4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Dr. MALONEY presented a petition from two ministers of the Hebrew Church, praying the House not to fix Saturday for the holding of elections.
Petition read and received.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if definite proposals have been made to the Government in regard to a steam-ship service between America and Australia, as outlined in this morning’s newspapers? If so, what is the nature of the proposals, and what ports are to be included in the itinerary of the steamers ?
– I am not responsible for the paragraph, but Messrs. Sproule and Company-
– Not Sprickles?
– Messrs. Sproule and Company, on behalf of Messrs. Sprickles, have sent in a tender for a service between San Francisco and Sydney, the steamers to touch at Honolulu and Pago Pago. The matter is now under the consideration of the Government.
– Has the attention of the Minister of External Affairs been drawn to a paragraph in last night’s Herald wherein, under the head-lines, “ Fifteen hundred-a-year-post going begging; Administrator wanted,” appears this statement -
The Federal Government requires the services of a qualified medical man to administer the Northern Territory, and is finding great difficulty in securing a suitable person. Some months ago the vacancy was advertised, and several applications were received.
– The reading of long newspaper extracts is not in keeping with the practice of the House. I ask the honorable member to frame his question without reading the whole paragraph.
– I have not met a medical man who is aware that this post has been advertised. Will the Minister of External Affairs say whether it was advertised, and, if so, in what newspapers ?
– Some months ago the Government advertised for an Administrator at £1,500 a year, and a number of applications were received, but no appointment has yet been made. In the advertisement there was no stipulation to the effect that the person appointed must be a medical man, and therefore I cannot understand the statements referred to, which I have read.
– Last night, at Daylesford, the selected Labour candidate for the State electorate stated, with a confidence that seemed begotten of official knowledge, that the Commonwealth division of Laanecoorie is to be abolished. Has the Government made up its mind in this matter ?
– This Government will not at any time interfere in any way with the redistribution of electoral’ divisions. I have asked the Minister of Home Affairs if anything of the kind referred to has been done, or if any information on which the statement could have been based has leaked out, and his reply is “ No.”
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs whether it is intended to redistribute the New South Wales electoral divisions, some of which now have 40,000 names on the rolls, while others only 25,000.
– Yes. In a few days we shall announce the name of the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of the redistribution.
– Is it a fact, as stated in the press, that the Government intends to supersede the gentleman who has acted satisfactorily on former occasions as Commissioner for the redistribution of Victorian electoral divisions, by putting in his place the officer at the head of the Commonwealth Electoral Department?
– I understand that Mr. Topp is going away on a trip and the Commissioners who have been appointed are Mr. Molloy, head of the Electoral Department of Victoria; Mr. Reid, Surveyor-General of Victoria ; and Mr. Oldham, head of the Electoral Department for the Commonwealth.
– Am I to understand that, in addition to the sole Commissioner, Mr. Topp, whose commission has not been withdrawn, three others have been appointed? Does the Minister know that Mr. Topp does not intend to go to England at a time which will make it impossible for him to act?
– The law makes it compulsory for us to have three Commissioners.
– But the Minister says that we have four.
- Mr. Topp is not going to act, because he is going away.
Dr.Carty Salmon. - Has Mr. Topp’s commission been withdrawn?
– I think so.
– I am sure it has not. If the sole reason given for the supersession of Mr. Topp is that he is going to England, and it is found that he is not going away at a time that will make it impossible for him to act, will the Minister consider the advisability of confirming Mr. Topp in his appointment ?
– I must ask the honorable member to give notice of that question.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 to 4. The Governor-General in Council approvedyesterday of the appointment of Messrs. E. G. Stenberg, State Chief Electoral Officer, H. F. Johnston, Surveyor-General, and A. W. Piesse, Commonwealth Electoral Officer, as commissioners for the purpose of distributing the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions.
The commissioners will enter upon their duties without delay.
The requirements of Part III. of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in relation to procedure will be observed in due course, and the redistribution will be based upon the latest statistics resulting from the recent electoral canvass.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. 1,613 schedules were distributed in the States, and manufacturers were advised through the press that copies were available on application to the Collectorsof Customs. No inquiry was made as to whom the schedules in question were intended for. A large number were applied for personally and by trade associations on behalf of their members generally.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
Statement furnished by Department of Home Affairs, regarding the Accommodation in the General Post Office, Sydney.
Basement. - Removal of brick chimneystack to make way for other alterations to be carried out, and erection of temporary iron stack. Parcels post office reduced in size. Room made for telegraph messengers, with access to telegraph receiving room. Dining room provided for Mail Branch officials.
Ground Floor. - Internal walls in telegraph receiving room removed. Girders and stanchion substituted. New counters provided. New range of telephone cabinets. Offices for officials and overhead entrance for officials made at southern end of room, with access from arcade. Private letter box room. Two cross walls removed to give space for hollow square of increased number of private letter boxes. Counters extended. New central staircase and connexions to each floor of each of the separate blocks. Formation of gallery and recess for ship-room in Mail Branch. Mail bag conveyor for mail matter from basement to ground and first floors. New mail chute. New posting windows and apertures. New entrance from Martin-place Arcade. Making preparation for new passenger lift.
First Floor. - New ship-room. Converting four rooms and passage into one apartment, thus making full use of available floor area. New observation gallery. New rooms for postal inspectors, Postmaster-General, Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Correspondence Branch; removal of walls to provide increased accommodation for Records Room.
Second Floor. - Removal of walls, Pitt-street wing, and converting four rooms into two rooms, thus avoiding waste floor space. Rearrangements of Electrical Engineer’s Branch.
Third Floor. - Removal of wooden stairs, and erection of fire-proof stairs, rearrangements of closets for telephone attendants’ use, removal of internal staircase.
Fourth Floor. - Erection of two-story latrine block for Telegraph Operators’ Branch. Provision of room for telephone manager. Provision for telegraph manager. Alterations to room behind tower. Dormers in telephone rooms to improve light and ventilation.
Generally. - Removal of partitions forming corridors on first, second, and thifd floors, and converting space into offices. With the object in view to make available to the fullest extent the floor areas of the building. Provision of enclosed iron balconies for use in place of corridors dispensed with. Provision of new lift in mail room from basement to ground floor. Provision of new lift in Letter Sorters’ Block, basement to third floor. Installation of scheme of mechanical exhaust ventilation. Renovations, painting, &c, and floor covering, rendered necessary in connexion with the general alterations. The cost of the above work to date is£34,450.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
About twenty years. (No definite informal tion available.)
Composite, sheathed with Muntz metal.
This price was stipulated by the New South Wales Government, and was recommended by the Naval Board.
I may say that the honorable member can see all the papers he desires in connexion with this matter.
.- I move-
That this House approves of the recommendation contained in the report of the Royal Commission on Tasmanian Customs Leakage, and on any losses the said State has suffered since the advent of Federation, which report was presented to this House and ordered to be printed on 3rd October, 1911.
This matter has given the State of Tasmania much concern during the last ten years. It is alleged that under the bookkeeping system Tasmania has not received its fair share of Customs duties, and that since the advent of Federation the State has suffered owing to its geographical position and the operation of the Commonwealth Tariff. When the Federal Conventions were framing a Constitution it was realized that it could not be foreseen how Federation would affect any single Colony, and steps were taken so that, any State which suffered should be protected by the Commonwealth Parliament. A Select Committee was appointed to look into the question of the Tasmanian Customs leakage on11th August of last year, and was subsequently created a Royal Commission. It was discovered that the great question to be dealt with was the financial position of Tasmania in relation to the Commonwealth, and that the State was suffering through no fault of its own. Ample evidence proves conclusively that, from the Premier of the State down to the humblest citizen, all have endeavoured to grapple with the situation by submitting to extra taxation. But although Tasmania has increased her taxation on five different occasions since the inception of Federation, she again found herself last year the only State in the Union with a deficit. Those who advocated Federation urged that any State which suffered as the result of the unionany State which suffered as the result of the passing of the Commonwealth Tariff or other Commonwealth legislation, would have provision made for it, and surely this, the National Parliament, .ought to have regard to that promise. The first part of the duty of the Commission was that of inquiring into an alleged Customs leakage. It had been stated by honorable members on both sides of the House that a leakage did take place; but the Customs officials and the Minister of Trade and Customs himself declared that the leakage, if any, was very trivial. The Commission found it difficult to induce people to come forward and explain the system they had adopted in passing goods through the Customs into Tasmania. Only those who fully appreciated the difficulty in which Tasmania had actually been placed volunteered to give evidence. We obtained ample evidence, however, that a leakage did occur, and that it was of considerable proportions. Before quoting from the evidence dealing with that phase of the question, I should like to point out that the matter has occupied the attention of the several Premiers of Tasmania, and also of the Commonwealth Treasurer and Minister of Trade and Customs, from time to time. Whilst they admitted that Tasmania, on account of its geographical position, must have suffered a certain measure of Customs leakage, they found it impossible, however, to come to any definite determination as to the extent of the loss. The Commission had placed before it facts which conveyed some impression of the extent of the leakage that had taken place. We inquired fully into the whole matter, and in our report we quote certain questions and answers which will serve to guide honorable members in determining the basis upon which our conclusions were formed. In the first place,’ I have to admit, as Presi- dent of the Commission, that the Customs officials in the early years of Federation had a difficult duty to perform. It cannot be denied that had they been thoroughly strict the free interchange of goods between the States would have been seriously retarded. With the establishment of Federation we had Inter-State Free Trade, but in the first year or two of the history of the Commonwealth complaints were made by merchants and others that goods were being held up and examined in passing between the States, and that they were consequently suffering injury. They claimed that under Federation there should be absolute Free Trade between the States. The Commission recognised the force of that claim, but we have to remember that since every State had practically to depend upon the return of revenue made to it from the .Commonwealth, the position from the point of view of Tasmania became very serious. Prior to Federation Tasmania had a 20 per cent. Tariff, and if it were in operation to-day she would be receiving under it a revenue of something like £700,000 per annum.
– How is that estimate arrived at?
– From returns prepared by the Statistician of Tasmania, Mr. R. M. Johnston, and also by Mr. Knibbs, the Commonwealth Statistician. The latter showed that, had the old Tasmanian Tariff been in operation in 1906, the State would have collected under it in that year some £708,735, whereas the amount actually collected was only £326,395. That’ fact alone shows how seriously Tasmania has suffered. It was urged during the sittings of the Federation Convention that a Tariff which, would suit one State under Federation might practically cripple another, and there can be no doubt that the island State has been financially crippled under the Commonwealth Tariff. As we proceeded with our inquiry, we found that the question of Customs leakage was only a minor one. We examined about eighty-five witnesses, and every one of them laid special stress on the financial loss suffered by the State as the direct result of Federation. All urged that she had been hard hit through no fault of her own. The Customs officials probably discharged their duties as well as they possibly could, but they made to the Commission some very serious admissions concerning what could and actually. did happen under the system of supervision for which the regulations provided. We examined various Customs officials from the Comptroller-General to Customs clerks. We took evidence in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, and Burnie - the seaports through which Tasmania was receiving its goods, and we had from Customs officers some rather startling admissions. Customs agents acting for various merchants - who handled their goods, and made the required declarations as to the contents of packages and cases transferred from other States - also made certain admissions. The whole system according to them was a matter of form. It was possible for them to fill in Inter-State certificates and declarations as they pleased, for there was no examination of the goods, and I contend that since there was no examination the receiving State had practically to accept whatever sum of money the Commonwealth chose to credit it with. Tasmania was certainly in the hands of the merchants of Australia. As I do not know what attitude the Government intend to adopt with regard to this motion, I shall have to quote more fully from the evidence tendered to the Commission than I should otherwise have to do. I have to make out a case for the adoption of our report.
– Why did not the honorable member find out the intentions of the Government through the Caucus?
– I have not made this a caucus matter.
– It would have been useless for the honorable member to do so.
– Let me deal first of all with the direct question of leakage. From the evidence tendered to the Commission it will be seen that many passengers from Melbourne to Tasmanian ports took goods into that State without the Tasmanian revenue being protected by an Inter-State certificate. The goods were carried as passengers’ luggage, or as excess luggage, and were passed into Tasmania without the knowledge of the Customs officials. The duty which should have been credited to Tasmania in these cases was therefore lost to that State. Mr. Webster, a merchant of Hobart, said that he had frequently taken merchandise into Tasmania from another State without an Inter-State certificate, or without duty being credited. Mr. Wathen, of Launceston, stated that he had brought goods in as passengers’ luggage for friends and other people without certificates.
Amongst these were some valuable parcels of jewellery. Frederick W. Coulter, produce merchant, Devonport, testified that he had in the same way brought into Devonport for his wife’s and his own use, goods to the value of . £500, on which duty had been paid in another State, without having a certificate. The articles, he stated, were wearing apparel and jewellery of English manufacture. Mr. McFie, warden, of Devonport, Tasmania, said -
I have no hesitation in saying that there has been a leakage. I have brought from Victoria goods on whic h duty had been paid there, and which duty should have been credited to this State, although it was not. I have often brought goods over as personal luggage during the bookkeeping period, which would be to the value of between£200 and£300.
Edgar Keen, watchmaker, Devonport, Tasmania, gave the following evidence: -
Since Federation, I have, on many occasions, brought over from Melbourne, jewellery, consisting of diamond rings, brooches, watches, bangles, &c. I have brought over as passenger’s luggage as much as£490 worth in one lot. That was about two years ago. Those goods came into this State without an InterState certificate, I was under the impression that there were no restrictions under Federation. I often brought over parcels of jewellery as passenger’s luggage, ranging from£100, £200,£350,andupto£490.
Thomas Savage, motor launch owner, of Devonport, Tasmania, said -
For years, if I wanted anything, I had it brought over from Melbourne by a friend, the value of goods thus introduced into Tasmania being£150 a year. On one occasion I had a motor brought over.
I have found since that that refers to a motor-engine -
I did not get an Inter-State certificate for it. I found out later that duty on an amount of £94 should have been credited to Tasmania in respect of it. The motor was brought over on a sailing vessel, and I went alongside and had it put straight into my launch. In that way I saved wharfage and a lot of running about with Customs officers. Duty had been paid in Victoria. Goods to the value of£100 a year or more came in without certificates.
William Innes, commission agent, Devonport, Tasmania, stated -
I usually visit Melbourne once or twice a year. . Taking a range of nine or ten years, I have brought over £10 worth of personal luggage every year, comprising drapery, fancy goods, and jewellery. These goods had paid duty in Victoria. No Inter-State certificates had been obtained for them ; I brought them in as passenger’s luggage.
Edward Alfred Joyce, jeweller, Burnie, Tasmania, stated -
I often purchase samples from Victorian travellers, consisting of watches, diamond rings, and jewellery of all classes. The traveller would leave the goods in my establishment. I would receive an invoice, but no certificate, for a credit transfer to Tasmania. When I bought goods in this way certificates were never mentioned. I occasionally go to Melbourne to make purchases, and bring the goods over as passenger’s luggage. I did not get any certificates for the goods I brought over in that way.
Alfred J. Lancashire, of Southwell, Coultas, and Company, tailors, Melbourne, gave evidence as follows : -
Many of our Tasmanian customers come over to Melbourne once or twice a year and select patterns for suits and get them fitted while they are here. The suits are made up of imported material ; they are all about one price,£7 ios. The bulk of them would take delivery of them while in Melbourne. Such persons would not ask for an Inter-State certificate ; it was not the practice to give certificates for goods which may be worn here.
We do business all over Tasmania. We sell mostly imported goods. Many of our customers from Tasmania make purchases over the counter when in Melbourne. If they take delivery of the goods and instruct us to send, say to the Grand Hotel, we should not regard it as part of our business to send a certificate. Many of such customers would have regarded it as absolute impertinence if we put them through a lot of questions, such as whether they were’ going to take the goods to Tasmania.
Horatio Gill, purser, s.s. Oonah, stated that passenger traffic has increased between Devonport, Burnie, and Melbourne. Also -
If I notice that passengers have general merchandise, I collect excess luggage. I do not handle Inter-State certificates for excess luggage - such goods are delivered in the ordinary way as luggage. The Customs do not interfere. I have never seen certificates for it. Passengers returning to Tasmania from Melbourne have a lot of new parcels addressed. to them from firms in Melbourne, and they are often sent down to my charge. A fair amount of that business is done. I simply hand the parcels over to passengers. If there are no passengers claiming them, they are handed to an agent. A certificate does not accompany them.
– Does the honorable member say that every passenger who comes over buys £10 worth of Melbourne goods?
– I should not like to say that, but it is a fair amount in the aggregate, and, unfortunately for Tasmania, the material purchased has nearly always been imported into Victoria.
– Are not your Tasmanian buyers just as capable as Victorian buyers of securing these goods and having them imported into Tasmania ?
– I shall point out later how the mainland has practically collared the whole trade of Tasmania.
John Richard Collins, accountant to theCommonwealth Treasury, gave evidence to the effect that in the year 1907,£3, 360- worth of jewellery was landed in Tasmania by one passenger as excess passenger’s luggage, without the knowledge of the Customs officials. They were delivered to theowner by the purser of the s.s. Flora. The amount of duty paid in another State on these goods was£820. The owner of thejewellery, some time after the goods had been disposed of, called on Mr. Bain, SubCollector of Customs, Launceston, and’ handed in the certificate, when it was found that£820 was due to Tasmania. An inquiry took place, and the explanation of the manager of the steam-ship company was to the effect that no Inter-State certificate was shown to the purser of the steamer, and it would have been difficult to find out anything, as the goods were carried as excess luggage, and were not on the manifest… The amount was subsequently credited to Tasmania.
A system known as ‘ ‘enclosures ‘ ‘ was going on. Thus a business man in Tasmania would give an order to a firm in Melbourne or Sydney for a certain line of goods, and instruct them to send out to other firms, from which he had also ordered goods, and get them all enclosed in the one case. Unfortunately the Inter-State certificate would be issued only with respect to the goods purchased from the first firm. Business people of Tasmania have given sworn evidence that they have received many such’ parcels of drapery, with no Inter-State certificates for the enclosed articles.
– The same thing applies to every one of the States.
– Tasmania, whose Treasury has been suffering through the amount to which it is entitled not having been credited to it through the Customs Department, is making an appeal to this House. If other States have suffered in the same way, they have a similar right of appeal.
– We are quite willing to carry our baby.
– I wish we could carry ours. Queensland has a fine country, with a large amount of land and a growingpopulation, but I am sorry to say that the population of Tasmania is standing still. Evidence was given to the Commission by several witnesses that, during the bookkeeping period, orders were sent by Tasmanian storekeepers to merchants in Melbourne for certain merchandise. These goods were enclosed in a case or wrapper, and, in addition, parcels of goods addressed to other persons in the same town were included. These parcels became known .as “enclosures.” It appears, according to the evidence, that in many instances these “ enclosures “ would not have an Inter- State certificate, as only one certificate was made out for the goods sold to the person to whom the case was addressed. This is borne out by the evidence of Mr. John Thompson, who stated that when he gave an order to a firm in Melbourne, he would ask that firm to make purchases for him and enclose them in the case which they would send to him. There was only an Inter-State certificate for the goods sold by the consignor; the “enclosures” from the other firms were in the case unknown to the Customs Department. Mr. Thompson further said that it was a common practice to get “ enclosures,” because the steam-ship company fixed a minimum rate for parcels. The tradespeople by this means saved freight. Percy A. Craw, draper, of Burnie, Tasmania, also gave evidence to the effect that he had received parcels as “ enclosures “ from Melbourne, and had never seen any Inter-State certificates for them. He opened one case containing “enclosures,” which was accompanied by a certificate for only one invoice, although the consignment included other invoices. He stated, further, that other people received packages with “ enclosures “ for him. He knew nothing of Inter-State certificates in this connexion, and the practice of sending “ enclosures “ had been carried on to a fairly large extent. Samuel Beattie, draper, of Devonport, informed your Commissioners that the greatest leakage of revenue occurred in connexion with these “enclosures” in packages or cases. The shipping agent passed the contents of the whole case on the Inter- State certificate which he held, without any reference to the smaller parcels enclosed in the case, which also should have had Inter-State certificates. The Customs authorities accepted the one certificate as if .it related to the whole of the contents of the case. Mr. Brewer. Customs clerk, Melbourne, in answer to questions said that it was quite possible for a case or package to contain half-a-dozen “ enclosures “ and for the Customs Department not to have the slightest knowledge of it. Mr. Ferguson, Sub-collector of Customs, Melbourne, also said that if a case contained parcels other than the one described on the certificate, the parcels would go through the Customs without the knowledge of his officers. It must be evident to honorable members that Tasmania has not received from the Commonwealth Treasury the share of Customs revenue to which she is entitled, and is making a just claim for compensation. The existence of the Customs leakage was doubted, but the Commission obtained sworn testimony as to it. I propose now to deal with the evidence of Customs officials who were called. Officers of the Customs Department gave evidence before the Commissioners in Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales as to their ^methods of dealing with InterState certificates. It appears that the first form of certificate was prepared and pui into use immediately after the Commonwealth Tariff came into force in October, 1901. That form was in use for about two years, and under it merchants were compelled to give a detailed description of the goods they desired to transfer, the amount of duty paid on goods which were imported into the Commonwealth, the true import value, and the number of the warrant. All this information had to be supplied and declared to be true in every particular. The evidence shows that at the request of the merchants this certificate form was abolished, and one of a more simple character substituted. This latter left more room for guesswork, as only the estimated import value had to be declared to the best of the declarant’s knowledge and belief. The Customs officers said the new form was easier to fill up, and not nearly so much work was involved officially. Some of the officers went so far as to say that if more stringent powers had been given to them, they would have been able to keep a better check on the re- - venue of a receiving State like Tasmania. Under the powers which they held during the bookkeeping period they say positively that they had to rely solely on an unreliable source of information in connexion with the transfer of goods which had originally paid duty in one State and were subsequently transferred into another State under an Inter- State certificate. When these officers were under examination in connexion with the methods they adopted when handling these goods, as to whether the contents of the cases agreed with the descriptions given on the certificate, they always fell back on the agent who made the declarations, and placed the responsibility on. him. The evidence referred to shows that the officers had to rely on the statements given by exporters or their agents as to the description of goods contained in packages or cases ; the officials had no check. They simply accepted the filled-in certificate of an agent in good faith. No provision was made for the examination of any goods passing from one State to another to ascertain if they agreed with the description given on the Inter- State certificate. The agents very rarely saw the original warrants under which the goods were imported in the fust instance, and seldom saw the goods contained in the parcels or cases which were declared to in the certificate. In fact, there is evidence to show that the goods were sometimes in the hold of the ship and on their way to Tasmania before the certificate was presented to the Customs authorities at the port of transfer. _ These goods on their arrival in Tasmania were handed over by the Customs Department to the owners without a certificate, or on an agent giving an undertaking that a certificate would be forthcoming within a certain time. Consequently, there is little doubt that the merchandise contained in those cases would be placed on the merchant’s shelves, or perhaps in some cases sold and consumed, by the time the agent supplied a certificate. Under these conditions, it will be seen that the Inter-State certificate would be practically valueless, as there was no possible way of detecting anything wrong in the interests of Tasmanian revenue. This procedure seems to have been frequently in use, and the Customs officials admitted that the State of Tasmania and its revenue from the source referred to was, during the bookkeeping period, entirely in the hands of the persons who made the declarations on the certificates, and without examination of the goods. It will be seen by the evidence that the Customs officials held different opinions with regard to whether the proper credits of duty upon transferred goods should be ascertained at the port of export or the port of import, and also as to their powers under the Inter-State certificate system. This is illustrated by the evidence of the various witnesses. Mr. Lockyer, the Comptroller-General of Customs, stated -
It is the best system (referring to the InterState certificate system) we could have devised in the circumstances. It is entirely new to Customs practice. We had no precedent for that method of adjusting revenue in any part of the world. On the other hand, we should make allowance all the time for over-valuations on the Inter-State credits on ordinary merchandise, that is to say, where the importer did not disclose the original import price. I admit that there is some leakage. We are absolutely cut adrift from one of the principal methods of checking. We cannot check. I am not satisfied with the system. We never saw invoices. There is no provision for examining invoices at the port of transfer. The whole business is purely speculative. It is very hard to find out the original import duty. Power to open cases of goods is undoubted. It was very difficult to find out the wrong thing under the system ; only an accident would find it out.
