3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker look the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Kitchener Camps - Names of Torpedo Destroyers
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether it is true, as reported in the press, that . Seymour has been practically chosen not only as a permanent site for military camps in Victoria, but also as the site of the Kitchener camp next month ? Strong representations have been made by the highest military authorities . in regard to the selection of Benalla, which is the great centre of avery great district, and I feel verymuch aggrieved that-
– Order. There is only oneway in which questions may be put.
-I ask the Minister of Defence, first of all, whether the report is true that Seymour has been selected as the siteof the Kitchener camp, and, if so, whether he will in future give some credence to military authorities, in the country districts, who, perhaps, know more about these matters than do those ruling the forces from Collins-street?
– It is a fact that after an exhaustive examination of the whole of the existing sites Seymour has been selected as the best. The honorable member is not alone as regards the rejection of the site he favours. The Prime Minister has been troubled aboutBallarat, and the Postmaster-General has also been troubled concerning the non-selection of Bendigo. A large number of sites have been considered, and it has been found, upon examination, thatSeymour is the best.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether he has yet selected the names for the new destrovers of the River class,and whether he proposes to follow the British precedent of giving them the names of rivers? Further, will he give consideration to the native names of important rivers in Australia ? I may menthat Calare is the native name of a very important river in New South Wales, known as the Lachlan.
– It is correct that the vessels in question are to have the names of rivers bearing native names. If Parramatta, Yarra, and Warrego are not rivers of importance. I should like to know what rivers are.
– Although the Hunter is not an aboriginal name, does not the Minister of Defence think it is better than the names of any of the rivers he has mentioned ?
– I shall consider that point.
– When the Electoral Bill was before the House the Minister of Home Affairs, informed me across the table that he proposed to treat honorable members more liberally than they had been treated in the past in regard to the issue of rolls, I desire to ask the honorable gentleman whether he has come to any determination upon the subject?
– I have not, but I propose to treat honorable members more liberally than they have been treated in the distribution of the rolls.
– Does the Prime Minister anticipate that it will be possible during the present financial year to proclaim that part of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act which relates to the payment of pensions to invalids?
– The question is one that I could answer only after consultation with my colleague the Treasurer, and even then the reply would be merely an anticipation. The revenue is coming in very well, but it is disputable how far the increase will be maintained. It would be hazardous to guess at this time when funds would permit of what the honorable member suggests.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the steamer Otterburn, which entered this port from Sydney on Saturday. A few days ago I called his attention to the fact that the steamerSwasi had been allowed to leave port with a heavy deck cargo of coal, and, according to the Melbourne Herald of Saturday last, the steamer Otterburn, which was similarly laden, on the voyage from Sydney to Melbourne had an exciting experience -
When the Otterburn left Sydney she had a large quantity of coal neatly stacked on her main deck. The waves swept over this, scattering the coal all over the deck, and washing some of it overboard. The crew had to be kept continually at work , preventing the moving coal from fouling the steering rod.
In view of the great danger attaching to the carrying of cargo on deck, will the Prime Minister consider the advisableness of bringing this case under the notice of the State authorities, with a view to their taking action to prevent vessels loading in this dangerous way ?
– As the honorable member is probably aware, in consequence of representations made by him, I have alreadv called the attention of the State authorities to this very question, and shall present to them, by way of illustration, the case which he has iust brought under notice.
Price of Sugar - Personnel of Sugar Commission
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs a question in regard to the constantly increasing retail price of sugar. I am told that if arises either from a monopoly on the part of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or from action taken by the Department under our sugar legislation. Will the Minister make inquiries into this matter? There is no doubt that the people are being called upon to pay more for their sugar than they ought to do, and that the retail price seems to be increasing almost weekly.
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and ask him to look into the whole matter. I am not sure that the question will not come within the scope of the proposed Commission.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House of thepersonnel of the proposed Sugar Commission, and will he say whether there is any foundation for . the rumour that the Premier of Queensland has been asked to make a recommendation as to an appointment to the Commission ?
– So far as I know, there is no foundation for the rumour, or for the statement that the Premier of any State or any other person, has been asked to make a recommendation. As we have not. been able to hold a meeting of the Cabinet recently, I do not know even the names that have been submitted to the Minister The appointments will, shortly be dealt with, although, perhaps, not as promptly aswe hope to deal with the appointment of a High Commissioner.
– Is the Prime Minister vet in a position to inform the House whois to be appointed High Commissioner, or to indicate when the appointment will be made?
– The pressure upon us up to Saturday evening has not yet permitted of a meeting of the Cabinet. I am calling a meeting before the session closes.
Telephone Committee of Inquiry - Tenders for Insulators - Conveyance of Mails : Queensland Coast
– Is the PostmasterGeneral prepared to lay on the table of the House the report of the Committee appointed to deal with telephone accounts, and which, I understand, was promised before the end of the session?
– That promise wasmade, but I have received an intimation from the Committee that they are unable to complete the whole of their work in timeto permit of their report being placed before Parliament this session.
– I should like to ask the Postmaster-General whether it would be possible for him to place upon the table this session an interim report, dealing with the work that has, so far, been carried out by the Committee?
– I have been pressing the Committee very hard to let me have an instalment of their report before Parliament is prorogued. I hope to be able to lay before honorable members some important information before the session closes.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– These tenders are still under consideration, and, before dealing with them, I propose to submit certain questions to my colleagues for their consideration. Meanwhile, it is not advisable to give any further information.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the contract entered into between the Commonwealth and the Australian United Steam-ship Company for the conveyance of mails on the Queensland coast -
What are the terms of the contract regarding the class of vessel to be provided for the conveyance of mails between Cairns and Cooktown - 1 st. As to the tonnage of the vessels employed ? 2nd. As to the average speed to be maintained ? 3rd. As to the general accommodation ? 4th. As to the cubic area of refrigerated space (if any)?
Was the difference between the first tender at£24,700, and the accepted contract at £18,450, caused solely by the condition that the large boats hitherto running on to Cooktown should continue to run the mail service?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Prime Minister upon notice -
– The answer to question No. 1 is “ Certainly not.” The proposals of the Government, so far as they were possible of accomplishment this session, have been embodied in the Inter-State Commission Bill, now before another place. Our further proposals in this regard will be in the front rank of the Ministerial programme for the next general election. Pending the statement of that programme, it would be undesirable to answer the second question.
In Committee of Supply: (Consideration resumed from 3rd September, vide page 3048).
Department of External Affairs
Division 16 (Miscellaneous),£24,710
.- When the Estimates were last before us, about three months ago, I submitted a table of figures showing the number of Chinese stowawaysdiscovered between 1904 and 1908 in each State, the number of Chinese immigrants rejected on naturalization papers, and the number admitted on certificates of naturalization. I did so because the honorable member for Maribyrnong had stated that the reason the Fisher Administration was so. successful in the capture ofstowaways was found in the regulations which had been issued by the present Prime Minister prior to his leaving office in November, 1908. I was not aware, neither do I think, that my colleague, the then Minister of External Affairs, was aware that any such regulations had been issued.
– The Prime Minister had given instructions.
– I never heard of them.
– Nor I.
– As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister gave instructions, with the result that the Chinese Stowaways Bill was prepared.
-I am now referring to regulations under which the Chinese are admitted. As Minister of Trade and Customs, I, on the 7th March, 1909, after consultation with the then Minister of
External Affairs, issued the following memorandum : -
Immigration Restriction Act. Identification of Aliens
The identification of Chinese who are returning to Australia with domicile certificates or naturalization papers is intrusted to the particular officer doing duty at the port of arrival. Whilst many, if not all, of these officers are of undoubted integrity, I think it desirable in their own interests as well as that of the Department, that a second officer should share the responsibility, and that no such aliens should be permitted to enter Australia unless personally examined and certified to by at least two responsible officers.
At the principal ports, a Senior Inspector, in addition to the officer charged with the Immigration Restriction Act work, should personally verify the bona fides of each applicant for admission.
At the sub-ports, the Sub-Collector and an officer should share the responsibility.
At the minor ports, arrangements might be made to engage the services of the Senior Officer of Police to act with our officer, if we only have one officer representing us, or if at such ports it is found impracticable to detail two of our own officers for the purpose, then the services of the police should be requisitioned.
In each and every case the following certificate should be signed before any applicant for admission is permitted to land : -
So far as I know, that memorandum is being acted upon to-day ; but up to that time I do not think there was any idea of employing two officers in the work of examination. The figures I gave on the last occasion show distinctly either that there was a leakage at some ports, or that the examination is now more stringent. If there were time to debate the whole of the Estimates thoroughly, we should be here for two or three weeks, instead of proroguing, as we hope to do, on Wednesday.
For instance, the proposed vote of £20,000 for advertising the resources of the Commonwealth - one of the most important in the whole of the Estimates - would, if time permitted, occupy considerably more than the hour or two likely to be devoted to it. I know cases in which people have been brought out to Australia under absolutely false pretences, and, in confirmation, I propose to read the following letter, which was written by a constituent of mine to a member of the Victorian State Legislature, and which appeared in the Victoria Hansard of this year, at page 81 : - 204 Swan-street, Richmond.
Dear Sir, -
Re inducement to come out to the land in Victoria. There was. a gentleman who said he was the Chairman of the Treasury in Victoria. He gave a lecture (on the same) in a hall, at Atcon, London W. He spoke in glowing terms of the good country just opened and ready waiting to be filled “with people such as are in this hall to-night.” He addressed the young men first, telling them the good things to be found in Victoria. Everybody was waiting to welcome and take them by the hand, &c. “ Then you married men with families, that have been working and struggling all your lives and made little, working long hours for small wages, you are the men we want to come out. There is a great opportunity for you and your children. No beggars, no class distinction. The poorest have money in the bank, comfortable houses, and large gardens. Everything was better than at home. No man works more than eight hours a day. The Government hold the railways, tramways, &c, so that everything is the best and well done. We give you land at nominal rent, spread over a long term - something like thirty years - but most people pay it back in a fewyears. The ground was so fertile. The Government did the ploughing, &c, the first year, and give you instructions how to go on for a considerable time, so there was no difficulty in any one doing well. Money lent for stock and fencing if required on the long terms payment system. The Government were very good and did not press you when a bad season came along, as they wanted to get people on the land, &c, &c.” He gave us the address of the AgentGeneral for further information. I wrote and received pamphlets, which were full of good news, somewhat the same as we heard at the hall. I wrote to Mr. Taverner explaining my position and that I had no farm experience, the children we had, their ages, &c, and whether we could make a living on the land, doing mixed dairying, &c. He wrote me asking me to appoint a day to see him, as he would talk it allover at his office. My wife and I went on the appointed day and saw Mr. Taverner. He told us we need have no fear about going. It would be the best thing he hoped that we had ever done, and we would in a few years time write thanking him for advising us to go out to Melbourne as many had done before. My wife said we did not want to go out in the bush. Mr. Taverner informed us we would be placedon cleared land within 20 miles of Melbourne, as they only sent strong young men to the bush. He said the land would be cleared and suitable for dairying, and that we would have land enough to get a comfortable living from. The living was not much, we could grow nearly all we required. About the fares, he said it would be £6 each for foul of us - half for the little girl - ^27 in all. When we sold up and went to the office again we were told that our fares would be double - ^54 altogether - owing to some order from Melbourne. I paid the money, and Mr. Taverner kindly sent us the ticket and labels for baggage in a few days. He said there would be some one to welcome us on our landing in Melbourne, but no one was there. We have to our great sorrow, and many bitter tears, been sadly disappointed, everything turning out to be humbug and untruthful. As our money had gone for living and expenses and losses we are on the verge of starvation. If the Government would compensate me, and pay our fare back to London, I would call on Mr. Taverner, and do all in my power to prevent others from the same fate as we have met with. It is a downright shame to entice people to give up their livings, sell their homes, come 12,000 miles, and be sadly deceived.
– Who was the lecturer?
– The name of the lecturer is not given,
– Did the State Minister offer any reply?
– No; immediately Mr. Cotter, the State member who brought the subject under notice, had concluded, the motion for the adoption of the Addressin -Reply was agreed to.
– I only desire to know whether there was any official explanation.
– I have heard of no official explanation from that day to this. In the spending of the £20,000 for advertising the resources of the Commonwealth, we ought to see that no people are deceived as this man evidently has been. I see no objection, and I am sure no member of the Labour party sees any objection, to people coming here who know the exact conditions they will have to face.
– It is not the Commonwealth advertisements which bring those people here.
– I know that; but, if the financial agreement be unfortunately adopted, and 25s. per ca-bita is paid to the States, there will be all the greater temptation to introduce immigrants. Tt is not fair to .isle people in the Old Country, . who are used to a town life, to come here and, under such circumstances, make a living on the land. Both State and Commonwealth
Governments have declared that there is no intention to invite people here to compete with those who are already engaged in the large factories in the cities; but, at the same time, cases- have been brought under my notice in which immigrants, instead of being sent to the country, have been given positions in engineering works, with the inevitable result of displacing others. I trust that the present Minister of External Affairs, or his successor, will see that the exact conditions that prevail in this country are placed before intending immigrants ; and then, of course, if the latter choose to come here, it will be on their own responsibility. We must not, however, deceive intending immigrants; and it must be admitted that the letter I have read is that of a reasonably educated man, who is quite capable of placing the true position before the responsible authorities. I realize that we have not the time to deal with the Estimates as they ought to be dealt with. That is why I have spoken from time to time on Supply Bills.
– There is plenty of time between now and Christmas.
– I understand that it is desired to close the session on Wednesday afternoon, to allow honorable members to get away, and I have no desire to inconvenience even honorable members on the other side, however much we may disagree politically. I protest against the Estimates having been left to this late stage of the session, when it is impossible to deal intelligently with them.
.- Regarding the unmethodical means occasionally adopted to induce settlers to come to Australia, has the Minister any information regarding the effect of a publication issued, not only in English, but in a number of other languages, bv honorable members opposite, during their term of office? I allude to that special ed:tion of a casually issued newspaper, called the Clarion, which was translated into a number of foreign tongues. I believe the reason why more than its face value was paid for it by my honorable friends was that it was so translated. Is the Minister aware of how that translation was done? T understand it was done by Mr. Randolph Bedford’s friends, and, T think, the issue was translated into Italian. German and French, but I am not sure whether Chinese was not also favoured. If the Minister has . any papers bearing on the subject, will he lay them on the table of the House or of the Library?
– Although we have passed the vote for Papua, I wish to mention that the Lieut. -Governor, Judge Murray, has applied for, and been granted, leave of absence from April next, and that during his absence the administration will be undertaken in accordance with the regular arrangement, by Mr. Staniforth Smith. With regard to the point raised by the honorable member tor Yarra, as to the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act, any one who has had charge of the office knows that from the inception there has been a vigilant ad^ ministration of the Act, no matter what party has been in power. It is obvious that defects are found in the administration, from time to time, which everv Government is anxious to remedy. But the mere fact that when the Customs Department was appealed to by the honorable member’s colleague, it made one or two suggestions of value, cannot be taken as in any way a reflection upon the previous administration of the Department as a whole. What the honorable member for Yarra mentioned is a distinct improvement, but I do not think the honorable member meant to imply that for that reason previous Ministers of External Affairs were negligent of their duty. In fact he knows, or his colleague can inform him,, that the Department had already prepared the draft of the Bill dealing with stowaways, which his colleague subsequently brought forward and had passed. ,
– It would’ not have been passed that year if we had not taken office.
– It would have been passed. Even if nothing was said about it, it should be remembered that important acts relating to administration are not usually advertised all over the place.
– Does the honorable member recollect the time at which he came into office?
– I recollect that, and also the time we went out of office. The honorable member himself came into office about 7th November, and the House rose aboutt four weeks afterwards. If there was time for him to pass the Bill, there would have been time for us to pass it. At any rate the Bill was ready in the office, as the honorable member knows. With regard to advertising, the honorable member for Yarra will realize that the case mentioned by him is one that we have no control over. If State agents make certain allegations, they are responsible for them to their own Ministers. I. am eager that we should have flowing into Australia a steady stream cf the best immigrants that we can get in the Old Land, but I agree with the honorable member that it is not right or just to make representations with respect to Australian affairs other than as they absolutely exist. In the advertising work that we undertake we shall put only the absolute facts regarding Australia before the British public. I am satisfied that those facts are so good that, in competition with other countries, Australia can tell a tale which will attract a big stream of immigrants. Of course, it does not always do to conclude that 9 statement made by a discontented immigrant is absolutely accurate.
– I have heard a lot of immigrants with the same tale.
– I have heard comparatively few, but it is well that such statements, when they are made, should be mentioned, in order that they mav be investigated, because sometimes irresponsible persons may make unjustified statements regarding Australia with the object of inducing people to come here. Of course, we are not responsible for (hem, but I can assure honorable members that, now that the State Governments have consented to the Commonwealth undertaking the general advertising of Australia, and now that we are to have a High Commissioner, we hope to be able to undertake more extensive advertising operations, and whatever we put before the British public will bear the impress of truth.
– Does not the Commonwealth hear some of the advertising expenses of the States now?
– No. The details of the arrangement with the States are not completed, but the Commonwealth, especially when the High Commissioner is appointed, will be able to organize the general advertising of Australia much more completely. With regard to the publication of the Clarion, referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth, I have not the papers with me, but we have been advised that the translation of that periodical into German has not been satisfactory. The papers can be seen if honorable members so desire.
– I should like to see the vote for the advancement of the study of diseases in tropical Australia increased. We should be informed as to where, by whom, and in what way the money voted for this purpose is expended. There is also an item of £200 towards the Imperial fund for the investigation of tropical diseases. I have no complaint against this, but I regard both amounts as too small. We should give at least £1,000 for the purpose.
– The item of £200 is a contribution by the Commonwealth to the Imperial fund, but the authorities of that fund have allowed £400 for the Australian Institute, which it is proposed to establish in connexion with the Townsville Hospital. The salary of the medical officer in charge will be £600, with a working assistant at a salary of £100, and an expenditure upon incidental expenses of £200. This expenditure will be partly met by the Common wealth’s contributionof £550. The honorable member for Herbert spoke about increasing the vote to £1,000, but the £200 given to the Imperial fund comes back, so that the Commonwealth Government’s contribution really amounts to £750. In addition to that the Queensland Government give £250, and the Sydney University has voted £100 on condition that the Melbourne and Adelaide Universities contribute £150 between them. The management of the institute is in the hands of a committee consisting of representatives of the Australian universities, a representative appointed by the Queensland Government, and Dr. N orris, representing the Commonwealth. I quite agree with honorable members as to the importance of the question. We have only to notice the recent trend of Imperial politics to see the importance that is being attached in all parts of the Empire to the investigation of tropical diseases.
– We should have an annual report.
– The Government has a representative on the Board, and will be advised from time to time as to the nature of the investigations which are being made, and their value to us. An institute working in this part Of the Empire will be able to compare its research work with that of the institutions in Africa and other parts of the Empire. It will get the benefit of their researches, and contribute the benefit of its researches.
. -I do not object to the proposed contribution to the British Institute, or to the Townsville Hospital, but I would point out that, in making this grant to assist the study of tropical diseases, we do not absolve ourselves from further responsibility in the matter. It has been urged by medical men engaged in combating tropical diseases that their study at Townsville is not of very much service, because the work which can be done there is only such as is being done in Great Britain and other parts of the world. The tropical diseases about which we desire further knowledge do not occur in Townsville itself; cases have to be sent there from elsewhere. The Townsville authorities cannot investigate the diseases under the conditions under which they occur. More can be done by despatching officers to the tropical parts of Australia and New Guinea, where these diseases are to be found, to investigate the means of combating them on the spot.
– There is a hospital at Samarai.
– It is a hospital for the treatment of venereal diseases, and isa very small place, being situated on an. islet not much larger than this room.
– The medical officers inPapua will probably co-operate with thoseof Townsville.
– No doubt. There is no general hospital at Samarai for the treatment of malarial and tropical diseases generally.
– Fortunately many of the so-called tropical diseases have not occurred in Papua.
– That is so. But there is scope for the investigation of other diseases on the spot - investigation such as. has been conducted by Americans in East Africa, where an attempt has been made to ascertain whether it is possible to live in malarial districts without being affected by malaria. What is necessary is to discover,, not so much a cure as a method of prevention. I should like to see a grant made for the extension of hospital work at Samarai. where splendid’ work is being done by Dr. Jones. There is another medical man, Dr. Strong, at Cape Nelson ; while at Port Darwin we have Dr. Strongman. Mr. Bellamy, a resident magistrate in the Territory, who has had some medical training, if he does not actually hold a diploma, has been marvellously successful in combating certain diseases. It is proposed to vote ^750 to provide tor rebates on maize and coffee imported into the Commonwealth from New Hebrides. Last year the sum expended was .£648. A rebate of one-half the duty is allowed in respect to these importations, of which I do not complain ; but I wish to point out how differently we treat the importations from New Guinea. The New Hebrides are not part of Australia, the islands being under a joint British and French Protectorate. - Papua, on the other hand, is a dependency of the Commonwealth. While we allow a rebate on importations from the New Hebrides, we impose on importations from Papua the same rates of duty as have to be paid on importations from foreign countries. We do not “even give the 5 per cent, preference which is given in respect to certain British importations. The cost of governing Papua falls entirely on the Commonwealth, and jet we treat the dependency in this respect as if it were a foreign country. Papua is as much a part of the Commonwealth as is Kangaroo Island. The result of this action is that many persons who have invested large sums ot money in coffee plantations there have had to abandon them. I consider this treatment of the Territory shameful. The Fisher Government determined at the meeting of the Cabinet at which its policy was decided upon to introduce a Bill enabling different treatment to be given to Papua; and I believe that this Government would have proposed something of the kind, had it. not been for the pressure of public business.
– The .honorable member cannot discuss this matter in detail, as the Committee has passed the vote for Papua.
– I propose to move the reduction of the vote for the New Hebrides by £1.
– That will not help the honorable member.
– I wish to protest against the giving of rebates on importations from the New Hebrides while importations from Papua are treated as if they came from a foreign country.
– When the vote for Papua was under discussion the honorable member could have spoken on this matter at length. Now he may make only an incidental reference to it.
– I have no wish to discuss the matter in detail. In point of fact, I had not an opportunity to discuss the vote for Papua. Had I had such an opportunity there are several matters upon which I should have spoken very fully. I wish now to give reasons why the Committee should not agree to the proposed rebate on importations from the New Hebrides, one of them being that we treat importations from a dependency of the Commonwealth quite differently.
– If I allowed the honorable member to continue as he was speaking I should have to extend the same liberty to honorable members in general, which would mean that, whenever a comparison was made, the honorable member who made it could discuss at length a subject1 to which only incidental reference could properly be permitted. I wish to give the honorable member the fullest scope, but he must not go into details regarding the growing of coffee in New Guinea.
