3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, transmitting Supplementary
Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ended 30th June, 1908, and recommending appropriation accordingly.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Q.M. Sergeant and a N.C.O. from the R.A.A. ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and2. Yes. 3.At present there are two non-commissioned officers from the Instructional Staff attached to the Australian Garrison Artillery, and, in addition, one non-commissioned officer of the Royal Australian Artillery is temporarily employed with the Australian Garrison Artillery, .
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Rolls to see if their applications or transfers have been registered before- the Rolls are printed ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Telegraph and Telephone Extensions and Mail Services in Country Districts - Financial Obligations of Commonwealth - Old-Age Pensions - Northern Territory Acceptance Bill - High Commissioner Bill - Post and Telegraph Facilities, Wanstead - Telephone Services, Charters Towers; Townsville to Ayr ; Penrith Hospital ; Sydney to Katoomba ; Penrith to Glenbrook - Post Offices, Longwood;mungana;zillmanton; -Supply of Copper Wire - Liverpool Manoeuvres Area - Uniform Postage System - Commonwealth Postage Stamp - Postal Commission - Rifle Range at Junee - Intoxicants at Military Tattoo - Newcastle Coal Miners’ Strike - Machines for Cleaning Rifle Barrels and Metal Work - Salaries of Hansard StaffImportation of Portuguese Cocoa - Police and Firemen’s Medals for Bravery - Subsidies to Boys’ Brigades - Public Servants : Minimum Wage - Employes in Government House Gardens - Electoral Rolls- Telephone Accounts Committee - Labour Exchange - Tasmanian Post Offices - Intelligence Branch : Departments of Customs and External Affairs - Public Telephones - Legal Expenses of Employes of Agricultural Implement Makers.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I desire to bring before the House one of the most serious grievances which I have had to voice since I have been a member of this Parliament. Were the matter not of such grave importance, I should wait until the Estimates of the Department of the PostmasterGeneral came before us to criticise its administration. No doubt it will be a staggerer to honorable gentlemen, particularly the representatives of Queensland, to learn that not a mile of new telegraph line, except in connexion with new rail ways, has been erected in that State since Federation was inaugurated. It is a very fine thing for the State that Federation did not come about a few years earlier. While the Department of the Postmaster-General has been busy undergrounding telephone wires in the other States, it has wholly failed to extend the Queensland telegraph system. I asked the Secretary to the Department for a return showing the mileage of new wire, or a list of the new lines, erected since Federation, and the information with which he has supplied me bears out my statement. Prior to Federation it was customary for the State Parliament to grant . £50,000 or £60,000 annually for telegraph extension, but since Federation not a penny has been placed on our Estimates for that purpose, so far as Queensland is concerned. This is a most serious matter for a country of distances such as that is, the removal of the administration of the Department from Brisbane to Melbourne having had very serious consequences for it.
– Queensland has been very patient.
– I should think so. The Department has erected new telegraph lines only where it was forced to do so, namely, along new railway lines, where it was compelled to share the cost with the Railway Department. In my electorate there are persons who are hundreds of, and in some cases more than a thousand, miles from civilization, and nothing has been done to improve the means of telegraphic communication there. The Department has been badly advised in this matter. The letter which 1 have received from the Secretary to the Department is dated the 10th November, and is as follows: -
Sir, - With reference to your recent verbal inquiry as to how many new telegraph line extensions, apart from those along railways, have been provided in Queensland since the transfer of this Department to the Commonwealth, I have the honour to forward herewith copy of a statement furnished by the. Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Brisbane, showing, in detail, the information desired by you.
I have been carefully through the list, and have ascertained that what are referred to as telegraph extensions are in every instance telephone extensions. Those who represent Queensland constituencies will bear me out in this. To my own knowledge the new lines in my electorate are telephone,not telegraph, lines. As every one is aware, Queensland has developed enormously during the past ten years. Land settlement has increased fabulously, particularly in the electorate which I represent, so that it is now very difficult to obtain there a 20,000-acre grazing farm suitable for the raising of sheep. ‘ Yet every day I receive complaints of the telegraph system, and requests to try to get something done to improve the communication with Brisbane. Sometimes telegrams handed in for despatch from Longreach or B arcal- . dine in the morning are not sent away before night. Yet nothing has been done to cope with the increase of business, though all that would be necessary in cases like those, the poles being al read y in position, would be to fix more insulators, and put up new wires. Notwithstanding the public complaints, and my efforts, I cannot get the Department to move, and so desperate are my constituents becoming that some of them talk of voting against me because nothing is done for them. I ask the Postmaster-General to give us fair treatment. In the statement to which I have referred no information regarding mileage is given. I do not say that the omission is intentional, but it is strange that it has occurred Moreover, as I have said, what are referred to as telegraph extensions are telephone extensions. From a place not far from Cleveland there is telephone connexion by a wire suspended partly from trees and partly from poles, it not being a regulation line. This is purely a telephone line, all messages transmitted being sent by telephone. There is no telegraph instrument connected with it. Yet because the messages are charged for at telegraph rates, the line is classed as a telegraph line. A similar line is that from Nambour to Kenilworth, and there is another of the same kind from the Seaview Hotel at Sandgate. That is only two small telephone lines in a year. In 1902. not one mile of line, either telephone or telegraph, was constructed. In 1903 two telephone lines on which telegraph rates are charged were constructed, namely, from Bogimbah to Fraser’s Island, and from Cardwell to Ripple Creek in the Herbert electorate. In 1904 three telephone lines on which telegraphic rates are charged were constructed, namely, the Silverspur loop line, a line from St. George to Mungindi, and a line from Ipswich to Dugandan.
– The honorable member has had a number of telephone lines provided in his electorate.
– In three years only one small line - namely, the Silverspur loop line - has been provided in my electorate, which is very nearly as large as New South Wales, and about four times as large as Victoria, and in which settlement is going ahead more rapidly than in any other portion of the State. When it is given one miserable loop telephone line in three years, it is high time that somebody raised his voice on behalf of the State. We have been a. long-suffering people to stand such treatment. At Exhibition time in Brisbane several State politicians asked me when I was going to do something in the direction of securing telegraph extension in Western Queensland. I replied, “ We are getting on with the work as fast as we can.” “You get on with the work so fast,” said Mr. Philp, “that not one mile has been constructed since Federation.” It was a regular staggerer to me to hear that in a State like Queensland not a single pound had been spent on new telegraph construction in the course of nine years. In 1906 seven new telephone lines on which telegraph rates are charged were constructed, namely, Listohan. Chillagoe, Goombungee, Ebagoolah, EuloPalmwoods, Blackbutt, and HerbertonAtherton. The Department erected eleven new telephone lines in 1907, and thirteen in 1908. I propose now to speak of those which have been constructed in my electorate. A short time ago I referred- to . the line from Cleveland to Redland Bay. Between those points there has been constructed a cheap telephone line, either by suspending the wires on the trees in the bush, or by using shorter poles, and, of course, telegraph rates are charged. Because a telegraph rate of 6d. is charged, this telephone line has been classed as a new telegraph line. In 1909 only three new telephone lines were provided in Queensland, namely, one .from Kirk Siding to Kirk Diggings, one from Gurrumbah to Donald, and one from Card-, well to Tully River. I do not hesitate to say that in the matter of telegraph construction Queensland has a very serious cause of complaint against the Commonwealth. In my electorate a cheese-paring policy is pursued in regard to the postal service. It must be well known to honorable members generally that within the last ten years the value of stock, par.ticularly horses, has risen. In Queensland the value of horse flesh has risen in many instances from 500 to 600 per cent.
Yet the Postal Department expects postal services to be carried out at exactly the same prices as previously. If, for instance, a man demands j£i6o to run a service, because horse flesh is dearer and wages are higher, the Department requires the work to be done for .£130, the amount which it paid ten years before. The officials overlook the fact ‘hat Queensland has now a Wages Board system, and that the Federal Arbitration award operates in the western districts, where drivers have to be paid proper wages, and are only permitted to work reasonable hours, the Department expects to get postal services run now at the same rate as it did ten years ago, quite forgetful of the fact that a horse which could then have been purchased for £10 or even ^5 is now worth £40. Not only have the rates of wages and the price of horseflesh increased, but rations and everything else have risen in value. I am told that in Queensland there is a potato famine, owing to the prohibition of Tasmanian potatoes. When, owing to these considerations, the cost of a postal service is increased, the Department say to the residents, “We do not intend to give you the service unless you are prepared to make up the deficiency.” That is, I think, diabolical treatment of the men who are pioneering, and making life as easy as possible for those who live in the towns. Although these pioneers are making business for the townspeople, yet they are penalized to the extent of not id. or 2d., but 6d. or 8d. on every letter which they receive or despatch, as they have proved to my satisfaction. If the officials do not intend to run the Department for the benefit of those who live in outback places I should like to know what their policy is. Every day I receive from different parts of my electorate, particularly from the western portions, letters in which the writers complain that they are shut off from postal communication, simply because the tenders which have been received are, in the opinion of the Department, too high. Only two years ago the officials shut the people of one district off from postal communication merely because the tenderer asked for ^30 more than did the previous contractor, and for several weeks the pioneers were left without their correspondence. During all that time it was lying at Morven, the nearest railway station, and in some instances men had to send 118 miles to get their letters. How long would the people of Melbourne put up with one delivery less per day? They would not stand such treatment for five minutes. They would have the Age and the Argus down, on the Department ; they would have deputations from the Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Manufactures and the honorable member for Maribyrnong would be leading all the “ wowsers “ of this city to the Department to know why their correspondence could not be delivered as previously. I ask the Postmaster-General tolook into these matters, and not to allow the officials to shuffle as they do by sending along a document which contains only half the truth. What I desired to know was how many miles of new telegraph lines had been constructed since Federation, but I have been furnished with a list of new telephone lines on which telegraph rates are charged. When I spoke to the Secretary over the telephone he said that to all intents and purposes these are telegraph lines. In the official mind they may be regarded in that light, but you, sir, from your long Parliamentary experienceknow exactly how much value to attach to official answers. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to make a searching inquiry regarding the postal services in Western Queensland. For many years prior toFederation the State Government dealt liberally with the pioneers in outback places, because they realized that the pioneers were making history. These men practically carried their lives in their hands when they travelled west with their herds and flocks. Of course it was not for philanthropic reasons that they endured hardships. If they had not gone west in the early days and made it possible for myself and many others to follow intheir footsteps, life would have been hard inthe State to-day. The State Government treated the western residents most liberally, extending every advantage which it waspossible to give, consistently with safety to the revenue.
– You squatters were always treated well.
– I do not know. I thank the honorable member for .calling me a squatter, but I would point out that the squatters in Western Queensland do not get treated one-tenth as well as do the town* squatters like the honorable member and some of his class. The squatters in the western districts of my State do not get their letters delivered at their door. In many instances they have to ride 30 or 40 miles once a week, and in some cases once a month. I am sorry to say that they have been deprived of even their once a week mails. In many instances the mail services out towards Birdsville and the South Australian border have been cut off. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to extend to the people in the outback districts the same fair treatment as the State Government did, and not to allow any parsimonious action on the part of officials to prevent the running of a weekly or fortnightly or monthly service.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Commonwealth ought to be able to manage belter than did the States?
– I should like the Commonwealth to do so. If we could only get the same fair treatment as we enjoyed prior to FederationI, for one, would be perfectly satisfied. All the people in my electorate were under the impression that under the Commonwealth the postal service would be improved, but they have had a rude awakening.
– Has the service in the honorable member’s electorate been reduced since Federation?
– Yes, in many instances, and in others it has been cut off.
– In the outlying districts.
– That is so. In many remote districts in the western part of Queensland the arrival and departure of the mail coach is a most important event.
– The cities rule Australia.
– If that is so, I am very sorry. My electorate is devoted almost entirely to the pastoral industry, which is the backbone of the Commonwealth, and it is in such districts that mail services are being curtailed. I do not blame the Deputy Postmaster-General. He must receive instructions from the Central Administration. If he were instructed that mail services out west must be treated liberally, he would not dare to disregard that direction.
– The Deputies take their cue from the Central Office.
– They do. I have appealed to the Deputy Postmaster-General of Queensland to do what I ask, and he has told me thathe cannot. I, therefore, appeal to the Minister, and, judging by my own experience of his administration, I do not think that I shall appeal in vain. Does he think that Queensland has been treated fairly in the matter of telephone and telegraph services in remote portions of the State, which are progressing by leaps and bounds? Does he think that the postal service there is what it ought to be? Some may make impossible requests, but all that I ask is that the existing services shall be retained; that ho service shall be curtailed, and that in dealing with tenders for mail services, which are already in and have been hung up, the Department will have clue regard to the price of horseflesh and the wages paid by the tenderers.
.- I wish to suggest to the Prime Minister, as I did last night, the desirableness of his making a statement to the House with regard to the way in which the Government propose to meet the financial obligations of the Commonwealth. We are faced today with a very serious situation. On the Treasurer’s own showing, in the absence of the agreement which has been entered into with the Premiers of the States, we should have had a deficit for the financial year of £1, 200,000. The right honorable gentleman, in his Budget statement, intimated that the Government proposed to issue short-dated Treasury bonds to tide them over a temporary difficulty, but I understand that since the making of the agreement with the State Premiers, that proposal has been set aside. Under the financial agreement, the State Governments have undertaken to contribute this year£600,000 to the cost of Old-age pensions. If that contribution be made, the estimated deficit will be reduced to £600,000. It must be remembered, however, that since the Treasurer framed his Estimates of revenue and expenditure, various proposals have been made that must involve a material increase in our expenditure. The Defence Bill, for instance, means a largely increased outlay on defence. The Naval Defence Bill, which is about to be submitted, will involve additional expenditure, and the financing of the Northern Territory is also a serious undertaking. In respect of these three matters alone, the Commonwealth must incur additional expenditure during the current financial year, and a largely increased expenditure next year. In the circumstances, therefore, it is urgently necessary for the Prime Minister to take the House into his confidence, and to state plainly how the Government propose to finance all these obligations. A Parliament that incurs obligations without making provision for them is sure to meet with disaster.
We are entitled to know whether the Government intend to proceed with their proposal for the issue of short-dated Treasury bonds, or whether they have decided to float a loan. The Postmaster-General has this morning intimated that we shall be asked to make a further appropriation in respect of new works- and buildings.
– Only in regard to the belated expenditure of the last financial year.
– We may fairly claim that we ought to have from the Government, before we pass the Appropriation Bill, a statement as to their financial proposals. I endeavoured last night to in-, duce the Minister of External Affairs, who was in charge of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, to give us some information on that point, but I take it that, in the absence of his chief, he did not care to do so. I desire now to refer to one or two other matters of less importance. I have the greatest, sympathy with the views expressed by the honorable member for Maranoa, as to the extension of telephone and telegraph facilities in the outlying parts of the Commonwealth. I represent a large and scattered constituency, comprising many small centres of population, the permanency of which, as in the case of all mining townships, cannot be absolutely determined, and the greatest difficulty is experienced in securing for them services that the Postmaster-General’s Department ought readily to supply. The stipulations imposed by the Department in connexion with applications for improving the services are altogether excessive. I shall not say that the Postmaster-General has no sympathy with residents of outlying districts, but I do submit to him that the Government, in connexion with their financial proposals, should give due attention to the needs of remote parts of the Commonwealth. I come now to the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act. From a return that has been presented, I find that although the Act was passed about fifteen months ago, and has been in operation for nearly five months, over 400 claims for pensions in Western Australia still remain unheard. Roughly speaking, only 2,000 applications were received in that State, and these might reasonably have been dealt with before now. The “Treasurer should ascertain the cause of the delay, and endeavour to have it removed at once, so that those who are entitled to pensions will be able to obtain them before Christmas. An other matter worthy the attention of honorable members is the failure of a member of the Government to record his vote last night on the motion for the third .reading of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill. If the absence of the Honorary Minister from th-i division was not intentional, I shall have nothing further to say, but it is understood that a member of the Government is not in favour of the agreement.
– The honorable mem- . Ler must not discuss that matter.
– Then I shall have to avail myself of another opportunity. It is a matter for regret, however, that the Government are unable to act unitedly in respect to an important national question-. The High Commissioner Bill is another matter to which I desire to refer. That Bill was passed by this House some time ago, and has been returned from the Senate with one or two unimportant amendments. I do not ‘know whether the Government intend to ask the House to accept or reject those amendments, but it ought certainly to deal with them at once, and to make an appointment before we go into recess. The office of High Commissioner is a valuable gift at the disposal of the Ministry. The office is an important one, and one which the Government insisted upon making the subject of an Executive appointment in opposition to the wishes of a number of honorable members, and also to the terms of a resolution which was adopted in another place a few years ago. In these circumstances it is only fair that we should be afforded an opportunity of expressing our opinions upon the selection which they may make. No less than seven years ago the Prime Minister stated that this Bill was urgently needed. There is nothing therefore to justify delay in passing it. I trust that the Prime Minister will outline the method in which he intends to finance the legislative proposals which are now before Parliament. Should he fail to do so, I can only conclude that the Ministry are content to blunder along without attempting to make any intelligent provision for meeting our obligations. I hope that a financial scheme has been considered by the Government, and that the honorable gentleman will be able to demonstrate that the Commonwealth Government is in a position to meet all its liabilities.
.- I should have been very glad if I could have avoided the necessity for ventilating any grievances to-day. But as other honorable members intend to air grievances, I fear that my abstension from criticism would not result in a saving of time.
– Why does not the honorable member write out his apology and hand it in to the Government?
– If honorable members opposite had been willing to forego their right to ventilate grievances I should have been prepared to do likewise.
– Why did not the honorable member consult us beforehand ?
– It is a singular circumstance that I am> rarely on my feet for more than a few moments before I am assailed with a fusillade of interjections from Labour members-
– Is this (.he honorable member’s grievance?
– It is one. But I have a very much more serious grievance to ventilate in reference to the Postal Department. I have made repeated representations to the postal authorities in Sydney. I have brought the matter under the notice of the .Deputy PostmasterGeneral there, but have failed to obtain any satisfaction whatever. Either the Department is crippled for want of funds or it is incapable of coping with the growing demands of the public. In my own electorate there is a place called Wanstead, which is situated in the midst of several thickly-populated areas, but is upon the outskirts of each.
– Where is Wanstead ?
– I am surprised that the honorable member should find it necessary to ask such a question. It is one of the most charmingly situated spots in Australia, and is within miles of Sydney. If the honorable member and his friends will pay it a visit, they will benefit alike from the salubrity of its climate, the charm of its surroundings, and the geniality and sociability of its residents. It deserves much better recognition than it receives. The postal facilities provided there would discredit a bush town 300 or 400 miles from the centres of populaion
– Why should’ not bush towns be granted the same facilities as are granted to the suburbs?
– In the matter of postal and telegraphic communication, I believe that every reasonable facility should be provided to residents in the bush. But the question of heavy expense is a serious one, especially as it is in such cases, wholly disproportionate to the advantages conferred, and in such cases we are ready to accept some excuse from the Department.
– Owing to the cities and suburbs mopping up all the money that is available, residents in rural areas are denied postal and telephonic facilities to which they are entitled.
– Wherever legitimate grievances may exist on that score they should be redressed.
– But the Department cannot do impossibilities. It cannot undertake works without money.
– I do not know what is the cause underlying the existing state of affairs. Probably the Department is being starved. I believe it is j and, as a result, postal, telegraphic, and telephonic, facilities are withheld, where, undoubtedly, they should be provided. But apart from that, and the circumstance that the postal authorities are,- I think, in several cases, endeavouring to conduct the existing service on unnecessarily economic lines, there are disabilities imposed on the public for which they cannot disclaim full responsibility. Perhaps time will be saved if I read two or three extracts from letters which have reached me from progress associations in the district to which- I refer. I may mention that quite a considerable correspondence has passed between these associations and the Department, and between the Department and myself, in regard to the disabilities under which the residents of this locality labour from lack of proper postal and kindred facilities. Mr. F. Holford, of Unwin’s Bridge-road, Wanstead honorary secretary of the Wanstead Progress Association, in a letter dated 10th November, writes -
One resident here to-day informed me that two letters posted to her had not been delivered. I have also heard numerous complaints from Tempe residents. The whole trouble is in a nutshell. The authorities are squeezing halfadozen legitimate postal areas into four, and the consequence is gross inefficiency. I have seen better post and telegraph facilities afforded in a Gippsland bush settlement, 150 miles from Melbourne, under the Victorian Government, over thirty years ago, with about a tenth of the population we have in these areas to be served here
Those statements are not random ones. They are made by a gentleman of standing in the community, who is not prone to make unnecessary or unfounded allegations. He is a gentleman for whom I entertain the greatest .respect, and who would not make such statements without grave cause. He continues -
The makeshift called a post-office at Cook’s River, we are informed, costs ^”52 per annum, and the stamp office at Tempe Railway Station /12 10s. The Department admit by their own correspondence that additional carriers are to be provided. Then why do they persist in their attitude of providing a lot of makeshift offices, frittering away money that would provide, or go a long way towards doing so in a rapidlypopulating area, up-to-date facilities, for transaction of business by the residents affected ? I also enclose envelope covering your letter to me, and this will bear out matters mentioned in the detailed statement. You will find, though you- have addressed correctly, some official in the post-office has seen fit to add to it, making it incorrect and causing delay. You will also see that on arrival at the General Post Office, Sydney, it was despatched to Parramatta, then back to Sydney, and finally reached its destination this morning. This is only one of numberless instances. I have had notifications to attend different meetings, which should under ordinary circumstances arrive in time, not reach me until too late.
Then Mr. B. R. Nicoll, of William-street, Canterbury, the secretary of the Grand Council of Progress Associations within the State electoral district of Canterbury and the Commonwealth electorate of Lang, writes -
I am instructed by the above council to request that you will urge the Commonwealth Postmaster-General to have a post and telegraph office established in the vicinity. of Tempe Railway Station, Cook’s River, representations already made having received a reply that is considered most unsatisfactory, and not in accordance with the state of things existing at present. There are at present four postal centres, the outlying boundaries of which all meet in the vicinity of Wanstead, the latter bordering Tempe, viz., St. Peter’s, Rockdale, Marrickville, and Canterbury, and the residents of the outlying portions of each of these centres are not receiving the facilities such a large residential area is entitled to receive, more particularly at Wanstead, where an anomaly exists respecting porterage on telegrams-
It seems strange to charge porterage on telegrams in a suburban area only 4 miles from Sydney - arriving, and no facilities for despatch of telegraphic communication. Residents of the area mentioned requiring to despatch a telegram find that it is easier to take train journey Tempe to Sydney to do so, a distance of a little over four miles than to attempt to reach either nf the four telegraph offices mentioned. Complaints are rife in these four postal centres, and it is considered there is ample room for the establishment of an office as requested, and were this done we would be enabled to have a more satisfactory service in the four centres - a new centre relieving the pressure now existing. We would suggest that the Postmaster-General obtain the number of residents residing at Wanstead, together with the number of the residents residing within half a mile radius of the Tempe railway station, who are now served by the St. Peter’s, Rockdale, and Marrickville offices; and though this would not be the whole of the residents affected, we feel ‘sure it will provide sufficient food for reflection, the result of which will be sufficient argument to show we are on solid ground in the making of the request for this office.
The letter deals with several other matters with which I shall not trouble the House at the present stage. In view of the number of complaints, I asked this gentleman to furnish me with some specific instances which could be inquired into, and his reply contains the following -
Respecting the post-office now open at Cook’s River, this is a dirty, tumble-down little place, at which it is utterly impossible to receive attention, persons requiring to, do business there have, in some cases, rang the bell on the counter for from ten to twenty minutes, then had to leave owing to the absence of any attendant.
