled to pay the same rate of wages. It is the business of the State to get its work done as cheaply as it can, and it ought not to enter into an arrangement which involves an expenditure of 5 per cent-, more than it need pay. That I think is a perfectly sound principle, and if it has been departed from we should be furnished with an explanation. I beg to hand to the Minister the letter, together with the schedule, only asking that he will not mention the names of the persons. I desire to refer to the administration of the Old-Age Pensions Act. Quite a number of applicants are daily complaining that deductions are made in respect to the amount of pension paid, which, it seems to me, are not warranted by the terms of the Act. Referring not to the capital value of an applicant’s property, but to his income, the amount of pension paid appears to be based upon section 24 which reads -
There we have a definite basis that, together with the amount obtained from elsewhere, the income must not be more than £52 a year. The strangest and most unsympathetic interpretation of the law is being given by the officers. I have already brought before the notice of the Treasurer the case of an Imperial pensioner. He had the misfortune to do something more than shout hurrah for the Empire; he fought through the Crimean and several minor wars for Great Britain, and received a pension. Because he received that pension the administrative officer declined to give him an old-age pension. Of course, such an interpretation was hopelessly wrong, and the Commissioner has, I understand, fixed up the case. There are cases occurring every day in which men and women have earned money during the year. For instance, on Sunday a woman related her case to me. She had been so thoughtless as to work during the past year, and, although she was eligible for a pension, yet, owing to the way in which the Act is administered she will receive no pension next year merely on the ground that she had earned an amount which, together with her board, covered £^52 a year. The Act in no way countenances such an interpretation. The Department has no business to estimate the income of a person for the year in which a pension is applied for by his income for the previous year.
– Those persons can apply again.
– Of course they can, but if on application the right honorable gentleman could not get his dinner to-day, and was told to apply again next 3rear, what would he think?
– What ‘ suggestion does the honorable member offer ?
– What an applicant earned in the previous year has nothing to do with the case. Only what he earns during the year in which he receives the pension should be considered.
– We do not know what that is. .
– No, but it is susceptible of adjustment every fortnight or month. When a pensioner came up for his pension the officer could ask, “ Have you earned anything during the past fortnight or month?” and if the answer was “yes “ or “no” he could say, “Your pension can only be so much.”
– It is not left to the paymaster, but to the Commissioner to fix the amount.
– Take this case. A well-conducted man. sixty-six years of age, and a life-long teetotaller, had been so foolish as to work. When he applied for a pension the Department said, “ No, you earned £60 last year.”
– Why was he foolish ?
– According to the interpretation put upon the Act by the Department, he isi a fool. If a man was a loafer last year and earned nothing he gets a pension, but if he worked last year he gets nothing. A man or a woman is asked. “What did you earn last year?” and if the applicant replies “ I earned £52,” no pension is allowed.
– A man can apply to have his case opened again.
– Of course he can, but the question is how is he to live in the meantime. When the Statewas administering the law I wrote to Mr. Clegg, the administrative officer, on the subject, and he said, “ . I advise the man not to take the pension now, as he would get only1s. 6d. a week ; whereas if he were to come up in six months’ time he would get 7s. 6d. per week.” I asked him how he thought the man could live in the meanwhile, and he replied that he did not know. The woman to whom. I have referred, though a most deserving applicant, will get nothing unless the Act is administered more sympathetically. I do not know whether honorable members realize that the law is being interpreted in this way.
– Why do not those who have complaints write to the Commissioner ?
– The pensioners are old persons who, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, cannot even fill up their own forms. Every week I fill up six or seven such forms, and, no doubt, other honorable members do the same. One rebuff is sufficient to dishearten these unfortunate persons. As the right honorable member knows, the deserving poor are more easily rebuffed than any class on earth, while the undeserving, whether poor or rich, cannot be rebuffed. In my opinion, an interpretation is being put upon the Act which is unwarrantable. It is not fair to determine this year’s pension by the amount earned last year. I think, too, that the fact that an applicant is drawing an Imperial pension should not affect his claim to an old-age pension.
– An Imperial pension is income.
– I believe that the Act does not apply to such pensions. If the honorable member thinks that the small percentage of men who, having fought for the Empire, have obtained an Imperial pension, should be robbed of old-age pensions, I do not.
– An Imperial pensioner might be drawing £100 a year.
– That would be a different matter. I am speaking of private soldiers whose Imperial pensions would at the most not exceed 10s. a week. Certainly, last year’s earnings should not be taken into account by officials. This year the right honorable gentleman is a Minister of the Crown and has a certain income; but no one knows what will be his position next year. All that the Act says is that the pensioners shall not receive more than £52 per annum. It is not so interpreted.
– It ought to be. Let the honorable member give me a case.
– I can give the right honorable member fifty.
– I am prepared to look into them.
.- I have received the following letter from the Defence Department : -
With reference to your representations in Parliament regarding the employment of boy labour in connexion with the painting and cleaning of ammunition carts, &c, I beg to inform you that the Military Commandant, Victoria, reports as follows : -
No contract has Been entered into,but quotations were called for the painting of 45 vehicles, and the lowest, viz. - that of Messrs. Stokan and Wilmot, Cliff-street, South Yarrawas accepted.
The Senior Ordnance Officer states that 27 vehicles were painted at the Ordnance Store and 18 at the factory, and that he has no knowledge of boy labour being engaged for this work.
In the first session of the first Parliament, the following resolution was. adopted on my motion : -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of the Government to make provision in all its contracts for the payment of a minimum rate of wage, and for the fixing of a maximum number of hours of labour.
– I direct attention to the state of the Committee. The Treasurer should be here. [Quorum formed.]
– My point is that the whole spirit and intention of that resolution might easily be frustrated if it became the practice of the Department of Defence, or any other Department of the Government, merely to accept the lowest tender for a particular work without imposing conditions as to the way in which the work should be carried out. According to the letter which I have quoted, the firm in question knew nothing of the conditions under which the work for which they tendered should be carried out.
– Does the honorable member say that Messrs. Stokan and Wilmot employ boy labour? They are a very reputable firm.
– I am obliged to the honorable member for his interjection, because it enables me to say that I do not know of anything wrong in connexion with the carrying out of this contract. But if the lowest tender for work is to be accepted without conditions of contract being applied all sorts of evasions of the minimum wage and maximum hours conditions mav occur.
– The conditions were evaded in the making of. clothing for the Post and Telegraph Department under the honorable member’s administration.
– No ; nothing of the kind occurred under my administration. ‘
– The Postal Commission received sworn evidence of the fact in Sydney.
– What did occur under my ‘administration was that when I found that contracts were being let in States in which there were no Wages Boards’ rates fixed, and no award of an Arbitration Court applied, as in Tasmania, where very low rates of wages were being paid in carrying out Government contracts, I caused a clause to be inserted in all such contracts for the Post and Telegraph Department to the effect that the rates and conditions fixed in the nearest State in which a standard had been laid down by an Arbitration Court or Wages Board should be observed in the carrying out of the contract. The Minister of Defence will see the danger of the practice of accepting the lowest tender put in, and imposing no conditions as to the carrying out of the contract. I make no charge against the firm of Stokan and Wilmot, but mention the case merely to point to the possibility of abuse creeping in as a result of the practice to which I have directed attention.
.- There are one or two matters which I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee and especially of the Minister of Defence. In common, I suppose, with other honorable members, I noted what the honorable gentleman said’ yesterday when addressing a meeting of ladies at Lady Best’s salon, on the necessity for the efficient defence of Australia. However the honorable gentleman and I may differ, as we do widely on most things, I can ‘assure him that he will have no warmer supporter than myself if he proves as Minister of Defence to be possessed by an ardent desire to put the defence of Australia in an efficient condition as rapidly as possible.
– The honorable gentleman will have a big job.
– It is a job which a patriotic Minister would not hesitate to undertake, and in which he might hope to succeed.
– We have seen no effort in that direction yet.
– Exactly. I do not blame the present Minister of Defence in connexion with the matter to which I now intend to refer, because I have hot yet received a reply from the honorable gentleman to the representations which I have made to him in writing. Honorable members will be aware that the reason given for the proposed alteration in our defence system was that the voluntary system had failed. The statement has been made in this House on many occasions that the voluntary system cf defence has proved to be a failure, and the present Prime Minister, in one of his addresses on the question, dwelt very strongly upon that statement. Why has the voluntary system failed? Is its failure due to the people or to the Department that has been called upon to deal with these matters? Some years ago a number of my constituents, in that part of Riverina which is embraced by the Deniliquin district, expressed an ardent desire to take part in the defence of Australia should their services ever be needed. They communicated with me on the subject, and I placed their application to be allowed to form a corps before the Department just as they represented the matter to me. I venture to say that it would be impossible to establish a better corps of mounted infantry in any part of Australia than might be established in the Riverina district. It may well be said of the youngmen of that district that they live in the saddle. They are of good physique, thorough horsemen, and inured to all kinds of weather. A mounted corps might be formed amongst them of which any nation might be proud. I was repeatedly informed that it was not possible to form a corps from that very large district of New South Wales, because they could not connect with any other military unit in the State. The reason for that was that the provincial policy of those who thought more of Sydney than of New South Wales would not permit of railway extension, which would have enabled that to be done.
– Another argument for unification.
Mr. Thomas Brown. The same objection was raised in connexion with applications to form corps at places with which there is railway communication.
– I was not aware of that. I believe I shall be able, -before I sit down, to show how unjustly the residents of the Riverina district have been treated. I think I shall also be able to show . that other districts have been favoured. It appears to me that, in establishing new corps, the intention of the Department has been - I will not say that it is so now - to accept the services only of corps that might easily be managed in connexion with those that have already been established, chiefly in and around large centres of population. Every difficulty has been placed in the way of the establishment of corps in inside districts, where men of real grit and stamina offer theirservices in the defence of their country. Though I pressed the application of the residents of the Riverina district, and it was backed up by leading men of every class, and of every shade of political opinion. I found I could make no headway in the matter. The Department said that the nearest military unit to which they could be attached was at Cootamundra, and that the acceptance of the service offered would prove too expensive. In Riverina, not one squadron of light horse, but several, could be established without difficulty. Men of the very best class there are willing to offer their services, but every application they have made for leave to establish a squadron has been refused. Almost immediately after this latest refusal on the part of the military authorities in New South Wales, several vacancies occurred in the service - one- of them in New South Wales - but, although I brought the matter under the notice of the authorities, nothing eventuated. The present Postmaster-General has been more successful in connexion with an effort to establish a squadron of light horse at Bendigo.I am not suggesting that any favoritism was shown; I am simply pointing out the defects of the system. A few monthsafter an unsuccessful application had been made for the formation of a squadron of light horse at Deniliquin he succeeded in obtaining the consent of the Department to establish a squadron at Bendigo. Is our military system still to be conducted on provincial lines, or are we going to allow military units to be formed, regardless of State boundaries ? Deniliquin is connected by rail with Melbourne, but not with the State railway system. Local residents have applied without success for an extension of the State system to that town, and proposals to make the necessary connexion by means of private enterprise have also been unavailing. Quite recently, I communicated with the Defence Department, asking what forms had to be complied with in order that a squadron might be established at Deniliquin, the agitation in connexion with the movement having been renewed. In reply I received from the Department a letter to the effect that it would be necessary first of all to call a public meeting and pass resolutions affirming the desirableness of forming a corps. Those resolutions would then have to be sent to the State Commandant, who would forward them to the Military Board, and they would finally go before the Minister.
– A rather roundabout way.
– Quite so ; but I was prepared to use the Departmental machinery as I found it. This information having been conveyed to the principals in the movement, a public meeting was called, and was one of the largest and most enthusiastic that had been held in Deniliquin for many years. The suggestions made by the Department were closely followed. A copy of the resolutions passed, together with reports of the meeting, was sent to the State Commandant, and I propose now to read from the oldest newspaper circulating in the district the reply receivedfrom the State Commandant and its comments thereon. Under the heading “ Patriotism Unappreciated “ the following article appeared : -
Those who took part in the enthusiastic meeting which was held last week to take steps to establish a light horse squadron in this district will have good reason to be disgusted with the attitude of the Defence Department, in view of the receipt of the following letter on thesubject-
Then followed the letter received from the State Commandant -
Military Forces of the Commonwealth, New South Wales. District head-quarters, Victoria Barracks, Sydney, 1st September, 1909. Sir, - I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your communication of the 28th ultimo on the subject of the formation of a squadron of light horse in the Deniliquin district, and to inform you that the District Commandant, while recognising with pleasure the patriotism displayed by the residents, regrets that he is unable to recommend the raising of any additional troops in the State in consequence of the establishments authorized by Parliament being complete. - I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant, George L. Lee, Bt.-Lt.-Col., for Assistant Adjutant-General, C.M.F. of N.S.W.
He thanked them for their patriotism ! The people asked, not for a compliment of that kind, but for an opportunity to fit themselves to take part in the defence of their country. The newspaper comment on this letter was as follows : -
The above communication should not be allowed to damp the ardour of the patriotic citizens of Deniliquin who have taken this matter up. . . . There is an undoubted desire on the part of many residents in this district to establish a squadron of light horse, so that they may qualify themselves to take an active part- in the defence of the country, but when their efforts meet with such a response from the Defence Department, it is very evident they can expect but little encouragement from this source. Ministers and members of Parliament go about the country mouthing platitudes and sentiment about patriotism and the need for the formation of active corps in the country to be prepared to defend the Commonwealth, but the hypocrisy of it all is shown in this delightful sample of the encouragement extended to patriotically-disposed people by the Government ! It is all very well for easychair officials to express pleasure with th, patriotism displayed by the residents of Deniliquin, but that sort of cheap condescension was not asked for. We want the resolution passed at the public meeting last week put into practical shape by the authorities, and we do not for .1 moment doubt that that fact will be impressed upon the tired or apathetic Defence Department in no uncertain manner.