The head of the Customs Department admitted that the whole system of checking was speculative, there being, no power to detain and examine goods. The merchants of Australia knew this and acted on the knowledge. Therefore the receiving State had practically to be content with the declarations in the Inter-State certificates. Mr. Barnard, State Collector for Tasmania, said -
We had to accept the declarations made by traders in good faith. It is a check in a roughandready sort of way. We had no power to demand the production of invoices or to examine goods to see that the particulars contained in the Inter-State particulars were correct. It is the duty of the transferring State to be satisfied. We, the receiving State, have only to deliver on the certificate. We did not have all the powers we desired. We accept InterState certificates in good faith here.
When Tasmanians made heavy purchases in Melbourne or Sydney, the Customs officials of Victoria or New South Wales should have been satisfied before the goods left that they were in accordance with the declarations in the Inter-State certificates. The goods should have been examined at Melbourne or Sydney, where the original invoices were. No proper inspection was possible in the receiving State. Mr. Barnard’s evidence bears that out. Mr. Bain, Sub-Collector of Customs, Launceston, stated -
To insure correctness, that (the examination of goods) had to be done at the transfer part. The duty could only be traced at the port of transfer by the production of the invoices of the goods as originally imported. Inter-State certificates as altered* were not so stringent as before. We could not trace real dutiable values at all. If the invoice as supplied by the exporters to the Customs officer was wrong, we had no guide, and if there was no check at the port of transfer, there was no check at all.
Gordon McKinnon, clerk, Customs Department, Sydney, stated -
If goods were described on Inter-Stae certificates as “ Australian manufacture - Free,” and were really imported goods which had paid duty, I had no check whatever. If the description of goods were wrong, I had no check in Sydney. The Customs officials absolutely relied on the exporting merchants in making a’ declaration. As a matter of fact, the filling in of the certificates was very easy.
William H. Brewer, Customs clerk, Victoria, stated -
The alteration of the form of Inter-State certificate was brought about at the request of merchants, so that they would not be hampered in transferring Inter-State goods, and the original form was substituted in which they were allowed to estimate the value on which duty was paid. We had to take the merchant’s word that the certificate they declared to was correct. My own opinion is that certain entries should have been checked in order to secure correct returns as between State and State. I had suspicion, and yet I never examined the goods. When we were strict there was quite an outcry. We had to accept the merchant’s word that the 10 per cent, was added. Under the Inter-State certificate system I can imagine there would be a leakage. A cab-load of personal luggage would be shipped without check. The alteration of Inter-State certificates was brought about in order to help small shippers, but I_ think large exporters have taken advantage of it.
Mr. Mills, State Collector, New South Wales, said -
We had very little check on the incorrect filling-up of Inter-State certificates. We did not examine goods. I admit that Inter-State certificates did not afford a perfect check. If there were errors in certificates the goods were not examined. The late Comptroller-General, Dr. Wollaston, expressed the opinion that the Act gave no power of seizure or detention of InterState goods. Many merchants have copies of the late Comptroller’s decision. Subsequently, in 1909, power was given under regulation, but was not acted upon that I know of. If certificates were filled in as a matter of form there was practically no check. If merchants or agents knew that there was no check on - examination I admit the temptation to wrongly describe goods by a “ rough-and-ready process.” The protection of the revenue of a State was largely the protection afforded by the sworn declaration of the consignor.
It will be seen that the evidence of these Customs officers shows that any State receiving a large share of its commodities from another State had to rely solely on the “ rough-and-ready process “ mentioned above, and, consequently, ran the greatest risk of suffering a heavy loss through not having the duty properly credited. A large proportion of mixed goods entered Tasmania from the other States, and under the altered and easy form of Inter-State certificate and declaration a general description of the goods, such as “ Australian manufacture - Free,” was accepted as correct under the regulations in force. That Tasmania is the chief sufferer from this admittedly imperfect Inter-State certificate system may reasonably be assumed from a perusal of a table, wherein that State’s high percentage of Inter- State purchases is shown. Tasmania has the highest percentage of Inter-State purchases, her purchases being nine times as much as Vic toria, and twice as great as those of Queensland. The percentages for the year 1908-9 were - Tasmania, 45.68; Queensland, 25.46; South Australia, 23.41; Western Australia, 21.44; New South Wales, 9.03; Victoria, 7.39. If the system has been a bad one, and Tasmania has been the greatest purchaser per head, that State has admittedly received the worst blow. The whole of the remarks I have read may be found in the questions specifically marked in the report of the Royal Commission ; and honorable members may read them for themselves. In Sydney the Royal Commission took the evidence of Customs agents who, for the last thirty or forty years, have been acting for the most respectable firms. We received rather a shock from the evidence given by these gentlemen, who said that the whole business was a mere matter of form - that they employed a man to sit at a table and attach his name to declarations without any inquiry as to the goods being shipped. The evidence given by agents acting for exporters conclusively shows, as has been previously stated, that under the system in vogue since the. first alteration of the form of Inter-State certificate the value of goods as originally imported was only roughly guessed at or estimated, and the signing of the altered declaration was apparently looked upon as a matter of form. It was generally known by exporters and agents that there was no examination in any way of goods under transfer by certificate to another State. The evidence of George Wall, Customs agent, Sydney, was -
I have been acting as Customs agent for half a century. I employ about thirty-five hands, and act for a great number of firms. My brother makes the declarations; he is doing it all day long. He knows absolutely nothing about the goods he declares to. When the Inter-State certificate was first introduced, one had to make out a certificate in much the same way as one would deal with a drawback entry. We had to insert the date on which duty was paid, give the warrant number, a full description of the goods, and the rate of duty. In addition, we had to produce the original stamped invoice. Under that system I think that the Inter-State credits would be accurately kept. After a little while the Department dispensed with all those requirements. In short, we had not to do all those things which were at first looked upon as necessary to a proper check, and as giving reasonable security to the receiving State. With the sweeping away of those requirements, an entirely different position was created. In making out a certificate we had not to go into minute details formerly required, and gradually, I am afraid, the practice of giving general descriptions crept in. They were looked upon as mere records for statistical purposes rather than as revenue for receiving States. So far as the Customs officials themselves were concerned, there was absolutely no check on the goods. After the original system was swept away, the check was purely a documentary one. If I wanted to know from a merchant what was in a case, he would probably reply, “Leather.” “What sort of leather?” “Australian leather.” You then declared to goods as “ Australian leather,” and that declaration was accepted. That, in a nutshell, explains the position we reached. The receiving States were left to protect their own revenue.
That is an admission by the largest Customs agent in Sydney; and yet we have heard in this chamber that the Department of Trade and Customs is conducted on safe and reliable lines. Of course, these conditions do not obtain now, but, at the same time, Tasmania has suffered for ten years. Albert Ernest Rudder, transport agent, Sydney, stated -
I would not see the goods when I would make out a certificate, and make the declaration. I was never questioned by the Customs authorities in regard to any alleged inaccuracy of descriptions of goods in certificates. They were accepted as correct. If a description such as “ wearing apparel, Australian manufacture - free “ was given, it would be accepted as sufficient, and would not be questioned by the Customs Department. The Customs officers had no means of checking my declaration unless they examined the goods, and it was not customary to do that.
Charles Renwick Barton, licensed Customs agent, Sydney, gave evidence as follows -
We had no check whatever on goods with regard to their description. Our statements or certificates have always been accepted as correct. It appears that the documentary evidence is the only check that is exercised. I think there was rather too great an inclination to view the preparation of certificates as a matter of form. A commercial business man would not have been satisfied to depend on revenue under such a system.
James Henry Pound, manager, shipping department, Messrs. Paterson, Laing, «and Bruce, of Melbourne, said -
For the first two years the Inter-State certificate system was practically correct, but under the altered system it was easier to make out certificates. Neither invoices nor goods were checked. The goods were in the ship’s hold before the certificates went through. Clearing goods was a matter of form. The revenue of Tasmania never concerned me. They (the Customs officials) accepted our statement. There must have been a good deal of estimating of values. We understood that the goods or invoices had no right to be examined.
As that system is no longer in operation, it is not necessary to refer further to the facts ; there is ample evidence that leakage occurred ; and the Commission arrived at certain conclusions as to what the leakage has been. We considered the matter very carefully from every point of view. We went into the figures relating to the wearing apparel, jewellery, and other goods purchased, and arrived at a decision which, 1 think, ought to be accepted by this Parliament. Personally, when we’ commenced the investigation, I was of opinion that Tasmania was entitled to £25,000 a year, but we found that, during the first two years, the Customs officials were fairly strict, and the declarant had to make out an Inter-State certificate by the original warrant. That, of course, is the only proper way, but after two years the system was altered. The Commission have decided that, for the last seven years, Tasmania is entitled to £10,000 a year for Customs leakage. We found, however, as the evidence went on, that this was only a minor question. The evidence given by Tasmanians, from the Premier down to the humblest citizen, all tended to show how Tasmania had suffered financially byentering the Union. It is thought by some people, and doubtless by honorable members also, that Tasmania has benefited even by making her purchases in the other States ; but the evidence of all the witnesses goes to show that goods are dearer in Tasmania to-day than they were prior to Federation, and in spite of the fact that direct taxation has been enormously increased. “ As a matter of fact, the Premier of the State is at his wits’ ends as to what to do. He has added to the taxation times without number, and people are being driven out of the State owing to the heavy burdens being placed upon them in the endeavour to balance the State ledger. We have it in evidence. It appears from the evidence, and there is no dissenting witness, that the finances of the State of Tasmania are at present in a very straitened condition. This is stated to be due to the large diminution of the revenue owing to the imposition of the Commonwealth Tariff in place of that of Tasmania, and the inherent defects of the bookkeeping and Inter-State certificate system, which operated ineffectively in crediting revenue to Tasmania. It was pointed out that in 1 900-1, before Federation, Tasmania received £475,000 per annum from its transferred Departments, and the average annual return since Federation amounted to only £361,000 yearly. The loss of this £114,000 per annum is referred to by Sir Elliott Lewis, the Premier of Tasmania, and he says, at question 253, that whilst the six States of the Union have an aggregate gain in revenue since Federation of £r, 626,000 per annum, Tasmania loses the amount previously stated. In order to meet this serious Treasury loss, the Government has had to impose heavy direct taxation. This has been steadily increased from year to year, until, to use the Premier’s words, “it is almost crushing.” The direct taxation in Tasmania before Federation was at the rate of 12s. lod. per head, and last year it had increased to 32s. 6d., as against the average increase for the whole of the States, Tasmania included, of 2s. 4d. per head. Sir Elliott Lewis said further -
We have had to curtail our expenditure in every Department. We have experienced considerable difficulty in carrying out the functions of Government as effectively as is done in the other States of the Union. We have been hampered in carrying out the necessary developmental work so essential to a young community.
In every way he said the Government had cut down its expenditure to the very lowest point. It is also claimed that the Tasmanian people are not receiving the benefit of the reduction in taxation under the lower Commonwealth Tariff as compared with that of Tasmania it replaced; also that the people are paying just as much for their goods now, and there is no reduction in .the cost of living. It is urged that Tasmania would have received a far larger return from the Commonwealth under any other system than the bookkeeping with its Inter- State certificates. As an indication of how this system operates against Tasmania, a system which is admittedly defective in determining what revenue shall be credited to a State, it is pointed out that Tasmania has become a very much larger consumer of Inter- State goods than any other State since Federation. The increase of Tasmanian imports amounts in value to ,£1,761,000, or at the rate of £8 16s. 6d. per head, and of this increase £1,474,000, or £7 10s. 10d. per head, is due to increased Inter-State imports. It is further stated by Sir Elliott Lewis that the producers on the mainland have benefited by the increased consumption of their goods in Tasmania to the extent of £7 10s. 10d. per head, whilst the producers of Tasmania have benefited by the increased consumption of their goods on the mainland by only £3 os. 1 id. The Premier informed your Commissioners that the Tasmanian Government’s finances were so seriously affected by Federation that assistance was asked from the Commonwealth for Tasmania under section 96 of the Constitution. The evidence given by Mr. R. M. Johnston, the Government Statistician of Tasmania, who has given a great amount of attention to the matter, confirmed the statements of the Premier, and he submitted much valuable statistical and other information. He stated he had looked into the financial question in connexion with the loss of revenue by the State since Federation from every point of view, and had arrived at the conclusion that the State Treasury had suffered greatly. He placed tabular matter . before the Commission, dealing with the surplus revenue returns by the Commonwealth to Tasmania, and gave it as his opinion that the loss by the bookkeeping system amounted to about £100,000 annually. Mr. Johnston showed that Tasmania received only 2.94 per cent, of the Federal surplus, while contributing 4.22 per cent, of the annual sum absorbed by the Commonwealth expenditure. He considered that the InterState certificate system was imperfect and unsatisfactory. Figures were submitted by the Statist to show that taxation had increased in Tasmania from £111,515 in 1901 to £303,390 in .1909-10. He considered that the limit of taxation in Tasmania had been exceeded, and said that if a bad season were experienced, he did not know what the State would do. He stated that at the Federal Convention he had explained to the Tasmanian delegates how inimical to Tasmania’s interests the bookkeeping system would be. He considered that the State could reasonably ask the Commonwealth for assistance under section 96 of the Constitution. Mr. G. H. Knibbs, Commonwealth Statistician, stated that Tasmania was in a very disadvantageous financial position compared with the other States. He pointed out that for 1909-10, out of a total revenue from Customs and Excise of £ii,593>°5°> £39 I,2I6, or 3.37 per cent., was credited to Tasmania. On the population basis, however, Tasmania’s share would have been £495,023, or 4.27 per cent., a difference of £103,807. Mr. Knibbs pointed out that if the Tasmanian Tariff had been in operation in 1906, the revenue derived by the State would have been £708,735, instead of £326,395 actually collected - a loss of £382,340. He further stated that Tasmania had had to increase its direct taxation since Federation by 600 per cent, more than the average of the other States. Mr. G. T. Allen, of the Commonwealth Treasury, admitted that Tasmania has been hit to some extent by Federation. Mr. J. R. Collins, Accountant to the Treasury, said that it appeared to be quite a reasonable proposition that Tasmania should receive some compensation for her loss of revenue, and that she had a claim for losses sustained. Mr. Lockyer, ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, was of opinion that the larger States had benefited by Federation, and had found an extended market in Tasmania. He did not think there was any doubt about Tasmania having lost by Federation. The Hon. J. W. Evans, ex-Premier and Treasurer of Tasmania, stated that Tasmania had suffered greatly since Federation. He was Premier for five years since Federation, and had found great difficulty in balancing the ledger, although he repeatedly increased taxation. Tasmania had suffered to the extent of £200,000 a year by joining the Union. Taxation had reached its limit, and was crushing the people. The Hon. W. B. Propsting, ex-Premier and Treasurer of Tasmania, said the State had certainly suffered by Federation, and that, in his opinion, it was due to the inherent defects of the bookkeeping system. He regarded the present financial position as serious. Tasmania’s financial position justified her in asking for financial assistance from the Commonwealth. Mr. Alfred John Nettlefold, newspaper manager, of Hobart, stated that the claim of Tasmania for a special grant was, in his opinion, owing to a peculiar set of circumstances, but mainly through her own loyalty to the Commonwealth. There was no doubt in his mind that the trouble was due entirely to a weakness in the Constitution. The weakness to which he referred lay in the fact that under the existing distribution of revenue, obtained through the agency of the Customs House, that State which was the most loyal in its purchases of Australian goods was ipso facto the State which derived the least revenue- from that source. Mr. Nettlefold went on to say -
It seems to me that the only equitable financial basis for the Constitution would have been a regulation of each State’s finances according to the losses or gains in the way that the Tariff operated. In place of this, however, we have the extraordinary inequitable arrangement that that State which is the most loyal to Federation in the purchase of Commonwealth products is the one which is penalized for its patriotism. This is an obvious fact, and if it is analyzed it will be found that if any one particular State were to purchase nothing but Australian goods she would in consequence derive no Customs revenue. This, to a marked extent, is what Tasmania has done.
That was undoubtedly one effect of the bookkeeping system. If any one State of the Union had purchased nothing but Australian goods, it would have received absolutely no return from the Commonwealth. That was practically the position- of Tasmania. She purchased, and continues to purchase from Victoria and New South Wales, the largest proportion of the goods consumed by her - Australian-made goods - and therefore she has suffered a serious loss of Customs revenue.
– And the people of Tasmania have not obtained those goods any cheaper than they did before Federation.
– Certainly not. The Hon. B. S. Bird, ex-Treasurer of Tasmania, said that .since Federation, Tasmania has had to bring in the lowest known exemption for an income tax, viz., £80. This pressed heavily on all classes. He was of opinion that Tasmania had lost, under Federation, from £150,000 to £200,000 a year; it had made a bad bargain in joining the Commonwealth. At the Federal Convention, he supported section 96 of the Constitution, empowering the Parliament to grant assistance to a necessitous State. The year before Federation Tasmania had a surplus, but she had never had one since. She had increased her taxation, and still suffered an annual deficit. The Hon. G. P. Fitzgerald gave evidence to the effect that Tasmania had suffered to an alarming extent since Federation, and that the State had a claim on the Commonwealth Parliament. The people of the State had not benefited by purchasing Victorian goods. Victoria had flooded Tasmania with goods, but, in his opinion, the consumer had not benefited in price. The Hon. G. T. Collins, ex-Chief Secretary, Tasmania, stated -
Since Federation increased taxation has been placed on the people on four occasions, and yet this year we shall have a shortage of ^40,000 to square the ledger. The most legitimate evidence of Tasmania’s loss is the oppressive taxation. I find that poods are no cheaper since Federation. I would ask the Commonwealth, under section 96 of the Constitution, for £125,000 a year for our financial position and losses. I should be much better pleased if Tasmania had not to ask for assistance, for I am proud of our little island, and have a love for its people.
The Hon. W. H. Burgess, an ex- Treasurer of Tasmania, said -
The effect of the Federal Tariff on the revenue of Tasmania is disastrous. As a merchant, I know what I paid for goods prior to Federation, and now I find that the consumer; is not getting his goods any cheaper, although his direct taxation has increased enormously. A very large portion of the business of this State has gone to Victoria. The commercial travellers come over in droves to the North-West Coast and West Coast. I honestly do not think that the people can bear any more taxation. The taxation on incomes is hitting at the man earning 30s. a week.
Again, the Hon. C. L. Stewart, exTreasurer, Tasmania, stated -
Our land tax in Tasmania last year amounted to 8s. per head, whilst the average for the Conmonwealth is is. 8d. per head. “ Our income tax is likewise heavy, ranging from 4d. up to is. in the £. Tasmania has lost under the bookkeeping system to a very large extent. The returns from the Commonwealth have forced increased taxation on the people of Tasmania. Living is no cheaper now than prior to Federation.
The Hon. J. Earle, ex-Premier of Tasmania, said -
Since Federation undoubtedly direct taxation has increased. Our income tax has the lowest exemption in the world. In the receipts from Customs and Excise Tasmania has suffered through Federation.