– I do not wish to do so, but I wish, to give reasons for reducing the vote for the item under discussion, one of them being that a preference is given to importations from the New Hebrides, which is not given to importations from Papua.
– The honorable member will be in order in doing that.
– We are encouraging the investment of capital in the New Hebrides, which is not part of Australia, while our treatment of Papua, a dependency of the Commonwealth, is such that plantations there are rapidly being abandoned. I hope that the Minister will take the earliest opportunity to rectify this state of affairs. In my opinion, it is not what the people of Australia desire. We should make the conditions of those who go to Papua, or other dependencies under our control, at least as favorable as the conditions in places outside Australia. I know that the Ministry cannot do anything this session, but I hope that they will, at the earliest possible moment, :db something in regard to this matter. There are several questions relating to the New Hebrides to which I should like to refer, but as they do not come within this special vote. I shall have to avail myself of another opportunity to discuss them. I do not claim, nor have I ever claimed, any special credit for the administration of the Immigration Act, but if it was the intention of the late Deakin Government to introduce the Stowaways Bill, I can only say that the news comes as a surprise to myself, and to every one connected with the administration of the immigration law. The Minister knows that it was prepared long ago, and pigeon-holed. It had never been mentioned as necessary by our predecessors in office.
-i can give the honorable member the exact date on which the Bill was drafted. The honorable member will recollect when the stowaway evils arose.
– Not nearly sufficient care has been exercisedto prevent prohibited immigrants entering the Commonwealth as stowaways. Quite apart from the question of administration, there was not a sufficiently pronounced attempt to ascertain to what extent stowaways were coming into the country. The administration of the Department of Trade and Customs by the honorable member for Yarra, however, was certainly in the direction of ascertaining to what extent stowaways were entering Australia, and as soon as I took office as Minister of External Affairs, I ascertained that the Stowaways Bill had been prepared, and I brought it before Parliament at the very earliest opportunity. I am not going to say that our predecessors would not have introduced it, but it is extremely unlikely that they would. The honorable gentleman says that they intended to bring it in, and no one can deny that it has proved exceedingly useful in checking the introduction of prohibited immigrants. On the general question of immigration, I desire to say, as I have said elsewhere, that it is idle to talk about advertising with a view of encouraging immigration to Australia, unless provision is made to enable immigrants to secure land on their arrival. The Minister says that few cases of misrepresentation have come before him, but a good many were brought under my notice whilst I held office. In nearly every instance the complaint was that people had been given to understand that upon arrival here they would be able to obtain land on easy terms, and thatthey found that that representation was incorrect. In one case, an immigrant from Canada, bringing with him a large family ready to go on the land, found, on arrival in this State, that he could not secure any. He made repeated application to the Land Board, but without success. I urged his case before the Victorian Minister of Lands, but there can be no doubt that the man wrote to people in Canada and dissuaded them from coming here. That must always be the result of misrepresentation. If land is not made available, it is idle to talk of advertising with a view of attracting immigrants to Australia. The question, however, is too large to discuss in the present state of the Committee, and at this stage of the session. I should be glad if there were an opportunity to discuss these and other important matters more adequately, because they certainly deserve our very careful attention. Having accomplished my object, I shall not press the amendment that I proposed to move with regard to the New Hebrides.
– As the honorable member is aware, the object of the special vote in regard to the New Hebrides is to allow a rebate, in the nature of a bounty, on maize and coffee grown there, with a view to the conservation of Australian interests. Honorable members are well aware of the attitude the Australian Government has always taken up with respect to our interests in the Pacific. I would like to add, in this connexion, that when the Secretary to the Department took his annual leave, and paid recently a visit to Fiji, I find that he used that time to do a great deal of official work, and did not use it solely for his own purposes.
– Does . the bounty extend to Fijian products?
– Can it be extended to Papuan products?
– I cannot refer at this stage to the position in Papua; but 1 may be permitted to say that it has already been announced that the Government will look into the matter, with a view to seeing what it can do in the direction desired by the honorable member. When the Estimates were before us on a previous occasion, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie read extracts from an article written by the late Mr. McLeod in the Labour Call with reference to the entry into Australia, and particularly into Queensland, of prohibited immigrants. I have since caused inquiries to be made in all ‘ the centres, and have obtained reports which by no means substantiate the points raised in that article.
– The Minister may be well satisfied’ with the answers that he has received from his officers ; but I think that the public are inclined to be dissatisfied.
– The reports to which 1 refer have been obtained, not merely from Customs officers, but from the Protectors of Aborigines all over Australia.
– Very well. With regard to the item “ Payment to Customs Department for services of officers under Immigration Restriction Act, £900,” there is undoubtedly a suspicion in the public mind that, although the Department is disposed to think that every precaution has been taken to prevent an influx of Asiatics, and particularly of Chinese, into Australia, as well as to put down the opium traffic, it has become drowsy again, and that the old state of affairs will soon prevail once more.
– I can assure the honorable member that the Central Administration is taking every precaution.
– We were assured a little more than twelve months ago that our fears as to the surreptitious introduction of Chinese into Australia were groundless; but on the Labour Government taking office startling discoveries were made with regard to the traffic in Chinese and opium. Steps were taken to cope with the traffic in, the form then carried on ; but’ it is alleged that those interested in it have since changed their tactics, and are circumventing the officers of the Department. In Punch, of 25th November last, under the heading, “ The Curses of the East,” the following appeared -
Old as the eternal snows is the saying that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Therefore no thinking man is deluded by the latest Customs return purporting to prove that a clever, vigilant, and energetic Department has almost stamped out the opium trade. What the figures do show is that the Department is again hibernating. Any one acquainted with the Chinese quarters knows that the dreadful drug is still being smuggled in in large quantities, and the number of its victims ‘ is growing instead of diminishing. With a mighty pretence of stopping every possble inlet, the Department has returned to its old habit of sitting down, adding up the startling evidences of its own slothfulness and ineptitude, and then calmly presenting them to ti long-suffering public as absolute proof that they can sleep in profound confidence that the insidious and demoralizing traffic has been victoriously stamped out.
We are told that not only is the traffic not stamped but, but that it is actually on the increase, despite the statistics and reports furnished by the Department. The article goes on to say -
About as much satisfaction is to be obtained from the Immigration and Emigration Registrar of Chinese. It is only necessary to prowl about the almond-eyed quarter of the city and to glance in suburban laundries to realize that the importation of Asiatics has in no way been dis- couraged by recent regulations. All that has happened is that the syndicates which manage this commerce in yellow flesh have advanced their prices, and take more precautions to hoodwink the officials, who conscientiously search in places where by nod or wink they are astutely told barred Asiatics may be stowed away. The trade is worked with most Machiavelian machinations. Informers are subsidized to mislead an easily-gulled Department, and men of Mongolian stock are being dumped in Australia from Chinese and Malay ports practically with impunity. The Federal authorities despatched a special officer round the Commonwealth to inquire into the trade; but before he went the Customs officials, much incensed, said that the illegal Asiatics in the Chinese quarters were bearing false witness against them, and this report has been most carefully pigeon-holed and neglected.
The statement of this writer is practically to the effect that, instead of the returns showing that the influx of opium and Chinese is being coped with, those interested in the traffic have changed their tactics, and that the Department has failed to realize the fact. ‘ One’ great source of information is from the Chinese themselves, and it would appear that the Chinese syndicates have subsidized the informers to mislead the Department, with the result that the information given to our officials is for the sole purpose of misleading them.
– What does the honorable member propose- a new set of informers ?
– I contend that the Department ought not to depend on Chinese informers, and, because nothing is discovered, conclude that the traffic has been effectively dealt with. The subsidizing of the informers by the syndicates deserves very serious consideration ; and another point raised in this article is worthy of special notice. Departmental officials are very jealous of outside interference. Before the discoveries were made, about this time last year, I strongly urged that the Department should not rely solely on the Customs officers here, but should appoint a detective to extend the investigations to China and other ports from which this traffic is carried. According to the newspaper article, the Government did appoint one such officer, but he has. had to contend with the jealousy of the regular officers, with the result that very important information he was able to collect has been quietly pigeon-holed.
– That is not correct ; every report made is acted upon immediately.
– Do I understand that the Department has an officer of this description?
– No; but the Chief Clerk of the Department went around and made inquiries, and any recommendation he forwarded was dealt with. It is utterly incorrect to say that any report has been pigeon-holed.
– But is it not necessary to have some other officer besides the Secretary?
– The officer sent was not the Secretary. The article speaks of a special officer being despatched by the Federal authorities, and I presume it is to that the honorable member is referring.
– I do not know whether the Department appointed a special officer, or simply relied on the Comptroller-General of Customs.
– The Department has been advised in very many ways; and there has been no neglect or delay ; the most vigilant steps have been taken.
– The article states that the Department is hibernating.
– The article makes a mistake in that respect.
– We have been assured before that every step was being taken, and that there was absolutely no suspicion of any breach of the law, but the assurance has turned out worth nothing.
– I can assure the honorable member that, instead of hibernating, the Department makes every inquirv.
– And yet large quantities of opium and numbers of Chinese are coming in. I point out that this article appears in a newspaper which is on the Minister’s side in politics.
– In a serious question, every information, no matter from what source, receives consideration.
– This newspaper has no sympathy whatever with the Labour side of politics, but, at the same time, it is a supporter of the White Australia policy ; and its whole complaint is that the Department has not changed its methods in order to meet the. changed tactics of those interested in the traffic. I am sure that the Minister is desirous that this legislation shall have full effect, but he has to rely on his officers, and, therefore, he must see that those officers properly discharge their duties - that they are not lulled into false security as they were last year, but are alert enough to follow the devious methods of the Chinese.
.- I desire to refer in a few words to the proposed vote of £200 as a contribution to the Imperial fund to be devoted to the investigation of tropical diseases. There are very few Europeans in Papua ; and I suggest that the Government should see that the Government medical officers treat the white population, and also the Papuans, free of cost. It is only fair that in such a climate the health of the community should be nationalized ; and, happily, the hospital is, I believe, already built. I am of opinion that our contribution to the Imperial fund ought to be increased, so that I have no adverse criticism to offer ; but I take this opportunity to make the suggestion I have in the hope it will come to fruition.
– The natives are not charged for medical attendance.
– That I am glad to hear. I know that the medical men are doing their best in Papua; especially those who have taken civil appointments ; but I wish it to be part of their duty to give medical attendance, and the necessary drugs, absolutely free. Of course, the return will be indirect and in the future ; but we must recognise that prevention of disease is much better than cure, seeing that the latter, unlike the former, turns out sometimes to be only partial. I know that the Ministet of External Affairs is in full sympathy with me in the view that in a place like Papua the health of the community should De the first object of the governing power. As to the New Hebrides, we recognise that the Australians have all that independence and love of travel which distinguished their German and Saxon forefathers; but, at the same time, I maintain that there is full outlet for their energies in Australia itself. In the far north can be grown, not only rubber and maize, but almost every other product characteristic of the New Hebrides, where it is possible to average two and a half crops of maize a year. I do not know any part of Australia that can equal that production, and the labour is much cheaper there than anywhere in Australia, or even in New Guinea. Our farmers are protected by a duty which was imposed advisedly to help and benefit them, and the assistance given to the New Hebrides settlers is wisely given in the shape of a bonus, and not by means of a remission of the duty.
After all, blood is thicker than water, and the Australians who have gone to the New Hebrides should have our sympathy. I can see no objection to that sympathy taking the practical shape of a bonus, provided it is not extended, for we must remember that our farmers as well as our workers deserve protection. When at the New Hebrides, I heard of a splendid action by a number of British Indians, whom I call servile subjects of the King. They had left Fiji, and gone in search of work to the New Hebrides, where an attempt was made to grind them down, and force them to take a starvation wage, but they stood up like men, and refused to work for more than eight hours a day, or for less than 6s. a day. This is the only way I can pay my meed of praise to them. Regarding the vote of £20,000 for advertising the resources of the Commonwealth, I received this morning, by post, from a friend of mine, Mr. J. Smith, of Beechworth, journalist and litterateur, a copy of The Statesman, published at Calcutta, India. The English newspapers of India have very limited circulations, but they have great power and influence with the dominant white race there. I notice that a man named Captain F. W. Holden, agent for the Immigration League of Australasia, has written two and a half columns in an issue of that paper, from which I shall quote extracts. I am sure the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who knows more of the East than I do, will agree that the average Anglo-Indian is about the worst type that could be selected as an Australian immigrant. As a rule, they get so pigheaded and spoilt by the servility of the natives of India, that they are actually not fit to mix with white men; but I always except from that statement that courteous gentleman who represented Tasmania in this House, and has now joined the majority. Captain Holden, tn his article, said -
Quite as many applications as before continue to pour in. The number now totals well over 1,400. The writer lias come to the conclusion that India is no place for a poor European to live in. In Australia we have no poor in the ordinary acceptation of the term, that is, no really squalid poor, nor do we ever see the abject poverty that is ever present all over India, contrasting so strongly with the ostentatious display so many gre fond of making.
It is really astounding the ignorance displayed by so many about Australia and Australian affairs. Most people seem to imagine that they ure going te an uncultivated land peopled by semi-barbarians instead of a country in a high tate of civilization.
He is very complimentary at times to us, and those compliments are deserved ; but many of his other statements are most extravagant and erroneous. He mentions that certain Anglo-Indians strongly object to pay their own fares, which is only in keeping with their general characteristics; and puts in quotation marks in his article the words “ If the Government want me, they will have to pay for me.” I do not think we will pay for many of that kind yet awhile. The writer adds -
Viewed from the other aspect, that of a resident, both countries have much in common, but India shamefully neglects the development of all her natural resources. India has a humid, enervating climate, creating a strong indisposition to an active life ; this begets a torpid liver and a poor digestion. Still, she prefers to remain inert and to wallow in the filth of ages and its attendant diseases. Australia has an exhilarating, dry, health-giving climate, that is an incentive to a vigorous life and the prosecution of the various sports she has made a name for throughout the world.
Comparing the cities, the Indian capitals are quite as fine as those of Australia, with this difference, that the latter have been built on more modern lines and are kept scrupulously clean ; comfortable provision is also made for indigents and incurables. Beggars and cripples are not permitted to solicit alms, nor are unsightly heaps of garbage to be seen, the broad well-planted streets presenting generally a clean freshness that is exceedingly pleasing to the eye. In India just the opposite is the case ; wherever you go, even in the European quarters, it is difficult to escape the refuse that usually bestrews the footpaths and gutters.
There is no greater luxury in India than a really good bath, yet the average household in the East possesses no regulation bathroom. Every bedroom usually contains an indescribably dismal species of condemned cell, containing a water tap and a diminutive tub barely large enough for an average Australian baby to bath in.
He deals with the habits of life of the Anglo-Indians, and I know that their proverbial “ liver “ is not spoken of without reason, as they eat, drink, and loaf too much. He says -
Everything Australia produces could be put upon this market at a less cost than most of the inferior Indian products if only there was ‘enterprise enough to provide proper accommodation for keeping it. The best of everything is the cheapest in the long run, and if Anglo-Indians could only be persuaded to depart from the old traditions and adopt modern conditions they would be better off in mind, body, and estate, and save a good many doctors’ bills. We have only to look back on the vast improvement in the condition of the working classes in England since the introduction of cheaper Australian foodstuffs. The mill-hands who a few years ago lived practically on bread and cheese and beer are now able to enjoy a thoroughly good, whole-, some meal at about the same cost, and the improvement in their physique has been most marked.
I indorse that absolutely. After this there follows a tissue of fabrications, which Baron Munchausen would have been proud to write.
– Captain Holden was repudiated publicly by all the State Governments a little while ago.
– At any rate, we ought to know what he is doing. Surely a statement like the following should not go out uncontradicted -
The States’ education in every grade, including the technical schools and universities, is absolutely free. or the following tissue of misrepresentations -
Members of the various organizations can always arrange to meet the boats on their arrival, and are willing to find accommodation in any part of the country or the cities at reasonable rates without any fees. Immigrants who choose to go up country and adopt agricultural pursuits can commence life on an average wage of £i a week and all found.
Fancy the average Anglo-Indian thinking he would come out here and command £1 a week in the country districts.
Mr. Crouch. £1 a week and keep is the regular wage in the country.
– Will the honorable member undertake to get that wage for all the men that I shall send him? The article contains also the following statements -
And in the case of married couples, if the wife is prepared to go with her husband and undertake the domestic duties on a station, positions can be found for them at about £75 per year, free house, food, and everything except clothing found. . . . Labour settlements have been founded under the Acts of 1902, and. land has been set apart for lease for a period of twentyeight years as a labour settlement under the superintendence of a board of control. The rent is fixed bv the Minister after appraisement by the local board. The functions of the board are to enrol members, make regulations concerning the work to be done, and distribute” the wages and proceeds. The board may establish any trade or industry, but must distribute the proceeds among the enrolled members. Under the Advances to Settlers and Crown Lands Acts, a Board called the Advances to Settlers Board was created. The Treasurer is authorized to set apart a sum not exceeding ^2,000 in each State in any one’ financial year for the purpose of loans to settlers.
Fancy the right honorable member for Swan being blamed for not making those advances when the men arrive here !
– I can only believe that the writer is referring to a provision which he thinks is made in some State Act.
– If that were so, there would not be so much reason to complain ; but it is palpable that the reference is to the Federal- Treasurer.
– There is no provision on our Estimates for any such payment.
– The writer also states -
The maximum amount which may be advanced to any one settler is £400 for a period of five years, during which the settler is required to pay interest at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum, payable half-yearly, and at the expiration of that period he must repay the amount advanced by fifty equivalent half-yearly instalments, together with interest at 5 per cent, on the balance outstanding. A rebate of 1 per cent, is made for the half-yearly payment if made within fourteen days of the date in which it falls due. The amount of the advance must not exceed a sum equal to 15s. in the pound on the value of the improvements made, 01 12s. in the pound if the land is mortgaged.
It should be made plain that this man is not empowered by the Federal Government, or any member of the Federal Parliament, to publish untrue statements regarding Australia. I cannot conceive of an Anglo-Indian being a very desirable immigrant, but, at the same time, we have no right’ to deceive any man in this way into coming to Australia. The newspaper from which I have just read is dated 26th October, so that this misrepresentation is very recent. I think that a telegram should be sent to India, stating that the gentleman referred to has no right to speak in the name of the Australian Commonwealth.
– There should be a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– Captain Holden is not an authorized agent of the Commonwealth.
– With reference to item 11, which provides for the granting of aid to the international union for the protection of young children, I hope that the next Parliament will recognise the force of the eloquent language of the Prime Minister and others who have spoken of the Australian baby as the best immigrant we can have, and will increase this assistance. The more we can do to protect child life the better it will be for the Commonwealth.
.- Some reason should be given why the Estimates have been brought forward for consideration this morning, seeing that there are several Bills on the notice-paper which have yet to be dealt with, and it is usual to make the Appropriation Bill the last to leave this chamber. I should like a statement as to how the £20,000 proposed to be expended in advertising the resources of the Commonwealth is to be used. The sum is a large one to place at the control of the Minister.
– The sum of £7,000 has to be paid chiefly to meet commitments made by the last Administration. The States have agreed that the Commonwealth shall do their general advertising, the last Administration undertaking to make an advance in that direction. The expenditure of the vote will be more fully determined after the appointment of the High Commissioner, through whom more complete and systematic arrangements will be made. We have appointed Mr. Clarke, of New South Wales, to undertake the work of organizing and advertising.
– I hope that part of his duties will be the correction of misstatements on behalf of the States.
– He will compile accurate information regarding the Commonwealth, and the High Commissioner will correct misstatements regarding bur conditions.
– Are ‘London newspapers to be subsidized as the Standard of Empire has been subsidized?
– The details must be left until the High Commissioner has been appointed. A considerable part of the sum asked for will be expended in obtaining 5.000 copies of the YearBooh. In addition, advertisements- will be inserted in financial and other’ British newspapers, in accordance with advice, and we hope to publish a series of handbooks relating to Australia as a whole. At present there is no small comprehensive work of this character.
– Does the Government intend to advertise by displaying cinematograph films?
– That will depend upon the reports we receive regarding the results obtained bv showing the films of Pathe Freres now in use. It seems to me an advantageous way of advertising, and no doubt coloured films such as have been shown of Papua’ and the Solomon Islands would be exceedingly useful. Pending the appointment of the High Commissioner, I cannot make a fuller statement.
– I wish to know what steps the Government intend to take to provide that those who are induced to come here shall be able to get land ? At , present it is a great source of complaint that persons in the Old Country are misled by the pamphlets and information circulated there. They have been informed that in the more settled States, and particularly in Victoria and New South Wales, land can be obtained on easy terms and under good conditions, and photographs of farms have been shown to them. But when they get here they find that suitable land is not obtainable. I know of a case in which a man brought his family from Scotland, and was not able .to obtain suitable land in which to invest the £500 of capital which he had, although he took part in ballots all over the State of New South Wales. Whenever land is balloted for there, there are hundreds of local applicants. It is not enough to merely bring persons here, unless the intention is to depress the Labour market.
– There is no such intention.
– Then the Minister should ascertain what lands are available, and under what conditions, and place a fair and correct statement before those in the Old Country who desire to come here. They should not be misled in respect to either the conditions under which they may obtain land, or the avenues of employment which are open.
– It is the intention of the Government that no statements shall be circulated regarding conditions in any State, except with the express authority of a responsible person in that State.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 17 (Secretary’s office), ,£3,781.
– I think that the time has arrived when the Attorney-General must intervene in the present industrial struggle. The man in the street, the politician, and the preacher are all showing their concern, because the interests of Australia as a whole are affected by the action of the coal vend and shipping combine. The public is under the impression that there is on our statutebook legislation which should prevent a section of the community from interfering with its industries.
– The honorable member for West Sydney spoke in favour of the vend.
– That has nothing to do with me. Surely the time has arrived when, the law should be put into operation to end this terrible warfare.
– Does the honorable member mean the law which imposes a penalty for striking?
– I direct the attention of the Attorney-General to the composition of the vend, its articles of agreement, and its regulations, and the manner on which it is interfering with Australian industries. The present industrial strife is affecting all sections of the community,and it is time it was stopped. Were the effects of the strike felt only in New South Wales, 1 would leave the matter in the hands of the representatives of that State, but, as it is seriously interfering with the shipping and manufacturing of Melbourne, whose port I represent, I feel that I should raise my protest against it. The combination to which I have referred is really an octopus, and it behoves us to do all we can to end the terrible calamity for which it is responsible. I should have spoken weeks ago, but I felt that my interference might do more harm than good.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I wish to show that the Attorney-General’s Department is utrerlv useless if it cannot do something to bring about a settlement of the great industrial dispute which is now taking place.
– The Department cannot do anything that the Parliament has not authorized it to do.