I may mention in passing that it is not sought to place any blame ion the shoulders of the local letter-carriers, who, I am informed, do all they can to assist in the distribution of correspondence. The trouble seems to arise at the Head Office, and other offices through which this correspondence has to pass.
– That does not explain the absence of attendants at the office.
– It does not, and that, of course, is a matter which does not in any way affect the Estimates, or the starving of the Post Office vote, but one with which the postal authorities in Sydney can deal. It is self evident that people who have such an experience will avoid that office as much as possible in the future.
– It may have been during the lunch-hour.
– The letter does not mention the time. The list of complaints continues -
Re obtaining of stamps at Tempe Railway Station. The officials do not care to issue more than from one to two stamps at a time, and, though having at times allowed more, it is placing the residents under an undue obligation.
It seems extraordinary that a person should be unable to obtain a shilling’s worth of stamps at this station, where stamps are supposed to be obtainable. As a matter of great favour, sometimes additional stamps are sold, but it seems to me a curious way of conducting business, and one not likely to be advantageous to the revenue. What would be thought of a business run on such pitiful lines by private enterprise? If half-a-dozen people each required a shilling’s worth of stamps, it would surely be only business-like to supply them.
– Perhaps a shilling’s worth would mean the whole stock !
– Probably so, at any rate, it is a most ridiculous way of conducting the business of a large public Department.
– It is the Fusion policy.
– That is, of course, all nonsense. This system has been carried on for years, and no attempt was made by the Labour Government to find a remedy.
– The honorable member did not raise this grievance when the Labour Government were in power.
– I am afraid it would have been futile if I had, even had I known of it at that time, because while that Government were in power there was very little chance of getting any grievance remedied in the Post and Telegraph or any other Department. The next complaint is -
Letter sent by Mr. Parkes, M.L.A., to Mr. F. Holford, Wanstead, in December of last year - not yet delivered..
From same to same, April, this year - not yet delivered.
Letter from A. Odling and Sons, marble merchants, Margaret-street, Sydney, containing receipt for cheque, addressed Mr. F. Holford, of Wanstead - not yet delivered. Firm’s name on this letter.
The letter has not even been returned to the firm -
Letter from Mr. F. Holford, Wanstead, to Mr. B. R. Nicholl, Forest Hill, Canterbury, in August last - not yet delivered.
Letter from caretaker, School of Arts, Kogarah, containing receipt to Mr. Holford, Wanstead - not yet delivered.
Letter from F. Holford, dated 7th October, 1909, containing business of importance from the Illawarra Progress Council to the Railway Commissioners, Sydney - not yet delivered up to 3rd November.
Letter from Progress Council to the Canterbury electorate, per B. R. Nicholl, honorary secretary, to Mr. Holford, Wanstead - not yet delivered, though posted in the early part of last month.
I should be glad if the Postmaster-General word give a little closer attention to the complaints I am making.
– We never had a better Postmaster-General.
– I do not desire to cast any reflection on the PostmasterGeneral, under whose notice I am for the first time bringing these matters, and whom I do not hold responsible. I believe that the honorable member for Bendigo will prove himself a very capable Postmaster-General, and that there will be some chance of having these matters rectified if he is satisfied that there is legitimate ground for dissatisfaction. The honorable gentleman has, I believe, the desire that the Department should give every reasonable satisfaction, and will do all he can to bring about that desirable result. I have in my hand the envelope covering the letter to which reference was made in the first communication I read. It is a letter from myself addressed -
Unwin’s Bridge Road,
New South Wales.
That letter was posted on the 8th November, and, according to the obliterating stamps, received in Sydney the following day, when it was forwarded to Parramatta, and bears the post mark of that town, showing the hour, 1.30 p.m. Then it was sent back to Sydney on the same day, and bears a mark indicating 3.45 p.m. ; but some official in the post-office wrote “ St. Peter’s “ on it in pencil, thus altering its destination. The letter was sent in this roundabout way, and was not delivered until the 10th.
– The very same sort of thing occurs in the English Post Office.
– But this place is well known, and is in the Postal Directory, so that every official ought to be perfectly well acquainted with it. Taken in conjunction with the non-delivery of many letters and the late delivery of others referred to in this correspondence, there seems to be something seriously wrong somewhere. As to the porterage on telegrams, it seems most ridiculous that such a charge should be made in a suburb on the outskirts of the postal districts of St. Peter’s, Rockdale, Tempe, Marrickville, and Canterbury. The residents cannot send a telegram to Sydney without going to one of those district offices, and, as I have said, they find it more expeditious to carry the message by train to Sydney.
– That is because this place is outside the radius.
– Quite so, but that is a matter for adjustment. What is. needed is to provide a post and telegraph office in this rapidly rising locality. I shall furnish the Postmaster-General with a copy of the statements of complaint, and hope that he will have them thoroughly investigated. I am quite tired of making requests to the Department and receiving the same stereotyped replies, all of which are unsatisfactory, and some of which are open, to serious criticism on other grounds. I do not like to occupy the time of the House with such matters, but one has to do the best one can for his constituents in meeting their requirements and providing them with the reasonable facilities to which they are entitled. As I am unable to get satisfaction in any other way, I have to endeavour to force matters to a head by taking this public method of bringing them under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
.- I can indorse everything which has been said by the honorable member for Maranoa concerning the way in which the Department is dealing with Queensland mail services. I have had occasion to refer one or two matters to the Department, which, on the score of economy, has been depriving people of facilities which they have enjoyed for the past twenty-five years. In some instances the Department has cut down weekly mail services to fortnightly or three weekly services.
– Is the honorable member’s experience like that of the honorable member for Maranoa, that the service is worse than it was before Federation ?
– If I may judge by the number of services cut down, I believe that the condition of affairs now is worse than it was when the Department was under State control. It must be remembered that the people in the outlying country districts are pioneering. They are doing the work which makes it possible for our big cities to exist. Nevertheless, while we are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on works that might be left over for a time, we are depriving these pioneers of the services which they have enjoyed for so long. They depend upon the weekly mail for bringing them their newspapers, and keeping them in touch with the outside world. They look forward to the coming of the mail. The day when their weekly letters and journals arrive is one of joy to them. Surely every facility should be given to them, rather than that we should deprive them of conveniences to whichthey have been accustomed. I know that this policy is pursued on the score of economy. I do not wish for a moment to blame the chief of the administrative staff, Sir Robert Scott. He is in rather a difficult position. He has to stand all the blame, whilst at the same time he is unable to effect any improvements. I have heard honorable members complain that Sir Robert Scott has not had the experience necessary to enable him to conduct a large Department, because he has come from a smaller State. But I know from personal experience that, no matter how good the schemes which the administrative officers may adopt, they are unable to carry them out. Hitherto they have not had a strong Ministerial head who would insist that the money required to carry out schemes of reform must be found. The Department has been starved to a very large extent. No amount of efficiency or ability on the part of the administrative officers could make up for the lack of funds from which the Department has suffered. What we require is a strong Minister, who will say plainly, “ IfI am going to run this Department, it must be conducted in a proper and efficient way, and I want money for the purpose.” If the Treasurer will not find the money, the Postmaster-General should have the courage to say, “ Very well then, you must find someone else to run the Department ; I will not do it without sufficient funds.” We have been unduly economizing in order to return to the States considerably more than that to which they were entitled. Naturally people are feeling the effects of our action.I regret very much that we should have pursued this policy, and I also think it deplorable that we have not had a Postmaster-General with sufficient backbone and courage to insist upon the requirements of his Department being met. I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister a matterin connexion with the telephone system at Charters Towers which has been brought under my notice by the Chamber of Commerce and Mines. I do not desire to mention names, but can guarantee the facts. A gentleman in Charters Towers has a telephone in his own office. Wishing to communicate with his office, he rang up on a hotel telephone, and asked to be connected. He was promptly told that the person in charge could not make the connexion, because the matter about which he wished to speak was not one of urgency. It seems to me to be an extraordinary thing that the Department should place in the hands of a boy, at a large centre, which is one of the five largest towns in Australia outside of the metropolitan cities, the authority to determine whether any person desiring to use the telephone wishes to speak on a matter of urgency or not. The Postmaster-General will doubtless reply that the telephone which was being used was held on the flat-rate system and not on the toll rate. But that merely goes to prove the necessity for following out the policy of his predecessor, and compelling every person on the telephone to adopt the toll system.
– But there is a Committee inquiring into the subject.
-The Committee have been inquiring too long. From conversations which I have had with officials I am satisfied that there was sufficient evidence in the office to guide any Minister in the policy he should pursue. But if the Postmaster-General wished to shelve the matter it was doubtless a good idea to appoint a Committee. What I object to, in the case I have mentioned is that the business of determining whether a person ought to be connected was left to a boy instead of to some one of more mature mind, who would use his discretion in a more reasonable manner. The least the Department can do under the circumstances is to put a man in charge. The PostmasterGeneral will doubtless say that the boy is able to refer cases to the postmaster. But that official is not always available to be consulted. A subscriber naturally feels very sore when a boy asks him the nature of his business, and then tells him that it is not sufficiently urgent to permit him to be connected. If the toll system were in operation, these grievances would not occur. I regret to have to bring this case under the notice of the House, but I have already exhausted the means of protesting to the Department. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, when the matter was referred to him, wrote saying that he was quite satisfied with the action taken by the boy. Sir Robert Scott, the Secretary of the Department, upheld the view of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, because what was done was in pursuance of certain regulations. The policy pursued is that of protecting the revenue. The regulation in question was intended to prevent people, who are not subscribers, from using the telephone. But in this case it was a subscriber who wished to communicate with his own office. I think that the matter requires more careful attention than it has received, and hope that the Postmaster-General will make a note of it. I would urge upon the honorable gentleman that at least our big cities are entitled to more respect than they receive when a lad of fourteen or fifteen, no matter how intelligent he may be, is empowered to discriminate between what is or is not urgent. If the Department is going to insist upon the regulation being observed, the least it can do is to put a man in charge.
.- The post-office at Longwood has for years been conducted at the railway station, but some time ago the Railway Department notified the Postal Department that they desired its removal from the station. As there is no building in the town suitable for a post-office, it still remains at the station, and inconvenience is caused to the public by the fact that within the last twelve months the barrier system has been adopted there. The matter has been the subject of frequent communications between the people concerned and the Postal Department in Melbourne. Many investigations have taken place, but nothing has been done. Private enterprise is prepared to erect the necessary building for a postoffice, and the Department are prepared to establish a semi-official office if a building is erected, but the stumbling block is that the Department are prevented by regulation from taking any building on lease for more than three years. No one in the town is prepared to go to the expense of erecting a place with a guarantee of only three years’ tenure. It appears to me that in a case of this sort the regulation might reasonably be amended, for if the Department could take a lease for, say, six years there would be a prospect of settling the difficulty. One of the reasons why the Department hesitate is that they say the revenue is not as large as it ought to be to justify establishing a semi-official postoffice. But the cause of the telegraphic revenue, in particular, being much smaller than it would otherwise be is that the postoffice is on the railway station, and the primary business of the stationmaster being to conduct the Railway Department’s business, it frequently happens that telegrams are not dealt with as promptly as they should be. The consequence is that numbers of telegrams which would otherwise be sent, thus increasing the revenue of the Department, are not sent. Honorable members will readily perceive how the establishment of the barrier system at the station has increased the difficulties of the public in getting free access to the postoffice. I urge the Postmaster-General to see if the regulation in question cannot be amended so that the Deputy PostmasterGeneral for Victoria could take a suitable place on lease for a period longer than three years. This would soon remove the grievance, which appears to be a legitimate one to ventilate in the House.
.- It is very rarely that I bring forward ih this chamber complaints regarding postal matters, because those which I have made to the Department personally pr by letter have for the most part received every attention, and I have very little cause for dissatisfaction. There are, however, some matters which apparently I cannot bring to a head by correspondence, and it is only on the floor of this chamber’ that I can ventilate them. In the first place, I wish to refer to mail matters at Mungana, about 12 miles from Chillagoe, and connected with Chillagoe by a railway owned and run by the Chillagoe Railway Company. Mungana has a population of 500 or 600 persons, but the only post-office is at the railway station, and is entirely under the control of the officers of the company. The mails are distributed by those officers, but if they have any of the company’s work to perform, such as unloading trucks or checking invoices, the public have to wait for their letters until it has been attended to. I have been for some months in correspondence with the Department with reference to the matter, and get a stereotyped reply to the effect that when the place grows to greater dimensions a semi-official postoffice will be established. There are many less important places in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland which are far better served in regard to mail matters than Mungana, and I must bring this” complaint under trie notice of the PostmasterGeneral himself, because, although I am treated with the greatest courtesy and fairness by the Department in most matters, I consider that I have not got fair play in this. Another question is that of the Townsville to Ayr telephone line. This was brought under my notice by the joint Ayr Tramway Board, which has built a tramway line connecting Townsville with Ayr. They desire that the telephone line should be erected along the tramway for their own purposes, and also for the convenience of the public. They have submitted to me figures, which I have handed to the Department, showing conclusively that by the Department complying with their request, a great saving would be effected in the management of the line alone, and by shortening the route, without taking into consideration the question of increased revenue. Notwithstanding this I cannot get satisfaction from the
Department. The other day I received from them a most remarkable letter containing the extraordinary statement that the work was not done because there was not sufficient time between the passing of the Works Estimates and the expiration of the financial year to allow it to be done. If that argument were valid it could be applied to all works, and nothing would be done. Almost every work undertaken has to extend into another financial year, and in many cases part of the money has to be revoted. Why not do something this year, and, if necessary, the balance could easily he re-voted next year? The argument put forward by the Department is the weakest I have ever heard.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– I received a letter from the Department to that effect, and sent it on to those interested, with a covering letter of my own pointing out its absurdity and saying that I proposed to take further action. I suppose the PostmasterGeneral could obtain a copy of it in the Department. I have also been trying for some time to get a satisfactory arrangement made regarding postal matters at Zillmanton, near Chillagoe, but have failed. The place is very badly served with reference to mails, and continual applications have been made to me, and through me to the Department, but the result so far has> been nil. The place is not so large or important as Mungana, but it deserves better treatment than it is getting.
– What does the honorable member want?
– We want a postoffice; even a semi-official post-office will suit us. In many places the postal business is conducted in a store, which is not the most satisfactory arrangement in the world, but at the same time it is better than no postal facilities at all. All we ask in this case is that somebody should be made postmaster for the benefit of the inhabitants. I wish to make to the Postmaster-General a suggestion which I have made previously with regard to the supply of copper wire. It is an absurdity that we should continually be told that we have to wait for copper wire to arrive from Europe- or America, when we have any quantity of copper of our own in Australia. I suggest that the honorable member should establish a little works of his own to draw out the copper wire. It is a very simple process. One can go to the Circular Quay at Sydney, or to other large ports and see copper ingots being dropped into a hold in the forward part of a ship, and copper wire being taken out of the hold at the stern or amidships of the same vessel. I made a similar suggestion to the previous PostmasterGeneral, and it seems that this work might reasonably be undertaken by the Department. I am sorry the Treasurer is not present, because I wish to bring under his notice a matter with reference to old-age pensions. I am not complaining of the administration of the Act, because every complaint that I have se far made to the Minister has received his prompt attention and been dealt with very satisfactorily from the point of view of myself and those who have applied to me. This complaint is rather in reference to the interpretation of the Act. I had some correspondence in reference to a claim for an old-age pension some time ago, and received a reply from the Department to the effect that the personal property of the applicant was so much, included in the amount being £30 for. furniture. That is not the spirit of the Act at all. Although the Act provides for deductions for “ real and personal property,” Parliament never intended that a small quantity of household furniture should be taken into the calculation. That amount would include his bed, and possibly his bedding, and if his blanket is to be assessed, why not assess his clothes or his boots? Surely the Department does not presuppose that the recipients of old-age pensions should go about in “ the altogether.” Although the amount in question is small, I object to the principle that the Department is following, and I am certain that this Parliament never intended that sort of thing to be done.
.- There are one or two matters which I wish to bring under the notice of the Government as briefly as possible. The first is the telephone connexion which has been asked for between the Penrith Hospital and the Penrith Railway Station. The Nepean Cottage Hospital at Penrith serves the whole of the district lying between Parramatta and Lithgow, including the mountain areas. In almost every case patients are brought to the hospital by rail, and it is of the greatest importance that the hospital authorities should have prompt notice of an accident case coming in, and that people should- be able to hear from the hospital authorities whether there are beds available for cases at the hospital. The wire to make the connexion would require to be carried for part of the way on posts belonging to the Post and Telegraph Department, for another section on the electric light posts belonging to the municipal council, and for the rest of the way on posts the property of the Railways Commissioners. There is a regulation in the - Post and Telegraph Department which stands in the way of the erection of this line on the posts belonging to the Department, but I contend that in a case of this kind some exception should be made, in order that the connexion between the hospital and the Penrith Railway Station may be completed. The Railways Commissioners and the municipal council at Penrith have already consented to the use of their posts for the purpose, but there remains a gap of a quarter of a. mile to cover, for which the posts belonging to the Post and Telegraph Department would have to be used. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to look into the matter, and see whether the connexion I ask for cannot be made. In case of accident, time is always’ of moment. A life may hang upon the readiness of the hospital authorities to meet any case coming in, knowing what kind of a case it is, and having a doctor ready to treat it at once. There have been instances in which the lives of people have been, saved in the Nepean Hospital owing to the fact that a doctor has been on the spot to attend to the patients when they were brought in. There are large railway shunting-yards at Penrith, and a dep6t for engines, and accidents happen there as they do in all large railway establishments. It is absolutely necessary in the interests of the public and for the saving of human lives that this connexion should be made, and made at once. The honorable member for Lang made a reference to standing grievances, and I have a standing grievance concerning the connexion of the mountain areas with Sydney by telephone. Year after year a promise has been made to erect an additional .trunk telephone line to Katoomba, but the promise has never been honoured. The money required for the purpose was passed in September, in the last Works Estimates considered bv this House, but nothing has yet been done in the matter.
– Have they not got a line there now?
– There is a single line there.
– Surely they can wait for the second until those who have none are supplied? .
– The single line they have is so overloaded as to be absolutely useless.
– I think that action is being taken in the matter referred to.
– The last I heard was that tenders were being called for the supply of the copper wire necessary. That reminds me of the remarks made by the honorable member for Herbert as to the necessity of making our own copper wire or of keeping a sufficient quantity in stock to meet the ordinary requirements of the Department. This line was promised not only last year, but again this year, and the Department, knowing that the money required for the purpose was to be put upon the Estimates this year, must also have known that the copper wirewould be required, and should have secured it.
– I could not call for tenders until the money was voted.
– I contend that the Department should have a sufficient stock in hand to meet these requirements. It is absolutely absurd that it should conduct its business in this hand to mouth manner. The delay in securing communication between the mountain areas and Sydney often runs into hours, and business people are continually complaining that their business is disorganized because they cannot use the
Telephone. The population of the mountain centres fluctuates very much. If there isa hot day in Sydney, there is at once an exodus from the city to Katoomba, Blackheath, and other places on the Mountains. There is then an immediate demand for extra supplies, and the shopkeepers can only get them up from the city by certain trains. If their goods miss those trains they lose their trade.
– Have they not a telegraph as well as a telephone service? .
– I intended to refer to that. A grocer at Blackheath complained to me that on one of the holidays he wished to get up some butter, and the train by which it would have to come left Sydney at noon. He was trying from 9 o’clock till 11 o’clock in the morning to get communication with Sydney by telephone, and was unable to do so. He then decided to communicate by telegram, and was told at the telegraph office that the line was so fully engaged that if he wished a telegram to get to the city in time, it would be necessary for him to send an urgent wire. Not only is the telephone line overloaded, but the telegraph line is also so overloaded that those who wish their messages to reach the city in a reasonable time must send them as urgent and pay double rates. I had an experience of the telephone line myself, the other day.I was at Woodford and desired to catch the 11 o’clock train. I wished to ring up Katoomba. I rang up at half-past eight o’clock, and was told that I could not get communication until 9 o’clock. I rang up again at 9 o’clock. I stood by the telephone from 9 o’clock till11 o’clock, in the effort to get connexion with Katoomba, which is only 10 miles distant, but I had to leave to catch my train without being successful.
– There are thousands of people in the Commonwealth who have had to be satisfied with a mail once or twice a week.
– I am as sympathetic as is any other member of the House towards the people in the back blocks, who require increased mail facilities. When so much is said about the necessity of spending money on advertising the country in order to develop Australia, I think we might do more to forward its development by making a special grant to the Postmaster-General to enable him to give better postal and telegraphic facilities to the people, who are really opening up and developing the country. I remind honorable members that the money required for the erection of the line’ I am referring to, was voted by Parliament in last September, and I hear only now that tenders are being called for the supply of the material. I do not speak without thought when I say that the management of this trunk line is absolutely chaotic. Telephone connexion was asked for betweenPenrith, Emu Plains, and Glenbrook, and the people concerned were asked to guarantee a certain amount. After considerable correspondence, the officers of the Department reported that the line would not pay, and that the people must guarantee the probable loss for so many years. That guarantee was immediately forthcoming, and then I received a letter from the Department informing me that nothing could be done, because the money could not be placed on the Estimates’ until 1910-11. This would not be a big work by any means. What is wanted is merely the erection of a telephone line between Penrith and Glenbrook, a distance of 5 or 6 miles, and in view of the guarantees which have been given, the people should not have to wait to get a two-penny-halfpenny job like that carried out.
– My constituents have to build these lines themselves.
– I may say in connexion with the Katoomba line, that the Katoomba residents offered to find the money for the Department, and let the Department pay them back out of the revenue derived from the line. The ‘Government would not accept the money, because they were not building lines in that way. There is one other matter that I should like to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister. I should like to inform him that the people settled on the Liverpool Manoeuvres Area have been practically tied up for years. Notices have been served upon them by the Department concerned, and as a result orchards and farms are being left uncultivated, and are bringing in no revenue to the owners. It is time that the Federal Government and the Government of New South Wales did something in this matter. These people should be paid for their land, or it should be given back to them, in order that they may be able to cultivate it. I trust that the Prime Minister will again bring the matter under the notice of Mr. Wade, and that something definite will shortly be done.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 -p.m.
– We ought to have a quorum before recommencing. Quorum formed.’]
.- It seems to me that new post-offices costing a considerable amount of money should not be established where there is very little business, as in the cases referred to by the honorable member for Lang, or where there is already a fair service, as in those mentioned by the honorable member for Nepean, until the more pressing wants of the country residents have been met. No one knows better than the Minister how numerous are the applications from country centres for necessary services. ‘ I sympathize with him in the matter, and hope the House will assist him by requiring that districts already provided with services, even though these may not be altogether what they, should be, must be content with them until the needs of the country have been attended to. Already this summer great loss has been caused by bush fires, and probably further loss will be occasioned, but it could be minimized by making telephone services more common. J know that loss could have been prevented by the construction of a line from Condoulpe, near Balranald, to Swan Hill, for which application has been made to the Department on many occasions, the reply being given that the estimated return is not sufficient to justify the expenditure. I have always contended that the Department should not deal with these requests wholly as a business house would. If should recognise that the extension of its services is necessary for the development of the country. Since Federation, it has been attempted to put everything on a commercial basis, and to ‘ show a balance on the profit side of the ledger .; but less consideration should be attached to the possibility of services paying at the outset, because of the indirect advantages which may be looked for. Had the line to which I refer been made, the losses through fire would not have been one-tenth as great as they have been;. I hope that the Minister will inform us as to the policy of the Government regarding the introduction of uniform postage.
