4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to an article which has been published in the Age newspaper, and deals with the defence of the British Empire, and especially the position in the Mediterranean ? In view of the statements therein made, I ask the right honorable gentleman if he has given consideration to the critical position of the European international situation, and the risk of war, and whether he will by cable communicate immediately with the Imperial Government, to ascertain whether all necessary steps are being taken to safeguard the trade route through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean, with a view to the protection of the Australian export trade.
– I do not know what steps have been taken by the Imperial Government to safeguard its domestic and Empire interests, but we may rest assured that it will not take any action that wilt weaken its prestige or power in any sea in which it is necessary to maintain its strength. Important as is the Commonwealth among the oversea dominions, this Government is hardly called upon to inquire of the Imperial Government whether it is taking adequate steps for the protection of the Empire, though, no doubt, if notice is taken of the question and answer, additional vigilance will be exercised for the safeguarding of all interests.
– Some days ago the honorable member for Capricornia asked me whether the British Government had yet recognised the Republic of China. I was not able to answer the question at the time, but I am now informed that the British Government has not yet recognised the Republic.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question in relation to a matter which I have already brought under his notice. On the 2nd August I asked the following questions : -
To them the answer given was-
I am unaware of any case in which long-service furlough has been refused to an officer, but propose making further inquiries.
This morning I received the following letter from the Minister : -
With reference to the question asked by yon in the House on and inst. regarding long-service leave to Western Australian Customs officers, I beg to inform you that two applications for furlough have been deferred because it is ‘ inconvenient to grant them at present. Two officers are at present on furlough ; some officers have been granted accumulated recreation leave and other officers are absent through illness. From this it will be seen that arrangements cannot be made to grant the two applications for furlough at present.
I wish to ask the Minister whether the facts to the existence of which he refers in his letter as a reason for refusing long-service leave are not ordinary contingencies which should be provided against; and does not their existence indicate that the Western Australian Customs Department is understaffed ? Will the honorable gentleman take steps to bring the staff up to the strength necessary to enable officers to enjoy the leave to which they are entitled under the regulations?
– I do not think that the Department in Western Australia is understaffed.
– Yes, it is.
– Perhaps the honorable member has better information than I have ; in my opinion, it is not understaffed. I shall see that the officers there receive the same treatment as is given to other officers throughout the Commonwealth.
– A cablegram has been published to the effect that a Canadian Minister is to visit Australia to perfect arrangements for preferential trading between the two countries. I ask the Minister whether the House will be informed of what is intended before the honorable gentleman binds this country to any arrangement ?
– No reciprocal trade treaty can be entered into by the Government without the approval of Parliament.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs tell the House why there is delay in connexion with the redistribution of the New South Wales electoral divisions ?
– The work is virtually completed, and we are only waiting for the maps, which we expect to receive within a few days.
– The Attorney-General is reported in one of this morning’s newspapers to have given this reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Swan in reference to the distribution of Western Australia -
The Senate in its resolution had stated reasons for the disapproval, and had requested the Com missioners to alter the distribution in a certain way.
I ask the Attorney-General if the report is correct, since the statement is contrary to fact?
– I gave a detailed answer to the questions of the honorable member for Swan, and dealt with, among other points, the terms of the resolution of the Senate.
– The resolution of the Senate does not instruct the Commissioners to alter .their report in a. certain way.
– I wish to read the newspaper report before replying definitely to the honorable member’s question. Substantially the opinion given by me to the Minister of Home Affairs justifies him in returning the report back to the Commissioners without comment, but, at the same time, he is to refer to them the terms of the resolution and the grounds on which the Senate rejected the re-distribution.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral explain what he means by “ the grounds “ ? How does he ‘ discover the grounds ?
– I do not know, but I think they will be found in the Journals of ike Senate. I think the ground was that the Commissioners had acted on prospective population, rather than on the population at the time of the re-distribution. The motion carried by; the Senate was submitted by senator Henderson, and was as follows : -
That, in accordance with section 22 of the Electoral Act, the distribution be disapproved of and referred back to the Commissioners with an intimation that due consideration does not appear to have been given to the diversity of interest and the absence of means of communication between the districts of Mount Magnet and Cue and the other portions of the proposed Division “D,” and that the Commissioners be requested to make the distribution on the basis of existing enrolment and not by way of anticipation, so as to give each Division as nearly as is practicable an equal number of electors.
I gave the opinion to the Department of Home Affairs that the Minister would be justified in referring the matter back to the Commissioners, and that it was not necessary or proper to include in his reference the grounds given by the Senate, but that he should accompany his reference with the resolution of the Senate and the grounds which had actuated it.
– Nothing else? Is that the whole of the grounds?
– The whole grounds will be found in Hansard.
– Are we to understand that all that is to be sent back by the Minister is what the Attorney -General has read out of the Journals of the Senate, or has the Minister of Home Affairs to also send to the Commissioners a copy of Hansard. as showing the grounds for the resolution?
– The position,I think, is perfectly clear. The Minister of Home Affairs must comply with the terms of the Act. It is not the business of this House, or of the Minister, to dictate, or indicate, to the Commissioners in what way they snail make the proposed re-distribution. It is sufficient for the Minister, and for the Commissioners, that one House of this Parliament has rejected their proposed scheme. It is perfectly proper, however, that the minds of the Commissioners should be informed of the reasons for carrying the resolution, and those reasons they may take notice of or they may not. The Commissioners may give due weight to everything the Senate suggested, or, if they please, they may wholly disregard it.
Motion (by Mr. Richard Foster) agreed to-
That leave of absence for two months be given tothe honorable member for Grampians on account of absence from the Commonwealth.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Age of this morning, in reporting the discussion on the day- labour system yesterday, thus records the remarks of the honorable member for Dal ley -
If the men did not do their work they, and the officers at fault, should go out. It was the duty of every Minister to answer the charges made. If this were not done they stood condemned in the eyes of the community.
I am then reported as interjecting - “ Certainly not.” I did not use the expression “ Certainly not “ ; I used an expression which sounded something like “not” but those are not the exact terms. I hold that when definite charges are made it is the duty of the Minister to inquire, but no definite charge has been made.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he can inform the House how many ex-politicians, Federal and State, received appointments of profit in Victoria since thecommencement of Federation?
Who were they, and by what Government were they appointed?
If he has not the information, will he obtain it?
– I am obtaining the desired information, and I hope to lay it upon the table of the House in the form of a return at an early date.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What has been the cause of the delay in the construction of a telephone line between Raywood and Kamarooka, authorized some two years ago?
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Melbourne, has furnished the following information: -
The causes of delay in constructing this line were : -
Failure on the part of the residents concerned to execute the maintenance agreement until a period of nine months had elapsed from the time they were notified of the terms upon which the line could be constructed.
Nine months occupied in making survey and obtaining necessary poles. The delivery of the poles was retarded owing to the Department having to reject a number which did not comply with the specification.
A delay of three months due to shortage of supplies of wire, caused by a shipping strike in London.
A further delay of three months and three weeks caused by failure on the part of certain officials at the General Post Office, Melbourne, to forward to Ravwood the wire to be used in the construction of the line.
The erection of the line was commenced on the 2nd inst.
Inquiry is being instituted regarding the delay mentioned in (b) and (d).
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What opportunities are afforded lettercarriersin the country districts to prepare for and to pass the tests necessary to enable them to become sorters.
– The following are the approved arrangements in connexion with this matter: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the table of the House a statement showing the amounts of money expended by the various Federal Departments for advertisements in the Melbourne weekly publications since 1st January, 1911, giving the spaces ordered, the rates paid for them, and the weekly issue of the said journals?
– The only information on the subject at my disposal relates to the Department of Home Affairs.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to honour the promise made at Adelaide to the post and telegraph officers of South Australia by the present Minister for External Affairs (Hon. Josiah Thomas) when Postmaster-General, that the Government would refer the claims of the South Australian post and telegraph officers regarding their State rights in connexion with their transfer to the Federal service to an arbitrator mutually agreed upon?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The limitations of the powers of the Government under the Constitution and the then existing law were fully explained to the officers’ representatives in connexion with the interview referred to by the Attorney-General in a subsequent interview with the representatives of the Post and Telegraph Officers’ Association. Since that date the Public Service Arbitration Act has been passed. Under section 5 of that Act all public servants are entitled to submit all questions relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms and conditions of employment to the Court.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1-5 and 7. Inquiries will be made on all these points. 6.I shall be glad if the honorable member will ask me this again after I have received answers to the inquiries I am making.
Customs Duties and Production
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– I shall be happy, as far as is practicable, to obtain and furnish the desired information.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Customs Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 152.
Defence Act- Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 155.
Naval Defence Act - Naval Forces - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 19 1 2, Nov.154.
Papua - Ordinance No. 6 of 1911 - Supplementary Appropriation1910-11, No. 6.
Northern Territory ExpenditureCasual Labour in Commonwealth Service : Supervision - Day Labour - Federal Capital Expenditure - Rifle Clubs and Rifle Ranges - Liverpool Manoeuvre Area - Unexpended Public Works Votes - Parliamentary Representation of Federal Capital Territory Residents - Telephones and Telegraphs - Commonwealth Woollen Mills.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 6th August, vide page1731) :
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That item No. 1,£8,500, be agreed to.
.- I wish to refer first to some of the new works to be carried out in the Northern Territory. I notice an item of , £21,000 for houses for Government employes. I am not averse to a considerable sum being expended in the Territory for that purpose. It is essential that the employes of the Government should be comfortably housed in such a climate. When the Parliamentary party visited Darwin recently, they found that the Government employes were certainly not comfortably housed, but experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining suitable accommodation.
– You would not put up buildings all over the country, would you?
– Wherever there are Government employe’s in such a climate the least the Government can do is to see that they are comfortably housed, and I do not object to that expenditure at all.
– The honorable member for Swan ought to see the police station at Horseshoe Creek.
– It is an absolute disgrace to any civilized community. It is made principally of the bark from the paper trees. The man stationed at Horseshoe Creek is doing excellent service. He is a fine, smart, strapping young Australian constable of the name of Turner, and is doing excellent work in that country ; but he has to live in a perfect hovel.
– The South Australian Government are responsible for that.
– I am not blaming the Federal Government for that building, but the sum of £500 put down on these estimates for new police stations is altogether inadequate. It will take £500 to build one station alone.
– ^500 will not build one station.
– It will not build a very good one, but it would probably provide a place sufficient for a single man.
– Do not you think bark is much better than iron in a country like that?
– Good stringy bark might be, but if the honorable member saw the bark that the police station at Horseshoe Creek is built of, he would not say it was a very good place for a man to live in. It is a disreputable and disgraceful building, and more than £500 should have been set down for new police stations in the Territory. There is another item of ,£4,200 for railway and construction survey from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. I am inclined to agree’ with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the railway should come from the south, and that we are starting at the wrong end in building from Pine Creek to the Katherine. That line will serve a very small population. I could not see anything at the Katherine River to warrant the enormous expenditure on a railway from Pine Creek, and the expenditure will be enormous.
– I understand it is part of the main scheme.
– Yes, but I think we are starting at the wrong end.
– What about the gauge?
– That is a difficult matter, which I cannot go into now. My opinion is that, at all events at the present time, we should construct a line from the western railway system of Queensland through to Pine Creek. That is absolutely essential. The line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek can be constructed if you like, but the line from the Queensland border must be made. The item for the erection and equipment of a steam laundry, I presume at Darwin, has rather surprised the members of the House.’ Are we_ to take it that this means the nationalization of the washing industry? I am inclined to think that the steam laundry at Darwin will be an absolute failure. I do not know if it is supposed to be a charitable dole to the people of Darwin, and that the rest of Australia are to pay for their washing, but it would really have to amount to that, because we could not ask white women to work in a steam laundry at Darwin, and I presume that the Government would not employ coloured labour in it. It would, therefore, have to be run by white men.
– Why not?
– I am confident that white men would not be obtained to work in a steam laundry at Darwin under £1 a day. Consequently the cost to those who wished to have their things washed at the laundry would be very much greater than they could get them done for at the present time.
– By Chinese and Japanese?
– All the white workmen we send up there would object to that!
– I know how far the principles of these white men go when it is a case of getting things done cheaper. The men who talk most about the policy of a White Australia and their principles, as labourites, are the first to go round the corner to the Dago, or the Chinese store, if they can get their things a little cheaper there than from a white storekeeper. Workmen, like all other men, will go where they can get goods at the cheapest rate.
– Is that what the honorable member advocates?
– I am not advocating anything ; I am talking of facts.
– It is principally due to the sweating rates of pay given by some employers.
– It will be impossible to secure white labour for the steam laundry at Darwin, except at the highest rates or pay, and consequently local residents will not be able to get their clothes laundered there as cheaply as they could at a Chinese laundry.
– Why should specially high wages be demanded in that particular laundry?
– The experience that I gained, while at Darwin, leads me to believe that white men would probably demand -a wage of £1 a day for working in the steam laundry. That is the rate of pay demanded by white men for almost every class of work there.
– But they do not get it.
– They ought to. As a matter of fact, I would not work there for £S per day.
– Men are working up there for 10s. a day.
– The honorable member knows that labourers could not be obtained at 10s. a day for the experimental farm up there.
– They are working there for 10s. a day.
– But they are constantly leaving. There is a painter at Darwin who demands £1 per day, and who sits on a chair with a big umbrella over his head, and paints away steadily. I do not blame any man for demanding £1 a day for working up there. I would not work there - in fact I would not stop - up there. Coming to the question of day versus contract labour, we all know that men will not work for a contractor if they can secure work in the Government service.
– Because Government work, is more regular.
– And, what is more, it is very much easier.
– Does the honorable member blame men for taking the best job offering?
– The honorable member is now admitting my contention. I do not blame a man for taking the easiest job offering, but this predilection for Government’ employment shows distinctly that’ the day-labour system, is not the best to adopt. A system under which we do not get out of the men the equivalent in labour for the remuneration paid must be a bad one. We all know that there is a. great deal of the “ Government stroke “ going on. We have seen it going on for many years, and we know that many men employed by the Government take things very steadily. Only three days ago a friend of mine heard two men who were travelling from Victoria to New South Wales say that they were going over because there was “ any quantity of work in Sydney at 9s. and go as you please.” The general feeling is that employment under the Government means an easy billet and good pay. But it is a serious matter to think that we are going to spend millions on various public works, and are not going to secure a fair return for our outlay.
– We shall get a fair return.
– I do not think so. I believe that the day-labour system is absolutely wrong. Under it we do not get out of men the work that is obtained from them by a contractor.
– Under the day-labour system we are saving money, as compared with prices paid for works done under contract.
– Figures may be made to prove anything, but 1 doubt very much whether it can be proved that the day-labour system is more advantageous than the contract system. I was pleased to hear the honest admission made by the honorable member for Gwydir that undoubtedly some men employed by the Government were not prepared to “do a fair thing.” Other honorable members of the Ministerial party have declared that those who are employed by the Government would undoubtedly be honest enough to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. That may be true of some men. There are many who will give an honest day’s work for their pay, but there are a great many who will do as little as possible for it. Honorable members, if they are candid, will admit that there are hundreds of men employed on various works who will do as little as possible for their wages. What is going to induce them to give a fair return for their pay? We know how the system is carried on. If one man in a gang is doing a little more than the others think he ought to do, he is told to go steady, and if he declines to do so he gets, in camp, the life of a dog.
– Where does this happen?
– Wherever a number of men are working together under the daylabour system. This practice cannot be followed in the case of men employed by a contractor, because the contractor himself is constantly on the work, or” has overseers to look after his interests. Men employed by the Government under the daylabour system are all unionists; or, at least, the Minister of Home Affairs has decided that only unionists are to be employed.
– The position is the same in the matter of contract work.
– Not always. In the case of a Government job, the ganger himself is a unionist, and is it reasonable to expect that he is going to run the risk of getting himself disliked by his fellow unionists by “ speeding them up.” I think not. Then, again, some gangers would say, “The longer this job takes the longer my billet will last.” Who, then, is to see that these men do a fair day’s work? Even the superintendent, if not a unionist, would be at all events a sympathizer with unionism, and would not be disposed to arouse the dislike of his gangers and the men under him by urging them to put their shoulders to the wheel. And so the whole system goes on until we get right back to the Minister. It rests with the Minister as the head of his Department to see that a fair amount of work is done by men of all ranks under him; but is he going to get himself disliked by all these men - from the superintendents down to the men in the gangs? No; he will not push these men along “to their utmost because he and his party are dependent upon their votes.
– How is it that works are carried out by day labour for less than they cost under the contract system ?
– I have no proof that, that is so. I have seen absolute proof that work has cost three times as much when carried out by day labour as it would have cost had it been done by contract. The north-coast railway in New South Wales will cost £1,000,000 more because it is being made by day labour than it would have cost had it been put into the hands of contractors. Notwithstanding the excellent wages paid, there have been perpetual strikes, and the Minister has always had his hands full of trouble with the men.
– He has always put down the strikes.
– I give him credit for having been firm with the men, but are all Ministers firm? Contractors get full value out of their men by letting numbers of small sub-contracts. Honorable members opposite may say that that is evidence that contractors make enormous profits, but the effect of this sub- letting is that the subcontractors see that the work is done expeditiously, and as cheaply as possible, anu thus supervision is obtained such as cannot be got by the Government when employing day labour. Consequently the Government does not get in work done the value of the wages that it pays. When the honorable member for Echuca yesterday made a reference to the introduction of preference to unionists in connexion with Government work, it was interjected that Opposition members have given approval to the principle.
– Yes, at their conference.
– That is a “misstatement of the case. We have approved of preference being given to unionists only by an award of the President of the Arbitration Court.
None of us approves of the Minister giving instructions that only unionists shall be employed by the Home Affairs Department, and that if men are to go, non-unionists must be dismissed first. Is the union ticket in future to be the badge of citizenship? Are only unionists to enter the Public Service and to obtain Government employment? The unionists do not constitute a majority of the people, and, in any case, the nonunionists have their rights. Honorable members opposite instead of desiring the government of the people by the people and for the people, apparently wish for the government of the people by a. class for a section. I was rather amused at the way in which two Moreton Bay fig trees which formerly grew in front of the Education Department in Sydney were removed by day labour recently. I gather from the press that the work occupied twelve men for more than a week, and cost between £40 and £50. Four good bushmen would have removed the trees in three days.
– Does the honorable member know that they had to be moved and replanted ?
– They were cut up into 2-ft. lengths. There was no replanting.
– The way in which the work was done made those responsible for it the laughing stock of Sydney, and any contractor would have taken the job at half what it cost and made good money out of it. In the old O’sullivan days in New South Wales, I remember seeing a big, powerful-looking man at work with a pick. I watched him for ten minutes, and saw that he was merely lifting his pick up and letting it drop by its own weight, filling in the intervals by spitting on his hands and looking about him. It is wonderful how much saliva some men have. They seem to be always spitting on their hands and looking about them. It is, of course, natural that men should not do more work than they are forced to do. An occasional enthusiast, or crank, as some would call him, works hard without being supervised ; but, as a rule, men do only what- they are forced to do.
– Is the honorable member now doing what he is forced to do?
– Or is he a crank?
– In a manner I am forced to say what I am saying, because the statements are being made much against my will. The inauguration of the day-labour system in the Public Service was a serious- thing for Australia. I compliment the Minister on having set down £110,000 for works at the Federal Capital. I believe that he desires to see the capital built.
– I wish that we were there now.
– I am sure that the honorable gentleman will try to push on with the undertaking; but he and his officers have too much to do. There are no better officers in any Public Service in Australia.
– Hear, hear.
– I know some of the officers intimately - Colonel Miller, Colonel Owen, and Mr. Scrivener, for instance. They are all overworked.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The debate has been interesting, particularly since the question of day labour versus the contract system was introduced. The cry against day labour has been manufactured by the press.
– That is not a reason why the charges which have been made should not be investigated.
– Last session Labour members were charged by a section of the press with borrowing money from members of the Opposition, but the charge was proved to be absolutely groundless.
– We have not any money to lend.
– If committees were appointed to inquire into every charge of that kind, members of Parliament would have no time for the work which they are elected to .do. I am thoroughly opposed to the appointment of Select Committees to investigate charges made by the press, which we find saying one thing in Melbourne, another thing in Sydney, and a third thing in Brisbane. What the press says just depends upon the point of view of the particular newspaper ; and all they say is generally against the present Government ; indeed, if we believed half the press says the world would come to an end in a month. If the press does not speak the truth in regard to the doings of this House, I think steps ought to be taken to exclude journalists who indulge in lies. That would, in my opinion, be a better corrective than appointing Select Committees to inquire into “wild-cat” charges. I am rather amused at the remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney, who must have had very little experience of workers. Generally speaking, the great advocates of contract labour urge that it. should be adopted for everybody but them selves. I am very well satisfied with my present job on day labour, and so are most of the officials in- the various Departments; and I do not see why the contract system should be applied only to the men who use the pick and shovel.
– It is day labour in both cases ; the only difference is that the contractor pays the men instead of the Government.
– But the idea of honorable members opposite is to have a paid pimp to watch the men as they work. The honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Wakefield are just the kind of men who cause strikes and industrial unrest. If I were working in the trenches under such men I should strike to-morrow.
– I should keep the honorable member “ going !”
– And I would give the honorable member a “ Roland “ for his “ Oliver “ every time. Why is it that all the railway construction in New South’ Wales is now done by day labour? It isbecause the work is done cheaper, and is more reliable. We never know what is happening when a work is under contract; we are never sure whether the job has beenmade a good one or not. Honorable members opposite are making a mountain out of a mole hill so far as the Department of Home Affairs is concerned. I find that this Department employs only about 600 men, though, of course, the number will be greater in the future.
