4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MAHON presented a petition from the adult white residents of Port Moresby, praying the House to so amend clause 286 of the Navigation Bill as to exempt the Territory of Papua from the operation of the Act.
Petition received and read.
Mr. MAHON presented similar petitions from adult white residents of Yule Island, Woodlark Island, Samarai, and Lakekamu gold-field.
Motion (by Mr. Mahon) proposed -
That the petition be printed.
– Unless an honorable member intends to take action on a petition, it is not customary to have it printed.
– I propose to have the petition referred to the Committee on the Navigation Bill. The moving for the printing of petitions has been repeatedly done by private members. I have a distinct recollection of several cases.
– Standing order 91 says -
No member shall move that a Petition be printed, unless he intends to take action upon it and informs the House thereof, and that such action will be taken within fourteen days.
I understand that the honorable member intends to take action in connexion with the petition, and as the same form of words has been adopted in each case it will not be necessary to print the petition more than once.
– If only one petition is to be printed, all the names attached to the separate copies of it should be printed with it.
– The names of the persons signing the petition will not be printed, or only one or two of them, but there will be a statement of the total number of signatures.
– Is it not usual to submit a question of this kind to the Printing Committee, to ascertain whether it is necessary to incur the expense of printing. The honorable member might leave the matter to the Committee, from whose members he will get justice.
– It is the practice to have all petitions printed, that rule being laid down some time ago after an animated discussion in this Chamber. The signatures are not necessarily printed, but the prayer is printed, with a few of the signatures, and a statement of the total number of signatures.
– The Printing Committee may not meet for some time, and as the Navigation Bill to which the petition refers is now before the House, it is necessary to have the petition printed as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report (No. 1) presented by Sir John Quick, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to the following paragraph appearing in this morning’s issue of the Argus, in respect to which I propose to ask him a question: -
Hobart, Wednesday. - The Hydro Electric Coy., which is to get power from the Great Lake, has made an offer to the Hobart City Council to supply electric power for the tramways, which the Council is about to purchase, at¾d. per unit up to 476-horse power, and½d. per unit for all above. This offer is for a ten years’ contract, and may be renewed for ten years at the flat rate of a halfpenny. . . .
I desire to ask whether the Minister of Defence, before deciding where the Commonwealth Woollen Mills shall be located, will obtain a quotation from this company for the supply of power, and compare it with the cost of supplying power at other suggested sites.
– There is not the slightest doubt but that the Minister will make a comparison of costs before he decides where the woollen mills shall be situated.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether Mr. Smail, the Government expert, has finished his investigations so far as the selection of a site for the proposed woollen mills is concerned, or whether he is going to pay a visit to other centres in Australia before submitting his report.
– I understand that Mr. Smail has finished his inspection of the various suggested sites throughout the Commonwealth, and is now preparing his report for submission to the Minister.
– I desire to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence why it is that Mr. Smail, the woollen expert, visited certain places and omitted to visit others which are eminently suited for a woollen factory, before he drew up his report?
– I am quite unable to say why certain towns were not visited.
– On what basis did the expert act? He is a stranger here, I understand.
– I am unable to say why the expert did not visit certain towns. A large number of towns were visited in the different States, and honorable members knew that the expert was making an inspection. Some honorable members took the trouble to write suggesting that certain places should be visited, and municipal and shire councils and other institutions made similar representations, all of which were met by the Minister. I have no doubt that the report of the expert will disclose the situation.
– The expert never went near one of the finest sites in Australia.
– I understand the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to say that the expert has completed his inquiries, and I should like the honorable gentleman to ascertain whether the Minister of Defence has received representations from the central district of Queensland, where the best wool is grown, to the effect that Mr. Smail might be allowed to visit that part of the country before finally deciding on the site.
– I shall submit the question to the Minister of Defence.
Dissent from Speaker’s Ruling.
– Last’ night, Mr. Speaker, I gave notice of my intention to move that a certain ruling given by you be disagreed with. Later on, I expressed a desire to withdraw that motion, but the House refused to allow me to .do so. I understood that the motion would come before the House to-day, and I should like to ask why it does not appear on the notice-paper.
– It was my intention as soon as the questions to Ministers had been dealt with to state that the proper course to pursue in regard to a motion of the character referred to is to place it at the head of the notice-paper. Unfortunately, the motion was placed not at the head of the notice-paper, but second in order, under the heading of “ Government Business.” As soon as the questions have been dealt with, I shall ask the House toagree to the motion being placed first in the order of business in order that it may be dealt with at once.
– Has the Prime Minister yet made any arrangement, or what arrangement does he propose to make, in relation to the Navigation Bill and the new standing order passed last night. Reasonswere submitted why that measure and another should not be subject to the new conditions.
– No consideration hasbeen given to the matter as yet, but there are reasons, it appears to me, why both of the measures referred to might very well be discussed apart from the new standing order. There is no intention on the part of the Government to embarrass honorable members in any way by the operation of this or any other standing order.
Tenders for Supply of Material - Prosecution of Cadets
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he has seen in the daily press that contracts, for plant required in the excavation of works at Westernport have been granted to a German firm of importers. If so, can he tell the House if there is any good and substantial reason why the contracts should! not be granted to Australian firms, or (2> failing that, to British firms; and (3) will the Minister take steps to see that the policy of the Government, so well maintained in the past, to give preference where possible to Australian manufacturers, is strictly adhered to?
– The particulars in regard to the tender to which the honorable member refers are practically as follow : - Tenders were invited for the supply of three different items. Three firms tendered, two for the supply of all the items required, and one, representing an Englishfirm, for only one item, and for less than one-fifth of the total required. In respect of that item, the tender sent in on behalf ofthe English firm was about 15 per cent, higher than was the tender accepted. Ir addition to that, the representatives of the English firm were unable to supply the material in less than nine weeks, while the successful tenderer was able to supply it at once. The question of time was of iia- portance, as well as the question of cost, and therefore the lowest tender was accepted.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether the Minister of Defence is aware (1) that a contract was given to a German firm; (2) that the specifications were of such a character that only a German firm could comply with them; and (3) whether he thinks it is a proper policy for this country to practically disarm itself against invasion by assisting the industrial operations of a nation from which it is called upon to protect itself.
– In reply to the trebleheaded question submitted by the honorable member; I have no doubt that the Minister was aware of what he was doing when he accepted the tender. In the second place, the specifications were not of such a character that only a German firm could tender for the supply of the material required, as is shown by the fact that a local company, representing a British firm, actually tendered for the supply of portion of the requisite material. That, I think, is a very effective reply to the inference contained in the question put by the honorable member. The question of time was a very important consideration; and the fact that certain representatives of firms have the material in Australia ready to supply at a moment’s notice is, I think, a sufficient answer to the inference that we are obtaining goods from Germany.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if he will cause inquiries to be made, in order to discover whether or not the officer who drew up the specifications in question was conversant with the character of the material which the representatives of the German firm had on hand, and drew up the specifications in order to suit the requirements of that firm?
– I deprecate the inference to be drawn from the honorable member’s question ; and have no doubt that any information required by honorable members on either side of the House will be supplied by my colleague.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence kindly inform the House of the character of the materials or items for which the representatives of the British firm to which he has referred could not tender, and in respect of which the representatives of the German firm alone could submit a tender ?
– I am sorry if any remarks that I have made conveyed the inference that a British firm could not, and that a German firm alone could, tender for the supply of the material. The facts are that the representatives of the British firm in question did not - I do not know whether they could or could not - tender for the supply of the whole of the material, while representatives of a German firm did. The items required were as follow : -
The representatives of the British firm tendered for item No. 1 only, and no tenders were received from an Australian, or the representatives of a British, firm in respect of items 2 and 3. The honorable member will see that all three items are closely related.
– I desire to know whether the Minister will take steps to see that what I understand to be the policy of the Government - a policy which has been so well maintained in the past - to give preference where possible to Australian manufacturers, is strictly adhered to in the future ?
– I can assure the honorable member that this question will be brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence. At the same time, I can assure him that everything possible will be done in the direction suggested ; indeed, in many directions already, marked preference has been shown to Australian manufacturers, and, next, to British manufacturers.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether he will take into consideration the heavy fines being imposed on parents of cadets, with a view to seeing whether the officers prosecuting on behalf of the Department can be instructed to suggest to the magistrate to inflict merely nominal fines, or give a caution, for first offences?
– I shall submit the question to the Minister of Defence for his consideration.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence been called to certain prosecutions of cadets in New South Wales, and to the course taken by the magistrates in dismissing the case rather than, in their opinion, inflict great hardship by imposing the punishment provided ?
– I have no information of any particular case. The power is in the hands of the civil magistrates to discriminate, in accordance with the evidence produced.
– I should like to know from the Treasurer when we may expect to have the Budget Speech, which he, last session, promised to be delivered as soon as the House met this year?
– The right honorable gentleman is, I think, in error in saying that I promised the Budget Speech as soon as the House met. I said that I hoped to deliver the speech in July, and I still entertain that hope.
– I should like to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs when it is proposed that Commander Brewis, the lighthouse expert, shall visit the western coast of Victoria?
– At present the expert is engaged in Western Australia and South Australia, and, as soon as he has finished there, it is his intention to inspect the coast of Victoria.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs what progress is being made with the compulsory enrolment of electors ? I do not notice that any prosecutions have taken place ; and I should like to know whether we are to infer from that that every one is complying with the Act.
-When electors refuse to enroll, a second notice is served upon them, and they are again urged not to put themselves to any cost. Nearly all those written to comply, but there are a few in regard to whom I am afraid we shall have to have a Christian investigation.
– I should like to know from the Minister of Home Affairs why it is that the erection of a post-office at Victoria Park, near Perth, for which £1,500 was provided on the Estimates, has not been begun. I am informed that not even the land has yet been acquired.
– I shall let the honorable member know during the afternoon.
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether the model of the squat, disproportioned building for Commonwealth offices in London now being exhibited in the Queen’s Hall is the design approved by the Government, and, if so, does he consider the erection of a building of this character on so valuable a site the best use to which such land might be put?
– The design referred to has practically been accepted. The building is as high as it is possible to make it under the regulations of the London County Council, and it consists of five, and not two, stories.
Fremantle Wireless Station. - Postal Parcels and Papers. - Postal Accountant’s Report. - Forage Allowance. - Letter Boxes at Railway Stations : Late Fees.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The Chief Accountant advises he considers it improbable that a report showing the financial position of postal, telegraphic and telephonic branches for the financial year 1911-12 will be submitted. I am prepared to show the honorable gentleman the reasons in detail advanced by the Chief Accountant for holding this opinion.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– What are the miscellaneous leases ?
– Mining leases, and, in fact, anything outside of town lots and pastoral or agricultural leases.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Secretary to the Land Tax Commissioner has furnished the following information : -
It is assumed that Sir John Quick desires to be informed as to the first and present rules in the assessment, under section 38, of the joint occupiers or joint users of land.
The first rule was to assess as joint owners only those persons who were registered as joint owners or joint tenants or tenants in common, or who had contracted in any of those capacities to purchase land, and thereby had come within the taxable limits.
The present rule is the above, with the addition that where a number of persons who own land in severalty form a partnership to jointly use all or any of the land so owned, and the deed of partnership expresses that such land is to form a partnership asset, the partnership is jointly assessed on the land.
In regard to joint owners of land who partition the land between them, and obtain titles in severalty to different sections of the land formerly jointly owned, and who continue to jointly occupy or use the land, such persons were orginally and are still assessed as joint owners of the land by virtue of the provisions of section 42 of the Act.
In regard to the joint occupancy or joint working of land in cases where there is no joint ownership of it, the Department at first did not look upon such cases as joint ownerships assessable under section 38. Subsequently, the Department was advised that where joint occupiers or joint users of land pooled the revenue from the land and distributed it amongst the interested parties in proportion to their lands, such persons were joint owners within the definition of “ owner ‘’ in section 3 of the Act.
The Department acted in accordance with this rule, but advice received at a later date indicated that such assessments were incorrect, and the present rule mentioned above was adopted.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House a Return showing -
Number of Arbitration Court awards.
Number of Compulsory Conference decisions.
Number of agreements filed under the Arbitration Act.
The number of employes affected.
– The answer is “ Yes.” I shall supply the honorable member with the information in reply to question 4 tomorrow, or as soon thereafter as I can get it.
.- I move -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling that the amendment of the honorable member for Grey is in order be disagreed to, on the ground that said amendment is the same in substance as the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gwydir and defeated on the voices.
It is a little difficult, a day after the fair, to be enthusiastic about a motion of this kind. Our Standing Orders, though clear enough, are generally construed in the light of precedent, and the discussion of this motion may therefore do good, and need not engender ill-feeling. Yesterday, on a motion by the honorable member forFranklin affirming the desirability of limiting speeches, the honorable member for Gwydir moved an amendment which, it seems to me now, was not quite in order. The motion affirmed the desirability of altering the Standing Orders, but the amendment, while it provided for the addition of certain words, was really in the nature of a separate motion altering the Standing Orders, and, as such, should not have been moved except upon notice. The amendment is very clear and comprehensive, embodying, as it did, a standing order of the New Zealand Parliament which lays down definite limitations for speeches in the House and in Committee. The debateon the amendment lasted for a considerable time, several honorable members addressing themselves to it, and the amendment was then negatived on the voices.
– The honorable member is getting away from the terms of his motion.
– I am moving that motion because I understood you to rule that the amendment of the honorable member for Grey was in order, a ruling with which I disagree on the ground stated in the motion. I was reminding the House that the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir, to add certain words, was comprehensive in character, and was negatived on the voices-. It was completely swept off the board. The proposal that a standing order should be forthwith made limiting the speeches of honorable members was rejected on the voices, not a single honorable member, when the question was put, raising his voice in favour of the proposal. I take it that the amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera, which followed, was also not quite in order, though it was put and negatived. But the fact that it was not ruled out of order does not make the amendment of the honorable member for Grey in order. In my Opinion, the honorable member for Grey should have intimated, when the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir was before the House, that he desired to amend it. The amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir was a proposal to add to the motion of the honorable member for Franklin the following words -
No member shall speak for more than half- an-hour at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or in a debate on a motion of “ No Confidence,” Or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or on the debate on the Appropriation Bill or on the Financial Statement in Committee, when ti member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour. In Committee of the House no member shall speak for more than ten minutes at any One time, or more than four times on any one question before the Committee : Provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill, Or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement, or, in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a Class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.
That proposal having been defeated, the honorable member for Grey proposed to add these words -
No member shall speak for more than one hour and five minutes at a. time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or in a debate on a motion of “ No Confidence,” or in moving the second rending of a Bill, or on the debate on the Appropriation Bill or on the Financial Statement in Committee, when a member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour and thirtyfive minutes. In Committee of the House no member shall speak for more than fifteen minutes at any one lime, or more than four times on any one question before the Committee : Provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill, or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement, or, in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a Class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.
There are 150 words in the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir, and 157 in that of the honorable member for Grey, of which 148 are common to both.
– A. comma may affect the meaning of a sentence.
– The honorable member for Grey altered the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir only by substituting for the words “ half-an-hour “ the words “one hour and five minutes/’ and for the words “ one hour “ the words “one hour and thirty-five minutes,” and for the word “ ten “ the word “ fifteen.” Under standing order 125 no question or amendment may be proposed which is the same in substance as any question which during the same session has been resolved in the affirmative or negative. I wish, therefore, to emphasize the statement that the proper time for the honorable member for Grey to propose his alterations of the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir was when that amendment was before the House. My motion can be discussed quite dispassionately. Its subjectmatter may not seem of importance now, but if the ruling be allowed to stand, it may happen later, when a proposal substantially the same as another already decided in the affirmative or negative is made,, and the standing order is sought to be applied, that the point may be taken that precedent is against the standing; order, inasmuch as the honorable member for Grey was allowed to move an amendment the same in substance as another just negatived. That would, perhaps, cause confusion, and lead to delayin the transaction of public business.
.- The logical conclusion from the argument of the honorable member for Capricornia is thar no motion is in order if a certain number of words in it are common to another motion already dealt with. He dwelt upon, the fact that in the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir there were 150- words, and in my amendment 157 words, and a large number common to both. I would point out to him that when we weredealing with the Tariff a frequent form of amendment was to add “ and on and after “’ dates which were mentioned, the ratesof duty should differ from those previously proposed. If his argument is a good one, and the point had been taken then, all those amendments would have been out of order because the words “ and on and after “ were common to all the amendments, as was also in many cases the date. 1 submit that my proposal differed widely from that of the honorable member for Gwydir. According to the honorable member for Capricornia, there would have been no substantial difference had the limitation of time which I proposed been two hours longer than that of the honorable member for Gwydir. As a matter of fact, in the case in which the honorable member for Gwydir proposed the limitation of half-an-hour, I proposed the limitation of one hour and five minutes, the very considerable difference of thirtyrive minutes, and in the case in which he proposed a limitation of half-an-hour, I proposed a limitation of thirty-five minutus. I proposed, in one case, more than a 50 per cent, increase in the limitation proposed by the honorable member for Gwydir. I therefore submit that the contention raised by the honorable member for Capricornia must fail.
– I desire to take a further point in addition to that already elaborated by the honorable member for Capricornia. Having examined the motion, it occurs to me that all the subsequent amendments were either irrelevant to that proposition-
-The honorable member must not discuss the other amendments ; there are only two amendments involved in ihe question before the Chair.
– I do not propose to discuss them ; I am merely going to discuss the actual position. It seems to me that every amendment proposed after that motion-
– The honorable member is now proceeding to state something to which I shall not be able to reply.
– Are you’ going to reply to the debate, Mr. Speaker? I understood that you were not going to give a ruling in regard to this matter, but that the House was really judging a ruling given by you last night.
– The honorable member is quite right, but he must confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– I submit that there is no difference in substance between the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gwydir and rejected by the House, and that proposed by the honor able member for Grey. There is a mere variation in point of time. The original proposition was that there should be a limitation of debate in this House, and while I may not discuss the question of relevancy it certainly has an incidental bearing on the question of substance. We cannot well dissociate the two. It seems to me that all the variations subsequently proposed were in reality not variations in substance. The honorable member for Grey, in rising to propose his amendment, said, “I think this is a way of getting out of the difficulty,” clearly indicating that his proposal was not one of substance, if I may so call it, but only a subterfuge to get round your ruling.
– The honorable member must not attribute unworthy motives to an honorable member.
– I am not doing so. I hope that the word “ subterfuge” is not an offensive political term. A desire to get round your ruling, Mr. Speaker, was evidently in the honorable member’s mind His opening statement shows what his intention was in proposing a mere variation of five minutes in the time limit proposed by the honorable member for Wimmera.
-The honorable member is now discussing a matter that has already been dealt with by the House; he is really raising the question of the amendment that was moved by the honorable member for Cook. That question has already been settled, and cannot now be raised. The only two amendments before the House at this stage are those moved by the honorable member for Gwydir and the honorable member for Grey. I cannot allow any discussion of my rulings on matters which are not now before the House.
– I am inclined to think, Mr. Speaker, that you are right. But, after all, the argument as to substantiality applies to the whole of the amendments that were proposed. If it applies, as I certainly think it does, to the one which you will not permit me to discuss, it must apply equally to the others. The whole question at issue was whether there was to be a limitation of speeches or not. That question was really decided on the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wimmera. In rejecting that amendment the House decided that there should be no limitation of debate in the House, so that there could be no substance in any further proposal for imposing a limit to the length of speeches in the House itself. I submit that on that ground alone your ruling was wrong, and I regret very much that my honorable friends opposite have not more respect for the terminology of our Standing Orders than to disfigure them in the way they have done.
– I am afraid that this discussion is not proceeding along the usual lines. The closing remark made by the honorable member for Parramatta, in which he suggested that the amendment in respect of which your ruling was given, Mr. Speaker, was an amendment to disfigure the Standing Orders, scarcely suggests the kind of tone that we should like to see adopted in a debate of this character.
– I bow to the right honorable member’s superior opinion.
– Even I may express an opinion different from that given by the honorable member. He also urged that the amendment moved by the honorable member forWimmera, and negatived on the voices, raised the question of whether or not there should be any limitation of debate in the House. I beg to differ from the honorable member. It was a question, not of whether there should be any limitation, but whether there should be the particular limitation set forth in the amendment, to debates in the House. That particular proposal was rejected on the voices. The question that had to be considered was what degree of limitation, if any, should be imposed, and I think, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling was correct. It was for you, sir, to determine whether or not the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Grey was frivolous. If it was a material amendment, as I think it was, your ruling must be unassailable. It would follow otherwise that if an amendment were submitted so badly drafted as to be unfit to be placed in the Standing Orders, it would be necessary for the House to make several amendments to put it into shape, although it would take ten times as long to do that as it would to defeat the amendment, and to submit an entirely new proposition which would meet the wishes of the House. Even if the case against your ruling, Mr. Speaker, were stronger than it is, that obvious fallacy in the honorable member for Capricornia’s argument would remain. I do not think honorable members are likely to suffer on account of your ruling, and I hold that it ought to stand.
