4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs if the following report of remarks alleged to have been made by him yesterday, appearing in this morning’s Argus, is correct : ‘ -
Queensland is full up. This great continent is crying out for people, and there are not snips enough to carry those who want to come, yet Queensland has actually asked that agricultural immigrants from Russian Siberia should be warned off. The Russian Consul in Melbourne waited on me to-day concerning some of these immigrants. He stated that the Consul in Brisbane had been informed by the Queensland Government that the immigration depots were full, and had been asked to stay the immigrants from Russia and Siberia.
If it is correct, I should like to know what the honorable gentleman means by the expression that Queensland is “ full up.” Does he mean that the State has as many immigrants as it can assimilate, or does he mean that it is “ full up “ of immigrants in the sense in which I anight use the word if I said that I am “ full up “ of the -Victorian election?
– The statement in the Argus is correct with this exception, that it was the Vice-Consul and not the Con sul for Russia who called on me. He informed me that a number of Russian immigrants have been going to Queensland for some time past, but that the Consul there has been notified by the State Government that, as the immigration depdts are required for immigrants coming from Great Britain, it would be glad if he would take steps to prevent further immigrants coming from Siberia.
– The statement that Queensland is “ full up “ of immigrants is hardly correct.
– It is. “ full up “ of Russians. That is what is the matter.
– I understood that the State, having made arrangements for immigrants from the ‘ United Kingdom, did not desire any more from Siberia. Those who come from Siberia pay their own fares, and do not put the country, to any expense, and yet they have been asked by the State not to come.
– May I invite the attention of the Minister to the golden opportunity which now offers for the Commonwealth to step forward pointing out that large parts of the Northern Territory possess in great measure the resources and advantages of Queensland, and that there is room there for tens of thousands of suitable settlers, if they will come?
– I told the ViceConsul that if two Russians from Queensland: could be selected, I would make arrangements for them to visit the Northern Territory to sp.y out the land, with a view to .getting as uri any Russians as would come to settle there.
– Some days ago I asked the Minister of Home. Affairs to lay on the table the papers connected with the appointment of Watchman Ross. I now have the papers, but they do not disclose the cause of the appointment. ‘ Will the Minister obtain from, the Director-General of Works, and lay-bn the table, a statement of the reasons of the appointment?
– T - The man was appointed because we wished to protect the Commonwealth property for which we are responsible.
– I desire the Minister to lay on the table a’ statement from the Director-General of Works as to the reasons for the appointment.
– Does” the Minister wish to convey to the House that the ordinary police protection is not sufficient, and that the poor fellow Ross had to be put on to watch the police and the building?.
– As As Minister of Home Affairs, I am responsible for the. protection of the property of the Commonwealth, and when there is ,£25,000. or .£30,000 worth of property, it is going to be watched, even though some members of the Opposition desire to make capital out of the fact that I am, looking after these properties, not as they wish me to do, but as I think proper.
– The Minister has misunderstood the request of the honorable member for Richmond. He has asked if the Minister will lay on the table the papers relating to the appointment, giving particulars as to the vacancy created, the applications sent in, and the reasons for the appointment which was made?
– T - The honorable member for Richmond asked to have the papers laid on the table of the Library, and they were laid there - every paper connected with Mr. Ross’ appointment.
– There is nothing about the appointment.
– Eve Every paper connected with Mr. Ross is there. No member of the Opposition is going to run the Department of Home Affairs while I am Minister. When members of the Opposition become Ministers, they can take advice, and no doubt will do as their officials tell them, but that is not my plan.
– The Minister promised me that he would lay on the table of the House the papers connected with the appointment.
– O - On the table of the Library.
– My statement ‘is virtually correct. Will the honorable gentleman fulfil his promise, and lay on the table of the House all the papers connected with the appointment of Watchman Ross ?
– The The honorable member asked for the papers connected with the appointment of Ross, and they were all laid on the table, every paper in the Home Affairs Department. That is what he got, ‘ and he will get nothing more.
– There is nothing in the papers about the appointment.
DRYSDALE li ATTERY.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence lay on the table the papers relating to the disbanding of the Drysdale battery? I wish to know why it was disbanded ?
– I shall ask the Minister to supply the information.
– The sum of .£1,200 is set down for the provision of quarantine accommodation’ in Queensland. In view of the fact that ship passengers had recently to be brought all the way from Thursday Island to Sydney because of an outbreak of an epidemic, is it the intention of the Government to spend the money in providing quarantine accommodation in Northern Queensland, or is the station at Moreton Bay to be enlarged and added to?
– Inquiries are being made as to the best place for a quarantine station in Queensland. We are waiting for the report of the Director of Quarantine before spending any money.
– Will the Minister, see what can be done for the removal of the leper station from Peel Island, Moreton Bay, to whatever new quarantine station is created ?
– Surely not.
– The control of lepers is wholly a State matter. I do not know that what the honorable member asks is possible, but I ‘ shall inquire into the subject.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence lay on the table of the Library the reports of the expert who selected the site for the Naval College?