The Hon. Henry Dobson, Hobart, pointed out, as a member of the Federal Convention, that section 96 of the Constitution was inserted because the Convention could not absolutely forecast what the financial position of each State would be. Tasmania’s finances have suffered under the bookkeeping system. The position of Tasmania called for financial assistance from the Commonwealth to the extent of £125,000 a year for ten years. Section 96 of the Constitution was now relied on for help. Mr. W. M. Williams, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Hobart, stated that there had been considerable State loss through Federation. Taxation had increased considerably. Tasmania had greatly benefited Victoria. Goods were quite as expensive now as before Federation. Since Federation all other States were benefiting, while Tasmania was not. I could continue to quote the evidence of many others to the same effect. I could refer the House to evidence given by persons who were carrying on business as manufacturers in Tasmania prior to Federation, but who have since had to shut down owing to the trade of the island having been captured by the mainland. We do not complain of that. If the manufacturers of Victoria and New South Wales can beat Tasmania in this regard, good luck to them, but we have to look at the effect which this capturing of the trade of Tasmania has had on the finances of the State. - For ten years after the inception of Federation, the State had to depend largely on the amount of Customs revenue returned to it through the Commonwealth, and, as the result of its trade being captured by the mainland, it undoubtedly suffered very serious financial loss. It was called upon from time to time to increase its direct taxation to such an extent that many people have been absolutely driven out of the State. There can be no doubt as to that. I could cite numerous instances showing that people who were in business in Tasmania prior to Federation have since been compelled to shut down. Many local business men have been practically ruined since Federation through no fault of their own, but owing entirely to the fact that manufacturers on the mainland, having a wider market, and being able to carry on upon a larger scale, have simply outclassed them. If the Tasmanian Customs and Excise Tariff of 1899 had been in operation in that ‘State in 1906, the revenue derived from that source would have been £708,735, instead of £326,395 actually collected. There can be no doubt that the substitution of the Commonwealth Tariff for the State Tariff, and the accompanying provision of Inter-State Free Trade, had the effect of depriving the State Treasury of £382,340 for that year. For the year 1909-10, out of a. total revenue from Customs and Excise of £11,593,050, £39 r, 2 16, or 3.37 per cent., was credited to Tasmania. On the population basis, however, Tasmania’s share would have been £495,023, or 4.27 per cent. This shows a loss of £103,807. Tasmania only received 2.94 per cent, of the Federal surplus, while contributing 4.22 per cent, of the annual sum absorbed by the Commonwealth expenditure, and if the percentage share of the latter had been taken as a basis for distribution, instead of receiving £232,482, the State would have been entitled to £334,S2S in the year 1908-9, i.e., £101,683 above what was returned by the bookkeeping system. It has been proved that Tasmania has been compelled to increase its direct taxation from £111,515 in the year 1900 to £303,390 for the year 1910, or from 12s. ]od. per head of population to £1 12s. 6d. Tasmania has, since Federation, increased its imports from the other States of the Commonwealth from £1,060,000 in 1900 to £2,534,000, or by 139 per cent., and in consequence of this has been paid less from the Commonwealth Surplus Revenue Fund than the State would have been entitled to had its people purchased their merchandise from outside the Commonwealth. I desire to impress upon honorable members, and particularly the Prime Minister, that no self-respecting State Premier, and no self-respecting State Government, would appeal to this Parliament for assistance under section 96 of the Constitution unless stress of financial circumstances forced them into that position. The Premier of Tasmania, Sir Elliott Lewis, gave this matter very serious consideration before consenting to allow his State to make an appeal to the Commonwealth under section 96. The people of Tasmania, however, insisted upon such an appeal being made. Since the Commission presented its report, both Houses of the State Legislature have passed resolutions, copies of which have been forwarded to the Government, and also, I understand, to Mr. Speaker, as well as to the President of the Senate, urging that the Parliament will grant to Tasmania, under section 96 of the Constitution, the payment which we recommended should be made. I appeal to honorable members in all fairness to consider whether any State Parliament would come to this Legislature and ask for financial assistance if it thought that it t-ould pay its own way and really did not require that help ? The taxation on the working classes of Tasmania has increased to such an enormous amount that it is driving the people out of the State by hundreds, and consequently we are forced to come to .this Parliament for assistance.
– That is due, to a great extent, to the bad State legislation.
– That may have been the case; but do not let the present people of Tasmania suffer for the actions of somebody else. They cannot help what has been done in the past. In this speech I am not going to attack any past Government of Tasmania for the present position, because I do not know that they deserve to be attacked on that account. I am clearly of opinion, after listening to the evidence, that Tasmania has suffered through no fault of its own by the operation of the Commonwealth Tariff, and by the people of Tasmania making all their purchases from the mainland, whereas, if the State had bought all its goods in Europe, it would have received so much more revenue from the Commonwealth every year. Tasmania has been loyal, but has received very little in return. I say straight away that the leakage is not as big as we thought it was, and that, I think, is a source of comfort to the Minister of Trade and Customs. We come to this House for redress, because those who framed the Constitution practically anticipated that during the first few years of Federation some State might suffer. I say unhesitatingly that Tasmania has suffered through joining the Union, and that this Parliament will do right in making provision accordingly.
.- As a member of the Royal Commission, I indorse everything that has been said by the honorable member for Bass. The Commission went into the question very exhaustively, and left unsought no evidence which might throw light upon it. The recommendation of the Commission was absolutely unanimous. When I first went on to it, I hardly thought that that would be possible. I imagined that there would be, at least, more than one minority report, but the evidence was so conclusive and farreaching that it was impossible for the Commission to come to any other conclusion than that at which it arrived. I am in favour of direct taxation being carried to a much greater extent than it is at present, but it should be imposed throughout the Commonwealth on an equitable basis. Tasmania is suffering very heavily indeed from direct taxation, and if the people of the rest of the States were suffering likewise, one could hardly take exception to what is happening there, but where one State is singled out, as it were, and what one might almost call an invidious distinction has been made in its case in the matter of direct taxation, the position is most unfair to the people of that State.
– Does the honorable member mean that Tasmania has been unfairly treated by the Commonwealth?
– No. The heavy direct taxation in Tasmania has been imposed by the State Parliament. It was inevitable under the Constitution that this should occur, but, of course, it has not been necessitated by the action of this Parliament. Section 96 was never put into the Constitution as a mere empty form of words. It was inserted in order that, if occasion should arise, it might be used to fulfil its purpose - to relieve a necessitous State. The Commission did not make its recommendation lightly, but only after the most exhaustive and careful consideration. The basis on which we estimated the Customs leakage was the returns furnished by the Customs Department. Other States, such, for instance, as Queensland, have suffered to some extent in the same direction owing to the establishment of InterState Free Trade, but the returns as furnished by the Customs authorities prove conclusively that Queensland has not suffered to the same extent as Tasmania. Queensland’s average has been very well kept up in regard to its imports, especially such items as wearing apparel and jewellery, with regard to which the greatest discrepancies occur, whereas Tasmania is very much behind the average, particularly in those lines.
– It is in the proportion of three to five per capita.
– I think those are the figures. We say that that state of things should not exist. I second the motion so ably moved by the honorable member for Bass, that this Parliament should come to the relief of Tasmania. To ascertain the facts, it is not necessary to read the evidence given before the Commission. The whole thing is shown by Mr. Knibbs in the Commonwealth Year-Booh. His figures prove that Tasmania is in a parlous condition as regards its finances, and unless assistance is afforded - I say that it should be afforded by this Parliament - bankruptcy for that State is inevitable.
– The origin of the Commission, the adoption of whose report has been so ably moved by the honorable member for Bass, was a Select Committee which was directed to investigate the loss that had accrued to the State of Tasmania through Customs leakages. When the session closed the work of that Committee was unfinished, and it was converted into a Royal Commission to continue the work, but under a different order of reference. I presume that it is under the powers conferred by the new clause in the Commission’s authority to investigate, inquire and report, that the Commission has made this new recommendation, in contradistinction to the question which the Select Committee was originally authorized to investigate. The warrant appointing the Royal Commission authorized them to “ inquire into and report upon the alleged Customs leakage of Tasmania, and any losses the said State has suffered since the advent of Federation; and to continue the inquiry into the matters aforesaid commenced by a Select Committee of our House of Representatives appointed on the nth day of August, 1910.” I take it that the phrase in the warrant under which the Royal Commission came to their conclusion was : - “ and any losses the said State has suffered since the advent of Federation.” The mover of the motion showed the condition of Tasmania, and the necessity for the Commonwealth coming to its aid - veryproper aid, under the constitutional provision, and I take no exception to that - but I should have been glad if he had pointed out that it would have been better for the Premier of Tasmania to make to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth a direct request under section 96 of the Constitution in the proper form. I make no complaint whatever about the Commission making its report in its own way. I have looked up the evidence given by the Premier of Tasmania, which confirms all the mover of the motion has said. He stated, however, that, apart from an informal conversation thai he had with myself, he had made no claim upon the Commonwealth Government on behalf of Tasmania under section 96 ; but he added that he was quite prepared to make such an appeal.
– He made an appeal to the Commission.
– He did, and, in answer to the question put to him by the Commission, he said he was quite prepared as the responsible Minister, speaking for the Government, and on behalf of the State of Tasmania, to make a direct appeal to the Commonwealth Government under section 96. If he puts that into practice he will simplify in a great measure the difficulty which I feel the Federal Government are in, because there are certain official means of communication between the State Governments and the Commonwealth Government, and vice versa, and as this is the very first instance of an appeal of this kind it would be advisable that, after this discussion has taken place, the Premier of Tasmania should put the position of his State directly before the Government of the Commonwealth, so that the Government’ may give it their full consideration in the light of the evidence submitted to the Royal Commission, and of the discussion in this Chamber.
– Did he not move a motion in the House of Assembly, and wire it, and a similar motion carried in the Legislative Council, to the Commonwealth Government ?
– Yes, but that is more in the nature of a communication from Parliament to Parliament. The Constitution makes provision for no such channel of communication. I do not think it would be wise to proceed in other than the ordinary channels in dealing with a matter of this kind, which is of the very first importance.
– Perhaps he looks upon the matter as to some extent S7ib judice.
– I shall do all I can to relieve Sir Elliot Lewis’s mind on that point, and shall invite him to communicate directly with the Commonwealth Government on any lines he pleases, without in any way committing himself to what he said before the Royal Commission. The members of the Commission have, in my opinion, performed their duties thoroughly and well. The honorable member for Bass took up the question when he came into this Parliament, moved for the Select Committee, and subsequently became Chairman of the Commission. As he has said, he started on the same basis as most of the Tasmanian members have started for a number of years past - that the question was one of leakage. There is no doubt they thought that the leakage was enormous, and that the Customs officers had failed in their duty. As a matter of fact, those officers, over whom I had charge in 1904, performed their duties faithfully and well, until an indication was given by the Tasmanian Government themselves that they did not desire to have the harassing and embarrassing investigation of goods passing from one State to another, because they thought that the practice would injure Tasmania more than the value of the revenue would benefit her. Even if they were wrong in that opinion, however, Tasmania would, of course, still be entitled to redress. The Commission, after a long and painstaking investigation, arrived at the conclusion that the leakage to date amounts to £70,000. I shall not discuss the merits of its recommendation, which was a unanimous one, but I shall read some of its chief findings. The claim for compensation for leakage has been practically abandoned, both by the Commission and the officials of Tasmania.
– It is looked upon as a minor matter.
– Tasmania now appeals to the other partners in the Federal concern for consideration in view of her unfortunate financial position. According to the Commission’s report -
Sir Elliot Lewis, in his official capacity as Premier of Tasmania, asked for financial assist ance for the State in terms of section 96 of the Constitution. That section reads - “ During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.”
Your Commissioners are of opinion that the losses suffered by Tasmania, inclusive of the loss sustained from Customs leakage, are such as to render assistance to that State imperative.
The Commissioners recommended that £900,000 should be paid by the Commonwealth to Tasmania; but, while on behalf of the Government I promise generous consideration to the State, I do not commit myself to a promise to give the sum recommended, or anything like it. Ministers are prepared to propose substantial relief, and I expect that after this statement the Premier of Tasmania will communicate with me through the ordinary official channels. The Government is not prepared to make a contribution this year, but is in favour of” doing so next year, and in subsequent years, in such a manner as may be most appreciated by Tasmania and most convenient to the Commonwealth. When an appeal is made under section 96 of the Constitution, it is not well to haggle over conditions. This is the first appeal of the kind that has been made,_ and even had the section ceased to operate, Parliament would still have been ready to give consideration to it. It would be wrong to refer now to the Government of the State, or to the causes of the State’s financial position, though that would be a proper subject to discuss were we dealing with political issues. The smallest State of the Union apparently finds its financial position more acutely, embarrassing than was anticipated prior to Federation, and appeals to the other States for aid. The evidence taken by the Commission shows that its leading public men, when inviting the people of Tasmania to accept the draft Constitution, anticipated financial difficulty, but that this difficulty is greater than was anticipated. I am sure we all regret that a wealthy little island like Tasmania - little only as compared with the mainland - which possesses such excellent land, such fine, ports-
– What about its climate?
– Its climate, rainfall, land, ports, and rivers are ideal, and its mineral’ production is one-eighth of that of Australia, although its population . is only one-twenty-third. We all agree that it is a pity that the State should be in its present financial position. I hope, however, that we shall all live to see the day when its development will keep pace with that of the other States of the Union. In the meantime the Government feels it to be its duty to propose substantial assistance on the lines indicated by the Royal Commission, and I shall be prepared to receive a communication from the Premier of Tasmania at his earliest convenience.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Atkinson) adjourned.
.- I move -
Mr. Alexander Black is a man who came to Australia from America, and went to Brisbane, where he remained for a time. For a period of about two years he was in the habit of receiving letters from a friend in Philadelphia. Not being in permanent employment, nor having a permanent place of residence, he used to write to the Deputy Postmaster-General at Brisbane from time to time, asking that the letters lying for him at the post-office might be sent to the addresses which he gave, and future letters retained until he wrote again, and once or twice he asked that letters might be held until he wrote again or called. For more than a year these instructions were complied with.
– Were the letters registered ?
– No. Mr. Black was in the habit of awaiting the arrival of the American mail, and then writing to the Deputy Postmaster-Generalat Brisbane, asking him to forward any letters that might be lying at the post-office for him, and to hold back subsequent letters till he wrote again. At this time Mr. Alexander Black was at Fairymead Plantation, Bundaberg. A letter was addressed to him from Philadelphia, in June, 1909, containing two money orders to the value of £30 16s. 8d. The Postal authorities in Brisbane had in their possession an order from Mr. Black to hold his letters until he should write for them; and it will be remembered that, when I asked the PostmasterGeneral a question a week or two ago, it was admitted that that order was in force. The letter containing the money arrived at Brisbane Post Office about 5th August, and was handed to some one, who represented himself as Alexander Black, and the orders were cashed. Mr. Black, who was at Bundaberg, complained to the Department about the loss of the letter ; and the search that was instituted failed to show who had got the money, and the matter was put in the hands of the Commissioner of Police. The Bundaberg branch of the Criminal Investigation Department made inquiries, and the report made showed that Mr. Alexander Black could not possibly have been in Brisbane on the 9th August, when the orders were cashed, because he was then more than 200 miles distant. The Department admitted that Mr. Black did not receive the money, but it refuses to pay any compensation whatever, relying on section 159 of the Post and Telegraph Act, which provides that no action can be maintained against the Postmaster-General under such circumstances. I admit that it is necessary for the Department to contract itself out of liabilities, because, otherwise, it would be subject to all sorts of frivolous, vexatious, and possibly wicked, actions at law. At the same time, when the Department discovers that, through some inadvertence or mistake, the rightful owner does not receive his letters, some compensation ought to be provided. As it is now halfpast 4 o’clock, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26th October (vide page 1 891), on motion by Mr. Mathews -
That, in the opinion of this House, legislation should be introduced to provide a system of pensions to the members of the Defence Forces, and that the resolution be communicated to the Senate with a request for its concurrence.
.- There is every reason why the House and the Government should consider the advisableness of establishing some system of pensions in connexion with our Defence Forces. It is difficult for a man who has practically spent his whole life in soldiering to settle down to any other calling ; indeed, he is not fit for any other occupation except of some casual nature. I know several cases of men who, after years in the Military Forces, have found themselves stranded in after life. It is true that odd billets, like that of a watchman, may be obtained, but such openings are limited in number. It is only right and just, when a man has trained himself to adequately defend the country if called upon, and has arrived at the time of life to be physically unfit to continue strenuous work, that he should be provided for ; and I, therefore, have much pleasure in supporting the motion.
– I do not know of any question in the whole arena of politics at this moment of more consequence to Australia than that dealt with in this motion. To my mind it is fundamental to an efficient Defence Force to have provision made for the ending of a soldier’s official career; and this applies, not only to officers, but to the rank and file, for all must be treated alike in a spirit of equity and fairness. We shall not get efficiency until something is done in the direction I have indicated ; and in my judgment the absence of such provision has militated against efficiency for years past. Men have been retained in the Department when they should not have beenmen whose time of life and physical qualifications would not permit of their taking the field should they be called upon. This motion, unobtrusive and simple as it may appear, deals with a very serious question which must be solved before we can have Defence Forces guaranteed as efficient and of fighting strength. I was very much concerned in this connexion during my very brief tenure of office as Minister of Defence. It is true that I had time only to look round and see what required doing. I say this in no spirit of derogation of the earnest-minded men who preceded me, or of the gentleman who succeeded me. I know Senator Pearce is equally earnest in his desire to achieve success, but there is a state of affairs which has not ministered to efficient defence, and to that state of affairs the absence of some such provision as that now proposed has very largely contributed. Every one agrees that there should be some system which would prevent a man being sent out into the world at the end of his official career, not only without any qualifications for other work, but absolutely with very great disqualifications for civil life. The question is what form the provision should take. I do not agree with the wording of the motion; I cannot bring myself to subscribe to a general system of pensions. I think we are on the wrong track in democratic Australia when we suggest pensions, unqualified and unconditional, in connexion with either our civil or our defence services. We have only to look to the United States to see what a pension system may develop into. If proper provision is not made, the Government feel under an obligation to look after these men, who become pensioners at a rate which beggars the Government, and is very prejudicial to official life in many respects.
– Does the pension system in the United States apply to the whole army, or only to those who were engaged in the war?
– It applies to those who were engaged in the war, and to the army, I believe, in a modified degree. There is not now the same awful system that obtained in regard to those who took part in the war ; but still the people of the United States have to carry an “ old man of the sea.” Such systems as prevail over there create their own vested interests ; andit is difficult to effect reforms once they become incorporated in the social and industrial life of the nation. America is a great warning to us.
– There is trouble in America because provision was not made for their soldiers.
– That is, provision at the outset, such as I hope we shall make. I do not think, however, that Australia will agree to a system of pensionspure and simple as we have it, say, in America. My suggestion is that we should have some proposal more in keeping with the democratic thought of Australia, which would be very much lighter for the Government to bear, and, at the same time, be as efficient, so far as the men themselves are concerned. I take it that that is the object aimed at. The course to be taken is suggested very clearly for us in Lord Kitchener’s report, and I hope that the Government will give effect to the proposal whenever they deal with this matter. Lord Kitchener, as is well known, is in favour of a scheme of deferred payment - a scheme providing for a compulsory deduction; while the men are on service, sufficient to insure adequate provision for their maintenance on retirement. The idea, I understand, is that this provision should take the shape of an annuity. The men are not to ;go out with a lump sum; but there is to be a deferred payment to purchase an annuity for them, in the form of an insurance, which will enable them to live comfortably when they are no longer of service to their country. Here is what Lord Kitchener says concerning the officers, whom he hopes will be part of our Forces under the new scheme -
If men of the right stamp are to be attracted to the corps, the pay of each rank must be good ; and in this connexion it must be remembered that the circumstances of an officer’s services prevent, and rightly so, his participation in ^commercial ventures. For the Staff Corps to be -successful, its officers must concentrate all their energies on their profession, and their pay should, therefore, be sufficient, not only for their keep while serving, but also to insure to them a competence when retired.
In view of these conditions, I recommend rates of pay shown in Table IV., with the proviso that in each rank a compulsory deduction should be made, sufficient to assure an adequate provision for maintenance on retirement.
I know that those who are receiving small salaries object to a compulsory deduction from their payments. They say, very correctly, that it would mean a decrease in their pay ; and with that fear in their minds they are not favorable to such a system. It seems to me, however, to be a matter of the simplest adjustment. My suggestion to the Government would be to re-adjust their pay and allowances to the extent of the compulsory deduction which would be necessary to secure for them an annuity when they were no longer able to work. Whatever form the scheme takes - and that, in my opinion, is the preferable form - there should be a re-adjustment of the pay of both officers and men. In any case, that is badly needed. There is no duty more obligatory upon the Government than a revision of the salaries of the officers and men of our Defence Forces. Our officers, so far as those of the higher ranks go, are very much underpaid. Possibly up to the rank of captain the pay is as good as the Imperial pay, or, perhaps, a little better; but the Imperial pay and allowance, rank for rank, are very much higher than our own. There is, therefore, plenty of room for re-adjustment in that respect ; and even in respect to the pay and allowances for the men, I believe there is also a case for re-adjustment. It is a question more for consideration when the Estimates are before us than for discussion just now ; but the moment is favorable for a re-adjustment of the pay and allowances of the Forces from the top to the bottom of the service. It is a big undertaking, I know, and one may well be sympathetic with the Government if they do not feel that they can rush pell-mell into this matter ; but the obligation is laid upon them to, as soon as possible, re-adjust the whole of the conditions of the service from top to bottom. Here is an opportunity to inaugurate a system of deferred pay on the basis I suggest. Let them give the men more than they receive at present - at any rate, as much more as would enable them to submit to a compulsory deduction ; the scheme should be upon the basis of an annuity rather than a straight-out pension. I do not think that Australia would stand a pension scheme such as we knew in the old days; but I know of no reason why a scheme such as I suggest could not be worked with satisfaction to all concerned. It would mean in essence and in principle that the Government, in adjusting the pay, would be insuring their own men by the time that they qualified for these annuities. In that way we should provide for a steady stream of progress and for greater efficiency throughout the service. Men, when they are no longer able to comply with the regulations, would retire knowing that they had something to retire upon. Those who know anything of the Defence Forces are aware that of all occupations in this country this is the most unfavorable in which to save money. There are in connexion with the employment of the men so many calls, social and otherwise, that do not pertain to ordinary employment, that it is almost impossible for them to save money. That being the case, I think that we ought to come to their rescue, not only for their own sake, for that is a small matter, but in the interests of an efficient service. We cannot have an efficient force unless we make it possible to retire these men while they are yet able to do good service for the country. That is the position in the British Navy to-day. It is, I believe, the sole secret of the naval efficiency of the British Empire. Not long ago I was talking to a naval surgeon on the Australian Station who was then going Home. I should not think that he was more than forty or forty-five years of age, but he had put in twenty years’ service, and was entitled to a pension of £1 per day.
