4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In reference to the recent appointment of two lady physicians to examine female employes of the Public
Service, I ask the Minister of Home Affairs if he will in future allow such positions to be open to every medical woman in Australia?
– I - I ask the honorable member to give notice of the question, so that I may look into the matter.
– I suggest that . the Minister should bring the subject before his colleagues, and thought that a question which I asked the other evening would have resulted in that being done. The honorable member for Melbourne indicates the proper course to be pursued. A principle should belaid down-
– A principle has been laid down for many years.
– I ask the Minister to bring under the notice of his colleagues the advisability of advertising all vacancies for positions in the Commonwealth Public Service before appointments are made.
– I - I shall have pleasure in doing what is suggested.
– Will the services of the lady physicians who have been appointed be available for the examination of the unfortunate old-age pensioners who cannot afford to pay fees ?
– I - I think they ought to be.
– On the contour map of the Federal Territory which has been supplied to honorable members, roads, tracks, and bridges are not shown, though I know that they exist. Why have they not been shown? It would be a great assistance to honorable members if they were marked on the map.
– I - I do not think that there is room for them.
Sydney General Post Office - Tasmanian Service Clothing Contract - Dartmoor Telephone Connexion - Brunswick and Central Telephone Exchanges - Perth Telephone Service - Sale of Race Tickets at Post Office - New Central Telephone Exchange - Reduction of Salaries.
-The following statement regarding the condition of a portion of the premises attachedto the Sydney General Post Office, in which sorting is done, appears in this morning’s Argus -
The men are required to work under conditions’ that are highly insanitary. Floors that lor long have not scraped acquaintance with the scrubbingbrush ; ill-ventilated rooms so crowded during the busy hours of the day that men jostle one against ihe other; a basement that reeks of the stable and shelters a pile of rubbish that is an offence to the sense of smell and a harbor for rats; dust and dirt and dinginess everywhere - all justify the application of the word “ insanitary “ to the interior of the building. So cramped is the space that instead of the orderly method essential to the swift -handling of the enormous volume of -postal matter there is much confusion and delay. An increased staff is necessary to keep the work well up to date, but the trouble is to find room for the new hands.
The despatch-room is so overcrowded that a large quantity of mail matter has to be sorted in the basement.. This serves the’ purpose of a stable yard for the horses and vans used in the postal work. It also serves the purpose of a lumber-room and depository for rubbish generally. In this most undesirable of places a staff of men is set to work from day to day to sort matter that cannot be handled in the despatchroom. The method is essentially primitive. Portion of the floor is roughly swept clear of dirt and stable deposits, and sand is thrown over wet patches. These cleared spaces are used as tables, on which papers, magazines, and other such matter is sorted out in heaps, which are occasionally sent flying by the hoofs of passing horses.
Is that a true description of the conditions which prevail? If so, what steps does the Minister propose to take to alter this undesirable condition of things?
– I have been . supplied by the Secretary to the Department with the following report -
It is recognised that there is congestion in the General Post Office, Sydney, due to the rapidly expanding business, but every effort is being made to meet the difficulty. A Board is now sitting, dealing with the question of accommodation for postal purposes in Sydney.
A building near the General Post Office was secured after considerable trouble for the parcels post work, which has recently been transferred there.
Workmen are now engaged in making alterations in the main building, which, of course, in the meantime, adds to the inconvenience, and makes the place dirty.
The basement referred to is said to be not a stable yard, but merely the place where_ horses and carts arc backed in at times to receive the mails.
While the newspaper report is believed- to- be much exaggerated, a full report is being obtained regarding the complaints made.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
If he has noticed the statements made by the honorable member for Bass, reported in Hansard (pp. 5351-2)1 viz., “That is the remuneration for work for the Commonwealth Service. The women of Tasmania are earning 11s per week in making clothes for the servants of this Government”?
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Melbourne, has furnished the following replies to the honorable mem-, ber’s questions -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
On what date was the work in connexion with the Brunswick Telephone Exchange commenced ?
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiry is being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
If he can inform the House when the new Central Telephone Exchange will be open for public use?
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Are the following correct extracts from Commonwealth Gazettes, viz. : - .
Examination for Letter Carrier, Postal Assistant, Mail Driver. Ages not less than eighteen (18) years, nor beyond twenty-five (25) years. Salary -18 years £60, 19 years £72, 20 years£84, 21 years and over£110 per year?
Candidates examined 217, No. passed 94?
Examination for Letter Carrier, Postal Assistant, Mail Driver; persons eligible to eater,18 years to 30 years. Salary - 18 years £60 per annum,19 years £72, 20 years and over£84 per annum. An appointee will advance to a salary of£110 by annual increments if his conduct, diligence, and efficiency be satisfactory ?
Date of examination, 25th July, 1908. 391 candidates entered, 135 passed ?
Examination (No. 241) for Letter Carrier, Postal Assistant, Mail Driver, ages 18 years to 22 years. All appointees will commence at £60 per annum?
– The The Public Service Commissioner reports -
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– I have caused a communication to be sent to the Secretary to the Treasury with reference to this matter, but have not yet received his reply.
Sydney General Post Office - Sale of Race Tickets at Post Office - Parliament : Hours of Sitting - Imperial Conference - Public Service Administration : Appointment of Female Consulting Physicians - Conduct of Business.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– Following up the question which 1 have asked regarding the condition of the Sydney General Post Office, I wish to point out that the congestion there is not new thing, complaints about the inadequacy of the accommodation having been made by myself and others during a period of years; but no serious attempt seems to have been made to grapple with the difficulty of increasing the facilities for dealing satisfactorily with the growing business of the Department. It was apparent long ago tha’; property adjoining the post-office should be resumed. I think that the whole block fronting Martin-place, Pitt, King, and George streets should have been acquired to allow the present buildings to be extended at need, and I believe a recommendation to that effect was made. Of course, preceding Governments as well as this are to blame. I remember that some months, it seems years, ago, a statement was made that land had been acquired close to the central railway station, and that plans were being prepared for the erection of buildings to relieve the congestion at the General Post Office. But, so far as I can learn, the position of affairs to-day is very much as it was then. I have not been able to ascertain whether any progress has been made with the preparation of the plans or the acquisition of the land for the erection of buildings. Meanwhile this congestion has been growing more acute day by day, month by month, and year by year, and really no proper steps are being taken to cope with the difficulties experienced by those who, unfortunately, have to sort the various mails, both letter and parcel. On many occasions when I have visited the parcels branch at the General Post Office in Sydney, I have been struck with the bad conditions prevailing there. From every point of view, the place is quite unsuitable for the work, and was never intended to be used for such a purpose. It is artificially lighted and badly ventilated. There is no proper inlet for fresh air or outlet for foul air, and when one has been down there a little time the atmosphere is anything but pleasant.
– What does the honorable member call artificial light?
– The supervisors of the Department have to conduct their business in little offices, the light for which is obtained through thick prismatic glass let into the floor of the colonnade above. These offices are under the pavement practically. I think it is about one of the worst-ventilated places which can be imagined. As regards the space which is available for the sorters, it is simply a marvel to me how they can carry on their work, under the trying conditions prevailing, with satisfactory results. It is really surprising that there are so few complaints made as to errors on the part of the employes, and parcels, letters, and other matter going to wrong destinations. The men must be particularly expert to be able to work continuously, year in and year out, under such unsuitable and unhealthy conditions. It shows that there is a sense of loyalty in the Department, which is most creditable to those who have to suffer, but highly discreditable to those who are responsible for the administration of the Post Office.
– Did not the honorable member for Parramatta, when he was Postmaster General in New South Wales, make all the necessary alterations?
– The honorable member for Parramatta will probably be able to speak for himself on this subject. But may I point out that inthe course of the fifteen years which have intervened since he was Postmaster-General in New South Wales, the expansion of the Post Office business has been quite phenomenal. Since the inauguration of the Commonwealth in 1901, the business has increased enormously, but no serious attempt has been made by any Administration to satisfactorily deal with that expansion, and to provide proper accommodation. On many occasions I have called attention to the awful condition of things prevailing there, and to the sweating which has been going on for years, and which is not confined te the general .employe’s, but. extends to every branch and grade in the building, from the heads downwards. I know that some of the latter are quite unable to cope with their work in the ordinary office hours, and have to do a great deal of it in their own homes in time that should be devoted to leisure and recreation. How these ‘ officers bear up under the physical and ments) strain of this long continuous work and eternal worry, under the conditions which prevail in the offices, is also a matter of very great surprise to me. I am sure that they bear with all these things as long as possible, without making a complaint. It is marvellous to me how they manage to carry on the work at all, considering the conditions which generally prevail. However, they try to do the best under adverse conditions, and the Commonwealth is a gainer by having men of such loyal temperament as its officers in all grades of the service. But the fact that they have worked year in and year out under trying conditions is no justification for the Commonwealth ignoring its responsibilities, and successive Administrations shirking the duty of seeing that proper conditions prevailed from the highest to the lowest- rank. I want to call attention to another very undesirable practice which affects not only my district, but probably also the districts of most honorable members. I refer to the practice which is followed when the Department has to remove telegraph and telephone poles which are in wrong positions on the road. No doubt, it is generally known that when roads are aligned in sparsely populated districts which have not too large banking accounts, the practice is to only construct so much of a carriage-way as is necessary for the traffic. For the temporary needs of traffic, a road is usually made sufficiently wide for two vehicles going in opposite directions to pass each other. It would not pay most country shire councils and municipalities to make a road to its full width at once, nor would the needs of the traffic justify such an enormous expenditure. The proper course ot procedure for the Department would Le to ascertain the correct alignment of the road, and to erect its poles along the alignment where the footpath” joins on to the load. But instead of that, in some cases the Department simply follows the vehicular line of the road and erects its tele phone or telegraph poles on the water tables. It may happen that poles are erected right in the middle of the road, and when the time comes for the council, in view of the increase of population and increase of traffic, to widen the road it is confronted with the poles standing right in the carriage-way. The poles then become a source of constant danger to the traffic. The Department, of course, is requested to remove the poles to the proper alignment, and the practice is to charge the municipal or shire council with the cost of such removal. That is a very mean, very wrong, and very unjust course of procedure. Only recently I have had to complain of the action of the Department in charging the shire council cf Sutherland for the removal of poles which had been erected in the carriage-way on a road which formerly did not carry Very : much traffic, but which of late years has been carrying a fairly heavy amount oftraffic, especially at holiday times on account of the locality having become a popular resort for week-enders and holidayseekers. The council, in order to provide proper facilities for the increase of traffic had to widen the road, but it found telegraph poles on the water-tables, which had been erected by the Department, 1 believe, before the council came into existence, and requested the Department to remove a few of them. The Department’ complied with the request, and sent in a bill which, I am sorry to learn to-day, has been paid. I believe that it has been paid by the council under threat of immediate legal proceedings, and after a futile protest against the injustice of the claim. The Department was inexorable, and insisted upon the shire council paying the bill. If that is the regulation, it is one which should be abolished at the earliest possible opportunity. Every hon- 01 able member will probably find himself at some time or other faced with difficulties of the nature I have mentioned. It is a mean degrading procedure on the part of the Department, and certainly it is not conducive to the dignity of the Commonwealth when it takes advantage of small municipal councils with only limited funds at their disposal, to impose upon- them charges which should more properly be defrayed by the Post Office. . With regard to a question I asked this morning, I think that honorable members on this side, as well as honorable members opposite, have very great reason to complain of the dilatoriness of the present Government in replying to questions of which fair notice has been given and which will not involve any great length of time or trouble in getting the information necessary to supply answers.
– What does the honorable member call unreasonableness? The notices are put in late at night ; we do not see the business-paper until next morning, and we meet at half-past 10 o’clock.
– Why do you not ask the House to meet later ?
– It is the fault of the Government that we meet so early. This question was not handed to the Clerk late at night. Yesterday morning I handed it to the Clerk, and it appears on the notice-paper for this morning.
– The Department would not know that the honorable member handed in the question to the Clerk until it saw the business-paper this morning.
– I understand that rough proofs are seat to the Department, at the earliest possible moment after the questions have been handed in. In any case, five minutes would suffice to provide an answer to my question.
– What was it?
– I asked whether it was a fact that the Post Office corridor had been used, as advertised in the
Age, for the purpose of selling race-course tickets for the Melbourne Cup. That is a matter which should have been within the knowledge of the Secretary to the Department, and he should have been able to give the Minister a reply immediately without having to ask that time should be given for making inquiries. It would not have taken more than a couple of minutes to make inquiries in the Department itself ; and, in any case, the Secretary of the Department is at the Minister’s elbow, and he, as the person through whom the authority must have been given, should have been able to supply the information at a moment’s notice.
– Does the honorable member blame me?
– Yes ; the honorable member, as representing the Postmaster-General, should have had the information, and it is simply paltering with the House to ask for time to make inquiries regarding a question to which an immediate reply could have been given. It seems to me that a tired feeling is growing up in the Ministry, and being reflected in the Departments. This practice of asking for delay has not prevailed to anything like the same extent in the case of previous Governments, and was resorted to hitherto only where questions were of a complicated character, or involved the obtaining of information from other States. Even under these latter circumstances the desired facts were readily made available in the shortest possible time; and the present state of affairs shows an unjustifiable withholding of information to which the House is entitled. The present Government are mainly responsible for this laxity and apparent inability to deal with simple questions. They started by sweating honorable members, and, I suppose, the public servants in the various Departments. Instead of observing the principle of an eight-hours day, we, the members of the highest institution in the land, are setting a shocking example to employers, both public and private. Strange to say, this sweating work of sixteen hours a day has been initiated by a Labour Government, the members of which pride themselves on representing the advocates of the eight-hours principle. Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister whether any monetary compensation was to be given to the officers and servants of the House, and the astonishing reply was that,’ in order to get through the business, they were quite willing to work these long hours without extra pay. In my opinion, the session has not been shortened by a single hour as a result of our working double time, and the health of several honorable members has been seriously impaired. As to the officers, the only concession they have received in return for the overwork is an extra quarter of an hour for meals. I suppose it would not have done for the officers to express any unwillingness to work the extra hours ; and the reason given by the Prime Minister seems to me lamentably weak. If it were a logical reason, all “that, private employers would have to plead, as a justification for overworking employes without extra remuneration, would be that their employes were willing; but I am sure that neither the Government nor their supporters would accept such an excuse. We are setting a very bad example, and ought to be ashamed of ourselves ; and I trust this will be the last session in which such a practice will obtain.
– The honorable member is anticipating the motion he has on the notice-paper. I allowed him to make an ordinary reference to it, but I think he is going beyond that now.
– I understood that these motions were practically wiped off the notice-paper by the Government taking away the opportunity for private members’ motions being dealt with. At any rate, I urge that honorable members should be afforded time to devote to their private correspondence and the study of the measures to be brought before this Parliament. I have always refrained from detaining members by dealing with questions of this kind on the motion for adjournment; and as the business of the session has been so far advanced, I thought I might be pardoned for occupying a few minutes this morning in directing attention to some matters requiring the serious consideration of the Government.
– Private members’ business seems somewhat like the poor relation, who is fed in the kitchen, while rich strangers are entertained in the drawing room. I know that it is possible to bring this poor relation into the political drawing room, though I am not certain that he will there be treated in a very ceremonious manner. The business to which I desire to call attention I regard as of extreme importance. I refer to the Imperial Conference which is i.o take place some time next year, probably in May or June. This Conference has, apparently, become an institution. I shall not detain honorable members with the details of its history, but on 20th April, 1907, it was resolved by the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, Canada, Cape Colony, Natal, New Zealand, and the Commonwealth, that it would be of advantage to the Empire if an Imperial Conference were held every four years, at which questions of common interest might be discussed and considered as between His Majesty’s Government and the Governments of the selfgoverning Dominions beyond the seas. We heard much last night about the necessity for definitions, and I should like some one to define “Empire” for me. If it means something making for righteousness, justice, and mercy; if it has for its motto, “ Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them” ; if it means “Socialism in our time,” then I am a great Imperialist.
– It means all the other things but that !
– Does the honorable member seriously say that “Empire” means everything but what I have said?
– I say that it means everything but “ Socialism in our time.”
– Then the honorable member does not know what “ Socialism in our time “ means. Sir George Reid, when Leader of the Opposition, defined Socialism as the taking of all the children in the community and numbering them from one to a million.
– Branding them?
– Yes, branding them with the numbers, one to a million. That gentleman, speaking in Queensland, said that under Socialism, if a parent desired to make his bright boy a doctor he would have to take him up to a Government Department, where he might be told that, as the doctors’ list was full, the youth would be sent to a boiling-down establishment. I have not time now to define “ Socialism in our time,” but, broadly speaking, it means, as I have said, “ whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them.” If “ Empire “ means everything but what I have indicated - if it means tyranny, and aggression, and the use of subject races for the purposes of making wealth to enable rich people to live in idleness in London, Paris, Berlin, or elsewhere - then I am not an Imperialist.
This question of Empire and Imperialism is becoming so closely interwoven with our life in the Commonwealth, that I feel it necessary to deal with it this morning, instead of waiting until, it may be, too late in the session. We all know what happens at the end of a strenuous session like this ; members are utterly tired out, and they find themselves unable to remain at work any longer. Some years ago the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, Sir Edmund Barton, attended an Imperial Conference, at which he committed Australia to a naval agreement, which was approved by this Parliament only because some of its members thought that, having pledged himself to it, his honour was at stake. I recollect that in another branch of the Legislature, Senator Cameron and others were opposed to that agreement, and would have voted against it but for the circumstances to which I have referred. At the Imperial Conference, which was held in London in 1907, the then Prime Minister of the Com monwealth, Mr. Deakin, brought forward, amongst other matters, the very important question of the establishment of an Imperial Court of Appeal. On page 200 of the report of the proceedings of that Conference the honorable member is thus reported -
My Lord - My Lord Chancellor and gentlemen, the resolution of the Commonwealth of Australia is simply, “ that it is desirable to establish an Imperial Court of Appeal,” by which it is intended to convey a single Court of Appeal for the whole Empire instead of, as at present, retaining dual Courts, the one dealing with cases from India and the self-governing colonies and the other dealing with cases arising within the United Kingdom.
In supporting that motion, he said - as will be seen by reference to page 212 of the official report of the Conference -
In Constitutional cases an appeal is still allowed by consent of our High Court which may refer them on to the Privy Council. If we had an Imperial Court of Appeal instead of the Privy Council, it is quite certain that those references would be more encouraged than they are at present. Then public opinion could be better satisfied than it is now in Australia. For both those reasons, and others, we think the establishment of an Imperial Court of Appeal is very desirable.
I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he can point to a single public meeting in Australia at which a resolution in favour of the establishment of an Imperial Court of Appeal was carried? Was the matter ever brought forward in this Parliament, and were the representatives of Australia ever invited to express their views upon it? What authority had the honorable member for submitting that resolution in the name of the Commonwealth ? I challenge anybody to produce anything in the nature of a public request for the establishment of an Imperial Court of Appeal.
What was the position prior to the consummation of Federation? Under the draft Constitution, which was approved by the people of the States, all appeal cases were, to be decided in Australia. Why? Because everybody recognised that it was not right to compel a poor man, or even a moderately rich man, to travel 16,000 miles in order to obtain justice. It was further thought that our Australian Judges, being familiar with local conditions, would be in a far better position to decide such cases than would Judges in the Old Country. I recollect reading that on one occasion a member of the Privy Council entertained quite an erroneous idea of the merits of a squatting case, which was being in- vestigated, until an Australian Judge, who was present, put the position in quite a different light to him. When our draft Constitution was transmitted to the Imperial Parliament for ratification, it provided that the High Court should decide all Australian appeal cases. But owing to a few Australians, who forgot their duty to their country, that Constitution was amended so as to permit of certain appeals to the Privy Council.
It is because of the action of the present Leader of the Opposition and Sir Edmund Barton at previous Imperial Conferences, in taking upon themselves a responsibility for which they had no mandate, that I think the subjects to be discussed at the next Imperial Conference should be submitted to this Parliament. The representatives of the Commonwealth will then be able to attend it armed with a mandate. I have no fear of the way in which the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral, who will probably be present at that gathering, will acquit themselves. But I am sure that they would like to receive some direction from the representatives of the people of Australia. Let us consider for a- moment the questions which were discussed at the last Imperial Conference. They included treaties with other nations, admission of barristers, companies law, military defence, naval defence, immigration, preferential trade, and a surtax on foreign imports. Touching representation at these Conferences, it has been decided that it shall consist of the Prime Ministers of the self-governing nations within the Empire. The Prime Ministers of those nations are to be the principal members of such gatherings, but -
Such other Ministers as the respective Governments may appoint will also be members of the Conference - it being understood that, except by special permission of the Conference, each discussion will be conducted by not more than two representatives of each Government, and that each Government will have only one vote.
At the last Imperial Conference, a discussion arose as to the presence of Six William Lyne, and it was then agreed that, upon matters affecting particular Departments, certain Ministers were in a better position to speak, perhaps, than were the Prime Ministers, and that they should be allowed to do so.
I would go further, and say that, if these Conferences are to become an established institution, it is only just that the .Opposition should have a representative attending them, who should be allowed to speak upon every question submitted for consideration, although it would not be practicable to allow him to have a vote. But certainly the Leader of the Opposition ought to be heard at these Conferences of the selfgoverning nations of the Empire.
If the Empire be one which is making for tyranny, instead of for righteousness, truth, and justice, the sooner we in Australia have power to make treaties with the other nations of the earth in a world federated for the purposes of peace the better. But if the Empire is to be one of a different character - as I trust it is - then we may hope to adopt some other means of securing treaties with other nations which are of a peaceful disposition.
– I am afraid that the honorable member has dropped into the wrong world.
– I hope that I have not dropped into the wrong Parliament.
– I hope that the honorable member has not dropped into the wrong party.
– The question of the admission of Australian barristers to the Barristers’ Union of the Old Country is, after all, only a small matter. But I am sorry that the honorable member for Parkes is not present, because when I suggested that a difficulty existed in this connexion, he said that I was very badly informed. As a matter of fact, barristers from Australia are not admitted to the Barristers’ Union of the Old Country, no matter how difficult may be the examination which they are required to pass, nor how high the degrees they possess. The honorable member for Ballarat brought forward this question at the Imperial Conference which was held in 1907, but his efforts on that occasion were unavailing.
– The Attorney-General might try his hand upon it when he goes Home.
– The subjects of naval and military defence are of the highest importance. What is to be our position as a self-governing nation if we are not to be consulted by the Imperial authorities, who have the direction of the naval and military forces of the Empire? I have no doubt that honorable members have observed that, quite recently, an aggressive Berlin journal suggested that Great Britain and Germany should take advantage of the recent disturbance in Portugal to seize the colonies belonging to that country. Timor was mentioned as one of the possessions of which they might deprive the Portuguese. Had that suggestion, been adopted, I venture to say that it would have been an outrage on public decency. I am not in a position to discuss the rights or wrongs of the Portuguese revolution, but, judging by the cables which have been published in regard to the proposals of the new Government, Portugal is to be governed in a wise way. For example, it is proposed to extend the franchise to women, and to introduce industrial reforms.
– And also to give the men the right to strike.
– That in itself marks a very great advance. I know that some persons in Australia hold the opinion that a man has no right to cease work ; that he should continue to serve his employer, no matter what long hours may be imposed upon him, and irrespective of the paltry wage which he may receive.
– Mr. Holman, for instance. He declared the late Newcastle strike to be n criminal strike. So did the present Attorney-General.
– I have not the time to go into that question fully with the honorable member. Another case affecting the Empire, and in which the people of Persia are interested, has lately appeared in the press. The British have landed a detachment of men from the warships to protect the trade routes. In that connexion I would remind honorable members of a cablegram which appeared in yesterday’s daily press -
The ex-Shah Mahomed Ali, who was compelled to abdicate and is now living in retirement in the Crimea, has been befriended by the British and Russian Governments in curious circumstances.
The northern frontier of Persia is harassed by brigands, and the Government resolved to use this fact against the ex-Shah. It was alleged that a letter from the deposed monarch had been discovered, in which he urged the Turcoman, tribe to support the rebels at Mazanderan, and the Government consequently resolved to cease paying his pension.
The British and Russian Ministers, hearing of this, informed the Government that two servantsof the legation would wait upon the Foreign Minister until the instalment was paid. No notice was taken of this intimation, but after the embassy servants had followed the Minister everywhere for two days, and had spent a night at his private residence, he capitulated, and the instalment was paid.
The British Government also decided tc* police the trade routes, and told the Persian Government that they would take 10 per cent, of the Customs revenue to meet their expenses. That seems to me to savour very much of aggression. It is not very long since the people of Persia dispensed with the services of Mahomed Ali. They decided to pay him a pension, but finding apparently that he was acting in an unpatriotic way, suggesting to the enemies of Persia that they should attack her, they refused to continue the payment. I should think they were perfectly entitled to take that attitude, but the British and Russian Governments stepped in and ordered the Persian people to continue to pay the pension. Dr. N. M. O’Donnell said last night in Melbourne that “ self-government, however bad, was better even than good government by a stranger.” If the Persians have quarrels amongst themselves, no other Government has any right to interfere with them until it has set its own house in order. Let honorable members ask themselves whether our house in Australia is in order, or whether the British house is in order. I have only to mention the speech of the honorable member for Bass in this Legislature the other evening regarding the rates of wages paid to the Tasmanians to answer the question regarding Australia, and need only draw attention to the statement recently made by Mr. Lloyd George that the ^300,000,000 that changes hands in the Old Country every year goes to about 2,000 persons, and to point to the dreadful poverty that exists there, to supply an answer to the question- regarding the house of Britain.
