4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, proposed -
That standing orders Nos. 108 and 235 be suspended in order to’ allow a motion to be made for the resumption of the Committee of Supply.
– Last night the Prime Minister on two occasions charged me with a breach of an agreement in connexion with the business of the House, than which no charge could be more odious. I have ascertained from my leader that there was no agreement, and, therefore, none could have been broken. Charges of this kind trip from the tongue-of the Prime Minister on almost every occasion when difficulties arise in the conduct of the business of the House, and I resent this imputation of want of faith. No agreement was made, and none was broken.
– We have a right to object to the Prime Minister’s proposal after the threat which he made last night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the proceedings in Commitlee of Supply, which lapsed at the last sitting, be resumed, and that the House do this day resolve itself into Committee of Supply.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if it is a fact that the publishing of the maps to illustrate the scheme of redistribution of the electoral divisions of New South Wales is being kept back because of the congestion in the Government Printing Office at Sydney, where three shifts of men are being worked? If so, will the Minister of Home Affairs inform the Government of New South Wales that this is an urgent matter, affecting the Commonwealth Parliament directly, and ask that the printing of the maps be expedited?
– I have already had inquiries made, and the work will be. pushed on. We expect to receive the maps shortly.
– By way of reply to a statement made by the Honorary Minister reflecting on my truthfulness, I wish to read the following newspaper report : -
The Commissioner of Public Works (Mr. Butler), in reply to a question, stated that the assertion made by Mr. Foster, in the Federal Parliament, that since the new Government bad come into office the work done by the labourers in the hydraulic engineer’s department had increased by 25 per cent, was quite true. The quality of the work had also improved.
– Referring to the covering letter of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral which the Prime Minister submitted to the House yesterday, but did not read, and of which we were unaware until we saw it in the newspapers, this morning-
– It was read.
– It was quite an oversight on my part if I did not read it.
– The part to which I am about to refer was not read, or, if it was read, we- on this side did not hear it. It is this -
With regard to the statement regarding a deputation from line inspectors who desired to wait on the Minister, Messrs. Reidy, Baker, and ‘ Hebb, inspectors, addressed a communication to the Minister, asking that they be granted an interview for the purpose’ of answering some statements made by a previous deputation to the Postmaster-General from the United Labourers’ Union and watchmen employed on conduit worksr which statements they considered reflected, on them. Their communication was forwarded to the central office by the Acting Deputy PostmasterGeneral, and a reply was forwarded through this office to the officers on April 26 last from the central office, intimating that the Minister would see them on his return from Hobart.
I wish to know if the Minister saw the inspectors, and, if so, what was the result of the interview. There is an answer to every other statement.
– I think I made an inquiry, and was informed that the interview had not yet taken place ; but I shall make certain.
– In an article to-day the
Age newspaper refers to the slowness of the work of the Government, and statesthat members work less than thirty hours a week and sometimes only ten, and that I and the honorable member for North Sydney have confessed ourselves to be lazy men. Is there any way in which the House can protect its members from slanderousstatements like these, made by those- who are privileged to sit in the press gallery. I cannot fairly be spoken of as a lazy man. I am in my place every day, and do my work thoroughly. I have never said that I was a lazy man.
– It is most unusual to have a question of this kind put to the Speaker. Much as I, with other honorable members, deplore the publication of -such statements as have been referred to, . the only suggestion I can make is that if thepress persists in this sort of thing the House should take action to deal with those whoare responsible for it. . - I am here merely togive effect to’ the wishes of the House, and I shall see that any rule that is made is promptly enforced. It is not for me to doanything on my own motion.
– Can the Prime Minister see his way clear to do anything toprotect honorable members from persistent . slandering such as the honorable member for South Sydney complains of?
– In my opinion, eachParliament has ample power to protect itself as a body, or as individual members, against unfair attacks by newspaper writer*. or other persons outside. I regret that recently frequent occasions have arisen for appeals for protection, but I hope that there will be no further incidents of the kind. If there is, action must be taken, and I should prefer to have it in the form of a motion.
– I give notice of my intension to move -
That the representatives of the Age newspaper be excluded from the press galleries until such time as an apology is made to the honorable member for South Sydney.
– Has not the honorable member the right to move the motion now as one of privilege?
– I prefer to give notice.
