4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in the press that the House of Lords has rejected the Declaration of London? Is that action calculated to interfere with the friendly relations now existing between the British Empire and other nations, and, if so, will the right honorable gentleman urge the Imperial Parliament to expedite the passing of an Electoral Reform Bill, giving every man and every woman in the United Kingdom a vote ?
– Replying to the first part of the question, I have seen the newspaper statement’ that the House of Lords has rejected a Bill in effect ratifying the Declaration of London, which I regret, although for some reasons I was opposedto that treaty.
– Has the Minister re presenting the Minister of Defence seen the statement that Captain Chambers, since visiting Greenwell Point, has expressed himself as very much in favour of it, and has said that he is sorry that he had not seen it before recommending Geelong? Has any similar statement been received from Captain Chambers by the Minister, and will he, before a definite conclusion is arrived at in connexion with the Geelorig site, consult him about the Greenwell Point site?
– I have not seen’ the statement referred to, and doubt whether Captain Chambers would make such a statement without first reporting to the Minister in charge of his Department.
– Has the Minister seen a copy of the International Socialist of the 9th instant-a newspaper published in Sydney headed, “ Some facts about the Australian Navy.” If he has not read it, will he read it, and have an investigation made into the accuracy of the statements?
– What are they?
– I cannot, under Mr. Speaker’s ruling, read them.
Mr.SPEAKER. - The honorable member is at liberty to say what the statements are. What I have objected to is the reading of long extracts from newspapers when the statements could be briefly given.
– Briefly, the statements amount to this : that the methods of punish- ment provided under the King’s Regulations are so extreme as to belong really to a barbarous age. I ask that an inquiry may he made before these regulations are applied to the members of our Defence Force.
– I have not seen the article referred to. No doubt the Minister will make the necessary inquiries.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. A few days ago I received the following letter, dated 12th December, 1911, from the Australian Women’s National League, Mercantile Chambers, Collins-street, Melbourne:-
I cannot believe that you would willingly make such gross misrepresentation regarding the Australian Women’s National League unless you believed it to-be true. I therefore beg you to accept my assurance that your accusations in Parliament against this League were absolutely without foundation.
As regards the lady you mention as being employed by this organization, I can only say we have no knowledge whatever of her, nor was she under any circumstances employed by us in any possible way.
P.S. - As you have given the one statement such publicity, would you kindly, in justice, equally admit your mistake.
To that I replied -
House of Representatives,
Melbourne, 13th December, 1911.
Mrs. F. C. Hughes,
In reply to yours of the 12th instant, permit me to say I do not at any time willingly or otherwise misrepresent any person, or body of -persons. The statement I made in Parliament was, not that your Association, but that the combined political Associations, ‘ had in their employ as a paid organizer, working with a Mr. Packer, -a derelict of a labour, union, a woman connected with the Peacock case. Those remarks were based upon information supplied by a public journal, printed and published in this city.- (The name I did not give for reasons that will be obvious to you, the case being still sub judice.’) If - you assure me that your organization was not joined with others, the so-called Liberal and People’s parties, were . not working in unison with them to defeat the State Labour party at the recent elections, and took no part in, or had knowledge of this person’s employment for the purpose stated, I will at once give the same publicity to your statement as my remarks in Parliament have already received.
The reply returned was -
In reply to yours of the 13th instant, may I refer you to Hansard, No. 37, page 3931, and also to my letter of the 12th instant, wherein I state - “ As regards the lady you mention as being employed by this organization, I can only say we have no knowledge whatever of her, nor was she under any circumstances employed by us in any possible way.”
On reference to Hansard I find that I spoke of the combined associations, not of any one in particular. As my correspondent assures me that the Women’s National Association had no part in the appointment of the person of whom I spoke, I have redeemed my promise to give her reply as much publicity ‘as the statement I made in the House.
– I find that on the conclusion of the Tariff discussion the honorable member for Lang moved the following amendment to the Bill imposing the new duties : -
Provided that increased rates of duty shall cease to operate after a period of three months from the date of their imposition, unless satisfactory evidence shall be forthcoming that wages have -been increased in industries in respect of which increased Tariff protection has been enacted.
The amendment was moved at about a quarter to one on Friday morning, when the House had been sitting for nearly forty hours continuously. At the time I was absent from the chamber, having a cup of tea. It is evident that there was not a second member prepared to call for a division with the honorable member for Lang, otherwise we should have had an opportunity of expressing ourselves on the matter. All I have to say is that I wish I had known that the honorable member was moving in this direction, so that I might have taken part in the consideration of the issues- involved.
– The suggestion that my amendment wassprung upon the House by surprise is erroneous, because I gave notice of it at the beginning of the Tariff discussion. I did not have an opportunity of moving it until the question itself was put, as it could not be moved until the schedule had been disposed of.
– Why did not the honorable member call for a division on it?
– I did, but I could get no one on that side of the House to assist me.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, in view of a question that was inaccurately answered last week, if his attention has been drawn to page 273 of the New South Wales Railway Book? Can he verify the statement there that the New South Wales Government allow concessions for workmen’s tickets up to 34 miles, and will he enter into communication with the Ministers of Railways of the two States in order to have a weekly excursion between Melbourne and Sydney instituted on somewhat similar lines?
– We have already begun communications with the Minister of Railways in New South Wales and the Minister of Railways in Victoria for the purpose of endeavouring to carry out the honorable member’s splendid suggestion, which would enable the working classes of the two States to fraternise, and thus destroy the provincial prejudices which have separated them for so many years.
– I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral, without notice, whether the Commonwealth has power to deal with the Mergenthaler Trust, an American combine, which, having a type machine called the barotype put on the market, and having purchased the monoline machine, has now refused to make or sell parts of the monoline machine in Australia? Can the AttorneyGeneral in any way protect those newspaper proprietors who have purchased monoline machines?
– Some facts in relation to this matter have been placed before me. I am making inquiries to ascertain how far the alleged action is a breach of any of the Statutes of the Commonwealth. From what the honorable member has said, I incline to believe that it is against the spirit. of the Australian Industries Preservation Act, but am not able to say whether it is a direct violation of any particular section. I shall make further inquiries, and let the honorable member know the result.
– Is it not possible for the Minister of Trade and Customs to do something to stop the unwarranted and unworthy attacks that are being made on the Commonwealth meat inspection system? by the London authorities? A statement appears in this morning’s Melbourne press, to the effect that one of the principal inspecting officers, Dr. Williams, is said to have declared that he no longer pays any attention to the Commonwealth certificates or labels, regarding them as unreliable in every case, after several months’ experience.This indicates a serious position, and T. hope action will be taken by the Minister to put things right.
– I have not seen the statement in to-day’s Age, but will look it up. I do not think it is possible for Dr. YVilliams to have made the statement with?’ which he is credited. If he did, he is no officer of ours, but I shall ask the High Commissioner in London to make inquiries.
– When he is instructing-‘ the High Commissioner to inquire into the; matter mentioned by the honorable member for Brisbane, will the Minister of Trade and Customs also instruct him to inquire into the utter lack of value of the commerce regulations in regard to the branding of Australian butter, with a view tohaving them altered?
– I have no power to in-‘ struct the High Commissioner in the way suggested, as that is within the province of the Minister of External Affairs, but the facts with regard to the butter industry speak for themselves. Two years ago we were receiving for our butter 12s. per cwt. less than the Danish, but we are practically on a par with it now.
Brisbane Mail Branch - Press Cable Subsidy
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
Sicilians and lustres, I believethey are so used.
– On the 1st inst., the honorable member for Richmond, on behalf of the honorable member for Parkes, asked the following question : -
Whether the Minister for Trade and Customs will lay upon the table a short statement of the fees and allowances for expenses arranged to be granted to the members of the Sugar Commission ?
In accordance with my promise then made, I now furnish the following information : -
President : Salary at the rate of£3,000 per annum, with travelling expenses of£3 3sper diem when absent from place of domicile.
Private secretary to the President : Salary at the rate of£250 per annum, with travelling allowance of 12s. 6d. per diem when absent from place of domicile.
Members : £3 3s. per sitting per diem, and travelling expenses at the rate of 25s. per diem when absent from place of domicile.
Secretary to Commission : To receive his present salary (£400 per annum), together with travelling expenses at the following rates : - 15s. per diem when absent from Victoria, 12s. when in Victoria.
In addition to the above, in each case, all train, steamer, and cab fares incurred in connexion with the business of the Commission will be paid by the Government.
– On the 12th inst., the honorable member for Newcastle, on behalf of the honorable member for Corangamite, asked the following question : -
Whether the Minister for Trade and Customs will have a return prepared showing the prices paid in London during the last three years for Australian, New Zealand, and Danish butter?
The figures have now been obtained, and are as follow : -
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to authorize the Pacific Cable Board to construct and work a submarine cable between New Zealand and Australia, as part of the Pacific Cable.
This proposal has been agreed to by the other partners in the Pacific Cable, namely, the Governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand. It now rests with Australia to complete the authorization, and the work will be proceeded with. It is represented that this is a matter of urgent necessity in order that the Pacific Cable Board may be able to deal with the increasing volume of business now conducted over this line. The inconvenience of the single cable has been most undesirably demonstrated on two or three occasions, and on one particularly, when the cable was broken for three days and the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company had to be appealed to by the Board in order to cope with the business. It is further suggested that we shall possibly, as partners in the Pacific Cable, get very considerable reductions in the ultimate cost of the upkeep. If the Bill is allowed to pass through all its stages, as I think it might well be, the work will, I understand, be undertaken at a very early date.
.- I take it there can be hardly two opinions as to this proposal. This cable is absolutely necessary, and another at the other end, if we are to have complete communication with the Mother Country and Europe.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Bill, by leave, read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definitions).
. -It is rather unfair to the Opposition to place this Bill in our hands without the slightest intimation that it was likely to be introduced. Honorable members have not had time even to glance through it.
– This clause is not of any importance.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3. (Authority to construct a cable between New Zealand and Australia).
– I am not opposing the proposal, because I think it very necessary that a connexion should be made in order to secure efficiency in the service. It must be remembered, however, that efficiency depends not merely on the construction of the line as proposed, but on linking up the connexion with the Mother Country over the Atlantic. That is where, it seems to me, the greatest trouble is likely to centre. There were a number of competing lines across the Atlantic, but these have gradually been syndicated and brought under trusts, so that there are now practically only two separate services. This syndicating has resulted in a number of the lines across the Atlantic being only occasionally used; and, when in London, I learned from reports there that it was probable that the trust would absorb the remaining competing line, negotiations to that end having been commenced. Should these negotiations be successful, the whole of the business over the Atlantic will be at the mercy of the trust; and I hope that the Government and the Pacific Cable Board are giving attention to this phase of the question.
– I have nothing but commendation for the proposal of the Minister, but I should like to know what is being done at the other end of the world; for, after all, there is the weak link of the chain. Two years ago or more we took steps to strengthen that weak link; and it seems to me that we are very much behind in, after two years’ effort, only beginning the work at the end of a chain which we ourselves can guarantee to be strong. The Postmaster-General is beginning at the wrong end. This proposal may result in a little more business.
– There is no doubt about that. It is the beginning of the linking up.
– At the same time the Pacific Cable is, in my judgment, destined to a chequered career until we can guarantee it through to London, and I shall be glad if the Postmaster-General can give us a little information on a matter which is of vital importance to this cable.
– The question of an independent Kingdom-owned line from Australia to the United Kingdom has been the subject of considerable discussion in this House for many years. Representations have been made by previous PostmastersGeneral, including my predecessor, in connexion with bringing the Atlantic section within our control; but, unfortunately, I am not at present in a position to say that the Pacific Cable Board has been able to bring about that result. With the attitude adopted by several of my predecessors I am in hearty agreement ; and any assistance that can be given by the Government to the Board in the direction of securing our ultimate object, will be gladly rendered. But that is not concerned in the present proposal, though it is of course interrelated. The urgency of the connexion between Australia and New Zealand stands alone, owing to the difficulty experienced in conducting the business over a single line. I shall, however, again open up communication with the Pacific Cable Board, and endeavour to meet the wishes of the Australian Government, Parliament, and people in the direction suggested by honorable members.
– It is quite clear that the present Postmaster-General does not know “exactly how matters stand in regard to the Atlantic projects. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether, when recently in London, he did anything to try to further the project of acquiring a right of way across the Atlantic?
– I did.
– I should be glad if the right honorable gentleman would tell us what happened?
– We had a dozen interviews more or less with the PostmasterGeneral of Great Britain in regard to the matter, and also brought it specifically before the Conference, and discussed it at special conferences. I am afraid that the Government of Great Britain are a little more timid than we are in dealing with private enterprise. When we brought forward the matter, it was pointed out to us that the Imperial authorties were being fairly well treated so far as their ordinary business was concerned, and the Postmaster-General of Great Britain thought that if they were to lay down a line or two of their own some embarrassment might arise at certain times if anything happened to them. I took a different view, but we found that there was not much hope of anything in the direction desired. Since our return to Australia, however, I have seen reports stating that arrangements have been come to, and that it is possible that a line or two may be laid down in the future. We are entirely in the hands of the British Government in this matter, but we continue to press upon their attention the desirableness of a State cable not only across the Pacific, but across the Atlantic.
– What the Prime Minister says is, : no doubt, correct, but I hope that he will forgive me for suggesting that he has been negotiating in the wrong quarter. We could never get anything done in reference to a Pacific cable until Mr. Chamberlain took the matter in hand. It is to him that we owe everything that was done on the other side of the world, in the first instance, with regard to that cable. The Postmaster-General had only a secondary interest in it. This is a matter of prime Imperial policy rather than of mere business, and is related to the defence and to the consolidation of the Empire. It was in that aspect alone that it was taken up in earnest by Mr. Chamberlain when Secretary of State for the Colonies, and I advise the Prime Minister to address himself to that aspect of the case. I believe that it would be far more potent than any consideration of pounds, shillings, and pence, with the Postmaster-General of Great Britain.
– I have already pointed out that we did what the honorable member suggests we should do. We discussed the question at the Conference with the head of the British Government and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and subsequently with the PostmasterGeneral. We pointed out the value of having a State cable or two in the Atlantic, but objections were raised, which some of us thought were not as real as they would have had us believe, and, therefore, we could not force the matter. We presented our case, and the time may come when the British Government and the present Postmaster-General of Great Britain himself may be ardent supporters of such a proposal as that which we put before them. Since our return from England, I have seen published cable messages stating that something is being done to facilitate and cheapen the service in question.
– In any case, this particular link strengthens the case for the others.
– Most certainly.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 17th November, vide page 2854) :
Division 1 (The Senate), £7,160 (of which item1 had been agreed to.)
.- I understand, Mr. Chairman, that the general debate has not yet been closed.
– The general debate took place on the first item of the division, and that item having been passed, the general debate on the Estimates has closed.
– On a point of order, sir, it was not intended that the general debate on the Estimates relating to the Parliament as a whole should be closed with the passing of that item.
– The general discussion on the whole Estimates was raised on the first item ; and that item having been passed, we may still have what I may describe as a subsidiary discussion on the Estimates relating to each Department.
– That is understood.
– I raised the point only to preserve our rights. I do not propose to discuss the Estimates relating to the Parliament.
.- I wish to again draw attention to the inartistic coat-of-arms which appears at the head of our notepaper. Surely it is time that we had a decent Australian coatofarms.
– A new coatofarms has been designed, which is a great improvement on that now at the head of our notepaper, though similar to it. The word “Australia” is printed beneath it. This coat-of-arms is under the consideration of the Heralds’ College, a body which, I understand, never hurries, and which may take a year or two to deal with the matter..
.- Attention may now be drawn to the inferior quality of stationery furnished to this House as compared with that supplied to the Senate. At times one is almost ashamed to address correspondents on the paper supplied to us. When I once ventured to inquirewhy our stationery was inferior to that of the Senate, an official told me that it was because it would cost too much to give us the better quality, as this House numbers seventyfive members, while the Senate has only thirty-six. That seemed a frivolous explanation. Not only is the quality of our notepaper and envelopes inferior, but only one size of small envelopes is provided, so that if, as happens at times, one requires to enclose a note of introduction to a Minister or official, it is impossible to do so. This state of things has lasted for ten years.
– It is worse than it was.
– I do not think that it is worse. Recently the quality of the envelopes has improved a little.
.- Complaint has been made to me from time to time concerning the quality of our notepaper and envelopes, and I have had samples of better quality submitted to me. The External Affairs Department uses an excellent envelope, but to supply honorable members with envelopes of its quality would increase our stationery expenditure by nearly £100 a year. I have issued the instruction that, when the present stock of stationery has been worked out, paper of better quality must be supplied.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 2 (House of Representatives), £9,718.
.- I wish to draw attention to the supply of newspapers to the Library. A great many English newspapers are received, which are rarely read. Some of the more uptodate journals should be obtained, such as the London Daily Sketch, which gives photographs of events daily occurring throughout the United Kingdom.
– Under this division the honorable member should confine himself to the local newspapers.
– Then I shall do so. The Australian press has a very high reputation, though I do not say that it is wholly deserved. Some newspapers, among them the Argus, are quite unworthy of it. In the course of my remarks I shall refer to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Daily Telegraphy the Brisbane Courier, and the Brisbane Telegraph, all of which are supplied to the Library, and, no doubt, will continue to be supplied. I want honorable members first to consider whether the Argus should be subscribed for, in view of the facts which I am about to relate. On the 27th October I complained that the editor of that journal had refused to insert a letter written by me in reply to some observations by one William Humble Ward, otherwise Lord Dudley, who had spoken of members as professional politicians, and had hinted that there were in Australia members who are simply old-age pensioners. Although I sent a courteously-worded note asking for the insertion of my letter, the letter was returned to me without any explanation. I brought the matter up in the House, and, at the same time, thought it well to speak of the unfair treatment which the Labour party, myself included, has received at the hands of the representative of the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr. A. S. Whyte ; the representative of the Brisbane Courier, Mr. F. Sampson; and of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Mr. Peters. I said that Mr. Sampson represented Pathe Freres, and that he is so much opposed to the Labour party that, in writing a description of a film showing the opening of the Roubaix Exhibition, at which the late Mr. Batchelor attended, he described it as the meeting of President Fallieres and Sir George Reid, although neither gentleman was present. Mr. Sampson told members that there was no truth in the statement, and they spoke to me about it. I have, therefore, gone to the trouble of getting a letter from the gentleman who originally supplied me with information on the subject. It is as follows : -
The title of the cinematograph picture ; Roubaix Exhibition, “ President Fallieres and Sir George Reid met there yesterday “ - which was wrong, as neither the President nor Sir George Reid was there - was made by Mr. F. Sampson. I have proof that he is the author of the same, and he cannot deny the fact.
Agent-Commissaire for Roubaix Exhibition in Australasia.