That is a fair indication of the local feeling. But to show that there is absolute unanimity in regard to this matter throughout the district, let me add a quotation from the Deniliquin Chronicle, a newspaper whose political views are quite opposed to those of the Pastoral Times, from which I have already read. In its issue of the 8th September, 1909, the Deniliquin Chronicle says -
The Defence Department has been fairly prompt in answering the request of the citizens of Deniliquin to establish a light horse squadron in this district, but it is a decidedly disappointing answer. “ The District Commandant, while recognising with pleasure the patriotism displayed by the residents, regrets that he is unable to recommend the raising of any additional troops in the State in consequence of the establishments authorized by Parliament being complete.” The reason assigned, if valid, is only a temporary one, and might well have left it open to the Commandant to promise compliance with the request next year. There is, however, no word to encourage “ the partiotism of the residents” in the future, and with the Defence Department sleeping twelve months hence, there is no knowing but what our local patriotism might sleep too. But unless we are misinformed, the Commonwealth Army Estimates have not yet met with the approval of Parliament, and it would entail but little trouble, on the part of those concerned, to have the Estimates so modified as to give effect to the “ patriotism of the residents “ of this district.” The proposal for the establishment of a squadron of light horse, is made in good faith, its promoters are in earnest, the material for composing it is of the best quality, and no district in the State offers better facilities for making such a unit an unqualified success, yet, because the District Commandant is unable to recommend it, Parliament is not to be allowed any say in the matter. It is to be hoped that the member for the district .will, at a fitting time, and in plain unmistakable terms, tell the House of Representatives, as he is well able to do, what our wishes are, nor cease to do so until they are complied with, or reasons sufficient given for their being denied. We are aware that in view of Imperial reorganization there might possibly be hesitation at this juncture to give effect to our proposal to establish a squadron, but even then. refusal unaccompanied by some assurance that in any steps that may be taken to put the military system of the Commonwealth on a sound footing, the claims of this district shall receive the consideration they deserve would be a grave mistake. The buffer State policy has gone on long enough? It was expected that in Australian affairs, and, much more, in Imperial concerns State boundaries would disappear. That expectation, however, seems to be a mistaken one. It is the District Commandant in New South Wales who regrets that he is unable to recommend. It looks as if Southern Riverina were still to be regarded as beyond the pale of privilege except in so far as it contributes to the State or Commonwealth Treasurer’s peace of mind. Why should our wishes, in this highly important matter, be thwarted, our loyal services refused? There has been talk of compulsory military services. Under such a system provision would have to be made for the organization and maintenance of a much larger force than that now proposed, but compulsory service would not be in it for loyalty and efficiency with such a voluntary offer as that now being made to the authorities responsible for Australian defence. We refuse to take the District Commandant answer as final, and shall go on agitating for and advocating the enlistment of light horse. As the Estimates are now being considered, a proposal might very well be included for the formation, not of a squadron merely, but of a regiment in Riverina. Deniliquin asks a squadron. Berrigan, we aTe assured, can furnish two. Surely, Hay, Narrandera. Finley, Jerilderie, and Balranald, along with other centres, will be ready with their contingents, which, like that of Deniliquin, will demand to be enrolled.
If this request is granted, there will be no more effective corps in any part of the Commonwealth. I am sure that Parliament will support the Ministry in encouraging those who are ready to train themselves at their own expense for the defence of the country. I have addressed to the present Minister of Defence a strongly worded letter on the subject, and hope to receive very shortly a reply. -The Defence Bill about to “ be introduced will probably provide for compulsory service, but is it not desirable that the Commonwealth should avail themselves of such an opportunity as this to secure the services of able-bodied men. of the best type who are prepared to find at their own expense horses, saddles, bridles, and other equipment? The Defence Department, instead of discouraging them as it is doing, should receive such men with open arms. Why should objection be taken because Deniliquin is 45 miles from a border town, which is in turn within 200 miles of Melbourne?
– The answer was given in the letter which the honorable member quoted. It points out that there is no money voted for the purpose.
– The strengths of the various forces are not within 2,000 of the establishment for which the necessary funds have been voted.
– I think that the honorable member is wrong there.
– I agree with the honorable member for Adelaide. When I received an answer to that effect on a previous occasion I pointed out that there were several vacancies in New South Wales, although not in that part of the State. It is not a question of money, but even if it were, it would be expenditure in a direction which, I hope, this Parliament desires, namely, in making efficient, for the purposes of defence, all classes of men. I can undertake to promise on behalf of the district, not only a squadron, but a regiment of the finest conceivable material. There is not only Deniliquin, but a large pastoral and agricultural country where horses and men of the best can be found ; but all efforts have been damped by the Department. Within 40 miles there is a contingent of Light Horse at Echuca, another at Elmore, and another a few miles further west, and all these places are part and parcel of the great area of Riverina, so that, if speedy mobilization were necessary, Deniliquin would be the nearest and most convenient place. However, it has always been held that the connexion must be within the boundary of New South Wales, just as though it were, not the defence of Australia, but only of the State that was concerned. This is the second appeal that has been made; and I trust that the Minister will look at the matter from a proper point of view. The cost of making the necessary provision will be very small, seeing that the men offer themselves and their horses free of cost ; and I hope we shall no longer hear the taunt that some men of the finest physique in Australia are denied a share in the defence of their country. I should also like to refer to the way in which the Department deals with the question of rifle clubs, which are intended, I believe, to be an auxiliary of the Military Forces. The first essential, of course, is that the members of the clubs shall be able to shoot straight; and, when that end has been accomplished, they can be given the necessary discipline and knowledge to admit of their working in large bodies. I have had reason to complain in two cases, in one of which the question of State boundaries again arises. If the proper steps are taken by the Department, not only my constituents and the people of New South Wales generally, but the constituents of the honorable memberfor Wimmera and the Victorian people will be equally served. There have been repeated applications in this case, but difficulties have over and over again been placed in the way, although at the place where a range is desired, there is no close settlement, and practically nothing but sheep. The Ministry has power, in the case of an unwilling owner, to compulsorily resume land for rifle range purposes ; and there have been repeated requests made to the present Minister and his predecessor for accommodation near Junee, where there is a notable instance of land monopoly.
– A shocking example !
– It is. Junee is built on a 640-acre selection, and the surrounding land is held by an individual who refuses to sell, and will only lease on his own terms. The previous Minister of Defence, the honorable member for Rich mond, communicated with the State authorities and took some steps to enforce the resumption of a piece of land for a rifle range ; and the site was visited by several military officers, and valued. The Minister will recollect that within the last two or three weeks I have asked some questions, the replies to which are to the effect that the provision of this rifle range is a matter of money. Well, it always will be a matter of money, unless the men of this thickly settled portion of New South Wales - hardy and eminently suitable men - are to be debarred from taking part in the defence of their country. The Minister, I think, uttered some . criticism about the effectiveness or non-effectiveness of various rifle clubs in the matter of shooting; ‘but we cannot expect a man to be able to shoot without practice, or to be able to practise without a range. A large number of the men at Junee have only two or three hours at their disposal ; and we cannot expect them to travel by railway 40 or 50 miles to the ranges at Cootamundra or Wagga. In any case, I take it that such travelling is expected only when there are competitions; and what I desire to see is provision for continuous practice. Junee is a railwayjunction, with depots and workshops; and a large number of the men employed are enthusiastic in the matter of rifle shooting. It is stated that the price asked for this particular piece of land - ,£1,400 or £1,500 - is too high; but my own opinion is that it is worth that money for other purposes than that of a rifle range. In company with the honorable member for Wimmera and the honorable member for Grey, I was shown over the site by the Mayor of Junee, who is captain of the rifle club, and we found it, within a mile of the town, to be one of the best that could be chosen. Speaking with a knowledge of the district and of the circumstances generally, I venture to say that the Department would not lose by the purchase. On the contrary, it would absolutely gain by it to a certain extent, because the land, when not being used for firing purposes, could be let far pastoral or agricultural use. It -is eminently suitable for both those purposes; and leasing it would bring the Department in a return equal to at least 5 or 6 per cent, upon the outlay. I asked those interested whether the two things could be carried on together, and they said, “ Yes, certainly.” In this case, there is a ravine, and at the end of it there is a high hill. A certain reservation is made behind it, as a danger zone for bullets going over. Nature seems almost to have placed this country there to be used as a rifle range. When I was speaking on the last occasion about this matter, the honorable member for Hunter called my attention to a sum on the Estimates as compensation for a man who had lost his eye. I knew nothing about that case then, and I accepted the inference which the honorable member implied, that this was a most dangerous district to use for such a purpose, and that the firing on the range had already resulted in a man losing his eye. I found out, when I was at Junee since then, lhat the man in question was the marker, and that on that occasion the old iron or steel targets were being used. Bullets very often flattened and split on those, and it was a spray of lead .from one of them that caused him to lose his eye. Those targets have since been properly put away. Nothing of the kind could have happened with the disappearing or the canvas target. Moreover, the accident did not happen upon or near this range, ‘ but in another direction altogether. That range has been abolished, and the people there are left without any. That being the case, and there being already a large number of members of the rifle corps, and many more desiring to join it, and ready to agree to any arrangement which this Parliament may make, in regard to their absorption into the Military Forces of the Commonwealth, the Minister would do well to take out his scissors and cut away the red-tape as quickly as possible, in order to make the necessary provision for these people, who want, not only to help themselves, but to help Australia,, by assisting in its defence. No further delay should be permitted in regard to the application of the residents of the Deniliquin district to establish a mounted corps. They can easily be worked in with the Victorian system, if it is not convenient to attach them to the New South Wales Forces. Their patriotism is undoubted, and their skill would quickly be shown if they were given an opportunity. As one who had fourteen years’ experience in the Australian Light Horse in the earlier days, I venture to say that there is no more effective arm of the service than a well equipped mounted regiment. The Australian Light Horse should be used as the Prince of Wales’ Light Horse were utilized. We were not only cavalry, but mounted riflemen and mobile artillery. We had the parts of 12-pounder guns, and the rapidity with which we could move from place to place rendered our force one of the most effective in the service. I am sorry to say that lately there has been, on the part of some military authorities, a tendency to discourage mounted, and to encourage unmounted, corps. I want the Minister to give close consideration to the representations I have made to him in my letter, and to see that provision is made for the acceptance of these people as a mounted corps. Only a small amount of money will be necessary for the purpose. I also hope that the desires of the people of the Swan Hill district of Victoria in regard to. a rifle range will no longe, be blocked. They cannot get a range at Swan Hill ; but can get one immediately across the river in New South Wales. I trust that wherever people are anxious, as those people are, to make themselves effective, the Department, no matter on which side of a boundary line they may live, will do its duty by providing the necessary ranges. I want the Minister to disabuse his mind of the idea - if it is in his mind - that you cannot possibly have a rifle range without danger, except with a big hill at the back, and hills on each side of it. There is a rifle range at Deniliquin on a level plain ; but there has never been an accident there. There is simply a mound of earth at the back, and when firing is going on a flag is raised, and a man is engaged on each side to keep stock away. The same thing is done in many other places. At Echuca, in this State, the range is on a plain close to the railway line. There has been no difficulty there, and there should be none elsewhere. I feel very sore that, after making representations on these matters for many 5-ears, I have failed to accomplish what I and my constituents desire. I trust that the Minister will take these matters into his earnest consideration, and give me favorable replies at an early date. There are several matters to which I desire to draw the attention of the Postmaster-General. The first relates to the regulations controlling mail contracts. A contractor, when called upon to tender for a certain service, sees what the service is to be ; but, perhaps, in some cases omits to notice the existence of a regulation under which, after his tender has been accepted, the Department can alter the route or vary the terms of the service in such a way as to cause him considerable loss, without paying him any compensation. That is very unjust treatment. I presume it is within the knowledge of every honorable member that after a mail contract has been let, repeated applications are in some instances made for a deviation in the route. These requests are often acceded to, but sometimes they are refused. Where they are acceded to and where injury results to the contractor the Department should adequately compensate him. One instance which I have in my mind has reference to the mail contract between Roto and Hillston. The contractor’s tender was accepted, in the ordinary way, but subsequently my constituents requested that a deviation should be made in the route, and the Western Lessees Association - a kind of corporate body - indorsed their request. Eventually the Department, recognising the reasonableness of the request, agreed to the alteration. The alteration, however, imposed upon the mail contractor the obligation of maintaining two additional horses.
– Did the deviation which was sanctioned have the effect of lengthening the route?
– Has the honorable member any particulars in that connexion ?
– The Department have already been supplied with full particulars. Seeing that the contractor has been mulcted in additional expense I have urged the Department to grant him some measure of compensation, and my representations have been indorsed by the Western Lessees Association, to which I have already alluded. But the only reply vouchsafed by the Department is that it’ is empowered to make the alteration in the route, and that the contractor was aware of that fact when he accepted the contract. Another matter to which I desire to direct attention has reference to the supply of telephone facilities- in rural districts. Under this Bill we are asked to authorize the expenditure of immense sums to underground telephone wires, and to provide new switchboards in the large centres of population, notwithstanding that the rural districts more urgently require telephonic facilities than do the metropolitan areas. Under the system which formerly obtained the Department was quite prepared to undertake the construction of telephone lines in provincial districts if those interested in such projects would guarantee it against financial loss. But during the past twelve months it has become the. practice of the Department to decline to erect telephone lines. - even when the requisite guarantee is forthcoming - and to intimate to those specially interested in the matter that it has no objection to their undertaking the work. That is not the way in which to treat country residents. They urgently require telephonic communication in order that they may be able to communicate with the nearest medical man in case of illness.. They also need it for the purpose of enabling them to warn their neighbours when danger is to be apprehended from floods. I fear, too, that owing to the prolific growth of herbage, they will require it during the coming summer to convey timely warning of the approach of’ bush fires.
– Telephonic facilities would prevent the homes of many settlers from being devastated.
– I have frequently urged that, while some of our Departments ought to be conducted on commercial lines, the Postal Department most certainly ought not to be. The services which it renders are intended to open up the interior by providing residents there with facilities for communicating with their fellows.
– Telephones are almost as necessary for developmental work as arerailways.
– They are more necessary. The following is a copy of the reply which has been forwarded by the Department to a request for telephone communication between Matong and Ashbridge : -
Melbourne, 14th September, 1909.
With reference to the letter presented by you some time since from Mr. R. Hogan, Honorary Secretary to the Progress Association, Matong, New South Wales, respecting the desired establishment of telephonic communication between that place and Ashbridge, regarding which representations were also made to the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney by the Ashbridge Progress Committee (Mr.A.H. Cobb, Hon. Secretary), I have the honour, by direction of the Postmaster-General, to inform you inquiry has been made into the matter, and the reports received indicate that the following is the financial aspect of the proposal, viz. : -
The district is a growing one, and the evils complained of are likely to be present in great force. The people have been agitating to get these services, but, for the sake of £20 a year, the Department will not do the work, even with a guarantee. Such a policy does not treat the country districts properly. I trust I shall have, not only the sympathy of the Minister, but the hearty co-operation of every honorable member, in urging the honorable gentleman to give more attention to the country districts in regard to telephone services. The letter which I have read was received only to-day, and the matter to which it relates is, therefore, under the PostmasterGeneral’s own cognisance.
– He is carrying out the policy which the Department has pursued for a long time.
– It is time that the Minister broke away from that policy. I do not care if the result would be to show a loss ofa few thousands of pounds on the working of the Department. It would not be a loss in a real sense. There would be an immense gain to Australia, which would compensate a hundredfoldfor the loss shown on the books of the Department.
– Does not the honorable member think that we should spend borrowed money on new works, and expend revenue on extending existing services?
– The honorable member asks me to say something in favour of a policy of which he knows I disapprove. The Treasurer himself has said that the Post and Telegraph Department shows a surplus of revenue over expenditure.