– I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether I shall be in order in giving notice of a contingent amendment to the motion of the honorable member for South Sydney, to the effect that the names of the Argus, and other daily papers, and especially Hansard, be included ?
– The honorable member can give notice of such an amendment.
– Notwithstanding the statement of the Minister of . Defence that the prosecution of cadets would be deferred for two months, and the lads given an opportunity to make up lost time, on Tuesday last, at Paddington, Sydney, lads were prosecuted and fined ; and, according to to-day’s newspapers, at Drysdale, in this State, lads have recently been fined £5, and ordered to make up lost time as well.
– I have sent to the Department of Defence for particulars, and I shall let the honorable member have the information as soon as it is available.
– Has any decision been arrived at in regard to the uniform treatment of senior cadets who have failed to attend the requisite number of drills?
– Yes. The decision arrived at is in accordance with the Bill which has passed the Senate, and awaits the approval of this House. It will be brought on at the earliest possible moment ; but the Works Estimates must be- out of he way first.
– Will the Honorary Minister urge the Minister of Defence, pending the passing of the amending Defence Bill, to send out notifications by wire to all parts of the Commonwealth that prosecutions of cadets should cease? The position is becoming intolerable, and I hope the Minister will do something definite.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s remarks immediately under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– In view of the statement in to-day’s Argus, that the Montoro, from Singapore and Sourabaya, which has had small-pox on board, will, if possible, call at Darwin, but, failing that, will come straight to Sydney, I wish to know, from the Minister, if it is a fact, seeing that any ship which has had small-pox on board may be a source of infection, that this vessel is to be brought 2,000 miles to be quarantined at Sydney?
– I was here until1 o’clock this morning, hoping to get the Works Estimates through. These include quarantine works, and I have not yet had time to read the newspapers. We wish to provide- quarantine accommodation at Thursday Island, Townsville, and other places, so that vessels from the north need not be brought down to Sydney ; but, until money is voted by Parliament, nothing can be done.
– In view of the great expenses to which the ship-owners will be put if they are not granted exemption at Darwin, and the fact that at Thursday Island there are greater opportunities for quarantine than there are at Darwin, and that the ship will have to pass Thursday Island, cannot the Minister of Trade and Customs, in the interests of the shipowners, and to lessen the chance of the introduction of disease, ask them to direct the ship to call at Thursday Island?
– I do not think we can compel them to call in anywhere. The owners will bring their vessels where they like, independently of us. I understand, on reading the paragraph which the honororable member has handed to me, that the ship in question does not call at Darwin, and it is quite possible that she will miss Thursday Island altogether. The honorable member can rest assured that the Quarantine Department will do their best to see that Australia is kept free from disease. If that object can best be achieved by the ship making a call at Thursday Island, I feel sure that will be done.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that there is practically no quarantine accommodation at Darwin? Seeing that Darwin is the first port of call for vessels from the east, will he see that proper accommodation is provided there in the near future?
– I now lay upon the table-
Report on Quarantine in other countries and on the quarantine requirements of Australia, by W. Perrin Norris, M.D., D.P.H., Director of Quarantine, and move -
That the document be printed.
In this report, Dr. Norris states that the accommodation required at Darwin consists of an isolation hospital of six beds, an observation block of four beds, detention quarters for ten persons, and concrete tent platforms and tents for twenty persons. That will meet the requirements of 40 cases.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Following up a question put to the Prime Minister yesterday, and the answer given by him, I desire to give notice of the following motion to be placed on the unopposed list -
That a return be laid upon the table of the House showing the amounts of money expended by the various Federal Departments for advertising in each of the public journals of the Commonwealth since the rst of January, 191 1, giving the rates charged per inch or otherwise, and the estimated weekly or daily circulation of each of the said journals.
– Ask leave to move it now.
– I ask the leave of the House to move the motion.
Question put, and resolved in the affirmative.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he have a comparative statement prepared showing the relative prices of meat and butter (produced in Australia), both wholesale and retail, as sold in Great Britain and Australia?
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 8th August, vide page 1951):
Drill Halls. - Roads to Small Arms and Cordite Factories. - Rifle Clubs. - Artillery Remount Depot. - Port Kembla Fortification Area. - Australian Garrison Artillery Resignations. - Payment of Rents by Defence Department. - Defence Expenditure. - Prosecutions of Cadets. - Military Encampments : Federal Territory. - Recognition of Rifle Club Service. - Uniforms for Rifle Clubs. - Victoria Barracks, Sydney. - Queenscliff Road. - Preference to Unionists.
