4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what is the position regarding the parliamentary refreshment bar. Yesterday afternoon the House resolved that intoxicating liquor shall no longer be supplied within its precincts, but about a fortnight ago the Senate negatived a similar resolution. Must honorable members who occasionally desire alcoholic refreshment be invited to the bar by honorable senators ? Is a notice to be put up in the bar “ for honorable senators only,” and will members of this House be expected to go elsewhere when they wish a little wine for their “ stomach’s sake,” as I occasionally do. If members of this House are not to be permitted to obtain liquors within the precincts, the bar should be removed to another position, because it is aggravating to have to pass a place where another member is getting a drink when one is not allowed to get one there himsel f .
– I am not prepared to make a definite statement atpresent, but under the circumstances, if the honorable member wishes to go to the bar he had better get a senator to take him there.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the state of things prevailing in the north eastern parts of New South Wales, as revealed by the following telegram -
Chamber of Commerce, Lismore.
Food supplies running short, heavy losses, local producers’ trade dislocated through strike. McLean, President.
Has he read what has been said by the Premier of the State, as reported in this morning’s Age, to the effect that the work of the port must be carried on, and that the Government will take all steps necessary to prevent the trade of the port from being suspended ? Will the right honorable gentleman tell theHouse what steps he has taken to co-operate with the Premier of New South Wales to keep the Inter-State trade of the port of Sydney going during the strike? If no steps have been taken, will he tell the House how he proposes to assist the Premier of New South Wales?
– The only question that need be answered is the last one. The others mean nothing but a placard.
– Is it in order to describe a respectfully-framed question as a placard?
– The Prime Minister will withdraw the word, if it is offensive.
– I cheerfully do so, if the use of the word is regarded as offensive.
– It was certainly offensive, and under the circumstances uncalled for.
– Not only am I aware of the trouble in Sydney, but I take my share of the responsibility for localizing it and bringing it to an end. The Government will do. everything in its power as in duty bound, to see that the law is obeyed. Ministers are sworn to do that. I read the newspapers as a matter of duty, to make myself acquainted with the facts. Every strike causes loss, but a declaration in Parliament in anticipation of action is likely to be mischievous rather than beneficial.
– Have the Prime Minister and Attorney-General taken into consideration the power in the Arbitration Act to have members of an organization who are recalcitrant, or not controlled, or not controllable by it, removed from it? I do not ask for an immediate answer, but I understand that the Ministers really and anxiously desire to localize this dispute.
– I have said so. Why does the honorable member use the word “really”?
– I had no intention of saying anything that would annoy the Prime Minister. I draw his attention to section 70 of the Arbitration Act, which reads -
The Court may, on the application of any organization, made in the manner prescribed by the rules of the Court, order that any member of an organization shall cease to be a member thereof from a date and for a period to be named in the order.
I ask the Prime Minister whether it may not be wise “to consider -that provision, which gives ample power to the Court to act on the application of an organization, and to bring it under the notice of the organization with which I understand he and the Attorney-General are not unconnected. It is within their power to apply to the Court to remove from the organization the persons who have actually struck.
– That organization includes all the persons employed in the industry throughout Australia, and we are doing everything that can be done to obtain the resum’ption of’ work. The honorable member suggests certain action in regard to recalcitrant members, and directs attention to section 70, but those who have had experience of unions know that the suggested, remedy would be worse than useless at this juncture.
– Why ?.
– Could we put 5,000 men out of a union?
– Yes. That is the only way to deal with them. Otherwise the organization is a farce.
– They could not be put out without being heard separately.
– The branch to which they belong could be heard.
– The Court does not know branches ; it deals with the organization. The members of the organization would have to be dealt with- as individuals.
– The certificate of registration of the organization is a cer*tificate of the registration of branches.
– I should like to point out for the public information that our positions in connexion with the Waterside Workers Union are purely honorary. That should be made known.
– I assure Ministers and honorable members opposite that I wish to do nothing to hinder the peaceful settlement of this dispute. I ask the AttorneyGeneral if his attention has been drawn to the following statement in this morning’s paper, made by the Premier of New South Wales, who says -
The Inter-State wharf labourers are bound by an agreement which covers the whole of
Australia. Without any notice to their colleagues in other States, without any notice to the Government, they suddenly leave work in violation of that agreement. No definite grievance was stated to anybody in authority in order that some efforts at conciliation might be made,, but cessation of work was suddenly brought about by a section of the Sydney branch.
Mr. McGowen then goes on to state his own attitude.
I will appoint an arbitration tribunal to immediately consider the issue….. The work of the port must be carried on, and the Government will take all necessary steps to prevent the trade of the port being suspended. Whatever the consequences may be to the Government, they will discharge their duties to the community.
Under the circumstances, it ls the fairest of fair things that the Attorney-General should tell the House and the country what he is doing to co-operate with Mr. McGowen to remove these blocks to InterState trade, which it is the special function of the Government to safeguard. That is my question to the Attorney-General, and
I now desire to say generally-
– The honorable member must not go on to speak in general terms.
– I merely desire to say in another form what I have alreadly said.
– The honorable member has already asked a question.
– I know that; but I ask the leave of the House to say generally two or three words bearing on a very important matter. I take it that we are all anxious to see this trouble settled. I, for one, at any rate, have given evidence of my desire not to embarrass the Government in the slightest degree.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the question. He will understand that if I allow him to proceed I . cannot reasonably refuse to permit other honorable members to discuss the matter, and a difficulty may, therefore, arise.
– I ask the leave of the House; and if I am refused leave, of course I cannot help it.
– I shall put the request to the House if the honorable member desires.
– I desire to say one sentence only.
– Why does the honorable member not move the adjournment of the House ?
– My attention was called to the statement made by Mr. McGowen ; and the facts, as stated by him, and read by the honorable member for Parramatta, are, to the best of my knowledge and belief, absolutely correct. That is to say, an agreement did and does exist, and it covers members of the union who work in Sydney as well as those who work in every other port of the Commonwealth. It is a fact that, without any notice at all to their organization, or to any of the branches, the men in Sydney ceased work and broke the agreement. It is a fact, of .course, as I have said here previously, that on their doing so, the Council was immediately called together, and the men were asked to resume work, and declined. The honorable member for Parramatta went on to point out what Mr. McGowen had declared his intention to do. As for Mr. McGowen’s offer to appoint arbitrators, I say that there is nothing to arbitrate about. There is the agreement which, the Federation has entered into, and the men must keep it - they must abide by the conditions, and there is nothing to arbitrate about. So far as the deep-sea men are concerned, I know nothing of the terms of the agreement, if any, existing between them and the deep-sea stevedores. As regards this Government, the position appears to be this : Under the agreement there is a provision made for a penalty, which is, after all, nothing but liquidated damages, for the recovery of which the Attorney-General cannot proceed.
– Can the Registrar of the Industrial Court proceed?
– No, he cannot. I asked the Registrar to supply me with a report as to what he conceives to be necessary and proper under the circumstances, and the following are extracts from that document- -
On reference to clause 13 of the agreement between the members of the union and the steam-ship owners which was filed with me on the 33rd ultimo, it will be apparent that the amount referred to for breach of the agreement is not a “ penalty “ within the meaning of section 78 of the Act, but “ liquidated damages,” and therefore the proper person to sue for the recovery of the amount is the Commonwealth Steam-ship Owners’ Association (sec. 44), or one of its component companies (sec. *44c).
If it is a penalty in the proper sense and not’ damages, the agreement itself seems not to be an industrial agreement under the Act, for it relates to industrial disputes in the State of New South Wales only, and not to industrial disputes extending beyong the limits of a State (sec. 4).
If it is not an industrial agreement the Commonwealth Steam-ship Owners’ Association can. sue for it also, and the chances of success are therefore much greater than if the Registrar sued for the recovery of the penalty. The foregoing is clearly an answer to any question as to why the Registrar has not sued under, sec. 44 (2) (a).
If proceedings are taken by either the Commonwealth Steam-ship Owners’ Association or by one of its component companies, or by the Registrar, they would seem to have to be taken,, not against the Wharf Labourers’ Union or Waterside Workers’ Federation, or the officialsthereof, who are apparently innocent, but against some one or more workmen who have actually struck work (sec. 44 (1).
As regards the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration, it would be well to understand clearly that it has no jurisdiction to deal with thisNew South Wales dispute by way of arbitration ; but as there was for some time danger of the dispute extending to the other States the President exercised his jurisdiction under section i6« to call the parties together to prevent the extension of the dispute to some other State.
That appears to be the position, and nothing, therefore, can be done by the Government until, if such a contingency should unfortunately arise, the dispute extends to other States, when, of course, quite apart from the agreement, there would be an Inter-State dispute, over which the Court has jurisdiction. There remains,, then, nothing for the Government to do, and everything that can be done by the organization, as such, has been done. I very much regret the position individually. I am perfectly confident in my own mind that the overwhelming majority of the men now on .strike do not desire, and never did1 desire, for one solitary half-minute, tostrike.
– In view of the statement of the Attorney-General that the vast majority of the men now on strike did not desire to strike, who is responsible for the strike taking place ?
– Those honorable members who have had any experience of unions will understand perfectly the position which I put. According to the statement made to me by the Registrar, there were 170 or 180 men present at the meeting which originally decided to strike. There may have been a few more or less at the meeting - I am not quite sure - but there are 4,700 men, to my certain knowledge, in the union. If that meeting had not carried a resolution to strike, there would have been no strike. That is what I meant ; and I am going by what I know of the union - no man knows it better - and I say deliberately now that, if a ballot were taken in the union, there would be an overwhelming majority for a return to work.
– In regard to the question asked by the honorable member for Richmond relating to the duty of the Government to enforce and maintain the principle of Inter-State Free Trade, will the Prime Minister explicitly state that the Government does recognise its duty to remove any obstruction or interference with the free flow of trade between the States ?
– This Government, whatever may be said about other Governments, have no need to express the fact that they intend to carry out the duties of a Government according to law.
– In view of the Attorney-General’s statement, I desire to ask the honorable gentleman if there are any means by which a vote of 4,700 men of the union can be taken?
– There are no means at the disposal of the Government. As for the rest, I may inform the House, as already stated in the press, that there is to be another meeting of the men to-morrow morning, and it is to be hoped that from that meeting a different result will follow. If that, unfortunately, should not prove to be the case, a recommendation will be made by the Council of the Waterside Workers’ Federation that a ballot shall be forthwith taken.
– In view of the fact that Saturday is chosen as the polling day for general elections many members of the Jewish persuasion have waited on me with a suggestion that some other day should be chosen. One Jewish minister pointed out that if Saturday were now fixed, it might be proposed to have the election on Sunday on the next occasion.
– I will have the matter carefully considered. A great race of people, who have played a most important part in the history of the world, should have arrangements, which they consider prejudicial to their interests, carefully weighed.