I mentioned the press correspondents by name, because I thought it better to single out those whom I knew to be offending than to condemn all. Most of the pressmen in these galleries then held a meeting, or consulted with one another, with the result - I have this on the authority of the honorable member for Coolgardie (Mr. Hugh Mahon) - that it was said ‘ ‘ so far as the press was concerned in the future, Mr. Higgs no longer existed.” The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) also told me that he had heard that the pressmen had decided not to report me in the future. This boycott has been carried out by the Argus, and by the Sydney, and, I think, the Adelaide press, but not by the Melbourne Age or the Melbourne Herald. Does it not show that the pressmen take an extraordinary view of members of Parliament ? You remember the old adage that “ even a worm will turn when trodden upon”; but some pressmen seem to think that the politician or member of Parliament is a worm that will not turn. I wrote to the editor of the Argus as follows: -
Dear Sir, - In the Argus report (Friday, November 10, inst.), of the proceedings of the House of Representatives, I notice that although I spoke for about an hour on the Banking Companies Reserve Liabilities Bill (clause 3), no mention whatever is made of my remarks, nor even of the fact that I spoke - though other speeches on the same subject are briefly reported.
Would you be so good as to inform me whether all or any of your press representatives in the Federal Parliament have instructions not to report me at all.
I am led to ask this question because I am informed that after my remarks of the 27th of October last, concerning press criticism of the Labour party, some of the pressmen present stated that in future I would not be reported (or words to that effect).
Thanking you in anticipation for an early reply, I am, dear sir. - Yours truly,
I received this reply -
Memorandum from the Editor of the Argus, Melbourne, 13th November, 1911.
To the Hon. W. G. HIGGS, House of Representatives, Melbourne.
Dear Sir, - Replying to your letter of November 11, I desire to say that I cannot take notice of any hearsay general statement, such us that “ some’ of the pressmen present stated that in future I would not be reported - (or words to that effect).” I am satisfied that no member of the Argus staff would have used any such expression. - Yours faithfully,
Ed. S. Cunningham
I should like to know what you think of that letter. Is it not a shuffle, an evasion? I asked the editor of the Argus whether it was under his instructions that I was being boycotted, and to notice that, although I spoke for an hour on the Bill in question, there was no report of my remarks, or even mention of my name; but the editor, who had not the moral courage to insert my letter about Lord Dudley’s remarks, had not even the courage to answer the question whether certain gentlemen were under his instructions to suppress my remarks. The boycott, however, was raised for a couple of days, and continued after - wards.
Then I asked a question as to who was the writer of a certain sketch appearing in Melbourne Punch, in which it was said that Mr. Agar Wynne was in the habit of responding to requests for urgent loans by members of the Labour party ; that he never refused those loans, and that that was the reason why, when the Labour members heard Mr. Agar Wynne’s name, they always spoke of him with praise, or words to that effect. I said at the time that I understood that Mr. G. McL. Redmond wrote the article, and asked if the Speaker would be good enough to make inquiries as to whether that was so. I made no attack on Mr. Redmond, but next morning there appeared in the Argus a report of the questions, a report of Mr. Agar Wynne’s denial that he ever lent money to any of the members, and an attack on me under these headings: “Mr. Higgs, M.H.R.,” ‘-‘Attack on a Journalist,” “ Baseless Accusation.” The Argus went on to say -
The attack upon Mr. Redmond by Mr. Higgs was not only grossly unfair, but mean spirited. Although the editor was making inquiries as to the truth of certain statements 1 made, the Argus on 5th December, published a portion of that part of my remarks which it suppressed on 2nd December, and the following appeared -
Referring in the House of Representatives on Friday to the charge he made against a member of the Argus staff of having written in Punch in derogatory terms of the Labour party, Mr. Higgs said : - “ Yesterday afternoon at 3 o’clock the hon. member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) came to me, and said, ‘ I come to you with an olive branch. I have been asked to see and to ask you to withdraw the statement against Mr. Redmond, If you do, I have a guarantee from two of the pressmen that you will be fully reported in the Argus in future.’ … I should have been better able to arrive at a decision if the Argus had not caused me to be approached in a backdoor sort of way by sending to me an honorable member with whom I am on very friendly terms, and getting him to try to induce me to withdraw the statement against Mr. Redmond.” We have already published Mr. Redmond’s denial that he was the author of the article, or that he contributed to Punch. In view, however, of the further statements by Mr. Higgs, we thought it necessary to ask Mr. Page if the pressmen referred to were members of our staff, and we have been assured by him that they were not. It is hardly necessary to say that no one had authority from this office to approach Mr. Page, or to give any such guarantee as he mentioned. Reporting in these columns is governed solely by consideration of public interest, and it would be absolutely contrary to the policy and traditions of the Argus to suppress for personal reasons the speeches of any member, or to offer to report him only if he agreed to certain terms.
They were still making inquiries, and on the next day, Wednesday, a rumour went around the House that both Messrs. G. McL. Redmond and Campbell Jones had left the Argus office.
– The statement was that they had been discharged from the office. I then wrote to the editor of the Argus as follows : -
Dear Sir, - It is commonly reported at Parliament House that Mr. G. McL. Redmond has received notice that he must sever his connexion with the Argus, and that Mr. J. Campbell Jones, another member of the staff, has resigned ; further, that the foregoing notice and resignation are through or on account of the Punch articles. Will you be good enough to tell me whether the above common report is correct, and, if so, what action you propose to take concerning myself. I have been held up to public ridicule and contempt in your issue of the1st December inst. in an article headed “Mr. Higgs, M.H.R. - Attack on a Journalist - Baseless Accusation.” I wish to know whether you do not consider that the Argus should - in the same column and same type as my name appears as having made a baseless accusation - admit that it has done me a great injustice.
Thanking you in anticipation for an immediate reply. - I am, yours truly.
I received the following reply: -
The Argus and the Australasian, Melbourne, 8th December, 191 1.
The Hon. W. G. Higgs, M.H.R., House of Representatives, Melbourne.
Dear Sir, - In reply to your letter of the 7th instant, addressed to the Editor of the Argus, we beg to state that the report to which you refer is not correct, except as regards the fact that Messrs. Campbell Jones and G. McL. Redmond have resigned their positions on our staff.
As for what we have published with respect to yourself, you will thus see that we have no reason for making the admission you mention. - Yours faithfully,
Wilson and Mackinnon.
Why did not the editor reply to my letter? I wrote to him, and not to the general manager. One would think that Mr. E. Sheldon Cunningham ought to have had the moral courage to reply to me-
– “Doctor” Cunningham.
– I shall refer to that matter later on - unless Mr. E. Sheldon Cunningham is unfortunately under the thumb of the general manager, like so many editors under the modern system of journalism - the company owning of newspapers. If he has control of the literary columns, if it was within his knowledge, as I suppose it must have been, that that article appeared about my making a baseless accusation and making an unjustifiable attack on a journalist, when Mr. E. Sheldon Cunningham knew that Mr. Campbell Jones and Mr. G. McL. Redmond had left the Argus office by or through or on account of those Punch articles, he should have published an expression of regret for having done me an injustice. Messrs. Wilson and Mackinnon’s letter is really another evasion, another fraud. It is a suggestion of falsehood, and it suppresses the truth. Did not Messrs. Wilson and Mackinnon know well enough, or do we not all know who have been spoken to lately, that there was consternation in the Argus office on Wednesday afternoon ? Mr. Mackinnon would lead us to believe that these men resigned, without any pressure. As a matter of fact, the Argus people did not give them twenty-four hours to get out of the office ; not because they wrote the articles about the Labour party - that was not the reason why Mr. Campbell Jones received such terribly severe punishment, but it was because he had not the moral courage to tell the editor and general manager the truth. He was discharged for trying to shield Mr. Redmond. Neither of them had the moral courage - nor had the editor or the general manager - to admit that they had done me an injustice. I am very glad to say that both Campbell Jones and Redmond, who are clever men, have obtained positions in Sydney on the Daily Sun. The Argus had no consideration for these men, who had been writing on its behalf against the Labour party. There will be no punishment of that sort in a Labour institution; and we know that if public servants were treated in a similar fashion, there would be columns of abuse and condemnation in the Argus of punishment so drastic.
I have now to refer to another gentleman on the Argus, Mr. D. H. Maling, who resides in Banksia-street, Heidelberg. This gentleman, although he knew as much as anybody of the case, made a personally offensive attack on me in the Argus, and I have suffered from his enmity for years. I do not know him personally, though I have seen him coming along Collins-street, glancing furtively from side to side, as if he expected every moment to receive a kick in the “ Darwinian theory “ from some of the men he has libelled. When I was a member of the Senate I found it my public duty to criticise a certain Governor for interfering in domestic politics ; and Mr. Maling’s anger knew no bounds. His poison glands began to discharge immediately; as he could not reply to my arguments he ridiculed my name. He is a writer who used frequently to criticise the attitude of honorable senators; he criticised, among others, the late Senator Dawson, who was a man of no physical strength, and who sometimes put his feet on the front benches. Senator Dawson was taken to task by the Argus for doing this ; and he came to me one day when I was Chairman of Committees, and told me that a man was lying down in the press gallery. He expressed the opinion that if he had to sit up, he did not see why the men in the press gallery should not be made to sit up. I said to him, “ Well, if you make a complaint I shall have him spoken to.” When Mr. Sparks, the messenger, was sent up to the gallery he found the man to be Mr. Maling, of the Argus. At first Mr. Maling refused to sit up, though he himself was taking liberties he would not allow honorable senators to1 take. However, I sent up the messenger again, and Mr. Maling, after some objection, went away. The next thing I saw in the Argus, of the nth November, 1904, in “ Ithuriel,” was -
Senator Higgs is a great disappointment as Chairman of Committees. He is as much an open and unashamed partisan as Mr. Chanter in the other House. On almost every point raised, his decision goes for his own side without hesitation, with little explanation.
That was a deliberate, wicked lie. If ever I did anything in my public career well and successfully, from all accounts, it was the performance of the duties of Chairman of Committees in the Senate. Apparently I was so impartial that honorable senators on the Opposition side admitted that when President Baker retired I ought to take his place. Mr. Maling knew he was writing a deliberate lie; and yet he used the columns of the Argus to stab me behind my back. What redress have I, or any member of Parliament, against the Argus, unless the aggrieved one happens, like Mr. Swinburne, in the State Parliament, to be possessed of thousands of pounds? That gentleman took a newspaper into Court, and got a verdict ; but he was taken from Court to Court, until the highest Court in the United Kingdom was reached, and I have neither time, money, nor the disposition to undertake the worry of such an action at law.
Since the Argus has refused to make the amende honorable, I do not see why I should not say a few words about its editor, who allows himself to be ticketed in his own columns as “ Dr.” E. S. Cunningham. “Dr.” indeed! Where did he get this so-called title of doctor. I have looked up Chambers’ Encyclopedia, wherein I am told the term “doctor “ is the highest university title for the learned ; that -
The doctor’s degree is granted either on examination and after the ancient form, at least, 3 of publicly defending a learned thesis in Latin has been observed, or else it is an honorary degree conferred in consideration of the general reputation of the recipient for eminence in some particular branch of learning, philosophy or science.
Is Mr. Cunningham eminent in philosophy, learning, or science? Perhaps he got the title for eminence in the science of suppressing letters from people who do not agree with the Argus. What difference is there between the title of the wretched medical quack and that of the so-called “ Dr.” Cunningham? There is a law to suppress medical quacks in the States, and it is a great pity that there is not a Commonwealth law to suppress the using of titles such as “ Doctor “ granted in a weak moment by universities abroad. Honorable members will recollect that not long ago, Sir William McGregor, Governor of Queensland, in addressing the students of the Brisbane University, as its Chancellor - hoped that the Senate had made up its mind on this point - that it was not going to supply back-door degrees of any sort whatever.
– That was after Kidston got his !
– I was speaking with one of the professors; and I understand that there is great objection on the part of those who have to stew and burn the midnight oil in order to obtain titles of the kind, to , their being given in this back-door fashion to men with very little qualification. I hope that the bodies in the Old Country who grant such titles will exercise more discrimination in the future. If they knew of the ring there is amongst the newspapers in Australia - the combine amongst the proprietors and editors to suppress all criticism of themselves - I venture to think they would not confer on them titles which are intended for men of great reputation in learning, philosophy, and science.
I should like now to refer to the.’ Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the Brisbane Courier, and the Brisbane Telegraph. On the day I asked the question about Mr. Redmond and the article in Punch, the representatives of these papers sent a report of the question, of the
Speaker’s remarks, the remarks of the Prime Minister, and the debate, but they did not send a single word about the denial of the honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Agar Wynne. There are people who believe that where there is smoke there is fire; and in the absence of any denial, the very effect the writer desired was made on the minds of the public. Why did the Inter-State pressmen not send this information to their newspapers? I hope honorable members will understand my position in this matter. The newspapers I have mentioned are the source from which the Rockhampton and other newspapers in my electorate can draw their news ; and the report on the occasion I refer to was the same in each case - the same wording in each of the newspapers I have mentioned. This report, as I have already indicated, appeared in the Rockhampton Record, 1,500 miles from Melbourne. There must have been something like agreement amongst the press representatives to send over this incomplete report; or why was the denial of the honorable member for Balaclava not sent ? We must draw one of two conclusions - either these men acted deliberately, or they are incompetent. Having observed the actions of some of the Inter-State pressmen, who wait on Ministers of the Crown, I think it wrong that wealthy newspapers, such as those I have mentioned, do not pay more capable journalists to report the doings of this Parliament. Some of these men are absolutely without experience, and, I think, too young to have capacity. Many of them cannot appreciate the great liberties they have within these walls. There is a gentleman, Mr. Sampson, who is certainly old enough to know better, but who is positively audacious. He will rush into a Minister’s room uninvited, and make himself a general nuisance, apparently because he has no respect for members of Parliament.
I do not know that I am called upon to say- very much more. Messrs. Wilson and Mackinnon and “ Dr.” E. S. Cunningham would claim, I suppose, a very distinguished position and high reputation for their newspaper, and for themselves to be gentlemen in the highest sense of the term. And so, I suppose, would all the proprietors and editors of the newspapers I have mentioned ; but they are all combined to suppress any criticism of their own conduct, while they throw their columns open to some of the literary assassins who stalk behind the curtain. Did we see one word in the Melbourne Herald, liberal as that newspaper is in many respects, of the criticism of the press offered by myself on the 27th October, or of the incident which occurred the other day ? Not a line. Nor did the Brisbane Courier make any reference to the matter. The newspapers refuse to publish anything reflecting on the editors, proprietors, or any one else connected with them. They talk of a free press, but where is the freedom? They have control of all the machinery of distribution, and a man would find it impossible, for instance, to put a new daily newspaper on the Brisbane market, because, if a news agent attempted to distribute it, the Brisbane Courier would at once withdraw its agency from him. Does not this amount to tryanny?
– It is Egyptian despotism.
– I cannot believe that the whole of the shareholders in these various newspaper companies are entirely in sympathy with the management in this regard. I am glad to say that I have still a means of reaching the ears of my constituents. Such liberally conducted newspapers as the Rockhampton Daily Record, the Bundaberg Daily News, the Mount Morgan Argus, and the Rockhampton Critic publish fair reports, and I obtain some assistance from the Queensland Worker. I have also other means of getting my views before the electors, but I do not propose to enlighten the Opposition altogether as to what they are.
– We know nothing about that sort of thing.
– I think that the honorable member does. By having copies of some of my speeches printed I am able to reach the ears of my constituents, but at considerable and quite unnecessary expense. The Federal Parliament has passed legislation giving newspapers special privileges. For instance, press telegrams are transmitted at the rate of1s. 6d. per 100 words, and-
– They are given special privileges in regard to postal rates.
– Quite so. We carry newspapers through the post at the rate of 10 ozs. per half-penny. I do not think such generous rates prevail in any other part of the world. If a man posted a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald in London, he would have to pay postage upon it to the extent of 2½d. or 2¼d. The people of Australia through the Parliament give Australian newspapers these special telegraph and postal rates, and we expect them, at least, to give us fair play. We have a right to expect them to acquaint the general public fairly and honestly of the doings of the Federal Parliament. I should not care how briefly they reported the speeches of honorable members, so long as they reported them fairly. If they did that, then no one could complain of whatever criticism they indulged in in their leading columns. Let them make their condemnation qf us as bitter as they please, but let them report us fairly. I invite honorable members to consider for a moment the treatment that has been meted out to me because I expressed the opinion that Mr. .Peters, of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, was not instructed to write in the way he does of the Labour party ; because I complained, further, that Mr. Sampson did not report me at all; and that Mr. A. S. Whyte reported me unfairly. Because of those complaints, I have simply been boycotted. These men say, in effect, “ We shall blot you out of existence.” I want to remind them, however, that, as a member of this Parliament, 1 am something more than “ W. G- Higgs.” I am the member for Capricornia - sent here to represent some 30,000 of the electors in an important part of Australia - and if they think that I will not resent such conduct, they are very much mistaken.