– I shall s-ubnuj the question to the Minister of Defence for his consideration.
– I wish to give notice that I intend to ask this afternoon for leave to move then a motion providing that hereafter on every sitting day, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business.
– The Prime Minister can do that now. Is it the pleasure pf the House that leave be given?
– I object. There is no need for the motion before next Wednesday.
– The Prime Minister will remember that recently, when the afternoon usually devoted to private members’ business was taken for Government business, he promised to give the time back later in the session. In view of the state-* ment just made, I ask if he intends to redeem that promise?
– What I said was that the time taken would be given back later in the same day, but the Opposition, in the exercise of its undoubted rights, occupied the whole day in the discussion of Government business.
– It was the Ministerialists who took up most of the time.
– At any rate, a day will be made available for private members’ business before the session closes.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs yet received from the Royal Commissioner/Mr. Paull, his report on the iron bounty question? If so, will he lay it on the table of the House?
– I shall lay it on the table as soon as the questions without notice have been dealt with.
– Has a report been received from a Royal Commission appointed by the Commonwealth?
– No special Royal Commission was appointed by the Commonwealth Government. Mr. Paull, and Mr. Smith, an auditor, were appointed as “ approved persons “ under the Manufactures Encouragement Act. They have submitted a report, and that is the document which I intend to lay upon the table, and I shall move for its printing.
– Does the Minister say that that report is not the same as the report of the Royal Commission to be presented to the State Government?
– It is not.
– Then has the honorable member a copy of that report?
– I have.
– Then will the honorable member lay it upon the table of the House, as it is very important?
– The report of the Royal Commission of New South Wales is a purely State matter, and, so far as I know, it is not usual to lay State documents on the table of this House. I could obtain a number of copies from the State Government for honorable members to see.
– I thought the honorable member promised the honorable member for. Nepean to lay that report on the table?
– I was referring to a different report altogether.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Topp’s proposed trip to Europe will interfere with the discharge of the duties under his Commission ?
– The The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 to 3. In view of the fact that the report submitted may be either adopted or referred back to the Commissioners by Parliament to propose a fresh distribution it is highly inadvisable that any Commissioner should be absent until the redistribution is finally determined.
It is not considered desirable to disturb the arrangements which I have already indicated.
– The Minister has not answered the second question.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The .answers ‘to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, u-pon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Bounty paid to Messrs. G. and C. Hoskins, Lithgow, under the Manufactures Encouragement Act - Reports with reference to.
Ordered to be printed.
Public Service Act - Postmaster-General’s Department - Papers relating to the appointment, on probation of J. H. A. Pike as Engineer Operator, Wireless Telegraph Station, Pennant Hills, New South Wales. Defence Act - Military Forces - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - No. 207 - Statutory Rules igir, No. 182.
Financial and Allowance -
No. igg - Statutory Rules ign, No. 183. No. 166- Statutory Rules igii, No. 184.
In Committee of Sup-ply (Consideration resumed from 16th November, vide page. 2796), 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.
– I am m an amiable frame of mind this morning, and do not intend to say anything that will hurt the feelings of honorable members opposite. We all seem to be in a. rollicking mood after the moving events pf yesterday, and apparently there is no disposition to trouble about Budgets and such things as natijortal expenditure, which, after all, would seem to be only trifles light as air compared with what took place yesterday. However, we must come back to sober reason and look into the Budget, since it affects every man, woman, and child in the com-_ munity to a very vital degree. I shall ask’ honorable members this morning to consider one or two of its financial aspects, away from the heat of party conflict, and with a desire only to see exactly where we are going and whether it is not time to call a halt in the extravagant manner in which we are disposing of the national funds.
I take it that when taxation is imposed the reason for it should be well established, but the outstanding feature of this Budget, in its accounts of last year at any rate, is that taxation has been imposed which was not needed, and taxes have been brought into the Treasury to be put into Trust Funds for use in years other than that in which they were raised. In that respect this Parliament is setting a precedent to all the Parliaments of Australia, and even, I think, of the world. This is the first time that I recollect taxation having been imposed in a time of rolling prosperity to meet the demands of the year, and the whole of it being diverted to years other than that in which it was raised. In other words, this Budget shows a surplus of _£2, 000,000 last year. We were previously told that land taxation was needed for purposes of revenue, and the Prime Minister altogether discarded the idea that he wanted to. impose it for penal purposes or for purposes of social experiment. He said, “ I need the revenue,” but the year’s operations, show that he did not need it, nor did he use it, because that and a great deal more has been put into a trust fund and specially appropriated this year. In order that there may be no mistake about that matter, I have here the record of what the Prime Minister said when introducing the Land Tax Bill. The honorable member for Angas asked him why, since he did not expect much revenue from the Bill, he did not combine an acreage tax with a value tax, and to that the F’rime Minister replied -
I .hope the honorable member is not under that delusion, because I do desire revenue, and I have never uttered a word to’ the contrary. ‘Honorable members will see that the taxation applies, not only to large estates, but to city ana town areas, and therefore could not be justified alone on the ground of breaking up large estates.