– And the men who have to face the fire are entitled to only is. per day.
– I do not know that a man who serves on deck is entitled to as much as is a naval surgeon. I hope the honorable member is not setting up that theory. If he is, I can only say that I did not think he was so much of a communistic Socialist. I know, however, that the honorable member means only to suggest that the allowance in the case of the men is very small. Perhaps it is. I am only pointing out, however, the liberality of the pension scheme in connexion with the British Navy. The explanation is that naval officers must go up at a very rapid rate, and go out if there are not sufficient opportunities for promotion. We find all over Great Britain naval officers who have retired in the full heyday of their efficiency and in the full heyday of their mental and physical powers. The reason is that the regulations are so strict that unless promotion comes at a certain time they have to go out. But they go out with the certainty of an adequate pension to keep them. In this way a steady stream of progress through the Navy is always assured, and so the efficiency of the whole scheme is maintained. Here in Australia we have been accustomed to allow our officers to hang on to the service because to send them out would be to send them out in many cases to beggary and poverty. There are men leaving the service for whom positions are being provided, although their services are not really required. I am speaking now of what I know. On the Estimates for this year provision is made for three officers whom the Government could very well do without. I applaud the Ministry for what they are doing in that respect, although I do not think they are doing it in quite the right way. That, however, can he discussed later on.
– Will the honorable member say how the British Government provide for the naval pensions to which he referred?
– Out of the Consolidated Revenue. They have in force the deferred pay system. A certain amount is withheld from every man’s pay, with a view of building up a pension for him when he leaves the service.
– So that the officers have to contrbute to the pension fund.
– No; a certain proportion of their pay is withheld from them. When they enter the service, they know that they are to get so much by way of pay and so much by way of pension. It is all a matter of insurance and of salary in the last resort. I am suggesting that a similar system . should be intro duced here. It differs very materially from the old system of pensions, because it means that the men and the Government combined insure the soldier and the sailor against the time when he has to come out. That is the principle which should underlie a proposal of this kind, and which would obviate the scandals wc have in Australia to-day because of the lack of any such provision. I wish to say, in passing, that, having been in the Defence Department, instead of being too critical of many of these old officers and of what they have done, 1 see them only as engaged in a Titanic struggle to keep the force together at all. We are to blame for the way in which we have treated our forces. These men would have been very much better than they have been if we had treated them more liberally. I have only to mention the salient fact that five or six years ago, in this House, the Labour party insisted upon a £500,000 basis as being sufficient to provide for an adequate force for Australia. This Parliament must take its responsibility for the position in which our forces have been placed for many years. Happily we have abroad to-day a better spirit, but we are beginning the new defence scheme on an entirely false basis, since this matter of provision against retirement is one of the fundamental features of all progress and promotion. We shall not secure that progress unless we provide for an officer going rapidly up or going out of the service. Such a system means, of course, in many cases, his going out, ‘and he ought to go out with, something to depend upon. I take it that that is what the mover of this motion is aiming at. I know of three men who held office as colonels, but who had to be retired, and are now employed, one in the Ordnance Branch, at 12s. a day, and the remaining two at ros. per day. They are doing mere clerical work in the Department. Positions have been found for them in order that they may receive these miserable pittances. The principle is altogether wrong. It does not do the Defence Force any good. I am sure it is against all discipline for these men, who have been high up in their profession, to be compelled to submit to the degradation of being employed in the Department in order to secure a mere miserable -pittance to live on. I am blaming nobody for these things, but am pointing out our plain and instant duty to impress upon the Government the de=sirability of inaugurating some scheme.
The sooner it is done the better; and I think it will be on a more lasting basis if it is done in the way I suggest. Not only does Lord Kitchener suggest this method, but Admiral Henderson also put it forward in his report as an alternative, saying, “ There should be a system of pensions or annuities.” What I am suggesting is practically an annuity.
– It will be of more use to them.
– I believe it is the only thing that will be satisfactory in Australia.
– What is the difference between an annuity and a pension?
– A system of pensions would fall upon the Government in its entirety, at the. end of a man’s career, without any previous provision to meet it. A system of annuities insures a man’s life against the time when he goes out.
– There is no difference in the effect.
– There would be a great deal of difference if the Government found themselves with 1,000 pensioners upon their hands, and no provision made for them.
– Supposing they found themselves with 1,000 annuitants upon their hands, and no provision made for them?
– Provision would have been made in that case from year to year.
– So it would be with pensions, because a pension fund would be established.
– The honorable member may call it what he likes, the principle is the same; but I want the payment distributed over the working years of a man’s life. I move -
That the words “ provide a system of pensions to “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ assure an adequate provision for the maintenance on retirement of.”
– I am willing to accept that amendment.
– I assert in it only the broad principle, merely suggesting the form the provision should take, and leaving it to the Government to bring down a scheme. I use the actual words used by Lord Kitchener in his report. It would be much more satisfactory if a scheme of deferred payments, in .the shape of an annuity, were established. “ Deferred pay- ments,” however, is not a good phrase, because it generally gives the idea that we are going to send the recipients out with a lump sum. “ Annuity “ expresses the idea that I have in my mind, which is that they should have a guarantee of a livelihood at the time their services cease.
– It should be provisional upon an increase in their present pay.
– I think the pay should be correspondingly adjusted. This is the time above all others when we need a thorough revision of the pay of officers and men. There is no duty more urgent.
I am sure the Government have it in their minds to undertake it; and, therefore, I take it that they will not object to anstruction of this kind from a friendly House, which has only the one desire to see the best done in the circumstances.
.- I am glad the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has accepted the amendment. It will be an easier phrase for the Government to accept than the ordinary pension phrase, which, in reality, means identically the same thing,, but is popularly regarded differently. The amendment should give the Government the opportunity of going into the whole question of the present pay received by all ranks of the Defence Forces.
– Does this include making provision for everybody?
– I think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports means the permanent Defence Forces.
– I mean the whole of the Defence Forces - any man injured in the defence of his country, or any man retired after service.
– Of course, if this superannuation allowance is made on the basis of the pay received by the men in the Forces, the difficulty suggested by the honorable member for Flinders is got over.
– I did not suggest it as a difficulty. The form of the motion, as amended, leaves it absolutely open to the House subsequently to adopt any scheme it likes.
– Yes. There are two sides to the question of deferred pensions or superannuation in the Defence Forces. There is, first of all, the pension which’ ought to be given to the widow and family of a man who is killed in the defence of his country. Special provision will have to be made for that, as this motion will not cover it. The question of the efficiency of the Forces is also intimately associated with the question of whether or not the Department is able to get rid of a man when he has passed his usefulness.. Recently, for instance, we have seen in the Defence Forces the greatest reluctance shown to get rid of officers whose efficiency is declared by competent tribunals to be already a thing of the past, because it is realized that any man whose services are dispensed with by the Department has absolutely nothing to fall back upon in life, but will be thrown into the gutter. There is the greatest objection on the part of any Minister to behave in a way that might be held to be inhuman to any officer or man with whom he has been brought into contact. That is human nature; but. if the Defence Department is to be efficient it cannot be an eleemosynary institution. It cannot be an asylum for old age. It must be the resort of brains and activity, and we can help the Minister to make it so by insuring that any man who has passed his usefulness in the service shall go out, not to destitution, but with some sort of pension that will enable him to pass his declining days in reasonable circumstances. That factor has been lost sight of in considering this question. It has been thought that only the officers and men themselves were affected, but the efficiency of the Department is still more vitally affected. I remember one case which happened years ago. An officer, occupying a high position in the Australian Defence Forces, was declared in effect to be unfit to hold it any longer, and. the Commonwealth was recommended to dispense with his services. Within a day or two .of this decision being arrived at by the proper authorities in the Department, the . Minister of the day was approached for the retention of that officer’s services by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Leader of the Labour party. His services were retained, apparently against the< best interests of the Forces. Had he been able to go out with some superannuation right accruing to him that action would not have been taken-, and the interests of the Department would have been conserved. The Department is suffering from the want of a pension system through every rank in the Forces. I remember a case which I brought under the attention of the House some years ago. A driver in the artillery in New South Wales was crippled for life on service. After a long time in hospital, he was turned out a mere wreck of his former self, absolutely without the slightest chance of earning his livelihood. He was given the maximum retiring allowance permitted by the regulations under those circumstances. He invested the money in horses, which . he wanted some one else to drive for him to make a living; but the horses died, and again he was practically demanding our sympathy, our pity, and our charity - a position in which no man ought to be placed. Eventually, a sort of sinecure was found for horn in another Department of the Commonwealth ; but these thingsought not to> be. If a man suffers in the service, of his country, and has to be prematurely retired, provision ought to be automatically made for him. The mere fact that a member of the Commonwealth Parliament happened to hear of his case and bring it before Parliament, saved that particular man ; but there may be other instances, and we ought to treat the Defence Force as a whole, giving equal rights to every member of it. The- acceptance of the amendment put forward by the honorable member for Parramatta means, I take it, that, the rates of pay enjoyed by the Defence Forces throughout, must be subject to the most rigid revision.. The- rank , and file, and some of the grades of officers, are already badly underpaid. The rates of pay in’ the Forces are practically the same, as they were ten years, ago, before the great increase in the cost of living occurred, which has made civil servants’ salaries everywhere less valuable than they used to be. If we are to deduct from a man’s pay, or an officer’s salary, a proportionate amount to enable the Government to insure him against retirement or disablement, we must materially increase the rates of pay throughout the ranks. I trust that the acceptance- by the Government of the motion, as amended, will mean that the injustice under which the Defence Department now suffers, in regard not only to the rights of the personnel, but to the efficiency of the whole, will be remedied at the earliest moment.
.- I hope that I may not be deemed the possessor of an unsympathetic disposition if I say a few words in opposition to this proposal to single out one section of the community for special consideration.
– The honorable member means that he is; opposed to giving justice to any man because some one else, may not be getting all that he deserves; but every case Should be considered on its merits.
– The honorable member might well have made those remarks when addressing himself to the question instead of interrupting me. The fate of some who have fought for the Empire, who, in their declining years, have had to seek refuge in workhouses and pauper establishments, shows that something is needed to protect soldiers from want ; but my view is that we should have a national scheme of contributory pensions for all, that every one should contribute to a fund to provide for their support in old age. The contention of honorable members opposite that special consideration should be given to the members of the Defence Force suggests that we are not paying those men sufficiently good wages, that we are playing the part of the sweater, whom we so often condemn. If our soldiers receive so little that they cannot put by anything for the future, they should be paid at higher rates. I am aware that soldiers are compulsorily retired at a comparatively early age. Nowadays men as a rule take such care of themselves, living less rapidly than their forefathers did, that the average duration of life is longer than it was, and likely to still further increase during the next half-century. A captain is called upon to retire at the age of forty-five, although he could continue to give good service until he was sixty. Are honorable members prepared to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for East Sydney, who displayed considerable courage in proposing that domestic servants, coal lumpers, wharf labourers, and others, should be treated similarly to soldiers ? They, of course, have the old-age pension to fall back upon ; but so have the men of the Defence Force. Why should there not be a pension for every one?
– Men in civil vocations are not compulsorily retired at an early age, as naval and military men are.
– I admit that injustice; but it might be remedied in some other way.
– Men in ordinary vocations are retired by competition.
– I thank the honorable member for that remark. When 1 landed from the mail steamer at Adelaide, a couple of months ago, I saw a man who certainly was not forty-five years of age, already broken down by the toil that he had undergone. He was an unfortunate casual worker who had been retired from the vocation of wharf labouring, and had to depend on the generosity of passengers, because he could hardly carry a portmanteau 100 yards. He cannot obtain an old-age pension without waiting for many years, and I doubt if he will live long enough.
– If he cannot work, he can obtain an invalid pension.
– Although any one car perceive that the man is unfit for work in the usual sense, he would have great difficulty in proving that he is permanently incapacitated, and entitled to an invalid pension. I shall be glad to assist honorable members opposite in establishing a compulsory universal contributory system of pensions.
– .WhY not propose that after this motion has been passed?
– Why pass this motion, giving the men of the Defence Forces special treatment? Would it not be better to provide that they should be paid fair wages - sums sufficient to enable them to save something?
– There is no Arbitral tion Court for them.
– This is their ArbitrationCourt. I do not know why they should be asked to do out of sentiment what others are not prepared to do. The parents of Australia do not seem enamoured of the idea of making their sons professional soldiers. Evidently most people do not wish to be soldiers, and are unwilling to pay soldiers other than low rates of wages. I am in favour- of paying fair rates, which” will give the men of the Defence Forces the same chance as other public servants have of making provision for the time when they will be compulsorily retired.
– I shall not delay the House many minutes, as I am desirous that a division shall be taken on the motion. The honorable member for Capricornia seemed to wish to sidetrack the question. He asked why the men of the Defence Forces should receive pensions, and why coal-lumpers, wharf labourers, and the like, should not.
– Why should not shearers, rouseabouts, and others receive pensions?
– Coal lumpers, wharf labourers, rouseabouts, shearers, and others follow vocations which are open to all, and do not require special ability.
– Why does the honorable member keep a tar-pot in his shearing shed ?
– It does not require special ability to attend to the tar-pot at shearing time. Rouseabouts have not to study diligently, nor to pass severe examinations, like those who embark on a military career.
– They have to provide for their old age.
– Yes; but they can pursue their vocation so long as they have health and strength, whereas the men of the Defence Forces are compulsorily retired when in their prime, and cast upon the world with practically nothing. Military employment unfits a man for other work, because a knowledge of soldiering is of no value in civil employment. Not only have officers to study and pass severe examinations, but the rank and file have also to attend schools and to undergo severe studies. A gunner cannot become a master gunner without studying diligently for years, and passing severe examinations. It is absolutely essential that, with adequate remuneration and other inducements, the best type of young men should be attracted to the service. It is not well that men who, in other respects, are in the prime of life, should be thrust on the world without a penny in their pockets.
– Why not provide that their term of service can be extended ?
– For the sake of efficiency there ought to be a compulsory retiring age, because a man may arrive at a point in his career when he is incapable of performing the duties of his post, or, at any rate, not as capable as a younger man would be. I desire that when men are called upon to retire, they should have something to look forward to in the shape of an annuity or pension. If their pay has to be increased to such an extent that they can afford to contribute to an annuity fund, I cannot see much difference between that and a pension scheme. Failing pensions, as I propose them, I am prepared to accept a deferredpay system or any other that will make some adequate provision. The honorable member for Capricornia asked why the pay should not be such as to make pensions unnecessary; and if that honorable member were now in the chamber, I should invite him to support my motion, still on the noticepaper, for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into that very question. I hope that the Minister and honorable members generally will regard my motion favor ably, and will afford some assurance that the matter will be carefully considered. Every honorable member, I am sure, is desirous that no injustice shall be done to our Permanent Forces, which are really the nucleus of that great army we hope to model on the lines laid down by the greatest organizer in the Empire, Lord Kitchener.
– I recognise the good-heartedness of the mover of this motion which, I suppose, is the result of his life-long association with the glamour and charm of the camp ; but he advocates a system of which I cannot approve. The one ideal of the party to which I belong is to banish the word “pauper” and “pauperism” from the English language; and I hope to see the old-age and invalid pensions provide sufficient for all, whether they be of the military or of the industrial classes. I cannot see any difference in this connexion between a soldier and a man in civil occupation. From the point of view of danger, we know that the soldier’s risk is a minimum one when compared with that to which men in certain trades are exposed. In our Railway Departments, for instance, the shunters follow an occupation infinitely more dangerous than that of a soldier; indeed, statistics show that these railway men suffer under a very high death rate. Mr. John Burns has shown in his Annals of Toil that the death rate amongst certain workmen is infinitely higher than that amongst our soldiers. In a town outside Manchester, 815 out of every 1,000 children die in the first year of their lives - a fact sufficiently eloquent of the dangers of civil occupations. The charge of the Light Brigade is famous in song and history, though whether that charge was wise under the circumstances is a point on which Continental authorities differ.
– lt was the discipline that did it !
– At any rate, it was my lot, when a student in a hospital in London, to collect sixpences for one of those heroes. Both his legs had been removed, and the disease from which he suffered was such that he had to be periodically operated upon. He was undergoing his forty-third operation when he came under my notice; and I wish honorable members to recollect that it was the sixpences of the students that found him a wheeling chair. Tragedy is closely akin to comedy, and it was left to a good man in the person of Mr. T. H. Roberts, who edits the comic paper, Illustrated Bits, in England, to make an appeal to the British public to save this man’s comrades from starvation. That appeal is so pertinent that I think I may read it -
I recently forwarded to the chief newspapers of the Kingdom a letter, asking for help to enable me to continue my Balaclava Fund.
In response, I received a sheaf of letters, and some subscriptions - amounting to about £80 - nil of which is acknowledged below, in addition to other sums not directly consequent on my appeal through the press.
As will be seen, I have now about £130, and, as I pay out to the veterans £10 a week, it will be gathered that I have three months’ money in hand. I am, therefore, greatly in need of much further help, and I make a strong appeal for more generous assistance. I don’t beg for myself - indeed, as I pay all expenses, it is manifest that the longer the fund lasts the more I am, and shall be, called upon to pay.
But I don’t mind this. For over five years I have begged for these old heroes, and I cannot bring myself to believe that the generoushearted people of England will allow these old men to want for the common necessaries of life. I append a few of the letters received.
We know that British officers are well looked after when they are unfit for service, and the retired general’s list of Great Britain is the largest and most expensive in the world. In that standard work on Switzerland, written by Sir Francis Adams, Minister Plenipotentiary at Berne, it is shown that in the matter of pensions the Swiss Government are far more just to the rank and file than is the case in Great Britain. In that book we are told -
It is a subject for reflection to us, a great and powerful nation, that a little country, not possessing a tenth part of our wealth, can put into and maintain effectively in the field between 150,000 and 200,000 men, a feat which we, in spite of our enormous Budget, are incapable of achieving.
I know that the Australian Military Forces will be the most expensive in the world ; and to that I have no objection, provided that the necessary money is supplied from the land. To return to the Balaclava heroes, the neglect of which, in the past, has been a stigma on Britain’s fair fame, I should like to read a few letters which were sent to Mr. Roberts -
Dear Sir, - Seeing your appeal in Army and Navy Gazette for the survivors of the Balaclava brigade, I send you £3 towards it. I lost my only son, Lieutenant Malcolm Knowles, 1st Royal Dragoons, in South Africa, in the Delarey Drive on March 24th - at least, he received wounds in that action of which he died four days later. I am naturally therefore very interested in all soldiers, and glad to help. Believe me, yours very truly, Eleanor M. Knowles.
Sir, - Enclosed I send P.O. for 5s. for your fund. I am sorry I cannot send you a larger sum, but my means won’t allow it. I hope your appeal will receive a generous response. - Yours truly, A Sympathizer.
Dear Mr. Roberts, - Enclosed please find postal orders, value£3 15s., collected from the sergeants of this division, for the Balaclava Heroes Fund. A few days ago, two members of the division had a dispute over a penny, and to settle the dispute a 5s. bet was made, on the understanding that the amount should be sent to your fund. This was agreed upon, and the stakes were handed to me ; the remaining sergeants subscribed the £3 5s., making the total £3 15s. Trusting this will arrive in due course, I am, sir, your obedient servant, E. Palmer.
Sir, - I enclose a cheque for£10 for the survivors of the Balaclava charge, which my godfather and relative led. Regretting I cannot give more, believe me, yours faithfully, robert Brudenell Bruce, Commander, R.N.
It might be somewhat difficult, but I think we ought to be able to induce our officers to recognise the desirableness of wearing less pretentious uniforms. I have seen in this very building, in connexion with the opening and prorogation of the State Parliament, officers wearing the most ridiculous uniforms that ever met the eye of man.
– After all, it is the man, and not the clothes, thatthe woman appreciates. So absurd were some of these uniforms, that I remember a Minister remarking one day that their garments were fit for the Fakir of Oolu to wear. The hats which our officers wear shelter them neither from sun nor rain, and if they were to go into action wearing the uniforms which we often see them in, they would be promptly picked off by marksmen. I believe that public opinion is that the uniform which a soldier wears on active service should be fit for him to wear in the company of the highest in the land ; the uniform in which he is prepared to die should be sufficient to satisfy any man. I understand that staff officers’ dress and undress uniforms cost from £75 to £135, and if effect were given to this motion, it might be well to abolish that expenditure, and to deposit the money so saved with an institution which would be prepared, at the end of a certain period, to grant annuities in respect of amounts so invested. In that way many men might be saved from the pinch of want. I wish to read one or two more letters received by Mr. Roberts - 77 Onslow Gardens, South Kensington,
S.W., 25th July.
Dear Sir, - Sent you in October, 1900,£10 for the Balaclava fund in the name of my old friend G. R. Sims. I see you still want for the same cause - more shame ! - so to save my conscience I enclose £10, and feel most thankful that there are men like you who devote their valuable time to so truly a good cause. Believe me, very faithfully yours, W. Reed.
De Aar, S.A., 21st June.
Sir, - I have the honour to forward herewith the sum of £5, collected in the sergeants mess of No. 19 Co. A.S.C., for the purpose of helping to defray the cost of a dinner to the Crimea veterans, or to be spent in any other way you may think to be beneficial to them. I am, sir, yours faithfully, J. Langstone, Staff SergeantMajor, No. 19 Co. A.S.C., De Aar, S.A.
Buckingham Palace Hotel, S.W., 16th July.