.- -I am one of those who think that no man in the journalistic world, or belonging to any other section of the community, has a right to avail himself of the liberties given him by the Constitution and the Parliament of the country in which he lives to injure his fellow man. For some time, however, men engaged on the press in Australia seem to have considered it their duty to ridicule honorable members in every way, while it is by no means uncommon to find newspapers that will not report us at all. Some newspapers distort the statements of honorable members so as to give to them a meaning different altogether from that conveyed by the reports of the impartial reorder. They contort and twist statements, interpolate remarks, or insert the word “ laughter “ where there has been no laughter, for no other purpose than that of ridiculing an honorable member. Some steps should be taken to suppress the freedom that they have exercised to malign men. I rose, however, more particularly to refer to the malignity of the press, and to show how they can unite to defeat any proposal or institution of which they do not approve. No stronger example of this could be instanced than the treatment meted out, as the result, I should say, of a deliberate conspiracy on the part of the press, to a Royal, Commission appointed at the instance of this House, and authorized by the GovernorGeneral to carry out its work. The Commission in question was not welcome to the Government of the day, and, although it was granted, the proposal that the Commission should take evidence was not well received by a section of the House. It was appointed, however, by the will of the majority to perform important work, and now that the value of its work has been clearly demonstrated I think I may speak freely on the subject. Newspapers in every State capital used every weapon at their hand to condemn that Commission. It is remarkable to say the least of it that every prominent newspaper in Australia should have combined to Tight, if not to annihilate, the inquiry that was ordered by this House, and which was proceeded with in the interests of the public. Had I known that the honorable member for Capricornia was going to bring forward this matter this afternoon I should have come “prepared to submit to honorable members some choice samples of what the press is prepared to stoop to in abuse of a public institution. We have never had a greater example of a boycott and a conspiracy on the part of the combined press to defeat a public inquiry than that which was witnessed in connexion with the Royal Commission on Postal Services to which I have referred. I learned, in advance, that this attitude was going to be taken up by the newspapers, and I certainly have no respect for those who would try to aim a death blow at such a Commission. In referring to this present conspiracy on the part of the press, I do not speak of the men in the gallery - I refer rather to those who conduct the big newspapers, because they alone are responsible for what appears in their columns. They seem to lay themselves out to blot out of existence some whose political days they desire to end. I have had to submit to more than my_ fair share of that sort of thing, although it has not affected me. It is deeply to be regretted that newspapers should seek to defame, blacken, and ruin the reputations of members in the eyes of those who have returned them to this Parliament. We ought not to tolerate such a thing. I am sure that we have no desire to curb the freedom of the press. No honest man desires to put anything in the way of honest criticism, but when newspapers are used to injure men who have done them no wrong, and whose reputations are probably a”s clean as, if not cleaner than, those of the men who attack them, it is time for this Parliament to protect itself from such assaults. We have the power to considerably reduce the prestige of the press by preventing those who do not act fairly from coming into the galleries to report our proceedings. While they do what is fair, and treat us as they would wish to be treated, no one will interfere with them; but when they seek to make their living by damning others, they should remember that we have the power to withdraw their licences. Such actions as I complain of are not calculated to bring honour to the press. I understand that some men will write articles in support of a particular policy to one newspaper, and articles opposing that policy to another newspaper. To describe such conduct there is no other phrase than “ literary prostitution,” Men who are well paid are not satisfied with what they receive, but, by writing anonymously, snatch the crust which others are seeking to secure. This is not a- light matter. Some men value nothing more than their reputation, and reputation is certainly worth more than any amount of money or popularity. If a man on this side loses it, he loses what he has worked for years to secure. Those who try to take from my wife and children the bread which I provide for them by the work which I do here are as unworthy as the burglar who breaks into my residence. It is said that we are injuring these men; but what care they whom they injure, or whose reputations they take away? Men have been written out of public life, and their wives and children have suffered, although nothing was done to deserve it. I care not, for the smile or the criticism of the press. So long as I do right, the people who sent me here will have confidence in me, despite press criticism. My reputation stands higher than the press can reach. There are others who fawn to the newspapers, who, for a smile from a press representative, will suppress their manhood. It is- they who are making the press what it Ls. Honorable members have been treat- ing the pressmen as equals. No restriction* has been placed on their use of the privileges of this building. We have extendedto them the hand of brotherhood, and are willing to do so while they do the right thing; but we must protect our rights and our reputations, which are sacred. I shall always be willing to restrict thelicence of the press, and to bring about proper journalism, worthy of newspaperswhose duty it is to truly report public events and to speak out for the public good, irrespective of party considerations. The “ press has no right to be used to damn individuals. Its mission is to educate thepeople; to let them know what public mert do, so that they may judge them in the light of truth. If ever there was a malicious and. vindictive boycott, it was that established in connexion with the Postal Commission’s proceedings. When one is giving his time freeof charge, arid working night and day totry to solve a great problem, it is enough, to tear his heart out to find his actionsridiculed by newspapers which are supposed* to educate the people. Had I known thewriters of some of the paragraphs, I am? afraid that it would have been difficult topersuade me from doing what nothing but the sense of my public position would haveprevented me from doing. I hope that in future the writers’ names will be attached’ to press articles. It would do no harm if some of those now contributing to the presswere missing. There have been times inAmerican journalism when persons havebeen compelled to teach a lesson to pressmen in order to show the public the natureof the reports that were being published. I hope that in future all articles will Designed. We are entitled .to know the namesof those who write for the newspapers. When all articles are signed, there will bevery few of the kind of which I complain. Very few slanders and misrepresentationswill then appear. Many men are kept from .breaking the law because of the knowledge that policemen will arrest them forks breach, and had journalists to sign their names to their writings, they would have a» care for the statements they made.
.- I compliment the honorable member for Capricornia for the courage which he hasshown in bringing this matter prominently before the Committee, though possibly not before the country, because those who govern the columns of the mighty press, have a “ say “ in that matter. Referring; to the scurrilous paragraph which caused? the loss of two important positions, I wish to say that I cannot but have admiration for Mr. Campbell Jones for trying to save his friend. I shall never think of him without wishing him good luck, because he went down out of loyalty to his friend. No doubt that friend has enough on his conscience to make him regret the paragraph that he wrote. That paragraph would not have been written had it been compulsory for the writer to sign it, in which case a loyal man would not have lost his position by supporting a friend who had done wrong. I understand that the Argus pays its reporters such salaries that they need not contribute to other newspapers. The anonymous paragraphists often steal the crust from men who are more in want of it than the writers. I had to fight the Argus at the last election regarding the late Mr. Skene, because it allowed the impression to be created that I had falsely accused that gentleman. The editor would not even allow me to publish my letter as an advertisement, so that the only course left for me was to print my own statement of the case, adding to it what had been said in various Legislatures about the Argus. I did that at my own expense, and so desirous were people of reading the statement that there had to be two editions of it. I am privileged to represent a compact constituency, and for twenty-one years have been able to fight the press. On one occasion, the late J. H. Graves said in the Victorian Legislature that, with the assistance of the Age, he could win any constituency in Victoria ; and no doubt that would hold good of country constituencies, where it is impossible to make a fair fight against a big journal, but in a constituency like mine the platform is equal to the press. In this country newspaper proprietors have privileges that they do not claim in any other part ofthe world. Special trains are run to meet their convenience, and newspapers are conveyed by post at the rate of 20ozs. per penny. Twenty separate newspapers could be posted in one bundle at that rate. I have frequently made the boast that I have never in my life lost a friend, but I cannot make it now. I have lost a friend with whom I have clinked glass and broken bread ; but he, taking advantage of the press anonymity, stabbed me in the back. He would not have written scurrilous articles had he had to sign his name to them. I know of one man, great in literary power, who refuses to write lead ing articles on certain things; and others would be able to follow that great man’s example if it were the practice to attach the names of writers to leading articles. Pressmen in that way would gain a kudos which they do not now enjoy. The means for putting a stop to what has been complained of is to compel the signing of leading articles and paragraphs of a scandalous nature. If that were done, there would be no losing of high positions, such as has recently occurred, or grabbing from others who are more in need than the writers.
– I shall be glad to know what is being done in connexion with the proposed grant for an historic memorial of representative men. The terms of the item have been widened in comparison with that of the previous vote. It is not necessary to take exception to this if we are informed as to the purport and intention of the item.
.- What was originally intended was to obtain either oil paintings or busts of men connected with the early history of Federation. Up to the present time nothing definite has been done; but this year the Treasurer was good enough to increase the vote from £100, at which it has always previously stood, although it has never been used, to £500. It is the intention of the Committee, as far as they are able, to do something in this direction at an early date. They have before them a proposal for securing a portrait of the late Sir Frederick Holder, and of other men connected with the early ‘ history of Federation. Up to the present they have not decided what lines the memorial shall take ; but the matter has been under consideration several times, and they intend, at an early date, to take definite action.
– This item refers to rather an old policy of mine, indicated by me some years ago, and, I think, concurred in by the honorable member for Ballarat, who was then a member of the Government. This amount of £500 is the first substantial sum to be voted for the erection of suitable memorials of the men who have done so much for Australian Federation. The time has arrived when action should be taken, and it would be well if a Committee representing the Government and the Opposition in both Houses, and including the President and Mr. Speaker, were brought into existence for this specific purpose. Obviously, it is a matter that concerns parties as well as Parliament, so far as management is concerned. While it is largely a question of sentiment, at the same time it means a considerable sum of money, although not such an amount as will in any way embarrass the Commonwealth.
– Spread over a number of years, it will not mean so much.
– Undoubtedly from year to year there will be a considerable expenditure, but in the meantime, while the subjects with which we wish to deal are being called home by nature, we are losing valuable opportunities that we shall regret later on. I believe that Parliament is practically unanimous in the desire to preserve historical records, not only in the shape of photographs of scenes, &c, as Mr. Speaker has indicated, but also, as regards the principal men. in the Federal movement and in the Federal Parliament from time to time. It is thought that the commemoration should be in a permanent form, and an honour,’ not only to the people of this day, but to the people of any future day in the history of the Commonwealth’. That is the view I take in initiating this scheme in a substantial way. While the sum of £500 will probably not cover the annual expenditure, it is a sufficient sum to inaugurate a policy which can be approved now and developed later.
.- My object in calling attention to this matter was, among other things, to emphasize one of the arguments which the Prime Minister used in regard to the rapid passing away of some of those who are entitled to be commemorated by Australia. For instance, no greater blow has been received by public men in Australia than that occasioned by the recent lamented death of Lord Northcote. I assume that a portrait of that right honorable gentleman is available, from which we can obtain a fitting representation of one of the best-loved representatives of the Crown that ever set foot in Australia. Unless advantage be taken, and speedily, in his case, of the opportunity, we shall be in the same position as we were in respect to the first Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, whose bust is now in the Library. This was only partially prepared at the time of his decease, and had to be finished afterwards, with the comparatively indifferent assistance rendered by photographs and engravings. I cordially support the proposal, and had another reason for referring to Lord Northcote in particular, because a private movement for some suitable recognition of his great services has been on foot but has been suspended until it was understood! exactly what is proposed to be done by Parliament. The idea is that the private effort may supplement the public effort after this Parliament has made its choice of its own way of commemorating Lord Northcote. The wider terms of the item. I gather would at all events include representative men, such as the late Sir Henry Parkes, who, although they may have passed away before Federation, played a great and fruitful part in the preparation for union.
– Certainly; and I would go so far as to say that, at any rate, a general picture of the men who attended the various Conventions should be secured.
– I think we are all in sympathy with the object of the item.
– I am inclined to propose that the amount be made £1,000.
– We shall be glad to hear the honorable member on the subject.
– In order to test the opinion of the Committee-
– The honorable member will require a message to increase a vote.
– That can be done later on. I think the consensus of opinion among us is that this sum should be substantially increased, so that a fair start may be made with the commemoration of the services of the public men of Australia, in order that there may be a permanent record for this Parliament, and all future Parliaments. I hope, if honorable members agree to it, that there will be no further delay in initiating the business, and that there will be some substantial results to show in the near future. “Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 3 (Parliamentary Reporting Staff), £1,191-
.- There is an item of .£960 for typists. I notice that when Parliament is in recess they do work for other Departments, but only a lump sum is given; and I should like to know if the number of typists is always the same, or if they are put on and off as required. I cannot ascertain from the way in which the item is put, whether they are receiving anything like adequate remuneration, or being properly treated in comparison with other officers.
Mr.W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang) [5.5]. - From the beginning of Federation until the year 19 10, the typists engaged in connexion with the Hansard reports were paid per session at the rate of £4 10s. per week. Theirs were simply a sessional engagement, which was thought by the typists to be an unsatisfactory condition of affairs, and they asked for a permanent status. Last session an alteration was made, typists being permanently appointed. Six permanent positions were created, and during recess it was understood that these officers were to be available for employment in the various Departments under the Public Service Commissioner. As the Public Service Commissioner was of opinion that there would be very little work for them to do during the recess, their remuneration was fixed upon a lower scale than previously. Of course, when they were engaged simply for the session, they were at liberty during the recess to supplement their incomes by taking private work. Their average earnings per session under the old system amounted to from £170 to £180, and, as I say, theywere then free to take work in other directions. When it was decided to appoint them permanently, the salary was fixed at £160 per annum with increments accruing from time to time to bring them to the maximum of £200 per annum. It appears, however, from what I can learn, that since the new arrangement came into force, owing to the fact that they have actually, while Parliament is out of session, to do Departmental work, and are kept continuously going, they do not get the same opportunity for leave as do other officers under the President and Mr. Speaker, and their earnings amount to about £3 per week for the work for which they were formerly paid £4 10s. per week. The decision to fix the salary at £160 was influenced by the belief of the Public Service Commissioner that little or no work would be required of them by the Departments during recess, and that they were likely to be idle for the greater part of the time. As matters turned out, that belief was not very well founded, and their experience has been that the Departments have found work to employ them fully during all the period when Parliament is not sitting. The work itself is very different from the ordinary typist’s work, because they have to work at high pressure during the whole time. I am informed they are expected to type in half-an-hour the notes which the members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff take in shorthand in a quarter of an hour. This, I understand, works out at from eighty to one hundred words per minute - a very high rate when it is remembered that the maximum which they are expected to reach in examination is 112 words per minute. In a footnote to the 1910-11 Estimates, it was stated that the typists’ salaries had to increase by annual increments to £204, but there is no such footnote in the Estimates before us. Another cause of complaint is that the earnings now amount to only £936s 8d per typist, as against £170 or £180 under the old arrangement, the balance of the £160 being returned to the Parliament by the Public Service Commissioner for work done during recess in various Departments. The net result is that the typists now receive£3 per week instead of £4 10s. as formerly, and during recess they are transferred to Departments to perform clerical duties, which, in the case of departmental officers, is paid for at the rate of £200 per annum. A further cause of complaint arises in connexion with the filling of a vacancy for a shorthand writer and typist in another place. The Hansard typists naturally thought that they ought to be given preference, seeing that they apparently had special qualifications for the office; but I have been informed that an officer was transferred from the Department of the Minister of Defence over their heads. At any rate, so far as I can learn, the typists do not appear to be receiving that fair treatment to which they are entitled in the matter of remuneration, considering the character of the work. I do not think that Parliament has ever evinced any desire to treat any of its officers or employes in anything but a liberal spirit ; and this matter should only require to be brought under the notice of the Committee to insure to these officers more generous treatment.
,- I regret to hear the honorable member, for Lang say that the typists are not fairly treated.
– I mean in comparison with their treatment under the old arrangement.
– When they were in the position of temporary or sessional typists, they were paid£4 10s. per week, and if they desire to revert to the old conditions, I can say, on behalf of the President and myself, that we are prepared to sanction the change at the earliest possible moment.
– Should the typists suffer because they have been transferred to the permanent staff?
– There has been a good deal of trouble in connexion with these typists. Originally, they were appointed for the session, but, during a number of years, they expressed themselves as dissatisfied with the position.I do not wish any honorable member to understand for a moment that I am depreciating the work they do, because it is done very well ; but they were, as I say, dissatisfied, and they got up an agitation to have themselves appointed as permanent officers. No fewer than forty different members of Parliament brought pressure to bear on the late President and Speaker, and for a number of years different members of Parliament at various times represented the claims of the typists to be made members of the permanent staff. After this agitation had gone on for some years, it was ultimately agreed that they should be made permanent officers on passing a certain examination. Out of consideration for men who had been so long temporary officers, it was arranged in case they should get “plucked” to make the examination a very simple one. The result of the examination was that the typist who had been most prominent in the agitation was the only one “ plucked,” and we were deluged with letters, and had many interviews on his behalf. . However, all the conditions were placed before the typists before their positions were made permanent. The late President and Speaker agreed that those who had passed the examination should be taken on on probation for six months ; and when that six months had elapsed, and the work of the typists had proved satisfactory, the President and myself confirmed the appointments. At the end of that session, six months after the new arrangement had been made, the typists were ordered to present themselves to the Public Service Commissioner some time early in January in order that they might be employed in some of the Departments. They were allowed practically six weeks’ holiday, but they complained very bitterly that they did not expect they would have to do this other work, considering that the work of the session had been so heavy. However, we insisted that they should present themselves for duty on the date fixed. Just before the next session commenced, the typists represented that they would not be fit for their parliamentary duties if they worked right up to the day that Parliament met ; and, in consequence of this representation, they were granted another fortnight’s holiday. Under the circumstances, the President and myself thought we dealt very fairly with them.
– Is that all the holiday they had?
– They had eight weeks altogether. My own opinion is that these typists should never have been placed on the permanent staff, for the simple reason that, when the session is over, it is very difficult to control them. Even when they were placed under the Public Service Commissioner there was, in the case of one or two of them - I do not wish to mention names - some little trouble in regard to their presenting themselves on the days on which they were ordered to do so, and in regard also to the method in which some of theim did their work. The President and myself, after full investigation of the position, have come to the conclusion that the typists are well paid. They not only get the holidays I have mentioned, but they do not work on the Saturdays, as they would have to do in any other employment.
Mr.W. Elliot Johnson. - They have to do six days’ work in four.
– Rather !
– The typists have, ordinarily, no work to do on Monday, unless in connexion with Select Committees, though I admit that during the days they are engaged their work is fairly heavy. I find, however, that the payment for similar work in the States is not nearly so good as in the case of the Commonwealth Parliament. Without going into all the details which I have here, I repeat that these typists are paid very well, and that their treatment in regard to holidays compares favorably with the treatment they would receive in any outside employment. I wish to say, however, that if it is the desire of honorable members that the typists should go back to the old position under which they received £4 10s. per week as sessional typists, such an arrangement would be more satisfactory to the Department.
– It would certainly be more satisfactory to the men.
– There would be no objection on the part of the President and myself, and, if honorable members so desire, the typists can be placed on the old basis within a few days. At present, we feel that they are well paid when we consider the remuneration for similar work outside and in the State Parliaments; and we do not feel justified in recommending an increase.
.- So far as I can judge, these typists would very gladly go back to the old arrangement, as’ I certainly should if I were in their position. They then had £41os. per week, with the whole of the recess to themselves; whereas how they have only £160 per annum, and are obliged during the recess to work in some of the public Departments. I take it that every honorable member who has visited the Hansard offices knows the nature of the work. When it is said that these typists do not work on Saturdays and holidays, the fact is overlooked that they are highly skilled men, and that they cram the work of a week into a few days, and that it is all done under enormous pressure. I undertake to say that if they were to leave their present employment, or go on strike, it would be a very serious matter to Hansard. I feel sure that in the city of Melbourne, or even’ in Victoria, it would not be possible to secure men sufficiently expert to do this typing work in the specified time; and, instead of a prompt issue of Hansard, we should probably find, if ordinary typists were employed, the publication delayed for three or four days.
– I do not think we should suffer much from that.
– Probably not; and, so far as I am concerned, I should not grumble if the publication were a fortnight behind. However, it appears to be the desire of honorable members that Hansard shall be issued promptly, and it must be admitted that this is a great convenience at times. It is absurd to say that £160 a year is adequate payment for the work these men do. They are all qualified shorthand writers and expert typists; and, in order to obtain their present positions, they had to pass a very stiff examination in competition with 150 candidates. Some of them relinquished positions outside worth quite as much as they are likely to earn here. Work outside is done under ordinary conditions in the daytime ; whereas the Hansard typists work at all hours of the night, and, during continuous sittings such as we have recently had, they have to respond to great pressure. Under all the circumstances, I think they are entitled to better treatment. Although their salaries were supposed to advance by annual increments, they have not received a single increment since they were permanently appointed eighteen months ago. This fact appears to be ignored, although it was stated distinctly in a footnote to the last Estimates that their salary had to advance to £204 a year. The Committee should also remember that these men are not eligible for positions in the Public Service. They are eligible only for vacancies in this House, and recently, when a vacancy occurred to which one of them might have been promoted, an officer from the Department of Defence was appointed over their heads. This gentleman has not passed an examination to fit him for a clerical position in the Service - probably because he was unable to do so - yet he was placed over the heads of these men who had a right to expect promotion. That was distinctly unfair.