– The chief use of this post-mortem examination of what we did last night is that it will allow the House to determine what is the meaning of the term “ in substance.” Standing order 125 declares that an amendment cannot be received if in substance it is the same as a question that has already been dealt with. The only difference between the two amendments under consideration was a slight one in the period of time which was to be allowed. You held, Mr. Speaker, that as there was a slight difference in the time allowance proposed, the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grey was in substance different from that which had been rejected. It is very necessary that we should know what is the real meaning of the phrase “ in substance “ as used in the standing order. We are still working under that standing order, and at any time it may give rise to a discussion far more important than that in which we are now engaged. If your ruling, that a slight alteration such as that made last night by the honorable member for Grey in the previous proposal constitutes a difference in substance is to stand, then the attention of the Standing Orders Committee should sooner orlater be directed to the matter in order that the term used in the standing order in question may be made more definite. What are the facts? The honorable member for Grey in his amendment merely altered the period of time which the previous amendment proposed should be allowed a speaker The two amendments are practically the same in phraseology. There is no virtue in a difference of five or ten minutes. Any honorable member could have moved an additional minute ; and the process could have been carried on ad infinitum, without any power on your part, sir, to stop it. You, Mr. Speaker, may imagine you have some power, but I should like to hear you state what the power is. I hold that there is no parallel between this case and that of dealing with the Tariff. It may be said that in dealing with the Tariff, where an attempt to impose a certain duty fails, another attempt can be made to impose a slightly larger duty. But there are special circumstances in regard to a Tariff ; and the case is not at all like the case we have under consideration. The phrase “ in substance,” in its ordinary sense, means “ substantially “ ; and I submit that the amendment of the honorable member for Grey was substantially the same as that which had been moved by another honorable member and negatived. It is, in my opinion, making fools of the House to allow honorable member after honorable member to move, over and over again, identically the same proposal, with the exception of some infinitesimal alteration in time. You, Mr. Speaker, might say that there was a substantial alteration, but you cannot lay down any rule in regard to that. You cannot say, “I will allow the amendment if it means a difference of five minutes.” If five minutes will make an amendment different substantially, then so will one minute; and we could have gone through a period of one hour or two hours with sixty amendments. We are on the horns of a dilemma. If you, sir, are right, the members of the Standing Orders Committee ought to consider whether the phrase “in substance” should not be altered, so as to make it perfectly clear that what is substantially the same proposal shall not be put to the House again. A great deal of our time last night was not only occupied, but wasted, because, over and over again, we discussed the general principle underlying the problem, because one amendment was said to be different in substance from the other. I hope that the House, with all respect to your decisions, will see the absurdity of a ruling of this kind, and take steps either to alter the ruling by reversing your decision, or by intimating to the Committee that something should be done to give a more accurate definition to the phrase “ in substance.”
– When your decision, sir, was given, it seemed to some of us wholly inconsistent with the ruling you had just immediately before laid down. The House, or a considerable section of the House, was under the impression that your first ruling really amounted to a declaration thatno time limitation could be included, on account of the proposal of the honorable member for Wimmera having been defeated. Immediately afterwards, when another amendment was moved, it seemed to us perfectly consistent with that view that you should rule it out of order. Where the inconsistency appeared was when, immediately after that decision in regard to the honorable member for Cook’s amendment,you ruled that the amendment of the honorable member for Grey was not substantially the same as the amendment previously negatived.
– The honorable member must not discuss the ruling given on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Cook.
– It seems almost impossible to discuss a ruling without discussing the events which led up to it, in order to show where the inconsistency lies. Since, however, you hold that I must not discuss that point, I shall refer to standing order 125 as it is -
No question or amendment shall be proposed which is the same in substance as any question which during the same session has been resolved in the affirmative or negative.
You, Mr. Speaker, gave a doublebarrelled decision. You said that the amendment of the honorable member for Grey was ‘ ‘ in substance” not the same, but was different from the amendment which had been negatived ; then, in addition, you said that the second part of the amendment opened up entirely new ground.
– The honorable member is now discussing a different proposal altogether from that before us.
– I am discussing the amendment of the honorable member for Grey, which is the subject of this motion of dissent.
– The honorable member is discussing the ruling given in relation to the amendment of the honorable member for Cook.
– Not at all ; I am referring to your own words, Mr. Speaker, when you declared that the amendment of the honorable member for Grey was different from an amendment previously negatived. Your first ground was that the first part of the amendment of the honorable member for Grey was, in substance, different, and the second ground was that the second part of the honorable member for Grey’s amendment was entirely different from the one which had preceded it. I leave the second ground aside, and I am now dealing with the first. At what point would the amendment have been substantially the same as any amendment which had been previously negatived? If, instead of the honorable member for Grey proposing to add five minutes to the term previously dealt with-
– I point out that there was a difference in time of thirty-five minutes.
– At any rate, there was only five minutes’ difference made by the amendment of the honorable member for Grey.
– The honorable member is referring to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Cook in relation to the proposal of the honorable member for Grey. The honorable member is discussing the wrong amendment.
– I shall not discuss the question further; it is absolutely useless.
– Before the vote is given, I desire to say that the amendment of the honorable member for Grey more than doubled the time allowed by the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir for a member to speak. This, in my opinion, made the amendment of the honorable member for Grey a completely different proposal from that submitted by the honorable member for Gwydir.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Fowler) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Immigration Restriction Act 1901-10 so as to give extended power to the Minister for External Affairs to deport criminals.
– I have not yet seen the Bill, and, therefore, cannot say whether a message is necessary.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of thisHouse -
Until quite recently it was the general opinion among persons who had not taken the trouble to acquaint themselves with the facts, that the Panama Canal was almost purely a matter of United States concern. As a matter of strict fact, the history of the construction of, or proposals to construct, a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, goes back for several centuries. The first person who ever proposed anything of the kind was a Portuguese, Galvao, away back in the sixteenth century. He wrote a book advocating the construction of a canal joining the two oceans at that point. Then, after a couple of centuries, we hear of this project next at the close of the eighteenth century, when Spain, under the Prime Ministership of Godoy, proposed to start surveys to trace a desirable trans-Isthmian route; but the revolutionary troubles in Europe, together with the Franco-Spanish war, prevented the survey materializing. In 1830, a number of concession hunters sought concessions from the Republican authorities who governed that part of the American continent, and eventually a Dutch company got one for the construction of the canal. That concession lapsed, as did several others subsequently granted to French, American, and Belgian syndicates. In 1876, and between that year and 1894, the construction of this canal became essentially a French proposition. In 1876 a French Canal Association was formed, with the great De Lesseps at its head. An International Congress was called at Paris to consider the best means of doing the work ; and from that Congress a Panama Canal Company eventuated. That Panama Company failed to float the project on the first occasion; but a year or two later it was floated with a capital of no less than £120,000,000 - a sum far larger than has been found necessary for the construction of the canal under American auspices. Owing to bad management and extravagance, a vast amount of that money was wasted, and the company eventually went into liquidation. A new French company was formed to take over the assets of the old company, but, at this juncture, French enterprise met with American opposition. Eventually, the new French company sold out its rights to the United States Government for the sum of , £8,000,000 sterling.
The interest of the United States in this matter dates back in reality to 1846, when America made with the State of New Granada - now called Colombia - a treaty to enable America to get transportation facilities across the Isthmus of Panama, in order to conduct, on more favorable terms, her war against Mexico. Under that treaty, the United States guaranteed the sovereignty of the State of New Granada over the Isthmus of Panama. It is interesting to remember, in passing, that that sovereignty was itself violated by the United States only a short time ago, when the control of the Isthmus was given to a small republic.
– That was in the interests of the world.
– It may be ; but it is interesting to note that the obligation of the United States in this particular to the State of New Granada was not honoured.
In 1850, the United Kingdom and the United States of America entered into the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, whereby it was undertaken that neither Government would ever obtain or maintain exclusive control of any canal joining the Atlantic with the Pacific, nor erect fortifications controlling it. In 1869, President Grant, although that treaty was still in existence, recommended to Congress the construction of a canal under the sole control of the United States - a direct breach of the treaty obligation of the United States as then existing. In the ‘nineties, again, President McKinley appointed a Commission to inquire into the best route tor a canal under the control, management, and ownership of the United States. In one case, therefore, we have the United States breaking faith very possibly in the interests of the world, with the State of New Granada, and in the other, we have two Presidents recommending Congress to take a course diametrically in opposition to the treaty obligations of the United States to the Mother Country. In 1901, a report was sent in by the Commission appointed by President McKinley, favouring the Panama route, and in 1902 the Spooner Act bought out the old French concessionaires eventually for ^8.000,000 sterling.
In 1901, the Hay-Pauncefote treaty, superseding the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, was signed between the United States and the Mother Country. In this it is undertaken as between the United States and Great Britain that, “ the canal shall be free and open to the vessels of all nations, including ships of war, on terms of entire equality, so that there shall be no discrimination against any such nation, or its citizens, or its subjects, in respect of the conditions or charges of traffic or otherwise. Such conditions and charges of traffic shall be just and reasonable.”
We have seen the way the United States broke faith with Colombia - it is regrettable, but we must remember these things - and we have seen the way two Presidents of the United States tried to ignore the ClaytonBulwer treaty. We now find that, although in 1901, only a few years ago, we signed, sealed, and delivered a definite treaty with the United States, not merely for the benefit of British shipping, but for the benefit of the world, there is a proposal before the
American Congress which, I am glad to see for the honour of the American people, is not supported by some of their biggest men.
– Is it not likely to be postponed ?
– It is postponed.
– Has the Minister any official information to that effect ? The fact remains that a proposal is before Congress which is very seriously regarded in America. It is being worked up for the benefit of one great interest-
– The Shipping Ring.
– The Shipping Ring, as the honorable member graphically puts it. That proposal which is now being worked up is to break faith with us ; but it has certainly not been received in the United States with unanimity, to judge, for example, by the cable news of a couple of days ago. In the cablegrams of the 16th of this month, the following was attributed to the Washington correspondent of the Times -
The debate on the Panama Bill may start at any time, when Senator Elihu Root will fight for absolute equality in the treatment of shipping. Much depends on the interpretation of the spirit of the Hay-Pauncefote treaty, with the view of determining how far it perpetuates the sense of the Clayton-Bulwer convention. Hence the fact that Colonel John Hay’s successor in the State department is on Great Britain’s side is of great significance. On the other hand, the opposition is active and ingenious. Meanwhile there is growing talk of arbitration on the subject.
I quote that to show that the American people are not unanimously behind the ingenious device of the Shipping Ring to break American treaty obligations in this regard.
It is impossible to discover officially in Australia - and this is infinitely to be regretted - exactly in what respect America proposes to break the obligations of the Hay-Pauncefote treaty. All we know is that some breach is contemplated. Our officers have no information to hand, although the matter vitally affects the interests of the Australian people.
– Mr. Root agrees, then, that that treaty should be maintained?
– Yes. I have quoted him to indicate that some big minds in the United States recognise that the reputation of Americans as a treaty-observing people is of more importance to them than are the narrow interests of their Shipping Ring.
Press reports say that the proposal is to glace a charge of 6s. a ton on British and other foreign shipping using the Panama Canal, and to allow American shipping to use the canal free. I find another suggestion made by the Manchester Guardian, and quoted in the Australian press on the 1st of this month, as follows - -
Although scrupulous Americans will denounce the last-named policy -
To give a direct rebate of canal dues to American shipping using the canal - as a discreditable evasion of an international obligation, it seems to us that rebates are less injurious to foreigners than a direct exemption, inasmuch as the subsidies payable will come from the American Treasury, and be a burden to the American taxpayer, and not to foreign shipping and commerce.
When all is said and done, however, a bonus that comes from the American Treasury comes from identically the same source as that into which the revenues from the canal will themselves go. If the revenues are big, the bonus can afford to be big. If the revenues are small, the bonus must be small, and the American people, who are essentially business-like will, if they agree to evade their direct word as pledged in the Hay-Pauncefote treaty, undoubtedly make the canal pay for the bonus to their shipping, whether it is given direct from the Treasury or not, by putting up the dues to foreign shipping using the canal. Consequently, in effect and substance, the two propositions amount to identically the same thing.
Now, what does 6s. a ton on our shipping mean to us? Roughly, about half the tonnage that will use the Panama Canal will, I think, be British, since a great deal larger proportion than half using the Suez Canal is British. lt will mean, therefore, that we shall have to carry the baby for the American Shipping Ring. The canal dues paid by our shipping will be 6s. per ton, whereas if everybody were on the same basis our rates could not be more than 4s. a ton, and would probably be somewhere in the vicinity of 3s. a ton. The difference between 3s. and 6s. a ton may seem to some a small question, but what does it mean in the light of the Suez Canal dues? The Prime Minister, who, I very much regret, did not long ago realize the importance to Australia of this Panama Canal question—
– The British Government were a little slow in that regard.
– I am not in a position to know about the British Government; but I shall be very sorry to hear it if it is true. I do know, however, that the conversion of our Prime Minister to the importance of this subject is very recent.
On the other hand, our Prime Minister realized at the last Imperial Conference the importance, to Australia of keeping down the Suez Canal dues. In his opening address at the Conference, reported in the Conference reports of 23rd May of last year, I find the following -
I hope I shall not be travelling beyond the subjects which call for observation to-day if I earnestly appeal to the President to take some strong steps to remedy a grave abuse affecting the commerce of the Empire and other countries ; I allude to the exorbitant charges made upon shipping using the Suez Canal.
Again, on the 19th June of last year, he is reported at page 426 of the same document to have said -
Since 1896 the Commonwealth Government have made repeated and continuous representations to His Majesty’s Government to endeavour to get a reduction of the charges made on shipping using the Suez Canal, and reductions have been made in recent years : In 1903, 50 centimes, amounting to sd. ; in 1906, 75 centimes, amounting to 7½d. ; and in 191 1 (the other day), 50 centimes, amounting to 5d. The present rate is 7 francs 25 centimes, or equal to 6s. per ton - that is to say, the rate proposed for foreign shipping using the Panama Canal !
Now this charge of 6s. a ton bears heavily on the Australian people. In the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s annual report, it is stated that the company paid in Suez Canal dues the sum of £344,992 for the year ended September, 191 1. The pay of the commanders, officers, and crews of all the company’s fleet for the same year totalled £346,503, so that it cost almost as much to send the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s ships through the Suez Canal as to pay all the commanders, officers, and crews on the company’s vessels for the year !
– That is 6s. a ton on all Australian produce.
– Yes; it should be remembered that it is Australian produce that will have to pay these dues, as the honorable member very pithily phrases it, if it is carried through the Panama Canal ; but before I go on to show the importance of the matter to Australian production, I should like to call the attention of honorable members to a shipping paper called Fairplay. In its issue of 13th June, 19 12, a few of the companies using the Suez Canal are quoted. It is shown that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company send 1,205,500 of tonnage through the canal every year ; the Ellerman lines, 1,158,200; Alfred Holt and Company, 1,002,800 ; Hansa Deutsche Dampfschiff-fahrts Gesellschaft, 847,600; Messageries Maritimes, 603,400 ; Norddeutscher Lloyd, 595,200; HamburgAmerica Line, 593,900; and Cayzer, Irvine, and Company (Clan line), 478,700. Other companies are enumerated, and the grand total of shipping using the Suez Canal is, according to latest returns, 16,581,000 tons in the course of the year. A great deal of this trade is Australian. For instance, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company is charged ,£93,600 for the service of its purely Australian steamers going through the canal. The Orient Steam-ship Company, for a slightly larger fleet, would pay about £100,000. Let honorable members think of all the other shipping going through the canal from Australia to the Old World, alf paying these dues, and all passing them on to the Australian producer who sends his goods by them.
The value of the Panama Canal to Australia is twofold, strategic and commercial. As to the former, it must be remembered that Australia’s danger to-day lies in what used to be regarded as her main safety - that is, in her isolation. Our remoteness from Old World centres, which we used to consider our safeguard, we now realize is our menace. The opening of the Panama. Canal will remove our isolation, and will bring the war centre of the Pacific very much nearer to the Mother Country, where lie the reserves of our national strength, than it would be by any other route that would be open to our people in time of war. False comparisons are made between the Suez and the Panama routes when it is forgotten that in time of war the Cape route would probably be the only existing route available from Great Britain to the East ; and the distance by that route to the possible scene of operations in the Northern Pacific would be much greater than by the Panama route. The Panama Canal will be of strategic importance, too, in permitting of the free passing from the east to the west of America of the constantly growing American war fleet, and of the Canadian Unit. I shall not labour’ this point ; it is enough to make it clear that, in regard to both strategy and commerce, the opening of the Panama Canal will effect a geographical revolution.
The distance from New York to Melbourne via the Panama Canal will be 10,000 miles, and by the Suez Canal it is 12,790 miles; the distances to. Sydney ‘being respectively 9,800 and 13,300 miles; and to Wellington, New Zealand, 8,500, and 14,230 miles. From Plymouth to the east coast of Australia the distance is practically the same by both routes, though the Suez route is slightly the shorter ; but, as I have just pointed out, that route in war time could probably not be used. From Plymouth the distance to Melbourne by the Panama route will be 12,500 miles, and by the Suez route 10,675 miles; to Sydney, 12,400 and 11,200 miles respectively; and to Wellington, 11,000 and 12,100 miles respectively.
Australia, on the opening of the Panam* Canal, will no longer be at the end of a string, as it were, of shipping; she will be midway in a trade route round the world connecting its most important centres. _ At present few tourists, comparatively speaking, visit the Commonwealth. The tourist traffic of the world is a vast one, but we in Australia, knowing little or nothing of it, are ready to laugh at its value. If tourists visiting Australia, instead of having to come and return by the same route, were able to come here in comfortable steamers and return along a different route, which would show them new places, this countrywould cease to lie in a backwater of the world’s tourist traffic, and a voyage round the world vid Australia would be one of the most popular tourist trips. What this would mean to our producers is this : A big tourist traffic would mean the employment of more steamers, which, in addition to carrying passengers, would provide accommodation for frozen produce, and their competition for freight would give our produce cheaper rates.
Let me show how important is the trade in refrigerated produce even at the present time. In 1906, 174,782,000 lbs. of butter and cheese were sent from Australia, and in 1910 210,000,000 lbs. The value of what I may call the lesser lines of refrigerated or cold produce - pork, bacon, ham, and lard - exported in 1906 was £87,000; and, in 1910, nearly £137,000. The frozen beef exportation was valued in 1906 at £434,000, and in 1910 at £i,i79>000’ the exportation of frozen mutton for those years being worth respectively £1,095,000 and £2,161,000. In addition, there are many other productions whose export would be encouraged by an increase in the accommodation offered by vessels of the kind I am referring to, and the vast increase which has taken place under normal .conditions shows the importance of endeavouring to provide for and to encourage still further development. The opening of the Panama Canal under fair conditions will immeasurably increase facilities for exportation.
In addition to the trade between Australia and Europe, it must be remembered that for years money was lavished in steamship subsidies for the establishment of trade with Canada.
– The subsidy was discontinued two years ago this month.
– I was under the impression that it had been recently recommenced. It was discontinued because the trade did not increase as was anticipated. Western Canada has had little opportunity to develop, because there is practically no sea communication with Eastern Canada; but when the Panama Canal is opened, the sea communication between Eastern and Western Canada will be 7,000 miles shorter than it is now by the Cape Horn route. This will mean cheaper sea freights than the rail freights on the Canadian-Pacific line, and an immense development of the resources of Western Canada. When these resources have been more fully developed, our trade with our sister Dominion across the Pacific will increase rapidly. But the advantage of which I speak will be lost if the rates charged on British vessels passing through the Panama Canal are made higher than those charged on American vessels. If British vessels are put to a disadvantage, the development of Western Canada will not receive the fillip I anticipate. Our trade with Canada is, of course, very small contrasted with that with Great Britain and Europe, but it is a gradually increasing one. During the years 1887 to 1891 it averaged only £503 ; between 1892 and 1896 it averaged £12,000; between 1897 and 1901, £77.000; and between 1902 and 19o6> £172,000
At this juncture we are faced with a desire on the part of certain narrow interests in America to disregard the treaty obligations of that country towards Great Britain. In making our protest against their proposal to charge differential rates, we should be careful as to the lan guage used, though our tone should be firm, and where our rights are disregarded we should say so unequivocally. At the same time, we ought to bear in mind the fact that we hope for a constant increase in the friendliness that is beginning to be displayed - I use the word “beginning” advisedly - between the United States and the Mother Country. I trust that that friendliness will continue to increase, for the benefit of the whole world. It led America only a few years ago to make what are called arbitration proposals to the world at large. Those proposals were taken up by Sir Edward Grey in a speech that he delivered in the House of Commons, to which I had the honour of listening last year. It is not a year since we signed an arbitration treaty with the United States. If this Panama Tolls question comes to the pass to which I hope it will never come, and do not believe it will, if British communities stand up to their interests in this matter, and firmly and respectfully put their case before the American Government, what further step will be necessary ? I think that if the Hague Convention is of any value whatsoever, it should be applicable to a case like this. American opinion seems to be afraid that if the matter should go before the Hague Convention, all the nations represented there will say that the British contention is the right one, because it suits them best. If that be all we can expect from these International Arbitration Courts, then I cannot help thinking that the phrase which was libellously applied to that peaceful nationality from which’ I have the honour to have sprung - I refer to those who come from the Emerald Isle - would more fittingly have been applied to the nations of the world - “ Fighting like divils for conciliation, and hating each other for the love of God.” That seems to describe the state of international relationships at the present time - every one appealing’ for universal peace, and every one afraid to trust the sense of peace and justice of other peoples throughout the world.