– There are also the workmen employed by the Post and Telegraph Department?
– I am referring to the Department of Home Affairs, at. which the charges are levelled.
– The Opposition fired at the wrong person.
– They fired at the Minister of Home Affairs. If honorable members opposite desire to test the question of day labour versus contract labour, let them take a job in the trenches for a month. They are no better than the men in the trenches, although they are representatives in this House. No member of the Opposition can point to one Minister who has ever used any influence, or allowed any to be used, in the appointment of a man to a job. So far as my dealings with Ministers are concerned, I find that their instructions are that, in the case of any abuse, the offender must be discharged, the whole object being to see that the Commonwealth gets a fair return for its money. The method by which men are engaged is an absolutely fair one ; they are given a trial for three days, and then, if they are not satisfactory, they are discharged.
– They have three days’ trial without references.
– As to the Commonwealth factories, there is, as honorable members know, the Small Arms Factory in my electorate; and I must say that I do not know any private factory which is worked on a better system. The progress and cost of a given work can be ascertained at any time; and, altogether, this is one of the most up-to-date and most efficient factories in the world. Everything there is being done to insure the best results for the taxpayer. The honorable member for North Sydney made some reference to contractors and sub-contractors, and we know that these men make their money by sweating. 1 never found sub-contractingdo any good; and the less the Government has to do with the system the better.
– Contractors cannot sweat men who are members of unions.
– The honorable member may take it from me that the best workmen in the Commonwealth, or in the world, are members of unions, and if employers want work properly carried out, my candid advice to them is to get on good terms with the men who run the unions, for they will then be sure of a fair deal every time. There is no bigger percentage of loafers working for the Government than there is for contractors.
– But there is better supervision under contracts.
– Human nature is neither better nor worse inside the Government ranks than outside.
– Contractors- will not let the men loaf.
– Contractors have to deal with the unions, just as the Commonwealth has to. Every man in the pick-and-shovel line, whether in Government or private employ, is now in the Navvies Union. I am glad the day has passed when any big, hulking foreman can come along and talk to a man as ifhe were a dog. If the men are having a good time, they are entitled to a good time.
– At the expense of the country !
– No contractor or Government has the right to ask a man more than a fair day’s work for his pay ; and I think the majority of workmen are prepared to give that. I would now like to say a word or two about rifle ranges, and to ask the Minister to expedite their provision as much as he can ? When I. first entered this House, twoyears ago, I raised the question about the Flemington rifle range in my electorate. Since then, members of the rifle clubs at the Sydney end of my constituency have had to pay their own train fares to the Randwick range, and, of course, buy their own meals. Some twelve months ago, it was decided to close the Flemington range owing to the resumption of the land by the State Government ; and the members of the rifle range had to go to the Baulkham Hills range, the fare to which is not so high as that to Randwick. The men find, however, that, very often, when they go to this range, it is occupied by the regular soldiers, and they have to wait about until dark sometimes without getting a shot. The dispute which prevents the provision of a proper range concerns about two acres of land ; and the whole scheme is hung up simply because the State surveyor cannot find time to send a man to complete the arrangements. This is not a solitary case, for my experience is that of many other honorable members. The present unsatisfactory condition of things has lasted now for about three years; and if men are willing to join clubs and give their time they ought not to be treated in this shabby way. Members of rifle clubs are not paid, and do their work from patriotic motives. We certainly ought not to discourage them in their efforts, because they may prove very useful at some time. The system of voting money for post-offices, and not using the money, is not good from any point of view. For the Leura Post-office we last year voted £730, not ‘ a penny of which was spent, and this year we are asked to vote , £1,620. We might as well make the vote , £10,000 if we do not intend to spend it. It is only humbugging the electors to vote money, particularly for post-offices, and then leave the work undone.
– We shall be able to do the work this year, because we have our own Works Department.
– At Katoomba, Auburn and Leura there is a thick population, and the permanence of the post-offices is assured, because so long as Sydney is Sydney, the mountain townships must go ahead. The Minister of Home Affairs and the PostmasterGeneral ought to be just as up-to-date as any private owner of land in those places, and should make provision for the business that will eventually have to be done. The Katoomba Post-office was not quite finished when I was elected, and though something like £1,000 was spent on it, any one could see that it would prove too small. Within two years we are asked to extend that postoffice at an expenditure of another £1,700; and this, in my opinion, is an example of false economy. In growing districts, where the population is assured, the Department ought to take a sensible view, and provide adequate post-office facilities. I trust that the Minister of Home Affairs will use some expedition in regard to the Liverpool manoeuvre area. As negotiations are in progress about this land, I do not intend to say much about it to-day. I hope, however, that since the transferred properties question has been settled, the Government will find the New South Wales Government more amenable to reason, and that the business will be concluded.
.- We are asked to vote the good round sum of something like £4,000,000 for additional new works. I am not going to argue that that is too much to vote for the works set down, because they may be quite necessary ; but, in spending so large a sum, we ought to be extremely careful to arrange for good supervision, or there is a chance of wasting money or not getting full value for it. A good deal has been published in the Melbourne press lately regarding some of our Commonwealth works, notably the undergrounding of telephone wires.
– Why waste your time in talking about that?
– If proper attention is not paid to it, we shall waste a lot of money, and that is what I desire to prevent. No Ministry can afford to ignore such charges as were made lately in the Argus. That is a well-known paper, with a fine record as newspapers go, and surely it would not make such statements unless it had some grounds for them. Yesterday the Minister and a lot of his supporters replied to our criticisms by asking us to prove specific cases, but the onus of proof is not on us. Ministers are supposed to be trustees for the public, and guardians of the public money, and even if there is only a suspicion of things being wrong, it is their duty to assure the public, by investigation, that there is nothing in the charges.
– We asked you to make specific charges, and you have not done it yet.
– The allegations in the papers are quite sufficient for the purpose for which we are asking. Ministers should look into the matter and make a statement to the House, or appoint a Select Committee to probe’ the thing to the bottom. The Argus would not come out as it has done of late unless it had good grounds for its action.
– Has the Argus ever said a good word for the Labour Government or the Labour party ?
– I do not say that the Argus has buttered up our friends opposite; but there is nothing to show that in those articles the paper was making a pointed attack on the Government or their supporters. If the statements are not true, the Argus stands to lose a great deal. Its reputation as a journal is, to a large extent, at stake. If the statements are not true, some of those which concern certain members of the Government bring the paper perilously near the law of libel.
– The Prime Minister distinctly told us that he was going into the case.
– 1 am glad to hear it ; but we have had no statement from the Minister of Home Affairs on the matter.
– It is not in his Department.
– I am sorry the Postmaster-General is prevented by illness from being here. I am satisfied that, if he were, he would fight the thing on its merits, and not run away from it. lt has been said that it does not come within the Department of Home Affairs, but I suppose the work at the Federal Capital site comes within the purview of that Department. I have here a publication called Building, which is, I believe, a reputable journal. It makes some very straight statements, and surely, if there is no truth in them, they can be refuted. In the issue dated 12th June, 191 2, appears an article headed “ The Federal Capital and a Grave Scandal.”
– The honorable member for Lang quoted from it extensively yesterday.
– It is so good that it will bear repetition. Some one who had inspected the work at the Capital site wrote to the paper as follows: -
The shadow of the “Government Stroke” is
Over everything. Workmen seem to do things when they like, and pretty nearly how they like, with no regard to recognised authority, or any ordered system. Some have been seen endeavouring to work under the influence of liquor, and in some cases they have not been discharged.
The writer went on to say that, considering the absence of supervision over the work, things could hardly be expected to be different. He added -
An officer from, Sydney visits the site weekly, and one from Melbourne, I believe, takes a run up every month.
The article was brought under the notice of the Home Affairs Department, and the Departmental reply was that there was nothing in it.
– Who said there was nothing in it - Colonel Miller or Colonel Owen?
– Let me read what the paper said - 0
On receipt of that letter we communicated with the Sydney office of the ‘Home Affairs Department, and were subsequently informed that the allegations contained in the note were unfounded.
The paper thereupon sent its representative to the site.
– Who was he?
– Never mind who he was; the paper is quite satisfied to stand upon what he says. On his report, the editor commented as follows: -
We can now unhesitatingly say, and are prepared to prove, that the day-labour system of work at the Federal Capital site is a public scandal. But it is idle to speak of system. There is no system, but a jumbled order of things, disgracing the administration of the Home Affairs Department, and retarding progress generally at the site.’ A cottage building, for instance, that was half completed at the time of our past visit, is now still some months from completion, and we have been reliably informed that the work on that building has been continuous. The work is not only snail-like, the men are not only at the lowest stage of demoralization as regards honest labour, but the work itself is a disgrace to good construction. Some military stables were completed at a considerable expense some months ago, but already the badly mixed concrete is being smashed up. The chimneys in some of the houses refuse to draw, and the interior of the houses has been most slovenly finished. The snail-like pace of the army of workmen also appears to hinder development and administration of the Military College at Duntroon. The college has been established at considerable cost, and although it has been in operation for 18 months, the house construction has been so slow that highly-paid officers have had to sleep in tents.
When those things are said about work that is supposed to be done in the public in terest, surely the Minister and others responsible should inquire into them, and let the public know if the paper is not telling the truth.
– The article says that there is an army of men there; as a matter of fact, there are only fifty -there.
– Let the honorable member refute the newspaper statements; I am simply quoting from it. I am not making a charge against anybody personally, but the Government are in such a position that, when statements of this sort are made, there is no necessity for members of the Opposition to do more than bring them under the notice of Ministers. If the Opposition ask for them to be investigated, it is the duty of the Government, in the interests of the country, to investigate them, and not to “bluff” or hide behind interjections to the effect that we should bring a specific charge. The Government are not in the privileged position of a prisoner. They are supposed to be trustees of the public purse.
– Do you not know, as a lawyer, that you have to prove your case against trustees?
– Quite so, when you hale a trustee before a Court; but a trustee is supposed to produce accounts, to be fair and open, and not to hide anything, but to come forward and do, on his own initiative, things that an ordinary individual is not supposed to do. The daylabour system may be cheaper, but it seems to me, from what I have heard brought forward here, that for one job that has been done cheaper by day labour plenty of others can be found that have been done cheaper by contract. Seeing that possibly some of these works can be carried out better by contract, why are they not contracted for? Why apply the day-labour system to everything, if money can be saved by adopting the contract system’ in certain cases? Why not mix the systems if you can get the best results thereby? The Government, however, pin their faith to a shibboleth - the day-labour system. They should study the public, and study economy, and until we get a little more evidence that they are doing so we must continue to regard these allegations as very serious. I hope the Minister of Home Affairs will produce some evidence that the charges are not wellfounded.
– You are making no charges personally.
– I am not, but enough has been said to justify us in demanding that the statements to which I refer be disproved, if they are capable of disproof. If they are not. what happens ? The Government must be utterly discredited, and should not be intrusted with the control of these works. I believe that a great deal of money has been wasted at the Federal Capital site because of the lack of a proper system. Instead of having one or two men responsible for all the works there being carried out, the Minister should have experts in the laying out of a city-
– Has the honorable member teen up there?
– I have not; but one need not be on the spot in order to ascertain what is going on. Even if I went there, my judgment as to whether or not money had been wasted would be of no value. I do not pose as an architect or a city planner, but I have a right to criticise the slipshod methods that are being adopted.
– Did the Fusion Government carry out all works by contract?
– I do not know; but even if the Fusion Government did wrong, that is not a reason why the perfect Labour party should do so.
– The Fusion Government did not do anything wrong.
– I do not say that it did ; but enough has been said in Committee, as well as in the public press, to show that not only in the Postal Department, but in the Department of Home Affairs, there is in force a system that needs some explanation. We should have not mere assertions of denial, but actual evidence to disprove the charges that have been made. If they are true, the Ministry ought to resign. The Prime Minister himself said yesterday that if the facts were as alleged, then the Ministry had failed in their duty.
– Is the honorable member sure that he made that statement ?
– That was the effect of the statement made by him. He took a right view of the matter, and I do trust that Ministers will try to live up to their duty in this respect. We have brought these charges and complaints under the notice of the Government, and it is the duty of Ministers to show the public, if they can, that there is no foundation for them. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to interject, as they have been doing, but we know that they are not sincere. They are, so to speak, merely whistling to keep up their courage. More than one of their party yesterday allowed himself to speak his thoughts, and soundly rated Ministers for not having taken steps to disprove thesecharges. Seeing that the Government have been subjected to such criticism, as well as to the criticism of the Opposition, I hope that we shall be kept no longer in the dark.
– I an* pleased at the encomiums that have been passed on my Department, but am not at all pleased with the unfairness displayed! by some members of the Opposition in attempting by innuendo to sustain chargesmade against the Department of Home Affairs by an irresponsible journal.
– The honorable member does not regard the newspaper in question as an irresponsible journal ?
– I do. It is an organ of a class. It has never published an article that was not in favour of a class.
– That is not a fair statement.
– The newspaper in question has never published a leading article in favour of the masses. It is peculiarly the organ of the classes. Is it necessary to have an investigation every time some newspaper makes a charge against a Department?
– In the case of a charge like this it is necessary.
– Did the Fusion Government adopt that plan? I saw several charges against the Fusion Government made by newspapers of superior standing with the masses in Australia - the Brisbane Worker, the Australian Worker, and other leading Australian journals which go into the homes of the toilers upon whose backs you all get your little bit.
– Do not say “You” ; say “ We.”
– Very well. Since I have held office as Minister of Home Affairs I have never reinstated a man who has been dismissed. On taking office I gave strict orders that every man engaged should be given a three days’ trial, and if any man employed by the Department has been seen in an intoxicated condition while at work, it must have been during that probationary period. I deny, however, the charge made by the honorable member for Wilmot. I ask him, as a fair man, not to read mere generalities published in a contractors’ journal, but, as a Judge would say, to “ specify.” I ask him to name one man who has been seen drunk while at work at the Federal Capital. If he will do so I shall have an investigation made immediately. I have questioned Colonel Miller, and also Colonel Owen, Director-General of Works, and they say that this charge is absolutely without foundation.
– The Minister is referring to the Federal Capital charges ?
– Yes. I went to the capital myself, and spoke to all the men there.
– Did the honorable member call them brothers?
– I did, for they are my brothers. I admit that the day-labour system is far from being perfect, but it is infinitely superior to the contract system of “ speeding up.” The difference between the two is that, whereas one represents an endeavour to establish upon this earth the brotherhood of Christianity, the other is neither more nor less than industrial savagedom. I regretted yesterday to see my old friend the honorable member for Wakefield, with whom I sat in the Parliament of South Australia for three years, becoming so vicious. I felt, however, that he was not speaking from his heart - that it was, so to speak, the loss of his head in the circumstances that caused him to talk as he did, and I therefore forgave him. Not only have I given the orders to which I alluded a few moments ago, but I myself have carried them out. I arn in my office at half-past eight every morning, and I am probably the last to leave at night. I ask. ho one to do anything that T am not prepared to do. I do not want a man to work unless [ work. 1 have no right to draw my pay from the country unless I earn it, and I feel, as I return home every night, that 1 have earned my day’s wages. I have travelled about a good deal, and wherever J have seen a man who appeared not to be doing a fair day’s work for the Department, I have directed the attention of the responsible officer to him. I confess that, before the establishment of unionism, it was difficult to make any one responsible ; but the position is now different. Nowadays we can hold the secretaries of the unions responsible for what, happens. I do not wish to say anything unkind, because every man has to earn his living ; but before the establishment of unionism work was not done as it is to-day. We had gradually to weed out unsatisfactory men, and I sa.y now - and I propose to prove it - that we have in the Department of Home Affairs a staff, including officers, overseers, gangers, and workmen, equal, if not superior, to any other 600 men in the world. So convinced am I of this that I have not the slightest objection to any member of the Opposition ascertaining from any of the officers of the Department whether or not it is true. I have nothing to conceal, and I have been amazed at the way in which some honorable members have abused me after my eleven years of service in this House. Several charges have been made against the Government as to the failure to spend money voted on last year’s Estimates. The Opposition, however, have not looked into the matter as they should have done. During the last three years there has been a great industrial boom in Australia. We are enjoying a period of prosperity superior, perhaps, to that enjoyed by any other country. Every one has money ; no one is destitute. Under such conditions labour must be scarce, and it must have been very difficult for a time to obtain workmen in the different States. Suddenly there is a congestion, and just as suddenly there is a want of congestion. Several of the States have been doing work for themselves, and* we have had to depend upon their Public Works Departments to carry out Federal works. No doubt, they have done their best ; but, a.t the same time, this state of affairs has prevented us- from carrying out a lot of work that we should probably have done in other circumstances. There is another point which does not seem to have occurred to the Opposition, and I have certainly been surprised at the way in which some ex-Ministers have spoken. A Minister enters into an understanding for the purchase of a site, but is suddenly told that the site proposed to be selected is not suitable for the purpose, and that another must be secured. He has been getting his plans ready, but suddenly the negotiations for the purchase of a sire are broken off, or an inquiry or something of the sort has to be held. Surely honorable members must know that a certain amount of delay is inevitable in connexion with various public works. When it is proposed to buy a site the Crown Solicitor has to be consulted, and must inspect the title. Then the plans for the proposed building have to be prepared, and other preliminaries have to be arranged. Last year we had only eight months in which to carry out the undertakings for which the Works and Buildings Estimates provided.
– Will the Minister say how many plans he has now in readiness for new works, so that they may be proceeded with directly these Estimates are passed.
– I cannot say off-hand, but I shall be able to give the honorable member the information to-morrow. In certain cases, as I have said, we have to negotiate. A Government cannot acquire properties more quickly than a private person can. Honorable members must remember how long it took to settle a case in Western Australia.
– But look at the money the Minister saved !
– Exactly. The claim was £253,800, and we settled it for
– The honorable gentleman had no authority to settle it.
– Yesterday the right honorable member, complained that my Department had not given him information regarding the operations and methods adopted in connexion with the transcontinental railway ; but I would call his attention to a schedule which is sent to him every two months.
– What I said was that there is no information as to how the £1,000,000 is to be expended.
– In this schedule I invite the assistance of honorable members by the following notice -
It is hoped that as one of the responsible public trustees of the Commonwealth you will make it your special duty to forward any information which may come under your notice in regard to negligence on the part of those responsible for the execution of any of these national necessities.
This schedule, which is sent to every member every two months, is a sort of progress report on the works that are being done by my Department. Nothing of the kind was issued prior to my taking office. The notice which I have read is an invitation to honorable members to assist me with any information they may have.
– Where are we to get information?
– The honorable member says that men employed by the Department are intoxicated when at work, that they are not doing an honest day’s work, and that they are not earning the money that is paid to them. Before his constituents, and in the presence of his Creator, he is culpable for not having told me of this.
– He is not an informer.
– Is it not sad that, notwithstanding our present civilization, honorable members will denounce a whole race of people, the working men of Australia, without specifying anything. God forbid that I should do it. I am too great a Christian to do anything like that. Honorable members will find in this schedule full information as to what is taking place in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway.
– What we require is not information, but the doing of the work.
– The honorable member knows that I cannot be a lawbreaker, and the Act does not empower me to start the work until both South Australia and Western Australia have signed certain agreements which have not yet been signed. But I am making my preparations. The schedule which honorable members receive gives them information about all the works that are being done by the Department, and all the statistics that they need. The honorable member for Wilmot referred to the condition of some stables. I have asked Colonel Owen about the concrete, and he says that it is in excellent condition.
– Then it has been put into good order recently. It was not in good! condition when it was first laid down.
– Are the charges which have been made against the men employed by the Director of Public Works in the Yass-Canberra territory honest or just? They have been published in a journal whose purpose is to destroy daylabour.
– Surely that is defamation..
– Let me read its title.
– Do not read it. That will only advertise the journal.
– That is so. Let me now put before the Committee some reports by officers of my Department. This is one from Mr. Hill, dated 7th June -
Memorandum to the Director-General of Works, Department of Home Affairs.
Referring to progress report of works in the Federal Capital Territory for the month of May,1912 (attached), I may perhaps be permitted to submit a statement of total cost of road works to date : -
The total expenditure, including plant, provision of a store-yard at Queanbeyan, tools,, supervision, and other expenses is £24,000, apportioned hereunder : -
Included in the above apportionment are the items of plant and tools, which may be estimated at £4,000, and, although that amount is incorporated in the total cost given, it should be distributed over a number of years, as they are in good condition, and will be of use for a long time to come. If such deduction were worked out and taken into consideration, the cost per mile would be still more satisfactory, but the figures as they stand are excellent results, and compare favorably with the experience of other shires. Further, they demonstrate that work can be executed by day labour at a cost no greater, if not less, than that entailed by the contract system, while the former method yields an equal, if not greater, measure of efficiency of performance.
I submit this statement, as the secretary in conversation the other day expressed a desire to be furnished with the figures in this matter, and an opinion from yourself as to the efficiency of the present method of works execution by day labour as regards the Federal Capital Territory roads.
On that the Director-General of Works writes -
The report of Mr. Thomas Hill is forwarded for information. It discloses that the work done on roads has been reasonable in cost. It will, of course, be remembered that when the Commonwealth took over the roads they hart been very much neglected by the shire for some years previously.