– Not if we include interest on buildings. There ‘is then a sum of £500,000 to the bad.
– We should borrow for new works.
– What I am referring to is a new work. Even if we had to write off a few hundred thousands a year on the debit side of the accounts of the Post and Telegraph Department, the gain in developing the country would be so immense as to afford ample compensation. If the residents of a district say, “ Construct the line which we want, and we will guarantee you against any loss,” their guarantee should be taken.
– For how long does the honorable member suggest that the guarantee should be operative?
– I think the term is five or seven years. I know that the PostmasterGeneral - and I say it to his credit - dealt in a proper manner with one case with which I had something to do. One gentleman offered a guarantee for a whole service, and the residents of the district offered to provide poles.
– That offer has been accepted without hesitation.
– At first the offer was absolutely declined. I trust that we shall no longer hear of refusals, but that the Minister will give sympathetic consideration to applications that are made, and will look at them from the point of view of whether the country will be benefited, rather than from the aspect of whether his Department will suffer the loss of a few pounds on particular services. I do not know how much longer we are to wait for a report from the two experts who have been appointed to inquire into the telephone service. Inasmuch as the Department keep no proper books, I do not see how the experts will be able to ascertain more than the members of the Postal Commission have I. able to do.
– The honorable member can rest satisfied that there will be no report this session.
– I hope that a progress report will be presented in a few days.
– I now wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer to certain cases that have arisen under the Old-age Pensions Act. Several cases have been brought under my notice. I have referred them to the Commissioner, Mr. Allen, by whom they have been transmitted to the Deputy Commissioners. What I cannot understand is that in many cases applicants who were in receipt of pensions from States before the Federal law came into existence, have, without rhyme or reason apparently, been deprived of their pensions.
– The Federal law is not the same as the State laws were.
– The law in both Victoria and New South Wales was that, under certain conditions, the sum of £26 per annum should be paid to an- applicant. But in many cases, for reasons which I cannot ascertain, reduced amounts are being paid to applicants under the Federal Act. I will give an instance : An aged woman at Junee applied for the pension. A reduced amount was paid to her, on the ground that a statement had been made by the overseer of a station that the year before her husband had earned the sum of £60. Now, her husband is a decrepit old gentleman himself. Perhaps, within a short period, he will no longer be able to earn anything. If the husband had not earned a shilling, he would have teen entitled to £26 per annum, and his wife to the same amount, because they were both over the pension age. But, because the husband earned a certain amount last year, the unfortunate woman has her pension reduced, although he may be earning nothing at all this year.
– The honorable member should put the case before the Commissioner and let him review it.
– I did, and the information which came back from the overseer or owner of the station was that last year the husband had not earned so much money; but the couple are not in that position now. As the honorable member for West Sydney said, it is not a question of what was done last year.
– The Honorable member must bring up the case again.
– That difficulty is experienced in quite a number of cases. Only to-day I received from the Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales a communication to the effect that now that a certain case was before the magistrate there should be no delay. That is the case of a couple who, for three or four years, to my knowledge, were in receipt of a pension at Echuca, in Victoria. They removed to Sydney, where a daughter lives, who, I may say, is not in a position to -help. But because they bad removed from State to State there has been delay, and had it not been for the charity of some persons the old couple would not have rerceived any help. Surely the Act did not contemplate such cases? There should be no intervention of time by which’ old people are prevented from getting their pension.
– It will work out all right bv-and-by, I hope.
– But in the meantime they will work out.
– The honorable member will look after them I am sure.
– L am; but what good can I do alone? If the right honorable gentleman would spare me halfanhour and allow me the key of the Treasury chest I could look after the old people properly.
– We are only too anxious to do anything if- the honorable member will bring the cases before us.
– I am very pleased to hear that statement, and I promise that I shall take advantage of it. The right honorable gentleman will admit that I have brought some cases under his attention. I hope that the Committee will seriously consider all these matters, and that the Minister will strike out on a new path, so that Australia may be benefited from a defensive point of view, and the old people may in every possible ease get the full amount of the pension allowed by law.
.-It is more in sorrow than in anger that I have risen to address myself more particularly to the Postmaster- General. I do not wish to embarrass him in any way, as I recognise that he is carrying out his duties in a way which does him great credit. But there are one or two matters which I want to bring under his notice, and which I have already brought under the attention of the Department. I want to carry these matters a further stage, because, whilst I am endeavouring to take a Federal point of view, at the same time I recognise that this Parliament has taken over the management of the Post and Telegraphs as a matter of convenience to the States, and that as a result of that transfer it is necessary foi us to inquire into matters which have a purely local significance. That is the only apology I have to offer for referring to matters which savour somwhat of a personal character. There is one matter which cannot be called personal, because it concerns a large district, and that is the telephone service between West Maitland and Newcastle and from Newcastle to Sydney. Outside the metropolitan cities, West Maitland is one of the largest and most important of the towns in the Commonwealth. I do not ask for anything which it does not deserve, but certainly it deserves as much consideration as the other towns and cities with which we have to deal. Telephone matters have reached such a state there that actually the press has drawn attention to them. The M ait. land Mercury, which is the second oldest newspaper in Australia, published the following paragraph the other day : -
Subscribers to the telephone system are becoming utterly tired and disgusted with the inconvenience they are subjected to by the long waits they have to put up with when desirous of communicating with Sydney, and feel that it is about time the Government took some steps to relieve trie congestion which ,is the cause of the trouble.
Apparently they have got into the same position as the honorable member for Gippsland is described by the press to be in. Further, it is contended that pre-1 ference is given to Newcastle in the matter of telephoning from Maitland to Sydney. It is bad enough that the line is congested, but if in addition to the congestion the people of Newcastle are given preference over those in Maitland, that is grossly un fair. To prove that such is the case, let me quote an instance which occurred recently. When the agent of a Sydney “ business firm put in an application to be allowed to use the telephone at Maitland, he was informed that it was in use, and that he would have to wait for a certain time. He and a friend then drove to the Maitland railway station, whence the friend proceeded to Newcastle - by train, twenty miles distant. On arriving at the Newcastle Post Office, he was allowed to send a telephone message to Sydney, although his friend, the agent, was still awaiting his opportunity to telephone from the West Maitland Post Office. That proves, I think, that preference is given to the Newcastle telephone office over that of. Maitland.
– The honorable member has not made this complaint to me before ?
– No, because it has only just come under my notice. But I have frequently complained to previous Ministers of the congestion on this telephone line. When its construction was sought, Sir Edmund Barton, the Prime Minister, represented Hunter. The residents were refused the line without a heavy guarantee, but it had not been in use for six months before it required to be duplicated, so great was the business, though the Minister had been advised by his officers on no account to build the line without a heavy guarantee. That is an instance in which the officers have proved at fault. We are very fortunate in the officers we have.- They are all well-tried men, and deserve a great deal of credit. I am surprised that such excellent officers can be obtained for the small salaries that are given. At the same time, the Minister must not be guided entirely by their reports. He must take a great deal of responsibility on his own shoulders. The country expects that of him.
– What does the honorable member ask me to do?
– To have further inquiry made regarding the congestion on this line.
– Is another trunk line necessary ?
– Another trunk line is necessary between West Maitland and Newcastle. When in my electorate the other day, the residents of Mount Vincent, a township twelve miles from East Maitland, asked that the contractor who conveys’ the mails between the two places by means of a horse and sulky should be given a holiday, on two days in the year, namely, Christmas Day and Good Friday, which, in the opinion of many, should be observed as holy days. As this was so small a request, and came from those for whom the service was instituted, it might have been complied with, but the reply I got from the Department, thirty days after I had written on the subject, was this -
With reference to your letter of 9th ultimo, relative to the desire of residents of Mr Vincent, Brunkerville, Mulbring, and Buchanan, New South Wales, that the Contractor for the East Maitland-Mt. Vincent mail service be not required to perform the service on Christmas Day and Good Friday, I have the honour, by direction, to inform you that the terms of the contract cannot be altered by reducing the frequency of the service unless a fro rata reduction is made in the contract subsidy as required by clause 6 of the General Conditions of Contract (copy attached). A very undesirable precedent would also be established by acceding to the request for a cessation of the mail service on the days mentioned, as an application for a similar concession could not well be refused in connexion with any of the other mail lines in New South Wales, the granting of which would involve serious dislocation of mail facilities.
Under the circumstances, the PostmasterGeneral regrets that he is unable to grant the request.
The case illustrates the manner in which the Departmental officers are bound with red-tape. The matter is surely one of which the Postmaster- General has no cognizance.I am satisfied that, had it been brought under his notice, the concession would have been granted.
– What is asked for is the reduction of facilities.
– The residents desire that the contractor shall have two days’ holiday in the year. The request does not come from him. The Department has not hesitated to reduce facilities when services have not quite paid.
– Could we refuse to grant similar requests, if we granted this?
– Unfortunately, the Postmaster-General, having had a legal training, is influenced too much by precedent. Were a medical man administering the Department, he would regard the matter from a common-sense point of view, and draw his pen through regulations of which he did not approve. Another case to which I wish to direct attention is that of Mr. Kay, an assistant postmaster at Dungog, who applied for six months’ furlough. It is a rule of the service that after twenty years’ good conduct an officer is entitled to leave of absence. Recently, an official applying for such leave, had it refused, because he did not intend to return to work, the Department informing him that, as he was about to resign, to engage in private business, . on the expiration of his furlough, he was not entitled to furlough, such leave being granted to enable officers to recuperate, so that the Department might obtain from them a further term of service, during which their duties would be performed with renewed vigour. Mr. Kay, however, is run down, and nervous, and obtained from his medical adviser a certificate to that effect, his doctor being of the opinion that outdoor life was essential for the restoration of his health. When Ministers and members become ill, they do not hesitate to ask for a month’s leave of absence on full pay, but this is the reply received by the unfortunate officer with whose case I am now dealing -
I have to state that Mr. Arthur Ernest Kay, first appointed on 15th July, 1889,hasonly just completed the period of service (twenty years) which entitles him to apply for furlough.
It does not matter when he completed it seeing that he has completed it.
He asks for the leave on account of the unsatisfactory state of his health -
What better reason could he submit? and in the medical certificate from Dr. C. H. Bowker, Government Medical Officer, Dungog, which he has submitted -
Honorable members will see that Dr. Bowker is not only a duly qualified medical practitioner, but is actually Government Medical Officer for this district, it is stated that he is run down and nervous, for which outdoor life is essential. The certificate, however, does not disclose any organic disease -
And this is a part of the report to which I object most strongly - or serious ailment, or even the immediate necessity for the lengthy leave applied for, and, according to his record, he has not had one day’s sick leave during the whole of his service -
The fact that he had not previously trespassed on the indulgence of the Department might have been regarded as strengthening his application for leave in this instance. Twenty years’ service, without a day’s leave on account of sickness, is a record which few members of the Committee could supply. so that from the particulars to hand his health does not appear to be in a serious condition.
I strongly object to this statement. The Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales presumes to set his opinion of the condition of this man’s health against that of the Government Medical Officer of the district. Dr. Bowker. Dr. Bowker certifier) that it was essential that he should be given leave, because he required rest and out-door life. It is evident that the man was threatened with a breakdown of his health, and yet the Deputy PostmasterGeneral says, “ This man has been in good health for twenty years, and how can he be said to be ill now?” Could anything be more ridiculous? The report continues -
In order to provide for his absence, it would be necessary to temporarily transfer an assistant to Dungog, and owing to the great scarcity of such officers -
Why should such officers be scarce ? What do we vote money for if it is not to provide sufficient officers to carry out the work of the Department? as relieving hands, and the want of suitable temporary hands, it would be extremely difficult to arrange for his duties should the furlough applied for be granted.
Because Governments in the past have been so exceedingly parsimonious, is that anv reason why unfortunate members of the Public Service should be made to suffer in this way, and men who are threatened with a physical breakdown should not be given an opportunity to rest? A man would not treat his horses in this way, because it would not pay him to do so. I quote again from the report -
A relieving officer is being used to effect the relief of postmaster, Newcastle, on furlough, and another will be required at Wollombi when the furlough recommended for the ppstmaster there has been sanctioned.
Mr. Kay has been informed that where an officer has only comparatively short service, as in his case, it is not usual to grant furlough, unless the reasons put forward in support of the application therefor are of an urgent or special character -
This officer has a service of twenty years, and, although it is stated that twenty years’ service entitles an officer to furlough, according to this report, the comparatively short service of this officer did not entitle him to furlough. This is a report from the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales. He is the head of the Department in that State, and an officer on whom the Postmaster-General relies for advice. I have my doubts as to whether he can be fitted for the position he holds when he signs his name to a contradictory re port of this description. I continue my quotation - and that as there are severalapplicants for furlough with much longer” service than himself
So that there are other poor devils in the same position as this man, who, apparently, cannot get any furlough - he should, if the extended leave applied for be urgently required, submit himself to the departmental Referee for medical examination at his own expense.
This is another injustice. This man would have to travel all the way from Dungog to Sydney, I presume, to see the Government medical officer there. He would be required to pay his own expenses, and I suppose to provide a locum tenens to continue his work at Dungog. He would be vised when he got to Sydney by the Government Medical Referee who, as a servant of the Department, would be very careful about the report he gave, and would not be likely to err on the side of leniency to the public servant I do not apologize for occupying the time of the Committee in bringing forward these matters. I feel that it is incumbent upon me to do so, because it is only by such action these unfortunate officers in the Government Departments can have their grievances attended to. I hope that the Postmaster-General, if he cannot grant my request, will at least give me his assurance that the matters to which I have referred will be carefully inquired into, and that the officers of the Department concerned will receive the justice to which they are entitled.
.- I desire, briefly, to emphasize the objection put forward by the honorable member for Riverina, to the tendency to regard the Post’ and Telegraph Department purely as a business undertaking. There are innumerable cases, to my knowledge, in which the Department has declined to furnish necessary telephonic and postal facilities in outlying districts, because, forsooth, according to the estimate made, they would not show a profit. There is nothing definite about such estimates, and when works are undertaken, it is often found that they disprove the estimate made as to the revenue they are likely to produce. That has been shown by the honorable member for Hunter, in his reference to the Maitland and Newcastle telephone connexion. Whether they prove immediately profitable or not, the establishment of many small services would be of incalculable benefit to settlers in remote districts, and would promote settlement in such places. They are not authorized, because they might involve a loss of £5 or £fi a vear- The Government might very well incur such a loss for the sake of the impetus the service would give to settlement. The advantages of telephonic communication are too well known to make it necessary for me to dilate upon them. Facilities for telephonic and telegraphic communication help to weld the community into a homogeneous whole. I emphasize the necessity for the Department taking a more practical view of these matters, and that is the practical which looks to ultimate ends rather than to immediate results. It would pay us well to be less stringent in asking that these facilities, when given, shall show a profit straight away. I am tired of writing to many of my constituents to the effect that this or that proposed telephone connexion cannot be established, because the Department consider that it will not pay. Cases have come under my notice in which applicants have offered to provide the telephone poles, and to do other work in connexion with a proposed line, and have then been asked to give a guarantee. These conditions could be substantially modified, even if all that I should wish “for cannot be done.