– Surely that does not apply to the relationships between Great Britain and the United States?
– I think it does, for we are undoubtedly “fighting like divils” for conciliation in our respective countries. Sir Edward Grey made a speech in the House of Commons in favour of conciliation, which, although scouted in some Conservative quarters, received the indorsement of the people. . President Taft sent “ Arbitration “ messages to Congress which received the cordial indorsement of every section of public opinion in the United States. And yet, despite all this, at the very first test of the value of the international arbitration principle, we find that America seems to be afraid to trust its case to the Hague tribunal, because, forsooth, the British case is the case of the shipping of the world ! It is very much to the honour of the British Government that that is so.
I think it is very much to our interest that we should continue to press for our rights under the treaty of eleven years ago - a treaty which gave rights not only to us, but to the shipping of the world in general. In this particular case, the Prime Minister might do well to consider the desirableness of joint action with New Zealand, if, unhappily, the time should arise for us to retaliate against any neglect of our rights by the great American people. I hope the time will never come, but, should ever the occasion arise, we can best secure effective action by working in common with the sister Dominion of New Zealand. The United States is starting a new line of steamers to Australia. The sugar interest of California is, I think, behind it, and I believe that line will trade between America, New Zealand, and Sydney. Australia, by herself, can do nothing in this matter, but Australia plus New Zealand can shut out the trade of the sister Dominions from that new line of steamers just as effectively as America shuts off from Australian companies the trade between Hawaii and San Francisco.
– They consider that part of their coastal trade.
– We might, with equal reason, consider trade between Australia and New Zealand to be part of the coastal trade of the British Empire. In international affairs, it would amount to the same thing. I do not think that Hawaii is at present a component State of the United States, and it is situated just as far, if not further, from the American coast-line as New Zealand is from Australia. We must consider common action for the defence of the undoubted rights of Australasia if our rights should be overlooked. I hope that they will not be. I trust that the action of the Prime Minister, although it was taken much too late, and taken only after this matter was pointedly brought to his attention by a member of the Opposition, will be successful. I do hope that now that the Com monwealth has lodged its protest, the people of Australia will show that they are behind the Government, and that this House will unanimously indorse this resolution, which cannot but strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand, and be of value to the interests of Australian producers and the Australian Commonwealth.
– The Prime Minister desired to speak to this motion, but he is temporarily absent from the chamber. I propose to move the adjournment of the debate.
– I am prepared to speak.
– If that is so, I shall not move that the debate be adjourned.
– I thought that the Minister of Trade and Customs was prepared to speak on behalf of the Government, and to intimate its views respecting a matter that undoubtedly affects very seriously the producing interests of Australia. The honorable member for Wentworth has’ referred to this question from the point of view of its effect upon our large staple exports, such, for instance, as wool and meat. It has an equally important bearing, however, on ether Australian interests, as, for example, the production of fruit, and the finding of markets for it abroad, and particularly in the great continent of America. One of our greatest requirements at the present time, so far as citrus fruits are concerned, is the opening up of oversea markets.
– For all fruits.
– And more particularly for citrus fruits, which will not carry to distant parts of the world quite so readily as the apples of my honorable friend’s State will do. That is a very delicate and serious problem, and all our fruitgrowers are trying to overcome it. We have now opened up the possibility of a market much nearer than other markets abroad, and the question now before us, therefore, is of the greatest possible interest to the citrus fruit-growers, not only in my own electorate, but in other parts of New South Wales, as well as in Queensland, South Australia, and other parts of the Commonwealth. It is of the utmost importance that no undue bar should be placed in the way of the development of our trade under the new conditions about to be inaugurated. From that point of view, Australia, is interested in this matter of the Panama Canal dues, perhaps equally with any other country. That, of course, it putting the question on what is, perhaps, its most elementary, though none the less important, ground. But, after all, we have to live, and to live by the products of our soil for many a year to come throughout the length and breadth of this country; so that anything that affects the commercial side of these proposals - and the proposals recently made in Congress affect every man here who is dependent for his livelihood upon the soil which he cultivates - is of the greatest importance to Australia. Our handicaps are already sufficiently severe. Our great trouble is cheap carriage over the waterways of the world. In the export of our wheat, for instance, we labour under a serious handicap, compared with those great granaries that are developing in Siberia, Canada, and elsewhere Wheat is carried across the Atlantic from Canada for, I think, about 2d. per bushel, whereas it costs us about 7d. per bushel to send our wheat to the Old Country. That is a very serious handicap, more especially when the price of wheat in the London market falls, as it has done many a time, to 3s. per bushel. We are overcoming this handicap by cheap railway freights and other means; but it is still sufficiently serious to make us very wide awake whenever we see a possible opening for a more direct route to the world’s markets, and more particularly to the markets of the great United States of America. America will very soon, so far as we can see, cease to export her own products. She is going to be more and more a great consumer of Australian- products, and I believe that we must look to that country in the future for a tremendous outlet for all the products that we are able to send there. I hope to see steadily developing between the two countries a trade in fruit and other produce. I am the more interested in this matter because of the part I took years ago in fostering trade relationships between Canada and Australia. When Postmaster-General in New South Wales, I tried to carry along the mail service between Sydney and Vancouver for the whole four years that I remained in office. That service did not pay us. As a mail service it was not of much practical value; but year by year, for sentimental, as well as commercial reasons, we paid a large subsidy to the line of steamers in question, notwithstanding that that service was always inadequate for the work that it set out to do. I re- member how, in the old days, Mr. Huddart, who is now in his grave, and who was one of the staunchest and bravest men that Australia has produced, lost his whole fortune in trying to develop trade along this line. He was one of the pioneers of Australia, and sunk all that he had made here in trying to foster trade relations between Canada and Australia. No doubt commercial instincts prompted him to embark on the enterprise, but it turned out to be a very unprofitable speculation. It was immensely profitable, however, for the Empire at large, and I believe that his enterprise assisted many of the developments we have seen in later days. There are in Australia to-day men seeking their own interests year by year, and at the same time building, better than they know, into the fabric of Empire those things which make for its stability, its success, and its prosperity. There are similar pioneers at the present time in our Pacific Islands. They are working for themselves, but in conducting their own commercial enterprises they are, in reality, doing an immense service to the State. Amongst those who have rendered this service must be numbered the late Mr. James Huddart, who spent the whole of his fortune in trying to develop means of communication between Canada and Australia. I am glad, and always shall be, that I was enabled to help him in a legitimate way in that enterprise. The mail service to which I refer was continued until two years ago, when it ceased, and -I think it is almost a pity that it did. It is worth continuing, even if it does not pay, and does not show any adequate return for the money we expend. I believe these enterprises must pay in the end ; they pay indirectly in a thousand ways, although we may not see a balance struck on the right side of the commercial ledger. I hear to-day from the honorable member for Wentworth that this line has been reinstated by the present Government.
– I certainly think that some time ago there were proposals for its reinstatement.
– I know the matter was under discussion a little while ago, but nothing came of it.
– There is no direct service now.
– It ceased two years ago.
– I hope that the service will be reinstated very shortly with better prospects. However, I shall not unduly criticise the Government in this respect. They regarded this as a commercial venture, and, as such, it was not a paying one; but I believe that the possibilities ahead of us in the opening of this canal, and the collateral trade which will be developed, will soon make it a commercially profitable undertaking.
– Every one of the vessels have since come on to Australia.
– The amount of trade is still insignificant, though I believe it will develop very largely as a result of the opening of the canal. Any project to provide waterways for our produce we ought to foster, even if it cost us money ; we cannot spend too much in facilitating transport.
– Otherwise, what is the use of stimulating production here?
– Quite so. We have a virgin country of many acres and few men ; and we must for many years have a tremendous quantity of surplus produce to export. This is a rare heritage that many nations envy us. Until the time comes when we can consume our own products we must, as for our very life’s blood, look to markets oversea. Therefore, I am glad to see this project developing in the way it is ; and sorry, indeed, that the American nation is taking such a stand with regard to the imposition of differential rates.
Mr.McWilliams. - It is only bluff; those rates will not be imposed.
– I am inclined to think that there is a good deal of bluff about the proposal.
– Much of it is due to the Presidential election.
– I dare say that has a great deal to do with the matter. At any rate, we may be glad that a great American - perhaps one of the greatest men in the world to-day, Mr. Elihu Root, is on our side ; and with him there must be a tremendous body of American opinion in favour of doing away with the proposed restriction, and of keeping the pact, made years ago, on the faith of which this canal has been constructed with practically no cavil of any sort by any of the nations. We may look hopefully to that body of opinion in America which is recognising the obligations to the world at large of this trusteeship of a great waterway; and we may expect to see fair treatment all round. I do not know whether the honorable member for Wentworth said anything as to the strategic position of this canal ; but, again, I welcome this work from that point of view. With all the possibilities of danger it opens up, it does permit the American Fleet to come nearer to us; and I shall keep on believing that this is for our benefit, and not to our detriment. The nearer we can get to these great engines of war that America has constructed already, and must construct in the future, the better for us. I believe that, in the long run, blood will tell ; and from that point of view we may be glad that geographical boundaries are being removed, thus permitting the nations to come closer together. Of course, there are peculiar perils attending the transposition of affairs which will inevitably result from the opening of this means of communication; but I think the advantages to Australia outweigh the disadvantages. We ought to be glad, not only from the point of view of the development of our trade, but because we are coming closer to the great nation which has so much in common with us. In the final clash of arms which may some day come, we shall be nearer to friendly guns than we should be if this waterway had not been constructed. I feel very warmly on this question from the view-point of our producers, because there is no question that concerns them more nearly. We are, as I say, getting closer to a race which sprang from our own, and which I believe retains its ideals, and is destined to share in whatever triumphs await the race.
– The motion is in keeping with the attitude of the honorable member for Wentworth during last session, and in the interval. There is nothing to object to in the proposal; whether it is necessary or not is another matter.
– It is friendly, anyhow.
– Yes. The honorable member for Wentworth may be acquainted with the cablegram which was sent by this Government to the Secretary for the Colonies on the 3rd May, 191 2, as follows -
Secretary of State for the Colonies, London.
Government of the Commonwealth of Australia would be glad if you would furnish by telegram all available informationas to the present position of matters in the United States Congress in respect to proposed charges on vessels using the Panama Canal.Government presumes that His Majesty’s Government has made protest against adoption of suggested exemption of vessels owned in the United States as being in contravention of Hay-Pauncefote Treaty1901, and Government of the Commonwealth of Australia desires to associate itself with such protest, inasmuch as action on the lines suggested by United States would be regarded with great disfavour throughout Commonwealth.
This is not a matter that calls for debate. I have no official correspondence giving the information we have sought, but I have another channel of communication to which I am not permitted to make any reference here. I am clearly of opinion that this is a pure question of treaty rights as between the United States and Great Britain. The cabled information regarding the action of the United States Senate seems to indicate that the matter will be held up pending the negotiations that will take place between two perfectly friendly nations. I have no doubt in my own mind that an amicable arrangement between Great Britain and the United States will be arrived at before this great water-way is open. The Commonwealth Government are just as conscious as any one can be of the importance of this new water-way of commerce between Australia, the South Pacific, and other parts of the world, and also of the necessity, probably, of obtaining some rights over the islands which intervene between this great country and the new water-way. I do not think it is necessary to discuss the question any further, in view of the position of affairs at the present time. All we need say is that we strongly favour the motion, especially as the treaty makes the position of Great Britain and ourselves quite clear. We protest, in a friendly way, against the privileges given to United States shipping by the decision of the Senate, but we hope, before long, that the matter will be settled by negotiation between the two great nations that alone have power to negotiate in the matter. All we can do as a Dominion of the British Empire is to ask the Government of the United Kingdom, as we have done, to make our representations in association with their own, and to suggest a friendly determination on the lines of equityand justice that will bear fruit, not only now, but in the future, to the benefit of both peoples and both countries.
– If it be convenient, I suggest that the debate be adjourned.
– Has the Prime Minister any objection to the motion being carried now ?
– None whatever.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– On behalf of the honorable member for Echuca, I beg to move -
That the consideration of the following motion be postponed : - “ That a return be laid upon the table of the Mouse showing the amount paid to Ministers of the Crown for travelling allowances during the recess, and, in detail, the amounts paid to each Minister.”
– I notified the honorable member for Echuca that I could not agree to the postponement of this motion. It is a motion which has been canvassed through the country, and I desire either the facts to be brought out or the proposal withdrawn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– What has happened to the motion?
– As the motion has not been moved, it lapses.
– I move -
That a Royal Commission, consisting of members of this House, be appointed to inquire into and report upon the most prompt and effective methods of developing the natural resources of the tropical portions of Australia, and of establishing therein a permanent population.
Ever since I have been in the House I have held the belief that a Royal Commission of members of the House is the very best tribunal to elicit the facts of a case; and the settlement of the Northern Territory is the most vitally important subject with which this Federal Parliament has to deal at the present time. I was one who, to the utmost of my ability, opposed the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government for the surrender of the Territory under the terms of the contract. But this Parliament having acceptedthe agreement, it behoves every one of us to make the best of the bargain ; and the only means by which we can save the people of the country from an enormous Joss is by effectively settling the tropical parts with, or, at least, giving the first chance to, British people. The history of the Territory shows that the means we are now adopting are not the best to secure the result we all desire. Two years ago I spent many weeks in studying the history of the Northern Territory from its first settlement at Melville Island; but I have no wish to repeat that history now. The system we are adopting now is the one that failed in the establishment of Melville Island, Port Essington, Raffles Bay, and two or three other settlements, and, lastly, Port Darwin. In trying to settle the northern parts of the Territory from the tropical area - that is, the malarial area and the tick area - we have spent over £3,500,000, and we have about 1. 000 white persons there to-day - an expenditure, roughly, of £3,500 per head, yet the Government are now adopting precisely the same system that has failed in every experiment that has been made. Notice has also been given of a Government proposal to construct a railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, but before we rush headlong into an expenditure on railway construction there, the Government and their experts ought to know a great deal more about the country than they do. The interesting bulletins supplied by the officers recently sent up there are all tentative. There is not one of the officers who does not say that the time at his disposal has not allowed him to do this or examine that. To commence railway construction there now from the north, as the Government are proposing, with the information to hand, is simply taking a leap in the dark.
– What is being undertaken -is the permanent survey ; there is no construction.
– There can be no object in making a permanent survey if the railway is not to be constructed in the event of the survey proving acceptable. Much as I opposed the terms of the contract which compels the Commonwealth to construct the railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, I hold strongly that on the day that we agreed to that contract with South Australia, the Federal Parliament became in honour bound to fulfil its terms to the letter. One of my chief reasons for protesting against taking over the Territory was that the terms of the contract were unfair to the Commonwealth, because it compelled us to build that line. But, Parliament in its wisdom having passed the Act, there is nothing to be done but to complete the work. That we are in honour bound to do. This is the first railway that we should construct, because I believe its construction is one of the terms of the contract under which South Australia sur rendered the Northern Territory. The necessity for some such Commission as I am proposing is shown by the procedure that is now being adopted. The Government are repeating precisely the same policy that has already ended in disaster. In 1875 the same policy was adopted. When wages for miners here were about 7s. 6d. a day, they were taken to the north, with free passages, and paid £4 10s. per week, with precisely the same result as the Government are getting on the farm they are now establishing there. We must find out first the capabilities of the Territory, and every step taken by the Government should be a step in the direction of a complete and concrete policy. The patchwork policy of appointing a large* number of highly-paid officials there, and starting the survey of a railway before we know what the country there is like, or where it will lead us, is simply repeating the fatal errors of the past. I do not intend to reflect upon those who carried” out that policy in the old days. They believed they were doing the right thing, or they would not have done it, but this Parliament will not be doing its duty to those who elected it if it does not profit by those costly errors. If a Commission were appointed of men from both sides of the House who have taken an interest in this subject, I believe they could secure the necessary information to enable them to bring up a report showing the mistakes of the past as beacons, and giving all the information possible as to the future. The Government could then bring down a complete policy to be carried out step by step as the finances of the country warrant, and as the settlement of the Territory progresses. I am confident that the policy we are now proposing will result in a very costly failure, and, more serious still, once more throw back the settlement of the Northern Territory for ‘ears. Australia has been in possession of the Northern Territory for nearly a century. The settlement in Melville Island began practically about the same time as those in Sydney and Hobart; but whereas in all other parts of Australia there has been progress, and there is prosperity, and money has been spent to good advantage, the Northern Territory alone has stood out as one of the most disastrous failures of British settlement in any part of the world. We should never repeat those blunders now, just when the Commonwealth has backed the Territory to the extent of £3,500,000, as we did by taking over the indebtedness from South Australia. It is our duty now to set to work to make the Territory a profitable going concern. I believe that could be done if this House took the matter thoroughly in hand, and adopted a commonsense system of settlement. The only system of settlement which I believe will ever be successful there is some form of community settlement. We do not even know whether we are proceeding now from the right end or not. . Men of good authority say there is really good country in the southern portions of the Territory. If that is so, the better policy would perhaps be to proceed northwards with a line from Oodnadatta and settle the Territory from that direction. There is no evidence before the Government or the House to warrant us in plunging headlong into the railway construction project which the Government have put forward. These cockspur railways will not be a success.
– It is not a cockspur that is suggested; it is the route that is eventually to be followed.
– Is that the policy of the Government? Are they starting out on the construction of a railway to the Katherine River with the intention of casting the overland line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta to one side, and running the main line through Queensland? If that is the Government’s intention, let them say so.
– The route to the Katherine River will be part of the Oodnadatta route also.
– Then the House should know it. Personally, I want to see a white population, a British population, settled in the Territory. To make another blunder now in the settlement of the Territory would be fatal to our chance of securing a white population there for very many years to come. It’ comes as
H slap in the face to a man going north to learn that during the last ten or twelve years the white population north of Cairns, including Northern Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Northern Western Australia, has decreased by from 25 to 30 per cent. In the very part of Australia where we cannot afford to lose our white population, we are losing it every year, every month, and every day. A patchwork policy such as is now being proposed - planting a few men in the Territory with the incentive of 25 per cent, increase in their wages - will not increase the population of North ern Australia. The matter must be taken in hand as part of a fixed solid policy; and before the House commits itself to any expenditure in that direction, the fullest and most complete inquiry should be made into the whole circumstances. The information gained by a Commission such as I propose would not be confined to the report that they would present to the House. The members would return to this chamber with full and complete knowledge of the subject, and give us the benefit of their advice and experience. I hope this matter will be taken up seriously by honorable members, with a recognition of the enormous responsibilities that are devolving upon us, because a very awkward question has been raised within the last few years. When Germany occupied a portion of West Africa that was really under the Portuguese flag, and Portugal protested to the Powers, Germany’s answer was that Portugal was not effectually occupying the territory ; and the reply held good. What answer could Australia give to-day to any nation that claimed that we were not effectually occupying the northern portions of Australia? Three hundred and thirty-five million acres of land in the Northern Territory alone with a white population of 1,000 on it ! We could not even pretend that we were effectually occupying the Northern Territory, and I believe that, sooner or later, some nation will ask Australia that awkward question. It behoves us to see that when we advocate a White Australia, we are not advocating an empty Australia, so far as concerns one Half of out area. The appointment of a Commission such as I am advocating would, 1 am sure, bring the question of effectually settling the northern portions of Australia within the range of practical politics. It has not been so since I have been a member of the House, nor has it been so for the last century, so far as the Northern Territory is concerned. In respect to its want of population, the Northern Territory does not differ from one-third of Western Australia and the Gulf country of Queensland. It is our duty to determine a proper policy for the development of these uninhabited areas, and, as the Government seems to be repeating the fatal mistakes which cost South Australia £3,500,000 in the settlement of a few hundreds of white persons, we should insist on more information being obtained, so that we may be able to determine the right course to pursue.
– - The honorable member for Franklin was quite justified in moving this motion. The appointment of a Royal Commsision would largely assist us in determining how to set about populating the enormous tracts of uninhabited country in the north of Australia. As the mover rightly pointed out, this is a problem which we must make every effort to solve. The world will not long look on and allow the northern parts of Australia to remain practically empty. If we do not make an effort to populate them, we shall be called to account sooner or later. The investigation of a Commission would do much to suggest a means to the end we seek. It seems to be thought by some that, because the Government wish to give the new Administrator of the Northern Territory as free a hand as possible, the carrying of the motion would mean an interference with his administration; but, in my view, it is the duty of this Parliament to formulate a policy for the development of the Northern Territory, leaving its administration with the Administrator. The proposed Commission would collect information which, I believe, would make it clear that railway communication must be established between the southern and northern parts of Australia. To my mind, such communication is essential to the solving of the difficulty with which we are confronted; certainly, without railway communication the settlement of the Northern Territory will be impossible. A Commission would ascertain what route the railway should follow. I am aware that there is a compact between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government requiring the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, and I do not wish that compact to be broken ; but it does not prevent us from making some other line first, and I think that investigation would prove that the first line of communication should go from Bourke along the Queensland border to Tobermorey. The Queensland Government have determined to extend’ its railways to Camooweal.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the motion.