Upon which Dr. Carty Salmon had moved -
That the vote be reduced by £1.
– Standing order 235 is as follows : -
If the proceedings of a Committee be interrupted by a count-out followed by an adjournment of the House, the House may order the resumption of such Committee on a future day, on motion with notice, and the proceedings shall then be resumed at the point where they were so interrupted.
I therefore rule that this is a continuance of the business interrupted at the sitting of last night.
– I shall not say anything further about that question of procedure at present. I desire now to exhaust my right to speak a second time on the amendment. This subdivision provides for the expenditure of certain money on rifle ranges; but it seems useless to vote these sums unless there is a reasonable probability of their being used. Last year the appropriation in this subdivision was .£62,967, and the amount expended was only ,£34,742. That applies only to New South Wales.
– The honorable member’s statement is not fair, because his opening remarks would lead the Committee to believe that the money was voted only for rifle ranges. As a matter of fact, the vote includes drill halls, lecture halls, naval reserves, light-horse depots, &c.
– I know the subdivision provides for all sorts of accommodation. The question of providing money for drill halls vitally affects every State. I should cheerfully vote any necessary amount if I had any guarantee that it would be expended. I know the Commonwealth Works Department is working at high pressure, but I think the staff should be increased. We should be self-contained with regard to our public works by having all the Commonwealth public works carried out by a Commonwealth Public Works Department, and not by any State Department. Drill halls are matters of such urgency that the Government would be justified in increasing the Public Works staff materially in order to provide shelter and protection for the lads undergoing compulsory training. A mistake has been made by the Minister and the Department in calling upon the various municipal councils, who are not too kindly treated - in the matter of expression, at all events by the Ministerial party - to show their patriotism, as it is called, by providing drill halls. In some cases halls have been provided by municipalities, and even by private individuals, in order that the work may be safely as well as effectively carried out. That sort of thing, however, should not be allowed to continue. We are. not entitled in this respect to rest on the municipalities rr the charitably disposed or patriotic citizens of the Commonwealth. The most important work that the Government is undertaking now is the training of the future defenders of the Commonwealth ; but the compulsory training system is likely to suffer materially through the want of drill halls. Lads are compelled to drill in the open streets, and even in some cases to sit on the footpath with their feet in the gutter, listening to the instructions of their officers. Such a state of affairs ought not to be allowed to continue; and I should be glad to vote for a much larger sum than is asked for in respect of drill halls if I had any guarantee that the money would be expended by the Government. The Public Works Branch of the Department of Home Affairs is so overtaxed and its capacity is so limited, however, that it has not been able to carry out the works for which provision has been made in previous years. The Defence Department should not rely upon the Public Works Branch of the Home Affairs Department in this regard, but should start a Public Works Branch of its own. It has in its service engineers, architects, and others following civil avocations which make them capable of doing all that is necessary to enable these buildings to be rapidly provided. If the Government has any real desire to make the compulsory training system acceptable to the people, it must protect the lads who, at a most critical period of their lives, are being subjected to climatic conditions to which they should not be exposed.
– Besides which, they cannot be proper v instructed in the dark.
– Quite so.
– We must not forget that the system is a new one.
– I recognise that; but the honorable member will agree with me that some speeding up is necessary in regard to the provision of this necessary accommodation. If the Government vill only utilize the material that they have at hand, they will find that there are in each of the States plenty of men attached to the Department of Defence who sue quite competent to carry out this work. The Minister should give serious consideration to my proposal that, in order to secure these very necessary adjuncts to our compulsory training system, we should ha<re drill halls rapidly constructed, and that we should utilize the services of men in the
Defence Department who are quite competent to carry out their construction on behalf of the Commonwealth.