.- My complaint in regard to the Postal Department is that an application for the construction of a telephone line is often met with the reply that something in the nature of a guarantee must be given, and that, after the persons concerned have gone to the trouble of meeting and arranging to give the requisite guarantee, they are told that the line will be erected “ as soon as the necessary funds are available.” The remarks made by the honorable member for Macquarie have recalled to my mind the negotiations for the erection of a telephone line from Penrith to Glenbrook. The original proposal was to carry the line from Penrith to Emu Plains, but after a question had been raised as to whether or not a guarantee should be given, the residents of Glenbrook agitated for a telephone line from Springwood to Glenbrook, so that they might be able to tap the mountain trunk line. It was then reported that that main line was so overloaded that, in the opinion of the Department, it would be better for the .residents of Glenbrook to connect with Penrith through Emu Plains, and that they should join with the people of Emu Plains in securing such communication. A report on the proposal was obtained, and the residents of Emu Plains and Glenbrook undertook to make good the deficiency of £5 or £fi per annum which it was estimated would be shown on the working of the line. After they had given that undertaking, however, they were informed that the line would be erected “ as soon as funds were available.” Whether that means that they are to wait until next year’s Estimates are submitted, or that the necessary provision for the work has been made in the Estimates for Additions, New Works and Buildings, which have just been passed, and which include a large vote for new telephone communications, I do not know. The system, however, is very unsatisfactory, and dissatisfaction must arise when the people of two districts, acting practically on the suggestion of the Department, hold public meetings, make all arrangements for giving the required guarantee, and are then met with the stereotyped reply to which I have referred. I wish now to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to the proposed military reserve near Liverpool. The project, which will involve a very considerable outlay, has been before the public for over two years, and lengthy negotiations have taken place with the State Government with reference to the acquisition of the Crown lands within the large area that it is proposed to take over for artillery practice and other military purposes. On the 10th August, 1907, the Sydney Daily Telegraph published a sketch plan showing the proposed reserve, and since that time the undertaking has been more or less tied up. The authorities have given notice to holders of property within the area to be acquired that they will not pay for improvements made since that date, and something in the nature of a general notice has been given that the Crown intend to take over certain lands. The position is most unsatisfactory to the people concerned. There are in the neighbourhood of the Moorbank Estate, as well as in other parts near Liverpool, many land-owners who are interested. One of these writes to me that he received notice that his land was required -
To form portion of a range for artillery practice, and that, consequently, the authorities would resist payment for future improvements. Under these circumstances, as I cannot well cultivate or improve it, my land has become useless. The military have virtually taken possession of the land…..
Land within the area is being used for military purposes, and the time has come when the Government should let the owners know whether or not they intend to proceed with the scheme. If the proposal is not to be carried out,” property-owners should be so informed without delay, so that they may proceed to improve their holdings.
– The Government should inform the Committee how many more Supply Bills we are to be asked to pass.
– We . shall have to pass one every month until the Estimates are dealt with. The Opposition objected to a request for two months’ Supply.
– This is an extraordinary system to be adopted by a Ministry who have declared their intention of reforming our parliamentary procedure, and of instituting responsible government. We find them repeating the tactics of, previous Administrations in devoting a large part of the time of Parliament to the discussion of monthly Supply Bills.
– The Bill ought to have been passed in ten minutes.
– Year after year votes passed by this Parliament are not expended ; and the Departments are starved, because the funds necessary to enable them to be efficiently administered are not available when they ought to be. We have been told that this is because the passing of the Estimates has been delayed, and the practice of passing monthly Supply Bills has been adopted. If there is anything in the contention, the Government would do well to consider whether the EstimatesinChief ought not to be dealt with as speedily as possible. Works are reported upon, and in some cases found to be urgently necessary; but in reply to our inquiries we are informed by the Department concerned that they cannot be taken in hand because the Estimates for the year have not been passed. That is the excuse with which we have been nauseated for years; and now the Deputy Postmasters-General in New South Wales, and, I presume, in the other States, add that, though a certain work has been approved of, it cannot be taken in hand until money is made available by the passing of these Estimates. This Government came into office to initiate a system of responsible government; and yet we have the Treasurer first asking for Supply for two months, and then for Supply for one month, and giving the House to understand that the old state of affairs is to con tinue. I, for one, protest against the work of the country being held up in this way. I strongly urged the Government to pass the Works Estimates, and, to that extent, the Departments are in a better position than they have been for sonic time ; but there is a great deal of work not yet provided for, apart from telephone and telegraphic extensions, and so forth, which are dealt with in the Estimates-in-Chief. For years, the Estimates have not been passed until nearly the end of the financial year, which does not leave time for the carrying out of the works, and hence the votes lapse. I trust that this is the last of these temporary Supply Bills, and that good progress will now be made with the Estimates-in-Chief. I understand that the Bill, in the main, deals with salaries and so forth.
– The Bill covers everything in the Estimates.
– Then, why do the heads of Departments say that they have not the necessary money ?
– They refer to new works.
– There are large works in the nature of maintenance and renovation.
– These are the works for which we are providing now.
– Will this Bill enable the Departments to initiate and carry on works they have in hand?
– The Bill is on the basis of last year’s Estimates.
– But the departmental heads have distinctly told us that a number of works not provided for are held back for the Estimates-in-Chief. If the works are provided for, and may be undertaken by the Departments, I ad: mit that my objections fall to the ground.
– They cannot initiate new works.
– The Departments ought to be in a position to initiate new works early in the year.
– That would remove from !.he Committee the power to criticise the Estimates-in-Chief.
– Experience in the past shows criticism to be useless, seeing that the Estimates are not passed until so late in the year; and the Treasurer would be well advised if he enabled the expenditure to be carried on in a regular and a proper way. The honorable member for West Sydney has referred to public service matters, which should engage the attention of the Government ; and, though he spoke particularly1 of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, it applies Lo the other Departments. In the Public Service of the Commonwealth there is no provision for superannuation or compensation, each case being dealt with in a haphazard way, supposedly on its merits. A case has to be submitted to the Department, and filter through various avenues of investigation before being finally settled, with the result that those with influential friends seem to get the more consideration. Cases of the kind should be dealt with from a departmental stand-point, without reference to influential friends; and, instead of any compensation being regarded as a special concession, there ought to be a general and comprehensive scheme.
– Can the honorable member elaborate a scheme?
– Fortunately, I am not in a position where I am required to elaborate a scheme; that responsibility lies with the Government, who came into power to revolutionize these matters. If the Government have not the brains themselves, I have no doubt they can have the assistance of the honorable member for Wentworth-
– Do I understand that the honorable member has no scheme?
– A scheme has been submitted by the public servants themselves, and should receive attention at the hands of the Government and of honorable members. The time has arrived when this, or some other scheme, should be considered. In the Department of the Postmaster-General, there are a number of labourers who are engaged in very dangerous work, but who are not regarded as public servants in the same sense as are those employed in other branches. Only last week an officer of the Department, a capable man, who had given good service, fell, through some mischance, 40 feet from a pole in the city, and was picked up dead. I am told that he left a widow and family. When death cut him off, there was practically no provision or help for those he left behind him, and the question of extending any assistance to them becomes a matter for the special consideration of the Department. We ought to have some definite scheme to meet cases of this kind, instead of dealing with them in the present piece-meal fashion. I am glad to know that in the Department in New South Wales the men have their organizations, which look after matters of this kind on behalf of their weaker members, and take steps to bring the cases before the Department. But, even then, . before anything is granted, the Postmaster-General has to ask for a special vote from Parliament, after the matter has gone through all the redtapism necessary before an item can be placed upon the Estimates. We ought to be in a position to deal equitably and fairly with our servants in necessitous cases of this kind, which are constantly arising. Whether the injured person or his friends or relations can, or cannot, command the word of influential persons in or out of the Department, the fact that such men are employe’s of the Department ought to be sufficient to insure that their cases will.be treated on their merits, and fair and even-handed justice dealt out. With respect to the higher-paid officers, I know a case in which an officer served the Department faithfully and well for forty years. If he had retired at the time he was taken ill he would have been entitled to a gratuity of from £600 to £700 cash, but because he died in harness the Department say that his widow and family have no claim upon that gratuity. If any such claim is put forward it has to be considered by the PostmasterGeneral as a matter of special concession. The same thing happened inthe case of the late Mr. Clarke, who had control of the Inland Mails Branch in New South Wales for many years. He was unequalled in his particular line of work, and he also died in harness. He was due to retire, and would have done so, but, in order to meet the exigencies of the Department, he continued longer in the service than he had proposed to do. If he had retired when he intended to, he would have drawn a gratuity, but, as things happened, the case of the widow and family had to be specially dealt with, and the previous Minister had to ask Parliament to grant them a special vote. In the other case, where the officer served the Department for forty years, he did important work, and had a good record. He died in harness, and his widow and family are thrown on the world without any consideration whatever. If they get any consideration, instead of its being a matter of equity, and right, it must come as a special concession from the PostmasterGeneral and a special vote from Parliament. That means that people who have influential friends have a better chance of receiving consideration than others have. That is unfair to the Department and to the departmental heads. The Government should devise a scheme under which all these cases could be dealt with on general lines.
– When they are old officers they generally draw pensions, and not gratuities.
– Pensions are matters for the States. That is so, at least, in New South Wales. In the cases with which I am dealing, however, the officers are entitled to gratuities, based upon length of service and amount of .salary. I would suggest that where officers die at their posts in the service, the amount which they would have been entitled to draw as gratuities should be made payable to their widows and families. That would be only just to those dependent upon them, who are often left in most unfortunate circumstances.
– A great many of them are not entitled to retire.
– Then they have no claims on that ground. I am making this appeal only on behalf of men such as those I have mentioned. Another injustice of the present system arises in this way : Under the old State administration, the Department could assist the widows and families of such men by appointing the children to positions, and putting them into the way of earning a living for themselves, but that cannot be done in the Commonwealth service. Under our Public Service Act the children of such officers have to take their chance with other competitors in the examinations. They are judged only by the result of the” examinations, and not by any special services which their fathers may have rendered to the Department in the past.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was emphasizing the desirableness of the Government formulating a pensions scheme to meet cases of the character I have indicated. I quite realize that the preparation of a measure dealing with this subject would require a good deal of attention, and, therefore, I do not anticipate that it is likely to be submitted for our consideration during the life of this Parliament. I believe that the Government desire to treat our public servants fairly; and I ‘ would suggest that, pending the introduction of a scheme such as T have outlined, the gratuities, which under ordinary circumstances would have been payable to officers upon their retirement, should be placed upon the supplementary Estimates for the benefit of their wives or other relatives. In the case of workmen who are killed in the performance of their duties, the Government might advantageously adopt the principle which has been embodied in the Workmen’s Compensation Act of Great Britain - the principle of paying the equivalent of their earnings for three years as compensation to their friends and relatives. If that course were followed, a number of cases which are at present “ hung up “ in the Department might be promptly dealt with, pending the enactment of more comprehensive legislation at no distant date. I wish also to point out to the Postmaster-General that in numerous country electorates there are considerable areas in which settlement is progressing, and in which the means of communication are woefully inadequate. In my own constituency, the Department has recently adopted a new policy in regard to the establishment of post-offices. When a postoffice is asked -for in these rural areas, the general practice is to request the persons who are chiefly interested in the matter to nominate one of their number to take charge of the offices, and to provide the requisite accommodation in order that the Department may be supplied with the data necessary to- enable it to determine the remuneration which should be payable to such an officer. At Yarra Bandai and Ringwood Sidings, on the ParkesCondobolin railway, a number of improvement leases have lately been cancelled, and the areas which they embrace have been cut up into small blocks for settlement. The settlers there, who number twenty-seven, have come from considerable distances. They naturally applied for the establishment of a post-office at the siding, and, after considerable trouble, arranged with the New South Wales railway authorities that a ganger should be stationed there, and that his wife should act as postmistress. When they had done that, the Department informed them that it could only allow her £1 per annum for her services. This sort of treatment is positively ridiculous. The same conditions obtain at another siding further down the railway towards Condobolin, and the Department has replied in similar fashion to a request for the establishment of a postoffice at a siding on the Blayney-Harden line,’ in <bf: Calare electorate. ‘ I hold that the postmasters and postmistresses at these places should receive payment in proportion to the work which they perform. When the Department was under State control, the lowest salary paid to such officers was £5 per annum. More liberal treatment should certainly be accorded to these country centres. The same remark is applicable to the inauguration of new mail services. When an application is made for a mail service, it frequently happens that the Department will only agree to contribute a certain sum, leaving it to those interested in the project to make up the difference. In this way, a number of small but growing centres are seriously handicapped. Our aim should be to promote settlement in every possible way ; but the policy of the Department is to discourage it. Whenever an officer is deputed to report upon the probable cost of providing telephonic communication in these outlying districts, he almost invariably estimates it at the maximum. It is to his advantage to do so, because, if his estimate were exceeded, he would probably be called upon for an explanation. For the same reason, he is prone to estimate the probable revenue derivable from the work at the minimum amount; and, as a result, country interests suffer considerably. Estimates have been made with regard to the extension of telephonic facilities to country centres. In a great number of * these cases, the estimate of revenue to be derived and the estimate of cost showed a considerable debit for a number of years. The people were required to guarantee that difference. After much trouble and difficulty, the guarantee was sometimes given. But in no case that I know of, where the facilities have been granted, did the service fail to pav for itself from the very first year. This shows that the departmental method of making its estimates is such that there is a very large margin between the estimate of cost and what turns out to be- the correct statement of the position. I know of several requested extensions that have been held up for a number of years. In some cases like that mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina the people interested have offered the guarantee, but the Department have refused to accept it, “ because the estimates of expenditure and revenue did not show a paying margin within seven years. Difficulties are thus thrown in the way of the people getting the facilities which they urgently require. I maintain that an increase cf population is an asset to the Com- ‘ monwealth as well as to a State, and that we ought to do something in the way of encouraging settlement in the sparsely - populated centres. The best way of encouraging settlement is by giving the people postal and telephonic facilities, and we should do that even if a margin of loss is shown at the outset so long as development is encouraged and the initial loss is thereby gradually reduced. I trust that the Postmaster-General will introduce into his administration an uptodate system in this respect. Instead of blocking the extension of facilities where there is a reasonable prospect of their as- sisting in the settlement of the country, effect should be given to requests that are made within a reasonable time. The discussion to-day has also embraced references to an aspect of the defence question that has been a very sore point for a considerable time. As the honorable member for Riverina has pointed out, the best material for our light horse arm of defence is to be found in the country districts, amongst the sons of farmers and those engaged in pastoral pursuits. These men are expert horsemen, and by availing ourselves of their services, we could turn them into a very effective branch of the forces. Justification for that statement is to be found in the history of the South. African War. The very best men that we sent to South Africa came from our country districts, not from our more densely-settled centres. Many of these men have spent practically the whole of their lives in the saddle. Surely we ought to encourage them to take a part in the defence of their country. I’ have on previous occasions had to bring before the Minister of Defence a case that has occurred in my own electorate in connection with the formation of a corps of light horse at Condobolin. The matter has been under review for the last six years. A number of (he men went to South Africa, where they distinguished themselves. On returning home, having had training in. the field, they decided to form a company of light horse, forty strong, without waiting for the Department to give them authority. They have since had regular drills at their own expense. Up till now the Department has refused to recognise them. Their case has been submitted time after time to the Department, but the officials have declined to reverse the decision. Some time ago I urged the case very strongly upon the then Minister of Defence, who invited me to consult with his responsible officers about the matter. I had an interview with the officers in the State. I then found that the real purpose of the interview was that they might inform me what their reason for declining to recognise the Condobolin company was. Boiled down, the explanation amounted to this - that they regarded the Australian Light Horse as one of the most important arms of our defence, but that they considered it important that the squadrons should be concentrated near the city of Sydney. I pointed out that at Molong and Forbes, which were not far away from Condobolin, there were already companies of light horse, with which this company could very well be worked. I was then given to understand that if the Molong and Forbes companies had not been established under the State regime, they would not have been authorized under the Commonwealth. They were considered to be too remote for administrative purposes, but because they had been established in the State days the Commonwealth did not see its way to disband them. But I think it is a mistake to discourage the formation of companies of light horse in the country centres. The men who join in places near to the big cities are often engaged in city occupations. They have horses for exercise purposes. But if a drought comes and the price of feed goes up, they sell their horses, and cease to be active factors in their units. The result is that the Defence Department has considerable difficulty in maintaining the companies up to their proper standard. In the country districts, however, the horse is essential to a man’s livelihood, and there would be no difficulty in maintaining companies. But because of this hard and fast policy, the Department has very often uselessly expended its energies in trying to create companies of light horse under unnatural conditions. I think that the Defence Department should widen its views in this matter. I am satisfied that better results can be secured by encouraging the formation of light horse companies amongst the young men in the country districts. I trust that the matter will receive the attention of the Minister, and the complaints made will be attended to. I know that people at Condobolin, Cowra, and Temora made application and have been refused in the way I have indicated. Some of them, as I have said, have formed their own companies and carried them on for five or six years quite independently of the Department, as a fair indication that they are made of the stuff which can be relied upon to do good work.