Dear Sir, - I enclose£5 for the Light Brigade survivors. Your fund must be, and has been, an immense boon. Yours faithfully, Arthur Tremayne, Lt.-Col. (late 13th Light Dragoons).
Then follow statements showing that, up to the morning of 31st July, 1902, £168 19s. 5d. had been received for the fund, and a further statement of receipts and disbursements up to that date -
Payments to Survivors - 26 veterans, week ending 4th July, £9 18s. ; nth July, £9 18s. ; 18th July, £9 18s. ; 26 veterans, 25th July, £9 18s. ; total £39 12s. Balance in hand, week ending 25th July, £129 7s.5d- Total, £168 19s. 5d.
Receipts - 30th June, by balance, £6y 18s. 5d. ; July, by cash received as above, £101 is. Total,£168 19s.5d.
It was an Irish member of the House of Commons who first drew the attention of the British nation to the fact that these old men were sent to the workhouse. I have spent a night in a workhouse - an experience which perhaps no other honorable member has had - and I would rather go to any prison I have seen than spend such a night again. The workhouse is a stigma of infamy upon the British nation, and the people of Great Britain, if they had any respect for themselves, would not have insulted these old men by compelling them to seek shelter in such infamous places. On the occasion of my recent visit to England, I found that, owing principally to some Labour members having been elected to the councils of various British infirmaries; - that is the respectable name given nowadays to the workhouse - the conditions weremuch better than they were twenty-five or thirty years ago, when I spent a night in one of those institutions. I must admit that my second visit to the workhouse, as a friend of the medical officer, was far more pleasing than the first. Mr. Roberts, in referring further to the Balaclava Light Brigade Sur-. vivors Relief Fund, states that -
Through coming to Fleet-street some few of these men obtained employment and did not return to the Union, but there are still others who,, though not actually in “The House,” are, so to speak, at its portals. Many of them are very fine old men indeed, and it is looked upon as a national disgrace that they should need food - as they actually have done at times. A postal order for sums varying from 5s. to 10s. weekly (according to their different necessities) is sent. (at my personal expense) to each man every Friday night, as the giving of a large sum in bulk is not deemed by me a wise plan when dealing with men living literally “ from hand to mouth.” Each subscriber to this fund is asked to remember and note that every penny he sends these old veterans through the medium of this journal is expended for the purpose for which it is subscribed, and for no other purpose whatever. The whole expenses of correspondence, postage, administration, &c, have been and will be paid by the undersigned. - T. H. Roberts, 158 Fleet-street, London, E.C.
This is the first opportunity I have had to pay my meed of praise to this man. Some people may think that he has too much to say about the payment of expenses out of his own pocket ; “but if honorable members knew the attacks to which he has been subjected, they would be surprised at his mildness of expression. Is it not remarkable that the great British nation should have treated these old soldiers in this way?
– The American system is better.
– With all its faults, 1 think it is. If it errs at all, it errs on the side of generosity, and I have yet to learn that the American pension list is equal to the infamous pension list of Victoria. When I took out the figures some time ago, I found that the Victorian pension list was greater than that of the rest of Australia and New Zealand combined Although New South Wales has a population of some 200,000 in excess of that of Victoria, and is the parent State, this State is paying, by way of pensions, £2 for every £1 paid by her, and has, besides, a’ balance of£50,000 to the bad. I had tofight for two sessions to obtain the information for the public of Victoria. Sir George Turner availed himself of every means of delaying the work, until I put it to him asman to man that it was his duty to see that the information was supplied to me. He then did splendid work, and obtained it for me. It is the knowledge of the infamy of the Victorian pension list that leads me to. be against this suggestion of a pension for any privileged class. The annals of toil tell of occupations ten times more deadly than is that of a soldier. No country has a military death-rate equal to the death-rate “of the mother bringing the child into life - standing sentinel betwixt life and death. Every one knows, also, of the terrible death-rate- in connexion with the chemical works of Rutherglen, in the midland counties. A. few years ago it was stated in a British medical newspaper that the average life1 qf an’ agricultural labourer,, entering the service. of -these chemical works healthy and strong, .was only seven years, while the woman who is prepared to accept employment there can never hope to be blessed again with the God-given right of bringing a child into the world. We are told, further, that the man who washes himself immediately after leaving the works has his skin so pitted as to present the appearance of having, suffered from small-pox. I trust to the good sense of the House to recognise that no one should be left to starve by the wayside. No human being, having undergone some forty different operations, as did the poor old chap in St. Mary’s Hospital, of whom I spoke, should have to depend upon sixpenny-pieces gathered from students to supply him with a wheel chair. With all its faults, our wider pension scheme is the finest the world has ever seen. An honorable member of this House once said, very foolishly, that he saw no misery in London. I can only conclude that the glitter of the gold braid on his uniform was so dazzling that he could not see 3 inches before him. Had he been able to do so, he would have seen much misery in the lanes and by-ways of London. Let us extend our present system, and give those who have saved a little a chance to secure a pension. We might follow somewhat the lines of the system adopted by that magnificent country, Germany, and, in a lesser degree, by Switzerland, under which employers and employes contribute to a fund subsidized by the Government. If we establish a universal pension system of that kind the saving man will benefit by having more to spend. I want, ultimately, to see enacted with regard to the pension list a clause to the effect that the old-age pension is a right, and not a charity. With the pension made universal, the class which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is so desirous of assisting would not need to be picked out from the body politic to receive special favours, and no unpleasant flavour would be left in the palates of the people outside. I thought the death knell of civil service pensions was sounded in this Chamber in 1883, when Mr. Ramsay brought in his Bill to abolish them in connexion with the Public Service of Victoria. So long as I am privileged to be in this House, with a brain to think, and lips to speak, and a hand to write, I shall vote against a pension for individual or for class. I shall vote for equality for all. We know there is no equality in brains, but we can establish an equality in regard to pensions which will avoid the misery and wretchedness of want and privation when the years descend upon us.
– Surely the honorable member is not against insurance? The motion, as amended, provides for that.
– I am not, but the honorable member’s scheme to meet with my support must apply throughout the whole body politic. The amendment would be an improvement on the motion to the extent that provision would be made for the members of the Military Forces, either by deferred payments or an increased wage, but still it would be open to the same objection of picking out a special class. If the thing was applied to every one, both inside and outside the service, the members of the Military Forces would benefit by it simply to the same extent as the rest of the community. I take it that no one in this House desires to build up a military caste. History shows what happened when that was done in the case of the Praetorian guards of the old Roman Empire, who, when given privileges, became the greatest curse and bane that that mighty empire ever suffered, and in the case of the Strelitzer in Germany, who became a curse, not only to the reigning house, but to every one upon whom they preyed with parasitical intent, always for their own selfish ends, and also in the case of the Janissaries who preyed upon the royal house of Turkey, and upon the people of that wonderful nation in the same cruel and brutal way. If a small Committee from both sides of this House could agree upon a measure which would give the same lights to every human being, independent1 of whether he was in the military, or in the Public Service, or a member of the great public outside, I am sure this House would welcome it. I must, however, enter my emphatic protest against any class getting privileges not accorded to others.’ I protest against the military classes being specially benefited. I protest against anything that will lead to the creation of a military caste. If the wages of the members of the Forces are not enough, and the House can see its way to increase them, it should do so. So long as the returns from the land tax will pay for the defence of the community, there can be no bar to giving the Defence Forces decent wages. I do not know if any of the veterans of the Crimean war are still alive in England, but if they are they will, at any rate, get the benefit of the small pension of 5s. per week which England has at last granted to her aged. England should remember what America has done, not only for her officers, but for her rank and file. She might even go a little further, in view of the many unhealthy climates to which she sends her soldiers. The Gold Coast, on the west side of Africa, for instance, has been called the white man’s grave, and time put in there by British soldiers or sailors counts, I believe, fully one-third more than service in any other place. My final word must be a strong protest against the granting of a pension to any particular class.
.- I have often listened to the honorable member for Melbourne, and thought it a pity that so much beautiful sentiment and poetic diction should be wasted upon so prosaic, if not cynical, an arena as this. On this occasion, I have listened to the honorable member for an hour, and am quite unable to say now from his speech whether he is for or against the motion. He is eminently qualified to talk a motion of this kind out, and for a long time I suspected that that was his aim. The lilt of his language and the rhythm of his voice made me feel almost that I was in an old church. I expected the organ to break forth, and ultimately I found myself, quite consistently with the picture, almost falling asleep. The honorable member for Wakefield on my right actually did so. What have we to do with a sort of actuarial statement of the receipts and expenditure of a charitable fund of thirty years ago that appeared in Tit Bits, for that, amongst other things, is really what the honorable member for Melbourne has been putting before us ?
– Is 1902 thirty years ago?
– I hope the honorable member will not interrupt me.
He has had an hour. The question before us is a very practical one - whether we approve of a suggestion to the Government that a measure should in the future be brought in to deal with the question of pensions or annuities for the military and naval services. I do not think it matters what particular form the motion takes, because it is only an intimation to the Government that it is desirable that the question should be dealt with in the future. If the Government consider the motion a sufficiently representative one, passed by a sufficiently large majority, they will bring in a measure with which we shall have the opportunity of dealing in detail. The question of whether we shall use the word “annuity” or the word “pension,” and of whether we shall provide the money as a superannuation fund, can be dealt with in the Bill itself.
– What is the honorable member’s attitude?
– I am very much in sympathy with the motion. The honorable member for Capricornia is never himself unless he is universal. He always seems anxious to impress upon honorable members that his views are so broad that the House will not hold him. He therefore says there should be no pension for either military or naval men, unless there is one for every occupation in the country, particularly wharf labourers. There is, however, a very great difference between military and naval men and wharf labourers, for instance. Militray and naval men are the servants of the State ; the wharf labourers are the servants of the ship-owners; and, if anybody should be compelled to provide the wharf labourers with pensions, it would be the ship-owners, and not the State. If anybody is to provide a pension or annuity for soldiers and sailors, it should be the State as their employer. That at once gets rid of the distinction, which is not a distinction, that the honorable member made. A short time ago a pamphlet was published on the subject of pensions, containing two rather appropriate sentences which might be read to the House. It points out that in Part X., paragraph 123, of the Defence Act of 1903-10, it is provided that “ funds may be established “ for a variety of purposes, among others “ for the payment of annuities or gratuities to members of the Permanent Forces who are retired on account of age or infirmity/-‘
The Defence Act, therefore, actually anticipated something of this sort, by providing that a fund might be established for the purpose. The authors of the pamphlet anticipated that objections would be raised to the giving of pensions upon the ground that the soldiers and sailors of Australia were receiving more pay than those of Great Britain,’ where pensions are provided. Consequently, a comparative statement is furnished, showing the pay of warrant officers, non-commissioned- officers, and men, in Great Britain and Australia respectively. It is pointed out that, whereas in Great Britain a master-gunner of the third class receives 8s. nd. a day, a man in the same position in Australia receives only 10s. gd., or 20 per cent. more. A regimental quarter-master gets 8s. yd. in Great Britain, and us. here. An artificer in Great Britain gets 10s. sd., and here ns. ; a staff sergeant-major in Great Britain, 9s. 5d., and here 10s., a difference of only 6 per cent. A company sergeant-major in Great Britain gets 6s., and here 6s. 3d., a difference of 4J per cent. A sergeant gets, in Great Britain, 5s., and here 5s. 6d., a difference of 10 per cent. A corporal gets, in Great Britain, 4s., and here 4s. 6d., .a difference of 13 per cent. A bombardier in Great Britain gets 3s. 9d., “and here 4s. 3d., a difference of 14 Per cent; and a gunner in Great Britain gets 2s. 5d., and here 4s., a difference of 66 per cent. With the exception of gunners, in no case is the difference more than from 20 to 25 per cent. ; and I should like the Minister who represents the Government in this matter to ascertain whether the pensions given in Great Britain do not more than make up the difference between the Imperial and Australian rates of pay. I differentiate soldiers and sailors from those in other occupations; first, because the latter are at liberty to follow their vocations until they are compelled by old age and failing strength to desist, whereas in the Defence Forces men are compulsorily retired, in some cases, when in their full vigour. Secondly, men in the Defence Forces have little chance of acquiring a competence. A man who follows the vocation of a wharf labourer makes from £4 to £5 a week.
– Wharf labourers have great chances of becoming independent ‘.
– During the past few years I have read the statement several times in the newspapers that it has been admitted in evidence before the Arbi tration Court that wharf labourers make as much as £9 a week. No doubt, that is the highest figure in a wharf labourer’s earnings; but, reducing it by 50 per cent., it would be ridiculous to compare the rate of £4. or £5 a week with the pay of a sailor or soldier. The honorable member for Capricornia shed crocodile tears over the wharf labourer, and said that he would not dream of giving a pension to sailor’s and soldiers unless at the same time a pension was given to wharf labourers. I am in favour of providing in some way for the future of the men of our Defence Forces. Many of them may never have to risk their lives in the defence of their country, but they must all hold themselves in readiness to do so, and to go anywhere at a moment’s notice. Their occupation may be a demoralizing one, from its mere inactivity, when they are not actually engaged in war ; and in other ways they have little opportunity to better themselves. How provision for them should be made is a matter for consideration. I recognise the distinction drawn by the honorable member for Parramatta between a pension and an annuity, and the distinction between adding a pension to the existing pay and providing for a pension by the reduction, of existing pay. I have formed no opinion as to what form relief should take. That is a matter for the consideration of others. When schemes are submitted, it will be for us to say which should be adopted. Mr. Lloyd George, in his great speech on unemployed insurance, delivered a few weeks ago, stated that it was a crying disgrace to the people of England that some of their old sailors and soldiers, who had risked their lives in the defence of their country, have had in the last resort to go to the workhouse. That statement suggests that the pensions provided are so small that the men are still driven into the workhouses, or that, for certain classes, there are no pensions. Mr. Lloyd George recognised that it is of importance to the country that the men of these two great services shall not have the workhouse as the probable end of a strenuous career. Soldiers and sailors are compelled to forego the opportunities for making money. But it is to the interest of the country thai _we should encourage good men to enter these services, by holding out the prospect of an honorable termination to their careers. When the Judiciary Bill was under discussion, some ‘ members thought that the Justices of ‘ the High
Court would be too well paid to need pensions, but others, and I was among them, contended that it was to the interest of the country to provide pensions, because a Judge who was past his work could not be removed from his position unless his old age was provided for. As sailors and soldiers are compulsorily retired at ages arbitrarily fixed according to an estimate of the average physical ability of men to perform the work of the various grades, we should make provision for their after lives. Their occupation incapacitates them for other work. They are not qualified for civil pursuits. We cannot do wrong in urging the Government to consider the propriety of making the provision asked for, leaving ourselves free to criticise the details of any scheme that may be submitted.
– I have been struck with the divergence of views in regard to Commonwealth expenditure. Last night the financial experts of the Opposition insisted on the exercise of the greatest caution in regard to expenditure. But this afternoon the military experts of the same party ask us to provide pensions for sailors and soldiers, which, of course, cannot be done without increasing the public expenditure. If a pension system is established, the money for it must be taken out of revenue, and to provide revenue, taxation, direct or indirect, is necessary. As a supporter of the old-age pension system, I am not averse from considering proposals of this nature. We cannot, I think, separate our territorial and Naval Forces in considering the question of pensions.
– The honorable member has only five minutes, and there will not be another chance for a division again this session, I am afraid. Mr. THOMAS BROWN.- The honorable member has had his say, and he ought not to be so anxious to block me against having mine. If the honorable member had afforded me a little more time, I should have been . glad to give him the opportunity to have a division. I am not the. only member who has been waiting for an opportunity . to speak ; and I am going to exercise my right. At the same time, I may say that I have no desire to embarrass the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and, as a matter of fact, I am supporting his scheme.
– Yes, supporting it, as was done by another honorable member the other day, by talking it out !
– Order !
– That is a very unfair statement to make.
– It -is worthy of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition !
– It is; and if I were not a mild man, the honorable member for Parramatta would not make such a charge.
– What charge ?
Mr. THOMAS BROWN__ The charge that I am trying to talk this motion out.
– The honorable member is talking it out !
– The honorable member for Parramatta has no right to impute unworthy motives ; and I ask him to withdraw that statement.
– Am I imputing unworthy motives in simply stating a fact which is apparent to everybody ? The honorable member is talking the motion out;, and I am imputing no motives.
– The honorable member distinctly said that the honorable member for Calare was talking this motion out, and that is to attribute an ulterior motive tothe honorable member. The statement must be withdrawn; and the honorable member for Parramatta must not disregard the ruling of the Chair by immediately repeating the statement.
– That is something new nowadays. I withdraw the statement. It is a new ruling.
– I ask the honorable member not to make those comments, but to withdraw the statement unreservedly.
– Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the statement unconditionally and absolutely.
– I am very sorry that the honorable member for Parramatta is so concerned about my little address.
– I am not concerned about the honorable member at all, but only concerned about the motion.
– Every time I rise, I have the honorable member jibing at me.
– Order; will the honorable member for Calare proceed ?
– I think the Government will be well advised to consider the recommendations of Admiral Henderson, who drew a distinction between pensions and annuities. We ought not to follow the lead of the Old Country, but strike out in a new direction, and provide annuitiesfor the wholeof the Defence Forces, both
Naval and Military. A pension dies with the individual, but contributions to an annuity become the property of the surviving relatives and friends. The time for private members’ business is now exhausted, and I must ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted .; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 15th November, vide page 2702), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division I., the Parliament, namely, “ The President, ,£1,100,” be agreed to.
– When the Works and Buildings Estimates were before the Committee some time ago, I promised to make a statement in regard to the location of the Naval College. In fulfilment of that promise, I now desire to say that the Government have determined to fix the site at Jervis Bay. In the meantime, to enable the Minister of Defence to give the lads proper training until the buildings are ready for them at Jervis Bay, facilities of a temporary character will be provided with the greatest expedition,
.- The selection of the site for this College is, of course, of great importance; but, as I understand, it was considered chiefly, in the House at all events, in relation to the desirability of having it on Federal Territory, or what will “ become Federal Territory. I recognise the force of the argument in favour of that idea ; but it is also very important that facilities for naval practice should be kept in view, and that the locality should be one reasonably defensible without great cost. Are we to understand that this decision implies that the College is to be within Federal Territory, strictly so-called, irrespective of any naval considerations, or have the advisers of the Government considered this spot from a purely naval point of view, and are in favour of this choice? For instance, one can quite understand that at Jervis Bay itself there may be a series of sites which could be chosen for the particular building.
– The experts’ report, which I have read, places Jervis
Bay in a leading position, though not the first position, as regards defence, and for general purposes of utility for training, naval cadets.
– 1 was very much interested in the statement of the Prime Minister that the Government have come to a decision in regard to the Naval College. When I picked up the Estimates at the time of the right honorable gentleman’s Budget Speech, I gathered that the Ministerial mind was therein expressed. I found that the Ministry had made up their mind to establish it at some other place than Jervis Bay. Now we learn that, apparently, there have been two Ministerial minds. What has made the Ministry make up their minds on this occasion differently from the way in which they made it up after consultation with the experts with regard to Burraneer Bay ? When the matter was last before us a section of honorable members, mainly representative of Victoria, objected strenuously to the vote in connexion with Burraneer Bay on the ground that the free will of the Commonwealth had been captured, so .to speak, by an offer of some ,£40,000 odd, raised and subscribed in Sydney for a college in that locality.. On that occasion we .had the express denial of the PostmasterGeneral, who was in charge of the business, that there had been any such influence brought to bear. We had also his express statement that Burraneer Bay was the place where the experts thought the college ought to be.
– It was one qf the places.
– The Minister said it was the first in order of their preference.
– The first was Hobart.
– Yes, but I am speaking of their choice from the point of view of accessibility and on some other ground which I forget. There was a certain amount of discussion in the Chamber ; and, with the lofty disregard of consequences that signalizes this Government, noses were counted in order to see whether or not it was safe to proceed on the advice of the responsible advisers. Then the Government said that a statement would be made at some future date. Since then, it is common knowledge within the precincts of the chamber that the Government have been caucusing on the question of whether the caucus is as good a judge of naval requirements as are the experts appointed by the Government ! Now, some majority, - Heaven knows what ; it may be a majority of one - has decided, inspired by that lamentable provincial jealousy that introduces itself occasionally in our public affairs, to override the expert naval opinion ; and the Government have made up their minds afresh ! Could we have more clear concise proof of the fact that the Government of this country is an irresponsible caucus, and not a Ministry reponsible for framing and submitting the Estimates?
– All this is too late for the State elections.
– It is not too late to state a fact well known amongst honorable members - a fact which they are always vehemently denouncing and denying, but of which there- is here actual proof.
– Join our Country party.
– If I thought there was a Country party-
– There will be.
– However, I shall deal with that question in a moment. The Estimates show the intentions of the Government at the time they were presented. It is a well-known practice in Parliament that the Government do not depart from their reasoned Estimates, and take any alteration as a vote of no-confidence. This Government brought down the Estimates at a time when the caucus had not been invoked by miserable provincialism, and decided on the site at Burraneer Bay. There was trouble in the House from our Victorian friends, and immediately there was a caucus. With marvellous celerity, and a wonderful disregard of public duty and self-respect, the Government now have the effrontery to tell the House that the Ministerial intention is to establish the College at Jervis Bay.
– The Government have decided on the best place at last.
– I will discuss the honorable member’s interjection, as well as that made by the honorable member for Maranoa, who says, “ Let us join the Country party.” Is there in this House a .party that wishes to see the Government agencies of this country centred at the Federal Capital?
– I ask the honorable member not to deal’ with the Country party.
– I should like to know, sir, why I am out of order.
– The question of the Country party is not before the Chair.
– The question of the gr>vernment of this country is before the Com?mittee, and that government may be carried on by a Country or any other party.
– The honorable member would do better by imitating Ambrose Pratt, and writing to the World’s News.
– Even that would be better than imitating the honorable member, who writes to the newspapers when he is not reported. If there is to be a question of establishing Government agencies at the Federal Capital, we are entitled to have all Government agencies of this character established there.