– Then is it contended that the Australian Industries Preservation Act. and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act are useless? I take it that one of the principal duties of this Department is to enforce the law. If our industrial legislation is inoperative I can only say that the people of Australia have been deceived. We have in existence today a corporation that is flouting the Federal law. It is flouting both the Australian Industries Preservation Act and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– Then it must be doing that quite apart from the strike.
– Exactly. The Ministry are supposed to know nothing of this matter unless it is brought officially under their notice, but we are all aware that there is in operation in Australia today a most pernicious corporation. No trust could flout the law of the United States of America as this combination is flouting the law of the Commonwealth. I know that the coal-fields that it is operating are leased to members of the vend by the State Department, but since that Department has failed to deal with this question, and having regard to the fact that the latest . development in connexion with the strike is likely to make the position even more acute, I hope that the Attorney-General will be able to take action. For the information of the Attorney-General I propose to make a quotation showing the object of this vend.
– The honorable member need not quote it for my information. I have already read twice the paper to which he refers.
– No doubt the AttorneyGeneral’s Department is acquainted with the facts, but they have not been put before the public as they ought to be. The quotation is as follows -
No agreement affecting trade has ever been so drastic or so impudent or so openly defiant of law as this one between the Vend colliery owners ; and its twin brother, in insolence and illegality, is the agreement between the Vend and the Steam-ship Owners’ Association.
There is a variety of carefully-drawn clauses in this Vend agreement, and it looks like an Act from the Statute-book - of the Infernal Regions. Among the more drastic is clause 5, which simply sets forth that the different collieries shall appoint an officer to regulate how much coal each colliery shall put out to the market.
And clause 25 sets forth, however, that each colliery may put out and sell as much as it can, but with this provision, namely, that “ as an inducement to those collieries whose trade is falling off that they shall not attempt to increase it by under-selling or by some other act,” each colliery in excess shall pay an equalizing tribute to the colliery which is short of its allotted output.”
If this is not an agreement in restraint of trade I do not know what is. It is an arrangement between steam-ship companies and colliery-owners under which is determined, not only what should be the output of the collieries, but the price at which it shall be carried, and the means by which it shall be placed on the market. Surely we have on our statute-book a law enabling us to deal with such a combination -
This is a clear and outrageous illegality to throttle the public from getting the advantage of competition.
The Australian Industries Preservation Act deals with that matter -
The penalty to be paid by each colliery in excess to the colliery short, runs from 4s. per ton of the excess when the price is 10s. a ton down to1s. 6d. when the price is 5s. 6d. It is never as low asthis - and the selling price todayis11s. at Newcastle.
They arrange the business to suit their own convenience. Neither the public who consume their coal nor the men who hew it are considered.
– They are. The men get a better price from the vend than from any one else. It is a conspiracy on the part of the vend and the miners to fleece the public.
– I doubt that statement, because I know that the vend is so operating that the men employed on certain mines are only intermittently employed. They are not told that their services are no longer required, but they have to wait about for work.
– The vend is beating the men a regiment at a time.
– Yes. I want to show that there is a distinct understanding between the colliery proprietors and the steam-ship companies. If the vend had been brought about to assist the mine-owners and the miners by exploiting the rest of the community-
– Is not that what they have been doing?
– No. In many of the mines the miners, during the last ten or twelve months,! have been averaging only from 12s. 6d. to 27s. 6d. a week.
– The true position is that thereis work for 8,000 men, whereas employment for 12,000 is wanted.
– If the profits of the colliery proprietors were so small that it was imperative for them to curtail their output, it might be necessary for them to resort to certain tactics. But when we find one section of the coal miners being continually exploited by the vend, and the public being called upon to pay more than they ought to do for their coal, it is time for the Attorney-General to intervene. We admit that men do not invest their capital merely for philanthropic purposes. A man who engages in a business must secure certain profits to enable him to carry on, but the coal-owners have no right to so conduct their industry as to injure the men who really produce their wealth, and the public who consume their coal.
– But have not the men been the chief supporters of the vend ?
– Many people have thought so, but does the honorable member believe that men who, as the result of the vend, can earn only from 12s. 6d. to 27s.6d. or 30s. a week, would support it?
– Their representatives in this House strongly supported it.
– If the party to which I belong supported any vend or combination that resulted in one section of the workers receiving a small wage and another section obtaining a large wage, I should not belong to it.
– If the men-
– I hope that the honorable member will not interject. He Has no sympathy with the workers, and never has had any. A few weeks hence, no doubt, he will be talking largely about the “ down-trodden workers,” but he has no real sympathy with them. Honorable members on this side of the House are charged with supporting the vend. That charge will not lie against me,merely because I say that men are justified, in the interests of self-preservation, and for no other reason, in making certain arrangements. If this were a fair combination, instead of an unholy one, it would not be my place to take exception to it ; but let me point out that another provision in the agreement at which the vend has arrived provides- -
The vendors agree not to supply any coal for consumption in any of the States mentioned in clause 1 hereof, except to the said purchasing agents or their nominees, in terms of this agreement.
There is only one section of the employing classes to which the vend will supply coal. Not only the workers who have returned me to this House, but a large number of manufacturers, who have at present lying idle machinery in which have been invested hundreds of thousands of pounds, are suffering as the result of this combination. I think that, having looked at the agreement, honorable members will say that the members of the vend are accused out of their own mouths. I admit that the workers are my chief concern, but there are also in my electorate large manufacturers who will shortly feel the pinch of the operations of this vend. One large employer in my constituency told me recently that the vend, by its operation; is robbing him of from £700 to £1,000 per annum. But he is helpless at the present time, afraid to take any open action, for fear the vend should operate against him, or his own men assail him. Under the circumstances, he is willing to permit the vend to rob him, and I suppose he has to endeavour to pass the loss on to the pub- lie. This is a question which I might discuss for days, if my desire were selfadvertisement; but I have only to say that nothing would please me better than to see the difficulty solved, and that I would shrink from doing anything to delay the achievement of that end. If the time has not arrived to take action from a Federal stand-point, it .must be very near now.Should it be that the Department of the Attorney-General Cannot- intervene, then it is time we had a Commonwealth Department to see that both employers and employed get fair treatment. But if now be not the time to take action, it is hard to see what legislation, however drastic, could have any effect.
.- If any man, or body of men, could bring the present industrial struggle to an end, they would be reckoned amongst our greatest benefactors; and it is the duty of all public men, in view of the distress involved, and probably to be involved, to bring every mediating influence to bear. Parliament, as a rule, is the most unlikely place in which to find such influence, because feelings run high, and strong expressions are made use of, though I must say that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has steered his course very well. There is not an electorate which will not feel, if it has not already felt, the effects of this great industrial upheaval. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports represents, an electorate containing a similar class of employes to those of my own electorate, though not to the same extent; and he must know, as I do, that there are thousands who are not directly concerned in the present struggle who are feeling its ill effects. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that, throughout Australia to-day, there is a sort of industrial paralysis. I have my personal views on the matter, but those views I do not intend to ventilate to-day, beyond remarking, in passing, that it is a serious charge against the AttorneyGeneral to suggest that he is not bringing into force an Act which would have a beneficial effect on the situation. Any Attorney-General who does not set in motion the law, in the case of a combine or monopoly of a detrimental character, is neglectful of his duty ; he should not wait until a struggle arises between the employers and the employed. When thi; Australian Industries Preservation Act was under review here, I, from the Opposition benches, declaimed very strongly against the vend, pointing out that, even if the formation of the vend did result in alleged improved conditions for the men, it was none the less detrimental than a sugar, iron, or any other monopoly. The mere fact that it bears the euphemistic name of “ vend “ does not alter its nature. I remember that on that occasion honorable members of the Labour party, who then sat on this side of the House, took me to task, and declared that the vend was a beneficial monopoly.
– Watson and Watkins !
– I shall not mention names at this juncture. I take no credit to myself for the stand that I took on that occasion, because I merely associated the vend with other combines and trusts, against which I conceived the legislation to be directed. All I can say is that what appears to stand in the way is the pride of. a certain section called the mine-owners, and the strong feelings, or what some might call the prejudices, of the miners. I must say that the ex-Attorney-General, the honorable member for West Sydney, deserves the very highest compliment that could be paid to a public man. . Right through this serious business, with his knowledge and appreciation of his position as ex- Attorney-General, he has clone all he can in the direction of reconciliation. With a knowledge of movements of this character, I can say that a man who,, inside the ranks, attempts to act as a mediator, especially in the first days of a struggle, when the blood is heated, is not always well received by his fellow-workers; and, if the honorable member for West Sydney was looking for the approval of those concerned, he has not, in the attempts he has made, gone the right way to work. But he has acted with great public spirit, and in full realization of the seriousness of the position, in doing all he can to bring it to an end. I am not prepared to say that others in high places are following in his footsteps. I- quite see that the state of affairs cannot, be improved by speeches, or bv intervening until we are asked ; but surely the: commonsense of the workers and others concerned, individually and collectively, is such that the solution will be found before, long. I do not think that the AttorneyGeneral, while proceeding in accordance, with the strict letter of the law, will approach a problem of this kind unsympathetically ; and I gather that, during the last few weeks, he has been looking for. data to enable him to take action. The vend, philanthropic as it has been said to be, has not proved beneficial to the whole community, especially in its association with the shipping combine ; and if the present Act does not give the necessary power, it will be a big question at the next election whether that power should not be placed in the hands of the Commonwealth. If ever an impetus was given to nationalization, it has been given by the present struggle. Many men who, a few years ago, would have regarded with disapproval any suggestion to nationalize a monopoly, would now, in the face of the glaring illustration we have had, take quite a different view. The vend deals in a utility on which every other industry depends ; and I do not see why the whole community should be called upon to bear what is equal to the strain of a civil war.
– The men at the national mine in New Zealand also struck.
– But, in that instance, the men struck for a more equitable division of the profits, and their action represented only a phase of the great movement towards co-operation. Large enterprises in England, Germany, France, and America, as represented in the shipbuilding and iron industries, are tending to co-operation, and so the movement proceeds. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has, I think, made out a good case for intervention, if the law permits ; and, ‘ of course, we shall hear the Attorney-General on that point. I remind honorable members* that the Australian Industries Preservation Act was brought into operation in connexion with MacRobert son’s lolly factory, which was merely a local concern and that now we are faced with a struggle which involves the stoppage of works throughout Australia. I have been hoping every hour that reason would prevail, and that by now some process would have been instituted to prevent the cataclysm that is taking place in New South Wales, and the effects of which are bound to spread throughout Australia. As a. citizen, I feel that no man should counsel heated action. The duly constituted methods must prevail, and if they are not as broad and fair as they should be, the people themselves should, by means of their parliamentary institutions, amend them, in order to obtain some means of redress. The redress must not be spasmodic, either given by a coterie of mine-owners, who are standing on a question of pride or a determination, figuratively speaking, to put the worker’s nose in the dust, or left in the hands of an annoyed section of the workers, who justly consider themselves injured - as I think they are, through reading the press reports - and who wish to take control of the governmental machine. No one would counsel that. There are members in the Labour party, notably the honorable member for Darling, who know the value of peaceful methods. The honorable member for Darling has been for years associated with a warlike section of labour - men who fought in the past, and used strike methods to obtain their ends. We have a recollection of his calm and dispassionate methods of quelling many an outbreak, and to-day he is as highly respected a leader of the workers as is to be found in Australia. Ninety-nine per cent, of the workers, even when engaged in a hand-to-hand industrial struggle, are not devoid of common sense. For the moment, perhaps, they may not appreciate calmness and judicial treatment, but in the long run they always respect their leaders, who wisely advise them in their course of action. If the Australian Industries Preservation Act can settle the matter, it ought to be put into operation. This is a splendid opportunity to obtain from the AttorneyGeheral an expression of his opinion upon that question, and, if the Act does not permit of action being taken, an expression of policy, as the mouthpiece of the Government. He should state whether he thinks the Act can deal with matters of this character;effectively, or whether the Government will take the question up as one of policy in the near future.
.- It will be a good thing if there is any possible way for the Attorney-General to take steps to put an end to this trouble, and bring the parties together, even if those steps are, perhaps, legally doubtful. If it is not quite clear that the powers of the Federal Arbitration Act apply, yet I think steps could be taken by the Federal authority that would promptly end the trouble. If those concerned afterwards ascertained by appeal to other courts that the steps taken were not strictly within the powers of the Attorney-General, I am sure he would be forgiven, and the countrywould not grumble. This is an occasion when the Federal Government should not hesitate to take action. I have a good deal of knowledge of the Newcastle miners, and believe they are a body of very solid men. They are very old trade unionists, and well organ- ized, and would not take a step of this sort unless they had been suffering for a long time from what they considered to be injustices. With regard to the interjection of the honorable member for Nepean about the vend, I would point out that the position in Newcastle has always been that the employers require to have available a sufficient number of miners to supply a full market. They do not keep coal in stock, and as a consequence there are always a greater number of men available than there is work for. That is an inevitable condition of the industry. Some people may be misled by the wages published as being paid per day to the men, but it should be remembered that there is no regularity of employment, and. that the wage stated is not the true net wage, because the press, in giving the figures, do not take off the deductions which are made by the employers. You might as well take the gross cash receipts of a business, and represent that as the net income. It has been suggested that there may be power to attack the vend under the Australian Industries Preservation Act, but I think this is a case where the Attorney-General should, if possible, try to step in under the Federal Arbitration law. The colliery proprietors are united in an association of their own. The miners used to find that the proprietors came to an arrangement for a selling price, on which the men’s earnings were based, but that some one would break away from the so-called understanding, and cut the price, and then cut the men’s earnings. The proprietors, therefore, came to an arrangement, or understanding, called a vend, under which they all agreed as to the selling price of the coal. If that selling price is not too high, most honorable members will agree that it is not a harmful thing. The whole question hinges on whether the price is or is not too high. Personally, I think that this is not the time to attack the problem at that end. It would not get the dispute settled, the men at work, or the public supplied with .coal. The public are feeling this strike more than they would have done a few years ago, because they have now had some experience of working under a beneficent law which, even if it does not do everything satisfactorily, is still a great deal better than strikes. In the biggest industry in Australia we have now, for three years, been working under the Federal Arbitration law harmoniously and comfortably, and find it far better than the old method. The public will say that, without going into the merits of one side or the other, steps should be taken to bring the parties in this trouble together! Every one must admit that the men have been pressing for the past year for an open conference, which is a perfectly reasonable request. The side that refuses an open conference has no case.As an illustration, I can quote an instance in connexion with the pastoral industry, where strong pressure was brought to bear on the employers, who, after eight years of refusal, met us in conference. Their president, Mr. W. E. Abbott, told us frankly that they had met us only to enable them to speak to the public through the newspapers. They considered that their case was strong enough to put before the public, and it was reported. A side that declines to put its case to the public must have a very weak case. I hope the Attorney-General will take some steps to end this state of affairs. The behaviour of the miners concerned has, so far, been most orderly, and there is a committee, under the presidency of the honorable member for West Sydney, which is doing its best to bring about a peaceful settlement, and prevent the strike spreading, yet the State Government have taken a course which is calculated to have the opposite effect. They have taken a one-sided action, which is almost certain to cause disturbances. It is, therefore, time that the Federal Government calmly intervened, and took steps to end the matter without any of the class bias which every one must admit has been shown bv the New South Wales Government. Even if the Federal Government strained the interpretation of the law a little, so as to put an end to the difficulty, I venture to say that there would be no difficulty in finding a way out. At present the two parties have taken definite stands, one asking only for an open conference, which is admittedly reasonable, and the other refusing to do anything under any conditions. They will have to be treated as I have seen two hot-headed youths treated who have had a row underground, and have agreed to fight it out on top. When they got into the open air they would cool off, and we always had to force them to shake hands, so that they might be good friends afterwards. Judging by their past history, I am afraid that the colliery proprietors will do nothing unless they are forced to. We should do what we can to bring the parties together. If we succeed, matters will be quickly arranged, and the mines will be once more at work. Should the Government not have the right to intervene, it should take steps before the session closes for the submission to the people of an amendment of the Constitution to give it the necessary power. The case justifies the intervention of the Commonwealth authorities.
– This is another argument in favour of unification.
– I do not say that. New South Wales is not the only State affected. The stoppage of the supply of coal is injuring all the industries of Australia. That is the justification for Commonwealth intervention. If we cannot intervene, for lack of Constitutional right to do so, we should take steps to secure the necessary power. The industries’ of Australia cannot be permitted to remain idle- Had there been a strong Government in the State, the difficulty would have been settled quickly by a threat to nationalize the mines. Reference has been made to strikes of miners working in State .coal mines, but it must be remembered that such cases are not common. The Australian working man is to be admired for his unreadiness to accept unfair treatment. No doubt, even under State control, the management might not be all that it should be. A great deal depends upon the actions of those who are at the head of the men, and responsible for the management of an industry. In my opinion, the State railways should have their own coal mines, just as the American railway companies own them. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will tell us what steps are being taken to enable the Commonwealth to intervene. The people look to it to do so. The discussion of the matter here to-day has been calm and unbiased. The only desire -is for a peaceable settlement of the difficulty. If action is taken in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, justice will be done to the workmen, and fair play given to the colliery proprietors.
– I am sure that I may say, on behalf of my colleagues as well as for myself, that we sympathize with the desire which has been expressed by the honorable members for Darling, Dalley, and Melbourne Ports, that this unfortunate strike -f- which is now, I believe, in its fourth week - should come to an end. There are two sets of responsibilities- that of the Attorney-General’s Department, to which
I shall refer later, and that of the parties to the strike, the employers and the men engaged in the production and distribution of one of the most valuable commodities in the Commonwealth, on which the wheels of industry and the comfort of the people depend. The moment the production of coal is limited, the operations of commerce are affected everywhere. There would be a want of sympathy if we were to fail to recognise the untold misery which the strike must be causing in many homes. The time has come for the display of moral courage of the highest class, consisting in the surrender of positions which were, perhaps, too hastily assumed in the beginning, and of which it was .said that they could not be departed from. The interests affected, apart from those directly concerned, are so great, and so much suffering is entailed by the stoppage of coal production, that positions assumed by both sides should, in the light of subsequent events, be regarded as untenable. The assistance of my Department will be at the service of the parties, but Commonwealth interference is limited by Constitutional provision. All that could be done under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has, I think, been done bv the responsible officers concerned. If jurisdiction exists, the first step under the Act is one of mediation ; the right to move in the matter rests, not with the Attorney-General, but with the President of the Court. I know, without personal communication with him, but from watching what is going on, and from inquiries which I. have caused to be made, that he has done everything in his power to intervene as mediator, and, perhaps, tomorrow we may know what hopes may be justified in connexion with his action. The moment the opportunity arose to look into the relations of the strike with the Federal power, the Registrar telegraphed over the petition, and I think that- ‘every hour of available leisure, or that could be taken from other duties, has been used to consider means to bring matters to an end. r cannot interfere, because to do so would be outside- m,vI province. But nothing has been overlooked which may le.nd tr> a recognition of the responsibility which rests on both parties. I trust that the hallowed and gracious Christmas time will not come upon us before the sweet spirit of Christian temperance and concord has been breathed into their actions. With regard to matters on which I must speak with “ bated breath,” if not with “ whispering humble- ness,” let me say that the Constitution prevents the Arbitration ‘Court from dealing with disputes other than those extending beyond a State. That limitation has prevented our Act from being brought into force. It is, however, within the power of the parties to avail themselves of the principle of its provisions. The principle of voluntary arbitration was affirmed by American legislation in 1898. There the parties ma.y agree to take advantage of the law, and that has, I think, been done, although it has involved conferences, surrenders of amour propre, and sometimes, it may be, the lowering of the plumes of leaders on both sides. Speaking without relation, to the position which I occupy as Attorney-General, or even as a member of Parliament, I say that it seems to me possible to have such a conference as would lead to a settlement, if a judicial functionary, or some man occupying a trusted and representative position, although without legal right to intervene, would by request act as mediator to check the rhetoric which it has been alleged may be directed at the public, and would be likely to mar the effectiveness of any conference. No one should be afraid of publicity. Our arbitration proceedings are. reported in the press, and it should not be an insuperable obstacle to settlement that a conference may lead to greater or less publicity. All that is wanted is a neutral president, one who -would impose the check of some trained and judicial mind upon any aberrations of rhetoric, and possible displays of vanity among some who would appear as advocates. Very great responsibility rests upon us all in this matter, and we should do what we’ can, even by means of suggestion, to find a way put of the difficulty. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports did not deliberately charge me with remissness in the application of assumed powers, but he seems to think that the Department has allowed itself to be flaunted by certain combines. We shall not allow ourselves to be, and do not , acknowledge that we have been, flaunted. But we must proceed with great caution. One pf my first duties on taking office was to investigate the evidence before us regarding, the operations of trusts and combines.- The task was bv no means a light one. I drew up a series of -minutes, with a view to guidance, which would make eight or ten pages of a Royal Commission’s report. I have before me at the present .moment, though not as connected with the Estimates in this matter, a report on about fifty cases up to last June, which shows that the Department is not ignoring its duty to see that the provisions of Federal Acts are complied with. We are, to some extent, limited by the fact that Federal control applies only to Inter-State trade. The decision in the Huddart Parker case six or eight months ago has not yet been done with. I spent about an hour before coming to the House this morning in looking into the reports of the Crown Solicitor, who has just returned from Sydney, where he was making inquiries regarding an alleged combine. When I am sure of my ground, I shall not hesitate, if a. matter of substance is involved, to put into force the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act, whether the transgression of an acknowledged principle is made either by a body of men or by a combine.
– If the Act is faulty, will the honorable member recommend its amendment ?
– I intend to speak this evening on a Bill for the amendment of the Act. We shall not allow any acknowledged public grievance or injury to continue if an amending Bill is necessary to enable us to do what is required. I do not think there is any other matter to which I need refer.
– Can the “ honorable gentleman tell us what action the President of the Court, Mr. Justice Isaacs, is taking ?
– For the reasons I have mentioned, beyond what I have already said, I cannot. I db not’ think that we have, under the Act, any power to make any direction or suggestion, except in a friendly way. After all, why. should we? It may be a matter that ought not to ry? referred to here ; but we know that we have in our Judiciary men* of whom we should be as proud as the people of any other country are of their Bench. The administration of the Act rests, to some extent, with the Attorney-General’s Department ; but chiefly with the Bench, and from what is apparent, the responsibility of the President of the Court is being discharged. I shall say no more, except that the duty of the Attorney-General, whatever it is, will be carried out.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 18 (Crown Solicitor’s Office); £3>5oz’> division 19 (The High Court)-. £7,264; and division 20(Court of Conciliation and Arbitration), £1,625, agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Division 30(The Treasurer), £12,276.