.- Whilst these Estimates were under consideration last year, attention was drawn to an item to provide tor the construction of a road to the cordite factory at Maribyrnong, which is within the Shire ot Braybrook. During the year I have received from the Minister of Home Affairs two copies of his digest showing works in progress, and in both I saw a reference to amounts provided for the construction of that road. When the Small Arms factory at ‘Lithgow was under consideration in connexion with these Estimates last year, I moved the reduction of an item by£1 in order to draw attention to the necessity for making the road leading to that factory, and two Ministers gave me a promise that the Government would extend to the Lithgow Council the same treatment that they had extended to the Braybrook Shire Council. That has not been done, and I have only to say that if we are to have this differential treatment of municipalities, trouble may be expected. The Prime Minister promised last year that a fair thing would be done in respect of the municipality of Lithgow. I understand that the road to ihe Maribyrnong factory has now been completed at a cost of practically , £1,000.
– No. There is an item of £500 on the Estimates in- respect of the work.
– If the Government are prepared to spend£500 in making a road leading to one factory and then to hand over that road to the local shire council, it should be ready to treat in the same way another municipality within whose boundaries there is yet another Commonwealth factory. When I received the Minister of Home Affairs’ digest of works in progress, I at once wrote to him, and received three different replies. The Government should deal fairly with all municipalities in this regard. I am not satisfied with the position, and on the item relating to the’ construction of a road to Point Nepean, I hope that the Minister will give me some explanation of the attitude taken up by the Government in regard to the construction of this road to the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow.
.I indorse the remarks that have been made as to the necessity for pushing on with the construction of drill halls. The want is so keenly felt that a deputation consisting, of representatives of municipalities in my electorate recently waited on the Minister of Defence, and expressed the willingnessof those municipalities to assist the Department by placing at its disposal for this purpose portion of the property of their ratepayers. It is recognised that all the halls required cannot be provided in a day, but in view of the fact that boys have to drill in all sorts of weather, it is recognised by these municipalities that the system of compulsory service is liable to be brought intodisrepute unless provision is made without delay for the training being carried on under reasonable conditions. Drill halls are more urgently needed in Victoria than in other States, because our climate during, the winter months is exceptionally severe as compared with that of some parts of Australia. I have seen boys drilling in muddystreets on a Saturday afternoon, and have felt very sorry for them. Municipalities in the electorate which I represent - and a deputation from which I introduced to the Minister - are willing to assist the Department by placing at its disposal a large market-place, which, at a small cost, could be made really suitable for use as a drill hall. I hope that this work will notbe blocked as is often the case, by the Department of Home Affairs. I trust that we shall not have a recurrence of the difficulties that arose between the Postal Department and the Department of Home Affairs in connexion with the Prahran postoffice fiasco. At a cost of some£400, the lads in my electorate could be given a really suitable training place, and thework should be taken in hand at once. Unless reasonable accommodation of this kind be provided, our splendid scheme of military training may be brought into disrepute.
.- It is unreasonable to expect boys to get drenched with rain when undergoing their training ; and there ought to be no prosecutions for non-attendance at drill until drill halls have been provided. In Waterloo, which is in my electorate, the citizens have seen the urgent need there is for this accommodation, and have offered to contribute £400 towards the cost of the erection of a drill hall of the value of£600, if the Government will provide the balance. That, I think, is a very fair offer; and the Government should afford every encouragement to all patriotic movements of the kind.
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield) £11.16]. - There is a widespread impression that military officers, speaking generally, are not sympathetic with the rifle club movement. Of course, I do not say that that applies to every military officer; but there is the idea that it is generally applicable. These rifle clubs are composed of the finest, men in the community, who, in time of trouble, will prove a very efficient reserve. They are most devoted to their respective clubs, and eagerly utilize the meagre provision which this vote enables the Government to make. They are, I may say, put to considerable expense personally in providing, for instance, in many cases, better rifles than those supplied by the Department. Without fee or reward, or any concession beyond, perhaps, an occasional free pass to attend a rifle match, they meet all the expenses out of their own pockets; and I think that more encouragement ought to be given to them. The Government cannot urge want of funds, in view of the fact that the vote last year was not nearly expended. I should like to hear from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether there is any ground for the impression that the rifle club movement is discouraged by military officers, for, if such tie the case, I should like those officers to know that this House is almost unanimous in its support of the movement.
.- I am rather surprised to hear from the honorable member for Illawarra and others that cadets have been called upon to drill in drenching rain.
– Only last week, in Sydney, I saw cadets wet through.