There is the explicit statement of the Prime Minister, when introducing the land tax last year, that his revenue needed it. The result shows that he woefully, I had almost said wilfully, under-estimated his receipts for the year. It is about time to say something on this question of under-estimating revenue. It is just as criminal to underestimate your revenue intentionally for the purpose of imposing penal taxation as to over-estimate it in order to avoid taxation. The one is just as reprehensible as the other, yet this Government, in a time of rolling prosperity, imposed taxation unnecessarily.
This is the first time in the history of any civilized Government that we have had a Government bringing down propositions for special taxation when the country has been on a boom tide of prosperity. It is the first time that a Government have brought down proposals for taxation to meet the ordinary needs of a normal year of expenditure. In that respect therefore the Government are creating precedents, and are being followed now, in New South Wales in particular, by a Government actuated by the same ideas. The Government there are bringing down taxation for the mere sake of putting on a tax, and not because they need the revenue, just as we do not need it here. They are imposing the tax with a penal object in view, in order to hit savagely at a section of the community, under cover of needing the revenue for the ordinary purposes of government.
– I thought that adjusting the incidence of taxation was statesmanship !
– It is the principle we are trying to carry out.
– The reason the honorable member is declaiming is that the work is too effectively done.
– Cheer up !
– There was a “ winding up “ yesterday !
– Our statesmanship will get over all that !
– The honorable member wili have his share of it.
– I do not see why I should be referred to in that way.- .
The. CHAIRMAN. - Will the .honorable member.-resume .his -seat?. .
Mr. JOSEPH COOK.^Nowj I subscribe entirety to the canons laid down by Mr. McGowen in .introducing his Budget. He made use of some admirable sentiments, and enunciated two . principles, the first of which is that no Government has a right to take from the people more than is required to govern the country.
– It comes in very handy this year !
– Is the honorable member quite sure that his principle is sound?
– Hear, hear !
– Are the Army and Navy artificial needs?
– A good- deal of it !
– The honorable member for Franklin has said so.
– The Government will not spend the money this year !
– How can we have a deficit of £2,000,000?
– Does the honorable member think that the Treasurer purposely under-estimated tlie revenue last year?
– That he purposely did it?
– The honorable member said that the Treasure: had done this pur; posely.
– Does the honorable mem? ber not think that the Treasurer was nearer in his estimate as to the revenue from land tax than was any honorable member opposite?
– Some honorable members estimated that revenue at £4,000,000. ^
– Only a million.
– Will the honorable member compare that taxation with the taxation per head of other countries?
– - Does the honorable member refer to the taxation of the Commonwealth ?
– Not if we add to the Imperial taxation the local government taxation.
– But the State Governments do what the local governing bodies, do in England. Does not the honorable member know that?
– I know as much about the matter as the honorable member does, but I thought we desired to get at the truth.
– Would not the honorable member compare the wealth production of to-day, per head of the population, with that of ten years ago?
– That includes the railways.
– Does that include water and sewerage rates?
Mr. FELL. It includes every form of taxation, even the land tax. Germany is taxed to the extent of ?1 2s. 3d. per head; the United States ?1 8s. per head.
An Honorable Member. - What does that include?
Mr. FELL. That includes all internal revenue.
– - Does the honorable member think that those figures include the cost of local government in England?
– Would the honorable member be in favour of reducing the State Parliaments ?
– I merely desire to know what method of adjustment the honorable member has in mind.
– Go into details. Mr. JOSEPH COOK.- The details show that, in every country Socialism spells increased taxation.
– Did I say that of the land tax?
– We have imposed taxation to save us from borrowing for a navy.
– The honorable member thinks that we should have borrowed to provide the Navy, instead of imposing a land tax.
– - Is not defence the cause of our increased expenditure?
– lt is not a bad beginning.
– Do not be too pessimistic.
– Does the honorable member carry out his? Mr. JOSEPH COOK.- I do not pretend to carry them all out. I do not pose on the platform, as the honorable member does, as the only friend of the working man. I am asking him to live up to his professions, and pay the men doing the work in these areas a salary commensurate with the task that has been given them to perform.
– What is involved in the home training?
– It was never discussed in the caucus.
– Must we not listen to debates in this House? The charge made against us by the Opposition is that we will not listen to discussions.
– It may be so.
– How does the honorable member know ?
– Where is the site?
– It oughtto be a long way from a town.
– That is what the Minister has been doing.
– There is a great deal of patriotism about a condition like that.
– It is a pity that there is not a Minister in the House to pay the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the compliment of listening to him.
– I should like the public to know that there is not a Minister here to listen to the address of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– The public ought to know that the honorable member for Parkes is deliberately making a misstatement.
– There is not a responsible Minister present.
– Captain Chambers’ opinion fitted in with Labour desires.
– I suppose the Government have come to the conclusion that Federal concerns ought to be on Federal Territory.
– It is the last straw to suggest that Deakin’s “ spook “ has anything to do with it.
– I thought that the honorable member said just now that we were spending too much money.
– The Northern Territory will be a financial sink whatever party is in power.