.- On this item I desire to bring before the Treasurer a matter which formed the subject of a question that I put this morning to the Prime Minister. I refer to the failure of the Government to bring into operation that part of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act which provides for the payment of pensions to invalids. We are not facing our true responsibility as an Australian people to a most necessitous section of the community. A rough estimate of the cost of paying invalid pensions is in the vicinity of £250,000 per annum, and as a representative of a mining constituency I can honestly say that the Act, so far as it provides for the payment of old-age pensions, will not be availed of to any great extent by men who have worked all their lives underground. Not many men who have been continuously employed underground attain the age of sixty-five years. The deeper a mine, the worse the atmosphere, and the greater the risk of loss of health. I have here a few paragraphs from the Western Australian Worker newspaper which arrived by the last mail, giving an account of a thoroughly reliable man’s experience in one day at Boulder Block, which is the centre of the mining belt. I shall read them for the information of the Treasurer, in the hope that the cases which are cited will induce him and his colleagues to proclaim, without delay that part of the Act providing for the payment of invalid pensions -
Last Saturday week was the usual fortnightly accident pay-day of Boulder Miners’ Union. The sum of£102 was paid out, and I will try to explain on paper the nature of some of the accidents for which that money was paid, leaving the reader to judge whether or not courage and fortitude are required to a greater degree in mining or in farming.
Three of the recipients of relief are totally blind. One of these is ekeing out an existence in Ireland, living with a sister. Another one is married, living with his wife and family in Bendigo. The other is living with an aged mother in Hobart. Neither of these men is 40 years of age.
Another young fellow of 25 will walk on a crutch all his life, through falling down a winze. Another has his back literally broken, being wheeled about in a hand-cart in Boulder. A third one has a dent two inches long in the head, which has kept him from work for 18 months, and may do so for 18 months more.
One member lies in the hospital, Kalgoorlie, with one eye blown out, several fingers shattered, and numerous bodily injuries, whilst John Bylund has just left for Adelaide to consult a specialist after losing one eye, with serious injury to the other.
Jim -Derkman is down at the Mines Hospital being slowly nursed back from what seemed certain death, suffering from cruel and almost vital injuries. One member is at Nurse Wright’s, with injuries to his shoulder, which will never be righted again. Parts of his shoulder bone have to be knitted with wire.
From Nurse Egan’s Hubert Doherty has just been taken after partially recovering from a blow on the head which rendered him unconscious for days. This is the second serious mishap to our comrade, he having had an awful smash-up three years ago, which laid him off for twelve months.
Another spinal injury will keep a member from his work for months yet, and a displaced knee-cap will prevent A. H. Madden ever resuming hard work. Two men whose cases were given up as hopeless five months ago are slowly - regaining health. One more member with a broken leg has months yet ahead of him before his occupation may be followed.
Two toes and part of a foot have been lost to a man by a stone falling on them. He will never lose his limp. A young chap of 20 has half his foot removed by the cage striking it whilst waiting to come up the shaft. A prominent member has just returned to work with a scar nearthe eye that nothing this side of the grave will remove. W. Aitkins, of Brown Hill, is out on crutches after lying three monthswith a broken leg.
I have but little more to read.
– We will take it as read-
– This is a serious matter.
– Cannot the honorable member put it more briefly?
– No. No one is better qualified to explain the position than the writer of this article, and I am surprised that the honorable member, who has a number of miners in his constituency; should have spoken as he has.
– The honorable member knows that is rubbish.
– If the honorable member means to suggest that it is rubbish to say that the Labour party are endeavouring to secure some consideration for these unfortunate men, I hurl back the insinuation in his teeth.
– I am more sympathetic than the honorable member is.
– These sufferers are entitled to invalid pensions. They are even more deserving of consideration than the aged poor. I do not hesitate to say that I would sooner see the invalids of the Commonwealth attended to than the aged poor themselves? I know something of the sufferings of these men, since there have been some terrible experiences in my own constituency. The writer continues -
These are some of the serious injuries. The less important ones are too numerous to recapitu late. There are one or two other results of mining that I could show any doubting Thomases if necessary.
Evidently the writer anticipated such an interjection as that made just now by the honorable member for Indi -
The wife of a member asked last week if Mr. Gregory’s suggestion re a land settlement had been adopted. If it were, she thought her husband, who was away in Perth, suffering from miners’ complaint, might secure a block, and in ihe fresh air and sunlight recover his health.
Another poor fellow is just able to walk -about, suffering from the same disease. I have no idea of his circumstances, and have not the heart to ask him. One other was sent back to Sydney a few weeks ago, after several attempts to secure admission to the Coolgardie Sanatorium had failed. His trouble was hemorrhage of the lungs.
These, with a list of eight fatal accidents in -six months, is a partial record of the perils. of mining. And what is the whip which forces men to take these risks? Necessity. And the compensation for those risks is great, we hear many people say. Compensation is all on the side of the worker, a public man said to me recently.
I bring these cases under the special notice of the Treasurer. The writer proceeds at length to deal with the exceptional number of cases of miners’ complaint that are developing. As I have said, the deeper a mine the fouler the air, and the more difficult it is to obtain ventilation. Those who have to work in deep mines are liable to contract that most dreaded of all diseases, miners’ complaint, which is really a form of consumption, and men who have worked all their lives underground are not likely to qualify for receiving an old-age pension as long as we continue the present provision that they shall be payable only to those who have reached the age of sixtyfive years. In the same newspaper .in which this article appears there was published a list of twenty Kalgoorlie mines whose profits for the month of October totalled about £128,000. Assuming that that is an average profit, we have an annual profit of about ,£1,536,000 secured by twenty mines. In this list it is shown that the Golden Horseshoe made a profit of £20,030 for the month; the Ivanhoe £20,022, the Kalgurli £13,482, and the Great Boulder £27,000.
– What is the capital invested?
– It is a considerable amount, but very little subscribed capital has gone into any of these mines. I do not, however, advance that as an argument ; I do not say that because some mining propositions have proved successful, every man who invests in mining must necessarily become rich.
– Might I interject without incurring the honorable member’s wrath ?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will support my appeal to the Treasurer. There is urgent necessity for making provision for these unfortunate men. I know that this writer has not overstated the case. The Treasurer has a buoyant revenue.
– And a buoyant expenditure, too I
– But the people of Australia are prepared to face the expenditure in order to relieve the suffering of these unfortunates. There is not a man in Australia who is prepared to say that he is not in favour of giving this consideration to invalids; and the Treasurer ought to make some announcement as to the Government’s attitude.
.- The Treasurer will acquit me of any desire to unduly take up time, but he knows that I am deeply interested in the matter of the unjust and cruel questions that are now put to applicants for old-age pensions. The Treasurer was courteous enough, to accede to my request that all applications made should be acknowledged, so that the old people might not be worrying as to whether their papers had gone astray. Common courtesy between individual and individual, in every phase of private life, insures a reply to a request. I cannot conceive a more terrible thing than an old person, between sixty-five and seventy years of age, facing the ordeal of filling in a form of answers to over 130 questions, in addition to obtaining two friends to further answer questions, under a penalty of six months’ imprisonment for any wilful misstatement. I know, of course, that the Department would never persecute any old friend of a pensioner ; but it should not be forgotten that the latter must have the- greatest difficulty in obtaining such testimony. The only fault of these old people is their Christlike poverty ; and yet, until the . change was made, the Department had not the decency to forward them replies. There is an officer in this Department who is paid over £21 per week; but what does he care for the old people? That is a question I shall thunder from every platform. It may be said that he only does his duty, but he does his duty as did those men who drove the nails into the hands of Christ. I maintain that to him, and to him mainly, are due the infamous questions. The questions put to these poor old people would disgrace the poorhouse system in old England; and I may say that I have some experience of that system, because I once went into a poorhouse, and worked there all day, coming out the following morning. The honorable member for Batman assisted me to frame a series of questions : but what did the highly-paid official care? He can sneer behind the screen there; but the words I am using now I shall use to his face, and from every platform. Under the Victorian- law there was a simple list of questions, and the administration cost less than that of any similar system in any part of the world. But Mr. Allen altered all that. He adopted the questions of the New South Wales system ; and I ask representatives of that State to look into the matter. New South Wales may have been more generous in regard to the amount of the pension, but she was certainly very ungenerous so far as concerns the questions put to the applicants. What do -the people, who find the money for old-age pensions, require? That every man and woman of sixty-five years and upwards, who has resided a certain length of time in Australia, shall be paid ros. per week. The old people must not have more than a certain income of their own, and may possess property up to the value of £310 if they reside on that property.
– I hope to be able to lay on the table to-morrow the papers relating to the questions put to the magistrates.
– I am not blaming the Treasurer, who, I know, was placed in an awkward position. There is not a Minister, past or present, who would like such questions put to his own mother. An old man of sixty-five or seventy years of age is asked .what was the maiden name of his mother. What the devil has that to dowith his getting a pension?
– Order !
– The questions are too ridiculous ; and I ask the Treasurer, in the short time at his disposal, before he goes to the West, to endeavour to simplify the .whole series. The only information required is that theapplicant is of a certain age, is necessitous,, and has resided in the country for twenty years. I hope that when the Commonwealth has money enough, the pension will’ » be made universal, and thus remove the stigma of poverty, leaving it to each to. draw the pension or not, as he desires. Certain men, who have assisted to get candidates returned, are made justices of thepeace in Victoria; and, when the history of the old-age pension movement comes te* be written, some of those men will be stamped with the infamy they deserve. This small State of Victoria gives to its public servants one of the most generous, most expensive, old-age pensions the world has ever seen ; in fact, the amount is morethan that paid in a similar way by the whole of the other States and New Zealand combined. Over £370,000 a vear is paid in pensions in Victoria to retired! civil servants; and. I submit that the oldage pensions that are now paid should, as those other pensions are, be taken out of the general revenue. I do not mean to suggest that I would stop those pensions tothe retired civil servants, because they are paid under an undertaking which was entered into between the State and those who desired State employment. I maintain, however, that the veterans, who have made Australia what it is, but who are not in the Public Service, should be treated in the same kindly fashion. I have the assurance of the Treasurer as to the papers relating to the questions put to magistrates, and” I should like a further assurance that the number of the questions will be reduced as much as possible.
– I should like to say a word or two in regard to the very serious matter brought forward by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. All who have heard the statements read” by the honorable member must feel that themembers of the mining community are, from their circumstances, more subject to accident than are those otherwise employed, and, in addition, ‘suffer seriously in health. This should receive the sympathetic attention of the Treasurer and Parliament. The gene–
Tal question of invalid pensions, however, seems to me to open up a very wide question. 1 would rather see the case of the miners treated as exceptional, and provided for under a system of industrial assurance ; I mean a- system under which employers should contribute to some provision for those who, in their work, arc exposed to extra risks, and who are not compensated for this with even higher wages. Perhaps the most serious of all risks run bv the miner is that form of consumption called miners’ complaint, which is directly caused by the vicious atmosphere in which the work is done. One cannot think without concern of the great misery that is created when the bread-winner is compelled to continue his avocation, although he knows that it means certain death within a few years. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has done well to call our attention to this matter, and during the recess I hope the Government will give it serious consideration. The only means of dealing with the matter I can see is -by some form of compulsory industrial insurance, which will insure that those engaged in this avocation will be placed as far as possible beyond the . risk of want, and above the necessity for continuing their employment when they have become invalided through accident or sickness arising from their employment.
– I was rather astonished that the Treasurer did not think ‘ it worth while to reply to the speech of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie regarding the destruction of -human life which seems to be inseparable from certain phases of mining.
– I propose to make -a reply.
– I shall be glad to give way to the right honorable member.
– I quite agree with what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has said with regard to the terrible position in which men engaged in industrial work, especially mining, are placed when -they meet with serious accidents. I have always thought that cases of men injured in that way, incapacitated by the loss of an arm or a leg, were almost the saddest that we could come across. Ordinary sickness is bad enough, but when you find a strong man stricken down in full vigour and made incapable of earning a livelihood, and perhaps having many dependent on him, I really , think that something ought to be done to give relief. I shall be very glad if some means can be devised. 1 agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that the cases of people who are ‘eligible for old-age pensions are often not so distressing as those where strong men are incapacitated and often unable to do anything for themselves. I will see what- can be done. Of course, we should like to do all we can in regard to the general question of invalid persons, but, as the honorable member for Wide Bay will realize, it is not opportune for me to say at the present moment exactly what we can do.. It is a very serious question. I certainly feel a little afraid of the invalid. pensions. We can deal with oldage pensions, and there is a certainty about them, but in regard to persons who are invalids we do not know how wide the area will be unless the regulations are very strict. It will depend upon medical certificates in. very many cases. People who have been earning their living fairly well will say that they do not think they are fit to do so any longer, and will appeal for an invalid pension. The question is a very difficult one, and will have to be surrounded with safeguards which perhaps can be provided from the present law by regulation, but I cannot help . thinking that the estimate of £250,000 for invalid pensions is low, and, consequently, wo shall have to approach the matter with very great care. Already, as honorable members know, the whole of the financial arrangements of the Commonwealth have been upset by the introduction of old-age pensions without sufficiently counting the cost at the time. This year we are providing one and a half millions for that purpose out of a revenue of about £2,700,000. We had £655,000 in trust funds, but the expenditure for the vear is really one and a half millions. This has quite upset the whole of our financial arrangements, as we have been accustomed to view them during the period since the establishment of Federation, when we had plenty of money, and returned to the States a. good deal in addition, out of our one.fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue. That, of course, is altogether changed now, and honorable members know that, notwithstanding we had £65^.000 nut by, there is a shortage this year of £1,200,000. If it had not been for that nest-egg the shortage would have been £1,855,000. Of course, if the financial arrangement between the States and the Commonwealth, which has been approved by the Parliament, becomes law, we shall be in a different position. We should be in a different position at the end of 1910 in any case.
– That is a lovely argument in favour of the right honorable gentleman’s financial scheme !
– I know that we could avoid any trouble by taking all we require from the States, and thus break faith with them, as some would like us to do, but I was one of those who made the bargain with the States. I was one of the State politicians who handed over to the Commonwealth all these powers in good faith, and, therefore, perhaps I look at the matter a’ little differently from those who do not care whether good faith is kept with the States or not. There are some who apparently want to say to the States, “ You have given us full power, and we are going to use it, as we think proper in our own interests.
– Oh, no. W)e would take only what they are agreeable to give, and what the Treasurer has arranged that they should give.
– There are some who say that they want to take all or nearly all the Customs and Excise revenue from the States, but I do not include the honorable member for Mernda among those. The only difference we have is that he thinks there should be a limit to the agreement, while I think it is better to leave it open. I do not wish anything that I have said to be construed into an expression of regret that we have entered upon this great humanitarian measure. I simply point out that it does place the finances in a difficulty at the present time, and that, therefore, we must be careful not to undertake other liabilities, which will make things worse than they are. I am sure my honorable friend opposite is” as anxious as any one to introduce a system of invalid pensions, but when he was Treasurer he was not able to make a promise as to when he would be able to do it. I should be only too delighted to be able to introduce invalid pensions, but the responsibility is too .great for me to say when it will be possible to do so. We must see what we can do, however, and when we meet again we shall know a good deal more about the financial position, especially if the financial agreement is approved of at the referendum. We shall then enter upon an altogether -new phase of our financial career - a new era of finance, in which we shall know that we have full powers to raise what money we like, and to keep it all, subject only to the payment under the agreement that we have made with the States. I should be only too delighted if I Gould make any promise at this stage in regard to the relief of people in want, and I certainly will give my attention to the phase of the question brought under notice by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, because, apart from its necessity, I have always felt sympathy with those who are stricken down when strong and well, and rendered absolutely unable to earn their living, or, in many cases, to look after themselves.
.- I gave way with pleasure to the Treasurer because we are all delighted to hear the responsible Minister in charge of the finances give his views on an important subject of this kind. While it is most important, the question is not a new one. The one issue underlying the whole matter is this : Is there a Government prepared to invite the people to contribute the amount of money necessary toinaugurate the system of invalid pensions? There is no difficulty beyond that, and the Treasurer and the Government know it. There is a similarity in the arguments used by the Treasurer and those .used in earlier Parliaments regarding the payment of Com.monwealth old-age pensions. In the first Federal Parliaments, the various leadersstated that there was no possibility of the Commonwealth having sufficient funds to pay those pensions. On one or two occasions, and on one particularly, the right honorable member for East Sydney attacked the Barton Government for putting old-age pensions on their programme. The right honorable gentleman urged that they could not be sincere, but were merely using the pensions as a placard to catch the public favour - that they had no real’ intention of paying them, and ought not to fool the people, especially the helpless ones who required assistance, by putting them in their programme. That state of affairs continued up to a much later period, and even at the beginning of this Parliament there were very few who thought that old-age pensions would be enacted during its life. I entirely agree withthe Treasurer as to the importance of the proposal to increase the pension payment* toy adding invalid pensions. But I do not quite agree with those who think that the people most in need of assistance in that direction are those who have suffered from accidents. The Treasurer enlarged on the sadness of the cases of men who had lost limbs through accidents and were incapable of earning their livings, but even worse cases are to be found among those who are attacked by disease, such as tuberculosis, arising from the nature of their employment. In those cases the trouble is far more lasting and widespread in its effects, and dire in its consequences, because others beside the original sufferer are often stricken down. Speaking generally, an accident ends with injury to the immediate sufferer and the real loss is known from the first ; again, a person, although incapacitated by an accident from earning a livelihood, may be otherwise perfectly sound and healthy. I should like to ask the Treasurer what he means by saying that the question of invalid pensions is most important and “ ought to be taken into serious consideration”? If he means that the payment is not to be undertaken by the Government or discussed here because it involves taxation. I do not agree with him. When he paid ‘me the compliment of saying that I was anxious about the financing of old-age pensions during this Parliament, he omitted to add that that was not my condition of mind regarding next Parliament. The Government of which I had the honour to be the principal member was prepared to ask for extra taxation from the people to earn out all these schemes, and those who formed that Government are still of the opinion that it should be done. If a proposition is sound from an economic and social point of view, it is the business of a Government to give effect to it if the people desire it. No one can deny that the people have decided in favour of old-age pensions over and’ over again. It was by a happy stroke of luck that they were provided for by this Parliament. But if the Treasurer is to be interpreted literally, the financing of old-age pensions is causing him grave anxiety. He spoke of a deficit of £1,800,000, but it will not be caused entirely by the old-age pensions. He has admitted that when he took office £600,000 was available for the payment of the pensions. Therefore, during this financial year he will have to find only £900,000 for the purpose. As the pre vious Government was able to accumulate £600,000 for the pensions, this Government should be able to do the same, so that next year there will be available for their payment £1,200,000, leaving a deficiency of only £300,000.
– The honorable member accumulated only £400,000.
– That is the amount which was accumulated during my term of office.
– Its accumulation was very difficult.
– Necessity compelled its accumulation.
– The honorable member had to let other things go.
– People have often to forego luxuries in order to provide necessaries. It is better to economize in trifles, and to pay old-age pensions. Whatever the difficulty, we must do the right thing. I do not agree with the Treasurer that the Departmental estimate that invalid pensions will cost £250,000 a year is not within the mark. My experience is that the officers make very safe estimates, and, no doubt, have given due consideration to this matter. There is practically no limit to the extension of invalid pensions. If they are to be given to persons invalided at the beginning of their wage-earning lives, and sufficient in amount to keep up their homes, the obligation will be a much larger one than that created by the payment of oldage” pensions, while the situation will be full of difficulties. Notwithstanding this, I entirely believe in the provision of Government invalid pensions. I think that they can be provided for more cheaply by Government, and with more beneficial results, than by private organization. The German system is for the Government, the employers, and the employes to contribute, and that system has been in force for twenty-four years.
– A similar arrangement is carried out in New South Wales in regard to accidents.
– The Miners’ . Accident Fund there ‘is on that basis, but it is the only fund of the kind of which I am aware. The conditions under which mining is conducted are exceptional, and the industry canbe dealt with more easily than other industries in a matter of this kind. But while old-age pensions can be dealt with effectively only by the Commonwealth, I think that invalidity can be provided for most effectively by the States. It is the States that have the control and regulation of industries. They can prescribe the conditions under which work should be performed in mines, in shops, and in factories, and partly on board ships. Being in a position to discover how the health of the people is affected by various industries, they can pass laws which will prevent the sacrifice of human- life. It is u gratifying feature of insurance that the companies and societies which provide for it take pains to look after the health of the people. Whenever they find that an industry is injuring the health of those employed in it, they take steps to bring the fact under the notice of the Government controlling it, and ask for an improvement of conditions. Their motive, however, is purely selfish. But what can we say of Parliaments which allow improper conditions to obtain until urged in this way to make improvements? While I hope that the Commonwealth Government will soon be in a position to pay invalid pensions, I trust that the State Governments, inasmuch as we have relieved them of expenditure amounting to £1,500,000 in connexion with old-age pensions, will take the question in hand. Surely an appeal to them will be considered.
– The honorable member recognises the Governments of the States when he wants something.
– I have always recognised the work of the Governments and Departments of the States. What I say is that the Commonwealth having relieve’d them of a payment of ^1,500,000 a year in respect to old-age pensions, without reducing the amount returnable from Customs and Excise revenue, they should consider it a reasonable proposition that -they should look after the invalid population.
– Is it not our duty to do so? Have we not passed an Act acknowledging that ?
– Yes. Had the late Government remained in office we should have taken steps to obtain money to give effect to the measure. This Government is not doing so, and says that it will not do so. _
– We have not said that.
– The Prime Minister said that he would take the matter into consideration later, which is quite_ a different thing from dealing with it. The States, having been relieved of payments amounting to £I,500,000, 1 might favorably consider the suggestion that they should look after the invalids within their borders-, especially since they have control of the industrial legislation which affects- thehealth of the people. Their Parliaments can at a moment’s notice alter these laws. In my early days I was associated with coal mining, and remember well the coming into force of the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1873. The taking of childrenfrom the mines resulted in a large reduction in the number of accidents. It wasfeared at the time that the measure would1 hand over the coal trade of Great Britain to Belgium, France and Germany, but that did not happen. The result of the Act was to improve the conditions under which coal mining is carried out, and to benefit the health and preserve the lives of the miners. Since then there have been about half-a-dozen important amendments of that Act, and in each case the sameresult has followed. By the imposition of greater restrictions fewer people- have been killed and maimed, the health of miners generally has been improved, and longevity increased. As to the question of invalidity, there is something in the contention that the States may take the matter into consideration. I amhopeful that, although the Commonwealth has not co-ordinate industrial powers with the States, we shall, before long, have concurrent powers in respect of all industrial’ matters, and that we shall be able to cooperate with them, not only in looking after the health of the community, but in seeingthat the people obtain justice in other directions. I have here the latest figures with regard to the number of persons receivingoldage pensions. In New South Wales- 21,619 old-age pensioners were taken over, and the number of applications sincegranted .there is 3,003. In Victoria thenumber taken over was 11,944, and thenumber granted since is 7,225. I am not here to say that the Act and the regulations are perfect, or that they could not be so improved as to enable persons to obtain pensions who cannot secure them now ; but, asTreasurer, my only anxiety in agreeing toallow these questions to be put to applicants was to protect the interests of theCommonwealth and of those who were toreceive pensions. If experience has proved” that the questions pitt to applicants are embarrassing, the Treasurer has power -at any time to vary them, and I trust that he will’ be no party to such incidents as have taken- place in this House for some time. I refer to the way in which Ministerial supporters have been induced to ask who authorized this or that to be done. I took the first opportunity to intimate that I had authorized the list of questions which applicants for old-age pensions have to answer.