– I desire to make a per sonal explanation. Last night I so far forgot myself as to say to the honorable member for Wentworth something for which I am truly sorry. That honorable member was man enough to come and tell me that he did not intend to insult me, and I, of course, accepted his statement. That the honorable member had no such intention is borne out by what appeared in the newspapers of this morning. I mistook the meaning of the words he used, and I apologise, not only to the honorable member, but to the House.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to express my deepest regret that I should, even momentarily, have inadvertently offended the honorable member for Maranoa. My regret now is that for one brief moment he should have thought me prig enough not to feel a deep respect for the ability and grit which have enabled him to graduate with honours in the university of life’s experience.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until half-past 7 o’clock p.m. on Tuesday next.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the AttorneyGeneral,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 2nd November, vide page 2219) :
– We should have some statement from the Minister of Home Affairs regarding the item, “ Timber storage shed, £146.” I presume that if this item be agreed to if will be followed by a proposal to expend a certain sum on the purchase of timber to be stored and seasoned.
– We are doing that now.
– The experiment, I believe, will be found to be impracticable, and neither advantageous nor economical. It is absurd to think of storing in one centre timber for distribution all over the Commonwealth when local requirements can be supplied on the spot. I doubt very much whether there is as much in this idea as some people believe, but even if the Government specified that contractors for Government buildings should use only seasoned timber supplied by the State, I think that the scheme would be found unworkable. I am afraid that there is something in the nature of a fad about this proposal, and, as the representative of a district where hard woods are largely produced, I think the experiment should not be proceeded with. If the Government specify that only seasoned timber should be used on a Government work, why should not the contractor for that work be permitted to purchase that timber wherever he desires to do so? There are in the trade people who make a point of storing millions of feet of timber, so that it may be properly seasoned. Seasoned timber can be purchased in Sydney or Melbourne to-day by any one who requires it. I am not so hide-bound as to be unable to appreciate any innovation, but I am afraid that this experiment is due to the fact that the Minister, who has no personal experience, has been led away by the recommendations of others who are also without experience, and that it will result in loss to the Government. The experience of all men engaged in the building trade is that seasoned timber can be purchased, in the sizes specified, in almost any part of the State of New South Wales. If the intention of the Government is merely to erect sheds in Melbourne or Sydney, and store timber there, I fail to see how they are going to compel contractors for the erection of public buildings in, say, my own electorate, to carry timber from’ the Sydney shed to the district where, perhaps, it was produced. I am willing to give fair consideration to any innovation that may be proposed, but I hold the view that this experiment should not be taken up, and I hope the Government will not proceed with it.
.- I trust that the Minister will stand by the item. I have been in the building trade all my life, and am satisfied that the Government are well advised in taking steps to secure a supply of seasoned timber. Nothing depreciates the value of a building to a greater extent than does the use of unseasoned timber in its construction, for green timber causes the walls to crack in every direction. Since the Government propose to erect largebuildings in the Federal Capital and other parts of the Commonweal th, they are acting wisely in taking time by the forelock and providing for supplies of seasoned timber.
– The Governmentdo not propose to drag timber from one district to another and back again.
– No. I think that the honorable member for Cowper is mistaken in the belief that seasoned timber can be purchased in any part of the Commonwealth to-day. The demand is so great that it is almost impossible to secure it in certain parts of New South Wales.
– Or anywhere in Australia.
– I believe the position is the same in other States.
– Nonsense. If a reasonable order is given and reasonable time allowed millions of feet of seasoned timber can be obtained.
– I know men in the building trade who have had to wait weeks to get even green timber. The price of timber is gradually increasing, and there is every reason to believe that that which we buy to-day and store for seasoning purposes will be far more valuable later on. The Government cannot go wrong in storing and seasoning timber. Their proposal is not to compete with timber merchants. This is simply an attempt to provide for our own requirements. The honorable member for Cowper spoke of the Government specifying in their contracts that only certain timber should be used. That is quite a common practice. The Government of New South Wales for example in inviting tenders for the building of an iron bridge specify that the iron shall have been made in the Commonwealth. We have a right to protect ourselves, and I hope that the Committee will not quibble over this item. All men in a large way of business try to keep by them a stock of seasoned timber for building, furniture-making, and other purposes, so that this is really not an experiment. I commend the action of the Minister.
– We ought to have some information from the Minister regarding the item. I have no objection to the Government making experiments in regard to the seasoning of timber, but the question raised by the honorable member for Cowper is a very important one. Surely it would be unwise to centralize the timber seasoning process in Melbourne or Sydney and to send timber from one of those centres to Queensland or Western Aus tralia, where material equally good could be obtained on the spot. I do not hesitate to say that if a reasonable order be given and reasonable time allowed any man can secure all the seasoned timber he requires at an exceedingly reasonable price. Instead of there being a dearth of timber, the position until quite recently has been the reverse. For four years and until quite recently the timber mills had an exceedingly bad time, and had to export timber at prices which, in some cases, scarcely paid for cutting. I hope that the Minister will be careful not to attempt to localize in any one State, or in the hands of a few people, the storing and seasoning of the timber required for Commonwealth purposes.
– It would be all right if the store was to be in Tasmania !
– My experience of the honorable member is that he judges every one by the unfortunate standard of his own particular proclivities. I suggest to the Minister that it would be better to have a number of small experimental stations or stores in the different States. A process that might be suitable for the seasoning of the pines of Queensland or the jarrah of Western Australia might be totally unsuitable in the case of the stringy bark and blue gums of Tasmania and Victoria. It is well that these experiments should be made, but the Minister, instead of having one large station in Victoria, should distribute his stores over the various States. If the Minister contemplates storing a’ large amount of timber, cut green, and stacked in sheds without any preparation at all he will find by the time he requires to use it that some of it is turning round and looking at him. I hope the Minister will go a good deal further than he now proposes, and take in hand some of the many preparations now known by which timber can be dried and seasoned without risk of curling, twisting, and splitting. TheMinister should also have these stations distributed all over Australia so that all the timbers of the different States will get a fair deal, because it would be positively absurd to attempt to use timber seasoned in Victoria for public works in Western Australia or Queensland.
– I agree withthe honorable member for South Sydney in commending the Minister for taking this very desirable step. I can. assure the honorable member for Franklin, who says there is plenty of timber for all purposes in Australia, that there is great difficulty, for example, in getting timber, especially Queensland pine, for butter boxes. There should be no need for the Department to rent premises for storing purposes. The back yards of the postoffices in various centres can be made use of for storing timber to be used from time to time in the surrounding districts. I am not enamoured of the idea of patent or hurried seasoning. I question whether it gives the same good results as are obtained from sun-dried or air-seasoned timber. If the Minister proposes to extend his operations in that direction he will require far more money than he asks for in this item. If he wants to go even further than he now proposes, I will lend him every help, because a good supply of seasoned timber will mean that the erection of our public buildings will not be retarded by a shortage of timber supplies.
.- If the Government are serious in wishing to season a lot of timber for use in public buildings they can hardly expect to do it by the methods proposed within the time required. There are a number of wellknown systems for seasoning timber, and if any of them are to be adopted provision will have to be made on the Estimates for the. necessary machinery and kilns. Storing in sheds is not always the most desirable way of seasoning. It takes a long time. In England it has been found that the best way with certain timbers is. to leave the logs lying in the water until the natural sap is leached out Then the water which has taken the place of the sap is evaporated, and the timber is found to be better seasoned than if the sap had been left in it. As to the statement that timber is not procurable for public purposes in Australia, honorable members can find an object lesson in this building, containing as it does perhaps the finest piece of work that has ever been put up in the way of timbering and joining. It has stood here for twenty or thirty years to my knowledge, and I defy any one to say it was not built with seasoned timber. There is nothing wrong with it after all that time.
– Seasoned timber cannot be got in Australia.
– Any one who has the money can get whatever he wants in Australia. Storing alot of timber in a shed will never meet the requirements of the Department. They must go a little deeper into the matter. Whatever timber is required can be obtained in the log or the plank from the different States, brought to one centre, and there put through the process best suitable for each class. Timber is brought to Melbourne in the log from all parts of the world to-day. I passed a trolley load of oak logs only the day before yesterday in Collins-street. They had come from Japan, and would be seasoned here bywhatever processwas most suitable. The system of seasoning which is suitable for hard wood is not suitable for soft wood. If the Department stacks a lot of timber in twenty or thirty sheds, and tries to treat it all by the same process, no good result will be arrived at. The best and most scientific methods known to the world must be adopted. A great deal has been said of the process of Powellising timber by putting it through boiling water or steam, and then treating it with arsenic and sugar, but I think the boiling orsteaming has as much to do with the result as the stuff which is put into it afterwards. Some years ago a vacuum system by which the natural sap was drawn from the timber, was established at Port Adelaide, in South Australia, but so far as I know no process has been so successful as that which I have described as adopted in England. Whoever took on the business of furnishing this House knew more about the processes of seasoning timber than we do here to-day.
– They did not do things so much in a hurry in those days.
– I doubt if the building of the Federal Capital will be done in a hurry. I believe there will be plenty of time to adopt any system known to the world for seasoning the timber that will be required to furnish the new Parliament House there. It would be hardly advisable to use the hardwoods of Australia in all work. Before money is spend on sheds the Minister should get the best advice obtainable as to the systems of seasoning most suitable for the woods which he proposes to use.
.- I agree with a good deal that has been said, but I believe the Minister’s action is in the right direction. The question seems to be whether he should adopt some recognised artificial system of seasoning timbers, or whether he should erect sheds as proposed. It is in the best interests of the Commonwealth, from the point of view of economy, to have all the timber it requires seasoned, and the question of whether Powellising or any other system should be adopted is a matter for future consideration, which will take a considerable time.
– It is quicker than the shed business.
– It may be, but whilst the Government are obtaining information with regard to the different processes some time must elapse, and when the information is obtained a considerable sum of money will be necessary in order to bring the system which is adopted into operation. Our position is that we require timber immediately. Consequently it is necessary to procure it at once, and allow ‘it to season by exposing .it to the open air, perhaps under cover of sheds. Our experience has been that timber is now bought direct from the mills and put down before it is properly seasoned, with the result that the floors shrink, and have to be taken up and relaid.
– That is mostly the case with hard woods.
Mr. CHARLTON.It applies to any timber, but to hardwoods particularly. In one case I put the timber aside for four months to season, and as a result I had no trouble with the floor. The Powellising system which is used by a certain firm in Sydney is chiefly intended to prevent the ravages of white ants. The Minister has acted properly in providing sheds so that timber may be obtained from the different mills within the Commonwealth, and not imported. If we have” timber of our own, we should obtain it and allow it to season until it is wanted. I can assure the honorable member for Franklin that timber is scarce in Australia. I represent a timber-growing constituency - as I did in the State Parliament - and know that timber supplies are rapidly being exhausted, and that as a result the price of timber has increased by 5s. or 6s. per 100 feet during the last few years.
– The price has increased 25 per cent.
– More than that within the last eight years.
– Timber was being cut at a loss a few years ago.
