4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– As I am assured by the members of my party, that Senator Gardiner withdraws his personal affront to me in the Senate on the 17th July, I wish to make the following statement : Senator Gardiner takes exception to a statement made by me in Parliament on 5th July, which he considers bears the construction that, whilst being paid by the Australian Workers Union to do industrial work, he devoted 80 per cent. of such time to political organizing. I find Senator Gardiner’1 was appointed to do political organizing work, and that there is, and can be no reflection upon his personal honour. I did not intend the view which has been taken of my remarks, and had no intention of implying the construction put upon them. I, therefore, withdraw the statement I made.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The following statement appears in the leading article of today’s Age: -
Yesterday, the member for South Sydney, Mr. Riley - who ingenuously confessed that he hates work of all kinds - pledged his personal knowledge for the fact that there is no honesty in a gang of workmen. If one amongst them, he says, shows any disposition to do an honest day’s work for a good day’s pay, he is at once told by his mates to slacken his pace, and, failing compliance, his life is made a hell on earth.
Those who know me, are aware that it is false to say that I have ever shirked work, either when at any trade, or in any of the positions I have held since. Furthermore, my long experience of workmen convinces me that it would be slanderous to sayof them that they are not honest. There is more honesty among workers than in the commercial community.
– Why slander the commercial community?
– The statements attributed to me in the passage I have read were not made by me; and I hope that my constituents will not hold me responsible for them.
– Will the Minister of
Home Affairs lay on the table, and have . printed, all the reports of officers engaged on works now being carried out by day labour ?
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster- General whether, when inquiring into the daylabour system as applied to the undergrounding of the telephone wires, and similar work, he will procure information as to how many navvies are actually employed, and how many timekeepers, clerks, clerks of works, inspectors, engineers, engineering cadets, and supervisors generally ?
– I shall send on the question to the Postal, authorities.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs been called to the following paragraph, which appeared in the Melbourne Herald, on Tuesday last-
Cr. W: Rain, as Chairman of the. Public Works Committee of the Collingwood Council, mentioned, at the fortnightly meeting yesterday, that the work of spreading soil over certain portions of the Reilly-street drain would be completed in a couple of days. This work had been done by day labour, and the cost to date was £58. When tenders were invited for this work the lowest received was about £135.
I desire also to know if the Minister thinks that this statement fully supports his own policy in regard to the day-labour system?
– Yes; it is prima facie evidence of the truth of the statement that I made to the House yesterday, that day labour is the salvation of Australia.
– I beg to ask the AttorneyGeneral if he has observed the statement appearing in the Melbourne Age of the 8th instant, that at a meeting of the café and restaurant-keepers at Sydney it was stated that the price of meat had risen 100 per cent. - meat which recently could be bought at, 3d. per lb. now bringing 6d? Has the Commonwealth Crown. Law Department any means of checking increases in the price of meat? What proposal has the Government for controlling or preventing abnormal increases in the price of food?
– I have not seen the paragraph referred to. Complaints as to the wholesale prices of meat have been made to the Department, and inquiries have been instituted. It is obvious that as retail prices are regulated within the States, this Parliament has no jurisdiction over them. The Government have no proposals other than those included in the proposed amendments of the Constitution.
– I wish to know whether the Minister of External Affairs has in his Department information as to the prices of Australian meat retailed in London, so that a comparison may be made with the prices of meat retailed in the Commonwealth. If he has not the information in his Department, will he take steps to secure it ?
– I do not know that we have the information for which the honorable member asks, but if he thinks it will be of any use to him, I shall try to obtain it.
– Has the attention of the
Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to this paragraph in to-day’s Argus -
A cable message received this evening by the agents states that the steam-ship Montoro, bound from Singapore to Australia, via Java, has landed a case of suspected small-pox at Sourabaya, and is now steaming direct for Sydney instead of calling at other ports en route.
Is it intended to take steps to prevent Sydney from becoming the dumping ground of small-pox patients?
– If the honorable member will examine the Works Estimates, he will see that it is proposed to expend a sum of ‘ money in improving existing, and providing some new, quarantine stations. Whenthe proposal comes before the Committee, I shall be glad to give a full explanation of what is intended.
Australian Light Horse - Prosecution of Cadets - Free Carriage of Military Trainees - Military Camp : Federal Territory
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether it has been decided to move the head-quarters of the 19th Australian Light Horse Regiment from Bendigo to Echuca? If so, who recommended the change, and under what circumstances was the decision arrived at? Will the Minister be prepared to reconsider the matter in view of further information which may be available?
– The honorable gentleman kindly intimated his intention to ask the question, and I have been able to obtain the following information -
Yes. a. (a) On the recommendation of the District Commandant.
If any new information is provided, the Minister will reconsider the matter.
– In view of the fact that, in many of the States, first offenders are treated with leniency, will the Minister of Defence endeavour to have the cadets who have been fined £5 or a month’s imprisonment treated as first offenders?
– I shall submit the suggestion to the Minister.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence say whether any reply has been received from the New South Wales Government with regard to the free carriage of compulsory military trainees to thetraining ground ?
– I have not personally seen any reply, but I. shall ask the Minister of Defence if he has received one.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of Defence say whether the first encampment of “Compulsory trainees is to be held at Albury, and, if so, will he tell us why it <has not been arranged to be held in the Federal Territory?
– I am not aware of the precise site of any particular camp.
– Yesterday I put a question upon notice to the Minister of Home Affairs, and judging by the answer I received I evidently addressed it to the wrong Minister. I desire now to ask the Prime Minister 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.
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the honorable member. All information of the kind will be available, but why restrict the question to Commonwealth advertising in Melbourne weeklies. The honorable member’s questions are all in the one direction.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will lay on the table of the House a report giving the information for which I asked.
– If the honorable member will give notice of motion, I will allow it to be taken as formal business.
– Arising out of the answer given by the Prime Minister to the honorable member for Echuca, I wish to know whether the right honorable gentleman understands that the honorable member is going to place on the business-paper a notice of motion asking for a return as to advertising in all the newspapers pf Melbourne, and not the weeklies only. If the motion is to be confined to advertisements appearing only in the weekly papers, I shall feel disinclined to allow it to pass as formal business.
– I referred to advertising in all papers.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs when he proposes to lay on the table of the House the report of- the Commissioners in regard to the redistribution of Federal electorates in New South Wales.
– The SurveyorGeneral of New South Wales is now having the maps prepared, and I hope to have them here next week.
– Sir JOHN FORREST. - I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs a question. Yesterday the honorable member repeated a statement made my him on several occasions that the delay in proceeding with the construction of the TransAustralian railway is due to the failure of the Government of South Australia to sign the necessary agreement, and that the agreement had also not yet been signed on behalf of Western Australia. I telegraphed yesterday to the Premiers of both States, but so far have only received a reply from the Premier of South Australia. It is to this effect; “Any suggestion that delay in the construction- “
– Is the right honorable member asking a question?
– I propose to ask a question based on the telegram I am now reading.
– If I were to allow the right honorable member to do that, he might read any communication commenting on a statement made in a prior debate, and say that he was going to found a question upon it. If such a practice were permitted, it would lead to endless trouble.
– How am I to ask my question if I do not state the reasons for it?
– The honorable member will not be in order in reading the statement.
– The matter is.’ of much public importance, but if you rule that I may not read a telegram from the Premier of South Australia, in answer to . a statement made by a responsible Minis- .”ter in this House, I shall not do so. I am rather surprised at your ruling, sir, in view of what takes place in this House every day.
– Will the right honorable member ask his question?
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs if he will lay on the table of the House any correspondence justifying his statement that South Australia is delaying the construction of the South Australian railway. My reason for putting this question is that the Government of South Australia deny the accuracy of the statement.
– I wish to say emphatically that there is no delay in the construction of the Trans-Australian railway. We have been going right on with the work, and I fail to understand why honorable members opposite should be constantly stating that delay is taking place. The Crown Solicitor is our guide in this matter, and he has laid it down that neither Western Australia nor South Australia has yet complied with the requirements of sec tion 3 of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act. That has not delayed preliminary action in connexion with the railway, and the work is not being delayed.
– I wish to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether he has received from the High Commissioner any communication regarding the wrangle reported in the daily newspapers, as taking place between the Agents-General as to the representation of the Commonwealth and the States in London. If so, will he make the report available to honorable members.
– I have received a communication from the High Commissioner dealing with a misunderstanding with the Agents-General regarding some of the products exhibited at certain shows in England. Is that the matter to which the honorable member refers?
– No; I refer to the matter generally.
– I have not any report dealing with the matter generally, but I shall be glad to lay on the table of the House the report to which I have referred.
– I desire to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that some company or persons have applied for a monopoly of whale-fishing rights on part of the eastern coast of Australia, and, if so, what action is the Department taking?
– No such application has been made to me. and, if it were made, I could not grant it, this being a matter for the New South Wales authorities alone, I believe that such a monopoly has been granted in another part of Australia.
– I desire to remind theAttorneyGeneral that, during the debatein this Chamber, on the Coal Vend prosecution, he promised that the appeal casewould come on in July. In view of thefact that the Crown Solicitor, Mr. Power, has returned, I desire to ask the honorablegentleman what are the “ curious influences “ - honorable members will notethat I use the language employed by thehonorable member for Ballarat - that havebrought about a further delay in the hearing of the appeal. Secondly, is he awareof any curious influences that have been> brought to bear on the Opposition to prevent them from giving publicity to this further delay?
– All I can say is that the Crown was quite ready to proceed om the 29th July, as fixed by the Court, but I understand that the Court was not ready. Under the circumstances I do not know that the Crown can do anything more.
– Is it not a fact that thecause of the delay is the temporary illnessof the Chief Justice, and that the case has been fixed for the 19th of this month, in> anticipation that His Honour will then be restored to health?
– That is not the causethat has been put forward to me, though I understand that it is a fact that the Chief Justice is ill.
– Are we to clearly understand that the fault does not rest with the Department or with the “AttorneyGeneral?
– The Court fixes its ownbusiness, and does just what it pleases. The matter is mentioned here only because some censure has been directed against my Department for, as alleged, concurring in delay. The Department did not concur, inany delay, though delay has occurred ; and it cannot be said this time that the Department is to blame.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What is the full strength of the garrison at the forts of Albany (King George’s Sound) and Fremantle respectively, and is the’ full complement stationed at both places at present? If not, how many officers and men are there?
– The answer to the right honorable member’s question is -
The position is as follows : -
Inaddit ion to the above, three membersofthe Albany detachment are at present attending a course of instruction at the School of Gunnery, Sydney.
The full complement at Albany is not kept up at present, as the regiment is below strength. Recruiting is, however, being carried out in Western Australia for Albany.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister expects to have full information on these points tomorrow.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What is the present position of Staff SergeantMajor Leach, who, while engaged on military duty at Northam, Western Australia, was, about a year ago, stricken down by illness, but is now said to be in good health and fit for service?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
A Medical Board assembled on the 27th June last to decide as to the health of this noncommissioned officer, reported as follows : -
At the examination of the Medical Board on 10th January, 1912, Staff Sergeant-Major Leach was in a weak condition, following on a prolonged attack of malaria. Since then he has had no more attacks, and appears now - five months afterwards - to be physically fit for duty. A recurrence might occur at some future date.
It is now contemplated transferring him from Western Australia, which apparently does not agree with his health, to another military district to afford him an opportunity to fully recuperate.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The papers are at present with’ the Acting Manager of the factory, and on their return, with his report, the information asked for by the honorable member will be furnished.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice. -
Is there any intention to cause the men and cadets attending military camps to be put through the ordinary military exercises on the Sundays in which they may be in camp?
– The answer to the’ honorable member’s question is -
Cadets do not attend camps. Instructions have been issued to Commandants that in arranging for instruction of troops during camps, they are to arrange for the customary church parades on Sundays, and that there is no objection to a. portion of the day being devoted to such military exercises as will be instructive and beneficial, care being taken that the observance of the Sabbath by the general community is not disturbed or affected.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
When acknowledgment cards are returned to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State the following action is taken : -
Until the action indicated in1 is completed.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The desired information will be obtained and furnished at an early date.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Defence - Extracts from the Annual Report of the Inspector-General of the Military Forces. (Major-General Kirkpatrick) - 30th May,. 1912.
Federal Government in Australia - Memorandum prepared by the Secretary to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department at the request’ of the Government of the Transvaal.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at-
Dumbleyung, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Hobart, Tasmania - For Postal purposes.
Debate resumed from 1st August (vide page 1568) on motion by Mr. Fuller -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should instruct the High Commissioner for Australia to make arrangements for having the fullest inquiries made into the Australian butter trade in London and the United Kingdom,, having special regard to the workings and effect of the Commerce Act and the regulations thereunder, particularly the regulation on grade marking as affecting the price of Australian butter.
.-i congratulate the honorable member for Illawarra on his thoughtful remarks on this very important question. Any one who considers the importance of the exports of Australian produce must recognise that this motion is justified. There are a number of honorable members even in this Chamber who look with disfavour on what they would term the dumping of produce into other markets of theworld at a lower rate than the same goods are sold for locally.
There has been considerable comment recently regarding the export of meat, and the local price of meat. I should like to inform those honorable members who take the view that no produce should be exported at lower values than similar goods bring locally, that the same markets are open to the dealers in local products that are open to the exporters.
– Is it not a fact that they have to send a certain proportion away ?
– They have not. Only the surplus is sent away. I am speaking more particularly with regard to the meat trade, the export portion of which is entirely in the hands of large companies ; but the pastoralists who produce the cattle for those companies produce them also for local buyers, and the meat can be bought at from 16s. to 20s. per cwt. While I have no sympathy with the very extortionate price that is sometimes charged for produce locally, I am sure that if any impediment were put in the way of our export trade it would not assist but would rather injure local consumers. Those who go in for cattle raising or the production of butter desire to know beforehand that there is a certain market for their produce, if not in Australia, then in other parts of the world. If anything were done to restrict the export of our surplus products, it would certainly put quite a number of people out of those industries, and the result would be higher prices. It is, therefore, in the interests pf the local consumers that producers should have an outlet for their surplus. The Australian butter trade in London at present is principally in the hands of the Tooley.street butter merchants. Although we have three representatives from Australia in London, who are doing good work for the Australian producers, yet we have there no organized system of distribution on behalf of the producers. Some twelve months ago a deputation from this House asked the Minister of External Affairs to apply a portion of the vote for advertising Australia to the advertising of Australian produce in London and throughout other parts of England. The Minister promised to consider the matter favorably, and refer it to the High Commissioner, but up to the present time we have not been informed of what has been done. Our object at the time was to bring about as much as possible the decentralization of our produce trade in Great Britain. As the honorable member for Illawarra pointed out, there are, in addition to London, a number of outlets for Australian produce in Great Britain, and also in other parts of the world. The honorable member, in his motion, has suggested exactly that decentralization of Australian trade in the Old Country which we asked the Minister of External Affairs to try to bring about. I must’ take this opportunity of thanking the Minister of Trade and Customs for some concessions granted to us last year in connexion with the grade marking of butter. He agreed to grade mark only superfine and first grade butter, and allow anything under that quality which was considered fit for export to be marked “ approved for export.” That has been a great concession to Australian butter producers. Only a few days ago one of the directors of the Queensland Farmers’ Co-operative Company, a concern doing a large manufacturing business, stated that that concession meant thousands of pounds to the. butter producers of Queensland. I am not going to say that grading has not been of benefit to the industry. In fact, it has been of great benefit; and we have to thank the graders throughout Australia for their diligence and courtesy, and for having pointed out defects in our produce, such advice certainly being a help to the industry.. It is utterly impossible to put reliable grade marks on export butter, because the butter undergoes many changes in the six weeks which elapse between its grading and its sale on the London market. The London buyers are shrewd men, and good judges of butter. They determine the quality of the butter offered by means of their tryers ; but, being keen business men, if the grade marking says that the butter is of low quality they take advantage of the fact. The present system is unjust to the producers. If butter is marked first, second, and third grade, the second and third grades may arrive in as good as or better condition than the first grade. I do not accuse the graders here of dishonesty, but I say that it is impossible to determine in Australia what the quality of butter will be when offered for sale in London. When the honorable member for Illawarra was speaking, the honorable member for Capricornia interjected that the members of the Opposition believe in Socialism to help the industries with which they are connected, but are anti-Socialists where the wage-earners are concerned ; and added that Government assistance is being asked to improve the position of the butter business at Home. My reply is that the producers of butter have never asked for Government assistance or Government interference. The butter export industry has been built up by cooperation, and the expenditure of the money of those concerned in the production of butter. Millions of pounds have been put into the business.
– Did not the butter producers ask for a special condition to be put into the mail contract?
– Yes, and considerable concessions were made to them.
– We know that the Postmaster-General would have had to pay a much heavier subsidy for the mail service had it not been for the butter freights offering. We pay £4 10s. a ton for the carriage of butter by the mail boats, and provide a nice, clean freight. Thus the butter export system assists the Postal Department. The Orient mail steamers would not come to Brisbane until the butter producers of the State guaranteed freight.
– The Commonwealth pays £24,000 a year to induce them to go there.
– Not for the butter.
– If it were not for the butter trade, the cost to the Commonwealth would be £60,000.
– Of course, if there is to be a pie, the butter producers have a right to have a finger in it; but they would be quite prepared to stand by themselves, and to work out their own salvation. They have stood by themselves for thirty or forty years.
Mr.Fenton. - We cannot make terms with the steam-ship companies without Government assistance.
– We have brought the steamers to Hobart without Government assistance.
– If the mail contracts were cancelled, and the subsidies ceased, the butter producers would still be able to make good terms with the steam-ship companies. At times we have found the mail companies most unpleasant, and have used the other steam-ship companies to bring them to their hearings. The people of Australia should be grateful to the butter producers for the service which they enjoy. All that is asked for is an inquiry into the effect of Government interference. The Government marks butter “ first grade” or “ approved for export,” and we wish to know the effect of this on the London market. If an inquiry be granted, I trust that the suggestion of the honorable member for Illawarra will be acted on, and that some one will be sent from Australia who has a knowledge of the business. Inquiry would be useless without the help of some one who knows the inner workings of Tooley-street. There is a mystery about the business of the butter people there which the ordinary mind cannot fathom, the trade having been wrapped in mystery for the last twenty or thirty years. A person not intimate with the business would simply go to the butter exchange, or would be deceived by the agents, and his report would be useless. I am satisfied to leave the matter in the hands of the Minister. I have no complaint to make against the graders here. We were pleased with the concession which we got last year, and we hope that a statement in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech does not indicate an intention to increase the grade marking. I do not wish to confuse grading with grade marking. What I object to is the marking of the grading on the boxes. I hope that the present system will not be altered.
– It is not intended to grade mark the boxes “ first,” “ second,” and “third.”
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
.- I move -
That for the purpose of enabling the Parliament of the Commonwealth to effectively legislate in respect to water conservation and irrigation, the Constitution should be amended to place under Federal control the Murray River and its tributaries.