– He Has had every chance of going there, but has never availed himself of it.
– Even land at is. a mile has not tempted him.
– Does not the honorable member know that the Minister has promised a statement of policy when we reach the Estimates relating to his Department?
– Why did not the honorable member’s Government alter it?
– It only shows how insincere is the honorable member, since he was a member of a Government that could have altered it.
– Is that an answer to my interjection?
– The position is better by a long way than it was before.
– Does the honorable member say that every one should get a pension, irrespective of what he possesses?
– If the honorable member had that scheme, would he repeal the Old-age Pensions Act?
– I shall not occupy time with a criticism of the Budget such as that of the honorable member for Parramatta and others, but I wish to refer to a matter upon which it is necessary to speak at this juncture. The PostmasterGeneral, in giving what was alleged to be a reply to certain statements by me, made misleading remarks regarding the work of a branch of his Department. He wished the House to believe that the main recommendations of the Postal Commission were without justification, and emphasized the statement that the service is well treated. I admit that since pressure was brought to bear, it is better treated than it was formerly. The honorable gentleman also desired to prejudice the telegraphists at Sydney, and the honorable member for Franklin, in his usual confident and cock-sure manner, interjected that I was doing those officers no good. The Minister tried to show the House that these men are not giving to the Commonwealth a service proportionate to that given by telegraphists in other countries, and to do so applied the test of averages, which is always delusive and deceptive. He stated that the men do not operate at a rate exceeding twelve words a minute. Whenever an innovation is tried in the Department, those responsible begin to blunder and bustle about, until they do not know what they are doing. The Minister has put on one side a system introduced by the Public Service Commissioner, the wonderful organizer who has brought the Department to the pass in which it is to-day. Had not his scheme been discarded there would have been trouble such as I do not wish to see in Australia. No doubt, the Public Service Commissioner is the source from which the Minister got the information that the men do not work at a rate exceeding twelve words a minute, because he is a past-master in the application of averages. It may be news to the Committee that only recently in London, when picked telegraphists were employed on a quad, line, having been told off to do certain work, their average was ‘only 1,3.7 words per minute. They were picked and specially qualified men. Regarding the work of the New South Wales telegraphists, we had no information as to the character of the lines on which they were working, or the qualifications of those with whom they were working.
– Surely the honorable member does not dispute the correctness of official figures?
– The statements I made ‘ were based on facts.
– Was the honorable member there?
– Only a small percentage of the men.
– The honorable member seems pretty well acquainted with what is going on in the office.
– How many hours did the honorable member say they were working?
– Does the honorable member say that the average worked in the Sydney telegraph office for the morning shift exceeds six and a half hours, or that the average of the afternoon shift exceeds five and a quarter hours ?
– In the calculation of the average work performed by these officers, the fullest extension of time is taken into consideration when a man is required to stay late ; and then it averages five and a quarter hours.
– If the honorable member can prove that the official document is not correct, I will undertake to find the man who made it incorrect.
– I say that it is correct, and that it is taken from the time sheets.
– If one cannot believe the time sheets, where is one to get the facts from?
– There is no bluff about it ; it is a question of fact.
– Surely it was not necessary for me to make the calculation myself. Am I to occupy the position of a junior clerk while trying to run the show ?
– That is a very serious charge.
– I did not attach much importance to it.
– I did not mention it until an interjection brought it out.
-It was nothing of the kind.
– The number of words sent within the shift was given, and I worked the average out myself.
– It has just as good a chance of being correct as any statement which the honorable member is likely to make.
– Will the honorable member say whether the complaints he has spoken of are general throughout the States, or whether they emanate from New South Wales alone?
– Perhaps the experiment is being made in New South Wales first.
– I defended the Public Service Commissioner for what he had done under the law.
– The honorable member said the Department required reorganizing.
– Does the honorable member not think that a Board of Control would be just as amenable to political influence as are the officers of the Department?
– Is it not true of all Boards and Commissions that they are amenable to political influence?
– The honorable member has given him a good dose; he had better leave him alone.
– Who’ then held office as Treasurer ?
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the Public Service. Commissioner advised the Treasurer to be careful in dealing with his Estimates, as we were going to have bad seasons ?
– This is too much. How can the Public Service Commissioner carry on his duties under attacks of this kind ? …
– It is very unfair. I do not attack a man who cannot answer me.
– We are all sick of this.
– Give us a show !
– There are worse things than political influence.