– The price of timber having increased, it is the more necessary that the Government should have its own supply of seasoned wood. Timber should be stored, not in one State only, but -wherever it is likely to be required, and particularly -in the Federal Territory, where there will be so great a demand for it in the near future. Timber should be obtained at least five or six months before it is needed.
– As many years.
– The Commonwealth and State Departments now buy their timber as they require it.
– All our Government services live from hand to mouth.
– That is so. Timber supplies, however, should be bought a long time ahead, and allowed to season. The Commonwealth would save considerably by adopting that policy.
.- As the honorable member for Hunte! has pointed out, storage for timber should be provided in all the States.
– The sum of .£700 is to be voted to provide for storage in Victoria.
– I hope that we shall have an explanation from the Minister of what is intended. The need for storing timber has been emphasized by honorable members. I am sorry that the Minister, who prides himself on his progressiveness, has not commenced to grow timber for the Commonwealth. We are asked to vote and re-vote sums for expenditure on the Federal Capital amounting to ,£100,000, and if the whole amount were expended in planting timber in the Federal area, it would make provision for the future which would be very valuable, and prevent expenditure in directions in which it is not yet necessary. We have, too, enormous areas which might profitably be devoted to the planting of timber. Re-afforestation is one of the most important problems that the Commonwealth and the States have to face. The States might have done more, and we might have done more. In other countries timber reserves are a most valuable asset. The German Government looks after its forests in accordance with the most scientific and best technical principles, and benefits therefrom to the extent of several millions a year. Most of the Federal area, not being suitable for cultivation, should be fit for the growing of timber, it having been proved all over the world that where there is a sufficient rainfall timber can be grown satisfactorily on poor country. On the European Alps, land which was previously valueless has been planted with trees, and now produces good returns.
– An amount for afforestation appears on the “ Estimates.
– No policy has been announced. We should make plantations which will be of value in the future. I hope that the Minister will tell us what he proposes to do in regard to the reafforestation of the Federal Capital Site. I hope that on revising his estimates he will apply a large part of the sum for which he asks for the Federal Capital, to the planting of the Territory with trees.
– Is he not going to plant 1,000,000 trees there?
– We have not been told what he is going to do, but if his explanation is not more lucid than that of the other night, we shall not learn much from him. It is a step in the right direction to provide store houses for timber, it being a weakness in our departmental administration that the timber reserves are altogether too small.
.- It seems to me that the Minister means no more than the construction of sheds in Melbourne and Sydney for the seasoning of timber.
– That is all.
– A great deal has been said about afforestation, and we should be told whether it is the intention of the Department to assist the State in that matter. The timber stored in the sheds which are to be erected will not be available for all the works which the Home Affairs Department will have to carry out; it would not pay to send it from the proposed storehouses to distant States. I should like the Minister to say what is proposed in regard to the Commonwealth generally, apart from New South Wales and Victoria.
– The Department has had a good deal of trouble at times in obtaining seasoned timber, and complaints have been made by honorable members about the difficulty of getting work done Owing to the difficulty in obtaining assistance from New South Wales and Victorian officials, who have had an immense amount of work to do themselves, although they have done what they could for us, we have decided, in the interests of expedition, to look after our own works in the two States named, and are, therefore, providing timber stores in them, so that if we cannot get what we need from the mills we can draw on our own supplies. On the Federal area we had a great deal of trouble in getting timber, and had to send all through this electorate of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for it, buying it green. In some of my own houses I find the verandahs looking at me when I go for the rents, showing that the timber has not been properly seasoned.
– What kinds of timber are to be stored?
– All kinds necessary for the works we have in hand. Honorable members opposite appear to be afraid that we are going to establish a great branch or department for the sale of timber. There is, however, no such intention underlying this modest vote of £700.
– The Department spent £500 last year.
Mr.KING O’MALLEY.- What is £500 ? A decent kitchen could not be put up in some houses for such a sum. One of the projects in the Federal territory is afforestation. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro says that I never do anything without letting the world know; but did I let the world know as to the afforestation project?
– Then why worry me about it to-day?
– We only desire to know whether the Minister is redeeming his promises.
– A Labour Minister must always do that, because his promises are his capital. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera that there are several processes used; for instance, the one in operation in Sydney has cost the present Mayor of that city£25,000. Possibly later we may have to adopt some process of the kind, which, I understand, has been successful in Western America for over thirty years. They will be required, perhaps, in the building of the transcontinental railway, when there must be timber to resist the white ants. At present, however, we only ask for £700, with a view later to having a shed in each State where timber can be stored and ready for use without delay. We are going to run great industries and have mighty activities in contemplation ; and we must make preparation, especially in a territory like this, where there is little or no settlement, and everything is in a state of nebulosity. Under the circumstances we cannot put down the exact sum for every complete work.
.- The Minister of Home Affairs has talked about everything and anything but the particular item under discussion. What kind of timber is it proposed to store? The Minister tells us that in the Federal area all sorts of timber has to be used in a green state; but a great deal of our timber cannot be used in any other form. Honorable members who have had any experience of building with seasoned ironbark will know what I mean.
– There are very few buildings of ironbark.
– But my remarks apply to all our hardwoods, which it is practically impossible to use in a seasoned state. On the other hand, all the joinery woods, such as cedar, rosewood, beech, silky oak, and Queensland maple, may be stored and seasoned as much as we like, and are improved thereby, provided they are kept free from ants.
– Does the honorable manlier suggest that no hardwood should be seasoned ? o
– Not for .building purposes, except, perhaps, for flooring, and even in the latter case the wood must not be seasoned too long, or it is otherwise most difficult to join together. There is no necessity to provide storage for any but our joinery woods ; and in contemplating the storage of hardwoods the Minister is wasting the country’s money.
.- I also am of opinion that the Minister is wasting the” country’s money in providing £joo for the seasoning of this timber. No doubt it is difficult to season hardwood, but it can be done with proper attention in the case of many varieties. When I was in the Public Works Department we found that if we did not season the hardwood we had a tough job in getting the buildings in proper line. Why I say the Minister is wasting the public money is that in the Northern Territory, and in Papua, we have Possessions from which very valuable timber could be obtained, and where we could establish our own saw-mills.
– Does the honorable member propose to bring the timber from the Northern Territory to the Federal Capital ?
– Undoubtedly. Personally, I am against the establishment cf the Federal Capital at Yass-Canberra ; but, as the numbers are against me, 1 must, make the best of a bad bargain. By utilizing the timber of the Northern Territory and
Papua, we could develop these magnificent Possessions, and save much expenditure to the taxpayer. A gentleman who has travelled through the greater part of the Northern Territory tells me that very valuable timbers are to be found there ; and, when I visited Papua, I found launches, yachts, and practically all the residences constructed of local timber, amongst which was some of the best I have ever seen. Instead, therefore, of building the proposed sheds, we should erect sawmills, and do the seasoning at the places where the timber is grown.
.- I am concerned, not so much with the amount of this vote, as with the principle it involves. This appears to me to be another step in the direction of socializing the enterprises of the Commonwealth ; and that view is strengthened by the speeches of the Minister and of the honorable member for Corio. Both of these gentlemen showed us clearly that this proposal is only the straw which indicates the flow of the stream, and that it is intended, ultimately, to establish great and important Commonwealth work’s in regard to the growing and storage. of timber. The success of public enterprises of this kind, up to the present, does not justify us in increasing them, for they are not carried on by the State anything like so satisfactorily as they are by private enterprise. It would seem as if this Parliament has conceived the idea of a socialistic condition of things which. I am quite sure, is not shared by the great bulk of the public. What use can these sheds serve unless they are to be stacked with timber, and how large a sum of money is likely to be involved in filling them with timber if we are te carry a stock sufficient to supply the needs which the Minister has mentioned? I do not think the great bulk of honorable members have seriously considered this question. The erection of the sheds is a comparatively trivial matter, but the storage of timber will involve us in an expenditure that is of the utmost importance. The sheds will be absolutely useless unless a very large sum is spent in storing timber in them. .
– Perhaps the Minister will tell the Committee what he is going to spend in that respect. _
– I cannot secure his attention; if he has the figures he has not given them to us. The honorable member for Corio has objected that this item does not go far enough. He says that we ought to have our own saw-mills. If the Ministry submitted such a proposition to the people it would probably be rejected, because the country is not yet ripe for Socialism. By passing such items as these honorable members opposite are gradually undermining existing conditions in favour of a state of affairs under which the number of Commonwealth employes will be increased, and those engaged in private enterprise will have to compete with those employed by the State. Such a thing ought not to be encouraged, and I think, therefore, that we ought to reject this item. Representing, as I do, a large and important constituency, comprising the Goulburn Valley and Echuca districts, I shall raise a vigorous protest against every item of the kind in these Estimates. This is simply the initial movement towards establishing that which the people whom I represent strongly object to.
– Unfortunately, the honorable member represents only a minority of the electors - 7,000, as against 10,000.
– After the next general election I do not think the honorable member will represent any one. I am sure that he does not desire to be disagreeable, but he cannot help it ; it is his nature, and if he makes disagreeable remarks he must not complain if he receives a reply that is somewhat disagreeable to him.
– 1 do not complain of disagreeable prophecies.
– Will the Minister tell us what class of timbers he proposes to store in these sheds, and what will be the cost to the community? I believe that it will be simply enormous.
– The honorable member will have a chance of stopping anything of the kind by his vote in this House.
– I shall vote against it, but, unfortunately, that will not put a stop to the proposal. It is just as well that the public should know that the Opposition are in an absolutely helpless position, so far as the protection of their interests is concerned, since the Government have behind them a majority that is prepared to support them, willy nilly, right or wrong. This is simply another socialistic move, calculated to be. for the advancement of a party, and not for the well-being of the country.
– I should not have risen but for the stupid and uncalled-for remarks made by a number of honorable members regarding this question.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. Those who have opposed this item have shown that they have no knowledge of the matter. Users of timber will admit that the Minister has been well advised, for in no part of the Commonwealth can dry timber be purchased to-day.
– People can purchase it if they like to pay the price.
– I think not. I know contractors in Sydney who are prepared to give 2s. and 3s. per thousand feet more for dry timber than they are giving for that which is now available; but they cannot get it. Green timber is more costly to work than is dry timber. A joiner cannot use green timber and give satisfaction to the person for whom he is working, and the same may be said with regard to the use of unseasoned timber in the building trade generally. Every system of drying timber tried up to the present time has been purely experimental. Timber can be made fit for use only by atmospheric drying, and honorable members opposite, instead of condemning the Minister, should give him credit for taking action to ensure a supply of dry timber for use in our public buildings. Timber for furniture and fixtures must have been stored for at least four or five years. That which has been put .away for fifteen years is better still, and will pay for the cost of storing. Timber used in the manufacture of pianos is sometimes stored for twenty 3’ears. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that the timber-getters have not been receiving a fair price ; but that has not led to any reduction in prices to the consumers. The middleman has been reaping the advantage. Our timber supplies are controlled by a combine, which, either on the 1st October or the first of the present month, put up prices by ib per cent. Our referenda proposals having been rejected, we cannot* deal with such com- . bines, and it is therefore more than ever necessary that this action should be taken. I trust that a much larger sum will be asked for to provide for the storing of timber, because seasoned timber must be an invaluable asset to the Commonwealth.