– To what position does the honorable member refer?
– A position of shorthand writer and typist on the Senate side.
– The same game is run through all the Departments.
– This matter, at all events, warrants further inquiry. This officer was taken from the Defence Department to an office which, by right, should have gone to one of the Hansard typing staff. Such a proceeding is very unjust. These officers were deprived of their rightful promotion, yet are prevented from obtaining promotion elsewhere. Then, again, the leader of the typing staff, who has been in the Service for nearly eleven years, and under the old system received £410s. a week whilst Parliament was in session, and during the recess could obtain employment outside, is now, as a permanent employe, on the same mark as that occupied by two or three men who have just been introduced into the Service. He receives only £160, whereas he ought, at least, to be receiving the maximum of £204 per annum-. He is, undoubtedly, a capable typist. He has been on the staff from practically the inception of the Parliament, and yet he has actually been put back on the same mark as the juniors who were appointed as the result Of the recent examination.
– That was done by the Public Service Commissioner.
– No; by the President and Mr. Speaker.
– Before we were appointed.
– The honorable member is mistaken. It was done quite recently.
– It was done last year.
– The time when it was done does not matter materially, since the present Presiding Officers have an opportunity to right the wrong, and they should do so, unless they want to uphold a sweating wage and harsh conditions. We ought not to pass this item without further inquiry. I should have mentioned that the gentleman who was brought over from the Defence Department to the Senate received two increments within a few months. He commenced at a salary of £160, and almost immediately received an increment of £25- Since then he has received another increment of £15, bringing up his salary to £200 per annum, whilst the Hansard typists apparently are to remain upon the £160 per annum mark for some years. They can do better outside, and, from what I have been able to gather, some of them contemplate leaving the staff. That, after all, is the best test of the position. When a man is so dissatisfied with the conditions of the Government service that he is prepared to resign and seek employment outside, he must have grave room for complaint. I hope that the Committee will not pass this item until .they have an assurance that justice will be done to these men. I claim to know something of the qualifications requisite in a shorthand writer and typist, and I do not hesitate to say that this work is not adequately remunerated at £160 per annum. Having regard to the length of our sessions it would be only reasonable to give them £160 per annum and freedom during recess.
– Especially when we have sittings extending over thirtynine hours.
– The honorable member for Kennedy spoke of the conditions obtaining in other Legislatures, but I should like to remind the Committee that the State Parliaments do not sit as many hours per week as we do. In some cases they meet one day less a week, and many of their sittings, instead of commencing at 10.30 a.m., or 2.30 p.m., do not open until 4.30 p.m., and they rise at a reasonably early hour. Under such conditions, where the hours of service are fairly short, and the work itself is not strenuous, a comparatively small salary would be ample payment ; but here, where human enduranceis often taxed to the uttermost, we ought to compensate these men, not only for the work they do, but for the physical strainto which they are subjected. It requires considerable mechanical skill as well as intelligence to be a successful typist under the conditions prevailing on the Hansard staff.
– Are they not the requirements of other callings?
– We all have to be equal to our work, but I should not expect the honorable member for East Sydney to be an apologist for the payment of inadequate wages to any one. As one who has some knowledge of the work that has to be done>. and who has paid for similar work, I saythat the salary received by these men is not sufficient for the duties performed, and’ I hope sincerely that the Committee will give such an instruction to the Government, or to the responsible authorities, as will compel an adequate payment for the arduous work performed.
– - I was surprised to hear Mr. Speaker say that these gentlemen had already sent forty members of Parliament to interview him and the President.
– To interview the late President and Speaker.
– That seems to me to have been a very unwise course to pursue, and one that was not likely to help them.
– At that time they were only temporarily employed, and they were agitating to secure permanent employment.
– That was a very natural desire on their part ; otherwise their positions must have been very precarious. I candidly confess, since the facts have been’ brought under my notice this afternoon, that I do not think these men are well paid. Any one who knows what the work in connexion with Hansard is must be aware of the right down skill which these men have to possess in order to be able to discharge their duties.
– These men are not reporters.
– Certainly not. But I understand that they are qualified shorthand writers. I do not know to what test they were subjected ; but if, in ad- dition to being skilled and expert typists, they are qualified shorthand writers, their salary is a very miserable one. The matter of holidays is one that the President and Mr. Speakermight very well take into account. If they are gettng too many holidays, there is plenty of work for them to do in the Public Service. If eight weeks is too’ long a holiday to give them, let us reduce the time, but do not make the fact that they receive such a holiday an excuse for fixing upon a wage which, in my judgment, is by no means adequate. I do not know very much about the conditions of these men, but I do know that while they are here their work is of a very arduous character. Indeed, the work of the Hansard staff altogether is such that very few gentlemen would care to undertake it. The staff work at top speed. It is a mad rush from the time they begin until they finish, and whatever applies to the Hansard staff applies also to these typists. I really think that Mr. Speaker might very well review the conditions under which they work. Whatever they have done, or not done, the question after all is solely whether or not they are being adequately paid. If it is a fact that these gentlemen, in addition to their sessional work here, have to undertake further work in connexion with the Public Service, as they say they have to do, then I think their payment requires revision at the earliest possible moment. They would earn a great deal more outside the service.
– One is going to resign.
– One man, who was not appointed to the permanent typing staff, wrote to me and complained that he was only getting 25s. a week outside.
– There are men in every department of life who earn less than do others in the same calling, but the question is whether these men are sufficiently remunerated.
– I simply pointed out that one man wrote to me, complaining that he had not been appointed to the permanent staff, and that he was then receiving only 25s. per week outside.
– I hope that my honorable friend has a more logical mind than to deduce from the fact that one typist said that he was receiving only 25s. per week outside that therefore all typists employed outside are only earning 25s. per week.
– Good shorthand wr iters and typists can easily obtain per week.
– These men passed a test as shorthand writers, as well as typists.
– The shorthand rest was a very mild one, and would not qualify them to come to the table of this House.
– Quite so; but if they were qualified to come to the table of the House, they would be entitled to receive £500 a year. Will the honorable member tell me what test they passed?
-i think the test for typewriting was 100 words per minute, but I am not quite sure as to the shorthand test.
– That is a very high rate of speed for typing.
– It is not.
– I do not think the honorable member would be able to find many who could exceed that rate of speed. I repeat that it is an extremely high rate.
– I find that the shorthand test was at the rate of 100 words per minute whilst the typing test was at the rate of about 60 words per minute without the use of abbreviations.
– Sixty or seventy words is good test speed. These men have to go faster than that, their top rate of speed being nearer eighty or one hundred words. Mr. Speaker and the President cannot go wrong in giving them more than they are getting at present, seeing that they are employed in other public Departments during recesses. The obtaining of holidays is only a secondary consideration with them. None of us cares much for holidays for which there is no pay.
– They are allowed £160 a year and two months’ holiday.
– That is a good holiday, but would it not be better to give them a shorter holiday and more salary? They would appreciate that more. Arewe paying them enough for the work theydo? My belief is that we are not. I strongly advise the Presiding Officers to give them a reasonable holiday, and not to make the holiday part of the consideration for the work they do. I understand that they cannot employ their holidays in earning money. The question should be treated commercially ; they should get so much pay for so much work. What they now receive is not adequate in view of what they do.
.- I wish to supplement what has ‘been said in regard to officers who are doing valuable and responsible work. Night employment should always be paid for at higher rates than day employment. In these typists we have very efficient officers. I have seen them at work in the Hansard rooms, and their manipulation of their machines as the reporters dictate to them is marvellous, and must keep them at a very high tension, and have a considerable effect on their nerves. I hope that the presiding officers will pay attention to the remarks this afternoon. These men earn what they receive, and a little more. That certain wages are paid outside is no concern of ours. This Parliament has every reason to be proud of its
Hansard staff, from top to bottom. It does work for which we ought to be thankful, and it surprised me to receive on Saturday a full report, after such a short interval, of the long sitting which lasted from Wednesday morning until early on Friday morning. If there are any servants of which we should be proud, it is the Hansard staff, including its typists.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 4 (Library),£4,942
.- The item “ Archivist£500 “ appears in this division, though I understand that the salary is appropriated by Statute, and as such should appear on page 5 in the list of special appropriations.
– I think that the Estimates were prepared before the Petherick Collection Act became law.
– That is the explanation which suggests itself to me. Another item is -
Collection of Australian historical records, £450.
And, in division 36, there is the item -
Collection of Australian historical records, £200.
That looks like a duplication.
– The collection of historical records was begun by the Prime Minister’s Department, but it has become the practice to send them on to the Library Committee, and it will, therefore, be unnecessary in the future to retain both items.
.- It would be well to make it known throughout Australia that the Library Committee desires documents and other historical records, relating to the history of the country. Every one who has read Bancroft’s History of the United States must recognise the value of speeches, letters, and other records, literary and oratorical, in the preparation of a work showing the development of a people. I draw attention to the fact that Mr. Edward Dowling, an old Federalist, possesses a large and valuable collection of Federal records. He was a member of the Inter-State Australian Natives Conference, held in January, 1890, a member of the Corowa Federal Conference, in 1893 ; and for fifteen years Secretary to the Sydney Federation League, in which capacity he gave his services gratuitously. Having now arrived at a mature age, he would no doubt appreciate the request that he should place these records at the disposal of the Library Committee for the benefit of his country. I understand that he has several boxes full of records of great value to the historian of the future, and every effort should be made to secure the collection. He has already received an offer from the United States, but it would be a great mistake if the Library Committee did not favorably consider the possibility of obtaining them, and make known to every secretary of a federation league, or literary society, that it would be glad if he would place his records at their disposal.
– I have taken an active interest in the matter referred to by the honorable member for Bendigo, and sent a letter to the Library Committee in regard to it, but they declined the offer unceremoniously. Of course, their action is easily understood. Mr. Dowling was a worker. The Leader of the Opposition to-day referred to the services of Lord Northcote, but Mr. Edward Dowling did more in six months than Lord Northcote did during the whole time that he was in Australia, when he enjoyed a very good job, good company, and a good salary. Mr. Dowling had no such advantages. For over twenty years, to my knowledge, he was a hard and consistent worker in the cause of Federation, and gave his services withoutreward. He spent a great deal of time in Canada and in the United States of America, obtaining information for the Federation League. No doubt, the honorable member for Ballarat received assistance from some of the documents which he brought back, and Mr. Justice Barton, Mr. Justice O’Connor, and others who took an active part in bringing about Federation have acknowledged their obligation in this matter. Mr. Dowling has a very large collection of books, pamphlets, and letters from public men. Indeed, there is hardly a public man in Australia and America from whom he has not letters. Honorable members are aware that in Great Britain letters of historical interest sometimes fetch hundreds of pounds, and I believe that the letters possessed by Mr. Dowling would fetch a good sum of money. The Mitchell Library authorities made an offer for the collection, but the sum that they were willing to give was a small one. In any case, Mr. Dowling does not wish to dispose of his collection to them, thinking that it should be in the possession of the Commonwealth. Our Librarian saw the collection in Sydney, and said that it was worth every penny asked for it. He has stated that he thinks that the Commonwealth would lose highly prized documents if it did not avail itself of this offer. Mr. Dowling has 2 cwt. or 3 cwt. of books in the vaults of this building, and to-morrow the old gentleman and myself are going to make a display of them ; so that honorable members may see their value. I should have thought that the Library Committee would be the first to move to secure documents of this kind ; but this gentleman, who is eighty years of age, is, like myself, one of the workers, and we receive no recognition, while, in the case of Lord Northcote and others, pictures will be painted and hung in this building.
– You are only killing your own case.
– I am stating facts. I do not suppose that any man has worked harder than has Mr. Dowling in the cause of social reform in New South Wales. About 1879 he delivered the first address ever given on technical education in Australia. When, later on, those . connected with technical education in New South Wales drew up a history of the movement, they left his name out, but they put Mr. Carruthers’ name at the top of it, because he was the Minister who proposed a vote of £50,000 for technical education. I am bringing this matter under the notice of the Committee because there may be others in the same position as Mr. Dowling, with nobody to stand up for them and fight for justice to be done to them. I hope the Library Committee will take a proper view of the question. I know they are busy men, and I suppose when a meeting of the Committee is called, they go and sit down for a few minutes, and somebody says, “ Oh, this is a letter from West about Dowling,” and somebody else says, “ Oh, put it aside. We will look at it another time.” That is how these things are done, but I hope that the fact of the matter being brought before honorable members will lead to steps being taken to recognise this gentleman’s work, ‘ instead of it being turned down as it has been. Whatever the Library Committee do in acquiring these records, they will get full value for their money. In no other place in Australia can similar records be obtained, because Mr. Dowling was very anxious to keep them. Queensland was a long time in coming into the. Federal movement at all, and I know we had a struggle to get even two men to entertain the Federal idea in that State. The Australian Natives Association in-. Victoria did take the question up, so that Victoria was more advanced than some of” the other States in that respect. I hope that when this matter comes up again justice will be done to the man who has been at so much pains to preserve these records. Many men would not have recognised their value as he did. Every year they will be more and more regarded as valuable prizes, which many people will be glad to obtain. I believe that if Mr. Dowling accepted the offer of American friends he would get double the amount for them that Australians have been prepared to give him.
.- This matter came before the Library Committee on two occasions, and the general opinion of the Committee was that the amount, £100, asked for the records was too much.
– It is not a large sum.
– Honorable members must recognise that a certain amount of responsibility devolves upon us. We have no right to pay what we think is an exorbitant price for documents, books, or other articles; or, in fact, to pay any greater price than we would pay if we were dealing with our own money. We have to guard the public money, and, in these circumstances, we held that the amount asked was too great. I understand that the Mitchell Library has made an offer of £25 for the records. I think the Library Committee were prepared to give more than £25, but they decided not to go as far as £100. The matter was not placed before the Library Committee in the manner which the honorable member for West Sydney suggested. It came up on a recommendation from the Librarian, who was going to Tasmania to see some other documents, and I instructed him to go on to
Sydney, so that he could personally inspect the records in question. When he returned he said he thought it would be a good thing for us to have them. He did not offer any definite opinion as to the price that Mr. Dowling asked. While the members of the Committee appreciate the work done by Mr. Dowling in. connexion with the Federation League, they do not feel justified in expending £100 on it.
– The documents will increase in value every year.
.- I am certain that honorable members would be loath even to appear to interfere with the discretion of the Library Committee, who have given this matter every consideration. At the same time, there is a great deal in the interjection of the honorable member for Bendigo. While the Committee are probably right as to the present value of the records, they will necessarily increase in value as time goes on. Consequently, if it is only a question of an extra £50, it might be justifiable to pay it from the point of view of their ultimate and not their immediate value. If a more liberal view were taken, I think that honorable members generally, in view of the fact that we are laying the foundation for a national history, would agree. The documents may be worth a great many more pounds to future generations than they seem worth pence to us.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 5 (Refreshment Rooms), £1,172 ; division 6 (Water Power,&c), £200 ; division 7 (Electric Lighting, Re- pairs,& c..), £1,411; division 8 (Queen’s Hall), £475 ; division 9 (Parliament Gardens), £507, agreed to.
Division 10 (Miscellaneous), £1,208
.- I desire to raise a general question that applies to the engineer, assistant engineer, and’ lift attendant provided for in this division, and will apply also to all the Departments dealt with in these Estimmates. I refer to the absence of any provision for compensation for injuries sustained by employes of the Commonwealth in the public Departments in the discharge of their duties. The question is very important.
– We have recognised the payment of compensation as a policy.
– It was the policy laid down by the honorable member for EdenMonaro in the Postal Department. He tried by Executive minute to assimilate the conditions of compensation in the service to those of the Workmen’s Compensation Acts in the various States. If a man is injured in the Public Service, his case is investigated by the Department itself, and the granting of compensation to the injured person or his dependents is purely a matter of grace, and not of right. The matter needs to be put upon a much more satisfactory basis. An additional objection to the present system is that the gratuities have to be the subject of appropriation in the annual Estimates, so that if a person is injured, he has to wait, or, ‘in the case of death, his widow and children have to wait, a long time before the compensation is payable.
– In several instances, special Acts of Parliament have been passed grouping a large number of cases together.
– I do not think that is altogether satisfactory or fair to the employes concerned. If death occurs, compensation should be paid as soon as possible to the dependents, while, if injury is sustained, the person injured should be helped through the period of his suffering and trouble. Will the Prime Minister, during the recess, consider the advisability of devising some sort of Workmen’s Compensation Act to apply to these cases? We shall shortly be constructing the Western Australian railway, and carrying out a large number of public works in the Northern Territory, and at the Federal city, and, altogether, we shall shortly become a very large employer of the class of workmen, who are covered in all the States by Workmen’s Compensation Acts.
– Except in Victoria.
– I understood that a similar Act had been passed in Victoria.
– No; we used to be ahead of the rest of Australia, but we are a long way behind it now.
– I understand that a Bill for the purpose is being proposed in Victoria. I am speaking for Australia at present, and I desire to see our workmen throughout the Commonwealth put in at least as favorable a position as are the workmen in other employments in the other States.I believe that, in Queensland, the Government employes come under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
– Only the wages men.
– They are a big class. I desire the Government to recognise that compensation in these cases should be given as of right, and not as of grace.;
Men should get compensation speedily, and that compensation should be based on a fixed and liberal scale adequate to the injuries sustained, and sufficient to meet the cases of dependents who are entitled to support.
– The honorable member touches a point that will always receive a very sympathetic response from me, because I was the first member of the Queensland Legislature to introduce a Bill dealing with the matter of workmen’s compensation. The position of the public servants is rather different from that of ordinary private employes. I remember no instance where the salary received by the injured person has been cut off after he ceased to be able to carry on his work.
– Not in cases of death?
– I am speaking of cases of injury, not of fatal accident. The pay is continued in the case of all injuries not ending in death.
– Continued up to a point.
– So far as my experience goes, it is continuous.
– Only if there is a hope of recovery.
– I am speaking of cases to which no Compensation Act applies. We never stop the pay in such cases. I am entirely in favour of the contention of the honorable member for Darling Downs that we ought to have an Act dealing with all these cases, but that Act mustbe on a different basis from ordinary Workmen’s Compensation Acts.
– Supposing the injury is permanent ?