No nation or individual has a right to take advantage of a subject race to make wealth out of them. We in Australia have no right to employ the Papuan natives at 2s. 6d. per week, or similar starvation wages, to make dividends for people in this country. Neither the British nor any other nation has a right to take advantage of the millions of natives of India by employing them at the ridiculously low wage of 5s. or 6s. per week, without rations, nor do I believe that the money so gained will do the persons who receive it any good. The sooner we alter our views regarding these subject native races the better for ourselves and for the children who will come after us.
It is of no avail to build # our house upon sand. We have in Papua our native problem, which will be as much trouble to our small community as the India problem is to the British people. We have no right to permit semi-slavery in the dominions of that British Empire, which is going to make,
I hope, for righteousness and for “ Social-! ism in our time.”
I am sorry that the time at the disposal of Ministers for the conduct of . public business is so short that we cannot discuss this question as fully as its importance warrants. Probably the question of protection and preferential trade will come up at the Imperial Conference next year. Have Ministers any opinion on these questions? I know that the Leader of the Opposition has an opinion, and there is in this House a strong party in favour of preferential trade within the Empire, although not so strong in the country. Do honorable members believe that we must allow the products of the various parts of this huge Empire to be brought into the self-governing Dominions at a. lower rate of duty then is charged to the Germans, French, Italians, or other nations? We have a right to protect our Australian trade against all persons. If our trade is to be taken from us, no matter whether it is taken by the employer who pays low wages in London, Berlin, or New York, our ideal that a living wage -must be a marrying wage will be incapable of realization. We must protect our trade against every man who pays low wages for long hours, no matter what his nationality. By so much as we deflect from the straight course of protecting Australian industries, by that much will we curtail our powers for doing good in this Commonwealth. Preferential trade may be discussed at the Conference, and I should like members who go from Australia to the Conference to tell the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and any other British Ministers that may be with him, what our ideals are. They should be told that, if we have to admit into the Commonwealth the products of the semi-slaves of India, we shall have obstacles placed in the way of realizing our ideal. It would be far better foi us, for the poor in Britain, and for the people of India, that we should set up a high ideal in the Commonwealth, and act up to it.
– What is the honorable member’s position regarding Imperial Federation ?
– I regard it as being as far away as a world federation. Indeed, I think an alliance of the great Powers for peace purposes would be more easy of accomplishment than a federation of the self-governing nations in the British Em- pire. 1 notice that the question is assuming the importance of practical politics, and we shall have to have an opinion upon it.
– Will it be considered at the Conference?
– I suppose it will be. At the last Conference a secretariat was approved of, with the duty of collecting information for the use of the members of the Conference, preparing a list of the subjects to be discussed, and acquainting the self-governing dominions thereof. But what has been done? I asked the Prime Minister a couple of months ago what was the list of subjects to be discussed at the Imperial Conference, but he had not received it. I asked the Acting Prime Minister the other day whether he had received a list, and he said he had not.
– We ought to insist upon getting it.
– Certainly; but the time is now short. What has become of the secretariat? Was its appointment a serious business, or did the British Government become frightened at the proposal to establish preferential trade, which would mean a reversal of the policy of Free-trade in the United Kingdom? Apparently they became alarmed, and the secretariat is only a name. Although we saw in the London letter of the Melbourne Herald a few days ago the statement that a very large agenda paper had been prepared, nothing has been done. If a long list of subjects has been decided on, the Imperial Conference ought to get a new secretary when it assembles in London next year.
– Is it to be a real Conference, or a half make-believe one?
– I am endeavouring to impress upon honorable members that the matter is fraught with possibilities of great good or great evil. I may also mention - though the reference would have been better had I made it earlier in my speech - that at the Imperial Conference the Right Honorable H. H. Asquith, now Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, gave expression to his own view upon a proposal to establish a Court of Appeal for the whole Empire, to take the place of the Privy Council. This expression of opinion indicates that there are people in Great Britain who have a far better notion, of what self-government really means than is customary with statesmen in the Old Country. I am agreeably surprised to find that such a view had been expressed by a statesman of Mr. Asquith’s standing. He said -
I think the first thing that must occur to all of us is the diversity of interests that have to be considered, and the diversity of conditions that obtain in the different parts of His Majesty’s Dominions. My view is, and I think we shall all agree in it, that in those circumstances all that can be done is to recognise and act unreservedly upon the principle of autonomy, that each integral unit of His Majesty’s Dominions should govern itself in the smaller matter Qf appeals ; that one should not necessarily be the same as any other, but each should govern itself.
Mr. Asquith further said
I am not sure exactly how it arose, but I have some recollection in the House of Commons of the debate, and it seems I took part in it, as Mr. Deakin was good enough to quote me, and I seem to have said that it would have been perhaps better to leave the Constitution of Australia as the Australians had sent it over the water - a sentiment in which I probably keep true to my past views and my present views.
Further, he said -
Still, if Australia, for example, or any other part of the British Empire, desires that their cases should be heard - not merely by the Judges of the United Kingdom, but also by Judges of the other parts of the British Dominions, the Cape, Canada, India, and the Crown Colonies, and those countries are willing to send us the . Judges - we can have no objection. … It seems to me to be part of the automony of Australia, or Canada, for example, that if they wish it done they are the persons to decide whether it should be done. It is part of what, in the familiar language of this Constitution, is called the order and good government of the Colony.
I have only one word to add, and it is that, especially with regard to the question of defence, naval and military, I think that the delegates who go from Australia ought to impress upon the British Government that this Australia of ours is a selfgoverning nation which desires that peace should reign throughout the world, and that we have no wish whatever to enter into any wars of aggression. I believe that if we had our time over again, and possessed a sufficiently powerful voice, we might prevent such a catastrophe as the South African war. Everybody who has read about it must know that that war involved a loss of some 20,000 or 30,000 of the brightest of the sons of the people of the Old Country, and cost it some ^250,000,000 sterling. Even then it did not realize the expectations of the capitalists.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that our people are favorable to making wars of aggression ?
– I agree very largely with Mr. David Starr Jordan, President of
Leland Standford University, who, as reported in a cablegram in last night’s Herald, said -
That the present high cost of living is the outcome of commercial warfare. All Governments, he says, are now ruled by capitalists, who constitute an unseen Empire.
I do believe that this Parliament of ours is one of the very few Parliaments in the world that is not ruled by capitalists, who constitute the “ unseen Empire.” There are, however, people in the Old Country, holding high office, who have the direction of the Imperial Army and Navy, and who entertain wrong-headed views as to their rights and privileges in regard to the coloured races of the earth. They would be quite willing, at any time, to enter into a war of aggression for the purpose of making dividends. They have not a true conception of justice, or of what is due to other human beings.
– There are people in other countries who are “in the same boat.”
– I am well aware of that. There are people in Germany who hold similar views. I think, however, that France is showing an excellent example to the rest of the world. She is foremost in international courtesy, and in her endeavour to bring about peace in the world. I am sorry that I have exhausted the time at my disposal, but the matter to which I have been referring is of the greatest importance. We are’ now taking our place in the world as a nation. We have to have a foreign policy ; let us make no mistake about that. It is our duty to consider these questions in time, and to discuss them before we become involved in serious trouble.
. - I desire to draw attention to one or two matters relevant to the administration of the Public Service Act, and to appointments which have recently been made, and which call for some comment. I think that it would be a great disaster to the Public Service of this country if anything were done to impair public confidence in the administration of the Public Service Act. I can hardly believe - I refuse to believe - that any member of this House, or any Government in the Commonwealth, desires to impair or destroy the fundamental principle of the Acts, which were passed with the concurrence of all parties some years ago for the purpose of mitigating, if not altogether extirpating, the old system known as political patronage. It would be a great disaster if anything were done that was calculated to lead to the restoration of that system of political patronage which was the curse of politicians in this country before Federation-. Members of Parliament stand to gain nothing by participation in a system of political patronage; and the Public Service stands -to gain nothing by any such system. I should like to take the opportunity of giving a gentle warning - a gentle word of advice - to the present Government not to do anything calculated to lead to the destruction of the Public Service Act, because such a course of conduct would lead to no good to any one, and would, on the contrary, lead to great harm. I am led to make these observations by the recent appointment of two medical women, one in Melbourne, and the other in Sydney, under circumstances which require more detailed explanation than has yet been given. The matter was mooted yesterday, and on the previous day by the Leader of the Opposition. In reply, the Minister of Home Affairs said that it was true that qualified medical women had been appointed to certain positions in Melbourne and Sydney, and he also said that the appointments had been made on the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner. But he admitted that applications had not been invited, as the appointments were not under the Public Service Act. ‘ Upon the surface of that explanation it would ap- pear that these appointments were harmless and unobjectionable. But I think that the House is entitled to a more farreaching explanation than has yet been given. I am quite willing to say, at the outset, that it may be that a mere error of judgment has been committed, rather than any wilful attempt to invade the principle of the Public Service Act. Nevertheless it is true that no sufficient explanation has been given as to why the appointments have been made in this manner. We are entitled to know who first suggested the appointments ; who first recommended them ; how the matter came into the hands of the Public Service Commissioner at all. There is nothing to show that the initiative was taken by him. Therefore, some action must have been taken by some Department. If the suggestion for the appointments proceeded from a Department, it is only fair and proper that an explanation should be made as to the circumstances under which the suggestion originated, and why it was neces- sary to increase the number- of officers employed in these capacities. My principal point, however, is this: If it were necessary to add to previous appointments - of which I think there were two in Melbourne and two in Sydney - it was only fair to the medical profession generally that public notice should be given that there were vacancies, and that appointments were contemplated. The whole medical profession might then have known that there “was a possibility of obtaining appointments. It seems most objectionable that appointments of a hole-and-corner or secret character should be made. Previously it has been the practice to advertise vacancies of this kind. Consequently, everybody had a chance of making application. That practice removed the possibility of heartburnings, and the suspicion of favoritism, either private or political. Applications were referred to the Public Service Commissioner, who reported and recommended as to which the applicants he considered most fit to be appointed. In this case, it does not appear that any public notice was given of the appointments, or- of the necessity for them. It is possible that certain individuals had the advantage of a private notification, and therefore had an opportunity of sending in applications, which were not open to the general body of the medical profession. Without saying anything more on the point, I think that the House is entitled to some explanation from the Minister. I do not wish to cast any reflection upon him at the present stage. I am quite willing to believe that an error of judgment has been committed, which, probably, will not be repeated. But the circumstance ought not to be allowed to pass by default, as it were, because, if this kind of thing is to happen again, there is no telling where it will end. We are entitled to be informed as to the circumstances under which the appointments were made, and as to the justification for them. We are entitled to know whether it was in accordance with the principle of the Public Service Act that the appointments were made without an intimation being given to the whole medical profession. We are entitled to know whether they were made quietly and privately, by departmental influence, political influence, or any other kind of influence.
– There is no suggestion of political influence here.
– A suggestion for an appointment might originate from a political source and a private note mightbe sent to an individual to send in an application. I am merely indulging in speculation and am not making any charge; but if this sort of thing is to begin, there is no knowing where it will end. It will probably result in the destruction of the Public Service Act, its fundamental principle being that appointments shall be made according to merit and without preference or favoritism. I make no reflection on any. of these appointments ; I merely refer to the mode of appointment which, if followed, must result in heartburning’s, complaints, and dissatisfaction, lt may further result in the growth of a feeling that the Public Service and appointments to it - both permanent and exempt - are not free from political taint, and every effort will therefore be made to bring pressure to bear upon honorable members to secure appointments to the Service. If that be so, honorable members in future will be unable to defend themselves by. referring to the Public Service Act as the safeguard and guarantee against political nepotism or favoritism of any kind. I understand that it is desired to draw this discussion to a close in order that the House may divide on the motion for the third reading of the Constitution Alteration (Monopolies) Bill. I shall, therefore, deliberately cut short my remarks and abstain from referring to a deputation which recently waited on the Minister of Home Affairs. I saw a report of that deputation in some of the country newspapers under such headings as “ Spoils to the Victors,” “ Preference Demanded for the Labour Party.” I shall not go into the matter at the present stage, but I shall take an early opportunity of referring to the report of the proceedings of the deputation which also alleged that there is political favoritism rather than political justice. It will really be the beginning of the end of the Public Service Act if anything is done to shake the confidence of the public and the Service itself in its fair and non-political administration.
– I wish to protest against the unfair way in which the Government are conducting the business of the House. We offer to make arrangements with them, and invariably, when such arrangements are made, members of their own party rise and occupy practically the whole of the time set apart for the consideration of certain matters. That is not fair. It is contrary to the practice indulged in by every other Government of which I know.
– If we do not speak, the Opposition say that we are taking part in a conspiracy of silence.
– The honorable member for Capricornia occupied an hour this morning in a speech covering almost everything under the heavens, although he had no grievance to ventilate.
– It is not my fault. I asked him not to speak; I could not do more.
– In the circumstances the honorable gentleman ought to exercise a little more control over the members of his party.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth) [12.5).- Rising from a seat on the Government side of the House which I have been temporarily occupying, I must object on behalf of honorable members on this side of the House to statements which have been made concerning them. The honorable member for Capricornia may not have had a grievance, but he addressed himself with matchless skill to the settlement of international questions and the consideration of the world’s affairs as a whole. The honorable member told us a good deal about the situation in Persia.
– Let it go.
– In the circumstances, I strongly object to being brought under the caucus whip. This, I think, will be the last occasion honorable members will have during the present session to express their trifling objections to the difficulties of the Administration.
– What possible objection could there be to anything at the present stage?
– I cannot help thinking that the dignity of this Parliament demands that when an honorable member addresses himself at large to the great affairs of the world’s politics he should receive an attentive hearing. The House should take an intelligent interest in what is going on. I certainly defend the honorable member for Capricornia, who made a very illuminating address ; but as I understand that an arrangement has been made to take a vote on another question, I beg leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) put -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided -
Ayes … … … 38
Noes … … … 20
Majority … … 18
– As it appears from the lists presented to me by the tellers that there are thirty-eight Ayes, I therefore declare the third reading of this Bill to have been carried by the majority required by the Constitution.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sydney General Post Office - Military Manoeuvres Area, Liverpool - The Coronation : Australian Representation - Dairy Exports : Regulations - Wireless Telegraphy: Tasmania - Inter-State Trade : Inspection of Produce - Dissemination of Weather Forecasts - Post and Telegraph Department : Administration - Parramatta Telephone Exchange - Immigration - Institute of Tropical Diseases - Public Service Discipline and Administration - Salaries of Post and Telegraph Officers - Post and Telephone Services, Country Districts.
Debate resumed on the question -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee Of Supply.
– I desire to submit to Ministers one or two grievances relating to their Departments, and I wish, in the first case, to indorse what has been said by the honorable member for Lang in regard to the Sydney General Post Office. Will the Minister of Home Affairs inform the House what has become of “the project to erect a building at the Central Railway Station, Sydney, to relieve the great congestion of business at the Sydney General Post Office, which has been recognised for a considerable time? The matter has been referred to again and again in the public press, and also in this House. Officers of the Department of Home Affairs made an investigation, and the result was that plans were prepared for a building to be erected on a piece of land at the Central Railway Station in order to relieve the congestion. The building was intended to accommodate those dealing with the parcels post and the sorting of all letters with the exception of those which require to be distributed within the city. Although the land was acquired a long time ago, and the necessary plans have’ been ready for a considerable time, nothing has been done by the Home Affairs Department to erect a building and relieve the congestion in the General PostOffice at Sydney which is so graphically described in the newspapers this morning. I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs will exercise some expedition in the matter. T cannot understand why the erection of Ihe building has been delayed for so long. The Home Affairs Department has also another .matter in hand upon which I should like to get some information. There has been very great delay in arriving at a determination in connexion with the military manoeuvre area at Liverpool. A large portion of the area is within the constituency of Illawarra, which I have the honour to represent in this House, and I am continually in receipt of letters from my constituents -dealing with the subject. I have refrained from bringing them under the notice of the House, and have replied that I believed the Government were proreeding with a settlement of the question. But I am now compelled, in the interests of a large number of small settlers on the area, to refer to the matter, because they do not know where they stand. They cannot learn whether their farms, orchards, and vineyards, in which they have invested considerable sums of money, are to be resumed or not. It is only just that, in the interests of these people, the Government should come to an early decision in the matter. Only this morning I received a letter, dated 26th October, from some of my constituents. They write -
We desire to bring under your notice a matter that is of importance to us, a matter which we would like you to bring before the proper authorities. We refer to the proposed resumption of an area of land in the district of Wedderburn. As a firm who have established a large vineyard in the past, and which has proved of a paying character, we are naturally not anxious to be resumed. We believe - being situated right on the western boundary of the proposed military area - that our property would not in any way interfere with the efficiency of the scheme.
I need not read the rest of the letter, which is a sample of many I have received from people living within the area. I wish to know whether the Government intend to carry out the scheme which was before the late and previous Governments. We should know whether they are going to resume ihe land or not. As long as the settlers within the area are in doubt as to whether their land is to be resumed, their industry :s retarded. There is another important matter to which I should like to refer, and I am sorry the Acting Prime Minister is not present to hear what I have to say. Perhaps the Minister of External Affairs will be in a position to give me an answer in connexion with it. As a member of the Opposition party, I was present at a meeting at which an invitation from the Imperial Government under the signature of the Earl of Crewe, Secretary of State for the Colonies, was considered. I understand that eighteen representatives of the Federal Parliament have been invited to attend the Coronation ceremonies which, next year, are to take place at the Seat of the Empire. So far as the Opposition party is concerned, we accepted the invitation, and the Government have received notice of our acceptance. I should like to know what they intend to do in connexion with the matter. It is time we knew what determination was come to, as those who will be able to attend the ceremonies will require to make arrangements for booking passages. Are the Government shirking a decision in this matter because a few labour unions in Australia have passed resolutions in reference to it? Are they afraid to come to any determination? I hope they are not so unmindful of their duty as the Government of an important portion of the Empire, as to allow themselves to be dictated to by a few labour unions outside, and neglect to send a delegation to the Coronation.
– The honorable member is barking up the wrong tree this time.
– We shall see. At present I am asking for some information on the subject, which the Minister of External Affairs may be able to supply.
– The honorable member is giving me information. I was not aware that the Opposition had accepted the invitation.
– Their acceptance of it was conveyed to the Leader of the Government long ago. I think it will be a deplorable state of affairs if the Commonwealth of Australia is not represented at the Coronation of the King, which is one of the most important functions in connexion with the Empire to which we belong. We have received an invitation to be there, and the House and the country are entitled to know what the Government intend to do in the matter.
– I hope to meet the honorable member on the Thames Embankment.
– I am sorry to say that I shall be unable to go to the Coronation, but I should feel it my duty to do so if I could possibly manage it. I hope the Government will, without further delay, state what steps they intend to take. There is a matter connected with the Trade and Customs Department to which I should like to make reference. On different occasions, the Minister of
Trade and Customs has courteously and patiently listened to representations from representatives of the dairying industry, and especially of the co-operative movement in dairying, and those connected with the industry who are engaged in the export trade. I understand that, notwithstanding those representations, it is the intention of the Minister to issue regulations in direct opposition to them. I remind the honorable gentleman that, from reports, and the position of business in this House, it is probable that the present session will come to an end in two or three weeks’ time. Several honorable members represent large dairying interests in New South Wales and other parts of the Commonwealth, and we are anxious to have an opportunity, on behalf of our constituents, to criticise the proposed regulations before Parliament rises. I hope that the honorable gentleman, who so courteously received the representatives of the industry, will treat the representatives of it in this Chamber as courteously, and will give us an opportunity to deal with the regulations before the close of the session. I hope he will not, as has been done on previous occasions, delay the issue of the regulations until the mouths of the parliamentary representatives of the people engaged in this important industry are closed.
– Perhaps it is not the intention to issue the regulations for this export season.
– I understand that that is the intention, and I think the honorable member for Maribyrnong must be aware of it as well as I.
– Honestly, I -am not. I am hoping that they will not be issued this season.
– So am I. But I believe the Minister intends to issue them to apply to this season.
– If I can get the other members of the Government to agree with me, I certainly shall issue them.
– Then I was correctly informed.
– I hope they will not apply to this export season.
– Why should they not?
– I hope that the Minister will not make the action of his colleagues an excuse for delaying the issue of the regulations until we shall have lost the opportunity of dealing with them on the floor of this House.
– Honorable members will be given as good an opportunity to deal with them as they are given to deal with other regulations.
– Hundreds of regulations are issued from time to time under various Acts, but I remind the Minister that the regulations to which I refer affect the export trade of one of the most important .industries in Australia. I remind him also that only a few years ago this industry saved Victoria, the State of which he is one of the representatives, from the troubles which followed the bursting of the financial boom. I put a question on the business-paper for to-day to the Minister representing the Minister of Defence. I was asked to postpone it until to-morrow, which I readily did. But I should like to say that I am unable to understand why the Minister was not in a position to answer the question this morning. I wish to know whether the Government, in response to the invitation of the Imperial Government, intend to send a contingent from our Military Forces to represent the Commonwealth at the Coronation. That is a simple question, and I feel sure that any member of the Government could give an answer to it at once. Following on what I have said, with regard to the attendance of a delegation from this Parliament at the Coronation, I am of opinion that it will be paltry and mean on the part of the Commonwealth if our Military Forces are not represented at the great Coronation ceremonies next year. We talk about advertising Australia and inducing people to come here, and even the present Government who are strongly opposed to immigration, have submitted a vote of ^20,000 on the Estimates to advertise the Commonwealth, particularly in the Old Country. I ask what better advertisement could we possibly have than that which would be afforded by a contingent, of Australian troops taking part in common with representatives of all the forces of the Empire at the Coronation ceremonies ? I should look upon it as an absolute act of disloyalty to the Empire to which we are all so proud to belong, if the Government did not decide to send representatives of our Military Forces to attend the Coronation of the King.
– Does the honorable member really think that a military display would attract immigrants ?
– I think that a good display in London of members of the Australian Light Horse on horses bred in Australia would be one of the best advertisements we could have for the Commonwealth. I have been given to understand that Senator Pearce, either in reply to a question asked in the Senate, or during an interview with a newspaper reporter, has declared that a contingent of the Military Forces will not be sent to Great Britain. If that is the decision of the Government, it is regrettable. As a loyal son o’f the Empire, I recognise what the Old Country has done for us. Were it not for the British Navy we should not be in peaceable possession of these lands, and at liberty to develop them as we are doing, and we shall be paltry cravens if we do not send to the Coronation ceremonies a representation from this Parliament and a contingent from our Military Forces.
.- I indorse what the honorable member for Illawarra has said regarding the representation of the Commonwealth at the Coronation ceremonies. Contingents will be present from all other parts of the Empire, and if there is none from Australia, its absence will be very noticeable. As Imperialists, we should embrace the opportunity to be represented on the occasion.
– What about sending some Tasmanian apples?
– Tasmanian apples are sent in large quantities every year, and speak for themselves. The members of the Opposition were asked their opinion on the subject of sending a delation from this Parliament, and, through their leader, accepted the invitation. Parliament will Be in a peculiar position if, after the invitation of the British Government has been accepted, no one goes Home. There are to be representatives from South Africa, Canada, and other portions of the British Dominions, and it will place Australia in a false position to refuse to let her be represented.
– Has the Government said that this Parliament is not to be represented ?
– Our grievance is that the Government has not told us what it intends to do in the matter. If a delegation is to be sent, we should have an in’timation of the fact. Coming to another matter, I hope that steps will be taken to provide communication by wireless telegraphy between the mainland and King
Island. Innumerable wrecks have taken place on the coast of King Island, the Carnarvon Bay being wrecked there quite recently, when much inconvenience was caused by the want of telegraphic communication. Settlement is proceeding apace there, and the present rapid progress will continue. I hopes, therefore, that during the recess steps will be taken to instal a wireless telegraph system. Wireless telegraph communication should also be provided on the west coast, between Macquarie Harbor and Port Davey, an inhospitable region, where many wrecks have occurred. The Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments were going to do something in conjunction, but nothing has yet been done. The people interested ha.ve moved in the matter often enough, and I hope that proper consideration will be shown to them. As this is, perhaps, the last chance I shall have before the recess, I would remind the Minister of Trade and Customs of his promise to endeavour to put the inspection of produce passing from State to State on a satisfactory basis. I am satisfied that he means business, and I hope that he has already begun to clear the way for action.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Government the disgraceful condition of the Sydney General Post Office. The plans for the present building were” drawn out forty years ago, and it is thirty-six years since the building was commenced, since which time it has only been added to by the construction of an additional story. The growth of Sydney during that period has been phenomenal, and consequently the enlargement of postal facilities is urgently required. The statement in this morning’s Argus may be rather coloured, but a little exaggeration will do no harm. The stabling for the horses used by the Department is some hundreds of yards from the General Post Office, and in another street. It is useless to tinker with the present building. I was engaged in connexion with the erection of the original building, and am well acquainted with the present arrangements. After my election, I sent a strong communication to the Department regarding the insufficient accommodation there. In view of the number of men employed, the sanitary arrangements must be regarded as disgraceful. Of course, past Governments are to blame for starving the postal vote in order to increase the returns to the States; but this Government will have to spend a large sum on postal services. In my opin ion, steps should be at once taken to acquire land for the necessary extension of the present building. A Board, of which the New South Wales Government Architect is the head, is inquiring into the matter, and I have tried to get an interview with its members, but no good result can be obtained until more land has been acquired. Prior to Federation the resumption of Hoffnung’s buildings was suggested. I was a member of the deputation which brought the matter under the notice of the State PostmasterGeneral of the day.