That minute is dated : 19th June. This is another report by Mr. Hill, dated 25th June -
It is not possible to institute an accurate comparison of the costs of executing Commonwealth works by contract andby day labour, since no two undertakings are identical. The nearest approach to uniformity is attained in the construction of standard type post-offices in the metropolitan district, but even in this class of work there are variations in the positions of sewerage connexions, gradients of ground, and other matters peculiar to each site which preclude an exact comparison. Still, as a result of the last three years’ experience in execution of works by day labour by this branch, it can be confidently stated that it results in economy, and that the quality of workmanship is equal to that turned out by the best class of contractor, and superior to that of the average contractor. In the case of certain classes of undertakings - such as Defence works at the Heads, which, with a few minor exceptions, have been executed by day labour for many years past - the cost of execution by contract would have been considerably greater. Several circumstances - difficulties of access, the impossibility of prescribing the work to be done, and such services as alterations to existing gun em placements on plans and in specifications - render day labour the only economical method of execution. Then, again, when public utilities, such as the Commonwealth Clothing and Harness Factories, are required at very short notice, execution by clay labour saves valuable time which would otherwise be required for preparation of plans, specifications, the calling of tenders, the taking out of quantities, and other formalities which represent at least two months’ time. Further, contract is rigid, and any departure from its provisions that may arise during the progress of work is generally made the basis of heavy claims as extras by the contractor. This contingency is avoided in day labour, and that fact, together with the saving of contractors’ profits, results in an appreciable reduction in costs. Additions and alterations to country post-offices have similarly been carried out by day labour economically. A gang of skilled men is able to deal with requisitions in rotation, and the small charges for moving them from place to place is more than compensated forby the superior quality of the work when performed by men accustomed to it, and by the expedition achieved in execution. The construction of rifle ranges has also been carried out by mobile gangs of men accustomed to the work moving from district to district. As the work is not that of the ordinary builder, plans and specifications were formerly required to be prepared in each case, setting forth minute details, and contractors, being unaccustomed to this branch of industry, invariably covered themselves with high price’s. It was also noticed that few tenders for this class of work were being received, and those submitted generally were much higher than day labour cost. Practically little difficulty has been experienced in obtaining suitable skilled labour, and it is found that the men, generally speaking, work well, being desirous of making the day-labour system a success financially.
I commend that last sentence to the attention of honorable members opposite -
Further, while the employes of the Commonwealth are in a slightly better position than the employes of contractors, this aggregate disadvantage to the Commonwealth is more than balanced by the saving of contractors’ profits. Another reason why men seek employment on Commonwealth works is the fact that the large amount of work in progress insures continuous employment for the best men, who are selected and moved from work to work. Materialscan be purchased by the Commonwealth as cheaply, if not more so, than by contractors, the credit of the former being unrivalled in the community. Efficient results also are obtained from the use continually of scaffolding and appliances, which, in contractors’ hands, may lie idle for long periods. Commonwealth plant is given constant use until worn out, and a proportion of its cost is charged to each work upon which it is used. Your attention is invited to returns of costs recently supplied to you relating to the new Commonwealth Offices, Treasury Gardens, Melbourne, and to roads in the Federal Capital Territory - two substantial instances in point of architectural and engineering work.
It will be seen that that report was not prepared for this occasion.I should now like to read a report from the Secretary on the subject of the relative merits of the daylabour sy stein as compared, with the contract system. It is as follows -
On the subject of the relative merits of the day-labour system as compared with the contract system, in my opinion, the day labour or departmental system should generally prove to be the more satisfactory, provided that the supervising officers carry out instructions and insist upon a fair day’s’ work for a fair day’s pay. The Department pays the same wages to its employes as a contractor, and should be able to purchase material at reasonable prices. The success of the System depends, to a great extent, upon efficient supervision and a willing cooperation of all concerned. This having been secured, there should be no question as to the results.
Let me read this -
In response to your verbal inquiries, I am not aware of an instance where an employe1 whose services had been dispensed with for misconduct or inefficiency has been re-engaged under your direction - no such direction has ever been given.
I did not make my own life a success without efficiency, and I know that no man can make his business a success if he does not get’ an opportunity. We, therefore, put those officers there, and give them a chance -
As a rule, the men engaged by the Department on day labour do a fair day’s work ; the services of any man found to be unsatisfactory are dispensed with. Naturally, at the inception of any great day-labour system a certain proportion of men taken on fall short of requirements - these men are not retained.
Then I have the following -
It is reported by the Director-General of Works that the construction of forts by day labour has proved unquestionably the most economical method. A fort has recently been constructed at Point Nepean under difficult conditions of access and isolation, and the cost has been much less than a fort of the same size erected a few years ago under contract, notwithstanding the increased value of labour and ma terials in the meantime. The actual cost of the fort at Nepean has been somewhat over onehalf of the original rough estimate prepared by the War Office.
The alterations to forts for new armament done by day labour have been done within the estimated cost and economically.
I have further reports as follows -
The largest building constructed by the Department under day labour is the new Treasury Building, Melbourne. My Department’s estimate was £27,000 for a gross floor area of 41,000 square feet. (The building is costing about £3,000 more than the1910 estimate, accounted for by all-round increase in cost of construction.) As a comparison between the cost of the building by day labour and under contract, the Commonwealth has just received tenders for a large building in Adelaide ; the lowest tender works out at about 20 per cent. more per cubic foot than the cost of the day-labour job in Melbourne.
A few years ago rifle ranges were constructed by contract. The Director-General of Works advised that the works should be executed by day labour. The result has been that ranges of two or more targets cost, under the latter system, from £50 to £80 per target complete, as against the cost under contract of £80 to over £100 per target.
I did not introduce this system. I believe it was introduced by my predecessor, the honorable member for Illawarra -
Probably one of the most striking examples in this country of the all-round advantages of the day-labour system is that of railway construction in Queensland.
It has been an almost exclusive operation in that State for over ten years, with the wellknown results that costs are lower, and there is an absence of expenses, lawsuits with contractors in settlement of more or less righteous claims.
I understand the success of the principle there is that officers in charge of works have extensive individual powers, and there seems no reason why the Commonwealth should not proceed on similar lines under suitable men.
That is exactly what the Department of Home Affairs has done. The following figures will be of interest as showing the growth of the expenditure on new works since the year 1909-10 -
The area of the Federal Territory is 562,681 acres. The nature of holdings is as follows: - Freehold. 88,528 acres; recently acquired by the Commonwealth. 85,000 acres ; in process of alienation, 149, 6or acres; held under lease, 213,662 acres; unoccupied Crown lands, 25,890 acres. The primary object of acquiring the 85.000 acres was to enable the Department to proceed with the initial works in connexion with the establishment of the city. The area embraces the city site, the lands traversed by the pipe line to the Cotter River, some of the land lying between the city site and Queanbeyan, the sewage farm, the afforestation area, and the weir site on the Cotter River. The initial works proposed include power plant; brick works; weir, Cotter River; rising main ; bridge and tunnels ; railway to Queanbeyan; road-making and deviations; joinery timbers; further building work at Acton ; accessory accommodation for workmen; afforestation; and surveys for various purposes. Particulars of initial works are shown in a printed statement of works attached to my memoranda. It is just as ridiculous for members of the Opposition to ask me to have an inquiry regarding the Argus statements as it would be for me to ask them to institute an inquiry concerning the various councils all over Victoria which are saying that there ought not to be a Federal city built at all, but that the Federal Parliament should sit in Sydney or Melbourne. A great many people have the foolish idea that the Federal Capital is not a paying proposition. I hold that the Federal Capital is the greatest asset that the Commonwealth possesses, right from its start. The following is the revenue from it : - Rates and taxes, £2,800 per annum ; licences of various descriptions, say, ,£500 per annum ; premises, &c, leased by departmental officers and employes, £1,500 per annum ; rentals to be derived from land recently acquired, about £^30,000 per annum ; total actual and estimated revenue. ,£34,800 per annum.
– Of course, we shall have to pay for the land. We have spent only ,£84,000 all told up to now, and the present revenue of ,£4,800 a vear represents between 5 and 6 per cent, already. I wish I had propositions like these privately. I should like to finance this business myself.
– What about those in the Territory who have to pay the taxes, and have no representation?
– Another mistake that everybody makes is to think that these people are worse off under the Commonwealth than they were under the New South Wales Government. I hear n great many complaints that we are not doing this, that, or the other ; but shortly I hope to see established in the Federal Territory a branch of’ the Commonwealth Bank, to which these people can all go for help to carry on their activities and industries.
– But they are denied citizens’ rights.
– There are 400,000 people in the city of Washington, United States of America, but they have their homes in the different States. All these men are required to do is to have their homes in the different States, and they do not lose their citizenship. If there is any information which I have not given, honorable members can ask for it, and I shall he only too pleased to supply it; but I do trust that, from this out, if honorable members want to know anything about the Home Affairs Department, they will walk straight down to me. The door there is wide open to all - Christians and non- Christians. I say “ Come right down.” I shall very quickly send for any officer whom honorable members want to see, or they can go to see him. No Minister who wishes to make his Department a success, and is proud of his name, wants to hide anything. I do not.
– Yet I have asked for a return regarding Ministerial expenses, which I cannot get.
– I have no objection to mine being given. I lived in a coffee palace in the West.
– After hearing the Minister’s explanation, I think we must come* to the conclusion that he has made out a very fair case. On the other hand, it seems to me that there is something in the charge of the employment of “ wasters “ under the day-labour system, and that some more extensive inquiry is necessary than the Min.ister has promised to make. It is all very well to shelter ourselves behind reports, but we know that there are “ wasters “ in this country working, not only for contractors, but under the day-labour system of various Governments. Four million; pounds seems to be a very large sum to spend on works, but an examination of the items shows that most of it is to be spent on useful works. For instance, a large expenditure is proposed for postal and telephonic extensions. That is very necessary, because, unfortunately, in the past the Postmaster-General’s Department has been greatly starved, and the Government are to be commended for coming forward with a bold policy of expenditure, although, of course, they are fortunate in having a large and expanding revenue, which other Governments have not had. I am not going to blame the Minister for what has taken place at the Federal Capital site, but he seems to be looking at the matter from too commercial a stand-point. Why should he glory in the fact that he is receiving a very large revenue from the men living in the Federal Territory, in the shape of rates and taxes and ents? Those people are not receiving the same consideration from the Commonwealth that they received from the State. They have no representation, and they ought to have it.
– How are you going to give it to them ?
– Nothing is impossible. Why not put all the Territories together, if there is not sufficient population in any particular case? The honorable member for Gippsland laughs, but there should be no taxation without representation. These nien are having their lands taken away from them, and they do not know when they are going to be paid for them. The men who pay the revenue that the Minister speaks of have to be considered.
– Why are they not paid promptly for their land?
– The Minister is not to blame for that, because it is difficult to take over a big area and immediately arrange all the details. I am not going to join in the slandering of the officers or the men working at the Capital site. I have been there a good many times, and I can say that Colonel Miller, Colonel Owen, Mr. Hill, Mr. Oakeshott, Mr. Haigh, Mr. Oxenham, Mr. Brilliant, and the paymaster, Mr. Piggin, are all good men, and have done good work. A good deal has been charged against the day-labour system there, because a few “ wasters “ have been employed there, and it is of no use trying to gloss over the fact. I understand that some definite charge has now been made, into which the Minister has undertaken to inquire.
– No definite charge has been made.
– If a definite charge is made, it should be inquired into. If I knew where men were wilfully loafing and “sponging “ on the Government, I should not consider myself an informer if I made a charge against them. It is the duty of any member of the House, or of the public, in such circumstances, to take action. At the same time, when the Minister knows that a controversy is going on, it is his plain duty to make further inquiries, and see if what is alleged really exists. I am sure the Minister will do so, or that his officers will if he does not. I have heard a great deal about intoxication in the Federal Capital area, ‘ but there is only one hotel there, and that is miles away from the works. 1 do not join in the cry that it is a crime for a man to take a drink of whisky. Some of the best men in the country do so. From my knowledge of the officers of the Department, I am sure they would not allow drunken men to work there. The Minister speaks about establishing a branch of the Federal Bank at the Capital, but greater expedition should have been shown in establishing a postal Savings Bank there, so as to give the men a chance to bank their money instead of spending it in ways that, perhaps, were not wise. The Minister said he was acquiring 85,000 acres of land there now. When he does acquire it, the owners should be promptly paid for it. They are asking for some certainty in the matter, and they should be given it. The Minister has not got as far as giving the Capital a name yet.
– The progress at the Capital, although slow, is pretty sure, but I think we ought to insist on a bigger expenditure than is provided for in these Estimates. The sum of £110,000 is to be voted, but that includes no less than .£31,755 of a re- vote. That ought not to be, but I can quite understand the difficulty, because private people in the district have often to wait for months to get work done through the want of sufficient artisans. The Minister ought to assure the people by the steady expenditure of public money on the building of the Capital that there is to be no turning back. There is a growing impression that the agitation in Victoria against the building of the Capital will have the effect of blocking it, and, in the circumstances, we ought to have a definite assurance to the contrary from the Government themselves. The best assurance they can give us is the expenditure of money on preliminary as well as solid work at the Capital site. Provision ought to be made on these Estimates for the proposed railway from Jervis Bay to the Capital. Surely there should be a vote proposed to provide for a fresh exploratory survey to try and include Braidwood. The Capital must have a port, and a port without a railway to it is useless. Are the future residents of the Capital to reach Jervis Bay by means of flying machines ? I should like to ask the Minister whether the proposed railway from Queanbeyan is to be a temporary or a permanent line?
– It will be a permanent one.
– I am glad to have that assurance. The railway ought to have been constructed before now, and so have rendered it unnecessary to use teams to carry materials to the Capital. I trust that the Minister will tell the Committee that it is not intended to yield to the agitation in Victoria to delay the building of the Capital. It is idle to talk about making Melbourne and Sydney alternately the Seat of Government.
– Hear, hear !
– I fought against the selection of the Yass-Canberra site, believing that a better one could be secured ; but we ought to recognise now that the matter has been finally settled. We ought not to bow down to any parochial feeling, but should proceed to establish the Capital as soon as possible. I have visited the site, which adjoins my electorate, more often than have most honorable members. I have seen the men working there, and know many of the officers, and my opinion is that good work has been done- The roads are a credit to those responsible for their construction, and I believe that the public money has been well expended. Of course, there are some wasters on the Capital site, just as there are some wasters everywhere ; and, in view of the charges that have been made by responsible journals, and repeated in this House, it is the duty of the Minister to institute inquiries, and to give honorable members a straight-out reply like those with which his officers have furnished him to-day. If allegations are made that men are loafing on the Government and no action is taken by the responsible De partment to ascertain the truth or otherwise of such statements, disastrous results must ensue. I do not decry the principle of day labour. I have had some work carried out under that system, and have obtained from it good results. Men, however, are prone to take things easy if they are not well supervised, and unless precautions are taken to prevent anything of the kind in connexion with Government works, the outcome will be disastrous to the day-labour system. It is the bounden duty of the Minister of Home Affairs to make inquiries into this matter, just as it is the duty of every member of Parliament, and, indeed, of every citizen, to place the Ministry in possession of the facts, when he knows that the Government are being robbed - because loafing is robbery - by idle workmen. A man need not necessarily be an informer, but if he knows that men are loafing while in the Government employ, he ought to acquaint the responsible Minister with that fact. I hope the building of the Federal Capital will be pressed on, and I should like, also, to see a name chosen for it. It is absurd to call it Yass-Canberra. Let us call it “ Austral,” or what honorable members please, but by all means let us give it a name. I think it unwise to make the Department of Home Affairs responsible for all the work at the Capital site. It would be preferable to have a Commissioner, or Commissioners, to supervise the large expenditure that must be made there. I should be very glad to see the work handed over to the present Secretary of the Department, for he is an able, energetic, and praiseworthy officer. At present he is overworked, and I think that the Government should either hand over the supervision of the Federal .Capital works to him as sole Commissioner, or give him some assistance in that regard, and let some one else take charge of the Department. He ought not to be sweated- The expenditure at the Capital site will be very great, and we ought to take every precaution to see that we get good value for our money. In the expenditure of public money we should display the same common sense, caution, and enterprise that we would show in spending our own private funds. I know that there is a great deal of unrest in the Capital. The men are not satisfied with what is being done there; but while things are not what they ought to be, I feel that the fault is not that of the Minister or his officers. The Minister is wise in trying to lay a proper foundation for the work of building the city, and, if I know him aright, if he finds that he can spend more money than is provided for on these Estimates, he will spend it, and see that it is found by the Treasurer.
– The honorable member does not think that the Minister will hold up the work?
– I do not. But we ought to have from the Minister a definite statement that the work will not be held up. I do not cavil at those Victorians who think that there ought to be some change in regard to the capital. After all, it is a matter of opinion, but it is the duty of . the Government to show . that they are prepared to act in accordance with the wish of this House, and to push on with the building of the Capital as speedily as possible. We should be housed there within the next five or seven years.
– Hear, hear.
– I hope the Minister will give us an assurance to that effect. If he does, he will do away with the feeling of unrest that prevails in New South Wales with regard to this matter. Many people there think that this agitation against the building of the Capital is having some effect on the Government.
– Not the slightest.
– I am very glad to hear it. I trust that the Minister will push on with work at the Capital, and thus show that there is no intention to abandon the site. It is of no use having the fight over again. We have fought the question, and have settled it.
– It is settled, and the site is a beautiful one.
– I agree. One thins; in its favour is that it is close to my electorate. There is no reference in these Estimates to the redistribution of electorates, but I hope that the Minister will soon be able to submit to us the report of the Commissioners of New South Wales, so that we shall know exactly how we stand in regard to our electoral boundaries. I trust also that the Minister will make an effort to give those who are in the Federal Capital Territory some representation, for it is wrong that people should be called upon to pay taxation imposed by a Parliament in which they are not represented.
– I desire to express my appreciation of the action of the Government in submitting these Estimates so early in the session. They involve a considerable expenditure on new works, and to leave them until the Estimates as a whole could be dealt with would be to postpone those works until very late in the year. As it is, the officers of the Department will be able to push on with the various works and undertakings for which these Estimates provide at a much earlier date than would otherwise be possible. Whilst 1 commend the Government for their action in this regard, I hope they will not make it an excuse, as other Governments have done, for delaying the consideration of the general Estimates until practically the end of the year, when honorable members are tired out, and there is a consuming desire to bring the session to a close. In such circumstances, the Estimates cannot be properly discussed by either branch of the Legislature. I hope that sufficient time will be given honorable members of both Houses to deal with them.
During this debate, . a very strong indictment against the day-labour system has been made by certain members of the Opposition. I do not question their honesty, but I would point out that they have been dealing with second-hand information, the value of which, to some extent, can be assessed by the facts supplied by the Minister this afternoon in respect to some of the charges. Honorable members will doubtless realize that as we are drawing near to the end of the Parliament, currency will be given to many such charges, not with a view of redressing wrongs or evils, but merely for the sake of party interests. While such statements can gain ready currency in the large daily newspapers, statements in rebuttal are not so freely published. I shall be very much surprised, if the Minister’s reply is reported by the newspapers to-morrow with anything like the fullness with which the statements to which he was replying were set out. If the honorable gentleman’s speech is treated as the daily pressgenerally treat the speeches of honorable members on this side of the House, then the public will have practically only one side of the case. I am hopeful that the time is coming when both sides will receive just treatment at the hands of the great newspapers of Australia. Such a thing is almost impossible to-day, seeing that the leading journals have a strong bias to a particular side of politics.
I would remind honorable members that the charges to which we have listened against the day-labour system are by no means new. Equally strong statements were made many years ago. When I was in the Parliament of New South Wales, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, who was then a. very sturdy Democrat, and- held office as Postmaster-General in the State, decided to construct large telephone tunnels in the city of Sydney under the day-labour system. There was at once a huge outcry on the part of the Master Builders, and Contractors’ Association, as well as others in sympathy with the members of that society. Charges quite as strong as those made during this debate were then levelled against those carrying out that work, and the honorable member for Hume, who was Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, was so impressed by them that he demanded a full investigation. A Committee was appointed, evidence was taken, and a thorough and complete inquiry made. The honorable member for Hume admitted that, prior to the inquiry, he was biased against the day-labour system, because of statements which had been made to him by interested parties, but, having gone into the matter thoroughly, he became converted to the system, and has stood firmly by it ever since. After all, day labour is the bed-rock of all public works undertakings. Contractors may occasionally sublet, but, in the end, the work is done by day labour. If contractors can use day labour efficiently, why should not the Government do so? Those who advocate the day-labour system admit that amongst the honest workers there is a certain number of shirkers, and that, therefore, effective supervision is required. Given that, a Government can pay its workmen better wages, provide better conditions, and do its work more cheaply by the daylabour system than by the contract system. Of evidence to support this statement there is ample. In the well-known McSharry case, the New South Wales Government, after a dispute with contractors, had to pay, not only the sum in dispute, but many thousands of pounds for the law expenses in arbitration proceedings, which lasted for a very long while. It has been the general experience, in connexion with the contract system, that, by reason of the occurrence of conditions which were not foreseen when the plans and specifications were prepared, contracts have often to be altered, and when this happens the Government seem to be in the hands of the contractors, and have to pay dearly for re-adjustments and compensation. By the day-labour system this trouble and expense is avoided, and both the Government and the workers gain. All that is necessary to insure the success of the day-labour system is the appointment of competent supervisors possessing sufficient authority. I am sure that working men generally know the benefits of the day-labour system, and will use their best efforts to make it as big a success as possture. No quarter should be given to thesible. No quarter should be given to the sent about his business at once, because neither the Government nor the private contractor can afford to pay full wages to men who are not doing a fair day’s work. An attack has been made on the system of preference to unionists. This system has been discussed thoroughly on previous occasions.