.- Although these are rather small items, a big principle is at stake, and I hope that the
Minister will look carefully into them. The Minister appears to be introducing the thin edge of the wedge. I suppose that when the store is erected we shall be asked to provide for a storeman, who in turn will want an assistant storeman, and thereafter, perhaps, an inspector will be required to see that those men are not overworked.
– We are only going to store timber in these sheds and lock them up.
– It would be far cheaper for the Department to go into the open market and buy in the ordinary way the timber that is required.
– We are buying it from the mills and seasoning it for ourselves.
– As long as the Minister is looking carefully into the matter and can assure me that this proposal does not mean that we are to have a host of additional employes in the service, I shall be satisfied. We must keep a watchful eye on the growth of our financial responsibilities.
– The Department of Home Affairs has to carry out works for the Defence and other Departments in which seasoned timber is absolutely essential.
– If the Minister assures me that there is not to be a great increase in the number of our employes as the result of the passing of this item I shall be satisfied.
– This seems to be a very small item to have occupied the attention of the Committee so long, but in some of its aspects it is undoubtedly important. I take it that it consists largely of a re-vote for a project which was discussed last year. I have no doubt in my own mind that many of the projects we are now putting into operation will furnish food for reflection later on, when we see their remnants scattered thick as leaves about the country, and reminding us of the time when people made foolish experiments with the people’s money. We have, in fact, got into the habit in Victoria of voting a sum of money for a certain purpose and declaring, there and then, “ Look what a success it is,” when, as a matter of fact, some years must elapse before we shall be able to take account of these experiments. Although the amount that we are asked to vote in respect’ of this item is small, I am told on good authority that if the Government propose to go in for the storing and seasoning of timber they will have to spend hundreds and thousands of pounds rather than the trifling£50 or £100 with which the Minister is now tinkering. I am afraid the Minister is neither doing this thing nor letting it alone. He cannot store very much timber in a place that costs£ 1,000 to build, and where is the money for the timber coming from? Is that on the Estimates, too? If we are to season timber for years, it means the expenditure ofhundreds of thousands of pounds, and if all these big projects are to be hung up pending the seasoning of our own timber, I am afraid my good friends, the Victorians, will be perfectly happy, for instance, about the Federal Capital. From all I can see. it is going to be some years yet before the preparations for the Federal Capital are by any means completed.
– You will be there in less than five years.
– Would the honorable member object so strongly if this money were going to be spent elsewhere than in Victoria?
– I am not objecting to the item. What is the good of objecting?I am objecting in the interests of Australia that the scheme of storing and seasoning timber has not been sufficiently thought out. These proposals do not touch the real problem which the Minister professes to have in mind. A trickle of money like this will be no good if he is going into the matter thoroughly. It is only a make- believe.
-He needs to establish his mills as well.
– I believe we voted money last year to build mills with, and we are re-voting the same money to build the same mills now. At this rate the Minister, or somebody after him, will be storing and seasoning timber in the year 1956. Why Victorian members should keep pecking at the Minister on account of the Federal Capital, I do not know. I believe most of their attacks are only make-believe, because at the rate the Minister is going it will be fifty years before we get into the Federal Capital. The Minister is only tinkering with this question ; he cannot season timber on the scale that he is suggesting.
Mr.King O’Malley. - The architects and engineers pick out certain timber for flooring, and so on ; that is all we can season.
– I take it that the Department want to season the bulk of the timber they require.
– Just essentials.
– More than that is required. Is flooring essential ?
– Yes, very.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK. ^Flooring, and posts, and even rails, will need to be stored if the Department are going in for this process, and I make the confident prediction that next year the Minister, if in office, will still have these amounts on the Estimates - a little spent, but a big re-vote asked for - and that there will be no timber in these sheds when we meet again. If these items satisfy honorable members opposite, I suppose it is all right. They are on the Estimates, and what does it matter about the wo(k of the country as long as the Ministerial party are staging their Socialistic schemes? Let honorable members opposite stand up to them, or let them alone. Let us see them carry out their policy in an effective and sensible way. This proposal is doing nothing of the kind. lt is only playing at the job.
.- There are several items that require explanation. The first is the sum of £100,000 for the Federal Capital, regarding which we are entitled to more information from the Minister than he gave us the other night. Last year £16,043 was expended upon the Capital site. The following are what the Minister said last year were covered by the proposed expenditure of £50,000 voted for 1910-11 : - £13,000 for surveys of land; £5,000 for designs ; £4,000 for a nursery in which the Minister said he was going to plant a million trees j £22,000 for roads and bridges ; and £6.000 for the acquisition of lands. Out of that total of £50,000 he expended only £16,043. We want to know from the Minister how much of those works have been carried out. How much of that money was spent upon surveys ? Has he started the large nursery for the planting of trees, which I quite agree is a very necessary and urgent undertaking if the Federal City is to be a beautiful one ? How much has been spent on the acquisition of land ? These are matters which I presume the Minister has at his fingers’ ends under his new reform system, and so he will be able to give us the information without any trouble. With regard to the expenditure for this year the matter is much more serious. The Minister stated that the contingent liability which we would incur by expending a sum of £100,000 on certain works would amount to £250,000. What is that sum for? The Committee ought to know that, by voting the additional amount in these Estimates, they will commit themselves to an expenditure of a quarter of a million pounds. We should be clearly told by the Minister the particular items which are to involve us in’ that ultimate liability. I am not raising this question in any carping spirit, because, from what I know of the advisers who are behind the Minister in this matter, I believe they would advise him to take only sound courses of action. I believe that he has competent advisers, and I hope he will realize that he has the sympathy of the Committee in expediting necessary works. At the same time we like to know what we are doing. According to the Minister’s statement the other night, the works to be constructed include a weir, bridge, water pipes, reservoir, temporary railway, power plant, road-making plant, bridge-building plant, and other things. The Minister, the other evening, bunched all those together, without giving any clear indication of what each would cost. Will he indicate clearly now the nature of £ach of those works, giving the report of the engineers or other officers upon them, and describing what they are intended to serve? Will he say whether they are to be mere temporary works or to be part and parcel of the ultimate scheme of the completed city? Are the roads and the bridge which are to be built to be part of the general design of laying out the Federal Capital ? The Minister has indicated that the railway is to be only a sort of portable tram line. I do not think we can find fault with him in that respect ; but I think he had £22,000 down last year for that purpose. Is that what it is going to cost us?
– £25,000 this year.
– The Minister also said that all the private properties within a radius of 7 miles of the city are to be resumed. Will he tell us now the exact area of the land which he is absolutely resuming within the city proper ? I presume that area has been surveyed, and that the Minister can give us definite information. He ought also to be in a position to indicate in what way it is proposed to administer the Federal territory; because we have now got beyond the stage when that large area ought to be administered simply as a part of the ordinary work of a Department. We are approaching very near the time when it will be necessary to appoint a Board of Commissioners, or some other body.
– We want a Works Committee.
– We certainly do; but, in the meantime, we want some body with a definite responsibility to supervise and manage the Federal territory.
– Why not have a Public Works Department to look after the whole thing?
– Apart from that question, the problem of the government of the territory will ha,ie 1 to be faced very soon. Questions have already been raised regarding its representation in Parliament ; but it will become every year more necessary to think over the problem of its local government. It may be necessary to appoint three commissioners, to whom the administration of the whole of the city will be intrusted ; or we may have some elective municipality, or a combination of election and Government nomination. We need some body to carry out all public works in the territory and supply the House, from time to time, with a report to show exactly what is going on there. We are dealing “with this matter to-day without any printed report showing the progress made, the nature of the works carried out, or the scheme that is ultimately to be evolved for the whole area. We are simply asked blindly to vote one large sum of ^100,000.
– You get, every two months, a report of what is going on in the Federal territory.
– We are thankful for that information, but we ought to be told what policy is being followed.
– A schedule, of which I hand a copy to the honorable member, is being circulated to-day.
– It would have been more satisfactory had the Minister set out m the “Estimates the details of the proposed expenditure of ^.100,000. Perhaps he will make a statement now of his policy. To do so would facilitate the passing of the item.
– Usually Estimates are not dealt with until some time after their presentation to Parliament, and to inform myself thoroughly
I sent my wo leading ( officers to YassCanberra on Monday. I am not omniscient, and can only give such information as I possess. I have prepared a statement of what has been done, and a schedule will be issued to-day.
– Why not postpone the item until honorable members have received the schedule?
– That is not necessary. The sum of ^100,000 is asked for as a contribution towards the cost of starting certain works. Not a penny can be spent until we obtain the necessary land. The Northern Territory land belongs to the Commonwealth, but the land in the Capital Territory is in the hands of freeholders, who purchased it years ago, and must be paid for it. We wish to erect a power plant, which will cost approximately ^20,000.
– What is it needed for?
– For the enterprises and activities connected with the building of the Federal Capital.
– Is it to provide electrical power ?
– It is to provide steam power, and is to be built in units, for the generation of electricity.
– Has a site been fixed?
– Yes, but no arrangement has been come to regarding land values. Whatever, price we pay in the first instance will govern all future transactions in the Territory. I have had as much experience in land valuation as most men, and I am not going to pay what is asked.
– Have valuations been made ?
– The landowners are told that if they do not agree to the Departmental proposals, they must go to Court. That is a nice thing to say to poor men !
– If we cannot agree about values, the matter must be taken to the High Court.
– Why to the High Court? Will not that be very expensive?
– It is the Commonwealth Court, and the cheapest Court in the world.
– Why not have arbitration ?
– That is a new proposal. The honorable member for Wentworth has stated that the value put on the land must be that which it had in 1908, but he has not gone intothe question. Every improvement we make in the Territory adds to the value of the land, and will unconsciously bias any Judge before whom proceedings are taken for resumption. Besides, if we wait another ten years, who will be able toswear to the value of the land in 1908?
– Why not take the land, and settle these matters afterwards?
– That cannot be done.
– What provision is there for arbitration?
– The High Court has been appointed by the people to settle these matters.
– What steps are to be taken before a case goes to the High Court ?
– We shall meet the men, and deal honestly with them.
– The Minister is dealing like a regular Czar.
– This is not a personal matter, but were I to pay foolish prices, honorable members would be quick to storm at me for my mismanagement. I am here as a business man, and am not going to make mistakes.
– The Minister is not going to do the work himself.
– Certainly, I am. That is why I am here.
– The Minister has his officers.
– My decision is final. I am not going to be a rubber stamp.
– The honorable gentleman knows nothing about land values in the Territory.
– I should like to have a dealwith the right honorable member for Swan. I have not looked back since I struck your country.
– The honorable gentleman knows too much.