– Then I shall content myself with saying that the information which the proposed Commission could obtain would be invaluable in determining whether railway communication should first be given along the route desired by South Australia, or along some other route. With such a large problem to face, we ought not to stick at the expenditure of a few pounds on a Commission. Unless we populate the Northern Territory, it may be populated for US and not by a white race, whereas it is our bounden duty to preserve Australia, by all means in our power, for white people. If.,as I think, the uninhabited condition of the Northern Territory is a danger to us, I regard the appointment of the proposed Com- 1 mission as a wise course to take. Without wishing to reflect on the Government, or those intrusted with the administration of the Northern Territory, I say that the effortswhich have been made hitherto for its development are inadequate. The experimental farm, for instance, will absolutely fail. A Royal Commission would be able to obtain information as to the right policy to follow, and Parliament having determined the policy, it could be left to theAdministrator, who is a good man, to carryit out. It would be a mistake to allow him to formulate his own policy. I hope that the motion will commend itself to the House..
– I am= not prepared to commit myself to the motionat the present time, and shall keep an openmind regarding the proposal. Personally, I am not satisfied with the methods adoptedfor the development of the Northern Territory. No doubt the Minister of ExternalAffairs will tell us that in forty years SouthAustralia did nothing, but that would be noanswer to my criticism. The Commonwealth is now responsible for the development of the Northern Territory, and themethods adopted should be such as promise a reasonable chance of success. We have to deal there with three classes of country - tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate - and* the Government is trying to master, first of” all, the difficulty of settling the tropical* portion. It is’ proposed to import men> from the southern and temperate parts of Australia to the tropical, and often malarial,, districts of the Northern Territory. In. addition-
– The honorable member is drifting away from the motion.
– The motion is for theappointment of a Commission to determinethe best way to develop the northern partsof Australia. If you rule that in dealing, with the development of the Northern Territory I am going too far, I must submit.
– In dealing in detail/ with the development of the Northern Territory, the honorable member would be going, beyond the terms of the motion.
– The object of the motion is the appointment of a Commission to determine the best way to develop the Northern Territory, and in discussing the proposal it is difficult to refrain from criticising the methods now adopted.
– The honorable mem.ber is discussing the policy of the Governwent quite apart from the terms of the motion.
– T bow to your ruling, sir, but find it rather difficult to keep within the limits you have laid down. It as difficult to refrain from trespassing on “the policy of the Government, because we know that they have already indicated their intention to appoint a Board or a Commission of three men to deal with certain matters a fleeting the Northern Territory. That Commission will have to consider, among other questions, what are the best .railway routes to select, while it will have also to deal with the question of ports and harbors. One member of the Commission, we are told, is to possess a knowledge of land matters, while the others will be experienced in port and harbor work. My idea is that we should proceed to develop :the Northern Territory by starting in the :more temperate latitudes, and gradually work northwards until we reach the tropical and semi-tropical parts of Australia. I am very anxious that something shall be done to develop the Territory, so that instead of showing, as it does, a heavy deficit, it will soon be converted into a highly profitable asset of the Commonwealth. Very little is being done at pre.:sent to bring about that happy result. “Various officers have been appointed to fill public positions in the Territory, and time will tell whether or not they are qualified for the posts they hold. But unless active -steps be taken to develop the Territory, we shall find every year, when the Budget is delivered, that its working continues to :show a heavy loss. The mere transfer of its indebtedness - which, consisting at first of only a few thousand pounds, has gradually been increased by computation of interest and compound interest to many hundreds of thousands of pounds - does not enable us to escape from our liability, and it is our bounden duty to do our best to develop the Territory. Like the honorable -member for North Sydney, I believe that if we pursue a vigorous policy of railway -construction, settlement will rapidly follow. There is no occasion for a Commission to be appointed to inquire into the question of railway construction. We already have in our records the details of a survey that was made in 1886, as well as a statement showing all the difficulties of the country to be traversed between Oodnadatta and the Barklay tablelands. Estimates have also been prepared as to the cost of the construction of permanent way, bridges, and so forth, so that no further inquiry is necessary in that regard. In urging that development must first take place in the more temperate parts of the Territory, and gradually spread into the sub-tropical and tropical districts, it may be thought that I am influenced by the fact that I am a representative of South Australia, but I am confident that time will prove the correctness of my opinion. By making a start from the south in the construction of arail.way, we should considerably reduce its cost. We should in that way effect a saving of at least one-third of the cost, inasmuch as it would not be necessary to carry the workmen and the material required over long sea voyages to the point at which a start had to be made. Men setting to work upon such an undertaking in the southern part of the Territory would find the climate as good as it is in Adelaide, or any other city in Australia. Then, again, it seems to me that the sons of our old pioneers who have not been able to secure land in the more settled parts of Australia would be prepared to take up areas in the more temperate parts of the Northern Territory., Settlement so started would gradually develop in a northerly direction. I am convinced that just as sheep and cattle-farming materially assisted in the development of other parts of Australia in the pioneering days, so those industries will help to develop the Northern Territory, and will be followed later on by closer settlement. Sheep and cattle would gravitate naturally from the southern districts towards the northern districts, whereas, if developmental work were started in the north, stock would have to be carried over a costly route and dumped down into tick-infested areas. They would thus serve to carry the contagion into parts of the Territory where no pests prevail.
– Does the honorable member think that the proposed Royal Commission would inquire into that matter?
– I think that it would naturally inquire into the facilities offering for the carrying of stock, and also take into consideration the most suitable point at which to enter upon the construction of extensive developmental works. It would cost much more to build a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, if a start were made from the north, than it would do if operations were commenced in the south. If we let a contract to-morrow for the construction of that line, the contractor would, I am sure, commence operations in the south. He would take into consideration the cost of conveying labour to the scene of operations, and also the facilities offering for obtaining relays and for the supply of material and rolling-stock. From an economic stand-point, it seems to me that it is possible to begin the developing of the Northern Territory only in the southern and more temperate parts of the country. The, proposed Commission would take into consideration the best means of opening up the country to young fellows of the class to whom I have referred, and of supplying them with stock. This Parliament has undoubtedly cast upon it a very great responsibility, which, sooner or later, must be faced. It is useless to try to stave it off, either by the appointment of a Royal Commission or in any other way. The situation must be faced, and there is ample evidence that we should be justified in undertaking a great public works policy in the Territory. There are many other matters to which I should like to refer, but in view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I am unable to do so. I approach the consideration of this question with a perfectly open mind, but, viewing the matter even from the sordid stand-point of pounds, shillings, and pence, it must be recognised that the greater the delay in dealing with the problem that confronts us, the more difficult and costly will be its solution. We are not going to accomplish that which we all desire merely by spending a few pounds here and there, by making a chance survey, or even by appointing a Royal Commission. We can develop the Territory only by means of a vigorous public works policy, which should embrace
.– The honorable member for Franklin is to be commended for proposing to deal with what has been described as the greatest problem amongst those we have to faceBut whether a Royal Commission is the best means is a question on which there isnecessarily great difference of opinion. I am inclined to think that the appointment of a Royal Commission would mean a delay of, possibly, two or three years beforewe could hope for the introduction of a broad and comprehensive policy. But there are certain directions in which investigation! is very necessary, and which should be followed without delay. The honorablemember for Grey pointed out that one of the great duties of this Parliament is toinitiate a public works policy; and with, this view I am in thorough accord. Thereshould be appointed a permanent Committee, charged with the important responsibility of recommending the construction of public works connected with railways, water conservation, experimental stations for tropical agriculture, and with the engineering ability which should undoubtedly be represented, irrigation works. Such a Committee is necessary, not for the purpose of drawing up one report for this Parliament to deal with, but successive reportson public works, as these are deemed to be required. These reports presented to the House from time to time would give honorable members definite information and; data, on which to vote the necessary money. Before we can lay down the foundationsof settlement it will be necessary to expend millions of money in the constructions of public works ; and we ought certainly to have some such guidance as I have suggested. There is another direction irb which a non-parliamentary expert Commission would be extremely useful. I mean* a Commission to investigate and report onthe hygienic conditions of the Territory. If I remember aright, a very able report was presented to the South Australian Go- vernment by a medical man of that Stats, Dr. Ramsay Smith. That gentleman took the trouble to investigate the statistics for the northern part of tropical Australia, and he showed that the death rate in the white population compared rather favorably with the death rate in the southern parts of the Commonwealth. This would seem to show that, with proper care, it is possible to establish a white population in the north. We know, however, that we have not reached anything like definite conclusions in this regard. The Government have,I believe, established stations in the northern part of Queensland for the investigation of malaria and other diseases common to tropical countries; and, though reports have been presented from time to time, they are, in my opinion, altogether inadequate. A Commission of medical men should be appointed for the purpose of traversing the whole of the northern parts of Australia and presenting to this Parliament comprehensive reports dealing with the hygienic aspects of the problem, and with the precautions necessary for the preservation of human life and health. Dr. J. W. Barrett, of Melbourne, has paid a good deal of attention to this question, and has contributed to the Argus much valuable information, to which, I think, the Government might pay some regard.
– Dr. Strangman, of Port Darwin, has studied these questions all over the world.
– That is so. It has been shown that in Asiatic countries, such as the Malay States, investigation and experiment in the hospitals have had the effect of reducing the death-rate by at least one-half.
– Is not Dr. Breinl investigating the question?
– Yes, and we have had some very valuable reports from him. But this is a question which should be dealt with much more comprehensively. At Port Darwin, very largely through the efforts of Dr. Strangman, malaria has been reduced almost to a minimum. Rarely is a case reported by a resident of the town, and this shows how, by strict attention to diet and other precautions, it is possible to almost stamp out diseases which were formerly regarded as inevitable in such latitudes. The same doctor told me that most of the malarial cases came from the back-blocks where the mosquitoes are very numerous; and it may be necessary to take stringent measures to deal with the pest which is held to be largely responsible for the disease. Diet and other conditions of health have to be closely observed, because those who allow their systems to get low easily become a prey, not only to malaria, but to many other diseases.
– The mosquito will carry the disease irrespective of the state of the health of the subject.
- Dr. Strangman tells me that people who do not take a proper diet, and otherwise neglect themselves, are the most likely to be attacked by malaria. The problem ought not to be attacked in the piecemeal or limited fashion we have hitherto seen. An expert Commission of medical men should traverse the country and report as to how far it is possible for the Government to intervene as a Board of Health, so as to make that part of Australia reasonably safe for the settlement of white people. I do not favour the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole question of the development of the natural resources of the northern parts of Australia ; that is a duty which should be undertaken by the Government by means of a policy. I believe valuable and speedy work could be done in the two directions I have indicated. First, I suggest a Standing Public Works Committee from which we could have almost immediate results, and, secondly, a small expert Commission to investigate diseases, not only in the Northern Territory, but throughout the whole of the tropical portions of Australia. The duty rests with the Commonwealth to show the world that in the tropical portions of the continent it is possible to establish progressive settlement by the same type of people as are to be found in the southern States. If the Government give attention to the two points I have raised they will be able to do much for the development of this country.
– I regret that a motion of this character has been introduced. Owing to your decision, Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to say anything of value about the Northern Territory. All that we can do, if I may so venture to describe it, is to indulge in a sort of nibbling at a very important question. The honorable member for Wimmera seems to be in favour of spending money with a vengeance. No doubt, we shall have to spend a great deal of money in the development of the Northern Territory, but I see no necessity to fit out expeditions for the purpose of wasting money as quickly as it can be wasted. The honorable member is not in favour of a Royal Commission, but of some sort of Commission of experts, one of the primary objects of which would be to chase mosquitoes all over the Northern Territory.
– That is treating the question in a flippant way.
– That is what it amounts to, anyhow. We might add to the scope of the inquiry the life habits of the white ant, but in any case it would certainly cost a great deal of money, and I do not know that the people of Australia would be any the better off for the information obtained, although I suppose we should have the satisfaction of telling our constituents that we had taken some interest in the Northern Territory. There is any amount of information about the Northern Territory in the various blue books of South Australia, and if the House so desires, it can instruct the Government to have a great many of the papers on the subject reprinted. By this means we should obtain some very valuable information.
– Some of it is very highly coloured.
– Assuming, for the sake of argument, that some of it is, it is not all of that description. The honorable member for Wimmera referred to the report of Dr. Ramsay Smith, an excellent and able medical man in South Australia. He is one of the ablest men in the medical profession to-day, but the medical union, unfortunately, considered that he did a bit of “ black-legging,” and he got into pretty hot water on that account. They have tried for years, in season and out of season, to disparage him in every way, but by ability and force of characterhe has risen superior to all attacks. He bears testimony , to the healthiness of the Northern Territory, and he is eminently fitted to express an opinion. He is familiar with the East, and with Africa, and well acquainted with the opinions of men of equal calibre in other parts of the world. From what we know, there is no necessity for us, when starting to develop the Territory, to go to a lot of expense in connexion with medical matters. If it were proved to be necessary, I should not object to the appointment of one or two men as a Commission to inquire into the conditions of the whole of the tropical portions of Australia, but
I do not think there is anything to warrant it at the present time. I hope the House will not appoint the proposed Commission.. Commissions should never be formed unless there is a very strong reason for them. It is the business of the Government of the day to furnish this Parliament with information on all important matters that come before it.
– It would be another picnic.
– I have been on several South Australian Commissions, and never found them very great picnics. The day of picnic Commissions is long past, if. it ever existed to the extent that we are told. We are now in the final session of this Parliament, so that if the Commission was appointed its members would have no opportunity to tackle their work this year. Early next year honorable members will probably devote their energies to making their “ calling and election sure.” In the circumstances, would it not be a farce to appoint such a Commission now ? It would also be a piece of presumption on our part in the last session of this. Parliament. We. might well leave the matter to the new Parliament. If a strong case for the appointment of a Commission could be made out in the first session of the new Parliament, it might complete its labours before that Parliament expired, but the honorable member has not made out at all a strong case for action by this Parliament. I have always understood that tropical agriculture does not pay in comparison with the agriculture that can be carried on in the south of Australia. There is not the same money in it, and it generally requires a good deal of capital to undertake it. With the exception of the tea plantations of Ceylon, I doubt whether there is to be found in tropical agriculture any proposition of a paying character to be compared with the wheat and wool industries of Australia. The successful prosecution of tropical agriculture is one of the most difficult problems that Australia has to face. What information could the proposed Commission obtain in the Northern Territory about tropical agriculture? Here, again, the Government might come to our assistance. The recognised policy of Australia to-day is to keep this a white man’s country, and not to have anything to do with coloured labour. By what method, then, are we going to develop tropical production? That question may be answered by making an inquiry into the most up-to-date machinery employed in the world for the purpose. In some tropical countries, rice is grown in the same primitive way as was followed 3,000 years ago, but in the Southern States of America it is now being grown in large quantities in a payable way by a system of machinery. The Government might set some intelligent officer, with a fondness for literature, to work to hunt up for us the valuable information hidden away in scientific works on what is being done in this matter, and the same thing applies to the cultivation of tea, coffee, cotton, and other tropical products. When the Australian delegation was in London last year, we were constantly asked, “ How are you going to develop the northern portions of Australia without niggers?” Of course, it was quite settled in London that it was an impossibility to do it.
– I did not advocate =coloured labour.
– I did not charge the honorable member with doing so. There is no honorable member in this House in favour of it, but that is the opinion we have to face in the Old Country, and why ? Because all those men who are connected with tropical production know little, and care less, about anything but cheap coloured labour, and have never turned their attention to the development of tropical agriculture by up-to-date machinery. Take as an analogy the case of gold mining in South Africa. It was contended that the gold mines in that country could never be worked by means of the up-to-date machinery used elsewhere, but that was when they had Chinese labour. The Chinese were cheap, and the mine-owners did not want to bother their heads about anything -else. When the Chinese left, the mineowners were forced to turn their attention to up-to-date machinery. It is well known all over the world that, so long as capitalists can get cheap, labour, they will not advocate the introduction of machinery. It is only when labour becomes dear that they turn their thoughts in that direction. Why is it that, at Cradley ‘Heath, the women are making chains instead of the work being -done by machinery ? Those conditions will always remain at Cradley Heath so long as the English law allows women to do the work. When that is stopped, the capl. =talist will seek to do by machinery what he can no longer do by means of cheap labour. I unhesitatingly say that you can spend as many millions as you like in the Territory, but you will never do anything with it un less you develop it first by railways, and in doing that you must work from the south. You may succeed if you work from the north, but to do so you must throw away an immense sum of money. I do not mind spending a few millions on the development of the Northern Territory, but we have no right to throw away even sixpence, and the Territory cannot be developed from the north without a great waste of public money. However, I cannot enlarge upon that subject without being called to order. It has been said that we have not sufficient information, and that there is need for more light. In my opinion, we have quite enough information to go on with. How did Lord Kitchener, one of England’s greatest soldiers, gain the reputation of which we are all so proud ? By pushing a railway through Egypt to the Soudan. Had he adopted a policy like that of some honorable members, he would have tried to commence in the Soudan, and work up through Egypt, which would have been an insane endeavour. Granted that South Australians are prejudiced, and allowing any construction that honorable members care to adopt to be placed on their actions, I insist that our policy is similar to that whereby Lord Kitchener broke the power that was hostile to the peace of Egypt and the honour of Great Britain. That is the right one for the development of the Northern Territory. Reference has been made to the exodus of miners. But what is the use of paying for a pettifogging Commission to hunt round examining mosquitoes and ants, and having no real knowledge of what is needed, when the fact is that we require railway communication to give miners access to the mineral country? A. yield of 2 ounces to the ton would be useless where the mine was inaccessible.
– Why did not South Australia make a railway?
– She hesitated about incurring the necessary debt ; but, had I my time over again, I would advise the State to pawn everything she had for the sake of constructing a railway. If that had been done, the Commonwealth would have had to take over the line. The Northern Territory was acquired by the Commonwealth, not as an act of generosity to South Australia, but in the interests of the whole people. Had it not been done in this Parliament, it would have soon been done in some other. I do not say that all the land in the Northern Territory is the best land in Australia, but some of the finest land on the continent is there, together with indifferent and bad land, as in all the’ States. My reply to the honorable member for Franklin is that there will be no development of mining until railway communication is given. I hope that the House will reject the motion. I shall vote against it. We must spend money in the development of the Territory, but let us see that our expenditure is judicious.
.- Although I listened with pleasure to the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin, I am not convinced that a Royal Commission is necessary, and since the debate opened I have had put into my hands a document which shows that in 1886 Queensland appointed a Royal Commission to make such an investigation as the honorable member ‘ advocates. A Commission was appointed to inquire into the general conditions of the sugar industry in Queensland, to report on the causes which had led to its then languishing condition, the best means for reviving and maintaining its prosperity, and upon the prospects of tropical agriculture in the State. The establishment of experimental farms, the subsidizing of shipping, the making of railways, and the improvement of tropical production, were subjects which were investigated thoroughly by the Commission, and it is unnecessary for the Commonwealth to appoint another Commission for the same inquiry, seeing that the report of the Queensland Commission is available to us. I am sorry that both tonight and last night I find myself at variance with the honorable member, whose views I generally share. With the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I ask - What good would be done by having the proposed Commission wandering over the Territory? What information could be obtained that is not already in the report to which I have referred, or which cannot be got from the highly-paid officials who have been appointed by the present Government to administer the affairs of the Territory? If these officials, after they have had opportunities for studying the conditions of the Territory, are not able to advise us as to the best means for developing its resources, their appointments will not be creditable to Ministers. We have had a number of reports on the development of tropical agriculture and similar subjects, that of Mr. Campbell, the late Under-Secretary of Agriculture in New South Wales, having been quoted in this Chamber at great length. He reported for this Government on the agricultural prospects of the Territory,’ and made certain recommendations. Even if it were wise to appoint a Royal Commission, I do not think that its members should be, assuggested, members of this ParliamentWhat would be needed would be expertsVery few members are acquainted with tropical conditions, and to appoint a Commission composed wholly of members of Parliament would tend to failure. We realize the need for the fullest information, being available for those who wish to settle in the Northern Territory, the bringing of population there being one of our chief political problems. The Territory has been spoken of as the front door of Australia, and I agree with those who say that if we do not settle and develop that country, the work will be done for us by some one else, and in all probability by a people not of the white race. We all believe in the policy of a White Australia, and we should encourage in every way those who desire to settle in the Territory, and who, by settling there, will help us to defend this country. The Minister of External Affairs should urgehis officials in the Territory, who have thereputation of being competent men, to* collect without delay all the information* that is necessary for our guidance in its. development. Something, more substantial! than has yet been attempted in the way of developmental works is necessary. It’, seems to me that, so far, the Governmenthave only been playing with this great: problem, the solution of which has such an important bearing on the welfare of Australia. We anticipated that the visit’ paid to the Territory by the Minister would be productive of some result, but we find that he had very little opportunity of seeing the country and judging its resources. I understand that he spent most of his time in Port Darwin, and that he did not go further J…… the Katherine River.
– How long did he stay in the Territory?