Two years ago, I had the honour to submit to the House ‘this motion in regard to the placing of the Murray waters under Federal control ; and I recognise that it is capable of provoking a difference of opinion amongst honorable members. Some will describe it as a Socialistic proposition, while others will declare that it is a pro.posal to amend the Constitution in such a far-reaching manner as ought not, in any circumstances, to <be attempted. I do not tike that view. I have always held that tie Constitution should be more permanent, more rigid, and less liable to alteration, than is an Act of Parliament ; and that it should not be amended unless sufficiently veighty reasons can be given for the adoption of such a course. The motion that I now submit to the House does not, in my opinion, come within the category of proposals for ordinary amendments of the Constitution for experimental purposes. This amendment ot the Constitution is necessary because all the States interested in the Murray River and its tributaries have failed to erect amongst themselves a controlling power essential to the proper handling of the great water problem of Australia. The States concerned have been carrying on negotiations for the last thirty or forty years, but have not yet arrived at an agreement as to the distribution of the waters of what is, undoubtedly, the great water-way of this continent. Several Royal Commissions have been appointed, and have reported upon the question ; but, in every instance, their proposals have been rejected by one or other of the Parliaments interested.
– Unification is the remedy.
– The fact that certain amendments of the Constitution are necessary is not a sufficient ground for asserting that the whole instrument should be destroyed. That some alteration of the Constitution is necessary is demonstrated, first of all, by the fact that the States have failed to come to any reasonable agreement in respect of this matter; and, secondly,, because the question relates to a purely Inter-State function. The Murray River is supplied by tributaries taking their rise in the four States of the eastern part of Australia. This is essentially an InterState question, and the Federal authority is, therefore, the proper authority to deal with it. Matters of purely State concern should be left to the States, because they can best be managed by the States, just as local matters can best be dealt with by the municipalities. But this, I repeat, is a purely Inter-State question, and should properly come under the control of the InterState Commission about to be appointed. That is the only body that can properly handle the great Australian problem of the conservation and distribution of the Murray waters.
– Can the honorable member say how much has already been spent by way of litigation in regard to this question?
– No; but greater issues are involved than the mere question of the control and the distribution of the waters of the Murray and its tributaries. After one of the most serious and exhaustive debates that took place in the Federal Convention, it was found impossible to come to anything like an adequate decision in respect of the control of these waters. It was considered that, if the navigation control were vested in the Federal Parliament, and the control, so far as irrigation was concerned, were left to the State Parliaments, a fair compromise as between the two sovereign bodies would be arrived1 at. Compromise was very necessary in the Convention, and that was the decision ultimately arrived at. Since the Convention deliberated on this matter, however, irrigation has become a more prominent factor of Australian development, and has made rapid and extended strides such as were not then contemplated. Section 51 of the Constitution enables Parliament to make laws with respect to “ trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States,” while section 98 provides that -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the. property of any State.
I hold that the control of these waters, so far as their use for irrigation purposes is concerned, should occupy a similar place under the Constitution. Section .too of the Constitution provides that -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
It will thus be seen that almost the full power in respect of water conservation and irrigation is retained by the State Parliaments. Such a power might well be exercised by the States in the case of rivers purely within State boundaries, but I have seen fit to differentiate between such streams and the Murray, because the latter is_ a purely Inter-State river. Its tributaries take their rise in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, whilst a large flow of the stream runs through South Australian territory. Thus alt the States of the eastern portion of Australia are vitally interested in this question.
– The Murray would belong to Victoria altogether if she had her rights.
– If I took that view I should not be submitting this motion. I think that all the States are vitally interested in the matter, and that is why I hold that the Federal power alone can properly conserve these waters and distribute them in a way to do justice to the States interested. Lying behind the practical question of the distribution and conservation of these waters is that of riparian rights and riparian law. Those who take the trouble to look into this question find it, I am sure, a very interesting subject. We are carried back to the old Roman period, when little was thought of irrigation, and when the Roman law gave paramount rights in respect of navigation. The European rivers were regarded as arteries for the carriage of commerce, and consequently all riparian law was chiefly designed for the preservation of the navigation rights of those streams. That was the generally recognised principle operating up to the time of Great Britain. In the common law of Great Britain itself we find embodied those laws that operated chiefly in the southern countries of Europe. But with the wider use of the water for irrigation there has been a great alteration in the point of view. In the United States it has been held that irrigation is paramount over navigation, and that the reasonable use of the water for the former purpose is the proper interpretation of rights. I do not wish to dwell too long on this phase of the question; I had an opportunity to deal with it two years ago, and I desire to break fresh ground to-day. Mr. Mead is, I believe, the most eminent irrigation engineer and expert we have had in Australia ; and he has supplied the Victorian Government with a number of decisions given in the Courts of the United States in regard to irrigation. It is shown that the old idea which obtains in the common law of Europe has disappeared almost entirely from consideration in the United States - that in consequence of the rapid development of railway communication there, the question of navigation has become a negligible quantity. Even on the Mississipi, the finest river in the States for navigation purposes - indeed, it is almost an inland sea - the carriage of freight has declined in the last few years by from 30 to 40 per cent. The time has almost passed when it is necessary to point out the manifold advantages of irrigation, even in j. young country like Australia. But it might be advisable to take a glance at some o: the older countries as showing the success of irrigation, and what may be possible here. We have it on the authority oi Holy Writ that it was in Egypt that the earliest irrigation works were carried out, and these were continued until modern days, when the eminent engineer, Sir William Wilcocks, designed the Assouan dam, the greatest in the world, and thus brought an immense tract of country into active cultivation. On the Nile, in Egypt, 4,000,000 acres of land thus cultivated support the entire population’ of the country ; and the permanence of the irrigation has been secured by the construction of the dam I have just mentioned, which, I believe, is scarcely larger than the Burrinjuck dam recently completed in New South Wales. It will be seen, therefore, that we are following in the footsteps of one of the greatest irrigation countries. In Egpyt there is an area of 12,000 square miles, with a population of 10,000,000. Between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 acres are cultivated; and, after the immense population has been fed, the exports represent over ,£20,000,000 per annum. In the United States there are something like 15,000,000 acres under active irrigation, which has increased the value of the land from 5s. to .£530 per acre, the land now supporting, directly and indirectly, a population of not less than 10,000,000. I might here quote from the book written by the Leader of the Opposition some years ago on irri- gation in India. That work has been described by Mr. Mead as the ablest most exhaustive, and most informative of any on this question ; and when it was written some twenty-five or thirty years ago, it was estimated that in India over 30,000,000 acres were under active irrigation. That area has since been increased to something like 50,000,000, and nearly£1 per acre has been spent in improving the systems, an expenditure which shows the marvellous return of over 6 per cent. Of the 300,000,000 people in India, some 200,000,000 are directly and indirectly supported by irrigation ; and we have there the greatest example of the success of this system of cultivation that the world provides. A similar tale might be told of Southern Europe if it were necessary to go further into the question; but we have many examples close at hand in Victoria. Mildura is a place I have mentioned before, and I do not think it can be spoken of too often, because it furnishes an object lesson to the whole of Australia, and is one of the finest achievements on a small scale to be found anywhere. At the present time, 11,000 acres of land at Mildura support 6,000 people - that is, every two acres supports an individual; and, in some instances, £15 and £20 an acre are annually expended in wages.
– A land tax is wanted badly!
– If we have land brought into intense culture with such results as I have mentioned, it does not represent the kind of land that should be taxed.
– A land tax is required to throw open more land for the purpose.
– A graduated land tax would not bring the whole of Australia under active irrigation. Fortunately, there is room on the Murray for a number of Milduras, which can be formed out of lands yet in the possession of the Crown.
– Why does not the State Government bring the land under irrigation?
– Before that can be done we require a proper scheme of immigration, but to that, I understand, the honorable member and his party are opposed.
– There is no land for immigrants.
– I do not wish to be drawn away from the subject, but there is plenty of land available at Mildura at the present time, and also, I may say, at the rising settlement of White Cliffs.
– How many blocks?
– It is not for me to say how many blocks, but so long as there is land available, the honorable member is not justified in making the assertion he has. I may mention that there is land available also in the Rodney district, as shown by the last reports of the Closer Settlement Board and the Water Commission. In justification of this motion, I desire to recapitulate some of the negotiations that have taken place in an endeavour to promote the conservation and distribution of the waters of the Murray and its tributaries. In order to give some idea of the magnitude of the area involved, I should like to read the following official description given in the report of the Royal Commission appointed in 19 10 to inquire into the question so far as the Murray waters and its tributaries are concerned -
The basin of the Murray River is 414,253 square miles in area. The general boundaries which form the watershed of the streams flowing through this basin are - on the east, the Coast Range of New South Wales and Queensland; on the south and north, the Dividing Range of Victoria and a line of low hills stretching north-westward from Toowoomba, in Queensland, respectively ; on the west, the Mount Lofty, Barrier, and other lower and less-defined hills. The areas of the various States that go to make up the basin are : -
The undulating and plain areas are practically coincident with the contributing and noncontributing division of the Murray basin. It is only occasionally - and that principally in Victoria and in small isolated areas - that the plains contribute to the flow of the rivers. The following are the contributing and non-contributing areas of the Murray basin : -
It will be seen that the total contributing areas represent 158,499 square miles, and the non-contributing areas 255,754 square miles -
The Murray River rises in the highlands about Mount Kosciusko, and enters the plains between Albury and Corowa. The distance from Albury to the mouth is 1,366 miles. The slope or gradient of the river bed increases from 3 inches per mile to about 1 foot per mile at Albury, thence as the valley becomes more restricted the gradient increases to 10 feet per mile till the small tributary streams at the source of the main stream, and its upper tributaries in the highlands, have a slope of up to 200 feet per mile. The area of the watershed above the Goulburn that is contributory is 9,673 square miles, of which only 2,373 square miles are in New South Wales.
The Murrumbidgee River has the same characteristics as the Murray itself, and, if the Goulburn River be excluded, is little inferior in length and flow to the main stream. The watershed of the Murrumbidgee that is contributory is 13,000 miles in area, but the river receives practically no additions to its flow below the junction of the Tumut River, near Gundagai.
The Goulburn River, with several smaller streams, is the chief water supply on the Victorian side, and the Murrumbidgee on the New South Wales side -
The Darling River has a total catchment area of 300,000 square miles. Of this, however, only 100,000 could be considered as effectively contributing to the flow. Rising as it does in Queensland, it is some 2,000 miles long before it junctions with the Murray. When fed by the heavy monsoonal rains in Queensland, for shorter periods it contributes as much water as the Murray does when in flood. On the other hand, it frequently almost ceases to flow.
That will give an idea of the magnitude of the catchment area which supplies the Murray River. According to the estimates of competent engineers, the Murray River, if all the water were conserved, and all the available land were irrigated by gravitation, is capable of covering an area three times as large as that covered in the United States. This shows that, although we are just starting to tackle this problem, we have made very great strides. The possibilities here are at least as great as those in the United States ; and the first thing is to secure a proper control of the waters.
– The State Rights party will be on to you for this.
– This is a question with which .1 am dealing on its merits.
– Does the honorable member imply that he does not deal with other questions on their merits?
– There is quite a difference between a discriminative’ and reasonable amendment of the Constitution, based on the necessities of the situation, and an attempt to destroy Federation. The history of this matter shows that -
In 1884 a Royal Commission was appointed in New South Wales, under the presidency of the Honorable W. J. (now Sir W. J.) Lyne, M.P., “to make a diligent and full inquiry into the best method of conserving the rainfall, and of searching for and developing the underground reservoirs supposed to exist in the interior of this Colony ; and also into the practicability, by a general system of water conservation and distribution, of averting the disastrous consequences, of the periodical droughts to which the Colony is from time to time subject.”
This Commission presented three reports, at prominent feature of which was the utilization, of the waters of the River Murray. Two Conferences were also held, in 1886, with a Royal Commission on Water Supply, appointed by the Governor of Victoria. The result was the adoption of the following resolution : -
That a joint Trust shall be constituted, equally representative of the Colonies of New South Wales and Victoria, in which shall be vested the whole of the con trot of the Murray River and its tributaries,, from its source to Howlong, to be known, as the Upper Murray; and of the whole of the Murray River, from Howlong tothe eastern boundary of the Colony of South Australia, to be known as the Lower Murray; and such Trust shall have power to regulate all diversions of water from the river and tributaries within its jurisdiction.
Several Commissions have since sat, but, so far, no agreement has been come to with respect to the distribution of these waters. It is not necessary for me to go into the whole question on this occasion as I dic? previously, but I should like to reply to some of the criticism that has been offered with regard to my scheme. I have no fault to find with that criticism, which has been, I believe, directed in a proper manner. This is a subject on which there is room for argument, but the more it is studied the more it will be found that the only solution of the problem is to place it under the control of the Federal authority. The honorable member for Hunter addressed himself to the question on the last occasion. I find no fault with the method of bis. criticism, but it is very hard to reconcile his statement that my proposal is a step in the direction of unification with his readiness to vote for all the constitutional amendments proposed in the last Parliament, which meant what Mitchell, the eminent K.C., described as a mongrel kind of unification. Quite a number of criticisms have also appeared in the Melbourne Age. In the September following the launching of the motion, the Age published an article entitled “ Sharing Federal Spoils; What does Victoria gain?”- The writer appeared all through these long two columns of criticism and condemnation hardly to have his heart in the matter at all. New South Wales was appealed to to help Victoria incontinently to defeat the motion, on the ground that if it was carried both States, especially Victoria, would suffer, because the control of the water would be handed over to the tender mercies of the Federal Parliament. For the Age, which’ was very largely in favour of the Bills passed in this House to submit certain questions by referenda to the electors on the last occasion, to take this purely parochial view regarding a problem that affects every State in the eastern part of the Commonwealth, was entirely inconsistent with its previous policy as an exponent of national views and sentiments.
– Do you say the Age favoured the referenda?
– The Age very largely favoured those amendments of the Constitution during the time the Referenda Bills were being passed through the House. I am going back to that period, because it was during that time thatI moved my motion in the House. I do not say that my motion is on all-fours with the sweeping amendments of the Constitution proposed at the last referenda, but I hold the view that the Constitution should always be amended, if necessary, in order to carry out the great work of the Commonwealth. The control of the waters of the Murray River is purely an Inter-State question, of common interest to the four eastern States, and should be placed under the Inter-State Commission. The regulation of the flow, and the securing of an equitable distribution of the waters of the Murray, has become necessary because the parochial interests and jealousies of the various States will not allow the matter to be settled as it should be. The Murray waters are the biggest asset we have in Australia. If we can conserve what is now running to waste, and establish irrigation settlements wherever the land is capable of being cultivated along the course of the river and its tributaries, so bringing into cultivation those 50,000,000 acres of land which, according to the estimates of engineers, are capable of being brought under irrigation, there is no reason why they should not eventually carry a population of something like 25,000,000. I have already quoted the American Supreme Court decisions with regard to the use of water for irrigation purposes. This is, of course, a constitutional question, but if it is possible to place the Murray waters under Federal control, there is no reason why our own Courts should not be called upon to interpret the riparian powers of the Commonwealth with respect to the use of the water. The duty would then devolve upon the Inter- State Commission of conserving and distributing it to the very best advantage. About twelve months ago a very able series of articles appeared in the Age and the Argus regarding the success of irrigation in the United States. The State of Victoria has sent a delegation to the United States in order to draw, if possible, large numbers of experienced irrigationists into her northern areas, and so give a still greater stimulus to her irrigation undertakings. Large areas of land have already been set apart for irrigation purposes in Victoria during the last few years, and in the sister State of New South Wales the splendid work known as the Burrinjuck Reservoir has. just been completed. It contains, I believe, 40,000,000,000 cubic feet of water, a volume scarcely less than that of the Assouan dam on the Nile. According to the estimates of engineers, the water stored there, with the natural flow during the winter season, is capable of irrigating an area of 4,000,000 acres. There is also a possibility of from 4,000,000 to 5,000,000 acres of land in Victoria being brought under active irrigation during the next four or five years. These facts are sufficient in themselves to justify the reference of the problem of the distribution of the Murray waters to an independent authority, which will produce the best results, free from internecine State jealousies. That is one of the reasons why the subject should be tackled at the earliest possible moment. I know the question of the rights of ownership in Victoria can scarcely be paralleled with the rights of ownership of the waters of the rivers of the United States. The United States have had the experience of tying up their water supply by handing over the streams to private individuals, but in spite of the large private interests that exist in the United States, the Federal Government have spent something like £1 2,000,000 already in furthering irrigation, purchasing and reclaiming lands, and providing some of the largest water storages in the world to enable new irrigation colonies to be developed. The Murray waters are such an important asset to Australia that their control should be given over to a purely Federal authority, so that it may be exercised without State or parochial influence. In reply to statements which have appeared in the Age newspaper, which seemed to hold a brief for private ownership in our streams, let me draw the attention of the House to what Mr. Elwood Mead has said in America when contrasting Australian with American conditions. Mr. Mead has warned Australia not to fall into the mistakes which have overtaken the American nation in parting with the rights of its water supply. Speaking at a banquet in that country, he said -
This effective public control of water supplies has been simplified by retaining in public ownership not only the water itself, but the land through which streams flow, including a strip of land on each bank, from one to three chains wide. The State is therefore the sole riparian proprietor. (Cheers.) Owning the land on each margin of the stream, it is in a position to say who shall place pumps on the banks, build dams to utilize their power, or cut channels to divert their waters. No one can take water from an Australian stream without paying for it. The charges for this service are nominal, the intention being simply to secure enough revenue to pay the expenses of supervision, and of dividing water fairly in times of scarcity.
The Victorian system is enabling the State to locate the places where water is to be diverted and used, so as to secure the largest returns.
The thing which I keep asking myself is : Why could not the American States have adopted a plan of this kind? Why is it that a self-governing people, so intelligent in their own affairs, should have, in their public capacity, permitted the chaotic and meaningless methods which have been followed in Colorado and other States, in acquiring titles to water, to be adopted? Why should not the State have determined where water should be diverted, instead of leaving it wholly to individual inclination and interest? Why should not some disinterested public official have determined the amount of water used, and the right acquired by that use, by actual measurement, instead of adopting the costly and cumbersome proceeding in courts, under which titles have been acquired for ditches that were not built, and for far more water than the stream ever carried? And why should the rights be made perpetual, when development could be secured without it?
No one can seriously consider this matter without seeing that the prodigal granting away of these valuable resources is taking away from the future dwellers in this region one of its greatest natural advantages.
This country has led the world in its ability to carry out monumental enterprises for private gain. But if it is to continue in the future what it has been in the past - the land of opportunity for the multitude - we must enlist this efficiency and capacity in the service of the public. Unless this is done the aggregation of our resources in a few hands must continue. It will became a country where a few men will possess great wealth and power, with the nation itself largely serving them, and dominated by them, while the crown of democracy and an opportunity for the common man will pass from the republic on the eastern shore of the Pacific to the Commonwealth on its western shore.