– Will the honorable member support the Minister in that respect?
– I will give to the Minister all the support I can. When it was brought down to a point, the late Minister said that every individual in a company cost so much, and that he could not provide the money. I found that a good proportion of the cost represented useless ornamentation, and suggested that money might be saved by forming a company on much the same lines as the Boers did. I urged the honorable gentleman to train the men, and supply them with arms, and not to regard expensive clothing as an essential. He promised to consider my suggestion, and I believe that he had it under review when he left office. I hope that the present Minister will try to meet the difficulty. The Treasurer is being worried considerably about the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act.
– It is no worry to me, because I am glad to do anything I can.
– It is worrying the poor old people very much. Unfortunately, in New South Wales and Queensland there is a difference between the exemption which is allowed on property. In New South Wales, for every£15 over£50worth of property, £1 was deducted from the pension. Under the Commonwealth, £1 for every £10 is deducted. This means that a number of pensioners receive less than they used to get under the States, and naturally they want toknow why the deduction is made. I recognise that the Minister cannot alter the position by a stroke of his pen, as the deduction is regulated by legislation. But I hold that the allowance of£1 for every £15 worth of property was a very reasonable one, and seeing that it was allowed in two out of the three States which provided old-age pensions, it might well have been adopted by the Commonwealth.
– In Victoria, the Government took the property.
– The Minister reminds me that in Victoria the Govern- ment did not allow an exemption, but that the claimant had to assign his property to the Government ; and at his death it became theirs. Fortunately, the Commonwealth is trying to drag the pauperizing legislation of Victoria up to the standard of the liberal legislation obtaining in New South Wales and Queensland. A deduction of £1 for every ^10 worth of property was a very big concession in the case of Victoria, and if the amount had been increased to £15, it would have removed the cause of much of the grievance which obtains amongst the old-age pensioners in New South Wales and Queensland. Again, there is the question of old-age pensioners having to seek treatment in hospital*, particularly in the country. Under the administration of the New South Wales Act, the hospital claimed, and was paid, the amount of pension which the old-age pensioner was allowed. The pensioners were satisfied with that arrangement, and the hospitals received a little recompense for the expenditure to which they were put. It appears as if the Commonwealth Treasurer at one time intended not to allow any payment to the hospitals for the treatment of old-age pensioners; but from a circular I have received from some hospitals, I gather that he is submitting a proposal that the Commonwealth shall pay to the hospitals the weekly sum of 5s.
– No;, that is only in cases where magistrates have sent pensioners to hospitals.
– What is the position if an old-age pensioner finds his way to a hospital without an order?
– The payment of the pension is stopped by the Act.
– No, it is only stopped by the interpretation of the Act.
– The inter.pretation of the Act is a matter for the Minister. If old-age pensioners were not compelled to seek m’edical treatment in hospitals, they would receive pensions of, say, 10s. a week; but as soon as they are admitted to such institutions the Commonwealth stops the payment of the pensions, and the cost of their treatment has to be defrayed from some other source. It is suggested that when an old-age pensioner is committed to a hospital it shall receive the miserable pittance of 5s. a week for treatment which very often costs not less than a guinea.
– I do not think that the amount is quite settled.
– There is nothing settled.
– The honorable member is going over old ground.
– If we do not get redress, then, like the importunate widow, we must cover old ground until we do. What I suggest to the Treasurer is that the hospitals shall receive, not a fixed sum of 5s. a week, but the whole amount of the pension which is payable to the patient during the period of ‘ his treatment. If he were in receipt of only 5s. a week, that is all which the hospital could fairly claim, but if he is in receipt of 10s. a week, which is very often the case, then, in fairness, the institution should not be asked to be satisfied with the payment of 5s. for that which costs very often a guinea, and sometimes very much more than that sum. The Treasurer would be acting fairly if he adopted my suggestion.
– It is a very reasonable suggestion.
– I do not see anything unreasonable in it, but I do see something very unreasonable in the suggestion that the hospitals should be satisfied with a payment of 5s. a week for the treatment of every old-age pensioner who may be sent to them by the authorities. Five shillings a week does not pay for the keep of the inmates of these institutions, and sometimes 10s. a week would not do so. But whatever amount is. payable to a pensioner, it should, while he is an inmate of an institution, be payable to that institution. In nearly every case the pensioners themselves would be satisfied with this arrangement, which obtained under State control. Those who are responsible for the management of these institutions feel that the Federal law deals with them much less liberally than did the State law. The aim should be to do justice to all concerned, and humanitarian legislation must be humanely administered if it is to cany out the intentions of the Legislature.
– I agree with what has been said by the honorable member for Calare. It was thought that under Commonwealth control, old-age pensions administration would be more liberal than under State control ; but, either because our Acts have been badly drawn, or because they are being wrongly interpreted, that hope has not been fulfilled. If a pensioner’ is an inmate of an institution, the Government should be willing to pay his pension to that institution. These places are supported, for the most part, by private subscription, for the nursing and proper care of those who are old, feeble, and sick, and unable to look after themselves. In them, the aged are housed, fed, and provided with medical treatment, and the Government should do what they can to assist those who manage them. I have received from the Secretary to the Mudgee Hospital a letter dealing with the subject, in these terms -
At the. regular monthly meeting of the Com mittee of the above institution, held on the 7th instant, mention was made of the fact that the Commonwealth Government had agreed to pay 5s. per week on account of old-age pensioners who might be inmates. This amount is considered too low, and I was instructed to write and ask you to kindly use your best endeavours to have it increased to 7s. 6d. per week, or, at the least,1s. per day, which seems very reasonable, as it is scarcely possible to feed a patient and give him medical and nursing comforts for less than1s. per day.
The Minister has stated, by interjection, that this 5s. a week will not be payable to institutions, except in respect to pensioners sent there by magistrates - a mean and most unreasonable arrangement.
– How did the honorable member vote when I’ tried to have another arrangement made ?
– I have always voted in the interests of the poor and the sick.
– The Government must administer the law. I commend the attention of the honorable member to sections 45 and 47 of the Act.
– The Act provides that old persons without means may obtain a pension of 10s. per week. What does it matter to the Government whether such pensions are paid directly to the pensioners or to the institutions in which they are being sheltered and succoured? I hope that the Minister will see that a reasonable interpretation is put on the Act, so that justice may be done to all concerned.
.- In opening the discussion this afternoon, the honorable member for Wide Bay made some statements with regard to a particular matter which I think it well to emphasize. I take it that it is the duty of the Government of the day at all times to vindicate the honour of this House. Statements have been published from time to time - and I think their publication was begun chiefly in periodicals issued by Messrs.
Fitchett Bros. - to which I think strong exception should be taken. I have here a copy of the Australian Review of Reviews, in which honorable members of this House are distinctly blamed for the death of the late Speaker. I think it is time that the Government took some stand on behalf of the honour of this House to deny, if they cannot affirm, the statements that are being made. I quote from an article published in the September number of the Review of Reviews for Australasia : -
The early morning of Friday, 23rd July, 1909, will live vividly in the mind of every Federal member. For some fourteen hours the Federal House had been wordily fighting in a fashion that would have been a disgrace to a pack of savages wrangling in some inter-tribal quarrel. Sir William Lyne and some of the members of the Labour party were the “chief offenders.
– They are deliberate lies. Nothing else.
– The inference to be drawn from this article is that the late Speaker was in the chair during the whole of the long sitting referred to. Every member of the Government, as well as every member of the House, who was present on the occasion, is aware that the Speaker was not in the chair during the whole of that night.
– He was in the chamber a long time.
– I beg the Minister’s pardon. I was present during the whole of the evening.
– The late Speaker was not in the chamber from half-past six p.m. until four o’clock in the morning.
– He was in his room.
– He was in the chamber for some time, but not in the chair.
– That is the position.
– The article continues -
There can be no doubt that Sir Frederick Holder succumbed to the dreadful strain to which he had been subjected by such a disorderly House. Pages of vivid language could not give such a description of the condition into which the House had got as was given by the Speaker’s last nords a few moments before he was stricken down. Surveying the House in its wild disorder, he had said, as though the words were wrung from him, “ Dreadful ! Dreadful !”
– Did any one hear him say that?
– It was not said.
– The statement is published to the world.
One cannot help feeling keenly the fact that Sir Frederick - Holder’s life was cut short in such a way.
I say that in the circumstances, as we know them, these are wilful and deliberate lying statements, and as their publication is a reflection upon the House, it is time the Government took some action to vindicate its honour. It is all very well for the Treasurer to cough in dissent, but the position is made only the worse when, as I am reminded by one of the late Speaker’s colleagues in the representation of South Australia, what happened when the deceased gentleman was hurrying to catch a train only the week before his death, is well known.
– I warned him about it in the presence of other honorable members from South Australia.
– We have party differences in this House, but they should at all times be “political and not personal. The conduct of the House is under the control of the Speaker, but I hold that the Government of the day, irrespective of party, are charged with the responsibility of defending the House against the vilifying attacks of people outside. I understand that statements similar to those I have quoted from the Review of Reviews have appeared in other periodicals. 1 hope that the disgraceful article from which I have quoted will be considered by the Government, and that some action will be taken by them to give the statements it contains an authoritative contradiction. I say unhesitatingly that if the Government continue to neglect to take action in the matter, it will be presumed that it is because they believe that these statements are true.
– Or are using them for political purposes.
– Or, as I am reminded, are using them for political purposes.
– I think that that is an infamous statement for the honorable member to make.
– It is not nearly as infamous, as ate the statements published in the article from which I have quoted. Does the Minister of Defence believe that what is said in this article is true?
– The Minister knows that the statement is not true. He dare not reply.
– I ask the Minister of Defence through the Chairman whether the statements I have quoted are true.
– If they are, they should be authoritatively confirmed, and, if they are not, they should be contradicted.
– If they are not true, they should be contradicted and condemned. I shall leave the matter at that. I wish to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the necessity for providing accommodation in post-office buildings for old-age pensioners when they attend for the payment of their pensions. Only to-day I have received letters from my own electorate which state that old and decrepit people are compelled to stand at the counters of post-offices waiting for some time until they can be paid their pensions.
– What office is referred to?
– I have to-day received a complaint about the office at Wallsend, Plattsburg.
– From an old-age pensioner ?
– No, from the local Municipal Council on behalf of old-age pensioners.
– From the Town Clerk?
– Yes. The letter asks that provision should be made for the accommodation of these old people while they are waiting for -their pensions. I can readily imagine that the condition of affairs complained of at Wallsend, Plattsburg, is general.
– The honorable member should not jump to conclusions like that.
– I am led to believe so, because our post-office buildings are very much alike. A very small expense should be sufficient to provide accommodation which would make these old people comfortable while they are waiting for their pensions to be paid. In connexion generally with the administration of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, I have at different times referred to the fact that in quite a number of cases the pensions paid to old-age pensioners under the State Act in New South Wales have been reduced since the obligation to pay old-age pensions has been undertaken by the Commonwealth. It was always understood that the Commonwealth
Act was far more liberal than the State Acts of New South Wales or Victoria.
– The residence qualification of the Commonwealth Act is more liberal. We require twenty years’ residence as against twenty-five years required under the State Acts referred to.
– The Commonwealth Act is more liberal in other respects also. In the case of property owned by an oldage pensioner we make an exemption up to £100 in value. Under the State Act in New South Wales the exemption was only of property ^50 in value. Although the Commonwealth Act is more liberal than the New South Wales Act in this respect, I find that many old-age pensioners in the mining districts, who own the little fourroomed cottages in which they reside, have had their pensions considerably reduced owing to the excessive valuations put upon their properties by the authorities administering the Commonwealth law. In many cases properties have been valued at from ^150 to ^200, which, if sold in the open market to:morrow, would not bring anything like ,£100. I ask the Treasurer to request the Commissioner to adopt some means of arriving at the valuation of properties owned by old-age pensioners other than that which is adopted at the present time. I understand that it has been the practice to adopt the capital valuations under the municipal system. In New South Wales, owing to recent legislation, municipal rates are assessed upon the unimproved values of land. A record of the capital valuations of municipal properties is kept, but as the assessment for rates is upon the unimproved values of the land, the municipal authorities are not as careful in estimating the capital valuations as they would be if their rates were assessed on those valuations.