– Had I desired to do anything unfriendly to the honorable member I should have altered that list.
– Why not alter the list of questions if experience has shown that it is necessary ?
– The evidence is more in favour of them than against them.
– I had no opportunity to test their usefulness or otherwise, but in agreeing to them I had in mind the fact that we were dealing with a great scheme, involving an enormous financial burden, which I was sure would be cheerfully borne, and I desired to prevent any unworthy person obtaining a pension. The man’ who, charged with the inauguration of a big social reform, allows it to be brought into operation in a loose way shows that he is either indifferent to its success or unworthy of his office. The one way to defeat a new economic movement like this is to allow it to be loosely administered and abused. One must be extremely careful in inaugurating a system like this to see that no injustice is suffered, and, at the same time, that the Treasury is not robbed. That is the position I took up. Some honorable members think that if an honorable member has the grit to take up such a stand he will lose by it; but all the electors are not fools. I am sincerely sorry if people are embarrassed by the questions that are put to them, but I believe that now and again they are embarrassed by the action of some of those who have been authorized to administer the system, and who have failed to interpret the Act and the regulations in .the liberal way that they were invited, at least during my term of office, to interpret them. In Maryborough, in my own electorate, claims have been tied up owing to unsympathetic action or want of system in dealing with them. But let me continue the figures. In Victoria, where under the State law only a few simple questions had to be answered, 11,944 old-age pensioners were taken over, and there have since been granted under the Commonwealth Act no fewer than 7,225 pensions.
– A good .deal of the increase was due to the reduction in the period of residence required under the Commonwealth Act.
– The honorable member would be surprised if I told him what a comparatively small proportion of the increase is due to that fact.
– The increased amount allowed has had something to do with the increase in the number of claims.
– I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner that the more liberal provisions of the Commonwealth system have enabled more people to secure pensions.
– Many who were formerly kept by their relations are now receiving old-age pensions.
– Yes; that is what I call liberalizing the system.
– I think that people ought to keep their aged friends when they are able to do so.
– The aged and invalid poor have a moral claim on their near relatives. I go no further than that. To compel sons and daughters to support their aged parents or other near relatives is to compel the best members of the family to contribute for the whole. Our best citizens and their best efforts may be destroyed by using the State machinery to compel them to contribute to the support of their near relatives who are aged and poor. The harum-scarum members of a family clear away and cannot be reached. The reputable members of the family contribute to the funds of the State, and the State comes along, so to speak, with mighty machinery, and a great show of bumbledom and embarrasses them. It does injury to them as good citizens, because it limits their opportunities for usefulness. The Commonwealth system is fairer, because by taxation we can reach every one ; we can make the ne’er-do-well contribute to the general fund in the same proportion as the good citizen. From that point of view I am in disagreement with the Treasurer, save that I feel that it is the moral duty of every man to help the members of his family who are less fortunate than himself.
– They might be invited to do so.
– I cannot agree with the Treasurer. There is nothing more humiliating to old people than to have to appeal to their sons or daughters, or other near relatives, for aid. As a trustee, I have had some experience of this. I find that people are ready to promise assistance when their sympathies are aroused by trouble, but that a few weeks later they forget such promises. A sufficient -and better system is that for which our Act provides, and I trust that it will grow and continue to be safeguarded against abuse. The large increase in the number of old-age pensions granted in Victoria is not objectionable, or even regrettable, because the recipients of these pensions are entitled to them. In Queensland, where there was a rather liberal Act in force, 6,638 old-age pensioners were taken over by the Common.wealth, and there have since been added r,20i. In South Australia, where there was no old-age pension system in force, 4,225 .pension claims have been granted, and in Western Australia 1,716. The argument that Western Australia has to make an excessive per capita contribution, as compared with the number of her citizens who are receiving pensions, is an argument that does not do great credit to that State.
– There are more claimants for old-age pensions there than we thought there would be.
– When I’ paid an official visit to Western Australia, I was treated very kindly by the people, and when they urged that they were being levied upon to a greater extent than the demand for oldage pensions in that State warranted, I said that I did not think that in their hearts they believed that that was so.
– AH that will be over now.
– I am glad to hear it. I said to every audience that I addressed that I did not think that in their hearts they believed that such a contention was justifiable. Western Australia undoubtedly drew a large proportion of her early manhood and womanhood from the other States, and because of that had fewer oldage pensioners than there were proportionately in the other States; but I said that I refused to- believe that, because people there had left their parents and grandparents, or other aged relatives, in the eastern States, they were unwilling to make to the general revenue a contribution which would enable those aged relatives to receive old-age pensions. To do them justice, I must say that when the matter was put to them in that way, they cheered very heartily. Whilst the people of Western Australia may contribute more per capita than their proportionate share, having re gard to the number of pensioners in that State, I believe that the taxpayers there will readily pay their full quota to enable pensions to be paid.. In Tasmania, we have 2,771 old-age pensioners - a considerable number, having regard to the population of that ‘State. Altogether, 40,201 old-age pensioners have been taken over by the Commonwealth, and 20,231 claims have since been granted, making a total of 60,432. Since the inauguration of the Commonwealth system, about 2,000 old-age pensioners have died, leaving us a total of 58,432, receiving on an average about ^25 each. I give these figures in part answer to those people who say that this is not an old-age pension system. It is not such a system as I would like to see in a Democratic country.
– What does the honorable member wish to see?
– I desire to see a pension available for every person who retires from work at a certain age - such a pension as will enable him to be free from poverty or want of any kind.
– The whole system would have to be recast to make the pension universal.
– I am not alarmed about recasting the system. I am old enough to remember when the idea of old-age pensions was far more shocking than is now the idea of universal pensions.
– The honorable member does mean universal pensions, does he?
– I mean that I would pay every person who retires, and who cares to draw it, a pension sufficient to enable him to maintain himself.
– Surely not, if he has money already ?
– The man could please himself whether he drew the pension or not. It is all very well for the Treasurer to laugh.
– Surely the honorable member would not give pensions to people who do not require them?
– There is no lack of wealth of any kind, or any economic difficulty in the way ; indeed, it would not mean such a large increase on our present expenditure as the Treasurer seems to think. In my opinion, prosperity, so far from being retarded, would be accelerated by such a pension system. I admit that there is no possibility of such a system being adopted at present, but it is just as well to have an ideal and an aim; andI shall avail myself of any opportunity of advocating the principle, so as to prepare the people to support it from an economic and national point of view. I know very well that it will not be in this Parliament, nor the next, and, perhaps, not for many Parliaments, that such a system of pensions will be inaugurated ; but I have hope that the development of the principle will not be retarded by ignorance, prejudice, or fear. I am sorry the Treasurer does not take a more optimistic view of the financial position. He has borrowed, in the shape of £600,000 under the financial agreement - partly for old-age pensions, I suppose - and he proposes to borrow another £3,500,000 in connexion with defence ; and yet he tells us that he will find himself embarrassed for want of funds. I have to say again that I shallbe very glad if the Treasurer will embrace this opportunity to make a statement showing the financial position of the Commonwealth today.
– I shall on the second reading of the Appropriation Bill, or, at any rate, before the Bill leaves us.
Mr.FISHER.- I hope the Minister will do so, because there have been great financial changes since this Government came into power.
– Order !
– I quite agree that I cannot go into that question. I do ask the Treasurer, however, to let the Committee, or the House, have a statement in such concise form, that we shall be able to grasp the financial position of the country.
.I should like to say a word or two in connexion with the cases brought under our notice by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I am sure that we were all horrified at the list, and would like to see the cases dealt with in some satisfactory manner at no distant date. Like the honorable member for Mernda, I think the one remedy would be a system of industrial insurance, such as that in Germany, which commends itself to everybody who has studied it. Under that system, part of the insurance is provided by the Government, part by the employers, and part by the employes; and an English Commission, consisting almost solely of members of trade union representatives, who investigated the matter in Germany, reported entirely in its favour. But I think a better scheme still would be to deal with such cases as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie reters to, under some system of employers’ liability. In Queensland; as the honorable member for Wide Bay knows, there is a very comprehensive Employers’ Liability Act.
– It is the Workmen’s Compensation Act, and I introduced it.
– That Act is now in force and doing excellent work, and would certainly deal with every one of the cases mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– No; that Act deals only with cases of pure accident.
– I think that sickness is almost an accident in a great many cases, and might come within the Act.
-In any case, the Act could be so widened as to embrace such, cases. I should like to see a measure which put the responsibility on the proper shoulders, because I believe that, if the mine-owners had to contribute towards such a fund, there would not be so many cases of sickness. The mines, which produce such a crop of ill-health, must be in a very insanitary condition; and, as I say, if the owners had to provide a certain part of the money necessary to maintain the broken-down miners, we should see an improvement.
– A number of other industries are quite as unhealthy.
– Quite so; but the particular cases in my mind would be better dealt with in the way I suggest, than by a wholesale system of invalid pensions, which I am afraid would be greatly abused. I do not think that £250,000 would, by a long way, cover the liabilities of a general system of invalid pensions. The honorable member for Wide Bay has told us that the people to be most deprecated are those who, unworthily, take advantage of such provisions; and I am afraid that, under a general scheme of invalid pensions many unworthy people would benefit. I believe that our present system of civilization is on its trial. We hear on all sides of the spread of Socialism; and, if we desire to keep Socialism within bounds, we shall have to see that our present civilization provides much-needed remedies for. admitted evils.
– Some worthy people denounce such efforts as Socialism.
– It is visionary to think that all our evils can be cured by Socialism. At the same time, I agree that our present system has to justify itself ; and remedies must be applied where disease prevails to the extent shown to-day.
– The honorable member’s remedy is pure Socialism !
– Then, to that extent, I am a Socialist. I am pleased to see that the Government are looking into the question of unemployment, because that, 1 think, can be effectively and easily dealt with, without turning the whole “bus” upside down. We have no need for Socialism to improve the Labour Bureau of Victoria. I hope that, during the recess, the Government will consider the matter, and devise some means, either by an Employers’ Liability Bill-
– A Workmen’s Compensation Act.
– I do not quite see the difference; but I know that it is the employer who has to pay every time. However,I hope that in the recess the Government will devise some remedy for the evil referred to.
– It is very refreshing to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner, especially seeing that, quite recently, he occupied the distinguished position of Chairman of the Employers’ Federation; and I presume that the honorable member represents largely the views held by his coworkers in that body.
– We work far more for the workers thanyou chaps do !
– I do not know so much about that ; but, remembering the expressions of opinion during the last elections about the “ evils of Socialism,” it is quite a revelation to hear the honorable member expressing such views on the eve of the general election. I think this must be one of the signs of the times - that there is a movement in the direction of giving consideration to poor and decrepid persons more than has been the case in the past.If we are all agreed as to the need andpossibility of doing something for the necessitous, something may be done. In days gone by, poverty and suffering were regarded as quite natural, and to attempt to interfere with the appointed order of things, was said to be running right in the face of Providence such innovations being condemned in unmeasured terms. However, we on this side have considerable satisfaction in listening to the opinions of the honorable member for Fawkner, even though they do not go so far aswe should like. There is already an Act in existence which provides for invalid as well as oldage pensions, and all that is necessary to bring it into operation is the proclamation and the provision of the funds. As the Treasurer is so liberal with Federal funds when dealing with the States, surely he will not overlook the claims of those who have suffered from accidents and are unable to provide for themselves. 1 presume that in making the financial arrangement with the States that question was kept in view, and that, therefore, the provision of invalid pensions is still within the region of practicability. I hope the Treasurer will see his way at a very early date to bring this very necessary and humanitarian piece of legislation into operation. We have been trying to alleviate the distress of our old people, who are no longer able to work for themselves, but invalids who have not reached the age limit are, in a majority of cases, in just as much need of help as the aged people are. These are cases which cannot be affected by new legislation, as advocated by the honorable member for Fawkner; although I desire, with, him, to see provision made for insurance against accident or death. One of the great troubles in Australia is the intermittent character of employment. Our workpeople cannot command the steady regular work that is apparently secured in Germany, where legislation of that character obtains. That will be a difficulty, but I do not think it is insurmountable. I think legislation of that kind could be applied in the factories and also in mining operations, notably coal mining. In New South Wales there is in operation at present a fund based on contributions from the mineowners and the miners, and liberally subsidized by the State Government. This is found to operate very satisfactorily, and has done an immense amount of good. A measure embracing the whole of Australia on somewhat similar lines would, I think, be very beneficial. It would have the advantage that a healthy strong man, while in employment, would feel that he was doing something to provide against accident, or for his family in case of death. As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie pointed out, the risk of accident is very large in mining operations, but there are many other avocations in which life is endangered. In many cases, the conditions of employment lead to serious shortening of life. That is notably the case in mines where chemicals are used to reduce re- fractory ores, and in the rock-chopping industry in Sydney. In regard to tunnelling work carried on in connexion with operations other than mining, it has been stated that the life of a man constantly engaged does not extend for more than from three to five years. Although death is not caused by accident, it is caused by the insanitary and unwholesome conditions under which the men work. ‘ Something certainly ought to be done to improve the conditions in industries of that kind, and steps ought also to be taken to make provision against death or invalidity. Matters are not as satisfactory as they could be in regard to oldage pensions, but I must acknowledge that the Treasurer has made an attempt to remedy a number of matters in regard to which . I have criticised the administration of the Act. As the result of representations which I made, I find that old-age pensioners have been considerably relieved by arrangements made by the Treasurer for the payment of money to them locally, under more favorable conditions than previously obtained. I desire to express my personal thanks, and the thanks of the people concerned, to the Treasurer for the action he took in that matter. There are also a number of grievances which the Treasurer cannot remedy, as they are not matters of administration, but require an amendment of the Act. These relate to the deductions for income and property. In New South Wales a deduction was made from the pension at the rate of £1 for every £15 above a certain exemption. Under the Commonwealth law, the deduction is £1 for every £10, and consequently a number of State pensioners had their pensions reduced under Commonwealth control. That makes them feel that they are less liberally treated by the Commonwealth than by the State, and something should be done to amend the Act to meet their cases. The whole question of income and property, and deductions in respect to them, requires revision. A great deal of friction is caused, and the tendency of the Department is to interpret the provisions of the Act against the applicant. As a result, a considerable amount of hardship is inflicted, which more liberal legislation would prevent. I trust the Treasurer will look into the matter to see whether amending legislation cannot be introduced in the near future, and particularlv whether a proclamation may not be speedily issued to bring invalid pensions into operation.
– I am sure that the Government, and every member on this side of the House, regard the problem and urgency of providing funds for the granting of invalid pensions as an extremely serious matter. I was interested in the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that the States were the authorities best qualified to deal with that matter.
– I did not say that. I said they had greater facilities, but I added that the time would soon come when the Commonwealth would have equal facilities.
– I am speaking now of existing conditions. The honorable member is entitled, as a prophet, to place due weight on his own prophecies, but, unfortunately, we do not all accord him equal credence in that capacity. He said that, under present conditions, the States were better qualified to handle this responsibility than we are.
– Does not the honorable member think so, too?
– Undoubtedly, and so does every other sensible man, seeing that the States control industrial legislation, and get large revenues directly from the particular industries affected by such legislation. I would suggest to the Leader of the Opposition, and the members of the Opposition generally that, as the whole House is unanimous on the question, it ought to be considered without any partisan appeal to the electors on the ground that this or that section is more earnest upon it than some other section. The Leader of the Opposition should be the first to recognise the grave financial difficulties that stand in the way of this or any other Government proposing to impose so large a burden on our resources.
– Another quarter of amillion?
– I think that those are the figures which the honorable member arrived at as the result of inquiries in February last.
– They have been verified later by the present Treasurer.
– The Secretary of the Treasury thinks £250,000 will cover them.
– Since he ceased to have responsibility, the Leader of the Opposition has shown a marvellous desire to have the invalid pensions part of the Act brought into operation without delay and almost without investigation ; but I remember awaiting with bated breath and hushed anticipation the great utterance that we were told to expect at Gympie. I thought that this subject would be dealt with exhaustively in that deliverance, but the report in the Age of 31st March, 1909 - and I have just asked for the fullest report of the speech - occupies about 700 or 800 lines, of which only six lines are devoted to invalid pensions. They are as follow -
Once inaugurated, we shall be able in the not too far distant future perhaps -
There is a” perhaps “ - to give effect not only to the old-age pensions but the invalid pensions as well. I am sorry I cannot tell you now that the invalid pensions will be brought in immediately.
That was when the honorable gentleman had responsibility, and had authority, if he chose, to bring in invalid pensions at once. He had only to proclaim that portion of the Act.
– And he spoke immediately afterwards about the financial difficulties of the position.
– Of course the financial difficulties were then overwhelming ! The honorable member was then in office, and faced with responsibilities, and while he could for some purposes make a burglarious attempt upon trust funds, he was not prepared to proclaim, as he had power to do, the application of the provisions of the Act relating to invalid pensions. Had he done so, succeeding Governments would have had to give effect to them.
– I dreamt of imposing taxation to provide the necessary money.
– The honorable member did nothing but dream, of it. But a day or two after going into Opposition, he spoke of the urgency of this matter, and asked others to act wherehe was prepared only to dream.
– It was. six months after.
– The honorable member recollects more vividly than I do the date when he left office, but I do not think it was six months after the Gympie speech that he was in opposition, and pressing this matter. In view of the attitude of the honorable gentleman in office, and of his attitude since, I protest against this endeavour to secure support for one party from the crippled poor of the community, when no party has been more in earnest than another in regard to the matter.
– Had it not been for our action in taking the surplus revenue for old-age pensions, nothing would havebeen done.
– The matter was first brought forward by a former representative of Kalgoorlie, Mr. Kirwan.
– The honorable member really responsible for bringing the OldagePensions Law into force was the honorable member for Dalley.
– Surely the honorable member does not claim him as a member of his party?
– He is not a member of the Labour party. Personally, I should be happy to claim him.
– I should be verypleased to claim him.
– I do not wish to prolong the debate. It is notorious to every member of the Committee,, and to every student of our records, that all political sections are in earnest about this matter, but we should not endeavour to hoodwink the crippled poor of Australia for our own political advantage.
– Their sufferings should not be taken advantage of to further the aims ofany political party.
– That is so. We have a plain duty to perform. It is for us to alleviate the sufferings of the poor- as best we can, and both parties have shown by their actions, which speak louder than words, that they recognise their responsibility in this matter.
.- I shall give to the advice of the honorable member for Wentworth the consideration which it deserves. I agree with him that we should not hoodwink the necessitous, and no one would think of doing so, except some of those with whom he is associated. Nine of every ten of the members of the early Parliaments were elected to vote for old-age pensions.
– The Labour party for seven years supported Governments which did nothing to institute an old-age pensions system.
– Nothing was done because money was not available.
– The sum of £6,500,000, which might have been used for the purpose, was returned to the States. As a layman, I did not think that that money could be taken for the purpose.
– Old-age pensions could be paid out of the proceeds of direct taxation.
– I agree with the honorable member. As I was in favour of giving effect to the mandate of the people in any way that seemed possible, one of my first acts as Leader of the Labour party was to move a motion, on which” the oldage pensions legislation was founded. No one wishes to claim any particular merit for what has been done. Nothing is gained, however, by merely asserting that one is in favour of a thing. To do good, members must put their promises into effect. I have indicated that the administration of the old-age pensions law is not what it should be, and referred to my own district. In this connexion, let me read the following letter which 1 have just received. It is dated 4th December, and is signed by the Commissioner for Old-age Pensions -
In continuation of my letter of the 13th of October last, No. 9/10822, I have the honour to inform you that Mr. and Mrs. Poacher, of Maryborough, have each been granted a pension of £26 per annum. Early payment will be made.
In connexion with the delay in dealing with applications at Maryborough the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, Brisbane, has reported as follows : - “ In my letter of29th ult., I advised you that I could get no information, either concerning new claims or inquiries, re existing claims, from Maryborough, and since then several inquiries have reached this office concerning claims, &c, lodged at Maryborough, to which I have been unable to give any satisfactory reply.
As letters and telegrams to the Registrar appear to have no results, I have now written to the Under Secretary, Department of Justice, asking him if he can manage to assist me in getting these matters attended to.”
In this case a subordinate, in refusing to reply to official telegrams from the Commissioner or Deputy-Commissioner, has interfered with the administration of the law.
– Inquiries are being made.
– I made inquiries myself when I found that claims were not being attended to. Where administration is unsympathetic, new officers should be appointed.
– I think so, too. This officer appears to be unsatisfactory. Apparently we shall have to get rid of him.
– I have no doubt about it. So many complaints were made that I felt sure that something was the matter, and on making inquiries I found that there was an accumulationof claims. I ask the Treasurer to see that when these claims have been dealt with the pension shall date back to the time of application.
– Is that not always done ?
– Not always. A contumacious officer, such as this, should not be continued in the employment of the Commonwealth.
– I shall make a note of the matter.
– I hope the Treasurer will treat it as an urgent one.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 31 (Old-age Pensions Office) £30,039 and division 32 (Audit Office) £19,239, agreed to.
Division 33 (Government Printer) £16,693.
.- I hope that in the recess the Treasurer will see his way to draw a sharper line between the employes of the Commonwealth and those of the State in the Government Printing Office, and do away as much as possible with temporary employment. Continuity of employment should be the aim of every good Government. I maintain that where five men are employed as temporary hands for six months in the year, there must be full employment for two men for the whole year. There are men in the office who have been temporary employes for ten and fifteen years, and even longer. It is absurd that persons should be temporarily employed for years. If a man is good enough to work as a temporary hand for two or three years, he should be made a permanent employe.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 34 (Governor-General’s Office) £3,500 agreed to.
Division 34A (Coinage) £10,000.
– The sum of £10,000 is asked for for the coinage of silver, including freight, insurance, distribution and other expenses, but not including the cost of bullion. This matter, has engaged considerable attention, and many questions have been asked as to the inscription to be placed on our coinage, and as to whether steps should not be taken at an early date to have it minted in Australia. This is an opportune time for the Treasurer to inform the Committee what steps the Government are taking to have that work done here. The request that our coinage should be minted in Australia is a reasonable one.