– The stamps should be uniform, and we should have penny postage.
– There is a good deal to be said for and against the introduction of penny postage, but I see no reason why uniform postage should not be adopted, so that an Australian stamp of each required denomination can be used anywhere within the Commonwealth. I thought that that would be arranged for when the bookkeeping period terminated, but it has not been done. Some of the Minister’s predecessors strongly favoured universal penny postage, and a Bill to give effect to it was introduced, but the opinion of the House has never been obtained regarding the proposal. I know that the New South Wales Government has been communicated with on more than one occasion, and has refused to sanction the introduction of universal penny postage, so far as that State is concerned. I should like to know how long this is to last. Surely, now that we have been federated for nearly ten years, the Department should be in a position to take control in. matters of this kind. With uniform stamps, commercial men travelling through the Commonwealth would be saved the .trouble that is now caused by having to get separate stamps for each State.
– Why should letters be delivered throughout Victoria for id., while people in New South Wales are charged 2d.?
– I have always complained about that, and my constituents have more reason to complain of it than any others, because the commercial community of Victoria, being accustomed to the conveyance of letters throughout the State for id., attach penny stamps to their correspondence with places just over the border, and the recipients cannot take delivery of it until they have paid a fine of twopence on each letter insufficiently stamped.
– The same thing happens in Tasmania.
– Yes, and in other States. The Department has been petitioned times without number to give redress, but the only real cure is uniform postage. If New South Wales cannot be induced to forego the revenue which she now obtains from twopenny postage, perhaps Victoria, will consent to a uniform rate of a penny halfpenny. I shall not argue now whether a penny rate should or should not be fixed, but certainly the rates, as well as the stamps, should be uniform. Pending legislation, a zone system might be established, so that places just beyond the Victorian horder might be treated as if within Victoria, and the surcharge for insufficient postage avoided. At the present time, many persons refuse to accept insufficiently stamped circulars, and sometimes letters of importance are thus declined, and returned to their destination, with the result that much worry and loss is caused. Then, again, the Victorian revenue is unduly inflated by the present system, because many business establishments in the large towns along the border, when they have letters to send to Victoria, instead of posting them in New South Wales, and affixing to them twopenny stamps, post them on the Victorian side, and save a penny on each letter by using Victorian stamps. While Victoria thus gains revenue New South. Wales loses. A firm, say, at Albury may be doing business with residents along the river from that point to the South Australian border. They employ an office boy, who jumps on his bicycle, takes bundles of letters over to the Victorian side, posts them there, and so saves the firm a penny on each letter. In fifteen minutes he is once more in his office, and the firm has made a considerable saving. The. present system does a wrong to New South Wales, and leads to the undue inflation of the revenue of the Department in Victoria. Pending the adoption of a uniform stamp, a zone system should be instituted along the border within which letters bearing a penny stampcould be delivered without the present surcharge. The honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Herbert referred this morning to country mail services, and I desire to deal briefly with the question. About twelve months ago members of the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association of New South Wales were alarmed by a rumour that the Department intended to seriously curtail the existing mail services. I brought the matter before the Department, and also before the House, and the then PostmasterGeneral gave us an assurance that in no circumstances would there be a curtailment of country mail services. I relied on that promise, but regret to say that in some cases’ it has been broken. The Department is seriously to blame for its action in the past in regard to mail contracts. Tenders far the conveyance of mails have been accepted in many cases at simply impossible rates, and with the occurrence of a drought many contractors have been unable to carry on. Appeals have been made to the Department either to grant increased amounts, or to release from their obligations contractors and their bondsmen. In this way great trouble and inconvenience has occurred, althougth Cobb and Com pany, a large firm of mail contractors in Queensland, have been successful in obtaining some concessions. I am prepared to argue, as I have done before, that the Minister should protect his Department by refusing to accept a tender for the carriage of mails at a rate so low as to make it impossible for the contractor to secure a fair profit and pay a living wage. If that were done, the Department would be_ upon firmer ground than it has been in insisting upon the terms of every contract being adhered to. The, experience of bad seasons has been such - I think the PostmasterGeneral will bear out my statement - that all over the Commonwealth tenders for country mail services are considerably higher than they were
– That is so.
-Contractors, fearing a repetition of the disasters of the past, are tendering at high .rates, and the Department, because of these increased prices, is curtailing services, to the disadvantage and serious inconvenience of many people in rural districts. In some cases a service twice a week has been reduced to a weekly service, and in one or two instances, I understand - although such a case has not occurred in my electorate - a service has been wholly discontinued. I ask the Postmaster-General to consider this matter. I know that he personally is in sympathy with the view I expressed, but the whole question must be grappled with. The loss suffered by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in supplying effective mail services in country districts should be made good by an annual subsidy granted bv the Treasurer. I hope that the Treasurer will work in sympathy with the Postmaster-General, recognising that the first duty of the Government in this regard is to those who are scattered over country districts, and that it should secure to them reasonable services before it .proposes to expend hundreds of thousands of pounds upon the duplication of existing services in cities and other large centres of population. Complaints will never cease until some such course as I have suggested has been adopted. There is another matter which I have already brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General to which I desire to allude. A town in my electorate has a postal service and a telephone in lieu of a telegraph line. The river Murrumbidgee runs through the centre of the town, the post-office and a number of residences being on one side of the stream and some business establishments and residences, about half-a-mile from the postoffice, on the other side. Last June I applied to the Department to grant permission to those living on the far side of the river to use a telephone in a store there as a public telephone, paying exactly the same rates as they would if they crossed the river and used the telephone at the post-office. That concession was granted, and proved a great convenience to the people. This month, however, the very authority that granted this permission sent a letter to the parti is concerned saying that the practice would henceforth be discontinued. There is no complaint, no suspicion of loss of revenue, and I am utterly at a loss to account for the withdrawal of the permission. I should also like the Postmaster-General to state when the Committee appointed to inquire into the accounts of the telephone branch of the Department is going to present a report. I saw no necessity for its appointment, and see none now. All the desired information was obtainable within the Department itself, and could have been col lected without the appointment of any one outside the public service to make an investigation.
– If it could not, then some of the men in the Department ought to be dismissed.
– There should be in the Department officers capable of supplying all the information for which the House has been anxiously waiting, and which it desires to obtain before it is called upon to deal with the Estimates. I wish once more to impress upon the Minister of Defence the necessity for providing suitable ranges for rifle clubs, I appeared before the honorable gentleman in a deputation, and I can say that we had his sympathy ; but now I desire him to take action. I learn that, after years of continuous agitation, arrangements have at last been made at Junee for the lease of a piece of ground at the -nominal rental of £5 5s. per annum. This ground was inspected by the honorable member for Wimmera, the honorable member for Grey, and other honorable members, including myself, and also by officers of the rifle club; and I understand that it has now been approved by the military authorities. I therefore ask the Minister to take immediate action, so that the residents of that great tract of country, who are interested, may be enabled to practice without journeying to Wagga or Cootamundra. I desire to refer also to the desirability of acquiring a sufficient area on the Murray Downs station in order to convenience people in New South Wales, and also at Swan Hill, in Victoria. This’ land, it appears, cannot be sold by the trustees for some eighteen or twenty years, though, of course, we know that the Minister has power to resume. This land has also been inspected by the honorable member for Wimmera and myself ; and I had hoped that before now arrangements would have been made to create a .range. I desire to know what has been done, or what the Department proposes to do. An integral part of the’ defence system is the teaching of our soldiers to shoot straight ; and, to this end, there must, of course, be practice. I may point out that, in this latter case, there is no question of danger, because the area is in open country, occupied only with stock. I desire now to call attention to a statement made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong the other day in regard to the cadets. The military authorities arranged for a tattoo at the Melbourne Exhibition, in aid of certain charities ; and it has been alleged that the cadets there engaged were supplied with beer and cigarettes. Recently, on the motion of the honorable member for Batman, we decided that intoxicating liquors should not be supplied at our military canteens; and, presumably, there was no canteen at the Exhibition building. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, however, made a statement which, if true - and I have no doubt he thought it. was true - calls upon the Minister to punish the officials responsible for allowing liquor and cigarettes to be supplied to boys. I was shocked to hear that boys under seventeen years of age had been so supplied, and that, as a consequence, some had gone home in an intoxicated state - a disgrace, not only to the Department, but to the community as a whole. This matter has been publicly commented upon; and I desire to know what action the Department intends to take in order to bring the responsible persons to book. In this morning’s Age, there appears a report of the final Committee meeting in connexion with the charity tattoo; and a motion was unanimously agreed to, pointing out that the whole of the allegations were unfounded.
– The Committee state that there were no cigarettes supplied.
– I believe that is right - that there were no cigarettes.
– The newspaper report contains the following : -
Inspector Allcock related that on his way home to Sandringham at a late hour on Saturday night he saw several naval cadets on a tram car. One of these threw an empty beer bottle at Mr. Allcock’s pony. It was pointed out that there was no bottled beer at the tattoo.
If it be true that these boys got the beer and cigarettes outside, it is a very serious matter to charge responsible men in high positions with having permitted the supply. The newspaper report shows that on the Committee were : - Mr. Alex. McCracken, Colonel Pleasents, Captain W. Strong, Messrs. Jas. Denham and Frank Paget, Deputy Chief Officer Wilkins, the hon. manager (Detective-Inspector Christie), and the hon. secretaries (Major W.J . McKirdy and Constable A. J. Curran). These are all men occupying high positions, who would not place on record a resolution which did not, in their opinion, represent me truth. The attendants, according to the newspaper report, absolutely deny having supplied any cadet with beer, and, further, say that there were no cigarettes which could be given to them. Under the circumstances it is due to the honorable member for Maribyrnong that he should have an opportunity to state by whom the allegation was originally made.
.- I have no doubt the honorable member for Riverina has brought this matter up, as he says, in a most friendly spirit. I do not for a moment think that the citizens who conducted this tattoo either supplied beer to the boys or thought that they would be supplied with it.
– The honorable member did not make that charge.
– Quite so. I handed the letter I received to the Prime Minister - the letter from the parent of one of the lads.
– Hear, hear.
– The statements at the Committee meeting bear out precisely what I said, and, in fact, go further. We have this very startling statement -
Lieutenant Ellis had met a boy, he stated, rather the worse for liquor, and had asked him how many beers he had drunk. The boy replied that he had drunk five, and could have got more, only he had “ to take his girl home.”
– Where did he get the beer ?
– It is quite clear that the boy did not get, and could not have got, the beer at an hotel, and that the officer was speaking of beer obtained at the tattoo.
– The report does not say so.
– Evidently there is a desire not to get at the truth.
– That is not so; I do wish to get at the truth.
– I hope the honorable member does, but the extract I have read ought to be plain to any one. The honorable member for Corio has told me that he is prepared to make a statement on the matter; and I am sorry he is not here.
– Is the youth who wanted to take his girl home a senior cadet ?
– No, he is quite a boy.
– The report does not say that the boy got the beer at the tattoo refreshment room.
– Does my honorable friend doubt for a moment what the report means ?
– He may have got the beer outside.
– Of course, just as the honorable member could go outside and get beer, though he does not do so. The honorable member for Corio is prepared to make a statement that verifies all that has been said to me. I am not the author of the statement; I was simply written to, and asked to bring the matter before the authorities. I know that respectable citizens would not willingly place temptation in the way of the lads ; and I make no such charge against the Committee. All I say is that beer ought not to be available; and every precaution ought to be taken to prevent youths getting it. The statement of the honorable member for Corio would, I think, bear out all that has been said, not by me, but by the people who made the allegation in the letter I received.
– Should the honorable member not send the letter on to the Tattoo Committee ?
– I handed the letter to the Prime Minister, and he passed it on to the Minister of Defence; and all I ask is that the latter should take steps to prevent boys being placed in the way of temptation.
– The honorable member would not have any objection to the Minister sending on the correspondence to the Tattoo Committee?
– I should first have to ask the person who sent the letter, though the latter was not marked “ confidential.”
– Any one making such a serious allegation should not object.
– The honorable member seems very anxious about the seriousness of the allegation. I do not know whether he has been asked to take up the case for the Tattoo Committee.
– Certainly not.
– I hope not, though it would seem that such ‘were the case.
– Is this the case of the Newcastle miners over again?
– The honorable member may keep harping on that string if he pleases; but if he does not realize that this matter is of sufficient importance to require attention, I am sorry for him.
– I have three boys in the cadets.
– And I am sure the honorable member would not like them to come home intoxicated.
– If the man who supplied them with the liquor is a member of the forces he ought to be punished.
– I do not desire even that, but merely to insure that any refreshments supplied to the boys shall be of a non-intoxicating character.
.- I desire, as briefly as I can, to refer to a matter of grave importance, not only to this House, but to every person within the Commonwealth, namely, the present industrial trouble, which promises to paralyze the whole of our industries. I trust that what I may say will not interfere with the negotiations now going on, but I desire to briefly place the position before the House, in order to show honorable members and the publicits gravity. I am impelled to do this for more than one reason. Not only in the press, but wherever I go, the question is asked, “ Why is it that the miners of the Newcastle district, so to speak, refuse to obey the arbitration law of the State of New South Wales”? When I recite the experiences in this district during the last two or three years, it will be plainly seen, I think, that the miners have made every attempt at all times to have their grievances redressed by arbitration. But they have not been able up to the present time to get their grievances before that tribunal. When the arbitration law was passed in New South Wales - I am speaking of a time prior to the last two years - the Court could never find time to go to the district to hear any of the cases that the men wanted to put before it. The result was’ that whenever the proprietors wanted, as they did, to reduce wages or to carry out anything with which the men felt aggrieved, they enforced their demands, and the men were compelled to take steps in the other Courts to obtain injunctions against the proprietors. Two years ago, this month, the miners ceased work, and were out, I think, for about a fortnight. The result was that the Premier of New South Wales appointed a special Board for that district. In the agreement it was provided that the men should return to work, and that any dispute that cropped up in the meantime should be immediately attended to by the Board, which was then sitting. On the face of it that appeared to be a very good arrangement, but the experience of the twelve months proved that it worked out very badly. It operated in this way : While the Board sat for twelve months, little causes of irritation were continually occurring between some of the managers and the boys and shift men outside the pale of the Federation, and these occupied the attention of the Board, together with one case pertaining to one colliery, which was not by any means the biggest. By those means the whole of the twelve months was taken up, and the two big questions for which the men had come out - the increase in the hewing rate and the payment for small coal - were not tried by that Board, and have never been tried by any Court since. As the men are paid upon a sliding scale, and the selling price is adjusted yearly, it was of the utmost importance that the point as- to whether the men were getting a sufficient increase at that time should be dealt with by the Board which was created for that purpose as soon as possible, but the Board never touched it at all. However, that Board went out of existence, and during the last twelve months, when we have had a period of slack work, owing to our foreign trade not being so good as hitherto, the miners have found that they have been attacked at one colliery to-day, another colliery next week, and so on all round, until at last it became a question of having half of the district out or all the men going out together. They applied first of all for a voluntary Conciliation Board. The proprietors assented to that, and two cases were tried. Both were settled by that conciliation method during the last twelve months, and both went against the men, but they accepted the position and went on working. Yet for some reason or other the proprietors refused to continue that method of settling disputes, and although the miners from time to time demanded its continuance it was refused, and latterly they have been refused the right to meet the proprietors in conference to redress their grievances. The proprietors, instead of meeting them in conference, have simply replied, as I can show by letters, that the grievances were dealt with by them apart from a conference, and replies were given accordingly. These grievances have accumulated to such an enormous extent that the men felt it important that some steps should be taken to bring them before the people of the Commonwealth. During the same twelve months, to show that so far from the men wanting to break down the arbitration law, it was really the other side that was aiming at that result-
– Does the honorable member mean the arbitration law or the Wages Board?
– The one is a continuation of the other. I am referring generally to all that legislation. It seems to me that the proprietors have set their faces against it, but, instead of locking the men out openly, or doing anything to show the public that they wanted to break it down, they have chosen the other method of enforcing in detail different inroads into the wages of the men so as to induce them to stop work, and become dissatisfied with that form of settling disputes. To the uninitiated the list of the men’s grievances may not, on the face of them, appear to be large, but any one who has a practical knowledge of mining, as the Minister of Defence has, knows that you may pay a man 4s. 2d. a ton, but that if you deny him fair and adequate payment upon deficient work, that amount will be materially reduced. To show which side it was that was really desirous of breaking down the arbitration system, I may point out that when the enginedrivers applied for registration ‘ under the new legislation their request was fought in the other Courts by the proprietors to such an extent that no less a person than Judge Heydon, who will surely be admitted to be unbiased, felt impelled to draw attention to the fact that the proprietors of that district were fighting the application, and that their treatment of the engine-drivers contrasted strangely with the treatment meted out by the proprietors of the southern district.
– The miners can register under the Wages Board.
– Why could not the engine-drivers be allowed to do so?
– Have the miners attempted to do it?
– I could not say that they have, but I have shown that when they were under the other Act they found themselves absolutely depleted of their union funds by fighting for injunctions in the other Courts, and could never get their case before the Arbitration Court. The matter has now reached an acute stage, and whatever power can be invoked to settle the dispute on an equitable basis before it goes further, would, I. think, be welcomed by the whole community. To show that it is not just to blame the miners for the stoppage of work, let me read a statement of their secretary, which bears out my opinion that this is an attempt on the part of the proprietors, owing to the slack conditions, to make inroads in the wages of the men. He says -
We were also forced to the further conclusion that they - that is, the proprietors - believed that the time had arrived when, as stated by Mr. Forsyth, - the vice-chairman of the Proprietors’ Federation - the condition of the industry demanded a substantial reduction, and that they were entitled to get back something of what they had yielded in the past.
I was born in that district, and reared in this trade, and I defy Mr. Forsyth to prove that the miners, since the day that. he came to the district, have ever had one advance except that in the hewing rate, to which they were entitled when the selling price of coal went up. If he is correctly reported, I cannot understand what he means by ‘ 1 getting back something of what they have yielded in the past.” What I think lie does mean is that while in the past they often wanted to blame the men for stopping the mines when the harbor was full of ships and trade was brisk, they are taking advantage of trade being bad to-day in order to get the miners down to a lower level than now exists. That is the only deduction which can be drawn from a statement like that, but if the proprietors think that they are going to force the miners’ hands by tactics of that sort they will find that they are making a big mistake. There was no reason why they should have refused the men a conference. Their excuse that the conferences occupied too much of the time of their representatives is utterly insufficient in view of the importance of the interests involved. Their refusal to meet the men forces one to the conclusion that they had a game to play, and that they are now playing it. I admit that up to the present there have been some doubts as to whether the dispute came under Federal jurisdiction, but surely, when we consider the risk of other workmen being brought out on a “ sympathy “ strike, and realize that there are already thousands of workmen out of employment in this and other States owing to what has taken place in the Newcastle district, it must be admitted that it is a dispute whose effects are felt beyond the limits of one State. If, during the next day or two the attempts now being made in New South Wales to effect a settle- ment fail, I want the Prime Minister, as head of the Government of the Commonwealth, to take steps to see that the matter is setttled on a fair and equitable basis. Surely, as Prime Minister, he can prevent the aggression of a few men who happen to own coal mines, just as he could prevent that of those employed in the mines. My suggestion may be a day or two early, but I should like the Prime Minister to consider whether something cannot be .done similar to what was done in the Broken Hill case. A Conference might be a good thing as a preliminary step, but I think that the matter has gone too far, and that it would be better if the Justice of the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration could be offered, not only as a mediator,- but as one who would adjust the grievances of the men. 1 have examined their statement, and do not think that much time need be occupied in the settlement of these grievances. They are numerous, but many are similar, and if grouped under various headings could,. I think, be settled without much loss of time. At any rate, the circumstances are such that some method must be adopted for adjusting the grievances of the men. Every day that the present state of affairs continues the trouble must spread throughout Australia, not necessarily through men in other trades coming out, but through men being forced to stop work for want of coal to keep factories and other places of the kind going. ‘ Every day that the trouble lasts it will get worse. “ The newspapers report that there is dissension among the Newcastle miners, but, as one who knows them, I say that there is no dissension there, and that there is not likely “ to be dissension during the existence of the trouble. No settlement can be looked for from that cause. I was in the district during the last, and during the previous, week-end, when the trouble began, and I have never seen men more orderly in their behaviour or more determined. They have decided merely to remain quiet, and, so far from police interference being needed, they are assisting to keep order while the trouble lasts. They are going to try to fight out the matter on fair lines, hoping that the community’s sense of justice will see them through, because they know their case to be a good one. I do not desire any interference with the State authorities, but I trust that the Prime Minister will make an announcement which will cause those who are now standing on their dignity to recognise that they do not own the mines absolutely, and are not justified in sweating their workmen to get all they can out of them, but have responsibilities both to the men and to the community.
.- As I have said before, that the honorable member for Newcastle speaks from ‘ personal knowledge, and represents the district now, unfortunately, disturbed, is sufficient to command for him an attentive hearing on this subject. He has suggested that the Government, or some other Commonwealth agency, might be invited at the proper time - which, he thinks, may not be for a day or two - to attempt to establish communications between the colliery proprietors and the miners in order to expedite the settlement of their dispute. Undoubtedly, this situation is of grave concern to the whole community. Did the fact that the strike has produced effects outside the State in which it is occurring make it a dispute within the meaning of the Constitution with which the Commonwealth could deal, we .should be prepared to act. The decisions of the High Court npt only do not support the interpretation of the honorable member, but practically negative that view. I refer to this, not to put aside his suggestion, but to remind the House of the position in which we stand. At present the dispute, .so far as I know, must be described as limited to one State, and hence the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction.
– What about the Commonwealth’s right to interfere for the prevention ot an Inter-State dispute?