– If we made higher valuations we should foe told that we ought to take the municipal valuations.
– There might be some force in the Treasurer’s suggestion if the Department took the valuations upon which the rates are assessed. It is remarkable that these valuations should be dealt with in one way under State legislation and in another under Commonwealth legislation.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– That a little common sense should be displayed in administering the Act.
– If the valuations adopted by the Department were higher than the municipal valuations, what would happen ?
– There is a right of appeal, but I should like to know what is to be the procedure in appeal cases. Are claimants simply to be met with the statement, “ We must adopt the municipal valuation?” The Treasurer seems to imagine that all claimants for old-age pensions are trying to get at the Department.
– Claimants in the honorable member’s electorate seem to have received worse treatment than others have, judging bv his complaints.
– I am beginning to wonder whether my electorate has been singled out for bad treatment in this regard.
– The honorable member ought not to say that ; we have been very good to him.
– I haVe brought thirteen or fourteen cases under the notice of the Department, and not one has yet been settled. If the Treasurer thinks that is good treatment I should like to know what he regards as bad treatment.
– The honorable member has had numerous answers to his inquiries.
– And all sorts of evasive answers. In the meantime these old people have to exist upon the reduced pensions. Nearly three months have elapsed since the payments were first made, and it is time that finality was reached in dealing with appeals. Surely the Department should experience no difficulty in obtaining from the local sergeants of police or others occupying a responsible position in the district, information as to the true values of these properties.
– The municipal valuations ought to be fairly reliable.
– I repeat that the. capital values of the properties as shown in the municipal valuations is not a fair guide to their values. The rates are assessed on the unimproved values, and consequently ratepayers would not think of appealing against the decision of the municipality as to the capital values shown in the second column of their assessments. The new system of local government has been in force in New South Wales for little more than twelve months, and those who failed to avail themselves of the first opportunity to appeal against the assessments are debarred from appealing for three years. The system adopted by the Department in computing the incomes of applicants is also in some cases degrading. I have already brought under the attention of the House a case in which the Department in determining the pension payable to an applicant took into consideration the fact that his daughter, who looked after him, was accommodated in his house and earned a few shillings a week at the wash tub in order to support herself. The time has come when steps must be taken in the House to secure a more humane administration of the Act.
.- The officers of the Treasury responsible for the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act are so constantly quoting section 47 of the Act, that I propose to put before the Treasurer section 43, which, I think, shows the fallacy of the interpretation placed upon it by the Department. I take it that section 47 relates simply to inmates of benevolent asylums at the time of the passing of the Act, and provides that they shall not receive old-age pensions while they are being maintained in such institutions. Clause 43 declares, however, that -
Whenever the Deputy Commissioner is satisfied that, having regard to the age, infirmity, or improvidence of a pensioner, or any other special circumstances, it is expedient that payment of any instalments of the pensions be made to any other person, a warrant to that effect shall be issued by . the Deputy Commissioner, and transmitted to the person authorized therein to receive payment.
Section 44 also deals with cases where pensioners’ are unfit to be intrusted with a pension, and declares that in such cases the Deputy Commissioner shall be empowered to make an order directing that the instalments shall be paid to any benevolent or charitable society, minister of religion, justice of the peace, or other person for the benefit of the pensioner. This matter was brought under my notice a fortnight ago by some residents of Launceston. A number of old men in the local benevolent asylum have been told that they must leave the institution, because, when they do so, they can obtain old-age pensions. Some of them are practically invalids, unable to do anything for themselves, and no one will maintain and nurse them for the amount of their old-age pensions. Some of the local residents talked of establishing a home for their reception, but I said it would be a pity to prevent these old men from living in the benevolent asylum, which is a Government institution. . During the debate on the agreement made at the Premiers’* Conference, w-e have been told again and again that the Commonwealth and the States obtain their revenue from the one people, and this ought to be borne in mind in connexion with the maintenance of our aged poor. We have in Launceston a number of institutions for the care of the infirm and aged poor, who cannot, however, receive pensions while they are there. I hope the legal gentlemen will try to get a better understanding of the Act than they have displayed hitherto. This is no new matter with me, because I discussed it the other night with the Attorney-General, and he did not seem to be quite clear as to the interpretation of the section I have quoted, although, so far as I can understand, the intention of . the measure is quite clear. I have asked the Launceston residents to specify a case and have it tested, and I hope that will be done, because I really think that the money could be paid to someone for the benefit of these poor people, even if they are inmates of .benevolent asylums. The Government, or the officials who have the administration of the Act, have, by virtue of section 44, which relates to benevolent or charitable institutions, issued regulations under which the Launceston and Hobart charities cannot be availed of by these poor people.
– ‘Who made the regulations ? Not this Government !
– Whoever made the regulations they are in print. If I had the honour of a Ministerial position, I should certainly make myself better acquainted with the Acts than the Treasurer seems to have done.
– That is quite a gratuitous remark !
– Perhaps the honorable gentleman has been in office so long that he .does not think it necessary to make himself acquainted with the Acts of Parliament he has to administer.; but I, as a humble working man, feel compelled to understand all the .business which I undertake. At any rate, I hope an endeavour will be made to do justice to these old people, however much they may .be regarded as a nuisance by those who have the administration of the law. There was another case which I brought under the notice of the Treasurer - that of-a poor coloured man who was born in India, and who, after many years’ residence here, has been deprived of his pension. Some charitable people in Sydney are collecting money to enable him to return to India, though what good that will do I do not know, seeing he is over eighty years of age. He is the son of a man who served the Empire in India many years ago. He went to sea, and landed in Sydney about fifty years ago, and has since then lived an honest, hard-working life in Australia. He received a pension under the State law, and enjoyed it for six or seven years ; but, under the Commonwealth Act,, this assistance has been withdrawn, and, at the present time, he is cast on’ the care of charitable friends. That is not a right principle for the Commonwealth to work upon. I know that Asiatics were struck out of the measure; but the colour of a man’s skin ought not to deprive him of a pension, when he has lived in the country honestly and uprightly for about fifty years.
– The Ministry supported an amendment which would have given this man a pension.
– But the Government, for their own reasons, withdrew their support from a similar amendment on a second occasion.
– The second was a wider proposal.
– I do not wish to cast blame on the Government or any individual for the present position, but may say that I voted for pensions for Asiatics who happen to have resided here for the required number of years. I wrote to the Department on the matter, and early last week received a reply that I should be supplied with further information. Seeing that the charitable friends to whom I have alluded, desire to send this man to India, on Friday next, and that I have as yet received no further communication from the Department, I scarcely know what step to take. This case only shows how slow the Department is in dealing with matters of importance. Surely we ought to be told at once whether or not, in the opinion of the Department, this man is entitled to a pension, or will receive any consideration. I have, on more than one occasion, referred to the hardships which the people on Flinders and adjacent islands suffer in the absence of more frequent and regular communication with the mainland. To Flinders Island, there is no regular postal service ; although there is supposed to be a mail once iri three weeks, and there is no tele graphic communication. A short time ago, during a storm, a mailboat got beached on the island, and there were other wrecks; and, under the circumstances, the people there were placed in a most difficult position. Years ago, the mails were carried by steamer; but the Government gave the contract to a sailing vessel. If a slightly higher subsidy were paid, the services of a steamer could be again employed with much advantage. If it is necessary to subsidize a mail service, in order that merchants and others may more quickly receive their letters from, and send letters to, the Old Country, surely we ought to pay some attention to those who reside in the outlying districts of the Commonwealth? We hear much about outlying services not paying; but nothing was said on that score when a trunk telephone was desired between Melbourne and Sydney, or when pillar boxes and other conveniences are required in the large cities. It would appear that the officials of the Department look well after those who are able to look after themselves, and leave others , neglected. I have always advocated more consideration being given to the dwellers in the outlying parts; and I shall have more to say on the subject when the general Estimates are under consideration. I thought it right to mention the subject now, however, in view of the storm to which I have already referred. As showing how the officials try, as it were, to bluff the Minister, I may say that, when I applied for a polling place for Flinders Island, it was reported that none was necessary, because not more than twenty or twenty-five would vote, the population being nearly all halfcastes. As a matter of fact, nearly ninetypeople voted, showing how far the officials were out in their calculations. I have received a letter from the Launceston Traders’ Association with reference to the steamers running between here and Tasmania, carrying the mails. The Loongana is laid up for her annual overhaul, and the companies seem to think that anything is good enough for the Tasmanian trade. This letter points out that Tasmania is the one State isolated by water from the mainland ; that after a good subsidy has been paid for the mail service in order that a steamer of a certain speed should be provided to carry the mails, a small boat of about 500 tons is put on to carry one of the mails at present, but that it is not fit to carry passengers with any comfort, and that altogether the service is unsatisfactory. The writers ask that the Postmaster-General should see that the terms of the contract are carried out, and that when it is necessary to lay the Loongana up, a steamer suitable for the business should be put on, so that people may not be prevented from travelling across the Straits as they are at present by unsuitable boats being provided. I have not much to say against the Rotomahana, one of the steamers which is running at present but a short time ago I went over in her, and we were drifting about in the Straits for six hours because some of the machinery had broken down. When coming in at the Heads one morning we nearly had a collision with a big steamer, because the steering gear had given way. For all that, she is the better boat of the two now running, as the Wareatea is a smaller boat, and neither so quick nor so comfortable to travel on. I was rather surprised at some of the remarks of the Minister of Defence the other day with reference to the members of rifle clubs, and the small percentage of efficient shots among them. The Minister ought to know that a large number of the members of the clubs consist of men who have been rifle shots in their early days. They join the clubs and pay their contributions, and very often have not the time to attend rifle practice. They are simply connected with the clubs because they wish to encourage younger men to go in for rifle shooting. He ought also to know that many of the clubs are new ones, and have not had the rifle ranges or the opportunities for shooting which would qualify their members as efficients. I should like to know if he has a return showing the number of efficient shots in the Military Forces. Does he know the number of officers connected with the Military Forces who are efficient shots? If he took a squad of officers to a range to show their efficiency, he would find out how many of them could pass a test.
– It so happens that the honorable member is giving the same explanation as I actually gave to the press myself.
– It would be much better if the Minister and his colleagues would make to members of the House the statements of their ideas and policy which they give to the press. When I come to this House, I expect to get public information from Ministers. I do not expect to get it from the press, because very often, if one begins to quote what they are reported to have said in the press, they contradict it. If they make the statement in the House, we get a correct report in Hansard. If we do not hear it ourselves, we can read it there, and we know that it is correct, without any colouring one way or the other. When I read in the press what a- public man has said, I never use it until I have asked him whether or not he has been correctly reported, because I know the way in which newspaper reports are coloured. It is to this House that the Minister of Defence should give any information which is in his possession, and when he spoke about the rifle clubs, he might have given us also a statement as to whether the officers and members of the Military Forces are efficient rifle shots or not. It is our duty to foster the use of the rifle by every youth and man in Australia, whether they are members of the Military Forces or pf rifle clubs. In that way we shall have a body of men who will be a strong defence for Australia in time of need. If a man does not know how to use a rifle, to send him to war would be like sending him to the slaughter. I, therefore, trust that we shall not hear from the Minister of Defence any more remarks disparaging rifle clubs, because, if we did not have rifle clubs, many of those useful men would be lost to the service.
– The honorable member has no right to make any such statement. It is not correct. He will find no word of mine in disparagement of rifle clubs.
– The Minister mentioned in this House, for some reason of his own, that only 40 per cent, of rifle club members were efficient, and said that something would have to be done to improve that state of things.
– I am sorry that this small appropriation should have caused honorable members to talk at such length this afternoon and evening. It is certainly an occasion upon which great latitude is given, but lookers-on must notice how little attention has been given to the Supply Bill itself and the items in it.
– That will come later.
– I am not complaining. My only reason for rising was that I might assure honorable members who have spoken in regard to the administration of old-age pensions that there are many difficulties in starting this great enterprise all over Australia. The law itself requires a good deal of explanation from the legal authorities, and as the present Government did not pass it, or frame the regulations, we have been unwilling to rush in to alter them, until we had an opportunity of seeing how they worked. In regard to the question of the inmates of benevolent institutions, it appears clear from section 45 that, when a pensioner becomes an inmate of an asylum for the insane, or hospital, his pension must be deemed to be suspended. There is not much question about what was intended there. Section 47 provides that if a person who has been in an institution leaves it he shall get twentyeight days’ pension, but that no payment on account of pension shall be made to him so long as he is an inmate of the asylum or institution. Upon those provisions the regulations were framed. Regulation No. 30 provides that when any pensioner enters any benevolent asylum, hospital, or asylum for the insane, the secretary of that institution shall forthwith send to the postmaster a notification, upon receipt of which the postmaster shall suspend payment of the pension. The whole tenor of the Act and regulations seems to be that pensioners who are in benevolent institutions shall not receive pensions. The question is wider than we are apt. to think at first sight. If we paid pensions to the inmates of benevolent or other asylums, there is no doubt that institutions of a sectarian and non-sectarian character, as well as great boarding establishments, would spring into existence for the express purpose of receiving these pensions. At any rate, it is a matter which requires a great deal of consideration, and simply because I have not spoken frequently upon this subject, the honorable member for Bass has felt himself justified in declaring that I know nothing about it. From what I can gather, I believe that the late Government devoted a good deal of attention to the framing of the regulations. That, in itself, is a sufficient reason why I should hesitate- to advise the Government to interfere with them.
– But the Commonwealth is not paying the same pensions as were paid bv the States.
– The honorable member knows the reason why that is so. There is a difference between the mode in which reductions on account of property are assessed under our Act, and that in which they were previously assessed in New South Wales and Queensland. But so far as the Commissioner and myself are concerned, the Act is being administered with a desire to do our best for the persons who are in need of these pensions. At the same time, we cannot allow our sympathies to run away with our judgment and our duty, though we would much rather err on the side of the pensioner than against him.
– But the pensioners say that they can obtain no satisfaction.
– I can well understand the existence of some dissatisfaction over this immense continent, though I am surprised at the comparatively few complaints of a really valid character which have reached the Department. Honorable members derive their information from all sorts of sources - very often they do not receive it from the pensioner* themselves. I do not think it can be said that we do not desire to give attention to every complaint which reaches us. But whether we can give a satisfactory reply to each complaint is another matter. We have all the means to enable us to arrive at a correct conclusion. We have the facts before us, and the AttorneyGeneral’s Department is always ready to advise us on points of law, and I need scarcely add that we freely avail ourselves of its services. If honorable members will let me know of any cases in which hardship is experienced, I will undertake to have them investigated, and to furnish them with a reply.
– Does that mean that representations regarding such cases should be forwarded to the Treasurer direct?