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan- Trea with regard to minting our silver coinage in Australia. Our first order for the supply of £200,000 worth of silver coins has not yet been carried out. £100,000 worth of silver coin is to be withdrawn by the Imperial Government every year, and the new coinage will take its place. The actual cost of coining is about 3 per cent., so that the cost in respect of coining the £200,000 worth would be £6,000. There are, however, other expenses. Consideration’ has been given to the question of having the minting of our silver coinage done in Australia, and I hope that we shall be able to have it carried out here. As yet we have not sufficient information to enable us to arrive at a conclusion, but honorable members may rest assured that our desire is to have all our silver minted in Australia. Steps will be taken to have full inquiries made with that object in view.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 35 (Miscellaneous), £1,500.
.- I should like to make a few observations at this stage with regard to the report of the Harvester Commission, of which I had the honour to be Chairman. We have had from the Government only a vague statement as to what action they intend to take upon that report. I think that every member of the Commission took strong exception to the interest added under the time payment system to the price charged for harvester drills and other classes of farming implements.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the item in this division with regard to the Commission relates only to last year’s expenditure. There is no item relating to this year’s expenditure, and the honorable member will therefore not be in, order in referring to the matter at this stage.
– I would point out that there is a footnote showing that the item relating to the Commission does not include the cost of printing, and that there must be on the Estimates an item in respect of that expenditure. Will the Treasurer point out at what stage the matter can be debated.
– On the motion for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill, the honorable member may discuss any matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 36 (Unforeseen Expenditure), £1,000, agreed to.
Division 37 (Stamp Printing), £1,267.
.- The position of temporary employes in the Stamp Printing Branch, which has been taken over from the States, has been referred to on several’ occasions during the consideration of Supply Bills, both in this House, as well as in another place. At the present time, some of those employes do not know exactly what position they occupy. Their time of service as temporary employes has been exceeded, and they have not been transferred to the permanent service of the Commonwealth. I understand from a reply that I received to a question that the Public Service Commissioner has intimated that at the end of March next, when they will have been in the service of the Commonwealth for twelve months, he will determine whether or not they shall be permanently employed. In addition to the eight officers mentioned in this division, I believe there are a number of others, including some females, who have been employed in the branch for a number of years, and we ought to have from the Treasurer a definite statement as to whether the Government intend to retain their services as temporary employes, and to pay them less than they would receive in the permanent service, under the minimum wage provisions of the Act.
– The Government cannot interfere with the rates of pay for which the Act provides.
– Some of these females have been in the branch for a number of years. This is their first year of service under the Commonwealth, and I trust the reply of the Treasurer will be that if the Public Service Commissioner finds that they are discharging their duties satisfactorily, they will not be treated differently from others in the service. Some honorable members now sitting opposite took objection to the minimum wage provisions of the Public Service Act when they were before the House, but those provisions have worked well; and I hope that these employes willbe treated fairly.
– It appears that the matter has been, fully dealt with by the Commissioner, and that his recommendations have been adopted.
– What are they ?
– They are embodied in the Commissioner’s annual report. I think that he would not recommend these employes the minimum salary under the Act, but that he promised to consider their position after they had been in the service of the Commonwealth for twelve months. The Public Service Act reduces to some extent theresponsibility of Ministers in this regard, and, however convenient it may be for Ministers to have power to deal with these matters, we must not forget that Parliament deliberately decided to take it from them. I shall be glad, however, to have inquiries made.
– I made inquiries recently about three ladies who had been employed in the Stamp Printing Branch of the Department while under the control of the Stale for fifteen, eighteen, and twenty-one years respectively.
– I believe they are obtaining better pay than they obtained while in the Stateservice.
– They may do so in the future. It has gone forth to the world that the Commonwealth gives equal pay to men and women who are doing equal work, and the fact that these ladies are receiving less than the minimum wage is a stain upon the escutcheon of the Commonwealth. The Commissioner’s sense of justice ought to convince him that if a woman is doing the same work as a man, she should receive the same pay. One of these ladies, as I have said, has teen in the branch for twenty-one years ; but, taking advantage of a legal technicality, the Commissioner says, “You shall not receive £2 2s. per week.” That is infamous.
– I think that they are receiving only £1 per week.
– The lady whom I. have in mind is receiving £78 per year. If she were permanently employed in the Public Service, she would be entitled to at least £2 2s. per week. I understand that under a Victorian Act the rights of State servants transferred to the Commonwealth are conserved, and this quibble on the part of the Public Service Commissioner is unworthy of him. However, I know that the fault does not lie with the Minister. If I am returned to this House again, I shall be prepared by my vote to reduce the term of the engagement of the Public Service Commissioner. I regret very much that that term was lengthened during the recess; but, if I know the Democracy of Australia, they will say that such a proceeding on the part of the Government was not fair. The head of this Department, being in daily touch with the Ministers, has many opportunities denied to others of ingratiating himself. I do not desire, however, to say a word against Mr. McLachlan, who has much to commend him; and the fact that I have not had to call on his Department in order to have any wrong remedied shows that he is doing his work well. At the same time, although he is in a high position, at a high salary, he is human, and he should be fair to those who have not had fair play granted to them. If a State has been unjust, mean, and contemptible, that does not justify the Public Service Commissioner of a great Commonwealth in continuing the pettiness and meanness.
– The information I have is that no men are employed doing the same work as the women, and that the Public Service Commissioner thinks that the work is of a very simple character, and not worth the minimum wage of £110 per annum.
.- I am certain that a number of people think that the Public Service Commissioner is not worth his minimum wage of £1,500 per annum. I guarantee that, if an advertisement were inserted in the European press, we could get a man of higher attainments for £500. I do not express that opinion because I should like to see such a result; but the answer given is unworthy of the Commissioner, if he really thinks that, after twenty-one year’s service, this woman’s work is not worth £2 a week. In God’s name, how does he desire those women to live? Does he wish to employ women on the same plan as some of the swell drapery establishments in London, which pay their girls 8s. and 12s. a week, and give them a latchkey? I am sure that the honorable member for Bourke would not dare to stand up on a platform in his constituency and repeat this answer of the Commissioner.
– I should repeat it ; but I should not indorse it.
– The honorable member would not be the man I take him to be if he would indorse a conclusion so contemptible and mean. I resent such an impertinence from the head of the PublicService. It is an insult to the Treasurer to make him repeat such an opinion ; and I hope that the honorable gentleman will never so far forget himself as to againread a contemptible message from a contemptible Public Service Commissioner.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 38 (Refunds of Revenue), £100,000, agreed to.
Division 39 (Advance to Treasurer), ^£2 00, 000.
.- I think that this proposed vote enables me to say the few words that I desire, seeing that, as I take it, certain money has been paid out of this Advance Account in connexion with the Harvester Commission. When I accepted the chairmanship of that Commission, my object was to benefit the producers who used harvesters. I had, from personal observation and in other ways, ascertained that, notwithstanding the protection given to the local manufacturer, the farmers had not reaped the advantage they had a right to expect. On another occasion, as reported in Hansard, I referred to the rates of interest charged to purchasers on the time-payment system ; and _ the figures then given were worked out by an officer of the Treasury, and may be taken to be correct. If ever there was usury in Australia, it is in connexion with the sale of agricultural implements on time-payment. Had the sellers been importers, and under no obligation for any benefit in the shape of Protection, the case would have been bad enough. I have known, ‘ when certain men have charged usurious rates of interest, the State Parliaments to intervene, and fix rates beyond which none was entitled to charge; and in such cases it must be remembered that the usurers were receiving no benefit in the way of duty. When the Tariff was before the House, however, we were fairly stormed by manufacturers, who assured us that, if only they were given a duty which would be effective in keeping out imported machines, they would be prepared to sell their machines at rates advantageous to the fanner. It is quite true that, in the first instance, the manufacturers asked for a fixed duty of £^25 ; but, according to the evidence given before the Commission, it is quite clear that a .£12 duty has had the effect of absolutely prohibiting the importation of either the Canadian or American harvesters. In 1906, about 1,100 machines were imported; in 1907, there were 1,200; in 1908, there were 440 ; and up to August, I think, of this year, only one machine had arrived. It will be seen that the Australian makers have practically command of the whole of the home market. I find that only about 34! per cent, of the machines are sold on cash terms, the remaining per cent, being disposed of on lime-payment. The interest charged on the time-payment sales varies from 13 per cent, to 27 per cent., 28 per cent., and 30 per cent., and in one particular instance it reached as high as 54 per cent. The cash price of a 5-ft. Massey-Harris machine is .£70, but the time-payment price is £82 9s. 6d., showing an addition of ,£12 9s. 6d. In the case of the International machine, the terms are even worse, because the £70 machine is sold on terms at £86 os. 9d., or an addition of ,£16 os. 9d. It may be urged that great risk is taken in selling on time-payment, and that, consequently, a high rate of interest .is justifiable. But if a promissory note is not paid when due, the farmer is called upon to pay 10 per cent., in addition to the interest charged on the sale of the machine. In order to ascertain the number of machines which were returned to the manufacturers owing to the default of the purchasers, Mr. Cowles of the International Company was examined; and I may say that he has, perhaps, a larger experience in this trade than any man in Australia, He admitted, in reply to the honorable member for Wimmera, that 2 per cent, covered all the losses in the year 1908 in connexion with time-payment sales of machines, yet the terms work out as high as 30 per cent, odd, while in one case a farmer was charged $4 per cent. I brought this matter some time ago under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who said the Government would consider what was to be done in connexion with the new Protection. We have since seen the attitude of the Senate towards the Government’s new Protection scheme, which the Chamber of Commerce took exception to, and circularized members of both Houses against. Presumably that body also gave the Government an intimation that the measure containing it was not to pass, and from that day to this there has been no attempt on the part of the Government to press it forward in another place. I think it is apparent to every honorable member that there is no intention on the part of the Government to go on with the new Protection proposals. The rates of interest represented by the terms given by sellers of harvesters were worked out by an officer of the Treasury Department, and were published in the Commission’s report. The fact that not one of the firms interested has questioned those rates shows, I think, that they are absolutely correct. Is this Parliament going to allow such rates to be charged by men who have been given an absolute control of the home market by duties which have made the importation of harvesters practically impossible? The home market has been handed over to the Sunshine manufacturing company and a few other large manufacturers. Are the Government going to sit idly by and allow those men, after bulldozing this Parliament and making promises which were never kept, to fleece the farmers, especially those who cannot pay cash down for their machines? Seeing that these men admit in their own evidence that their losses on one years transactions in time-payment implements do not exceed 2 per cent., it is not reasonable that they should be allowed to charge from 13 to 37 per cent, above the already high cash price. I went on to the Commission of inquiry in the honest belief that I could do the farmers some good by exposing the high charges that were being made for agricultural implements. AH sides of the Commission agreed that the charges were exorbitant, and none of the manufacturers have challenged the Commission’s figures. If t had believed that the work of the Commission would be pigeon-holed by any Government after all the trouble we went to, I would have declined to take any part in the inquiry. On account of being unable to get certain figures from the manufacturers, the Commission were forced to buy machines. We bought an International harvester and an International drill, a Sunshine harvester, and a Mitchell drill - both imported and locally-made machines, so that a fair investigation of cost price might be made. We sent them down to the Newport workshops and had them taken to pieces, by permission of the Premier of Victoria. We had every part weighed and every detail worked out in connexion with the cost of the material, first on the basis of the wages fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins, and, secondly, on that of the wages as fixed in the determination of the .Wages Board. These estimates were worked out by Mr. Smith, the manager of the Newport workshops. The result was that the actual cost of the Sunshine harvester, without including factory burden, was estimated at £45 on the basis of the wages fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins, and at £42 15s. t Id. on the basis of the Wages Board rate. The Deering International machine worked out at £35 on the one basis and £33 9s. 7d. en the other. The Deering International 13-hoe drill worked out at £18 6s.,- and £17 6s. 7d., and the Mitchell hoe drill at £20 4s. and £19 3s. nd. on the two bases respectively.
– I believe that within the last month or two the Wages Board rates have been increased nearly up to Mr. Justice Higgins’ finding.
– I had not noticed that. In fact, I was under the impression that they had been slightly reduced. Adding 10 per cent, for factory burden, it would appear on the basis of those figures that the actual cost price of a 5- ft. Sunshine harvester works out at something like £47. When selling that machine on a cash basis the manufacturer charged an advance of 50 per cent., which covered distribution and profit. I admit that the cost of distribution was, on the average, about 24 per cent. I believe that the Sunshine harvester works, with their very fine plant, the rate of wages paid there, and the exceedingly large number of boys employed - because about one-third, of the hands engaged there are boys, apprentices, or improvers - can turn out those machines for even less than £47 apiece. It might be thought that the profit I have mentioned was one with which the manufacturer should be satisfied, but on machines which are sold on terms they make still more. Unfortunately, a large number of our farmers, especially men who are starting, cannot pay cash, and in buying on terms pay from £14 to £16 in excess of the cash prices. In view of the cost of the Commission, and the’ trouble taken by its members to enable Parliament to legislate on this question, the Government should surely take some action. Everything points to the need for Federal legislation in industrial matters. Another ‘matter to which I wish to refer is the difference in wages in the various States. According to the Commonwealth Year-Book, there were employed in agricultural implement works in 1907, in New South Wales, 499 persons, who earned £39,431 ; in Victoria, 1,618 persons, who earned £147,675; in Queensland, 142 persons, who earned £8,224; in South Australia, 827 persons, who earned £61,238; and in Tasmania., 45 persons, who earned £1,950. If we strike an average we find that the agricultural implement workers of New South Wales earned in 1907 £79 os. 4d. each,, while the earnings of such a worker amounted to, in Victoria, £91 5s. 6d. ; in Queensland, to £57 18s. 3d. ; in South Australia, to £740s11d. ; and in Tasmania, to £43 6s. 8d. This andother evidence emphasizes the need for uniform legislation on industrial matters. Some of the States have instituted Wages Boards and Arbitration ‘Courts to provide for the giving of fair rates of wages and the establisliment of proper conditions, but by so doing they have penalized those of their manufacturers who compete against manufacturers in other States where such laws are not in operation. I am sorry that there is not more time to consider the matter now. The Prime Minister has admitted on two occasions that the only way to get over the difficulty is to pass Commonwealth industrial legislation creating uniform conditions. In some cases the effect of State industrial legislation has been to cause employers to remove their works to other States, where their operations are not subject to regulation. That was done in the tobacco industry, so far as South Australia was concerned and it has been done in Tasmania in regard to the manufacture of jams. There are not two States of the Commonwealth in which the wages are the same. This condition of things is unfair to manufacturers and unfair to theiremployes. I do not know whether the Treasurer will justify the charging of 30 per cent. interest in connexion with these machines bought on time payment. This system ofacquiring implements obtains not only in regard to the machines that I have mentioned but in regard tonearly every kind of agricultural implement, and 65 per cent. of the purchases of agricultural implements and machinery are made under it. Some of the manufacturers have benefited largely from the Tariff, the rates ofduty being so high in some cases as to prohibit outside manufacturers fromcompeting with them. Such men shouldsurely be required to pay fair rates of wages, and to sell at reasonable prices. Theprinciple of the new Protection is that manufacturers, workmen, and consumers areall to be protected: No member of the Commission would have accented an appointment on it hadhe thought that thereport would be pigeonholed, and I trust that this is not the last that will be heard of it. I hone that Ministers will make a pronouncement as to what they intend to do in the matter.
– The farming community is indebted to the honorable member for Grey for what he has dope in this matter, and his remarks this afternoon have every justification. The Committee should be told what attitude the Government propose to take. In 1906 we passed legislation conferring special benefits on the makers of harvesters and other farming implements. It was said at the time that if this were pot done, they would be unable to withstand the competition of alleged combines abroad, especially in America, and that if the trade fell into the hands of foreign makers, our producing interests would suffer. The means adopted to pass that legislation seemed to me and to other honorable members to savour of American rather than Australian methods. However,they were successful, and, no doubt, we shall have a repetition of them in connexion with this industry. Parliament was induced to impose a specific duty of £12 on every harvester imported into the Commonwealth, and to discourage in other ways the importation of harvesters and other agricultural machinery. That was done to benefit the local makers. The Parliament endeavoured to embody in legislation the promise of the manufacturers ; to impose conditions that would secure to the farmers who used these machines a guarantee that, although monopolistic privileges were extended to the manufacturers, they would not be used to their detriment, or to the detriment of those employed in the industry. In the original Act, it was provided that stripper harvesters, 5 feet in size, should, during the first year of its operation, be retailed at £70 ; those from 5 ft. 6 in. to 6 ft., at £75 ; and those 6 feet in size and over, at £80 each. In the following year, they were to be sold at £65, £70, and £75 respectively, which was to be the selling price after1st February, 1908. The evidence showed that these prices would give a fair profit to the manufacturer, after paying fairwages and a distributing charge amounting to£18 or £20 a machine. But while the manufacturers have received all the benefits of this legislation, they have refused to carry out the promise which was largely responsible for it. The conditions with respect to the selling prices of the machine, and the wages to the workers, have been disregarded. As soon as the Act was passed the question of the wages of the employes was brought before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and evidence was produced that wretched sweating conditions obtained in the industry, despite the high protection it enjoyed. The Court fixed a scale of wages, but when an attempt was made to enforce its award the manufacturers challenged the validity of the Act, and the High Court held, by a majority decision of three to two, that it was unconstitutional. Consequently, although the industry is receiving treatment such as is accorded to no other industry, sweating still obtains to a large extent in connexion with it, and the farmers have been unable to secure the machines at a reasonable price: Those facts are disclosed by the report of the Royal Commission. In that report appears an important table as to the rates of interest charged for machines on the deferred payment basis. One of the complaints of the farmers was that when an attempt was made to purchase a machine for cash obstacles were raised of such a character as to induce the buyer to purchase on the deferred payment system. That, at all events, is the allegation of many who have desired to purchase machines. As honorable members know, unless a machine is available at the right time, a farmer must suffer great loss. As the result of this action on the part of the manufacturers, apparently a large percentage of the machines are sold, not for cash, but on the deferred payment basis, and thus the whole purpose of the Act is being defeated. As the honorable member for Grey has pointed out, the rates of interest charged under the deferred payment system range from about 27 per cent, to 50 per cent., and an additional 10 per cent, is imposed where a promissory note is not met on due demand. The average rate of interest for this kind of accommodation -is from 30 per cent, to 35 per cent. The same state of affairs prevails in relation to the supply of duplicate parts. High charges are made for them, and in this way the unfortunate agriculturists are literally being bled white as the result of the monopoly that has been granted to “these big companies. Both the employes and the users of these machines are entitled to some consideration, and we should have from the Government a statement as to what they propose to do. The industry is specially and highly protected; but the workers in it are sweated as badly as they were before the Act was passed, while the farmers are practically at the mercy of the big companies. In 1906, 1,100 harvesters were imported; in 1907, 1,200; in 1908 - after the Act came into operation-only 440, and last year, up to 1st August, only one machine. These figures show to what extent this legislation has operated to prevent importations, and thereby to shut out competitionon the part of the American International Harvester Company and the Massey-Harris Company, of Canada. Practically, to-day the industry is in the hands of local manufacturers, and the farmers and the workers are completely at their mercy. We have given them a large measure of protection, and that is the position. The Committee may reasonably ask the Government to see that the other side, of the bargain is kept. They should see that the workers are employed under decent humane -conditions, receiving a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and that those who use these machines are not required to .pay an excessive price for them. The manager of the International Harvester Company pointed out that the loss entailed on the company in the matter of bad debts amounted to only 2 per cent.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– I recognise that the present occasion does not permit ot the exhaustive discussion that the subject warrants. I should like, however, to direct attention to paragraph 7 of the report of the Harvester Commission - lt will be seen from the above statements that the rates of interest charged reach as high, inthe case of stripper-harvesters, as 27 per cent, for one promissory note, for two promissory notes 17 per cent., three promissory notes 18 per cent., and on . four promissory notes 154 per cent. ; while in the case of drills for one promissory note it varies from 16 per. cent, to 53 per cent., for two promissory notes from 13 per cent, to 28^ per cent., on three promissory notes from 16 per cent, to 24 per cent., and on four promissory notes from 13 per cent, to 20 per cent.
The year 1908 was not by any means a satisfactory wheat year, but Mr. Cowles pointed out that the losses only amounted to 2 per cent. In addition, the Commission quote a Mr. Davis, a man of long experience, who said that a few years previously the interest charged amounted to only 10 and 11 per cent. It is apparent, therefore, that the later high rates of interest do not represent legitimate charges to cover loss, but are in reality an addition to the price of the machines, and that the manufacturers are thereby defeating the purpose of the Act. This is further borne out bv the large difference between the number of the machines sold for cash and the number sold on deferred payment. The first part of paragraph 12 of the report says-
– I must ask the honorable member not to go into detail.
– I only desued to complete the quotation in order to show that in the case of the Massey-Harris machine, only 34! per cent, were sold for cash, while 65J per cent, were sold on deferred payment. The report goes on to show that there is a similar difference in the case of the International harvester, while the Sunshine harvester shows a higher percentage of sales for cash. I think the Government ought to inform the House what they intend to do to meet the position. The report of “the Commission indicates that the employes in this industry took a case to the Court, assuming that they had a right to do so under the Act we passed, and had incurred great expense.
– The honorable member is now referring to the majority report of the Commission?
– I have not looked carefully into the honorable member’s minority report, and he may or may not agree with his fellow-Commissioners oil this point. The report states that the employes were led into very heavy expense for costs, although they were only defeated by a majority decision by the High Court ; and a recommendation is made that something should be done to recoup their expenditure. I trust that the Treasurer will inform us whether this, as well as the other matters I have indicated, will be considered, and. tell us what is proposed in the way of carrying out the recommendations of the Commission. These questions affect a large section of our work people, and a still larger section of the producing population - practically the whole of the agricultural interest. If an informative pronouncement be made by the Government, some good service will have been performed bv the honorable member for Grey this afternoon in introducing this matter, even’ at this late hour of the session.
.–The employes in this industry incurred great expenditure in an endeavour to enforce the law, and they were not to blame in thinking that the Act passed By this Parliament was the law of the land. They were led to believe that they were perfectly within their rights in endeavouring to make the manufacturers pay fair and reasonable wages, and I understand that a previous Government had intended to make a substantial contribution towards recouping them their costs, had that Government remained in office.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Home Affairs.
Division 21 (Administrative Staff), £11,630.
–^ should like to make a suggestion in regard to the General Post Office, Sydney. For some years there has been a controversy as to whether the present building is sufficiently large for its purpose, and various proposals have been made with a view to a new building in another locality. Perhaps the Minister is aware that a suggestion is made that the present building should be sold, and the Market Buildings,- in Georgestreet, utilized for the purpose of the Post Office?