.- With the indulgence of honorable members I should like my first words in this House to be a personal tribute to my predecessor and friend of many years’ standing, the late Honorable Egerton Lee Batchelor. In addition to the ordinary responsibilities which a new member must feel on entering this House, I have cast upon me the obligation of following a gentleman who set in this Parliament a high standard of personal character, whose work was distinguished by great party loyalty, and who gave efficient service to the public of Australia. It shall be my endeavour to gain that party confidence which my late friend was able to secure from his side of the House, and my aim to win, as Mr-. Batchelor was able to do, the respect of honorable members of all sections, and that of all loyal Australians. I do not know that I should have been so presumptuous as to take such an early opportunity of entering into the debates of the House but for a remark that was made yesterday by an honorable member opposite which suggested to me a train of thought with reference to a subject that has always been very near to me. I refer to the obligation assumed by the Commonwealth when it took over from South Australia the Northern Territory. I know that in the opinion of some people the Commonwealth made an excellent bargain when it took over that Territory, and I should like to remind the Committee that for many years the State from which I come endeavoured to do its duty to the rest of Australia in respect of that vast stretch of country. For many years the State from which I have the honor to come has carried the white man’s burden for the whole continent, and even during times of great financial stress has refused to allow the introduction of coloured labour, resisting all attempts to that end. Yesterday, reference was made to a medical report dealing with the difficulty of developing tropical Australia with white labour, but it will take more than one such report to convince me that Australians cannot solve the problem without abandoning the policy of keeping the Commonwealth white. I have had an opportunity to examine parts of Central Australia and the Northern Territory, and have read many reports, including medical reports, regarding the country, and shall with difficulty be persuaded that it is not possible to develop our tropical regions without black labour. At the same time, I admit that the problem of developing a tropical country with white labour is one of the greatest that has confronted the European race. Downingstreet has had to deal with tropical countries where there are native populations, and there have been created difficulties such as we shall have to face in Papua, because in such places certain diseases are always present to which the natives are practically immune, though able to communicate them to white persons. We have no such difficulty to face in the Northern Territory, where we have practically a clean slate, and we have an opportunity to set an example in the development of tropical agriculture with white labour. Australians have faced and solved other problems in the past in a way that has earned us a reputation which is the . envy and admiration of the world. With reference to the suggestion made yesterday that the Government should undertake the control of the pastoral industry in the Territory, I think that the proposal is premature, because private enterprise has been more successful in that industry than in any other. In the breeding of high-class stock, and in the development of the wool industry, until Australia is the chief producer of wool in the world, our pastoralists have set an example to all other countries. Central Australia is more or less a pastoral country, and the first step towards its development is to provide means of transportation. Today the settlers there have the same means of transportation as were enjoyed in Egypt in the days of the Pharoahs. From Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, goods can be transported Only by camel trains, and when a few years ago I twice crossed the continent during the height of the mining boom in the MacDonnell Ranges, it would have been almost impossible to lose one’s way on the Gibberstone salt bush plains, because of the mining machinery strewn along the track. It had been cast off various camel trains, and was lying there to be picked up by others, while adventurous spirits elsewhere were putting money into mining ventures, and wondering why dividends were not coming to them. Not being a mining man I cannot give an expert opinion, but there is every reason to believe that the mineral prospects of Central Australia are worth developing, though they cannot be developed until better means of transportation is provided. I view with some concern the choice of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, because that may mean the choice of that gauge for the central transcontinental line. My desire is ‘that for our connecting trunk lines that gauge shall be chosen which will give the best hauling capacity, the highest speed, and the maximum comfort. May I add that we in South Australia regard it as an obligation on the Commonwealth that it shall give attention to the matter of railway communication at the earliest moment. But we do not consider that this Government should have accomplished in eighteen months what the State was struggling to do for over forty years. I appeal to the Minister of External Affairs to make himself personally acquainted with the Northern Territory at the earliest opportunity. South Australia laboured under great disadvantage in having that Territory administered by Ministers who had no personal knowledge of tropical conditions. If the Minister of External Affairs were to travel from Port Darwin through Central Australia, he would find the trip of great interest, and would appreciate, as most Australians fail to do, the vastness of the continent and of the Northern Territory. I have heard it said, and I have also read the statement in Hansard, that the transcontinental railways are desert railways ; but the representatives of South Australia know that it is not competent for any man, whatever his experience may be, to apply the word “desert” to any part of Australia. I resent the suggestion that the word is a proper one to designate any part of Central Australia, or of tropical Australia washed by the Indian Ocean. If I at any time use the word, it is merely ‘in a comparative sense. We have no right to label, and at the same time to libel, any part of Australia as desert. Mr. Frank Bullen, a writer of excellent sea stories, after visiting Australia, wrote a book in which he characterized its central districts as a vast and howling wilderness; but he did not go further north than the park lands surrounding Adelaide. It is not only the libels of the “ globe trotter “ of which we have to complain ; our own people are often guilty of running down the country, and referring to its central districts as a veritable Sahara. Without proper means of communication, they might as well be a Sahara, because it is impossible to bring produce ,from them. The finest cattle country I have visited in Central Australia, lying between Barrows Creek and the Gulf of