– Such a thing is scandalous; and it does not occur, I am sure, with the consent of the Minister. Some months ago a general order was issued that when the weather was not propitious the area officer should exercise his judgment, and, if necessary, postpone the drill until finer weather.
– But the boys get soaked through before they reach the drill grounds.
– Neither the area officer nor the Department can be held responsible for the boys getting wet in proceeding to the drill ground, but the lads ought to be dismissed if the weather is too bad.
– I did not observe any of the boys wearing overcoats.
– In starting a big scheme of this kind we are sure to find many -defects from time to time ; but I know thai the Minister of Defence, and the Department generally, are doing their level best. I may not be so optimistic in regard to the sympathy of the Department towards the movement for the provision of drill halls. It fell to my lot some time ago to introduce a deputation from a portion of my constituency where the people were prepared, as in South Sydney and in other electorates, to contribute towards the cost of such halls. In Footscray a considerable sum has been raised which the people are prepared to hand over if the Department will find the balance. In Essendon, which is also in my electorate, no steps have been taken towards the erection of a hall, but splendid lighting has been provided by the City Council where the boys are drilled. Before the new lights were erected the unruly amongst the lads had great opportunities for misbehaviour in the darkness ; but now, on a ground close to the Town Hall, first class drilling is obtainable. I know that the Defence scheme means a large expense to the country; and I think we ought to have a general statement from the Minister as to the financial aspects of the question. I am thoroughly in sympathy with honorable members who speak favorably of the rifle club movement. Many thousands of men voluntarily equip themselves for the defence of the country in case their services should be required ; and every opportunity should be afforded to enable them to make themselves efficient. Many of us are old rifle club men, and are able to appreciate the value of this line of defence. Wherever it is possible to erect drill halls, or keep them in thorough repair, the Department should give every encouragement to the movement. I do not know whether it was the honorable member for Parramatta or the present Minister of Defence who appointed Major Boam to take special charge of this movement.
– He was there long before I went into office.
- Major Boam is, I believe a very efficient officer, and doing all he possibly can to place the claims of the rifle clubs before the Defence authorities; and it is to be hoped that his representations “will be listened to with some effect. The Minister of Defence has, from time to time, in a fragmentary sort of way, referred to this matter ; but we ought to have a full statement as to the intentions of the Department in regard to the provision of drill halls and the treatment of rifle clubs ; and I hope that such a statement will be forthcoming before these Estimates are passed. The honorable member for Nepean is not, I think, in full possession of the facts regarding the road to the Cordite Factory. The Federal Government will be exceedingly foolish if they do not accept the splendid chance of receiving , £500 from the State Government for the construction of the road. This is not a public road, because, not only the property on both sides, but the road itself, is owned by the Federal Government. We cannot suppose that the Government will be churlish enough to close the road to general traffic altogether.
– Is it a blind road?
– No; and that is the reason why the State Government constructed a bridge across the Saltwater River, in order to give access to certain closer settlement allotments; and are prepared to contiibute£500 towards the cost of the construction of the road. The Braybrook Shire Council, which has charge of the rest of the area in that locality, will be called upon to keep the road in repair, although it is owned by the Defence Department. This road was on the old C. B. Fisher estate, and was made, in the first instance, to give access to a racecourse.
– Is the road under the Shire Council ?
– No; the Shire Council are to be asked only to maintain the road because some of the ratepayers will be allowed to pass over it. Under all the circumstances, I think the Government will be lacking in their duty if they do not accept the offer of the State authorities.
.- I think we are entitled to an explanation from the responsible Minister in connexion with the matter raised by the honorable member for Nepean. Notwithstanding what has been said by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, it would appear that there is some differential treatment going on.
– There is not; that has been denied a dozen times by the Minister of Defence.
– There is differential treatment in Western Australia.
– The right honorable member for Swan says that there is differential treatment ; and we ought to have some explanation of the circumstances. This is not the only instance of differential treatment in connexion with the States of Victoria and New South
Wales. The last instance of the kind was in the selection of a site for woollen mills at Geelong, another defence matter. The honorable member for Nepean told the Government in regard to that, that Ministers had nobbled the expert before allowing him to leave Melbourne.
– A very unfair remark.