The employers have always been opposed to giving preference to unionists, because they have found that in the fight with employes they are at an advantage so long as the employes remain unorganized. In the past very many employers have been supporting preference to non-unionists, and the only reply that the unions could make was to claim preference for unionists. When employers are ready to treat all men alike, whether they be unionists or nonunionists, the former will be prepared to meet them ; but, so long as black-lists remain, and men are tabooed for being. good unionists, and striving to better their conditions and those of their fellows, the only thing the unionists can do is to demand preference. The Minister should see that he gets competent, capable, and fair officers and men, and that they are given the amplest opportunity to give the best results. Under these circumstances day labour and the recognition of unionists is bound to be a success. Should it be made clear that there is general laxity in the conduct of public works, I shall be prepared to assist in securing an investigation, because nothing could damage the day-labour system and preference to unionists more than to allow a loose state of doing things to continue.
As for the Federal Territory, I have not recently visited it, and have no personal knowledge of what is being done there. Like other honorable members, I have received from the Minister invitations to go there, and I know that special provision is marie to enable members to see all that is taking place, but, unfortunately, I have not had time to do that. If the press reports in regard to the manner in which the works are being carried out are correct, honorable members are to blame for allowing this state of things to obtain. It must be remembered, however, that these statements are being made when an election is looming, and personally I would take the reports of responsible officers like Colonel Miller and Colonel Owen in preference to newspaper statements. If those who have drawn attention to the press statements here can produce evidence in support of them, 1 shall not hesitate to vote for an investigation to sheet home any wrongdoing to those who may be responsible for it.
Passing to another matter, I learn from an interesting and informative pamphlet which the Minister has issued to honorable members that on the 17th October, 1910, he approved of the erection of a new postoffice at Koorawatha, at a cost of something like £1,200. The work was again approved on the 15th May, 1911, and was supposed to be finished on the 14th June, 1912, a considerable time after the period allowed in the contract had expired. Yet, according to information. I have received from residents of the town, the building remains unoccupied, and the postal business of the place is still conducted in the old premises. Perhaps the Minister or the Postmaster-General will inquire why this is, and see that the new building is brought into use as speedily as possible.
.- Had the statements of the Minister of Home Affairs been made yesterday, there might have been some curtailment of this discussion; but possibly the honorable gentleman was not then fortified with some of the official reports which he has read. It is not clear from, the dates that these reports meet the complaints to which attention has been directed. There has been no attack on the administration of the Works Department generally, nor on the daylabour system, which has been adopted by every Government for a number of works, and must often be followed. The charge is that certain works are not being properly carried out. This is based in part on the statements of newspaper reporters, men of trained observation, whose word can be taken at its surface value. They are practically never guilty of wilful fabrication; there may be misinterpretation, but, if so, it is probably unintentional, and can be removed. But the weakest point of the Minister’s reply is that he gave us general assurances to meet particular complaints; there is nothing, so far as I can see, to indicate that any of the officers, whose testimony he has read, cover the particular matters to which attention has been drawn by the comments in the press.
– What particular matters? There has been no definite charge.
– There are six definite charges in the Argus.
– What have charges in the Argus to do with the Department of Home Affairs ?
– Speaking as a newspaper reader merely, I do not suppose it was intended that the remarks in the press should apply only to one Department, though they appeared to me to be more applicable to the Post and Telegraph Department than to the Department of Home Affairs. In any case, a great number of the Post and Telegraph works are carried out in association with the Department of Home Affairs.
– The Department of Home Affairs does not touch the telephones, or the undergrounding of wires.
– But Ministers have been present, and we have had no promise of any reports.
– I was about to put these considerations aside; but in reply to the interjections, must point out that the matters chiefly complained of occurred in the Post and Telegraph Department, and there has not been any answer whatever to the charges made in this connexion. That leaves the case in even a worse position than I have put it.
– Honorable members have been informed that, so far as the charges in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department are concerned, the Acting Minister is making- an investigation, and has been doing so since the newspaper articles appeared.
– We have not even had a forecast or foretaste of that investigation. But if that bethe state of affairs, I should be the last to expect the Minister of Home Affairs to say anything of matters that do not come within his jurisdiction, which is ample enough, even for his ambition. I do not attribute to him any desire to annex any portion of the work of the Post and Telegraph Department.
– But the Argus made charges against me.
– And the Minister of Home Affairs undertook to say that the statements were false, though they were not made in relation to his Department.
– I said they were false so far as my Department was concerned.
– I have hitherto understood that the Minister, rather than resenting, invited criticism, even of a hostile character - that he rather exulted in it, though on the present occasion I have not observed so much exultation. There were references made to work done in the Federal Territory, which is under the Minister of Home Affairs. To those references the Minister has read a general reply, although the charges were, so to speak, particular, relating to particular men neglecting a particular part of their duty. As I say, the certificates read by the Minister of Home Affairs are of a general character; for instance, we were told that, “as a rule,” the men do a fair day’s work for their wages. Nobody disputes that fact ; but the clear implication was that some men were neglecting their work. This must have a demoralizing effect in course of time. The charges were against certain people, and they are not disposed of by a general reply that, “as a rule,” the men do a fair day’s work. We have also been told that, “ generally speaking,” the work in the Federal Territory is being well done. No one disputes that fact. What, as I understand, the press alleged, was that there were particular instances of neglect of particular portions of work ; and it is no answer to them to quote such general testimonials.
– Would the honorable member advocate the appointment of a Select Committee to investigate those isolated cases?
– I certainly expected the statements to have been classified and examined in a preliminary inquiry made by the Ministers concerned. It should need very little, indeed, to satisfy them that an inquiry is warranted if they found a number of persons in the community under the impression that the state of affairs alleged exists. Men who do their work have nothing to fear ; the system of day labour is not attacked. It simply remains for Ministers to dispose of particular cases, in which there are alleged to have been departures from the good, sound rule of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage. No one is more interested in having those statements disproved than are the workmen themselves, and none are less well served by attempts to have them disposed of, or apparently disposed of, by general assertions not applying to those particular cases. My attention has been called to the fact that, in the important State of New South Wales, according to the newspapers this morning, a Commission of some kind is to be launched on apparently a mere suspicion that the construction of a particular tram line was sought with personal motives. On mere suspicion an inquiry is to be made.
– In that case there was a direct statement, and charges were made against the Government.
– It appeared, from the newspapers, that there was very slight ground for an inquiry. In any case, what has any one here to lose by a fair inquiry ? The Ministers have it in their own hands to appoint the persons to make the inquiry, and to direct the particular subject for examination. No one who is doing his work fairly can be injured by an inquiry.
– There has been no charge made.
– I saw a column. or two in the newspapers.
– Make a specific charge, and then we can go on.
– That interjection is sufficiently material, perhaps, to merit a reply. Let me say that among the persons who are not called upon to make personal charges are the representatives of the people. We are here to represent the people, and are not justified in assuming any personal oversight of particular officers of the Public Service. They can be reached in a proper way by the regular channels.
Mr.Ozanne. - That is a quibble !
– The honorable member is at liberty to apply any epithet he chooses, but if he thinks that this is a quibble, I am sorry for him. As the honorable member has more experience in the discharge of public duties, he will realize the responsibilities which lie on members of Parliament. Amongst these responsibilities is that, while representing the people, of carefully avoiding any connexion, as an individual, with particular matters needing tobe investigated in a public spirit, since they are matters of which he will be a judge when the evidence is before him. To turn members of Parliament into advocates, or even into witnesses, if it can possibly be avoided, is greatly to be deprecated. This is the Court of Parliament, in which each honorable member is one of the Judges, to whom such questions must ultimately be referred ; and for that, if for no other reason, we should not lightly undertake obligations of the character suggested. In this case, the evidence is that of newspaper articles and newspaper correspondents, most of the latter anonymous. It is, however, supported by the weight of the newspaper, and reporters’ testimonies of the manner in which certain persons are neglecting their duty.
– The alleged “loafers” are also anonymous - not a place or a name indicated !
– That is a matter for the inquiry, if one be held.
– Does the honor- . able member think that an inquiry should be granted on these newspaper articles?
– I think there was sufficient prima facie evidence, not only to justify, but to call for, an immediate inquiry by the Ministers concerned, as to the particular persons and places named. The only testimonial that seemed to be relevant, of all those read by the Minister of Home Affairs, was that general statement as to the good work done on the roads in the Federal Territory. I cannot say from recollection that this was the only charge made in regard to the Territory, or that the comments related only to those roads. But if that were so, the Minister of Home Affairs has discharged his responsibility. I am told that the Acting PostmasterGeneral is making personal inquiry into the charges made in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department. He has taken the proper course, and left no ground for complaint. The point is, however, that an impression has been made on the public mind by the statements made in the press. It is in the interest of all concerned - in the interest of honorable members as well, in the discharge of their public duty - that the allegations should be sifted by Ministers, and that, if good ground be discovered, an inquiry of a proper character should follow. That this should be done is in the interest of Ministers and members on both sides, because this is not, and should not be, a party matter.
– Then the honorable member does not insist on a Committee of Inquiry being appointed at this stage?
– Not until the Minister has made his report. We are assured that a colleague of the Postmaster-General, who is, unfortunately, absent through illness, is making a preliminary inquiry. That is what has been asked for. If the Minister of Home Affairs will undertake that, in regard to any charges affecting his officers and men, he will not rely upon a vague general inquiry such as he has been satisfied with, but make a particular inquiry as to the particular charges, he will have fulfilled his duty.
– The Acting PostmasterGeneral instituted an inquiry the very moment the articles appeared in the press, and before the subject was touched upon in the House.
– Then he has done all that can be expected ; the Minister of Home Affairs should take similar action. This is a matter of common interest to us all, and cannot be made a party matter. We desire to get at the facts ; and, unless the facts justify it, no one can be censured or punished. We are not putting people on their trial until there is a prima facie case; such a case we have not yet got.
– The honorable member is taking a very different position from that taken by other members opposite.
– Not so far as I have heard. If the honorable member turns to the remarks I made yesterday, he will find that they are of the same nature as those I have made to-day. Ministers took no exception to the manner in which I laid the case before them.
– No exception can be taken to the remarks of the honorable member or of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but we must take exception to the wild statements of others.
– This complaint has been interpreted as, in some way, related to trade unionism, but it has no such relation except in one important regard. The daylabour system is not condemned, nor is trade unionism. The conduct complained of might take place whether the men be members of unions or not.
– Did the honorable member hear the remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney?
– Some of them,; and it seemed to me that they were directed to particular cases, not known to me, in Sydney or in New South Wales. I am sorry the Minister of Home Affairs is temporarily absent, because I should like to ask him one question. He said in the course of his remarks, that, so far as- he was concerned, he held “the Secretary of the Union “ responsible. That I do not understand.
– The Minister said that if an employer got on good terms with the secretaries of the unions he would get good work done.
– The Minister did not say’ that.
– That is not the statement I took down. Will the Minister of Home Affairs, who is now present, state exactly what he did say?
– We want good men, and if the men we employ are not good they are removed very quickly. The Secretary of the Department sends them’ away. They have to go. We always ask the secretary of whatever union is concerned not to send us any but good men, and the Secretary of the Union sees that we get good men, but before that we had no one that we could hold responsible.
– Then when employing the men in the first instance, the Minister consults the Secretary of the Union?
– No; I never go near him.
– Then some officer on the Minister’s behalf is satisfied that the Secretary of the Union will send only capable and trustworthy men? We want to know what the method of employment is.
– The clerk of works employs all the men.
– How does the Secretary of the Union come to be responsible to the Minister, and what for?
– Loafers are soon taken off by the Secretary of the Union if they do not do the work.
– That confirms what I understood the Minister to say - that he looks to the Secretary of the Union to remove those who are not up to the standard. Is that correct?
– I ask the Minister.
– I do not have anything whatever to do with their selection. The officers advertise for them, and select them, and do the whole business. If they made any complaints to me I should very quickly say, “ These men have to go, and there is an end to it.”
– That does not tell me what the Secretary of the Union is held responsible for, and why.
– When we ask a union for men the Secretary of the Union is responsible for seeing that we get good men.
– If they do not prove satisfactory, does he deal with them?
– No, we deal with them very quickly. They have three days in which to be tested, and if they do not suit they go.
– Does not the honorable member for Ballarat know that many private employers now send to the Secretaries of Unions for men ?
– I know that very well, but the facts were left in obscurity by the Minister’s statement. I am not clear even now what it means. One other point 1 wish to commend to the Minister of Home Affairs and to the honorable member for Adelaide. The Minister of Home Affairs called attention to the fact - and the honorable member for Adelaide supported him - that a tender recently invited in Adelaide was £3,000 more than was anticipated. Apparently the tender is considered to be higher, having regard to the work done, than the cost of the Treasury building recently erected in Melbourne.
– I am not associated with that matter in any way.
– I understood the honorable member to assent to the Minister’sstatement. Now, one of the probable reasons why all tenders are at present so extremely high is the increased cost of materials, of living, and of wages, and still another, the presence of continuous industrial unrest. Of course, a great deal of that can be avoided when you have a small number of men under your own control, employed by day-labour; but when tenders are called for, the contractor, having no such security, is not to be blamed for insuring himself against risk.
– The Government have to insure themselves also. They are just as liable to these outbreaks as is a private employer.
– I notice some such cases in New South. Wales, but have seen none yet in connexion with the Home Affairs Department.
– Does the honorablemember mean industrial unrest abroad?
– I mean the industrial unrest that affects prices in Adelaide, Melbourne, and other centres. I hope the Minister will at once complete the general statement he has made by giving us the particular information on the particular matters as to which direct allegations have been made, whenever they relate to works now being carried out by his Department.
.- I should like to say, first, that I agree with the statements made and the attitude taken up by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. I consider that anything in connexion with any Department that is the subject of public suspicion is also a proper subject for public investigation. There never was a time, either in State or Federal politics, when I held any other view. I have taken up that attitude when sitting in Opposition in the State Parliament, and have always strenuously contended, whenever any public Department was the subject of suspicion, that that suspicion should be investigated and cleared up. I held that view against other Governments ; I hold it against this Government. But, when sitting in Opposition, I never knew any kind of Government that did not defend themselves with the contention that the Opposition ought to make a definite charge. I did not agree with that attitude then, and I do not agree with it now. I hold that it is the duty of any Government, whenever any question is raised as to the honesty or cleanliness of any Department, to investigate it at once by the instrumentality of men against whom there can be no suspicion, in order immediately to sweep all suspicion away. If the Government and their administration are cleared by the inquiry, the men who have made the accusation are correspondingly discredited. The one party is discredited, the other exonerated ; but, so long as the charges remain unproved, and suspicion is permitted to remain in the air, so long do the Opposition continue to make capital out of them. I should do the same if I were in Opposition. I do not blame honorable members opposite for doing it. It is a part of political warfare, and any Opposition have the right to charge the Government of the day with being afraid to investigate the matter. In the first place, I understand that this question did not arise> in connexion with* the Home Affairs Department. I should like to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, “ Does he employ anybody ? “ I have on several occasions tried to secure his influence for ‘my dear friends, but, unfortunately, his purity of purpose has always been proof against my allurements. He has told me that he has no influence ; that he is the subject of his servants; that Ke neither employs nor dismisses
– In short, that he is a rubber stamp.
– Just so. Then why does he say to us in this Chamber, “ I do so-and-so”? The Minister might as well inform us and the country that he has absolutely nothing to do with the employment or dismissal of these men. The official heads - the men who carry out the work - employ and dismiss. This Minister, and any other Minister, has no power in that matter, or, if they have, they are very careful about the exercising of it.
– That is quite right, is it not?
– I remember the honorable member who interrupts saying on one occasion, “ I have never interfered with the employment of anybody. Sometimes I have said, ‘ Do not like him ; do not want him ;’ that is all.” I do not know whether that is influence or not; but I think that if a Minister said so much as that, the applicant’s chance would be nil. I wish my friends would sometimes say something of that” character.
– I think that is exaggeration.
– It is permissible. In the Home Affairs Department, which is administered on business lines, as we all know, we have a Director of Works. When he is called upon to execute a work, he first of all employs a practical man, who may or may not be brought in from outside. He lays before this man plans and specifications, and tells him to carry out the business. If that man does not do the work, he passes ‘out, and some one else is employed in his place- Thus we have a proper and practical system ; Hut the allegations which appeared in the Argus had no real application to the Home Affairs Department at all. They relate wholly and solely to what is known as the underground telephone system, belonging to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. What are the facts? That business was started, before the inception of the Labour Government, under the contract system. Under that system, you have the direct cost of the contract, but you do not get the cost of the army of inspectors or permanent officials that crowd around. They all add to the cost, and under this particular system, when it was started, a crowd of permanent officials were got out, many of whom were not conversant with the work. Some of them knew nothing about it, and had never seen it ‘before. When a bricklayer had to lay a brick, a permanent official, who had been appointed inspector, sat down and watched him lay it. If another man had to mix the mortar, another inspector came along, and sat down and watched how he did it. If a man had to dig a hole, a third inspector settled himself down to watch him’. That was under the contract system. When the Labour Government came into power, they instituted a daylabour system, but instead of appointing a practical man in the shape of a clerk of works to look after the whole business, what was done by the Postal Department was this - places had to be found for those men who had been called in as inspectors under the preceding Government, and so the Department still kept them on. We have therefore a crowd of officers going down step by step from top to bottom. The whole undertaking is swamped by a body of inspectors - each inspecting somebody else-s work, and this army of permanent inspectors is probably more costly than the men who do the actual work. You have there the electrical engineer, the assistant engineer, the inspector of lines, and the inspector under him, and the assistant to the assistant of the assistant, -until you get down to some kind of inspector who supervises the man who does the actual work. I say there” ought to be an inquiry.
– Surely that fact alone ought to be inquired into.
– It is a fit and proper subject for inquiry. The Argus made a statement to the effect that a large number of incapable men were kept on by politicians. I affirm that if there is any member of Parliament who has exercised political influence to keep on in a position of that character any man who ought to be dismissed, he is unworthy of occupying a place in this Parliament.
– I stand by the honorable member.
– That accusation should be proved or disproved.
– That alone is a fit subject of inquiry.
– It is. If, on the other hand, official or social influence has been at work to secure the retention of the ser vices of incapable men, then those who, outside of politics, have exercised their social influence in that way should be exposed. Again, if there be any permanent official who, in his capacity as a departmental officer, is called upon to properly execute * certain works, but neglects the obligations of his office by keeping on incapable men. then he is utterly unfit for the position he holds and should be dismissed or suspended. The facts relating to the Postal Department which I conceive to be the proper subject of inquiry, are that most of the permanent officials were hostile to the introduction of the day-labour system, and almost unanimously reported against it.
– Has the honorable member seen the reports?
– I have.
– I have not.
– There are lots of things that the right honorable member has not seen. The question is one in which I took a keen interest long before it was raised in this House. The day-labour system is worthy of investigation. If permanent officials are to blame for any trouble that has arisen, or public men have used1 their influence to keep on incapable men, they should be exposed. Whilst I take this view, I consider that there is no reason why I should not give a letter of recommendation to a man whom I know from long experience to be a capable and conscientious worker ; but I should abuse my position as a member of Parliament if I recommended for employment in any Department a man whom I knew to be incapable. To return, however, to the matter to which I was referring when interrupted, I may say that it is well known that a body of permanent officers reported against the day-labour system in connexion with the Postal Department. Only one officer reported in its favour. The Labour party are, of course, bound to the day-labour system. It is well known that our party has always favoured it, and believes that it ought to be extended. That being so, we were bound to pursue that policy, even if the whole of the departmental officers were against us. We did pursue it, and I venture to say that the whole trouble that has arisen, so far as the Postal Department is concerned, is due to the hostility of the great bulk of the permanent officials to the day-labour system, and their endeavour to discredit the one officer who reported in its favour. That is a matter that should form the subject of investigation. We should know why certain officers are recommended for increments from time to time, whilst one officer who was rising step by step in the Service, and could get his increments from year to year, has been turned down by the permanent officials from the moment that he supported the day-labour system-; while the Government who should have stood behind him, since he supported their policy in this regard, has also let him go to the wall.
– Who is he?
– Honorable members know who he is.
– We have not heard of this before.
– I refer to the engineer for lines - the man who has to carry out the whole of this work by day labour. An attempt is being made to discredit his work and the system under which it is being carried out. There ought to be an inquiry into this complaint, even if there be nothing more than mere suspicion that such is the case. I affirm that every such suspicion is a proper subject for investigation. We should have an inquiry to demonstrate whether or not the accusations of the Argus are correct - whether it be true that public men have improperly used their influence, and whether or not permanent officials who are hostile to the system of day. labour have abused their positions in order to discredit that system. These are fit subjects for inquiry by a properly appointed body.
.- I think that I have been to some extent responsible for a good deal of this discussion, by bringing under the notice of the Minister yesterday a statement that appeared in the Argus. The Minister of Home Affairs then gave to my questions answers that were exceedingly undiplomatic, and which have led to many comments in the press, and to a good deal of feeling in the House. I am anxious to show that there is justification for what I did, and I think that one of the first bulwarks of my position is to be found in the fact that no less than four members of the Labour party have distinctly and unmistakably supported the demand that there should be an impartial investigation. The burden of the song of the Ministerial party has been that before the Government should be called upon to make an investigation, the Opposition should give details to the extent of actually naming the men of whom complaint is made. The statements which appeared in the Argus are about as definite as statements could be with regard to a matter of this kind. As it is quite possible that some members of the Ministerial party do not read the Argus, or, if they do, that they have not read the articles appearing in it entitled, “ The Man on the Job,” I am going to quote from them. I shall ask them then to say whether they think these statements are not definite enough to throw adistinct shade over the Department, so as to call for an investigation, not merely to satisfy the public, but to vindicate the Department itself. This is what the Argus says -
Among other cases reported upon to the authorities by inspectors are such “trivialities” as these -
The word “ trivialities “ is in inverted commas, that being the epithet applied to statements in a previous article -
No. 1 Complaint. - A navvy five days on four yards of excavation, the remaining eight yards of which piece were taken out by another man in two days.