– The interpretation of the Constitutional provision to which the honorable member refers has been under the consideration of the High Court, which, without dealing with it exhaustively, has decided that the word “prevention “ must be read in connexion with the condition which attaches to the whole provision, that the dispute must extend beyond one State. However, I do not wish to enter into the legal position, and am speaking now wholly from memory of the very important decisions which the Court has given. Technically, this dispute is still limited to one State. The daily newspapers inform us that the Premier of New South Wales has put himself into communication with both parties, and that a deputation representing the men is to wait on him to-day. Although unable to ac cept his suggestion that a day should be appointed for a Conference, and that they should thereupon recommence work, the men wish to submit an alternative. Until this and other alternatives are exhausted, the Commonwealth would run the risk of impairing what appear to be promising negotiations were it to interfere. We have no wish to intrude. I have thought reticence commendable because a settlement arrived at on the spot, with the aid of the local, authorities, is more likely to be permanent. The interference of an external authority might raise expectations higher than were warranted, or well meant intervention might prevent the success of negotiations which, so far as we can judge, offer a reasonable prospect of an early understanding. The opportunity of the Commonwealth authority will arise when the conditions of the Constitution have been complied with, or when current negotiations have proved ineffective, and the field is left clear. Our duty is set out in the Act passed by this Parliament in pursuance of its Constitutional jurisdiction in industrial matters. That states three conditions justifying the Commonwealth intervention. x There is -also an obligation on the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to which it is not necessary to do more than refer. Parliament endeavoured to correctly express the intention of the Constitution regarding disputes extending beyond any one State by providing machinery to deal with them. It is for us to obey bur own legislation. Should experience prove it to be insufficient, we must consider the advisability of an amendment to allow more prompt and complete intervention when unfortunate industrial incidents of this kind occur. We all share the honorable member’s desire for the restoration of normal conditions in one of the greatest Australian industries, upon which so many others absolutely depend. We hoped that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act would, if possible, anticipate, and certainly decide disputes extending ‘beyond the boundaries of one State, but apparently a good deal more remains to be done before we acquire the complete machinery dealing effectively with occurrences of this sort. This should be applied, not in the face of a serious situation brought about by cutting off supplies of coal to the community, but by peaceful methods. We ought to be able to deal with such disputes without any more bitterness cr feeling than must necessarily arise when contending interests are brought before a tribunal of justice. We ought to be able to determine such issues as are set out in the lengthy list to which the honorable member has referred in a clear and calm atmosphere. I do not pretend to understand the bearing of many of those items. I have glanced through the list, but it would require more technical knowledge than I possess to comprehend them. So far as one can see, no complaint in that category ought to be beyond the scope of a proper arbitration tribunal. In these circumstances, one has no need to look for other means of obtaining a settlement. All we need is an adaptation of the law making it what it was intended to be - an efficient agency of industrial peace; a means of settling justly as between man and man, interest and interest, industry and industry, the terms and conditions of employment. Until we so perfect our judicial machinery that it shall be capable of preventing a crisis of this kind by restraining both parties, it will not have the effect we all hoped it would, and hope it may still produce, when other means fail, and a resort to Federal arbitration becomes necessary. We appreciate the manner in which the honorable member for Newcastle has opened the discussion. Although in some of his remarks he indicated his sympathetic bias towards the miners, and his personal objections to the course followed by the employers, we recognise that it is hardly possible for him to separate himself from an industry in which he was reared, and men whom he has so long represented.
.- This is not an appropriate time to enter upon a discussion of the great industrial trouble that has arisen in a neighbouring State, and I do not intend to do so. I was interested in the speech made by the Prime Minister in answer to the honorable member for Newcastle, who put his views before the House in a calm and judicial manner.
– He put them very temperately.
– -Even more than temperately ; the honorable member put his views in a judicial way before the House. It is true that he expressed certain personal opinions, but they are shared, 1 believe, not only by every honorable member, but by every member of the community, according to his lights. I was greatly interested in the remark of the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth might, at a subsequent date, be able to intervene, and to attempt to settle this dispute. I confess that I have not the same sanguine anticipations.. I feel that the Commonwealth Parliament possesses great power, and that every member and party in it will agree that if it can do anything to bring about an amicable settlement, it should cheerfully and willingly take action. The Prime Minister was very emphatic in his statement that, although the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is vested with certain constitutional powers to deal with industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of one State, it has at present no power to intervene in this dispute, since it is still within the boundaries of one State. In answer to the honorable member for Cook, the honorable member pointed out that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration would have power to intervene on the application of either of the parties. I go further-
– So do I ; I did not use the words “ on the application of either of the parties.”
– If the dispute actually threatened to extend to the same industry in another State, any citizen could, iri my opinion, effectively intervene, and move the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court to take action. If there were threats of a sympathetic strike in another State - if affiliated coal miners in another State declared that they were in sympathy with the coal miners of New South Wales, and had a complaint with regard to the industry in their own State - then any individual citizen could move the Federal Court to take action for the protection of the industries, and the welfare and good government of the Commonwealth. That may be an extreme reading of the Act, but I hold that such a power exists.
– How would the honorable member define “sympathy “?
– A mere declaration on . the part of the coal miners of Queensland or Victoria that they had grievances, that they were in sympathy with the coal miners of Newcastle, and were ready to co-operate with them to secure the redress of those grievances, would be sufficient, in my opinion, to enable an individual citizen to effectively intervene, and to move the Court.
– This is a time for action, and not to talk about Acts of Parliament.
– I decline at this moment to discuss the merits of this question in such a way as to arouse any feeling. (This is not the time to do so. All my efforts are, and will be, in the opposite direction.
– The honorable member desires not to inflame, but to assuage feeling.
– I do. I believe that if the dispute were brought before the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court it would be amicably settled. All my efforts have been working, and will continue to work, towards that object. I do not wish to give rise to an acrimonious discussion regarding the merits of the dispute. It is sufficient for me to know that a great industry, which is absolutely essential to the proper and profitable operation of nearly every other industry in the Commonwealth, is at a stand-still, owing to a dispute between the employers and the employes. I shall put only one case, and I hope that I shall put it fairly. The complaint of the miners is that they have been subjected to a large number of pin-pricks extending over a lengthy period. They complain that they have a number of accumulated grievances. I can speak as a coal miner. Having worked in my younger days, both as a miner and a mine manager, I am familiar with the difficulties of the industry. I know how trying it is, and how easy it is to irritate when, perhaps, there is no intention of causing irritation. I can understand how men, having no distinct grievance, may yet say, “ This life is intolerable, and we require an alteration of the conditions under which we are employed.” I am not going to say how the trouble has arisen, but from the very first th^ representatives of the miners have said to the employers, “ We ask for an open conference to discuss our grievances ; we ask for nothing more. We do not wish any one to compromise his position by conceding anything beforehand.”
– That request was made before the miners left work.
– It was made, no doubt, many times. Before the men ceased work, they said that their conditions of employment were intolerable, and could not continue. I am not going to discuss the question of why they left work, but I give the statement of the men. They said that they desired the employers to agree to an open conference to discuss the merits of their case, and the reply of the mine owners was : “ We shall not agree to a conference until you have returned to your work.” Let me put the converse position. Let us suppose that the owners had locked out their men, because, owing to certain conditions, they could not carry on. Let us assume that they subsequently asked for a conference, and’ that the colliers replied, “ We shall meet you in conference after you have opened up your mines.” What would the public say in such circumstances ? Would they not condemn the colliers?
– The proprietors of the mines could be proceeded against for locking out their men.
– Not only have coat miners been proceeded against, but some of them have actually been imprisoned. Donot let us, however, raise that issue. There is a law in existence, but it cannot be put into force’. This is one of those cases in which there is within the State at present a power greater than the State itself. Is a little breach of etiquette to stand in the way of an open conference to discuss the substance of the grievances? What would the press and influential members of the public say if, in the circumstances I have just mentioned, the workmen said to the miners, “ First open your mines, and then we will meet you in conference “ ? Would they not say, “What right have the mento interfere, and to say how the mineowners shall conduct their business?” I leave the matter at that, although I might readily sa.y more. I can feel for those who suffer most. There are two parties to the dispute, but only one party suffers. Those who suffer generally receive the greatest condemnation ; it is not the first time, nor will it be the last ; but we ought to keep in view the fact, which I have emphasized previously, that the powers under the Federal Constitution, in regard to industrial legislation, are all’ too limited. If we had greater powers,, there would be greater safety ; and we ought to recognise that the most temporary trouble in a State may extend to the whole of the States ; and if it does* not paralyze industry, will cause an enormous amount of distress, and stand in the way of the true progress of Australia. Let us keep in mind” those who are suffering - although absolutelyinnocent, so far as this quarrel is concerned - and who are ready and willing tofurther a settlement by means of conciliation, or in anv other way. I trust that Parliament will refrain from taking any partisan view, though I should be ready and willing to take my part should the occasion arise. I hope that the most conciliatory efforts will be made by every lover of his country to bring about an amicable settlement of this grave difficulty, one that will do substantial justice to all concerned.
– I am quite sure that honorable members do not expect me to reply in detail to the various complaints and suggestions that have been made in regard to the Post and Telegraph Department. A large number of the matters are purely Departmental. These I shall inquire into, and communicate the results to honorable members by letter. As regards telephone and telegraphic construction, the extension of mail services in country districts, and so forth, I shall be prepared to give the fullest information when we are considering the Estimates. I hope to be able to formulate a policy of a liberal and progressive character that will meet the approval of honorable members.
– In reply to the remarks of the Prime Minister on the mining dispute, I must emphasize the fact that it is time this Parliament sought further industrial powers. I agree with the honorable gentleman that it is not the province of this Parliament to interfere in a dispute confined to one State ; but I do not know any dispute of the character of the one in question that does not affect the whole of the Commonwealth through sympathetic strikes and otherwise. I am always surprised, when we are faced by these crises, that the Government should delay seeking the whole control of industrial legislation.I desire more particularly to draw the attention of the Minister of Defence to the great saving that might be effected in his Department, and the greater efficiency that could be obtained by an extension of the use of the machine now in operation at the Victoria Barracks for the cleaning of rifle barrels. A remarkable fact is that this is the only machine of the kind in the Commonwealth; and so effective is it, that it adds anything from twelve months to two years to the life of a barrel, which, as we know, costs something like 15s.
– There might be a machine for each State.
– Quite so. In South Australia, through no fault of the Minister, there is a great shortage of rifles ; but, if a machine of this kind were in use, there are many rifles that could be issued very rapidly. The same electrical power that works this machine could be used to drive another, that is also in use only in Victoria, for the polishing ofmetal work. Cleaning metal work by hand is a very antiquated and expensive process ; and yet that is the method in vogue in all the States except Victoria. Both machines are inexpensive, and could be adopted with advantage. I do not yet know whether the Government have decided to give any better recompense to the members of the Hansard staff, although, when we were dealingwith the Estimates, there was an expression of opinion that they were not so generously treated, although they are the hardest worked employes we have, as some other officers, who have received increase after increase. I do not say that those other officers do not deserve their increases ; but they do not deserve them so much as do the Hansard staff. I am sure that, when the members of the staff took up their duties, they did not believe they were to have so much work thrust upon them as has been the case in connexion, with Royal Commissions. As I understand the matter, they did not expect that they would be called upon to do that work at all; and the Commissions have teen, I think, far too frequent of late years. The work of the Hansard reporters in connexion with the Commissions has been very well done. I have seen secretaries to Royal Commissions receiving gratuities, although their work was as nothing compared with the work of the Hansard staff, in addition to their Parliamentary duties. I hope the Government, if they have not already made provision in this connexion, are going to do so. I do not think there is one honorable member of the House who will say that the Hansard staff are not deserving of an increase, especially in view of the fact that they have not had one since the he ginning of Federation. I now desire to say a word with regard to the statement of the honorable member for Maribyrnong that liquor was supplied to cadets at the recent military tattoo. That is a very serious charge, which I should like to see thoroughly investigated. Either some members of the Force supplied those boys with liquor, or they did not. We have had no proof up to the present moment ; and, while it is true that the honorable member for Maribyrnong asserts that liquor was supplied
– It is true that I asserted that I had received letters and statements to that effect.
– The honorable member, also referred to a press report as bearing out his allegation ; but I say that the report does not bear it out.
– To. a certain extent, it does.
– Only to an extent. I suppose that the Tattoo Committee made inquiry from every one connected with the tattoo arrangements, and they came to the unanimous conclusion that the allegation could not be sustained. It was rather remarkable to see the honorable member for Maribyrnong relying on the Argus and not the Age on this occasion.
– It is a question of a condensed report, and not of one paper against another.
– According to the reports in both newspapers, it would appear that the boys were supplied with drink, not at the tattoo canteens, but outside. It is plainly stated that the boys had a bottle, while there was no bottled beer at the canteen.
– That is another case altogether.
– It is shown that in all probability the boys got their liquor away from the tattoo. There is a statement that one boy admitted that he had five beers, but it does not follow that he got it from the canteen.
– Where could he get them ?
– Where he would have to pay for them. Did he not say that he could have got more if he wished?
– Melbourne is full of beer, and there would be no difficulty in getting it outside. If any noncommissioned officer or officer would permit a cadet to get beer at a military canteen, I am sure the Minister would see that that officer was never placed in charge of a canteen again.
– I have never asserted that officers did permit them to get beer.
– But the honorable member led the House to believe that that was so.
– It was not stated that any officer was responsible, but that the Committee provided refreshments that were intoxicating.
– But the canteen was in charge of members of the forces, and the names are given; and, therefore, the beer must have been supplied by members of the forces if it was obtained at the tattoo. Such a charge ought to be thor oughly investigated ; and I am sure that the Minister will do all he can in this connexion. At the same time, when the Tattoo Committee are unanimous, after I am sure full inquiry-
– How could they make full inquiry ? I made the statement yesterday afternoon, and the Committee met last night.
– I have no doubt they communicated with those who conducted the canteen; and there ought to be a full investigation in order that these men may not be left under a stigma. Of course, if some adult got the beer and gave it to the boys, those in charge of the canteen cannot be blamed. The honorable member for Corio will bear me out when I say that it is the simplest thing for men or boys to get liquor even if there be no canteen at all. I do not think that general statements of the kind should be made without bringing proof.
– I asked the Minister of Defence to make inquiries, and gave him my authority for asking the question I did.
– It would have been far better to first ask the Minister privately, and then, if he did not make the necessary inquiries, to bring the matter before the House.
– The honorable member has his way of doing things, and I have mine.
– It is all very well to trump up charges, but we ought to have proof. In camp I have seen some men the worse for liquor obtained at the canteen; but it is a very unusual occurrence. So far as I have seen, the canteens are very strictly conducted; and, after the discussion we had here a little while ago, it is not likely that they are more loosely managed now than previously. I am glad that the matter is in the hands of the Minister of Defence, and I feel sure that when the full facts are ascertained, those connected with the canteen will be entirely exonerated.
.- I understand that some criticism has been passed on the honorable member for Maribyrnong for his action in bringing this matter before the House. Personally, I was very much surprised to hear the statement of the honorable member. However, I have been able to communicate with two of the young men who were at the tattoo, one a lad of seventeen, a bugler, and another who is a corporal. Both of them are teetotallers ; ‘ and I asked them to give me the truth of the matter. Their names and evidence are available if the Minister likes to depute an officer of the central administration - which he should do rather than depute one of the . Victorian District Commandant’s staff - to make an inquiry. The first lad, a corporal, a very young fellow, and a teetotaller, told me that he and the rest of his company were given tickets for refreshments. They had given their services voluntarily. He heard that only beer was available, and, therefore, did not present his ticket. I believe he still had it two or three days afterwards. The second lad, a bugler aged 17, and a member of the Infantry Militia, went with his ticket to the room. He said he saw no cigarettes about, nor were any offered to him, and to that extent I cannot support the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– I believe there were no cigarettes.
– But he said that all he could get to drink was beer. He looked round for “soft stuff,” but there was none. Nobody was at the door to take his ticket,’ there was a rush of men and boys of all ages belonging to the Forces, and he assured me that the only available liquor for them was beer. I was told further that a lot of men never presented their tickets, as there was no need to do so. This was not a canteen, because, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh says, a canteen is under strict supervision. Usually the teetotal non-commissioned officers of a regiment are appointed canteen sergeants. In a canteen the hours are limited ; any man who shows any sign of too much liquor is immediately ejected, and the noncommissioned officer in charge has power to close it down whenever he thinks fit. In this case there was simply a room set apart at the Exhibition where every member of the Forces could present a ticket for refreshments as a sort of return for his services to the charity. The Committee could not have had all this evidence before them, or they would not have come to the decision they did. They could not have given the matter that consideration which a charge of this sort, publicly made, deserves at the hands of the Defence Department. Their only information would be what appeared in last night’s Herald, after the honorable member for Maribyrnong had made his statement. They had only a few hours to obtain particulars, and certainly could not have taken the evidence of those who made the distinct charges upon which the honorable member for Maribyrnong acted. I think the honorable member has done a service to the Forces by calling attention to the matter. If lads of seventeen can be supplied with beer, and can get no other liquor to drink, I do not think the Military Forces should be allowed to take part in the future in a tattoo which is under such lax supervision, or, at any rate, young lads should not be allowed to take part in it These men are glad to help a noble charity - and the Carlton Refuge is one of the finest charities around Melbourne - but the new defence movement will not be encouraged if parents know that boys may be subjected to temptations which, in the midst of comrades, they are not always able to resist. I wish to ask the Prime Minister, who has some sort of shadowy connexion with the Department of External Affairs, or the Minister of External Affairs, if there cannot be organized in connexion with it an Intelligence Branch on similar lines to the very successful Intelligence Department which has put life and heart into the Military Forces, and made them more ready for active service than has been the case for years past. Knowledge is power, and I should 4ike to think that the External Affairs Department had an Intelligence Branch, not only in regard to the foreign affairs which come within its purview, but also in relation to matters connected with the Department of Trade and Customs. I asked the Minister of External Affairs this week whether he was aware that Cadbury and Company and other reputable English cocoa manufacturers were refusing to use cocoa grown by the Portugese in West Africa and elsewhere because investigations showed that it was produced by labour practically under conditions of slavery. I asked him further if he was aware that American manufacturers were using that slave-grown cocoa, and were able to get it so cheaply that they could prejudice the position in external markets of English manufacturers who were importing conscience into trade. The Minister of External Affairs replied that he was not aware of the truth of either of the statements.
– That reply came from the Department of Trade and Customs.
– That is all the more ‘ reason for the establishment of an Intelligence Branch in connexion with both Departments. Anybody reading the English, or even the Melbourne newspapers, must know that that matter has been agitated for years past between the English Government, the great English cocoa manufacturers, and the Portugese Government, and that, special deputations have been sent to make inquiries, at great expense, by the English Government, and by those manufacturers who are trying to work their trade upon decent honest lines. Yet, the Trade and Customs Department and the External Affairs Department are not aware of the facts. I do not regard the answer given to me as a purely formal one. 1 do not think that formal answers on important matters should be given in this House. The Minister should know these things, and if his Department is ignorant of them he had better get some man into it whose duty it will be to obtain adequate knowledge of them. To show again the official ignorance of the Department and the necessity for an’ Intelligence Branch, a little while’ ago a statement appeared in the English papers to the effect that the King had instituted a medal for members of the police forces and fire brigades of the Empire who exhibited bravery. In addition there was to be a small gratuity which made the medal something on the same lines as the Victoria Cross. There is no doubt that these civilians often perform acts of bravery, without the excitement of battle, which are quite as worthv of th« Victoria Cross as anything done in war. T was very glad to see that the King had been recognising acts of bravery outside of the naval and military forces. He has done so in regard to the work of nurses, and various other forms of life saving.
– And miners.
– Yes. Rewards like these medals are things that men appreciate. I wrote to the Prime Minister about the matter,, as the External Affairs Depart- . ment said they would “ make innuiries.” To my surprise I found, I presume after the Department’s letter making innuiries had gone to England, that the whole of the conditions had been set out in the London Gazette. I was able to refer the Prime Minister and the Department to the issue, and added in my communication to the Department that I was rather surprised that there ‘was no officer in it who recognised the Imperial importance of that publication. Since then I find that the King has already awarded the medals. I do not know upon whose recommendation Australians are to receive theirs, or whether, through the laxity or want of knowledge of the External Affairs Department, thev are out of it, but I venture to say that there are acts of bravery by men in the Australian police forces and fire brigades which are as much entitled to be recognised as those of men in other parts of the Empire. I should feel it to be a blot on our Australian escutcheon if it were found that the police and firemen of other partsof the Empire were recognised in the first issue of the King’s medal, while through the want of an intelligence Branch in the External Affairs Department Australians were overlooked. I hope it will not be so, but I saw a cable about a week ago stating that the list had been issued. The Prime Minister or the Minister of External Affairs ought to shake the Department upand see whether some officer cannot look into important matters of this kind affect- ing Australia.
.-! realizefrom the way the session is going that, there will be very little time to deal withthe Estimates.
– Or anything else if all’ to-day is to be occupied on, this motion.
– I have not spoken previously to-day, but there are some Questions which have been discussed which can only be properly dealt with if we have time to discuss the Estimates at reasonable length. We are, however, getting so near the end of the tession that it will be almost impossible to do so. We have had’ Supply Bills before us, but have been’ asked to postpone any general consideration of the items until the Estimateswere brought on. We have now passed five months’ Supply. It is not probable that we shall have to pass another month’sSupply before we deal with the Estimates. But that is only because the elections must take place early next year. Otherwise weshould possibly have a session commencing, in January or February, and more monthly Supply Bills. Yesterday I asked the Treasurer why certain Boys’ Brigades had received grants from the Treasury. It was a surprise to me to learn that any grants of t’:- kind had been made. If the Department is handing out money to thesebrigades, I shall see that those in my district are not forgotten.
– They are treated inthe same way as the brigades in other districts.
– They do not appear to have received grants from the Treasury. They are not mentioned in the list of those which have been favoured.
– None are favoured ; they earn the money which is granted to them.
– Not five members of the House knew that it was possible for these brigades to earn special grants. I do not say that the money should not be granted, but all should be placed on the same footing. It should be made known that brigades can obtain grants by submitting to certain tests. The brigades in my district have at times applied to me for the use of tents from the Defence Department for camping, and, on their requests being forwarded by me to the Department, have got what they wanted. But I did not know that money was available for them. Apparently the fact is not generally known, because only two brigades in Queensland have obtained grants, while quite a number in Victoria have done so, the amounts which they have received ranging from£33 17s. 6d. to £5 2s.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Boy Scouts?
– No. The brigades I speak of are, as a rule, connected with churches, and I believe that those in charge of them, in addition to drilling them, give them moral instruction, and that good work is being done by them. Had it not been for what occurred at Brunswick recently, few beyond those who have actually received money would know anything about these grants. Now that the position has been made public, no doubt applications will come from all parts of Australia. When the Public Service Bill was under consideration, we inserted in it a provision requiring the payment of a certain minimum wage to every adult who should be in the service for three years. But I have been informed that a number of persons have been so employed for more than that term without receiving it. According to a return with which I have been furnished, there is one man in the service fifty-nine years of age, who is not receiving the minimum, and others of various ages down to twenty-one ; while there are females of ages ranging from fifty to twenty-one who are getting less than the minimum, though we are not told what they are getting. Some of these persons have been in the Commonwealth Service for less than a year, but eleven of them have been there for between eight and nine years, and eight, prior to their Commonwealth service, were in State service for periods ranging from two and a half to twenty-two years. I have the utmost confidence in the Public Service Commissioner, who is a splendid officer ; but Parliament should know why this provision of the Act is not being followed. The Commissioner reports that twenty-four officers will be paid the minimum wage -£1 10 - during the present year, that 152 will receive it in 1910, 200 in 1911, and twenty-four in 1912, while six officers will not receive any advance upon their present salaries. According to the Commissioner they are performing work for which they are amply remunerated, and are either unfit for other duties, or do not desire to be transferred to positions where they would be more highly paid. Some of them are conducting small country post-offices. We should, however, know exactly why the minimum wage is not being paid in every case. Public servants who have been in the employ of a State for a number of years, and in the employ of the Commonwealth for nearly three years, should receive the minimum wage. The Parliament wished to set a wage standard for the Public Service by inserting this provision, which, I think, is the first of its kind in any Public Service Act in any part of the world. No officer of ours who has been three years in the service, and is twenty-one years of age, should get less than the minimum wage. Of course, it would be very hard to require persons who are not doing work warranting the payment of that amount to be turned adrift, and I think it would be better to exempt them, so as to have the provision administered as I think Parliament intended. I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to the position of the gardeners at Government House,Melbourne, all of whom are temporary employes. Two of the oldest have been turned off on the understanding that the work is to continue temporary, but one of them says that they have been dismissed to make room for others, while men of shorter service have been retained. Personally, I am opposed to temporary employment, because we cannot control temporary hands. As we shall require gardeners at Government House so long as the Parliament remains in Melbourne, it would be better to employ the same men continuously. I should like to be informed by the Minister, either by word of mouth or by letter, what system is to be adopted in the future; whether the men are to be retained for only six or nine months at a time, or whether some will be favoured, and kept on while others are turned adrift. No doubt the Minister will deal fairly in the matter, but I should like a definite statement as to what is intended. I wish, also] for information regarding the electoral rolls, lt will be of great importance to honorable members during the next few months to get as many electors as possible on the rolls. At the present time those who send in applications for enrolment do not know whether their names have been accepted until the supplementary roll has been issued, but I understand from the Minister that rolls containing the latest additions iri manuscript are always on view at the offices of the electoral registrars. This matter is of more importance to city than to country constituencies, because there are more changes of residence in the country than in the city. The people naturally desire to know whether the transfers they have signed and sent to the Registrar have been duly recorded. The rule of the Department, I believe, is not to acknowledge the receipt of such communications, and, consequently, there is always a doubt as to whether or not they have reached their destination. Candidates and their supporters will find it very convenient to be able to inspect, at the office of the electoral registrar, in each subdivision, an up-to-date roll. These rolls will be open to public inspection prior te the printing of a supplementary list, and will only be absent from the electoral registrars’ offices, I presume, during the time they are in the hands of “the Government Printer. . I would suggest that since they are likely to be most in demand during the week or ten days that will be occupied in printing the supplementary list, the Department, instead of removing them from the registrars’ offices, should prepare a duplicate copy for the use of the Government Printer. The alterations would be comparatively few, so that the adoption of my suggestion would not involve a great deal of work. Although the PostmasterGeneral has replied, and cannot speak again during this debate, he said that he intended to listen to the speeches of honorable members and to deal with all complaints that might be brought before him. I therefore avail myself of this opportunity to refer to the position of the Actuarial Committee appointed to investigate the telephone accounts. On 29th June last the Postmaster-General said, in this House -
There is no desire to shelve the matter. The Committee appointed is not intended to be a shelving Committee. It is limited to three months, within which to submit its report.