– Including the Gunnery School.
– Every institute in connexion with the Defence Force, of which there is to be only one in Australia, ought to be centred at the Federal Capital, if, in obedience to the demand of our Victorian friends we are, on the pretence of developing Federal Territory, to establish the Naval College as far away from Sydney as they could hope to get it.
– I would refer the honorable member to page 190 of the Estimates.
– The Prime Minister refers me to the following .item -
Naval Barracks, Submarine Depot, Naval Gunnery and Torpedo School, Naval Training School, Naval Boys’ Training School, and Naval Midshipmen’s College - Sites and Buildings - Towards cost, ^53,000.
His object is to point out that there is no actual statement in the Estimates as to where the College is to be located. The fact is incontrovertible, however, that the Minister, in explaining these Estimates, stated that the Ministerial intention was that it should be established at Burraneer Bay. That was the site to which the Ministry pinned themselves. Why do we now find them departing from it at the instance of the Caucus? It is lamentable that, in a matter concerning the welfare of naval training, the Government should be prepared - and I do not say this offensively - to give precedence to the views ‘ of irresponsible experts in the Caucus - gentlemen who cannot be expected, within their own inner consciousness, to have solved this problem - over the advice of experts appointed by the Government.
– How is the honorable member able to say that Burraneer Bay is better than Jervis Bay as a site for this institution ?
– I may be no more qualified to do so than is the honorable member to enter into a discussion of metaphysics; but that is not the point. I am prepared to accept the advice of experts. If the honorable member is so vain as to regard himself as an expert, that is quite another matter. I am not.
– I am prepared to pit myself against the honorable member in this regard.
– It is now proposed to build this College in the heart of the honorable member’s electorate, and he is playing a popular part from the point of view of his electors in supporting the new selection.
– And it is a popular thing for the honorable member, from the point of view of his electors, to advocate the adoption of a site at “ Buccaneer Bay.”
– The honorable member, apparently, does not even know the name of the bay to which I refer. “Buccaneer” is not the name of the bay, although the word might be used in describing the attitude of the Government in determining that the College shall not be established on the sitechosen by the experts. I think the Government will be indicating that they are prepared to consider these questions purely with regard to the votes they can catch if they do not show their consistency in this matter by taking the Harness Factory and the Clothing Factory from the city of Melbourne to the Federal area.
– And the Cordite Factory.
– I do not know if it is practicable; but if it is, then the Cordite Factory also ought to be in the Federal Territory. What is good for one is good for all ; and if the Prime Minister does not act upon that principle, I think that he will be open to the charge of pandering to the most contemptible provincialism if it will only serve to catch a few votes in this chamber.
– The honorable member is ber accuse the honorable member for Illawarra of being contemptible?
– My honorable friend is still smarting under the reference I made to his eloquent appeals to the press to print his effusions. I do not want to be bothered while discussing this question. This Government backsliding is appalling to me. I had hoped to the last moment that the Government would stand by their publiclyexpressed intention, and choose the best site in the Commonwealth for the Naval
College. It appears to me that there is a tendency nowadays, in instituting investigations, to institute inquiries that will be satisfactory to the persons most directly concerned. Take, for instance, the various inquiries we have had affecting what are peculiarly State interests. There is, first of all, the inquiry into the sugar question. That is first, last, and foremost a Queensland Royal Commission of inquiry, which will place out of the range of its investigation the question of whether or not the people of Australia are to continue to bear the burden of maintaining the industry in Queensland. The question of whether the duty should, or should not, be removed will never be considered by this special Queensland Commission. The matter is an Australian one, since the Australian people have to foot the bill, and the Royal Commission should have been an Australian, and not a Queensland, body, representingalmost entirely Queensland interests.
– The great fruit industry was completely ignored in connexion with the appointment of that Commission.
– The honorable member will also agree with me that the Tasmanian Customs Leakage Commission was a purely Tasmanian Commission; so that it was only to be expected that it would recommend the payment of a large sum to Tasmania by the Commonwealth.
– It was not a Tasmanian Commission.
– We find this same principle running through all the inquiries into Australian affairs that have been recently instituted. Local selfish interests are inquired into by persons who are, by their environment, necessarily concerned mainly in the narrower view. That, 1 think, is deplorable.
– Tasmania had only two representatives on that Commission.
– What about the chairman?
– The honorable member is creating a lot of dissension amongst his own followers.
– My honorable friend is still sore ; but I really cannot help it.
– Come now. He spoke of the honorable member’s “ own followers.”
– That is where I differ from the Prime Minister. No one would accuse him of having followers. After the incident of to-night, we shall know that his place in the procession is that of marching proudly in the rear. We were told that we were to have the Naval College at Burraneer Bay; but as soon as there was trouble amongst His alleged followers, the Prime Minister hauled down his flag and came down to the House, with that Ministerial dignity which always associates itself with him, and announced a change of decision.
– If I were in his place, I would hit the honorable member in the eye.
– If the honorable member were in the Prime Minister’s place, he would do no such thing. This position of affairs is, in one respect, valuable. It shows conclusively that there is not the same tradition of Ministerial responsibility behind this Government as we have had in the history of this and other Parliaments.
– The honorable member will say, when he sees the report of the experts, that the site is a good one.
– Do they report as favorably upon the Jervis Bay site as upon the site at Burraneer Bay?
– About the same. The Burraneer Bay site, they say, is the more convenient.
– And they, therefore, recommended it.
– They did; but Hobart was the first choice.
– I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee in discussing questions at large ; but there are one or two features of this question that are worthy of our consideration. We have, for instance, the building of a number of ships in Sydney. There is the alleged building of a man-of-war there. The Commonwealth’ is supposed to find great comfort in the knowledge that ships of war are being built in Sydney. But what has really happened ? Ships of war are not being built there. The Commonwealth is not one whit more self-supporting as the result of the additional money being spent in the asvsembling of these vessels in Sydney. The parts and the material are all to be imported, and the ships are simply to be put together there. 1’ ‘ advocate the establishment of dockyards capable of building ships in Australia.
– At Jervis Bay?
– The whole thing is most comical ; but I wish to deal with this building of a cruiser and some torpedoboats apart from the recent lamentable in cident of Ministerial weakness, or absence of backbone, and to point out that these vessels are really not being built in Sydney. Everything in connexion with them is being imported, so that if Australia were to be isolated for years at a time - which is, of course, inconceivable, in view of the rapidity with which disturbances between nations are nowadays settled - and we wanted to construct a man-of-war here, nothing that we had done would have helped to place us in a position to carry out that work. Unless this is merely a votegetting proposal, like the selection of the Jervis Bay site for the Naval College, the appointment of the Sugar Commission, and the Tasmanian Customs Leakage Commission, why not let us go into the matter thoroughly, and consider the establishment of a great dockyard somewhere in Australia - wherever the experts may decide?
– Would the honorable member recommend the establishment of one at Lake George?
– What about the Darling?
– I am glad to see that my honorable friends opposite, judging by their hilarity, realize the absolute absurdity of the Ministerial position in regard to the Naval College and the lamentable, and almost degrading change of front on the part of the Ministry; but they should consider upon a broad basis this question of establishing a dockyard. The dockyard should be on a large scale, capable of taking the iron manufactured from Australian ores and converting it into armoured plates and other material to make the ships complete. Before we reached that stage, we should also be considering the question of turning out our own guns. If we want to make Australia self-supporting in this connexion we shall need to do something more than import from overseas, at great expense, the various . parts that go to build a war-ship and then assemble them in some incomplete dockyard in Sydney.
– What has become of the honorable member’s Free Trade views?
– I do not understand what is the matter with the honorable member. I do not know that Free Trade and defence have any correlation. They are almost as separate and distinct as is the attitude of the honorable member in decrying the capitalistic press and his supreme anxiety that the capitalistic press shall take some notice of him. The Government: might seriously send away to England some Board of Inquiry to consider what would be necessary to establish a Commonwealth dockyard. I think in a dockyard like that of Vickers, in the North of England, there is six or seven millions sterling worth of machinery. That firm turns out a ship right from’ the drafting of the designs to the guns and equipment complete. There are other great dockyards in England working on the same plan. That sort of thing cannot be established here by giving a bonus. To start it effectively in Australia an industry of that kind would have to be imported - lock, stock and barrel. If the Government are going to spend money on building ships in Australia, why not do the thing thoroughly, and build the ships, not merely pretend to build them?
The extraordinary attitude of the Government over the site for the Naval College is an excellent object-lesson to this Parliament , that the time is coming when the absurd and deplorable jealousy between the two great cities of Sydney and Melbourne should be taken in hand. The Australian people are not absolutely dependent on the whim> and caprice of these two great cities. We ought in this Parliament to take a broader view, and endeavour to advance the welfare of the Australian people. When we are establishing a great new service, upon the efficiency of which the welfare of this Commonwealth may ultimately depend, we should be prepared to sink this provincialism, to have no regard for Sydney, Melbourne, or any other place, and establish it where our expert advisers require that it should be placed.
– Namely, at Hobart.
– If they advise Hobart, yes. If they advise Fremantle, yes; but do not let us, who know absolutely nothing about the merits of this expert question, step in and act according to the dictates of some gentleman in an editorial chair behind the management of one of those newspapers which honorable members opposite profess to scorn, and are so keen to conciliate. Simply because those persons, whose identity is unknown to the Australian public, require that the interests of the constituencies that their newspapers serve should be always kept predominant over the interests of the Australian people, they try to have provincialism returned to this Chamber. It is deplorable that that sort of thing should be held to be sufficient ground for ignoring the opinion of expert advisers. If this is going to continue, the only way to check it will be to show that it does not pay. Wherever we find a man working for some special privilege or benefit for his own locality at the expense of the Australian people, members should mark him down, and let the people whom he is representing know that if that sort of thing is persisted in it will be the surest way for them to injure their own narrow interests. I regret having had to devote so much attention to this sub ject, and thank honorable members for bearing with my, perhaps, too openly expressed indignation upon it.
– I wish to express my regret that the Government have not followed the advice of their experts, and established the Naval College at Hobart. We have there the finest climate in the world, and an excellent harbor. The College if established there would serve its purpose well as a training-ground for the young officers of our future Navy. I am astounded at the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth that this matter has been fixed up by the Caucus. Before he makes such an absurd statement, he should have some authority for what he is saying.
– The honorable member knows that his party met and discussed this question in caucus.
– If there was any Caucus meeting at which this site was fixed up, I was not present. As a member of the party, I am surely entitled to be there, and would have been there had I known that any such meeting was taking place. The honorable member, however, has made the statement simply for electioneering purposes, so that he may be able to tell the people of the country that the “dreadful Caucus” altered the sitefor the College.
– The election is over.
– The honorablemember’s party is always preparing for the future. I do not take much notice of the honorable member, because he thinks no labour man should represent a city. Hence I can expect little support from him when 1 advocate the establishment of the Naval College at Hobart. The harbor there, on the authority of the captain of the ship in which I came from the Old Country, is one of the finest in the world. A professor at Neuchatel told me that Hobart should be the Neuchatel of Australia. He said, “ You have a climate equal to any in the world, and consequently the young men, if settled in that locality, would be the more fitted for the hard work they would have to do.” I hope the Government will not be influenced by the Victorian or New South Wales votes, but will be guided by the experts whom they asked to decide this great question. The College should be established on the Derwent, where eventually a dock is bound to be established capable of taking in our war-ships for overhaul. Major-General Edwardes, in reporting on the defence of Australia many years ago, pointed out that the key to Australia was Tasmania.
– That makes me smile !
– Let me tell the honorable member that a fair-sized boat cannot be got into Sydney Harbor. 1 understand that they are allowed to bring men-of-war into Sydney Harbor through one channel only, and that they cannot go out the way the ordinary shipping goes for lack of depth of water. In our harbor we have sufficient water to float the biggest ship in the world, and it has been suggested by shipping people that the cargoes from Australia should be lightered to Hobart, and there transferred into the big ships, which can easily get alongside our excellent piers. At one of the great harbors along the Australian coast, I noticed that a tug had to be put on to a ship to pull her away from the wharf. I saw two tugs trying for some time to get an ocean-liner away from the wharf in Sydney Harbor. In Hobart these big vessels simply back out from the pier. A ship can enter the harbor at Hobart and berth there cheaper than at any other harbor in the world. Eventually, all the great ocean-liners which come via South Africa will make Hobart the first port of call. It will be necessary, as a consequence, at times, to dock those ships there, and. if the Government had a dock at Hobart similar to the one I saw at Belfast, they would not only be able to use it for our own men-of-war, out also to let it out for the benefit of those great vessels. It is of no use for mainland members to try to stop Hobart from coming to the front. It must come, owing to its geographical position, and the advantages which it offers to shipping. As we develop our great Commonwealth, Hobart must become the most important shipping centre in it. The Government, therefore, would be serving the Commonwealth well if they established there, not only the Naval College, but also docks, and trained there the young men who will have to officer the Navy that we hope will not be long in growing up for the protection of the whole Commonwealth. I appeal to the New South Wales members in particular to drop the New South Wales business, and not to be parochial, but to become Nationalists. I am tired of sitting here and hearing of Victoria versus New South Wales.
– Will the honorable member also drop Tasmania?
– I have looked at every question that has been brought before this House from a national point of view, I have voted purely Australian every time, otherwise I should never have voted for the Capital site as I did, or for the transcontinental railway as I did, or for the acquisition of the Northern Territory. Being a Nationalist myself, I again appeal to New South Wales and Victorian members to drop the parochial feeling which is continually being shown, much to the detriment of the Commonwealth.
– I was not altogether surprised to hear the statement of the Prime Minister that the Government had turned a complete somersault on the question of the location of the Naval College. Only last week the Government had made up their minds that the College was to be established at Burraneer Bay, and matters had proceeded very far in the direction of securing that site for the purpose. For some reason or another, not disclosed to the House, the Government have seen fit to change their minds suddenly, and’ have decided to locate the College at a place which was certainly not recommended by their responsible naval advisers as the best site for the purpose. We had an evidence in the House only last week of the influences which, no doubt, have been at work on the Government in order to induce them to change their minds. For some reason some of the Ministerial supporters showed a dislike to the site. Probably not one of them has visited it or the other sites, but they nevertheless claimed to be in a better position than the experts who saw, examined, and reported on the whole matter, to determine what the Government should do.
– I was in favour of the site now adopted. The experts at first recommended Cronulla.
– Burraneer isclose to Cronulla beach, and in the Cronulla district. The two places are in my electorate. I refrained from taking part in the discussion last week because there is a division of opinion among the residents of the locality as to whether it will be of advantage to have the Naval College there, and I had no wish to take sides with one section against the other. And, moreover, as the Caucus had taken the matter in hand, I knew that nothing I or any other man on this side of the House could say would prevail against minds already strongly prejudiced. Those who own the land which would have to be resumed are themselves objecting to the resumption. It was, of course, purely a matter for the Government to determine in the light of the advice of their naval experts. The Minister of Home Affairs told us that the site first chosen was the most suitable that could be dreamt of, and one of the finest places on earth, and everything seemed to point to its immediate resumption and the erection of the College.
– That land will be worth in the future even more than, it is worth now.
– No doubt. The value of the land in the district has increased by leaps and bounds during the past few years. Many city people have acquired allotments there, and live on them during week ends, and some throughout the year. Since the opening of the new tramway there is rapid communication with the city. Consequently, as a commercial speculation, the resumption would have been a good thing. But the Government have made a volte- face. Although last week Ministers declared this site to be not only the best in New South Wales, but the best on earth, and proposed the voting of a sum of money for its acquisition and the erection of the necessary buildings, they have since, in consequence of the antagonism of certain Caucus supporters, and the Victorian members, who may always be relied on to defeat any proposal for spending money in the neighbourhood of Sydney, become frightened, and to-night the Prime Minister stated that the College is not to be erected on what was declared to be the best site, but that a site less suitable was to be chosen. No reason is given for the change. With that lack of courtesy which is characteristic of the present occupants of the
Treasury bench, we are refused a reason for this change of front. If it is to be assumed that because the Caucus, behind closed doors, has settled the country’s business, the Committee is to be told nothing, it will be necessary to make a firm and perhaps a prolonged protest. That section of the Committee which constitutes the Opposition is directly responsible to its constituents. No one has a right to dictate to any member of the Opposition, nor to interpose between him and his constituents. Honorable members opposite, however firm their convictions, must bow to the will of the majority in Caucus, though, of course, in unimportant matters they are allowed a certain degree of liberty. In matters affecting policy, the Caucus decides everything, and the minority must knuckle down to a majority of one.
– Honorable members opposite ran a Government for eleven months with a majority of one.
– That was a voluntary arrangement; there was no hide-bound Caucus, and no coercion. Every member of this party is free to exercise an independent judgment on public concerns. We know nothing about Caucus rule, which hampers only honorable members opposite. We are men of free conscience and free will, and are undismayed by and uninterfered with by any one. I hope that in time honorable members opposite may be released fromtheir present thraldom, and may be free to act as they think right in the interests of the people. But the Caucus has issued its ukase to the Ministry on this Naval College site, and although the Ministry had previously determined on Burraneer Point, they must now affect to be perfectly satisfied that Jervis Bay is the best place. Honorable members on this side have every reason to complain of the lack of Ministerial courtesy shown in the absence of replies to many questions of great magnitude. Not one Minister during the progress of this debate has replied to the pertinent criticisms offered, and requests for information on important points ; but all have preserved a stony, frigid silence, almost painful to witness.
– There is nothing to reply to !
– Is that so ! We are told by the Government - “ The Caucus has settled everything ; what more is wanted ? You honorable members opposite are’ merely the representatives of the people as a whole, whereas we, on the Government side, represent organized Labour - a small section of the community, which happens to be on top; we have settled the country’s business, and it is not the business of the country to know how we settle it. Let them be satisfied with whatever we decide upon in secret.” Is that the attitude of the present Government ?
– That is not true !
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark.
– I am sorry that my innocent comments should ruffle the temper of the genial honorable member for Denison, who is usually so urbane and pleasant that I should be very sad to give him any offence. He, however, knows the facts are as I have stated them, and I think there is a legitimate cause of complaint at the attitude of the Ministry.
– We have cause of complaint too - the Opposition is so inquisitive !
– It is the business of the Opposition, and of all representatives of the people, to be inquisitive where the expenditure of the people’s money is involved. My complaint against honorable members opposite is that they are not sufficiently inquisitive on the floor of the House ; whatever they may be in the Caucus, we do not know, and they do not tell us. Our attitude towards the Government and their supporters is one of Christian forbearance; but we have to remember that we are dealing with minions that come out of the pockets of the people, and it is our duty to know how the money is to be expended, and the policy underlying the expenditure. If we are denied that information, what are we to do? Are we to sit still, and not complain? I know what would happen if the positions were reversed, and my honorable friends opposite were in Opposition; not a single item of the Estimates : would . be passed until information, satisfactory or otherwise, had been supplied. The amenities of Parliament, and common courtesy, demand the recognition of the Opposition, not because of any claim we may have personally, but because we are speaking for the constituents we represent ; and the information is necessary to enable honorable members to intelligently grant or withhold supply. Only two or three days ago one of the leading newspapers of Melbourne,, which hitherto has warmly supported theLabour party, published an article in which the Government is referred to in very uncomplimentary terms. For instance -
That party has been weighed in the balance,, and the scale kicks the beam. It is a failure,, and it is very much a fraud as well as a failure. Its record is a foul one - a greedy grasping of the spoils, an abandonment of work for a surrender to political laziness and well-paid luxury, and a betrayal of its promises to its allies who put it into office. There is no room for repentance tomen who act like that; and the Boothby election may well stand up as a spectre to terrify the Labour leaders for the remainder of their tenure of office. It is at any rate a handwriting on the wall.
– What newspaper is that?
– The extract is from the Age of the day before yesterday; and when I read it I could not help remembering that that paper not long; ago was backing up the Labour party for, all it was worth. Apparently, that newspaper has not much foresight, or it must have known that the conduct of which they now complain was inevitable. There are quite a number of points on which I should like a little information, and one of the most important, in view of the early opening of the Panama Canal, is the policy of the present Government in regard to the control of the Pacific. This is a question that appears to be absolutely neglected by the Government, and, I am afraid, one that has been neglected by previous Governments.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we ought toannex the Pacific ?
Mr.W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.- No.We have, unfortunately, not the power to do so, even if we desired to do so, but we ought to have a statement as to the Australian policy in regard to the Pacific, because I am sure that it represents a great problem that we shall have to face in the near future. With the opening of the Panama Canal in the course of three or five years, the aspect of the Pacific will undergo an entire change. From a’ comparatively unfrequented ocean it will become one of the busiest highways in the world’s commerce ; and our interests will be entirely wrapped up in its development. Are we to stand by and see all the islands of the Pacific pass under foreign flags ? Foreign nations are, and will be, acquiring commercial and other interests in the islands, necessitating the employment of a very much larger naval unit than any of these nations possess in this part of the world at the present time. It may be that a number of islands, or groups of islands, may pass - as, in fact, they are passing - into the hands of Britain’s greatest commercial rivals, with whom, if trouble arises, we are most likely to come into conflict. We shall have to consider what our position here in Australia will be when such a change comes over the complexion of the Pacific.
– Those nations cannot do worse with the islands than we are doing with Fiji.
– I agree with the honorable member, and that is one of the reasons why we should have a definite statement in regard to the Pacific policy of the Government, so that we may prevent the development of a policy in other groups of islands which, in Fiji, is fast destroying one of the finest coloured races that, I suppose, can be met with in any part of the world.
– What have we to do with Fiji?
– We have nothing to do with Fiji at the present time ; but there is no reason why we should not have everything to do with that island colony.
– We do not manage the Empire yet !