No. 2. - A bricklayer, average rate of work 100 bricks per day. (The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works men average 500 to 600.)
No. 3. - Two navvies refusing to work in dry conditions underground because men on top had ceased work through rain ; also endeavouring to induce other men to knock off.
– That is a silly charge.
– I. am not now supporting those charges ; I am merely showing that theyare sufficiently specific to demand investigation.
No. 4. - Navvy loitering, and using obscene language to clerk of works when spoken to.
No. 5. - Bricklayer getting drunk during working hours and striking the clerk of works. (Nothing done officially.)
That indicates utter negligence and an utter want of discipline in the Departments.
No. 6. - Navvy refusing to cease smoking on the job when instructed by clerk of works and inspector.
No. 7. - Party of workmen demanding to be allowed to go home at half-past 8 a.m. because they had done some work in the rain, and leaving works without permission to go into office to lay complaint.
No. 8. - Two navvies excavated half-yard in one day, spending their time drinking in an hotel ; using obscene language to the clerk of works.
These are the rank-and-file instances, so to speak. There are the exceptional ones. Take, for instance, the case of a “man on the job” who familiarly, and apparently successfully, wrote to the Prime Minister as “ Dear Comrade,” and signed himself, “Fraternally yours,” &c. This labourer took time off on one occasion to interview the Prime Minister.
– The Prime Minister denies that.
– The article continues -
Mr. Fisher’s Secretary referred him to the Postmaster-General, but the man replying that “ the Postmaster-General was no_ use to him,” insisted on seeing the Prime Minister. He saw him. Later on he turned up at the trench with two other convivial spirits so drunk that he fell into the trench. This incident was duly reported. But was the man discharged? Of course not. He was shifted on to another gang. Thus kindly do Ministerial comrades protect their fellows.
– Was he drunk, or did he slip?
– I was not with him. The article continues -
Meanwhile the public are paying a weekly bill on this work of £1,700. There are those amongst the officials who declare that as much as 30 per cent, of the money is being wasted.
That is a fairly definite statement.
A couple of instances are given in support. On one contract in Melbourne where £91 worth of material was put underground, the cost of burying it was £1,000. On another, in Flinderslane, £105 worth of material was laid at a cost ot £1,000. From the inspectors’ point of view the position is exceedingly awkward. They can put on 20 men to-morrow, but woe betide the inspector who put off one of the elect - or even suggests that he be put off. If they send in a report they are reprimanded either for not having brought the matter under notice before or for bringing trifling matters under notice.
There we have a distinct charge that reports made to the Department have been ignored.
One inspector while inquiring into an accident at one of the contracts found three watchmen asleep on duty, in one instance, with the tent locked. This was reported - without result.
If that is true, then there is a. report in the Department to that effect. We are now told by the Minister of Home Affairs that this work is not controlled by his Department. Yesterday, however, when I put questions to him, and clearly indicated that I was basing them upon the Argus article, the honorable member did not tell me that the matter referred to another Department. No; he used language wholly unfitted for Parliament, and quite unfit for a Minister to utter. Instead of saying to me, “ You are finding fault with me, as a Minister, in respect of matters which have nothing to do with my Department,” he accused the Argus, in very unsavoury language, of suffering from paralysis and Chinese leprosy. It may be all very well for the Acting Postmaster-General to tell us now, twentyfour hours after these complaints have been brought forward in this Chamber, that an inquiry into them is being made, but this is the first time that any member on this side has heard’ of it. If the Minister of Home Affairs, when answering my question yesterday afternoon, had said that the Argus articles did not concern his Department, but that their allegations were so serious that he would bring them under the notice of the Acting PostmasterGeneral, with a view to having them reported upon, his reply would have been a proper one. But we heard nothing of an inquiry until to-day.
– The statement was made yesterday clearly and emphatically.
– It is very unsatisfactory.
– My. statement?
– No fewer than four Ministerial supporters have expressed the opinion that there should be an investigation. The speech of .the honorable member for Bourke was as refreshing as a lung full of sea breeze on coming from a sick room. In to-day’s Argus the gauntlet is thrown down to the Minister of Home Affairs, and 1 challenge him to pick it up. The journal says -
He takes every opportunity to publicly disparage his responsible officers and to indulge in sickening palaver over the men whom he terms “ brothers “ and “ comrades.” If the party adopts the “hush up” policy and refuses to bring him sharply to task, scandal after scandal will be discovered and hundreds and thousands of public money will be literally thrown away.
The honorable gentleman has brought that criticism upon himself.
– That disreputable journal has been attacking me all the week.
– The Argus is a journal which has a good deal of influence. The Minister went off into the subject of day labour, on the discussion of which a great many hours could be occupied. When Secretary for Public Works in New South Wales, twenty years ago, I tried a very interesting experiment in regard to day labour. There were a good many unemployed asking for employment, and there was a public work which I saw could be carried out by piece-work. I therefore got the engineer at the head of the Department to put on two gangs of navvies, to see at what rate per cubic yard stuff could be taken out of a canal to give the men employed on the work good wages ; and it was reported that the rate of 9d. per cubic, yard would give a wage of 7s. 3d. per day. The leader of the unemployed told me that their were a thousand men out of occupation, and I put them on at that rate.
– Does the honorable member call 7s. 3d. a fair day’s wage?
– This was twenty years ago, when 7s. 3d. was a good day’s wage. At that time food was only two-thirds its present price. The men were put on in gangs of four, and at the end of a fortnight some had earned the full wage, others 6s., 5s., 4s., 3s., 2s., and is. 6d. a day. Had that work been carried on by day labour, the men who earned only is. 6d. a day would have been the recipients of charity from the State of 5s. ad. a day, and the men who earned 7s. 3d. a day would have been demoralized by seeing others paid a full day’s pay for less than a quarter day’s work.
– No Administration could have kept those men.
– They very soon fell away. What they wanted was a fair day’s wage for less than a quarter of a fair day’s work. The experiment satisfied me that it is absurd to estimate men as on an equality in regard to work done, and that to pay them all alike demoralizes the best workers, and makes the others objects of charity.
– How many of those with whom the honorable member experimented were navvies?’
– They were all of them men wanting work, and were willing to take the work that I offered. I could not give them needlework. The Minister is right in saying that if you employ an army of inspectors at large salaries to overlook contract work you make it more expensive than the day-labour system. In my opinion, the best system is the contract system under competent officers paid to see that the public gets value for its money. The statements in the Argus, backed up by the serious charge against the Minister, constitute, if true, a public scandal. I agree with the honorable member for Bourke that, not only in the interests of the public, but also in those of the Government, Ministers should vindicate their character for carrying out these works in a manner thai will not permit the gross abuses represented to have taken place. The fact that four Ministerial supporters have courageously stated in this chamber that the charges are sufficiently specific and serious to demand an inquiry should induce the Government to have one made.
– An inquiry was started long before any mention was made of these matters in the chamber.
– Then it is a pity that honorable members were not made aware of the fact yesterday, when I put my question to the Minister of Home Affairs. Had he said that the work complained of was in another Department, and that an inquiry was proceeding, we should have awaited the result in patience. In the opinion of every business man who has read the Argus articles, there is evidence of a public scandal, and unless the Government vindicates its administration by an investigation which will give the lie direct to the newspaper statements, Ministers will be under the suspicion of having been guilty of a gross neglect of public duty.
.- One could not take much objection to the courteous sentences of the Leader of the Opposition, but the same thing cannot be said of the speeches of other honorable members. The statements which have been made took my thoughts back to an effort I made when I first entered the Victorian Parliament to obtain a Royal Commission to inquire into the manner in which the Parliament House in which we assemble was constructed. On two occasions I endeavoured to obtain such an inquiry. Honorable members can see evidence of the bad work of the contractors by going into the Queen’s Hall. A man who was too honest to take a bribe was dismissed. Sir Bryan O’Loghlen, previous to my entering the Victorian Parliament, endeavoured to assist him, and the present Chief Justice of Victoria, then Dr. Madden, also tried to do so. My attempt to get a Commission was hopeless. The contractors outside held the Victorian Parliament under their control. The Queen’s Hall is said to be the finest hall in Australia, but one has only to tap its walls with a knife, and listen to the hollow sound, to know that the plaster is what the trade calls “rotten.” It is not properly put on. Similarly bad work was put into the Law Courts by the contractor.
– Was there not a Government architect?
– He was not permitted to interfere. I had that from his OWn lips.
– If so, it was a scandal.
– In the second story of the Law Courts, you will find that nearly every stone is spotted like the Dalmatian hounds that used to be kept to follow carriages. What is the reason of that? The model stone, with which every other stone was to be compared before being accepted for the building, was stolen. The contractor advertised his reward alongside the Government reward, but he put in rotten stone on the top of the second story, where it can be seen to-day. Mr. Francis Gunn asked me if I could obtain an inquiry. He was in the gallery when the scandal was exposed. The honorable member for Kooyong, the honorable member for Ballarat, and, I think, the honorable member for Bendigo, were all then members of the Victorian Assembly. I could not get an inquiry, and that man, who would not receive a bribe, or take palm oil, could never get employment afterwards. That was the reward of his honesty. Part of the library of the Law Courts fell down, and nearly killed a man. This noble building in which we meet must be the only one in the world in which timber is used to support stone work. That may be seen by viewing it from the gardens at the rear. The old Treasury, a noble copy of a Venetian palace, is another building which was put op under contract with rotten stone. The statue of the Queen in the Queen’s Hall is a sham and a fraud, the head being let in at the hem of the garment. I learned that in Paris. When the statue was moved to where it now stands, I attempted to climb the steps, but the officer in charge tried to prevent me, and I had to threaten to hit him on the jaw. Contract work has been a curse in Victoria. In every single instance, up to the date when I obtained the figures in 1897, contractors had claimed in extras and other charges, more than the original estimates. On the introduction of the butty-gang system, the reduction in the cost was so great that I estimate that day labour has saved close on £2,000,000 to the State. This is shown by the fact that, in the case of subsequent works, the estimated expenditure was never reached, and it is a fair deduction that the old prices would have had to be paid under contract. The honorable member for Parkes, when a Minister in New South Wales, made an effort to meet an unemployed trouble by giving work on the butty-gang system, on the basis of 7s. 3d. for a fair day’s work.I dare say the standard was set by good men.
– Yes, good men.
– And a clerk, for instance, could not possibly compete with the more experienced men : so that it is no wonder some could not earn more than 1s. 6d. a day.
– I did not complain, but some of the men did, and 1 told them that they had done only1s. 6d. worth of work.
– That, I should say, would be a good way of getting rid of the unemployed - by starving them slowly to death. This experiment was tried at a bad time for labour, there being more men than there was work for ; and I submit that it was an unfair test of the system to have the standard set by the very best men.
– The full wages for a navvy at that time was 7s. 3d. a day.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– If the officers who have to inspect the work do not do their duty, it is bad for the community, and puts an unmerited slur on day labour, but it is not so bad for the community as having officers who take palm oil from contractors as was done in Victoria. It is easier to bribe one individual than to bribe many - a whole community cannot be bribed. It is unfair to take the ringers of a shearing shed, or the best two navvies in a gang of 100 to 300 as the test of the work to be done by the whole of those employed. I remember that when the late Sir Thomas Bent, afterwards Premier of Victoria, asked me to support his proposal to construct the tramway to Brighton, my vote being sufficient to carry the Bill, I made the stipulation that the conditions of the work should be six days of eight hours, and £2 a week as a minimum wage. Sir Thomas Bent, in that jovial way which some honorable members will recall, agreed as to the six days of eight hours each, but instead of fixing the wage at £2 a week, he offered to pay 7s. a day. Thus it happened, for the first time in the history of the world, that in the Parliament of Victoria a section was inserted in a Tramway Bill embodying those terms.
– What were the wages before?
– They were 6s. or 6s. 6d. a day, and Sir Thomas Bent, than whom there was no man keener in his appreciation of good work, declared definitely that any man was worth 7s. a day, and at that wage the State Government had the choice of the best men in the community. The Queen’s Hall of this building is said to be the finest in Australia, and yet in that apartment, where, before the boom burst, we had such splendid dinners and glorious times generally, with titles flying about, can be seen the stamp of bad work under contract. Mr. Francis Gunn, the inspector of the plastering, refused to pass the work, and was “ sacked “ in consequence.
– The Queen’s Hall is answering its purpose very well.
– I think that if the honorable member, with his keen brain and artistic appreciation, has another look at the work, he will not be able to say that it is good. The work is even worse in the Melbourne Law Courts, as I have already pointed out. I should like to refer to the great McSharry case in New South Wales, as an illustration of the bad effects of contract work. The contractor made a claim for a large amount over the contract price.
– He claimed £150,000, and recovered ,£13,000 for alleged alterations in the terms of the contract.
– I think that the honorable member for Parkes was one of the arbitrators.
– No, Mr. Justice Barton was arbitrator, while Mr. Justice O’Connor represented the plaintiff, and I represented the Crown. The honorable member knows that if a contract be altered, a fresh contract is practically entered into?
– And arbitration was a term in the contract.
– What I was going to point out was that, if counsel had been paid by contract, the case would not have lasted half the time.
– The honorable member has no right to say that.
– Counsel were paid each day for their attendance ; and, that being so, I am somewhat astonished that the honorable member should be so “ down “ on the day-labour system.
– The honorable member knows that, now, a solicitor can snake a contract in some parts of Australia.
– It was wise on the part of the lawyers not to make a contract in that arbitration case, or, otherwise, it would not have dragged on for, I think, nearly 100 days. In railway work we are assured by the engineer of the Victorian Railway Department that day labour, so far as earth-works are concerned, costs 37 per cent, less than contract labour. We are further informed that the Railways Commissioners do all the deviation work themselves, and on one job they saved £10,000 by day labour, as contrasted with contract work. As a sample of how the public are fleeced, six cases are quoted in a pamphlet by the honorable member for Darling; where charges for extras were contested by the Government, and the awards and costs were as follows : -
The honorable member for Darling also states -
The London County Council .has given up being taken down by contractors. For cleaning and watering bridges, contractor costs 4s. 7£d. to 4s. 10½d. per square yard. Under day labour it only costs 3s. 2d. Cleaning and repairing offices, the estimate was £740. It was done under day labour for ^£686/ For erection of a school house, the estimate was £1,688. The tender was £2,188. The Council did the work by day labour for £1,652. The York-road sewer estimate, £7,000. One tender was £11,588; the only other one £ri,6o8. Neither was accepted, and under day labour, controlled by Council’s officers, it only cost £7,111.
– The honorable member should go to New South Wales, and quote the matter the other way about.
– I have quoted figures to show that just upon £2,000,000 has been saved, in Victoria on the railways alone by day labour. I must compliment the Minister of Home Affairs on his valuation of properties ; he has saved the community a large sum of money in that way. My experience in going to any Government Department, for the last twenty years, has been that the Minister would call in his secretary, who would call in his subsecretary, who would call in somebody else, and perhaps in a week or ten days I would get an answer. In one case, I had to wait two months. At the present time, I have only to consult the digest that is furnished to honorable members by the Home Affairs Department. If I do not understand it. I can go to any officer of the Home Affairs Department, and have it explained. I can get an answer from the Department today quicker than I can from any other
Department, Commonwealth or State. I observe in that Department a readiness to reply, and, so far as concerns the attack made on the officers of the Department, I would take the opinion of Colonel Miller or Colonel Owen, and especially of Colonel Miller, as soon as that of any man 1 ever met. I have found both of them men of great parts, with a fine control of their Department. I am sure they would not allow those things to exist which the Argus has seen fit to allege in an indefinite way. To my mind, those charges were simply the apotheosis of anonymity. I have had to fight the Argus for twenty-two years. I have found it sometimes more fair than I have found the Age. but I have heard it stigmatized in this Chamber as being guilty of “ wilful and profligate untruths.” That was in the State days, and not one member of the House dared to divide the House against that motion, which was carried unanimously. I have heard Justice Isaacs, as a private member in this Chamber, give such a history of that journal that any member reading it would say “ it is time that these slanderous articles were signed by the men who write them.” If the inquiry that the Deputy Postmaster-General has undertaken shows that the charges recently made are a tissue of fabrications, I shall ask honorable members to remember that they will have an opportunity of saying that all articles in newspapers should be signed. Why should the writers on the powerful daily newspapers fear to subscribe their names to what they write?
– Would you not have an inquiry ?
– An inquiry is being held. If not, let the honorable member move for it, and I am sure he will have support from this side. In all my experience of political life, I have never found a Department better managed than the Department of Home Affairs, and I compliment the Minister on it. No doubt he is fortunate in having splendid men of great parts under him, and I would raise my voice in opposition to Colonel Miller being sent away even to take charge of the splendid work of building the Federal Capital. I would rather have him near, where I could, as a representative of the people, make use of his splendid capacity. I hold in my hand a publication called Building, which gives the views of the contractors. The articles that have been quoted from it are simply written with the object of putting down day labour.
In the issue which I have here, it is stated that, because the firm which is building the Queensland Insurance building, I think in William-street, “dared to construct the building of reinforced concrete, the Brickmaking Combine of Victoria refused to send it any bricks, and it was compelled to obtain its bricks in New South Wales. Luckily, when the firm reckoned up all the charges, it found it could get double-pressed Sydney facing bricks at 15s. a 1,000 less than it was willing .to pay the Combine here. There is an infamy ! Does any honorable member on. that side dare to support such a Combine? The New South Wales Government are now making bricks, and selling them cheaper than the brick-works in that State are doing. When the late Sir Thomas Bent threatened to make bricks in Victoria, and actually bought the land with the clay in it, down came the price of bricks at once, and the Central Railway Station, in Flindersstreet, was built with bricks at a lower cost than it would otherwise have been- The question of day labour comes in again with regard to the building of the Bligh-street Mansions in Sydney, a work running into .£80,000. This paper, Building, asks how dare the architect employ day labour. All this is simply nothing but a combination of contractors trying to put an end to day labour. The paper says, in its impertinent way -
The architect is a Mr. Kerr, of Melbourne. Careful inquiry does not elicit any of his previous works to be of sufficient importance to justify his sudden development to master the intricacies of highest skilled construction, such as the proposed building calls for. However, in fairness to him, he may not have had previous opportunities of showing latent talent and skill. So much for Mr. Kerr. Now study his system.
The men behind that ,£80,000 building would not choose an architect who did not know his business. He is attacked, forsooth, simply because he believes in day labour. If I view one religious edifice with more regard than another, it is the cathedral near Prince’s-bridge. It was built by day labour, and I do not know of any contractor who will say that there is a single course badly laid, or a single stone badly placed, in that magnificent pile.
.-!-The question of day labour versus contract is not in issue. We are discussing the simple question of whether the Government are getting an adequate return for the money they expend. We do not say that day labour is better or worse than contract, except as a general expression of opinion. The real questions are, “ Are men loitering on these works? Are they being paid good wages and not giving a good day’s work for them?” The Minister’s statements this afternoon were entirely wide of the issue. All we have had from him is a series of reports written prior to any of these allegations being made, and therefore having no relation to them. Only one general statement has been made since the allegations of the Argus were made, and that is in the form of a report of a very non-committal character by Colonel Miller. For the rest, there is Colonel Owen’s report of 7th June, concerning excellent work done on the roads of the Federal Capital. Nobody has said that the roads are not well made there. The statements regarding the Federal Capital are that the buildings are not being constructed as well and expeditiously as they should be, that loitering is going on there, and that other things are in progress there which do not tend to the speedy building of the Capital, or reflect credit on the Department. The statements made here with regard to the trenches that are being made are that the men are under no sort of adequate control, or that the men are rather controlling the inspectors than being controlled by them. It has been stated that the men have had deputations to the Postmaster-General, and that, when the inspectors as a body sought to be represented, so as to put their side of the case, they were refused the opportunity. Those allegations are either right or wrong, and should be susceptible of easy proof or disproof, but the only reply we get is that the Minister is inquiring into the matter. But the Minister is the man responsible for these things. He is the man in charge of the Department against which the allegations are being made. He is responsible to the House for the way in which the work will be carried through- Is he, therefore, the man who should report upon the matter, and should his report be accepted as the final statement of the case as far as the Government are concerned? When these matters are brought to issue as between the Government and the public, some independent authority should give an authoritative judgment to the public upon them. No matter what report the Minister presents to this House, it will not settle the matter.
– What is the good of talking about it if that is your attitude ?
– If the honorable member is prepared to back up the Government in anything they may do, that is his responsibility.
– I will carry my own baby; I do not want to carry yours.
– I hope the honorable member will let us discharge our obligations to the public, as he tries to discharge his. When we have statements such as are now made about the work being carried on by this Government, there should be the fullest inquiry by an independent body. If anything were wanted to complete the case for an inquiry it has been supplied by the honorable member for Bourke. He asserts that things are far from being right in the Postal Department. He makes the allegation that there are almost as many inspectors as there are workmen, and that these inspectors are tumbling over each other, so to speak, and are in deadly hostility to the principle that the Government is trying to carry through. That in itself is a sufficiently serious statement to warrant a most searching inquiry.