Fortunately our position is not that of America, though the States in some degree stand in a relation to the Commonwealth similar to that of the large controllers of water supply in the United States of America to the Government of that country. Of course, the States are not likely to take advantage of their powers to charge exorbitant prices for the water, or to do more than exact a fair return for their expenditure. Their chief aim will be the development of the country. But in view of the conflict of interests which has existed during the last thirty or forty years, which must increase as irrigation becomes more general, the control of irrigation should be in the hands of the Federal authority. Any one who turns up the reports of the Convention debates, and reads the interesting discussion on this subject, will see that the members of the Convention held the view that they were dealing with a very difficult problem, but the arguments advanced strongly favoured the transference of control, at least in regard to streams flowing through more than one State, to the Federal authority. I do not wish to say more on the subject now. I dealt with the question on a previous occasion, and have to-day recapitulated much that I then said, mentioning in addition the progress since made on local irrigation works. Irrigation must be the foundation of our success, if Australia _ is to become the country that we hope it will become. No other country possesses the same variety of climate, or the wonderful productivity which results from our continuous sunshine. Here stock can run in the open all the year round. No other country possesses such magnificent natural advantages. Great streams run from our arid interior to the coast, and it remains for the genius of the engineer, hnd the intelligence and industry of the cultivator, to use their water to increase the productivity of the soil. As a Protectionist, I hold that our industries should be developed to the utmost. We should manufacture as much as we can of the raw material into the finished product. But our future depends more on the use to which we put our land and our water than on anything else. This is not so dry a country as some people think, nearly one-third of the continent having a rainfall of over 20 inches. Probably our most fertile land lies in the arid belts, which, fortunately, are served1 by great streams. The control of water distribution - Australia’s greatest asset - should be a Federal function. I believethat the Australian people would not hesitate to place this control in the hands of the body which alone can exercise it without the possibility of bickerings and jealousy; I refer to the Inter-State Commission. Victoria and New South Wales are the States most nearly concerned, and I am sure that their people would have no misgiving about intrusting this matter to that body, which will be composed,, we hope, of men of the highest judicial ability or the widest commercial experience, and will be as free from political influence as is the High Court of Australia. The InterState Commission, if properly constituted, will see that justice is done to every interest in the Commonwealth. It will have no private ends to serve, and no State bias, and one of its chief functions will be the control of the waters of that great stream which passes right through one State and is fed by tributaries from two others. Every patriotic citizen should do what he can to further the speedy development of irrigation, which must be the foundation of our future prosperity.
.- I second the motion fro -forma. I am entitled to do this, as I represent the Goulburn Valley district, whose interests are inseparable from irrigation. At the same time, I do not indorse all that has been said by the honorable member for Wimmera.- Having lived for twenty-five years in the Murray district, I have a close knowledge of the state of things there, and if the motion related only to the Murray waters, without reference to the tributaries of the Murray, I should be inclined to go a long way with the honorable member. The interests of three States are involved.
– Four. The Murray takes its rise in Queensland.
– Yes, but only three States are really concerned in this matter. The fact that there has been a good deal of heat, amounting almost to ill-feeling, engendered in the State of South Australia, because both New South Wales and Victoria have been using these waters for irrigation purposes, seems to lend colour to the argument of the honorable member for Wimmera that there should be a measure of Federal control in this connexion. But a proposal that the control of the whole of the tributaries of the Murray, as well as of the waters of the Murray itself, should be vested in the Federal Parliament is one to invade very seriously the rights of the States to carry out the very big irrigation policies upon which they have entered. Indeed, such a transfer of authority might be so serious as to curtail in a large measure the operations of the States in this regard.
– If the honorable member holds that view, why did he second this motion ?
– I seconded it -pro forma. I think that the motion ought to have been more specific, in order that we might know the exact direction in which it is suggested that the proposed grant of power should operate. The question is of such importance, and affects so seriously the interests of the States, as well as of the Commonwealth as a whole, that it would be improper to view it from a Commonwealth stand-point without considering it also from the point of view of the States. I question whether any but a very small percentage of the members of this House have any conception of what has been done by the States in the matter of irrigation. The States are entering upon a well-defined, well-understood, and very proper scheme for increasing the prosperity of the people by this means, and it seems to me that thepower to control the streams, and the water supply upon which those irrigation schemes depend, is one which the Federation should by no means possess. The area of irrigable- land in Victoria is very large, and I prophesy that the whole of the northern portion of the State in time to come, will’ develop into a veritable Garden of Eden.
– Saul among the prophets.
– It is a good thing robe optimistic ; and in this respect I certainly am optimistic. We have a better hope <f success in the work of irrigation, whilst a. certain measure of friendly rivalry existsbetween the States. I glory in the fact that New South Wales has developed itsBurrinjuck scheme, and is seeking to emulate the example set by Victoria, for the reason that I know that it will so stiumlate the efforts of the Victorian Water Commissioners that, having, so to speak, “ got thefirst leg in,” we shall continue to hold thepremier position. Victoria, in my opinion will hold the premier place for many years to come as an irrigation State.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. - [Quorum formed!)
– I am one of those whoare somewhat distrustful of any serious enlargement of the Federal power. The Commonwealth Parliament already possesses very wide powers, and some people seem to be constantly anxious so to increase them as to establish the right of the Federal Government to interfere with the work of the States. The carrying out of this- proposal might lead to an undue expansion of the Federal powers at the expense of the States. Coming to the question of irrigation in Victoria, I would point out that in the first place our irrigation works were carried out under the aegis of trusts representing certain districts where it was thought that irrigation could be most successfully established. The trouble experienced in connexion with that system, however, was that we could not induce the people to enter whole-heartedly upon the work of irrigation. Dry farming was very successful, and most people on the land were satisfied as long as they could obtain a good supply of water for domestic and stock purposes. We have now brought into existence a new order of things. We have established in Victoria a Water Supply Commission, the business and office of which is to secure suitable land, to make it available for settlement, in small holdings, at prices as reasonable as possible, and to give a guarantee that the necessary water supply will be forthcoming. You would be surprised and gratified, Mr. Speaker, if you paid a visit to my electorate, and saw the net-work of channels running between the Goulburn and the Campaspe, and extending even beyond the western side of the river. The whole face of Nature is being changed and changes will continue to be made. Why should it be necessary to take a step that might jeopardize this important work, and perhaps retard for many years the prosperity of this State? If the Federal Parliament be given the control proposed in this motion, it will certainly exercise the power so obtained, and it may exercise it in some direction with mischievous results. Such a thing would be deplorable. Those who represent the interested localities, whether it be in New South Wales or Victoria, know a great deal more of what is necessary for the proper carrying out of these great irrigation schemes than it is possible for a Government controlled by a Parliament representing the whole of Australia to know.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member is in order in speaking in opposition to a motion which he has seconded?
– The honorable member is quite in order.
– The total area of country lands artificially supplied by water in
Victoria is given as 10,500,000 acres, of which-176,873 acres were, in 1908-9, under irrigated culture. Of this area 42,418 acres we’re under cereals, 27,254 acres under lucerne and other permanent fodder crops, 10,174 acres under sorghum and other annual fodder crops, 72,120 acres under pasture, and 17,653 acres - of which 10,980 acres are situated in Mildura - were devoted to vineyards, orchards, and gardens, whilst the balance of 7,254 acres were in fallow.
– This is a big problem.
– It certainly is. The objectionable feature of this motion is that, if the Federal Parliament be given control of the River Murray and its tributaries, it will not be able to make any effective use of its powers in that regard unless it filches from the States the power to control the land.
– Surely Federal and State co-operation is the only possible course.
– But I somewhat distrust the genuineness of the Federal Government in regard to some of these big questions. I have in my mind’s eye the very serious powers that it was proposed to take from the States on the occasion of the recent referenda, and with that fact in view, I am inclined to think that we must be very careful in dealing with the question of the co-operation of the Commonwealth and the States where there may be a possibility of a further encroachment upon State rights.
– That leaves you in the mess that you are in to-day.
– I pose before this House as a States Righter.
– Last night the honorable member said he represented Australia.
– An honorable member can represent both his own electorate and Australia as a whole. Within each orbit there are functions which he may very properly exercise. I might call the attention of honorable members to the Trawool scheme, which, for the time being, is held in abeyance. The question is whether aproper foundation can be found for the works, and the cost is likely to be considerably larger than anticipated. If that scheme were carried out, we should have a magnificent supply of water, although the cost at present is beyond what is reasonable for the somewhat limited population of Victoria. Doubtless the scheme will ultimately become an accomplished fact; and it will be one, I think, to eclipse that at Burrinjuck, in New South Wales. The increase in the productivity of land under irrigation is marvellous, and not less so ls the increase in the value. In my constituency, there are men making splendid incomes from the production of fruit on irrigated land, and there is no doubt that the system could be extended to the growing of lucerne, and, other fodder products. The time is coming when, with irrigation, cultivators, instead of seeking to obtain more and more land, will desire only sufficient to enable them to make a good living. The motion, as presented, appears to me to deal a fatal blow at any reasonable expectation of seeing it carried into effect in our time. It would take the Federal Government years to get to work, and in the interval, the action of the States would be crippled. Then, again, the landholders would dread the possibility of the imposition of charges more than the land ought to be called upon to bear. At present, they are able to prevent extortionate charges by appealing to the State Parliaments; but we can well imagine that if the honorable member for Maranoa, the honorable member for Perth, and others from a distance, had to legislate in this matter, the hopes of the landholders would not be so bright as they are under present circumstances. I do not think that this motion is likely to be carried, but there is always a danger unless the arguments in opposition to it are presented. I cannot claim to speak on irrigation from practical knowledge, for I have never farmed under irrigation conditions. Many of my best political supporters, however, are interested in the question, and from them I necessarily derive a considerable amount of knowledge. The land and the water are here, and the States aru doing the work. Of course, if the States showed themselves to be inappreciative, then, by all means, let some other power take over the control; but when we find the States effectively carrying out the duties and responsibilities intrusted to them under the Constitution, we have no right to thrust in another authority which may not be able to do the work half as well.
– Who proposes to do that?
– The motion would have that effect. There is an inference that the States are not doing the work. The people of Victoria would never have entered Federation if they had thought their control over the land and water of the State was to be taken from them. Some honorable members opposite talk about there being a breach of faith in connexion with the Federal Capital; but in this motion we have a deliberate proposal to take away a right from the States. The South Australian Government is doing good work at Renmark, which completely justifies the expectations of the Chaffeys, while Mildura more than meets their anticipations. I shall not trouble the House with figures, but it would be well for honorable members to digest those which Mr. Knibbs has prepared in this connexion, for he shows that there are extensive waterworks being carried out at present in all directions. One argument in favour of the motion is that the position of the Murray, as marking the boundaries of three States, gives rise to some little difficulty. Had the ‘Murrayrun through a State, it would have been weired and locked long before now. For many years, I urged the locking of the rivers, and the unlocking of the lands ; and I do not know a sounder doctrine. The two policies are inseparably connected ; and I object to the motion, because, while it gives the Commonwealth power over the waters, it gives it no power over the land, and a mischievous state of affairs may be created. I regret that I was unable to be present at the opening of the Burrinjuck works ; but it is such schemes as that which provide land, not for well-to-do people, but for men who require small holdings, that they can work effectively. It is in this way that we may create a large body of small proprietors ; and I am sure that such a result must meet with the approval of honorable members opposite. Small holdings would make country life infinitely more attractive, in so far as it would make the social conditions pleasanter than at present. Mr. Knibbs, in speaking of the relative rights of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia to the waters of the Murray- River, said that these were undetermined,, and that territorially, the south bank of the- Murray was the barrier between the twoformer States, the river up to a point where it enters into South Australia being wholly in New South Wales. The motion would be a wise one if we could confine it to the Murray, and leave out the tributaries, for then we should not be invading the constitutional rights of the States. . A fewyears ago the controversy as to proprietary rights over the Murray waxed very warmbetween Victoria and New South Wales, the latter claiming the stream to thesouthern side.
– And New South Wales is right.
– Victoria did not indorse that view. A few years ago, when, the Murray waters came down in flood and seriously affected a number of people in Victoria, the Town Clerk of Echuca wired to Sir Henry Parkes, who was then Premier of New South Wales, requesting him to remove New South Wales waters from Victorian soil. Sir Henry Parkes failed to realize the obligations of private ownership, which are that, if you possess a thing, you are responsible for its actions, and, although New South Wales established her claim to the whole of the waters of the Murray, she did not consider that she should “pay the piper” when her property committed this damage. Those are some of the conditions that existed in those days. They still exist, and, therefore, 1 say that the motion, if confined to the River Murray, is worthy of very serious consideration. Let us give the Federal Government power to come in as intermediary between the three States that are vitally interested. At page 3592 of Hansard for 1910, the honorable member for Hume is reported to have spoken on this question as follows -
The report from which the honorable member for Wimmera quoted was produced by a Royal Commission appointed in New South Wales in 1882, and sitting in conjunction with a Royal Commission from Victoria from 1882 to 1884. That investigation concluded with the best report that has ever been made on this question in Australia.
I had the honour to read that report when it was produced, and, knowing the surroundings of the case, I thoroughly appreciated its value -
The reason why nothing could be done, especially in reference to the Murray, was that it was found that New South Wales had no power to touch the southern bank of the river. She could do little or nothing with regard to the Murray wwithout the full concurrence of Victoria. Thus it was that the great scheme recommended was not carried out. The sum of £250,000 or £300,000 was spent in the contouring of the whole of the watersheds of New South Wales, and a map was prepared, and is now in the Home Affairs Department, showing the heights of the rivers and the land all over New South Wales. The intention was to carry out a great scheme of irrigation, and the map showed how every river in the State could be diverted by gravitation. It was advised that there should be six weirs erected across the Murray, from Howlong upwards towards the head of the river, but New South Wales could not build them without the concurrence of Victoria, although, technically, the water belongs to New South Wales.
The honorable member for Hume, in that speech, clearly and explicitly stated the facts of the case, so far. as the Murray is concerned, but they do not apply to the tributaries of the Murray. Those are with in States, and, therefore, can be controlled by the States, and weired where the States choose, unless we take from the States that power. If we did, they would accuse us of unduly encroaching upon what I regard as a sacred right possessed by them. Sir William Lyne further said -
New South Wales claimed the water in the bed of the river. We were prepared to do and would have done the work at that time, but we did not and could not claim the Victorian bank. That was how the whole scheme was stopped. Those weirs would’ have conserved, not only the flood waters, but the snow waters from the Kosciusko and other ranges. The map to which I referred shows that between the Murray and the Murrumbidgee, from ‘Howlong on the one side and about 20 miles below Wagga on the other, there is a depression of about 100 feet all through the Riverina, so that the water from those two points could be taken by way of gravitation, and the whole of that large district irrigated from each river without pumping.
It is obvious from this that a very much improved condition of things could be brought about so far as the Murray is concerned by some measure of Federal control, but my regret is that the motion goes much beyond the River Murray, and does not in any way limit the scope of the power to be conferred upon the Federal Parliament. With proper limitations, the proposal would be judicious; in their absence, it is dangerous, from a State point of view. Of course, we have in this House an unfailing sense of our own power to legislate, but I ask honorable members representing the different States how they would like us to come in at a later stage with some proposition of equal importance, and with just as much justification, for us to assume Federal powers which they would view as inimical to their own local control. We must safeguard local control by every legitimate means, and allow local bodies to continue the good works they are taking in hhand. If they are dullards, and fail to enter upon proper schemes for development, then the time will be ripe for seriously considering a transference of power, but no interference is necessary when they are doing the work properly. New South Wales is doing it, and I _ch”allenge any New South Wales representative to say that she is not. South Australia and Victoria are also doing it, and I challenge the representatives of those States to say that they are failing in the matter. The three States are doing their duty with right good will, and are succeeding most admirably in developing their great schemes. Some years ago the present Leader of the Opposition did yeoman service in this matter of irrigation. He travelled all over Europe and America, and saw the possibilities of irrigation. On his return to Victoria he delivered most telling speeches on the subject, and these gave rise to the whole of the irrigation schemes that we now have in this State. He fired the imagination of the people, and, although it has taken something like twenty-five years, the spark he then created has now developed into a flame. Large numbers of happy and contented settlers are being placed upon the land where hitherto there has been but a sparse population. If these are not things to glory in, I do not know in what we should glory, because I rejoice in every development which tends to the welfare of the people. It is the great mass of the people that we have to consider and legislate for, because the wealthy class are well able to look after themselves.
– I wish to make an explanation with regard to the division that took place on the motion to adjourn the previous debate. Some members of the Opposition were in their room, but the bells did not ring there, and they were consequently unaware that a division had taken place.
– I have already given instructions to have the matter attended to.
Motion (by Mr. Parker Moloney) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided.
Majority… … 13
– I move -
That a return be laid upon the table of the House showing the amount paid to Ministers of the Crown for travelling allowances during the last recess, and, in detail, the amounts paid to each Minister; also similar information and particulars relating to travelling allowances paid or due to Ministers since April, 1910.
In the closing moments of last session, the Prime Minister announced that it was the intention of Ministers to pay themselves travelling allowances, and that when travelling on public business he would receive 40s. a day and his colleagues 25s. a day each. No opposition was offered to the proposal; indeed, one or two members on this side of the chamber were inclined to view it favorably. I did not so view it, but an opportunity did not then present itself to formally object to it. Under the circumstances, however, the House should be informed how much the country has had to pay since the allowances commenced ; and I, therefore, ask for a return to be laid on the table giving that information. I have been led to understand that it is the intention of the Prime Minister to move to amend the motion, so as to give it a wider scope. He has a noisy, though docile, majority which would enable him, in any case, to do what he wished; but I offer no serious objection to the course he proposes. This motion is wider than that of which I originally gave notice, because I now ask for information relating to travelling allowances paid, or due, since April, 1910. Judging from the warmth displayed by the Prime Minister some time since, he may think that it is my desire to injure the Ministry by asking for this return, but that is not so. It is the general expectation of the people that Ministers, having, in addition to the remuneration attached to their high offices, an allowance of £400 a year given to them as members of Parliament, would apply the latter sum to defraying their travelling expenses. It is hardly possible for a Minister, seeing that he has a free pass over all the railways of Australia, to spend 25s. a day when travelling, and any amount received by way of allowance which is not spent on travelling is an addition to his income. It was not fair to bring this matter before Parliament so late in the session that it was practically impossible to discuss it. I have not moved for more information than I require; but
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned. if the return is enlarged, I shall be able to get the facts that I desire to know.
– I second the motion. I was not here when the Prime Minister informed honorable members last year that Ministers would receive these allowances, but I am interested in the matter, because, on reading the right honorable member’s remarks, I saw that he was careful to explain that the allowances would be paid only when Ministers were travelling on official business ; and it was freely said, during the State electoral campaign in Tasmania, early in the year; that the right honorable gentleman was receiving travelling allowances during his visit to Hobart in January, when, according to his own public admission, he was travelling as a private individual to attend a political conference.
– Did I not receive deputations when in Hobart?
– Yes ; but that would not be an excuse for receiving a travelling allowance then, because the right honorable member did not go to Tasmania to receive these deputations. He would have gone there in any case. The deputations took advantage of the accident of his presence in Hobart.
– At any rate, it is all quite right, because I did not receive the official travelling allowance for the visit to Hobart.
– I am glad to hear the right honorable gentleman say that.