– I know enough to run this show. The eyes of the world are on Yass- Canberra. We propose to spend £30,000 on brickworks. £30,009 on the Cotter river weir, and £140,000 on water supply, mains, pipes, reservoirs, pipe . tracks, pumping stations, &c.
– Has a site been settled ?
– Nothing can be done until land is available.
– Where is the water to be brought from?
– From the Cotter river, across the Murrumbidgee. The water that supplies New York is brought across the Harlem River at Highbridge. A pipe bridge over the Murrumbidgee will cost£40,000, and £25,000 is to be spent on a railway from Queanbeyan.
– A permanent line?
– No. A permanent line cannot be constructed until the plan of the city has” been determined, and designs will not be sent in before February. All the earth could not make me do anything until then. Ten thousand pounds is needed for road-making and deviations of existing roads, and £13,000 is asked for offices at Acton, afforestation, &c.
– Does that include the nursery ?
– Yes. I am prepared to do all that honorable members suggest should be done, but it cannot be done in a moment. For joinery timbers £5,000 is asked. This makes a total of £313,000.
– That is what we are committing ourselves to?
– That will only touch the fringe.
– Only the outer skirts. Money is also required for the purchase of land ; and the reason for fixing a lump sum is that some of the works will depend on its acquisition. If we simply vote each item, we shall not be able to go beyond the vote, and at certain places the work must be stopped. After eighteen months’ experienceas Minister I have come to the conclusion that we have a most foolish method of finance. If we had a proper system, money not required for one item could be used for another, instead of having to be re-voted.
SirJohn Forrest. - The Minister could do as he chose then !
– Do honorable members think that a Minister, no matteron what side of politics, is going to devote the money to his own private use ?
– A Minister should not have unrestricted control.
– How much is down for land acquisition?
– That is bunched with the other proposed expenditure, and no amount is specified for that purpose.
– There is the re-vote.
– Of the re-vote £24,000 is already spent, leaving only £9,000. Without ill-feeling I ask whether honorable members mean to carry out the contract with New South Wales. When I took office I swore to administer the Department, not in the interests of one State or of a section of a State, but in the interests of all Australia.
– What will be the effect it we knock this vote out ?
– It will be a repudiation of a contract, like a man repudiating his honest debts.
.- Honorable members must more than ever be impressed with the necessity for some new arrangements in connexion with- the Federal Capital. Last night I said that some scheme ought to be laid before the House so that we mav know how much we are called upon to spend over a certain number of years ; and the importance of some statement on the subject is made more manifest by what we have heard from the Minister to-day. He now seeks to commit us to an expenditure of ^£313,000, although the building of the city is not yet started.
– It will be more ike- ^,000,000 !
– I am glad to know the extent to which the Minister is prepared to go. Is the Committee going to blindly vote, year after year, immense sums to be expended in any way the Minister may think fit, or are we going to insist on a proper scheme for the government of the Territory, with the necessary policy statement placed before us and approved before the money is spent? We must not forget that last year strong objection was raised to the expenditure of .£50,000. That was the beginning of this reckless expenditure; and I have no hesitation in saying that we are acting recklessly when we vote large sums in the absence of any binding details. We were asked last year, without any warning, to vote .£50,000 ; and we were kept here until the next morning before it was voted. Many members who voted for the expenditure on that occasion justified the Government; but they did not anticipate that a lump sum would be asked for again this year. The Minister tells us that £24,000 has already been spent of the £33,957 ; and I take it that that has been spent since the 1st July, or otherwise it would have been added to the .£.16,000. I have good reason to know that the expenditure on the Territory was stopped about a couple of months ago, owing to the difficulty of dealing with the lands ; and I should like to know the details of the expenditure of ,£24,000 after the 1st July. We are asked to vote in this sum ,£20,000 towards the expenditure on a. power plant, the establishment of brick-works, and a weir; without being told where these are to be established. The weir involves the question of whether we are to have a pumping scheme of water supply, or, as the honorable member for Swan suggested the other day, a gravitation scheme. Is that question to be decided by the Minister at his own sweet will, or are we to have a say? It seems to me that we have reached a stage when we must insist on some scheme being submitted before we vote further money. There are other unsatisfactory aspects of the question. I have a recollection of hearing the Minister, within the last twelve months, state that the Government were still negotiating with New South Wales for the handing over of some further territory in connexion with the waterworks.
– Hear, hear !
– We have not been told how . these negotiations have proceeded. I take it that, when the negotiations were started, it was considered necessary to obtain the land ; otherwise, why spend the money until the land is considered necessary? Again, the Government were also negotiating for some further territory at that precious seaport called Jervis Bay, where we have a small strip which stops at high- water mark. Have the Government got another concession there, or are they still negotiating ?
– That is settled.
– Have we got any right to go into the water ?
– I think we have got everything at Jervis Bay.
– If so, does the Minister not think it fair that he should have informed the House on the matter by means of a return laid on the table? I am very much surprised to hear the Minister say that he was taken by surprise by the Government going on with these Estimates this week. Does the Minister know what the Government have decided on? .
– Then why was the Minister taken by surprise ? Why did he think it necessary to send two of his officers on Monday to furnish us with information, when the item was being debated? The Minister either knew nothing of the Government being determined to go on with the Estimates this week, or he simply sent those officers away on a fool’s errand. If he considered it was necessary to get the information, he certainly ought to consent to postpone this item until it is obtained. Singularly enough, he tells us to-day that a report is to be issued to members showing what has been done up to date; but what is the use of giving us that information tomorrow when we are dealing with the item to-day ? In order to test the sincerity of the Committee, and taking it that the Minister has spent£24,000 out of the £33,000, I move-
That the item “ Federal Capital at Canberra, towards cost of establishment,£100,000,” be reduced by£66,000.
.- The amendment is a very timely one; and I hope it will be carried by the Committee. At this critical moment, we ought to have regard to the expenditure that must take place if this vote be passed. A warning was given last year when £50,000 was asked for purely preliminary work ; and we had no idea that the Minister would this year submit votes involving an expenditure of between £300,000 and . £400,000.
– Only a few thousands are to be spent this year.
– But we shall commit ourselves to a policy involving, as the Minister tells us, an expenditure of perhaps £3,500,000.
– The whole Commonwealth committed itself to this expenditure by adopting the Constitution.
– It is true that, having made a bad bargain, we should carry it out faithfully ; and I have never heard any desire expressed by any honorable member to repudiate the contract entered into. But, having selected a site in good faith, it seems to me unseemly to attempt to force an expenditure of millions ; all we should be called upon to do at present is to carry out works of a preparatory or preliminary character. I have in my mind more particularly the planting of trees.
– Are we to stay here until the trees grow ?
– That is not necessary. We all realize that New South Wales, as the largest State, may desire to have the Federal Seat of Government within its territory. Personally, I should be prepared to allow the Parliament to sit in Melbourne for twenty years ; then in Sydney for twenty years; and then, if practicable, in one of the other States for a similar term.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I realize that there is no possibility of calling a halt in the huge expenditure that is promising in connexion with the Federal Capital.
– These Nationalists are downhearted.
– The question can be dealt with on purely national lines without our spending more money for’ some considerable time on the Capital site. I do not think that the honorable member for South Sydney, nor any other honorable member, can complain that any desire to repudiate the bargain entered into with New South Wales at the inception of Federation has ever been manifested in this House. Some honorable members think that the Capital site having been selected, we should have proceeded at once to erect there necessary public buildings.
– Hear, hear.
– That may be all very well from the stand-point of the life of one individual, but we are intrusted with the destinies of Australia as a whole, and our first duty is to encourage people to come here, and to assist in developing the resources of the country as speedily as possible. Our public moneys should be expended in that direction before we proceed to a large outlay on ornamental buildings for which there is no crying necessity. If any of our early pioneers who struck out on the land, either as farmers, graziers, or cultivators, had expended the whole of their capital in building elaborate homesteads, instead of fencing in their ground, excavating dams, and otherwise improving the productivity of the soil, they would have found themselves in the Insolvency Court before they had made a fair start in the development of their holdings. But what position are we taking up? We are but a small scattered community controlling an enormous territory comprising 3,000,000 square miles, and there can be no doubt that it is the unmistakable duty of this Parliament to push on with thedevelopment of the continent. No one can say there is any pressing necessity to proceed at once to expend millions in building the Federal Capital in order that our work of legislation, may be carried on. There is no desire on the part of representatives of Victoria to keep the Federal Parliament in Melbourne for any length of time. I would willingly vote for any other capital city in the Commonwealth being made the Seat of Government in order that we might escape for some years, at least, the enormous expenditure of which this item on the Estimates is but a preliminary. We have to take up a new position in the light of the statement made to-day by the Minister of Home Affairs. Last year we were told that the item of £50,000 which we were asked to vote towards the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra was merely designed to meet preliminary expenses. To-day, however, we are asked to agree to an additional vote of £66,000, and we have forecasted by the Minister an immediate expenditure of £313,000. This sum of£66,000 is to be expended on preliminary work, the total cost of which will amount to £313,000, and we have the Minister’s own statement that that work is to be the basis of a further outlay of £3,500,000. This is a very serious matter, having regard to the fact that the present Government has already heaped up the debt of the Commonwealth to the extent of £14,500,000. This is not the occasion on which to discuss the whole of the finances of the Commonwealth, but we cannot view this proposed expenditure of something like £3,500,000 on a Federal Capital without glancing at the growing general expenditure of the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member wish the publicto believe that this Government has incurred a debt of £14,500,000?
– I do.
– Then the honorable member has no reasonable conscience.
– The right honorable gentleman might well have waited until I had finished my statement before making such an uncalled for interjection.
– The honorable member said that this Government had piled up a debt of £14,500,000.
– It has landed the Commonwealth in a liability of about £14,500,000.
– Nonsense !
– Then I will explain the items. In connexion with the Northern Territory, we have taken over a debt of £3,500,000; the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie will involve an expenditure of anything up to £5,000,000 ; the liability taken over in connexion with the Oodnadatta railway amounts to another £2,000,000; and our Defence expenditure has been increased by about £4,000,000.
– Did not every Government for about ten years pledge themselves to that expenditure?