– Representations should not be forwarded to me direct unless honorable members themselves wish to adopt that course. The Commissioner is the head of the Department, but an appeal always lies from his decision to the Treasurer. ‘ Though I have no power to direct that officer, I can always send on any complaint to him with a request that he should investigate it, as is provided by law. It must be remembered, however, that in all these cases the final decision as to the amount of pension rests with the Commissioner himself. Honorable members will readily understand that upon a continent like Australia, which embraces many thousands of miles, inquiries by the Department necessarily absorb some time. For instance, if an inquiry has to be made in Western Australia, a fortnight must elapse before we can receive a reply, whilst an inquiry in Queensland will occupy many days.
– We should be lucky if we got a complaint from Queensland investigated within three months.
– In any simple Case, I am perfectly willing to utilize the telegraph with a view to securing more expedition. The initiation of a scheme of old-age pensions throughout Australia is a very big enterprise, and it is inevitable that delay and disappointment should be experienced in its initial stages. By the time the next Parliament assembles, I believe that most of these difficulties will have been overcome.
– We shall have the right honorable gentleman out of office before then.
– Then honorable members opposite will have to administer the Act, and they will find that I shall not be unmindful of the difficulties which will then beset their path. I repeat that I am willing to do all that I can to expedite inquiries being made by using the telegraph wherever that course can be profitably adopted.
.- We are very grateful to the Treasurer for his few remarks respecting the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. But he cannot escape responsibility for his statement some little time ago that if the Fisher Government remained in power he feared that the Act might be administered too liberally.
– When did I saw that ? ..
– Unfortunately for the honorable gentleman, it is upon record.
– Was it a year ago?
– When I recollect the right honorable member’s opposition to the enactment of legislation which was intended to provide funds for the payment of old-age pensions throughout Australia, and his subsequent declaration that if the Fisher Ministry remained in office the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act might be too liberally administered, I am forced to accept with some degree of reserve, his statement that he is now administering that measure in such a liberal spirit as to call forth unqualified praise rather than mild criticism. But with that particular point I shall deal in a moment or two. I am sorry that the honorable member for Robertson .is absent from the chamber, because whilst he. was complaining that oldage pensions were not being paid to the inmates of .benevolent institutions, I asked him how he voted when a proposal to grant them pensions was under consideration. His reply was that he had always voted with certain other honorable members in favour of extending consideration to the poor. If his memory be at fault in this matter, he has merely to refer to page 1602 of Hansard for the current session, to see his name recorded in a division in which he voted in favour of doing that which he now denounces as “cruel and absurd!” He had an opportunity then of voting in favour of the poor people, for whom today he has so much sympathy. I should not like to say that the elections are six weeks nearer at hand than they were when the honorable member gave that vote. But I knew that he has received a letter from a constituent, and that consequently his opinion to-day is entirely different from what it was six weeks ago. It is distinctly unfair that, having voted in that direction, and assisted to bring about the very conditions that now prevail, he should, only a few weeks after, so warmly complain of his own action, as revealed in the official record to which I have just directed attention. I feel myself called upon to make a brief reference to what is being stated by various newspapers, and I find, also, by ministers of religion from the pulpit, with respect to the death of our late deservedly-respected Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder. It is distressing - positively painful - that,, from the Ministerial bench in particular, no refutation of the falsehoods being circulated has yet been vouchsafed. Nowhere have Ministers sought to correct the wrong and cruel impressions that are being promulgated, even by ministers of religion who, I would fain believe, have been misled by what they have read in certain journals. Surely it is lamentable that partisanship should be so strong as to use the death of a man to further political ends. It is time that, in this public place, at any rate, some distinct objection should be taken to these misrepresentations.
– Have those statements been made recently?
– They have been made within the last few days ; and I regret them very much. Some honorable members in this House have taken the .opportunity of contradicting them ; but I am afraid they have not been able to secure for their contradictions the. same wide circulation as the falsehoods have secured. The public are given to understand that certain scenes occurred in this chamber, and that as the result of them, the late Speaker was distressed. They have been informed that there was such violent obstruction that the strength of Sir Frederick Holder was overtaxed, and that the long hours of sitting, the disorderly scenes, and the obstruction, in some way assisted to cause his regrettable death. Now, what are the official facts, so far as concerns the w-eek when we suffered his loss? The House met on Tuesday, 20th July, at 3 p.m., and adjourned at ii.t8 p.m. During that day, the late Speaker occupied the chair for seven hours and three minutes - by no means an excessively long day. Nothing is ‘ recorded of a character likely to have interfered with his peaceful state of mind. Nothing occurred but of such a character as to reflect credit upon him as Speaker, and upon the House generally. On the next day, Wednesday, the House met at 2.30 p.m. At 4.18 the House went into Committe, and remained so until n. 18 in the evening. It adjourned at 11.31 p.m. During that sitting, the late Speaker was in the chair only two. hours and one minute. On the third day, Thursday, the House met at 2.30 p.m., and finally adjourned some time after 5 o’clock on the following morning; but, during the whole of that sitting, the late Speaker was in the chair only four hours and twenty-three minutes - that is, from 2.30 in the afternoon until 6.30, and for twenty-three minutes only during the whole of the remainder of the sitting. He was in the chair, during the whole of that week, only thirteen hours and twenty-seven minutes, not an excessive amount for three full days’ work, which included only one all-night sitting; while the House during that week sat twenty-eight hours and fifty-six minutes. As a matter of strict truth, during the three days, the late Speaker did not occupy the chair, on an average, four and a half hours per day. It was an exceptionally light week for him. The seizure took place at six minutes past 5 in the morning of the day when he had occupied the chair only a little over four hours. As a matter of fact, he was not in the chair at the time when the seizure occurred. He had not been in the chair, except for twentythree minutes, between 6.30 p.m. on the evening of Thursday, and six minutes past 5 o’clock on the following morning, when his seizure occurred. I feel myself justified in objecting thus publicly to the statements that are being broadcasted, and that are, unfortunately, being used from various pulpits - statements behind which Ministers in particular seem to be skulking, rather than doing their duty as the custodians of the honour of the House, in circulating the truth. They are, I say, allowing statements to be broadcasted from which, presumably, they gain some little political kudos and favour, instead of contradicting them so that they may be put an end to for all time. I hope that, in the circumstance.? - seeing that no honor- . able member opposite has made a statement that is in agreement with the allegations appearing in the press, coupled with the fact that the alleged scenes did not occur, that there was no obstruction, and that absolutely nothing took place during that week of any kind whatever that was calculated to disturb the peace of mind of the late Speaker, who properly and jealously guarded the honour of this House - Ministers in particular will take some opportunity of publicly contradicting the statements that are being circulated, so that we may not be troubled with them in the future.’
– I should think so, especially after the charges that the honorable member has made.
– Personally, I have not made any charges, though it may please the Minister of Defence to see a charge in what I have said- There are some people who are so permeated with guilt, that they seem to hear a charge whenever any person opens his mouth, and whenever any shadow crosses their path, they tremble with fear.
– I mean the honorable member’s charge about Ministers skulking rather than doing their duty.
– The honorable gentleman’s guilty conscience seems to be pricking him for once in his life. I have to refer to another matter, and that is the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act. -If I may judge’ from the manner in which the Act is being administered in South Australia, the word unsympathetic certainly does not “fill the bill” in application to it. The administration is positively harsh ; so much so, that I can scarcely believe that the officials who are immediately concerned can be acting other than in accordance with special instructions. I decline to believe that the officials, if they have read the Act at all, would so administer it, unless they felt that their conduct would be approved in certain places. First let me state the case of an old man who served in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, and who to-day receives a pension of1s. a day for the services which he rendered to his country at those two periods. Because he is in receipt of a pension of 7s. a week he is debarred from obtaining a full old-age pension. The authorities are going to allow him a weekly sum of 3s. 6d. instead of 10s. When this reply was received, either he or some of his friends produced a copy of Hansard wherein the Minister in another place clearly stated that unless the two pensions amounted to over £52 there should be no deduction ; but the officials seemed to be quite superior to any statement made by a Minister.
– What case does the honorable member refer to?
– I shall furnish the Treasurer with the letter and the whole of the particulars, but I do not wish to mention the name.
– Why has he not written about the matter?
– He has written to the member for his district, which, I presume, he thought was the correct thing to do, and I have his letter in my pocket.
– He has had a long while to do it - since 1st July.
– I do not know when he made his application. I only ‘know the result of it. It may not have been made on 1st July, but somewhat later. Certainly there is no violent hurry being shown in sending out replies to claims; but of that I am not going to complain, because I do not know the number of applications which have to be dealt with. I am bringing the case before the Minister without mentioning the name so that his reply, being of a definite character, may be conveyed to the officials, and they may not act similarly in like cases.
– Perhaps he has some other property?
– According to his statement to me he has no property and no income other than the pension which he receives from the British Government. Another case is that of an old man, seventy years of age, with no property or income. In addition to having reached the allotted span of three score years and ten, he is suffering from a physical affliction, but because his wife, who is only fifty-eight years of age, is able to earn a . few shillings a week by excessively hard labour, he is in formed that he is not now eligible for an old-age pension.
– That is according to the Act, is it not?
– I know that although the Act is capable of another interpretation as I read it, the official interpretation is that if a wife has a certain income one-half of it has to be accounted to her husband. That seems to me to be a wrong interpretation. It is a case wherein the administration of the law has been excessively harsh, and one which calls for Ministerial intervention if the officials will not repair the wrong. Another case is that of a man over eighty years of age. A very few years ago an incident occurred in his life which, I admit, was not creditable to him, and though it might be regarded that he was of such an age as to be scarcely responsible for his actions, he was adjudged responsible for them, and paid whatever penalty his country demanded of him. Yet, at the age of eighty-three years, when he is practically destitute, he is informed that he is not a man of good character, and must, so far as an old-age pension is concerned, starve. He is receiving rations from the State authorities. His is peculiarly a case where, despite the little incident in his life, which, 1 admit, was not creditable, an old-age pension should be paid, and not one where the interpretation of “ good character “ should be of such a harsh nature as to deprive him of the few shillings a week which, in my opinion, ought to be given to him.
– According to paragraph, b of section 26, where husband and wife are living together, “ the income of each shall be deemed to be half the total income of both.”
– I know the wording of the provision and the interpretation which is put upon it ; but there is another interpretation which can just as easily be put upon it. Of course, we cannot now amend the Act, but in that very provision there is an incentive to the separation of husband and wife. If they happen to be separated, their incomes do not count in the collective sense, but if they live together, as they should, and the wife has an income of a few pounds, then, irrespective of the condition and age of the husband, one-half of that income is accounted to be his, and the pension is proportionately reduced. The provision seems to be unfortunately worded, and it is one which might well be amended at the earliest opportunity. If the Treasurer will look carefully into the provision - and if he has not time it might be looked into by the law officers - I believe it will be found that an entirely different interpretation can be put upon it. At any rate, in the case of the man seventy years of age, the few shillings a week which the wife is earning by hard labour - a few shillings per week which she needs to keep herself and an adopted child - should not account against her aged and infirm husband so as to prevent him from receiving an old-age pension. During the course of the debate this afternoon the Treasurer repeatedly interjected, “ These persons can apply again.” In South Australia, when an application is refused, and a complaint is made by the individual - I have not received such a reply - the invariable answer is, “ You can apply again next year.” There is no appeal from the harsh decision.
– But there is an appeal.
– Certainly an appeal will be made in some instances if the officials will not bring about the necessary alterations, but the invariable reply to the applicant is,” You can apply again next year.” That is five or six months ahead. What is to become of the individual in the meantime ?
– That was the practice in New South Wales.
– It may have been.
– It is not the practice with the Commonwealth.
– I hope not. Because a practice obtained in a particular State that is no reason why it should be adopted by the Federal authorities. I take it that the practice in various States did not meet with the approval of the people generally. Otherwise they would never have consented to the establishment of this Parliament. So, in many directions, what obtains in a particular State is not necessarily right. I desire to draw the attention of the Minister of Defence to one or two little matters. Ministers, and particularly the Minister of Defence, are continually asserting that the Opposition has systematically obstructed the transaction of business.
– A great deal of time has been occupied in the discussion of this preliminary Supply motion.
– Surely a few hours’ discussion is not much when a proposal to spend over£500,000 is before the Committee.
– The subjects which have been discussed to-day have been already dealt with during grievance debates, and on other occasions.
– It is reported that, on one occasion, the right honorable member said airily, “What is a million? Merely the price of a glass of beer per head of the population.”
– It would have to be a big glass to cost as much as that.
– Let us get on.
– I ask the honorable member for Mernda, who is very seldom in the chamber, not to interrupt.
– I am always here.
– Honorable members must determine for themselves whether they shall attend or not. Of late the exigencies of the Ministerial position have demanded a more regular attendance of Ministerial supporters than was their wont. But they should not vent their consequent chagrin upon the members of the Opposition, by repeated interruptions. I ask the Minister of Defence, when criticising the action of the Opposition in future, to particularize, instead of making mere general statements which reflect discreditably upon him, although creating the impression in the mind of the public that we desire to prevent the transaction of business. Although Ministers have the conduct of parliamentary business in their hands, there is no evidence of their desire to push on with it. A number of measures appear on the notice-paper, but no attempt is made to pass them into law. Last week the “ gag “ was applied, at the instance of the Ministry, ostensibly to expedite the passing of a certain measure which could have been put through that night, but, having silenced the Opposition, the Government at once reported progress, although no progress had been made, and adjourned the House. On that occasion the Opposition was pleading with Ministers to allow the business of the country to be proceeded with. Ministerial supporters may deny those statements, but the facts are on official record. The press have helped them by repeating what is not true, but it is none the less a fact that, after applying the closure to thediscussion of a measure which had lasted only a few hours, the Government adjourned the House.
– We desired to, and did, make progress with that measure.
– What Ministers desired on that occasion was to make progress to their homes. Let me take another measure. For years the Prime Minister has been saying that a defence scheme is essential for the protection of Australia- Two or three years ago, when addressing a meeting of ladies, he created a feeling of horror in their minds by depicting the awful possibilities of an Asiatic invasion. But today Ministers care nothing whether the Defence Bill is passed or not.” In order to mislead the public, leave to introduce the measure was obtained on the 7th August. When requested to say if the Bill was ready the honorable gentleman was quite unable to reply. Week after week since the 7 th August members of the Opposition ha.ve asked whether the Bill is ready, and when it will be introduced, and the Minister has had to reply each time in an evasive manner that he hoped it would be brought down in a few days. The Bill is” not yet ready. To ask some five weeks ago for leave to introduce it was merely one of those petty devices which might deceive some members of the public, but which ought not to be attempted in this House. In connexion with this particular Bill the Argus of to-day publishes these words -
The Minister of Defence, Mr. Joseph Cook, has had to delay the bringing down of his Defence Bill owing to the slow progress of business in the House.