Mi. Thomas. - Do I understand that some one told the honorable member that the Prime Minister had received the official travelling allowance t
– No; but a report to that effect was current, and appeared in Tasmanian newspapers.
– Why does not the honorable member apologize for the statements on the subject which he made from the platform in Tasmania?
– I should like a little fair play. All I said was that, in view of the Prime Minister’s positive announcement that his visit to Hobart was that of a private individual, I did not think fie had received the official travelling allowance; and I am glad to have had the right honorable gentleman’s assurance, because it removes a stigma which would otherwise have rested on him and on honorable members generally. Seeing that there is no check upon us,, we should be the more careful not to abuse our privileges. I do not care whether the information given is for last year, or from the beginning of Federation.
– This is a small matter, of which much has been made by members of the Opposition and the Opposition press, the suggestion being that Ministers have acted almost corruptly in receiving official travelling allowances. The whole thing is disagreeable to me, and, I am sure, to some members of the Opposition, who are not free at the present moment to express their true opinions in regard to it. My objection to the original motion of the honorable member for Echuca was that the return asked for would not have been full enough, and that it was couched in somewhat suggestive language. ‘ As the matter has to be dealt with, it is well that there should be a true and detailed history of the manner in which travelling expenses have been met since the beginning of Federation. On the 26th April, 1 901, this Executive Council minute was passed by the Barton Government -
Each member of the Federal Ministry shall be entitled, when travelling on Commonwealth business, to an allowance at the rate of £3 3s. per day.
Honorable members will be surprised to learn that that minute has never been set aside - that it is in existence to-day. That fact will enable them to understand more fully the meaning of the statement that I made in this House, towards the close of last session.
– But that minute has not been acted on.
– That is not quite correct.
– It was at the beginning of the Federation, but not later on.
– Even that statement is not quite correct. I intend to give every detail to the House, so that the electors will know the facts, and will be able to say whether or not they approve of the practice. I always held the view that the weakness’ of Federation was that Ministers had not been provided -with travelling expenses to enable them to bring the Union more actually before the people of Australia. In the early days of Federation, Ministers were drawn from the big centres of population, and those living in the out-settlements of Australia saw very little of them. That, however, is a question of principle; but, from time to time, since I first entered this Parliament, I have advocated that reasonable facilities and travelling expenses should be allowed to enable honorable members, whether they were Ministers or private members, to see something of the country that they were called upon to govern. On the 20th June, 1901, a debate on the matter of Ministerial emoluments was initiated in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Angas, Mr. Glynn, who moved -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Ministers of State should not, in addition to their salaries, receive the allowance of ?400 a year payable under section 48 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act.
During that debate the then Prime Minister, Mr. Barton, said that, as the Government desired the House to come to a decision on the matter, to that end they did not propose to cast their own votes. He contended, however, that the Federal Constitution undoubtedly permitted Ministers to receive the ordinary member’s allowance of ,?400 per annum, in addition to the share of .?12,000 provided for Ministers’ salaries. The motion was negatived. On 1st August, 1901, the honorable member for Illawarra, Mr. Fuller, on a motion for the adjournment of the House, asked whether Ministers were receiving allowances in addition to their salaries. As reported in Hansard, Vol. III., Page 3398> Sir George Turner, then Federal Treasurer, said, “That is a matter with which the Prime Minister must deal,” while Sir Edward Braddon interjected, “ These allowances are to be discontinued.” The Prime Minister, Mr. Barton, then said, “ That has been stated already.” At page 3408 of the same volume of Hansard we have the following report of a statement by Mr. Barton -
So far as Ministerial allowances are concerned scarcely any advantage has been taken of them. The Executive Council allowances in New South Wales, as we ascertained, are ?3 3s. per day.
– The allowance to Ministers in New South Wales used to be ?2 2s. per day, not ?3 3s.
– I am quoting from the Hansard report of Mr. Barton’s speech, and I am not sure that his statement was incorrect. The Premier of New South Wales to-day draws ?3 3s. per day.
– No other Minister in New South Wales draws that allowance, unless the scale has been raised since I was a member of a State Ministry.
– I have it from an official source that the Premier of New South Wales draws ?3 3s. for each full day, and other Ministers ?2 2s. for each full day, in respect of travelling expenses. But, tocontinue my quotation from the speech made by Mr. Barton -
What we propose for Ministers while travelling from one State to another is ?2 2s. per day. For myself, however, I do not care whether the above thing goes by the board or not, because it is not a matter which troubles me at all. I have travelled for a considerable portion of the last seven months, but I have taken only eight days’ allowance. So far as that is concerned, I hope that our example will befollowed by our successors, for I intend to pay back the allowances which I received in respect of those eight days.
Honorable Members. - No, no.
Mr. BARTON. ; I received them while I was officially engaged in representing the Commonwealth on an important occasion ; but I would much rather be out of pocket than have to undergo this contumelious treatment which ought, not to characterize the proceedings of an assembly of the kind in which we are seated.
He went on to say -
So far as I am concerned, however, I am quite prepared to let these Ministerial allowances go by the board. I want none of them.
At page 3410 we have the statement made by Sir William McMillan, then DeputyLeader of the Opposition -
I agree with the Prime Minister that rather than have this sort of thing repeated it would be better to refuse any of these allowances under any possible circumstances.
Mr. Barton. ; We intend to.
There is a general impression amongst honorable members that there was an understanding or a statement made by Mr. Barton that the ordinary member’s allowance of ^400 a year, in addition to their share of the amount set apart for the salaries of Ministers, should be granted to Ministers in lieu of expenses incurred whilst travelling on official business. I can find no record, either official or unofficial, of any such statement. It may have been made, but I can find no record of the kind. In 1902, in connexion with an item of ?100 included in a Supply Bill for “ Travelling expenses of Honorary Ministers,” it was explained by the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then Acting Prime Minister, that the proposed vote was intended to pay the expenses of Honorary Ministers when they visited some part of the Commonwealth to discharge Ministerial functions, or to attend when the presence of a member of the Federal Executive was required. He added that the money was not devoted to paying their travelling expenses on ordinary occasions. That, so far as I know, has since been the rule in regard to the travelling allowances of Honorary Ministers.
This question was again brought forward in 1905, when Sir George Reid, as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, minuted the official papers as follows : -
I confess I do not like the allowance of £3 3s. per day for Ministers on account of travelling expenses -
Honorable members will thus see that the Executive minute that Ministers should receive a travelling allowance of ^3 3s. per day was still in existence.
– But it was not acted on.
– This minute shows that the matter was dealt with by Sir George Reid on the 23rd June, 1905.
– It was brought up again.
– Yes; the minute continues - because it seems to me an excessive rate, especially when railway passes are provided. On the other hand, if a Minister goes on an errand like that of the Hobart Conference, I think that his actual expenses should be paid. Speaking generally, that might apply to all travelling strictly on official business taking a Minister from his Department. Better have a reference to Cabinet.
We have a subsequent minute by Sir George Reid in the following terms -
The Cabinet decide that in view of Sir George Turner’s recollection of what was done by the Barton Cabinet, we will act upon the rule then laid down, and charge no expenses while travelling on public duty. This will apply also to travelling expenses to the late Hobart Conference.
I come now to the statement made by myself in this House. I think it was made on the 19th or 20th December last, and as my public statements will show, I had long contemplated a proposal of the kind. Either while the Supplementary Appropriation Bill was going through, or on a motion for the adjournment of the House, I then made a statement as to the decision of the Cabinet.
– It was on the last day of the session.
– The last day but one.
– My recollection is that there was ample time for honorable members to give expression to their opinions on the subject if they desired to do so.
– The Prime Minister asked leave to make a statement.
– And the leave granted would have included leave to the Leader of the Opposition to make a statement in reply. I honestly say that I thought the Leader of the Opposition concurred in the statement I then made. The movement of his head gave me the impression that he did; but I accept absolutely the statement made subsequently that he neither assented to nor dissented from the announcement. I am not going to challenge his honour in the matter, but I certainly did think that he concurred in the proposal then announced by me. It was actually concurred in, by word of mouth, by one or two members of the Opposition, and, so far as I recollect, no dissent was expressed from any part of the House.
– Has the Leader of the Opposition ever said in this House a word against the practice?
– I accept absolutely the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that he neither assented to nor dissented from the statement made by me on the occasion in question ; but the impression made on my mind was that he assented1 to it. I have never previously made this statement in public, so that the Leader of the Opposition will have an opportunity forthwith of correcting the impression that his attitude then conveyed to me.
– A nod1 of the head would not be recorded in Hansard.
– I do not question the assurance which the Leader of the Opposition has given me, and, after all, it does not affect the question one iota.
– What did the Prime Minister say on the occasion in question ?
– The statement is reported in Hansard, and is a rather lengthy one. Turning to another point, I find that Senator Millen, when dealing with this matter in another place, used these words -
I wish to say at once that the Government have taken the right course in determining that in the future Ministers travelling on public business shall not have to put their hands into their own pockets to pay their expenses.
– The Prime Minister has read those words more loudly than anything else he has read !
– I have not said anything so loudly as the honorable member shouted when he was afraid of this question coming on for discussion.
– That is absolutely incorrect ; I have been wishing it to come on for a long time.
– I have allowed my expenses in another direction to be exaggerated before the public; and perhaps it will be necessary to lay the true facts before the House, if honorable members so desire. This matter has been talked about, and suggestions made in a way that suits honorable members opposite. However, let us see what are the travelling allowances of the Ministers of the State Governments. In New South Wales, the Premier is paid £3 3s. each full day, and other Ministers, £2 2s. ; in Victoria, Ministers are paid £1 per day, or part thereof, when travelling in their own State,- and /2 when travelling out of the State j and in Queensland there is no fixed scale, the actual expenses being usually charged. There have been different methods adopted in Queensland, and I think that the present one is the least satisfactory. In South Australia, Ministers are paid 15s. per day within the State, and £-2 2s. a day outside the State.
– That must be only recently”; it used to be £,1 is. a day outside the State.
– The scale is that paid to the members of the present South Australian Government, to which, of course, the honorable member will take no exception. In Western Australia, Ministers are paid ;£i 5s. per day when travelling within the State, and £2 2s. when outside the State; and in Tasmania there is no fixed scale. Ministers drawing out of pocket expenses, which range from _£i and under per day within the State, and to any amount up to X, / 10s. when outside the State.
– Do State Ministers receive the ordinary payment to members as well as their official salaries?
– They may, or they may not. Commonwealth Ministers draw their salaries according to the Constitution, lt was originally estimated that seven Ministers would be sufficient for Federal work, it being understood that their field of operations would be only small for ten or twenty years. The work, however, has grown “out of sight,” and I do not hesitate to say that the salaried Ministers are far too few ; indeed, the work would kill any such body of men who attempted it. That, of course, has nothing to do with the question before .us, but 1 cannot miss this opportunity to make the statement, the truth of which will be recognised by the Leader of the Opposition, and other honorable members opposite, who have held office. The honorable member for Echuca is very anxious to get all the information possible, and I shall attempt to supply it. The honorable member said that he was quite willing to have his motion amended; and I’ now suggest that, after the word “Crown,” the words “and to Honorary Ministers” be inserted; and, further, that the words “or due” and “since April, 1910 “ be struck out, and the words “ since the formation of the first Federal Ministry,” be added. This will enable the Government to give a full account of the expenditure under this head.
– The Prime Minister will give dates, I hope?
– I shall give the information I have ; if the right honorable member thinks it not sufficient, he can have more.
– Why not put the information on the table now ?
– Honorable members opposite have published their suggestions in a thousand newspapers, and if I merely put the information on the table, it will prove no answer at all. I hold in my hand a return of the travelling expenses paid to Ministers prior to the 1st January, 1912. It is as follows -
The honorable member for Ballarat will not take any exception to my stating that, when he saw these items, he, as shown, made a refund of the amount a few days ago - when he became acquainted with the fact that it was in the return. It does not make the slightest difference, of course, to the standing of the honorable member whether the amount be .£500 or 5s.
– After a certain date there was an understanding that Ministers would not draw anything, and I do not think they did.
– I have seen the voucher, and the handwriting of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. There is no question of doubt - there is nothing doubtful in the return. It is not I who am protesting, but honorable members opposite who have been clamouring. The return proceeds -
Return of travelling expenses paid to Ministers 1st January, 1912, to 20th June, 1912, inclusive : -
– That was during the elections ?
– Yes, and prior to the elections. I was in New South Wales, and visited Jervis Bay, and had interviews with the Premier of the State both going and coming. I also interviewed Ministers in Queensland, going and coming, on the question of wireless telegraphy, and I saw general managers of banks in Brisbane in relation to the appointment of a Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. As to Queensland, the manifesto of the Government of that State was launched against the Commonwealth Government. The State Ministers were travelling around denouncing the Commonwealth in every possible way; and is it to be said that no Federal Minister was to go there and say a word on behalf of the National Government, because of a fear that it might be said he was going in his personal capacity?
– It was a State political fight, and the Prime Minister had no right to interfere.
– I suppose that settles the question !
– The Prime Minister drew his expenses.
– The honorable member says that the Prime Minister drew his expenses while taking part in the elections.
– I drew no expenses while in my own electorate. . The return goes on : -
The following are the expenses of Honorary Ministers : -
– Are those amounts not voted by Parliament?
– So are the official expenses of Honorary Ministers.
– These are all the expenses of Honorary Ministers?
– I said so. It is headed Official expenses of Honorary Ministers.”
– “ Ministers not in receipt of official salaries.”
– That is very well putwith the emphasis on “official.” These are further particulars -
– Did Senator McGregor take expenses for the whole of the time he was with the Prime Minister on that Queensland trip?
– I think so; and I think he was well worth it; but the honorable member will find all the particulars in this return. So far as regards myself, I have not taken my expenses for half the official work that I have been engaged in outside «f this city, and even outside of this State, but that is no credit to myself, or to any other Minister. The policy of this Government is that Ministers should have their expenses, and should get about the country. The Minister of Trade and Customs rendered good service to the country by going round and visiting every station under his control. What was the result of the practice in the early days of the Parliament? Those Ministers who were most patriotic visited some of the other States occasionally, but other Ministers sat here for years, and did not know anything of the northern State, and never saw the western State. The reason was that Ministers are selfish, like every other individual; when they do not get their expenses they will not travel, and Australia suffers. It would be better for the country, in my opinion, if the Ministerial salaries were cut down, and liberal expenses given.
– A man could take what he liked. He could travel all the year round.
– Well, let him. Does the honorable member for Bourke, whose constituency is at the Seat of Government, know what it is to live 2,000 or 3,000 miles away from the Seat of Government in places where the people never see a Minister? If people there wanted to send a deputation to a Minister at the Seat of Government, it would cost them twenty times the amount paid to the Minister in travelling expenses, and involve them in a great loss of time. It is a policy of absolute centralization not to give Ministers, who are the Executive officers of this great Commonwealth, their reasonable expenses when travelling on official business.
– Ministers here do not get nearly as much as do Ministers in Canada, South Africa, and other places.
– Commonwealth Ministers do not receive half as much as do Ministers in the South African Union; but those who have been Ministers here can speak out freely if they so desire. They can tell whether there is money in the business or not. When I was first in office as Prime Minister - I am sorry to have to speak personally - I travelled the continent continually. I was twice round it, and I ask honorable members to realize what that meant. I received not a farthing for it. I went from Chillagoe to Kalgoorlie and half way round again in those six months.
– Were you travelling exclusively on official work?
– I was received officially everywhere. I was not engaged in a political campaign at that time, although a tour of that kind cannot be other than semipolitical. I received deputations; but even if Ministers did political work, I would not object to them going round to see the people in the different centres, because it would be valuable to the people and valuable to the country. I think that Ministers have been far too timid about telling the people the whole truth in this matter. We are spending now about £10,000,000 on public works, and we ought not to be afraid to say that Ministers should go round to see what is being done, and receive their travelling expenses. So long as men are what they are, these expenses should be paid, in view of the responsible positions which Ministers hold, and the obligations which attach to those positions. I hope that this Parliament will, in the words of Sir Edmund Barton, look upon expenditure of that kind as a good investment. Whether I remain a Minister or not, I advise members who compose a progressive party like ours to encourage members of Parliament, and especially Ministers in responsible Executive positions, in every possible way to travel around Australia, and to see that they are paid their reasonable expenses when they are travelling for anything but their own pleasure and personal convenience. If they are travelling in the service of the public, they are well worthy of the amount proposed to be paid to them. I desire now, with the concurrence of the mover, to amend the motion slightly in order to include in the return all the details I have just read. Of course, that information will appear in Hansard, whether the motion is amended or not, but it will be better to amend the motion in any case. My idea is to make it read as follows: -
That a return be laid upon the table of the House showing the amount paid to Ministers of the Crown, and to Honorary Ministers, for travelling allowances during the last recess, and, in detail, the amounts paid to each Minister; also similar information and particulars relating to travelling allowances paid to Ministers since the formation of the first Federal Ministry.
To bring that about, 1 move -
That after the word “ Crown “ the words “and to Honorary Ministers” be inserted; that the words “or due” be left out; and that the words “ April, 1910,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the formation of the first Federal Ministry.”
.- I am very glad of the information that has been given this afternoon by the Prime
Minister. I was present when the statement was made in the House in the closing days of - last session, that travelling allowances would be payable to Ministers when travelling upon official business. The Leader of the Opposition was sitting in his place at the time, and I was certainly under the impression that he nodded his head in approval. He. has this afternoon denied that by shaking his head, and I certainly think it is unfair that time after time in this House when asked a question he should either nod or shake his head, because there is no record of it. That is how the impression arose as to his attitude in the matter. When the Prime Minister was making the statement last session, the honorable member for Wimmera, a member of the Opposition, interjected that the amount was not enough. The honorable member for Lang has made a similar statement this afternoon. I understand it is the practice of each Minister to make a contribution from the Ministerial allowance fixed in the Constitution, so that Honorary Ministers may receive some allowance in addition to their ordinary salaries as members of Parliament. Therefore, the interjection made this afternoon, when the Prime Minister was speaking, to the effect that Honorary Ministers do not receive additional payment is not strictly accurate. As a matter of fact, we know from what passes amongst members in the House generally, that in all Governments the total amount of Ministerial salary is pooled, and then there is a division of the amount amongst the portfoliod Ministers as well as the Honorary Ministers. This is a considerable amount, so that as a matter of fact both classes of Minister are in receipt of salary, in addition to their ordinary parliamentary allowance. As I understand that the Leader of the Opposition wishes to speak on the motion, and as there is a time limit to the debate, I shall resume my seat.
.- Of all subjects that can be presented to Parliament for discussion, this is to me the most distasteful. I am sure nil of us would avoid it if it were possible. It has been my great good fortune to be a member of this House for the last twelve years, and to have been in office for almost half that period. During the discussions of this question in the early days, while a Minister, my mouth was closed. I took no part in them. Like the present Prime Minister, it has been my lot to travel through Australia several times. It was with some surprise that I heard lately that during this period I had twice received travelling expenses. The explanation of the second occurrence is very simple. My practice was to pay my own expenses, and to obtain from the messenger who accompanied me a statement of his minor disbursements for cabs, and so on, which evidently on that occasion, as I left office soon after, I did not remember. It has since been paid. The payment of ^5 was made in 1.902, when, as Acting Prime Minister during the absence of Sir Edmund Barton in England, I visited Sydney, with an officer and messenger, to attend upon and bid farewell to Lord Hopetoun. I cannot now recall the reason why the sum was not paid by me. With those two exceptions, I strictly adhered to the rule laid down by this House, which I interpreted to mean that Ministers must pay their own travelling expenses. It was argued that the parliamentary allowance of .£400 should be regarded by Ministers as inter alia a travelling allowance, but that view did not prevail universally. So much for the past.