– About sixteen days. Some honorable members, including thehonorable member for Grey, the honorable member for Wimmera, and you, Mr. Speaker, and I visited the Territory a few years ago when some of us availed ourselves of an opportunity to see more of” the Territory than has been seen by other honorable members who have journeyed to that part of the Commonwealth. We saw there areas of some of the finest– agricultural land in Australia. Along the Katherine, Daly, Adelaide, Victoria, and other rivers we saw large areas of rich agricultural land suitable for closer settlement, and capable of producing heavy crops of tropical produce of the character to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh has referred. My experience of rural industries teaches me that by the use of up-to-date machinery and the application of modern methods we are now able to carry out branches of industry in parts of Australia where in other circumstances it would have been impossible to do so. By the use of the cream separator and refrigerating machinery, for instance, in connexion with the dairying industry, we are able now to turn out immense quantities of dairy produce in Queensland and the northern parts of New South Wales, where at one time it was impossible to make a pound of good butter.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Prahran Post Office - Commonwealth Woollen Mill - Ministers’ Travelling Allowances - Quarantine Administration - Leave to Officers, Sydney General Post Office - Sydney Quarantine Station.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I am pleased to see the Minister of Home Affairs in his place, because I have to bring before the House a grievance which affects his Department, and is of considerable importance. It relates to the Prahran Post Office and the negotiations that have been going on between various Departments of the Commonwealth and the council of the city of Prahran for the erection of a new building. These negotiations were opened up as far back as 15th June, 1909. On that date the Prahran City Council wrote to me, as the representative of the district, drawing attention to the need for a new postoffice, and pointing out the great increase in business that had taken place and the limited accommodation available. On 28th June, 1909, the honorable member for Bendigo, who was then Postmaster-General, wrote to me stating that if the Prahran City Council submitted an offer of £5,000 for the surrender of the lease - that being the amount paid by the Government for the lease of the postal premises attached to the Town Hall buildings - such an offer would be considered. On 7th July following, the Prahran City Council wrote to the PostmasterGeneral offering £5,000 for the surrender of the lease and the right to resume possession of the premises, and also pointing out the necessity for a new post-office. On 21st July, 1909, I received the following letter of acknowledgment from the secretary to the Postmaster-General -
Sir, - With reference to the letter recently presented to you from the Town Clerk of Prahran, Victoria, offering on behalf of the Prahran City Council the sum of£5,000 for the right to resume possession of the Post and Telegraph offices and quarters attached to the Town Hall Buildings, Prahran, and for the cancellation of the lease dated8th September, 1879, between the Mayor, Councillors, and Citizens of the City of Prahran and Her Majesty the Queen, I have, by direction, to inform you that the Postmaster-General has approved of the acceptance of that offer, and the matter is being referred to the Department of Home Affairs for the necessary action.
– Who was PostmasterGeneral at that time?
– The honorable member for Bendigo.
– Honorable members opposite had the papers relating to this matter brought over to the House, took extracts from them, and allowed them to be returned without telling me that they proposed to bring forward this matter.
– The only extracts I have from the correspondence were obtained from the Prahran City Council.
– The departmental file of papers was over here to-day.
– That does not concern me. Any ordinary citizen would look upon the bargain disclosed by this correspondence as an honorable one. On the 19th September, 1910, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Mr. Bright, and Mr. Oxenham inspected the post-office premises forming part of the Prahran Town Hall buildings, agreed that they were totally unsuitable, and expressed approval of the council’s offer. Later on, the honorable member for Barrier, who had succeeded the honorable member for Bendigo as Postmaster-General, joined me in inspecting the premises, and, having done so, said that it was perfectly outrageous to expect any one to do business in them. We saw a man being sweated there, and a number of people trying to do business in a building in which the accommodation was altogether inadequate. The honorable member said that he thoroughly approved of the action taken by his predecessor, and that he would have a new building erected as soon as possible. The matter was then referred to the Department of Home Affairs, and in January, 1911, the present Minister of Home Affairs condemned the building as being perfectly useless for the purposes of a. post-office, and joined with me in a tour of the neighbourhood in search of a suitable site. On the following day I left Australia for England, and the honorable gentleman told me as I was leaving that when I came back I would see a splendid postal building in the city of Prahran. I returned, and found that no new building had been erected. What actually happened? On 2 1 st March, 191 1, the council waited on the Minister of Home Affairs to urge the carrying out of the agreement for the surrender of the lease on payment of the sum of £5,000. The Minister informed them that the Postmaster-General had nothing to do with that matter beyond intimating to the Department of Home Affairs that the premises were unsuitable for the requirements of the post-office. That statement was made after the honorable gentleman had verbally confirmed the action of two Postmasters-General. He went on to say, in reply to the deputation, that he had inspected the premises, and had valued them at £12,000, or £450 per annum. He was of opinion that the re-transfer should not be made. The office was, in his opinion, most centrally situated. For £500 the postmaster could be removed to other quarters, and sufficient accommodation provided in the present premises for the performance of postal duties. Finally, the Minister directed Colonel Owen to inspect several sites in the vicinity of the post-office next day. I do not wish to go further into the matter, more than to say that negotiations went on in one way or another until the other day, the 12th July, when the Minister of Home Affairs wrote to me stating that, as it had been decided to utilize the Prahran Post Office building for the purposes of a Commonwealth Bank, it was not now proposed to proceed further with the negotiations for its disposal.
– Read the proposal I made to the council.
– I shall do so if the Minister thinks it important. On the 21st March, 1911, the Minister said he was not going on with the agreement, which had been hanging fire, although it had been made with the council of Prahran on the 21st July, 1909.
– Does the honorable member suggest that one Minister breaks the promise of another Minister?
– Absolutely. On the 22nd March, 191 1, Colonel Owen inspected the sites and informed the mayor that, as the Chapel -street property was too dear, he considered a site in High-street, west of Chapel -street, the most convenient. On 5th August, 191 1, the council wrote to the Postmaster-General forwarding the draft surrender of the lease, and stating that the council was ready to pay the £5,000 at any time on the execution of the surrender. Honorable members will observe that nothing was done for a whole month, for it was not until 5th September that a reply was received from the Post-‘” master-General stating that, before the transfer could be effected, it was necessary to obtain the consent of the GovernorGeneral under sections 63 and 64 of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906, and that the matter had been referred to the Department ‘of Home Affairs. Even then the PostmasterGeneral of the day, the present Minister of External Affairs, stuck to his guns like a man, and said he had made a bargain which would be kept. On 8th September, 1911, I wrote stating that Mr. O’Malley had promised to visit Prahran that day with a view to inspecting a site for the new post-office. On 13th September I wrote stating that the Minister had been unable to inspect the site on the 8th, owing to an all-night sitting of Parliament, but that he had definitely promised to do so next day. On 19th September a letter was received saying that the Minister of Home Affairs would inspect two sites on the Friday, and that he would be in a position to make an offer to the council. That, it will be observed, was after the business had been closed. On 8th March, 191 z, some months later, the Minister of Home Affairs wrote to the council stating that the Commonwealth was prepared to accept £10,000 for its interest in the property. On 27th March the council replied that it was not prepared to contribute the sum demanded in view of the arrangement made in 1909 for the acquisition of the property on payment of the sum of £5,000, the acceptance of which offer was approved by the Postmaster-General. The council pointed, out that it was still prepared to pay £5,000, and asked the Minister of Home Affairs to reconsider his offer. On 9th May the Minister of Home Affairs replied that the offer of £5,000 could not be entertained, and on 12th he coolly wrote me a letter to say that, as it had been decided to utilize the Prahran Post Office building for the purposes of a Commonwealth Bank, it was not now proposed to proceed further with the negotiations for its disposal.
– What about the new post-office ?
– Apparently the convenience of this great neighbourhood is not to be studied at all ; and I should like honorable members to know the position of this great district in regard to post-office accommodation. The small portion of the council building in question has a frontage of only 30 feet to Chapel-street with a depth of 150 feet on the ground floor and 70 feet on the top floor.
– That represents over £10,000 for land alone.
– I do not wish to discuss the question of the value, but the question of a bargain which had been made. We must, however, recollect that this property, according to the deed of grant, must be used for no other purposes except those of a post-office. If it be sold, it must be to some one acquiring the post-office. The original sum paid by the State Government to the council of Prahran for this portion of the ground and the building on it was £5,000. That was in 1879, when the population was 19,000, as compared with the present population of 46,000 served by the same post-office. The accommodation, needless to say, is altogether inadequate. The honorable member for Bendigo, when Postmaster-General, visited the post-office, and said it was one of the most outrageously inadequate in Victoria. In this opinion he was supported by his successor, the present Minister of External Affairs; and the Minister of Home Affairs, when he visited the place, said the same thing. These, however, are comparatively minor points. The business done in the parcels-post branch by the distributing warehouses thereabouts is so enormous that the railway authorities at Prahran have had to extend their goods sheds. It is absurd to suppose that such a business can be conducted in a post-office erected on an area such as I have described ; and I may say that the top floor cannot be extended without shutting out the light to the town hall. Under the circumstances, it is perfectly preposterous to talk of conducting a bank on the ^ premises. A very fair bargain was made between the State (Government and the council of Prahran in 1879. Of course, I may point out that the council got the land free, and that, therefore, a charge of £5,000 was reasonable.
– The council ‘ desired the £5,000 to help in the erection of the town hall.
– Quite so. What usually happens is that a council, having got the land free, erects a building at a cost of £40,000 or £50,000 ; and in this case the council decided to dispose of a portion for £5.000 to the State Government .for postal work. When the Commonwealth was instituted the post-office was transferred at the same charge of £5,000. I may say that the condemnation of the building was supported by the Secretary to the Department, Sir Robert Scott,, and the Deputy Postmaster-General, Mr. Bright. That bargain at £5,000 was indorsed by the present Minister of Home Affairs; but, on nth January, because he thought he had the council in a hole, and could make a bit of a deal-
– But these are two public bodies.
– Quite so. Of course, if this land and buildings were sold for a public house, or for a haberdashery establishment, more than £5,000 might be obtained ; but for the Commonwealth purposes I do not see that it is worth any more than £5,000.
– I thought it was sold at less than £5,000.
– The figure was £4.647-
Mi. FAIRBAIRN. - I was not aware of that. A bargain with a private citizen is one thing, and a bargain with a big municipality is another - the people, as it were, are dealing with the people. It might be said that it is a case of the people of Australia dealing with the people of Prahran ; but we must look at all the circumstances. When an honorable bargain is made by one Minister, and confirmed by his successor in another Government, I really think it ought to be binding; or otherwise the people will be misled. A man’s word ought to be as good as his bond ; and in the present case the bond is actually in writing. Could anything be more binding than the letter of 21st July, 191 1?
– Is the PostmasterGeneral orthe Minister of Home Affairs the contracting party?
– Of course, if honorable members are going to shelter themselves
– It is not a matter of sheltering, but a plain question.
– I cannot say what went on between the Minister of Home Affairs and the Postmaster-General, but I ask the honorable member whether he would not feel very much aggrieved, if afterwards some other Minister said, “It is no bargain at all? “ The proper Minister confirmed the matter verbally to me. In January, 191 1, I went out with the Minister-
– If a responsible member of a firm did that it would be held to be binding.
– If I had a partner and I came to an honorable understanding with a man I should expect my partner to follow it out. If he did not I should look upon him as dishonorable. For two years the Prahran Council have been allowed to live in a fool’s paradise believing that the Government would in honour carry out the bargain. I know what the trouble is. The Minister of Home Affairs plumes himself on being a great man of business. He wants to hold himself up before the people in that character, but in this country honour comes before business, whatever may be the practice in other parts of the world. We are not going to sell the honour of this country for a paltry £2,000 or £3,000, even if we could get it. The man in the street here approves of honorable dealing. I speak warmly on this matter, because I feel warmly, and if the affair is not gone on with as the Government of the day undertook to go on with it, a dishonorable thing will have been done, and an irreparable injury will be inflicted. If this sort of thing is to happen, whom can we trust? We may next have a Minister negotiating a great loan and trying to get out of paying it because of some technical flaw. The Minister may get some paltry advantage for a time, but if the work of this country is done in this way an irretrievable injury will be done to our credit and fair name. I should like to hear what the Minister has to say on this matter. It is a question of fair dealing, but, of course, the Minister will trump up , the excuse that a 37 feet frontage in Chapel-street is worth a lot of money. Is it worth a lot of money as a post-office ? This place can be used only as a post-office. If it was possible to use it in any other way the land might be of greater value. This is a transaction between a council, representing a great body of the people, and the Commonwealth Parliament, representing the whole of the people of Australia. I recognise that the people’s purse must be carefully guarded, but their honour must be still more carefully guarded.
– The matter should be determined apart from value.
– I do not think the question of values will come very greatly into it. It is a question of the fair word of the Government of Australia. I am sure that is the way that honorable members will look at it, and I hope they will insist on this bargain, fairly and squarely made over two years ago, being fairly and squarely carried out.
– I am sorry the Minister, whose action has been criticised, has not seen fit to offer some explanation of his attitude.
– Perhaps he has none to make.
– The Minister can speak only once.
– I rise to supplement and support the views placed before the House by the honorable member for Fawkner. The honorable member has said that the question involved is whether there is to be a violation of a fair deal between the Postal Department and the Municipal Council of Prahran. There is another important question involved, and that is, whether the Post and Telegraph Department is to be managed by the PostmasterGeneral or by another Department. It appears that there has been an attempt on the part of the Minister of Home Affairs to interfere with the management of the postoffice in a matter of policy and administration, which was approved of by myself when Postmaster-General, and which was also approved of by my immediate successor, the honorable member for Barrier. I have not been able to discover any reasonable ground for the action of the Minister of Home Affairs. The negotiations for the surrender of the lease of the Prahran Post Office appear to have begun under the administration of my predecessor, who again was the honorable member for Barrier. So far back as March, 1909, there is a memorandum under the hand of the Secretary of the Home Affairs Department, giving the history of the matter.
He shows that a portion of the Prahran Town Hall was taken over on lease by the Government of Victoria in 1897 for the purposes of a post-office. The Government of Victoria advanced £5,000 to the City Council of Prahran to make alterations and provide the accommodation necessary to create and establish a post-office there. That was the consideration for the lease, but so far as I am able to gather the lease was exclusively for the purposes of a post-office. It was not a general lease for any purpose to which the premises might be devotee^ such as a public-house or a bank. It was a perpetual lease, at a peppercorn rental, granted by the City Council of Prahran to the Government of Victoria in consideration of the payment of £5,000 by the Government to the council. That might have been a very good arrangement at the time, and the accommodation might have been sufficient, but :as time went on Prahran grew and expanded, and its population and postal requirements increased. In March, 1909, it became evident that it was necessary to make a complete alteration in the postal arrangements of the suburb. The accommodation at the Town Hall, under the lease, was found to be utterly inadequate, and, worst of all, the premises were not capable of the necessary expansion, because of the limited and circumscribed area of the Town Hall buildings. It was then suggested that the lease should be surrendered back to the council, and a new site secured in another and equally convenient position. On 6th May a report was presented to the Postmaster-General by the senior inspector, stating that the present premises at Prahran were unsuitable, and that, sooner or later, another site would have to be secured. Steps, he added,” should be taken to secure another more suitable site or building to meet the likely extension of the business. Shortly after I came into office there were placed before me these reports and the record of the value of the investment made by the Government of Victoria. I had .also before me the official report of the valuation of this property made by Colonel Miller under the transferred properties provision of the Constitution. Colonel Miller valued this asset, which came over to the Commonwealth on Federation, at £4,647. That was the amount which the Commonwealth undertook to provide for the Government of Victoria, in respect of the lease and the accommodation connected with it. The matter having been fully considered by the Deputy Postmaster-General in Melbourne, and by Sir Robert Scott, the Secretary of the Central Postal Administration, all the officers of the Department concurred in recommending me as follows : -
Recommended : That if a firm offer of £S>°°° is submitted by the Municipal Council for the premises used by the Department in connexion with the Town Hall, Prahran, the offer will be considered. (Sgd.) Robert Scon.
I indorsed this “ Approved, J.Q., 16th June.” The council was then invited to make the offer, and on the 7th July they did so. On 21st July the official letter was written which has been read to-night, saying that the offer had been approved of, subject to reference to the Home Affairs Department, and also subject to the condition that the premises were to be retained possession of until another site, or other accommodation, was secured. Consequently, it was substantially subject to the last mentioned condition only. Now, with reference to the control of the Home Affairs Department over these matters, it was not very clearly defined when I came into office what was the real extent of the control or supervision exercised by the Home Affairs Department over postal works. I was informed by my departmental advisers that the PostmasterGeneral had complete control. In fact, it was a matter of law. The Post and Telegraph Act provides that the management of the Postal Department and of postal properties is vested in the Postmaster-General. Under that Act it necessarily follows that a deal such as this was - the surrender or transfer of property of this kind - comes within the jurisdiction of any PostmasterGeneral who might be in office. Therefore the offer, and the acceptance ratified by me as Postmaster-General, were within the four corners of the Post and Telegraph Act.
– Why did not you complete the bargain?
– It was completed ; but it was referred, under the practice that has grown up, to the Home Affairs Department to enter into other negotiations for the transfer or resumption of the property by the State Government. I understand that, for convenience, the practice has been this : that public works, such as the erection of post-offices, have been vested in the Home Affairs Department, but the Minister of Home Affairs has no voice whatever in the selection of the sites for the buildings. .
– Has he not?
– I never recognised that he had when I was PostmasterGeneral, nor was I ever so informed. What the Postmaster-General did was to select the site of a post-office, and then refer it to the Home Affairs Department, as the constructing Department, to negotiate for buying the site and erecting the building. The securing of the site and the erection of the building were delegated by the practice of the Department to the Home Affairs Department, because the Postmaster-General’s Department has not officers to carry out the construction of such buildings, but all matters connected with the provision of telegraphs and telephones are left exclusively to the PostmasterGeneral, without reference to the Minister of Home Affairs. The preliminary to securing another site would be the surrender of the present site. The Department of Home Affairs commenced negotiations with the Government of Victoria for the retransfer of the site to the State. A letter was written by the honorable member for Ballarat, when Prime Minister, asking the Premier of Victoria whether his Government would take back this asset, wiping it off the list of transferred properties; in other words, whether it would release the Commonwealth from further liability in regard to it. I understand that the reply was that the Government would take back the property, because in a letter dated 27 th October, the honorable member, addressing the then Premier of Victoria, said that steps would be taken “ to give effect to the retransfer to your State of the property in question as soon as new premises have been erected.” When the last Government left office there was a contract to that effect, subject to the condition that another site should first be secured. The Government of Victoria had agreed to take back the property, releasing the Commonwealth from any liability under the Constitution. Any loss would have been borne by the Government of Victoria, but it was satisfied with the transaction. It did not wish to make a profit, and did not make a claim for unearned increment or increased value. I do not see how there could be an increase in value. The premises were leased by the Victorian Postal Department from the City Council of Prahran for postal purposes, and the Commonwealth could not, under the lease, use the property for the carrying out of banking business or any business other than postal business. The lease wasfor a specific purpose, and the PostmasterGeneral could not sell it or make a profit, out of it. Under our arrangement, the City Council of Prahran was to regain possession on paying £5,000, the sum spent or* the building by the Government of Victoria. It could not be said that the value of that, building had increased. If anything, it had decreased. The Minister of HomeAffairs is under a misapprehension if hethinks that this is a negotiable security, or a marketable property which can be sold to the highest bidder. No doubt, if the property could be sold for a shop or businesspremises, it would have a greater value than £5,000, but under the terms of the leaseit must be devoted to postal purposes. Under the contract the City Council of Prahran could prevent any other use of it, obtaining, if necessary, an injunction against such other use. Therefore, the statement that the property is worth £10,000 or £50,000 is irrelevant. The property has. no such value to the Commonwealth. The reports of the officers of the PostmasterGeneral show that the accommodation cannot be extended sufficiently to meet the requirements of the postal business, and that an expenditure of £10,000 would not provide suitable and commodious premises. Sir Robert Scott, Mr. Oxenham, Mr. Bright, and the Chief Inspector have all reported: to that effect, it being held that money would be wasted in altering the premises in the attempt to meet existing requirements. The action of the present Minister of Home Affairs amounts to an attempt to take from the Postmaster-General the control of his. Department, which should not be tolerated. There are many objections to the arrangement which has resulted in the present deadlock. It is often very inconvenient for the Postmaster-General to have to be in constant communication with another Department. The two Departments should be independent, or, at least, it should not bepossible for the Minister of one Department to veto the action of the Minister of” the other Department. I am glad to learntoday that the late Postmaster-General approved of my action, and would have seen, that it was carried into effect, and the position of the Minister of Home Affairs isdeeply to be regretted. I attribute theposition to a misunderstanding. The Government of Victoria, which is primarily interested, and is entitled to receive any profit if there is a profit to be made, acquiesced in the scheme promulgated by met.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner has made out a good case, and the interference of the representative of another division may seem unjustifiable; but I wish to point out that there arose in my division a position very much like that under discussion. The officers of the Postmaster-General had condemned the North Melbourne Post Office as altogether unsuitable, and had stated that no expenditure could make it convenient for the carrying out of postal and savings bank business. The present Minister of Home Affairs, however, looked at the matter from 1 truly national stand-point ; that is, he studied the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Does looking at a matter from a truly national stand-point justify the repudiation of a public engagement ?