– If the Minister will restrain himself for a little while, I shall proceed to tell the Committee that I believe the expenditure to which I have just referred is necessary. I have no complaint to make regarding the way in which our liabilities have been increased to this extent. We shall be able to deal with all those matters when the Budget is before us; but I may say that I agree with the principle that, for the development of this great continent, these enormous works must be undertaken. That in itself is the best justification we could have for our objection to an expenditure of £3,500,000 on works at the Federal Capital, which cannot be reproductive, are not necessary, and, in time of drought and scarcity, must seriously detract from our ability to enter upon great undertakings that are essential to the development of the country. It is because we have incurred this great liability that I say we should hesitate to enter upon an expenditure with respect to the Federal Capital, for which there can be no justification at this early stage in our history. In view of the enormous debt we have incurred, we must also remember that our taxation has been substantially increased. The revenue from Customs and Excise last financial year is nearly £3,500,000 in excess of that of previous years, and we have also collected something like £1,500,000 in respect of the land tax. I am not prepared to say now whether or not there is any justification for the largely augmented revenue which the Treasury is enjoying, and to which our wonderful and beneficent seasons have materially contributed; but, in the light of this enormously increased revenue, and the substantial instalment of direct taxation that has been imposed, and in the light of the liabilities already incurred - amounting, as I have said, to nearly £14,500,000 - it must be admitted that there is no justification for the proposed heavy expenditure in ornamenting what is now an unpopulated expanse of country. This is not a battle between Victoria and New South Wales; no question of provincialism is involved. An important national issue is at stake, and it ought to appeal to every honorable member. We ought, first of all, to do our duty to the people of Australia by developing the interior in a way that will induce people to come here in large numbers, and thus provide, in the best of all ways, for our safety. I am not criticising the expenditure on the Federal Capital in any captious spirit. If it could be shown that we could remove to Yass-Canberra with a minimum of expenditure, and be able there to carry out more efficiently the work intrusted to us, I should say by all means let us go there at once. Let us establish the Seat of Government in Sydney, or any other State capital, for fifteen years ; let us do anything that is reasonable, in order that we may escape this immediate expenditure of £3,500,000. It is time for us to seriously consider the whole financial position of the Commonwealth. We must look into the future and decide whether, in any circumstances, we should be justified in plunging at once into this reckless and wasteful expenditure of public money. I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland, and regret that the Parliament has not had an opportunity to review the whole financial situation before being called upon to deal with the Works and Buildings Estimates.
– The same principle was involved last year when we voted£50,000 towards the construction of the Federal Capital.
– Certainly ; but the position has become more acute. We can avoid the whole of this proposed expenditure without repudiating the bargain with New South Wales. The cry of “ repudiating the compact “ is always raised in order to strangle the national consideration of this question; but I have never heard any talk of repudiation, except on the part of some honorable members directly interested in New South Wales. Representatives of the other States donot wish to repudiate the bargain. In the history of Australia, a delay of twenty-five or fifty years in the building of this Capital will be as nothing.
– We shall all be dead fifty years hence.
– We are not building for our own pleasure or convenience, but for the future safety, progress, and comfort ofthe people of the Commonwealth. The Minister’s view is a purely individual and almost a selfish one. This Parliament has cast upon it the duty of building up and perfecting the permanent institutions of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, we, as members of it, should take the same view of the future requirements of the Commonwealth as we do of our own individual pleasure and comfort. The Minister, I am glad to say, has given us a good deal more information than he vouchsafed on this subject on a previous evening. The information we now have gives us an idea of the proposed destination of the money, but it has placed the question in a light in which it was never placed before this House previously. The Minister forecasts an expenditure of £313,000 immediately.
– Not immediately.
– The Minister proposes to start immediately works which will involve that expenditure. Part of the £66,000 now asked for will be devoted to beginning certain works which once started must be completed. They will involve an eventual cost of £313,000. No period is stated, but in the next Estimates, which will be brought down in about six months’ time, the rest of that sum is sure to be asked for. The Minister has indicated that this is only the beginning of an undertaking that will cost . £3,000,000.
– That £3,000,000 will be expended over about thirty years.
– The Minister will finish the work long before that if he has his way. He is always quoting America as the pink of perfection in all public institutions, but if helooks up the authorities on the condition of Washington, he will find that it is the “ deadest “ and least progressive city on the face of the earth. That is the position of the Capital City of a nation of 90,000,000 energetic and progressive people, who have an immense commerce, after being established for over a hundred years.
– It is a purely political city.
– It has no resources, and yields no revenue. It is a constant source of expenditure to the American States.
– The trouble is that they never owned the land as we shall.
– The land fit for settlement immediately surrounding the Capital at Yass-Canberra is valued at about £2 an acre on the average. I am not including the ranges in that, but am speaking only of the freehold laud that has been alienated from the Crown. Land of that value, if leased out, will return a very small revenue to the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, the Federal Capital has been unfortunately placed in a territory which, under any conditions, cannot be made to yield a large revenue by the leasehold system. It will, therefore, mean all outgoing, to be borne by the people of Australia. The place cannot be made a reproductive business concern. If the United States, with their 90,000,000 people cannot make a progressive commercial city of their capital, how is it possible for the Australian Commonwealth, with 4,500,000 people, to build a capital that will be anything more than an enormous annual drag and drain on its resources for the next hundred years, even in the most favorable circumstances? We ought to bear in mind the enormous financial undertakings in which we have already embarked, and the greatly increased expenditure undertaken by the present Parliament and Government. 1 hope, in view of the great liabilities which we are undertaking, and the greatly increased taxation rendered necessary, that this Parliament will hesitate, apart altogether from State or provincial considerations; before it commits the people of Australia to the enormous expenditure of £3,500,000 on the creation of a Federal Capital.
– The honorable member for Wimmera, in referring to the enormous expenditure which is, he says, “ being heaped up “ by this Government, repeated a statement that we frequently see in the press. To prove it, he made reference to the transcontinental railway and the Northern Territory, but the very people who are accusing the Government of heaping up expenditure in connexion with those matters cry out with the same breath about the great necessity for going on with those great national works.
– I did not condemn the expenditure.
– I know the honorable member made a further explanation of his statement, but we hear and read almost daily accusations against the Government of increasing the expendi ture. While the expenditure has gone up, and must necessarily go up, great works are now being undertaken in Australia which have never been faced in the past. If this is to be a great country, and we are to have an adequate system of defence, projects like the transcontinental railway and the development of the Northern Territory cannot be lost sight of. I recognise those to be necessary works, and, therefore, we should go on with them, but that is all the more reason, as the honorable member for Wimmera said, why we should cut down expenditure on unnecessary works, of which the building of the Federal Capital is one. While we are blessed with bountiful seasons now, there may be droughts and bad times ahead of us. That is no reason why we should not go on with necessary works, but it is a very good reason for not embarking upon unnecessary works. When last I spoke on the question of the Capital site I condemned the site itself and its water supply, mostly, I admit, upon hearsay, as did a number of other members who had not had the opportunity of seeing the place. Since then I have been to the site, and seen it for myself, 1 am prepared to admit that it is a much better place than I previously thought, and the water supply is much better than a great many honorable members here thought it was. In fact, it exceeded my anticipations altogether. I was rather agreeably surprised with what I saw at the site in regard to the water supply and the scenery - I recognise that I saw it at the best time of the year - yet I am consistent in still opposing the expenditure of any further public money on works at Yass-Canberra. My action on previous occasions was not based solely on the ground of any demerits, of the site, but* was rather directed against the expenditure of public money upon a work which could be set -aside for the next quarter of a century.
– You are up against the Constitution if you take that stand.
– There isgreat anxiety on the part of certain honorable members to obey the Constitution when it suits them, but the Constitution does not demand that immediate steps should be taken to build the Capital City. I should like the Minister of Home Affairs to supply us with information as to the sums now spent in renting public buildings. If we knew what we are now paying in rent, we might compare that with the probable cost of establishing the Capital at YassCanberra, and the removal to the Federal City might prove a businesslike arrangement. I hope that before the debate concludes the Minister will give us the figures needed for the comparison I suggest. They might obviate a lot of criticism. Whenever a Victorian representative speaks on this subject, he is told by the representatives of New South Wales that his views are parochial, but personallyI should be quite ready to have alternative meetings of Parliament in Melbourne and Sydney, or any of the other State capitals. The sum of £20,000 is to be spent, the Minister tells us, on power plant, £140,000 on water supply mains, pumping works, &c., and £40,000 on a pipe bridge over the Murrumbidgee. Much of this expenditure would be unnecessary were not the Capital site so remote from a water supply. I understand that the water that is needed will have to be raised 800 ft. by means of pumps driven electrically from a power-house at Yarralumbla, and then conveyed thirteen or fourteen miles.
– We could not dispense with water mains in any case.
– Mains would cost less if the water had not to be conveyed so great a distance. The Minister tells us that we are committing ourselves to an expenditure of £3,000,000. We are not asked to vote that sum right away - it is being asked for piecemeal - but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that we are committing ourselves to the whole expenditure. I shall not now criticise the site that has been selected. All that can be said hasbeen said on that subject. New South Wales members seem to want to have the thing settled. They are in favour of the expenditure of large sums at YassCanberra, so that in future the country cannot draw back. Apparently Sydney representatives in the Parliament of New South Wales are afraid that otherwise a rival to Sydney will spring up. The electors of Australia, however, are not demanding this expenditure, and the Constitution does not say it must be made at once. I think that there is no hurry, and the Minister will not lose kudos by delay. Although times are good now, they may be bad in the near future. There are large developmental works which we must undertake, and unnecessary works can wait. More good could be done by spending this proposed sum of £313,000 in improving our telephone system, and extend ing conveniences to the country districts than by carrying out works at YassCanberra. The contract with New South Wales embodied in the Constitution cannot be set aside, but I hope that the carrying of it out will be deferred for some years.
. -The Minister hastold us that in voting for the item under discussion we shall be committing ourselves to an expenditure of nearly £400,000. He enumerated a number of proposals, but gave no information as to the need for them, nor did he tell us whether plans and specifications have been prepared. I think Parliament should consider immediately the advisability of creating a Public Works Committee such as they have in New South Wales and Victoria, to which large proposals of this kind would be referred. While surpluses were being returned to the States, there was a check on our public works expenditure, and there was not so much need for the investigation of Ministerial proposals by a Committee. But the public works expenditure of the Commonwealth is now attaining such proportions that it is our bounden duty to prepare for its careful scrutiny. In New South Wales every work estimated to cost £20,000 or more must be inquired into and reported on by the Public Works Committee, and the report of the Committee must be considered by Parliament. The works referred to by the Minister of Home Affairs would, under the New South Wales law, nearly all have to go before the Public Works Committee, and it is not fair to ask us to commit ourselves to them without giving us any information regarding them. I opposed the building of a Federal Capital at the present time, thinking it twenty or tweny-five years too soon. We might very well have put up a building in the National Park, at Sydney, and sat in Melbourne and Sydney for alternate10year periods.
– One has to pay by the inch for land in Sydney. Mr. McWILLIAMS.- The National Park is public property, and I am sure that the citizens of New South Wales would be glad to give us the necessary land. This House has, unfortunately, by a large majority, decided that the Federal Capital shall be established ; and, as the Government have a majority behind them, it is only “shadow sparring “ to offer any opposition. However, I urge the necessity for dealing with our public works in the business-like way adopted by the States.
If a proposal such as this had been made in any State Parliament, it would have received very short shrift. By this vote of £66, 000 we are committing ourselves to an expenditure of nearly £400,000. I desire to know, Mr. Chairman, whether I should be in order in moving an addition to the amendment providing that the money be not voted until the matter has been referred to a public works committee.