As to the proposal made by the Prime Minister at the close of last session, the first I heard of it was when he crossed the chamber to where I was sitting and mentioned it to me. I then expressed no opinion whatever, knowing that it should be first considered by my colleagues. I have been told that it is my habit to make slight motions of assent and dissent, and probably, therefore, a movement of my head may have seemed to give assent to what the right honorable gentleman proposed. But I did not, and could not, have consented, because the question was reserved for the consideration of my party, and because the scheme which I have always supported is the payment of actual expenses incurred not exceeding a certain fixed sum. The giving of so much per diem never commended itself to me, and I have never approved of it in regard to Ministerial travelling.
Having disposed of the personal element, let me say that this issue should be considered dispassionately by honorable members. The cost of travelling should not be permitted to arise either between honorable members and their constituents, or Ministers and the Commonwealth at large. There should be a well-thought-out and carefully adjusted scheme for meeting the actual expenses incurred in official travelling. . A. schedule should be framed in detail to meet a variety of circumstances, and approved by the House. It is highly undesirable that questions of this nature should be introduced, except once and for all when framing such a proposal. After the adoption of the schedule, nothing should be heard of the scales, except in reference to an amending scheme.
There is no subject which we are less fitted to discuss, on which we are more likely to be misinterpreted, and in regard to which we may more easily misunderstand each other. This question should be put outside party politics and personal issues. Honorary Ministers occupy a different position from their salaried colleagues. A special scale should apply to them, because they should be put to no personal expense when travelling strictly on public business.
– What would the honorable member call official travelling? If he were invited to visit a place, would he call that official’ travelling?
– If I were invited to be entertained as a guest, I should not consider myself entitled to official expenses ; but if I visited a locality in reference to the work of my Department, or of some other Department to which I was deputed to attend, and spent the bulk of my time on that work, I should consider myself entitled to my actual personal expenditure not exceeding a certain amount. My least wish is to add fuel to the flame generated in the discussion of a matter which needs to be considered in the cold light of reason, apart from all personal or party considerations.
.- I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition has in a very manly way admitted that there is some reason for this House arriving at a proper understanding as to the amount of the expenses which should Be drawn by Ministers when travelling on Commonwealth business. The honorable gentleman would not for a moment say that the Commonwealth Prime Minister, whose constituency is all Australia, should receive only £2 a day when a State Premier receives £3 3s. Like the Leader of the Opposition, 1 regard this discussion with great distaste. ‘ I have the utmost contempt for the spirit which prompted the introduction of the subject. Honorable members do not see that it is a dirty bird that fouls its own nest. The honorable member who moved the motion does not realize that the attempt is daily made by the newspapers throughout the Commonwealth to belittle parliamentary institutions, and that a discussion of this kind is bound to belittle Parliament, because the people are poor judges of the work done by Ministers or by members. What is the £2 that a Prime Minister receives when travelling on official business? An ordinary commercial traveller representing a respectable firm would receive as much, and, in some cases, more.
– I used to get $20 a day sometimes.
– I applaud the Prime Minister for facing the question, and telling the people that Ministers are entitled to their travelling expenses. We give the High Court Judges and the Governor of the Bank £3 3s. a day, while the InspectorGeneral of the Commonwealth Forces draws £2 2s. a day, and has the right to reserve for his own accommodation a double compartment in train or on steamer.
– Many Commonwealth officials get £1 is. a day.
– Why should honorable members belittle the position of Ministers? They know very well that the figures which have been produced will probably be used by ‘ the opponents of parliamentary institutions and of the party in power to belittle us, but they will be belittled as well. The opinion will be created that the members or this Parliament help themselves to the public funds without justification. It is mean and contemptible for honorable members to bring this matter up, and their action will be specially mean if, as was done by the Reid party in 1906, they take out of the return certain items and publish them in leaflets by the thousand. Why do not they fight fairly ? Why do they not fight the Government and the Labour party on its legislation, and not try to get into office by objecting to the few paltry shillings paid to Ministers to defray expenses incurred on travelling throughout the Commonwealth ? Honorable members know very well that no member of the Federal Parliament can travel in Australia for less than 25s. a day. The most private member cannot get along on less, unless, like my honorable friend here, he puts up at a coffee palace at 4s. 6d. a day.
– Six bob 1 It was a beautiful coffee palace.
– We cannot all do that, and I do not intend to do it. I ask honorable members who are following this paltry method of attack to go to the Library and look at the photograph of the members of the first Commonwealth Parliament. How many of the members of that Parliament have passed away, their deaths being hastened by the onerous work: attaching to their position !
– They all died1 poor.
– What about travelling, allowances to members?
– No doubt the time will’ come when the people will recognise that their representatives who have to travel’ from distant parts of the Commonwealth tothe Capital should receive a travelling allowance like that paid to the senators and members of the United States Congress.
– That is a. country ! No starvation there !
– They know how to treat, their members. Do honorable members wish to come down to the level of the South Australian Parliament, whose constituents think that £200 a year is a sufficient remuneration for them? I am. sorry that the Prime Minister has agreed, to the motion. It would be more in keeping with the dignity of the House to refuse the paltry request of the honorable member for Echuca, and leave him to get the information in the best way he could.. Without a doubt this is a mean, underhand attempt on the honorable member’spart to attack the members of the Labour party and the Government.
Mr. W. H. IRVINE (Flinders) [6.25J.. - However distasteful the discussion, it has been useful in clearing the air, and having publicly criticised the action of the Ministry in this matter, I think it myduty, in regard to one part of that criticism, at all events, to frankly and freely withdraw what I said. I was under the impression that the course followed by the Prime Minister and his colleagues was adopted after Parliament went into recess.. The statement to-day shows that that is. not so. It is not remarkable that the Prime Minister’s original statement escaped my observation, as it did that of a number of other honorable members, because it was made on the last day but one of thesession, at the end of an all-night sitting, when very few members were present.
– It was made at 9.13 in» the evening.
– In themorning, if I am not mistaken. I think that it is in the interests of all parties that any question of personal expenditure should be placed on, not only a- satisfactory, but a clear and intelligible basis. I am opposed to any scheme for the payment of expenses as expenses actually incurred or incurred during a particular time, for the reason that it is practically impossible for Ministers to separate expenses incurred whilst investigating, in various parts of Australia, matters coming within their own Departments from expenses incurred during the same period in conducting their ordinary political campaigns. A very cursory examination of some of the details which the Prime Minister has given in regard to the expenses incurred by himself and the present PostmasterGeneral during April of last year will show that it is practically impossible to separate travelling on official duties from travelling on political duties.
– They must stand up for their Government wherever they are.
– Quite so. Ministers, in travelling, as they ought properly to travel, are not merely travelling in the interests of their departmental work, but are naturally and properly engaged at the same time in fighting their own political fights. It is, to my mind, unfortunate that there should be any chance of the public conceiving the idea that part of the cost of that political fighting is paid for out of the public exchequer. What I should be inclined to suggest is that, in preference to the existing system - and the amount of money involved is really negligible - a fixed annual amount should be placed on the Estimates for the Prime Minister and each member of the Ministry to receive in lieu of travelling expenses. To attempt to discriminate between items of expenses incurred while travelling for a particular purpose would, I am afraid, be to become involved in infinite difficulties. The matter, however, is one that ought’ to be considered by some committee, and the result of that committee’s deliberations ought to be satisfactory.
Amendments agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That a return be laid upon the table of the House showing the amount paid to Ministers of the Crown and to Honorary Ministers for travelling allowances during the last recess, and, in detail, the amounts paid to each Minister ; also similar information and particulars relating to travelling allowances paid to Ministers since the formation of the first Federal Ministry.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Quarantine Regulations - Commonwealth Savings Bank: Regulations and Advertising - Postmasters’ Rents - -Federal Capital Expenditure : Power Plant Tenders - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Ministers: Travelling Allowances - Rifle Clubs.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– The honorable member for North Sydney this afternoon drew attention to the fact that a steamer from eastern ports has landed a case of small-pox at Sourabaya, and is now proceeding direct to Sydney. It is usual for vessels coming from the East to call at, among other ports en route, Thursday Island, where there is a quarantine station, and it would have been just as well to have allowed this steamer to call there instead of sending it on direct to the Capital of New South Wales. I take’ it that she is not proceeding direct to Sydney and neglecting intervening ports of call, for which she will have passengers and cargo, unless her master is acting under instructions received in all probability from the Commonwealth Quarantine Department. Representatives of New South Wales have had occasion before to-day to complain of Sydney being made the dumping-ground for cases of quarantinable diseases, and subjected to the risk of having such diseases disseminated amongst the population through the agency of contacts. There is no reason, so far as I know, why this system should be persevered in. It seems to be nothing short of an outrage to direct, merely because Sydney happens to have a fairly satisfactory quarantine station - although it is by no means all that could be desired - that all vessels from the East having quarantinable diseases on board, or having landed elsewhere patients suffering from a quarantinable disease, shall proceed immediately with the contacts on board to that port.
– I thought that honorable members from New South Wales wanted everything for that State.
– We are quite prepared to allow our Victorian friends to have this little attention, and any advertisement they may obtain from it. But there are States other than Victoria to be considered in this connexion. Queensland is the first State at which steamers coming from the East touch, and at Thursday Island there is already in existence something in the nature of a quarantine station. Some expenditure has been going mi for some time, at all events, with the object of establishing a quarantine station there. I understand that the work, with that characteristic which is supposed to attach to a great many Government daylabour jobs, is proceeding at a snail’s pace.
– When was the honorable member there?
– Less than three months ago, and I then had an opportunity of seeing how the work was carried on. I venture to suggest that if this work of erecting a wharf to give access to the area set apart as a quarantine station had been carried on somewhere else, and under a different system - especially in view of the oft-recurring .cases of quarantinable diseases on steamers coming from he East - it would have been finished long before now. The excuse advanced for not landing contacts or cases of quarantinable disease at Thursday Island is that this necessary work has not yet been completed. [ understand that it is urged that the delay is largely due to the insufficient supply of labour at Thursday Island. If that is really the cause of the delay, it should be a simple matter to obtain more workers from the mainland. Cooktown and Townsville are only two days’ and three days’ steaming respectively from Thursday Island, and if labour could not be obtained at either of these ports, there would not be much difficulty in obtaining it at Brisbane, which is only five days’ steaming from the island. If the Minister in charge of the Department has been aware for months past that there is a shortage of labour - assuming that that is the reason for the delay - surely, if he had a due regard for the responsibilities of his office and the urgency for rapid action in this connexion, <he would have seen that a sufficient supply of labour was available to carry out this much needed undertaking. As the result of the delay, some vessels from the East are now passing Thursday Island and coming direct to Sydney with contacts on board. That is not fair to Sydney. At Thursday Island there is a very capable medical officer, as well as a good hospital and plenty of unoccupied ground, isolated from the township itself, upon which a quarantine station could be, and, I be lieve, ultimately is to be, established. It would be a very simple matter to rapidly finish the wharf, or, at any rate, to provide a landing stage, so that patients and passengers might be put ashore by launch. Such passengers could continue their voyage by succeeding steamers, at the expiration of the danger period, without risk to any of the other States. Thursday Island is in the fortunate position that it is away from the mainland, with which it has very little intercourse except by means of coastal steamers which call at ports where there is a small population. Even where the larger steamers put in, as is the case at Townsville, they anchor in the bay, and the risk of contagion, except, of course, from passengers whose destination is there, is very small. Moreover, there is also a quarantine station there on Magnetic Island. In any case, such passengers could serve their period in quarantine at the first port available, and thus obviate any danger. The present system is unjust to passengers, shippers, merchants, and shipping companies, and causes much inconvenience and expense to those concerned, and, to some extent, no doubt, to the Commonwealth. Steamers that are sent on in the way I have described have to bring on their passengers and cargo to Sydney or Melbourne, and this is the cause of much delay, and, as I have said, inconvenience and expense. The system brings the Commonwealth into disrepute, and renders us the laughing-stock of other nations ; for it must not be supposed that officers, crews, and passengers do not talk of these matters, and thereby give Australia a very unwholesome advertisement. Apart from that, however, I have a deep-rooted objection to infected steamers being brought on to Sydney, which, though an eminently healthy city in itself, is liable, in the event of any evasion of the quarantine law, to the spread of infection. I am informed by medical authorities that only, i per cent, of the population is vaccinated ; and this, of course, constitutes a very serious danger, though the city is one of the healthiest in the world.
– For how many months in the year?
– For twelve months in the year. I happen to live in a district and represent a constituency which, as the health returns show, is one of the healthiest ; and I do not desire to see that eminently satisfactory record lowered. This is a matter of serious import to every man, woman, and child in all parts of Australia, though not, of course, to the same degree as it concerns the people of Sydney and New South Wales. It is quite possible that infected passengers who succeed in landing in Sydney may, after mingling with a variety of people there, proceed by train south, and thus be the means of disseminating disease throughout the land. This is no exaggerated prospect, and we may experience a serious outbreak of small-pox, a disease which hitherto we have escaped having implanted in Australia. The danger is a real one, in view of the unvaccinated condition of a large proportion of the people, and we might find in the event of a serious general outbreak the population practically decimated.
– Why not advocate compulsory vaccination in New South Wales ?
– That is a matter for Ministers to seriously consider, and they might well obtain the advice of quarantine experts and medical men in various parts of the country. What I object to is the sending of these steamers direct to Sydney, instead of their being detained at ports where there are quarantine stations. We know that steamers come to Australia from all parts of the East, where cholera, small-pox, and other diseases are prevalent; and these vessels should certainly be sent to Thursday Island. At that place the ships, the cargo, and the passengers’ effects could be properly and thoroughly fumigated to the satisfaction of the medical officers, if that step has not been taken before the ship’s arrival, and the passengers could be conveniently detained for the necessary period. It may often happen that after a steamer has been quarantined, and the passengers landed, fresh cases will break out, and I have no desire to see them break out in Sydney, or in any other city. I protest in the strongest possible manner against the practice which the Minister of Trade and Customs seems to be encouraging, and thus courting a danger which could easily be avoided if the plan I suggest were carried out. I am sorry that the Minister of Trade and Customs is not in the chamber, but I may say that honorable members, including myself, have asked him questions on this point, and have never been able to obtain satisfactory replies. Unless the Minister realizes the gravity of the situation, and something is done, I am afraid that, when we come to the consideration of the Estimates, we may have to talk very seriously to him. I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to impress upon his mind the necessity for immediate action, and, if possible, to obviate the need for further reference to the matter when we are asked to vote money for his Department. Another matter upon which I have not been able to obtain any satisfaction is connected with the regulations of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Some time ago I called the Prime Minister’s attention to the fact that a regulation appeared in the pass-books stipulating that the bank was not to be liable for the fraudulent withdrawal of any deposit. It will be remembered that the Prime Minister is a depositor in that bank. I believe he deposited the magnificent sum of j£j to show his confidence in it, and I saw it stated in the press that since that time he had deposited another is.
– Do not waste the time of the House with that piffle. Get on. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
– I am dealing, with a very serious matter affecting ^100,000 worth of deposits, which probably include the savings of many of .the constituents of honorable members opposite. If the honorable member and his colleagues are not sufficiently alive to the interests of poor depositors, it rests with us on this side to look after them. I do not want the depositors in the Commonwealth Savings Bank to be subjected to the liability of losing the whole of their deposits, but that is the liability under which they are at present. And members of the Labour party seem to look upon this possible loss of a person’s life savings as a very small and unimportant matter. The losers will not thank them for that indifference. Under this regulation the Commonwealth Bank tries to get out of the responsibility for the safe custody of deposits. That is not a fair position to put depositors in, and I would remind the honorable member for Dalley that the great bulk of them have nothing but their wages to depend on. It would not make any difference to the Prime Minister if he lost his guinea, but what about the unfortunate people who have never more than a shilling to put in at a time? A guinea to them might be a much more serious matter than ^1,000 to the Labour Prime Minister. The honorable member may think it is a waste of time to draw attention to this matter, but those who lose their money will not think so. It will be too late to talk about it when the money is gone. I want to lock the stable door before the steed has a chance to be stolen.
– Why try to belittle the Prime Minister as you did just now?
– The Prime Minister told us in this House that he had put £i in the bank to show his confidence in it, and I understand that his confidence is now worth a guinea. When he himself made a parade of the fact, we may perhaps be pardoned for making a gentle sly allusion to it without exciting the anger of some of our opponents. This regulation appears to have been drafted by the bank officials with the concurrence of the Prime Minister. He is head of that Department, and cannot evade responsibility in connexion with it. If he was not aware of it before, he is aware of it now. He knows that this House distinctly refused to allow such a provision to be embodied in the Commonwealth Bank Bill, and deliberately struck it out, on his motion.
– Has it been put back again ?
– It has been put in the bank regulations.
– Then it is a breach of faith.
– It is more than a breach of faith ; it is an outrage, and an attempt to get behind the legislation of this Parliament. It is an attempt by officials to ‘ arrogate to themselves the right to legislate over the head of Parliament, and in defiance of Parliament to put into operation provisions which Parliament has unanimously refused to pass. Honorable members will remember that there was a clause-
– It was clause 19J.
– The honorable member may treat the matter lightly, but I understand that some of the depositors in the bank come from Melbourne Ports. They, relying upon the faith of the Prime Minister, and of the Government, and of the Commonwealth, in all simplicity have put their money into the institution. I do not suppose it occurred to them to look for this regulation, which absolves the bank from any responsibility to pay them back a single farthing under certain conditions. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports should look to it. He was one of those who voted, or should have voted, to strike the clause out. Certainly, the honorable member for Melbourne was one of the strongest in his denunciation of it. When the Bill went from this House to the Senate, it included a clause relieving the bank of responsibility to depositors for the loss of their deposits through fraudulent withdrawals. The Bill was returned to this House by the Senate with an amendment leaving out the clause. Some of us rose and supported the action of the Senate, but the Prime Minister moved that the Senate’s amendment should not be agreed to. Debate followed, and amongst those who spoke was the honorable member for Melbourne. He denounced the clause as an infamy, but I do not think that on that occasion he awarded his usual “meed of praise” to anybody. He was right in characterizing the provision as an infamy.
– Is not that regulation in all the State Savings Banks?