– He was only “ pulling the honorable member’s leg.”
– It is interesting to know that there are amongst the Ministerial party honorable members who set out to try to fool the Opposition, and in their effort to do so, make very serious statements concerning public officers. I do not believe that the honorable member for Bourke was trying to do anything of the kind.
– No; I would not do it.
– I think the honorable member has the courage of his convictions. My experience is that he generally says what he means in this House. Five members of the Ministerial party have declared that these matters ought to be inquired into, and my own impression is that quite half of the party think that they ought to be inquired into as promptly as possible. They stand, of course, to their Government and their party, but five of their number have had the courage to say that these matters ought to be investigated. I entirely agree with them. If honorable members opposite are the staunch believers in day labour that I believe them to be, they ought to be the very first to hunt out statements of this kind, and to prove their falsity or establish their truth. This is not a party matter, and ought not to be so regarded.
– If the honorable member thought he had any hope of making it a party matter he would soon do so.
– The honorable member keeps making these statements, but all that I have to say is that whichever way the matter goes it will not affect me.
– Hear, hear. The honorable member will still be opposed to the Government.
– On general principles I hope I shall be opposed to this Government for some little time to come. One can understand some honorable members opposite standing by the Government in this matter. I believe that there is a lot of labour being employed in connexion with many of these works, and I dare say that they are getting, so to speak, a “ fair look in.” ‘ Good luck to them. I regret to say that I am not. That, however, is by the way. I should like to know who puts on these men. Does the Minister put them on?
– No fear.
– Does the Minister say that he does not put on any men in connexion with these works?
– I do.
– Does he say that he never sends a man down to those who do put them on ?
– The Minister ought not to answer the honorable member.
– Why not?
– The honorable member for Parramatta used to adopt that practice did he not?
– Have an inquiry. I am prepared to grant the honorable member the fullest inquiry.
– I think the honorable member gave Tom Bavister a helping hand.
– No, that is not correct. There never was a stronger advocate of day labour than the same Mr. Tom Bavister, and he was the first to complain that men were not doing their duty by the system. That ought to be the attitude of every honorable member opposite who believes in day labour, because if scandals are occurring - I do not say that they are, because I do not know - so much the worse for the system in which they are intensely interested. The only way to satisfy the public is to have an independent inquiry into the truth or otherwise of these very serious allegations. When, added to these allegations, we have statements such as those made this after noon by the honorable member for Boufke - statements that there is a well-grounded feeling of hostility in the Department towards the system which the Government is carrying through ; that one inspector is trying to keep another back, penalizing and punishing him because he is faithful to the system which the Government favour - surely the whole matter ought to be sifted to the bottom at once. If officers are not loyal to the Minister, they ought to be put out of the way as quickly as possible. The honorable member for Bourke accountsfor all the trouble, not as the Argus does, by saying that the men are ignoring the inspectors, but by asserting that the inspectors are manipulating the men for their own purposes, and in a spirit of hostility to the Department. This matter has gone so far that it ought to come to issue, and if I were a member of the Government I should not be satisfied until it had been sifted to the bottom by an independent inquiry.
.- It was not my intention to take part in this debate until I heard the speech delivered by the honorable member for North Sydney. Together with the honorable member I had an opportunity to travel through the Northern Territory, and I should like to state that in referring to the inadequacy of the police station at -Horseshoe Creek, he forgot to tell the Committee that it is about the only house there. The constable in charge is away for the greater part of the year, and carries his tent and his sleeping outfit with him. The police station at Darwin, which is practically the only settled district in the Territory, is a fine, commodious building. I would urge upon the Minister of Home Affairs the necessity for building houses for the workers there. At a reception given to him at Darwin, he said he was going to leave this work to private enterprise. He practically appealed to private enterprise in the Northern Territory to erect these dwellings.
– Why, we have £20,000 on the Estimates for the work.
– I am pleased to know that the honorable member has changed his opinion.
– I have not.
– I distinctly heard the honorable gentleman state at the meeting to which I have referred that he appealed to the private enterprise of the Northern Territory to erect these dwellings.
– To build houses; but 1 said that if private enterprise did not build them for the public we would do so.
– Yes, that is what the Minister said at the. time.
– Before appealing to private enterprise in a matter of this “kind, the Government should undertake to proVide for the housing of its employes.
– We were referring at the time to the housing of the general public.
– The dwellings were specially required for Government employes who were being sent up there. As to the building of a steam laundry at Darwin, the remarks made by the honorable member for North Sydney would convey the impression that such an establishment was not required by the local residents. I remember well, however, with what great favour the people, at a meeting held at Darwin, received the announcement of the Minister that the Government would erect a steam laundry there, and that meeting was attended by practically the whole of the local residents. Honorable members generally are not fully seized of the situation in the Territory. Although we were there during the winter months, we found it necessary to change our clothing at least once a day, and during the summer months many men - especially those employed indoors - have to change their clothing two or three times a day, because of excessive perspiration. The people of the Northern Territory find that their washing bill is a very big one, and it was suggested to the Minister, on the occasion of his recent visit, that the establishment of a Governmnent laundry would lead to economies. At present all the laundry work is done by Chinese, and that for many reasons, some of which I should not care to mention to the Committee, is very objectionable. Listening to the various speeches made during this debate, I came to the conclusion that the efforts of the Opposition were specially directed against day labour. I was employed in the Public Works Department for many years, and during that time had the supervision .of certain works. We came to the conclusion that day labour was preferable to contract labour for the carrying out of those works, and determined to give it a trial. The result was that we found that men employed in making excavations under the day-labour system could do the work at 6id. per cubic yard, although the same work under contract cost ad. per cubic yard. The country was identical, and the same class of men was employed in both cases. As a matter of fact, we took over some of the men who had been employed by the contractors, the only change made being that we had a different ganger to look after the interests of the Department. With that experience to guide us, we carried out about 90 per cent, of our work by day labour from that time forward, and. in every instance the system proved satisfactory. Among all bodies of men there are always to be found one or two who are not willing, or are unable, to do their fair share of work. I am not here, however, to assist the loafer, for I have no time for him. As to the charges, that have been made, my experience in the Public Service of the State teaches me that whenever charges are made against a public body the responsible Minister should have an inquiry made, not by a Select Committee, as is apparently desired by the Opposition in this case, but by responsible officers, with a view of ascertaining whether there is any foundation for them. In many instances I know that there was no foundation for complaints made against a branch of the Service to which I belonged, though in some cases complaints were well founded, and it is possible that some of the men employed on public works by this Government are not giving an equivalent in labour for the wages they receive. Having heard the able statement of the Minister of Home Affairs, I feel sure that in his Department matters are satisfactory, and I hope the report presented to the Acting PostmasterGeneral will also disclose a satisfactory state of things: The honorable member for North Sydney found fault with those who say that Opposition members favour preference to unionists. I, for one, say that leading members of that party have expressed themselves in favour of it. This is what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said in 1904, when speaking on the Arbitration Bill -
I have no sort of sympathy with the man -who will work alongside another man and see that other paying every week of his life into an organization to protect his rights and maintain his position, while he himself is skulking and deriving the benefit for which the other is paying and working.
In the same year the honorable member for Ballarat said -
The issues as we put them are : Preference? Yes ! Unionism ? Yes ! Encouragement to unionism besides preference? Yes! For what purpose? For the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes !
– Those remarks refer to awards made by the Arbitration Court.
– If preference to unionists is a good thing when awarded by the Arbitration Court for the prevention of industrial disputes, it should be a good thing for the workers who are not fortunate enough to have cases before the Court. Today both employers and employes are organized. Even the Employers Federation believes in unionism. It started the Independent Workers Union, and at the inaugural meeting, which Mr. Packer asked representatives of unionists to attend, when some one asked, “ Where are the funds coming from ? “ Mr. Blackwood, the president of the Employers Federation, said, “ We will find the funds.” It is hypocrisy for members of the Opposition who have expressed themselves in favour of preference to unionists, to travel through the country condemning it.
.- The charges made by the Argus are far too serious to be passed over in the light manner adopted by Ministers in regard to them. If day labour is the policy of the Government, I do not wish to oppose it; but I say that foremen in charge of works should have absolute power to engage or dismiss men, as they think proper. The Argus is a reputable journal, and its statements are definite. The Government should either appoint a Select Committee to investigate the whole matter, or should issue a writ against the proprietors of the Argus, and call on them to substantiate their charges with proof. I am amazed at the spirit of petty jealousy displayed by the Age during the last day or two because these revelations have appeared in its rival. The honorable member for Bourke has given additional reasons for an inquiry. There was a time when men could vindicate themselves; but now there is a reign of terror throughout Australia, and brickbats, and similarly solid arguments, are often used to silence men. To make a specific charge against their departmental officer or workman means being put on the black list, and risking their means of living.
– There is no black list in our Department; that is for the boodleiers.
– There are black lists outside the Department.
– Kept by the Employers Federation.
– And by the Employes Federation. The honorable mem ber for Bourke has made a serious charge against permanent officials of the Postal Department, and his remarks seem to apply to other officials as well. An inquiry should be made, so that these charges may be sheeted home, or disproved. Apropos of what we have heard about malingering, I would call attention to the fact that the expenditure on the Military College last year, for which £40,000 was voted, was £28,454 in excess of the vote. Was that because the day-labour . system was followed, or because unforeseen conditions occurred ?
– We could not have done the work without day labour.
– Additional buildings were put up.
– The Minister does not say so. I am asking for information.
– I shall give it when we get to the items.
– I regret that the expert who reported on the sites for the Commonwealth Woollen Mills spoke disparagingly of the State which I represent. He declared that, by reason of the climatic conditions, the Queensland sites could not be considered. I would remind him and the Committee that the Ipswich tweeds and flannels compare favorably with any similar goods manufactured in Australia; there is no shoddy in them. The company may not have been as prosperous as we should like it to be; but it has done remarkably well, and has manufactured good articles. Except in regard to the Military College, the Government have generally failed to spend more than part of the sums voted by Parliament, and we are asked to re- vote many amounts. This gives the public the idea that we spend more than we do. Last year we voted £13,608 for this manoeuvre area at Beerburrum, £46 of which was spent; and this year we are asked to revote £5,000. The whole of the Estimates appear to be very much on similar lines, excepting that, in this instance, we are asked to vote less than formerly. Has the Minister discovered that’ the area can be purchased at less than the anticipated price, because that is not the usual experience? The defence estimate for New South Wales last year was £62,946, of which £34,742 was spent; for Victoria, £92,908 was voted, and £76,618 spent; for Queensland, £41,834 was voted, and £3,232 spent; for South’ Australia, £10,824 was voted, and £3,800 spent; for Western- Australia, £49,328 was voted, and £18,780 spent; and for Tasmania, £17,419 was voted, and £4,062 was spent. This gives a total of £275,280 voted, and £141,246 spent, leaving an unexpended balance of £134,034. It would appear, therefore, that the Department has not been able to keep pace with the anticipations of this House. The total Estimates show, that £334,838 was unexpended during the last twelve months. I desire now to refer to one or two items connected with the Northern Territory. Last year we voted £2,000 for artesian water bores. Of this amount £330 was spent ; and this year we are again asked to vote -£2,000. If there is any experimental work on which the Government may freely spend money it is in securing a water supply for the Northern Territory; but I should say that £2,000 would hardly be sufficient to put down one decent bore, and I am rather surprised at the modesty of the Minister of External Affairs in this regard.
– It is only “ gammon” !
– It is only “gammon” to talk about putting down bores for £2,000, seeing that the cost is at least 10s. a foot. ‘We know, of course, that when once water is discovered, and the artesian belts are defined, the Minister may go ahead more rapidly. In the meantime, however, there is much exploration work to be done in order to develop the Territory; and the sooner it is developed the better. We know what has been suffered in other parts of Australia by the introduction of rabbits, the prickly pear, and other pests ; and I am afraid that it would not take long for those pests to find their way into the Northern Territory, unless some check is created by means of settlement. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some information in regard to the Beerburrum manoeuvre area.
– The £5,000 is towards starting the work ; we are negotiating with the Government of Queensland for a settlement of the matter.
– This has been going on for years.
– And the longer we delay the more expensive it will become.
– We have not delayed it.
– The matter has been delayed. The specific vote last year was not spent, with the exception of £46 ; and this, I presume, was a deposit. I can assure the Minister that, if he is not smart, it may cost the Government more than is now anticipated. I do not happen to know much about the matter, because the area is not in my division; but it is a subject in which we are all interested, and this is one of the few sites available at present without putting the Government to immense expense. Such areas are not picked up every day.
– I think we shall have no difficulty with the Queensland Government.
.- I do not wish to take up an antagonistic attitude towards day labour, because I believe that a good deal of it is absolutely necessary in the carrying out of public works. At the same time, the charges which have been levelled against the administration of the Government demand inquiry. Honorable members opposite have declared repeatedly that the charges made are not specific enough; but, short of mentioning the names of the inspectors and the names of the men employed, the charges are as definite as they possibly could be made. We have a series of eight charges in connexion with telephonic work, and there is a statement at the foot of the newspaper article to the effect that “There is enough evidence in the files of the Department to convict the Administration of the wanton use of public funds.” This charge the Minister, in reading the report supplied by the principal officers of his Department, did not meet.
– I will give the honorable member £1,000 if he will come down to the Department and discover those documents.
– It is not the duty of an honorable member to go into the Departments and discover documents of the kind ; it is the duty of the Minister to bring such papers before the House, and give honorable members an opportunity to judge.
– But there are no such papers. Honorable” members are still harping on the Department of Home Affairs. It is an infamous falsehood.
– I presume that the Minister of Home Affairs is at present in charge of the Committee on behalf of the Government, and he ought to take the responsibility which attaches to the Government. There are eight definite and specific charges made against the Government in the articles in the Argus.
– Surely the honorable member does not take the Argus seriously ?
– I am not discussing whether the charges are to be taken seriously ; but I claim that such charges, made by a great public newspaper, cast a reflection on every workman in the employ of the Government at the present time - that it is impossible for honorable members now to differentiate between those against whom the charges are directed and others. I do not presume to suggest what the form of inquiry should be; but the Government -ought to be prepared to make investigation and produce evidence for the consideration of the House. We desire evidence that will satisfy honorable members that the charges are either untrue or unfounded. I do not wish to labour the question; but any one who has witnessed the progress of public works, especially those in connexion with the undergrounding of the telephone wires, must be convinced that there is a “ Government stroke,” though whether it is general, we do not know. As an illustration of the impression that is abroad, I may refer honorable members to the work involved in making additions to the post-office at Warracknabeal. It is the common talk of the townspeople that that work has cost twice as much as it would under proper supervision, or with the contract system.
– That work was not done by day labour?
– Yes, it was. It is impossible for me to say what the cost of that work has been; and I ask the Minister of Home Affairs to lay before us a statement showing the estimated cost and the actual cost.
– If the honorable member looks at the schedule, he will see that the amount is £505.
– The House is entitled to the information I have suggested. It is currently stated, by those who ought to know, that the work has cost twice as much as it would under proper supervision, or by contract.
– There cannot be much work, in the way of additions, for £500.
– That is a very considerable sum of money’; and, in any case, there is no reason why the Government should spend even , £10 more than is necessary.
– What were the additions?
– Brick additions- enlarging the building.
– We cannot add much to a brick building for £500.
– I am not discussing whether the job is a big one, or a small one. All I want to know is whether the work was carried out by day labour at a reasonable price, and whether the final cost exceeded to any great extent the official estimate when the building was authorized.
– Was it not a fact that one of the banks had to put in a foundation at a cost of , £1,000 because the land was so poor there?
– That might be so; but generally it is a place which offers a good foundation. That is the reason of its great prosperity. The Government, in their own interests, and the interests of the people, should not allow charges such as have been levelled against them to go without proper investigation. They should let the public know that their money is being spent to the best advantage. I have to add my complaint to those that have been made regarding the large proportion of unexpended votes. Last year we voted £231,000 for post-offices, and only £149,000 was expended. That is very unsatisfactory. I agree that the time has arrived when we should have a staff of our own to carry out our public works. I have contended, ever since I have been in this House, that the Commonwealth, having to construct public . works all over Australia, should not be dependent upon State officers.
– I have arranged the matter in Victoria and New South Wales.
– I am very pleased to know it. It should have been done long ago.
– It will double the cost.
– That is not the question. It would not double the cost. The matter is primarily one of getting the work of the Commonwealth carried out as expeditiously as possible. My experience has always been that the State work is put first, and the Commonwealth work second.
– They have done their best for us.
– I believe they have, but it is only natural for State officers to obey the instructions of those immediately over them. I have again to complain of the neglect of the rifle clubs by the Government. In 1911-12, £22,900 was voted for the carrying on of rifle clubs, and only £11,400 was expended. The Minister of Home Affairs has only a partial jurisdiction over those works, and from personal experience in my correspondence with the Department, I know it is very difficult to get any work of this kind even started for several months after Parliament has voted the money. The whole of the construction work in connexion with rifle clubs should be taken out of the hands of the Defence Department altogether, and placed in the hands of the Home Affairs Department, especially now that we are to have a staff of our own to expedite the construction of our public works. The total vote this year for rifle clubs is only £17,820, as against £22,900 voted last year. In the last resort, we shall have to depend for our main defence upon our soldiers being able to use the rifle, and South African experience showed that it took only two or three weeks to fit our marksmen to take their place in the firing line, whereas it takes years to make a man an efficient rifle shot. Statistics given by Major Boam, the head of the rifle club system of Australia, in his last report, show that in Victoria the number of rifle clubs has fallen from 341, in 1903, to 298, in 1910. Whilst our expenditure on defence has increased from about £1,000,000 to £5,000,000, there has been a steady reduction in the money voted for rifle clubs, and a consequent decline in their numbers. at least in Victoria. A larger proportion of the defence vote should have been expended to encourage rifle clubs, which reach a class of citizen that it is impossible for our compulsory military system to reach. It is the duty of the Minister who represents the Defence Department in this House to inform us why the Minister of Defence has so studiously neglected the interests of the rifle club system throughout Australia, whilst these millions are being expended to build up our military and naval defence. I believe it is necessary to vote that money. I am not one of those who think that we are going too quickly in our defence affairs, so long as the money is properly expended. It is obvious that we must expend millions to defend Australia; but we must consider the question of defence side by side with the larger question of Imperial reciprocity, in connexion with our trade relationships. It has been suggested that some kind of recommendation should be placed before the House before large sums of money are voted for important public works. I believe the time has arrived when this Parlia ment should create some responsible bodyr charged with the duty of collecting evidence and making definite recommendations, before enormous sums are voted for constructing public works. It has been very peculiarly argued in this House that, . while the Railways Standing Committee in Victoria and the Public Works Committee in New South Wales have been successes, it would be impracticable to appoint a similar body for Commonwealth purposes, because no one Committee could roam all over Australia and make recommendations on public works for this Parliament to act upon, in anything like a reasonable time.
– Especially if it was a Committee of this House.
– I am not prepared to suggest what form the Committee should take. I do not think it would be practicable for a standing Committee of members of this House to roam all over Australia, but it might be feasible to have a competent Committee, composed of some of the permanent officers of the Department in each State. They could make definite recommendations to Parliament, based on expert evidence. That is a plain business proposal, with no party complexion about it whatever. If we, as a Parliament, take millions from the pockets of the taxpayers, we should see that they are expendedto the best advantage; and to that end we should be reasonably informed before we vote the money. Whenever it is proposed in Victoria to construct a railway or other important work, the Railways Standing Committee calls evidence, and sends its recommendations with the evidence attached to Parliament.
– The Committee does not control the expenditure.
– It does to the extent of saying whether the proposed expenditure is justified. As time goes on, it will be found that, if some such supervision is not exercised, this House must necessarily authorize some works that are not in the best interests of the people. It was only on the eve of Victoria being plunged into a railway policy that would have almost ruined1 her that the Railways Standing Committee was appointed, and it is recognised throughout this State that its appointment saved’ the State from the expenditure of millions of pounds on railway lines that would have been absolutely unjustified. I take exception to the fact that there is apparently a smaller vote for telegraph and telephone extension than last year. In 1911-12, £265,000 was voted for the purpose, and this year the amount is only ,£249,000. That reduction of ,£16,000 requires explanation. An effort is being made to extend the telephone system throughout Australia. 1 believe that there is serious cause for complaint in regard to both our telephone and telegraph lines, and I regret that the Postmaster-General is unable to be present to take a note of some of the statements that are being made relative to their construction. When the General Estimates are under consideration, I shall probably have an opportunity to refer to the” question of private telephone lines, and shall, therefore, not allude to them to-night. I find that, in a report issued by Mr. Hesketh in 1910, it is shown that the principal cities of Australia are a long way behind those of other countries in respect to telephone services. I know that during the last three or four years great efforts have been made to improve and extend our telephone and telegraph services. But until about 1909, when the honorable member for Bendigo, as Postmaster-General, provided for an expenditure of something like £^2,000,000, to be spread over two years, in order to bring our post and telegraph services reasonably into line with those “>f other progressive countries, the Commonwealth Parliament had been remiss in its duty in that respect. It had previously been hampered very largely by the operation of the Braddon section; but there is now no such excuse for delay. Money has been flowing into the Treasury in the most prodigal manner, and we should be able to push on with these works with greater expedition than has previously been displayed. Mr. Hesketh, in the report to which I have referred, shows that in San Francisco 12 out of every 100 members of the population are connected with the telephone exchange; and that in Pittsburg, 7 out of every 100 are so connected ; whilst in Melbourne, only 3 out of every 100 citizens are connected’ with the exchange. It ought to be our endeavour to make our Australian cities as up-to-date as are other great cities in the matter of the telephone service. «I have referred only to San Francisco and Pittsburg, because their population is somewhat similar to that of Melbourne; but the figures in this report show that, whilst we boast that Mel.bourne and other large centres of population in Australia, are cities of which we might well be proud, we are a long way behind the big cities of other countries in the matter of the telephone service.