– Could not land be acquired nearer to the railway station?
– The Government has acquired a piece of land near the railway station, but that will not meet the necessities of the case. Since I have represented East Sydney, the Department was trying for a couple of months to obtain temporary accommodation, finally getting possession of a building in Ash-street, which is now full of carpenters, who are altering it to meet the needs of the service. This Christmas the work at the Sydney General Post Office will be extraordinarily heavy, and much greater than it has even been before. The Government must make the post-office a building sufficiently large to meet the needs of the public. The postal service should be a paying one. In Great Britain a profit of ^5,000,000 is earned annually with a capital of ^16,000,000. I admit that at present we cannot expect our Postal Department to add to the revenue, because the expenditure of a great sum will be required in order to atone for the neglect in the past. But certainly it should be a paying Department.
– It can only be made to pay by compelling newspapers to contribute their due share of the expense.
– I think that Brother Higgs is quite right.
– Order !
– For a number of years the proprietors of newspapers had the privilege of sending them free by post, but fortunately it was removed, as the result of the advent .of the Labour party into the Parliament of New South Wales. However, that is beside the question at present. I urge upon the Government that they should adopt a bold policy, and thus meet the needs of the commercial community of Sydney and the public generally. It is forty years since the plans for the Sydney General Post Office were drawn, thirty-six years since the erection of the main building in Georgestreet was started, and thirty-three years since the Pitt-street portion was begun. It requires no stretch of imagination for honorable members to understand that a general post-office which was designed for Sydney forty years ago is utterly unsuitable to meet the needs of the community to-day. 1 hope that the Government will take early steps to ameliorate the disgraceful conditions under which the employes have to work, relieve the general public of the many inconveniences to which they are subjected in getting their correspondence, and generally facilitate the conduct of business. I feel sure that the community at large will indorse the adoption of a bold policy by the Government. The paragraph in this morning’s press is highly coloured in many respects, but undoubtedly it is true as regards the ventilation. The Sydney General Post Office was designed at a time when the same regard was not paid to the question of ventilation as is paid to-day. We have been moving in the matter of sanitation during the last forty years, and when the plans of this building were drawn sufficient attention was not given to the question of providing proper ventilation and adequate sanitary accommodation to insure the comfort and health of the employes. I had not been elected for more than seven days before I made an inspection of the building. I can assure honorable members that I spoke in strong language regarding its defects, and made the heads understand that, in my opinion, the state of things prevailing was disgusting. I do not know how the honorable member for Parramatta, when PostmasterGeneral for New South Wales, could tolerate such a condition of affairs. I am surprised that he did not take efficient steps to remedy the evil, and so meet the needs of his fellow-men who have to work in the building. In the days when he used to work in a coal mine he was taught that ventilation was essential to health. I have attended hundreds of deputations in order to secure the proper ventilation of coal mines, and therefore I am surprised that a gentleman who occupied the position of Postmaster-General in New South Wales so long as did the honorable member for Parramatta could allow the employes to suffer as they have done. I trust that he will render me assistance in trying to improve the working conditions and installing a proper system of sanitation in connexion with the Department which he mismanaged so much. The state of the Sydney General Post Office is not an imaginary, but a real grievance. I believe that the fact that I have drawn attention to its position will electrify every one who is concerned in its management and administration.
– What has the present Postmaster-General been doing?
– He has appointed a Board, and has spent more money in trying to improve the building than was spent during the previous nine years by the party which the honorable member is supporting.
– But you say that the Board is useless.
– I admit that, so far as the building is concerned, it will do good work, but I do not see how it can possibly overcome the pressure occasioned by the present heavy work, and deal satisfactorily with the question of increased accommodation. Honorable members who represent the southern States have no idea of the rapid growth of Sydney. I should be very pleased if they would visit our marvellous city, and see how it has grown. 1 hope that they will assist me in endeavouring- to induce the Government to put on the Estimates a decent sum to insure that the accommodation in the building shall be increased sufficiently to meet the wants of the people.
– They are building up Sydney first by pulling down old buildings.
– No, I can assure the honorable member that there is not an establishment of any importance in Sydney which has not had to double its accommodation, in order to carry on its business ; in fact, the growth of Sydney has exceeded the expectations of the most optimistic mind. I trust that the Government will pay a little attention to the paragraph in this morning’s press, however coloured it may be, because it deals with a real grievance.
– I desire to refer to a matter in connexion with the Department of Home Affairs, and, incidentally, I may remark that, in my opinion, the present Minister is fortunate in the very capable staff of men whom he has surrounding him in the administration of his Department. Some time ago, I brought under his notice the necessity that there “was for the publication of the rainfall records in the country districts, especially in connexion with the stock routes, and also the dissemination of weather forecasts, and he was good enough to have an inquiry made. I should like him to tell the. House, now that he has had a report of the Government Meteorologist in his possession for a month, what steps he has taken to give effect to the recommendations therein contained. In his report, Mr. Hunt says -
The dissemination of forecasts by telegraph has been widely extended by an arrangement with the Postal Department, whereby this extension is to be granted only on application from rural or metropolitan districts.
I should like the Minister to state exactly the nature of the facilities -referred to by Mr. Hunt. Continuing, he says -
The system of distribution of daily weather information, principally rainfall, in New South Wales, has been also extended to towns through which such information was already passing, but the Postal Department objects to the expansion of the system to the other States on the grounds that “ legitimate “ business is retarded by the transmission of meteorological data, owing to the limited capacity of the lines.
That means that the Postal Department in New South Wales is unable to allow the expansion of the cost of this Department. Mr. Hunt states distinctly that he is unable to distribute this system of daily weather information as regards rainfall, because the Postal Department says that it cannot be done on account of the limited capacity of its lines. The Meterological Department was established because it was a national necessity, and, if it is to be of any use at all, the Minister of Home Affairs should confer with the PostmasterGeneral, and see that the requisite facilities are granted. I think that if he makes that inquiry, he will find an improvement can be effected. He ought to ascertain, for instance, the particular places where the business of the other Department is so great that telegraph facilities cannot be granted. Are all the country lines so greatly occupied with the transmission of public business that there is no time to send along rainfall records? Take, for instance, the western districts of New South Wales and Queensland. Are the lines engaged every hour of the day, so that it is impossible along the stock routes to transmit messages as to the rainfall records? I am sure that if the Minister of Home Affairs will make a detailed inquiry, he will find that the little difficulty which exists relates to a matter of administration, rather than the capacity of the lines. What I suggest is that he should forward Mr. Hunt’s report to his colleague, and ask the Postal Department to face the difficulties which are therein set out, and then see if some practical method cannot be devised by which the records can be published throughout Australia. A large sum is spent annually on the Meteorological Department, and the public are entitled to get some return. At the end of Mr. Hunt’s report, I find <his very significant paragraph -
Many of my efforts to improve the usefulness of the Australian service are impeded by obstacles raised by other Departments.
– - All too true.
– The Minister’s duty is to find out exactly what the obstacles are. Undoubtedly there seems to be some obstacle in the way, because Mr. Hunt says that he cannot get his telegrams through.
– The Postal Department cannot cope with the work it has.
– If it cannot, that shows the necessity for an expansion of their lines. I do not think it is meant to suggest that the heads of public Departments are at variance. They exist for the public good, and are supposed to confer and see if they cannot carry out the laws so as to give effect to the general purposes of the Commonwealth. If the work of one Department will not blend in with the postal work it is the duty of the heads of the two Departments to come together and try to make the laws work so that the service of the Commonwealth can, be carried out effectively. I am confident that it is not out of sheer cussedness and want of patriotism that the Postal Department is putting obstacles in the way of the Meteorological Department. In that Department are capable and public-spirited officers.
– - No, the plant is not sufficient.
– The honorable gentleman ought to ascertain what. really are the difficulties which prevent the efficient administration of the Meteorological Department, investigate those matters, and then come down to the House with a practical solution of the trouble. We want efficient postal and telegraph and telephone facilties. The Meteorological Department was established for the public good. Referring to the attitude of the Postal Department, Mr. Hunt makes this’ statement in his report -
The soundness of this attitude, even from the revenue aspect of the postal administration, is doubtful. Experience has shown that the free distribution of rainfall data has excited interest and stimulated the exchange of a number of private messages. Moreover, as the revenue of the Government depends upon the material wealth of Australia (which is largely represented by stock) every reasonable means should be provided for preserving animal life by supplying, aye, or forcing, weather information under the notice of pastoralists, inorder that our moveable wealth in stock may not be dissipated.
I think that he is touching on the importance of his Department from the point of view of the stock of Australia. Let me give an illustration in point. The other day New South Wales and Queensland had the unfortunate visitation of a late frost, which has had the effect of destroying hundreds of acres of wheat just as the grain was forming, and thousands of pounds worth of fruit. From Tamworth right across the ranges into Queensland, practically all the stone fruit has been destroyed. We know that before such visitations in France and the United States, tbe Meteorological Department, as a rule, sends out a forecast to enable people to take preventive measures, particularly, I think, in the south of France.
– Can it he done in Australia ?
– Yes. It has been tried, I am informed, in connexion with the lower parts of the sugar districts of Queensland by sending out locomotives with fuel to make a very heavy canopy of smoke, and thereby countercheck the effects of the frost. That, however, cannot be done unless the farmers can have information sent to them. lt would be advisable for the Minister of Home Affairs, I think, to ascertain whether the last severe frost in the southern area was forecasted by the Meteorological Department, and, if not, was that owing to a lack of data. I ask the Minister, if he has not already arrived at a decision, to give immediate attention to the matter I have brought under his notice, because in that way he can do something of practical value to agriculturists and pastoralists.
– Mr. Speaker-
– The honorable member has already spoken.
– That was on a motion to postpone this debate to a later hour of the sitting.
– No. A motion was moved to postpone the debate after the honorable member had spoken. The honorable member for Wentworth spoke after the honorable member did.
– I spoke after the honorable member for Wentworth.
– No. The honorable member rose to protest against a certain course of action, and pointed out that the honorable member for Capricornia-
– Yes, but that was on the motion to postpone this debate.
– The honorable member for Wentworth immediately got up to speak on a matter after the honorable member resumed his seat, and then there was some arrangement made. In the circumstances, perhaps the House will give the honorable member an opportunity to speak.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30 p.m.
– When we adjourned for lunch the honorable member for East Sydney, who represents the blue ribbon constituency of Australia, had taken me to task for something he alleges I should have done fifteen years ago. In reply to the honorable member, and also to the honorable member for Herbert, I refer them to the public prints of fourteen years ago, which, when I left the office of the Postmaster-General in New South Wales, all declared that the office there was the most up-to-date in Australia, thanks to the previous four years administration. It is said that the Department from this point of view has been going back ever since it came under Federal control. The process of average management with average pay and average conditions generally, which must always be the result of Federal rule and government, has been going on, with the result that that office, which was the best in Australia, is now in the condition described this morning.
– That Department cost more than any Department in Australia.
– That is a statement without foundation ; and I am afraid my honorable friend knows more about repairing the leaky roof of a general post office than of its internal management. When I left office fourteen years ago the facilities and conditions afforded were fair and reasonable ; and that cannot be said today. What is the remedy for the conditions so vividly described in the newspapers to-day, and by the honorable member? I do not agree that the Government should resume whole blocks of land adjoining the present post office in Sydney. Why buy land at £1,000 or ^1,200 a foot when it can be obtained much cheaper, and equally good for the purpose, a little distance away? In my opinion, we could, with great profit and advantage, distribute the work, and thus carry out the principle of decentralization ; but honorable members opposite believe in the doctrine of centralization as a step to that oligarchic goal they are seeking. That is not the way to do business. We know that every great commercial undertaking means warehouses away from the place at which the goods are actually sold, and branches in order to facilitate the business; by exercising control at the point of greatest effectiveness the best results are obtained. Why, for instance, drag all the mail matter a mile from the railway station to the post-office before it is sorted? But, of course, the honorable member for East Sydney has not studied these matters, and is, therefore, scarcely qualified to express an intelligent opinion. What is needed more than anything else is to relieve the concentration of all the business at the central office. I do not know, for instance, why the telephone branch of the service should be in the same building, or why the mails should not be sorted at the railway station. There is a project, I believe, to provide the necessary machinery for this work to be carried on at the station; and why the building is so long in taking shape I do not know. When the honorable member for Bendigo was Postmaster-General plans were drawn providing every convenience and facility for handling and despatching mails at Redfern ; but, of course, since we left office nothing has been done; at any rate, nothing of which we can take account. The Labour Socialists of Australia have been in office altogether a year and a half, and yet the present unsatisfactory conditions prevail.
– What an unfair totalling of the terms of office !
– Of course, everything is unfair but what is said by honorable members opposite !
– There have been sixty years of responsible government, and nothing has been done in the direction the honorable member desires.
– I have quoted statements of the Attorney-General showing that this is the best country in the world so far as our social relationships and privileges are concerned ; and yet the honorable member for Macquarie says that there have been sixty years of responsible government, and nothing done.
– I said that nothing had been done in the line the honorable member desires.
– No doubt it is my own fault, but I really cannot understand what the honorable member means. I cannot aspire to the intellectual heights on which honorable members opposite dwell, and they must forgive my poor, puny intellect for being unable to follow them.
– Oh, we do.
– Here is another Solon, who is constantly talking about what, is going to be done by-and-by ! I hope to see my honorable friend at the head of one of these Departments ; and then, no doubt, there will be an end to all those scandals which are constantly being brought to the surface, but of which nothing is said now by honorable members opposite. I am beginning to think that the advent of this Socialistic. Government is a very good thing, for the atmosphere is very much quieter nowadays. There are scandals every day concerning the conditions of labour and employment, but not a word do we hear in this House. In the last session of the last Parliament we heard a great deal from the honorable members who were then in Opposition; and I picture to myself what would have happened had there been such a disclosure in the newspapers as we had this morning. The Attorney-General, I am sure, would have had an apoplectic fit as he declaimed with passion against the Government of the day ; and the honorable member for Adelaide, who sits there smug, comfortable, and satisfied, would have torn himself to pieces in directing attention to their iniquities. Now, however, it seems that all is right - that now a Labour Government is in office all is well with the world.
– This i& the first time I have ever heard the honorable member speak with a smile on his face; but it is only an indication of his utter insincerity !
– I am abused every time I rise to my feet, and all sorts of charges are made against me. I desire to make my remarks very brief ; indeed, I should not have spoken at all ha’d the debate not appeared to be practically confined to honorable members opposite. I desire to emphasize what was said by the honorable member for Darling Downs about the meteorological facilities which are afforded to the people. In my opinion, the Post Office should be availed of to the fullest possible extent in this connexion ; and I do not think one penny would be lost by multiplying the facilities, seeing that much more would be returned collaterally in the way of traffic than is represented by the expenditure in publishing the weather conditions. The present Postmaster-General is inaugurating a new era, in which his one aim in life is to make the Post Office pay. But why not apply that principle to other Departments? Why should not the Department of the Attorney-General charge all the other Departments for the legal opinions that are furnished day by day? I venture to say that, in this way, that Department does more service to the other Departments than does even the Post Office. What does the Postal Department pay the Home Affairs Department for attending to its buildings, and undertaking all its repairs? If the Postal Department is the only concern to be run on business principles, we ought to know the reason why. The fact of the matter is that all these Departments are so inter-related that the question of whether this or that service pays strictly in itself and on its merits ought not to come too closely into the calculations of Ministers. These services are for the benefit of the people, first and foremost. While I admit that reasonable conditions should obtain, so far as the debit and credit of the Department go, and that some sort of rough business method should be applied to the accounting, it ought not to be carried to extremes, so as to do away with a great deal of the usefulness of the Department. I therefore hope that this foolish attitude with regard to the weather bureau will give place to a more enlightened policy, and that the information required will be disseminated throughout New South Wales.
At Parramatta, a new telephone exchange has been projected, in order to do away with a bit of a hole in which men ought not to be asked to work. Will the Minister of Home Affairs inquire what is being done, and when we may expect any improvement? There are eight or ten attendants in one room, of which the dimensions are not more than about 8 feet by 6 or 7 feet. It is a poky hole, and during the whole of the winter months all of the attendants are more or less laid up. There is nothing for it but an entirely new room, and the sooner it is provided the better.
.- I wish to bring before the Minister of Home Affairs the unsatisfactory state of affairs at Liverpool in connexion with the manoeuvre area. This business has been dragging on since 1907. The Government proposed to set aside a manoeuvre area of 100,000 acres, which includes 16,000 acres of privately owned land.The honorable member for Illawarra has mentioned that he is receiving letters on the subject, but I get letters almost every week about the same affair. The Liverpool Municipal Council, who have a perfect right to information on the subject, are continually communicating with me. Every now and again we receive a reply from the Minister of Home Affairs that the matter is really left in the handsof the State of New South Wales. I haverecommended some people to write to State officials about it, and they have received a reply stating that the Commonwealth Government is responsible. My predecessor seems to have had the same trouble in the matter as I have. It seems peculiar that the owners of land in the area should be tossed from pillar to post in this fashion. If the land is not to be resumed, the people ought to be notified to that effect. Every time that military manoeuvres are to take place in the area the people are warned a long time beforehand to remove their stock, and take other precautions. It seems a hardship to private owners in the area that they should not be allowed to use their lands as other people do, while, at the same time, having to pay the local rating, just the same as any one outside the area. The matter is in a very unsatisfactory state, and I cannot understand why it has been allowed to drag along for such a length of time. The honorable member for Illawarra, who raised the question this morning, was previously Minister of Home Affairs, but I do not know what steps he took to remove the difficulty when he was in office. It seemed to be just as acute then as it is now. The question ought to be settled one way or the other. If the land is not to be resumed, why not let the ownersknow it? I think they have a just right to complain. Many of them are not at all anxious for the resumption of their land’ by the Government. I have heard it hinted that there are several interested parties, but do not know how far that is true. Several of these people are holders of small areas from 40 acres upwards, and others. are large holders. They should all be given a definite assurance as to what is proposed to be done.
– What the honorable member wants is a real “ animated rubber stamp.”
– Personally, I am sick of rubber stamps. I like people who take the responsibility for their actions, who put their foot down and say one thing or the other. I have very little time for rubber stamps, animated or otherwise. I like to see whoever is in charge of a Ministerial Department taking the full responsibilities of his office. I hope the present Minister of Home Affairs will remove the serious grievance which these people at present have.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of External Affairs to two important matters. As there is a prospect of the session shortly drawing to a close, we ought to have from the responsible Minister a definite statement regarding them. I refer to the intentions of the Government with respect to immigration, and any further action which may be proposed in the direction of investigating the question of tropical diseases, made necessary by the taking over of the Northern Territory. There will, of course, be an opportunity of discussing these questions on the Estimates, but they will probably be put through at the fag-end of the session. About . £550 appears on the Estimates for the purpose of further investigating the question of tropical diseases in their relation to the north of this continent. If we are to successfully settle the Northern Territory, that inquiry is the first that will have to be undertaken. We have a small establishment at Townsville, which has done a certain amount of good work, but the investigations are not sufficiently extensive, as not enough money is provided, and the officers cannot extend their researches into the whole of the northern area. That will be a necessity if we are to deal with the questions of sanitation and housing, and discover how far the people whom we expect to undertake various occupations in the north can resist diseases indigenous to tropical climates, which have, so far, not been overcome, although they have been largely mitigated in severity in other parts of the world. A few weeks ago, in one of the Saturday issues of the Argus, there appeared a very good article by Dr. Barrett. After showing the neces sity for different styles of architecture is the northern portions of Australia, and the introduction of certain methods of maintaining a proper temperature, the writer observed -
The Government of Mr. Deakin did, however, render the most substantial service in actively and materially supporting the combined and successful efforts of the Liverpool Institute of Tropical Medicine, the Universities of Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, and the Queensland Government in founding the Australian Institute of Tropical Diseases, now in working order at Townsville, Queensland, under the direction of Dr. Breuil. The first step has, therefore, been taken, viz., an attempt to control, or show the means of controlling, tropical diseases found in Australia. Time is, however, passing. Great Empires are developing, and it is our business to submit this problem to the experimental test.
– There are three separate items on my Estimates alone dealing with that subject. It was this Government that introduced the item to which the honorable member is now referring. Besides that, there is a great deal of expenditure under “ Papua “ for the same purpose.
– How much do those items amount to? I am talking about the Northern Territory.
– The Acceptance Bill was only passed on Tuesday, and we have not got the Territory yet.
– The mere fact of voting the same sum of money this year as last does not settle an important question, involving the successful occupation of more than half the area of Australia. The House should be given the opportunity of hearing a definite pronouncement on this vital matter before the session ends, especially as the recess, from a variety of causes, is likely to be prolonged. Dr. Barrett further says -
I f it is proved that white people can, with proper precautions, colonize in our tropics, it will be the business of the Government to hold out substantial inducements to our own, or other white, people to play the part of pioneers.
If it fails, we are face to face with an awkward position. The present ostrich-like attitude of ignoring the problem is creditable neither to our intelligence nor to our character. May I again urge the appointment of a small scientific commission, which could ascertain and marshal the facts?
The nature, distribution, and means of controlling tropical diseases in Australia.
The compilation of a complete set of wet bulb isotherms.
The necessary data for housing, clothing, and feeding.
On the eve of our endeavour to settle a large and prosperous population in the northern parts of Australia, 1 know of no more important question to engage the earnest and immediate attention of Ministers than the investigation of tropical diseases. I hope the Minister of External Affairs will give the House the benefit of the deliberations of his Department and of the Government with respect to this profoundly important matter. There is also the question of immigration. The High Commissioner recently submitted a scheme to expend the modest sum of ^50,000 on inducing the proper class of people to come from Great Britain to Australia. The present Government have, during the present session, passed legislation that will involve the people of Australia paying very large sums of money in order to carry on their public affairs. A great deal of this will be taken from the people on the land. If Australia is ever to become a great productive nation, furnishing material wealth, and also the armies necessary for her own defence, her development must take place chiefly along primary production by the heavy taxation the lines of primary production. In_ many respects we have struck a blow at that has been placed upon the land. If it were proposed to set aside a proportion of the revenue obtained from that source, to encourage a proper class of immigrants to come to Australia, and to be ready to settle on the land when subdivision as a result of the land tax becomes necessary, that impost might be made less drastic and confiscatory in its effect. There appears, however, to be no such proposal on the part of the Government. We have only a small population, and its rate of increase is less than that of any other new country. The population of Canada is increasing at the rate of from 200,000 to 300,000 per annum, and it now comprises something like 8,000,000 people. Australia is practically as old as Canada, and although the Dominion is a little nearer the world’s centres of population, it must not be forgotten that it does not offer the facilities for settlement that are held out by Australia, We have magnificent productive areas, and a climate unsurpassed in any other part of the world ; but no attempt is being made by the Central Government to back up the efforts of the States to advertise their resources in the Old Land. It is really impossible for an individual State to advertise Australia throughout Great Britain as well as the Commonwealth Government can do. This is the only Parliament that can give to the people who wish to come to Australia a truly Australian, view of the conditions obtaining here. In this respect it seems to me that there has been a very great dereliction of duty on the part of the Government. The Argentine, which in the matter of climatic influences and the character of its production, is similar to Australia, is increasing its population by leaps and bounds, lt holds out every inducement to the people of other lands to settle there, and is making known its resources in the countries from which its population was originally drawn.
– Why did not the honorable member flog the late Government of which he was a supporter? We are spending three times as much as they did in advertising the resources of Australia.