Nearly five months have elapsed since the statement of the honorable gentleman that the Committee was to report within three months, yet its report, apparently, is as far off to-day as it was then. No one believes that it will be forthcoming before the session closes. In reply to questions that I put to the Minister recently, we were informed that this Committee is costing the country about ^50 per week. Questions have been asked with regard to the cost of the Postal Commission, but we find that a Committee dealing with only one branch of the Post and Telegraph Depart, ment is costing far more. As I said, by way of interjection, earlier in the day, if the information which the Committee has been asked to obtain could not have been supplied to the House by the Departmentitself, there must be some men in the Depattment who are incapable of discharging the duties of their offices. The report of this Committee should be presented before the close of the session. I recognise that it would be only human nature for one member of the Committee to show no disposition to hurry on the presentation of a report. He is receiving £5. 5s. per day, and directly a final report is presented that payment will cease.
– Why does not the honorable member touch the Postal Commission ?
– I have already referred to it. This Committee of experts, dealing with only one section of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, has shown the necessity’ for the Postal Commission. Unlike my honorable friend, I voted against the appointment of that Commission.
– I did not vote for it.
– If the honorable member did not, every member of his party did.
– If the Committee was to report within three months, why have we not received its report?
– I have asked that question more than once. A progress report has been received, stating that the Committee has obtained certain figures in Mel- bourne, but needs to secure other information. There was nothing in that report worth publishing, and it was only a waste of paper and of ink to print it.
– The Minister must have looked into the matter, or he would not have extended the time within which the Committee was to report.
– He did not actually extend the time. Although, the PostmasterGeneral said that the Committee was to report in three months, the Committee, no doubt, knew that it was not so limited. I do not hope to see a definite report presented until after the next general election. The Committee was appointed for the express purpose of enabling a reversion to the old telephone rates, to stave off the evil day, and to render it impossible for the people to learn that some people in Australia pay only£9 per annum for a service worth from£70 to £80 a year.
– The honorable member is wrong there.
– I do not think thatI am ; but I have no more to say with regard to the subject. I wish now to urge upon the Postmaster-General the desirableness of installing public telephone bureaux on certain railway stations.
– Hear, hear.
– There are public telephone bureaux on railway stations in some of the States, but the interjection just made by the honorable member for Nepean suggests that more are required in New South Wales.
– There are about four public telephones on the Sydney Central railway station, and something like forty are needed.
– I think that there are only two on the Spencer-street station, and, so far as I am aware, there is no public telephone on the Flinders-street station.
– Public telephones bring in a large revenue.
– They are revenueproducing, and some should be installed on the new Flinders-street station. I do not know whether there are any there at the present time, but a little while ago I searched in vain for one. I do not think that there is a public telephone on a railway station in my electorate, through which more people pass than through any other station in Australia. I refer to the Richmond station.
– More people would pass through the Sydney Central station.
– We have a far greater suburban traffic over our railways. A large proportion of the suburban population of Sydney travel by tram, whereas the bulk of our suburban population use the railway system. No doubt, I shall be told that a man who desired to use a telephone at the Richmond station could secure one at the local post-office, which is only about fifty yards away ; but many travellers by train who would use a public telephone, if one were available on a railway station, are not prepared to go elsewhere. In that way a good deal of revenue is lost. I do not think that there is any notice outside the South Richmond post-office to the effect that there is a public telephone there, but I recognise that most people know by this time that public telephones are installed at most of our post-offices. My complaint in regard to the absence of a public telephone from the Richmond station will apply, I think, to every station in my electorate, to all stations on the Camberwell line, as well as to those on the Caulfield line.
– Is the honorable member referring to suburban stations?
– I am. I do not think I have referred to a station which is more than 7 miles from Melbourne.
– Order ! I must draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that the object of this debate is really to bring grievances before Ministers, and not before individual members of the House.
– I admit that, sir, but I feared that I had not made my point clear to the honorable member for Nepean, who comes from New South Wales, and is not familiar with the Victorian stations. Some time ago the honorable member for Melbourne Potts brought before the House the desirableness of the Government recouping the employes in the agricultural implement making industry the legal expenses incurred by them in the proceedings which they took before the High Court under the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. Rightly or wrongly, the men believed that, under that Act, their employers had to pay them certain rates of wages, failing which, they were liable to pay excise on their output. It is a matter of history that the Government took no action, and not until the men themselves went to the High Court was anything done. I do not say that the whole of the costs should be paid by the Commonwealth, but the men, who really spent the money on behalf of the Commonweal th, are entitled to consideration at the hands of this or any other Ministry. It might be said that, in paying these costs, we should establish a precedent, and that other unions and organizations would ask for similar treatment. But there can never be another similar case in regard to this class of legislation. We were branching out into a new line - treading a previously untrodden path. No other country had passed a measure of the kind, and hence we had this phase of what is called the new Protection. After the High Court had given its decision, the Prime Minister, speaking on 20th October last, said -
I do not intend to debate the question of the new Protection. I merely wished to show that it was, and is still, an essential part of the Government policy.
The honorable member for East Sydney on -that occasion interjected -
And one of the parts of which I thoroughly approve.
Apparently there is a majority in this Parliament who agree that, if we give protection to the employers, the employes should receive their share in the shape of increased wages- or improved conditions. I regard the Inter-State Commission Bill as an absolute sham - utterly useless for the purpose for which it was introduced. It is a Bill . to create billets, and nothing more.
– The honorable member must not discuss that question.
– I do not intend to discuss it. Last week I asked whether the Government were showing their sincerity by having this Bill hung up in the Senate for three weeks, but I find that it was really four weeks, so that it is five weeks to-day since this measure was last dealt with in another place. Is it any wonder, under all the circumstances, that the workers are wondering where their share of the benefits of Protection is?
– If the Labour party had got the dissolution for which they asked, new Protection would have been hung up for five years.
– It will be hung up for longer than that under the present proposals of the Government.
– There is a Bill before one of the Houses now.
– But, as I say, it has not been touched for five weeks, and there are other very important matters to be dealt with. I trust that what I have said in regard to the expert inquiry into the tele phone administration will receive attention, because five months have elapsed since the appointment of the Committee, while, as I have pointed out, the report was to lie presented in three months.
– The time was limited, but the Committee have not finished their work.
– I regret that the Treasurer is not here, because I desire to urge on him the necessity of making a Financial Statement to the House before we go to the country. The finances present a sea. of trouble, out of which it is extremely hard to find a way. We have new obligations of ^20,000,000 or a little over to face, and, in a few days, we shall, J suppose, have surrendered half our revenue to the States ; in other words, we are men who desire to emasculate our own power. The Treasurer ought to devise some system of finance for the country, because, at present, we are proceeding in a very slipshod, happygolucky way. Every great country in the world is planning a national banking system to enable its obligations to be financed. Even in the United States, where the whole policy has been individualistic, Senator Aldridge, of Rhode Island, Chairman of the Finance Committee in the United States Senate, is advocating such a. bank as I have been suggesting. This is the country which has been opposed to any proposal for a national banking system since the day Andrew Jackson vetoed the banking charter ; but it is recognised that money is required for defence, irrigation and other works, and that, to that end, there must be some institution to which other banks could go for rediscounts in financial crises.- There is such a system in England, Germany, France, and Belgium; and Senator Aldridge’s idea is to have an institution with the best features of each, and to leave a national bank as the monument of his political career. The idea is to have a bank in which the United States will hold so much stock, and the other banks the balance; and I do not see why we should not have a system of the kind here. This would give us a bank of banks, where the reserves could be held, and trust moneys deposited. The benevolent associations of Australia possess over ^4,000,000 ; and this could be deposited at a small rate of interest, and used by the Commonwealth to finance its operations, instead of our being compelled to go into the open market and borrow money at a high rate of interest, with all the attendant charges. I do not care whether this or any other Government carry out the reform; all I desire is a system of national finance which will enable this country to meet its obligations. I also urge on the Government the necessity for establishing a national bureau of unemployment. The great trouble here, as in America and England, is the absence of such a bureau as exists in Germany. No one seems to be interested in the man who is unemployed, at the one time in his life when he requires help. The Commonwealth controls the post-office, thetelegraphs and telephones; and it would be a very simple matter to have a central exchange in the Federal Capital, such as we find in Berlin. I wish that, instead of regarding Germany with fearor ill-will, we would study her economic methods.
– I desire to draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
-i think we ought to get to business now ; we have been all day on grievances.
– My remarks will be very short. An article appears in the Contemporary Review for October, of which the following is the substance -
The Labour Exchange is not only a market where men and jobs are handled like stocks and shares ; it is also an unemployed club, where the out-of-work, instead of skulking with his. fellows from place to place, an eyesore to the city and a standing menace to the public safety, as is the case elsewhere, can have the use of spacious, airy rooms, well lighted and well warmed, free access to newspapers and books and games, with a good canteen and hot and cold baths at his disposal at nominal charges. While he waits for the work to come to him he can have his boots patched and his clothing set in order. He sees many, very many, other men in the same pass as himself, some better, others worse off ; yet their company in comparatively congenial surroundings tends rather to whet his energy than to depress him. There is also the additional advantage in the chance of hearing of work from the other members of the club. For the trifling sum of twenty pfennigs the unemployed workman becomes a member for three months, or until he has found work, if he is suited before that period has elapsed. If he belongs to a trade union, as nearly all German workmen do, which is a subscriber to the Exchange, he will be absolved from all payment.
That article is by Eulenspiegel. Would it not be better for the Government to copy an institution like that from the Germans, and spend on it a little of the money that they propose now to use to establish a navy with which we think we shall have to fight them? I urge the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Home Affairs to look into that article, which is well worthy of attention, and see if it is not possible to establish a central bureau in Australia connected through the Post Offices with local bureaux.
– There was a time when the Minister of Defence would have gone a lot further than that.
– I believe he will now. It is a mistake to think he has not got a heart. I would again urge upon the Postmaster-General, the necessity of dispensing with the services of the Deputy Postmaster-General, and appointing an Inspector in each State directly amenable to the orders of the central office. When the honorable member for Maribyrnong was Postmaster-General he authorized the establishment of a new Post Office at Wynyard. Something happened to prevent the work from being carried out. The present PostmasterGeneral has not only approved of it, but has put£1,000 on the Estimates for it. He has urged that the work be done, but has the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Tasmania carried it out?
– It is not the fault of the Deputy Postmaster-General.
– It is not the fault of the Postmaster-General, for he is one of the most sympathetic men in Australia towards country towns.
– The Deputy has nothing to do with new buildings.
– He has everything to do with them. The Deputy Postmaster-General of a State is the stumbblingblock in the way of progress, because he stands in theway of the orders of the central office. This matter has been kept fooling about, but nothing has been done. Sir Robert Scott, the secretary of the central administration, the Postmaster-General, and the Minister of Home Affairs, have done their best, andyet I have not got a Post Office, for this great fertile progressive farming section of Tasmania. It is because the Deputy is opposed to it. He does not want to take the present Post Office up from where it stands beside the sea. He has always said that the city would extend outto it. That is the whole trouble. The PostmasterGeneral, the Minister of Home Affairs, and the permanent secretary want the work done, the money is on the Estimates, but the Deputy at Hobart can stop it all.
– The Deputy has nothing to do with new buildings.
– Then who has? Has not the necessary order been sent by the Minister of Home Affairs?
– I have received no requisition from the Postal Department yet.
– I have a telegram here from Mr. Garner, of Wynyard, saying “ Nothing done.” There is in the Darwin electorate a most important mining centre called Mount Balfour. Some of the largest copper mines in the world have been discovered there lately, and there is no doubt that in a few years it will carry a population of thousands. At present there are only hundreds there. The following is from the Launceston Examiner -
Mount Balfour, however, is one of the most isolated portions of the state. There is no telephone station nearer than Marrawah, and from thence it is a long distance to the field. The mail is despatched from Marrawah once a week only, and it takes about five days for a letter to reach Mount Balfour from Launceston. The necessity for extending the telephone wire from Marrawah to the field is fast becoming a matter of vital importance. So confident are some of those who hold properties on the field of its future that they have deposited the required guarantee with the department for the extension of the line. There is nothing to prevent the work being put in hand at once, but the proverbial dilatoriness of the departmental official. The work is hung up awaiting the necessary authority from head-quarters.
– That authority has been given.
– I am sure that the whole of the fault rests with the Deputy in Tasmania.
– I gave authority in that matter several days ago.
– That is what I am trying to tell the honorable member for Franklin.
– They have to call for tenders as soon as the authority is given.
– They do not call for tenders ; they go to sleep. They think it is a country like Canada, and that, like bears, they should get full and’ hibernate. The delay is no fault of the heads in Melbourne, for they have ordered the work to be done. When I run the circus the honorable member for Franklin will see how soon I will shift those roosters over there. Every honorable member has noticed that the people in New South Wales are starving for the want of potatoes. In Western Australia the people have to go hungry, as the millers’ rings have made the price of flour so high.
– According to to-day’s paper the Sydney authorities are letting Tasmanian potatoes in now.
– I am delighted to hear it.
– Only from the clean districts.
– We have no dirty districts in Tasmania. There is no such thing as Irish blight in the Commonwealth. When they had it in Ireland in ‘46 and ‘47 it could be smelt in England. It is known by its smell. The power is vested in this Parliament to tell these parochial State Ministers that they must not starve the people while there are tons of potatoes going to waste in Tasmania. The Commonwealth power ought to be asserted, and if our Ministers would act as President Roosevelt did in the United States on many occasions, the State authorities would no longer be able . to make the people go hungry, while many a good Tasmanian producer is forced to make a dead loss on his crop, and perhaps go bankrupt The time has come for the National Government to say, “ We possess the power; and you have no right to shut out these potatoes.” It is time for the National Government to exercise its quarantine authority. I have never claimed that it should allow diseased products to enter a State, but it certainly ought to have its own quarantine officers, and any article that they pass ought to be admitted into any State, without the interference of an inspector or a man with a gun on the border, just as if there were no Federation. If that were done, the farmers of Tasmania would not be ruined, the people of Australasia would be benefited, and those grand red-skinned potatoes would fill the empty stomachs of thousands of our children, putting the glow of health into their cheeks. I trust that this famine will not be allowed to continue. It is not necessary to go to the High Court for relief. The matteris in the hands of the Commonwealth. The Constitution says that this Parliament shall have exclusive power, subject to its provisions, to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth. No State is to interfere with trade and commerce, and if the law of a State is inconsistent with that of the Commonwealth, the latter is to prevail. I wish now to say a word regarding the strike at Newcastle.
– Why mix up the strike with potatoes?
– If there is one thing which they need at Newcastle now, it is potatoes. In this twentieth century, in. an age of light, and in a land of constitutional liberty, where the principles of justice are amongst the highest triumphs of Christian civilization, is it to be imagined that 13,000 men are to be told by twenty, “ We shall not grant you a conference unless you approach us as lackeys “ ? The American Constitution declares that all men are born equal, and that all have the right to live free and happy, and our Constitution is virtually a copy of it. The 13,000 men were born into the world by the same process as the other twenty. Yet they are to approach them as servants. This is not Democracy. I do not say that one side is right and the other wrong, but I say that the Commonwealth Government has the right to interfere in this matter under the law of eminent domain. I am not too sweet about some of the colliery proprietors. They do not play the game, even in horse racing. A horse was being scratched day after day. but when its owner could get on all the money possible, it was run to win the ‘Cup. That sort of thing is not fair towards those of us who occasionally attend race meetings. I do not think that the men would do a thing of that kind. Eminent domain has been denned as the supreme right of property possessed by the State over articles of private ownership and the right of eminent domain is the right to take private property for public use. The King never surrenders this right. All the property in the Commonwealth belongs to King Edward VII., as the embodiment oi” the power of the nation. The owners are trustees for him. Of course, he cannot resume without granting compensation. Everything earned in the Commonwealth is earned bv the processes of trade and commerce. Would the Government allow the twenty colliery proprietors of Newcastle to behave as they are behaving towards the
T3.000 miners were it likely that the Australian Navy would be tied up for want of coM unless a conference were granted? We have to-day what is worse than a foreign war, an internecine fratricidal com-. mercial war. Twenty or thirty men- can stick up the industries of the Commonwealth, closing factories everywhere. Employers have to dismiss their hands, landlords have to go without rent, and the people have to go without provisions, because of what is taking place at Newcastle. When Morgan, the great American banker, and head of the great Coal Trust at Pennsylvania, laughed at the 350,000 men on strike, and some of those associated with him said that they would be starved into submission, Clarence Shearn, one of America’s great constitutional lawyers, told President Roosevelt that under the law of eminent domain he could put every man to work. The President sent for Morgan, and told him to think the matter over for thirty-six hours. The coal-fields were surrounded with soldiers to protect them, because of the indignation of the populace at the treatment which they had received. At the end of that time, Morgan and Rockefeller, notwithstanding their millions, had to settle the strike. If they had not done so, President Roosevelt would have taken over the coal-fields under the law of eminent domain, and left them to fight out the matter in the Courts. I should have no more hesitation about seizing the Newcastle coal-fields, and calling out the army if the proprietors did not settle the strike in thirty-six hours, than I shall have in ordering my dinner to-night when the time arrives. The country should be run by strong men. I would sooner be strong and wrong than weak and right. If the Go’vernment were in the wrong, the High Court would do justice. What right has any property-owner to stand in the way of the people’s interests? We are all one, but differentiated bv conditions, surroundings, and opportunities. Thousands of men and thousands of women are born to struggle and die without accumulating much, because they have not had the opportunity. No man can become wealthy without the help of monopoly. We should treat the men at Newcastle fairly. In conclusion, let me read a leading article which was published on Monday last, in the only national daily paper printed on the mainland - we have one in Tasmania, the Daily Post- -
The question which must be forcing itself up on the minds of average citizens, when thinking of the present disastrous coal strike, is - “ <~an any community permit a portion of its citizens a continued control of propertied interests which they are proving their inability to use. except with disaster to the whole people?” In spite of the traditional sacredness of private property, that question must arise again and again unless wiser counsels prevail.
That is from the Melbourne Age. I should like to put the whole article into Hansard for the benefit of posterity, but it is too long, so I shall content myself with reading extracts from it -
It may be laid down as an axiom that no man wilfully quarrels with his own bread and butter.
I believe that that is true.
Coal mining is the bread and butter of the miner and of the miner’s wife and children. A man whose living and the comforts of his dear ones depend upon his work will not “ down tools “ for a mere caprice.
Here is another passage -
Whatever blame the community may put upon the miners who have rushed into this strike must be shared by the masters, who have failed to use their powers and their rights in that reasonable and conciliatory manner which they ought to have felt inseparable from their positions and responsibilities.
Abraham Lincoln said that power should be used on the side of mercy.
It cannot do other than breed interminable ill-will. It soys in effect that the masters are conscious of their power, and that they will use their power for the preliminary humiliation of the men. They will only confer with those men after they have first prostrated themselves before the masters’ authority.
I hate the word “ masters.” It comes to us from the old slave epochs. We want none of it in this country. We are all men, but some are bosses and others workers.
The miners have many complaints to make of the abuse of power on the part of the proprietors. And the proprietors, on their side, have many grievances against the cavillings of angry men. But we may certainly venture to say that nothing which either side may allege against the other will be so damning in proof as this supercilious attitude of the masters in response to the demand for an open conference.
I trust that Ministers will rise to the occasion, and do something big.
Question resolved in the negative.
That the House will to-morrow resolve itself into Committee of Supply.
In Committee(Consideration resumed from 17th November, vide page 5851).
Clause 17 -
The whole of Part X. of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following Part substituted in lieu thereof : -
PART X- VOTING BY POST.
- (1.) An elector who -
has reason to believe that he will not during the hours of polling on polling day be within seven miles of any polling place for the Division for which he is enrolled ; . . . .
Upon which Mr. Hutchison had moved -
That the words “ has reason to believe “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ declares.”
.- I understand that the intention of the honorable member for Hindmarsh is to compel those who apply for postal-voting certificates to declare distinctly that they will be more than 7 miles from a polling place on the day of the elections. We were defeated in our effort to eliminate from the Bill the provisions relating to voting by post ; butI hope that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh will be carried. The introduction of “ Q “ forms for the use of people who are absent from their homes has set aside many of the arguments that were previously advanced in favour of voting by post. I do not desire that these provisions shall be weakened. I should prefer to see them eliminated from the Bill altogether, but since the Committee has rejected such a proposition, I trust that honorable members will agree to tighten them up as far as possible. I regret that the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment. I know that some honorable members thought when this question was last before us that the position would not be improved by the adoption of this amendment.
– Will not the honorable member’s object be served by the amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Calare?
– No. That amendment relates only to the investigation of complaints. Thousands of persons apply for postal-vote certificates, and it would be practically impossible to deal with every case, although an example might be made of one or two of the worst offenders. I hope the amendment will be carried.
.- The amendment should commend itself to the Committee.
– How could a man make a declaration that he would be more than 7 miles from the polling booth in respect of which he is enrolled on polling day ? He might not know definitely that he would be away.
– There is no doubt that the system of voting by post affords facilities for voting to persons who are genuinely unable to attend a polling booth, and that if it were abolished a small percentage of the community might be deprived of an opportunity to vote. But the advantages of the system are overshadowed by its abuses.
– What are the abuses? I have never heard of any.
– I should not be in order in entering upon an elaborate statement of my objections to the system, but the Treasurer must be familiar with the cases cited by the honorable member for Melbourne. The honorable member has shown that, in his second contest for the representation of Melbourne in this House, seven hundred postal votes were recorded. Speaking from memory, I believe that more postal votes were recorded at that election than were cast in connexion with the general election all over Western Australia.