– That is quite true; but representations might be made to the Imperial authorities, with a view to obtaining sanction to administering British Possessions in the Pacific from Australia. At any rate, the Imperial authorities might go to the extent of permitting the appointment of a Resident Commissioner in Australia instead of in Fiji. Australia is much more in touch with the Old Country, and the other nations of the world than is Fiji; and the administration of the British Pacific could be much more economically -and effectively carried out from here than from Fiji. That, however, is only my personal opinion; and I merely wish to impress on the Government the importance of recognising those changes which are sure to take place in the Pacific. We have, to consider what effect the present trend of development is likely to have on our trade and commerce, but we have no evidence that the Government have really thought about the matter in any way.
– The honorable member asks for a policy about every object under the sun !
– We . ought to have a statement as to the national policy in a matter of this far-reaching importance, or, otherwise, we are neglecting the interests of Australia. In this connexion, I see before us a great problem, the solution of which is likely to cost, not only ourselves, but Great Britain, millions of money, with probable great sacrifice of life. Since the item with which we are dealing relates to the Parliament I should like to make a passing reference to the poor quality of the stationery supplied for the use of honorable members. In writing to my constituents I am ashamed to use such miserable paper as that which is supplied to us. Another matter relating to the Parliament is the payment of overtime to the attendants of the House. Towards the end of each’ session the attendants have invariably to remain on duty for long periods without a break, and I think that some extra. remuneration ought to be paid both to them and to all the officers of the House for extra services. I read the other day of the discovery of what appears to be an authentic plan of Captain Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, and I think that some effort should be made to acquire it for the Federal Library. Even if we could not obtain the original plan we should secure a fac simile of it, and have it placed in the care of the Archivist. The Sydney Daily Telegraph, two days ago, reproduced the plan, and gave a full statement of how it came to be unearthed. That issue in itself is worthy of being preserved in our archives as one of the records of our discovery, progress, and development. I desire now to refer to the Postal Department, but shall not make any lengthy reference to it at this stage, since I shall have an opportunity to deal with’ details when the Estimates relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department are before us. Generally speaking I think we require to obtain the services of a sort of Postal Kitchener to examine the whole of the branches of that Department. We need a man of wide experience - he need not necessarily be obtained from a particular country - in dealing with postal, telephonic and kindred matters to make a thorough examination, to point out the defective features of the service, and the best means of placing it upon a satisfactory basis of working and management. It is true that a recent Royal Commission acquired a considerable amount of evidence on the subject, but, quite apart from that inquiry, we should have an investigation by a man of wide experience who could be depended upon to give an absolutely faithful report, unswayed by local or other considerations, and who could not be suspected of a leaning towards any party policy.
– That would mean more delay.
– We thought it advisable to obtain the best expert advice regarding our Naval and Military Defence, and the result of our experiment in that direction has been such as to justify the belief that an independent inquiry such as I suggest in regard to the Postal Department might be of great value to us. It might suggest to our minds new schemes, and as the result of the inquiry we might be able to remould some of our opinions and to remodel the present system with great advantage to the community. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Gwydir make a splenetic attack upon the Public Service Commissioner. His remarks, in reference to the Commissioner, appeared to be tinged with a large measure of personal bias, and to that extent he discounted the value of his own hostile criticism. My experience of the Public Service Commissioner is that he is a very capable man, working under great disadvantages. I think that he desires conscientiously to do his duty without fear and without favour. It is always unfair to make attacks upon those whose official positions preclude them from being able to stand up in their own defence. We should refrain as much as possible from unnecessarily bringing under review the work of such officers, with the object of adversely commenting upon them, unless the circumstances are so flagrant as to warrant some special notice or direct action being taken.
– Will not the Minister defend the Public Service Commissioner when he replies?
– The Postmaster-General did so. I invite the Committee to consider whether it would not be wise to have three Commissioners instead of one. The Public Service Commissioner is placed at this great disadvantage: that, unless his Deputy is acting for him temporarily, he must always be at the head office. He must be at the centre of the key-board, so to speak, and must necessarily depend largely upon the reports of his subordinate officers. They, in turn, are dependent upon the heads of Departments who, in their turn, are dependent upon the recommendations of the sub-heads of Departments. It is very difficult for one Commissioner to keep his linger on the pulse of the whole service. It seems to me that if three Commissioners were appointed, two of them - not necessarily the same two at all times - could be. .always travelling through the various States while the third remained at the central office. In ‘that way the Commissioners would be brought more directly into touch with the working of the service.
– The inspectors do that now.
– We need something more than the work of the inspectors. If we had three Commissioners two would always be able to make personal investigations of complaints, and, perhaps, to settle them on the spot. Each would be a sort of individual Wages Board, a Board of Appeal, and a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in one.
– That would mean the abolition of the inspectors.
– I recognise that the honorable member, as an ex-Postmaster-General, has had more experience of the matter than I have had, and if he thinks my suggestion would not be expedient, I must at once admit that he is in a better position to judge than I am. Under the existing system grievances accumulate and gather like a snowball, until they assume such enormous proportions that their contemplation must almost stagger one. Several complaints have been brought under my notice, and I have addressed several letters to the Department, in regard to the non-payment of accumulated overtime due to sorters. The system of overtime has been running on for years, and the sorters affected have neither been paid overtime nor allowed time off in respect of it. There have been brought under my notice a number of cases which I have, from time to time, placed before the heads of Departments, but, so far, not much redress has been obtained for those who have apparently a legitimate grievance in this connexion. I have here an example : One man who has been employed as a lettercarrier says that he and others worked, from 1906 to 1908, over 1,000 hours of overtime. An official of one of the associations writes as follows -
The Public Service Commissioner approves of eighty-eight hours per fortnight being fixed as the ordinary hours of letter-carriers, but they may be required to work ninety-six hours per fortnight before being’ entitled to claim equivalent time off. This decision to be brought into operation in each State from a time convenient to the Department.
That was embodied in a circular memorandum, number 10, issued from the Central Office about 1st January, 1907. The writer adds -
Prior to such ruling the Public Service Commissioner gave a ruling about 1904 - that officers of mail branch should work eighty-four hours per fortnight, and such ruling was in operation from 1904 to 1907.
Some specific cases are also mentioned, with which I shall not trouble the Committee, but the question of overtime seems to be a source of great trouble in the Department, and should be dealt with on a fair basis. It is unreasonable to ask any number of employes to work overtime year after year without giving them either time off or monetary payment for it. I wish to direct attention to the action of the Customs iHouse officers in placing difficulties in the way of local manufacturers. I had occasion to complain of a case where a factory in my own district was using a patent tire. They had been forced to go to Belgium to have the tires turned out because they had failed, after repeated trials, to get anybody in Australia to make them. The firm brought the tires in free of duty for a time, with the approval of the Department, as bar iron, which it undoubtedly was, and then they were suddenly called upon to pay duty, after issuing all their price-lists. They thus found themselves placed at a great disadvantage as the result of that increased imposition. Their patent tires were really slightly flanged iron tires, and the improvement consisted merely in turning up about one-eighth of an inch on one side to grip the wood. Because that eighth of an inch of bar iron was turned up, however, the Customs officers classed it as channel iron - a term applied, I believe, to the tires used for motor cars and vehicles of that kind, and to special heavy iron productions used in building construction - an entirely different matter, because this is an ordinary bar-iron tire which ought to come in duty free. It was admitted free for some time, until the Department thought they would get some revenue from that source. I have protested against this action to the Customs authorities, but, unfortunately, the Minister has upheld them, and we can get no redress.
– Why do you not stick the Government up about it?
– It is not the fault of the Government, but of the system of allowing departmental officers to fix the Tariff.
– They interpret the Tariff.
– They do more; by administrative action they fix it. They go behind the back of Parliament, and in some cases put on duties ‘which Parliament never contemplated. I am certain that Parliament would never have put a duty on the article to which I have referred, and yet the Customs officers have power, at their own sweet will, to change articles from one item in the Tariff to another. When Parliament was dealing with the duties, it thought that it was making certain articles free, but afterwards it discovers that, through administrative action on the part of the Customs officers, they have been made subject to duty.
– We gave the Customs officials that power.
– It is a powerwe should never have given them to exercise indiscriminately, or, at any rate, it should never be exercised in a way in which Parliament clearly intended it should not be exercised. A certain amount of discretion should be given to responsible officers ; but when that is carried to the extent of overriding the wishes of the elected representatives of the people, it is time we raised a complaint. Recognising that it is the wish of all parties to get through the business quickly, so that we may complete our labours before Christmas, I propose to reserve my remarks on a number of other subjects to the discussion of the Estimates of the various Departments. I hope that before this debate closes, some member of the Government will reply to a number of questions that have been asked on this side of the House, and furnish necessary information which has been courteously asked for, and which we are entitled to receive, but which, so far, has, it seems to me, been contemptuously withheld.
.- I had hoped that the Government would adhere to the site at Burraneer Bay for the Naval College, because there is little doubt that it is the best in Australia for the purpose. My idea of the Naval College is that it is more in the nature of a university than a place where actual practical training on ship-board is given, as some people think should be the case. It is hardly necessary that everything connected with the Commonwealth should be placed at or near the Federal Capital Site. In Great Britain all the Government institutions are not concentrated in London. They are placed at Portsmouth, Aldershot, Chatham, Woolwich and other places ; and depots in connexion with the Naval and Military services (are, in fact, scattered all round Great Britain. That is a reasonable example for us to follow. The boys at the Naval College should be in such a position that those dear to them may have easy access to them at various times. If they are taken to Jervis Bay, they will be removed for long periods from every opportunity of seeing their people. It is mostdifficult and expensive to get to Jervis Bay, and it should be remembered that the boys who attend the College will come from all parts of Australia. The surroundings of Burraneer Bay would be sufficient in themselves to encourage the boys to take great interest in their work at the College. On one side there would be the ocean, and on the other the National Park, one of the most beauteous spots on this side of the globe. A mistake has been made in deciding to locate the College at Jervis Bay. I have no feeling in the matter, so far as the State is concerned. I am sorry that the Government have made no provision in the Estimates for resuming the area adjacent to the Sydney Post Office. The longer the delay in taking action, the more difficult and costly will it be for the Government to acquire the land. I hope that on the next Estimates a sum will be put down for the purpose. It is utterly impossible for the Department to do anything by tinkering with the present postoffice. The building is not suitable, and cannot be made larger unless some of the buildings close to it are resumed. I believe that the Government are favorable to the idea of resumption, but it is of no use for them to delay the matter. The sooner a sum is placed on the Estimates for the purpose, the better. No honorable member who has at any time been in Sydney, and has any knowledge of the city, will refuse to admit that steps should be taken to enlarge the General Post Office there; and I trust that the Government will take the matter into serious consideration.
– A flashlight photograph of the Chamber at the present moment would be a splendid commentary on the Government’ s professions of intense responsibility in regard to our Australian finances. Of seventy-five honorable members, only ten are presentwhen the expenditure of millions is under discussion; and for the first time a paid Minister is at the table.
– I have not been out of the chamber for more than twenty minutes. I have been studying the Victorian election results.
– Last night, in a lucid and able speech, the honorable member for Mernda, by a review of the financial circumstances of the Commonwealth, and the proposals of the Government, showed how dangerous is our present financial position, and how little Ministers realize that danger. I did not hear the Budget speech-, but it reads like an incoherent jumble of type- written official statements, put before the House without continuity or connexion, and reminding one of the universe after the first act of creation, in that it is “‘without! form and void.” The speech of the honorable member for Mernda called to mind the happenings of the second day of the creation, when the Almighty said, “ Let there be’ light.” We were very properly reminded of the truism that history repeats itself ; and the honorable member took us back twenty-five years, to a time when the State of Victoria was enjoying the same booming affluence as the Commonwealth is now experiencing. He spoke of the circumstances and symptoms preceding the bursting of the boom here ; but the warning that he offered appears to have had no influence on the Prime Minister, who seems to count on the continuance for all time of the immense flood of revenue now flowing into his coffers, and to propose expenditure unworthy of a discreet and far-seeing man.
– Before the dinner adjournment the honorable member was urging still further expenditure.
– The honorable member has already uttered that jibe; but he must know that what the honorable member for Parramatta suggested could not have effect for ten or fifteen years. All we asked the Government to do was to take into consideration the propriety of introducing a Bill to provide for future pensions or annuities for our sailors and soldiers, who would not become entitled to them for many years.
The honorable member for Mernda established a parallel between the circumstances of Victoria in 1888 and those of the Commonwealth at the present time. The Prime Minister himself has admitted that there are warnings from other parts of the Commonwealth of a more serious state of affairs. He said in his Budget speech : “ There are warnings from other parts of the Commonwealth of a more serious state of affairs.” Yet, with the possibility of the return of a series of years of drought, and the complete change of our financial conditions, he persists in living in a fool’s paradise, and in making one for other people. The estimate of the revenue for 19 10- 11 was £16,800,000, and the actual revenue £18,800,000, or £2,000,000 more, an unmistakable symptom of a boom. But for 1911-12 the Treasurer estimates a. revenue of £19,515,000, and proposes an expenditure of nearly , £4,000,000 more than that of last year. Honorable members are not youths who have suddenly come into the possession of estates, but men with experience of life, and with some knowledge of business and commerce, gained, if not in the control of large concerns, in the management of their private affairs. We know that the business of a State should be managed on the lines which govern the management of a private business, and should be characterized by caution, foresight, and a judicious provision for contingencies. Yet the Prime Minister, with ominous signs of change ahead, proposes to increase the expenditure of the Commonwealth by £4,000,000. That is not all. The Labour party is committed to an extraordinary doctrine, one which is not recognised in any other civilized country, and refuses to borrow to pay for great public works of a permanent or revenueproducing character. Any business man, be he merchant, banker, large storekeeper, or manager of an insurance company, would say that capital expenditure is not to be taken out of revenue. When a merchant adds a story to his building, or enlarges it by extending his premises on adjoining land, he does not pay for the work out of the profits of the year. He has a balancesheet showing his capital, and another balance-sheet showing his profit and loss. The Labour party, however, is committed to. a policy of not. : borrowing for works which should be paid for out of the capital account. We have embarked upon proposals which will cost something between £20,000,000 or £25,000,000 . An agree ment with South Australia binds us to the taking over of certain lines, and the construction of others, which will mean an expenditure of a further £10,000,000. The construction of a railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta has been estimated to costbetween £4,000,000 and £6,000,000, and the Australian Navy, which, according to Admiral Henderson, will cost £22,000,000; spread over twenty years, involves £2,000,000 per annum in addition to an annual outlay for maintenance of £750,000. I shall show, too, that this principle of not borrowing, which is contrary to all business practice and political experience, is not being honestly observed. So much is evident from expressions of opinion by Ministers, and from the actions of the Government. Honorable members on the Ministerial side seem to think that so long as they do not raise direct loans, as loans, they are not borrowing; but I ask them to fairly consider what we have actually done. We have issued IOU’s, as the honorable member for Mernda pointed out, to the public for nearly £10,000,000 ; that is to say, we have invited the public to lend us 10,000,000 sovereigns for £10,000,000 worth of our promissory notes, payable at sight. Then we have established a trust account, which I notice the Treasurer is playing with much as a boy might play with some money he had been asked to hold in his pocket. The Prime Minister, contrary to an Act of Parliament, is from time to time taking money out of this fund, and putting it back again, as if he were entitled to do so without restriction ; and, while proclaiming the impropriety of loans, he has been lending. £5,000,000 or more to the States which are managed by Labour parties, and thus directly encouraging Labour Governments to do the very thing which his Government and his party profess to condemn.
– In Victoria and Tasmania there are not Labour Governments.
– I did not say -there were; but in New South Wales there is a Labour Government.
– New South Wales is not . the only State.
– I do not say that either ; but the honorable member is nothing if he is not - since his recent trip to England - broad and Imperial. If, however, there is one State in this position it is sufficient for my argument - sufficient to show that the Prime Minister of Australia, who denounces borrowing and loans, has gone so far as to seduce a State into borrowing money by offering it at per cent.
– The State would have had to borrow money in any case.
– That is not the question ; I am speaking of the actions of the Prime Minister, and of the extraordinary contradictions they reveal. Either this no-borrowing policy is a policy, or it is not. Are we to make a lip-service of it, and, while declaring that we will not borrow ourselves, permit the observance to be so elastic as to lend to other Labour Governments money which we, it must be remembered, have first borrowed from the people? It is like going to your friend, Dick, and saying, “ It is a wrong thing to borrow, but will you lend me a sovereign” ? and then going to your friend, Tom, and Saying, “It is a wrong thing to borrow, allow me to lend you half of this sovereign,” and following this up with a Pecksniffian declaration, “ We are against borrowing.”
– Who gets the interest ?
– What on earth has that to do with the question ? It seems to be a matter of price with my honorable friend. I am in favour of borrowing for certain purposes; but I would borrow according to a recognised principle. We have another proposal to borrow, without using the word “ loan.” We are establishing a Commonwealth Bank, and one clause of the Bill provides that the Governor of the institution shall be allowed to receive deposits from the public. What is that but borrowing from the public on terms ? The Prime Minister, while he and his party talk about not borrowing in any way, is thus going to borrow all he can from the public; and he actually admitted last night in his speech on the Banking Bill that it was possible by better management for the Government institution to come into competition with the other borrowing organizations in the State - the other banks. Would it not be more honest and straightforward, I ask, and more likely to win the respect of the public, if the Government were to say, “ We have made a mistake; we find by experience we cannot lay down a hard and fast rule against borrowing; we find we must bor row from time to time from the public, or from financial institutions, for certain purposes.”
– So we do.
– That is exactly what I am contending; but I submit that there is no discrimination, and the borrowing is done by a subterfuge, because the party is pledged not to borrow. Has there been any talk about borrowing for such a work as the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway? Is that not a permanent capital work which will produce in a short time its annual fruit, so to speak? Ought we not to apply to such works the same principle as is applied by the State Governments to their railways ? Can any honorable member point to a State in the whole of Australia - Labour governed or otherwise - which is attempting to pay for the construction of its railways out of its revenue? On the contrary, loans are raised and interest is paid out of the railway receipts each year, and the surplus, over and above interest and expenses, is called the profit on the railway. In common honesty, let us use words in their honest and proper sense. If the Labour party borrow, they ought not to borrow surreptitiously, and deceive themselves with the idea that they are not doing as other people do ; on the other hand, if they say they will not borrow at all, let them give up the idea and honestly confine our expenditure within limits that clan be legitimately covered by our revenue.
I shall now endeavour to show the directions in which we are failing to apply business principles to our expenditure. We propose, during the present year, to spend £783,000 on permanent post-offices. Have we any right to charge the people of this generation with the capital expenditure on those post-offices? We know the land we buy will increase in value by the mere fact that post-offices are placed on it. I am not counting on the increase in value in order to enforce my argument; but if we spend this £783,000, the people of this generation should pay only the annual interest on the outlay. Those post-offices will be handed down right through generation, after generation as capital property of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member desires unborn generations to pay our debts.
– We ask unborn generations, who will get these post-offices, to pay their annual value, because those same generations will derive continuous revenue from them out of which they should pay their share of the interest on the loan by which they are paid for.
– What would we do with our revenue?
– I do not know how much revenue there is, but I should pay our debts with it.
– We do not owe anything.
– The honorable member must have heard me say that we are about to embark on an expenditure of ^25,000,000 ; and we ought not to draw more from the people than is required for our annual requirements. Parliament exists, not for the purpose of draining the resources of the people, but in order to take enough to pay the expenses of the State. If, by means of land tax and a variety of other taxes, we draw more than we require, and we spend the money on permanent works, we are misconceiving the principles of sound government.
– We have no interest to Pay-
– It is a wellknown principle in government that where there is expenditure upon works that are revenue-producing, we should not meet it out of revenue, but out of capital ; and we should take care, if, while revenueproducing, it is a perishable work like that of telephones, to have a properly calculated sinking fund in order that the work may pay for itself in its lifetime ; just as the late Government proposed, when embarking on a Navy, not to throw the whole expenditure on any one generation, but to estimate how long the ships would last, and spread the expenditure over that number of years, so that, by the time the vessels became obsolete, we should have paid off the whole of the cost, and be in a position to purchase a new navy.
– Which does the honorable member think best - to own a house or to rent one?
– It all depends on the circumstances.
– Mortgage it, and pay interest.
– We do not mortgage in order to pay interest, but in order to get the capital money to expend.
– The honorable member is suggesting that we should borrow money and pay interest.
– I am asking honorable members to consider the propriety of throwing on each generation only its share of the capital expenditure of certain public works. If a man buys a building for business worth ^1,000, he does not charge his profit and loss with ;£ 1,000, or he would swamp the whole year’s profits ; he charges interest for the annual value of the property to his profit and loss as one of the items of expenditure, in order that he may ascertain how much lie has made in the year.
– And his one anxiety all the time is to reduce the interest as quickly as possible.
– That may be; some are more anxious or nervous than others. But the money comes out of the capital account, and is not mixed up with the revenue. It is now proposed to spend on telegraphs and telephones ^1,300,000. Now, these represent a perishing asset, and each generation ought to pay its share’, because this asset is producing revenue the whole time.
– These lines have been starved for years.
– I know. The whole of our postal arrangements have been in a most unbusiness-like condition ever since we started in 1900. On the Navy it is proposed to spend .£20, 000, 000. Suppose we had ^20,000,000. would any honorable member opposite say that, in the course of one or two years, we should pay the whole of that money out of revenue ?
– No one suggests it.
– But the honorable member will recollect that, when the Deakin Government was in power, it was provided in an Act, which the Labour party repealed, to distribute the cost of the Navy over the fifteen years it was estimated to exist. That was sound finance, because it threw on each year the proportion of the expenditure on this capital investment.
– It is always much better -to pay cash than buy on credit.
– That is all very well in regard to small things.
– And big things, too.
– Let me point out to the honorable member that, this year, we are attempting to spend out of revenue £4; 500, 000 upon permanent works.
– Does the honorable member think that public affairs should be managed on the same basis as are private affairs?
Mr.BRUCE SMITH.- The man who mixes up his capital with his income in private life is looked upon as a fool, because he is every day liable to trespass on his capital under the impression that it is part of his revenue. If a man has a capital of £1,000, which is producing . £100 a year, and he mixes up capital and income and spends £150 or £200 a year, his capital does not last long. Public affairs should be managed just as are private affairs, provided that the latter are properly conducted.