– I have brought this matter forward again and again. This, however, is the only Federal Government which has had a proper opportunity to advertise Australia. The late Government, recognising the necessity of properly advertising our resources at Home, and so augmenting our population by means of immigration, appointed a High Commissioner. That appointment is of comparatively recent date, and the High Commissioner’s Department is the. only one through .which full publicity can be given in the Old Land to the advantages which Australia offers to immigrants. The High Commissioner has submitted a scheme for encouraging immigration. I do not know whether it is the best that could be devised, but, so far as we are aware, it has been placed on one side by the Government. We have heard nothing from the Ministry in regard to an immigration policy, and we are likely to go into recess without being advised of the intentions of the Government on a matter which is absolutely vital to the safety of the Commonwealth. I hope that the Government will announce their intentions in this respect before ‘ Parliament is prorogued. There is only one other matter to which I wish to draw attention. I read in this morning’s newspapers that the Postal Assistants’ Conference was opened by the honorable member for East Sydney, and we all remember that at a Postal Conference held a week or two ago in Melbourne several members of this House acted as representatives of various branches of postal employes’ unions throughout Australia. I would ask the Postmaster-General whether he does not think that the continuance of such a practice is likely to be subversive of discipline in the Department? Does he not think that it is calculated to give rise to irregularities such as have already been discussed in connexion with the appointment of lady medical practitioners? This question of the preservation of authority and discipline in the Public Service of’ the Commonwealth is most important, more especially as the Government intend, apparently, to multiply at an early date the number of our public servants. The authority and discipline of the service should be jealously guarded and preserved by honorable members. I do not share the view of the Postal Commission with regard to the necessary administrative work being carried out by heads of Departments, so far as funds will allow. We know that the funds have not been sufficient to enable the necessary services to be supplied, but I do not think that it would be wise to adopt the recommendation that the whole control of the Department should be vested in a Board of Management. The experience of Victoria is that “the Railways Commissioners manage their Department from a purely commercial stand-point in a satisfactory manner, but they do not use the great strength of the Department as it should be used for developmental purposes. Under a system of management by a Board of Commissioners, that same kind of commercialism would probably obtain in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department. My contention is that the great strength of that Department should be utilized to push forward necessary services in country districts, and to open up the country by every legitimate means. I trust that we shall have some statement from the Minister in regard to an extension of postal and telegraphic services, and that the exacting conditions imposed in connexion with’ new telephone services will be liberalized in some respects when the whole question of postal administration, in conjunction with the report of the Postal Commission, is taken into consideration by the PostmasterGeneral.
.- During the debate on what is known as Grievance Day, one or two members of the Opposition have charged honorable members, on this side of the House with being
Unduly silent and lacking the vigour and virility which characterized their actions during other sessions. This must be due to the fact that whilst the present Opposition were in temporary power last year they applied the closure with such regularity as to enforce silence on our part, and that in that way we have contracted the habit of silence, so that it is impossible for us to meet their desires. It may be that if a tew more speeches were made from this 1 side of the House, the Opposition would be the first to complain. Last session, as soon as a member of the Labour party attempted to speak, the honorable member for Parramatta would rise in his place of temporary power and say, “ I move that the question be now put.” It would. perhaps; have been well had a similar motion been moved on two or three occasions during; this session. In that way much time, wasted by the Opposition, would have been put to a more useful purpose. I desire to draw the attention of the Ministry to matters relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department. I note that there is a proposal on foot to reduce the postal rates, and I wish to place on record my emphatic opinion that the postal rates, at all events so far as South Australia is concerned, ought not to be reduced until justice has been done to employes throughout the postal service. For many years they have suffered, and suffered almost in silence. They have pleaded with different Governments for fairer rates of pay and for improvements in their general conditions, but up to the present they have pleaded in vain. Now, presumably, there is a proposal on. foot to make a present of several thousands of pounds to a very small section of the community - speaking so far as South Australia is concerned - who do not necessarily require that present. There is no great call that it should be made, and I fear that, if made, it will be at the continued expense of postal employes, who, at the present time, are being sweated. It seems to me that the immediate duty of those in charge is to place these employesin such a position as will remove justifiable complaints before making, without practically any call whatever, a present of several thousands of pounds to a small section of the community.
– What about the inefficient country services?
– No one is better qualified than is the honorable member to call attention to them. I know that there is just cause for complaint, but it would scarcely become me to direct attention to the matter when honorable members representing country divisions are present. Employes in the Postmaster-General’s Department are not being properly treated. I do not propose to detain the House very long, neither do I desire to make general charges; but I think that I am justified in reminding the Ministry that the postal service is - not speaking too harshly - a seething mass of justifiable discontent. I am unable to see at present any indication of an attempt to remove -the causes of complaint. At various times, by questions and letters addressed to the PostmasterGeneral, I have drawn attention to this matter, and the invariable reply has been that the Public Service Commissioner stands in the way of any alteration.
I do not understand the routine adopted in the different departments. If a just complaint came before me, and T could publicly support any action that might be necessary to remedy it, I would take such action, irrespective of the Public Service Commissioner or any other officer.
– Would the honorable member break the law?
– If I felt that an alteration should be made, and could be publicly justified, I would do justice, even though it might be necessary to break the Public Service Act.
– The honorable member would enter upon a campaign of lawlessness, then?
– The honorable member for Bendigo should be the last to make that statement, inasmuch as at the mere
II say so “ of the Chamber of Commerce tie altered the schedule of telephone rates, and thus was guilty of class legislation calculated to bring utter disgrace upon the Government with which he was associated.
– The rates were legally suspended.
– If an employe or a number of employes are suffering injustice, it is the bounden duty of those in authority to remove their grievances. It is not enough to say that the action of the Public Service Commissioner, or some departmental head, stands in the way. That ought not to be permitted. If an Act of Parliament prevents justice from being done, it should be amended; our employes should not continue to have reasonable cause for complaint against the administration. It is said that some of them are underpaid.
– Have not the inspectors something to do with this complaint?
– I regard it as impossible for either the Public Service Com.missioner or any of his deputies to carry out all the duties devolving on them under the Act. It is absurd to suppose that they <:an one day make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the conditions under which telephone operators work ; the next with the rates which should be paid to letter-carriers ; the next remedy grievances of the Defence Department; and so on, dealing in turn with every branch of the Service. No man can be an expert in regard to all the multifarious operations which are undertaken by our various Departments. But, under the Act, the Public Service Commissioner is required to define the duties and rates of pay of, say, a Customs officer, and, at the next moment, to deal with the position of an artificer in the Defence Department.
– When increases are recommended by departmental heads, the Commissioner does not hesitate to disallow them.
– The Public Service Commissioner is responsible; it is useless for him to shelter behind the Act.
– I am aware that some honorable members blame the Public Service Commissioner, and I know that when complaints are made in Parliament the cry is, “ No alteration can be made, because the Public Service Commissioner will not permit it.” The Public Service Commissioner, of course, works under an Act, and if the Act prevented him from doing justice it should be amended. An appeal to Parliament is the last resort. It was Parliament which passed the Act and. created the Commissioner. To rage at Ministers, to call each other harsh names, and to attempt to make political capital out of these matters, is useless. The grievances of our public servants must be remedial and if an amendment of the Public S«vice Act is necessary, it should be made.
– The Public Service Commissioner has to observe the Act.
– He has discretionary power.
– I do not propose to discuss the questions raised by these interjections. We can amend the Act. The future of the Public Service is in our hands. But a capable and good roan can administer even a bad Act so as to prevent the operation of its bad features, and on the contrary, a perfect piece of legislation may operate badly if administered by one who is incapable, or who does not desire to do justice. It is impossible for the Public Service Commissioner and his deputies to understand in detail the hundred-and-one avocations of the men in our Public Service. In some cases departmental heads have recommended increases, alterations, or improvements, and inspectors in their innocence, if not their ignorance, have put their pens through them, and thus those who have grievances have been deprived of the proposed redress.
– That has been done to save money.
– I do not know Whether that is the reason. It may be that there are in authority persons who think that they can retain their lucrative posts only by reducing the rates of pay of others so much as to mean practically starvation, or, at the best, indecent respectability. The justifiable complaint has been made by the men working in the electrical fitting shops that their rates of pay are considerably lower than those prevailing outside. Lettercarriers and letter-sorters are also insufficiently paid. In Adelaide, a little while ago, a man of twenty-two or twentythree years of age was doing the work of a letter-carrier for from -£30 to ^40 a year. When attention was drawn to the matter by a question asked in the House, the Public Service Commissioner furnished the reply that the lowest pay given to a person doing work of that kind was £60 a. year, and at once, without any application on his part, the salary of the person referred to was raised to that magnificent sum. He was engaged in letter carrying on some of the principal rounds in Adelaide itself. For some time he was robbed of £20 a year by a method unknown to me, and, presumably, to the Minister, and, indeed, to the Public Service Commissioner. At the present time there are men in the Adelaide General Post Office, twenty-one or twenty-two years of age, who are doing letter-sorters’ work. The rates of pay for letter-sorters vary from £l3$ t0 £T44> and are» perhaps, still higher for the men who have been twenty or thirty years in the service. But some of those who are doing the work of letter sorting are men classed as postal officials, who, apparently, can be called upon to do anything. They complain that, although employed at letter sorting, they are not paid the rates given for that work. The linemen are also complaining. I do not wish to deal with these matters in detail, but I hope that, before making a present of several thousands of pounds to a very small section of the community, it will be clearly stated by those in authority that they propose to remove the evil to which I have referred.
– If the Post Office were placed under Commissioners, as the railways are, these evils would be remedied.
– I differ from the honorable member. Parliament should retain control of these services, so that the representatives of the people may have the opportunity to make complaints public. Everything should be done in the full light of public knowledge. Complaints should be investigated, not necessarily on the floor of the House, though public representation of them must be made when private action has failed. We should know who is responsible for maladministration, and should be in a position to punish it. The present system permits of the continuance of grievances without remedy.
– Mr. Speaker-
– This is most unfair. It was arranged that this discussion should conclude at 1 o’clock.
-I am not aware that I am breaking an arrangement.
– Members on both sides made an arrangement.
– Which the followers of the Ministry at once proceeded to break.
– I have heard nothing of that to-day. I witnessed an act of grace on the part of the Opposition such as I do not remember to have occurred previously. The Government was permitted to interpose in this debate, and took the third reading of a measure to which the Opposition as a whole was opposed. That was allowed for the convenience of Ministerial supporters. In any case, the complaint of the Minister of External Affairs is rather belated. I have troubled the Government! less than any honorable member this session, but as this is probably the last opportunity of the session for the discussion of grievances, there are one or two matters to which I must direct attention, and I ask the indulgence of Ministers for a few moments. I sympathize with much that has been said by the honorable member for Adelaide concerning the position of many of our public servants, but the change he suggests would be found by them as inconvenient as the frogs in the fable found their change from King Log to King Stork. Little as one individual may ‘ know about the intimate details of the work of every branch of the Public Service, Parliament as a whole is still less well informed. The Commissioner is not alone in his office, but has the assistance of specially trained Inspectors taken from the various Departments, whose duty it is to advise on details and technical matters. The result, in general, is just about as satisfactory as we can hope to expect from the system we have deliberately adopted. A suggestion was made from the Government side that the Post and Telegraph Department might be placed under Commission; but, before a step of that kind is taken, it would be well to very carefully consider the ultimate result. Those who find themselves at present at a disadvantage, would probably be very loth to accept such a panacea. However, to leave that question, I desire to add a word to what has been so well said by the honorable member for Wimmera, regarding the investigations that are necessary with respect to tropical diseases, with which the world in general is very unfamiliar, and of which, I venture to say, Australia, strangely enough, is almost entirely ignorant. We have in the northern parts of the country opportunities for adding materially to the wealth of information so carefully garnered, information of a character which is not to be excelled for value in any other part of the globe. Our opportunities in this respect have hitherto been wasted ; we have contributed very little indeed to an investigation which will become more directly important and beneficial to us under the altered conditions regarding the acquisition of the Northern Territory. I urge the Minister, even at this late hour, to recast his proposal, and be a little more generous in a disbursement so urgently required. A short time ago I had an opportunity of seeing the work that is being done in the Malay Peninsula. There a number of men have been sent out by the British Government, and subsidized by the Federal Malay States, they are doing most valuable work, which, if we collaborate with them, will prove of inestimable advantage to us in our attempt to settle the northern areas of Australia, and particularly the Northern Territory. In the Age of today there is a cable message from London, and it indicates another instance of the great value of the service that Lord North cote, our late Governor-General, and other gentlemen, who have occupied the position of Governor of the various States, can render to the Commonwealth when “they take, as in the main they do, an intelligent and energetic interest in our welfare. The cable is as follows : -
Lord Northcote, late Governor-General of Australia, in a letter to the Times urges that, in addition to the statue of the late King Edward which has been already decided upon, London’s memorial to King Edward should include support for a King Edward VII. Tropical Research Fund. He states that the project has the support of Lord Crewe, Lord Northampton, Lord Rothchild, Lord Elgin, Lord Kitchener, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and Mr. J. Ramsay Macdonald, M.P. Mr. Chamberlain, Lord Northcote states, writes expressing regret that he is unable to take an active part in. the movement for the suppression of tropical diseases, which he firmly believes has done more than anything to make tropical life possible for Europeans.
Lord Northcote instances the fact that a total °f 35»952 deaths from yellow fever occurred in the city of Havana during the fifty years before the United States commenced the adoption of remedial measures, whereas there was but a single case in 1907.
That one instance quoted by Lord Northcote, who has visited the Northern Territory, as well as most of the other parts of Australia, is ample justification for this Government placing a sufficient sum on the Estimates for this extremely valuable and necessary work. We cannot expect that either our own people, or those whom we hope to attract to this country, will settle in the northern parts of Australia while the knowledge of science in regard to tropical disease is almost at a standstill. In Queensland, something has already been done; and on more than one occasion I have visited the Bacteriological Laboratory there and seen the eery excellent work. But that work is no longer one for a State; it has assumed national importance, and since we have decided to take over the Northern Territory it is evident that there should be no cheeseparing in the preparation of the country for settlement.
– The Commonwealth has been the largest contributor for three or four years to the cost of this work.
– As a professional man, I am ashamed of what the Commonwealth has done in this regard. From the desires I have in this direction, I may, perhaps, in the opinion of some honorable members, place too high a value on this work ; but I can assure the House that too high a value cannot be placed on human life. What we require in Australia more than anything else is strong and healthy human life, which we can secure only by insuring better conditions through a knowledge of the climatic and other influences which are so potent a factor in the continuance, as well as the comfort, of humanity. There are one or two other matters on which I desire to say a word, but, deterred by the Minister’s impatience, I shall not inflict any further observations on honorable members. I shall only say that if there is a marked change in the conduct of business it is certainly a change for the better. During the whole life of this Federal Parliament, I have seen all sorts of methods pursued by those who desire to retard or prevent business to which they are opposed ; but I venture to say that a truly national spirit has been shown by members of the Opposition from the very beginning of this session. They have observed a courtesy and consideration towards members of the Government which, I may say, was not altogether universal during last session. At any rate, the one instance I have given is, I feel sure, sufficient even for the honorable member for Adelaide, because underlying the somewhat caustic and satirical manner which he sometimes adopts, there is, I know, always a sense of justice. I believe that that honorable member, on consideration, will agree that there has been no factious opposition or wasting of time on the part of the Opposition, but that a great deal has been accomplished in the direction he desires. Although those behind the honorable member may not be altogether satisfied with the results, they cannot blame those on this side of the House.
.- The principal criticism to-day nas been directed against the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department, and that, I dare say, is owing to the fact that it is one of the largest employing Departments of the service. I notice that the honorable member for Bendigo is particularly jealous in regard to having the Public Service removed as far as possible from parliamentary control.
– No; from political influence !
– Somehow there seems to be a close affinity between the two. I can speak as an old member of the Public Service, and though it is said the man in such a position always has a grievance, I claim to have been somewhat observant, and to be able to speak with some knowledge. My opinion is that, taking the service all in all, this country has suffered less from political patronage than it has suffered from departmental or official patronage.
– What about the old system of appointing railway servants?
– I am not going back into ancient history ; but, in my opinion, we have swung too much the other way, and have allowed too much control to people outside Parliament. Those who ought to be able to speak with authority as to the qualifications of men are those immediately above them; but over and over again recommendations for increments or appointments have been made and consistently “ turned down “ by those at the head of the service. I am not here as an advocate for the Public Service in particular, but I say that next to good government and pure administration, a loyal and hard-working Public Service is one of the greatest blessings a country can have. If there be seething discontent in one or more Departments, it is not conducive to the best interests of a Commonwealth or of a State.
– The best way to raise discontent is to have political patronage !
– No one is suggesting that there should be political patronage. I do not desire one extreme or the other, but I must say that, in my opinion, the Railway Commissioners have too much power.
– We give them too much power over “traffic and policy.
– The policy is decided by the Minister, and not by the Commissioners, who are there for administration only. I believe, however, that the heads of all our Public Departments are practically dictating the policy, instead of attending to the administration of affairs ; and I, as a member of Parliament, do not feel inclined to submit to them.
– Is there any warrant for that statement; it is a reflection on our public officials?
– Yes, I have good warrant for it, and, when the Estimates are under discussion, I shall show it. The Departments advertise certain positions at certain salaries in the Government Gazette; and I repeat that the qualifications of men for the positions are best known to those immediately over them, and not the the Commissioner, who cannot be expected to have the necessary expert and technical information. One of these positions was advertised at a minimum salary of ^310, but when one of the finest young officers in the service had been appointed, he was paid only£238.
– Who is to judge whether he is “ one of the finest young officers in the service?”
– Those immediately over him are the best able to judge. They only possess the necessary technical knowledge in many cases.
– But supposing there were six applicants from the different States, who is to judge?
– The man of whom I am speaking was in the State of Victoria, and was recommended by the officer immediately over him. Unless I can see some amendment in the methods of administration, I shall, when the Estimates are under discussion, present all the facts and figures of this and other cases. It is all very well for ex-Ministers to expect their successors to carry on the business of the country in the same old way, but if we find that injustice is being inflicted it is our duty to find a remedy. If I am convinced that a man, whether he is low down or high up in the scale of the service, is being treated unjustly, I will speak for him on the floor of the House.
– I presume the honorable member will raise the question and then ask that the other side be heard as well.
– In many cases I am in possession of both sides of the question, and in a position to judicially decide it. In some cases I have come to a conclusion adverse to the men who have made the appointment or who have treated officers in a certain fashion.
.- I wish to draw attention to the question of postal facilities in country districts and the extension of the telephone system. For the last three or four years we have not been able to get the rapid transition of projects into actual facts which we should have had, because, as we have been told, the money has not been available. We have been assured that the Postmaster-General has been hampered for want of funds, which the Treasurer either refused or could not furnish. The condition of matters seems now to be substantially altered, as a new financial agreement with the States has been arrived at, and additional taxation has been imposed on the people. I therefore urge the Minister to see that the Postal Department, which is the one that above all others must make for the development of the country, receives ft great deal more consideration. In the north-eastern portion of Victoria two trunk telephone lines are in contemplation, one running right across Victoria to supply the wants of towns in the North-Eastern District, and another to run up through the Goulburn Valley. Both works are urgently required in the interests of the public, and I regard it as a substantial grievance that the money to complete them has not been forthcoming long ago. I am here to urge on behalf of the people interested that they should be carried out. Having resorted to increased taxation, the Government should recognise that the public are justified in demanding increased services and better facilities. When listening to various members on the Government side of the House speaking with regard to defects incidental to Civil Service administration and hearing the honorable member for Maribynong express himself as quite capable of being not only the judge, but also the jury, in the matter, I could not help thinking that it is high time the civil servants as a whole woke up to a realization of the gay time they are all going to have when everything in the Commonwealth is brought under Government control. The Government are now proposing to nationalize all sorts of industries, and to centralize the government of the whole continent in the Commonwealth Parliament, removing the officers still further away from the departmental heads, and making it more difficult for them to bring their grievances under the notice of those who have the final settlement of these disputes. Nationalization and centralization, so far from working for the betterment of the conditions of the civil servants, will work very much against them, and against the possibility of their making their complaints effectively heard. I feel justified in asking the Government to take warning from the voices of their own supporters regarding the complaints of the civil servants. Are they prepared to convert every individual in the community into a public servant? When they have done so, by the nationalizing process which they have in view, and all these glorious things have been brought to fruition, what a gay time the public will have, and what a gay time the public servants will have ! The civil servants ought to consider well the possibilities of the future, and give their support to those who are working, not for nationalization, but for the conduct of public affairs on sound and well-established business lines.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
On the 23rd July, 1907, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, then Postmaster-General, introduced into this House a Bill to bring about penny postage throughout the Commonwealth. I heard the speech delivered by the honorable member on that occasion, and have since read it with renewed pleasure. I have also read with considerable interest the debate that took place on the Bill. Apparently, those who spoke on that occasion were against the Bill, and most of those who voted for it were satisfied to show their approval of it by their votes. It is rather interesting to find how many of the arguments and objections which on that occasion were raised against the introduction of penny postage, and which were, no doubt, weighty at the time, have been answered by the lapse of time and the march of events. Quite a number of honorable members on that occasion objected to the introduction of ‘ penny postage because there was no Federal old-age pensions system, and held that we could not afford to go in for the one until we had established the other. It is, I take it, now the pride and boast of all of us that we have an old-age pensions system coextensive with the Commonwealth.
When the Bill to which I refer was introduced in 1907, the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States was very different from those that exist to-day. Previous to the 30th June last, it was immaterial to the Commonwealth whether two-pence or onepenny postage was charged in any particular State, because the Commonwealth had to return to the State Treasurers the whole of the revenue collected in each “State, less the expenditure. Now, however, the Commonwealth has to make a payment to each State, based, not on revenue or expenditure, but upon population, and the amounts payable to the various State Treasurers do not in any way depend on the rates charged for the transmission of letters. The Commonwealth Postal Department is at present charging different rates in different States. A person living in Sydney can send a letter for 13 miles within the suburban radius, but not beyond it, for one penny. On the other hand, a person living in Victoria can send a letter for a penny from Wodonga to Serviceton. This difference is not only manifestly unfair, but obviously out of keeping with the spirit of the Constitution. The existing rates have been in force ever since the establishment of Federation. Previously, it made no difference to the Commonwealth whether a profit or a loss was made in different States, because if a profit was made in New South Wales the State of New South Wales received it, while if there was a loss in Queensland or Victoria that loss had to be made up by the particular State concerned. Seeing that these rates had been brought into force by the State Governments previous to Federation, it might perhaps have been held that it was not an injustice to carry them on for the time being. Now, of course, the position is quite altered, and the Postal Department is in the truest sense of the word a Federal institution, because of the altered financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. We cannot lose sight of that consideration, or urge it too strongly, when discussing this Bill. Consequently, if any one State has postal rates differing from those of another State, it is incontestable, under present conditions, that that is against the spirit of the Constitution. We must necessarily have a uniform rate. Once we admit that, it follows that only two courses are open to us. One is that there should be a two-penny rate throughout the whole of Australia, thus bringing Victoria into line with the other States, or that we should bring the other States into line with Victoria by having a universal penny rate. I venture to say that the first course is unthinkable. Consequently, the second is inevitable.
Briefly, the Bill provides that all letters throughout the Commonwealth shall be carried for one penny per £ ounce. The Government are prepared to go further, and advocate penny postage with the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt, India, and Canada j but, of course, there is no necessity for a Bill to be passed to enable that to be done. The main object of the Bill is to establish penny postage within the Commonwealth. The wider question mentioned can be met merely by regulation; although, of course, not without the consent of the other countries concerned. As, however, every one of them has penny postage, I venture to think that there will be no difficulty in making the necessary arrangements with them,.
Whilst the main object of this Bill is to establish penny postage throughout Australia, it will also bring about uniform rates in respect of postal matter other than letters. As honorable members are aware, quite a number of different rates, apart altogether from those relating to letters, are in operation in the various States. I have had prepared a statement setting out these rates in detail ; and a glance at it will show at once the annoyance which these varying rates must cause the general public. The greatest diversity of rates prevails in regard to magazines. In most of the States, not only the Intra-State, but Inter-State, rates of postage on’ magazines differ. This Bill, however, will bring about a uniform system.
– I see no proposal in this Bill to deal with newspaper rates.
– We have decided not to alter the present definition of a newspaper. Newspaper rates are already uniform throughout Australia. They were dealt with under the Act of 1901 ; but I am not altogether satisfied with the present definition of the word “ newspaper,” and I think that some alteration should be made. The Government intend to deal with the matter ; but I was anxious that it should not be covered by the present Bill. Doubtless, the newspaper rates have been abused in some respects.
– Does the honorable member mean that advantage has been taken of them to distribute advertising schedules as newspapers?
– It is very difficult to say whether or not some publications come within the definition of a newspaper ; but it is our intention to bring in a Bill dealing separately with the question.
– Who decides whether a publication should be registered for transmission as a newspaper?
– The Attorney-General is the final judge.
– Only in regard to a question of law.
– A Deputy PostmasterGeneral may determine that a certain publication is entitled to be registered as a newspaper; but if any difficulty arises, the question of law is submitted to the AttorneyGeneral, who is thus made the final arbiter.
– The position is not altogether satisfactory.
– I shall be glad to bring in a Bill dealing’ specially with newspapers. The Government devoted a good deal of time to an effort to devise a scheme to overcome the difficulty; but, ultimately, the Cabinet accepted my suggestion that the question should be allowed to remain in abeyance for the present, and that this Bill should deal only with the rates referred to. A Bill relating to newspapers will be brought in at an early date ; although I cannot promise that it will be introduced during the present session.
It will be observed that it is proposed that the date on which this Bill shall come into operation shall be fixed by proclamation. I am anxious that no particular date should be inserted in the measure itself. The Treasurer, in his Budget statement, mentioned that penny postage would probably be established on 1st May next; but I am anxious that it should be brought into operation, at the latest, on 13th April next.
– That date seems to have a charm for the honorable gentleman.
– It has, for a good many of us. The 1st May was fixed upon with regard to the exigencies of, not so much the Treasury as the Post and Telegraph Department.
– Does the honorable gentler man refer to the financial exigencies?