– It does not matter if it is. The fact remains that it was thrown out of the Bill in this House, and has been put in the regulations. There was so much hostile criticism of the clause from both sides of the House that the Prime Minister withdrew the first motion, and moved that the Senate’s amendment be agreed to. The House unanimously agreed to the striking out of the clause, and I am amazed to find that the Prime Minister is now a party to the action of the Governor of the bank in reinstating the same provision in the regulations. What right has any official of the Commonwealth to go behind the backs of the representatives of the people, and set up a law on his own account in defiance of the laws of the Commonwealth ? No official has the right to set himself above Parliament in that way. Even the Prime Minister cannot do so. If that regulation still remains, Parliament must insist on taking it out, whether the Prime Minister likes it or not. He may, if he chooses, ignore protests from the Opposition about it, but I believe they will be supported by a great many of his own followers, unless those gentlemen go back on their previous attitude. Now that we have established the Commonwealth Bank, we should make it as widely known as possible that no depositor will be subjected to the risk of losing a single farthing of his money. How can we expect public confidence to be. maintained in a bank which has a regulation of this kind?
– Is it a different regulation from that of any other Savings Bank in Australia?
– That is beside the question. My point is tha* both Houses of this Parliament decided that the Commonwealth Savings Bank should not be protected by the regulation to which I am referring. The Minister, therefore, cannot shelter himself behind the excuse that there are other banks protected by similar regulations. When legislation was proposed to apply this principle to the Commonwealth Savings Bank, both Houses of this Parliament decided against it. Notwithstanding that fact, a regulation which, in effect, and practically in wording, is the same as the provision which was rejected, has been framed with the concurrence of the Prime Minister. This matter cannot be allowed to rest where it is. I take the opportunity to let the public know that they are standing on a volcano. It is not fair that persons should run the risk of losing the savings of a lifetime through the dishonesty of an official of the bank, or of some persons outside, and be deprived of all redress. Apart from the reprehensible nature of the action taken in defying Parliament, the regulation in itself is a mean one, with which I have no sympathy. No doubt some other honorable member will have something to say about the matter, because it is too serious to be treated as a joke, or to be side-tracked by Ministers. When the two Houses declared that the provision in the Bill should not become law, they intimated their objection to any provision of this kind being placed in the regulations. There is too much governing by regulation. In a number of Departments, officials make regulations which have the force of law without Parliament assenting to them. This practice has obtained in the Customs House for a long time, although it has been objected to repeatedly by honorable members, apparently without effect. I have complained of it on more than one occasion. After Parliament had spent months in dealing with the Tariff, and had exempted certain articles from taxation, the Customs officials, by their system of classification, moving certain goods from one class to another, made dutiable things that we decided should not pay duty. We have reason, therefore, to protest against action which is in defiance of the expressed will of Parliament.
Another matter connected with the Commonwealth Savings Bank to which I draw attention is this : I was informed to-day on reliable authority that the bank has let, or is negotiating for the letting of, its advertising without calling for tenders. I should like some information on the subject, because I have been told that the agent who has secured, or is likely to secure, the contract, is farming out the advertising to others at sweating rates. Probably another honorable member will have something to say on the subject. It was brought under my notice to-day by a gentleman who does not make such statements lightly or without good reason. If nothing has been done, there is time to prevent the proposed action, and to insist that tenders shall be called for, so that there may be proper competition.
The rents charged to postmasters for the use of quarters cause great tribulation to most estimable members of the Public Service. Last year a deputation of the Postmasters Association waited on the PostmasterGeneral, and pointed out that the postmasters suffer great disability in having to pay rent for quarters which in many cases they occupied for the convenience of the Department, rather than from their own desire. In New South Wales, I believe, before Federation, postmasters generally received free quarters in addition to their salaries. To my mind, postmasters should not have to pay rent for the use of quarters, of which they are practically caretakers. It is for the convenience of the Department that postmasters live at the post-offices, and the quarters provided are not always very comfortable. In many cases, the accommodation is much more restricted than could be obtained elsewhere, and is generally devoid of any garden space. Those who occupy these quarters should, therefore, be regarded as caretakers or custodians of the property of the Department. A postmaster who resides at a post-office is under this disability - that he is often called on to do work out of office hours, because he is applied to by persons who know they ran find him at all times. The representations of the postmasters should receive sympathetic consideration from the Postmaster-General.
Yesterday, representatives of the Victorian municipalities held a meeting to protest against expenditure at the Federal Capital. It has always been understood that the province of a municipal council is to look after the roads, bridges, and other works of the municipality; that the councillors are men elected to deal purely with local matters. The councillors to whom I refer have gone outside their functions. They met in conference to protest, not as private citizens, but as municipal councillors, against certain things which are being done by this Parliament, acting quite within its rights and powers. These municipal representatives have no right to interfere in this way, and to attempt to dictate to us.
– Why recognise them by referring to them?
– When I have drawn attention to the resolutions which they agreed to, the honorable member will see my reason for bringing the matter forward. The first resolution, moved by Councillor Pittard, of Ballarat East, was -
That this, conference protests against any further expenditure on the Federal Capital City, as all the money available is urgently needed for the defence and development of the country.
After one or two members had spoken to that motion, it was carried, and a further resolution was agreed to, as follows -
That a copy of the above resolution be forwarded to municipalities and other public bodies throughout the States, requesting them to take such action as they may deem advisable to attain the same object as desired by this conference.
An honorable member of this House–
– An honorable member of the Opposition.
– Yes ; the honorable member for Laanecoorie has been supporting the Conference in this connexion. I do not think it is a fair thing for any member of this House to assist outside bodies in interfering with our legislative action.
– Bodies that are not elected on a Democratic franchise.
– And the m:n;Lei s of which are not elected as representatives of the people to the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Their sphere of action is purely local, although I do not deny that within that limited sphere they do some excellent work. We have a right to protest against this interference on the part of men acting, not as private citizens, but in their capacity as members of municipal bodies, and calling a conference having nothing whatever to do with the functions that they have to perform. It is an impertinence, and we ought to resent it.
– The honorable member is now giving away all his artillery.
– Not at all. I have an ample supply. My action in bringing forward this matter may be distasteful to a number of my own colleagues, but I am surprised that any honorable member should lend himself to an action having for its object the overriding of Parliament, and an attempt to dictate to Parliament what it shall do. As representatives of the people, we ought to resent this intrusion on our domain. Although this Conference declared that the money proposed to be expended on the Federal Capital was wanted for defence purposes, I notice that it was careful not to refer to any proposed expenditure of public money in any Victorian town. After all, only £68,000 was spent on the Capital site last year, and we are to have a return of .£34,000 in revenue. For the sake of this paltry, insignificant expenditure, we have this storm in a tea-cup, and not a word of protest is raised by these gentlemen against the proposal for expenditure in and around Melbourne of upwards of £200,000. I wish to protest very strongly against such proceedings, and against members of our own Parliament countenancing a course of action which tends only to reflect upon the Legislature, and the object of which is to try to coerce members of this Parliament into adopting a certain attitude through fear that political consequences might otherwise overtake them. If such a course may be adopted in regard to one item, it may be followed in connexion with another, and if we allow it to pass without protest, we shall establish a precedent for the same kind of thing being done in connexion with everything that is brought before the House. 1 think 1 have touched upon one or two matters of serious importance, which have fully justified me in taking up the time of the House in ventilating them.
.- During the whole of my political career, I have never risen lo speak with more regret than I do to-night. When the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before this House, a certain clause was eliminated, and we were given a ‘distinct promise in regard to the matter. I took an active part in opposing that clause, which I felt would press upon the poorer section of the community. Those who lodge their scanty savings in the Savings Banks have been treated for years in ah infamous way. The very pass-book from which I on a previous occasion quoted certain regulations of the Victorian Sav- ings Bank is still in my possession, and I propose to quote them to-night. The first to which I took exception reads as follows -
But if any money shall have been drawn from the bank by any other person producing the pass-book before such notice shall have been given to the bank, or if such depositor shall fail or neglect altogether to give such notice, the loss shall fall upon the depositor so losing his pass-book.
Then we have the still more objectionable regulation -
But in case any person presenting the pass-book shall unlawfully obtain any deposit or sum of money from the bank during the hours of business, the bank shall not be responsible for the loss sustained by such depositor nor be liable to make good the same.
When the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before us, I described that as an infamous regulation operating only against the poor, and not against the big financial firms who deposit their money with the ordinary banks of issue. Not one of the ten Associated Banks has such a protection, yet every one knows that it is much easier to forge a signature to a cheque drawn on an ordinary bank of issue than it is to commit a successful forgery in connexion with a bank where the pass-book of a depositor must be lodged with the order to pay. I resent such a regulation, and will not believe that the Prime Minister has broken faith with the House by agreeing to its issue in connexion with the Commonwealth Savings Bank until I hear him say that he has done so. If any officer has issued such a regulation without permission, he has grossly violated a pledge given by the Prime Minister. I was absolutely staggered to-night when I heard that another place had risen in its majesty and had dis-: allowed this infamous regulation. I do not believe that any Minister would agree to such a regulation, and I certainly would regret its issue in connexion with a bank established by the party which I love, and whose ideals I value as I do my religion. If such a regulation has been issued against the express will of the Parliament, an inquiry should be held.
– The Prime Minister admits that it has been issued.
– He says that it is not inconsistent with the Act.
– If the honorable member will pardon me for saying so, I cannot accept his statement. I must hear the Prime Minister himself say that such is the case.
– Will the honorable member admit that such a regulation has been issued if it is shown to him amongst other regulations relating to the bank?
– That would not make the Prime Minister responsible for the issue of such a regulation. It might be the work of an official. Those who have been in Parliament as long as the honorable member and I have been must know that a Minister has often to shoulder the fault of an officer. After all, what is the experience of these “twopenny-halfpenny” banks as compared with that of the great bankingconcerns of the world, which have no such regulation as this? The Labour party represents most fully and truly the workers of this community, and we ought not to allow such a regulation to remain in respect of what I believe will be one of the greatest savings banks in the world. I am sure that every honorable member desires to assist that institution. Having entered my protest, I shall say no more at this stage. I shall look into the matter tomorrow, and I am perfectly satisfied that the Prime Minister will not accept responsibility for the issue of such a regulation.
.- I wish to direct attention to the delay that has taken place in entering upon the construction of the transcontinental railway ; and I am sure that the Minister of Home Affairs, upon reflection, will admit that in this matter he has not treated the House in a reasonable manner. I desire in every way to assist the Minister in expediting the construction of this line. I certainly have no wish to harass him unnecessarily, but, in common with honorable members generally, I wish to be. taken into his confidence, and to be told plainly how the matter stands, without any attempt on his part to evade questions put to him concerning’ it. The Minister should recognise that it is his duty .to tell the House plainly why the work is not proceeding as rapidly as we think it ought to do. He should take us into his confidence, and give us the benefit of his knowledge on the subject. Yesterday, in reply to questions put to him by the honorable member for Parramatta and myself, the Minister of Home Affairs said -
I cannot be a law breaker, 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.
That was the reason given by him for the failure to proceed with the work. To-day, he said in reply to a further question -
The Crown Solicitor is our guide, and he has laid it down that neither Western Australia nor South Australia has yet complied with the Act.
In view of these statements, one would think that every effort had been made by the Government of the Commonwealth to have these agreements signed - that the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia had been appealed to, and that they had failed to do something which they were required by law to do. I find, however, that that is not the position. I shall read the information that I have received direct from the Premiers of South Australia and of Western Australia in regard to this matter, and leave honorable members to judge whether the Minister of Home Affairs has treated us with that confidence and consideration to which we are entitled. I telegraphed to the Premier of South Australia, and told him that it was stated that through his default, the work was being delayed; and he replied to me to-day as follows : -
Any suggestion that delay in construction of East-West railway due ‘my Government absolutely unfounded. Draft agreement with amendment left here last Saturday.
It will be seen, that, when the Minister made the statement, he had the draft agreement in his possession, but did not tell us of that fact. If there is anything in the draft agreement of which he disapproves he ought to have told us that the document had arrived, and that it had been sent back. I sent a similar telegram to the Premier of Western Australia, whose reply puts the Minister in even a worse light. The reply is as follows: -
No agreement submitted for my signature. Western Australian Parliament have passed Bill in accordance with Commonwealth TransAustralian Railway Act, and Governor in Council has since approved of Crown lands considered necessary by Commonwealth Minister for Home Affairs for construction, maintenance, and working of railway. Have no knowledge of any further action necessary on part of this Government to facilitate commencement of work; if so ready to comply.
This seems to show that no agreement has been sent or even asked for in the case of Western Australia; and yet we were told by the Minister that he could not be a “ law-breaker “ - that the Crown Solicitor was his guide, and that he could not proceed until South Australia and Western Australia had done certain things. It was only fair that the Minister should have told us that he had not applied to the Western Australian Government, and that the draft agreement had arrived from South Australia. The Minister will find it much more satisfactory to himself and every one else concerned to. be perfectly plain and straightforward, and tell us of any difficulties there may be, rather than to lead us astray. I do not say this offensively.
– It is not fair to say it.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong is always interrupting and posing as a sort of wiseacre. I have had more parliamentary experience than the honorable member, and I am not so likely to offend. The fact is, that the honorable member is a little “ too big for his boots “ ; he ought to wait a little while, when he may be in a position to dictate to other people. In the meantime, I tell him that it is a wise rule that new members should not interrupt, and show too much self-conceit in dealing with older members.
– The right honorable member is becoming a lecturer-general !
– I regret having to lecture in this case, but the honorable member has deserved lecturing for a long time. I appeal to the Minister to deal with the House in an open way; there is nothing to conceal. If the States have not done all they ought to have done, let us know the fact. The Western Australian Premier has told me in the telegram that he has no knowledge of any further action necessary on the part of his Government, and that he is ready to comply with any requirement. What could be more straightforward or satisfactory? I do not know whether it arises from the vast experience of the Minister of Home Affairs, or from what cause, but there seems to be a desire on his part to keep back, rather than to impart, information; but I tell him that, in public business as in private business, there is no plan so good as to be open and straightforward.
– The right honorable member was in office for ten years, and did nothing 1
– I have been more than twenty years in office, and I hope I have left something good to show for it. I ask the Minister of Home Affairs to take us into his confidence, and let us know exactly how matters stand. I know that there is a difficulty owing to the absence of rails and sleepers, and it is a difficulty which requires time to get over; but the honorable gentleman ought not to blame friendly Governments for the delay.
– The honorable member for Lang mentioned a matter of supreme and overwhelming importance when he called our attention to the quarantine regulations. It seems to me that our present arrangements are primitive in the extreme; and I am delighted to hear from the Minister that he proposes to make drastic changes at the earliest opportunity. Diseases are brought down near our coasts to our great cities, when they could be segregated and kept out of the country altogether, or almost so ; and it occurs to one that we must have been practically asleep through all the intervening years, and that only a watchful Providence has prevented some terrible epidemic. I speak in this way because Australia has already had bitter experience of the introduction of various troubles in this connexion ; and I hope the Minister will hurry up and do something effective to prevent dangerous diseases being carried thousands of miles down our coasts. The honorable member for Lang caused a general laugh when he made reference to the health of Sydney. I shall not refer to Sydney particularly, but merely say that Australia is altogether a healthy place. I have some figures here which show most eloquently that our quarantine regulations should be as intelligent and effective as possible. I find that New Zealand shows the lowest mortality at 9.7 per 1,000, followed by the Commonwealth with 10.4. The next jump in the world is to 13 per 1,000, and then we have Germany at 18, France at 19, and Japan, with all her excellent arrangements, medical and otherwise, at 21 per 1,000. The record rises until we have Russia at 30 per 1,000. Our present favorable condition we ought to guard with the greatest possible care, so as to prevent any infectious diseases finding entrance into the country.
I should like to make a few remarks about the return placed on the table by the Prime Minister to-day in regard to Ministerial expenses. I do not know to whom the right honorable gentleman was alluding when he brandished the paper about, and spoke of all the terrible things that the Opposition had done. I know that allusions were made to those travelling expenses in Werriwa during the election campaign and elsewhere; indeed, I made some myself, though never, so far as I recollect, in condemnation of the taking of the allowances. On the contrary, I complimented this Ministry more than once on the way in which they keep up the conventions - on the way in which they even outshine and surpass all other Ministers in those matters relating to their personal dignity and status when travelling. But only in that sense did I refer to the matter. It . is largely our own fault that we have those criticisms, so far as the personal side of our conduct is concerned. The honorable member for Capricornia this afternoon spoke of “ dirty birds “ - I think the expression was - “ fouling their own nests.”
– Order ! The honorable member is now referring to a speech and to a matter that has been settled.
– Still, I have a grievance, because the very way in which the matter has been dealt with may, in itself, be a grievance. We cannot be too careful as to the way in which we exercise our prerogatives in this respect. There are two or three items in the return which either should be left out, or a further explanation should be made concerning their being in. I refer to the expenses the Prime Minister drew during his trip to Queensland when on that electioneering tour. He went up there tohelp the State Labour party, which he had a perfect right to do. With him was Senator McGregor. The Prime Minister himself exempts the seven days he put in in the Gympie electorate, but he drew his Ministerial expenses for the rest of the tour, when he was addressing two or three political meetings every day, and, therefore, having little or no time to do very much other business.
– Did he address those meetings in the day-time?
– I do not know. I think he is, at least, on the dividing line in this matter.
– Surely if he does a fair day’s work for the Commonwealth his evenings are his own.
– I presume he was occupied in the Gympie electorate in the same way as elsewhere, but he exempts the days he spent there. Senator McGregor, however, takes his pay for the full time he was there, and I suppose it will not be denied that he was electioneering the whole time.
– But he was an Honorary Minister.
– I have yet to learn that Honorary Ministers are on public business when they are merely taking part in a fierce party contest. The same thing applies to other Ministers. I shall not refer further to the return to-night, more particularly as one of the Ministers concerned is on a sick bed, a fact I very deeply regret.
.- The rifle club movement in the Commonwealth has been repeatedly indorsed by this House, and it is somewhat significant that honorable members have to stand up time and again in support of it. There is no doubt a tendency at head-quarters to exalt other ranks of the service and rather neglect this particular branch, and this is more liable to be the case since we have instituted our very formidable scheme of universal training, but I would remind the House that that scheme will necessarily require to be some years in operation before it can provide us with anything like an effective field force, independently of the existing rifle clubs. These have been acknowledged in many quarters, whose opinion carries some weight, to be of considerable value as a unit of the defence of the country, and, in view of the imminence of grave international complications, which to us may be a matter of life and death, it behoves the Government, and the Minister of Defence in particular, to be careful that the riflemen are not discouraged out of existence. Some time ago, when the Minister was in Western Australia, he was approached by a deputation representing the rifle clubs there, with a view to remove some of the disabilities under which they laboured. Amongst other things, he very flippantly informed them that he could not entertain the idea of helping sport. That was a most remarkable expression coming from a Minister of Defence, and whether his officers have taken their cue from it or not, I cannot say, but it is a striking fact that the rifle clubs in Western Australia appear to be subjected to influences that are thrusting them altogether into the background, where, of course, they must ultimately die of inanition. We have some 7,000 members of rifle clubs in Western Australia, a very fair number considering the conditions of life and occupation in that State generally. Seeing that we are isolated from other parts of the Commonwealth and likely to remain so for some years to come, I think we can make a special claim that every man who can be possibly brought into an efficient fighting condition in Western Australia ought to be given a full op portunity to make himself efficient. The rifle clubs of that State have been struggling against even greater disadvantages than those in the eastern States. The riflemen there complain that they are not supplied with the necessary materials for keeping their rifles in order. Is it not ridiculous that they should be asked to make themselves effective rifle shots and have to supply out of their own pockets the materials with which to keep their rifles clean? I believe that state of affairs does not exist in any of the eastern States. I understand also that it has been usual in the eastern States to allow riflemen their railway fares to and from the ranges, but that concession is not made in Western Australia, or, if it is, it has only been made recently. It is remarkable that there should be this difference of treatment in the different States. If there is any system in the Defence Department, it ought to apply fairly and equally all round, but the Western Australian riflemen are penalized to a degree that, apparently, does not exist elsewhere.