– What is the honorable member’s suggestion?
– I suggest that a man should separate his annual income from his capital. He will thus know what his annual income is, and will run no risk of breaking in on his capital. If a young farmer, with half-a-dozen fields, in addition to his produce disposed of one of his fields every year he would soon get rid of all his property, and would then realize the absurdity of mixing up his capital with his revenue. I am not talking of anything that I have evolved from my own mind. I have had the management for years of one of the biggest businesses in Australia ; I had the management of one of the biggest Departments in Australia for some years - the Public Works Department of New South Wales -and I can tell the honorable member that the principles I have enunciated are followed all over Australia, and all over the world in large companies, and in the Treasuries of great States. I am simply showing that the course which is being advocated ‘and followed by the Federal Government, and the Federal Parliament, by reason of the Labour majority in power, is contrary to all established practice.
– That is what we are here tor.
– The Labour party is not here merely to strike out on new lines. If it finds that a principle is sound, surely it is not here to depart from that principle for the mere sake of novelty ! I do not think the Labour party will arrogate to themselves the claim that they have discovered a new way of managing the financial affairs of the coun try so as to be able to ignore the experience of all the civilized countries of the world. Do they suppose that Great Britain is managed as the Labour party are managing Australia?
– And are my honorable friends prepared to say that the financial arrangements of England are all wrong and those of Australia all right?
– Some of the financial arrangements of England are not all right.
– I do not wish to discuss this phase of the subject any further. I desire now to refer to the Postal Department. I have always been, and am an advocate to-day, of the management of the Postal Department by a Commission. I do not believe in one Commissioner. One Commissioner cannot deal successfully with a great Department which has a revenue of nearly £4,000,000. We need one man to check himself against two others who will bring tobear different experiences and different points of view, and, as in the case of the Railway Commissioners, obtain the joint opinion of the three. The fact that this House has adopted, or is adopting, a number of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Postal Services shows that there was an advantage in setting that Commission to work to investigate the affairs of the Department. If the appointment of a temporary Commission of that sort - composed of men chosen, not from the general community, because of their special qualification, but from this Parliament - has proved advantageous, then, this Parliament, in choosing specially qualified men from a great community like Australia to manage a great Department like that of the Postmaster-General, would have all the more reason to believe that we should obtain even better results. I believe in permanent Commissioners. They ought to be appointed for a considerable number of years. Their positions ought to be secured to them, and they should be able to go from one part of . Australia to another, not merely to do things, but to consult with the public, and ascertain what their requirements are. I remember saying to the honorable ‘member for Barrier, when he resigned the office of Postmaster- general, that, if I were to take his place, one of my first acts would be to invite the public of all Australia to make suggestions as to the directions in which, in their opinion, the Department was failing in its management. One does not say one would adopt all suggestions so received, but if the suggestions and complaints yere classified the Minister in charge of the Department would at least discover what, in the opinion of the public, were its shortcomings.
– The Royal Commission practically did that, and it is rather interesting to read what the public said.
– Then that entirely bears out my view. It is an axiom that the Postal Department exists for the convenience of the public, and, therefore, we need to know in what repect the Post Office, as a State organization, is failing in its recognised purpose. If we invited the public, for whose convenience it exists, to inform the Department in- what respect it had failed to carry’ out the objects of its existence, we should ascertain what were its faults. If the honorable member says that the Royal Commission practically did that, then I at once accept his word.
– I have been complaining for the last ten years j but am still in exactly the same position as when I started.
– That only shows that the honorable member’s particular complaint was not dealt with by the Department. With three Commissioners he would have a much better chance of having his complaints attended to than he has under the present system. The honorable member for Denison said a few evenings ago that there was no need for Public Service Inspectors. He might just as reasonably have said that there was no need for Deputy Postmasters- General.
– The honorable member is not quoting me correctly. I simply inquired what was the need for inspectors in reply to an assertion that the Commissioner had turned down their advice.
– I thought that the honorable member was suggesting that the Public Service Inspectors were unnecessary. It would be just as absurd to say that there is no necessity for a Deputy Postmaster-General in each of the States. We know the inconvenience suffered by the public when an attempt was made by the late Mr. Kingston to centralize the management of the work of the Department of Trade and Customs in Melbourne. Merchants in Brisbane had to send their complaints to Melbourne for settlement, and they were, kept waiting for their goods” for weeks, in some cases for months, because there was no local authority. I would not for a moment propose that, under a system of control by three Commissioners, there should be no Deputy Postmasters-General. They would still be necessary, and would need to have a good deal of power on general principles, subject to the supervision of the Commissioners.
– Where would the honorable member have the Commissioners sitting?
– I would give them a roving commission. Like the High Court, they, or some of them, could move from capital to capital, in order to understand the complaints made from time to time, and to lay down general principles of practice to perfect- the service.
– Would not an increase of power on the part of the Deputy PostmastersGeneral accomplish the same purpose?
– No; many questions would still have to be referred by the Deputy Postmasters-General to the Commissioners, and would be reserved by them until they visited the respective capitals.
I wish now to refer very briefly to the telephone service. I have long held the opinion that the system under which public telephones are dealt with is a very unbusinesslike one. If this branch of the service were carried on by a public company, that company would recognise that every new public telephone asked for was a revenueproducing centre. It would not wait until the public had actually resolved themselves into a huge petition, so to speak, but would say, in many cases, “ We are perfectly willing to give you a public telephone, but we want you to guarantee such and such a revenue.” If those who were agitating for a public telephone believed that it would pay, they would not hesitate to give a joint guarantee.
– That is what the Department is doing.
– I am glad to hear it; but in my own constituency the residents of certain suburbs have been kept waiting for months and months. The only answer to their requests has been, “ The line will not pay,” or “ We have not got the money.”
– Not since the present Government came into power.
– Yes; I could name cases in which the answer received to such requests made since the present Government came into power was either, “ We have not got the money,” or “It will not pay.” The obvious answer for the Department to make was, “ Give us a guarantee.” Four per cent., or 5 per cent., would be sufficient to provide for interest and sinking fund; and if the people were called upon to give some guarantee of their bona fides there would be no difficulty.
– When the honorable member was Minister of Public Works in New South Wales did he ask people to give guarantees ?
– I did in many cases. I could tell the honorable member of cases in which the construction of doubtful tramways and railways was refused unless the residents to be served would guarantee that they would produce sufficient to pay interest and sinking fund.
I come now to the question of wireless telegraphy. I have taken some interest in the matter, because New South Wales has produced a young man, of whom we might well be proud, who fitted up a wireless station for his own private instruction and amusement, and carried it to such a pitch of perfection that he actually received messages from ships of war at a greater distance than could be covered by installations on vessels in Sydney Harbor. He handed to the naval authorities there messages which they had not, or could not, receive through their own installations. That young man so distinguished himself in the opinion of the New South Wales public that the Daily Telegraph published a number of interesting illustrations of his apparatus and his rooms. He was engaged by the Union Steam-ship Company, at a time when the system was far more of a novelty than it is to-day, to instal wireless on one of its steamers ; and I understand that Mr. Mawson has so much confidence in him that he has engaged him to fit up the Antarctic expedition with its wireless apparatus. I have been trying for three months to induce the Department to utilize the services of that young man, but have failed.
– What ! Using political influence?
– Will the honorable member allow me? Instead of at once availing itself of such a genius - because he is undoubtedly peculiarly fitted for this class of work - to fit up and manage stations that have been, or ought to have been, established by now in the Commonwealth, the Department told him that he could apply for a position that was being advertised. The advertisement to which he was referred set forth, however, that the position. was going to be treated, not as a “ professional,” but as a “ clerical “ one; so that no one who was not in the service of a State before 1900 could apply for it. Thus this young fellow, with all his ability - and I think the facts I have mentioned demonstrate clearly that he fs a man of considerable special ability - was actually prevented by this bit of departmental red-tape from becoming even a candidate for one of those positions. I brought the matter under the notice of the ex-Postmaster-General, but he seemed to be so dominated by his permanent officials that he could do nothing.
– Would the honorable member mind saying from whom he got the interpretation of that regulation? The Public Service Commissioner has given an entirely different interpretation.
– I wrote to the ex-Postmaster-General about it, and .the departmental answer was as I have stated. I have since had an opportunity of introducing this young man to the official who has been imported from England, and who, I think, was very much impressed with him; and I have little doubt that byandby he will get some position in the service. He is now in the Survey Office at Sydney, receiving £190 a year, and he was actually offered a position - with all his expert knowledge and ability - under a postmaster at Pennant Hills for the same salary.
– The difficulty tfes in the Public Service Act, passed by this Parliament.
– Red-tape ought to be cut through in a case of that sort. A gentleman has been imported from England at £600 a year - a very competent man, I am convinced - and when another man arises in the country who is able to do good work for the Commonwealth, ought not the Minister to be able to say, “ We cannot lose the services of this young Australian, who has demonstrated his ability, and we shall take him into the service “ ?
– The House would be with the Minister if he did that.
– There would be a cry about political influence.
– There was no political influence about this matter.
– The man who was imported was also an Australian.
– I do not say that this young man ought to have got that position. The expert who was brought from England was not appointed according to the Public Service Act; and, therefore, the local man ought not to have been treated in that way, especially as this was a new service. The idea of putting a specialist in wireless telegraphy in the clerical, and not the professional, division is too absurd for any independent Minister to countenance.
– At page 2165 of ‘Hansard, the Public Service Commissioner gives an entirely different interpretation of that point.
– The exPostmasterGeneral will bear out what I have said about the answer sent to me by the Department.
– The application was for an appointment in the clerical division.
– By putting the position in the clerical division, a good man was barred from becoming an applicant. I am speaking of what the Department did, not of what it ought to have done. That position ought not to have been put in the clerical division, or, if it was, the Department ought to have devised a means to give an opportunity to a young man of this kind to get into the service. Instead of that, he remains in the State Lands Department, and is asked to put himself second to a postmaster at Pennant Hills. That is not the best way to draw expert men into the service.
– And that in face of the fact that they are putting men into the service frequently without reference to the Public Service Commissioner.
– Into the permanent service? That is a most serious statement.
– That is not correct. It is not possible.
– I say that it is being done.
– I must ask the Committee to assist me in keeping order. Every honorable member will have an opportunity to speak, and the honorable member for Parkes should be allowed to proceed in his own way.
– I am sorry I cannot settle the controversy between the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Barrier. I now wish to deal with the question of the Capital site. I am very glad that the Victorian members now seem reconciled to the settlement of this question in New South Wales territory. We do not hear so many rumblings about it, and the House appears to have settled down to increased expenditure upon the site, and to a recognition of the fact that it is finally settled.
– We are making the best of a bad job.
– The honorable member, with his usual philosophy, is prepared to give up resisting the inevitable. The Minister of Home Affairs, who is always heroic, was particularly heroic over the Federal Capital. I really expected that the whole Territory was going to be turned topsy-turvy, after hearing the Minister’s remarks in Sydney about spending some millions of money upon a new postoffice. However, practically nothing has been done at the Capital site. Are honorable members aware of the character of the invitation that has appeared in England for competitive plans ? Bringing average intelligence to bear, I cannot understand how competitors are going to deal with the invitation. I cut the following from the Times -
A plaster model of the site for the proposed Federal Capital city for Australia is now on view in the office of the High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia, in order to assist those who may wish to take part in a competition which has been announced for designs for the building of the city.
It goes on to say that the three gentlemen who are to choose in this matter are not to judge, but are merely to “ report” to the Minister. I should like honorable members to know what the competitors are supposed to provide for, in more or less detail, in their plans. The plans are to embody -
Houses of Parliament, for which the suggested dimensions are 600 feet frontage and 200 feet depth ;
I should like to know when and how it was ever decided by this House that the Parliament House at the Federal Capital should be limited to those dimensions -
Residences for the Governor-General and the Prime Minister.
– What is the matter with that?
– Does the honorable member think we should provide at the Federal Capital a separate residence for the Prime Minister? I have heard the Minister of Home Affairs say that there should be no Government House in Sydney, and that if the Governor-General wanted to visit Sydney he should go to a first-class hotel, yet this same Minister proposes in this scheme to construct a special building for the Prime Minister.
– Do you object to that?
– Personally, I do not. I think, under the early circumstances of the Capital site, it is a very reasonable thing. The- same Minister goes on to propose the following multiplicity of buildings - and also public offices comprising departments of the prime minister, external affairs, attorneygeneral, home affairs, treasury, trade and customs, defence, and postmaster-general ; courts of justice, places of worship, mint, national art gallery, and library, state house, printing office, government factories, university, technical colleges, city hall, general post-office, museum, central railway station, railway marshalling yards, military barracks, criminal and police courts, gaol, hospitals, national theatre, central power station, gasworks, markets, stadium -
The fine arts are to be encouraged there, evidently - and parks and gardens. In addition areas are to be laid out within the city for commercial, residential, and industrial purposes. Provision is to be made for tramways, ornamental water, a water supply on the basis of too gallons per head per diem.
Part of the heroic programme which the Minister of Home Affairs had in- hand was the universal planting of the Federal site. He told us he was going to plant 20,000,000 trees in anticipation of the laying out of the city, so that they would be as far advanced as possible for replanting in proper positions. I asked him about that matter the other day, and he had not planted a tree. Honorable members will see the difference between the heroic plans which he puts before the House and the very poor performances which he is giving us for our money.
– He has good ideas !
– I have met many men with magnificent ideas but little practical knowledge ; and I am much afraid that the Minister comes under that category.
I wish to say a few words about the political trading spirit that is coming over the Ministerial party in this House. One honorable member said it was necessary for the Government to “ make profits.” Are the Government going to lay themselves out as a trading concern to make profits in every direction possible? The Prime Minister, in introducing a Banking Bill the other night, said there was no reason why the Commonwealth should not make some of the profits of the institutions of which he was talking; and I suggested that, as the profits of the drapery business were much greater than those of the institutions with which he was dealing, perhaps the Government would think it advisable to enter into the drapery business. According to the Prime Minister, a sort of subsidy is to be given for the production of rubber and cocoa nuts in’ New Guinea, “ to provide the Government with a new source of revenue.” The other night the honorable member for South Sydney told us that his solution of the Northern Territory problem was to buy stock, and enter upon squatting pursuits in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth. These proposals have their amusing side, but were it made clear to the people that it is the policy of the Government, and df the Labour party, to embark on a large number of businesses, not to supply a want which cannot be supplied by private enterprise, but merely to make profits, they would not sanction such conduct.
– Do not the railways compete with private carriers?
– Yes, but in a new country, where the Government owns all the land, development has been possible only by the construction of State railways, which must be managed in the public interest as a private concern would be managed. The enforced possession of the railways by the States does not justify the Government in entering into the pastoral business.
Not long since, the Leader of the Oppo* sition, when Prime Minister, made an agreement with the Government of South Australia, to take over the Northern Territory and to continue the railway now running from Port Darwin to Pine Creek’ through that State, to meet the existing line at Oodnadatta. When the agreement came before Parliament for ratification, a number of honorable members on this side pointed out that the proposed line would have to be carried over mountains,some of which are, I understood, 4,000 feet in height, and would be less advantageous in the development of the Territory than a line diverted to the east, joining the railway systems of Queensland, New South’ Wales, and Victoria. It was shown that such a line would open up country infinitely, -superior to that of the Central Australian route. Already the chickens are coming home to roost. The eastern States take no interest in the matter, because the construction of some hundreds of miles of railways would be necessary to connect with the central transcontinental line, and the permission of the Commonwealth would1 have to be obtained to enter the Northern Territory. The only solution, therefore, for a development of that Territory is the innocent suggestion of the honorable member for South Sydney, that the Government should engage in pastoral pursuits there. I wish to draw attention to the extraordinary management . characterizing the employ” ment of Dr. Basedow. I was pleased to learn that a competent medical man had been appointed to undertake the protection of the native races in the Northern Territory. Dr. Basedow went there, he assures me, without any writing passing between him and the Department, and found that he was expected to travel hundreds of miles at his own expense, and to provide an office at his own cost. He was so dissatisfied with the unsatisfactory character of the telegrams which passed between him and the Department that he abandoned the post, and returned to Adelaide. In his correspondence with me, he copied the telegrams, which were eminently unsatisfactory as business communications.
– The doctor’s statement to me was that he declined to take orders from the Administrator.
– That was one of the reasons for his resignation. He thought that he should deal directly with the Minister, but found that it was expected that his communications should pass through the Administrator, to which he afterwards agreed. I do not know Dr. Basedow, but the Minister must take responsibility for the appointment. I compliment the Government on having obtained the services of Professor Baldwin Spencer as his successor.
I wish to say a word in regard to oldage and invalid pensions. The honorable member for Flinders referred to the fact that the old-age pension expenditure exceeds ^2,000,000, and that it is a matter for serious consideration whether some methods should not be adopted, providing in future for the introduction of the contributory principle. In dealing with pension cases, I have been struck with this anomaly, that the present system practically offers an inducement to improvidence - I do not say that I have discovered a better system, but we should not lend ourselves to one which deliberately discourages thrift, and offers a premium to improvidence.
– Does the honorable member think that the deductions made on account of the possession of property has that effect?
– If a provident couple had saved £200, and had bought a house, having a rental value of 4s. or 5s. a week, they must, in applying for a pension, consent to its reduction by that amount, so that they would be no better off than less provident persons who had saved nothing. I have grave doubts whether we are not in danger of undermining the self-reliance of the people, and making it too easy to obtain assistance from the State. I should be one of the last to curtail the granting of help in deserving cases. In reading a recent number of the Times, I noticed that the presidents of the large friendly societies in England, such as the Hearts ‘of Oak, had expressed doubt as to whether the unemployment insurance scheme of LloydGeorge would not interfere with the tendency of the people to help themselves by taking advantage of these worthy institutions.
– Look at the thousands who cannot help themselves.
– I am not saying that there are not many such cases ; but what we have to do is to differentiate so as to prevent injury to those institutions which have been the thrift backbone of workmen in England for many years. I do not use that as an argument for depriving worthy cases of help.
Another suggestion I have to make is that we ought sooner or later to establish in the Commonwealth a Public Works Committee. In New South Wales, and some of the other States, the Government cannot expend any sum exceeding ^20,000 unless the proposed work has been submitted to a Public Works Committee composed of competent men selected from Parliament. If the Public Works Committee disapproves of the work, no measure is introduced; but, if the work be approved, then the Minister introduces the necessary
Bill, together with the report of the Public Works Committee. In the case of railways, the Commissioners, as the commercial managers of the system, are required to examine and report on each proposal, in order to ascertain whether it is likely to have any commercial results. The Commonwealth is now embarking on an expenditure which calls for some procedure of the kind. In New South Wales great care has been taken in selecting members from both Houses to sit on the Public Works Committee, which has been the means of checking a number of wild schemes.
– Does the honorable member remember the brickworks case?
– I admit that the Act has been evaded very often. I have known a Minister propose the expenditure of £19,500 on a tramway, and a few months later introduce a similar expenditure, thus avoiding the provision as to the limit of £20,000. I take it, however,that this House would “come down” very seriously on anything of that sort.
As to the Commonwealth note issue, I cannot forget the grandiloquent language of some honorable members in regard to the wonderful results that -were to follow. I took a very moderate tone on the subject. I said that I did not see any immediate danger, but expressed the opinion, at the same time, that the enterprise was not going to pay us, or give us the magnificent results which Labour papers and some Labour members foretold. Although I did not think the scheme dangerous, I was opposed to it altogether, because I did not think it was one on which we ought to enter. I find that the issue at present is £9,718,000, and the gold in hand is £4,686.000, while the Government have invested £5,000,000. This produces the total sum of £179,000, from which, however, has to be deducted £23,000 as the cost of the issue, and also the large sum which the States were receiving from the banks on the issue of notes previously. In order to make this return we have run all the risks of future abuse of the note issue. I think that in New South Wales alone the sum of £80,000 was received from the banks.
– The sum was £80.000 for the whole of the Commonwealth.
– In any case, after all -the anxiety and danger of a State note issue, which is immensely deprecated by high financial authority, the net result is about £70,000 per annum.
I noticed with some amusement a portion of the Prime Minister’s Budget speech, which, I think, for sheer hypocrisy takes what is called 1 ‘ the prize. ‘ ‘ The right honorable gentleman said that if we could get a “united House,” and by a “calm presentation of facts “ induce all parties interested to discuss the question, “ not in a controversial spirit,” but in a spirit of ‘ conference and amity, ‘ ‘ we should be able to show that undoubtedly the issue of one stock, embracing the indebtedness of both States and Commonwealth, would be a great economic saving of the taxpayers’ money. I was amused to hear the Prime Minister inviting both sides of the House to co-operate in any great measure. As I look back on the sessions of this Parlia-ment, I think of the cast-iron standanddeliver way in which measures like the Land Tax Bill have been introduced, and of the way in which suggestions from this side have been practically scoffed at by the Prime Minister and his followers. I have no hesitation in saying, as T said of the right honorable gentleman’s utterances in England, when he talked about the principles of the Labour party in regard to the freedom of the working man, that that is an excellent illustration of downright hypocrisy on his part. The Prime Minister is no more desirous of securing help from this side to enable him to pass any measure than he is of going up in an aeroplane, to-morrow. I used to regard the right honorable gentleman, with his broad Scotch accent, as a thoroughly outspoken Scotchman who carried conviction every time he spoke. I believed in his honesty of purpose, and his genuine desire for the assistance of the Opposition in dealing with the details of his Bills; but I have since lost all that confidence in him ; he has ceased to carry conviction to my mind because of the many hypocritical statements of the kind I have just referred to.
– Before progress is reported I desire to say that there is a tacit understanding that we shall finish this debate by 3 o’clock to-morrow.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following paper : -
Public Service Act - Regulation No. 57 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 185.. .
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111116_reps_4_62/>.