– The view I took in the original Bill of which I spoke, I still hold - that the amount of compensation for a person permanently injured should not be less than the total amount which would be given in case of death, and also that it should be given as a lump sum, so as to enable the person so injured to engage in some occupation where he can use his capital in order to make the remainder of his life as comfortable as possible.
– Any Bill would have to cover those cases as well as cases of death, because in those instances the salary would not be continued.
– As I said earlier in the session, the Government are considering the question, which, had it been as simple as it looks, would have been dealt with this year. It is by no means a simple matter as regards the public servants of the Commonwealth. At present, officers who are injured receive favorable, and, I may say, generous consideration.
– But there is no general system.
– There is no Stature to determine what shall be done.
– There is no fixed scale.
– That is so. We cannot have a law on the basis of the Workmen’s Compensation Acts of Great Britain, Germany, or any of the States, because these do not cover our situation. Time is, therefore, required for consideration, but the Government are entirely with the view expressed by the honorable member for Darling Downs and others ; and this matter will be dealt with in one of the measures submitted to Parliament next session.
.- I notice that the lift attendant employed in this building is paid £110 a year, or 7s. a day. If the Government resort to a cheeseparing policy like this, it will bring us into ridicule. This man is giving the whole of his time; and I venture to say that this is the lowest wage paid in any of the Departments. In outside employment the minimum is now 8s. per day. I do not know what hours this man works, but he is here all the time that we are.
– This is one of the cases which go to show how attempts are made to impose on the Government, or the Departments. This is work for a boy, and not for a man with a wife and family. When this position became vacant, the present lift attendant applied for it, and it was pointed out to him that the wages offered were above those ordinarily paid, because he had a family dependent upon him. The man personally desired to have the position at the salary offered ; and yet we are now asked to make the wages higher, and pay, perhaps, £3 a week for work which can be done by a youth of eighteen, which, I believe, is the age fixed for work of this kind under the Victorian law. I cannot think that these representations are made at the request of the lift attendant himself.
– He has never mentioned the matter to me.
– I thought so, because he thoroughly understood the position. His desire was to have this position, with a view of ultimately getting a place amongst the cleaners when a vacancy occurred. He is doing his work very well, and if the President and myself can see our way, under the circumstances, to give an increase, we shall do so. We do not feel justified, however, at the present time, in making such a recommendation.
.- I do not consider that 7s. a day is a living wage for a married man at the present time; and we have no right to employ such a man at what is not a living wage. Large increases, even up to £2 a week, are proposed for secretaries in other Departments, and, so far as I am concerned, these increases will not be carried while we have men working for less than a living wage.
Proposed vote agreed to. prime minister’s department.
Division 11 (Prime Minister), £4,150
.- Some explanation is required of the extraordinary expansion in the expenditure of this Department during the last twelve months. Although it is a small Department, I notice that in the Prime Minister’s office itself the increase amounts to £3,498, while the total increase for the Department is £6,394. It would appear that subDepartments have been created, and a number of new appointments made ; and it seems desirable full information should be supplied to honorable members. The work contemplated to be done by the new Department has hitherto been done by the Department of External Affairs, the demands on which are not very exacting, though I admit that they have increased lately, in consequence of the taking over of the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie is quite right in saying that there ought to be some explanation given of this apparently large increase ; and the explanation is quite simple. The officers are simply transferred officers from the Department of External Affairs. Hitherto the Prime Minister has been attached to that Department.
– Is there not something more? Are there not increases of salaries to some of the officers?
– I shall show exactly what these increases amount to. The records of all correspondence between the Commonwealth and the States has to pass through the hands of the Prime Minister; and it is necessary, as a matter of convenience, and for other reasons, that those records should be kept in the Prime Minister’s Department. The increased work is very considerable, as the Commonwealth business in this connexion is growing. I think honorable members will agree that it is better to have the Auditor-General in the Prime Minister’s Department than in the Department of the Treasury ; and this is more than a merely technical change, because it is work of the Treasury officers that the Auditor-General has principally to criticise. Although, in the present instance, the Prime Minister is the Treasurer, the Prime Minister represents the whole of the Government, and can be better approached in these matters than can the Treasurer.
– But what is the position when the Prime Minister is also Treasurer - a Pooh Bah?
– The Prime Minister can bring any matters immediately before his colleagues, whether they affect his or any other Department. Honorable members will recollect that in the Commonwealth Bank Bill we provided that a copy of any report from the Auditor-General should be sent to the Prime Minister, and submitted to Parliament at once; but it may be desirable that confidential reports should be sent to the Government through the Prime Minister, instead of to the Treasurer ; and this is considered to be a distinct advantage. As to the salaries, there has been a good deal of discussion in the press. First of all, it is proposed to increase the salary of the Secretary by , £100.
– On what grounds?
– On the ground of the officer’s qualifications. I venture to say that the Leader of the Opposition will concur with me that there is no officer in the Federal Public Service who has been kept back more through his connexion with this office than has the present Secretary.
– He has moved along pretty rapidly all the time !
– He won his position in open competition against the whole of Australia; and I shall leave it to previous Prime Ministers to speak as to his merits and qualifications.
– We are not questioning his merits !
– Again and again he has stood by the Prime Minister’s Department, without increments, while his juniors and; competitors have been advanced.
– How much has he put into his pocket as expenses, apart from his. salary, during -the last eighteen months?
– He has put nothing into his pocket beyond legitimate travelling expenses.
– Which have reached nearer £1,000 than £500?
– I reckon he is the “ greased pig,” all right !
– Honorable members desire to know the facts of the case, and I shall state them. Mr. Shepherd was Chief Clerk of the Department of External Affairs, and had he remained there his position would have been better to-day than it is. It is only fair to say he returned to the Prime Minister’s office at my request. He is senior to the other officers of the Department of External Affairs, and would, therefore, have greater hopes of promotion. The actual increases in the Prime Minister’s Department consist of £100 to the Secretary, £75 to Mr. Starling, who is promoted, and £160 as salary for a fifthclass clerk to fill the vacancy caused by the promotion of the officer mentioned, making a total of £335. This increased expenditure would have been incurred even if we had not created a separate Department.
– But the item “ Senior Clerk , £310,” is new expenditure.
– That is the office to be occupied by Mr. Starling, whom it is proposed to appoint to the third class.
– Mr. Starling is to fill a new office?
– Yes ; at present he is second to Mr. Shepherd, who now goes up and Mr. Starling is also to go up. Mr. Shepherd is to be Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department.
– A new Department is being created ?
– By transferring officers from the External Affairs Department.
– But the offices filled by them in the Department of External Affairs are now being filled by other officers?
– Immediately this Government came into office, Mr. Shepherd vacated the position of Chief Clerk in the Department of External Affairs in order to become Secretary to the Prime Minister.
– The Secretary of the Department of External Affairs receives £900 per annum. Does the Prime Minister say that Mr. Shepherd is senior to that man?
– No; he is senior to the next officer, and those who know him will not challenge his ability.
– We are not questioning his ability.
– Certain officers have been transferred from the Department of External Affairs to the Prime Minister’s Department. Will they not have to be replaced by others ?
– The confusion that has arisen is due wholly to the fact that the Department of External Affairs has grown considerably owing to the transfer of the Northern Territory to the control of the Commonwealth. Honorable members seem to think that it is the Prime Minister’s Department that has been increased, whereas as a matter of absolute fact, the increase in the staff of the Department of External Affairs has been due to the growth of work in that Department. The total increase in the salaries paid in my Department amounts to only £335, as against the amount paid last year.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– This new Department is absolutely necessary for the good government of the Commonwealth, owing to the vast increase of business that has arisen from the abnormal expansion of Commonwealth affairs during the last two or three years. I do not wish to make comparisons, but even the Secretary to the Premier of Western Australia receives the salary that we propose that the Secretary to the Prime Minister shall receive. In the circumstances, I think the salary is moderate. With the exception of two, all are transferred officers, and . £335 represents the increased expenditure on salaries caused by the extension of the Department.
.- The Prime Minister says that the creation of this new Department is due to the expansion of Commonwealth business. I fail to understand why it should be necessary for the Prime Minister to take over portion of the business hitherto transacted by the Department of External Affairs. The honorable member for Ballarat held office as Prime Minister without portfolio, and perhaps the desire that an honorable member holding that office alone should have a portfolio has led to the creation of the new Department.
– That was not the reason.
– Whether it was or not, we shall never again have an honorable member holding office as Prime Minister without portfolio. The Prime Minister has made some laudatory remarks regarding the Secretary to his Department.
– He has twenty-one years’ service.
– I have nothing, to say as to that. It is perhaps only natural that when the Estimates are under consideration the Secretary of a Department should be eulogized by his Ministerial chief. Indeed, that has become the practice, and is indulged in even when, at times, the eulogy is not merited. There are occasions, perhaps, when the Prime Minister and others whom Mr. Shepherd may be serving do not altogether follow what he is doing. I have a keen recollection of the occasion when the Postal Commission proposed to submit its report, and the secretary interviewed the Secretary to the Prime Minister to ascertain whether he should deliver it to the Prime Minister or the Governor-General. The Prime Minister was not present at the time, but Mr. Shepherd said to the secretary of the Commission, “Oh, leave the report with me! Who will take any notice of the Postal Commission’s report?” I do not know whether or not he was voicing the opinions of the two gentlemen whom he had recently been serving, but it was an unworthy reflection on the Commission.
– I felt sure that Mr. Shepherd was incapable of saying such a thing, and I find that he did not say it.
– I have just as much confidence in the veracity of the gentleman who acted as secretary to the Postal Commission as the Prime Minister has in that of the Secretary to his Department, and I believe what he told the Chairman.
– I know Mr. Shepherd’s veracity, and I was certain that he would not make such a remark.
– Then the right honorable gentleman suggests that the statement of the secretary to the Commission is to be doubted?
– I am sure that Mr. Shepherd would not have made such a remark.
– Why should he?
– His training would forbid him making it.
– At all events, we must be guided by results, and the fact is that when spoken to in that way, the secretary to the Royal Commission refused to leave the report with Mr. Shepherd; and the Chairman determined to hand it in to the Governor-General. I take it that if something of the kind had not occurred, the report would have been handed to the
Prime Minister as we had intended that it should be. This is one of those little derelictions that one does not like to find in a public officer. The Chairman of a Commission is at least entitled to respect. I know that the late Prime Minister was not too anxious for the report, and I am not too sure that the present Prime Minister was.
– That is a very sweeping statement. The honorable member knows that I kept the Commission alive.
– I cannot say that I do. Something would have happened if any further effort had been made to kill it. I wish now to refer to the great increase in the Auditor-General’s Department, amounting altogether to nearly £1,800
– It is money well spent in auditing the Public Service accounts.
– Does the right honorable member refer to .some special auditing which has not hitherto been done bythe Auditor-General’s Department?
– I refer to a fuller inspection and the larger service.
– Does the increase relate to any special auditing?
– It is the natural increase in the ordinary service.
– And represents, I suppose, ordinary increments to officers?’ There are only two additional hands in the office employed.
– The Auditor-General is an officer of the Parliament, and is entitled to get what he asks in reason.
– Undoubtedly; but we are creating a new Department, and the question is whether there is any justification for doing so. I suppose that eventually we shall have another new portfolio. I hope that in the future there will be no ground for complaint about the manner inwhich the Secretary to this Department deals with public men or the representatives of public bodies.
– This is thefirst time to my knowledge that a complaint has been made against the Secretary to thePrime Minister’s Department. I havenever before known him> to be charged with incivility or want of courtesy.
– No such charge was madeagainst him when I was Prime Minister.
– Since the charge wasmade, I have seen this officer, and he tells” me that he has no recollection of the occurrence, but that he is satisfied that he did”’’, not use the words attributed to him.
.- I ask the Prime Minister why he is bringing the Audit Office into his Department. The scheme of the Audit Act is to keep the Auditor-General in touch with the Treasurer, who is responsible for the accountkeeping of the Commonwealth. Of course, at the present time, the Prime Minister is Treasurer, but a succeeding Prime Minister may elect to hold the portfolio of Minister of External Affairs, or some other office.
– The chief Minister should be able to obtain information direct in regard to every Department.
– The function of the Auditor-General is to audit and report on the accounts, so that money shall not be spent except for the purposes for which it was appropriated. If the Prime Minister intends to give effect to this change by an amendment of the law, we should have an indication of what is to be proposed. I understand, too, that the Public Service Commissioner’s office is to be brought into the Prime Minister’s Department.
– It seems to me wise and convenient that the AuditorGeneral and his staff should report direct to the Prime Minister. Any complaints which he has to make can be sent then to other Ministers. Should he report to the Treasury about some other Department, the report would have to come on to the Prime Minister, to get to the Minister whose Department was concerned, and it is more expeditious to have it go direct. While no arrangement has been made to bring the Public Service Commissioner’s office into the Prime Minister’s Department, in my judgment that change might very well be made, because any complaint from that branch must affect a matter of policy. I think that it would be an improvement to make the change.
.- Speaking generally, I have no complaints to make about our public officers. On the whole, the Commonwealth and the States are well served. I have always found our officers courteous, and, in my humble opinion, capable, and any remark I may have to make regarding salaries must not be taken to reflect on their integrity or ability. It should not be necessary to repeat continually that they are very fine fellows, and they may take it for granted that, had we a contrary opinion of them, there are some of us who would not hesitate to express it. If we do not say how badly we are served by our officers, they may lay the flattering unction to their souls that it is because we have no text on which to base the sermon. I object to increasing the salary of the officer under discussion by £100. Officers receiving more than£500 a year are well able to look after themselves, and are generally there when there is anything good going. My concern is for those receiving anything from £150 to£250. Although expenditure on the Prime Minister’s Department is increasing, the cost of the administrative branch of the Department of External Affairs is not decreasing, there being an increase this year of , £930. Of course, I know that the work has increased enormously, but the work of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Trade and Customs, and the Department of Defence has also increased without a corresponding increase of expense. I do not know why, if one salary can be increased by £100, it should be difficult to increase the pay of the General Division men by 5s. or10s. a week. Increases to big salaries are out of reason, when it is found difficult to give a living wage to those who are hardly able to maintain their wives and families in comfort. A similar increase is proposed in the Attorney-General’s Department.
– Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to give increases to the senior messenger and the typist? Their work must be increasing with that of the others.
– They get statutory increases until they arrive at the limit of their class.
.- Last year, in this Department, there was one fifth class clerk at £180 a year, and now there are two at £140.
– They are new officers, younger men.
– Last year a fourth class clerk got £395, and this year he gets £433, an increase of 10 per cent., while the Secretary to the Department gets an increase of 25 per cent., which was justified on the ground that he is senior to the Chief Clerk in the Department of External Affairs.
– He left that position to take his present position.
– The postion of Chief Clerk, for which the salary last year was £460, is this year to be £439. That illustrates what is going on throughout the Commonwealth Public Service. While favoured individuals get increases, the salaries attached to the offices filled by others are lowered. We have prevented by law the exercise of political influence, and substituted official influence, which is much more odious, and more difficult to combat. The Secretary of the Prime Minister has been very well treated. Not only does he receive a good salary, but he has had a handsome time during the last eighteen months, and has been given bonuses and advantages which many other public servants would have been pleased to have fall to their lot. In the circumstances, I move -
That the item, “ Secretary to the Prime Minister, £520,” be reduced by £50.
.- I am sorry to have to disagree with the honorable member for Bourke. I do not fall in with the proposal to reduce salaries at all, espe- cially of officers occupying positions like that of the Prime Minister’s Secretary. “The Prime Minister’s Secretary ought to be a very capable man. His duties appear to be onerous, and are increasing at a rapid rate, owing to the expansion of the business of the Commonwealth. If Mr. Shepherd is not qualified for the position, some one else ought to be appointed. Banking, insurance, pastoral, and other companies always endeavourto get the best men, and do not stop at a thousand pounds per annum in the matter of salary. We know of bank managers getting £3,000 a year. It is especially necessary for the Labour Government and the Labour party to have duly qualified officers-, because we are undertaking legislation in which our opponents do not believe. We are endeavouring to estab- list State Socialism wherever we can, and if our business enterprises are to be successful, we must have the services of highly trained and well qualified men. They must be the best we can get, and we shall not get them if we are prepared to offer from £1,000 to £2,000 per annum less than is offered by companies outside:
– What is the expansion to which the honorable member referred ?
-We are going in for a very extensive railway policy. The Minister of Home Affairs, who has enough work to do already, will not be able to manage it, and it will be necessary for the Ministry to create another portfolio. The Northern Territory will require educational, mining, agricultural, land and railway policies.
– That question belongs to the External Affairs Department.
-If the Minister of External Affairs had enough to do when the party opposite were in power, surely he cannot do the work that is in front of him now. If our Ministry are to “ crib, cabin, and confine ‘ ‘ themselves by restricting their officers in the way of salary, and restricting themselves in the way of assistance, they will fail, and our friends opposite will be” able to taunt us with questions as to what we are doing with the railways, or with the Northern Territory, or Papua. I hope the Prime Minister will show his usual courage, and go straight ahead. 1 am sure that in time those who are objecting to the item will see the wisdom of the course he is taking.
.- I am sorry that the honorable member for Capricornia thinks it needful to disagree with me, but no amount of further consideration which I may give the subject will make it necessary for me to alter my opinion upon it. I have no objection to high salaries for capability and capacity. Merit should have its reward, but are we to understand that this person stands alone in merit, qualification, and capacity amongst all the persons at the head of the Departments of the Commonwealth? Are not the men handling the great Commonwealth Service also of importance ? Can we not find other men of equal capacity ? How is it that we can find in these Estimates scarcely another case of an individual who is jumped up by £100 per annum? In spite of the enormous increase in the cost of living, why is it that so many excuses are put forward for not increasing the pay of large numbers of men in lower positions by even1s. a day? Why cannot we find equally strong reasons for giving similar advancement to men occupying prominent positions in other Departments? Why this disparity of treatment? On what grounds does this man stand out as so exceptional and distinct from all the other public servants of the Commonwealth? I claim that I have ample justification for protesting against this disparity of treatment, and against the singling out of one man as of exceptional ability compared with the rest of the Service.
Question - That the item, “ Secretary to Prime Minister, £520,” be reduced by £50 - put. The’ Committee divided.
Ayes … … … 3
Noes … … … 32
Majority … … 29
Question so resolvedinthe negative.
– The item of £400 for telegrams beyond the Commonwealth appears new. I do not know what it is intended for, but I would impress on the Prime Minister the advisableness of bringing Australia more prominently before the Mother Country.
– This item represents an increase in expenditure. The sum of £200 was voted last year, but that has been exceeded in ‘the last twelve months ; and it is estimated that about £400 will be required for business cables.
.- I should like some information in regard to the item of £525 for the painting of a picture of the landing of the Duke of York in May, 1901.