– The Postmaster-General has received a deputation on ihat matter.
– About a year or two ago there was much discussion on this point, and a deputation waited on myself, when I was in office. My own opinion is that the present building is not large enough, and I suggest that it might be made much more convenient if it were made double the height. The building is at present rather old-fashioned ; and if it were raised on modern principles, the lower part could be renovated and adapted to modern requirements. It is just possible, notwithstanding the hostility there is in Sydney to an underground railway to the quays, that sooner or later such a railway will have to be provided, and it might be run close to the Post Office, so as to be practically underneath the building, land thus render possible a much quicker mail service. As to the engineering or architectural difficulties in the way of carrying out such a suggestion, I should not think >f expressing aa opinion, but I believe the idea I have mooted is worth consideraton. I hope that the work in connexion with the Federal Capital will be pushed forward as rapidly as possible, without, of course, the sacrifice of any efficiency. I am sorry that the present site has been selected but-
– Or ler ! I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I mav say, however, that although I had lingering hopes of another situation, I hope now that the question has been settled, that at an early date the Parliament will be able to meet in its new home, with advantage to the legislation of the Commonwealth.
.- Is there any intention on the part of the Government to introduce a fresh method of inspection in connexion with the erection and the supervision of new buildings? We have reached a stage in our Commonwealth history when extensive works will have to be constructed throughout the Commonwealth. Frequently we pass votes for works of an urgent character, and honorable members and residents of the localities interested are anxious that they should be carried out as expeditiously as possible. So far as I can understand, there is great difficulty caused to the Department owing to the fact that the officials of the State Departments have to finish their local work before they can undertake Commonwealth work ; and I think the time has- arrived when we might reasonably consider the creation of a separate Commonwealth staff. In the Postal Department alone this year there are, I suppose, new works representing £700,000 or £800,000 ; and the people are waiting for a large number of post-offices, the erection of which has already been sanctioned by Parliament. I am satisfied from my experience of the Home Affairs Department that the delay is not with them. It is caused through the Federal Department having to wait upon the State authorities, who naturally complete the State work’s before they give their attention to Federal works. I hope the Minister will intimate his intention of introducing a new policy by appointing a staff of his own to carry out the works authorized by this Parliament”.
.- I feel that I am voicing the sentiments of the great mass of the people of Australia when I express the hope that the Government will make haste slowly in regard to the building and occupation of the Federal Capital. The time is -not yet ripe, with a population so small as that of Australia, to spend large sums of money on building a. city, which is, after all, a luxury, when there, are. so many progressive works which ought to be undertaken for the material welfare and benefit of the community generally.
– I hope the Government will not be led by the advice of the honorable member for Echuca to leave the matter at the selection of the Capital site. The selection was made for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the Constitution, and providing this Parliament with a home of its own. I do not say that the Government should go in for a very heavy, expenditure, particularly expenditure of an. unnecessary character, but buildings will have to be erected, and for that purpose money must be spent. I do not suppose the honorable member for Echuca would be prepared to discharge his high and important functions as a legislator in the new home of the Parliament in a marquee or under a canvas covering. He would want a building of some sort, but apparently his advice to the Minister is to hasten slowly and not to put up any building in his time. The Minister should rather move as quickly and wisely as he can to carry out the spirit and intention of the Constitution, and have the Parliament removed to its proper home.
.- The Minister is apparently surrounded by a multitude of counsellors,, and among them on this occasion is neither safety nor wisdom. We have had nine years of struggle over the Federal Capital site, and the matter ha» been at last decided, yet the advice of the honorable member for Echuca to the Minister is to find wisdom in the old aphorism - festina lente. I do not desire to hasten slowly. I desire the Minister to hasten speedily, if prudently. The Minister must respect the law of the land, so as to fulfil the compact made before Federation. The honorable member for Echuca is a great disciple of the doctrine of respect for law and order, and he should remember that those who counsel .the Minister not toohey the law are not the law-abiding citizens that they claim to be. The honorable member for Calare has pointed out clearly that there is a commonsense mean to be taken in the building of the Federal Capital, between Oriental grandeur and .Spartan simplicity. I suggest to the Minister that he should proceed quickly with his contour survey, have the site of the city decided upon, and arrange for it to be laid out. If that is done there is no reason why at any rate the shell of a building fit for all the purposes of legislative work should not be erected within three years from new. We do not expect a structure of the character of this one to be put up in . that time, but practical men can perform the work of legislation within less ornate walls than these. The useful can be made first, and the artistic and ornate can come afterwards. Now that the Capital site has been decided upon, the people of New South Wales are surely not going to be fooled, nor, I hope, is the Minister of Home Affairs. At the same time I am sure that he will not lose his head, and rush up buildings out of proportion to Australia’s needs. I -hope he will let the Committee and the country know in no uncertain manner that he has an honest intention of pushing on with the Capital, and that within three years from now the Parliament will be sitting there in a structure quite fitted for the work of legislation.
.- I do not want the public to be given the impression that the building of a Federal Capital will mean a great charge upon the public revenue. As a matter of fact, we are paying in rent for buildings and offices in Melbourne the interest on about a quarter of a million pounds, which will- go a considerable way towards establishing a Federal Capital. With the exception of one or two little incidents at the verybeginning, the Federal Parliament has been well treated by the Victorian Government and .people. Of course, the State Government, when giving up their building, made certain reasonable demands on us, but théy have certainly given us facilities for carrying on our work. Of necessity, however, a considerable amount of expense has been incurred in leasing buildings for the various Departments which will ultimately be established in the Federal Capital. Viewing the question in that way, I very much doubt if there will be a large additional charge on the public of Australia when the Capital is established. Even supposing that it took three-quarters of a million to make a beginning, obviously quite one-third of that will be saved by the saving of expense here, which runs to approximately £10,000 per annum. The actual rent of some of the headquarters of Departments .ran, when I saw the figures last, to over £ 8,000 and then there are the repairs. The upkeep of this building is, I think, much larger than would be that of a new building in the Federal Capital. I wish to disabuse the public mind of the cry that an enormous amount of capital expenditure will be incurred, and no savings made, and to show that, as a matter of fact, there will be no great additional expenditure. I should not be a strong advocate of moving to the Capital site did I not think that the Commonwealth will never .be imbued with the true Federal spirit until the Commonwealth Parliament is established in Federal Territory. For that reason, I’ think that the Government should take any steps necessary to prevent delay in the establishment of the Capital.
– Twenty-five years hence.
– That would be a dis- .tinct violation of the Constitution.
– It cannot be done sooner.
– It is useless for members to try to set aside the Constitutional direction of the people in this matter, and the site having been chosen, we may as well make a beginning with the city. Perhaps the Minister of Home Affairs will be able to tell us whether the Government of Queensland has yet communicated with the Commonwealth Government as to the taking of a referendum regarding the use of the Bible in State schools, and whether it* public buildings will be available for the holding’ of the Commonwealth elections.
– No doubt the Prime Minister would be able to answer .the honorable member’s questions. . Nothing has come before me.
.- I have listened to the remarks about the need for commencing the Capital. I voted for Dalgety, and in doing, so thought that I was giving effect to the intention of the framers of the Constitution: I have, not altered my mind as to which, is the best site, but as Yass-Canberra has now been chosen, I hope for a satisfactory result. The question raised by the honorable member for Echuca is entitled to consideration apart from the comparative merits of the site. The Leader of the Opposition may think that to commence a city will not involve a large expenditure, but I differ from him. If we are to erect there buildings worthy of the Commonwealth, we shall have to spend a great deal of money, and to do otherwise would be to waste money, because in a short time we should have to replace our first buildings with better ones. I do not advocate the continued retention of the Parliament in Melbourne. It is a mistake to insinuate that we who are opposed to Canberra wish to obtain a review of the whole question. It was opened once before, and very wrongly, Dalgety being the site, originally chosen. But the Commonwealth should not be hurried into expenditure prematurely, nor incur obligations which may hinder development, merely that certain honor- able members and others may be satisfied that Parliament will not again change its mind on this matter. I think that the Capital site question has been settled, and that our obligations in respect to the Capital city will be recognised, but, after AW, the probable cost of constructing a city there must receive very careful consideration. Whilst we remain housed here for a few more years - it may be three, five or seven - there will be developments. I advise the Government not to hurry matters merely to show that the question is closed. In my opinion it is closed. I understand that the Parliament of New South Wales is about to pass an Act which will convey to the Commonwealth the territory that we require. That, however, is not a reason why we should not consider whether the time has, yet come to enter upon a large expen’diture -in connexion with the building of the city. The honorable member for Wide Bay said that the Commonwealth spends a large sum of money on hiring offices in Melbourne. That is so. But most of these offices will be wanted by it even after the Capital is built. Some of them will not be required, but others will be needed, because of the importance and size of the city. Similar offices will be required in Sydney. If we follow the example of other countries, the accommodation provided at the Federal Capital for the Parliament, the Governor-General, the Administration, and the Library, will be very expensive. At Ottawa, they have very fine buildings, but they were not in a hurry to erect them. I do not know what the honorable member for Echuca means by hastening slowly, but no doubt the matter should be approached with due deliberation, and not rushed on merely that Parliament may be forced to camp in a wilderness in temporary accommodation. We should proceed with deliberation, and lav our plans so as to do justice to the future Capital. I have always voted for Dalgety, and will never cease to believe that it is the best site. But I do not express the opinions which I have uttered in order to prevent the retention of Canberra. Personally, I have no strong feeling in this matter. But we owe it- to Australia not to allow ourselves to be rushed. We should proceed with due and proper deliberation.
.- I am disposed to agree with the honorable member for Mernda.
– The honorable member has always been a supporter of Dalgety.
– Quite so. Had the Prime Minister originally made the question a Government one, and displayed as much energy as has been shown by some of the present Ministers, the Capital city would now be in course of construction at Dalgety.
– And the ruins would be there twenty-five years hence.
– I do not think that we should build a Capital and walk out of it within twenty-five years. The sooner we gel away from Melbourne influences, the better it will be for our legislation.
– Even had Dalgety been retained, I should still say “ hasten slowly.”
– I think that the .honorable member is right. If the Government rushed into expenditure with a view to irrevocably binding the Commonwealth to the present site, its action would be most injudicious.
– When does the honorable member suggest that a start should be made ?
– The question should have been settled five years ago.
– It was settled four years ago.
– It was settled, then unsettled, and now it has been settled again. But in less than six months we shall have another Parliament, from which some of us may be missing.
– Ha ! ha !
– A man with a laugh like that of the honorable member is bound to come back. We have merely arrived at the position that a majority is prepared to accept Canberra, but we do not -know that the next Parliament will not hold a different view.
– The selection of Canberra was not genuine.
– It may not have been; However, I do not advocate the reopening of the matter. I think that New South Wales is entitled to have the Capital, and if the best site has been selected, reasonable progress should be made with the building of the city. But we should not be involved in excessive and injudicious expenditure, so that the next Parliament will have no chance of getting out of a bad bargain. We should make reasonable progress with the drawing up of plans and specifications, and the obtaining of information from reliable sources.
– Whatever may be proposed, the next Parliament will have to vote the funds.
– The next Parliament may have to vote funds to fulfil the obligations entered into by the Executive.
– The Minister has only £5,000 to spend, and a great many calls on the money. .
– It is possible for a Government to commit a Parliament to much larger expenditure than has been approved of in the Estimates. I do not think that the Minister of Home Affairs would take a rash step to make sure of the permanent adoption of Canberra; but this is the proper time to utter a word of warning against action of that kind. Whilst I hope that effect will be given to the desire of the people of New South Wales and of a majority of the people of the Commonwealth, and reasonable action taken towards the building of a city, I hope that there will be no hurrying of the matter which will impose unduly heavy obligations on the Commonwealth.
– The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the advisability of adding several storeys to . the Sydney General Post Office. The PostmasterGeneral has received deputations on the subject, the results of which have not been Officially brought under my notice, although plans have been submitted to me for the alteration of the interior to increase the counter accommodation. The congestion of business there will be relieved to a large extent, and I understand that it is thought that the present office accommodation will be sufficient for some time to come, when a building four storeys high has been erected at the railway station for the sorting of letters. The Sorting Branch occupies a very large part of the General Post Office at the present time, but when that new building is erected, as we hope it will be before very long, the General Post Office will be equal to all the demands upon it.
– Parcels will also be sorted at the new railway building?
– That will mean a saving of expense?
– It will, in regard to country and Inter-State mails. When the new building is erected, only city letters will be sorted at the General Post Office. An honorable member also referred to a proposed State referendum to be held in Queensland in connexion with the Federal general election. I can only say that a communication was sent by me to the Prime Minister, and forwarded by him to the Premier of Queensland, in relation to the matter, and that, so far as I am aware, a reply has not yet been received. No reply has been received by me, and I think I may safely say that the Prime Minister has not yet received one. The honorable mem’ ber for Wimmera referred to the delay which takes place in connexion with the supervision of the erection of Federal buildings. No doubt great delay does take place in the several States. The officers of the State Departments are still attending tothis work for us. I have not yet arrived, at .a definite decision^ but what is in my mind at present is to initiate a scheme inVictoria. If it works satisfactorily, we may then be able to extend it to the other » States. Reference has also teen made tothe Federal Capital, and I am glad tolearn that there is a consensus of opinion that the matter has been definitely settled. I think that the Parliament has agreed that the question of the site should be regarded as definitely settled, so far as this: Legislature is concerned, and it is only fair to the people of the Commonwealth, quite apart from any parochial considerations, that a genuine and sincere step should betaken to have the home of the Federation established within something like a reasonably early date. I propose to make art early, genuine, and honest start to carryout the provisions of the Constitution.. Honorable members may rely on my not indulging in anything of an hysterica? character; but a large amount of preliminary work will have to be carried out before’ any new expenditure is incurred. Surveys will have to be made to delimit the boundaries, and also a contour survey, so that those who desire to send in competitive designs for the Federal City will know the contour of the country - -the levels, and so forth - on which theCity is to be established. Surveys will alsohave to be made of the dam sites, and of” the area covered bv the proposed artificial’ lake and the roadways. AH this workwill take some time, and, before any huge expenditure is entered upon. Parliament will have an opportunity to consider the matter. I propose to appoint surveyors tomake the surveys I have indicated, so that we may show the people of the Commonwealth that we are imbued with a genuine desire to have this great work properly carried out.
.- The Minister has intimated that he proposes to appoint Federal officers to supervise the construction of Commonwealth buildings and repairs, and to initiate that system in Victoria. It may be a feasible proposition in such a comparatively compact State as Victoria, but it will be difficult to organize * staff to carry out this work at a reasonable cost in the other States. There is undoubtedly, at present, >great delay in constructing Commonwealth buildings and carrying out of minor repairs : but it is certain that the cost of sending Commonwealth officers from the State capitals to remote districts in Western Australia or Queensland would lae altogether unwarranted as compared with the capital cost of the work. Therefore, it is desirable that the Minister should proceed cautiously with his scheme.
– I said that I was considering the matter.
– Quite so; but it is well that the honorable gentleman should know how others regard the innovation. At present, this work is being performed by State officers for about 6 per cent, of the capital cost of new works or repairs. There can he no doubt that a Federal officer stationed in a. State capital could not supervise work in a remote part of the State as economically as could a State officer who was engaged . on other .work in the same district. I would therefore urge the honorable gentleman to proceed with caution and circumspection. Another matter to which attention should be drawn is the practice of the Department of inviting through the Government Gazette tenders from persons having land for sale in a. town or country district in which it desires to acquire a site. Private persons do not proceed on such lines. If a bank, an insurance company, or even a private individual, wishes to acquire a site for any purpose, that fact is not advertised throughout the country. There may be some advantage in the Government system, but I do not think that it outweighs the obvious disadvantages. It certainly relieves the Departmental officers’ of any suspicion of underhand work, but I “know of no other reason for it. On the other hand, it results in the Government often paying for the land they require more than its true value. I do not wish to rip up the records of the Department ; but I could, if necessary, cite cases in which the Department has paid for land considerably more than the price at which, in the opinion of » competent judges, it could have been acquired. There ought to be a stronger reason than I have adduced - although I know of no other - for the action of the Department in departing from the ordinary procedure which private individuals and public institutions follow. It is a sound business principle when one wants to buy a property to keep his intention secret from the seller. A certain measure of secrecy is necessary. When in the Department, I drafted a scheme by which these negotiations would be conducted through a third party.
– Does the honorable member think that a third party would fail to disclose for whom the site was required?
– If made worth his while to keep silence, yes. I have no hesitation in mentioning the scheme I then outlined. It was that an arrangement should be made with the general manager of a bank or an insurance company, having branches throughout Australia, to communicate with his officers in the district where a site was required, and to obtain from them a valuation of it.
– Why not employ a good auctioneer?
– If all auctioneers were like the honorable member, no doubt the suggestion would prove an excellent substitute dor the existing system; but we could not rely on always obtaining throughout Australia the services of men of the honorable member’s capacity. What I suggest would secure to the Department a maximum of secrecy. The local manager, on. being directed by his chief to obtain a valuation of a block of land, would not know for whom it was wanted. He might believe that the bank required it for its own use, and he would be under no temptation to place upon it a fictitious value. Such a scheme is to be preferred to the present method of proclaiming from the housetops the wants of the Commonwealth.
– I regret, Mr. Chairman, that I have again to address you with regard to the question of the Federal Capital. I tried to present to the Committee the necessity for a genuine desire being shown by the Government to establish the Capital itself.
– The State Bill’ has not yet been passed by both Houses of the New South Wales Parliament.
– I hope that the honorable member will not try to burke the question in that way. I am sure. that in other circumstances he would be the first to say that that Bill had practically been passed. I did not ask that the Minister should be hysterical ; but I did ask, on behalf of New South Wales, that something more should be done than the making of a mere contour survey or the delimitation of the boundaries of the Territory. That is all the information we have obtained so far. together with the remark that the honorable gentleman was not going to rush into expenditure. After three struggles in three Parliaments, the Capital Site was determined and fixed by law ; and the people of New South Wales will not be satisfied with a statute as representing the fulfilment of the Federal compact. Between Oriential grandeur and Spartan simplicity lies the domain of common sense, and what I contend is that there should be an immediate commencement of the erection of suitable buildings. If the Minister would intimate that, on the first Estimates submitted to the next Parliament, there will be placed a substantial sum for this purpose it would be some evidence of his earnestness, and the intimation would give satisfaction to honorable mem- . bers. It is not a dislike to Melbourne that makes us desire to get to the Federal Capital, because I am sure we all agree that we have been most generously treated by the State of Victoria as a landlord. T do not suggest that there should be a palace raised, but only a Parliament House and Government offices on a moderate scale. The idea has always been that the Federal Capital should be removed from the influences of any of the larger cities - that we should get into a Federal atmosphere. To talk of twenty-five years hence, or about “ hastening slowly,” is not carrying out the agreement that was arrived at ; and if the intention is to fool the people of New South Wales, and the answer of the Ministry is that they do not intend to remove from Melbourne, the sooner we know it the better.
– The honorable member cannot have that answer !
– Does the Minister of Defence mean to play with the question?
– The Minister is only doing the shrewd thing in reference to New South Wales.
– I do not see the shrewdness.
– He will not be “bounced” by the honorable member foc Dalley.
– I am merely asking a law -abiding representative, like the honorable member for Wakefield, to obey thelaw. The honorable member fought on these benches as if the very destinies of. the nation depended on the taking over of the Northern Territory ; and yet he has the impudence and audacity, when a New South Wales member is appealing for the observance of the law, to say that that honorable member is “ bouncing.” The honorable member made a suggestion in regard to the Northern Territory, and then ran away - he had not the pluck to support his own proposal. He acts as if he were a bond slave of the Fusion Government ; indeed, I never saw a more obsequious supporter of a party.
– Too much Wilks !
– There may be “too., much Wilks “ for the honorable member for Wakefield.
– I wish there were a few more like the honorable member for Wakefield!
– No doubt; the newfound friend is always the warmest friend of the Minister. However, I think the Minister should give us some stronger proof of his earnestness than what he has said about a contour survey and a landscape garden.
– The honorable member is using entirely his own words.
– Then I hope the Minister will put me right. I desire to see the Act carried out, but, as I say, I shall be satisfied if a substantial sum is placed on the Estimates next year for the purpose.
– I amunable to understand this display of warmth. I voted for Yass-Canberra, believing that I was consulting the wishes of the great majority pf the people of. New South Wales. I thought that when we settled the site definitely by Act of. Parliament, the people of New SouthWales would be well satisfied to allow the question to remain in a*beyance until we had sufficient time to calmly determine to what extent we were prepared to go in the way of expenditure. I am one of those who believe that wherever the Government of the country is located, it must be surrounded by certain dignities. It cannot be conducted on the lines of Spartan simplicity. By the very circumstances of the case, we shall be compelled to expend very large sums. I believe that the great majority of the people, even of New South Wales would rather see that money spent on works of a reproductive character - works which would make for the solid development and welfare of the people - than on the establishment of a Capital which not one in 10,000 persons really desires.
– It seems to me that some representatives of New South Wales desire to persuade the -Fusion Government to fearlessly advance upon the ramparts of the Treasury when the Commonwealth has very little money available for carrying on the ordinary activities of the nation. Surely honorable members are satisfied with the present home of the Parliament? Surely w.e have every comfort which Christian men could have in a Christian land ? Yet the honorable member for Dalley has charged the Minister of Home Affairs with negligence in that he has not already secured and set up a tent such as I wanted provided in the Parliamentary Gardens for members to live in. When we are about to borrow £3,500,000, in order to start a navy, my honorable friend desires the Government to rush in and build a Capital which must cost, several millions.
– I never asked for that, as the honorable member knows.
– I admit that my honorable friend did not directly ask for that ; but that is what he meant.
– I do not see why we should leave this building for the next fifteen or twenty years. When we old roosters have been planted, let the young men who are coming on move to the Federal Capital. I quite recognise that we ought to secure the land while it is cheap, and that the Commonwealth ought to get the benefit of the unearned increment in the national territory. If we secure the land and issue Commonwealth stock in payment therefor at a low rate of interest, we shall have done well enough. But it is ridiculous to talk about building a Capital and going there before the present legislators have disappeared from the scene. Why should we leave a healthy, prosperous, successful city like Melbourne, where the rents are low, and the people are healthy and intelligent, and where we have libraries, great newspapers, and the best of society ? In such circumstances, 1 cannot understand the honorable member for Dalley demanding that we should e;o into the bush. He is simply moved Oy the New South Wales microbe that wants to grab’ the earth. I do not know what is the matter with the State.
– She is afraid that this Parliament may change its mind again.