– I am quoting the honorable member for Nepean, and the fact remains that the expert was not instructed to go to sites which, to outsiders, seem as good as the Geelong site. I wish to emphasize the complaints that have been made about the treatment of rifle clubs, and the non-provision of drill halls. Having been associated with members of rifle clubs all my life, I recognise that they are a use”ful, and may become a necessary, body for the defence of the country. Generally speaking, however, military officers seemto be in antagonism to them.
– Why should that be?
– It was so in New South Wales before Federation, and I hope that the Minister will see that, in future, the rifle clubs are properly treated. As to drill halls, I would point out that in theCook electoral division six companies of boys have only a small room for which 10s. a week is paid, while in the aristocratic suburb of Woollahra three companies have a room for which 30s. a week is paid. The Erskineville room is so small that the officers were not able to find places in it for all the rifles. As to boys drilling in the dark, that seems often to take place, but it should not be allowed, as it is a cause of want of discipline, the training sometimes resolving itself into a farce.
– It is also dangerous.
– Yes. If we are to have compulsory military training, the drilling should be effective, and should. take place under conditions enabling the officers to control the boys. The sum of£10,000 is set down for the purchase of a site for a remount depot for artillery horses near Liverpool, but why is not the Federal Territory to be used? In every case the Government seems ready to depart from itsannounced policy that wherever possible the Territory will be used for Commonwealth undertakings. There are beautiful grass paddocks in the Territory, and there is no apparent reason why they should notbe used for a remount depot.
– They are too far from Sydney.
– ls the site proposed to be purchased in the manoeuvre area?
– It is outside the manoeuvre area.
– Is it not a property known as Chipping Norton?
– No; it is Cunningham’s Farm.
– Perhaps it is thought necessary to have the dep6t close to Sydney. There is to be another depot close to Melbourne.
– There may be some adequate explanation, and it should be given to us. I wish also for explanations regarding fortification proposals. Five years ago, at Port Kembla, which is only 45 miles from Sydney, and one of the most important ports in the Commonwealth, the military authorities resumed an area for fortification purposes which is sadly needed for manufacturing sites; but it is understood, from recent statements, that it is not intended to put fixed defences there. Vessels of the largest draught can enter Port Kembla at any time and load alongside the jetties ; and if the Government is not going to use this reserved land for fortifications, it should be made available for commercial uses, because the place is developing by leaps and bounds, and every acre that can be obtained is needed for business purposes. Therefore, we should have a statement on the subject from the Minister at the earliest possible moment. In the Senate, a representative of New South Wales recently moved the adjournment of the House to call attention to the wholesale resignations from what is looked upon as one of the most important arms of our Defence Force, the Australian Garrison Artillery, which the honorable member for South Sydney has brought under notice repeatedly of late. For nearly thirty years, the Woollongong branch of the Australian Garrison Artillery has consisted of a very fine body of men, whose reputation for handling the guns, and whose records for shooting, make it second to none in the Commonwealth.
– They beat the permanent men.
– At a banquet at Woollongong. which T attended last Saturday fortnight, and at which the Minister of Defence was unable to be present, it was pointed out that these men are so proficient that they have beaten the permanent men. If they are not kept together, and this mag nificent force is disbanded, it will not be possible to bring it together again. The places of the present men will be filled by raw recruits, knowing nothing of the handling of guns, and not strong enough to lift the shells, so that they would be useless in a serious crisis.
– The militia is given no chance at all.
– No. I cannot understand it. Why should men who have attained such proficiency as to be classed as experts, be disbanded simply for a fad ?
– They are very patriotic.
– Yes; but this is the treatment they are getting. I receive complaints from time to time about the delay in paying rent for halls used for defence purposes. The owner of a hall at Moss Vale could not get his rent from the Commonwealth Government for more than eighteen months. It was only after my return from my visit to the Old Country, when the matter was brought before me, and by me before the Minister, that the rent was paid. Recently, I had a letter from the trustees of the Nowra School of Arts, who for eleven months had been unable to obtain rent for the hall, which they have leased to the Defence Department, and they have now given the Department notice to go. These delays are not creditable to the Government. When premises are leased, . rents should be paid promptly. It is to be remembered that there are persons who are always ready to discredit the Federal movement, and cases such as I have referred to do a great deal to add to the general discontent. The Government ought to be very particular indeed in regard to payments in these matters, and keep themselves free from the possibility of accusations such as I have spoken of. I hope the Government will take, in regard to drill halls and rifle ranges, the action that has been impressed upon them by many honorable members on both sides of the Committee this morning.