– 1 thought that the attack made on the Ministry with respect to the day-labour system would have ceased, in view of the excellent reply given this afternoon by the Minister of Home Affairs to the criticism levelled at his Department. The attack is based on reports which appeared in Building, a journal conducted in the interests of builders and contractors ; but the Minister, backed up in an excellent way by his officers, has defended his Department, and succeeded in showing that the statements made by that journal are untrue. By interjection this afternoon I sought to draw an admission from the honorable member for North Sydney, and also from the honorable member for Moreton, but they failed to respond. The honorable member for North Sydney, together with other honorable members and myself, visited the Federal Capital some time ago, and, ‘ so far as we were able to judge, the buildings there seemed to have been erected in a praiseworthy manner. Every member of the parliamentary party who visited the Capital site on that occasion, admitted that excellent work had been done for the money expended; yet we find honorable members of the Opposition continuing this attack on the Minister. In my humble opinion, the attack has been made simply because we are on the eve of a general election. In like circumstances, similar attacks have been made, for years past, on all State Ministries. From year to year we hear the cry on the part of the Opposition that some body of Government employes are not carrying out their work effectively. They raise this cry in order that they may go on the hustings and assert that they were the first to make the discovery ; but, in this case, they have discovered what is really a mare’s nest. We were assured by the Prime Minister, on behalf of the PostmasterGeneral, that an inquiry would be made into the allegations made by the Argus as to waste of time on works in the Postal Department. Speaking with some knowledge of the question, I do not hesitate to say that it is difficult for a layman to say whether a man who is stringing or undergrounding wires is doing a fair day’s work. For instance, when wires are being strung, the supervizing officer will be careful to have a man on the watch - a man who appears to be doing nothing at all, but who is really taking care that the wire’ is well strung, and is not left sagging over the roadway, ‘so as to lead to an accident.
I am well acquainted with an officer, who, on the report of one of the Opposition members, had preferred against him the charge that he was not utilizing his men to the best advantage. It appears that, whilst engaged in stringing wires, he placed a man some distance back to see that the wires did not sag down so low as to obstruct the traffic. An inquiry was held, and the officer’s explanation was accepted by the experts, because they knew that in so placing this man he was taking precautions to avert what might, perhaps, be a very serious accident. Only the other day we read in the press of a gentleman who, while driving along a roadway, was fouled by a sagging wire, and received injuries which led to his bringing an action against the Government for , £2,000 damages.
– He obtained a verdict for£650
– Yes; and if a man had been watching the traffic that accident, probably, would not have occurred. Judging by their speeches, some members of the Opposition, if they saw a postal employe standing on the roadway with his hands in his pockets, would say that he was loafing, although, perhaps, he was keeping an effective watch on the wires that were being strung. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin when he says that it is wrong for members of Parliament to go round spying on public servants. It should be beneath our dignity to do anything of the kind. As to the employment of day labour in excavating trenches, what is the position? Day labour was employed, and trenches were being excavated for undergrounding wires, long before the Labour party came into office, so that every engineer should be able, from practical experience, to determine the actual cost of putting down conduits and undergrounding wires. When it is proposed to carry out such a work, the Minister asks the engineer for an estimate, and the engineer in turn applies to his officers to furnish him with one. The required estimate is then prepared and submitted to the Minister. Long experience teaches me to say, “ Woe betide the engineer who exceeds his estimate.” The Minister thus knows what the work is going to cost, so that if loafing were indulged in, it would be quickly discovered.
– If the men loafed the work would exceed the estimated cost.
– And the engineer would have to furnish an. explana tion. Judging by the speeches of honorable members of the Opposition, it is assumed by them that every officer, whether he be a lineman, an inspector, or an assistant engineer, is able to go direct to the Minister. Experience shows, however, that that is not the case. A sub-inspector obtains a report from his overseer, and submits it to the Chief Electrical ‘Engineer, who in turn submits it to the Minister. Every one of those officers would have to be in collusion not to carry out these works effectively, if there were any substantial ground for the charges that have been made; yet we find honorable members opposite accepting as true a report that states that men, when spoken to by their superior officer, run straight away to the Minister. No self-respecting Minister would receive a subordinate officer in that way. If he did, there would be no discipline in his Department, and the Chief Electrical Engineer would very quickly furnish a report on the subject.
– The officers would not put up with such a system.
– No; they would immediately protest. The Chief Electrical Engineer surely has the courage of his opinions ; if he has not, he has no right to be in the position that he holds. No Minister, no matter to what party he belonged, would insist upon an engineer retaining in the Service men who were drunk or incapable, as is alleged in this report. If any report on the subject had been submitted to the Minister, or to the responsible officer, the Minister would be already conversant with the fact; but the Prime Minister told us yesterday that he would have an inquiry instituted at once, and would report to the House. What more could be desired? I fail to see why honorable members of the Opposition should have made such grave charges as they have during this debate. The honorable member for Wakefield has made a general charge against all men employed on the day-labour system. He has asserted that every one of them is shirking his duty. There are some thousands of men employed in the Postal Department, and it is asserted that perhaps half-a-dozen of them have been guilty of idling away their time. Even if the statement were true, and I do not admit that it is, I think the Minister will be pleased to hear some one in this House express theopinion that in some of the States, at all events, too much is asked of men employed under the day-labour system. According to information I have received from the secretary of the Workers Union, men employed on excavation works at the Sandy Bay rifle range are asked to find, not only a shovel, but a pick.
– They all have to find their own shovels.
– The men do not complain of that; but to ask them to find their own picks is to ask too much of them. I found during the recess that the wireless telegraph station in my State was being effectively constructed by day labour. Indeed, some who were employers of labour abandoned contracting, and themselves accepted employment. The Commonwealth Public Service is not made up of men who merely seek to while away time for the sake of dirty lucre; it is a conscientious body, prepared to do good work for the remuneration it receives. If things were as honorable members opposite say they are, there are practical men in this Committee who would soon become acquainted with the state of affairs, and the officers responsible would not continue’ in their positions. I am delighted that there is on the Estimates £1,500 for a post-office at North Hobart, a very progressive part of the city, which, s for a long time, has needed better postal facilities. The new office will be a great boon to the public. When I approached the Minister of Home Affairs about a property in my constituency that is for sale by the State Government, he went to Tasmania at his earliest convenience, and purchased it for ,£7,000 or £7,500.
– For £7,000.
– That was less than two years ago. I saw a telegram which he received a few months afterwards offering £[10,000 for the property, and today, judging by the price paid for land on the opposite side of the street, it would fetch ,£14,000 at auction. That was a transaction carried out in a business-like way. Honorable members have complained that sums voted by Parliament are not spent quickly enough, but I have ascertained that the Home Affairs Department has only eight months in which to spend the parliamentary votes, and that prior to the advent of this Government a much larger staff was needed. There has been great difficulty in getting suitable men, and had things been rushed too much, employers and others would have complained bitterly against the Government for absorbing all the avail able labour. Now there is more labour offering, and an effective staff has been organized, so that greater expedition may be expected.
– Only 20 per cent, of the money voted for Tasmanian works was spent last year.
– The Government has to use the services of Tasmanian officers, who naturally give precedence to State works; but the time has come when the Minister of Home Affairs should have a staff of his own in Tasmania. The Commonwealth work there will increase by leaps and bounds, and the State officials will be unable to cope with it. Moreover, no man can serve two masters, and recently the Tasmanian Minister for Works stated that he would not recognise the principle of preference to unionists.
– That would not apply to Commonwealth work.
– The statement was made in regard to Commonwealth work. Therefore, we are likely to have trouble under this system of dual control. There is a fair amount on the Estimates for the extension of telegraphs in Tasmania. A great deal has been done in the Denison and Franklin divisions, by increasing the number of telephones, to bring the people closer together, and almost every fruit-grower is now connected with Hobart. This is good, and, I believe, profitable, work. If it would not be too costly, I should like to see a system of bookkeeping followed which would show how much the Commonwealth spends out of revenue on works which, under State control, would have been charged to Loan Account. The Commonwealth Government must save the taxpayers a great deal in connexion with telegraph and telephone works alone by paying for construction out of revenue, instead of charging it to loans, and thus creating a big interest debt. I thank the honorable member for Franklin, and the other Tasmanian representatives, for the assistance given to me in trying to procure the location of the Commonwealth woollen mills within the State. The honorable member for Franklin not only showed Mr. . Smail over his district, but also helped me to show him over mine, and I am sure that Mr. Smail appreciated the assistance that he got. My connexion with h;m convinced me that he is a conscientious and fair-minded man. who, in making his choice of a site, consulted what he believed to be the best interests of the. Commonwealth. I do not complain because a site was not chosen in the Denison division. I did my best to impress on the expert the advantages of the sites there ; but he chose the site wb;,:h he thought the best in the Commonwealth I have sufficient knowledge of Ministers to be sure that they did not seek to influence him in any way. To attempt to influence such an expert would be to strike at the bedrock of Socialism, and our policy would soon break down. The expert was given a free hand. He acknowledged that Launceston has a very good site, but made the objection that to distribute goods from there throughout Australia would be more costly than to effect the distribution from Geelong. I desire that the Commonwealth woollen mills shall be run purely on commercial lines, so that it may be demonstrated to, not only the people of Australia, but also those of the whole world, that a Government controlled institution can compete with private concerns. I shall not oppose the erection of mills at Geelong because a site was not chosen in Tasmania. If I thought that Ministers had used their influence to procure the selection of Geelong, 1 should work with the honorable member for Bass to have a Launceston site chosen. The expert says that it is superior to the Hobart site.
– Our woollen mills have to distribute all over Australia, and they beat the Geelong mills.
– Had the honorable member gone into the matter, he would not say that. The Geelong mills have been unable to supply orders, and the Tasmanian mills have been approached, and the honorable member knows that they have at times refused orders from Victoria owing to pressure of work. However, I do not wish to be parochial in regard to matters of national concern. I have no desire to destroy Socialistic institutions, and feel that it is wrong for honorable members to fight in the interests of their districts, regardless of the Commonwealth interests. Since I listened to the remarks of the honorable member for South Sydney yesterday I have made some inquiries regarding the work carried on by the Public Works Committee of New South Wales, seeing that a similar body has been proposed for the Commonwealth. I understand that this Public Works Committee, after a railway or other undertaking has been suggested, simply decides whether or not the money shall be expended ; and I have heard it said that the Committee deal only with works which are estimated to cost over a certain sum of money.
– Over £20,000.
– It has been further said that when the Committee reports unfavorably in regard to any work, the Government, if they desire to carry it out,, simply split it up into sections, each of which will cost under £20,000.
– The Government dare not do that. No work reported against by the Public Works Committee has ever been taken in hand by the New South Wales Government.
– I am glad to hear that my information is not correct. I am told that when once the Public Works Committee have submitted their report, they have nothing further to do with the work. No honorable member here, so far as I have heard, complains that any unnecessary work is being undertaken by the Commonwealth ; it is admitted that the works now in course of construction are absolutely essential. The complaint made by honorable members opposite is that there is a lack of supervision; but that difficulty is at once got over by the suggestion that efficient officers to supervise should be appointed. I am well satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister of Home Affairs ; and I feel sure that the Minister * of External Affairs, as representing the Postmaster-General, will carry out the inquiry he has undertaken to the satisfaction of every honorable member.
– I must take exception to one or two statements made by honorable members opposite, particularly by the honorable member for Denison, who declares that I have made a general charge against one and all of- the men employed by day labour. The Honorary Minister made a similar statement very persistently the other day; and, in reply, I have merely to say that the Hansard report of my speech, which I have not altered in the slightest degree, will speak for itself. I have not a word to retract that I said. The Honorary Minister charged me with slandering the officers and men, under cover of parliamentary privilege; but I said nothing yesterday that I have not said on the public platform, and shall not say again and again until there has been a satisfactory investigation of the whole matter.
– What did the honorablemember say yesterday?
– The honorable member may see- from the Hansard report of my speech, which, as I say, has ;not been altered in any respect. Further, what I said yesterday has been indorsed today almost entirely by the honorable mem.ber, and also by four honorable members sitting behind the Government ; indeed, they indorsed, not only what I said, but what has been said by each honorable mem>ber on this side. Unlike the honorable member for Denison, am- not in the least degree satisfied with the explanation of the Minister of Home Affairs, who, in my opinion, sailed all round the question, and did not touch the salient points on which we require information. The intimation by the Honorary Minister is the first I have heard that an inquiry is now going on into the charges made by the Melbourne Argus. At all events, I am going to press this matter, in the interests of the people, until we have a satisfactory answer by the Government. If Ministers can clearly and absolutely refute the allegations made-
– What are the allegations ?
– The Minister of External Affairs will- know what they are, if he does not know now ; at any rate, four of his own supporters have spoken pretty clearly regarding them. I shall not press the question any further, but await the report from the Minister responsible for the inquiry. The Minister of Home Affairs has not, as I say. refuted the charges made against the administration of his Department. I have as much admiration as anybody for the training, ability, and integrity of the officers in the Department of Home Affairs; and I should be very glad to be satisfied that they are allowed to control their branches, and supervise the expenditure under their control, without any political interference - interference which may be responsible for inefficiency and wasteful expenditure of public money. The Minister told us that, according to the Director of Public Works, it is impossible to institute a comparison between the cost of works carried out by the Department and works carried out by contract.
– The Minister said it. was difficult, not that it was impossible.
– I am Willing to make that concession, but I took the words down as the Minister said them. He told us that it was impossible to have A comparison, because no two pieces of work are precisely alike. Later on, however, the Minister of. Home Affairs, quoting, I believe, the ‘Director of Public Works again, congratulated himself on the success of the Department in completing the new Treasury buildings without much exceeding the estimate. I think the honorable gentleman said that the excess over the estimate was something over £[3,000.
– That is for 10,000 more square feet: - we put on another story.
– In another place a report has been called for, which will show in detail the estimated cost of this building, the amount of a tender that was put’ in, and what the actual cost has been up to date. This report will also, I believe, make allowance for the size of the building as originally designed, and the size with the additions spoken of by the Minister of Home Affairs. We shall then have, perhaps,” some evidence on which to form a judgment as to the success of departmental works. I should like to point out that, according to the Minister of Home Affairs, the Director of Public Works, while declaring, for the reason given, that a comparison could not be instituted, proceeded to institute one between the new Treasury buildings and some new buildings in . Adelaide, for which, I believe, a tender has been called. A comparison cannot be instituted between a building in Melbourne and a building in Adelaide, unless all the details are available. The industrial turmoil of the last year or two has been such that contractors will not undertake buildings in Adelaide unless they have an enormous margin to work upon. There are contractors there who infinitely prefer to put up a building on the percentage system, charging about 5 per cent, for supervising the work, to taking the risk of the contract themselves. It is a question of the unions that is troubling the men. If it were not for this, there would be scores of houses going up in Adelaide for the workers, constructed by the State Government under an Act of Parliament.
– Another wild, reckless, inaccurate statement.
– It is absolutely correct. The Honorary Minister told the Committee yesterday that the reason for the big discrepancy between the Government tender for the Brown’s Well railway and the tender of the successful contractor at £89,000 was that the Government did not want’ the work. Possibly that is correct ; but the honorable member did not tell the Committee why the Government did not want the work. I will tell the Committee for him. Just about this time Mr. Verran, the then Labour Premier of the State, had in hand another railway - from Port Lincoln out in the direction of Minnippa. He declined the contractor’s price, and undertook the railway himself. While he was struggling to build it, he was repeatedly sparring with the union organizers; and at last he publicly told the organizers that they made it impossible for him to continue the work on the day-labour principle. He sent for the contractor whose tender he had declined, and asked him to take the work off his hands. The contractor did so, and I believe he has completed the railway which Mr. Verran said it was impossible to complete by the Government policy of day labour, because of the labour “troubles.
– What has the Honorary Minister to say to that?
– It is, if possible, more wild than anything the honorable member has ever previously said.”
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh will not make the same statement.
– I do not know any thing about it.
– The statements were made in the public press, and have been discussed over and over again in South Australia. When the new Government came into power in South Australia, a Labour organizer at a meeting of the unemployed at the East End Market, came into conflict with one of the Labour members of Parliament, who turned on him and told him that they had just gone a bit too far, and that if they continued kicking the people, the people would kick them back again. He charged this union representative, and others associated with him, with being the cause of the overthrow of the Labour party in South Australia. All these things help to refute the statements made by the Honorary Minister; but in South Australia the people are so accustomed to the way he twists statements for his own ends that they discount all he says.
– The people of South Australia never kicked me out of the State Parliament as they did you. I never had to seek another district, where I was not known.
– I did have to ; but I will put my record up against the honorable member’s with the people o£ South Australia any day in the year. Let me tell the Honorary Minister, also, tha’t one of the present Ministers in South Australia says that the responsible officer over one of the big spending Departments tellshim that since the change of Government he is getting 25 per cent, more work, and ten times more contentment among his men.
– Which Minister?
– The Minister is Mr. Butler, and the officer is Mr. Beyer, who is in charge of the Waterworks Department. The people of South Australia do not need to be told these things, because they know for themselves how the union representatives were chasing the men about from camp to camp. It is because of what I know, and what the people of South Australia know, that I am determined, if possible, to find some means to let the House know how Government money is expended under the day-labour system. At least four honorable members on the other side agree with me. Let me tell honorable members opposite that when they face the music at the next election, they will not ridicule the question of the cost of day labour to the people, as they are doing in connexion with this debate. Moreover, I hope that honorable members on the other side who ‘have ridiculed the question will, very shortly, have the privilege of recording their names in a division on it. I speak in the interests of every true worker in Australia. The time is coming when this question will be very seriously and earnestly tackled by the people, because what I complain of is one of the chief causes of the inordinate rise in the cost of living. It is a workers’ question. Honorable members in the Ministerial corner opposite know that they are in a pretty tight fix, and are trying to raise a laugh, in order to appear not to be so seriously discomfited as they really are.
.- Did I understand the honorable member for Wakefield to say that I had indorsed his remarks ?
– I said you had ‘ practically done so.
– God forgive me; I shall do penance in the Caucus. I was not aware that I had in any way indorsed the honorable member’s remarks. I understood him to say that the day-labour system was on its trial. I am not aware that
I said anything of the kind. I understood, when he spoke the other day, that he had seen some men loafing. I did not say any such thing.
– You indorsed, without any qualification, my request for an inquiry.
– I do not agree with many of the accusations the honorable member has made. He said they were told to him by somebody else, who had heard them from somebody else. Those are certainly not the kind of accusations that I am prepared to indorse. My statements were very clear. I said that whenever aspersions were made upon a public Department, they ought, whether true or not, to be investigated by the Government, in order to clear the name of the Department. T made no assertions as to whether these charges were true or false. I did not even say that there was a vestige of truth in them. So far as the men are concerned, I do not believe that there is; but I said that, even if there were no truth in the statements, the Government ought to accept the challenge and clear the matter up, in order to deprive the Opposition of the weapons which they would otherwise possess. That is why I said I would indorse the request for an inquiry in this case. When one comes to examine the charges made in the Argus, they are found to be absurd. Only one has any real standing, and that is the allegation of political influence. The honorable member for Wakefield said he was prepared, as a member of this Chamber, to accept the assertion of the newspaper that political influence was used for an improper purpose, But nobody gave the officials a greater indorsement than he did. He, therefore, stands here as a public representative, believing that his colleagues on one side of the chamber or the other, are guilty of conduct unbecoming to public men. Why does he believe that? Is he judging all other members by his own conduct? If his own actions are clean, why does he assume that other public men are not as free from interference in these matters as he is? Why, on the other hand, does he assume that these public officials are free from all blame - that they are clean, independent men who are not to be turned aside from their public duty by a crowd of politicians using their influence improperly ? What sort of public officials are they, if they will allow themselves to be seduced from their duty to the country and to the Departments which employ and pay them, by any class of men in this Chamber? The honorable member for Wimmera actually quoted eight charges made by the Argus in connexion with Commonwealth public works. What is the first one? It is that a navvy was seen drunk. .Good God I Is it only on this job that men have started to get drunk ? Have there been no private jobs on which men took too much to drink? If the work was placed under a private contractor tomorrow, would not some man have the privilege of “ liquoring up “ when he wanted to? Of course he would. The next charge is that some of them have smoked. Is this the only job on which they have smoked? Next, it is said that some of them knocked off when it was raining, and that some of them did not want to work. Things of this kind occurred before ever this work was started, and will go on long after it is finished. The honorable member for Parramatta very cleverly sought to fasten certain statements upon me. As a member of the profession, I have no objection to the honorable member using all the tricks of the trade. I pointed out that the foundation of the practice in the Postal Department to which I referred was laid by a Government having at its head the honorable member for Ballarat. I said that that Government had started the system in connexion with which a number of permanent inspectors were appointed ; that there was a permanent inspector to watch one man laving bricks, and another permanent inspector to watch the mixing of mortar. That was carried on, not under the day-labour, but under the contract system.
– No matter under what system it is carried on, it ought to be inquired into.