– No. The 1st May was selected, not so much by the Treasurer a* by myself. We recognise that the business of the General Post Office, Sydney, is in a very congested condition, and I am anxious that the new system shall not be brought into force until we have made adequate provision for dealing with the increased business that is likely to result from its introduction. I hope that the date fixed upon will not be later than 13th April next, and if, when the Treasurer returns from South Africa, we find that the financial exigences of the Treasury will permit of it, an earlier date will be selected.
It is not my intention to devote any time to the advocacy of the system of cheap universal postage. I venture to say that that battle has long since been fought and won. The change is one that threatens no interest, and must benefit the whole of the people. It is a movement which aims at bringing the peoples of the earth into closer and more frequent correspondence and friendly intercourse than is now possible. Whilst I shall not deal at length with the general question, I invite honorable members to look up the report of the speech delivered in this House by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, when, as Postmaster-General, he introduced a Bill providing for penny postage. In that speech he put before the House some exceedingly interesting figures that he had compiled. He was able to tell a very glowing story of the result of the adoption of this system in New Zealand and Canada. He showed that penny postage in those countries had resulted in only a temporary loss. Many honorable members will probably say that the position of New Zealand cannot be cited as a fair illustration of what is likely to follow the introduction of this system in Australia. New Zealand is smaller than is Australia, and, having regard to its area, is more thickly populated than is the Commonwealth. That being so, it is quite possible that what might be a magnificent success there would, under similar circumstances, prove a fiasco in Australia. With the introduction of penny postage in Canada the postal revenue boomed to a remarkable degree. Canada has certainly. a greater population than has Australia, but it was not much larger than our own when the system was introduced there. The speech made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was delivered in 1907, and I find that since then Egypt, -amongst other countries, has adopted penny postage. The reduction of the postal rate there from twopence half-penny to one penny was followed almost immediately by practically an eight-fold increase in postal business, and the Department which was previously showing a deficiency is now able to boast of a good surplus. I recognise that a corresponding increase is not likely to follow the introduction of penny postage throughout Australia, since the system is already in partial operation in most of theStates. Fifty per cent, of the letters handled in New South Wales are carried under the penny rates. In Queensland there are also penny city areas. Penny postage likewise prevails in Hobart, if not in other parts of Tasmania, and also in portions of Western Australia. The only State in -which it has not been introduced is South Australia. There a general twopenny rate is in force. Penny postage has prevailed in Victoria since the inception of Federation, and I think that I am well within the mark in saying that 50 per cent, of the letters carried by the Postal Department are subject at the present time to the penny rate. It may, perhaps, be interesting to quote a few figures showing the result of the adoption of penny postage in Victoria. The last full year of the twopenny rate in this State was 1900, and the total revenue of the Department in that year was £625,000. In that total I am including a sum of £25,000, representing the value of free postage by other State Departments. Apparently, prior’ to Federation, no account of this free postage was kept, but I think it only fair to make some allowance for it, and the amount has been estimated at ,£25,000. The revenue in respect of postage alone was, inclusive of this item of ^.25,000, .£425,837, as against £574,31* received in respect of postage in Victoria during the last financial year. From that total of £574,311, we ought reasonably, for the purposes of this calculation, to deduct a sum of £13,188 in respect of postage paid by Commonwealth Departments, since, prior to Federation, no such Departments were in existence. We have thus a total postal revenue of £561,123 for 1909-10 in this State, as compared with £425,837 for the year 1900, when the twopenny rate prevailed.
– What was the postal revenue during the year immediately following the change from a twopenny to a penny rate?
– I should say that the first full year of the operation of the new system was 1902-3, and the total revenue of the Department in this State for that year amounted to ,£622, 841, or ,£391,397 in respect of postal revenue alone.
– So that there was a loss of about £140,000.
– No; the postal revenue during the last full year of the operation of the twopenny rates was ,£425,837, or, excluding the ,£25,000 in respect of free postage by other Departments, £400,837. Therefore, the loss was marvellously little, even in the first years.
– Did the honorable member make allowance for the increased expenditure thereby involved?
– I asked the Deputy Postmaster-General for Victoria the other day how many extra persons had had to be employed in this State, and he told me twenty sorters, at a cost of £1,500.
– Has the Minister the expenditure for the two years?
– That must be taken into consideration.
– Were no extra lettercarriers required ?
– No. However, whatever extra expense may be involved will have to be met. No doubt every honorable member believes in penny postage as an ideal, and will support the measure if certain objections can be met. I sympathize with those who say that penny postage should not be introduced if it means the taking from the public of facilities which they now enjoy, or the increasing, without proper remuneration, of the work of those in the post-office who bear the heat and burden of the day. I understand the position of those who say that unless those objections are fairly met they cannot vote for penny postage. With regard to the first, let me state that in none of the countries - Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, or South Africa, for example - which have adopted penny postage have the people had to submit to the loss of facilities which they formerly enjoyed. Of course, that answer is not sufficient, because we must know what is likely to take place here. We have four grades of post-offices - receiving offices, allowance offices, semiofficial offices, and official offices. The receiving offices are hardly post-offices in the ordinary sense of the word, being merely places where bags of letters are left in charge of one person for the benefit of his neighbours. Before Federation, no payment was made in most of the States to those in charge of these places; but after Federation it was decided to pay at least £1 a year, not for the services rendered, but to make those in charge of the letters legal employes of the Department, and thus to give the Department some hold on them. The minimum payment is now£1, but in some cases as much as £8 is paid, the payments being determined, not by the revenue of the office, but by the number of letters handled. It is clear that those in charge of these offices will not suffer by the introduction of penny postage, because the number of letters handled by them will certainly increase, perhaps by 25, 50, or 100 per cent., and their payments will increase proportionately. When an office has a revenue of £15 a year, it becomes an allowance post-office. The payments to allowance postmasters are supposed to be commensurate with the service performed; so it would be absurd to pay a salary of, say, £110 a year to a permanent officer for taking charge of a place where the revenue was only£15 a year. These offices are generally established in small, struggling townships, the work being done by a storekeeper, or some one similarly situated. There was some little fuss about the allowance post-offices some time ago; but if honorable members have read the information which was supplied to them, they know that those in charge are paid, not according to the revenue- of the offices, but according to the number of letters handled. Whether we are now paying them too much or too little does not affect the argument, as the basis of payment is for work done. They will certainly be no worse off under penny postage, but will receive more remuneration than they get now, because they will have more letters to handle. A semi-official post-office must have a revenue of£200 a year, and the persons in charge, who are not permanent officials, are paid so much for their work. I have recently been investigating the position of semi-official offices, but have not yet had sufficient time to come to any determination regarding them. It is an open question whether it would not pay to make many of them official offices, but that point cannot be decided yet. When the revenue of an official post-office falls below £400, it becomes a semiofficial post-office. No doubt the introduction of penny postage will mean a fall of revenue in many post-offices. The decrease may last for only a few months, or may continue for a year or two. There may be this fall of revenue, notwithstanding an increase of 10 or 15 per cent, in the number of letters handled. It might thus happen that many post-offices whose revenue is now just about £400 a year would under the proposed Bill become semiofficial post-offices, and I therefore intend to give instructions before the measure becomes law that no official office which has not already been recommended to be made a semi-official office shall be altered in status for the next twelve months. During that time I shall have an opportunity to study the whole position. I might point out that at the present time Victoria does not get an official post-office so easily as does South Australia, or parts of New South Wales, because the revenue of her offices in proportion to the number of letters handled is lower than that of offices in the other States, the postage in the one case being1d., and in the other 2d. With a difference in rates, it is necessary to classify offices according to the revenue they yield ; but when rates become uniform it will be possible to classify them according to the work’ done. The grading of the official post-offices is in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner, who has adopted the following basis : He gives a certain number of points for every hundred letters, for every hundred telegrams, and for the commission taken on the postal notes, and so forth. Under the circumstances, it will be seen that Victoria may suffer a little in regard to the semi-official offices though she reaps an advantage in regard to official offices. The payment of the officials does not depend on the revenue, but on the services rendered ; and that, I think, is a very proper plan. If salaries depended on revenue, then the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs would be paid altogether out of proportion to other public servants, the revenue of that Department being an enormous one compared with the expenditure.
– That is no argument.
– One is a revenueproducing Department, and the other a service Department.
– What I mean is that we must pay people for the work done, regardless of the revenue earned. I do not mind saying that I am one who has publicly advocated that travelling on the railway should be free; but that would not mean that the wages of railway employes should necessarily be reduced. The postal officials must be paid for the services they render, irrespective of whether the Department is making a profit or a loss. We have heard a great deal about sweating, and so forth, in the Department, and I do not say for a moment that the wages are all they should be ; but the following table may be of interest in this connexion, as showing the average salaries of officers at the time of Federation and at the present time : -
The officials in Victoria are paid on exactly the same basis as are the officials in Queensland, Tasmania, or any other State, and regardless of the fact of the postage being one penny or twopence.
-. - They have more work to do, where the postage is a penny.
– I do not know, but I hardly think so. I inquired as to the cause of the reduction in the case of Queensland, and I was told that prior to Federation most of the appointments were political, and persons were given positions practically for life, with the result that there were a number in the service quite beyond the age at which they could do any practical work in return for the large salaries they received.
– The table refers only to the men in the Public Service.
– Only to the permanent employes.
– That is no criterion of the wages of the lower skilled classes.
– No; but it is only fair to point out that in the Post and Telegraph Department we have no large number of officials receiving very heavy salaries. For instance, the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales, who has the handling of, or is responsible for, a revenue of £1,250,000, receives only £800 a year.
– The increase in the case of Victoria will not buy much fat !
– The salaries of the Victorian officers were increased under special Act at the time of Federation.
– Then the report of the Public Service Commissioner supplies the following figures, showing the average salaries of telegraphists at the date of Federation and at the present time -
Whether the Commissioner pays the employes enough or not is another question, but, in any case, the salaries are not based on the revenue. Since Federation, the Department in some of the States has made a profit, and in others it nas made a loss ; but this in no way, as I say, affects the salaries. I also inquired as to the increase of staff rendered necessary by penny postage; and I was told that in the case of Victoria itmeant only twenty additional sorters. There is another matter which has to be considered in the matter of penny postage. Tn my opinion, there is no more difficult problem than that of the rural mails ; and that problem is more difficult in Australia than in any other country in the world, when we take into consideration our area and population, and the fact that, as a Commonwealth, we own neither railways nor lands. lt is a physical and financial impossibility to deliver letters to every householder in Australia, as is done in the United Kingdom. That being so, the question is how, when, and where, to draw the line. That we should deal generously with those in the backblocks is the desire, not only of representatives of thinly-populated districts, but, I feel sure, of every member of this House; and to that end, a certain basis has been arranged. It is a roughandready basis, .I admit ; but it has been adopted after efforts to secure information wherever it could be obtained. Some ideas and suggestions were contributed in the report of the Postal Commission; and though these are good and valuable in their way, they do not solve this difficult question. When a new mail route, or an ex tension is asked for, an inspector is sent out to report; and the plan we have adopted, if the mail route is approved, is to give to that post-office the whole of the revenue that it may earn, and, in addition, pay 50 per cent, of any loss that may occur. I do not think that the Postal Commission suggested going further than that; and it means that if it costs £100 to maintain a mail line, and the revenue is, say, £40, then the Department credits that line with the whole of the , £40 of revenue, and pays £30 of the loss, the residents bearing the balance. That may or may not be generous ; but there must be some basis on which to work. The method adopted by the inspector is, first of all, to ascertain how many letters are likely to arrive and be despatched; and he arrives at that by ascertaining the number of letters dealt with in some precisely similar district, with the same population, elsewhere in the same State. For instance, if it be a mining district, he compares it with some other similar mining district ; and so on in regard to pastoral and agricultural centres. It works out in this way : Supposing a service is desired between two places X and Y. The revenue under existing arrangements would be calculated thus : Three thousand letters posted at Y, prepaid, 2d. each -£25 ; 4,000 letters carried from X to Y, prepaid at 2d. each -£33 6s. 8d., making a total of , £58 6s. 8d. Fifty per cent, of this gives a revenue of £29 3s. 4d. That is how the revenue was arrived at. They calculated the letters likely to be received in, and to go away from, the district, put them together, halved them, and multiplied by 2d. in New South Wales, or by a1d. in Victoria. Under the arrangement New South Wales and other States outside Victoria would suffer to begin with, because we cannot immediately expect double the correspondence.
– Is the honorable member speaking of extensions or existing services?
– Of extensions. So if this Bill were carried, instructions would be given that the whole of the letters, and not half of them, should be calculated and charged1d. each. That would mean that no place in Australia would be worse off than it is now, while Victoria would gain. The advantage would be that you would be likely to have more letters rather than fewer letters under a1d. than under a 2d. rate. The matter then would work out as follows : - 3,000 letters posted at Y, prepaid at1d., £12 10s. ; 4,000 letters carried fromX to Y, prepaid at1d. -£16 13s. 4d., making£29 3s. 4d., which is half of£58 6s. 8d. Consequently,£29 3s. 4d. would still be taken as the revenue of the line, so that no line would suffer, and every line in Victoria would gain. If, under the arrangement already referred to, the number of letters increased by only 25 per cent, as the result of1d. postage, the estimate of revenue from the service would be £36 9s. 2d., as against£29 3s. 4d.
– Victoria will have to help to pay for the deficit in the other States.
– I have the figures on that question. Honorable members may fairly ask me what is likely to be the loss of revenue. It is problematical. One accountant in the Department arrives at one result on certain figures, and another arrives at another result on other figures. Having gone into the matter as fully as possible, and taken advice, I have come to the conclusion that we may fairly reckon the loss through universal penny postage at£400,000 for the first year. When dealing just now with penny postage throughout the Commonwealth, I said it was necessary to have a uniform rate throughout the States in order to come within the spirit of the Constitution. Of course, we might comply with the spirit of the Constitution by having a id. rate within each State, and a 2d. rate from State to State, but I venture to say that if that were carried the agitation would be so tremendous all along the borders that we could not stand up against it. In those circumstances, a person at Wodonga would be able to send a letter to Serviceton for id., while it would cost him 2d. to send it to Albury. He would naturally ask, “ Is this a Federal institution?” A person at Broken Hill would be able for id. to have a letter carried to Adelaide, and through Melbourne and Sydney right to the very borders of Queensland, but would have to pay 2d. to send a letter to Cockburn, in South Australia, 36 miles away, although it would be carried in the same mail van. The one letter would be charged 2d. for 36 miles, and the other would be carried for about 2,000 miles for id. I do not regard that scheme as thinkable, and so we propose to go in for the wider scheme.
– Do the Government propose to alter some of the anomalies with regard to the telegraphic charges?
– We propose to deal with one thing at a time. If honorable members were prepared to sit a little longer, we might bring in further legislation. If we went in merely for penny postage within each State, and not Inter-State, the loss would be computed at ,£275,000 for the first year. If we introduced InterState penny postage, the loss would be another .£75,000 for the first year, or ^350,000 in all. I do not think we need cavil much over that £75,000. We are prepared to initiate penny postage beyond the Commonwealth. If we go beyond it the loss will be about £50,000 more, making £400,000 in all in the first year. We arrive at the estimate of ,£50,000 in this way : Penny postage with the United Kingdom, Egypt, and India would mean a loss of about .£38,500; with New Zealand, a loss of ,£10,000; with South Africa, a loss of £1,000; and with Canada, a loss of ,£500. It might be well to spend a little while in showing how anomalous is the present position with our different rates. In the year 1909-10 New South Wales showed a profit of ,£65,000 on this Department. I think she might have spent more on new works and telegraphs than she did, because more was voted, but it was not spent, and the profit was, as I have said, £65,000. Victoria showed a loss that year of £27,600;, Queensland made a loss of .£49,500; South Australia made a profit of £43,400 : Western Australia a loss of £63,500; and Tasmania a profit of £2,350.
– And that was while those States had twopenny postage.
– Whether the rate is 2d. or id., I say that the position is most anomalous, so long as the rates differ. We must have a uniform rate whether it is id., 2d., 3d., 6d., or 2s. 6d. It was not so bad in a way that those profits and losses should have been made in the year 1909-10, because if a profit of .£65,000 went into the coffers of New South Wales, the loss of ,£27,000 in Victoria was met by the people of Victoria. That, however, is all altered to-day. If the same thing were to occur next year, what would be the result? If the people in Victoria, having all the advantages of penny postage, were to make a loss of .£27,000, and people in other States were to make a profit because of the twopenny rate, it would be very unfair that those paying the twopenny rate should have to make up the loss for those paying the penny rate. Yet under the present financial arrangement that would happen. I have had an estimate of revenue and expenditure prepared for the year 1910-11. This includes expenditure on new works and buildings. We are going to spend more money in New South Wales on telephonesand other works, and if all that is set down for that State is spent, and its revenue is only what we estimate, although I hope it will be a little more all along the line, New South Wales would, under the present system, show a loss of .£51,275 ; Victoria, to whom the same remarks apply, would show a loss of .£231,358; Queensland, a loss of .£98,115; South Australia, a gain of £2,201 ; Western Australia, a loss of ,£136,583 ; and Tasmania, a loss of .£5,191- That, I repeat, is’ only an estimate of what would happen during the coming financial year. If that result came out with differing rates of postage, it would be most manifestly unjust and unfair to South Australia, where the twopenny rate is paid, that she should, while showing a little profit, have to help to make up the loss for other States which have a penny rate.
Honorable members may ask, “ Supposing it is correct that no facilities will be taken away, and that we can accept your figures, and your statement that those- who are to carry on the operations of the Post Office will not be penalized, and a loss is shown, who is going to make up that loss?” In my opinion the loss should come from the Consolidated Revenue. I am bold enough to say that the time has gone by when any Government will come to the National Parliament and ask for extra Customs duties in order to make up losses. I hold that a loss that has to be made up in respect of any service must be made up, not by revenue taxation through the Customs, but by direct taxation. I should be sorry beyond measure if, in our national financing, either for the work of the ‘Post Office, or for that of any other Department, we were to look to extra duties of Customs to make up a deficiency. I think the fiat has gone forth in Australia that any deficiency must be met, not by indirect, but by direct taxation, and there is surely a majority in this House, and may I say a majority in another place, to see that that is done.
Honorable members will, I think, recognise now how unjust and unfair the present differential rates are. Leaving out of the question the unfairness to the general public, it is manifestly unfair that a commercial man in Adelaide should have to pay twopence for all his correspondence, whilst his rival in Melbourne pays only id. for exactly the same service. I take it that there are in this House two schools of thought. There are those who say that the merchants and the financial institutions themselves bear the cost pf their postage, whilst there are others who hold that they pass it on to the general public who have dealings with them. If it be true that the merchant bears the cost of his own postage then it is unfair that the business man in Adelaide should be handicapped by having to pay a 2d. rate as against the id. rate which his rivals in Melbourne, and in some other parts of the Commonwealth, have to pay. If, on the other hand, the merchant passes these postal charges on to those who deal with him, then it is equally unfair that citizens in South Australia should have passed on to them an impost of 2d. per letter, whilst citizens of Victoria have to bear an impost of only id. per letter.
There are those who say that penny postage is a fine ideal, but that it is altogether premature and that we should “ wait a little longer ‘ ‘ before we introduce the system. That, after all, is the hackneyed phrase that has been hurled at every reform. It has been used to block every advance and to stem the onward march of progress. There are those who say “ We believe in penny postage, but let us have it to-morrow j we cannot afford it to-day.” If penny postage be inevitable, then the longer it is delayed the greater must be the initial loss.
As a member of this House, and of the Government, I have never yet cheerfully voted for the expenditure of money for military and naval purposes. I have voted for such expenditure only, because of a stern, awful, and tragic necessity. .It is a travesty on our civilization that millions should be expended en ships and munitions of war. But whilst other nations are arming to the teeth, whilst bayonets are gleaming in the sunlight of other lands, and whilst in other countries we hear the rumblings of armed battalions I take it that, in Australia, we must also make our defences sure. But there is no honorable member who does not hope, even though it may be hoping against hope, that the day will come when there shall be universal peace. Such a time cannot, however, come until the nations are drawn nearer to each other, and until the peoples of the earth understand each other better. It can come only as the barriers of prejudice, ignorance, and isolation are swept away. I venture to say that there is no Department of State that can do more, and no Department of State that has done more, for the consummation of this glorious hope than has the Post and Telegraph Department.- I make bold to say that he who flung on the world the great idea of penny postage has done more for the world’s peace than the conqueror of Waterloo, or the hero of Trafalgar. The world’s post-offices have done much; we want them to do more. Every added convenience, every cheapened service in the Post Office must tend towards this end, and in view of the many advantages that will accrue directly and indirectly, from penny postage, to the people of this great and proud Commonwealth, I confidently appeal to the House to pass this Bill.
.- The Postmaster-General may be fairly complimented upon the successful accomplishment of his task of launching the motion for the second reading of this Bill, particularly having regard to the circumstance that his health has not been so good as’ we would desire. I scarcely see any relevancy, however, in the comparison which he made between the expenditure of the Post and Telegraph Department and that rendered necessary for the purpose of National defence. We should hardly Le able to enjoy all the blessings and advantage of our domestic and social life, and all the conveniences of post and telegraph communication, if we were not in the safe possession of our inheritanceour country - as a nation. Consequently money that is spent on national defence ought not to be grudged. I do not think that the British race would be so prosperous and happy as it is, or that it would occupy such a prominent position in the eyes of the world as it does to-day, but for the victories of Trafalgar and of Waterloo. It was scarcely fair, therefore, for the Postmaster-General, in the course of a peaceful speech, on which he may be fairly congratulated, to drag in the question of naval and military expenditure. Such expenditure stands upon a wholly different plane, and can be justified on other grounds. I venture to say, with great respect to the honorable gentleman, that very few of Australian patriotic disposition would be willing or anxious to support a “ peace-at-any-price “ policy, or to advocate a miserable cheese-paring policy, for the sake of saving the revenue that it may be necessary to expend on the great work of national defence. The question ought not to be introduced in connexion with a peaceful scheme such as that for which this measure provides. I concur with the Postmaster-General, and I am sure every other honorable member will, in regard to the immense advantages to be “derived from an adequate, properly equipped and properly manned post and telegraph service. We all recognise how much such an institution contributes to our domestic utilities and social comfort, and also the advantages which it confers on commercial life; but, above all, it helps to knit together the various bonds and associations of our national existence. We ought not to begrudge any money which is legitimately spent on the Postmaster-General’s Department, or upon any of those institutions that have been established to lay down great lines of communication - great arteries of social, commercial and national life. T for one have no hesitation in hailing the advent of this Bill with great pleasure and satisfaction. I am sure that it will be so received by every friend of the Depart- ment, and by every honorable member who recognises the great and growing value of the work which it performs. It. must be hailed with satisfaction by those who recognise what a great instrument of civilization the Post and Telegraph Department is, and the importance of its extension and development on reasonable and commercial lines. The Postmaster-General very properly associated the name of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro with this movement, since he was the first to propose penny postage under the Government of the Commonwealth. He first brought down such a scheme in July, 1906, and it is to be regretted that he is not present to-day to take part in the debate and to receive that meed of praise and acknowledgment to which his services are entitled. His speech, in moving the second reading of the Bill to provide for penny postage, which he introduced in 1906, stands on record as a living testimony to the great importance of this question, and to the work which he did, _ during years of adversity, in endeavouring to give prominence to it. The honorable member had to fight against adverse forces which were then in existence, and which prevented the realization of his ideals. There can be no doubt that in the early years of the Commonwealth there were almost insuperable difficulties in the way of the introduction of the penny postage system. At that time the Government of the Commonwealth was in the grip of the book-keeping system, and some of the States were also suffering from financial difficulty. It was then expected of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth that he should endeavour to save as much money as possible and secure a big surplus to return to the States, so as to prevent their suffering from any financial embarrassment. There were also the counter attractions, of other policies. There was, for instance, the question of the desirableness of making provision for old-age pensions. Many honorable members voted against the adoption of penny postage in 1906, not only because of the necessity for conserving the finances of the States, but because they were in favour of the humane demand for old-age pensions, which they considered superior to that for the establishment of this system. Fortunately, the PostmasterGeneral to-day is in a more advantageous position in this regard than were the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and those who held office as Postmaster-General between his term of office and the present time. The constitutional financial fetters have been removed. The Braddon section has practically ceased to operate, or, at least, arrangements have been made which prevent its operating to the extent that it did in 1906-7. In addition to the fact that the approaching termination of the operation of the Braddon section gives greater freedom and latitude to the Commonwealth, we have to remember that a financial agreement has been made with the States under which they are no longer dependent upon monthly instalments from the Commonwealth regulated by the monthly surplus of revenue over expenditure. Arrangements have been made by which they will receive a certain fixed sum per annum, so that whatever the expenditure of the Commonwealth may be - -whether it may be in respect of postal, defence, or old-age pensions administration - we are not hampered by such considerations as interfered with the discretion of the Parliament when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro held office as Postmaster - General. The comparative statement of rates circulated by the Postmaster-General shows how heterogenous, diverse, antagonistic, and inconsistent those in force are, and it is strange that the public has submitted so long to the present arrangements, under what is supposed to be ‘ Federal control. Those who have held the office of PostmasterGeneral are aware that the people are not satisfied with these arrangements, and have constantly complained of the incongruities and absurdities by which they are inconvenienced and annoyed. I believe that several institutions and firms have been in the habit of sending stereotyped letters to each Postmaster-General as he took office, drawing attention to these matters, and that complaints have come particularly from Tasmania, where the public has been at a greater disadvantage than in the other States. Nowhere will the people rejoice more at the proposed change than in Tasmania and South Australia. The PostmasterGeneral estimates that the loss of revenue which would be occasioned by providing for penny post universally within each State would be ,£270,000, with an additional loss of ,£75,000 for universal penny postage throughout Australia. When in office, I received an estimate from some of the financial advisers of the Department, showing that the loss from the application of penny postage universally in each State would be about ,£400,000, and from its application universally throughout Aus tralia, about ,£600,000. There was great difference of opinion as to the probable effect of any change, and I ‘therefore suggested that we should first establish penny postage universally in each State, and if, after a year’s trial, the loss was not too great, make it universal throughout Australia, coming, later, within the scheme of Imperial penny postage. The last Government went to the country on that policy, and, had it had the opportunity, would have commenced to give effect to it about the time when the Postmaster-General proposes to bring this change into operation, namely, the 1st May next. I am glad that the honorable gentleman has not adopted the timid view of the Postal Commission on this matter. On page 41 of its report it is stated that -
While your Commissioners are of opinion that the postage rates within the State should be made uniform, at the rate of a penny per half-ounce, they cannot recommend its adoption until the telegraph and telephone services are placed on a self-supporting basis.