– The matter has been settled. The Minister of Home Affairs is asking us to vote a large sum on account of the Federal Capital ; but I warn the Committee against beginning the erection of a Capital for many years to come. After securing and getting possession of the land, we could let it on long leases to squatters or others. We could slowly beautify the place a little, and dig out a few wells. We could spend a few hundred pounds a year on that work. Apparently, some representatives of New South Wales think that we ought to proceed to Canberra at once. I ask honorable members to recollect what the people of the United States had to suffer from the mudholes of the Potomac River in the early days of Washington.
– They had water, anyway.
– There were only mud-holes until i860, when Shepherd, the engineer, began to beautify Washington, and he got very little thanks for his work. In the face of what happened at Washington, and again at Ottawa, are we going to New South Wales to live in the bush ?
– In tents, too.
– The mosquitoes would not let us live in tents.
– The Minister is only asking for a vote of £5,000.
– That is the danger; the plunger goes out to bet 5s., but he generally “goes broke.” I think that we ought to pass a resolution that there shall be no shifting to Canberra for ten years. When we entered into the compact to stay in Melbourne, and the people of Victoria, provided a home for the Parliament, it was certainly not understood that we would clear out in a year ox two.
– I must ask the honorable member not to go into the details of the matter.
– Yes, sir; but here is a big item we are asked to pass.
– What about Washington ?
– Congress did not start to sit at Washington until it had been at Philadelphia for ten years. Yet, we are asked to spend an enormous sum in connexion with our Capital. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Coolgardie raise the question about the purchase of land. In my opinion, the present system of purchasing land for postoffices and other national activities, is not based on good business judgment at all; and I quite agree with him that a good auctioneer or business man in a town should be selected in connexion with such transactions. Under the present system, a man in sent to select land for the Government ; and if he runs up against a bit of land he thinks that is one of Roosevelt’s elephants that have escaped from Africa. And after the bargain is made they find that they have paid far too much. What is gained by calling for tenders? Surely honorable members know how the game is worked. It is all. thimble-rigging and bunco-steering, and the price is prearranged. The time has come to appoint thorough practical land valuers to put a value on the land before the Government make an offer for it, or suggest that they are going to take it. It seems now that whenever the Federal Government want a piece of land everybody in the community knows it. I could run the Commonwealth for about one-eighth what it costs to run it now.
– I wish to deal with a matter arising out of the methods adopted in connexion withthe valuation and purchase of properties for postal purposes. The usual practice is for the Postal Department to indicate to the Home Affairs Department what it requires. It then becomes the business of the Home Affairs Department to make investigations, either by valuation or calling for tenders. It is not the custom for the Postal Department to enter into negotiations with regard to the valuation of any property that it requires, that being a function which is left to the Home Affairs Department ; but I find that in connexion with the demand that arose in Sydney for increased accommodation at the General Post Office, the then Postmaster-General overstepped the bounds of his functions, and gave orders in Svdney to a firm of valuers to value the adjacent property. He did not consult the Home Affairs Department at all, but took the matter into his own hands.
– What Postmaster-General did that?
– I think it was the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. He apparently gave the firm carte blanche to get a valuation - a most irregular proceeding. The result, from what I can glean, was that a gentleman representing the firm, not only made a valuation himself, but got two other firms to make valuations at the same time, as much as to sav, “ We have carte blanche; let us give a turn to the other chaps, too.” Consequently, no fewer than three valuations were made for the purpose of a simple inquiry as to the probable cost of the property. Any business man would have been content with one valuation from a reputable firm, or if not satisfied with that, would have called for another valuation with a view to check it.
– What was the total cost?
– £156. The responsible officer at the Home Affairs Department states that a bill for that amount was presented, but that no valuation came to hand.
– It went to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– But such a matter does not properly belong to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– The proceeding was very irregular.
– If it were followed as a common method of administering the affairs of the Postal Department in its relation to the Home Affairs Department, the result would be chaos. Although no valuation was submitted to the Home Affairs. Department, that Department has paid the account, without knowing what value was given for the money.
– That is not correct.
– Is it correct that the Home Affairs Department has the valuation, or ever had it?
– Then how do the officers know whether the charges are fair for the work done?
– I will explain the matter directly.
– I shall be glad to hear the Minister. It is the province of the Home Affairs Department to deal with all purchases of land for postal purposes, but only recently an official of the Postal
Service brought under the notice of the then Acting Deputy Postmaster-General in Victoria the question of the purchase of a piece of land behind the money order office in Little Bourke-street. The Acting Deputy Postmaster-General referred the matter to the Postmaster-General, and an offer was made of the land by the agent of the owners, for .£2,000. I find that the PostmasterGeneral, through the Secretary, has indicated to the agent of the vendors that he has recommended the Minister of Home Affairs to provide £2,000 on the Estimates for the purchase of the property. Then the matter went to the Department of Home Affairs, and the Minister indicated again to the agents of the vendors that he intended to provide £2,000 on the Estimates for the purpose of acquiring the land. That occurred early in the year. About seven months later, the Minister of Home Affairs, having placed the sum of money on the Estimates, the matter came before Parliament, and the item was passed. I think that it was the business of the Department, before placing an amount on the Estimates for the purpose of acquiring land for which there was no competition, to obtain a valuation. But no valuation was made for seven months. The vendor’s agents, knowing that the sum of £2,000 had been placed upon the Estimates, naturally came to the conclusion that they were to get that sum for the land. They were not disillusioned by any intimation from either of the Departments concerned, nor by being informed that the amount placed on the Estimates did not necessarily represent what would be paid for the land, but that the price would depend upon a. valuation to be made. The agent, therefore, led the vendor to believe that he was to get £2,000 for the property, and practically the matter resolved itself into a contract. Subsequently another Minister came into the Department of Home Affairs, and another Postmaster-General took office. The papers had not yet been final.lv disposed of. The new Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Barrier, approved of what his predecessor had done. But the new Minister of Home Affairs, the honorable member for Coolgardie, began to inquire as to whether the price proposed to be paid was fair. Having found that there was no valuation - this being eight or nine months after the initiation of the business - the Minister communicated with the Crown Law authorities to ascertain whether what had been done by his predecessors practically constituted a contract. The Crown Law officers advised that what had been done did not amount to a contract in a legal sense. Then the Minister of Home Affairs caused a valuation of the property to be made. The valuer estimated its value at £1,550. The Minister thereupon offered £1,400 for the land. After some further negotiations, the vendor realized that he was in a difficulty. He wanted the money, which he had expected to be paid some time before. He admitted in a letter which he wrote, that he was reluctantly compelled to accept the sum of £1,500, which accordingly was paid to him. What I complain of is that there was a great amount of irregularity about these proceedings. After it had been agreed to pay £1,500, a survey was made; -and after the survey, when the matter again went before the legal adviser of the ‘Commonwealth for the ratification of the title, it was found that the Commonwealth had acquired as part of the property i2§ inches of land on a lane, leaving, however, another piece of land on the other side of the block, i2i inches, for which no provision had been made. Fresh proceedings had to be taken for the rectification of the error, and there had to be a fresh investigation at the Titles Office. . Now the vendor of the property is claiming from the Department of Home Affairs compensation by way of interest on the money, which he maintains ought to have been paid1 to him earlier, and he is demanding that compensation before he will transfer the i2i inches of land which should have been arranged for before the money was paid over. All these difficulties point to looseness in the system of administration as between the Department of Home Affairs and the Post and Telegraph Department. What has occurred is creditable neither .to the one Department nor the other.
– The Crown SoliCitor ought to have seen after the 12J inches.
– Quite so. The agent of the vendor, believing that he had made an arrangement for the sale of the property for £2,000, is also claiming from the Government commission on the difference between £1,500 and £2,000. What this matter teaches is this : In the first place, the Postmaster-General had no right -to go out of his way to indicate to the vendor that he intended to ask for money to be provided for the purchase of the property for £2,000. Everything relating to the purchase ofland pertains to the Department of Home Affairs. Secondly, the Minister of Home Affairs ought not to have put a sum of money on the Estimates without a valuation of the property, because the sum placed on the Estimates amounted to an intimation to the vendor that that was the price that he was to get for the land. Another result of what has occurred is, that the CommonweaJth has had to pay for three valuations when one would have been sufficient. There has certainly been careless administration, which should be explainedby the Minister, andan indication should be given by him that such anomalies will not occur in future. The matter is not one which comes within the purview of the Royal Commission with which I am associated. Nevertheless, I feeljustified in bringing the facts before the Committee. It is a matter of administration reflecting on the methods adopted by the Department of Home Affairs, and the Post and Telegraph Department. I trust that in future transactions of this kind the course which should be pursued in all matters involving relations between the Post and Telegraph Department and the Department of Home Affairs will be adopted.
– As the honorable member for Gwydir has pointed out, the proceedings in connexion with the matter to which he referred were irregular. They were originated by a former PostmasterGeneral. When the matter came before me as Minister of Home Affairs, I asked upon what authority the valuation was made, and after some time the present Postmaster-General received the following letter from the honorable gentleman who initiated the matter -
In reply to. yours of the 10th September, re valuation claim by Messrs. Raine and Home, Hardie. and Gorman, and Richardson and Wrench, of Sydney, instructions were given by me as Postmaster-General for this in1907, when the extension of General Post Office, Sydney, was under consideration, and the valuation was submitted (I think through the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney), the papers in connexion with same should be in your Department.
The claim for 150 guineas on behalf of these three firms came on to me, and I attached a minute saying that, in my opinion, the charge was excessive, and should be inquired into. I subsequently referred the claim to Mr. Sievers, the Go vernment Land Valuator, and the best authority I could obtain in New South Wales, and on the 29th of last month, Mr. Sievers wrote me the following minute -
The work of valuing the subjoined buildings entailed perhaps more research in detail than you were aware of. It seems that instructions were given to treat the matter very confidentially, and as there were several interests, freeholders, leaseholders, and tenants, besides about a score of business occupations involved, a great many inquiries had to be made in a devious manner, which would have been avoided and time saved had the valuers been able to go straight to the owners or occupiers and ascertained the facts. In all the circumstances, and having in mind the figures exceed in bulk£250,000, I do not think £5210s. an excessive fee for each firm, and in this opinion I am borne out by the Commissioner for Stamps, who frequently pays quite as high a fee for similar work from the same firms. The status of the three valuers employed enabled them in Sydney to command the fees charged for a job of this magnitude.
– Was not each of the three valuations a repetition of the others?
– The honorable member must be aware that it is the practice, not only of the Federal Government, but also of every State Government, to pay fees in such cases to at least three or four of the leading auctioneers in a city in order that if the matter should subsequently come before arbitrators, or before a law court, they will have command of these valuers as witnesses.
– Is that done at the initial stage, or subsequently?
– It is done at the initial stage, just as barristers in the initial stage of a court case are paid retaining fees. I have made inquiries into the claim, and, as I have said, submitted it to Mr. Sievers, in whom I am sure the honorable member has confidence. It was afterwards submitted to the Commissioner of Stamps in New South Wales, who employs auctioneers in connexion with valuations of this kind more frequently than does any other official in the State. On their advice I have authorized the payment of the fee. I feel sure that I should not be excused if I repudiated in any way a contract entered into by a previous Minister.
– Has the honorable gentleman seen the valuation ?
– It was not submitted to me, but I know that the amount of the valuation is £250,000, and that it was received by the Postmaster-General. The only question I had to decide was whether I was justified in paying the valuation fees demanded.
– Is it not irregular that the valuation should not be sent on to the Department which should have initiated the proceedings in the first place?
– I have already admitted that the proceedings were irregular, and that the Postmaster-General of the day should not have done what he did. This is the only case I know of in which a PostmasterGeneral has taken the initiative in a matter of this kind. The usual practice in such cases is to send a requisition to the Department of Home Affairs. It is the duty of that Department then to take the necessary proceedings for acquiring the property in accordance with the wish of the Postal Department.
– Has the honorable gentleman’s Department not got the valuation for which it is asked to pay 150 guineas ?
– I know that it was received by the Postmaster- General of the day, and the present Postmaster-General requested me to settle the claim. I have explained the inquiries which I made, and the advice on which I have decided to admit the claim. In regard to the other matter mentioned by the honorable member, the position was this : The PostmasterGeneral’s Department asked that provision to the extent of £2,000 should be made on the Estimates for the purchase of the land. The requisition was made late in the session, when the Estimates were practically closed,and provision was included in a lump sum for the purchase. When the Estimates were passed, a valuation was obtained, and a personal inspection of the site was made by the late Minister of Home Affairs, who, after negotiations, purchased it for £1,500. The title was dealt with by the Crown Solicitor immediately after the contract was signed, and a slight discrepancy was. disclosed by survey. That discrepancy related to the few inches to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Gwydir, and has since been adjusted. That is the explanation of the matter.
.- If the Postmaster-General orders in an irregular way valuations to be made of certain property which the Government desire to acquire, is it fair, when he requests that the fee for those valuations shall be paid by the Department of Home Affairs, that the Minister controlling that Department should not be recognised in the matter?
Before certifying to the claim ought he not to have those valuations before him ? Otherwise, he has obtained no value for the expenditure. The mere fact of the Minister saying, “I was told that the valuation was so much “ is not sufficient.
– I was informed by the Postmaster-General.
– But these valuations are made by the Department of Home Affairs. They are Departmental property, and, as such, should be at the command of the Minister. If they are at his command he should be able immediately to requisition them. But the Minister of Home Affairs does not say positively that the valuations are in the possession of the Government.
– I understand that they are in the Postmaster- General’s Department.
– If I occupied the position that is occupied by the Minister, I should not take anything for granted, but would require to see the work for which money is to be paid. These valuations should be in the hands of the Department so that, if action be taken in the future, the Minister can be fortified by them. Up till now, the honorable gentleman has not intimated that he has obtained value for the expenditure. He merely says that he understands that value has been received.
– I have read the letter of the Postmaster-General.
– Exactly. But suppose that the Postmaster-General gave a carte blanche order to a firm of valuators to value property, and to seek the cooperation of two other firms in adjusting that valuation. If the valuation itself were not available as evidence of the work done, what would be easier than for the valuation fee to be paid without any work being done? Any Minister who authorizes the payment of a claim in the absence of documentary proof that the expenditure is a legitimate one, is not, in my opinion, acting in a regular way or in a manner that is calculated to properly safeguard the affairs of a Department.
– Quite unintentionally the honorable member for Gwydir has scarcely put the position fairly. I have already read to the Committee a letter in connexion with this matter, which is signed by the Postmaster- General who authorized these firms to make the valuations.
– Why does he not pass the valuations over to the Department of Home Affairs ?
– I can ask for them. I should like the honorable member for Gwydir to listen to the letter of the PostmasterGeneral, which reads -
In reply to yours of the 10th September, re valuation claim by Messrs. Raine and Home, Hardie and Gorman, and Richardson and Wrench, of Sydney. Instructions were given by me as .Postmaster-General for this in 1907, when the extension of the General Post Office, Sydney, was under consideration, and the valuation was submitted (I think through the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney). The papers in connexion with same should be in the Department.
That letter was written after my inquiry was made as to who made the valuations, and after I had expressed the opinion that the charge was an excessive one.
.- The Minister has merely read the letter which authorized the valuations to be made. He believes that those valuations were handed to the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, and that they are now in the Postal Department. Surely the Minister of Home Affairs should have obtained them before authorizing payment to be made for the services which are alleged to have been rendered. If, as the late PostmasterGeneral declares, they are in the Department, there can be no excuse for the Minister failing to obtain them to see that they are in proper order, and to ascertain whether three firms have made independent valuations, or whether two firms have merely indorsed the valuation which was made bv the first firm. If three firms have supplied independent valuations, those valuations must differ in some respects. It is inconceivable that they agree in every particular. If they do agree, it is an indication that only one valuation was made, and that two additional fees have been paid for an indorsement of the valuation. No business man would accept the word of somebody else that certain work had been done; and that he believed that certain papers were in a Department. The very manner in which the statement was made implied the necessity for information.
– Is the honorable member going to doubt the written statement of an ex-Postmaster-Genera] ? That is what he is doing.
– I have no feeling in this matter. All that I desire is that proper business-like methods shall mark the administration of public Departments. If personal considerations are to sway us - and that is the curse of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department at the present time - we might as well “ throw up the sponge “’ so far as any hope of obtaining the adoption of business-like methods is concerned.. It is all very well for the honorable member to say that he has been told that the valuation was £250,000. Did the three valuers agree to that valuation ?
– If so, why?
– If they did agree to it it would seem that there was on their part merely an indorsement of the original valuation.
– I have just been told by t’I.e Postmaster-General that the three valuations are in his Department, and can be produced by him.
– And before the money is paid the honorable member wil examine those valuations, and make sure that they are satisfactory ?
– ! avail myself of this opportunity to address the Minister of Home Affairs on the subject of the Federal city. When I gave up a lucrative profession - when I deserted the substance for the shadow-
– My honorable friends of the Labour party are persistently warning me that my time here is perhaps drawing to a close. I do not know that it is, but I had sufficient foresight when I forsook my profession for politics to look forward to a time when possibly I might have to retire into the obscurity of private life.
– Order ! Will the honorable member connect his remarks with the question before the Chair ?
– I shall do so by saying that I thought, when I entered this Parliament, that by this time,, at all events, we should have a Federal city in Australia; that I should have an opportunity; to “hang out my shingle” in that city and, to follow my profession there. I am grievously disappointed to find that, although six years have elapsed since I entered this Parliament, we are no nearer the building of the city than we were then. I assured the electors that I should do all I could to secure the immediate establish:ment of the city; and I am disappointed at the slow progress we have made.
– We are going quite fast enough.
– Notwithstanding the opposition of such men as the honorable member for Batman we have at last secured the selection of a site, and it is proposed to proceed with the building of the city.
– Not for a little while. We shall get there within the next twenty years.
– The honorable member would have us hasten slowly. Am I to listen to such remarks without expressing my indignation? Certainly not. I wish to impress upon the Minister how necessary it is that he should do his utmost to consummate the grand dream of. an Australian people - the building of a Federal city. Why should he not do so? We have on the Estimates an item of £5,000 in respect of the Federal Capital.
– Too much.
– It is totally inadequate. Unlike the people of the Arabian Nights, we cannot call to our aid genii, who can build a city in a night. In addition to the item of £5,000 a sum of £3,000 is set down in connexion with the seasoning of timber. If this Government continues to go on as it has done that timber will have become the food of the white ants before the city is established.
– With what delay can the honorable member charge this Government?
-I do not wish the Go- . vernment to disgrace themselves by delaying this matter. I urge them not to listen to those who have counselled them to hasten slowly. I recognise that it will take some time to establish the capital. The making of a contour survey will occupy six months, and plans will then have to be prepared for the laying out of the city. In that connexion there will arise the question of who is to be intrusted with their drawing - whether they shall be open to world-wide competition, or confined to Australian architects. Whatever is done I urge the Minister of Home Affairs to see that on next year’s Estimates there is an item to provide for the building of the city itself.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn, it is my melancholy duty to inform honorable members that an old comrade, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, has un fortunately passed away. The suddenness with which the honorable member was. struck down, cm his way from Adelaide, to Melbourne, had hardly prepared any of us for the very serious turn which his ailment afterwards took. Few honorable members have been discharging their duties with more brightness, interest, or apparent ease, than he did. During his term of office in the late Government he was a vigilant and earnest Minister, and at no time gave sign of weakness or failing power. 1 am sure that his death comes as a great shock to every member of this House, and to every member of this Parliament, and that the regret felt in his own State will be shared by many beyond its borders. Under these circumstances, despite the stage of the session at which we find ourselves, I am sure that honorable members will be in no. mood for pursuing their duties further this evening. I propose to ask the House to meet at the usual hour to-morrow, and if arrangements are made to that end, to adjourn at a later hour in the afternoon, in order that, if the time should prove convenient to his relatives, we may have an opportunity of paying our last tribute to his remains. It is unfortunate that the adjournment arrives at a moment when it leaves the other Chamber relatively deprived of business, but I am sure honorable members realize that it would be impossible to do otherwise. I now ask the Leader of the Opposition to join in an immediate expression of our sympathy for the widow and children, who have, in this untimely and sudden fashion, been deprived of a husband, a father, and the mainstay of the family. Theirs at present is a loss too grievous to be borne or to be expressed, but, at least, they may be supported by the consciousness that they have the undivided and sincere sympathy of the members of this House.
.- These melancholy events in this Parliament are all too frequent. The State of South Australia has lost three of its distinguished representatives, and each has been mourned by this House and by a large circle outside. The death of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, as said by the Prime Minister, was as unexpected as it is deeply regretted. He was a cheerful colleague, and a genial member of our party and though he was always ready to exercise his rights, and unflinchingly performed his duties as a’ public representative, he never at any time was other than approachable by those who differed most seriously from him. The removal of this honorable member is the first break in the party which I have the honour to lead, and it is a sad occurrence, indeed, particularly to his immediate colleagues. He was one of the most energetic and active members of the late Government ; and the loss to this Parliament and to his own State is considerable. This Parliament will get another representative - the State will be represented by another competent person - but, as indicated by the Prime Minister, there are those within the family circle of our deceased friend to whom his loss cannot be repaired. We cannot enter into their sorrows or help them, beyond expressing what I am sure all honorable members feel - a heartfelt sympathy with them in their sudden and irreparable loss. I trust that those who carry on the Government of Australia in the future will not have to meet the House under these melancholy circumstances so frequently ; indeed, I think the time has arrived when there should be some inquiry into the causes’ which have resulted in the taking away of the< lives of our members, and have undoubtedly fatally undermined the health of others who are performing services for the Commonwealth. This, however, is not the occasion on which to do more than mention the fact. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the widow and orphans, and I am sure that the late member’s memory will be cherished amongst all who enjoyed the privilege of his intimate acquaintance. This Parliament, as we see it now, will remember his kind, genial face, and his hard-working efforts for the benefit of his country. I hope that each and every one of us may prove equally serviceable to the people, and finally may be honoured by an appreciation as acceptable as that which has beenso eloquently expressed by the Prime Minister.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to add my expression of regret and sorrow to those which have been so eloquently and so fittingly expressed by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I have not long been in this position ; and I cannot forget to what my elevation was primarily due. I feel, if I may say so, that the words which the Leader of the Opposition has uttered should be weigherj by members of this House, and by those in authority. It is an honour to be in the forefront of the battle, but it seems as if. the toll which is being exacted from members of this Parliament is far beyond and above what is ordinary ; and it would be well that too much time should not be allowed to lapse before a proper and sufficient inquiry is made. With our late comrade, I am glad to have always been on terms of close friendship; I had for him the very highest regard. I am sure that I am expressing the feeling of every member when I say that our hearts go out in sympathy to those who are left without the head of their house; and we trust that Divine Providence may soften what to them is a serious blow, as it is a serious deprivation to us of the assistance of one whose abilities we recognised, whose aid we welcomed, and whose death we deplore.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 December 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091206_reps_3_54/>.