– The Minister of Defence should deal with, the rifle club system, without interference by the permanent officers.
– We look to the Minister of Defence, who is a citizen rather than a military man, to act as the faithful guardian of these special Citizen Forces, and to be on his guard against the inevitable tendency on the part of the heads of the permanent section of the Forces to regard the rifle-club movement as of less consequence. The riflemen of Western Australia are also deprived time and again, by what almost appears to be a concerted movement, of opportunities of making themselves efficient rifle shots. It is no uncommon thing for a rifleman to turn up at a particular range on a Saturday, the only day really available for him, and find that he has no chance of getting a shot. I understand that some ranges have even been absolutely closed to riflemen. This state of affairs ought to be remedied at once. I feel the more confidence in appealing to the House to remedy it, because I find, from “ Extracts from the Annual Report of Major-General Kirkpatrick, InspectorGeneral of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth of Australia,” that although that officer does not say a great deal about rifle clubs, what he does say is highly complimentary. At page 15 he. remarks -
The praiseworthy manner in which the Rifle Clubs have volunteered to assist in the musketry instruction of the Senior Cadets is the best proof of their zeal and good feeling towards the younger force of the Commonwealth.
In view of such a compliment to the rifle clubs, I am fully entitled to demand more consideration for them, and particularly for the riflemen of my own State, who seem to have been penalized more than ordinarily. I trust that what I have said will be the means of instituting an inquiry into their grievances at once, and if these are found to have a substantial basis, as I believe they have, I hope they will be speedily remedied.
.- I wish to supplement the remarks of the honorable member for Perth with regard to rifle clubs. The treatment the rifle clubs are receiving at the hands of the Military Department is, with me, a very serious grievance. I have in my mind in particular the rifle club at Gunning, in New South Wales. Its members are most enthusiastic. I was instrumental in assisting to form the Club, and opened the range when it was formed. I am personally acquainted with nearly all its members, and am, therefore, particularly interested in it. When I show the House the way the club has been treated, I think every honorable member will agree that the riflemen are not being given the encouragement they should be given. They are men who have devoted a great deal of their time for years to making themselves proficient in the use of the rifle. The members of the Gunning club have spent £80 upon additions and alterations, in providing conveniences, and in getting telephone connexion, and all that they have received from the Department is £15. That is bad enough; but a further complaint is that the guarantors for the upkeep of the rifles supplied by the Department have been called on to pay £8 for repairs. I went to a great deal of trouble to put the matter before the Defence authorities, but have failed to get any satisfaction from them. They take the word of an official of the Ordnance Branch before that of the captain of the rifle club, an excellent fellow in every respect, whose word ought at least to be regarded as equal to that of an official. The captain declares that the best care has been taken of the club’s rifles. A proof that that is so is that nearly every member of the club competes, not only in country club matches, but also at the big meeting of the National Asso ciation in Sydney, and many of them have won large prizes. The club is one of the most up-to-date in Australia, and has many good shots amongst its members. I ask honorable members if a man who is desirous of winning prizes at an international meeting, and wishes to secure the success of his club in competition with others, is likely to neglect his rifle ? One of the rifles complained of belongs to one of the best shots in the club, and, indeed, in New South Wales ; a man whom, according to the captain, has been most particular about it, wiping it out after every shot, and constantly cleaning and oiling it. New barrels have had to be fitted to some of the rifles, and for that the club has been charged £8 odd.
– A blind policy.
– When did this take place?
– Within the last two months. I have a similar complaint from the club at Nimitybelle, the terminus of the south-eastern railway of the New South Wales system. I have not as much knowledge of that club as of the Gunning Club, though I know its captain. In this case, the guarantors have been compelled to pay £6 odd. No allowance is made by the Department for ordinary wear and tear, and. whenever a rifle is found to be out of repair its condition is attributed to neglect. The Nimitybelle Club is charged with having lost or destroyed twenty or thirty pull throughs - pieces of cord with wire attachments, used to clean the barrels. If a club is supplied with fifty of these, and the departmental official three years afterwards finds so many short, the club is charged for them. This is silly; and this strictness is calculated to damp the ardour of men whose services we may have to call on in a time of trouble.
I wish now to refer to a matter relating to quarantine, though not with a view to harassing the Minister of Trade and Customs, who has been good enough to supply me with a report on quarantine in other countries, and on the quarantine requirements of Australia, by the Director-General of Quarantine. It is a serious grievance that no notice seems to have been taken by the Minister of the suggestion that North Head, Sydney, should cease to be a quarantine station. As proposals are made for increasing the accommodation there, it is obvious that the suggestion will not be considered. In my opinion, it is a serious menace to the health of Australia to have a quarantine station so close to a thickly populated area.
– The quarantine ground is isolated.
– No. it is not. It is not necessary for persons to come into contact with small-pox patients to contract the disease. I draw the attention of honorable members to this passage in the report -
Quarantine, like other activities of organized society, has been subject to the law of evolution. It has advanced from a crude simplicity to a rational complexity - from measures of absolute exclusion to those of conditional admission. At first comprising one or two measures, it now involves many. This development has been dependent not only on the advance of medical science but also on the growth of commerce, the extension and quickening of the means of communication between continent and continent, country and country, province and province, and the increase in the transit of persons and in commercial interchange throughout the world.
In olden times, especially in countries where external trade and commerce were relatively of slight importance, and where the fear of contagion was great, the simple expedient was adopted of refusing to have any intercourse with any vessel or person from an infected place, or to allow any such vessel or person to enter the port or settlement. It is stated that in certain ports cannon, mounted at points of vantage, were trained on to any infected or suspected vessel in the harbor, and the master of the vessel was given notice to quit within a specified time, with the alternative of being fired upon. In quite recent times it has not been unusual for a train from an infected place to be held by armed men at a railway station, and ordered to move on without delay and without discharging any passengers or goods.
– There are worse diseases than small-pox that are not quarantined.
– I shall reserve my further remarks on this subject until the Works Estimates are before us ; but I trust that Ministers will give attention to what I have said.
– - I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister of Home Affairs a matter connected with the calling for tenders for a power plant at the Federal Capital site. I do not know how many tenders were received, but one was submitted by an Australian firm of high repute, and the tender and deposit were returned without comment. The firm has made a very fair offer to carry out the work on the 10 per cent, basis, which is well understood by the Minister and all who have had to do with building or machinery. When tenders are called and none is regarded as satisfactory, it is usual, if other tenders are not offered, to have the work done on the 10 per cent, basis.
– That is, for 10 per cent, in addition to the actual cost?
– For 10 per cent, on the cost of material and labour. The firm’s offer has not elicited from the Minister either practical or spiritual sympathy. Here we have an Australian work, to be carried out in the Capital of the Australian Commonwealth, and an Australian firm of engineers is prepared to do it, either under contract, according to the terms of its tender, or on an ordinary business basis. But the Minister appears to be unwilling to afford it the opportunity. There is no doubt about the position of the firm. It is one of the finest engineering firms in Australia. It has carried out works of an exactly similar character, and can produce, if necessary, the very highest credentials. I agree that it is possible for an outside firm to tender a lower price, but only for the reason that the Tariff is ineffective. So many portions of the required machinery can be admitted under our present Tariff free of duty that this company is placed at a very grave disadvantage.
– All the more reason why the Government should give the work to a local firm.
– I knew that I should receive the honorable member’s sympathy.
– Sympathy without relief is not much good.
– It is not. I feel that the Minister of Home Affairs, coming as he does from a country which has been built up largely under a system of effective Protection, should be prepared to extend practical sympathy to an Australian firm that is paying the highest rate of wages, and which carries out its work in a way that commends itself particularly to the industrial classes. This firm has not only built up for itself in Australia a great business, but is now competing with engineering firms in South America and various parts of the Pacific. Surely it is deserving of some attention at the hands of this National Parliament. The fiscal policy of this country has been settled as of a protective character, and we have an avowedly Protectionist Minister in charge of the Department of Home Affairs.
– I think that the Minister of External Affairs is more likely to deal with this matter.
– I should not be making this appeal if the Minister of External Affairs were in charge of this business, because I would realize that it would be ineffective. The Minister should give us some indication of the attitude he intends to adopt. This is not a parochial question ; it really affects the whole industrial world of the Commonwealth. If the Minister, merely to save a few pounds, is prepared to send this work out of the country, and to obtain the required plant where it cannot be constructed under his supervision, with the result that it may or may not be of the most effective character, it is just as well that the House and the country should know it. If the honorable gentleman is prepared to deal with this matter from a business standpoint, I feel that he will not delay any longer, and that even if he is dissatisfied with the tender he will take steps to show his faith in the bona fides, not only of the firm, but of the men. whom they employ, and who for skill and industry are second to none.
– To what firm does the honorable member refer?
– To Thompson’s - one of the finest engineering firms in Australia.
– Some of the best machinery in Kalgoorlie to-day was made by this firm.
– There is no doubt as to that. The Minister of Trade and Customs was approached quite recently on this question, but I do not know how he viewed the representations made to him.
– I forwarded them to the Minister of Home Affairs, as the matter did not relate to my Department.
– If the honorable member has handed over these representations with a sympathetic note to the Minister of Home Affairs he has done his part. I should like the Minister to tell us why in the first instance he did not see fit to accept the tender to which I have referred, and why, failing its acceptance, he did not agree to the very business-like offer made to him by this firm to construct the required machinery upon a 10 per cent. basis?
– I went very carefully into the matter to which the honorable member for Laane- coorie has referred, and while I was very anxious to give the work to an Australian firm, I found that I could not pay the difference between the local tender and that of a British firm. I therefore gave the contract to the latter. This is the first time that I have allowed work to go out of the country, so far as I am aware, during the two years that I have been in office.
– Then the honorable member has accepted another tender?
– I think so.
– What was the difference between the two tenders?
– I cannot say off-hand, but shall be prepared to supply the information to-morrow. The difference was too great to allow of my accepting the tender of the Australian firm, although I certainly am a Protectionist. In reply to the right honorable member for Swan, I desire to say that I am most anxious to give him information concerning anything that is going on in regard to the building of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. The position is, however, that I am up against the trusts of the world, which have laid themselves out to make this railway so costly that it will be a dead failure.
– I hope that the honorable member has not given to a trust the work to which I have just referred.
– I have not. Our policy in regard to the letting of contracts is Australia first,Britain second.
– It should be “ Australia all the time.”
– If we cannot accept the tender of an Australian firm, we ought to give the work to the country on which we have to depend for our defence. As to the trans-Australian railway, I can only say that if the right honorable member for Swan will call at my office, I shall be glad to put in front of him everything relating to it; but until we complete our arrangements, it would not do for me to give all the details in the House. If I were todo so, I am sure that the railway would cost £1,000,000 more than it ought to do. But if the right honorable member desires to know anything about the matter, I hope that, until we get everything settled he will call at the Department, whereI shall be happy to place everything before? him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
ADDITIONS, NEW WORKS, BUILDINGS, &c.
Federal Capital Expenditure. - Casual
Labour upon Public Works. - Drill - Halls. - Rifle Ranges.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 7th August, vide page 1844) :
Department of Home Affairs.
Division I (Home Affairs), £151,372.
Upon which Mr. Wise had moved -
That the item “Federal Capital, ^110,000,” be reduced by ,£50,000.
.- This is an item that has occasioned me some concern.
– This is a square deal. Let it go.
– I am going to give it a square deal, but I have first of all to give a square deal to my own constituents.
– And yet the honorable member is a Nationalist 1
– I am; but I pledged myself to my constituents to oppose as far as practicable the expenditure of money upon the Federal Capital Site, and I intend to stand by that pledge. Representatives of New South Wales have every reason to be satisfied with the progress that is being made with the building of the Federal city. The Minister “ of Home Affairs is proceeding by easy stages to a certain goal. Every man who wishes to erect an enduring structure is careful to lay a solid foundation, and the Minister, with his usual practical characteristics, is quietly but surely laying the foundations of what will be, I presume, the Federal city. Seeing that our expenditure on other undertakings is exceptionally high, we need to be reasonably careful of our outlay on such an enterprise as this. I am here to support the carrying out of works that are most necessary to the Commonwealth, and if there is to be any curtailment of expenditure, it should be in respect of undertakings that are not absolutely essential and urgently necessary. I regard the building of the Federal Capital as coming within that category, and in accordance with the pledge that I have given to my constituents I intend to vote for the amendment.
.- I pledged myself to my constituents to oppose the expenditure of money on the building of the Federal Capital, and I desire to make a few remarks on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland. One of the attractions of a new country ought to be the prospect of very flight taxation. As a matter of fact however, there are a large number of works that must necessarily be carried out by the Common-, wealth, and if, in addition to our expenditure upon them, we spend large sums of money on the Federal Capital, we shall place an unnecessary strain upon the people and increase the amount of taxation that they have to bear. In view of the expenditure on defence, railways, and developmental works, which we cannot avoid, I should not be doing my duty if I did not protest against this item. From my point of view, no solid advantage is to be gained by building the Capital. Some say that it will be a good thing to remove this Parliament from the influence of the Age and the Argus ; but I do not think that that in itself will be sufficient to compensate honorable members for the inconvenience to which they will be subjected in living where there are no social advantages, and nothing but the routine business of parliamentary life to which to attend. I doubt very much whether if the Parliament be established in the Federal Capital.- the best type of men will be attracted to political life. The men desired are those who have made a way for themselves in a business or a legal career’; and they cannot afford the time to attend to political affairs in a Capital situated such as this will be. The land may prove a good investment, returning a fair percentage for the outlay ; but it is a different matter to talk about sinking, possibly, millions of money in the building of a Capital. It is useless to think of providing a Capital on lines of “ Spartan simplicity,” as I think Sir George Reid once suggested ; Parliament must be hedged round with a certain dignity, or it will fail to maintain its proper position in the Commonwealth. To assure this dignity means the expenditure of millions, on which the taxpayer will have to pay interest, a burden which he ought not to be called upon to bear for some time to come. The people of Victoria would, I feel certain, be quite willing to allow the Seat of Government to be temporarily in Sydney, and I think that such a course would also satisfy New South Wales. If the common-sense plan of taking a referendum were adopted, there would be an overwhelming majority in favour of a change of the kind ; and, because I take that to be the opinion of the people, I shall avail myself of the present opportunity of showing my disapprobation of any further expenditure.
– I agree entirely with the amendment of the honorable member for Gipps- land, and intend to support it. I have so often expressed my views in regard to the Federal Capital that I do not intend to delay honorable members this evening. I should be much more enthusiastic about the amendment if it proposed to stop any further expenditure. I admit that the Constitution must be obeyed, and that we must have a’ Federal city; but there is no immediate hurry for expenditure. There seems to be considerable misunderstanding, particularly in the country districts, in regard to this expenditure ; and I am at a loss to know the position of the Opposition in regard to it. Honorable members opposite assert that the Government are not spending enough ; and we may infer that if they were in power much more would be spent. Strange to say, however, supporters of the Opposition outside are making a great deal of political capital in the country by asserting that the Government are spending millions on this object. A certain lady organizer asserted in my electorate, the other evening, that the one great reason why the present Government should be put out of office was that they were spending “ so many millions in connexion with a useless bush capital.” I mention this to show that there is no unanimity amongst the Opposition and their supporters on this question. The total amount proposed to be spent this year is about £78,000, and this added to the expenditure in the last two years is £160,000. While I think that that is £160,000 too much, it is, in my opinion, about the least the Government could have spent on a proposal to which it was committed by a previous Government.
– We are getting a return of £34,000 on an expenditure of £68,000.
– The honorable member for Lang said the other night that if he were in power £3,000,000 would have been spent.
– Hear, hear I
– The Opposition are continually objecting to the number of Commonwealth works being carried out in Victoria ; and, in the last few days, we have had references made to the establishment of the woollen mills at Geelong. Strange- to say, while honorable members object to that proposal, they pin their faith to a Capital site which is devoid of that very essential thing, water. Mr. Smail, the woollen expert, has informed us that there is not sufficient water at the Capital site to justify the establishment of the woollen mills there ; and yet honorable members opposite, particularly those from New South Wales, support an immediate removal of the Seat of Government to Federal Territory. Have the Opposition got any definite proposal to make in regard to the expenditure on the Federal Capital ?
– Let us get there as soon as we can.
– The supporters of the Opposition outside are saying that if the present Government are put out, there will be no more expenditure on the Federal Capital ; and T should like to know from honorable members opposite if the lady organizers outside are justified in going around country places in Victoria and making that assertion. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition the other night told us that the Government have spent “ a scandalously small amount “ ; and, while Opposition supporters in New South Wales are maligning the Government for not spending enough, their supporters in Victoria are maligning them for spending too much. It is unfortunate that we cannot get the Opposition to take a national view of this question. I am pleased to say that it was not this Government that pledged the country to the present Capital site. 1 have consistently voted against the expenditure of a farthing, not because expenditure may not be necessary in the future, but because there is no immediate necessity for it. We should proceed slowly ; and I am going to speak and vote against the expenditure of a shilling more.
.- We have been told that a large revenue is expected from the lands purchased by the Government, and we are now. asked to authorize an expenditure of £600,000 in this way. Under the circumstances, we are entitled to know what is the present and probable revenue, so that we may judge whether it is a proper business transaction. I have already expressed my views as to the proposed expenditure of £110,000, together with the further expenditure of £40,000 on the Military College; and I shall content myself by saying that I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland.
– 1 have here a statement of the position that 1 had better make known to honorable members. I explained last night that up to the present the Government have spent £84,000 on Federal Territory, and that we are drawing £4, 800 a year in rents, rates, licences, and so forth. This is independent of the 85,000 acres which we have just compulsorily acquired; and if honorable members tot up the figures they will find that we are earning 5 per cent. on what has been spent. As to the 85,000 acres, we are calculating at letting it at only is. 6d. per acre, though I think it would let for a good deal more. We have already let Acton at a return of 5 per cent.
– A pretty good estimate of the quality of the land up there.