– The honorable member can give notice of his question. As a layman I do not approve of legal crossexamination. In an important suburb like North Melbourne, the erection of a new post-office would have cost £12,000 or £14,000 ; but, owing to the intervention of the Minister of Home Affairs, the old office, with some alterations and additions, was, by the expenditure of £2,500, made quite suitable for the business which has to be transacted there, although it had been declared by the postal officials to be altogether unsuitable.
– So it was.
– We have now one of the finest post-offices in the metropolitan area.
– There was space on which to put additions.
– I bought additional ground.
– I do not believe in the interference of one Department with another, but for some years past it has been recognised that in the purchasing of property and the arranging of transfers the last man to affix his signature and to give his consent to any transaction must be the Minister of Home Affairs. I understand that the post-office under discussion is situated in what has been termed the finest business thoroughfare in the world. The Commonwealth Government has the right to occupy the building for 960 years, and Ministers would be neglectful of the public interest if they did not retain the property, and refuse to part with it for a mere bagatelle. Had the Minister of Home
Affairs acceded to the request made to him, the members of the Opposition would have been most severe in their criticism.
– There has been repudiation.
– The Minister of Home Affairs had the interests of the Commonwealth at heart in preventing a mistake from being made. I would not excuse repudiation, but the Postmaster-General cannot make contracts for the transfer of properties.
– What is the honorable member’s authority for that statement?
– I do not go to the array of lawyers before me to ascertain the legal position, but I know that I am right. Were I purchasing a property from the Commonwealth, I should not feel satisfied until I had obtained the signature of the Minister of Home Affairs to the instrument of transfer. In the case of the North Melbourne post-office the Minister of Home Affairs saved the country at least £8,000. The postal officials do not understand everything ; it is in the Department of Home Affairs that we have officers who know the value of property, though one of those officers considerably undervalued the Prahran post-office in stating the value at £4,600.
– That was the value twelve years ago.
– I understand that the Minister of Home Affairs wished to make what he considered a reasonable deal with the Prahran City Council.
– An honorable bargain.
– He offered to dispose of the Commonwealth interest for £10,000, not for £5,000.
– After £5,000 had been agreed upon !
– The last PostmasterGeneral was ready to indorse the action of his predecessor in disposing of the property.
– He accepted the offer.
– The PostmasterGeneral has little to do with the purchase or transfer of post-office sites. It is not until the Department of Home Affairs has inspected a site, and its officials have declared it to be suitable, that it is purchased.
– The Home Affairs Department cannot purchase a post-office site without the concurrence of the PostmasterGeneral.
– The Postal Department indicates the site that is desired, and the Minister of Home Affairs conducts the negotiations for its acquisition.
– If the PostmasterGeneral’s interjection is correct, the Department is putting the cart before the horse. The inspector usually sent out to make an inspection on behalf of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is a man who has held office as a postmaster. It seems to me that instead of any communication being sent by the Postal Department to those who are inclined to dispose of a site, asking what they are prepared to take for it, a list of suggested sites should be submitted to the Department of Home Affairs, which should be called upon to select the most suitable for the purpose. But to send on such a matter to the Department of Home Affairs, after negotiations have been practically completed by the Postal Department, is to put the cart before the horse.
– I do not do that kind of business.
– I think not. Provided there has been no repudiation of contract between the Department of Home Affairs and the Prahran City Council - and there has not been - the officials of that Department have a right to step in and save the Commonwealth from rashly parting with a good asset. Unless that is done, our assets will be gradually disappearing, because of our . benevolent inclinations.
– “ Down with the States,” says the honorable member.
– I would take away a lot of the power that the States now possess, and the people will do so before long.
– Of course, the States are aliens.
– No; the only alien I know is Badger, the man for whom the right honorable member has been standing up.
– The honorable member is not doing himself any credit tonight. He is a repudiator.
– I am not. That is a very unfair remark to make. I said provided that no contract had been entered into between the Department of Home Affairs and the Prahran City Council, the officials of that Department had a right to step in. That is my point, and a contract is not a contract unless signed and sealed by the Minister of Home Affairs.
– That would mean that the Postmaster-General in this case was a mere rubber stamp.
– Certainly not. I understand that the State became owner of some of the postal buildings attached totown halls about the metropolis, by reason> of the fact that they contributed to the cost of erection of those municipal buildings upon the understanding that they should have the right to use part of the premises for postal purposes. Such postal premises have been handed over by the States to the Commonwealth, and having regard to the remarkable savings that have been made in my own electorate, I think it would be distinctly unfair to throw away a good Commonwealth property in the manner now suggested. To part with thissplendid site for a mere bagatelle, would be to disregard the true interests of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member who hasjust resumed his seat has propounded a remarkable doctrine. ,It is the doctrine that unless a contract is signed and sealed the Government may repudiate every word of it. No other honorable member would lay down such a proposition, and one had better look out when he is dealing with a Minister who believes in that kind of business. Here we have the case of two Ministers in the same Cabinet : the one repudiating the public undertaking of the other. The parallel is that of a firm, one member of which gives his word and completes a bond as far as it can be completed on behalf of the firm, with the exception of the formalities, while another member of the firm later on steps in and repudiates the undertaking given by his partner. No honorable man would think of doing such, a thing. A firm that acted in that way would suffer immensely in its reputation. This incident is but a side-light on the method of government to which we are subjected. Under the Caucus system of selecting Ministers, one Minister may do anything he cares to do, irrespective of that which another does. Whatever differences these Ministers may have between themselves they ought to settle in Cabinet, and not try to degrade each other in their relations with the public outside. If I were PostmasterGeneral in the Cabinet, and were treated as the present Postmaster-General has been in this case, either the Minister of Home Affairs would have to retire from the Ministry or I should do so.
– A nice chance of the honorable member leaving a Cabinet in such circumstances.
– The honorable member has swallowed enough of his principles, or he would not be sitting where he is today.
– I require that insulting observation to be withdrawn.
– I was engaged at the moment, and did not hear the remark to which exception is taken. If the honorable member for Maribyrnong has made any remark that is insulting, he must at once withdraw it.
– Before I left the chamber, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member made a rather offensive remark about myself.
– I did not.
– What I said was that the honorable member would not be sitting where he is unless he had swallowed a lot of his principles. Surely that is not offensive?
– If the honorable member for Parramatta thinks that the remark is offensive, I am sure that the honorable member will withdraw it.
– If it injures the feelings of the honorable member, then I shall unreservedly withdraw it.
– Yes, after repeating the statement. The honorable member should not talk about other people’s principles. I had proposed to refer to another postal grievance, but shall refrain from doing so, since I understand that the honorable member for Flinders desires to discuss the question of the Prahran Post Office.
– The question raised by the honorable member for Fawkner raises issues of far greater importance than the mere question of the locality of the Prahran post-office or the value of a certain piece of land. It really raises the question of how far, under our present system of government, an Administration is bound by the public engagements entered into by its predecessors. _ I observe that the Minister of Home Affairs, against whom this attack is mainly directed, and who has not uttered a single word by way of explanation, has left the chamber, while other Ministers, including the Prime Minister himself, purport to be engaged in other business.
– I am glad that the Minister is now present, and I should like also to have the attention of the Prime Minister. Two questions are involved. First of all, we have to consider how far a Government is or is not bound by the public engagements deliberately entered into by its predecessor ; and, secondly, how far a Government, and every member of that Government, are bound by the deliberate action of one of their members with regard to matters within his own Department. This is a matter that does not concern one side of the House more than another, for a time mav come when parties will be differently distributed in this House. There are certain broad principles which, so far as I know, have always been followed under our existing traditions of responsible government, and which, it seems to me, are directly pertinent to this issue. Section 85 of the Constitution provides that when a Department of the Public Service of a State is transferred to the Commonwealthy all the property of the State of any kind used exclusively in connexion with that Department, shall become vested in the Commonwealth. This particular piece of land, which was at the time in question held under perpetual leasehold tenure by the Postal Department of Victoria, became ipso facto, by virtue of the Constitution, transferred to the Commonwealth, and that piece of land, from the moment of transfer, became, and remained under the control of the PostmasterGeneral.
– Does the honorable member allege that the Constitution provides that property shall be transferred to the care of a particular Department?
– No; but I say that the Constitution provides, recognising the invariable British practice, which has been followed, I think, in all the States, that the property which is necessary for the conduct of the Postal or any other Department, shall remain under the control, of course, of the Governor in Council, but of the Governor in Council acting primarily under the advice of the Minister responsible for that particular Department. Under the Constitution Executive Departments were vested in various Ministers, and the personprimarily responsible for the control of the land, which, by the Constitution, became vested in the Commonwealth for the Postmaster-General’s Department, isthe Postmaster-General, and not the Minister of Home Affairs. Where the-
Postmaster-General requires to obtain new property, or to erect a new building, it may be very convenient to remit the whole matter to the Department of Home Affairs, and I believe that that procedure has frequently been pursued. Here, however, we have an engagement actually made by the Government which preceded the present Ministry, and we find that engagement embodied in an offer and an acceptance of that offer. The offer was made by a public body, the Prahran City Council, on 7 th July, 1909. It was an offer of £5/000 to the Postmaster-General, in consideration of the surrender of a lease and the right to resume possession of premises. I desire to direct the special attention of honorable members to the letter sent in reply to that offer, because, if there was a public engagement, it must turn upon the actual terms of that letter -
With ieferen.ce to the letter recently presented to you from the Town Clerk of Prahran, Victoria, offering, on behalf of the Prahran City Council, the sum of ^5,000 for the right to resume possession of the Post and Telegraph office and quarters attached to the Town Hall buildings, Prahran, and for the cancellation of the lease dated 8th September, 1879, between the Mayor, Councillors, and Citizens of Prahran and Her Majesty the Queen, I have the honour, by direction -
That is by direction of the PostmasterGeneral ; that cannot be disputed - to inform you that the Postmaster-General has approved of the acceptance of that offer, and the matter is being referred to the Department ‘ of Home Affairs -
For what? Let us see what the letter .means. Why is it referred to the Department of Home Affairs? Is it for the purpose of enabling the Minister of Home Affairs to consider whether the offer shall be accepted? Nothing of the kind, because the offer is expressly accepted by letter under the authority of the PostmasterGeneral, and it is referred to the Minister of Home Affairs “ for the necessary action.”
– Well, he exceeded his power.
– The letter concludes -
I am to add that the premises in question cannot, of course, be vacated until other provision has been made for the requirements of the Department.
Reading that as a business communication between man and man, it is susceptible of only one meaning - that the PostmasterGeneral, having the authority to accept the offer, did thereby accept it, but informed the council that they could not have occu pation until further provision had been made. I do not say that there cannot be circumstances under which a Government may find it necessary not to carry out the solemn engagements of their predecessors. If a Government comes to the conclusion that there has been fraud, malpractice, and wrong, they may take the responsibility of repudiating an engagement, but if they do so, they must do it at once. In the present case, not one word of repudiation was heard from the Minister of Home Affairs, the Postmaster-General, the Prime Minister, or any member of the present Government, until nearly a year after they came into office.
– The acceptance was confirmed by the present Minister of External Affairs.
– That confirmation was verbal, and may possibly be explained. If a Government desire, for any of the reasons I have suggested, to repudiate a deliberate engagement of their predecessors, they should do so promptly. The present Government came into power in April or May, 1910, and not one word in repudiation of the engagement on which the council had been induced to act and to rest was heard until the 21st March, 191 1, or about eleven months later, the acceptance of the offer standing all that time recorded in the correspondence of the Postmaster-General. The Minister of Home Affairs, in reply to a deputation, coolly said that he had found the land to be worth more than £5,000.
– Why did the honorable member for Bendigo, during his term of office of twelve months, not ratify the agreement ?
– The answer is very simple. The offer was absolutely accepted, but it was not to come into effect until a suitable , alternative position for the post-office could be obtained, and to obtain such a site must take some time in a place like Prahran. There is a difference between delay in carrying out the engagement because a suitable site could not be obtained, and repudiation by a succeeding Government because it is deemed that the land is worth, not £5,000, but, it may be, £12,000 or £15,000. I strenuously urge on honorable members on both sides that this matter involves a principle of vastly greater importance to this House and the whole community than any question relating to the post-office at Prahran or the merits of the particular land in dispute.
– I do not feel a bit disgruntled at the declaration of my honorable friends on the Opposition benches, because I know they feel that they ought to put forward the best case possible under the circumstances; it is what I should do myself were I in their place. But, as a matter. of fact, nothing that we as a Government can do will satisfy them ; no matter whom we appoint, or what the ability of those appointed may be, it is wrong, simply and solely because we are responsible.
– Keep the bargain ; that will satisfy us.
– I hope my honorable friend will not get excited1; absolute equality to all. and privilege to none should be the rule in this case. I hold that it is a reflection on the Minister of Home Affairs to say that he is merely a sort of animated rubber stamp; but that is the position in which he is placed by honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Flinders.
– I say that a bargain entered into by a Minister on behalf of the Government ought to be observed.
– If the Minister of Home Affairs has simply to accept any purchases which may be made by any Minister, then he ought to be abolished as a fifth wheel to the coach. It would appear that the Government are asked to retain all the bad properties and dispose of the good properties at low figures. I do not charge any one; I believe the late Postmaster- General was absolutely honest, and thought he was doing the correct thing, just as I believe that honorable members who are attacking me are absolutely honest. But I do not think that those honorable members are business men, and, believing that, it is my duty to put them right.
– I could buy and sell you a hundred times easily !
– The honorable member inherited from his- father, but what I have I made myself.
– Does the Minister think it fair to say that honorable members on this side are not business men ?
– There has been a lot of talk on that side to- the effect that members of the Government are not business men. This- piece of land is- at the corner of Greville-street and Chapel- street, between the Big Store and Read’s large establishment. Chapel-street is the Broadway of Australia to-day.
– What has that to do with the breaking of the promise?
– The honorable member should not get excited. He has got his “ little bit “in. I went with the honorable member for Fawkner to look at the “ show,” and I confessed at once that I did not know the conditions under which this post-office existed. I understood from my friend that everything was satisfactory and lovely; and that all I had to do was to go and get a piece of ground for a new post-office. As a dutiful Minister, with business instincts, I made inquiries, and found that I would have to Pa7 ;£2-500 f°r an ordinary piece of ground in a side street. When I asked Mr. Murdoch, the architect, what would be the cost of a building suitable for a postoffice, in an advanced and progressive city like Prahran, he told me that it would be £7,000 or £8,000. The honorable member for Fawkner has told the House that I said everything would be done; but that was only under conditions. I found that thirty-three years ago the Victoriano Government paid £5,000 for this postoffice, and that there is now 963 years of a. 999 years’ lease to run. I thought to myself that the Minister of Home Affairs could not make such a bargain.
– And so the honorable gentleman repudiated it.
– I said to myself that those men who wanted such terms must be living in the land of dreams; but, at the same time, I was prepared to make sacrifices. The officials in the Department of Home Affairs valued the property at £12,000, but I valued it at a much higher figure. In my opinion, this property is worth £15,000 ; and I would give £IO,000cash for it to-night.
– Good gracious ! Has the honorable Minister got: £10,000?
– Let us talk, business.
– We cannot talk like that.
– I can. We are asked to build a post-office to cost £10,000, and to sacrifice £10,000 on thisland and building, thus making a present of £20,000 to the municipality of Prahran. Would the Zeehan miners, diggingout of the. deep mines, the wealth of Aus- tralia, desire me, as a trustee for all Australia, to present £20,000 of their money to the Prahran Council? Would the Opposition, even with their want of business capacity in many things, be prepared to do that?
– But this bargain was concluded.
– Supposing that, to-morrow, this Government agreed to transfer the Melbourne post-office for £ 1 0,000, would a succeeding Minister of Home Affairs be justified in carrying out that bargain if he had not signed the agreement ?
– If he did, he ought to be put in a lunatic asylum.
– I am too gracious to say that of the Opposition ; but I think it all the same. I have no illfeeling; I am always glad when the Opposition attack me, because then I know I am right. There is no necessity for an Opposition unless they attack, and we ask for no quarter, and will give none.
– Give us some more of your American business principles.
– Let the honorable member come down to the Department, and compare what it is now with what it was under my predecessor. There is not to-day an office in the whole world that stands higher than the Home Affairs Department. Did my honorable friends ever know anything about what was going on in the Department previously ?
– They do not now.
– The honorable member for Lang is one of those who congratulated me on the great change that I had effected.
– In the system, yes.
– All I say in conclusion is - and I do not want any ill feeling over the matter-
– The honorable member has not yet touched the point as to whether there was a bargain or not.
– I hold that the Postmaster-General was labouring under a multiplicity of delusions when he usurped the functions of the Minister of Home Affairs.
– Does not the Minister think that he should correct these things in Caucus, and not repudiate another Minister’s arrangements in public?
– There is only one man, and that is the Minister of Home Affairs, to decide these matters. If I am not the Minister of Home Affairs, let them get me out ; but so long as I am there I am running the show. Let no one doubt it. I am a judge of values; I know the values of land and of houses in this country; and are a few clerks in a post-office to go down, select a property, and tell me, the Minister of Home Affairs, to buy it? Do honorable members think that if they were capable of knowing the value of those properties they would be working in a postoffice at low salaries ?
– That is precisely the honorable member’s position to-day in the selection of sites.
– My honorable friend is labouring under another delusion. Only lately, in Western Australia, we securedfor £166,400 properties for which the owners asked £254,000, and which are bringing in close on £12,000 a year. Let us make a square deal, and do not let us feel that, as trustees of the public, we have made deals of which we should be ashamed privately. I could have paid for the property at the corner of Spencer and Bourke streets £37,500 if I had followed ideas that were put before me ; but I bought it for £26,000, and saved this country £11,500. Never while I am Minister of Home Affairs will I pay for properties for the people of Australia any price that I would not pay if buying for myself privately.
– Do you think that you are the only honest man?
– No; my honorable friends are all honest, but they are not business men. They have had no financial experience. They have been in office, but they have never had any power, because their officials have run them ; and I suppose when they go back again, if ever they do, it will be the same. This is a Ministry who advocate government of the people, by the people for the people. This is the first real people’s Government Australia has ever had.
– I hope the people’s Government will keep their bargains.
– We shall always do so. To try to meet the Prahran City Council I told them I would sell them this place for what it would cost us to build another post-office for them in Prahran; but they were not prepared to take the offer. Mr. Miller, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, had a look at this place, and agreed with me that it is a beautiful site. There would always have been plenty of room if the postmaster, living on land worth £300 a foot, had hired a house somewhere else. That would give us 1,500 square feet more. In a few years everything will be running * all right. So long as I am in the Department I am going to be Minister of Home Affairs, and no Postmaster-General or any one else will come in and run me as a rubber stamp.
.- I should have been glad to hear the Minister of Home Affairs explain by what authority he stepped in and refused to complete a bargain that was supposed to have been practically concluded twelve months before. Although the Commonwealth may have agreed to part with this property under its proper value, as a matter of fact, in all ordinary and honest dealing it was parted with when the Postmaster-General agreed to sell it. An offer was made for it, which the Postmaster-General accepted. The business was held over until a suitable site for a post-office could be obtained in Prahran, or, otherwise, as far as I can gather from the debate, the property would have been settled for there and then. Another Postmaster-General took office and indorsed what his predecessor had done. A year or so elapsed, and another Minister belonging to the same Government stepped in and told the council that the acceptance of the offer by the Government did not hold good. In what position does that place the Prahran City Council?
– And without any suggestion of repudiation in the meantime.
– The council were not informed that the Government did not intend to complete the business in the way they thought it was going to be completed. In fact, nothing was done to give them any suspicion that matters were not going on all right, and then a Minister in another Department overrides all that the Minister in control of the Postal Department has done. I believe we have in the Minister of Home Affairs a good judge of values, but he has failed to show us tonight where he derived his authority to upset all that had been done by other Ministers two years before. I have a little grievance of my own regarding the expert who was brought to Australia to select a site for Government woollen mills. Mr. Smail, the expert in question, came to Tas mania, and I noticed by the press that he was to inspect sites at Launceston and Hobart. I came to the conclusion that it was of no use to try to get into communication with him, because he would only tell me that he could not go anywhere else. However, a council in Tasmania approached the Minister of Defence, and Mr. Smail. made visits to other places. Then I was approached by people from other spots in Tasmania, who thought that they had ideal sites for woollen mills. I placed myself in communication with the Minister of Defence, and received a letter from his Department that Mr. Smail was going to make a second visit. to Tasmania, and that I would be duly apprised of it. I put myself in touch with various public bodies in Tasmania, with a view to finding out what sites it was desired that the expert should inspect, but Mr. Smail did not arrive. I wrote again to the Defence Department, and received a reply that Mr. Smail was in Western Australia, but that I should be duly informed when he was coming to Tasmania. I now find that he is not going to visit any more places in Australia, but is preparing his report. It is about time that some proper system was established in matters of this kind. Whom did the Defence Department interview in the first place to find out where to send Mr. Smail ? Surely, in a matter of this kind, the Government should make every effort, in the interests of the whole country, to find the best site possible, but the present Government did not take the trouble to find out where they should send the expert, and I am sure that, in some of the States, he was never within 50 miles of the best sites. Last session we heard of a proposal to establish a Naval College in Australia. The Victorian press said that Geelong was to be the site, and then we learned that the Government were sending an officer all round the continent to decide where the College should be established. According to the Melbourne press, the Government had their minds made up all the time to establish it at Geelong. If so, why did they send an expert around the country, spending the people’s money, ostensibly to select a site?