Carpentaria, is on the Frew River; but an Adelaide company, after breeding cattle there for some years, had finally to leave them there to die of old age, because it was impossible to drive them across the dry belt to a railway station. The rainfall of a portion . of Central Australia is the smallest on the continent, being less than 5 inches; though it increases to 5 feet at Darwin. South Australia is not impatient ; but we hope that the Minister of External Affairs will, before the session closes, state the policy of the Government for the development of the Northern Territory. If, as some critics affirm, South Australia did little in developing the country, it must be admitted that it did that little uncommonly well. It sent explorers through the Territory, constructed a telegraph line across the continent, and commenced a railway which our financial obligations alone prevented us from continuing. In South Australia there is a fair average number of Scotchmen, yet, it is thought that the State would have been well advised, from a business point of view, in extending the line a few hundred miles further, . tq, make the connexion of the Northern Territory by the shortest route. We must remember that there are two Australias, one lying in the tropic or semitropic zone, the other in the temperate. We are endeavouring as best we are able to develop the tropical region whilst living in the temperate, and having very little knowledge of the burdens which the tropics always impose on a white people. However, I am quite sure that we, as a people, accustomed as we are to pave the way and break the roads for others, will be able to face the problem, with the courage born of the certainty that we are endeavouring to solve it for the benefit of a White Australia. A remark was made to-day that “ the squatters had had every chance to develop the Northern Territory, and had not availed themselves of it.” I prefer to refer to them as pastoralists, which is the more modern term. We have left behind the squatter of the old days within the rainfall line, and the pastoralist of to-day often has not a very easy row to hoe. A few years ago, in company with my late friend, Mr. Batchelor, and the, honorable member for Hindmarsh, and to the knowledge of yourself, sir, I had the pleasure of making an extensive trip through the Gawler range country. It was the time of the great drought. The heat was terrific, the thermometer being day after day at 117 and 118 in the shade. We saw then at first-hand the difficulties against which the pastoralists had to contend in developing the parts of Australia west from Port Augusta. I should like to recommend the honorable member who made that remark about the pastoralists and the Northern Territory to read that little Australian classic, We of the Never -Never. He will then realize how the pioneer pastoralists have faced the difficulties of that part of the country, how they have had to fight Nature at first-hand, and I think he will agree with me, when he looks at’ the statistics in relation to the Northern Territory, that a great amount of pioneering work has already been accomplished there. I say advisedly that until we are prepared to do away with the system which prevailed in South Australia during the transfer negotiations - when it was possible for pastoralists to obtain only an annual permit - and to give them long and favorable terms, we cannot hope to have the Northern Territory occupied and developed to the extent that it should be. These are matters which I know will receive the attention of the Minister of External Affairs in due course. I am not in any way complaining. All I say is that we from South Australia, and, indeed, all the people of Australia, are looking to the Government for some sort of lead in respect of a policy which will enable Central Australia to be occupied and developed, and tropical Australia to be also made use of. I hold that the best defence possible for Australia is to have people of our own choice in Australia developing its great natural resources. The man behind the cultivator is always going to be a better defence to Australia than the man behind the cannon. I wish to deal with the question of defence. I desire, first, to congratulate the Government on having introduced into the Cabinet an honorable member who has had practical experience of military work. I refer to the honorable member for Adelaide, who, I understand, represents the Minister of Defence in this Chamber. I am sure that in him the House will have a man who will give his serious attention to all matters that may be brought before him. I hope the honorable member will not take it as a joke - I am referring to it purely in a military sense - when I say that I intend, as an old volunteer, to do what I can to check any conservative instincts which the Minister may have in respect to the development of the military system. I allude, of course, to conservative instincts on the military side. I do not wish to discard anything in relation to uniforms, armaments, or other things that may have been used in England, so long as they are good; but in starting a military system here we must not be so conservative as to follow the patterns of older countries merely because they have been used for centuries.
The Minister might ascertain if it is a fact that it is intended to adopt the old postilion style in connexion with ammunition and other waggons used in the military service. Another matter about which I asked my. friends in the service to give me a note is the objection to the WestleyRichards rifle that has been chosen as the weapon for the cadets. Its bore is .310, and the bullet weighs 125 grains. It is claimed that the breech action is different from that of the .303 rifle, and that, therefore, the cadet, after learning to use it, will have to be taught the. .303 bolt action when he is drafted into the militia at eighteen years of age. This seems to be an argument against the use of an obsolete weapon at this early stage of our cadet movement. The War Office miniature .222 bore is a cheaper weapon, with the sights and breech action .of the .303, and is certainly more accurate. These are matters of detail which I was asked to bring under the notice of the Minister. I shall be glad to supply him with further details regarding them. I merely refer to them in order to sound a note of warning that, in connexion with the military and naval system, we must be careful in this House, and in Australia generally, not to lose our heads over militarism. For my own part, I am quite prepared to be patient in regard to the introduction of what is known as the compulsory cadet system, although I do not like the word compulsory. I do not object, to the young Australian having some discipline. I think it is good for him; but we shall have to watch very carefully any attempt to multiply expense in regard to militarism in Australia. I believe too much might be made of our danger from attack.- We must be prepared to defend our country ; but I repeat that the best possible defence for Australia, is to increase our production and develop our great natural resources. To get here people of our own choice is the best means of preventing any one else choosing our population for us.