– This matter has been in abeyance since the very initiation of the Commonwealth. When the present King, as Duke of Cornwall and York, came to Australia to open the Federal Parliament, he brought with him the Chevalier de Martino, who was commissioned’ to paint a picture of the landing. When Sir Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister, visited England, to attend the Coronation of the late King, and also to represent the Commonwealth at the Imperial Conferences, he gave what was practically a contract order for this picture on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– Had the picture then been finished ?
– Yes ; Sir Edmund Barton saw it, or had it inspected ; and it is a matter of honour between the Commonwealth and the artist. I have not myself seen the picture, but I understand that such contracts made with artists of any standing are usually verbal. At any rate, there has been considerable correspondence, and I sent the whole of the papers to Sir Edmund Barton, who has acknowledged that the statements made by the artist as to the price to be paid, and so forth, are correct.
– The interesting point is, why this matter has been hung up so long.
– In my opinion, the reason is that nobody was ready to “ bell the cat,” and there was some diffidence in bringing the matter before Parliament. Whatever the Commonwealth may do, it is determined to keep contracts made by its chief representative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 12 (Executive Council), £195; and division 13 (Audit Office), £20,112, agreed to. department of the treasury.
Division 14 (The Treasury), £17,047.
– When the Prime Minister was in England he was waited upon by several deputations in respect to the land tax, and he said he would take the cases into consideration, and see whether he could relieve any hardship that might be involved. I should like the Prime Minister to tell us whether he has carefully considered the matter, and whether it is his intention to take any action.
– Both here and in London cases under the land tax were presented to me, with requests for favorable consideration. Certain large landholders complained that the tax was excessive, and amongst them was the Peel River Company. That was a very difficult case; and it, together with the others, was referred to the Attorney-General. The reports show that the taxation is according to law, and that it would be very dangerous to alter the assessments in the way desired ; and the Commissioner of Land Tax has not recommended any of the cases for favorable consideration. The case I have named may be covered in another way when the actual bona fides of the persons who hold the land, with the right to purchase, has been demonstrated beyond doubt, and some other preliminaries arranged. I have just received a report to that effect to-day. I regret to say that it is not considered advisable to make the’ alteration sought for by the deputation, although the Government do not tie themselves down absolutely.
Proposed vote agreed to”.
Division 15 (Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office), £41,927.
.- Can the Prime Minister give us some information as to the item of .£400 for a special magistrate ?
– Previously, several magistrates did the work, but, as Victoria is a very compact State, the Commissioner thought that one special magistrate could deal with the claims more expeditiously and efficiently. That is the reason for this appointment; and I am informed that Mr. Farrar, who has been given the office, is a good man. He used to be engaged in the Electoral Branch of the Department of Home Affairs.
– He was formerly clerk of courts at Warragul.
– I am told that he has not only the training, but the experience necessary for this kind of work.
– While possibly there has been considerable improvement in the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, there is still a good deal of unnecessary red tape. At One time, unless an applicant could produce his birth certificate, he could not obtain a pension ; and we all know how difficult such certificates are to obtain, not ‘only in the case of applicants born abroad, but of those born in Australia, owing to the defective system of registration in the days gone by. Dependence had to be placed on the records of the churches, which are often incomplete, and, in many cases, have been lost. I admit that the administration in this respect has been somewhat relaxed, but still it is a source of a great deal of trouble, and the matter ought to be looked into. If the examining magistrate, with the applicant before him, can judge from appearances that a claim is reasonably justified, that fact ought to have some weight with the Department. I hope that in the near future the Prime Minister will consider the advisableness of removing from the old-age pension the stigma that attaches to it of being a charity dole. Applicants have to satisfy the authorities that they are in necessitous’ circumstances ; and any property worth over 10s. a week reduces the pension accordingly. In that respect there have been some very hard cases, particularly when old couples have managed to acquire a home for themselves. Only a very small allowance is paid in this respect, and if a pensioner has a grandchild living with him or her, that fact is taken to constitute an income with a margin of £50. If there is no person living with the pensioner, there is a margin of .£100. A property may be valued , above the limit fixed, and yet return no income; and the only way to satisfy the Department would be for the applicant to sell his property and be turned out of his home. It seems to me that furniture or other property not used to augment or provide additional income ought to be exempt, and that in that regard, its owners should be allowed to reap the reward of their providence. I do not wish at this stage to enter into anything like a discussion of the principle which underlies the system of old-age pensions, but I hope that the Prime Minister will not take too seriously into consideration the suggestion made during the Budget debate that this, after all, is not the best system of providing for the aged poor. It was said, for instance, that it had a tendency to undermine the independence of the people. I thought that objections of that kind, which were raised to the system in its initial stages, had gone by the board. My belief is that the principle of old-age pensions is sound ; that the system has come to stay ; and that all that is necessary to make it perfectly acceptable is to eliminate the stigma of charity that at present attaches to it. The only condition that ought reasonably to attach to the granting of an old-age pension is that of good behaviour on the part of the applicant. The stigma of charity that has unfortunately been associated with the system ought to be swept away. I hope that the Prime Minister, during the recess, will give this phase of the question his consideration with a view of introducing a. measure of reform which will make an oldage pension one that no one will have any hesitation in accepting.
– Perhaps I shall avoid a long debate by informing the Committee of the principle on which magistrates have been acting since I have had the honour to be in charge of the Department. The honorable member for Calare has said that a magistrate ought to have power (o decide by the appearances of an applicant whether he has reached the pension age, where he cannot prove that he has. When I was in office On a previous occasion, I gave instructions that, failing documentary proof, every magistrate should have the right to say whether, from the appearance of the applicant, or other evidence, he was of an age that entitled him to receive a pension, and that direction is still being followed. The Department of its own free will, examines shipping records, and gives every facility to applicants to prove their age. I do not think that we can go further in that direction. As to the question of making the pension payable to all men who have reached the age of sixty-five, and to all women who have reached the age of sixty years, irrespective of what property they may own, I must say that that is a matter of high policy. When a decision has been arrived at, Parliament will have to deal with the matter. If such a policy were adopted, and statutory effect given to it, it would mean that at least another £2,000,000 per annum would be required to meet the pensions that would then become due and payable. I shall not shrink from the duty of bringing forward the matter as soon as Parliament is ready to deal with it, but whilst I agree with the honorable member, I must point out that the policy having been decided upon, it will simply be a question of ways and means.
– What is the Department doing in regard to blind applicants for invalid pensions?
– For some time, we have adopted the policy of allowing the blind who are in receipt of invalid pensions to earn, in addition,10s. per week. In that regard, we have placed them on the same footing as are old-age pensioners. The blind are the only class of invalid pensioners to whom that treatment is extended.
– I have had a good deal of trouble in regard to the applications of blind persons for invalid pensions. I know that the Prime Minister is guided by the best of motives in the administration of the Act, but unfortunately a great deal of difficulty arises in connexion with it. It took me twelve months to obtain an invalid pension for a blind man. I knew, however that his case was a just one, and determined that the Department should not beat me, with the result that I eventually succeeded. A blind man very often cannot earn what managers of blind institutions, who are anxious to show that their asylums are not conducted on a sweating basis, say they can. I know of a man fifty-seven years of age, who was suffering from rheumatics in the hands, which, according to a doctor, seriously handicapped him in following any occupation yet the manager of a blind institution said that he could earn £1 per week. In the first place, the Department granted him a pension of 4s. per week, but I told him to return it, and eventually he received a pension of 8s. a week. He then went into an institution to try to augment his income, only to find that at the most he could earn, not £1 per week, but11s. 6d. or 12s. per week. The Department must not rely too fully on the statements of managers of blind asylums as to what blind men can earn in such institutions. In some cases, the awards of Wages Boards apply to those employed in such establishments, and the managers, when supplying information, set forth, what, according to the Wages Board award, the men should receive. I know that it is the desire of the Prime Minister that the blind shall receive invalid pensions, and if we could succeed in rendering it no longer necessary for blind persons to beg on the streets, we should set an object-lesson to the world. I believe that everyhonorable member would support the Prime Minister in making an effort in that direction, even if he had to strain the law a little to do so. I had three cases of the kind to deal with, and in regard to one of them wrote something like forty letters to the Department, with the result that I ultimately succeeded in obtaining a pension for the man. The Prime Minister was in England during part of the time, and I am glad to say that every fact that I then put before the Department has been proved to be absolutely correct.
– I wish to call attention to what seems to me to be a hardship under the oldage pension law, as it stands. It relates to the provision that an applicant’s income shall be ascertained by taking into account the joint income of husband and wife. This works very harshly in many cases. The law as it stands does not believe in the forgiveness of sins.
– Unfortunately, it believes rather in the resurrection of sins.
– Exactly. This law is dragging forth skeletons that, in some cases, have been shut up for thirty years. I do not think it was ever intended that anything of that kind should occur. Let me cite a couple of cases that have come under my own notice. In my electorate, there is an old man walking about, doubled up with rheumatism. He is dependent on charity, and ekes out a miserable existence. That man, it transpires, has been living apart from his wife for thirty years, and he does not even know where she is. His character during the last twenty years or more has been highly spoken of, and, so far as we know, he is thoroughly respectable. What caused the separation of husband and wife I do not pretend to know, but because the Government cannot find the man’s wife, and ascertain whether or not she is able to keep him, he is left in practically a state of starvation. I know that the law is against the old man’s claim, but I do not think the Government ought to administer it in this harsh way. Even if they strained the law a little, I am sure that the House would support them in doing so. The humanities of the case would justify an alteration of that one aspect of the law at the earliest possible opportunity. Another case is that of a man nearly eighty years of age, who also is living apart from his wife. It was only the passing of this law that led to our knowing that these men had wives. They had separated years ago. In this particular case, the Department communicated with the wife, who is living at the other end of the world, and will not help the man to get his pension. What the trouble between them was, I do not know, but this old man is living a respectable life, and his wife, who has a little money, is not disposed to give him any. The question is whether he is to starve because of some incompatibility between himself and his wife twenty or thirty years ago.
– Under the law, he gets credit for half of what she possesses.
– And which he cannot enjoy. These are shockingly hard cases, and are typical of cases which every honorable member has brought under his notice. If the Government feel that they are not able to set aside this aspect of the law, let them bring in a short amending Bill - one clause would be sufficient - to give them a little discretion in such matters. In the interests of humanity, this ought to be done atthe earliest possible moment. It is wrong that our law should go back to some little trouble of twenty or thirty years ago, no matter how a man has tried to redeem himself in the meantime, and visit him with the consequences of that trouble. I would be the last to suggest that a man who has done wrong should not pay the [penalty, but the PrimeMinister would dc himself credit, and help a lot of old men who need help, if he got power to exercise somelittle discretion in these matters.
.- In my electorate are Botany and Waterloo, among the oldest settled places in Australia, and much of the land there is under lease from the Daniel Cooper estate. Where an applicant for an old-age pension has a cottage on such land, the Department should not take the possession of such property into consideration, because, in a very few years, the leases will terminate. It is cruel to penalize by reducing their pensions poor persons who have managed to get a home over their heads. Furthermore, the officers of the Department value the furniture in the house of an applicant for a pension, and make a reduction according to its value. When a woman is left with a decently-furnished house, she does not like to part with her belongings in order to getthe full amount of pension, and I do not think her pension should be reduced because she possesses a little furniture. The officers of the Department should be instructed not to be too mean and near in their calculations. I hope that next year we shall have a more liberal measure, which will remove many of the existing anomalies.
– I, like other honorable members, have had experience of the hardships of this Act. In one case an old man who had lost sight of his wife for twenty years applied for a pension, and disclosed the fact that he was married. Inquiries were made, and it was discovered that his wife had got another husband and family, and because she possessed property, he was refused a pension, although she had never done anything for his support, and refused to do anything for it. I was told by the Department that his remedy was to get a divorce, or to take legal proceedings for judicial separation, but he had no money, and I have not discovered that these luxuries are to be obtained by a man who is absolutely without means. Some friends went to his assistance, and ultimately the State Department of charitable relief helped him. In another case, an aged man who was at cross purposes with his wife and family, so that they did nothing for him, made application for a pension, and it was disallowed, because it was considered that the property possessed by his family should assist in his support. In a third case a decent, respectable miner, whom I have known for over twenty years, who has worked hard for very little recompense, finding himself old and enfeebled, and without friends, applied for a pension, and it being discovered that he was married, he was asked to prove that his wife was alive, and was not in a position to support him. He has not seen her for many years, and I do not suppose she would support him if he could find her. He has been a good living, Christian man, who has done his duty by the State, and his present position is his misfortune, not his fault. When such a man is denied assistance, it does not reflect credit on the administration or on the law.
– It is the law that is to blame, not the administration.
– I hope that the law will soon be altered. In several cases the State Charitable Department has made grants, but they are not very liberal, the Department considering that this work now falls to the Commonwealth.
– I understand that applicants for invalid pensions have to produce certificates from private practitioners, in addition to being examined by Commonwealth officers.
– Not necessarily.
– A doctor brought it under my notice, and told me that he could not ask these persons to pay him, but was forced to give them certificates without charge.
.- The- Acf provides that in the case of an application for an invalid pension the amount earned by a wife shall be considered in estimating the pension of her husband. I know of a case in which a young fellow of thirty years, in the last stage of consumption, came from Western Australia to Victoria to be treated, and was granted an invalid pension; but as the wife was receiving £1 per week and board in Western Australia, and the value of the board was put down at 15s. a week, the pension was reduced to 7s. 6d. a week, The wife had enough to do to keep her children on what she was receiving, so that there was no justice in reducing the husband’s pension. The Prime Minister has promised to bring in an amending Bill, so that pensioners will not be charged for the homes they occupy, and I should like this matter also to be dealt with- - if possible, this session.
– What chance have we of getting home?
– The welfare of these poor people is of more importance. We receive our salaries, and have nothing totrouble about. I do not look upon the oldage pension as a charity ; it is the absolute right of every individual in the community, if he cares to apply for it. We should be most liberal in our treatment of the oldpersons who have done so much for our country.
.- So far from complaining of the administration of tlie Old-age Pensions Act, I think it has been sympathetic and expeditious, and I congratulate those responsible for it. Asio the case referred to by the honorable member for Parramatta, it is clearly governed by the law, the Act providing that -
In the case of husband and wife, except where they are living apart pursuant to any decree, judgment, order, or deed of separation, the net capital value of the accumulated property of each shall be deemed to be half the total net capital value of the accumulated property of both.
That provision offers a premium for divorce or judicial separation.
– Pension applicants are not able to invoke the law.
– They should not beencouraged to do so. Besides, in many cases a maintenance order would give no relief. I know a hardworking, industriouswoman, who is old enough to apply for a pension, whose husband is utterly worthless, and if she indulged in what the honorable member calls the luxury of judicialproceedings she would get no satisfaction. I suggest that the law should be amended, so that women deserted by their husbandsshould not be prejudiced in their claims for pensions.
.- I compliment the Minister upon a more sympathetic and humane administration of theAct than prevailed under his predecessor.
– His predecessor wasequally humane and desirous of doing what was right.
– When the responsible officer said that he was doing his duty, I told him that he was doing it like the man who nailed the hands of the crucified Christ. . That man, too, thought that he was doinghis duty. Between 700 and 800 applications were going through my office, and I know that the cases did not meet with half the sympathy that is given now. Manyof the magistrates were making the old5 people feel that the pension was a charity^ not a right. We should have in the Act * specific statement to that effect. Then not even an obtuse justice of the peace on the bench could insult the old people who come before him. The question of age is much more kindly treated now than it used to be when applicants had to send to England for proof.
– They are still made to send to England.
– Not to the same extent. If the magistrate says he thinks a man or woman has reached the age, that settles the matter. That could not be done until quite lately. In the Homeland and in Ireland many of the old people got their pensions because they remembered the time when what was called “ the great wind “ blew there. As was pointed out when, in this very chamber years ago, I exposed the then Secretary of the Law Department, the registration of births in England half a century ago was very vague. I am only fifty-seven years of age, yet I defy any one to find the register of my birth in any Government Department, although it can be found in the church where I was baptized. It would be well if an exemption of £500 could be allowed for a home, instead of the £310 allowed at present, so long as the home does not produce an income. In view of the difficulty of obtaining records of birth in Great Britain and Ireland, and prior to 1856 in New South Wales and 1857 in Victoria, it is desirable that, in the absence of definite proof, the opinion of the presiding magistrate and of one medical officer should be accepted. I understand the Department go further than that, and I thank them heartily for what they have done. That is to jay, if a magistrate says that he believes an applicant to be sixty-five years of age in the case of a man, and sixty years in the case of a. woman, the pension is granted. It is pitiable to see the poor old folk going to people to write for them to England, and receiving a reply that there is no record of the birth. It has been suggested that the quickest way of settling doubtful questions of age would be to accept as obvious the claimant’s age when he appears to be seventy years old. If he is under that age, let him be given, say, four or six months in which to produce proof of age, or evidence that it is unobtainable. In the meantime, give the pension on condition that the case be revived at the end of the period allowed. That will be a fair way of treating the old folks. It has been suggested to me that whenever a claimant for the invalid pension is refused, the magistrate should send such claimant to an institution, where he may be placed under medical supervision, with a view to the claim being reconsidered. Then comes the question of why we cannot copy the example of Switzerland, where no one is buried as a pauper. If a. lump sum of £2 were allowed when the pensioner dies, it would enable him to be buried as a citizen, and not as a pauper. We should remove the word “pauper” from the English language so far as we are concerned. The father or mother of good sons and daughters is penalized by the present arrangement. If the children support the parents a deduction is made from the amount of pension allowed. If two children living in the mother’s home contribute£1 a week each, the Department think that the mother will make a profit of10s. per week out of each of them. Any one who knows what the appetites of two healthy working men are will recognise that there is not much profit to be made out of £1 a week. If a mother rents a home, and anything is contributed by her children, she does not get her full pension. My advice, which I give freely outside to the children, is, “ Do not let your parents rent a home ; rent it in your own name ; then let your father and mother live in it, and they can justly say they are not receiving any income from their children.” It is pitiable that parents who bring up good children should be penalized, whereas the careless parents are not. I should like the Treasurer to give some attention to that point. Another trouble is the following : - Municipalities have a bad habit of inflating valuations, and thus a home is sometimes valued at far more than it would bring. I know a case of a person who would willingly sell a home for £200, but it is valued at £350, thus preventing her getting the pension. I hope the Minister will, during the recess, consider the points I have placed before him.