– I suppose that they were all bonâ fide.
– The question is whether they were or were not. Partisan justices were taken to various places in Melbourne, and appealed to people, who had no legitimate reason for refusing to go to a polling booth, to apply for postal-vote certificates. Various influences were brought to bear to induce them to record their votes for a certain candidate prior to the day of election.
– -But they had to apply for postal -vote certificates.
– The very existence of justices who are prepared to be “ carted “ round shows that the system offers facilities for abuse.
– It was only the honorable member’s party who “ carted “ any one round Western Australia. I refer to candidates for the Senate.
– I do not think that there was a great deal of that done, but if such things did occur, they constitute another argument against the continuance of the postal voting system. No one can deny that abuses have occurred in connexion with it. People who have had no reason for refusing to go to a polling booth have been induced to record their votes under this system prior to polling day, and influences that ought not to have been brought to bear upon them have been allowed to prevail. The strongest possible prima facie evidence can be produced to show that men following certain callings have been influenced by the pressure of those responsible fortheir employment. I think that most honorable members on this side will agree with me that this system of getting a large number of votes recorded prior to polling day is an interference with the free exercise of the franchise by means of a secret ballot.
– We never press any one.
– My right honorable friend is, of course, a mere innocent in the conduct of elections ! As the proposed new section stands, an elector has only to say that he has reason to believe that he will not be within 7 miles of a polling booth on polling day in order to secure a postalvote certificate.
– Would the amendment improve the position?
– If a man had to make a statutory declaration that he would not be within 7 miles of a polling booth on polling day, and knew that he would be punished if he made a false declaration, the number of postal votes recorded would be reduced very considerably.
– That is to say, if a man thought that he would be too ill to go to a polling booth, and made a declaration accordingly, but, in the meantime, got better, the honorable member would punish him.
– No. This provision deals, not with cases of sickness, but with those who have reason to believe that they will be more than 7 miles distant from a polling booth on the day of election.
– If a man made such a declaration, and, prior to polling day, broke his leg, so that he was unable to go away, the honorable member would punish him?
– No ; the honorable member is citing an extreme case.
– Still, in such circumstances, a man who had made a declaration could be punished under this amendment.
– Does the honorable member think that any Court of Justice would punish a man under such circumstances? I am sure that he does not. Undoubtedly hundreds of persons have voted by post, when they have had no intention of being away from home. That sort of thing ought to be stopped. It leads to corruption, interferes with the secrecy of the ballot, and lays the weak open to the influence of persons who may be able to affect their means of livelihood if they refuse to apply for a postal-vote certficate.
– But no one can tell how a man who obtains a postal-vote certificate is going to vote.
– The honorable member must be very innocent if he thinks that is so. I havenever seen a postal vote recorded without knowing which waythe elector was voting.
– It was proved in Queensland that, in some cases, postal votes were taken the wrong way, and that they were lost on their way to the returning officer - a most disgraceful thing.
– Such cases have occurred. In nearly every case the witness to a postal vote knows how the elector records his vote. That is undesirable. The postal voting system may be of service in isolated cases; but I doubt whether it is warranted in view of the abuses that do creep in.
.- I move -
That the word “ seven,” line8, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three.”
Whether we believe in postal voting or not, 7 miles seems too great a distance to ask a man to walk to record his vote.
– Whether the distance should be 7 miles or 3 miles is a matter of opinion for each individual member of the Committee. I do not know exactly why 7 miles was fixed upon, but it appears to me a considerable distance for people to have to travel. I suggest to the honorable member for Corio that the position might be met by making the distance 5 miles.
.- When I cannot get all I want, I am obliged to compromise ; and I am obliged to the Minister for the suggestion he has made. The distance of 5 miles is not great for the wealthy man who owns a buggy, but it is rather trying for the farm labourer.
– The honorable member is very solicitous about the farm labourer!
– I am glad to say that I am, because I get a large amount of support from farm labourers, though the honorable member for Herbert appears to throw contempt on the class. I am prepared to accept the suggestion of the Minister.
Proposed amendment amended accordingly.
– I have just been informed that in the South Australian Electoral Act of 1908, the distance mentioned is 15 miles, while in the Western Australian Act of 1907, it is 7 miles.
– In our original Act, the distance was 5 miles.
– Under the circumstances, I think the compromise is a fair one.
.- I regret to see the Minister so readily accept an amendment at the request of a supporter. The original Act provided for 5 miles, but, owing to abuses, a change was deemed desirable. The Treasurer was a member of the Ministry which made the change, though I admit the circumstances were then different, seeing that the Labour party sat in the Government corner.
– Was it not exceptional use and not abuse that caused the change?
– No; it was because of abuses.
– I think that, on that occasion, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie favoured 5 miles.
– I think I favoured the longer distance. At any rate, in the light of further experience, we should retain the provision for 7 miles.
– The timber cutters are a long way out.
– Was the Treasurer very solicitous about the timber cutters at the last election? Little farming centres in Western Australia were provided with polling booths, whereas, in the timber country, communities of 200 or 300 electors, were left without. Indeed, if I remember rightly, a deputation waited on the Treasurer prior to the last election to point out the iniquity of the arrangements.
– I could not help the arrangements.
– I know that I had to walk 7 miles, one Sunday, to address a meeting, and some of the men there had to walk10 miles to record their votes. The trouble arises from the fact that there are some unscrupulous employers who become very interested in politics at election time, and find that business will not permit of their employes going to the polling booth.
– The provision for leave for two hours would fit in with the distance of 5 miles, though not with the distance of 7 miles.
– The Attorney-General will doubtless try to fit anything in to suit a Government supporter. What happens is that an employer goes round with a justice of the peace collecting the applications and the ballot-papers are sometimes signed in the office under the employer’s eye. I am glad to say that the love of freedom of the Australian people does not allow such practices to prevail to any considerable degree.
-i never heard of it being done.
– That is marvellous considering that, in the Melbourne electorate, at the last general election, there were 700 postal votes recorded.
– There are more than that number of commercial travellers in Melbourne.
– Commercial travellers are seldom where they cannot exercise an absent voter’s vote.
– In the case of Melbourne, the applications were signed, and then taken to the office of a particular agent, and filled in.
– For whom were they filled in ?
– There were not many for Maloney, I will be bound ; and if these abuses are possible in one case, they are possible in others. Is a Melbourne voter, who lives at St. Kilda, entitled to this special consideration? Under form “ Q,” electors can exercise an absent voter’s vote; and, in any case, the provision does not to any great extent assist the voter in the country. In the first place, there is very likely only a weekly or bi-weekly mail service, and he has to write to the Central Division, and get his voting paper back, and he may have two trips to the nearest township in order to find a justice of the peace, or some other qualified person. I represent a district with outlying settlements ; and I am prepared to take the risks rather than allow the abuses possible under postal voting.
– I listened very attentively to the indignant expressions of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie in regard to the proposed compromise. I had thought I should be absolutely meeting that honorable member’s wishes, because when the Electoral Bill was before us in 1905, the honorable member, as reported on page 6644 of Hansard of that year, moved an amendment to reduce the distance to 5 miles.
– We have had an election since then.
– Under the circumstances, I think the honorable member might as well agree to the compromise.
– I am sorry that the Minister has intimated his willingness to give greater facilities for postal voting than those originally proposed in the Bill. The great object we should all have in view is the absolute purity of elections. If a loophole for fraud is discovered by one party, the other will be sure to utilize it. The result will be the complete demoralization of our electors, and when that takes place reform will be very difficult. The postal voting system, as the Minister says, was strongly advocated by members on this side of the House, and I admit that some of them were prepared to remove all distance limitations, but the practical application of the principle in Federal and State politics has compelled those of us who wish to preserve the purity of elections to ask that the system shall be surrounded by even greater restrictions than the Minister proposes in the Bill. That change of conviction has come about as the result of practical experience, because the principle has been found to lend itself so largely to abuse.
– The Leader of the Opposition advocated it most strongly.
– But he is not prepared to advocate it now, as the result of his practical experience of it and in view of his desire to maintain the purity of elections. If we on this side wished to gain undue advantages by abuses of this description, we should continue to advocate the system, but, on the contrary, we desire to restrict it, because we have seen the abuses that spring from it, and realize the possibility of their increase.
– That is just why the Fusionists want it.
– I do not know that that is so. Like a two-edged sword, it cuts both ways. If the Fusionists think they will gain an advantage from it at the coming election, they maydo so, but it will demoralize our politics to such an extent that they will live to regret it.
– It represents only 1 per cent.
– I am afraid the Minister does not know the exact percentage. If the methods adopted by his Department to enforce the penalties for the infringement of the provisions of the
Act in this regard are to continue, the proportion of frauds detected to those which take place will be very small. The Minister will be well-advised to stand by his original proposal of a 7 -mile limit, if he cannot see his way to increase it or include further safeguards in the direction indicated by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. When the proposal came originally before the House a limit of 5 miles was fixed, but an amending Bill was introduced to raise it to 7 miles, in order to get rid of some of the abuses that had crept in under the 5-mile provision. In his original proposal the Minister intended to make it still more stringent by requiring that the distance should be, not merely 7 miles from the elector’s own polling place, but 7 miles from the nearest polling place ; but now, at the instance of some of his supporters who want to remove all distance limits, he proposes to go back to the original 5-mile radius. Apparently he has not learnt anything from his own experience of elections. He says he is guided by the experience of his officers, but I suppose the provision in the Bill was inserted on the advice of his officers, and now he proposes to throw their practical experience to the winds. He has failed to justify the volte-face that he is now proposing to make, and I urge him, in the interests of the purity of our electoral system, to stand by his own Bill.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Calare. The Act of 1902 provided for a 5-mile limit, but the then Minister, the honorable member for Darling Downs, on the advice of the officers of the Department, introduced an amending Bill to make the distance 7 miles, and that was agreed to. Yet the Minister, in spite of the recommendation of his own officers, now climbs down to 5 miles at a moment’s notice.It has been said that this is evidently being done in the hope that it can be used for party purposes, similar to those instanced by the honorable member for Kennedy in his references to what happened in Queensland.
– Why say that? Is the honorable member opposing it for party purposes ?
– I am opposing it in the interests of the purity of elections. Those who desire to vote should go to some polling booth and record their votes, and not be allowed to have a postal ballot-paper taken to them in such a way that others can practically see how they vote. When the original Bill was before us it was provided, in order to safeguard the secrecy of the ballot, that the ballot-papers should not be counted where they were polled unless a hundred votes were polled there. That was done because the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for South Sydney showed how, in some places where only a few electors voted, the presiding officer or the poll clerk would probably be the station-owner, who would know how his workers voted, so that they would be liable to be penalized. When a postal ballotpaper is issued, the recipient can take it to any one he likes and show how he has voted,
– No one would do so.
– I would not trust some of those who desire to vote by post not to do so, if they thought it would be useful to them.
– Others could do the same thing with their ballot-papers, but they would not.
– They could not, because the law forbids it.
– The honorable member knows how 80 per cent. of his supporters vote.
– . I doubt ifI know 30 per cent. of those who vote for me. I regret that the Minister has accepted the amendment in spite of our experience of the original 5-mile limit. I trust that if the amendment is carried another place will promptly restore the 7-miles provision.
.- The Minister’s statement in regard to my attitude on this question on the last occasion puts the matter imperfectly. If the honorable member had read Hansard, he would have seen that I opposed a proposal for a 10-mile limit in regard to a suggestion which had evidently been previously made in the debate, but which was not contained in the clause then before the Committee. My words were these -
I am of opinion that the provision requiring an elector to be ten miles distant from the division for which he is enrolled before he is entitled to vote at a polling booth in an adjoining division is an unreasonable one.
That is an entirely different matter from the provision now before the Committee. There is no question now of prohibiting a man from voting in an adjoining division. It would be wrong to prevent an elector from doing so, if he were only a mile away from the polling booth at which he was enrolled, and if it were more convenient for him to vote in the adjoining division. As the result of our experience in this matter, 1 desire to make the elections as pure as possible whilst giving the maximum of convenience to every person who desires to record his vote. An elector for the division of Yarra living atRichmond may be working in Bourke-street, Melbourne. I evidently had a case of that kind in my mind when I spoke. I would not prevent that man from recording his vote on election day at the Melbourne Post Office by means of a “ Q “ form. Evidently I did think at that time that a 5-mile limit was preferable to one of 10 miles, and, apparently, 7 miles was accepted by the then Minister as a compromise. Parliament deliberately chose 7 in preference to 5 or 10 miles, and the experience at the last election indicates the need for making these provisions stricter. I think the Committee will be well advised if it adheres to the existing provision.
– If my memory serves me aright, the change from 5 to 7 miles was the result of the recommendation of a Committee, of which I was a member, appointed to investigate the abuses under our first electoral legislation. The fact that the change was recommended after an exhaustive inquiry should weigh greatly with the Committee.
– Were the abuses to which the honorable member refers in country or in city constituencies ?
– Inboth, but more largely in the latter. Much abuse occurred in Melbourne itself.
– In the voting of persons who were not entitled to vote ?
– No; in getting electors to vote under conditions under which they should not have voted. Postal votes were witnessed by persons not properly authorized, and electors who were within 5 miles of the polling place at which they were entitled to vote wrongly took advantage of the postal voting provisions. An agency known as the “ Flying Angels “ was established to turn the system to party advantage. The Minister of Home Affairs knows that at one time in New South Wales the secrecy of the ballot was being violated in the interest of party. The method was this : An organization arranged with certain electors that they should vote for a specified candidate, and to insure this being done the first elector entering the booth, on being supplied with a ballotpaper, slipped a blank piece of paper into the ballot-box, and brought out the other to be marked for the candidate whom it was desired to support. This marked paper was then given to a second elector, who placed it in the ballot-box, and ‘brought out another ballot-paper, which was similarly marked. It was shown that large numbers of votes were controlled in this that way.
– A good organization would be better able than a bad one to cheat in that way.
– No creditable organization would do such a thing. This abuse was exposed, and legal proceedings resulted, while the law was altered to require the returning officer to initial the ballot-papers, and prevent their insertion in the ballot-box except in such a manner as to show that the Act was being complied with.
– The abuse of which the honorable member is speaking was worse than the abuse of postal voting.
– A similar abuse would be easier under the postal voting system, and more difficult to detect.
– If a man intends to act like a villain he will do so.
– But by making detection easy you prevent a great deal of villainy. In my opinion, the Minister’s proposal, if carried out, would give the villain greater security.
.- The arguments of the honorable member for Calare apply largely to the system of voting by ballot in any form. It seems to me that the corollary of the amendment is the abolition of voting under the “Q” form as at present. In my opinion, postal voting, requiring as it does the declaration of certain prescribed witnesses, is safer than voting under the “Q” form. Under the latter system any two men can enter a polling booth only half-a-mile away from that at which they are entitled to vote in the usual way, and comply with the provisions of the law without it being possible to trace either of them, should they fraudulently deprive an honest elector of his vote, or make it inoperative by duplicating it. I do not think that the voting under the “ Q “ form has yet been largely abused, because it is so new that the possibilities of fraud are not so generally known,but I do not see why unscrupulous persons should not take advantage of it by means of false declarations.
– Unscrupulous persons would prefer to vote by post.
– An unscrupulous candidate who had money might wish to take advantage of the “Q” form, and an unscrupulous organization might use it to coerce the members of a union, though I do not say that this would be done.
– The Select Committee which sat in 1904 declared that postal voting had been abused.
– Undoubtedly it has been abused, but I think that if we knew everything it would be found that voting under the “ Q “ form has also been abused. In my opinion, the safeguards surrounding postal voting - the obligation to have well-known witnesses to the transaction, for instance - are more effective than those surrounding voting under the “ Q “ form. I should have no objection to the abolition of voting under the “ Q “ form, because I desire not to make things easier for wrongdoers. At the same time, the abolition of voting under the “ Q “ form would seriously inconvenience many business men in my electorate whose avocations take them into the city daily.
– The evidence taken by the Select Committee did not show that abuses existed under the “Q” form.
– Because, as I have said, that system of voting is too new. In my opinion, it offers greater opportunities for fraud, and fewer possibilities for detection than the postal voting system, and for that reason the latter is less objectionable.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 7.45 p.m.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 18 (Provision to meet emergencies) .
Mr.FRAZER (Kalgoorlie) [7.47].- I had intended to ask the Minister for some information with regard to the officers authorized to witness postal votes under proposed new section 109A ; but that and other proposed new sections were embodied in the clause which we have just passed. That clause embraces four pages of amendments of the principal Act, and I think that we ought to have dealt separately with each of the proposed new sections.
– I am putting clause by clause to the Committee in the usual way. If the Committee desires me to put each proposed new section separately,I shall do so.
– I think that that would be a fairer course to adopt. Seeing that the whole of the machinery relating to the conductof the system of voting by post is being altered under this Bill, I should like to ask the Minister whether there is any substantial difference between the new provisions and section 118 of the principal Act.
– There are no substantial differences.
.- Clause 18 is an entirely new provision, and I should like the Minister to explain why it is necessary ?
– The clause is designed to ratify emergency appointments made, on the eve of an election when time will not permit of the observance of the usual formalities.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 -
Section one hundred and thirty-eight of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following section substituted in lieu thereof : - “ 138. - (1.) In the case of an election for the House of Representatives, an elector shall only be admitted to vote for the election of a member for the Division for which he is enrolled….. “
.- I should like the Minister to explain the reason far proposing to alter in this way the original section which provides that an elector shall only be entitled to vote for the division “ in which he lives.” There seems to be more in this proposed amendment than appears on the surface. A man might, by accident, be enrolled in respect of two divisions, and under this provision he would have the choice of voting in either of them. There must have been some distinct object in view in leaving out the words “ in which he lives.” I move -
That after the word “ Division,” line 7, the words “ in which he lives and “ be inserted.
– I think that the honorable member will find that an elector can be enrolled only in respect of a division in which he resides. That being so, his amendment is really unnecessary.
.- I pointed out to the Minister, on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, that it would be possible for a man to remove from one division to another and allow his name to remain on the roll for the division which he had left. The amendment would remedy the objection that I raised.
– I see no objection to the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 -
Section one hundred and forty-eight of the Principal Act is amended by inserting therein before the word “ illiterate “ the words “ physically incapacitated or.”
.- In section 148 of the principal Act, it is provided that if a voter satisfies the presiding officer that he is illiterate, or that his sight is so impaired that he is unable to vote without assistance, the presiding officer may mark his ballot-paper for him before such scrutineers as may be present. I think it would be well to insert after the word “ scrutineers “ the words “or poll clerks.” In many polling booths, there are no scrutineers, and in such cases it would be possible for the presiding officer, under the law as it now stands, to mark as he pleased the ballot-paper of any blind or illiterate person. I move -
That the following words be added : - “ and by inserting therein, after the word ‘ scrutineers ‘ the words ‘or poll clerk.’”
– I object to the provision as it stands. 1 have known as many as twenty persons to vote in such a way that the scrutineers were able to see for whom they were .recording their votes. I fail to see why the secrecy of the ballot should be violated in this way. It is not desirable, for instance, that a scrutineer should have an opportunity to see that a man is voting for the opposing candidate. In South Australia a blind person may select a friend to mark his ballotpaper; and that friend is the only person who knows how the vote is cast. The clause, as it stands, unnecessarily violates the secrecy of the ballot, and thus exposes the elector to a certain amount of risk. A small storekeeper, for example, who was illiterate might - as, indeed, I have known occur over and over again - be exposed to some injury if it became known how he had voted, or an employe, under similar circumstances, might lose his work. The system in South Australia, under which a physically incapacitated voter may have a friend to mark his paper, works admirably, though there, I am sorry to say, illiterates are not allowed to vote at all. For that reason, I should like to move an amendment providing that an illiterate or incapacitated voter may select any person, and not necessarily the presiding officer, to mark, fold, and deposit his ballot-paper.
.- The object of the amendment is to assist a voter who is physically incapacitated, though not necessarily illiterate, and I am sure we are all anxious to make the way as smooth as possible for those unfortunate people. I think, however, that we may rely on the presiding officer, who has been selected on account of his peculiar fitness for the position, to do all that is right and proper.
– But why should the scrutineers see how a man votes?
– Even under the honorable member’s proposal, somebody must see the ballot-paper.
– Only a friend.
– At any rate, .1 think that, under the circumstances, we may have confidence in the presiding officer, though, of course, absolute secrecy is not preserved.
– Under my proposal a polling clerk would not see how an elector voted.
– Quite so; but, nevertheless, I think the Committee would do well to adhere to the clause, under which, I am sure, no injustice will be done.
.- I am fairly well acquainted with a number of blind people, and I know that they object to this clause, which allows strangers to see how they vote. They feel it is an infringement of the secrecy of the ballot, and we should be well advised to adopt the South Australian provision, which, I believe, is also the Victorian provision. It would be a good idea to leave it optional with the voter to either avail himself of the services of the presiding officer, or take a friend with him. In order to allow the honorable member for Hindmarsh to submit his proposal, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment temporarily.
Amendment, bv leave, withdrawn.
. - I move -
That the following words be added : - “ and by inserting after the word ‘ officer ‘ the words or should the voter so desire, a person appointed by such voter.’ “
The clause, as it stands, would involve, I am sure, considerable hardship in country districts, where farmers, pastoralists, and other employers have very strong political prejudices. Employes, who were not of the same way of thinking as their employers, and who required to avail themselves of this provision, would refrain from going to the poll, when the chances were that they would lose their employment. In quite a number of cases men who, indirectly, have been found to vote for a candidate representing opinions opposed to those of their employers, have been dismissed. In Adelaide, I knew a case of a young woman who on this ground was given a week’s notice, but I am glad to say that she left her employment immediately. When I have acted as scrutineer I have not desired to know how a person has voted, but merely whether he is entitled to vote. The presiding officer has no right to see how an elector votes. We often have strong partisans acting as presiding officers. In the district of the honorable member for Wakefield there is one presiding officer who is so strong a partisan that I am assured that he has prevented people in the past in various ways from recording their votes.
– The honorable member’s proposal is more liable to abuse than the existing system.
– It could not be, for no friend worthy of the name who went into a polling booth to mark a ballot-paper for a blind man would abuse his trust and mark the paper against his wishes. If a man cannot trust a friend, no law that we can pass will protect him. Under the present law, however, we ask him to trust a man who may be a friend of his opponents. I am sorry to. say that many of them are not to be trusted. Honorable members must know that men have been dismissed when the way they have voted has been made known. I am in favour of the clause so long as we preserve, as far as practicable, the secrecy of the ballot.
– I was not aware of the provision in the South Australian Act until the honorable member for Hindmarsh mentioned it and the AttorneyGeneral looked it up. I am prepared to make section 148 of the principal Act read in this way -
If any voter satisfies the presiding officer that his sight is so impaired, or that he is so physically incapacitated or illiterate, that he is unable to vote without assistance, the presiding officer, “ or should the voter so desire a person appointed by such voter,” in the presence of such scrutineers as may be present shall mark, fold, and deposit his ballot paper for hiin.
– If the presiding officer does it, I want some one to see what he is doing.
– The presiding officer can be knocked out if the honorable member likes.