.- I. should like to compliment the honorable member for Boothby upon the very excellent speech which he has just delivered. I am sure that members on both sides of the House can come only to the one conclusion: that the honorable member must prove an acquisition, not only to his party, but to the Federal Parliament as a whole. I was very pleased to hear the eloquent tribute which he paid to the memory of his predecessor, the late Mr: Batchelor. I ami sure that it found an echo in the heart of every man in this House. As I understand that the “Leader of the Opposition is desirous of helping the Government to conclude the debate on the Budget this afternoon, I regret that it will be impossible for me to deal with many subjects upon which I wished to touch. I must, therefore, content myself with referring briefly to some matters chiefly connected with Australian defence. I am pleased to find in the Estimates an item, for new works and additions in connexion with the Military College at Duntroon. I had the pleasure of visiting the College recently with a number of other members of this Parliament, and I am sure every one of us came away convinced that the College is being run upon workmanlike lines, and not for show. It is being carried out absolutely in the spirit of the recommendations laid down by that great organizer, Lord Kitchener. I am sure every one of the party was absolutely convinced that an honest endeavour was being made to establish and maintain the College on the lines of the great American College at West Point. It is well that that should be done, because we shall have to look to this College later on for the officers to command the great Australian Army that is to be cheated under the compulsory service scheme. The Defence Department, under Senator Pearce, are deserving of every credit for the way in which they ar.e carrying out the work in connexion with the College. While I give the Government every credit in that regard, I must deny their claim to be responsible fdr the inauguration of the system under which the College has been established. As a matter of fact, they were not responsible for bringing Lord Kitchener to this country ; and it was he who was primarily responsible for the establishment of the College. It was the Liberal party that brought Lord Kitchener to Australia, and therefore to them is due the inauguration of the scheme. As to the Naval College, I was very much surprised to find that the Government had decided to change the site from Burraneer Bay to Jervis Bay - a decision which is most difficult to understand in the face of the expert recommendations. We had Captain Chambers brought from England, and a great deal of trouble and expense was incurred; and yet suddenly, for some reason that I do not pretend to understand, Jervis Bay has been selected. Several honorable members have suggested reasons for this change of front, but it is absolutely inexplicable to me.Jervis Bay is practically in the bush; and we know the objections that have been raised to the Capital Site on that ground. Jervis Bay is only a small settlement on the wildest part of the coast; and there are no dockyards or provision for those stores of ammunition and so forth which are so absolutely necessary. Of course, we could cart all the stores and appliances, and provide a college with all accessories at Jervis Bay, but it would be only at enormous expense. It would be of great advantage if the cadets were near the University of Sydney, so as to be able to avail themselves of its lectures and other educational advantages.
– They are so patriotic that they stipulate the College must be at one particular place !
– The experts first recommended Hobart.
– If it were not authorized, Major Wynne was a private citizen, and had no right to be interfered with.
– The message was sent on Empire Day.
– But this is a general debate, Mr. Chairman.
– But the subject which the honorable member is now discussing is not connected with the expenditure of money.
The Government made no grant to the contingent.
– That was only in regard to the distribution of medals.
– Yes ; the Deputy Leader of the honorable member’s party told the honorable member so this afternoon. The honorable member will be able to deal with other points on the Estimates.
– Then, if the honorable member will sit down on that understanding, I shall not speak.
Order of Business- Extension of Sittings - Electoral Distribution - Naval College.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The first business on Tuesday will be the consideration of the slight amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill made by the Senate, after which debate on the Commonwealth Bank Bill will be continued until the measure has been disposed of.
.- Has the Prime Minister an announcement to make in regard to an extension of sittings ? It is rumoured that the Government intend not only to take private members’ time for public business, but to have an extra sitting day, to which, personally, I am opposed.