– I have fixed up the tele-, phone service.
– The result of the honorable member’s action is by no means certain, but I am glad that he has launched into the present scheme without considering the other services. The demand for penny postage is so strong that its commencement is justifiable, notwithstanding complaints about the inadequacy and inefficiency of the telegraph and telephone services. It would be unfair to delay the reduction of postal rates because of complaints regarding these services. 1 do not agree with those who say that we should not have penny postage until certain grievances of the departmental officers have been rectified. Those grievances must be dealt with on their merits, and can be redressed without affecting the proposed reform. In my opinion, the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services should be dealt with separately, and each on its merits. The facilitation of the, domestic, social, and commercial communications of the country dependent on the Post Office should not be delayed because grievances of postal officials need redress, or the telephone and telegraph services require to be improved. According to the report of the Postal Commission, when penny postage was introduced into Victoria, the number of letters posted within the State for , places within its borders was 52.08 per head of population, and, in 1904, had increased to 7 2 . 7 9 . This shows that the PostmasterGeneral is justified in anticipating, not merely a loss of revenue, but an increase of expenditure, consequent upon the increase of business to be done. I cannot believe that the volume of mail matter can be greatly increased without necessitating an increase in the staff required for sorting and delivering it. It is incredible that the introduction of penny postage in Victoria was met by so small an increase in the sorting staff. There must have also been an increase in the number of postmen. Of course, whatever increase of expenditure is necessary must be met. The officers of the Department may rest assured that they will not be sweated as the result of the proposed change. The introduction of penny postage will be of great value to every person in the community, and of special value to those engaged in trading and commercial pursuits. I should like to speak at greater length on this proposal, but draw my remarks to a close because of the desire to adjourn the debate. It is a matter for congratulation that the allowances and pay of our postal officials compare favorably with those received prior to Federation. The grievances which have been referred to may fairly be dealt with apart from this proposal, and should not be used as an argument for delay in the introduction of a reform which has been long expected and desired, and will be hailed with satisfaction by the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. J. H. Catts) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate,, with the message that it had agreed to the amendments of the House of Representatives.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
That the foregoing message be considered forthwith in Committee of the whole House.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the Payment of Bounties on the Manufacture of Kerosene and Paraffin Wax from Australian Shale.
.- Does the Minister propose to take this Bil) through all its stages to-night, or is he prepared to adjourn the debate, as in the case of the Postal Rates Bill? I submit, with all respect, that it is hardly fair to honorable members who came prepared to speak on the subject of the postal rates, to be suddenly confronted with this Bill, without any previous intimation that it would come up for consideration.
– It is not even on the notice-paper.
– I was not aware of that ; but, at any rate, we had no idea that it was to be brought on this evening. I hope the Minister will afford an opportunity to honorable members to prepare themselves to deal with the question.
– Last evening the Acting Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition agreed as to the business for to-day; and I understand that it was arranged that the Postmaster-General should move the second reading of the Postal Rates Bill. We all know that that honorable gentleman has not been very well of late, and is, even now, here against his doctor’s orders. It was felt that it would not be advisable to detain him here longer than was absolutely necessary, and it- was thought better to adjourn the debate than that he should leave for his home, and, perhaps give rise to an impression that he was not treating honorable members with that courtesy they have a right to expect.
– Was there any arrangement as to this Bill being brought on today ?
– The honorable member for Wilmot, I think, was aware that the Bill would be introduced to-day.
– We have, not even seen - copies of it.
– The honorable member for Wilmot, and, I think, the honorable member for Moreton, will bear me out that last evening the Leader of the Opposition asked for a copy of this Bill, and this morning I handed him about twenty or thirty copies, for circulation amongst honorable members opposite. Of course, I could not circulate the Bill in the House until the message had been brought down, nor could I move the first reading.
– How far does the Minister propose to take the measure to-day ?
– If any honorable member objects to the Bill being taken to, or beyond, the second- reading stage, then, of course, we must go on with other business. The discussion might take place either on this motion, or on the second reading ; and I think the latter would be preferable. I know that there are some honorable members prepared to speak, and when they have done so, if any honorable member so desires, the debate may be adjourned.
– - There is no desire to delay this measure, but we wish to know how far the Minister proposes to take it to-day. There are several honorable members interested in the measure, and we are all, I think, quite willing to permit the Bill to reach the second-reading stage. The debate can then be adjourned if any honorable member desires to address himself to the question, and is not prepared to do so this evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
That Mr. Tudor and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Tudor, and read a first time.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Minister of Trade and Customs have leave to move the second reading ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear ! Leave granted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
As honorable members are aware, this is by no means a new question. During the discussion on the two revisions of the Tariff, the oil industry was mentioned by many ; and this session a motion has been moved by the honorable member for Wilmot in favour of a bonus. In addition, my predecessor and I myself have received deputations in favour of encouragement being given to the production of oils in Australia. On the last occasion, when a large deputation, representative principally of New South Wales and Tasmania, waited on me, I informed them that it was the intention of the Government to give a bonus or bounty of ,£50,000 on the production of kerosene and paraffin wax made from Australian shale. I made the same statement subsequently in the House when the motion of the honorable member for Wilmot was under discussion, intimating that it was the intention to spread the bonus over five years. Honorable members will observe, from the Bill, that that intention has not been adhered to. When the honorable member introduced his motion, it was urged by several that a larger bonus than that I have mentioned should be awarded ; but the Ministry decided not to give any greater amount than the total, but to give ^10,000 in the first year, and in the two subsequent year? ,£16,000 in the case of kerosene, and ,£4,000 in the case of paraffinwax - that is, ,£10,000 for the first year and ,£20,000 in each of the two subsequent years. It needs no words of mine to convince honorable members, and the people generally, of the importance of the oil industry. According to Mr. Knibbs’ report in regard to the Customs and Excise revenue, we imported, in 1909, oils, fats, and waxes to the value of £1, 337, 429.
– How much of that was wax?
– Not very much, the bulk being oil.
– Those figures cover all oils?
– Yes. The largest importation was of kerosene; but, of course, it is quite possible that ,£100,000 worth or more was re-exported from Australia. We may say, I think, that in oils alone, independent of waxes, we import about £1,100,000 worth. Honorable members will agree that, if we could produce those oils for ourselves, and give employment to our own people, it would be much better than sending our money across the seas ; and I think it quite possible that, if encouragement be given, not necessarily by means of a bonus, but, perhaps, by a revision of the Tariff, providing a high rate of duty on some of the lines, the industry would be more effectively encouraged in this country. As to the question of the honorable member for Moreton, I have here the figures for the last five years, showing the quantity and the value of the kerosene and paraffin wax imported during that period. In 1905, we imported 16,416,734 gallons of kerosene, valued at ,£439,440; in 1906, we imported 16,106,083 gallons, of a value of £4I 7,572 i in 1907, we imported I9>273>955 gallons, valued at .£499,951; and in 1908, we imported 17,154,940 gallons, valued at ,£484,123. The figures for 1909 are important, because, while the imports might be swollen in 1907 in view of a probable revision of the Tariff, there was no such influence at work last year, seeing that the Tariff had just been revised.
In that year we imported 19,924,662 gallons, of a value of . £630,302. Those were the largest imports of any of the five years. Taking them over a term of five years, which is the fairest way, we found that the average, both in volume and value, steadily increases. Of paraffin wax the imports were as follow -
I have had worked out for the years 1908 and 1909 the value of the kerosene and paraffin wax, taking the importers’ values, and as there was no duty on kerosene, there would be no temptation to minimize the value. The average value per gallon worked out at 6.77d. In 1909, it worked out at 7.59d. Those are wholesale values, and include kerosene and other refined oils, although I should think practically the whole of the imports consisted of kerosene used for burning purposes.
– The wholesale price of kerosene is10½d. per gallon.
– These are wholesale values at the port of shipment. By the time freight, insurance, and landing charges were added, the value would probably reach the figure referred to by the honorable member. The increase in the price of kerosene was about3/4d. per gallon between the two years mentioned, and that, spread over 19,000,000 gallons, means a large extra amount paid by the people of Australia. The price of paraffin wax in 1908 was 3.42d., and in 1909 2.92d. per lb. wholesale. Probably the ordinary retail price of the article would be 4½d. or 5d. per lb.
– The wholesale price in New South Wales is 3½d. per lb.
– I am surprised to hear it. The last time I made inquiries, I was informed by a man who bought it by the hundredweight for tanning purposes, that he had to pay over 4d. per lb. The information I have given is taken from the statistics furnished to the Customs Department by the importers.
– F.o.b. prices?
– Yes, less, in all probability, the charges which have to be met at this end, and also carriage, insurance, freight, &c. The wholesalers’ profit has also to be added, and in those circumstances I am surprised at the statement of the honorable member for Cook that the wholesale price of paraffin wax is 3½d. per lb., when it cost 2.92d. at the port of shipment for the 6,110,000 lbs. imported last year. Honorable members may ask why we propose to treat kerosene differently from other commodities. The reason is that it stands in quite a different position from nearly all other articles in the Tariff, and, therefore, we propose to give a bounty instead of placing a duty upon it. Although I yield to no one in this Parliament as a believer in Protection, I would not ask the House to place a duty upon kerosene, when we are importing nearly 20,000,000 gallons and manufacturing only 300,000 gallons in Australia. That was the estimate of the production in Australia last year by the only company that has made an earnest attempt to undertake the business. Kerosene is the poor man’s illuminant, and, where gas and electricity would be free of duty, it would not be fair to place an import duty upon it. That is why this Government, or any other which desired to give assistance to the oil industry, would prefer to give it by means of a bounty rather than by means of an import duty. Some honorable members will, no doubt, ask, as they did when the honorable member for Wilmot moved the resolution in regard to this question, why we propose to give the bounty on the refined, and not on the crude, product. Our answer is that we believe that the finished article should be made in Australia. To give the bounty on the crude oil, when we have to use the finished product in Australia, would be to confess that we were not competent, or did not find it worth while, to refine the oil here. It is far better for us to do all the work here. If we propose a bounty on the finished article, which goes into daily use in almost 90 per cent, of Australian homes, the people will understand and appreciate what we are doing, but if we give it on the crude oil, they will not have the remotest idea of our object. If we give the bounty on the finished article, we shall have the greatest amount of work done in Australia and not encourage the exporting of the crude article, only to be brought back again in a refined state. That is what happens in regard to some of the other articles dealt with in the Tariff. We send away the raw material from Australia, and import it afterwards as a finished article.
– Is the finished article to be made out of raw material produced in Australia?
– Is any of the refined imported kerosene made from shale exported from Australia?
– I do- not think so. The shale which has been sent away from Australia is too valuable to turn into kerosene. It. is very rich in certain properties required for the making of gas, and is also being used for turning out certain other finished products, which are afterwards brought back to Australia. We propose to give this industry a start, although I do not claim that the bounty offered can be compared with some that are already being given. Some honorable members have pointed out that we are treating this industry very differently from the iron industry at Lithgow, which is working practically next door to it. We have given to the Lithgow Ironworks a bounty of -£150,000; but we propose to give the whole of this industry only ,£50,000, spread over three years. The iron bounty goes to one firm alone, whereas in the case of the oil industry I trust that other companies will come into competition and earn part of the bounty. I should not be prepared to stand up here and say that we are going to give the bounty to only one company.
– That is what it will amount to.
– I do not believe that. If so, it will not be the fault of the Bill. There are several companies already in existence, and they can come forward and claim the bounty. I do not say that because one industry has been well treated we should use it for purposes of comparison with another; but it has been pointed out that the Lithgow Ironworks have a capital of only about ,£250,000, while in the oil industry one company alone has a capital of over ,£1,000,000. The ironworks employ 600 hands, and this industry to-day employs over 1,000. I realize that the iron industry is most important to any country, but I believe that the same remark can be applied to the oil industry. Yet we propose to offer only .£10,000 for the first year, and ^£2 0,000 in each of two subsequent years, four-fifths of the amount being for refined kerosene and one-fifth for paraffin wax.
– If not all claimed in one year, it is allowed to accumulate, so that the whole amount can become available.
– That is so, and it will ba an advantage to the companies that I trust will be afterwards started. I hope that every penny offered will be earned and claimed, as has happened in the case of the iron industry. I trust that we shall not have the experience that we have had in regard to some of the other bounties, of which not one-tenth has been claimed. Honorable members may ask why we propose a bounty on kerosene and paraffin wax, and not on other oil products. The principal reason is that we believe that kerosene and paraffin wax stand in a different position from the other oil products, which can be dealt with in a revision of the Tariff, and not by means of a bounty. I have pointed out that the Australian production of refined kerosene was 300,000 gallons last year, as against nearly 20,000,000 gallons of imports. I understand that in Australia 300 tons of paraffin wax is being refined from 450 tons of crude wax. That is an item in respect of which they will be able to claim the bounty within the next twelve months. The anticipated output of one company within the next twelve months is 1.000 tons. At Murrurundi, about 45 miles from Newnes, another company has commenced operations. Its works, I believe, are in the electorate of Robertson, and it expects to turn out some 400 tons of refined paraffin wax during the next twelve months. I understand that that company will be ready to claim a share of the bounty, and I certainly wish it well.
– What is the name of that company ?
– The British Australian Company, which, I trust, will be a competitor with the larger company for these bounties. Oil-bearing shale is at present being produced at Newnes, in the Wolgan Valley, Blue Mountains - where the largest output is taking place - Murrurundi, the scene of the British Australian Company’s operations, and also in certain parts of Tasmania, where, it is stated, there are some very rich oil-bearing shale beds. I trust that steps will be taken by those engaged in the industry to refine the oil, and so become competitors for the bounty which we offer. I have here a history of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, which is the biggest company of its kind in Australia. In the Australian Mining and Engineering Review for September there is an article dealing with the operations of the corporation, in which it is stated that -
The shale deposits are almost unlimited, and the aim of the corporation must be to produce as much oil and by-products as can be profitably marketed.
The point to be emphasized is that - towards this end - close on £1,000,000 has been spent by British investors in anticipation that the Federal Government will recognise their efforts to establish a new industry, and grant the assistance or the protection that is necessary to insure the success of the scheme….. A railway of standard gauge, 32 miles long, has been built through very rugged country ; by miles of drives and tunnels, the existence of millions of tons of high grade shale has been proved ; uptodate retorts and refineries have been erected ; and the question is, will the Government help the corporation to supply the local market by placing an import duty on kerosene and other oils?
I have already answered that question by saying that the Government do not favorably regard the proposal that an import duty should be placed on kerosene oil. Whilst we think that there are other oils which may well be made the subject of consideration in connexion with future Tariff revisions, we consider that, as we have to import some 20,000,000 gallons of kerosene oil every year, or 60 gallons for every gallon that is locally produced, an import duty would not be fair to the consumers.
– Is it intended to impose a duty on kerosene oil if the local industry be successful?
– That must be a matterfor consideration. If those engaged in the undertaking reach the position of other local industries, and are able to produce 50 per cent, of the total quantity consumed in Australia, the .position will be entirely different from what it is to-day. Only onesixtieth proportion of the kerosene oil that is used in Australia is locally-produced; and I am inclined to think that, not even those who represent the districts where the industry is carried on, would, in these circumstances, ask for an import duty. This article continues -
It is sometimes thought that such an industry should be sufficiently protected by the cost of shipping freights from abroad. Take the case before us. America is the greatest competitor; the freight on oil from New York is cheaper - taken all round, considerably cheaper - than the freight paid by the Corporation for carrying their products to Sydney, the distributing centre.
The Corporation does a large business already with the principal gas companies, and when in full swing will doubtless extend this branch of the business. The Australian Gas Light Company, Sydney, purchases 1,250,000 gallons of gas oil per year, and this product is also sold in large quantities to other leading gas works.
The shale produced by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is in keen demand for coal gas enrichment. It is shipped, not only to various parts of Australia, but also abroad.
The process of refining is described in detail ; but I shall not weary the House, by reading the description given -
As already explained, the richest shale is exported, principally for gas enrichment, and, therefore, when- the shale is raised it is picked over and classified into two grades. The second grade at present is stacked for treatment when the retorts are ready, and large quantities are now accumulated. When shale production commences in real earnest, other shafts and tunnels, where almost unlimited quantities of shale have been proved, will be re-opened.
It is a great mistake to send the richest shale out of the country, and to retain for our own use the second grade.
– Then the honorable member thinks we ought to have an export duty?
– No; but I think it is a mistake to keep only the second-grade shale for our own use.
– This Bill will not overcome that difficulty.
– I am not so sure that it will not. If we encourage the local production of oil, then the company will be disposed to retain for local use the shale which produces the highest percentage of oil per ton.
– It will be a question of what pays them best.
– Of course.
– Has the honorable member any figures bearing on the question of whether it would pay the company not to send the first-grade shale out of the country ?
– No. I may say that I have not consulted the company in bringing forward this Bill.
– Some investigation ought to have been made.
– Representations were made to the Department that a very large amount of capital had been invested in the industry, and that, owing to the absence of any protective duty, the enterprise was in danger of being retarded, if not destroyed. The Ministry thought that the best course to pursue was to introduce a Bill providing for the payment of a bounty, so as to encourage, not only the existing company, but others, to invest their capital in a similar project in Australia.
– How can the honorable member say that the company is likely to close down in the absence of a bounty if no investigation has been made?
– Representations have been made by a deputation.
– Mere statements were made. Evidently, it is easy to obtain Commonwealth money.
– The honorable member is quite mistaken. I should not have introduced this measure if I did not think the industry was worthy of the encouragement that we propose to offer it. Compared with some of the bounties which have been granted by the Commonwealth, I think this will prove one of the best investments that we have made. We have in Australia a great many oil-bearing shale deposits which have been proved. In view of the fact that the two torpedo-boat destroyers which are to arrive here in a few days, and which will form the nucleus of the Australian Navy are to burn oil fuel, Captain Creswell thought it advisable that we should make inquiries as to the quantity of oil fuel available here, and the extent to which various oil-bearing shale producing localities had been tested. Inquiries were accordingly made, and I have here a report from each of the States, showing the investigations that have been made, and the degree of success that has attended efforts in this direction. Honorable members already know what has been done in New South Wales. The Government Geologist of Victoria reported that he knew of no site in this State where oil was likely to exist, except one near the mouth of the Glenelg River, where some excavations are about to be made prior to an examination of the country. If petroleum oil wells had been discovered in Australia, I do not think there would be any necessity to offer a bounty on the production of shale oil. The position would be entirely different from what it is to-day ; but until such discoveries are made, we ought to do something to assist this industry. The Government Geologist of South Australia has reported that there are authentic occurrences of native petroleum oil in that State at Leigh’s Creek, Lake Phillipson, and one or two other districts. The Government Geologist of Tasmania reports -
An undefined area in the basin of the Mersey carries one or more seams or beds of oilbearing shale, which have been known to exist since 1852, but were not seriously tested experimentally until 1902, when analyses of the shale, at various points were made on the spot at the instance of a South Australian syndicate. The ‘results showed an average content of sixty gallons of oil per ton of shale (benzine, lighthouse oil, and lubricating oil). Two new companies are about to start work in earnest, prospecting and preparing sites for extraction works, and other syndicates are in the field. Crown land has been applied for by investors and speculators up to about 14,000 acres on both sides of the Mersey in the hope that payable shale may be found to extend beyond the limits of present exploration. How far this rush is justifiable cannot be stated until the area is geologically examined.
The report mentions several localities where traces of oil-bearing shale have been found. In Queensland many localities have been tested, and traces of oil-bearing shale have also been found. I am firmly of opinion that if this Parliament can foster the industry - if it can do something to encourage, not only the companies at present in existence, but to induce others to commence operations, it will be to the lasting good of Australia. This is an industry in which good wages are being paid. Representatives of the men, accompanied by members of this Parliament, waited on me, and submitted a statement showing the average wages earned in the service of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation for a period extending from 8th October, 1909, to 17th June, 1910. The average wage of miners ranges from ns. 2d. to” 14s. 8d. per shift.
– Are they coalminers ?
– Yes. Brushers receive still higher rates.
– Are these men continuously employed?
– Are they working under a Wages Board decision?
– They are receiving their wages in accordance with what is known as the Wolgan decision.
– That was a private arbitration.
– And I believe that it was finally registered in the Arbitration Court. The shale-miners receive from 11s. 5d. to 15s. 7d. per shift.
– Are these all miners?
– Yes, shale-miners.
– How many men are there in the different groups?
– I am quoting the average rates as shown in a statement furnished to me by the representative of the workers on the Wages Board. His word, I think, may well be taken.
– There are about 1,000 men employed by the company.
– How many of those men are miners?
– I do not know. If it were not for the presence of the shale, and the work thus given to miners, there would be no employment for the rest of the local population. Clause 6 provides that the bounty shall be payable only if fair conditions of labour are observed, and proper wages paid. The bounty is to be paid, not on oil refined in Australia from imported crude oil, but on oil refined here from Australian shale and on paraffin wax. From a discussion which has already taken place, if fault is found with our proposal, it will probably be on the ground that the amount of the bounty is too small, and that the granting of a bounty ought to be accompanied with an alteration of the Tariff. This, however, must be regarded as a first step towards placing the industry on a more satisfactory basis.
– I shall not oppose the Bill, though its provisions do not go so far as I should like. At the same time, it would be futile, after what the Minister has said, to move an amendment to give effect to my views.
– A private member could not move an amendment having the effect of increasing the bounty.
– That is so. I understand that over£1, 000,000 has been spent in establishing the kerosene industry in New South Wales, and that a great deal more must be spent before everything is in satisfactory working order, when something like 2,500 men will be employed. The employment of so large a number is in itself justification for this proposal. But while supporting the Bill, I cannot bind myself to support similar proposals on some future occasion, if it be found that kerosene cannot be produced as cheaply as is now thought to be possible. The Government is proposing encouragement only for the production of refined oil, but the production of crude oil is likely soon to become a considerable industry, because of the extent to which oil is now being used as fuel. It has been considered advisable to equip our torpedo destroyers with furnaces for the burning of oil fuel ; and if oil fuel is adopted generally in the Navy, and elsewhere, there will be a great future for the oil industry. In my electorate, 14,000 acres have been pegged out as containing oil-producing shale, and if the field proves to be a success, a good many more than 2,500 men will be employed. I may be able in the near future, and perhaps next session, to make out a good case for the giving of a small bonus for the production of crude oil. Tasmania will not benefit by the present proposals.
– Why not?
– Because it is not intended to produce refined oil there. The deposits have been known for more than fifty years, and about half a century ago samples of the shale were sent to Scotland, when Professor Penny reported that, although it might be suitable for many- things, it was not shale from which good kerosene could be produced. As a result, nothing was done with it for a time, but now that crude oil is being so largely used in industries, it is thought that these deposits can be profitably worked. Judging by the half-yearly report, the anticipations of one of the companies which intend to work them have been well fulfilled, so far as width of seams and cost of operations are concerned.
– Will not all crude oil yield kerosene on distillation ?
– That I cannot say. The intention is to produce crude oil for fuel. It is thought that it can be obtained cheaply and in large quantities, and that, ns the market is an expanding one, a small profit per gallon will give a very good return. The Tasmanian Shale and Oil Company has done more developmental work than any other company on the field. Some of the oil distilled by it was recently used on a local show-ground, to provide fuel for the working of a large engine, and the results were said to be excellent. According to one newspaper, the company hopes to be producing oil freely by Christmas time. I shall not adopt a doginthemanger attitude because the bounty will not assist Tasmanian enterprises; but, as soon as possible, I intend to present a case to the Ministry which I hope will induce it to propose a bounty for crude oil. The production of oil from the Tasmanian shale deposits will greatly benefit the district in which they lie, and the State as a whole. An industry cannot be established without assisting other industries, and the employment of a large body of men must give opportunities for earning a livelihood to a great many other persons.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m.