– One feature of the Old-age and Invalid Pension Act has agitated me considerably at different times, and has led me to promise various people that I would bring the question up on the Estimates. I refer to the anomaly which exists in regard to the conditions under which the invalid pension is paid. The old-age pension is granted to people who cannot earn more than10s. a week. The invalid pension is paid only to those who are absolutely incapacitated. This seems rather anomalous. If any one needs a pension, even more than an old person, it is one who is absolutely incapaci- tated, or so far incapacitated that he cannot earn more than a few shillings a week. I hope, sooner or later, to see the Act amended to permit invalid pensioners to earn up to 10s. a week without being deprived of their pensions. I know the Prime Minister is adverse to this. I have heard him say that he would prefer to decrease the age at which the old-age pension should be paid rather than agree to it, because of financial considerations, to which I am fully alive. I realize that we cannot go too far in this direction, otherwise half of us would be paying taxes to maintain the other half ; but we can surely be consistent in the direction in which we do go. I suppose I have in my electorate at least a dozen cases where invalid pensions have been refused, although it is freely admitted by the authorities that the persons concerned cannot earn nearly enough to keep themselves. This seems one of those anomalies which should be rectified, even if we do not go to the extent of putting the invalid pensioner on exactly the same footing as the old-age pensioner.
– The discussion that has taken place on this large and momentous question has been very interesting. The number of pensioners in the Commonwealth probably amounts to 88,000 out of a population of less than 4,500,000, and the amount paid comes to not quite 10s. per head of the population. I do not feel that I have been a very bad man in the administration of this Act. The amount expended is increasing rapidly, and no complaint can be made on that ground. I have no doubt whatever that a new system will have to be invoked by the aid of Parliament, and a larger appropriation of revenue made for that purpose. The difficulty regarding pensions for invalids is, that before an invalid pension can be granted, the person claiming it must be permanently incapacitated. As to the treatment of blind persons, I can only say that the Department has done its best to meet the circumstances. I appeal to honorable members to take a patriotic view of the matter. The very worst thing that could be done for a blind person, capable of learning a trade, is to do anything calculated to prevent his doing so. Nothing could be more mischievous or disastrous; and I hope honorable members will encourage the blind to work while they are young enough to do so. Most medical men, and others of vast experience, hold that the blind ought to be taught some trade by which they may earn their own living, because they are thus improved physically and morally. We are ready to meet cases of hardship within the law, but it would be decidedly bad administration to go beyond that. Honorable members must make up their minds to tell the people of Australia that the question of invalid pensions will have to be faced in a different way. If we sweep away the conditions that surround the present Act, then more money will have to be appropriated. I have made a note of what has been said during this discussion, and doubtless it will be useful in the-future.
– The Prime Minister referred to some new system?
– I was referring to the practically unanimous expression of opinion all around the chamber that the conditions surrounding old-age pensions are unsatisfactory, and pointing out that if we remove all the anomalies in regard to the ownership of property, and’ so forth, it will mean a widening of the basis of the Act. That, of course, is a Treasury matter, which I am prepared to submit to the Government. If all parties are agreed, or whether they are or not, it may be necessary to do this ; and the matter will be taken into consideration, and something done, before this Parliament closes.
– The Prime Minister did not mean the abolition of old-age pensions and the substitution of some contributory scheme?
– Certainly not.
.- In some big centres in my electorate complaints have been made of delay in dealing with applications. In one case, when I sent the letter on to the Central Office, I was told that it had become a sort of joke among the young men there to ask each other if they * had lodged their application, because, apparently, they would be of an age to entitle them to a pension before it had been dealt with.
– The answer to that is that it is not true !
– I am merely mentioning the joke that has been made. I do not know whether there is anybody to blame, either in the Sydney office or the Central Office. In some cases I have received answers to the communications, and in other cases I have not; and I feel called upon to raise the question now. The main feature is that many of the old people require some assistance in making out their applications.
As a rule, that assistance is forthcoming locally, but it is very difficult to get the necessary proof as to age.
– Every facility is given by the Department in that connexion.
– I do not know whether there are many other complaints in New South Wales, but I know that, in some cases, I have found, on investigation, that there was another side to the question, and the matter has been cleared up by the Department. I trust that the administration of the Central Office will see that the officials throughout the Commonwealth take pains to assist these old people.
– I agree with the Prime Minister that, if we desire to further inflict blind people, we should encourage them to live in idleness.
– Or isolation of any kind.
– Quite so. It is bad enough to be blind, but to live without occupation also is to lead the most miserable existence one can imagine. It would be a distinct mistake to give pensions to blind people, especially to those, say, under twenty-one years. Two instances have come under my notice of young blind people who were learning a trade, but who gave that up when, by some means, they obtained pensions ; and this is a most lamentable state of affairs. I suggest that the Department should get in touch with the institutions for the blind when considering applications for pensions.
– We are in touch with all of them.
– The Department should ask in each case whether these institutions are prepared to pay more to the applicants in some suitable service than they would obtain in pensions, and I think it will be found that more can be earned at some useful occupation. I know a case of a wharf labourer who, when about thirty years of age, was stricken with blindness, and since then, for the last twenty years, he has been earning more than he did as a wharf labourer. Nothing appeals to one’s sympathy so much as an invitation to help the blind; but I would rather help them with a bonus on the product of their labour than give them pensions. I hope, however, that before anything is done, the question will be formally debated in this House, for the treatment of the blind is specialized all over the world, and there is a vast amount of information on the subject which we could call to our aid.
.- There is an item of £20,000 for the services of magistrates, registrars, police, and officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and it has come under my notice on two different occasions that officials so employed have not received anything for the work done.
– The money is paid by the Commonwealth to the States, and not to the officers.
– If this money is paid by the Commonwealth, it seems an injustice that those who do the work should not receive it.
– I know of a case in Queensland where the officer who pays the pensions is paid the miserable sum of about½d. per payment. I know it is sometimes said that the paying of these pensions is a very simple matter, but there is really a great deal of trouble in consequence of the infirmity of some of the old people. This officer complained to me that his remuneration was most inadequate. When he was performing his regular duties for the State, he would be called away to pay an old-age pension, and might be thus occupied for ten or fifteen minutes. The payment seems very inadequate.
– The States very rightly insist that this money shall be paid to them, and not to the officers. It is paid on a scale - magistrates,1s. 6d. ; registrars, 2s. ; police, 2s. We are very glad of the service of State officers, but cannot undertake to compel the States to hand over to them what we pay for their services.
.- So far as I have been able to ascertain, these payments, particularly at small post-offices where they are largely made, work out at about½d. each. I have worked at a counter for a considerable time doing nothing else on certain days of the week but paying old-age pensioners, and I can honestly say that such a payment is not adequate remuneration for the work done. In most cases, it is not possible to deal with more than about fifteen pensioners an hour. When a man has to fix up an old-age pensioner’s form, pay him, and make out his receipt, he is not able to deal with very many cases in an hour; and I am sure that the Prime Minister will find that the remuneration paid for this class of work, and particularly to postmasters, is not sufficient. ? draw the Prime Minister’s attention to’ the matter in the hope that he will see if it is not possible to give these officers a little more for the services they are rendering.
– - I have a case of hardship in regard to the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister. The case is that of a man who *has been living apart from his wife for some years, and who is unable to secure a pension because his wife will not supply ;the necessary information as to her own income. I have been helping this man for a year or two. He is living in a tent, and he has written a most pathetic letter to me, begging me to see if something cannot be >done for him before Christmas. His wife lives in Victoria, and I forwarded to the honorable member for Corio the papers which, under the Act, it is necessary for her to sign in order that the man might secure the pension.
– The old lady will not sign the papers.
– That is so. I desire to ask the Treasurer to take into consideration the position of pensioners who enter a charitable institution.
-(Mr. W. Elliot Johnson). - The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that matter at this stage. He will have an opportunity to do so later on.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 16 (Land Tax Office), ?70, 194.
.- The Prime Minister would facilitate the discussion of this division if he would give the Committee some information regarding the process of valuation that is being adopted. The valuations have been based, so far, I think, on the returns furnished by the persons liable to pay taxation ; but in these Estimates, for the first time, machinery is being provided for the valuation of properties throughout Australia on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– That is a check valuation.
– Will the Prime Minister give us a statement as to the qualifications of the persons who are being appointed as valuators, and state what instructions they are receiving in regard to the procedure to be adopted?
– The Land Tax Commissioner is taking steps to check the valuations as far as possible, and is ap pointing officers in various parts of the Commonwealth to assist him in that work. I can only say that, as the Minister administering the Act, I have not intervened in any way with any suggestion that he should appoint other than those approved by the Public Service Commissioner.
– I did not suggest that the right honorable member had done so.
– Quite so. The Land Tax Commissioner is not out in any vindictive spirit to grapple with new problems. He is simply desirous of carrying out the spirit and intention of the Act, and, so far as I know, the men appointed to assist him in this work are men of capacity.
– Are valuers being appointed for special districts?
– Yes; the Commissioner is appointing men with local knowledge and special ability for the work.
– Are we to understand that the valuers who are being appointed will be under the Public Service Commissioner ?
– Nearly every officer appointed has some relation to the Public Service Commissioner; but it is not intended to bring the special area valuers directly under him.’ The appointments are nearly all referred to the Public Service Commissioner, save in the case of local appointments, which may be described as tentative in the last degree.
– Early in the session I asked the Prime Minister to place before the House statistics bearing upon the number of holders and holdings taxed under each section of the Act, and the amount of revenue collected. The right honorable gentleman then said that the information at his. disposal was not sufficiently complete to enable such a return to be furnished. .
– I think we have since tabled some statistics.
– I have not seen them ; and since land is a prime factor in the production of wealth, such returns would furnish us with a very important key to information in that direction.
– I am sure that we have tabled all the information as yet in our possession.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 17 (Government Printer), ?20,397.
.- In this division we have the item “ Gratuities to State officers engaged in excess of office hours, £500.” That amount is actually paid to the officers concerned, and they thoroughly deserve it. We have also an item of £150 for an allowance to the Government Printer of Victoria for services rendered in connexion with printing for Parliament. The Government Printer is responsible for the whole of our work, and like the other officers, is engaged in excess of office hours, but not one penny of this £150 goes to him.. We cannot but be aware that the demands made in respect of Commonwealth printing must enormously increase his burdens, and we vote £150 by way of an allowance to him-
– To which the State Government sticks.
– Exactly. I am sure that honorable members are deeply sensible of the services rendered by the Government Printer and his staff, and feel that money voted in this way for services rendered by him over and above his State duties - services involving large calls upon his time - ought to be received by him.
– We feel it incumbent upon us to place this item on the Estimates, but we cannot insure its payment to the Government Printer.
– Why not send it directto him ?
– The Commonwealth Government would not allow any State Government to make a direct payment to any of our officers, and we could not make a direct payment to any State officer without undermining the authority of the State. All that we can do beyond passing this item is to make representations to the State Government as to the desirableness of permitting the Government Printer to accept this allowance.
– I suggest strong representations.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Our total expenditure under the heading of “ Government Printer “ amounts to the large sum of £20,397, but I believe that our printing business will never be placed on a satisfactory basis until we organize a Government printing office of our own. We are certainly thankful to State officers for the services they render, but I do not think that the present system is a desirable one.
– Let us establish a Government printing office at Yass-Canberra.
– Let us have everything in readiness, so that when the Minis ter for Home Affairs has prepared for our flight to the Federal Capital we shall be able to remove our printing staff and machinery to that place. The Leader of the Opposition complains that the Government Printer does not receive this allowance of £150 that we vote for his services, and the position is the same with regard to other allowances for services rendered by State officers. Even the police receive very little of the amount that we give for the compilation of our rolls. I urge the Prime Minister to take into consideration the desirableness of establishing our own printing office. We already have linotypes and other machinery, and all that we need is to secure a building to be used as a Commonwealth printing office. The position would be more satisfactory and economical if the Commonwealth were to establish a printing office of its own.
– I shall make a note of the honorable member’s suggestion.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 18 (Governor-General’s Office), £4,150; and division 19 (Coinage), £27,000, agreed to.
Division 20 (Miscellaneous), £681,050.
.- In my opinion, an old-age pensioner is entitled to his pension when he goes into an institution, even if it be a lunatic asylum; but at the present time he may be a charge on the Commonwealth one day, and the next day a charge on the State. I know of several cases in which, after pensioners have tried for a long time to live on their pensions, they have found themselves unable to do so, and have had to go into an institution. Sometimes they have to go into an institution or hospital to get the attention which they cannot get in their own homes, or in the homes of their sons and daughters.In Western Australia, the maintenance of each person in a State institution costs less than10s. a week, and I receive scores of letters in the course of a year asking that pensioners shall be paid their pensions, even while in institutions. They do not wish to spend the money themselves ; their idea is that as much as is necessary should go to recoup the State the cost of their maintenance, and that the balance, it may be only 6d. or 9d., should be at their disposal for the purchase of tobacco or similar comforts. I hope that the Prime Minister will try to see that that is arranged for.
– Will the Prime Minister give us some information regarding the proposal to pay . £673,600 as interest on the value of the transferred properties?
– The Government have decided that, as the transferred properties were not included in any agreement, interest should be paid on them as from the date of the agreement regarding the distribution of surplus revenue, namely, the 1st July, 1910. The States have agreed to accept 3 per cent.
– Without prejudice to their claims for more.
– So far as I know, all will accept the 3 per cent. interest without prejudice, the points in dispute to be decided later by friendly conference or legal process.
– The sinking fund proposal is a cause of disagreement.
– Some of the States think that they should be paid interest at the rate of 3½ per cent. When the Estimates are passed, we shall pay 3 per cent. without prejudice to any claim that the States may have for more.
– What amount will be paid to each State?
– I can furnish the information to-morrow.
.- The Prime Minister takes an extremely sanguine view, judging by the official documents which have been published. The States appear willing to accept any sum which we may choose to vote towards payment of the amount to which they think themselves entitled, which, so far as Ican follow their claim, is interest at the rate of 3¾ per cent., apart from any sinkingfund payments. Under the circumstances, the Prime Minister could not do less than he has done, and is perfectly justified in thus asking us to recognise an indisputable liability.
– I do not know that it is a legal one.
– It is a moral, and, I think, legal liability, though the amount may be open to argument. The Government have acted wisely in facing the situation, and I hope that a fair and reasonable agreement will be arrived at before long.
– Some time ago I interviewed the ActingTreasurer for New South Wales, Mr. Carmichael, about the Liverpool manoeuvre area, and he told me that the matter could not be dealt with until there had been an understanding about the transferred properties, while in a letter from the Secretary to the Premier of the State, dated 15th December, I was informed -
That no present action in this direction is being taken by this Government - the responsibility for the matter being in abeyance resting with the Commonwealth authorities.
I understand that there is a grievance, because of the difference in regard to the transferred properties. The State authorities think that interest should be paid at the rate of 3¾ per cent., and the Commonwealth wishes to pay only 3 per cent., and ½ per cent. to a sinking fund. Some understanding should be come to speedily in this matter.
– We shall do our best to deal with the Liverpool manoeuvre question without regard to other matters.
– The attitude of the New South Wales Government is churlish and unjustifiable. I do not know why it should have its back up, seeing that the negotiations were on the point of completion when the Deakin Administration left office. I do not know why New South Wales Ministers should take an attitude hostile to the Defence Department of Australia, because they cannot get their way in regard to the transferred properties. Public attention should be drawn to it.
– The honorable member would not have just one manoeuvre area.
– I would have this manoeuvre area, if I could get it.
– The military idea is to have a different manoeuvring ground each year.
– Officers of high position in the Defence Department declare this to be one of the best manoeuvre areas in the world, and would be glad to get possession of it. Has the Prime Minister received replies from all the States in reference to the transferred properties ?
– Favorable replies ?
– I think that they would all accept 3 per cent. without prejudice. It would be convenient to them, and convenient to us. It does not prejudice their interests at all.
– What does the honorable member propose to do to finalize the matter?
– First, conference-
– It seems to be altogether an unbusiness-like transaction to pay money over iri settlement of liabilities before we know what they really are.
– Have the States accepted the valuation.
– Yes; there is no difficulty on that head.
– This Parliament is unanimous that the payment should be at least 3 per cent.
– I do not agree with any 3 per cent, being offered to them. The Commonwealth ought to assume the States’ obligations for these properties. Since the valuations were settled, large increments have accrued to the properties in various parts of Australia, and those increments are destined to go on indefinitely.
– The properties are ours’ at the present time.
– They will be ours when we have paid for them.
– I think I am right.
– The honorable member may be technically right, but morally he is very wrong. He is laying down a new code of ethics, that mere possession makes a thing right. Apparently we have only to say they are ours, and they are ours, even though not a copper has been paid for them. I hope that the matter will turn out satisfactorily for all concerned, but the sooner it is finalized1 the better. I most strongly object to voting nearly £750,000 in settlement of properties as to which there is no agreement. However, it is a way the Prime Minister has.
– It is paving the way for an agreement.
– It looks like exercising a little pressure. I hope it is not intended to intimate to the States that this is the fina1, and unanimous opinion of this Parliament regarding the interest to be paid, because I regard it as our obligation to relieve the States of their obligation in respect of the transferred properties.
– I take it that the Prime Minister is only now appropriating a certain sum of money, with a view to paying it over ultimately if there is an agreement, or else to making an arrangement with the States by which it will be agreed that, if it is paid over, the States accept it as a part performance of any legal obligation on our part. Subsection 3 of section 85 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall com pensate a State for the value of any property passing to the Commonwealth, and that, if no agreement can be made as to the mode of compensation, it shall be determined under laws to be made by the Parliament. We cannot say at this stage whether there is an agreement or disagreement. We are practically negotiating now with respect to compensation. The whole question of valuations was settled as set out in a report to this House on the 9th December, 1908, by the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs. I am afraid honorable members have not yet appreciated the splendid work which was done by Colonel Miller and the State officers in valuing the whole of the transferred properties. It was one of the largest pieces of valuation work Australia has ever seen. Does the Prime Minister propose to hold a conference with the States at an early date?
– Yes, we will meet them, and discuss the matter in every way. This binds us to nothing, and them to nothing, beyond that they will get six-sevenths of the money to go on with immediately.
– We are practically authorizing the Prime Minister to enter into negotiations with the States, and make a payment on account.
.- The item of £3,000 to recoup the PostmasterGeneral’s Department the rebate of 75 per cent, allowed to fire brigades on regulation rates for telephone and fire-alarm services appears to be a new departure calling for explanation.
– Certain concessions were previously asked for in the way of fire brigades, station telephones, &c. When I was in office before, I suggested that, instead of giving the fire brigades free telephones, we should make a contribution out of the general revenue to the Postal Department to allow the Department to give them cheap telephones. This is, therefore, a payment out of the general revenue to credit the PostmasterGeneral’s Department with the amount that they are short paid by the fire brigades. It is a very good arrangement.