– The honorable member would not be in order in moving such a condition, because it would apply a condition to the vote, which is distinctly against what is laid down in May.
– Then, I feel so strongly that I shall take the course of submitting a motion in the House affirming that a Public Works Committee should be appointed. We are faced with enormous expenditure in the case of the overland railway and the Northern Territory, if the latter is to cease to be a mill-stone round our necks, and become reproductive. It is too much to ask any Minister or Department to deal with large expenditure of the kind without the assistance of some such body as I suggest, and such as can be found in operation in some of the States. We are asked to vote lump sums without any official reports or other information as to details ; and I am sure there is not a business man in the community who would permit such a method in his own affairs. The sooner we realize the seriousness of the position, andappoint a Public Works Committee, the better it will be for Australia.
– I intend to support the amendment. I looked on the Minister of Home Affairs as a business man ; but the manner in which he placed the Estimates Before us the other night inclines me to waver in my loyalty to that ideal. I have had some experiencein drawing up estimates; and I know that it is necessary, not only to show all the details, but to give reasons for the details. Here we are simply asked to vote £100,000 in order to build a city in the bush. Lastyear, when we voted the £50,000, some details were given.
– We can do nothing unless we buy the land.
– Then the Minister should not ask for further money until the land is secured, because we may be in the same position next year.
– Then we shall spend no money.
– Had details been given the other night, a great deal of time would have been saved. It is only when the Minister finds himself, as it were, in a hole, that he lays before us information which shows an expenditure, not of £100,000, but of £313,000. It is false economy to ask for only £100,000 if a larger sum be necessary, because to fall short of funds at a particular period of construction might largely increase the ultimate cost. It is stated that the Federal Capital will cost £3,000,000, but I think the figure will prove to be much higher. When, a little time ago, we asked for some consideration to be shown to the members of our Military Forces, we were told that the finances would not permit of it ; and yet we are asked to vote this large sum for the purposes of a Federal Capital. I feel quite sure that if the question were submitted to the country, every State but that of New South Wales would vote against the establishment of this city. The population of Australia is only a little over 4,000,000; and yet it is proposed to have another capital. It is true that in the United States there is a Federal Capital, but it is purely a political city - practically dead commercially - and there are 103,000,000 people to share the cost. As pointed out by the honorable member for Wimmera, we are faced with expenditure in other directions amounting to £14,000,000; and yet the handful of people here are to be asked to provide another £3,000,000 for this unnecessary undertaking. It seems strange that the Labour party, which aims at high ideals, cannot see its way clear to pay the individuals who are the producing workers of the country sufficient to bring their families up in comfort, and that the Government, at the same time, should ask us to pass the vote under discussion. The whole position is absurd. I understand that there are Public Works Committees in some of the States which do very valuable work, and the creation of such a body for the Commonwealth would relieve Ministers of great responsibility. With a Public Works Committee to inform and advise him, the Minister of Home Affairs would not find himself in the predicament of the other night, when he was absolutely unable to reply to the criticism levelled at him.
– I regard it as irrevocably settled that we shall have a Federal Capital, but I submit that the proposed expenditure is absolutely in defiance of the desire of the important constituency I represent. It is, therefore, my intention to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland, and I, perhaps, should do all that is necessary if I said “ditto” to what has already been advanced in favour of that proposal. There is, however, one aspect that has not yet been dealt with. It is the determination, I understand, that this city shall be a model one in every respect, and to that end competitive designs have been invited. We are now asked, however, to vote money for certain works, and we are not told whether these will dovetail in with the plans as ultimately adopted. It appears to rae that, in carrying out works at this stage, we run the risk of having to undo them when the plans for the city are adopted. That is not a fair position in which to place the country and Parliament. Before a penny is spent in any permanent work, the whole scheme and design should have been settled. I, for one, have not that faith in the Minister of Home Affairs that he has in himself. Perhaps that is only reasonable. Certainly, even if he be the only banker in Australia, I do not think he can claim to be the only architect in the Commonwealth.
– Did not the honorable member’s vote determine the selection of Yass-Canberra ?
– I have already said that I consider that the question of site is irrevocably settled. We are now dealing with the question of the money to be expended upon it.
– The honorable member does not want anything to be. done.
– I do not desire that there shall be expended on the site the large sum proposed by the Minister. I believe that there is developing in the public mind a feeling of dismay regarding the enormous expenditure that we have in contemplation. Many of the items are justifiable-
– But this is the least justifiable of them.
– It is.
– Things are getting serious !
– They would be if the Minister were open to conviction, but, unfortunately, I believe the ‘ambition of his life is to have it said of him that he was1 the founder of the Federal city.
– - No, I want to be honest with the Australian people. .
– Then the honorable member will do well to proceed along the lines I have indicated before incurring this expenditure. Having called for competitive designs, let him submit to a competent authority those sent in. I may say, in passing, that I doubt whether the honorable member himself is a competent authority in this regard. Let the designs be finally submitted for adoption by this Parliament, and that having been done, let every expenditure incurred be an expenditure towards carrying out the accepted designs. If that course be followed, the country will be benefited, and a great deal of heavy expenditure will be put off, as it should be, for a term of years, in accordance with the needs of the Commonwealth, and until our population is considerably augmented. If the Minister and the honorable member for Parramatta could be induced to view this matter in a proper light, I am sure that they would vote for the amendment. Having entered my protest, I hope that we shall proceed to a division, and I am confident that, if honorable members vote in accordance with their convictions and with due regard to the desires of the people, the result of the division will be such as will prevent this threatened outrage, and ward off the heavy demand that is being made under this heading upon the public Treasury.
.- During the last few minutes I have been picturing in my mind the honorable member for Parramatta in - his best form denouncing a scheme or proposal with which he does not agree. I could well imagine the honorable member, if this proposal did not relate to New South Wales, displaying his best book-and-table-thumping style in condemnation of it. I am sure that, in such circumstances, the Minister would have received at his hands such a castigation for his lack of information concerning this item as he had never previously experienced.
– The Minister is a statesman.
– It was said of some one of old, “ I leave him to his idols,” and I may say at once that I leave the honorable member for Parramatta riveted very strongly to his parochialism. I do not wish to repeat what has already been so well said by the honorable member for Wimmera and the honorable member for Indi, but I think the present is a splendid opportunity to peer into the future. Notwithstanding the Estimates of the Treasurer, I believe that we are not likely to have, during 191 1 -12, such a rosy time as we experienced during 1910-11.
– The boom will burst.
– I am not going to say that there is a boom, but I think that the honorable member will agree with me that some of our chief lines of production will be considerably less than was the case last year. A decreased production means decreased revenue, and consequently a lessening of the funds available for desirable works. We need somewhat to husband our resources, but if we are going to spend on wasteful schemes a hundred thousand pounds here and another hundred thousand pounds there, the national exchequer will suffer seriously. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that the proposals, as outlined by the Minister of Home Affairs, in regard to the Capital site are absolutely alarming. The Minister pleads that portion of the £100,000 which we are asked to vote is a re-vote, but we have to remember that that expenditure is to go on developing, according to the honorable gentleman, until it reaches £313,000, which, in turn, will develop into an expenditure of £3,000,000.
-How much did this building cost?
– £800,000. If we are going to enter the Federal Capital, no doubt there must be an immense expenditure, but the honorable member for Cook will agree with me that the selected site is lamentably deficient of those materials so essential to the building of acity.
– The honorable member objects, not to this expenditure, but to the site itself.
– I object to the expenditure of money on what I regard as an undesirable site. The honorable member for Wimmera, and one or two others, accused this Government of having enormously increased the expenditure of the Commonwealth, but I would remind them that that expenditure relates chiefly to work sanctioned by previous Governments and Parliaments. The Minister of Home Affairs has told us that the erection of a power plant and necessary- buildings at the Federal Capital will cost £20,000. To what plant does he refer?
– A plant for pumping water.
– As was pointed out when the Estimates were before us last year,a pumping scheme means a constant expenditure, and the result obtained from it is not nearly so satisfactory as that secured from a gravitation scheme. In company with a number of honorable members, I paid a visit to Yass-Canberra some little time ago, and we were fortunate in experiencing a couple of those delightful Australian days which make a man feel glad that he belongs to Australia, and not to. the misty climes where the sun is rarely seen, and the faces of the people are not often illumined by a smile. Our visit was preceded by an extensive rainfall, and I noticed that the volume of water passing down the Cotter River, from which the water supply for the Federal Capital is to be drawn, amounted to 160,000,000 gallons for twenty-four hours. On analyzing the figures before leaving camp, however, I found that the volume of water passing down the river on some days during the preceding twelve months had been as low as 4,000,000 gallons for twenty-four hours. There is a remarkable variation in the flow, and if that part of New South Wales has had recently an experience similar to that which has befallen other parts of the State, there is probably very little water running down the stream to-day. I object to the site because of the enormous expenditure that will be necessary to provide there what we know as the ordinary modern conveniences. I have no desire to deal with this question from a parochial stand-point. My only regret is that a better site has not been selected within that magnificent portion of Australia known as New South Wales. I understand that we shall not be allowed to draw any water from the Murrumbidgee.
– We can draw water from that source, but not for special purposes.
– What does the Minister mean by ‘ ‘ special purposes ‘ ‘ ?
– I do not think we could use it, for instance, for irrigation purposes.
– The Government of New South Wales have stipulated that the waters of the Murrumbidgee shall be used only for ordinary domestic purposes?
– They could not prevent us putting up a weir on the Murrumbidgee if we desired to do so.
– Why erect a weir on the. Murrumbidgee if our water supply is to be drawn from the Cotter ?
– The Murrumbidgee is not a river from which drinking water could be drawn ?
– A good water supply can be got from it, if it is tapped high up. I objected last year, and object again now, to the pumping scheme. It is not right to put the country to that great expenditure simply for water-supply purposes. We have first to clam back the Cotter, and then from that dam to pump the water up to the top of a hill 800 feet higher, and carry it from the reservoir there across the Murrumbidgee river in pipes ; and thence into the Capital. The scheme, now that I have seen it, strikes me as even more ‘ ‘ wild-cat ‘ ‘ than I thought it before. I admit that it is beautiful water. I understand that when Victoria comes into her own, the country south of the Murrumbidgee will pass into her possession, and then the water supply of the Federal Capital will come within her territory. Unfortunately, it appears that we are to be committed to a great expenditure on the Capital site ; and I believe that, as the years go by, and increasing amounts are asked for to carry out this great scheme, Parliament will become more and more doubtful of its wisdom, until, probably, it will refuse to vote further money for the purpose. If we happen to strike a few bad seasons, any Government that goes on expending money on this site will be doing what, to my mind, will be criminal. It must be remembered, in regard to the water-supply scheme, that when a stream like the Cotter is dammed back, and millions of gallons of water are stored in the dam, underneath the surface of that water, as a rule, a large amount of vegetable matter accumulates. That is sure to happen in this case, and considerable trouble will be caused by it. Instead of having a live running stream, the water coming in will just flow over the surface, and over the top of the weir, while the water underneath, which will be taken to supply the city, will be almost dead water, adversely affected by a great deal of vegetable matter, and, perhaps, not conducive to public health. Instead of having a real live gravitation stream from a pure source into a dam immediately outside the Federal Capital, we shall be, unfortunately, troubled with a bad water supply. Firstly, therefore, we shall have a somewhat deficient supply of water as compared with what we might have had at other sites ; and secondly, we shall be put to a great amount of expense in order to get the water to the city. I hope that the bridge which is to carry the water across the Murrumbidgee will be used for general traffic also.