– When we rose for dinner I was saying that, though this Bill does not go so far as I would personally like, I intended to support it, because I believe that the prospects of the oil industry in New South Wales warrant us in taking the proposed step. While I am prepared to support this bounty, I may have an opportunity to induce the Government to extend it next year, especially if the developments continue as they promise in my own State. I do not see any chance of the Tasmanian companies benefiting from a bounty for kerosene or paraffin wax only ; there must be some encouragement given to the production of crude oil. The
Government are offering a bounty on what they call the finished product, but I think that in the near future we shall be compelled to place crude oil in that category. If it can be shown that there are large bodies of shale capable of producing crude oil which will not pay for refining, but will afford employment to large numbers of men, we have in prospect an industry that we ought to foster by a bounty, a duty, or some other means ; at any rate, such an industry should be encouraged in our midst. I hope shortly to be able to show Admiral Henderson the deposits in Tasmania, which are close to the sea, and near a very good port, so that if the development is satisfactory, the fuel oil must prove of great advantage to the Australian Navy. The destroyers which are now on their way out are so fitted that they can consume oil fuel ; and, in fact, the Admiralty strongly recommend this plan, apparently having made up their minds that, for naval purposes, oil will be the fuel in the near future. If that be so, it is to be hoped that Australia will be able to supply all our requirements in this connexion, as well as for industrial consumption. I do not know whether it is correct, but I am informed that a great deal of the machinery at Broken Hill requires oil fuel, and, if so, there is .opened a large field to be exploited as another inducement to the thorough investigation of our deposits. According to the report of the Tasmanian Government Geologist, read by the Minister, there are two seams of shale in the Mersey Valley ; but I notice, from a report of the company there, that there are four seams, so that, in any case, the existence of large deposits has been clearly proved. 1 read the other day of a company which has started some miles away on the opposite side of the river, and which has stripped a certain portion of their property, disclosing 1,000,000 tons of shale which is now in sight. If these reports are correct, there are certainly large deposits awaiting development. The question, of course, is whether these deposits ran be developed at a profit as a fair mercantile venture; and I think they can, though, in my opinion, kerosene is not likely to be one of the products. This bounty will go to New South Wales, which is practically the only State producing kerosene. If this Parliament were justified in voting an iron bounty, it is certainly justified in encouraging the shale industry in that State to the extent proposed. I understand that at the ironworks at Lith gow there are something like 600 men employed, and that the bounty in the aggregate amounts to very much more than £[50,000. The Lithgow Company, I understand, have spent something like £250,000 in their business; and we know that the Commonwealth Oil Company, and the other companies who are. developing the shale in New South Wales, have spent £1, 000,000 in this way, and will have to spend a great deal more. The oil industry in that State now employs over 1,000 men, and when it is in full swing it will probably employ 2,500. As we were perfectly justified in assisting the iron industry, so are we justified in assisting the oil industry. If I cannot get what I desire to-day, I ask the Minister to remember that there may come a time in the near future when, if development goes on as we hope in Tasmania, I shall be able to make out a case on which the Government may ask Parliament to offer a bounty on crude oil, or afford such other assistance as may be desirable.
– I do not often trespass on the time of the House, and I should not do so this evening if we were not discussing a means of assisting the development of one of the natural resources of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Wilmot has said that the whole of this bounty will go to New South Wales. I do not know whether that is so or not, because, while the shale industry may be more advanced in that State than in any other, still, from information given us by the Minister, we have reason to believe that there are great possibilities in this connexion elsewhere. I compliment the Minister on the fair and explicit manner in which he introduced this measure to the House. Everything he said as to the wages and conditions of those employed in the industry is, so far as I have had an opportunity of judging from mingling amongst the employes, absolutely correct. An industry which, in its initial stages, provides employment for such a large number of men is worth the most serious consideration in a Parliament whose business it is to look after affairs of this sort. In my own electorate, at Murrurundi, there is an extensive shale deposit at present in the hands of a Scottish corporation. A fortnight or three weeks ago, when I was in the neighbourhood, I saw that this corporation, which is credited with having £500,000 of capital, were engaged in erecting a very substantial and _ expensive building in the prosecution of their designs. They are constructing aerial tramways to convey the shale across the mountains to the Great Northern Railway, where it is their intention to retort it, and then convey the crude oil to Hamilton, near Newcastle. Here it will be further refined, and turned into paraffin, paraffin wax, kerosene, motor spirit, and so forth. In the past, Parliament has considered it advisable to encourage the various indigenous industries ; and, as a matter of fact, there are bonuses for which no claimants have come forward. I do not think that that will happen in the present case, but rather that the people who control these shale measures will apply themselves with renewed energy to winning wealth from their properties, and, in earning the bounty, will provide employment for a large number of our citizens. A bounty, I suppose, commends itself to the Government in preference to an import duty ; but in whatever way the encouragement is given, it is, of course, acceptable to me. The people who have been for years past engaged in the industry have been looking forward hopefully to the time when they would be protected against foreign imports by a high protective duty. Instead of that, this bounty is being offered, and I hope it will have the desired effect of stimulating the industry. I should be no party to supporting a proposal of this sort if it were not made an essential condition of the payment of the bounty that reasonable labour conditions and fair rates of pay should be given. I am pleased that the Bill contains provisions which bear out my views in that regard. I think the Minister fairly stated the case in moving the second reading of the Bill, and I shall be glad to do all I can to help to make it law.
– I am pleased that the Government have introduced the Bill. I think the Commonwealth Oil Company deserves recognition. They have sent a large amount of British capital out to this country to start an industry which for a time was at a very low ebb. Every encouragement ought to be given to people who are willing to put up large sums of money to carry on industries of this kind. They have very strong competitors in the market, and it is difficult for them to carry on and prepare the oil at a reasonable and payable price without some assistance. I am, therefore, glad that the Government have introduced the Bill and propose to pay a bounty to this or any other company that can earn it. I trust that other companies will start in Tasmania, where I hear there are large shale deposits. 1 should like the Government to consider whether they might not apply some of this money as a reward for the discovery of oil. If we could discover oil wells in Australia, such as are found in America, it would be of great advantage to the Commonwealth. If a bounty of £10,000 were offered to any one who discovered oil by boring, it would be money well spent, and might encourage people to test likely country. There was a rumour two or three years ago that oil had been discovered in Western Australia, but the capital was not forthcoming to test the country. If a bounty of ,£10,000 were offered, people might be prepared to put up a certain sum for that purpose, and if any discovery resulted we should be repair! tenfold.
– The money for that purpose could not be taken out of the amount provided for in this Bill.
– I think it could be.
.- We are asked in this measure to provide a bounty on the production of kerosene, the product of shale, having a flashing point of not lower than 73 degrees F., at the rate of 2d. per gallon, and on the production of refined paraffin wax at the rate of 2s. 6d. per cwt. The maximum amount proposed to be paid during the financial year 1910-11 is £8,000 in the case of kerosene, and £2,000 in the case of refined paraffin wax. .The maximum amount proposed to be paid during each of the financial years 1911-12 and 1912-13 is £16,000 in the case of kerosene, and £4,000 in the case of refined paraffin wax.
It is provided that persons claiming the bounty shall pay fair and reasonable rates of wages, and recognise proper conditions of employment, and machinery is provided for determining what are fair and reasonable conditions and wages. So far as the bounty is conditioned in that way, it is worthy of recognition.
But I have not altogether made up my mind upon which side of the House I shall vote regarding the Bill. I wanted to speak early in the debate, so that some of the points which do not “appear to me to have been satisfactorily explained, arid the direction in which it seems to me that a case has not been made out, might be dealt with by subsequent speakers.
A deputation waited upon the Minister of Trade and Customs on the 15th August to ask that a bounty should be paid. It consisted of Messrs. Carr (New South Wales), Cann (New South Wales), Atkinson (Tasmania), W. J. Johnson (New South Wales), Senators Long and O’Keefe (Tasmania), Mr. W. J. Hall (representative of the Tasmanian Oil and Shale Company), Mr. Johnson Smith (of the British Australian Oil Company), Mr. Georgeson (of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation), and Messrs. J. Carmichael and P. Noones (of the New South Wales Western District Miners’ Association). It was announced to the deputation that the Government had already decided to give a bounty, lt will be noted that the members of Parliament who were on the deputation represent districts in which oil works are situated, and no honorable member will blame them for urging by every means in their power that an industry in their own electorates should be encouraged. I suppose it is part of their duty to advocate anything which will advance the interests of their own electorates and of those employed therein; but I certainly would expect that the Minister, together with those representatives would be able to make out, for the benefit of the other members of the House, a substantial case in favour of paying away£50,000 of the taxpayers’ money in this fashion. The Minister, in introducing the measure, dealt with the desirability of Australia being supplied by its own industries in kerosene, paraffin wax, and other by-products of shale. That is most desirable, but the Minister was compelled to admit that no investigation had been made of the books and accounts of the companies who are at present conducting this business. He could not tell us from his own knowledge, or from any investigation that has been made, whether the companies were making huge profits or not. For all he knows, the Commonwealth Oil Corporation may be paying out£100,000 a year in dividends.
– I think everybody knows that they are not paying at all.
– Everybody does not know that. General statements to the effect that a company is failing do not convince anybody.
– Their balance-sheets are published.
– Why did not the honorable member produce them?
– I simply saw them in the papers.
– I hope the honorable member will produce them, and, if a case is made out, I shall vote for a payment of the bounty. I shall refuse to vote for it simply because somebody stands up and says that it ought to be paid. It may be that we are, by means of taxation, taking money from people who can ill-afford to pay it, and handing it over to others who have more than they know what to do with. We ought to have some proof that the bounty is absolutely necessary to keep the industry on its feet. So far we have heard no such proof from any member, including the Minister, or anything to show what the effect of the bounty will be.
There are three companies at present operating in Australia - the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, in New South Wales, operating properties at Newnes, Capertee, Torbain, and Hartley Vale. At Newnes, or Wolgan Valley, they are operating for shale and coal, and at Capertee and Torbain for shale, while at Hartley Vale the refinery is established. We have also the BritishAustralian Oil Company operating at Murrurundi and Capertee for shale. There is also the Tasmanian Oil and Shale Company, with works at Latrobe, Tasmania, operating for shale.
– There are about halfadozen companies there if they all get to work.
– If they do.
– One of the objects of this bounty is to encourage them to get to work.
– If somebody can show that a bounty of 2d. per gallon on kerosene will bring all those companies into existence, it will be something in its favour.
– It will not, because they cannot deal in the kerosene.
– The honorable member who is fighting hard for the proposed bounty now tells us that it will not help the companies in Tasmania, because they cannot produce kerosene.
– I am not opposing the Bill because we cannot produce kerosene.
– I want to see the facts brought out. If it is proposed to spend£50,000 without a case being made out for it, I can point out a number of other directions in which the money could be spent’ to advantage.
The Commonwealth Oil Corporation has expended, roughly,£1, 000,000 of capital in the industry, and it is mainly to help it that the Bill is brought forward. It is argued that, because the company was very plucky in laying out all that capital, it is therefore entitled to recognition in the shape of a bounty. I have tried to find out exactly how the company is getting on. The debenture capital is , £450,000, and the debentures carry interest at 5 per cent., which has to be paid, and has been paid year in and year out. In share capital there is £800,000, of which . £75,000 is unissued. Of the , £800,000 in share capital , £225,000 was issued to the original vendors, who were operating the Hartley Vale Shale and Oil Company, which it is estimated had spent from , £30,000 to , £40,000 in the industry, so that included in the capital account is a sum of from£1 70,000 to , £180,000, which has not actually been put into the industry. It represents a certain amount of goodwill, but we may take the statement of the company itself that£1, 000,000 has been invested in the enterprise. Some four years have elapsed since this larger company absorbed the smaller one. The Australian Mining and Engineering Review states that -
The purchase of the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company in 1906 as a going concern, with its products well-known on the market, enabled the Commonwealth Oil Corporation to remove the only competition, and, by the expenditure of some capital, improve the works and expand the trade, whilst, at the same time, obtaining experience which cannot but be of considerable value when the producing stage is entered upon by the Newnes refineries.
So that the corporation, according to this statement, has removed competition.
– When was that?
– Some two years ago.
– New mines have since been opened up.
– But the statement which I have just read was published in the Australian Mining and Engineering Review, as recently as 5th September last, in an article giving a sketch of the oil industry, and setting forth the claim of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation for support and encouragement from the Federal Government. I asked the gentleman representing the company for certain information, and he was good enough to supply me with some of that for which I sought, whilst in some respects, he could not fairly supply data. On the basis of the information so obtained, I have worked out some figures with a view of ascertaining what is the position of the corporation. It would appear that the annual production of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation is about 3,000,000 gallons of crude oil, and that it also has 20,000 tons of coke for sale.
– Is not that an exaggeration ?
– The statement is not exaggerated, because, in the article from which I have just quoted, there is a statement to the effect that there are eightyeight Beehive ovens at work which produce approximately 500 tons of coke per week, or 26,000 tons per annum. Coke is not used by the corporation, but is a kind of by-product. The corporation is producing coal, and apparently it finds it payable to convert a proportion of its coal into coke. This annual output of 3,000,000 gallons of crude oil comprises 25 per cent, of kerosene, 5 per cent, of benzine or motor oil, 5 per cent, of paraffin wax, and 40 per cent, of fuel oil, lubricating oil and gas oil. In the process of manufacture there is a wastage amounting to about 25 per cent. On these percentages I have based certain calculations. I am informed by the company’s representative that kerosene is worth10½d. per gallon, benzine is. 4d. per gallon, paraffin wax 3½d . perlb., and fuel oil, lubricating oil, and gas oil, say, 7d. per gallon.’ The 25 per cent, of kerosene oil obtained from the total output of 3,000,000 gallons of crude oil gives us 750,000 gallons per annum, which, at10½d. per gallon, represents , £32,812 10s. Five per cent, of benzine represents 150,000 gallons, which, at1s. 4d. per gallon, means . £10,000. One gallon of oil produces 8 lbs. of paraffin wax, so that at 5 per cent, we have a total of 1,200,000 lbs., or 500 tons, which, at 3½d. per lb., is worth£15,000. Then we have 40 per cent, of fuel oil, lubricating oil, and gas oil, representing 1,200,000 gallons, which, at 7d. per gallon, yields £34,200, or a total in respect of these several items of £92,012 . The extension of the corporation’s works is nearing completion, and when that extension is complete, the output will be doubled. Within the next few months, therefore, it will be producing 6,000,000, instead of 3,000,000 gallons of crude oil per annum.
– It will not.
– I base my calculation on the information supplied to me by a representative of the company. As 1 have already stated, I applied to him for certain information, although I did not tell him that I wished to work out a kind of credit and debit statement.
– The honorable member’ is not betraying his confidence?
– Certainly not. I asked for the information under certain headings which I have drawn up, to enable me to work out the figures for myself, and I understand that, within the next few months - let us say, if honorable members prefer it, within the next twelve months - the company will double its output. We are told that it has invested ,£1,000,000 in the industry. Five per cent, on that amount represents £[50,000 per annum, and. the wages paid to the thousand employes amount to .£5,600 per fortnight.
– The wages bill is much larger than that. A representative of the workers assured me that it amounted to between ,£9,000 and ,£10,000 per fortnight.
– The honorable member’s statement serves to show the exaggerations that are indulged in. The representative of the company told me that the wages paid amounted to ,£5,600 per fortnight.
– That must be the total of the wages paid per fortnight to the Wolgan men.
– No; it represents ihe company’s total wages bill.
– Whatever the wages are, they are paid under an agreement registered in the Arbitration Court.
– I am not complaining of the wages paid; I am simply endeavouring to ascertain the total expenditure of the corporation. We must not forget that, in addition to the wages men, a number of oversight officials have to be paid, and we may set down their salaries, roughly, as totalling ,£10,000 per annum. We have thus a total wages account of £145,600 per annum, or a total annual expenditure of ,£205,600 per annum.
– Does the honorable member think that those figures enable him to get at the profits of the corporation ?
– I do not know that they do, but I hope that the honorable member will supply me with any information of which I am lacking. I object to the interruptions to which I am being subjected by honorable members seated around me. No information has been placed before the House. There has been no investigation on the part of the Government; and yet when I seek to obtain information, some honorable members sitting close to me commence to titter, and to take exception to my efforts to ascertain the position of the company. If they have any information to lay before the House, let them give it. Surely, when we are proposing to vote away £[50,000 of the taxpayers’ money, we ought to know what we are doing. So far as I can ascertain, the total income of the company in respect of its output of 3,000,000 gallons of crude oil is ,£92,012 per annum; but when that output is doubled, it will have an income from this source alone of £184,024 per annum. Interest at 5 per cent, on the capital and wages of officials would make the expenditure ,£205,600 per annum, leaving the company ,£113,588 to the bad on the present output, and £21,576 to the bad when the output is doubled during the next few months. In addition, there are directors’ fees. The quantity of kerosene used annually in Australia is about 20,000,000 gallons, and if the output of the company -were doubled it would be only 1,500,000 gallons.
– That would probably have a. steadying effect on prices.
– I do not think that the effect would be appreciable. There is in the Wolgan Valley enough shale in sight to provide Australia with kerosene for the next fifty years on a conservative estimate, and for a hundred years on an estimate which is not too liberal. But what effect on the fortunes of the company would a bounty of £10,000 a year have, seeing that it is now losing ,£113,000 a year?
– Have those figures been audited ?
– No doubt, if they were critically examined by experts, they might not be found absolutely correct, because they are the result of calculations made without expert knowledge ; but they are the best that can be obtained in the absence of authentic * information. The Government should not ask us to vote away the people’s money without knowing what the effect is likely to be, and Ministers do not know the probable effect of this proposal. It may be absolute waste to vote away ,£50,000, but good business to vote away £[150,000, because the one may accomplish nothing, whilst the larger expenditure may be effective. .
Some time ago, a dispute as to wages arose in connexion with the company’s operations, and Mr. Carmichael, one of those connected with the deputation which asked for a bounty, was at the Trades Hall, Sydney, night after night, asking for assistance, and stating that the men had not rags to their backs. Collections of clothing were accordingly made by the different unions, and forwarded to the district. The dispute_has now been settled, and the men are getting good wages, but it dragged on for nine months because no definite replies could be obtained from the English directorate.How is it possible for an industry like this to be satisfactorily managed from England when the local managers have not sufficient power to enable them to settle disputes with their workmen? I know from experience the difficulty of controlling affairs from a distance. For a number of years I had a business in a country town 300 miles from Sydney, which had a turnover of about .£3,000 a year, and although I was able to visit it every few weeks, I found the arrangement very unsatisfactory, because as soon as I left things started to go back. How can a hig enterprise in which £1,000,000 has been invested be satisfactorily managed by directors meeting thousands of miles away from the centre of operations? At the present time the general manager is in England, and has been there seven or eight months.
– He may stay there until after the Coronation. He will be a flat if he does not.
– Perhaps he will do so. We do not know that mismanagement is not responsible for the losses which the company has made, and we should not put Commonwealth money into an industry unless we are satisfied that the management is good.
– We are not putting Commonwealth money into an industry.
– To give .£50,000 in bounties for the production of kerosene oil amounts to putting the money into the industry.
– There is more than one company interested in the production of kerosene.
– The Tasmanian company is only producing crude oil. My view is that the industry should 1)e nationalized.
– On the ground that it is a monopoly?
– On the ground that it may shortly become a monopoly. In the Australian Mining and Engineering Standard, the statement was made by an expert that competing companies had been bought out. In any case, companies would not cut each others’ throats, and an arrangement would soon be made by which a monopoly would be created. I voted against the Iron Bounty Bill because it seemed to me that no case for the payment of a bounty was made out, and that the money would go into the pockets of those who had already more than they knew what to do with.
The two torpedo destroyers now on their way to Australia will use about 2,000 tons of liquid . fuel per annum,, and it is esimated that the Australian Navy, when completed, will use about 180,000 tons per annum. It is proposed in various parts of the Commonwealth that State coal mines should be opened up as an auxiliary to the working of the railways, and it might very well be proposed to open up shale mines for the production of liquid fuel for the Navy. I have an open mind in regard to this proposal, but I hope that those who follow will be able to show what the effect of the bounty is likely to be. I wish to know something regarding the capitalization of the company ; whether it is over-capitalized, how its money is invested, what has been spent on developmental work, and what the promotion expenses have been? I should also like to see embodied in the Bill a clause providing that, in the event of the nationalization of the industry, any money which has been given in bounty should be credited to the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member believe in the nationalization of - fame ducks?
– The opinion of experts is that the nationalization of this industry would be justified.
– What the honorable member proposes would be unconstitutional.
– Not if the Constitution is amended as proposed.
– If the provision were passed before the amendment of the Constitution, it would be null and void.
– We have heard of retrospective legislation. No doubt what I suggest could be done.
– Postpone the matter until next year.
– Such a postponement would give an opportunity for the proper investigation of all the circumstances. I hope that the supporters of the measure will be able to show that the bounty will enable the company to make a profit on its operations. At present it seems to be losing heavily each year.
– The honorable member does not expect the House to accept his figures ?
– I expect honorable members to accept my figures if they cannot get any better. If the honorable member can produce figures showing the position to be otherwise, I shall be glad to see them; but I undertake to say that he has none. It is very easy to get into a white heat in the advocacy of certain proposals ; but it is another thing to prove your case. As one of the representatives of the taxpayers, I contend that there should be some investigation, and authentic figures produced, because at present we are voting in the dark, with no information except general statements. Some honorable members who represent the districts in which these companies are operating should have information to lay before us that will furnish details instead of the generalizations given by preceding speakers.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth) (9.2].- After the speech of the honorable member for Cook, I confess that I address myself to this question with considerable trepidation. The honorable member expressed the hope that whoever followed would be able to enlighten honorable members as to the position of a certain company now producing kerosene in New South Wales. I rise to address myself to the Bill, but in no sense in defence of any particular company. I regard this question purely in the broad sense of whether or not it is worth while to provide a bonus on the production of kerosene, in the interests of Australia - purely on national lines, apart from the consideration of any company’s profits, or whether or not a company is at the present time wisely administered.
For a considerable time I did not know how the honorable member was going to tackle this very simple problem. His manner seemed to savour of some conciliatory substance like olive oil, even if his observations seemed to be impregnated with the oil of vitriol. I think it comes with bad grace from a Ministerial supporter to refuse to accept at their face value statements made by a ‘re sponsible Minister, whose explanation this afternoon, so far as I could gather, was most luminous. He explained exactly why, in his opinion, it was necessary, in the interests of Australia, that this industry should continue, and why it deserved the support of the country.
The honorable member for Cook has, with great care and prudence, manufactured a balance-sheet for this particular company, and he showed conclusively by his own self-audited figures how this company was bound to fail, and the industry be in the throes of bankruptcy, in the very near future. Then, by some extraordinary twist, he went on to contend that this was an industry which ought to be nationalized by the Commonwealth !
– Will the honorable member give us what information he has ?
– The honorable member spoke tor a considerable time, -and, so tar as I could make out, his whole speech was a bleat for information from some other quarter. If the honorable member, who is capable of manufacturing a balance-sheet for a great company, can be in such a fog about the pounds, shillings, and pence of the proposal, I hope he will treat me with a little consideration when I rise to deal with the subject from a broad, Australian stand-point.
– Have the London directors given the honorable member no information ?
– I do not know a single London director of the company, and I am not in the least concerned as to how the company is conducted. If this company fail, some other company will get the bounty; and I suggest that this is hardly the place to canvass the financial future of corporations doing business in the Commonwealth. We may take it for granted that whatever is said here will be echoed outside, and I can picture to myself the columns of space in the London financial journals devoted to the cabled criticisms of the honorable member on the conduct of this company ! He can see that, if his very, clear exposition of the dangerous position of the company should by any chance happen to be circulated in the financial press of London, it might very seriously damage, not only the interests of the directors, .but the interests of every person who has invested a sovereign in it !
– The honorable member is a very silly Billy !
– I do not like this trifling with personal terms, and, intimately as I know my honorable friend, I am not aware that he has ever previously called me by my Christian name; but if we must deal in such pleasantries, I think I could find a monosyllable to fling back at him. I do sincerely hope that if the honorable member must make night hideous, he will not get on the roof when I am speaking, arid spit, at me in the way he has just spat at me. I do not wish to be in any way offensive to the honorable member-
– H. Catts. - Then why does the honorable member not make his own speech ?
– I am endeavouring to do so, but I regret that the honorable member’s interjections, in a moment of some heat-
– Order !
– When we are dealing with a Bill of this kind, we ought to express ourselves in the terms of its provisions, and I see one which sets forth that the oil is to have a flashing point of 73 degrees Fahrenheit. I suggest to the honorable member that it is no good having such a low flashing point in a House of this character. When an honorable member is addressing himself temperately to the measure another honorable member might wait until boiling point is reached before he flashes his witticisms across the House..
I do not know the financial position of the Government, and I doubt whether the Government know it themselves ; but I understand, at any rate, that, as a result of taxes imposed, there will be a good deal of “ money to burn “ in the next few ears. If the Government are prepared to vole a bounty, I am bound to confess, although I sit in Opposition, that this particular industry seems to be as deserving as any other in the Commonwealth.
For instance, the honorable member for Cook showed us conclusively that from the defence point of view alone, it is necessary that this industry should continue. But he proposes to nationalize the industry, regardless of the fact that considerable caution should be exercised in nationalizing industries that are not on a paying basis, as he contends.