.- It would be a mistake to take out the presiding officer, or even to give an option as the Minister of Home Affairs suggests. The section should be made to read, “ The presiding officer, in the presence of such scrutineers as may be present or of such person as the voter may select, shall mark, &c.” The presiding officer ought to do the marking. We have to guard against the oppressive employer, although he may not be common. If a friend or” the voter may mark the paper and the presiding officer is not also present, the oppressive employer may direct the voter to take with him a certain friend whom he himself has selected. The Minister’s suggestion does not make the presiding officer a party upon both occasions, but he should be there because he represents the Commonwealth and is nearly always impartial.’ Of course, there are cases of partisanship such as have been described, but I do not think that even a presiding officer like the one referred to in the Wakefield electorate would be guilty of such illegality and oppression in the presence of a third party as to mark the paper against the wishes of the voter.
– I did not accuse him of doing that.
– In extending this provision to the physically incapacitated, the illiterate, and the blind, we are touching a pretty large class.
– My desire, and, I think, that of the Committee, is to provide that either the presiding officer or some person whom the voter desires shall do what is necessary, the object being to preserve as far as possible the secrecy of the ballot. I therefore propose to insert after the word “present” in section 148 of the principal Act the words “ or should the voter so desire a person appointed by such voter.”
.- Before that is moved I wish to insert after the word “scrutineers” the words “or poll clerks.”
– It would be better to insert those words after the word “ present,” otherwise it might invalidate the election.
– If there is no scrutineer present I want the presiding officer to mark the ballot-paper in the presence of a poll clerk.
– That would be met by inserting after the word “ present “ the words “or if there be none present, of the poll clerk.”
– That would meet my object. I did not have a scrutineer at any polling booth at the last election. I do not think they are necessary during the polling, although they are wanted during the scrutiny. The presiding officer has practical control of a number of votes. Cases have been known where presiding officers have been practically political agents for some candidates. At the last election one presiding officer said to a lady, who was not physically incapacitated, blind, or illiterate, “ You must allow me to hold your hand while you vote this way “ - a way exactly opposite to what she desired. The officers of the Electoral Department know all about the case. There was another case at the St. Kilda booth at the last election where the presiding officer refused to mark the ballot-paper at the table. A scrutineer who was present told him he was compelled by the law to mark it in his presence, but the presiding officer called a constable to have him removed, when the scrutineer proved that the presiding officer did not know his own Act. I am prepared to leave the drafting of my amendment to the Attorney-General.
– The honorable member for Gippsland has properly pointed out to me that there might be an objection to putting in the words “or if there be none present, of the poll clerk,” after the words “in the presence of such scrutineers as may be present,” because there might be only one scrutineer present. That point, however, is involved in the section as it now stands, and the difficulty can be got over by giving the voter the option of saying that he will not have any of them present.
– It seems to me that we might well provide for the marking of the ballot-papers in the presence of the presiding officer and the poll clerk, as well as the scrutineers, if there be any present.
– But the poll clerk is appointed by the presiding officer.
– Then, what is gained by calling him in ?
Mr.Fuller. - He is to be called in only when there a.re no scrutineers.
– Suspicions have been created by requiring the presiding officer to be the only person present, and it has been suggested to me that it would be an improvement to allow the poll clerk also to be present. The position will be met by allowing the intending voter to nominate some person to assist him, and failing such nomination, giving the scrutineers, if there are any, the right to see that the paper is properly marked, permitting the poll clerk to be present at the marking, should there be no scrutineers.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that it is desirable that no one should know how any elector votes ; but the provision which he wishes to make for the voting of illiterates hardly seems to do what he wishes. Whoever, was brought in would have to be some one known to have no definite political convictions. Should a known supporter of either party be chosen, it might be thought that the elector’s vote was controlled.
– The intending voter brings with him any one he chooses.
– That is a South Australian practice.
– I thought it was intended that he should nominate some person inside the booth. I see no objection to his bringing in a friend.
.- Apparently, this provision has worked well in South Australia ; but it seems to permit of the controlling of the votes of those who are illiterate, blind, or physically incapacitated, which is a very wide term. If two or three dozen electors asked the secretary to a candidate’s committee, or an ardent supporter of a candidate, to assist them, it would give rise to the suspicion that their votes were controlled, and that the person nominated was chosen, not to assist them, but to see that their votes were cast for the right candidate. While the provision as it stands may be open to the objection that too much power is given to the presiding officer, it seems to me that, by making the suggested amendment, we shall go altogether too far.
– The provision has been in force in South Australia for years, and no abuse has taken place under it.
– I accept that statement; but there is danger of abuse. If “A,” the secretary to a candidate, assists “ B “ to vote, it may be thought that he is controlling “ B’s “ vote.
– Under the provision as it stands, the scrutineers will know how an illiterate candidate votes.
– But under the suggested amendment, it will be possible for one man to enter the booth, to mark another man’s ballot-paper.
– The fears of the honorable member for Nepean are groundless. Should any one purchase a vote, and wish to make sure that the elector was carrying out his contract, he would only have to ask the scrutineer on his side how the vote was cast. The opponents of the party to which I belong seem to have scrutineers in every booth, and they would know in these cases how votes were cast. The provision has worked admirably in South Australia without causing abuse, so far as I know.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Fuller) agreed to -
That the following words be added : - “ and by inserting after the word ‘present’ the words or if there be none, of the poll clerk, or should the voter so desire, a person appointed by such voter,’ “
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 24 to 27 agreed to.
Clause 28 (Amendment of section 172).
.- It is proposed to insert in section 172, after the word “ sign “ the words “ and declare.” If it is intended that a statutory declaration shall be made, it is inadvisable to substitute “ the return shall be in accordance with form R” for “may be in the form R,” unless form R embodies the words essential to a statutory declaration, without which no penalty will be incurred by the person swearing falsely.The Victorian form for a statutory declaration concludes, “ and I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing it to be true,” &c.
– Form R is merely a declaration before a justice of the peace.
– In the table of electoral offences, wilfully making a false statementin any claim, application, return, or declaration, is punishable; but if the penalties provided in section 182 are to apply, it is necessary that a false declaration shall be made, and to merely insert the words “ and declare,” does not constitute the form a declaration.
Mr. FULLER (Illawarra - Minister of necessity for inserting in section 172 of the principal Act the words to which the honorable member for Corio has referred, but the information that I have obtained from the Department is that it is thought desirable that a candidate should not only sign, but “ declare ‘ ‘ before a justice of the peace a true return of his electoral expenses, in accordance with form R, to which attention has been called. I see no great value attaching to the insertion of the words “ and declare,” but, on the other hand, no harm will be done by inserting them as proposed.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 29 to 34 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 19A. Section one hundred and thirty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by adding thereto the following sub-section : - “ (3.) Where the polling at an election for the Senate and the polling at an election for the House of Representatives takes place on the same day, it shall not be necessary for an elector to make two declarations in Form Q in the Schedule to enable him to vote at the elections, but one declaration shall suffice for that purpose.”
This provision is in accordance with other amendments of the original Act made in this Bill for the simplication of forms used in connexion with voting.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I think that section 171 of the principal Act ought to be amended, so that the amounts paid in connexion with the rent of halls shall be excluded from the total of£100 beyond which a candidate’s expenses may not go. There is a great difference between the position of candidates for city and country constituencies. A candidate for a city constituency may be able to reach the whole of the electors from one or two meeting places, whereas, in many large rural electorates, there are from fifty to 200 polling places, and it is impossible for a man to rent public halls for election meetings, and yet keep within the limitation of expenses for which the original Act provides.
– I desire to move an amendment relating to an earlier section of the principal Act.
– That being so, I will give way to the honorable member.
.-I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ Section 170 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - ‘ (vii.) Horse or carriage hire for any voter whilst going to or returning from the poll.’”
I am not anxious that the£100 limit to the expenses of candidates shall be exceeded, but I think that candidates should have an opportunity, if they so desire, to employ motor cars, cabs, or other conveyances, to take people to and from the poll. The use of conveyances is disallowed under the Act. Not only is their use excluded from section 170, which sets forth the items in respect of which expenses are allowed, but in section 176 of the principal Act, we have the statement that “ bribery “ particularly includes - the supply of . . . horse or carriage hire for any voter whilst going to or returning from the poll…..
In other words, a person supplying horse or carriage hire to any voter could be adjudged guilty of bribery. There can be no doubt that at every general election many persons are conveyed to and from polling places in cabs, motors, and other vehicles. Those conveyances are either paid for by a candidate in contravention of the law, or loaned by friends. We ought either to say that conveyances for the convenience of electors may be used, or that no one shall be conveyed to the poll. Under the principal Act it is not even competent for a man possessing a carriage or a motor of his own to take a friend to the polling booth for the purpose of recording his vote. The law is very unfair to those candidates who have no friends to supply them with conveyances on polling day. I do not propose that the maximum amount of expenses which a candidate may incur under the Act shall be increased.
– The position is bad enough as it is. The honorable member’s proposal would make it worse.
– I think not. The law, as it stands, is very unfair. It practically declares that a candidate shall not take any one in a conveyance to a polling booth, and, as I have said, it inflicts a hardship on those who have no friends ready to place conveyances at their disposal. It has been said that at the last general election the honorable member for South Sydney had placed at his disposal several motor cars, and I should be glad if a similar courtesy were extended to me.
– I have no objection to the amendment, but I point out that, under the Act as it stands, there is nothing to prevent a candidate having as many vehicles as he chooses - that there is nothing to prevent bribery and corruption in that form. The Act provides that vehicles shall not be provided “ with a view to influence the vote of an elector “ and, in my opinion, it would not be possible to get a conviction, seeing that “influence” would have to be proved. I do not see why we should keep up a mere pretence; and, that being so, I am in favour of the amendment. I should have no difficulty in spending £3,000 on vehicles without being liable to punishment for an infringement of the Act, if I took care that voters were not carried to the poll until they had already been “ influenced.”
– I received an intimation two or three days ago that this amendment would be proposed ; and, after consulting my colleagues, I have to say that the Government see no objection to it. There is no proposal to increase the authorized expenditure of , £100; and the amendment appears to me only reasonable. Speaking personally, I may say that I engaged a’bus only on one occasion, very much against my own will, and only to meet the wishes of my committee ; and of the voters brought to the poll by this means, fifty voted against me, and only seven for me.
– I regret that the Minister should accept this amendment. The question has been threshed out in previous Parliaments ; and the practical experience of members on all sides led to the present limitation. It may be that the object of the Act is defeated in some respects; but the remedy does not lie in opening the gates to the old abuses. The idea of the limitation is to prevent undue influence being exercised by the man with money.
– The expenditure is still limited to£100.
-It is supposed to be limited to£100 but the limitation will speedily disappear if such amendments as these are carried. If a candidate engages cabs and buggies, he will find that he has very little left of the £100 for advertising and other expenses.
.- I too, regret that the Government have seen fit to accept this amendment. The object of the limitation of the expenditure to £100 is the protection of candidates ; and, if the amendment be carried, every cab proprietor in an electorate will be looking for a job on election day. At present all we have to do is to refer cab proprietors to the Act; and I am afraid that the amendment will only mean unnecessary expenditure. In congested city constituencies, which can be canvassed for £20 or£30, the amendment might prove to , work all right, but it would be a difficult matter to keep the expenses within£100 in large country constituencies.
– I shall support the amendment. I cannot see why, if a man has£100 to spend, he should not be allowed to spend it on items beyond those mentioned in the section. At present a candidate’s expenditure is limited to purchasing electoral rolls, printing, advertising, stationery, messages and so forth; committee rooms, public meetings and halls, and scrutineers; and the experience of most country members is that the biggest item is that of public meetings and halls.
– And scrutineers.
– With a limitation of £100, it is absolutely impossible to employ scrutineers if they have to be paid. We know perfectly well that vehicles are engaged now, and that it is simply a case of driving a coach and four through the Act. The amendment does not propose to increase the amount a candidate may spend ; and I think he may be allowed an option in the matter. A candidate need not spend money on vehicles any more than he need now pay scrutineers. I am sorry to hear that in the Wimmera constituency there are such a lot of hungry cab-owners.
– Why not discuss the question, without introducing the personal element ?
Mr.WISE. - Because the honorable member, like every one else, speaks from his personal experience ; otherwise, his opinions are not worth very much. There is already a proposal suggested by the honorable member for Nepean to exclude from “ electoral expenses “ the expenses of public meetings and halls. If that is adopted it will leave a considerable amount for country candidates to spend on vehicles if they thinkit. That expenditure is one of the biggest items in country districts.
.- I heard, with some surprise, the honorable member for Barrier, the representative of a working class constituency, advocating the use of motor cars at elections.
– Why should not a working man have a motor car?
– I do not object to any man having a motor car, but this legislation was introduced to give a working man a chance of getting into Parliament, and the honorable member’s amendment would make it harder for him to do so.
– Why not give the poor cabby a chance?
– If that is the argument, why limit the amount at all ? Does the honorable member for Barrier want to remove the limitation?
– The argument of the honorable member is that if a man can. expend£100 he can engage motor cars, but that if he can afford to spend only £20 he must do without them. The honorable member would bring the man who is prepared to spend£100 into unfair competition with the man who can afford to spend only a small amount. He would lessen the chance of election of the man who cannot afford to hire vehicles, and who has to depend on subscriptions from the members of unions and leagues to help him into Parliament. I trust the amendment will not be carried.
– About the meanest thing we ever did was to keep the poor cabbies out of a share of the money spent at elections. There are numbers of cabmen about town, and why should they not, as well as the newspapers, printing, offices and others, have a “cut in” at the£100? If the cabs cannot be used for electioneering purposes on polling day, it is a lost day for them.
– Would the honorable member allow another£100 for cabs ?
– Yes, and it would be a good thing for the cabmen. They ought to be allowed to carry people to the poll. There are people who live considerable distances from the polling booths and will not vote unless they are conveyed there. It would be better to allow a candidate to spend the money on cabs than to permit a league or union to provide them for him. Cabs are used now at every election, and it would be much fairer and more honest to say that a candidate may engage them.
– I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier, because one candidate may have twenty friends with vehicles available to bring his supporters to the poll, while another may have the means to hire conveyances, but not the friends to lend them. He is, therefore, placed at a disadvantage.£100 is quite enough to allow for a candidate’s expenditure. I could do with less for my electorate.
– The honorable member has a town, I suppose - not a district 400 miles across.
– I have a city in my district and I have to travel over 200 miles of country, including Flinders Island, for which the Treasurer has not yet provided a post-office. I suppose nearly every cabman in Launceston would work for me for nothing, but at the same time I believe my opponent should have the same right as I have to have cabs running for him if necessary.
– I remember a State election at which twentyeight votes were polled at one booth, and twenty-eight farmers’ buggies were engaged. There is no need to amend the existing provision. I have always felt that I had the right to engage cabs if I had chosen, because I have read the Act to mean that electoral expenses do not include the travelling expenses of the candidate, and if I engaged a cab or two I always regarded the cost as not being the travelling expenses of the other candidate. The effect of the amendment will be to increase the cost of an election. I find the£100 limitation is regarded as valuable, not because it really means a limitation, but because it can be used to prevent a great number of people from putting one to a tremendous amount of expense in all directions. I do not want to have the expense of engaging every cab about the place added.
– I may tell the honorable member for Batman that I have represented a working man’s constituency for several Parliaments, and I think I shall continue to do so longer than the honorable member for Batman will. I understand that as the law now stands cabs can be engaged by a candidate’s com mittee without his knowledge, and that that committee or any one employing them can be fined£50. That is all the punishment. I was given to understand that in the second Federal election fifty cabs were employed by a committee representing one of the candidates in an electorate, and they were paid£1 more than they would ordinarily have received to cover the amount of the possible fine. Any man with money can get over the difficulty in that way if he so desires. Fifty pounds would be nothing to a rich man, and he can have cabs now if he so desires, but those who want to keep within the law are at a disadvantage. I simply ask that the£100 may be spent in this way if the candidate wishes. Some members say that £100 is not enough to allow for a candidate’s expenditure. I have a constituency larger than any in Victoria, and running right back into the never-never country. On one trip I covered 700 miles, but my expenses have not averaged£25 an election. The honorable member for Batman’s logic is very peculiar. I do not want to increase the candidate’s expenditure above£100. Any candidate can spend . £100 to-day. I should be prepared to support the Committee if they decided that no one should be brought to the poll by a cab or motor car. That would be fair and legitimate, but to-day there is nothing to prevent a candidate from employing as many motor cars, carriages, or cabs as may be placed at his disposal by his friends to bring his supporters to the polling booth. It would be consistent if the Committee took the stand that no one should be brought to a polling booth in a vehicle, but the provision would be unworkable.
– Why does not the honorable member move in that direction?
– Because I am not so foolish. To do so would be absurd. I have neverspent a shilling on scrutineers, although I have contested some eight elections, but it seems to me that as candidates are allowed to pay for scrutineers, they might very well be allowed to pay for vehicles. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has shown that the law is frequently broken now. Surely, then, we should remove an obstacle from the path of an honest man. I have always found £100 more than enough to cover my election expenses, and, personally, would have no objection to the reduction of the sum to £50, but the candidate should be able to fi spend his money as he thinks fit/ If he thinks that he will gain more by spending it on hiring vehicles to convey voters to the poll than in hiring halls in which to address his electors, he should be allowed to make his choice.
– At every election in South Australia’, the biggest motor car in Adelaide is ‘used to convey Labour voters to the poll, without cost to the candidates. Many of those who take advantage of it thoroughly enjoy the ride, having had no other opportunity to travel by motor. If honorable members object to the use of vehicles to convey electors to the poll, why do they not make it illegal ?
– Why should not any private citizen be at liberty to drive his friends to the poll ?
– I think that he’ should be at liberty to do so. I agree with the honorable member for Barrier that a candidate should .be at liberty to spend part of the .£100 which he is allowed to disburse, on the hire of vehicles for the conveyance of electors to the poll. I have had 200 vehicles used against me, all of them paid for ; because the provision limiting expenditure is frequently broken. This is a serious handicap to a man who has not unlimited means, but the candidate should be allowed to spend his money as he thinks best, whether in advertising, hiring halls, or hiring vehicles. I know that the sister of the principal political agent in South Australia gave persons who voted for me suits of clothes and new boots to induce them to vote for rival candidates. I was delighted that they should get these things, but two took then, not so much for their own use, as to provide me with an opportunity to initiate a prosecution for bribery. That however, was impossible. Under the law as it stands, candidates can spend as much money as they like, or have it spent for them. The poor man will always be handicapped. Anything spent on the hire of vehicles will, if the amendment be carried, have to be shown in the schedule of the election expenditure. To remove the handicap complained of by the honorable member for Batman, it would be necessary to enact that no one shall drive a voter to the poll once the candidate’s £100 has been expended. At a recent election, a dozen motor cars were used on behalf of a candidate without expense to him.
– At the last election, there were more motor cars used to support the Labour candidate in South Sydney than were used in any other division.
– The Labour party is now getting so many friends that it can obtain motor cars and other vehicles free of charge. I do not object to that. What I desire is that everything should be done to put all candidates on the same footing.
– I agree with the honorable member for Batman that to increase election expenditure will make it more difficult for poor men to be returned to Parliament.
– It is not proposed to do that.
– Let me draw the attention of the Committee to the statements of a witness who appeared before a Select Committee which, sat in 1904 to investigate electoral matters - Mr. George William Sergeant Dean, electioneering agent, and ex-secretary to the Citizens’ Reform League. This is part of his examination by Mr. McCay and Mr. McDonald -
With regard to a candidate’s electoral expenses, your view is that a candidate can easily spend a good deal more than £100 in perfectly legitimate methods ? - Yes.
If the experience of those most intimately concerned, is that it is quite possible, with care, to conduct an election campaign within the limits of the present expenditure, would you still hold to your opinion? - That is all very well in the case of a well-known candidate who possesses numerous friends. As I instanced previously, in a recent contest for the representation of the Northwest Province in the Legislative Council of Victoria, there were three candidates, none of them were well-known men. Each had to fight his way politically. Those serving on their committees did not work for nothing. In that instance, Mr. Edgar and Mr. Aitken were really fighting Mr. Walsh, and to defeat him they had to spend money. That election cost us over £300. whereas the Melbourne East Province election was conducted for an expenditure of only ^77…..
By Mr. McDonald. - Do you know of any special cases in which this limitation has been productive of hardship? - Yes. Take the case of a business man who is possessed of large interests, and who aspires to become a member of Parliament. After he has announced his candidature, the public very frequently say, “ Oh, we have never seen him. He has never asked us to vote for him.” In such cases there is an undoubted hardship, because if he were permitted to do so, he would probably be able, by means of advertising, to persuade many people to adopt his views.
– We do not desire that the expenses of candidates shall be in creased.
– This witness stated that the poor candidate can get his fellows to canvass for him for nothing, while the rich candidate is expected to pay for what help he gets. By way of illustration, he said that a well-known wealthy man in Melbourne came to a polling booth where he was not entitled to vote, and, being directed to another booth further up the street, to which he could travel by tram, refused to go there unless provided with a cab at the expense of the candidate. According to the witness, a working man would have cheerfully walked the distance to vote for his candidate. For that reason he desired that the limitation of electoral expenses should be extended from £100 to at least£300, and desired that the list of items in respect of which expenses might be incurred should be so extended as to include conveyances. He seemed to consider that, under the Act as it stood, a hardship was inflicted upon the wealthy. My own opinion is that the section limiting the expenses of candidates was placed in the original Act as the result of our experience, and that, although it has been abused by candidates getting their friends to hire vehicles for them, the principle itself is a good one. We shall not remove abuses by throwing down the barriers already existing. What we need to do is to close the loop-holes.
– How would the honorable member do that?
– So far as this matter isconcerned, . I think that the Act should stand as it is.
Question - That the proposed new clause be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
.-I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ Section one hundred and seventy of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from subsection v. thereof the words ‘ and halls therefor ‘ and section one hundred and seventy-one is amended by adding the words’ and hire of halls.’”
I submit this amendment because I think that the cost of renting halls ought to be excluded from the total of£100 in respect of which candidates may incur expenses. It is utterly impossible for a candidate for the representation ofa large country electorate, to pay for the hire of halls, and yet keep within that limitation. Trickery of all sorts is resorted to to circumvent that provision, and I think, therefore, that this amendment ought to be agreed to. Candidates for city constituencies in which there are perhaps only two or three polling places, have to engage only one or two halls for election meetings.
– Where is there such an electorate?
– I have in mind at the moment the electorate of East Sydney ; but there are others which, on doubt, come within the same category.
– I dare say that it costs as much to hire the Sydney Town Hall as it doesto hire all the halls in a country electorate.
– The Sydney Town Hall may be hired for a meeting, for about£25 whereas, in my constituency, a candidate must hire seventy or eighty halls, at an average cost of about£1 each. In some constituencies, there are 200 polling places, and candidates for such electorates are unfairly handicapped under the Act as it stands. It should he our aim to give the people the fullest opportunity to hear the view’s of the different candidates, and to allow public questions to be discussed as freely as possible. During a wet weekin a countryconstituency, a candidate cannot hold open-air meetings, and, in any case, the women folk will not attend such gatherings.
– The law as it stands applies equally to all candidates and all parties.
– Quite so; but a candidate for a city constituency like that which the honorable member represents, has to hire only a few halls, whereas, in a country constituency, a very large number must be engaged. If a candidate does not hire them himself, he gets some one else to hire them and to pay for their use. It is because I think that everything in connexion with elections should be plain and straightforward, thatI submit this amendment.
– Why not propose to do away altogether with the limitation of expenses?