– They said, first, that B ur.rineer Point was to be selected.
– I do not say that the Government stated that Geelong was to be selected, but the Melbourne press evidently knew something. It is about time that the public were given some guarantee that the greatest care will be taken to select the best places for objects of this kind. I was rather anxious with regard to a motion which was on the notice-paper to-day, but which was not moved by the honorable member responsible for it. It was a motion for a return showing the amount paid to Ministers of the Crown for travelling allowances during the recess, and, in detail, the amounts paid to each Minister. During the last State election in Tasmania I heard statements made, and read them in the press, that the Prime Minister had come to Tasmania, and was drawing -£2 a day for careering round the country in the Government motor car. I never heard anybody specifically deny, it, and I was not aware of the facts myself. I was desirous of seeing the return, in order to make myself acquainted with the facts.
– We have no objection to the honorable member knowing what we get.
– If the Prime Minister received an official allowance during his trip to Tasmania., he did a wrong thing.
– Does the honorable member think that he received an allowance then ?
– I do not think that lie could have done so, but, as he is present, he can speak for himself.
– The honorable member is suggesting that he did.
– That rumour was circulated in Tasmania during the late State election. If he did receive the official travelling allowance, he did wrong, because the allowance is given for travelling on public business, and the right honorable gentleman himself declared that he visited Hobart as a delegate to the Labour Conference, and therefore went as a private individual.
– Why had not the honorable member for Echuca the pluck to move for a return?
– I do not know why the return was not moved for.
– Why does not the honorable member himself move for a return ?
– There should be no need to move for it. I hope that the information will be laid on the table.
– The honorable member for Echuca skedaddled rather than move the motion.
– That is not sl fair thing to say. He had private business to attend to.
– I ask the Prime Minister now if he will lay on the table a return showing the travelling allowances that Ministers have received.
– As soon as honorable members opposite move for a return they will get the information.
– I make no charge against the right honorable gentleman, and I do not think he can take exception to anything that I have said.
– None whatever; but the Opposition- should have the courage to move for a return.
– I did not know that the motion would not be moved. Many persons in Tasmania think that an official allowance was paid to the Prime Minister when he recently visited Hobart as a private citizen.
– It is not so.
– I am glad to hear that. I do not think that it would be necessary to move for a return, but if the Prime Minister will not furnish the information unless a return is moved for, I shall see that that course is taken.
– As a personal explanation, I wish to say that the motion just referred to was not moved by me because, before it was called on, the Prime Minister intimated that he wished to see me, and when I went to see him he showed me the motion, with an amendment which he desired me to make. I did not feel disposed to move the motion amended as he suggested. In addition, he showed me a* number of figures and extracts, and led me to believe that they would be placed on the table, so that I did not think that there was any need for moving at all in the matter. I believed that the information would be made available to every honorable member, and I hope that the Prime Minister will make it available, as he led me to believe that he would.
.- This being grievance day, I purpose to bring under the notice of the House a complaint which is not aimed at any party, but if I can fix the blame on a Department for certain things which have occurred I shall be doing a public duty. I hope that the House will help me to get rid of a state of affairs that is a disgraceful stigma upon our escutcheon. I wish to refer to the treatment of the recent small-pox case on a steamer coming from the north, and I regret that there is again a similar case now in quarantine in Sydney. With a view to putting the matter before honorable members, I wrote to the Minister asking what diseases are quarantinable, and with his usual courtesy he replied that they are smallpox, plague, cholera, yellow fever, typhus fever, and leprosy. To ascertain the number of deaths from these diseases within the Commonwealth, I consulted the Statistician, who told me that in the five-year period, 1907-1911, six persons died from small-pox, seventy-five from plague, none from Asiatic cholera, yellow fever, or typhus, and forty-nine from leprosy. The Minister has power to declare by proclamation any other disease to be quarantinable, and among other diseases the deaths numbered in the same period, from scarlet fever and scarlatina, 256, and from measles, 633. A vessel recently entered Port Phillip which was rotten with measles, but had her 500 odd immigrants been allowed to land, they, being poor, would have taken up their residence in the homes of the poor, and spread this terrible disease throughout die community. No figures are available regarding the deaths from dengue, but the deaths from beri-beri in the two years 1910, 1911, numbered 126, while those from influenza numbered 2,587, and from typhoid 3,097. I have no hesitation in saying that Sydney to-day stands in an inferno of danger. According to the sworn evidence of one of the finest medical men who was in the service of that State, but is now in the service of the Commonwealth, not 1 per cent, of the citizens of Sydney is protected from small-pox by proper vaccination. What, then, is to be thought of the action of the Commonwealth Department in bringing a case of small-pox a distance of 1,800 miles to quarantine it close to the largest centre of population in Australia? What can any common-sense man think of the head of a Department who advised that to be done ? A woman who had been a bride for scarcely twelve months was stricken with small-pox after a vessel coming south had left Thursday Island, and when it called at Townsville the doctor there would have been willing to take her on shore, as honorable members who were with me on board can testify. But, instead of that being allowed, the sufferer was compelled to travel 1,800 miles further to Sydney without a woman’s kind face near her, and without a human being to attend her except a Japanese boy, who bravely volunteered. Had we had severe weather, or had a storm blown over the waters, that woman’s life might have been sacrificed.
– Does the honorable member say that the doctor at Townsville wanted the patient to be landed there?
– It is my opinion that he would have been only too willing to take her; I understood that from him. What occurred would not have happened had the Queensland Government been administering the quarantine law within the borders of that State. The captain of the steamer said to me, “ There is a stewardess on board, but the Japanese Government does not empower me to order her to attend to the patient. I am sure that ‘if I wished her to do so she would, from kindness to me.” I was then placed in the terrible position of having to advise what should be done, and I said to the captain, “ If you had a daughter, would you like her to attend to a case of this terrible disfiguring disease without experience or knowledge of nursing?” His reply was, “No, I would’ not.” I said, “That is my answer.” Why could; not a nurse have been put on board at Townsville? Would the head of the Quarantine Department like his wife or daughter to be treated as this woman wastreated? The Minister, in the kindness of his heart I know, would not. like any woman to be so treated. Members who were on the steamer were indignant at what was done, and when we got to the Quarantine Station at North Head I sent a telegram to the Minister. I have here a photograph showing, the boat leaving the steamer with the patient, and I ask professional men whether the proper method was followed for taking from the steamer a patient suffering from this dangerous disease? The photograph speaks for itself. The only man I met who took proper antiseptic precautions wasthe ship’s doctor. Our Department seemed ashamed of its Australian lymph. If it wasnot, why did it give us New Zealand, lymph, and American lymph from Manila?’ The officials at the Quarantine Station, Sydney, were decidedly attentive, and, after consulting the first and second-class passengers and my colleagues on the Commission, I addressed to the Minister of Trade and’ Customs the following telegram -
All officials courteously attentive. Do youconsider steerage passengers also Japanese and) Chinese human beings? If so, telegraph orders for hot baths and better attention.
The Minister’s answer to that telegram was -
Glad learn quarantine service attentive. Understand usual available accommodation, being utilized for steerage passengers, Japanese and Chinese. Suggested new accommodation will improve matters. Hot baths aTe available where officer in charge considers necessary or advisable, but general hot-bathing not practicable till proposed new works carried out.
That was not true. I replied to the Minister by telegraph, as follows -
Regret Departmental statement not true. Twelve good steam baths here. Saloon passengers only need four. Please act quickly for humanity’s sake.
The saloon passengers, to their honour be it said, were willing to make shift with only four hot baths, in order that passengers in other classes might have an opportunity to enjoy a bath. Why should the Government differentiate between the treatment of people who are kept under control in quarantine by no wish of their own? Is not a steerage passenger as good a citizen as a saloon passenger ? When the Quarantine Department was under the control of the State, the honorable member for Coolgardie and his wife and children were ordered out of a room in a quarantine station because they were second-class passengers. In our case, passengers in the third class were not allowed to roam all over the quarantine grounds, as first-class passengers were. Then, again, third-class passengers .could have baths, provided that the superintendent thought it advisable or necessary, but they were otherwise to use baths, or basins, 30 inches long, 22 inches wide, and 16 inches deep. Passengers had to use * a compartment in which fifty-two of these baths were placed, and where hot and cold water was provided for washing clothes. As for the Chinese and Japanese, they might have a bath in these small receptacles if they desired to do so. There were women folk, and good women folk, too, in the steerage, and one of them took charge of the baths reserved for the saloon passengers, and used them. In reply to the further message which I sent to the Minister of Trade and Customs, I received the following telegram -
Understand separate hot shower baths available to and being used by passengers in whom you are interested. Am writing.
The reading of which caused considerable merriment among the saloon passengers. To that I sent the following reply -
We consider your informant, not only inaccurate, but idiotic.
As a matter of fact, there is not one hot shower bath in the whole establishment. Later on I received from the Minister of Trade and Customs a courteous letter, based, apparently, on the same erroneous information. Small-pox is either not as dangerous as it is generally considered to be, or Sydney has been most fortunate in escaping an epidemic, having regard to the way in which small-pox cases are sent into quarantine in close proximity to that city.
– Is it that the climate is against the thriving of the disease?
– I do not think that is the explanation. If a rich man and a poor man were knocked down by a motor car in a Melbourne street, and sent to a public hospital, each man having sustained a broken leg, would th6 doctors at that hospital treat them differently? Certainly not. If two men were convicted at the same time of a certain crime, one being a wealthy and the other a poor man, would they be treated differently when they were sent to gaol ? We know that they would not. That being so, when men are sent into quarantine by force of the power of the State and for the benefit of the whole community, there should be no differentiation in their treatment. I have nothing to say as to the food supply while we were in quarantine. The shipping company was compelled to provide for the passengers while they were in quarantine. That is the law ; but I think it would be only fair for the Government, in such cases, to bear half the cost, and to see that the food supply is good.
– Some say that the whole expense should be borne by the shipping companies.
– There is a good deal of force in the argument that if the whole cost were borne -by the Government, shipping companies would be less careful than they are to avoid the risk of taking on board one of their vessels an infectious case. Those who have had any experience, however, know very well that no shipping company would willingly take on board on one of its vessels a suspicious case, for by doing so it might involve itself in much expense and trouble. While the steam-ship Empire was between Port Darwin and Thursday Island, a case of small-pox occurred on board, and we were informed that the patient died at sea, although the head of the Quarantine Department assures me that he did not. We had sworn evidence that the patient died before the vessel reached Thursday Island, and that the vessel was ordered to proceed in quarantine to Sydney, a distance of something like 3,596 miles from Port Darwin. Among those on board were ninety-one Malays, who were intended for the pearl -shelling industry at Thursday Island, but, who, because of the outbreak of small-pox on board, were, with the other passengers, carried on to Sydney and landed at the quarantine station at North Head. The Malays apparently had in their system the germs of a dangerous disease called beriberi, which must have remained latent whilst they were in the colder climate of New South Wales, because, although the time of incubation had long since passed, they developed the disease on their return to Thursday Island. The Deputy Superintendent of Quarantine, at Sydney, informed the Pearling Commission that he had never seen a finer lot of men, and that they were very clean ; while the Subcollector of Customs at Thursday Island informed us that he was told by the man in charge of the party that they were specially picked for the pearl-shelling industry. Whether the sickness which broke out amongst them was due to their sojourn at the quarantine station, Sydney, where the climate is much colder than it is up north, I do not know, but the fact remains that these unfortunates paid a most appalling death penalty. As this is a very severe indictment upon the Department’s method of carrying on business, I propose to quote the evidence given before the Commission by Mr. Booker, Sub-collector of Customs at Thursday Island. He said -
Here is a copy of a return I have prepared showing what became of these men : -
On the 10th November,1911, 91 Koepang Malays arrived at Thursday Island per s.s. Eastern, and were distributed as under : -
Bowden and Mackenzie, 34 ; since dead, 4 ; departed, 10.
Wyben Pearling Fleet, 29; since dead, 7 ; departed, 20.
Morey and Coy., 14 ; since dead, 4 ; departed, 6.
Cleveland and Hayne, 14 ; since dead, 2; departed, 6.
Of the 91, 17 have died, 42 have left the Commonwealth, and 1 is an inmate of the hospital.
These men arrived in quarantine on nth October, 191 1, and quarantine was raised on 20th October, but they were detained for some time later, and ultimately landed at Thursday Island on 10th November. Mr. Booker stated, in answer to a further question, that he thought that the forty-two who had left the Commonwealth were all in a dying condition.
– Did he suggest that their illness was due to their stay at the Sydney Quarantine Station?
– Let me quote further from the evidence given by Mr. Booker -
Mr. May, secretary of the Pearl Shelters Association, has advanced a rather interesting theory as to the cause of the outbreak. He states that the ninety-one men who came here, with one or two exceptions, had never previously been out of their own country. Owing to the outbreak of small-pox, they were carried on to Sydney, and at times it was very cold down there. Mr. May says that he saw the men being examined in Sydney by doctors who wore heavy overcoats, and he thinks the Malays suffered severely from the cold on the voyage down to Sydney and back.
– Wearing heavy overcoats in Sydney in the month of October ! Surely that is unusual.
– That was the sworn evidence given before the Commission, and I would remind the honorable gentleman that there are spells of cold weather in Sydney, even during the month of October. In any event, Sydney weather conditions, at that time of the year, are cold, as compared with the hot weather of the tropics. Mr. Booker went on to state that Mr. May informed him that -
They were continually shivering, and he believes that their trip into the more temperate regions had much to do with the exceedingly high death-rate amongst them.
In answer to the question -
Then you think that the establishment of a quarantine station here would largely obviate the recurrence of such an outbreak? he replied -
To a great extent ; because in similar circumstances the men would not be asked to go down into those latitudes.
We had evidence at the quarantine station, Sydney, that these men who evidently felt the cold very severely, had dungaree clothing served out to them. Fancy such clothing being served out to these children of the tropics who ought to have been kept in the tropics. They were detained at the quarantine station some time after the quarantine had been raised.
– That was not our fault.
– And it was not the fault of the men. In regard to the case of small-pox which occurred on the Yawata Maru. I, with several friends on board, drafted a telegram for transmission to the Minister of Trade and Customs from Townsville, asking whether he desired that the unfortunate lady thus attacked should be required to undertake a long voyage unaccompanied by a nurse, in order to go’ into quarantine at Sydney ; but an order having been given that the vessel should proceed to Sydney, in quarantine, that order had to be at once complied with, and we could not wait to send the message and receive a reply. I was told by a gentleman who had been in quarantine when the Department was under the control of the State, that a vessel arrived at Thursday Island with a case of small-pox on board; that the patient was landed, and that the vessel was allowed, to proceed on her voyage down south, but that telegrams were sent to the officials at Townsville, directing that steps should be taken to provide for the reception of any new case that might have occurred. If no other fresh case occurred the ship could then haul up in Brisbane. What caused the ship to be brought right down the coast? Such a proceeding cannot be the fault of the officers in Townsville in every case. That officer was not at Thursday Island when this case was there; and therefore I cannot see that, under all the circumstances, he can be held responsible. The water used for the bath is what is known as peat water, and is very dark, though. I do not know that it is dangerous. But why, in Heaven’s name, there should be baths, and human .beings not allowed to use them, I cannot understand. Dr. Norris may sneer, but I tell him that it does not become him.
– The honorable member must not make remarks of that kind.
– I have a great regard for Dr. Norris, but when I see him sneering-
– I remind the honorable member that he must not take the course that he is now taking.
– Is anybody permitted to sneer at an honorable member when -he is speaking?
– I am not responsible for what may be done in the galleries.
– But Dr. Norris is behind your chair, sir.
– I point out to the honorable member that being behind my chair is equivalent to being outside the chamber. I do not think it right for the honorable member to take his present course.
– I regard the incident as rather a. serious one. However, I hope that Sydney will not permit the practice of bringing dangerous cases into that big centre of population. As to the baths, if £20 was, as I understand, sufficient to supply those already there, £100 would provide enough for all those people who, not entirely for their own benefit, but more for the benefit of the community r are retained in quarantine. All should betreated as citizens on equal terms. Onecannot blame the shipping companies if they wish to make a saving on the food supplies, but I think the Commonwealth might share the expense. We were told that if we went on shore we should beprovided with a nice hot bath, and that, while we were having it our garmentswould be disinfected and restored. The next morning, however, we were told that we had better have another bath, as it might not be very pleasant on shore; but I refused to have a second bath, contending that there was no chance of contagion, from the clothes in my grip-sack, which had just come out of my box. There werebaths for the saloon passengers, but none for the third-class passengers or the Chinese and Japanese on board. Perhaps the Department do not think that these people are human beings.
– What baths there are havebeen supplied by the Commonwealth, because there was none under State control.
– I hope the Minister is not going to defend what was done.
– I shall defend some of the action taken.
– Surely the Minister does not say that human beings under the circumstances should not receive proper treatment ?
– 1 do not say that; the honorable member need not get excited.
– On shore there were no proper reception arrangements, though I think that if the passengers had gone in groups of twelve, they could all have had advantage of the hot baths, which I observed could be raised to a temperature of 120 cleg, in three and a half minutes. I desire to pay my meed of praise to certain lowly-paid officers who fill posts where the danger is greatest. If the honorable member thinks I am in any way exaggerating, I can only say that, should another similar case arise, I shall be quite willing to go with him into quarantine, and prove to him that there is ample room, for reform. If any one could feel delight in quarantine it would be at that glorious spot on the North Head ; but it seems to me to be a. great source of danger. There is evidence that patients have held conversations with people in Manly, and that hands have been shaken. The Commonwealth ought to see that the first point of attack away from the large centres of population is the place to land suffering patients. I make no attack on the Minister, but I do attack the Departmental officers who gave wrong information and replies unworthy of their intelligence, learning, and position. If the people of Australia are wise they will insist that the present disgraceful conditions shall be altered.
. - There is not one statement of the honorable member for Melbourne that is not absolutely correct, nor one picture overdrawn.
– Has the honorable member read the regulations?
– I differ with the honorable member for Melbourne in regard to the responsibility. I do not hold the head of the Department, but the Minister,” responsible.
– I am prepared to take all responsibility.
– Then the Minister is taking a responsibility of the extent of which he has not the slightest conception. The quarantine arrangements on the coast of Australia are a disgrace to the Department and to the Minister.
– I tried to improve the arrangements in Tasmania, and provide a good quarantine station, but was blocked.
– The Minister tried to improve the arrangements in Tasmania by doing exactly what is done in Sydney - carrying infection right into the heart of the city. However, I am glad to say that I was one who assisted in blocking the project. The people of Sydney run a terrible risk of an outbreak of small-pox so long as the station is where it’ is, and under existing conditions. Small-pox patients are conveyed right along the coast and taken into Sydney Harbor. A boat runs daily from Sydney to the quarantine station, and passengers and crews having mixed together, the former go into quarantine, while the latter return to Sydney. If that is not a risk, I do not know what is. The p’atient in the case under discussion was a young Australian lady who had been to the East with her husband, and had contracted the disease at Hong Kong. At Thursday Island the disease had not developed to such an extent that the medical men could be satisfied as to its nature.
– The woman was walking about at Thursday Island.
– Quite so; and the medical officer was not prepared to say that it was a case of small-pox. But before we reached Townsville both the medical officer of the ship and the honorable member for Melbourne pronounced it to be a case of small-pox, and this was borne out by the medical officer at Townsville, who regarded it as rather a serious case. The honorable member for Melbourne asked the medical officer why the patient could not be taken ashore at Townsville, as he understood there was a quarantine station at Magnetic Island. The doctor informed us that, though there was a quarantine station there, it was not furnished. On being asked how long it would take to furnish an apartment for one patient, the doctor, who naturally did not wish to enter into a discussion about his Department, said to the honorable member for Melbourne, “ For any information I must refer you to Melbourne ; but my instructions are that you are to proceed to Sydney.” This patient was carried 1,000 or 1,200 miles along the coast with 250 passengers and crew, and no one to attend her but a Japanese boy, who volunteered his services. That a small-pox patient should be carried such a distance along our coast is a disgrace to the Australian Parliament and the Department, and a disgrace to the Minister, who must take full and complete responsibility.
– Did the medical officer say that he had received orders from Melbourne that the patient should be brought on?
– I do not desire to set one officer of the Department against another, but he told us that his instructions were to send the ship on to Sydney - that he had no authority to land the patient at Magnetic Island. If small-pox is the contagious and deadly disease we believe it to be, there is practically . nothing to prevent it spreading into Sydney any day.
– There is too much sun in Australia for small -pox to live.