– It will be for general traffic on the one side, and the water pipes on the other.
– That will make the expenditure on the bridge a little more justifiable. The works proposed involve an exceptionally big expenditure. The weir is to cost £30,000; the mains and pipe head, &c, will run into £140,000; the bridge over the Murrumbidgee will cost £40,000 ; the temporary railway from Queanbeyan to the Capital site will cost £25,000 ; road-making and deviations, £10,000 ; offices at Acton and afforestation, £13,000 ; and joinery timber, £5,000. With regard to the latter items, I expected, after hearing the delightful picture presented to the House by the Minister on the last occasion, to see a number of trees fairly well advanced at Yass-Canberra.
– We have not got possession of the land yet.
– I think there will be some difficulty about obtaining the land ; and if. it is true that its value is only £2 per acre on the average, as the honorable member for Wimmera said-
– That is the freehold.
– The other land could be given away. On seeing that country, I thought that the words used in the New South Wales Legislative Council, to the effect that the Federation could have this territory, as it was of no good to the State, were very true. What timber is growing there is very .stunted. When there, I saw a. bridge being built across the so-called Molonglo river, which we called a creek. I learnt from the men engaged on the work that the timber they were using did not come from the neighbourhood, but was brought from a place a long way outside the confines of the Territory. It was not timber of extra size, and there were no difficulties about the work. It was simply an ordinary bridge to span a mere creek. That incident proved conclusively to me that there was in the Territory a dearth of the materials necessary for building even an ‘ordinary town. The Minister is also going to spend a considerable sum on brick-making. If the Government cannot make better bricks there when their machinery is erected than those which , I saw being used in erecting what I understood were to be permanent buildings on the Acton Estate, I am sorry for the buildings that will be put up there. I do not think I ever handled worse bricks in my life. Those were newly-made bricks when I was there two or three months ago.
– We have not made any bricks there yet.
– Those bricks were made upon the ground. Were they fair specimens of the bricks likely to be made there in the future?
– We brought the clay to Hoffman’s in Melbourne, and they made bricks as fine as the world ever saw.
– In the case of the bricks I saw and handled at the Federal Capital site, one could take off the corners with finger and thumb. I had made complaints before in regard to the deficiencies of the selected Capital site, and so I wanted, by my own personal observation, to rectify any mistakes I had made or to justify my statements. I admit that I saw the Cotter river under charming conditions, which left an impression which is hard to remove ; but, at the same time, I find from the figures that the flow of 160,000,000 gallons a day is often reduced to 4,000,000 gallons. In the Sydney Bulletin of this week appears the following little poem, which puts the case very much better than I could : -
Rock, and gorge, and dust;
Scrub and fatten tree -
Kerosene tin - bust ;
Lizards running free.
Here and there a tent,
Shows a dingy peak,
Where the dwellers went
Hunting for the creek.
Hungry is the land - “
Stony, brown and bare ;
Thirsty is the band
Stuck forlornly there !
Desolate and dry,
Round and round about -
Winds that whistle by,
Speak of Coming Drought.
Should it strike next week
On the Site of Fools,
With Molonglo Creek
Just a chain of pools.
What, oh, what the tale
That we shall be told? ” Rivers never fail . . .
Mountains full of gold! . . .
Scenery superb! . . .
Cataracts and lakes . . .
Pools no winds disturb . . .
Not a sign of snakes. . . .
Thus - and thus - and thus -
Through the Press that rules,
Comes the tale to us,
From the Site of Fools !
It would appear that even the Department of Home Affairs is much in doubt as to the desirability of the site that has been chosen for the Federal Capital, judging by the following circular issued by the Minister for the information of persons, undertaking work there -
The greater part of the city area lies on the Molonglo River, and during periods of prolonged dry weather the river ceases to run. It is readily fordable at short intervals during the greater part of the year, though subject to sudden alterations in volume. In 1891 the highest recorded flood took place, when the waters overflowed the selected site for the Federal Capital. The maximum record summer temperature is 104 . deg. During winter the temperature frequently falls below freezing point.
I have been informed, too, by residents that the statements are borne out by facts, and that the city will be on practically the lowest part of the site. Round about are some stone-covered hills, but in winter the place is fog bound. We know the Minister’s famous utterance about being fogbound on a shoreless sea, which would be a terrible predicament, but it is not comfortable to be enveloped in fog anywhere.
– We get heavy fogs in Melbourne.
– Yes, but there must be places in New South Wales free from fogs such as are prevalent during the winter at Canberra. When I was there I hardly slept for the cold, although well covered with blankets. This is a very serious question, because we are embarking on an expenditure of many millions. While the revenue is what it is, the expenditure may not be much felt, but the day will come when it will cause great inconvenience. I do not know whether I shall again raise my voice against this project. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, and the hope of the reversal of the decision regarding the Capital has made my heart very sick indeed. Were the compositionof this Parliament the same as that of earlier Parliaments, we should not now be voting money for expenditure at Yass- Canberra. There is no reason why we should not make a change of site even now. It is always best to turn back when warned of certain evil. I hope that in the interests of Australia the reduction proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland will be carried as an intimation to the Minister not to proceed further with this expenditure.
Question - That the item “ Federal Capital, £100,000,” be reduced by £66,000 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Ministers laid upon the table the following papers -
Public Service Act - Regulations Nos. 204 and 207 repealed; New Regulation No. 207 - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 175.
Public Service Act - Papers relative to the promotion of A. P. Westhoven to the position of Clerk (Ledger-keeper), Third Class, Postmaster-General’s Department, Perth.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to make a personal explanation, in connexion with the debate on the motion submitted yesterday by the honorable member for North Sydney. The following appears in the Argus of this morning : -
A motion brought forward by Colonel Ryrie, calling for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the pay and allowances of warrant and non-commissioned officers and men of the Permanent Forces, next came up for consideration. An excellent case was made out for the inquiry by members on both sides of the House, but the motion was talked out by the Labour party.
I desire to correct that misleading statement. I asked for leave to continue my remarks, but objection was raised by the honorable member for North Sydney himself. My desire now is to place the true facts before the House.
.- It is only fair to say that the object of the honorable member for North Sydney in objecting to the honorable member for Nepean continuing his speech on another occasion was to have a vote taken immediately on the motion. The honorable member for Nepean, in the course of his remarks in the same connexion, was good enough to say that the responsibility for the wiping cut of the motion lay with the honorable member for North Sydney and myself.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– I only desire to say, by way of personal explanation-
– The honorable member must not discuss a motion that is on the business-paper.
– I am discussing the responsibility for the wiping out of the motion.
– I point out that the motion is still on the business-paper.
– And I am discussing as to who was responsible-
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that matter.
– Am I not to have the same latitude as the honorable member for Nepean ?
– Order !
– The honorable member must not discuss the motion.
– I rise to a point of order. You will see, Mr. Speaker, how unfair it would be if an honorable member is allowed to charge or suggest some dereliction of duty against another honorable member in connexion with the miscarriage of some Bill or proposal, and that the honorable member so charged may not put his case.
– A certain motion was before us yesterday, and in the ordinary procedure it has dropped to the bottom of the paper. The honorable member for Nepean felt that he had a personal explanation to make, and he made it. I did rot take it that that honorable member cast any reflection on any other honorable member.
– He did.
-In any case, it will be quite open to the honorable member for North Sydney to make any explanation he wishes, but I cannot allow a discussion to take place upon a motion that is already on the business-paper.
– Without canvassing the merits of the particular proposal, which,I admit, would be out of order at this juncture, I wish to submit to you, sir, the outstanding fact that I was definitely charged by the honorable member for Nepean with having been responsible for what occurred. By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that I myself suggested to the honorable member-
– The honorable member is now trying to evade my ruling.
– I am trying to do no such thing, sir. I am trying to show that an attempt has been made to saddle upon my shoulders a responsibility of which I am in no way deserving.
– I have already repeatedly called the honorable member to order. He is now distinctly referring to a debate which took place in the House yesterday. He must not do that.
– Then I shall wait, sir, until the Hansard report is issued, when I shall claim the right inherent in every honorable member to right himself in regard to remarks made in this Chamber. I shall claim that right, and exhaust all the processes under the Standing Orders to prove that it exists.
– Who objects to that ?
– The honorable member will be in order in doing so.
– Under existing circumstancesI shall be compelled to adopt that course in justice to myself.
– The honorable member must do so. An honorable member has-
– Order. I do not desire to be drawn into a controversy with any honorable member, but when I hear the honorable member for Parramatta say that I allowed one honorable member to make a charge against another, and refused to allow a reply to be made-
– I did not say that, Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member distinctly made a statement to that effect whilst the honorable member for Wentworth was speaking.
– What I said was that an honorable member had made a charge against another honorable member, and that under your ruling we were not to be allowed the right to reply.
– I shall wait until I see the statement in Hansard. I hope the Hansard reporters have taken the statement referred to-
– I shall then take every opportunity open to me under the Standing Orders to conclusively prove the bona fides of my position in this connexion. The honorable member for North Sydney is now in his place, and I am sure that he will be able to free himself from the imputation attempted to be placed upon him.
– The honorable member must not make that statement.
-I understand that the honorable member for Nepean, in my absence from the chamber a few moments ago, made a statement by way of personal explanation, to the. effect that it was my fault that a certain motion standing in my name yesterday, was “ talked out.”
– He did not say anything of the kind.
– He did.
– He said that the honorable member for North Sydney objected to leave being granted to him to continue his speech.
– My object in objecting was to get a division on the motion.
– The honorable member wanted to “gag “ the other side.
– No. I thought honorable members opposite had ample opportunity to discuss the motion during the two and a half hours that it was under consideration. I wished a vote to be taken, and believed that what occurred in connexion with the motion for the abolition of the parliamentary refreshment bar would follow my action in this case. It will be remembered that the honorable member for Brisbane, who submitted that motion, asked leave to continue his remarks at a later date, and that when leave was refused the House immediately proceeded to a division. In the circumstances I thought that my objecting to the honorable member for Nepean having leave to continue his remarks on the motion which I had submitted, I should. also be able to secure an immediate division. When I found that he was going on with his speech, I said at once that I would agree to the necessary leave being granted, but the honorable member’s reply was, “ No. The honorable member refused to grant me leave when I asked for it.” I absolutely repudiate the imputation that it was my fault that a division was not taken on the motion last evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111103_REPS_4_61/>.