– I recognise that there ought to be a limitation of electoral expenses; but I think that that limitation should be so much per polling booth, rather than per electorate.
– I have only four pollingbooth places in my electorate.
– So that the honorable member is permitted by this House, which is described as a Democratic assembly, to expend£25 in respect of every polling place in his constituency, whilst the representative of the electorate of Nepean, in which there are seventy-five polling places, is permitted to spend only about 25s. in respect of each of them.
– I suggest that, in order to preserve consistency in. the drafting, the honorable member ought not to include the amendments of the two sections in one amendment, but should divide his. proposal into two parts.
– If the AttorneyGeneral thinks that is the best way, I have no objection. The test vote can be taken on the proposed amendment of section 170.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
.- The arguments of the honorable member for Nepean appear quite sound until they are examined. The object of the Act is, first of all, to limit the expenses to£100, so as to prevent any corruption ; but if there is anything in what the honorable member says, the honorable member for Grey, who has a constituency as large as the State of Queensland, and the honorable member for Coolgardie, whose constituency is nearly as large, ought to be permitted to spend considerably more than£100, while the honorable member for Yarra and myself, whose electorates are little bigger than good-sized pocket handkerchiefs, ought to be limited to,£5 or£6 This only shows the absurdity of any differentiation. The fact that a good many halls are required in the country does not dispose of the fact that in city electorates halls are constantly required for. committee work. I have a working committee of 1,500 or 2,000, who have to be accommodated night after night.
SirJohn Forrest. - Does the honorable member pay for the halls out of the£100 ?
– Yes; and the hire runs from 25s. to 30s.
– We also have to have committee halls in the country.
– But not in the same proportion. My experience is that country committees meet under a sheet of bark, or in private houses. I may say that, when 1 have been opposed by a Labour candidate, I have found that he could afford to spend more than myself; but that, of course, is his business. I am certainly in accord with those who desire to keep the expenses down to the lowest possible limit, because I have no desire to see the man with money have the advantage.
– I shall support the amendment; and, with all respect to the honorable member for Dalley, I do not think his argument is sound. I take it that the object of the Legislature is to limit the expenditure, and, at the same time, give the electors every opportunity to hear the views of candidates. It so happens that, in large, scattered country electorates, especially in the more densely populated States, there are a great number of hamlets and villages, and it is necessary to address the electors at each. We cannot expect the electors to attend if there are not halls to accommodate them. I may say that I had to speak at 100 different centres.
– After the nomination?
– I spoke at seventy-five places after nomination, and the cost of the halls runs from 5s. up to, in one instance, £3 giving an average of about£1. I cannot see any objection to accommodating, not only the candidates, but the electors, in this way. It is not a question of the wealthy man being able to spend more money, to the disadvantage of his opponent; in fact, it is necessary to have halls, in order that the people may hear the candidate. I do not see why the purchase of electoral rolls should be made an item of the expenditure. There is no corruption in connexion with the buying of the rolls; and, if we desire all the electors to vote, candidates ought to be at liberty to obtain as many rolls as they choose, without including the cost in the£100. These rolls are a part of the electoral machinery, and we ought to recognise the fact.
.- I trust the Committee will not agree to the amendment, because I feel sure that it will increase the expenses of the candidates. The honorable member for Mernda said that he addressed seventy-five meetings after nomination ; but most honorable members take opportunities to meet the electors previously.
– But the expenses date back three months.
– I was not aware of that ; I thought they counted only from the nomination day. I quite agree that the candidates should go before the electors, and give them as much information as possible; but I hold that some of the halls in the towns should be placed at the disposal of candidates free. Years ago the Municipal Council at Broken Hill passed a resolution providing that, when there was an election, the member for the district, or any candidate, had the right to the use of the town hall for the purpose of addressing the electors ; andI think that a very reasonable and proper thing to do. If the expenditure is to be increased by means of this amendment, I suppose that it will apply to senators, who will find it a heavy burden.
. -Itis rather unfortunate that on a Bill which is a purely machinery measure, intended to facilitate the administration and render the conduct of elections as honest as possible, there should be a discussion on one of the most vital principles of the Act. One of the principles of the Act is that the expenditure in connexion with a candidature for the House of Representatives shall not exceed£100. The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Barrier did not alter that principle. It merely left it optional to the candidate to expend portion of the£100 in cabs if he thought fit, but this amend ment, if carried, would make a distinct alteration. It may be justifiable for a man contesting a country constituency to contend that hire of halls shouldnot be included, because I know from experience as a country representative how difficult it is to secure them. At the same time I do not feel justified in advocating any amendment that will increase the limit now allowed. It is, however, a matter on which there is a large difference of opinion on both sides of the Committee, and in the circumstances, while opposing the amendment myself, I leave it to the Committee to deal with as it thinks fit.
.- I was much interested in the Minister’s statement that the amendment attacks a vital principle of the Act, and that his advisers in the Department believe it would be fatal to accept it.
– He did not say it would be fatal.
– He said it touched a vital part of the Bill, and the inference is clear. But what surprised me was his statement that it was a matter on which there was a difference of opinion, and that, although, following the best advice he could get, he was against the amendment personally, he did not think it advisable to press that view on behalf of the Government. I hope he will carry the Government with him in the matter, because one of the principal objects aimed at when the original Act was passed was the limitation of expenses.
– This does not alter that in any way.
– It does alter it. Does it not increase the amount of the candidate’s expenditure if he is allowed to do a number of things incidental to his election without including the cost in the£100? It would be far more honest for the Treasurer to say, “ We will increase the amount to£1,000.”
– Men are out now spending what they like.
– Within the period prescribed by the Act, they cannot exceed the amount of£100 unless they presenta dishonest statement of their expenditure, in which case their election might be upset. I hope the Minister will stand by the principle of the Act, because it is the foundational principle of Democracy. What chance has a poor man against a wealthy one if the latter can spend any amount of money in an endeavour to get a seat in this House?
– In engaging a shelter to speak under? That is the only point at issue now.
– The point at present is halls, but why halls?
– Because it is necessary to have them.
– Some would say that in certain kinds of weather it is necessary to have a conveyance.
– They have been included.
– And quite properly so, although it will not be within the power of many of us to make use of them. I know no logical reason why a cab, as well as a hall, should not be hired as part of a candidate’s expenses.
– One is an inducement to vote; the other is not.
– A candidate might want to be taken to a hall to address a meeting.
– He can spend as much as he likes on transport for himself.
– But what if he took a voter with him ?
– He could not take a voter to the poll.
– If a candidate has a motor of his own, he can motor from poll to poll, but a candidate who owns no vehicle must walk, or risk upsetting his election.
– No; a candidate’s travelling expenses would include those.
– The lastamendment put the expenditure of every candidate on a reasonable basis, and I see nothing undemocratic in it. I have seen men who had wealthy friends with motors and other vehicles use them gratuitously to bring voters all day long to the polling-booth, while another candidate could not hire a single vehicle in his own interests.
– That amendment will not stop those with wealthy friends from doing that.
– It will not, but it will allow a candidate to expend portion of the £100 for the purpose. The amendment now before us is quite another matter.
– It is simply to put the hire of halls in the same category as travelling expenses.
– There are in my constituency about 135 polling places, and, therefore, I am in as great a difficulty as any one else as regards hiring halls. Generally speaking, by arrangement with the State Government, in places where there are no halls, the school -houses are available for practically the cost of cleaning them, from 5s. upwards.
– Only where there is no hall.
– In the smaller places there are no halls.
– That practice is not universal. The school-houses cannot be used in Western Australia.
– They ought to be available for election meetings. They are very convenient.
– If we can get the use of the public school buildings fora nominal ram, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.
– It has been the rule in
Queensland, and I think the New South Wales people would not be seriously hurt if they copied that example.
– We get the use of the small school -houses in Victoria.
– In that case, the honorable member for Nepean would.be welladvised to withdraw the amendment, and invite the New South Wales Government to give candidates in that State similar facilities. I trust that the Government will riot agree to increase the amount of £100 for the net actual expense to be incurred by each candidate. I ask the honorable member for Nepean not to press the amendment, because, after all, the buildings may be used for all sorts of purposes, such as free entertainments, as well as meetings.
– The honorable member proposes to confine it to public meetings.
– How would the honorable member define a public meeting?
– It is defined in the Act already.
– We might call it a place where a cinematograph show is run,
– Supposing that sort of entertainment was given, and a little public speaking also took place at the hall, you would be in a morass of legal difficulty at once. Who is to determine what is or is not a legitimate public meeting?
– There will be no more difficulty than there is now.
– The honorable member must see that it is a question between wealth and poverty. One candidate might be able to spend any amount of money on meetings. It would be quite sufficient for a member of his committee to get up and say a few words at the meeting, and an entertainment, to which there would be no legal objection, might follow. A distinguished Premier, who is no longer with us, used, in addition to speaking, to entertain his hearers with songs. Other people might be hired to sing, and various other forms of amusement might be associated with the meetings.
– I do not think there is any doubt as to what a public meeting is, according to the English decision. It excludes everything of that class.
– That may be so, but the Attorney-General will admit that great opportunities for abuse may be created.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay sought to make it appear that the candidates of one political party have more money to spend than those of the other, but no suggestion could be more humourous. I know that at the last general election in New South Wales the largest apparent expenditure was in the constituency of South Sydney. All the motor cars that could be obtained were hired to assist the then Leader of the Labour party. They even tried to get mine. When I drove through the constituency to find out how things were going, some of the supporters of the honorable member thought that I must be driving for him.
– Surely the honorable member is drawing the long bow.
– I am mentioning what actually occurred. Every member of the Labour party knows that the funds at its disposal are larger than those at the disposal of any other political party in Australia. I think about three hundred pounds was set aside to fight the Surrey Hills division for the State Labour candidate about three years ago. Have honorable members considered what it is that candidates may spend their money on?
Let me read the list. They may purchase electoral rolls. How could any one by so doing bribe an elector?
– The question before the Committee relates to the hiring of halls.
– As I am unable to read the list, I refer honorable members to it. They will see that in no instance can a candidate spend money in a way that might improperly influence votes. This expenditure is not for the convenience of candidates. If it were, sitting members would be ready to keep it as low as possible, because they have a better opportunity to publish their opinions than have new candidates.
– The man who has most money can best make his opinions known.
– No one understands better than does the honorable member how to make his opinions known. What we have to consider is whether the proposal is in the public interest. In my opinion, to increase the number of meetings held in halls will result in increasing the knowledge of the electors regarding the questions at issue. At the last general elections in New South Wales, when one tried to address meetings in the open, organized opposition prevented a hearing. What chance have women electors of learning the views of candidates unless public meetings are held in halls, and conducted withreasonable decorum ? On several occasions the right honorable member for East Sydney had only to appear to be met with boo-hoos, choruses, and continuous disturbance, until he was forced to sit down again. But when a meeting is held in a hall, the proceedings can be regulated. Do those who are opposing the amendment desire absolute anarchy in connexion with elections ? Do they desire that the electors shall be prevented from knowing the views of candidates?
– It is impossible to effectually disturb an out-of-doors meeting.
– The stamping of feet outofdoors does not make as much noise as in a hall.
– A few men organized on the outskirts of a crowd can make a public meeting impossible. Why, when my honorable friends hold a monster meeting, they take the Exhibition Building, and appoint a number of “ chuckers-out,” while if the affair is to be particularly Democratic and free and easy, admittance is by ticket only. My sole desire is that electors, especially women electors, may have a fair opportunity to ascertain the views of candidates, which is hardly possible under recent methods of political warfare. I shall support the amendment.
– The honorable member for Wentworth has suggested that open air meetings are disturbed by Labour sympathizers, the Christian side in politics. In Tasmania the opponents of Labour can secure a hearing from the working men of Queenstown, Zeehan, and similar places ; it .was only in the Conservative parts of my constituency that I found it difficult to make myself heard. But by the preaching of Labour enlightenment and spiritual progress, I have so converted these people that now I can get a hearing there. If you make provision for the spending of money you start a system of bribery and corruption, such as- Tammany Hall ‘controls in the United States. This has been called the Fusion, but I cai] it the Fungus Government. For months past the friends of Fungus candidates have been spending money all over Australia, and have applied for subscriptions for the cause. I have always had to- fight single-handed, and although a Labour man and a Socialist, no organization has ever spent threepence for me. It cost me j£7oo to fight my first Commonwealth electoral campaign. The question is whether it is advisable to allow those who have plenty of money to spend it as they like on behalf of candidates. It is this s stem which has made the State Parliaments of America so odious. In Tasmania T had to pay £1 where others were charged 5s., because it was thought that I *was poor, and could be driven out of the State ; but I was financially solid, and no one could drive me out. Candidates should not be allowed to spend as much money as they choose.
– The amendment does not provide for that.
– A £1 hall might be paid for with a cheque.
– Yes, and in addition there might be “ perks ‘ ‘ and side issues. I know of a. case in which £30 was sent to a place, and only eight votes obtained. We must try to keep the fountain of national honour, the ballot-box, pure. The two methods of political advancement are the ballot of evolution and the bullet of revolution.- If we open thedoor in this way, the expenditure cf some candidates will not stop at £200, or even at ^1,000. In England it is impossible for a man of moderate means to stand for Parliament. A man has to spend thousands on an election.
– A candidate could not spend thousands in hiring halls.
– I agree with the honorable member, but this, after all, is only the thin end of the wedge. A man may make gifts for the use of a hall, or his wife or his sister may do so. .
– The honorable member is teaching candidates how to get round the law.
– My experience is that the average Australian can teach Tammany Hall and Murphy and Croker a few things. I trust that we shall leave this provision as ‘it stands. I doubt if any man secures his election to this House without incurring an expenditure of more than £i°o. We ought not to introduce into our electoral law any provision that will tend to pollute the ballot-box, which is the fountain of the honour of the nation. I favoured the provision, to which the Committee has agreed, permitting a candidate to hire conveyances to take electors to and from a polling place. I have always objected to the old system, under which a candidate has to induce a friend to hire a cab for him, and has to pay him money with which to pay some one else.
– That is “ polluting the fountain of the honour of the nation.”
– If a man supplies a candidate with two or three cabs he may come to him later on for a loan of a hundred, and what is he to do?- We ought to stand by the provision that the electoral expenses of a candidate shall not exceed ,£100.
– If the Minister of Home Affairs had taken up, in regard to other amendments, the attitude which he has adopted in regard to this, I should have been found supporting him, but since he accepted an amendment providing for an addition to the list of items that may be included in electoral expenses, I think that the honorable member for Nepean is quite justified in submitting the proposition that something which is now an “ electoral expense “ under the Act shall no longer continue to be so regarded. The one stands on the same footing as the other. If one is a departure from a leading principle of the Act, the other is equally so. Electoral expenses are limited to certain items, and the total expenditure cannot exceed£100. No exception can be taken to that limitation in respect to some electorates, but it is absolutely impossible to keep within the limit, in the case of certain constituencies, if the electors are to be made acquainted with the views of a candidate. The absurdity of the present position is that candidates for the Senate are permitted to incur electoral expenses not exceeding£250, although some of them represent far smaller constituencies than do members ofthe House of Representatives, who are not permitted to incur electoral expenses exceeding£100.
– Will the honorable member name a Senate division which is smaller than an electorate represented by a member of this House?
– Tasmania is smaller than some of the divisions for the House of Representatives. The speech made by the honorable member for Darwin shows that if the provision which is now sought to be amended is allowed to stand, honest men will be driven out of the Federal Parliament. We all know that, in some cases, the electoral expenses of candidates for the House of Representatives exceed£100. The honorable member for Darwin has shown that that is so, but in such cases a return is made, by some means or other, showing that the expenditure has been kept within the statutory limitation. I agree with the view expressed by the honorable member for Nepean, that an effort should be made to secure an honest return of the expenditure which candidates for a large electorate must incur. We ought to differentiate between large and small electorates. Women, as a rule, will not attend open-air meetings, and halls must be provided for them. In large electorates there are many polling places, and in some of the States it is not possible - as it is in Queensland, according to the Leader of the Opposition - to secure the use of school buildings. For instance, in New South Wales, the public school houses cannot be used for election meetings.
– And they cannot be obtained in Victoria unless they are paid for.
– Therefore it is admitted that the position of some honorable members in this respect is different from that of others. I fail to understand why any one should desire to incur unnecessary expenditure in respect of the hiring of halls. Under the law as it stands, a candidate must either stop short when he feels that by going further he will exceed the limitation placed upon electoral expenses, notwithstanding that he has not nearly covered his electorate, or he must continue to prosecute his campaign, and endeavour, by some means, to make a dishonest return.
– Then why have any limitation to electoral expenses?
– When we know that the limitation is too severe in respect of certain electorates, we ought to take action. It is an absurdity to impose, in respect of the expenses of a candidate for the representation of a small electorate, which one may cover in an hour, the same limitation as we impose in respect of an electorate to cover which a candidate must travel thousands of miles. I have no personal interest in this matter, for I could readily cover my electorate without expending more than . £100. The matter is of no personal interest to me. I am not speaking for myself; whatever the decision may be I shall not be affected.
– But the honorable member is a good party man.
– I take this stand, not for party reasons, but because I believe that it is a common-sense attitude. Is it reasonable to say that a candidate for an electorate 2 miles square may expend£100, and that a candidate for an enormously larger country constituency shall not be allowed to expend more?
– The honorable member is dreaming. There is no electorate only 2 miles by 2 miles.
– Mine is, to begin with.
– Then the honorable member himself is dreaming.
– And the Yarra electorate is not 2 miles square.
– It is absurd that an electorate, over which a candidate can travel in an hour or two. should carry the same expense as one which would occupy months to canvass. It is far more important that no honorable member should be required to retain his seat by giving a false return, than it is to. apparently limit the expenditure, while not actually doing so.I agree with the honorable member for Nepean, and shall support his amended amendment.
Foreigners in Western Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the Housedo now adjourn.
.- I have receivedsome telegrams from Western Australia on the question of the employment of foreigners in the mines of that State. When this matter was before us yesterday statements were made which were to my mind a reflection, not only on the administration of the law by the Government, but on the management of the mines by the companies. Knowing that the circumstances were entirely different from those represented, I wired to the Honorable H. Gregory, the Minister of Mines, as follows -
In view of statements made in this House in reference to the employment of foreigners on mines on Western Australia and their inability to speak English kindly reply stating percentage of foreigners employed in mines for whole State and also as to inability to speak English.
I have received the following reply-
Special inquiry just completed, of number of foreigners employed in mines stop returns received from one three seven mines including all principal ones employing eleven thousand seven fifty nine men show that two one seven foreigners are employed on surface and seven three six underground, total foreigners nine five three, proportion foreigners eight point twelve of total employed ; if returns had included small mines this proportion would be considerably decreased, probably to less than six per cent. of total number employed, big majority of foreigners have beenlong resident in Australia ; no miner is allowed to work underground unless he can fluently speak English, and this rule is rigidly enforced by inspectors of mines who have mads special and recent investigations.
In view of the damaging statements which were made yesterday, I am glad to be able to show, by information from the highest authority, that they are not correct.
.- In the absence of the Prime Minister; I desire to ask, the MinisterofHome Affairs when he proposes to proceed with his motion to re-arrange the electoral divisions of Western Australia ? This is’ no small matter, because the arrangement of the electoral divisions is the basis of the representation in this House. Ihave waited for a long time to see if the Government intend to proceed with the matter, because it is one which must either be gone on with or withdrawn. I content myself with asking the Ministerwhen he intends to proceed with it ; because there should be no delay in bringing a matter of such grave importance before both Houses of Parliament.
– The Leader of the Opposition has asked me when I intend to proceed with the motion that stands in my name on the business-paper in connexion with the distribution of seats in Western Australia. In consequence of the fact that precedence was given to the Northern Territory Bill on Tuesday last, the very day on which my motion was to come on, I could not proceed with it, and there has since been no opportunity of dealing with it. As soon as the business of. the House will permit I shall be prepared to go on with the motion.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle has replied to a charge that was never made, and was never under discussion. What was referred to was not the number of aliens employed in the mines of Western Australia, but the number of aliens employed by the Gold-fields Firewood Supply Company, and that matter the telegram just read does not touch. There are 11,000 miners employed in Western Australia, and 8 per cent. of these are foreigners ; but if, in the mining industry, there was the same percentage of foreigners as in the case of the firewood company, we should not find many of the 11,000 Australians and Britishers left. The honorable member has expended much trouble in obtaining a wire from the Western Australian Mining Department in order to reply to statements that were never made.
– A little while ago the Honorable member for Werriwa asked some questions in regard to the supply of iron by Messrs. G. and C. Hoskins Limited, of Lithgow, implying that there was a sort of ring being formed. I should like, with the consent of the
House, to read the correspondence that took place between the firm and Mr. J. R. Trowden, to whom the honorable member for Werriwa referred. The following are the letters -
October 25th, 1909. - Messrs. G. and C. Hoskins, Sydney. Gentlemen, - Will you please let me know do you supply iron by the truck load, various sizes, suitable for tyres, blacksmith’s iron, etc., and if so, the price. I want it to sell again, and some for my own use. Yours truly, J. R. Trowden. P.S. - I am going to stock iron, but do not know whether you supply any one or not.
Messrs. Hoskins replied as follows -
Lithgow, . 27th October, 1909. J. R. Trowden, Esq.,Burrowa-street, Young. Dear Sir, - We are in receipt of your letter of the 26th inst., addressed to Sydney. Owing to Government departments, and Government contractors, and a few private customers taking the whole of the output of our iron, we cannot possibly quote further lines at present. Thanking you for your inquiry. Yours faithfully, G. and C. Hoskins, Ltd.
Then followed these letters -
Burrowa-street, Young, November 3, 1909. Messrs.Hoskins, Lithgow. Gentlemen, - Your letter to hand, and note you cannot supply. Is it not a fact you were only supplying one firmhere? I am forwarding your letter on to the Government, and having some questions asked about it. I understood you were receiving a bonus to foster local industry, more likely to build a monopoly. It makes no difference, as I am indenting my iron straight out. There is such a thing as one firmtaking a back seat in a town, you know, and I am just beginning to work into side lines. Yours, etc., J. R. Trowden.
Lithgow, November 5th, 1909. J. R. Trowden, Esq., Burrowa-street, Young. Dear Sir, - We have to acknowledge yours Of the 3rd November, and in reply you will be good enough to read ours of the 27th in connection with your letter. It appears to us that the bonus is acting splendidly,as the whole of our output of iron is being disposed of. We are pushing forward to increase our output, when possibly we may have the pleasure of doing business with your good self. Yours faithfully, G. and C. Hoskins, Ltd.
I read those letters to show, that there has been no attempt to. boycott any particular firm, and in order to place on record the facts as disclosed by the correspondence.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, in justice to myself. Yesterday the honorable member for Cook made the statement that a company in Western Australia, in which I am a shareholder, and which had the contract for the construction of the Norseman railway, employed, in June last, 340 men, of whom 320 were foreigners. I felt very much concerned about the statement, especially as, a few weeks before I came over to Melbourne, I went over the line, and knew that such a number of men was not employed there. Accordingly, I telegraphed yesterday to the manager in the following terms -
Reply stating number of men employed on Norsemen line during June last stating number of foreigners.
To that message I have received the following reply -
Number of men employed Norsemen line last June one hundred and sixty-six includinga total of six foreigners.
Surely it is too much to ask us to put up with such misstatements.
– This is another quibble.
– I should not have brought the matter before the House except for the remarks of the honorable member for Cook. He now has what he asked for.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 November 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091118_reps_3_53/>.