.- I wish to take this opportunity of emphasizing the importance of the rifle club portion of our Citizen Defence Forces. I do not think the rifle clubs have been fairly treated bv the Defence Department. Whilst I have no direct evidence of that, it is my opinion - and I think that opinion is generally shared, not only by riflemen, hut bv members who have to do with rifle club matters - that there is, on the part of the permanent side of the Defence Forces, a certain amount of opposition to the existence of the clubs and to their work. I have long thought that there is a certain amount of opposition in that quarter to every form of citizen defence. The rifle club movement may only share that opposition with other branches of the forces, but certainly it seems to suffer very considerably in the treatment meted out to it. The clubs must have the assistance of the permanent side to carry on their work. Rifle ranges must be provided for them, and these necessitate a certain expenditure; but all kinds *>f delays take place in dealing with them.
I have been informed that when an application is made for a range, and one or two likely sites are suggested, an officer is sent to inspect them. Then, if it is found that there are difficulties in the way of their acquisition, and the local club or others interested are prepared straight-away to suggest another site, the officer refuses to inspect it, alleging that it is not covered by his instructions. Of course, when his report goes in, the sites first suggested are not considered satisfactory, and then the whole routine has to be gone over again. That may seem an extreme instance of red-tapism, but it indicates a want of sympathy and want of desire to facilitate the work of rifle clubs. I agree with the honorable member for Wakefield that the permanent men should be given to understand that the citizen defence movement has come in Australia to stay, and must be made a prominent feature of our defence system. The sooner they realize that the better for themselves and the better for Australia generally. I should not consent - nor do I think the people as a whole would consent - to the establishment in this country of the military systems of the Old World.
The delays in connexion with rifle ranges have been the cause of considerable friction and soreness amongst those men who voluntarily give their time to make themselves proficient in the use of the rifle. All kinds of obstacles are put in the way, and considerable delays result. As an instance, I have here a letter just received from Cowra, an important centre in my electorate. A site was agreed upon there and everything seemed to be satisfactory, but the secretary writes to say that about a month or more ago he received word from the staff officer of works that a lease was prepared, and was being sent out to the owner of the land for his approval and signature. The secretary interviewed the owner, and the owner stated, more than a month after the secretary had received the notification referred to, that he had not received the papers, and knew nothing about them, so that the delay was not on his part, but on the part of the Department. Thai is only one instance of many where delays have taken place. The Department ought to show greater expedition in dealing with these matters, because no one can deny that the civilians who join the rifle clubs and perfect themselves in handling the rifle are doing an important work in the matter of defence. South African experience showed that men trained to use the rifle are a great acquisition to any defence force, and that ordinary military training is comparatively a secondary matter. These men are gaining proficiency in rifle shooting, and, at the same time, are not deficient in other arts of warfare.
Whilst certain concessions are made to the rifle clubs in assisting the provision of sites, targets, rifles and ammunition, nothing is done to provide riflemen with a uniform. The Minister should consider whether some cheap, strong uniform, consisting of a khaki over-all jacket and pants, could be provided. The work on the ranges is very injurious to the men’s clothing, and their training entails considerable personal expense upon them in that direction. The over-alls I suggest could be made a suitable distinguishing uniform for them, and I can promise the Minister that if that concession were made it would be greatly appreciated by all members of rifle clubs.