The article goes on to infer that the slow progress is due entirely to the Opposition. When questioned on the matter the Minister, much against his will, and after one evasive reply, had to admit that the Bill is not yet ready ; that the Argus is misleading the public when it makes these statements, and that so far as the introduction of the Defence Bill is concerned it has not been prevented by any slow progress of business or any obstruction due to the Opposition. I shall refer to one other little matter in connexion with, defence, and then I shall have finished. I notice that the Minister spoke yesterday at a salon to a gathering of ladies. We are not informed as to how many were there, but apparently the Minister of Defence addressed them at their request.
– There were about 150 present.
– The Argus perhaps thought the number present was not sufficiently large to warrant it in publishing details, but it is pleasing to know that in order to hear “An interesting and important speech’’ by the Minister on “ One Discipline, One Control” and “The Pacific Fleet,” and “having reference to the general policy of the present Government and particularly to his defence proposals,” about 150 ladies from the whole of Melbourne and its suburbs foregathered at the salon.
– It was held in a private dwelling, and there were as many present as could be packed into the house.
– I touch upon the subject chiefly because, although invited to say something, the Minister seems to have been particularly careful, since he is reported as saying -
He hoped they would not expect him to unfold the defence proposals of the Government;
This was to be an important speech, particularly in relation to the defence proposals, but in it the honorable gentleman did not unfold ‘he defence proposals of the Government - I presume because he is not even yet ready to do so.
– I explained the reason - that my duty was to this House first.
– The reason probably was that despite the statements repeatedly published in the press, that this business could not be brought down because of obstruction by the Opposition, the Minister is not ready yet to deal with the defence proposals of the Government. Any member of the Ministry or of the House has a perfect right to address the electors of the Commonwealth wherever they will gather, but I think I am justified in raising a. protest against Ministers meeting in private places some few specially interested persons and making to them statements which ought to be made to the House, in order to- influence the public mind in a direction in which it should not be influenced. Every statement made by Ministers can be published in the press to the extent they desire. We find meetings of this character growing in Australia, until now the Defence proposals, the blood and thunder, carnage and horrors of war, are taken by the gallant Minister of Defence into private houses and ladies’ salons, instead of being touched upon in Parliament, where they might be dealt with in the manner their importance demands. One point is worthy of notice. The Minister has been reading a book by some Danish professor, from which he has discovered the way in which history is taught in Denmark. He said -
They had revised their school history books bv taking out matters of less moment and filling the page with an account of those radiant days and events of the past which had been all important to them as a people.
The Minister has not the power, just now to take action in the matter himself, but possibly he will be able to persuade the New South Wales Minister of Education to revise the school books of that State and fill them with accounts of the radiant days and events of the past. I can imagine the 150 ladies who did the honorable gentleman the high honour to listen to him yesterday reading, with absolute horror, the account of the honorable gentleman’s radiant days and events of the. past. When they found that they had been entertaining unawares a man who had graduated in public life through the Labour party, I venture to believe their horror would be too strong for words. When later on they read in the revised school history book that the honorable gentleman was at one time a Socialist, I think the salon would be upset. There would be a flutter in the dove-cot, and possibly the invitations to Ministers in future might be restricted. But when in relation to Commonwealth defence, coupled with the defence of the Empire, they read in the school history book recording the radiant days and wonderful events of the past that the honorable gentleman at one time was a roaring Republican, I can imagine the 150 ladies fainting in dismay. I hope that the Defence proposals will be unfolded to the men of Australia first.
– Are not the women entitled to hear about defence?
– They are.
– The honorable member may count them of no importance, but -I assure him I do- not estimate them in that way.
– I am pleased to hear that the honorable gentleman counts the ladies of Australia as of some importance.
– They are at least voters.
– From that point of view they are of importance to the Minister. If they were not voters they would be of no importance whatever to the honorable gentleman. That women were of importance to honorable members of the Opposition before they had votes is proved by the fact that those honorable members fought for years to give them the votes which now make them of importance to the Minister. I am pleased that we have been able, by our own action, to make them important personages, in his opinion. I hope the time will never come when we shall require from the women folk of Australia more than the moral support which is, perhaps, essential in matters of defence, and that the fighting will be confined to the men folk. I trust that the honorable member for Parramatta, now that he is in charge of a Department which, unfortunately, he has not yet given any indication of understanding, will confine his attention to the men, in the first place, before defence proposals are unfolded at semi-private gatherings to the women folk of Australia. If he does not do so, we may have the order of things completely reversed. It is not my intention to deal with questions of defence at great length, but I ask the Minister, as a special favour to himself, to consider the reply that he gave to-day to two questions that I submitted to him. I asked him, in the first place, what were the duties of the Chief of the General Staff, and, secondly, what were the duties of the Inspector-General. If the honorable member has anywhere in Australia an absolutely independent friend with a knowledge of things military, I hope that he will ask him what he thinks of his reply. If that gentleman will give the Minister his unbiased opinion, then never again will this House be insulted by a similar answer.
– The honorable member is revealing his ignorance of the whole question by talking such “ tripe.”
– I cannot help the distinct vulgarity of the Minister.
– The honorable member has been insulting throughout his speech.
– The honorable gentleman is at liberty to use words that are congenial to him. I referred to the subject only in his own interests as Minister of Defence.
– I do not want the honorable member to consider my interests in any way.
– We shall have in a few weeks, I believe, a visit from a gentleman whose military qualifications ‘are undoubted, and who stands high in the military sendee of the Empire. If the reply to my question were put before him, and he had any knowledge whatever of the conditions pertaining to Australia, his first question would be, “ Who and what is the Minister of Defence that he could give such replies in the House?”
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra; [9.59].- I desire to bring under the notice ot the Treasurer, who has invited honorable members to put before him specific cases relating to the administration ot the Old-Age Pensions Act, in order that he may be able to deal with them, one or two matters that I think worthy
Of his attention. 1 have hitherto sent complaints direct to the Commissioner, and admit that I have obtained great satisfaction from him. 1 believe that the Commissioner and his staff are doing their utmost to administer the Act fairly, but 1 have before me a case which I think the Treasurer should have brought under his attention. In a letter dated 6th instant, the Deputy Commissioner for Victoria, Mr. A. B. Weire, replied to a claimant for an old-age pension -
I have to acquaint you that your claim for a pension certificate has been rejected on the ground that you have not been naturalized for three years.
That reply was furnished, although on 13th August last, assent was given to an Act providing that it is not necessary that claimants for old-age pensions shall have been naturalized for three years. I do not think that it would take an officer three weeks to learn of the passing of an Act providing for an increment to any public servant, and as it is quite possible that similar replies may have been sent to other applicants, 1 trust that the Treasurer will inquire into the matter, and have fresh notices sent out.
– Certainly. It is a very bad case.
– I have been treated with the utmost courtesy by the officers of the Department, and, as near as I can remember, every case that I have submitted to them has been dealt with as expeditiously as possible. I recognise that difficulties are likely to arise in the administration of. a new and extensive system, but this is certainly a very hard case. Foreigners to whom such replies have been sent may not prosecute their claims for a pension, and I therefore hope that amended answers will be sent out in such cases, so that the claimants may obtain their pensions as from the date of their original applications, and not have to wait twelve months or three years.. It is well known to many honorable members that under the Victorian Old-age Pensions Act, recipients of old-age pensions had to hand over to the Commissioner the deeds of their properties. I understood that in such cases the deeds were now being returned, but the Deputy Commissioner in Victoria, recently wrote a letter stating that -
The Federal Old-age Pensions Act does not in any way affect the properties of pensioners whose deeds are held by the Victorian Government. At the same time, it is proposed to pass legislation dealing with the return of the deeds mentioned. As soon as such legislation becomes law, steps will be taken to return the deeds to the pensioners interested.
I presume that the legislation referred to will have to be passed by the Victorian Parliament.
– That is! so.
– Does the Treasurer know whether or not the Victorian Government contemplate passing such legislation ?
– I have not had the matter brought under my notice before.
– I hope that the right honorable gentleman will make a note of this matter. Some pensioners may desire the return of their deeds in order that they may sell their properties, and remove to localities where they may be able to live more comfortably, or be in closer touch with their friends.
– I will note the case.
– I wish now to ask the Postmaster-General _ whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that he intends to extend the time within which the gentlemen appointed to inquire into the cost of the telephone system are to submit a report, and, if so, whether he has any assurance that the report will be forthcoming within the extended period? I understand that when they were appointed, the Postmaster-General stated that they would report within three months.
– The time is limited.
– The three months has just about expired ; and I think every honorable member would like to arrive atfinality. As a town representative, I should like to see the matter placed on a properbasis, so that it may not he thought that the cities are “scoring off” the country districts. If three further months a_e to be allowed, it is likely that, by that time, this Parliament will have ceased to exist; and, though I realize that the fixing of telephone rates is an administrative act, I think we should have the report, so that the recommendations may be criticised in this Parliament in the light of the additional, information that will be afforded.
– I think there ought to be a .quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– When the honorable member for Maribyrnong was PostmasterGeneral I asked several questions relating to the number of parcels received at the Melbourne and Sydney offices, and the amounts paid to the contractors for carrying them. I understand that fresh contracts are to be let, or have recently been let, and I desire to know whether the Minister will obtain a report whether it would not be possible for the Department to do the greater portion of the work itself. I observe from the press that an officer of the Department has been giving evidence on this very question before the Postal Commission ; and not only Melbourne and suburbs, but every other large city, is affected. The letter-carriers have to go round all the streets, and the mails have to be collected, and I think that the major part of the parcels work could be done by our own officers with our own vehicles. It is certain that the contractors must make a fair profit, or they would not enter into the contracts.
– I found that the number of parcels in each district was ~so . small that the idea of doing the work ourselves was quite impracticable, though I am in sympathy with the idea.
– The- number of parcels each year runs into thousands, and I think it would pay the Department to act on my suggestion, though I have no doubt that the ex- Postmaster-General may have found that some of the officers would prefer to have the work done by contract.
– That was not the case.
– The parcels post is becoming more popular every year; and, if the evidence given before the Royal Commission is correctly reported, it is a branch of work to which greater attention should be paid. In regard to the undergrounding of the wires at the Windsor Exchange, and in other suburbs, I suggest that the Minister have it stipulated strictly in the contracts what wages are to be paid to the labourers, and not merely have it provided that they shall not be less than the average or those paid by any particular council. I speak in the interests of both contractors and employes, who would then know’ definitely the conditions of the employment, and would be greatly advantaged thereby.
– That was done in Adelaide on my order.
– What was the rate in Adelaide ?
– The ruling rate was 8s.
– That, I believe, is the ruling rate in the metropolitan area in Melbourne for this class of work, though some men may be paid a little more. This is not work that can be done satisfactorily by an ordinary labourer ; and, at any rate, I suggest that inquiries should be made by the Minister, because this is the last opportunity to draw attention to the subject before the specifications are drawn up.
.- I regret that the Treasurer did not refer to the remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay, the honorable member for Adelaide, and others, in regard to the slanderous reports connected with the death of the late Speaker. If the Treasurer’s skin is still so thick that he cannot see his way-
– Order !
– As the Treasurer purposely avoided answering, I appeal to the Prime Minister. This is not a partyquestion, because the late Speaker’s death was regretted on all sides of the House; and the untruthful and calumnious reports in the Review of Reviews ought not to remain uncontradicted.- That publication states -
The early morning of Friday, 23rd July, 1909, will live vividly in the mind of every Federal member. For some fourteen hours the Federal House, had been wordily fighting in a fashion that would have been a disgrace to a pack of savages wrangling in some inter-tribal quarrel. Sir William Lyne and some of (he members of the Labour party were the chief offenders.
I hold in my hand a letter from the angel woman who shared the life of the late Speaker. In that she thanked me for what we did, and said that she knew the late Speaker had almost failed’ on the Friday before, for, after hurrying from the tram to the train, he collapsed in the train. Any medical man with a knowledge of the illness from which he died will say that it was possible for him to have died in his bed, or at any moment. When such lies are uttered in the press or from the pulpit, it is not just to the honour of this House, and it is the duty of the Ministry to see that such a slur is wiped away. If they, from the Treasurer down, can support such a calumny as that, I cannot complime’nt them on their consciences.
– And the same estimable lady wrote a nice letter to the honorable member for Hume to the same effect.
– That dear lady knew well the frail life which the late Speaker had. I resent strongly such an imputation as I have quoted, and I tell those whose lying lips utter it, whether in the press or the pulpit, that they are demeaning themselves as men, that they are lowering themselves and their honour, and are a disgrace to their kind. If such a statement were true, were there not sufficient friends of the dead man in this House, to utter it when we were speaking in his praise? May I appeal to the Prime Minister to let the speeches which were made in this House just after the late Speaker’s death be spread broadcast, so that they may give the answer to the calumny? I have finished with that subject. The Treasurer has to thank bis inability to see the injustice of the administration of the present Old-age Pensions Act, and the iniquitous number of questions asked under the regulations, for nine-tenths of the debate tonight. If the previous Ministry, of which I was a supporter, were to blame for those infamous questions, how much more blame should be attached to the Ministry, or Minister, who has permitted them to continue? Does the Postmaster-General support the infamy of those questions? The Treasurer’s troubles, forsooth, about old-age pensioners ! He would rather deck himself out in about £50 worth of gold lace and trot about - a show for the Gods. I hold here a copy of a letter which I sent to the Department in reference to an old man named William Hill. I asked them to let me know why he got only 4s. per week. I stated that he was eighty-two years of age, ‘ and had a life annuity from his mother’s estate of £14 or £15 a year. He received8s. and 10s. under the Victorian Old-age Pensions Act; yet he is offered a pittance of 4s. How would the Treasurer like his father, eighty years of age, to be treated in that scandalous and disgraceful fashion? He may laugh and jeer at it; but let me tell him that the people outside do not admire him. He dare not defend these questions before any meeting in this city or other large centre of population. The idea of asking an old man or an old woman of sixty-five years of age, “ What was the maiden name of your mother?” What has that to do with an old man or woman who wants 10s. a week - not money which the Treasurer has given, but which the people are paying by means of taxation ? Let me read another letter to try if I can possibly persuade this old man, between sixty and seventy years of age, to have a little more commiseration for these other old people. This letter is from an old gentleman who has raised a large family; and I am reading it on behalf of the honorable member for Fawkner, who is unable to be present to-night. It is. as follows : -
I applied for an old-age pension at the latter end of June. An officer called inJuly, and after due inquiries remarked, “You will have no bother. You are all right.” Appeared before Mr. Meehan, the magistrate, at Prahran, early this month ; examination satisfactory ; recommended to the Commissioner for ten shillings. You, sir, may imagine my surprise and indignation when last week at the Windsor P.O. I was paid 4s. per week. I called on Mr. Osborne to find where the mistake lay - as a mistake I thought it must be. He told me to see Mr. Weire at the Old-age Pensions Office, who had all the papers. Mr. Weire got the papers and said, “ You have 10s. superannuation from the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.”
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090914_reps_3_51/>.