In any case, this is an industry which ought to be continued. As has been pointed out, the Australian Navy will require a certain amount of fuel oil, and that oil ought to be manufactured locally; and this or any other company doing business here will, I am confident, be able to manufacture oil up to the standard required. One of the products of shale on which it is not proposed to give a bounty is that of petrol. I have used the Commonwealth Oil Corporation’s petrol, and have found it, so far as I could judge, to be the best I have used. If they can turn out such an excellent article amongst the most difficult products, they will, I am sure, turn out the others of an equally high standard.
I say,- without fear of contradiction, that kerosene, naphtha, and so forth, which will be used for our Fleet, should, if possible, be manufactured in sufficiently large quantities in Australia to keep us going if our supplies happened to be cut off in time of war. For that reason alone, this industry might well be continued. As to whether a bounty is necessary to that end, I am not in a position to say, but from what I hear on the Exchanges and elsewhere, some support will be necessary to keep this industry on its feet. Whether this particular company, or some other, will reap the benefit, I do riot know and I do not care. I remind honorable members who often and earnestly argued against the system of dumping used by protected countries against unprotected countries, that in an industry of this kind dumping could be most effective and detrimental. A company might provide plant and railways and when they were set going, some great foreign competitor, unhampered by any duty on the product, could flood the market and drive the local producers out of the business. I do not hold much with the dumping theory with regard to the great bulk of our imports, but, in a big business like this, which means costly and important works in the initial stages, a powerful competitor could by undercutting for the first few years, make its continued existence impossible. I have never desired a duty on this commodity, but I point out to honorable members who condemn dumping, that, if there is a desire to keep this company on its feet, we ought to show that we are in earnest in our desire to preserve an industry which turns out so necessary a product.
– One approaches questions concerning oil companies with some diffidence, as they are rather slippery subjects to one who thinks as I do. I have no doubt that there are others in this House with the same feelings towards them, because one naturally associates them with the Standard Oil Company, whose ramifications extend to nearly every corner of the globe, and whose presence generally taints the commercial air. We are bound to take some steps in regard to this industry, seeing that it is a thing altogether apart from those great corporations which smell in the nostrils of the world. It is our own industry, entirely Australian, and I feel bound to pass by the associations connected with other companies, and treat of this as a new and separate thing, which we hope to keep clean. It is proposed to pay a bounty upon kerosene and paraffin wax, instead of imposing an import duty. I heartily indorse the contention that a duty upon any commodity is not justified unless sufficient of that commodity is being produced in the country to supply local wants. There is, so far, practically no kerosene being produced in this country, and not a great deal of paraffin wax. Therefore, to put a duty upon those goods would simply mean putting the price up on all that are consumed in Australia. Until we can supply our own requirements, it is only logical to adopt some other form of encouragement, and I think a bounty is the only other means of encouraging an industry that is generally countenanced by Legislatures. If subsequently, owing to the encouragement afforded by this bounty, we can supply our own requirements in this respect, it will be time enough to talk about a duty. We hope by the legislation with which we have just dealt in this House to obviate the passing on of duties to a considerable extent by regulating the operations of big corporations. We are, therefore, all the more encouraged to take some such steps as those now proposed in order to build up an industry natural to Australia. It is not only those whose money is invested in, or who control, the industry that are asking for this help. A petition has been presented to the Minister, signed by a thousand men in the employ of the company, asking that help be extended to it for their own sakes. As modern society is constituted, we know that without the expenditure of capital in the way in. which it has been expended in this industry in the. Blue Mountains of New South Wales, outlets are not provided for the energies of our people. These men are anxious to maintain the prestige of the company, and to go on serving it, and have shown their anxiety by appealing to the Minister to help it along. As I am, perhaps, a little more in touch with the concern than many others in the House, it would be advisable for me to explain the magnitude of the industry with which we are dealing. Our imports in this particular line are extremely heavy. According to the official records, we imported, of residual oils alone - the base from which these more refined products are extracted - 2,500,000 gallons a year. Of solar oil, another branch product of the industry, we imported 39,000 gallons ; and of kerosene, from 16,000,000 to 19,000,000 gallons a year, mostly from America. If it did not come from America, it came from some branch of the American Corporation.
– Some comes from Borneo.
– I am given to understand that that concern is allied with the American companies. The ways of the American trust are almost past finding out, and it is for this Parliament to keep Australia free from them. I am hoping that by the special legislation we have inaugurated we shall justify our attitude towards Australian companies by keeping them free from the machinations of the trust. Of mineral lubricating oil, we imported 2,250,000 gallons; of mineral naphtha, 719,000 gallons; of benzine and gasolene, 1,500,000 gallons; and of paraffin wax,- 3,500,000 lbs. All this represents a value of about ,£2,000,000 annually. That is what it costs Australia to keep itself supplied in these requirements with which nature has. made it possible for her to supply herself. To show how necessary it is for something to be done if we are to make our own kerosene in Australia, let me quote an extract regarding what has been done in America by the oil companies. This will serve to show honorable members what a local industry of this sort has to compete against if nothing is done to help it, and how hopeless would be its position if the strong arm of the Government were not held out to protect it. In regard to the American oil-fields, I have the following statement -
The Californian oil-fields date back only to 1900, but, according to the Petroleum Review, the organ of the industry, 58 companies, exclusive of the Standard Trust and its pups are engaged in their working and development, and the total dividend for the 28 companies that have reached the refining stage would amount to $6,000,000 for the past year ; and it is estimated that the dividends .will reach the $10,000,000 mark for I()09. This, be it remembered, is not including’ the notorious Standard, which handles over 80 per cent, of the United States refined oil.
An Australian petroleum industry properly encouraged would keep over ^2,000,000 annually in the country; that being the sum that the Commonwealth spends each year on petroleum and its by-products. This amount is exclusive of the even larger sum which is spent on the petroleum products Australia buys in pretty cut glass bottles, elegant vases and jars, in dyes, in the colourings of delicate tint and shade that we see in the beautifully dyed silks of the present day, or in the colours of the printing ink that we buy from abroad and make locally, the water colours our painters use, the mackintoshes our people wear, the ammonia we use in our baths and our fields, and the anaesthetic our surgeons employ - all contained in that very Wolgan shale that the Germans are bidding for as fast as it is torn from the foundations and ribs of the Blue Mountains.
The Germans now take the best part of our shale, because they make all these byproducts. We are sending our raw products away, and buy back the finished articles at an enormously increased cost, allowing those on the other side of the world to make all the profits and get nearly all the employment. I mention those facts to show what an enormous thing the oil industry is, and how incumbent it is upon us to see that we make the best of it. Nature has endowed us wonderfully in this respect, and it falls to this Parliament, as a national duty, to see that every opportunity is given to make the best of nature’s gifts. Our deposits are practically limitless. They have not been, and cannot be, assessed, because sufficient of the seams has not yet been exposed. At Wolgan there are 21,000,000 tons of shale in sight. Within a radius of 17 miles the country is all shale-bearing, and that country extends right across to Murrurundi, in the district represented by the honorable member for Robertson, where already another Australian company is beginning operations. It has so far advanced that, ere the term of three years expires, it will be in a position to appropriate some of the bounty offered. That gives a distance of 60 or 70 miles of shale-bearing country, lt has been said that if we find oil wells there will be no need for us to do anything. I do not agree even with that contention. No matter how economically we produce the oil here, we shall still be in great danger of losing our trade to the American corporations, which have triumphed everywhere else. If they do not triumph in Australia, it will be to the eternal credit of the Federal Parliament. We know that oil can be produced from the wells much more cheaply than from shale. If the American companies liked they could land it here at 3d. a gallon. It would pay them to do it in order to capture the market, and if any company in Australia dared to start making kerosene its doom would be immediately sealed, unless it was strengthened by the assistance of the National Government. The history of the world shows us that this invariably happens where any company has the presumption to face the opposition of the Standard Oil Trust. The Trust, of course, does not give us the advantage of its cheap production. Its product is landed here now at from 10d. to is. a gallon, and, while it has the market to itself, the price will remain at about that figure. It would be entirely contrary to all precedent, so far as the American oil companies are concerned, for them to give the Australian people the benefit of their cheap production. Hence the necessity for us to do something to assist our own industry. About twenty years ago some kerosene was made in New South Wales, but at that time there was a duty of some 3d. a gallon on imported oila form of encouragement of which I do not approve under present circumstances. At any rate, that duty, imposed by the New South Wales Government, remained for a little while, and then was taken off. As soon as that happened the local company went down. It had had a struggling existence even with the duty, because the American companies, despising such a nominal impost, paid it, and even then landed their oil here much cheaper than it could be produced locally. We, therefore, cannot get oil cheaper under present circumstances, and so there is no advantage in waiting to see if the American companies will come down in their prices. They cast the onus upon us, whether we like it or not, if we are to have an Australian industry, of doing something to help it along. If we do not, there is absolutely no hope for it. The present cheapness of production in America goes in the form of profit to the Trust, and the advantage of it will not be given to Australia unless local companies start making kerosene without Government assistance. If that were done, I take it that we should get the advantage of cheaper American production, because the trust would immediately drop its price. We can, however, pay too much for cheapness, and there would be no advantage in allowing an industry to start here and then having it wiped out by the Americans, Although it might mean cheaper oil, the reduction would be of only a temporary character, because, as soon as the trust obtained possession of the market, it would raise its prices. The trust has no consideration for any one save itself ; and when it reduces prices, its object is ultimately to secure a monopoly so that it may charge any price that it pleases. That is the position to-day. The company to which I have referred was bought out, several years ago, by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, ‘ at a cost of some £[40,000. The new company employs 1,000 men, and keeps no less than four distinct villages or townships going. I refer to the townships of Newnes, Torbane, Airlie, and Hartley Vale. Under the aegis of the new company,’ another town is also springing up at Murrurundi. We . cannot provide occupation for our people without stimulating all those avenues of employment which modern civilization demands ; and when a township is established, opportunities for employment’ are provided for all classes of the community. That has been the experience in this case; and some four townships are now dependent upon the company for their existence. As soon as the Commonwealth Oil Corporation and other companies get well under weigh, other townships will spring up in New South Wales and Tasmania. Already a sum of £[1,000,000 has been laid out by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, without any guarantee of assistance from the Government. Hence, I contend that the company which carries on its operations in my electorate has amply proved its bona fides; and that its enterprise amply justifies the action which the Commonwealth Government now invite us to take. English capitalists have invested their money in an attack upon the recesses of our mountains. They have unearthed the wealth lying hidden there, and at an expenditure of £[1,000,000, have revealed that perhaps which, but for their enterprise, would not have been laid bare for generations. The State Government did not attempt to open out these deposits, although it might well have done so. The work was left to this company, which has very pluckily expended the enormous sum I have named in opening up the heart of the Blue Mountains, and exposing millions of tons of shale. The railway which it has built alone cost nearly £[300,000. It extends over a distance of 34 miles, and traverses some of the most rugged country to be found in Australia. The construction of that line is an engineering feat that has’ not been surpassed, if indeed it has been equalled, anywhere else in the Commonwealth. So steep are the inclines, that special “ Shay “ engines had to be imported from America to negotiate them. They work on a system of cogs, and in that way alone can the grades be negotiated. Ordinary engines could not possibly be employed. In this way, as 1 have said, a quarter of a million of money has been expended in providing a means of communication with these vast deposits. I have a quotation showing what has been done in this respect, which may interest honorable members, who will have to decide what attitude they ought to adopt in regard to this measure -
The line is 34 miles long. It leaves the main western line a mile and a half on the Sydney side of Clarence Station. Its highest point is just 5 feet short of 4,000 feet. The easiest grade is between Newnes Junction and Deane. Some distance past here the grade increases, and in the final 13 miles of the journey to the valley it is 1 in 25. In those 13 miles the drop is 1,767 feet.
This article was written about two years ago ; and the line has since been opened to passenger traffic -
Special carriages are now being built, and there is no doubt that the trip will speedily become a payable tourist one.
That is an aspect of the case in which we are not particularly interested; but the district will undoubtedly become one of the most famous tourist resorts in Australia, if only because of the engineering feat which the construction of the line represents -
Under the contract with the corporation, the Government has power to take the line over in seven years, with 10 per cent, added to the cost of construction.
It will thus be seen that in New South Wales .the danger of an inimical monopoly in reference to the railway has been guarded against. Up to the present time, the industry has been absolutely neglected- by the State ; and that neglect must be Australia’s loss. I have here another quotation which I desire to read, as illustrating what we are losing by our failure to encourage this industry, and our neglect to make it possible for all the finer products to be extracted from ihe shale in Australia, instead of its being sent abroad to be exploited by foreigners. The quotation ‘’s from a report of a trip undertaken by several members of this Parliament to Wolgan Valley -
As the legislators rushed through Deane station^ they passed a long line of trucks toiling up the steep incline behind a great Shay engine. It was loaded up with dark-grey mineral, oil shale, on its way to Germany, 200 tons of it, ‘ and every ton of it containing not less than 120 gallons of crude oil, most of it more. Those grey-topped trucks represented a loss of £1,600 to Australia as a crude oil proposition alone. For Australia was receiving about £2 per ton for each ton of shale, whereas the crude oil it contained was worth about £10 for each ton of shale on the 120 gallon estimate. But by the time the German manufacturer and chemist have done with it. if Australia desires to buy back the finished product, it will be asked to pay back about £100 for the products of each of those 200 tons of shale.
That is what modern science makes possible in regard to this wonderful natural deposit of shale. There is untold wealth to be exploited ; and it only remains for this Parliament to do what the Ministry have very commendably proposed in the direction of assisting the industry. The assistance proposed to be given is, after all, of only a limited character. I say, unhesitatingly, that the venture deserves even better at the hands of the Commonwealth. Its future should be more definitely assured by the granting of a slightly larger bounty than is now proposed. I wish, for the purpose of my argument, to contrast the treatment that has been meted out to the iron industry in New South Wales, with that now proposed to be extended to the shale oil industry in that State. It will be noted that the two industries practically started on even terms some four years ago, when the Commonwealth Oil Corporation commenced operations at Newnes, and the iron industry was re-established. A distance of only 15 miles separates them. The, Lithgow Iron Works cost, approximately, £250,000, and they employ 600 hands. The State concessions to that industry, apart altogether from what this Parliamenthas done, comprise contracts over extended periods to take pig-iron at 97s. per ton - a better price than could be obtained abroad - to take steel at from . £10 per ton upwards ; and to deliver all railway scrap at Eskbank at 25s. per ton. That scrap iron is put through the furnaces, remoulded, and sent out in the form of rails or ironwork, for which the prices I have mentioned are paid. It will thus be seen that the iron industry is, to use a colloquialism, on a very good wicket. The estimated value of these concessions in the shape of contracts with the Government of New South Wales is £20,000 per annum. In addition, the Commonwealth Parliament has given a bounty of 12s. per ton on all pig-iron manufactured from Australian ores, and a further bounty of 12s. a ton on steel manu factured from pig-irpn. Some two years ago we passed a Bill providing for the payment of these bounties, totalling , £150,000, at a rate not exceeding , £50,000 per annum. That industry, which cost approximately £250,000, has been granted bounty amounting to £150,000. What is proposed in regard to the shale and oil industry? The Commonwealth Oil Corporation has expended £1,000,000, and its plant, when fully equipped, will have cost £1,250,000. It now.employs 1,000 hands, and when its works are complete it will give employment to 2,500. It has received no concession from the State of New South Wales, and so far it has received no assistance from the Commonwealth. It is therefore high time that we took the matter in hand; and I maintain that we should grant even more substantial assistance than is now proposed. The Common weal th Oil Corporation is annually producing some 3,000,000 gallons of crude oil per annum, which is largely used as fuel. It does not pay to refine it, as I have shown, owing to the manner in which the oil industry in other parts of the world is conducted. The company dare not proceed, to any extent, with the process of refining, because of the competition over which the Federal Parliament has yet no control, and to which the corporation itself is fully exposed. In the process of extracting the crude oil from the shale, 350 tons of paraffin wax are manufactured every year. The company at the present time is also producing 100,000 gallons of kerosene per annum. It is capable of turning out 300,000 gallons of kerosene per annum; but it dare not increase its output to that extent, because immediately it did so, the price of the American article would be reduced and the manufacture of kerosene locally would have to be abandoned. Its present output of 100,000 gallons per annum is due to the fact that it has entered into a contract to supply kerosene to the Government of New South Wales, but at a price that is scarcely payable. It accepted the contract in order to justify its contention that it could produce kerosene up to the required standard, and it is making it, if not at a loss, certainly not at a profit. This is a lamentable state of affairs, and it is certainly a reflection on the administration of the country.
– It may be, for all we know, a reflection on the business capacity of the company.
– The honorable member will give me credit for having carefully studied this question. What business capacity could withstand the unrestricted competition of the American article, which can be produced for a mere song, so to speak, but which is never obtainable by the public at low rates unless competition is threatened ?
– Then it is not an industry natural to the country.
– I suppose that the honorable member thinks it quite natural that the oil wells of America should be “ cornered “ and their products held under monopolistic control. That is a natural industry which, in the opinion of the honorable member, must not be touched. A combination of capitalists which exploits the markets of the world is perfectly natural in the opinion of my honorable friend, and he is quite prepared to swallow it.
– I am not going to swallow the honorable member’s kerosene.
– I wish the honorable member would. He suffers from that obliquity of mind which causes a man to be prepared to encourage the foreigner, to pay fancy prices for his commodities, and to sacrifice native industry. Let me ask the honorable member whether he thinks it desirable to allow the country to be continually exploited by a foreign product when we can produce the same article here and sell it at a price not exceeding that charged by the Standard Oil Company. We cannot produce it as cheaply as can the Standard Oil Company, but we know that cheapness of production has little to do at the present time with the price of an article. Once an industry is controlled prices . are regulated. The Commonwealth Oil Company can produce kerosene, and put it on the market at the price which the Standard Oil Company is now charging, although the cost of extracting oil from shale is obviously more than that of drawing it from wells. The company is prepared to give a guarantee that it will sell at the present price. The Standard Oil Company has the market to itself now, and, of course, there will be no reduction in price until it meets with competition. Therefore, in the interests of the Australian consumers and workers, we should do what we can to supply ourselves by helping the local company.
For every 100,000 gallons of kerosene refined, about 25,000 gallons, or 200,000 lbs., or 89 tons 5 cwt., of liquid wax is produced. The Government offers a bounty of £[8,000 for kerosene produced during the first year of the operation of the Bill, and £2,000 for wax. The only company, however, at present making kerosene, is unable to produce more than 300,000 gallons of kerosene during the first year, and no other company will be in a position to draw any of the bounty then, though other companies may share during subsequent years. To’ absorb the bounty offered for the first year, the production of 960,000 gallons of kerosene would be required, which is impossible. The Commonwealth Oil Company will not be able to absorb more than one- third of the amount offered. I think, therefore, that the bounty should be increased to at least 2½d. per gallon for kerosene produced in the first year. Similarly, the production of wax in the first year would have to amount to 800 tons to absorb the £[2,000 of bounty offered, and it will be impossible for the Commonwealth Oil Company to produce one-third of that quantity. It is useless to offer bounties if advantage cannot be taken of them. I therefore ask for a more reasonable adjustment of the rates. During the second year, £[16,000 in bounty will be available for kerosene, to absorb which amount a production of 1,920,000 gallons would be required. But the Commonwealth Oil Company will not be able to produce more than 1,000,000 gallons. In the third year, no doubt, it will be in a position to absorb the ;£ 16,000 offered in bounty.
– The bounty unabsorbed in the first and second years accumulates.
– Yes; but it will be impossible, at the present rates, to absorb it all in each year, and at the end of three years the Bill will cease to operate. To absorb the £[4,000 offered for the production of wax in the second and third years, 1,600 tons will have to be produced, and the company will not be able to produce more than half that quantity. Naturally, the company desires to get as much as it can, but it will be impossible, at the rates proposed, for it to get its fair proportion.
– Will not a bounty of 2d. per gallon for kerosene enable the company to make good its present deficiency?
– No ; though it will assist it to do so. Naturally, the company is desirous of getting as much assistance as it can, and to increase its output as much as possible. Seeing that it really does not matter to the Government how, within reason, the bounty is distributed, I intend to propose that the rate for kerosene be increased to 2½d per gallon, and for wax to fd. per lb. Unless this is done, the Bill will prove abortive, which I am sure is not desired.
– The honorable member cannot increase the amount of the bounty.
– I do not propose that. What I wish for is an increase in the disbursements, so that a fair proportion of the bounty may be absorbed.
– Will not that limit the output ?
– The honorable member knows that retorts and the necessary appliances for refining oil cannot be erected in a week; it will take a year or two to get things into full working order. The company hitherto has done nothing but spend money, and is not likely to limit its output.
– The remedy is to extend the time for which the bounty will be available.
– No; the sooner the company can get assistance the better. The honorable member for Cook spoke on this subject in a way which I regret, his remarks savouring more of an old woman’s curiosity than of the foresight of a statesman. It does not matter to us what the balance-sheet of the company is, because the bounty is to be paid only on oil actually produced. Too much money has been spent for the enterprise to be abandoned. However rich the company may be, it cannot fight the combined oil companies of the world for the Australian market. Not the least recommendation of the company, to my mind, is its disposition towards its employes. The manager, reporting on its prospects, has stated that-
The market which is at our doors is a surprisingly large one, and able to absorb fully six times the quantity of illuminating oil that we can expect to produce from the new works we are constructing. Local sympathy is with us, and must be with us, as the creation of a great industry in Australia, directly and indirectly, means a large employment of labour. Australians of all parties are determined to see that we have fair play, and we have pledged ourselves, in return for what advantages they may give us, not to increase the prices over the ruling rates of the past. We could give no fairer proof of our desire to make a fair fight to win for Australia a leading position as one of the great oil-producing countries of the world. We did not go asking for bounties and protection, and then endeavour to build up an artificial value. We went straight ahead and proved these oil resources, and connected them, at great expense, with a railway, which, with its equipment, will presently have cost us at least ^200,000. We have proceeded to make our products and put them on the markets. We have paid good wages, and given every evidence of our good faith. At the beginning of this year we invited members of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments to visit our properties. According to reports I have received, they were one and all surprised and delighted with the great possibilities of the industry, and determined that, so far as they could see, no unfair competition would be allowed to crush an Australian industry. We have, therefore, every element of success.
I contend that these utterances are in themselves a recommendation ; and they breathe a hope which it is for this Parliament to realize. I am pleased to say that, so far, there has been only one dissentient voice, that of the honorable member for Cook ; and I have left my remarks in reference to him to the last, as, perhaps, the proper place for them. In the first place, the honorable member said that we were here to plead for the interests of our own electorates, but I emphatically repudiate any such idea. As a matter of fact, only one-third of the works are in my constituency; and, in any case, although, of course, the employes are voters, if I were not quite satisfied that this proposal is in accord with my principles, I should not advocate it for a moment. I take a much broader view of the situation ; and I contend that, on the facts, that view is justified. Then the honorable member for Cook expressed a desire that this company should expose its financial position, and practically plead as a pauper to this Parliament for help. What sort of business conception can a man have to entertain any such expectation?
– How can we judge what aid is required if we do not know how the company stands?
– If we desire to encourage and develop the oil industry, and we know that such an industry is impossible with open ports, it is enough for us to help those who are engaged in it, and thereby strengthen their hands.
– Provided we prove that the proposed help is effective.
– We cannot give any other help but that which is proposed. A duty is out of the question, owing to’ the fact that the production is not sufficiently large to meet our requirements, and that the only result would be enhanced prices. The much cheaper and simpler way is to give a bonus. When the oil is produced in sufficient quantities to supply the local demands, the duty may be as high as we choose. . This is not a question of the financial stability of a company ; and I repeat that if they make no kerosene they will get no bonus, whereas if they do make kerosene, the object of the Bill will be attained.
– Does the honorable member contend that this company will be able to produce all the oil that is used in Australia ?
– In how long?
– I am not a prophet, but 1 should say in five to ten years.
– Does the honorable member think that the company will be able to produce 20,000,000 gallons at the end of that time?
– The possibility is there, because there are shale deposits, not only in New South Wales, but in Tasmania, and the Northern Territory has yet to be exploited. This company has offered the Minister or any of his officials free access to their books, but advantage has not been taken of the offer, because there is no desire to pry into private affairs. Possibly the honorable member for Cook may be afforded a similar opportunity, although I think that is unlikely, in view of his indiscreet utterances to-night. To attempt to show the position of the company by the rough-and-ready method of reckoning adopted by him is simply ridiculous. We do not require statistical information of the kind ; all we care about is the establishment of an Australian industry. No bonus will be paid if there is no kerosene. If there is kerosene, the object of the bonus will be attained. -The Bil] proposes the only logical course ; and :t is not taken because the company is hard up, but because we desire to open up new avenues of employment, and, by developing our resources, to make Australia self-contained and, as far as possible, selfsupporting. The oil industry taints the commercial atmosphere throughout the world ; no quarter is given by those engaged in it, and the steps proposed are absolutely necessary, apart from any particular company or its financial position. We shall be perfectly safeguarded so long as we have the power of control, and as we do not intend Australia to develop on American lines, the initial step to acquiring that power has been taken. It now only remains for the people to approve, and I am sanguine as to the result of that approval.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sinclair) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101103_reps_4_59/>.