– That is what we desire. The point that I wish to make is that I did not say that the practice was commenced in connexion with the day-labour system. The honorable member for Ballarat has declared that the day-labour system is not on trial, and the honorable member for Parramatta has expressed a similar opinion ; whereas the honorable member who has just resumed his seat has asserted that at the next general election we shall be on our trial because of the introduction of the day-labour system. Cannot the Opposition agree among themselves upon anything? The honorable member for North Sydney asserted that the system was on trial, and the honorable member for
Wimmera, commenced by saying that it was not in question, and concluded by declaring that it was. Surely honorable members of the Opposition ought to be in agreement on some subject ! The honorable member for Wakefield made a ferocious attack on the Government, and declared that he would make these charges again and again throughout the country until justice was secured. His attitude reminds me of the story of a station-hand who said to his room-mate one night, “I am not going to have this candle burning any longer; I want to go to sleep. If you do not push it out, I will push you out.” His roommate replied, “ If you blow out that candle, I will try to put your lights out.” The other at once jumped up and said, “ Put up your hands,” and received the reply, “ If you do not blow 0U that light to-night, I will blow it out myself to-morrow.” That is exactly the attitude of the honorable member for Wakefield, and it fairly illustrates the value of his threat. .Let me tell him that he cannot frighten us, and that his threats are of no account. The honorable member for Denison said that this attack was made by the Opposition with an eye on the approaching elections, and merely for political purposes. He is quite correct. Why should they not resort to such tactics. What else have they to use against us? The Chinn business has “ petered “ out ; the Age has not indorsed the Opposition attack on the Government in this respect, and they must have something to urge against us. For the next few days this matter will be the subject of their earnest solicitations, and then they will have to look for something else. In the circumstances, I think that the attitude of the Government is wrong. If I were a member of the Government, and believing as I do that the day-labour system is sound and will bear examination, I would consent at once to the appointment of a Select Committee. The appointment of such a Committee would be an excellent piece of political strategy, and would deprive the Opposition of a weapon which they hope to use against us at the next general election. I do not indorse the statements made by the honorable member for Wakefield, nor those made by the Argus ; but the Government, believing that they stand on sound ground, should grant the inquiry which the Opposition asks. That would be an excellent piece of political strategy, and would confound the forces of the Opposition.
Motion agreed to.
.- Can the Minister lay before the Committee figures showing the total cost of the “ Site and building for the Department of Treasury and other Departments “ in respect of which we are asked to vote £22,750? The item has been the’ subject of some discussion, and is likely to be further discussed, so that time may be saved by the presentation of the official figures.
– The total estimated cost is £47,828. The item refers to the building which is now nearing completion, and which is designed for the use of Departments that will still have to be carried on in Melbourne after the Seat of Government is established at YassCanberra.
– Does £47,828 represent the total cost of site and building ?
– No; of the building only. The site was purchased from the Government of Victoria at a cost of £7,242-
– Does it cover the cost of furnishings ?
– No ; it simply represents the cost of the building.
– Have the Government obtained the freehold?
– We have bought the land from the Victorian Government.
– I wish to ask the Minister for an explanation of the item “ Storage Accommodation for Commonwealth Departments, Melbourne, £10,000.”
– This accommodation is required for the Treasury and the Postmaster-General’s Department. At present the Treasury is occupying rented stores in William and a’ Beckett streets, the lease of which expires this month. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department requires space for storage until the new building at the corner of Bourke and Spencer streets is ready for occupation. The space in this building to be occupied by the Postmaster-General’s Department will be subsequently absorbed by the Treasury and other Departments. The site is near the King’s Bond, Melbourne, and consists of Commonwealth land previously lying idle. The work is already in hand.
– Is any provision being made for the erection of a building in which to store material required for various public services?
– This building is designed to serve that purpose.
– In connexion with the item, “ Federal Capital at Canberra - towards cost of establishment, £110,000,” I wish to ask the Minister whether he can give any promise of new and better arrangements in regard to the distribution of labour in the Federal Capital? The Public Service Act requires the Public Service Commissioner to keep an employment register for recording applications for work, and the distribution of work among applicants according to their order of priority; but that provision applies only to work in a State. My attention was drawn to that fact last night by the Prime Minister. It would seem that the Act makes no provision for the registration of applicants for employment in the Federal Territory. That being so, the Department has no guiding principle and, so far as I can understand, there are no regulations bearing upon the subject. In view of the debate that has just taken place, it is highly desirable that the Minister should take action to secure either the passing of regulations bringing the distribution of labour at the Federal Capital into line with the system followed in respect to employment within a State, or secure an amendment of the Act. Thousands of people who might feel disposed to seek a share in any employment that is to be obtained in the Federal Capital do not know what to do in order to obtain employment there. We are asked here to vote , £110,000 in respect of the Capital, and it should provide employment for a large number of men. Those seeking work, not only within the States, but in the Federal Territory, ought to understand what procedure is to be adopted to secure a chance of obtaining work there. I suggest, therefore, that an employment register should be opened in all the States, so that those who desire work there shall have an opportunity to have their claims considered subject to certain guarantees as to efficiency. By adopting that suggestion, the Minister would save himself a lot of trouble.
.- It is about time that we had laid before us a definite scheme in regard to the expenditure on the Federal Capital. Year after year a large sum is placed on the Estimates to enable Socialistic experiments to be carried out there by the Minister, who believes in the day-labour system and preference to unionists, and yet we find the most rabid anti-Socialists on the other side voting for expenditure under those conditions. When the Minister was asked last year to explain what a proposed vote of £100,000 on the Works and Buildings Estimates would commit us to, he said that it would commit us to an expenditure of £313,000, made up as follows: - Brickworks, £30,000 ; Cotter River weir, £30,000 ; water supply, mains, pipes, reservoirs, pipe tracks, pumping stations, &c, £140,000; pipe bridge over the Murrumbidgee, £40,000 ; £25,000 in building a railway from Queanbeyan - which, by the way, he said would be only a temporary line - roadmaking and deviations of existing roads, £10.000 ; offices at Acton, afforestation, &c., £13,000;and joinery timbers, £5,000.
– From what is the honorable member quoting?
– From the Minister’sspeech last year, as reported at page 2262, vol. LXI, of Hansard. All the information we can get is that £44,245 was spent last year, but we do not know what it was spent on. For instance, we do not know whether the power plant has been finished, or whether any part of it has been completed. Year by year we vote money without being told the nature of the works on which it is to be spent, or when they will be finished. We were told last year that £24,000 had been spent in anticipation of parliamentary sanction, leaving £76,000 of the £100,000 still unexpended ; but this year there is a re- vote of £31,755, making the expenditure of last year, after the’ passing of the Estimates, £44,245. It is, therefore, farcical to propose for this year an expenditure of £110,000, and I intend to move the reduction of the amount by £50,000, and to press the amendment to a division. I shall do this because of the party aspect which has been given to the matter by the People’s party in Victoria. I have been told to-day that one of the most rabid members of the People’s party stated deliberately that he had it on excellent authority that the Labour party were bound in Caucus to vote solidly tor this item. A division will show that there is no foundation for the statement. It honorable members read the speeches made at certain meetings of the People’s party by members of their organizations and their Women’s Leagues - the honorable member for Laanecoorie knows whether this is so - they will find that, in Victoria at least, the expenditure on the Federal Capital is spoken of with a view to injuring the Government. But if there is one question which has not been made a party question it is this. I move -
That the item, “Federal Capital,£110,000,” be reduced by£50,000.
.- It is time that the Minister gave us a statement as to how far the expenditure of the last two years has carried us. Many electors throughout Australia fear that we are being committed to an expenditure of millions of pounds. Indeed, the Minister has hinted as much, and that this expenditure will take place, regardless of the need for important developmental works and other public expenditure. Very serious protests have been made against the expenditure on the Federal Capital by representative bodies throughout Victoria. I have received resolutions from a large number of municipal councils protesting against the way in which this expenditure is increasing.
– Municipal councils !
– Those bodies may be regarded by Ministers as unimportant ; but I look upon them as very important. They perform public services of great importance, and represent the taxpayers, who pay the piper, and must be allowed to express their views.
– I shall oppose the amendment, because the proposed reduction is ridiculous, in view of the pledge given to the people of Australia that theFederal Capital will be constructed. We have taken possession of the Territory and have resumed 85,000 acres within it. During the year 1911-12. £68,245 was spent on the construction of roads, a bridge over the Molonglo River, the erection of temporary offices and quarters at Acton, the placing of gauges on the rivers, and other preparatory works. We have not involved the people of Australia in any other expenditure, except for the purchase of land.
– Have the land resumptions been finished?
– No; but we have resumed 85,000 acres which were needed.
– How much is to be resumed altogether? What is the land policy ?
– We expect to need 562,000 acres ; but the Government of New South Wales have given us a big slice of that area free. The expenditure on resumption!, over a series of years will be: between £600,000 and £700,000. The Committee is now’ being asked to vote money for the laying of pipe lines, the conStruction of a weir on the Cotter, sewerage, afforestation, and other works of the kind. It will not do everything that must be done in the laying out of the city, but it will do part of the work. Included in the expenditure is the cost of a line from Queanbeyan to the site of the Capital.
– The Minister told us last year that a temporary line was to be constructed at a cost of £25,000.
– Yes; but that line can be made permanent without the slightest trouble. The original intention was to construct a tramway, but now we intend to have a permanent railway.
– Will not a permanent line cost more than a tramway?,
– It may cost a little more ; but the sum will not be large enough to destroy Australia. I hope that the Committee will respect the pledge given to the people, and reject the amendment.
– I have been referred to in connexionwith a meeting at which I was present as a delegate from my own district. I regret that some honorable members, probably because they have had little experience of modern and up-to-date municipal government, are prone to belittle the efforts of the municipal councils, and the positions of the councillors, who are doing most useful work, without fee or reward.
– Why do they not stick to their own work?
– I believe that in this matter they have not gone beyond their legitimate functions.
– Would they like Parliament to interfere in their concerns ?
– Parliament does interfere. I will give what seems to me a cogent reason why the municipal councils should view with alarm the projected expenditure on the Federal Capital. The delegate who spoke on the subject said that he thought that, it being a party matter, the municipalities should not take any part in it. I learned for the first time from the honorable member for Gippsland to-night that that gentleman is a prominent member of the People’s Party. He urged that the matter should not be dealt with by the Conference, because it is a party matter. I hope, therefore, that there will be no misapprehension about his attitude, and that it will not be thought that he endeavoured to make political capital in what he did.
– Victoria is not all Australia.
– No; but it is an important part of Australia, and its people have had more to do with the development of the Commonwealth than those of any other State. They have penetrated to every part of Australia, and the prosperity of the Commonwealth is largely due to their pluck, enterprise, and industry. The other States are the richer for the presence of Victorians, and have benefited enormously by our go-ahead methods. I felt that it was due to honorable members opposite to say that the delegate was in error ; that this was not a party question, and had never been so regarded; and that, had it been one, I should not have been present at the meeting. This is a great national question. Honorable members opposite should be the first to realize that it is one in which the municipal councils should concern themselves. They are aware that to gain the haven of Socialism they must commence by getting control of the municipal services. Municipal councillors are not self-appointed. They are elected by the people, and the power of levying rates has been delegated to them by Parliament. When they find that the sources from which their revenue is derived are likely to be depleted by the action of another authority, they have a right to meet together and to protest. If honorable members opposite thought little of those local bodies, they would not be so anxious to decry them every time they are mentioned. Many honorable members opposite have served on municipal councils, and have done good work without any reward ; and the position Victoria occupies to-day is in ‘no small degree due to the self-denying labours of those unpaid legislators.
– Does the honorable member believe in carrying out the bargain made with New South Wales?
– I do. But when I promise a man that, if he agrees to a certain course, I shall give him a certain reward, I am entitled, and bound as a representative of the people who have to pay, to say how that reward shall be paid, and in what degree it shall be met from time to time. There was no provision in the Federal compact that a certain sum of money, or, as some of my friends opposite desire, an unlimited sum of money should be placed at the disposal of those building the Federal Capital.
– How can we “make bricks without straw “ ?
– I do not propose that that should be done. The compact is being kept ; and the Minister stands self-condemned, because last year he asked for £[100,000, which was cheerfully voted, and spent only £[68,000.
– He spent only £[44,000.
– I am taking the Minister’s own figures, and he now asks for a revote of £[32,000. Under the circumstances it is fatuous on the part of the Government to ask for £[1 10,000. We were told specifically last year that the money would be spent on works then projected, and it was not spent; and the Minister has given us no reason to believe that the £[110,000 will be spent.
– You will have it back, if I do not spend it.
– That is not the way to do business. It means handing over a blank cheque; and the Minister would not conduct any transaction with his own money on such a basis. I do not like imputing motives or ascribing conduct which is not considered honorable; but if there is to be any party question raised, or, if members are to be challenged because of their votes, it will be fair to assume that the Minister is placing this amount on the Estimates merely for party political purposes - that he has no intention to spend it, but desires to make the people of New South Wales believe that “ Codlin is the friend, not Short.”
– * can” not understand the attitude taken up by Victorian members. It is of no use those gentlemen saying it was never intended that so much money should be spent on the Federal Capital. When Sir Edmund Barton and the honorable member for Ballarat addressed meetings at Brisbane at the time Federation was before the country, I travelled 800 miles to hear them. Soon after my arrival in Australia, it struck me as very peculiar that, because of crossing an imaginary boundary, the people here treated each other as complete foreigners. We are the same people, all of one stock, speaking the same tongue, wearing the same dress, and carrying on similar industries ; and yet at an imaginary border we attacked each other with Customs dues.
– I must ask the honorable member to confine himself to the question of the Capital site.
– I am leading up to that question. The defence of Australia, to my mind, presented a fitting object to Federation. Now we come to the bargain made, not with all the States, but between Victoria and New South Wales, as to which State should own the Federal territory.
– The bargain was made by all the States - all the Premiers were parties.
– Queensland came in later than the eleventh hour - just on the eve of Federation.
– Queensland was too slow !
– I am sorry that Queensland was so fast. But, in any case, the Enabling Bill passed the State Legislature, and Federation was accepted by the people. I should be a traitor to my constituency if I did not carry out the contract entered into at that time. The honorable member for Laanecoorie and the honorable member for Wimmera come here as the champions of municipal councils, shire councils, and other local bodies in and about Victoria.
– Bodies that do not represent the people.
– In many cases those bodies represent nobody but themselves, and their own interests. I know all about such bodies, because I have been a member of Divisional Boards - an experience that gave me a good training for active politics. I have had to play a “ lone hand “ as against the squatter gentlemen.
– The honorable member has not played a “lone hand” for some time
– No matter; I shall alWa’S be found, at the crack of the whip, behind my party. I am as good a party man as the honorable member for Parkes; he may bark and bellow as much as he likes, but he is always seen with the crowd opposite when the vote is taken.
– Whom is the honorable member calling a “ crowd “ ?
– Not the honorable gentleman ; he is a very small unit at present. I can well remember when shire councils and other similar local bodies in Queensland took exception to the White Australia policy. Some of us who were in the first ‘ Parliament will remember the petitions that came from these bodies, and, indeed, from both Houses of the State Parliament. However, we passed the Bill ; and to-day Australia is white. Is there a politician on either side of the House who would be “game” enough to propose to revert to the old order of things? How does the placing of the Federal Capital in New South Wales interfere with the functions or business of these local bodies in Victoria?
– They object to the amount of money being spent.
– Municipal councils and similar bodies are created in order to look after local interests, and their revenues are raised by local taxation. What in Heaven’s name have they to do with a grant from the National Parliament? How would they like this Parliament to interfere with the position of the parish pump, or object to their placing a channel in a certain street or at a certain angle?
– We have no right to deprive them of their sources of revenue.
– What sources of revenue? Give us one instance. I do not understand what revenue we can deprive them of.
– If we spend money extravagantly, must it not be raised by taxation?
– But are we spending money extravagantly?
– We spent £60,000 last year, and got £34,000 revenue !
– Is that reckless expenditure ?
– What about the Geelong Woollen Mills?
– That brings me back to the municipal conference, which was held to-day at the invitation of the municipalities of Ballarat East and Deakin Shire. The honorable member for. Laanecoorie would lead the country and the House to believe that this was a full gathering of representatives of municipalities and shire councils throughout Victoria; but what is the real position? We , are told in the Herald of this evening that Councillor W. H. Day, president of the shire of Deakin, who presided, said that out of 208 municipalities in the State, replies favorable to the movement were received from six cities, six towns, fourteen boroughs, and seventy-eight shires in response to the circular issued by the Deakin Shire. If there was anything in this movement, surely more than half of the local bodies would have taken some interest in it. Has the honorable member for Laanecoorie ever served on a municipal body or shire council?
– I have not.
– Then let me tell the honorable member what usually happens when such a movement as this is initiated. The clerk of the local body reads the circular of invitation, and the chairman, if he is favorable, says so, and moves that the council give their support. A vote is taken by show of hands, and the thing is done. That is the sort of thing that the honorable member desires to lead us to believe represents a great movement in Victoria. They never had a more rotten case in their lives than they have now. The only thing I condemn about the Capital site is that not enough money is being spent on it.
Mr.W. Elliot Johnson. - The sooner we got away from this place the better.
– Thank God that we shall be away from the influence of the Age and Argus. As soon as a leader comes out in either of those papers, the Victorian members on both sides of the House break their necks to see who can get in first.
– It was the honorable member for Parkes who started the discussion on the” Man on the Job “ article.
– It was the Argus, a Victorian paper, that found out the “ sewerage.” I do not know who originated the
I ‘ Man on the Job V article,but if the Minister knew as much about the matter as I do there would be nothing in it. When people talk about the Age and the Argus, it is to me like waving a red rag to a bull. They have no more influence over me than the veriest rag in my electorate. I do not care whether they praise me or write scurrilous things about me, so long as they say something about me. That is all I care about, because then my. constituents know that I am alive and “on the job.” If we are to be controlled by municipal and shire councils, the sooner we hand over the reins of Government to those gentlemen, and allow them to have their 208 local Parliaments instead of having one National Par: liamcnt, the better. What would they say if we began to interfere with their business ? Ascitizens they have a perfect right to protest, but when they tell us that they are representative citizens,I know it is all twaddle, because I know how these things are rigged. The honorable member for Laanecoorie made out a very good case for them, but what a shire council carries has no more effect on me than a dog fight down the street. ) can understand the honorable member being so anxious to please these shire councillors, because many of them are possibly after his job.
-i do not think I showed any desire to please them.
– The honorable member has held a brief for them to-night. I never heard a more extraordinary reason given why a man should back out of an agreement than the honorable member gave to-night. Will the honorable member for Laanecoorie say that the people of New South Wales would have accepted the Federal Enabling Bill if the clause about the Capital had not been inserted ?
– No, I do not think they would.
– I think the same. If Federation was consummated on those lines, then, as men, and, as the honorable member for Darwin would say, as business men, let us keep the compact.
.- Personally, as a private member, I have always been opposed to ‘ the idea of building a Federal Capital away from the centres of population ; but if the question is to be raised again it should be by a deliberate motion- The honorable member for Gippsland ought not, and doubtless does not mean, to raise it by a mere motion to reduce a vote in Committee, because the people do not really know what is going on. I believe there is a very active opinion outside against having the Capital away from the centres of population ; but opposition to the project is now somewhat belated. The district councils have waked up about six or seven years after the event, and, in so far as they have based their opposition on the question of expenditure, 1 think they are barking up the wrong tree altogether. If we are to have a Capital’, it must grow, and in the beginning the expenditure will be comparatively small. Whatever cost is really necessary must be incurred, and, summed up at the end of several years, it will not be a very large drain upon the taxation capacity of the Commonwealth. That is the view I expressed to some delegates who asked my opinion on the question. I told them, at the same time, that I regretted that an opportunity was not given tothe people of Australia to decide whether they would have a Federal Capital built at all. Sydney could have been decided upon as the Capital if the amendment fixing the site in New South Wales not nearer than too miles to Sydney had not been put into the Constitution at the instance of Sir George Reid and Sir George Turner. I rose chiefly to say that I regret that the plans of these large expenditures are not submitted to the House before the expenditure is incurred. In all the States there is a provision either that the plans of large works should be put upon the table for approval, even though the works have been sanctioned by Act of Parliament, or that a Works Committee, as in New South Wales, shall recommend the expenditure if it exceeds a certain limit, I believe in New South Wales the Committee must recommend any expenditure exceeding £20,000. We, in this Parliament, have no such control over the Executive. Expenditure upon the Federal Capital is of sufficient importance to justify a plan, of which this annual expenditure is a part, being approved of by the House. There is no provision, for instance, for the deposit of the plan. In most of the States there is a general Act, under which plans have to be deposited in the Surveyor-General’s office for the inspection of the public. In the special Acts there is a provision that the plans shall be deposited with the SurveyorGeneral, and laid upon the table of the House, and that the expenditure on an undertaking sanctioned by Act of Parliament is not to go beyond a certain limit unless those plans are approved of by the House. We have absolutely nothing of that sort in our Acts to control the expenditure of the Federal Government ; and I ask honorable members if it is not time for us to have some check upon the aberrations of even the wisest of Ministers. There may be a plan for the Federal Capital ap- - proved of by a departmental head, but it has never been laid before the House. It ‘ may involve the expenditure of two or three million pounds, and it may afterwards be discovered to be wrong. I can understand the honorable member for Gippsland moving an amendment if his desire is to impose some check upon the Administration in this matter, but the real fault is that the House has no opportunity of seeing the plans of large public undertakings.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120807_reps_4_65/>.