– I am not at all satisfied in regard to the question of the interest on the transferred properties. The valuations were agreed on a long time ago, but the present position is being made use of by the Government of New South Wales for the specific purpose of blocking the establishment of the manoeuvre area. I know the trouble and annoyance to which the honorable member for Nepean is being put, and the inconvenience and loss which the people on the area have to suffer. I cannot understand the conduct of the New South Wales Government. The excuse they make is that they will not allow the matter to be settled until the whole question of the transferred properties is settled. Magnificent work was put into the valuation of the transferred properties, as the honorable member for Darling Downs has said ; but the action taken by the Government to-night appears to be merely putting off a settlement. If any other State Government takes the same churlish view that the New South Wales Government are taking at present, all sorts of trouble may arise regarding important undertakings all over the Commonwealth. I hope the Prime Minister will take some decided action, and endeavour to bring the New South Wales Government to a sensible view of the position, so that this very necessary area may be speedily made available for the training of our troops. I would remind honorable members that while we have to resume a fair amount of land in the area, we are getting the right to manoeuvre over 50,000 acres without any cost whatever. That is an advantage not to be lightly thrown away, and the Government ought to try to induce the Government of New South Wales to settle the matter, which was brought right up to the stage of settlement when the last Government went out of office.
– I shall be very glad to do so.
– If, as the Government indicate, the amount set down as interest on the transferred properties is intended to be only a part payment, the Treasurer might well omit the words “ at 3 per cent., and sinking fund at per cent.” ‘ The item could then go through, leaving the whole question open for decision afterwards, as to what the sinking fund and interest are to be.
– I do not think the words quoted by the honorable member for Parramatta prejudice the position of the States in any way. The item will enable the Treasurer to hand over 3 per cent, to the States, and hold the balance without prejudice to their claims in any way. I shall not only be ready to meet the States, but shall approach them to have the matter discussed and determined without delay. There is no intention to use any leverage against them in the interests of the Commonwealth. We shall meet them, and discuss the matter as fairly as possible, but I prefer that the item should be allowed to pass as it stands.
– Would the honorable member explain why the amount is for two years ?
– It is two years since the financial agreement was accepted. We are therefore providing for two years’ interest up to the end of the present financial year, on 30th June next. That is to the benefit of the States as well as enabling the Commonwealth to get rid of part of the obligation. The States will be anxious to get the money without prejudice to either side.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 21 (Unforeseen Expenditure), £1,250; division 22 (Stamp Printing), £2,449 1 and division 23 (Refunds of Revenue)., £200,000, agreed to.
Division 24 (Advance to the Treasurer), £400,000.
.- This is the largest amount ever asked for as a Treasurer’s Advance.
– I think so; but there has been an enormous increase in the works, and so forth.
– The only point is whether it would not be more fair to Parliament if a fuller statement of the works were laid before us. We have already dealt with Works Estimates for a larger amount than ever before.
– It is a smaller percentage on the expenditure than at any previous time.
– That is because the expenditure is double. The Treasurer’s Advance is not quite double.
– The margin is one of percentage.
– We are dealing with huge figures, and I do not say the amount is out of proportion ; but, under the circumstances, we are entitled to ask for a fuller statement of the works intended to be covered. It is simply a matter of keeping in touch with Parliament.
– The Treasury has not provided me with that statement.
– It may come a little later. Instead of asking us to hand over a blank cheque, the information I asked for should be communicated to us, so that, while the Treasurer’s freedom is not limited, the authority of Parliament is recognised.
– There are certain works that cannot be foreseen, and, of course, the percentage of such works is larger when the works as a whole are on a gigantic scale. No new works will be initiated unless approved by Parliament ; and, as I say, the percentage of the Treasurer’s Advance is actually lower than at any other time. It is impossible for me to give detailed information ; but the Secretary of the Treasury, on whom I have to rely, as a rule, for estimates of this kind, says the amount is not disproportionate, and is a reasonable one to provide.
– The amount seems extraordinarily large. We have already authorized expenditure on public works to the amount of £1,473,266, and there is another £600,000 yet to be submitted to the Committee. We are now asked to increase the Treasurer’s Advance by £150,000.
– What percentage is that to the whole ? Not more than 7 or 8 per cent.
– We have to look at the enormous amount already authorized.
Proposed vote agreed to. attorney-general’s department.
Division 25 (Secretary’s Office), £5,119.
– Whereas £20 was voted for temporary assistance last year, we are asked this year to authorize an expenditure of £350. In the Crown Solicitor’s office, the vote under the same heading has increased from £50 to £500.
– It was £420 last year in the Crown Solicitor’s office.
– That was the expenditure, not the vote. Enough money is asked for to employ two or three men, or one good man.
– The increase in the case of the Secretary’s office is necessitated by the growth of the Department, and consequent increase in the work, which is largely indexing. Every new Bill involves more work, and temporary hands are required for this work. I do not suppose that the whole sum will be needed.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 26 (Crown Solicitor’s Office), £4,701, agreed to..
Division 27 (The High Court), £8,052.
– In regard to the item of £800 as compensation for services of Commonwealth and State officers, can the Attorney-General tell us whether that covers the payment of of the Registrars in the various State Courts, or the Acting-Deputy Registrars of the High Court?
– How many of these State officers are really getting this compensation? At one time, there were only one or two.
– They are getting it in all the States where it is permitted.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make a representation to the States where the officers do not receive this compensation, in order that all who are doing this work may be put on a similar footing ?
– Every effort is made to see that the men who are acting for us are paid fair salaries.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 28 (Court of Conciliation and Arbitration), £3,260.
.- There is an item of £250 for incidental and petty cash expenditure, ““including expenses of representatives of organizations.” What organizations? Why? When? Where ?
– The expenses are those of officers of representative organizations summoned under section16a, and the expenses are paid, because, if they were not, the officers would decline to come.
– I presume this means officers on both sides?
– Yes, both.
– There is an item of £700 for shorthand notes of Court proceedings. Are these notes taken for the benefit of the Department alone?
– It will be desirable, if it would not cost too much, for each member of this House to be supplied with reports of the decisions of the Arbitration Court from time to time. We are supplied with such reports occasionally, if they are of unusual importance. I suggest that the Attorney-General should ascertain what the cost would be. These decisions have an important bearing on legislation, and would help us materially.
– When I was Attorney-General, I gave instructions that a complete record was to be kept of the decisions of the High Court ; and I think a sufficient number were ordered to be printed to supply each honorable member with a copy. The first and second parts were issued, but we have seen nothing further of them. I should like the Attorney-General to tell us whether the reports are being continued.
– They are.
– What we require are re ports of the decisions, and not of the evidence, because they contain simply the important points decided by the Court.
. -In reply to the honorable member for Parramatta, I desire to say that I shall be glad to make inquiries as to what will be the cost of furnishing honorable members with copies of the judgments of the High Court.
– I had in mind the judgments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court ; the others,I am afraid-
– Very well. In reply to the honorable member for Darling Downs, I would say that the practice that he introduced is being continued. For some time we have been going on with the third and fourth volumes of the Arbitration reports, and hope to have them ready quite soon. They will then be available, and I shall be very glad to do what the honorable member has suggested, and place these judgments at the disposal of honorable members.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 29 (Patents, Trade Marks, Copyrights, and Designs), . £23,794, agreed to. department of external affairs.
Division 30 (Administrative), £14,239.
– It is not usual for a Minister in introducing his Estimates to anticipate discussion, but I believe that the Committee are anxious to know what the Government propose doing in regard to the Northern Territory. I propose, therefore, to address myself to that matter, and as the hour is late, to refrain from referring to one or two other branches of work controlled by the Department. During the last twelve months, as honorable members are aware, the Northern Territory has been taken over by the Com monwealth, and we have in the Territory an area of 523,624 square miles, or 335,116,800 acres. Of that area, about 500,000 acres are freehold, and 96,000,000 acres have already been leased. The white population numbers 1,418, whilst there is an Asiatic population of 1,892. The public debt of the Northern Territory amounts to £3,931,085, the yearly interest on which is £174,000. In addition, there is a debt of £2,274,486 on the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, the annual interest payable in respect of which is £86,000. The total debt for which we are now liable in respect of the Northern Territory is £6,205,571, the interest on which amounts to £260,000 per annum. I confess that one is somewhat appalled by the fact that, although, apart altogether from the railway debt, some £4,000,000 in excess of revenue has been expended on the Territory, its white population at the present time is only 1,418. The problem of what we are to do to develop the Territory is a very difficult one ; and the speeches made by a number of honorable members during the Budget debate as to what ought to be done with the Territory serve to make it appear all the greater to me. I was very pleased that so many honorable members saw fit during the Budget debate to refer to this matter, but I do not think that any two had exactly the same solution of the problem to offer. Every honorable member had, apparently, a different idea as to what ought to be done, and that diversity of opinion brings home to one’s mind all the more the magnitude of the problem that confronts us. We have to face the fact, not only that there is practically no settlement in the Territory at the present time, but also that although ten years ago 186,000,000 acres were leased by the South Australian Government, only 96,000,000 acres to-day are held under lease. We must naturally come to the conclusion that only the most accessible and easily worked lands have been retained by leaseholders.
– The more easily worked, but not necessarily the most accessible.
– Leaseholders were not likely to give up the better class of lands. The fact that of the 186,000,000 acres leased ten years ago only 96,000,000 acres are held under lease to-day is not the outcome of ungenerous action on the part of the South Australian Government. Indeed, the most generous terms were granted, as will be gathered from the fact that the rental obtained to-day from this area of 96,000,000 acres of leasehold lands is only £7,035 per annum. I mention these facts to show that there are big difficulties in the way of the development of the Territory, and, strange to say, we have already felt in a small way the effect of the absentee landlord. At Port Darwin, not long ago, we were anxious to obtain two half-acre blocks on which to erect houses for certain officers, and in one case were asked to pay £320, and in the other .£250.
– Was that land owned by absentees ?
– No; but the position may be briefly explained. Some thirty or forty years ago the South Australian Government offered for sale in the London market areas of land in the Northern Territory, subject to the condition that any one who bought a rural block should be entitled to a township block at Port Darwin. As a result of this action on the part of the South Australian Government, a large number of township, blocks at Port Darwin are held by absentees, and in many instances we do not even know the names of the owners. Viewing these facts, and seeing that for over forty years the Territory was under the control of the South Australian Government, we must come to the conclusion either that South Australia in taking upon herself the development of the Territory undertook too great a task, or that the climate is unsuitable, and its resources are not of a character to allow of development. I- am glad to say that, as the result of reports obtained, and other information that I have been able to gather, I have come to the conclusion that the backward state of development is due, not to climatic unsuitability, or to any lack cf natural resources, but rather to the fact that South Australia, having a great deal of land nearer her own capital, undertook in this respect a task which was practically impossible for her to accomplish, although she has generously held the Territory for the white races.
– The honorable member does not seem to recognise that if the country had been good it would have been settled without any assistance.
– I am not so sure that that is the position. I am anxious to put before honorable members the difficulties that lie in our way. There has been no* only Government but private failure. Failure seems to have dogged the footsteps of many who have attempted to develop either the’ pastoral or the mineral resources of the Territory. But I do not think the position as regards the future is in anyway hopeless. Roughly speaking, theNorthern Territory may be divided intofour regions. First of all, we have that of the north, which includes all the riversflowing into the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Carpentaria, and which may be called the coastal region. Secondly, we havethe tablelands, including the countrynear the head waters of the Macarthur, the Barklay Tablelands, and: the country near the head waters of the Victoria River ; and, thirdly, the’large area of country at present comparatively useless, and popularly known asthe desert country, although from reports it is possible that ultimately extensive usemay be made of its millions of acres. Finally, in the south, we have the Macdonnell Ranges, which include some fine pastoral country, and some areas of undoubted mineral richness, with a comparatively good climate. During the last twelve months we have sent out three expeditions. The first has been under Captain Barclay, who started from Oodnadatta in South Australia, and by means of cameltransport traversed the western part of the Macdonnell Range country, a long stretch of dry country to the wes£ of the telegraph line, and then examined the existing stock routes - passing through Newcastle Waters to Anthony’s Lagoon - and is nowengaged on the examination of country near the head waters of the Macarthur River. The latest reports from Captain Barclayare very gratifying. He appears to be aman well qualified to judge of country, and in a preliminary report which I recently received, he says that he has inspected half-a-million acres of well watered land suitable for agriculture in the regionmentioned, and thinks that there is probably as much again that he has not visited. The second expedition, consisting of Professors Baldwin Spencer and Gilruth, of the Melbourne University, Dr. Woolnough,. of the Sydney University, and Dr. Breinl, of the Institute of Tropical Medicine,. Townsville, visited the Territory in July last. They have furnished valuable preliminary reports, and their papers, to be received subsequently, will add much to thescientific knowledge of the country traversed by them between the existing railway and the mouth of the Roper River. The third commission of inquiry was that of Mr. Campbell, who until recently was Under-Secretary of Agriculture in NewSouth Wales, and has had much experience- in reporting on land for settlement there, so that, his opinion is entitled to weight. All those who have visited the Northern Territory report optimistically of its future. “They say, however, that a great deal must be spent in its development in providing linearis of locomotion and markets. The Territory has good land, a good climate, and considerable mineral resources. The head of the Institute of Tropical Medicine at Townsville has visited parts of the Northern Territory. Last year, this Parliament voted £550 towards the maintenance of the institute, and this year .£1,350 is asked for. At the last Medical Conference held in Sydney, it was proposed that full and complete investigation, extending over six years, should be made to determine whether medically it is possible for white labour to develop the northern parts of Australia, and it was resolved that a report shall be presented to the Conference that is to meet at brisbane after that interval. Professor Allen, of the Melbourne University, subsequently waited on me on behalf of the Conference, and said that about ^£4,000 would be required for. the work. Next year, that amount will be placed on the Estimates, and I feel sure that honorable members will agree that the money will be well spent. In the past, public and private attempts to develop the Territory have resulted in failure, and some are therefore sceptical about .its future; but these failures, instead of daunting us, should spur us forward. In the Northern Territory there is great mineral wealth, and, although in the past mines have been abandoned, the development of the mineral resources will do a great deal to assist agriculture and other rural industries. We know what Victoria and the other States owe to the discovery of gold. Western Australia was little known until gold was discovered there. We therefore purpose spending money in testing the mineral resources of the Northern Territory. We feel that it would be worse than useless -to ask persons to go there unless we could tell_ them where there is land suitable for agriculture. It will be our policy, not to grant freeholds, but to grant leases under most generous conditions, and at nominal rentals; but the employment of a certain amount of labour and the placing on them of a certain amount of stock will be insisted on. We shall not deal ungenerously with those already holding leases, but shall require them to comply with the conditions of their tenure.
– Is it proposed to appoint inspectors to see that the conditions are complied with? The Territory is very large.
– We may have to do so. Some honorable members have, perhaps, read Mr. Campbell’s report. He says that he has seen land very suitable for agriculture, and advocates the establishment of demonstration farms in three places. One of these farms will be at Rum Jungle - no doubt the name will ‘ be altered later - about half-way to Pine Creek. We have called for applications for the position of Director of Agriculture, and when an appointment has been made, this farm will be started, and we shall endeavour to get people to take up land in the vicinity, it being hoped that they will do a certain amount of work on the farm, for which they will be paid, giving the rest of their time to the cultivation of their own land. Mr. Francis, an able and capable man, who comes from Victoria, is in charge of the 150 miles of railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek; andwe have asked him to report as to the lines he thinks necessary for the development of the Northern Territory, and to cause a survey to be made for an extension to Katherine Creek, which many think would be a good thing. It has been stated in many reports that there is a good deal of valuable land on the other side of the Katherine River, and many years ago the South Australian Government had a survey made of a line to that point. The line was not constructed, but immediately the Works Estimates were passed we sent on to Mr. Francis the survey that had been made, and papers in connexion with it, and asked him to get a survey of the line to Katherine River. The idea is that beyond that river there are some hundreds of thousands of acres of good land, and that if the railway is brought there it will open them up.
– I think the honorable gentleman had better leave that to be dealt with in his proposed trip to the Territory..
– If the honorable member will permit me to say so, I think that suggestion will be nearly as valuable as was the report of the Postal Commission. When that survey has been made, it will be submitted to the Government, and if the reports are of the character that we think they will be, I am rather hopeful that in the next session we shall be able to submit a proposal for extending the railway in the direction indicated.
– Is that all the railway development projected so far?
– I think that is a fair thing to go on with. If the railway is extended to the Katherine River, whichever route is ultimately chosen in order to connect with Oodnadatta will have to goalong this way. Besides having railways, it is necessary that we should find markets for the produce. It is the intention of the Government to erect freezing and chilling works in the Northern Territory, which will cost somewhere between £50,000 and £60,000. We have not yet decided on the actual sites, because there are some differences of opinion, but we recognise that the works must be erected. Mr. J. C. Lewis, a veterinary officer, has been appointed in the Northern Territory. We are starting a horse-breeding establishment, and are hopeful that it will develop, in order that we may be able to supply horses for our own troops, and also, if need be, for India.
– Have you started it?
– Mr. Lewis went there a few months ago, and the initial arrangements are being made. Every effort will be made to obtain the best scientific information regarding the healthiness of the Territory. When we have obtained that, and found the land that is suitable to put people on, we shall not hesitate to advocate a bold policy of immigration. I am in no way anxious to develop and people the Northern Territory at the expense of the southern States. ‘ It will not add to the welfare of Australia merely to transplant some people from the south to the north, and we are anxious, as soon as the land which is suitable has been found, and the necessary information is ready to place before the people, to go in for a bold scheme of immigration to bring population there. The Government are anxious that the immigrants who shall come in the first place shall be as far as possible white British subjects, and attempts will be made to get them, first and foremost, in the Motherland. At the same time, we shall place no obstacles in the way of people of other European countries who may be anxious to go to the Territory. A little while ago some Russians, who in- tended to go to Queensland, were apparently told that Queensland had no room for them at that moment. I then announced that if two of them would go to the Northern Territory to spy out the land arrangements would be made to give them every facility to do so. I have received a letter from the Russians in Queensland asking me to delay this arrangement until after Christmas, because they will be meeting in Brisbane during Christmas week, and would like to choose two of their number to be sent to the Territory. Of course, I shall fall in with their suggestion, and am hopeful that two of them will go there to look at the land. I recognise that the Northern Territory is a great problem from the standpoint of defence, if from no other. We must answer, among others, the question of peopling and settling the Territory, and 1 desire to raise the problem altogether above party issues. It is too big a question to be made the shuttlecock of party ambitions. I desire that it shall in no way be made a party question, because I realize that it is a very great problem,’ on the proper solution of which the welfare of the future of Australia will largely depend.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher, by leave) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-9 in relation to the permanent staff list, the classification of the Clerical Division, new appointments to that division, the suspension of officers, and the granting of furlough.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
House adjourned at 11.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 December 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111218_reps_4_63/>.