– These are the prime lands of the place. They are beautiful, and I have made a very low calculation in estimating a return of £34,000 a year, assuming that all the privatelyowned lands are taken into consideration. We calculate that, as soon as the city starts - and it will be starting right away - the revenue from that territory will be, not , £30,000 odd. but closer to £50,000. Talk about an asset ! It amazes me how any man with a shred of financial perspicuity can stand up in this House and oppose it. If we went in to the city of Melbourne or Sydney, it would cost us close on £500,000 to buy just enough land for the Parliament House, Government House, Library, and all the accessories that are required for an up-to-date Parliament, and then to complete the building and get things ready would cost us another £1,000,000. Even then we should not have land enough to whistle round, and we should have no income from it at all. It amazes me to hear men argue at this time of day that we should go to Sydney or Melbourne for the Federal Capital, when the people of New South Wales have made us a present of over 200,000 acres. If we add to that the land thai we shall have to purchase, we shall have in the Federal Territory a total of 562,000 acres odd. Honorable members will find that the whole of the land will cost the Commonwealth only a little more than , £1 an acre when we have finished with it. The Federal Territory is already reproductive. I was” talking to an American, a big financial man, to-day, and he was at first against the scheme, because he remembered the experience of the United States of America in the establishment of Washington. They had 100 square miles, and cut it down to 70. Everything was carried out by private enterprise in those days, but Washington is now a city of 400,000 people; and if the Federal Government had retained the fee-simple of the land there, they would have been drawing £6,000,000 a year rent from it. When this gentleman heard from me of the present that the people of New South Wales had given to the Commonwealth, he said we ought to grab it with all fours; otherwise the people of New South Wales might take it away from us again. I trust that honorable members will, on this occasion, rise above little local parochialisms.
– Like that celebrated crow of yours, with his water-bag.
– I will confess that on that occasion I made a mistake. I made a speech, as many of us do, without knowledge. I was, in those days, an innocent Tasmanian, and a wide-awake Victorian misled me. I trust that we shall be Nationalists in this matter to-night.
– The difference is that you were not then Minister of Home Affairs.
– We are all members of the Federal Parliament, and all Australians. The acquisition of the 85,000 acres in the Federal Territory having beencompleted, embracing the site upon which the Federal Capital City will stand, the lands traversed by the pipe line to the Cotter River, the dam site and reservoir on the Cotter River, some of the land lying between the city site and Queanbeyan, which will be traversed by the railway, the sewage farm, the outfall sewer, the afforestation area, &c, the Department is now in a position to proceed with a section of the initial works, preparatory to the establishment of the city. Of these works which it is proposed to undertake during the current financial year, the first is the purchase and erection of a power plant. This plant is for the purpose of providing power to generate electricity for transmission to any part of the Territory where power is necessary in the construction of these works ; for example, the brick works, the pumping plant at the Cotter River, various machines in the construction of the dam, tunnel, service and pipe-head reservoirs, and outfall sewer. This plant has been designed, and will be laid down in units, which units represent about 800 kilowatts. The plant will cost about £20,000. It is also proposed to push on at once to completion the dam at the Cotter River for the conservation of water for domestic and civic purposes. The plans for this work are practically ready, and the site has been decided on. The dam will be about 90 feet high, and will impound sufficient water to meet the requirements of the city for, at least, one year. A pumping plant will be installed here to lift the water 830 feet to a pipehead reservoir on Mount Stromlo, which will be placed in hand this year. Tenders will be invited for the supply of the necessary pipes for the rising main and the service main, which latter will be taken from the pipe-head reservoir at Strom to the service reservoir at Red Hill, which commands the whole of the city area proper. It is estimated that 90,000,000 bricks will be required for Government buildings and works alone in the Federal Territory, and it is proposed to erect a brickworks at an estimated cost of £25,000, with an output of about 15,000.000 bricks per annum.
– We heard about those brickworks two years ago. What has been clone about them?
– We did not have the land, and it was of no use paying rent, so we had to wait till we acquired it.
– Will those brickworks be put in hand this year ?
– This year? I hope to start them to-morrow. A suitable clay for brickmaking purposes has been found, and tested, with excellent results, at a site close to the city, and it is hoped that bricks will be made and delivered on the site for about 25s. per thousand. It is proposed to proceed at once with the construction of a railway -between the Capital city and Queanbeyan - a distance of about 7 miles. This, it is estimated, wilt cost about £25,000.
– Have you the money ?
– Yes. The roads throughout the Territory, are now in fair condition, but it is necessary that a certain amount should be expended to maintain them in that state. It is also proposed to proceed with the deviation of the road to the Cotter River from the Capital site, on an easy gradient, to be formed and made for heavy traffic. Additional roads will be opened up where necessary, with a view to providing the best means of intercommunication possible between all parts of the Territory. A further stock of Australian timbers, to the extent of some £5,000, will be specially selected for joinery purposes at the city. These timbers will be stored and seasoned on the city site for use ns required. A nursery for afforestation purposes has been prepared at Acton, where trees, plants, and shrubs will be propagated for us..- where necessary. It is proposed, also, to utilize an area at Strom, some 6 miles out of the city, as an afforestation nursery on a much larger scale, it being desirable to have practical demonstration as to those trees which are best suited for the conditions within the Territory. The surveys of the boundaries of the Territory, the triangulation, classification surveys, surveys of holdings, &c, will lie pushed on with all expedition. At the same time, the survey for the location of a railway line from Jervis Bay to the Capital is in progress, and will be continued to completion. So far this survey has disclosed no serious engineering difficulties. The position, therefore, is that we are ready to go on, and are only waiting for Parliament to pass the vote.
– “ Everything in the garden looks lovely,” but we have heard this year after year, and every year something extraordinary is going to be done. I am not criticising the present Government alone. I am merely complaining of the slow progress which the Federal Capital is making. It is time that something definite was done about it. The understanding was that we were to be in Melbourne for about ten years. We have been here twelve years, and it looks as if we shall be here for another twenty-four at the rate at which things are moving. How much money has been spent on the Capital site so far?
– Last year we were told of items which were going to cost £313,000. I suppose they would now be estimated at at least £350,000, and we were also told that £600,000 was required for land. That is, in round figures, £1,000,000, before we begin to build the city at all, and yet only £84,000 has been spent. I am not blaming this Government altogether, but it is time that these people in Victoria knew the facts of the case. When we have Kyabram movements generated in the city of Melbourne, and hear talk of great extravagance going on at the Federal Capital, it is time to say something on the other side. There has been no extravagance. There has been belated expenditure from year to year.
– It is a pity you do not chastise some of your organizers, who are going round Victoria charging the Government with extravagance regarding the Federal Capital.
– The honorable member himself has been yelping for the two years he has been here as if we were pouring out millions on these plains of Yass-Canberra, yet it all works out at £84,000. Surely the Commonwealth will be bankrupt if we continue at such a rate 1 Fancy, a whole £84,000 in twelve years 1 One of the features I noticed about the meeting held in Melbourne yesterday was that the speakers discussed everything but the Federal Capital. It is only the motions that they passed that had anything to do with the Federal Capital. They discussed the extravagance of this Government, a very proper thing to be discussed on the public platforms of the country, and. I hope to help them a little later. But I do not see any connexion between that and the Federal Capital expenditure. Although ,£22,500,000 is to be spent this year, only a paltry £11 0,000 is for the Federal Capital, and that after we have waited twelve years. The total expenditure on the Capital up to date is only £84,000. Last year the expenditure was £68,000, and the revenue from the Territory £34,000. It is time that some one called attention to the popular delusion in Victoria that money is being spent extravagantly on the Federal Capital.
– It is supporters of the honorable member who are saying it.
– On this matter, they are my opponents and supporters of the honorable member, or he is their supporter. I find that £87,000 has been spent in establishing a cordite factory in a suburb of Melbourne, £12,000 on a clothing factory, also in Victoria, £6,550 on a harness factory in Victoria, and £110,000 on woollen mills in Victoria.
– What have the municipal councillors to say about that?
– They say nothing about those expenditures. Then there is £13,000 to be spent on the Naval College at Geelong - in all, about £228,000.
– Good value will be given for the money.
– I do not complain that this expenditure is in Victoria, though it could have been deferred, and saddlery and harness and clothing procured in the ordinary way. It is time that the other side of the case was made known. There has been no extravagance in connexion with the Federal Capital, Last year, the Minister told us of all the beautiful things that we are to have there, but, according to the poet -
Hope springs eternal in the human breast, Man never is, but always to be blessed.
So it is in regard to the Federal Capital. The Minister told us last year that he intended to resume the land within seven miles of the city site, and that its value was estimated at £600,000. At the rate at which money is being expended, how long will this resumption take? Last year, the Minister said that the amount asked for was so small that he was ashamed to talk about it, and he might well have been. Although the vote of the previous year had been very modest. £33,000 had to be revoted, last year, and £32,000 is to be revoted this year. The honorable member for Gippsland is always very busy when the Federal Capital site question is before us, and, of course, he always takes the large national view.
– He is the leader of the Nationalist party.
– There is no doubt about that. He said last year that the Minister sought to commit the country to an expenditure of £313,000, but, according to the Minister, something like £3,000,000 is needed. Is it not time that the honorable gentleman began to quicken his pace a little? There is no speeding up here ; on the contrary, there is a great deal of loitering, and the Minister is “ the man on the job.” In New South Wales, he says that the work is going on like wild fire, but in Victoria he tells the people that it will take years; that the Capital will not be built in five years, or, perhaps, fifty, or, perhaps, five hundred years.
– I mean that it will go on growing like Washington, where they are building yet.
– Last year I pointed out that it was likely to be years before the preparations for building the Capital were completed, but the Minister said that we should be there in less than five years. We have been told that £1,000,000 must be spent before the Capital can be commenced, and yet this year only £110,000 is asked for. I protest against this humbugging business, and against the misrepresentations which are made in Victoria.
– Principally by the paid organizers of the Liberal fusion.
– They are just as truthful in this as in anything else.
– No doubt, on all sides things are said which should not be said.
– That is no excuse for the Liberal crowd.
– Is it the Liberal organizers who have moved the honorable member for Gippsland to propose the reduction of this item by £50,000 ? If this Parliament is to meet at the Federal Capital within a reasonable time, there must be more expedition. I do not desire a huge outlay on a Federal Parliament House. A plain shell of a building would do at first.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should meet in the open air?
– Plain but comfortable accommodation could be provided on a plan which would not interfere with the construction of an ornate building later. We have for twelve years enjoyed the hospitality of our good Victorian friends, and owe them many thanks for it, but it is time that we had a habitation of our own. At the present rate of progress it will be many years before we get to the Federal Capital.
– A larger sum should be voted for expenditure at the Capital, and a more vigorous effort should be made to push on with the work. The Minister would do well to consider the advisability of appointing a Commission or Board, whose members would concentrate their efforts on the building of the city. My own opinion is that our engineers are overworked. Colonel Owen is engaged in an heroic struggle to do the work of three or four men.
– He is ill in bed to-day.
– I am not surprised to hear it. No human being is made of the stuff that would enable him to closely supervise all the big undertakings now being carried on by the Commonwealth. Colonel Owen wants help, and competent help.
– The trouble is that he has to organize a new staff for all these works.
– If he had an organized staff in respect of each of them-
– It would be an easy matter then.
– I hold that all these big public works need to be specialized, and the Minister should take seriously into his consideration the establishment of either a Commission or a Board of Construction - some body of trained men who will concentrate their attention on this particular public work, and carry it through to completion in a way that will be worthy of the Capital when we have it.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the work should be taken out of the hands of the official staff?
– Not necessarily. All that I want is a competent staff of men to concentrate their attention on this work, and see it carried through. No one man can build the Capital, and do all his other work as well. No one man can attend to that work, and to the erection of a small arms factory, a woollen factory, and other big Commonwealth undertakings, including the building of the transcontinental railway, that are just now afoot. These are too much for any one set of men to deal with in a centralized Department, and the sooner we have a little decentralization in this respect the better. I hope we have heard the last of this carping criticism about the Federal Capital, and that the Minister will spend during the year a good deal more than £110,000 in respect of this work.
– 1 regret that I have to rise at this late hour to address the Committee; but I desire to take, ad vantage of this, the only opportunity we shall have, to discuss the question of the Federal Capital. I indorse in the main the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta. While I think that the present Government has done more than any of its predecessors did in pushing on the erection of the Capital, it seems to me that it has not done nearly enough. I agree with the the honorable member for Parramatta that we are not likely to get full satisfaction until the work is placed in the hands of some independent Commission or Board. Ministers, whichever party they belong to, have all their own interests centred round Melbourne, and are not likely to be in a hurry to leave this city.
– That is not so with me.
– If the Minister is anxious to study his own personal interest, I cannot conceive of his being very desirous of leaving Melbourne for Yass- Canberra.
There has been in connexion with, the building of the Capital an opportunity for one of the most magnificent socialistic undertakings that the Commonwealth has had, or is ever likely to have, and I believe that we shall never be able to overtake the mistakes that have been made.
– What are they?
– Something like a quarter of a million of money has been allocated to the building, in different States, of Commonwealth factories that might well have been planted in the Federal area. Had that policy been adopted, it would have increased the value of our own property, and have helped to create a population there which would materially assist in developing primary industries within the Federal Territory.
– Should that policy have been pursued even though it was an economic waste to do so?
– According to the report presented to the House in regard to the establishment of the Federal Woollen Mills, on which £110,000 is to be expended, there is no objection to YassCanberra as a site for that factory, except that the planning of the city has not been sufficiently developed.
– Do not forget that the expert said that there was no water there. .
– The honorable member, in making that assertion, is yielding to the Victorian clamour against the building of the Federal Capital. I do not suppose that he has visited the site. lt seems to me that he is only repeating one of the statements which the Age is ramming down the throats of the people from day to day.
– I am only telling the honorable member what the expert said.
– No expert has said that there is no water at the Capital. The woollen mill expert simply said that a water supply was not available - in other words, that the work of laying down service pipes, and so forth, has not been sufficiently developed to enable the water in the locality to be utilized. The statement that there is no water supply is vastly different from a statement that there is no water.
As to the interjections made by the Prime Minister, I should like to ask what there is in connexion with the Commonwealth Saddle and Harness Factory that necessitated its establishment in Melbourne rather than in the Federal Territory? There were no special climatic or other conditions requiring the establishment of that factory in Melbourne; and the same remark will apply to the Commonwealth Clothing Factory and the Cordite Factory.
– What about the increased cost of distribution?
– A railway must be built from the Federal Capital to Jervis Bay, in order that we may have direct communication with that port. A comparatively short line of railway to Jervis Bay will ‘ give the Federal Capital as fine an avenue of distribution as could be obtained in any other part of Australia.
– And it would be a more central avenue of distribution.
– Undoubtedly. As it is, we find that one Commonwealth factory has been established in one place and another in another, and the products of those factories have to be gathered up and transferred to different parts of the Commonwealth. If there is a weak point in the case against the establishment of these factories in the Capital, it is that in regard to transportation and distribution.
The Minister has told us that the route of the proposed railway from YassCanberra. to Jervis Bay is being surveyed.
– And that there are no difficulties.
– And that there are no great difficulties in the way of constructing that line. He has also told us that the Territory is a magnificent asset. But whilst he is pushing on with great expedition the building of the transcontinental railway, which is to cost some millions of pounds, I have not heard him refer to it as a magnificent asset from which we shall obtain a large return.
I admit that the building of that railway is a constitutional obligation, but it is apparent that the noise that has been created by some honorable members of the Opposition in regard to it is having a considerable effect on the Government.
– Why make that a party question?
– I was referring to an honorable member of the Opposition who in the House grumbles every day about the delay in the building of the TransAustralian railway.
– Who is he?
– The right honorable member for Swan. I do not blame him. It seems to me that honorable members on this side of the House who are prepared to remain quiet do not receive that consideration which would be extended to them if they adopted the right honorable member for Swan’s attitude in regard to the Trans-Australian railway, and made a noise about the delay in building the Federal Capital.
Having regard to the time that has elapsed since the site was selected, it is absurd to say that the building of the Capital is being pushed on with reasonable expedition, when the maximum expenditure for which it is proposed to provide this year is only £110,000.
– That is all that can be economically spent this year.
– If that is so, it shows that we ought to have a Commission or some other competent authority to push on with the building of the Capital. We” have been told by the Minister of Home Affairs that the site of the sewage farm has been decided upon. If that is so, I presume that a sewerage scheme has also been decided upon.
– The sewerage is provided for in the design.
– I understand the honorable member to say that a sewerage scheme has been adopted.
– The site of the farm has been decided.
– Then, again, the city area proper has been located, as well as the afforestation area, and as the question of the power plant to be provided has also been dealt with, the Department must know where that plant is to be erected. That being so, why cannot an industrial area be decided upon, and factories built there?
– There is no trouble about that.
– The Minister says there is no trouble about that. If that statement is correct, the industrial area ought to have been selected before now. Had that been done, we should not then have had the excuses that have been offered from time to time for erecting Commonwealth factories in various States. By the time that the Federal City area has been sufficiently developed to provide for the establishment of factories, I have no doubt that every factory required by the Commonwealth will have been built.
– It will then cost a mint of money to transfer those factories to the Federal area. I wish to enter my protest against the delay that has taken place in the building of the Capital, and I repeat that one of the most magnificent opportunities, from a Socialistic point of view, is being missed. In years to come we shall more fully appreciate than we do to day the shortsightedness of the policy that has been pursued. If, in 100 years’ time, it was possible to reverse this policy, the Commonwealth would give a great deal to be able to do so.
At this stage, and particularly this session, there appears to be nothing more to do than to urge the Minister to see that the money voted is spent. We are told that there is no trouble in securing the necessary labour, or in the departmental officers carrying out the work; and I trust that when next year’s Estimates are being considered, we shall have some definite policy laid down.
– We shall be able to do that when we get the foundations laid.
– I do not know what the right honorable gentleman means.
– The honorable member would know if he were going into such an enterprise himself.
– I should want to know what the scheme was, and whether it was to be paid for out of revenue, or out of loan funds. We were told by the Prime Minister the other day that this matter had not been considered.
– I did not say that.
– I am speaking from memory, and expressing what I believe to be the right honorable gentleman’s meaning.
– There is time enough for a policy when the plan has been adopted.
– That indicates that, as yet, no financial policy has been adopted. There has been time to consider the plans, and I hope the work will be pushed on.
– We have only just got the plans back from Sydney.
– If the sending of the plans to Sydney for exhibition purposes has delayed the work, they ought not to have been sent.
– There would have been a revolution otherwise.
– Victorian members appear to treat ibis matter with levity. I trust that ‘at the end of this financial year all the necessary preliminaries will have been fixed up, and that the Government will have decided on a financial policy.
Question- That the item “ Federal Capital, £110,000,” be reduced by £50,000 (Mr. Wise’s amendment) - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority ….. 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division ia (Quarantine), £50,000, division ib (Lighthouses), £15,000, and division 2 (Trade and Customs), £2,478, agreed to.
Division 3 (Defence), £609,099
.- Perhaps this will be a proper time for the Prime Minister to communicate to the Committee the result of his inquiries into the carrying out of the day-labour system on public works.
– I promised that I would give a reply to the allegations of mismanagement and worse than that against some works carried out by the Postal Department. As the PostmasterGeneral is indisposed, and quite unable to come to the House, I had to get the best information I could from the officers of his Department. I propose to make categorically an official reply to the statements which have been made. I have here a summary of the reports to the acting electrical engineer. The statements in the Argus of 31st July are dealt with separately in the order in which they appeared. The Acting Electrical Engineer submits this report -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120808_reps_4_65/>.