– I know that when the small-pox broke out in Launceston, and got a start, it cost money and life, and caused much misery, before it was stamped out. If small-pox got a real start in a congested city like Sydney, God knows what the result would be ! It is far too serious a risk for us to contemplate without taking precautions to prevent it. Let me inform honorable members of one beautiful arrangement. The honorable member for Melbourne has described what the water at North Head is like. Would honorable members believe that there is a reservoir there containing what is called peaty water ; it is a dark supply. The regular water supply is brought across from the mainland. But the pure supply is turned into the reservoir containing the undrinkable water. By taking it a quarter of a mile further the whole quarantine station could be supplied with pure water from Sydney. But, instead of that, the drinkable water which quarantined persons have to use is that which is caught from the roofs of the quarantine station. That is one of the little disadvantages that one would have thought the slightest common-sense would have obviated. I do not want to create a scare, or to hit the Department too hard, but the honorable member for Melbourne having shown me the telegrams which he received from the Minister, I must say that they were ludicrously incorrect. There was no bathing accommodation for the second-class passengers, and none for the crew until two days before we left, when, through pressure exerted by the honorable member for Melbourne, those persons were permitted to bathe in the few baths that had been reserved for the saloon passengers. The saloon passengers volunteered to use the baths within certain hours in order that they might be used by the crew and the secondclass passengers during the remainder of the day. Hot bathing is absolutely essential at such a station, because hot baths are a good preventative of disease. During the whole of the time those patients were there, with the exception of two days before we left, not one of them had a good bath. The only accommodation for them was a little square basin about 30 inches by 15 inches and a few inches deep, in which they could stand up and sponge themselves. Sydney is every day exposed to serious danger as long as the quarantine station remains in its present position. Another serious fact is that the ship was compelled to carry a small-pox patient 1,200 miles along the coast, at the imminent risk of the disease spreading throughout the ship. That condition is not creditable to us, and ought not to continue for a day. I hope that the Minister will take immediate action, and will not regard this as a frivolous attack upon the Department. What I am saying does not pertain to party or anything of that kind, but represents the absolute evidence of men who were there, and saw what occurred. I will quote in conclusion a remark made by the Japanese doctor to me. I asked him if he thought his patient would recover. He said, “ Pray to your God” that we shall have fine weather, because if it is rough after we leave the Barrier, I think it is improbable that she will live.” Fortunately for us, and for the patient, the weather happened to be exceedingly fine after we cleared the Barrier, and the passenger suffered no ill-effects. I should add that the thanks of every person in quarantine are due to the Japanese medical officer of the ship, who did everything possible, not only for the sick, but for those who had been vaccinated. Let me ask the Minister this in conclusion : Suppose that as the result of rough weather that patient had died. Would he have assumed the responsibility for that occurrence in the same lighthearted spirit as he now exhibits ?
– The honorable member for Melbourne has been perfectly justified in bringing forward this matter, because it really affects the health of the whole of Australia. Unless some steps are taken to bring prominently before Ministers and the public the danger of infection to which, we are exposed from quarantinable diseases, and especially from small-pox, I am afraid that something serious may occur. We must remember that small -pox is at present raging in the East, and that ships are constantly trading backwards and forwards between this country and ports where this disease is prevalent. In regard to the administration of the Quarantine Department, there is no doubt whatever that there is room for a great deal of improvement. Some of the arrangements in connexion with the Department were absolutely farcical. For instance, while we were in quarantine, I read in the newspapers that instructions had been sent out to Thursday Island for the local Government steamer to hunt out a number of Japanese divers who had arrived by the ship and landed there. In the meantime they had proceeded in various vessels to the different pearling stations in Torres Straits. I believe the steamer succeeded in collecting all these divers, and landing them at Thursday Island. The peculiar feature of that proceeding lies in the fact that not one of those Japanese divers was anywhere near the region of contagion on board the ship. They never came in contact with the lady who afterwards developed small-pox. They were in a different quarter of the vessel altogether, and the fact that a head wind was blowing all the time secured them still further immunity from disease. Immediately they landed they dispersed to various places ; there was no population with whom they could come in contact except natives, and these were on the pearling vessels to which the divers were allocated. But, while that proceeding was gone through, there were many residents of Thursday Island who spent a long time on board the ship in the immediate vicinity , of the lady who developed small-pox, who talked with her, and spent much time in her company. Not only that, but the lady herself went ashore, visited the establishments of several merchants, and came in contact with many persons. All these contacts were allowed to go at large; no steps were taken to quarantine them, but the precautions I have referred to were taken to secure a number of Japanese divers, who had come on board as passengers, in another part of the ship, and who certainly were by no stretch of the imagination to be regarded as actual contacts, in the same way as were the European residents of Thursday Island. The honorable member for Melbourne will remember that we received a very insulting telegram from a publican who resides on Thursday Island, and who had spent about two hours on board the ship in the immediate neighbourhood of the unfortunate passenger who subsequently developed the disease. No steps were taken to isolate him or any of the local residents who came on board the ship. I think that nearly the whole of the principal residents on the island were on the ship for about two hours before she sailed, moving about, some talking with the lady who developed the disease, as well as with the passengers who were in immediate contact with her. But not a single step was taken to isolate any one of those persons. These proceedings certainly strike any ordinary person as being extremely farcical and loose. If it was necessary to isolate - and I do not say that it was not - as a matter of precaution the Japanese divers and put them in quarantine, then the whole of these people on the island who were actual contacts ought to have been put in quarantine for the proper period. Another matter struck me as being extremely ludicrous. We had among the passengers the pilot who brought the ship down, and another lady passenger - I fancy that there were three altogether, but I am not sure - who were allowed to leave the Quarantine Station before the other passengers, because the lymph had- not taken. They were regarded as being immune, sub- ject, of course, to surveillance for the usual term. But there were a number of the Japanese crew who were in exactly the same position. It was stated to me by the doctor and other officers of the ship that it is a regular practice to vaccinate each member of a ship’s company every year as a matter of precaution. These men had all been vaccinated.
– Three months before.
– I did not hear that, but I heard that they had been vaccinated many times, and also that they had been vaccinated, under the law of Japan, every twelve months. What happened ? When apparently the lymph would not take with these men, after they had spent some time in quarantine they were ordered to be re-vaccinated, and to remain in quarantine for the whole term prescribed by the regulations, whilst the lady passenger to whom I have referred and the pilot were allowed to mix freely with the people ashore, and to break their quarantine, only reporting themselves for a certain number of days. These things must surely strike any ordinary person as being farcical. Either there was a risk with these European passengers, or there was no risk. If there was no risk with the European passengers and the European pilot, there was still less risk, I should take it, in the circumstances, with the Japanese crew. I do not, of course, profess to speak with professional knowledge, and must defer to the superior knowledge of those who are better acquainted with all the features of this disease. But nobody could help, and certainly the passengers could not refrain from, expressing decided opinions on our quarantine regulations and administration when such things were happening. I do not want to suggest that the Minister is altogether responsible at the present time ; perhaps he has not been in the Department long enough to have made very many radical alterations, and, no doubt, something in the near future will be done to improve matters. I am pointing out these things, in order that he may know in what direction improvement is really needed.
– How many more years will it be before he begins to move?
– It is nearly time that this work was seriously taken in hand, because we read in the cable messages that small-pox is very rife in the Asiatic ports from which these vessels come. We must anticipate that in the near future we shall have ship after ship arriving in Australia, and carrying infection. Another point that we noticed at Townsville was that there was no rapid means of communicating with the Minister. It appears that there is no Customs launch, and when we found from the medical officer stationed there that the passenger had to be carried on to Sydney, a number of us went to the captain and asked him if he would detain the ship at Townsville for a couple of hours, in order to enable us to ask the Minister by telegram ‘if some arrangement might not be made to have the patient transferred to the quarantine station ashore, and temporary provision made for her accommodation, and a nurse supplied, rather than run the risk of infecting the whole of the crew and the passengers, as well as risking the life of the lady herself by carrying her 1,800 miles further, and running the additional risk of carrying contagion to a place like Sydney. After a talk with the doctor, the purser, and the captain, the captain agreed to detain the ship for a couple of hours on his own responsibility, and to fall in with our wish to that extent, but he said that if the answer were delayed over two hours, he must proceed to Sydney in accordance with his instructions. We found, however, that there was no means of communicating with the shore except through the medium of a private launch. The Customs authorities have no launch there. Consequently, we endeavoured to get a telegram despatched with the aid of a private launch which was conveying a number of excursionists to Magnetic Island. But we found upon inquiry that this vessel would not return for two and a-half hours, and that probably seven or eight hours would elapse before we could obtain a reply from Melbourne on account of interruptions to telegraphic communication, in addition to which the launch would have to be specially chartered for the purpose. Consequently we had to abandon our proposal to despatch a wire to the Minister, and the ship had to proceed to Sydney. I believe that something is about to be done to remedy the existing condition of affairs. I would remind honorable members that on a previous occasion - I think it was in October of last year - I entered a protest against the steamer Eastern being ordered on to Sydney from Thursday Island with a case df small-pox on board. I pointed out to the Minister that such an order was very unfair alike to the patient and the passengers, as well as to the traders and merchants who were obliged to submit to inconvenience and loss, because they were unable to obtain delivery of their goods. The Minister promised to consider the matter with a view to seeing if something could not be done to obviate a repetition of that experience. Apparently, however, it was lost sight of, and the experience was repeated in the case of the steamer Yamala Maru. There were some passengers on board whose destination was Townsville, and others who were “ bound for Brisbane. These passengers, as well as the cargo for those ports, were brought down to Sydney and Melbourne, and then had to be taken back. We have no right to subject persons to such inconvenience and monetary loss. In regard to the landing of patients at the quarantine station, Sydney, there is ample scope for improving the existing method. At present a patient, after being landed at the station, has to be carried on a stretcher up a circuitous path to the hospital. For a comparatively small outlay a lift could be provided at the jetty and the patient, and those in attendance upon him, could at once be transferred to the higher land upon which the hospital stands instead of being required to traverse a distance of nearly a quarter of a mile. I hope the Minister will have the arrangements at Thursday Island completed without delay in order that suspicious cases on -board ships from the East may be landed and treated there. That work ought to be pushed forward with the utmost speed in view of the probability that cases of small-pox upon these vessels will become more frequent in the immediate future. I wish now to deal with a matter which is in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. From information which I have received it appears that some time ago certain temporary hands employed in the mechanical construction branch of the Sydney General Post Office passed the necessary examination to entitle them to be placed upon the permanent list. Some of these officers who rendered over twelve months and upwards of two years’ service as temporary hands were noted oh the roster as being entitled to certain leave. This roster was exhibited for some considerable time, and then without any explanation the leave was erased from it. I think that the Postmaster-General, when computing the leave to which they are entitled, might fairly take into consideration the period which they served as temporary officers, because, although only a small number are at present affected, a large number is likely to be affected in the near future.
– There is one important phase connected with the quarantine question which has not been touched upon by the previous speakers. It is one of the very greatest interest to myself and to the residents of Manly -I refer to the removal of the quarantine station at North Head from the site which it at present occupies. The undertaking may be a big one, but in view of the gravity and importance of the question I am warranted in asking the Minister to initiate the necessary steps in that connexion. I am quite sure that the New South Wales authorities will co-operate with him. I am not quite certain as to what is the position between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales in regard to that station. I presume that it was taken over with the transferred properties.
– In 1909, when Sir Robert Best was Minister of Trade and Customs, an arrangement was arrived at for the transfer of the whole of these quarantine properties.. They were transferred in accordance with the agreement which was concluded with the. Conference of Premiers which accepted the Customs grant by the Commonwealth of 25s. per capita.
– I know that the Government of New South Wales will co-operate with the Commonwealth in this matter. They are quite prepared to do their share in any arrangement that may be made for transferring the station to a different site. No other country in the world has a quarantine station in the middle of such a populous centre. The station, which is a magnificent site for a pleasure ground, is really a portion of Manly, which is the most popular pleasure resort in the whole of Australia, and there is nothing between the thousands of people who visit Manly and the small-pox patients, when they are at the station, but a 7 -foot fence.
– None of the patients can get anywhere near it.
– I mean the contacts, the people who are supposed to be carrying the germs of the disease about them. They may move freely about the quarantine area, and it is very easy for any one to get over the fence and mingle with the people outside. I am given to understand that there are in the quarantine area the children of the caretaker and other employes, and that these actually go out to school, and come in again when there are no patients or contacts in quarantine. That is not a desirable state of affairs.
– I arranged in Victoria that the house should be shifted to the outside, so that the children would be left outside the area when there was a patient inside it.
– In any case, the children do not go to school while there is any contagious case in the station.
– I felt that Iwas in duty bound to bring this matter up, not only for the sake of my constituents, but in the interests of the whole of the people of Australia, because an outbreakof small-pox in Sydney would be a terrible state of affairs. Vaccination is not compulsory there, although it should be, and there would not be enough lymph to go round if people wished to be vaccinated suddenly through a smallpox scare. There would be a serious panic if small-pox broke out in Sydney, and people would flee in all directions, and probably spread the disease throughout Australia. There are plenty of good sites for a quarantine station about Sydney. The northern side of Broken Bay is not populated - it is isolated, and, at the same time, it is not too far away. If that site is not suitable, there are many others. Other honorable members have dealt fully with the question of the management inside the quarantine areas, and many of the instances referred to by them reflect the greatest discredit upon those who are responsible for the administration of the Quarantine Act. I understand that the portmanteaux or trunks of the contacts were not put into the disinfecting room, because it was thought that that would injure them, and that an attendant simply sprinkled a little formalin on one end of them, four-fifths of them not being touched at all by the disinfectant. The thing was an absolute farce. As the Commonwealth Government have taken over the whole business of quarantine, it is their duty to provide means of quarantining a vessel, no matter how many people are aboard it, somewhere in the north of Australia, and not make it necessary to bring it down to Sydney. No matter what it costs, that provision must be made in the interests of the people of Australia.
– If the honorable member had been here years ago, he would have seen that I tried to do something in that direction.
– I do not doubt it, but that does not absolve the Minister from blame. The fact remains that a vessel cannot be quarantined anywhere north of Sydney if she has any number of people on board. That is not as it should be. The Minister has had two years in which to provide proper quarantine accommodation, and I do not know that he is even now taking any steps towards it.
– The honorable member cannot say that I have done nothing.
– I do not ; but two years is a fair time in which to expect the Minis’ter to act.
– I very much regret that the hour is so late, after the attack which honorable members have considered it necessary to make upon the administration of the Quarantine Department. The honorable member for North Sydney may be pardoned, because he does not know, as other honorable members do, that quarantine was practically the last service transferred to the Commonwealth. The transfer took place in 1909, the Act being passed in 1:908, and the States, almost without exception, had starved the Department, knowing that it was to be transferred. I feel sure that, had my predecessor been in my place to-night, he would have made precisely the same statement. We found, when we took the service over, that there was not the accommodation necessary if we were to safeguard the Commonwealth against the introduction of disease. In 1910, when an amount was placed on the Estimates to make all the quarantine stations efficient for any emergency, honorable members on both sides urged that we should hesitate to spend so much money on this service. It was decided that, in order that the Government might be made acquainted with the latest available knowledge on the subject, the Director of Quarantine should go round the world and see what was being clone in other countries. We required to know whether it would be necessary to spend very large sums of money on quarantine stations, in order to prevent the introduction of diseases. Dr. Norris’ report was handed to me before I left for the West, and I took it with me.
– Does the honorable member not think there should be a steam launch provided at Townsville?
– - I can promise honorable members that all the points that have been raised during the debate will be inquired into. Though they have criticised the work of the Department, and have assumed that all orders have been given from Melbourne, I can assure them that if they had taken the trouble to read the regulations and the instructions issued under the Quarantine Act they would have seen that most of their complaints fall to the ground. I have shown the honorable member for Melbourne that the regulations left it in the power of Dr. Nesbitt to decide whether the Yawata Maru should be sent on to Sydney or not. I must say, in justice to Dr. Nesbitt, however, that he considered the quarantine station at Magnetic Island unsuitable. It has been allowed to fall into disrepair. The jetty giving access to it has been washed away, and the only way of getting ashore on Magnetic Island is by running a boat up on to the beach. No member of this House will say that a small-pox patient should be landed at the station in that way. The cable providing telephonic communication between Magnetic Island and the mainland was broken and useless, and” there was no means of telephonic communication between one place and the other. Before we took over quarantine the Queensland Government had abolished the station at Brisbane. They made use of portion of the land as a lazarette for lepers, and some of it for other purposes. At Thursday Island there is no quarantine station, but there is a lazarette at Friday Island.
– Is Dr. Norris’ report on the table?
– No ; it has not yet been circulated.
– How long is it since it was issued?
– It was issued before I went to the West, and I saw the right honorable member there. It is printed, and, I believe, will be available for honorable members soon. Dr. Norris believes that we shall be able to put our quarantine service on a sound footing. But we need to be very careful in the matter. Many people will say that if a quarantine station is to be used on only one day in the year, or even less often, we should hesitate to spend very much money upon such stations. The honorable member for North Sydney is very much interested in that locality now, and I suppose we are all more or less affected by the locality microbe, but I can” inform the honorable member that the practice of sending vessels in quarantine from, the north to Sydney was in operation before the Commonwealth took over the service, because the Queensland Government had abandoned their station. Negotiations have been proceeding with the Government of that State, and we have asked that they shall be brought to some finality, with the object of having a station established at Brisbane. We propose that the Townsville station shall be, not on Magnetic Island, but on the mainland,at Cape Pallender. about five miles north of Townsville. No doubt the smallpox case to which reference has been made put some honorable members to a great deal of inconvenience.
– I thank God that I had the experience.
– I can assure honorable members that when I might have enjoyed myself at a picnic near the Melbourne quarantine station I utilized the whole day in going over the station with the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– The Minister should be there when people are in quarantine.
– One may have a better insight into the working of a quarantine station if he is acquainted with the provision made for the care of persons who are confined there. On the point raised by the honorable member for North Sydney, I may. say that the Director of Quarantine is as full of the milk of kindness as any other man, and with respect to the children referred to attending school, he agreed with me that in order that they might be kept at school should a case of small-pox occur, the house was to be removed outside the quarantine area. The wife and family would remain outside, and the husband would be kept strictly inside the area all the time. I do not know what is the practice adopted in New South Wales, but at Point Nepean we have had policemen on duty outside the fence during the whole time people remained in quarantine. We propose at Thursday Island to have a substation to provide for isolation and observation blocks for eight cases, detention accommodation for ten persons, concrete platforms and tent frames for ten persons, an administrative block, water supply, fencing, and so on. I shall, of course, take advantage of the experience of honorable members, but I have by no means been unmindful of the importance of safeguarding the health of the community. I may inform honorable members that before I became head of the Quarantine Department I was not a vaccinationist, but my experience since has convinced me of the necessity of vaccination. From the figures given me I am satisfied that if all Australians were vaccinated it would not be necessary for us to spend one-tenth of the amount on quarantine which we are likely to have to spend.
– Does the Minister mean to say that he has changed his opinion ? Never !
– If I were like some honorable members I could name, probably I would not stand up and admit that as the result of the education I have received I have been convinced of the necessity of vaccination. I feel sure that the honorable member for Melbourne and others could prove its necessity from their recent experience. I did not previously pose as an anti-vaccinationist, but I have come to believe in the necessity for vaccination. In America it has been the practice not to allow a single person to land without vaccination. I know that I was vaccinated before I could get to New York.
Mr.W. Elliot Johnson. - Will the Minister explain why the contacts at Thursday Island were not ordered into quarantine?
– It is generally considered that there is more risk of contagion from Japanese than from white people.
– That is not accurate. They are all vaccinated every year.
– There was not, when the vessel was at Thursday Island, the slightest suspicion of a case of small-pox. The case did not develop until the second day after leaving Thursday Island. The Thursday Island residents were not exposed to any infection. It was, therefore, considered unnecessary to quarantine them.
– That is so.
– While I regret that honorable members were placed in quarantine, their experience will be beneficial to them and to the Department, whose officers are anxious to perfect the arrangements made in the interests of the public health.
Question resolved in the negative.
Suspension of Standing Order.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, agreed to -
That standing order 257a be suspended for tomorrow in regard to the second reading debate on the Navigation Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take this opportunity to, thank the Minister of Trade and Customs for his ready response to my request regarding a vessel that is now in quarantine. I hope that the subject that has been discussed will receive the consideration it deserves. The honorable gentleman assuresme that the officer to whom I made a reference was not sneering at me, and I regret, therefore, what I said. I hope that Dr. Norris, for whom I have great appreciation, and whom I rank only second to another medical man in Australia, will accept this amende honorable.
– Earlier in the evening the Prime Minister was in a state of great perturbation, moving about the chamber brandishing a return, and challenging all and sundry to move for its production. I wonder that he did not complete his triumph by laying it on the table without a motion. Why does be not let honorable members see what is in this mysterious document?
– The honorable member for Parramatta, apparently, refers to the action of a colleague regarding the expenses of Ministers. The honorable member for Echuca wished to postpone his motion, although any motion of that kind should be proceeded with when it is called on by Mr. Speaker.
– He did not move it because of something said to him by the honorable member.
– Because of something said by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Let us have the information.
– If honorable members will move the motion they will get all the information they desire, and perhaps more. It is easy to make wild and reckless statements, but honorable members must come to business if they want anything.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at11. 6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 July 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120718_reps_4_64/>.