– This morning I asked the Minister of Home Affairs a question, to which he gave no satisfactory reply, an observation which I made at the time, andI have since confirmed it by reading the printed report of the answer. A previous Government, taking advantage of the experience of the officer holding the highest position in the Victorian Public Service, made him Commissioner for the distribution of the State into Commonwealth divisions. He carried out this duty with satisfaction to every one, there being the fullest confidence in his integrity and ability, although two members might have been expected to have a grievance in regard to his recommendations. He still holds his commission, but the Amending Electoral Bill provides for three Commissioners. I was informed, not by Mr. Topp himself, that he was asked by the Minister to become Chairman of. the Board of Commissioners, and agreed to accept the position. He is a devoted public officer, who would place his private desires in the background to carry out what he conceived to be a public duty. But, as it is stated in the press that three new Commissioners are -to be appointed, one naturally wishes to know if Mr. Topp is to be superseded. I asked the Minister a question on the subject, and he gave a reply which showed that he did not know what the facts were. I do not blame him for that, because he cannot carry all the details of the administration of his Department in his head, but I then put a question on the noticepaper, and expected, as the question was put in a categorical form, to receive from the Minister categorical replies. Instead of that, the replies to questions 1, 2, and 3 were grouped together, and the very important question contained in number 2 was not answered at all. In that regard the Minister did not act fairly by me, or by the House. When questions are put on the notice-paper, the least we can expect is that answers should be given to them. If the Minister does not con- sider it expedient, or is unable, to supply an answer, he should frankly say so. I asked whether he would ascertain if Mr. C. A. Topp’s proposed visit to Europe would interfere with the discharge of his duties under his commission. I believe, although I have had no communication with Mr. Topp on the subject, that he is prepared to remain in Australia until the work of the Commission is completed, and even until it is adopted by the House. In those circumstances a grave injustice .is being done to a highly esteemed public official by the want of consideration which has been shown to him. I do not say that the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, the officer who we presume is to supersede Mr. Topp, is not fitted to carry out the duties, but I do question the advisableness of having the officer who might be regarded as the chief adviser of the Minister on this very subject, acting in a judicial capacity. It would stand to reason that any advice which he might give subsequently to the drawing up of the subdivisions would be in the direction of getting those subdivisions adopted. The Minister himself is losing an opportunity of getting from the Chief Electoral Officer that advice which I feel sure he would ask for if he were in a position of difficulty, and which I am sure he would get. I wish to disabuse the House and the Minister of the idea that I have any objection at all to Mr. Oldham. I have none, but I am speaking on behalf of a late officer of the Victorian Public Service, who has done this work admirably in the past and is pre-eminently fitted to do it again, because of the wealth of knowledge that he has at his command, and” his perfect personal knowledge - more perfect than that of any other man in Victoria or the Commonwealth - of the conditions which should govern such a subdivision. We are throwing all this away for what reason I do not know. The only thing I ca.n conceive of is that the Minister was led to believe that” this gentleman was going oh a trip to Europe, and that his services Would not be available. .1 now ask the Minister ‘to ascertain from Mr. Topp whether his services are available, and if they are to remove from him what undoubtedly would be regarded as a stigma upon his reputation. He has done the work more than once, and should be allowed to do it again if he is prepared to undertake it, unless there is some grave objection in the mind of the Minister. If there is, it ought to be stated. If there is not, then he should undoubtedly be again intrusted with this very responsible duty.
– I am sure the Minister has no intention of injuring a man of Mr. Topp’s attainments, the record of whose life is so good: that the matter should be cleared up. He was certainly appointed previously, and I understand that that appointment was not limited as to terms. If that was so, he should have been asked to do the work again on this occasion, or his commission1 should have been ended. No member of this House has objected to . the division of the State of Victoria when, unfortunately, it lost a member previously. Mr. Topp’s record in Victoria is such that any one conversant with it would hesitate for a long time before passing him over if he was available to carry out these duties. I have nothing but commendation for the three officers who have been appointed. Their names are as familiar as household words to any politician in Victoria. One of them comes with a good record from New South Wales. If one way of getting over the difficulty was to appoint four Commissioners, that might be done. If any Federal officer is taken away from his duties to do other work during the hours, that he would have devoted, to his usual, duties, I do not see that a separate sum of money should be paid to him. If special payment is to be’ given in those’ circumstances I want to enter my protest against it. If it is done, a record should appear in the Estimates showing the totalamount of salary and allowances received.
– I shall not agree to any! extra payment being given to a Common-‘ wealth officer.
– Payment will be made to any State officers employed.
– No; but they will, or course, be paid their expenses.
– I understand that the Minister of Defence has been engaged for some time in considering the question of obtaining a site; and suitable buildings, for temporary premises for the Naval College. I should be glad if he would delay his decision on that matter until I am able to place before him certain particulars, which I shall be able to obtain in Sydney tomorrow, with regard to premises at Trial Bay, on the .coast of New South Wales, which have been in the occupation of the Harbors and Rivers Department, and by the gaol authorities, for some years, but are not now used.
.- I am rather surprised that a question like this should be raised on the motion for adjournment by the honorable member for Laanecoorie. I could quite understand such a step if the honorable member were not satisfied with the answers to his question ; but it is certainly most undesirable to discuss the personnel of a body which has the duty of dividing the constituencies.
– Why more so than the man who has done the work before ?
– Nonsense !
Under the Electoral Act of 1902 there was only one Commissioner, Mr. Topp, but in 1909 the Deakin Ministry appointed three. The Surveyor- General must be one ; and when all the names were placed before me, I felt that three better men could not have been selected. Mr. Oldham praised Mr. Topp, who, however, he said was going away.
– Why did Mr. Oldham say that Mr. Topp is going away?
– Did Mr. Oldham recommend himself?
– Was it Mr. Oldham’s remark that caused him to be appointed ?
– I do not think I suggested anything to the contrary.
– That the Minister is the ultimate result in his Department I .
– In reply to the honorable member for Cowper, I may say that I am aware that the Minister of Defence is anxious for temporary accommodation to be obtained at the earliest possible moment. I cannot promise to cause any delay, but I shall place the request of the honorable member before the Minister this evening, in the hope that he will be able to see his way clear to grant it.
– In reply to the honorable member for Herbert, I may say that the Government propose to take the time now given to private members’ business. It is not proposed at present to have any extra sitting days, but it may be necessary to ask honorable members to make a sacrifice a little later on, and sit for some extra time in order to clear up the business before Christmas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111117_reps_4_62/>.