– I hope the Minister representing the Minister of Defence will deal particularly with the question of our rifle clubs, because it seems to me that they are being, to a large extent, Ignored. It has always been claimed that our riflemen are the bulwark of our defence, because they can ride and shoot. That is what we want in this country, but the delays are simply disastrous. I do not blame the present Minister, because the trouble has been going on for many years. Defence is a very big problem in this country, especially under present conditions. When I look at the expenditure provided on these Estimates, and remember that other large sums are being expended on warships, I wonder where the money is to come from. We shall simply hasten the country into bankruptcy, at the rate we are going on. The great expenditure taking place on warships ought to be carefully considered, because millions of pounds are being expended on vessels that will be obsolete in ten years. At the same time, we refuse fair consideration and concessions to the men on the land, who will, after all, be the real defence of the country. If we encourage rifle clubs, and help every man to learn to shoot and ride, it will be better than sinking millions oi pounds in warships. I am alarmed at the expenditure on defence. When I look back on what we spent a few years ago, and compare it with what we are spending now, it seems to me that we are defence mad, and I ask myself seriously where the money is to come from. It is all very well to vote these millions, but where are we to find them? Are we going to run up a big national debt, or tax people out of existence? That is what this policy appears to be driving at. While I cavil at this heavy expenditure, I ask the Minister to see that rifle clubs are given consideration in the matter of ranges. At Cathcart, in my electorate, they have been trying for years to get a rifle range, and the men at Eden have to travel 15 miles to practise shooting. That ought not to be necessary. Responsibility for these awful delays ought to be placed at the door of somebody. We cannot expect the Minister to know all the details, but when such cases are brought under his notice he should sheet them home to the responsible officer. I hope he will do so. In the country districts boys have to be drilled out in the mud and wet, where there are no halls or shelter of any kind. They catch cold, and, consequently, their mothers will not send them again to drill, and the upshot is that these unfortunate people are dragged before a Court and fined, and are at their wit’s end to find the money to meet the fine. I would also direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that all encampments ought, if possible, to be held in the Federal Territory, where there is every facility available, including a railway. We should not hold camps at outside places in order to cater to the parochial influences of different States, but should have them in the Federal Territory. Unfortunately there is a growing disposition on the part of officials to ignore the Capital, when a site for a mill, or anything else, is wanted. Why should we spend ,£10,000 on a re mount depot at Liverpool when we have, in the Federal Territory, all the fine country that the Minister of Home Affairs has resumed and has not yet paid tor? 1 do not blame the Minister of Defence, who is doing a very difficult work well. We ought to lay down in this country the principle that we want citizen soldiers, and that we shall not allow certain gentlemen to place every obstacle in their way. It is a bad principle to allow them to have control in defence matters. Our men showed in South Africa, as the honorable member for North Sydney can testify, that they were made of the right stuff. They made good there, and our riflemen ought to have every consideration from the present Government. I am strongly in favour of giving them some sort of a uniform, but I am afraid that that would involve a rather heavy outlay. There should be some recognition of long service. In the militia and the permanent forces, men areentitled to long-service medals ; and I think that men who have served for years in therifle clubs of the Commonwealth should’ receive the same recognition. Members of rifle clubs, although they receive no pay,, are prepared, at great inconvenience to themselves in many cases, to train themselves for the defence of their country ; and even if they are not provided with uniforms, they ought certainly to have a distinctive badge or medal of some kind. I am prepared to vote against all unnecessary expenditure, and I cannot help feeling that we have gone “defence mad.” Where are we to obtain the millions of money that are to be expended on Defence matters? The Minister says that he is going to get the money out of the Federal Capital. No doubt he is already making a great profit out of the people of the Federal Territory, but he cannot always expect them to be finding money for these services. I make no complaint against him; I bring these matters under his notice for the reason that, wherever I go, I hear dissatisfaction expressed at the failure of the authorities to provide rifle ranges and drill halls. The complaint is by no means new. It prevailed even when the Government of which I was a member was in office ; and the fact that it is of such long standing should spur on the Minister to take immediate action. Then, again, it seems to me that when encampment areas are required, and depots are being selected for remount purposes, regard should be paid to the land that is available in our own Federal Territory. I have heard some honorable members say that the Liverpool manoeuvre area is necessary because it adjoins a big centre of population. The curse of this country is that there seems to be a general belief that practically everything must be established either in or close to our big cities. The big cities have plenty of influence, and can “pull the strings.”
– There are no hotels in the Federal Territory.
– That is so, and it should be an inducement to our temperance friends to support the holding of military encampments there. I appeal to the Minister to look into these matters. In many cases riflemen ride a distance of 15 or 20 miles to gain some shooting practice, and when they do attend these ranges they ought to be given every opportunity for practice. Country boys should also be given some convenience in the matter of drill halls. I trust that the Minister will take action in regard to these matters without delay.
– I wish to indorse the remarks that have just been made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. We have in my electorate a large number of rifle clubs, and among their members are some excellent shots ; but I do not think there is a rifle range on the south side of the Yarra. The Elsternwick range has been closed, and those who live on the south side of the city of Melbourne have now to go to Williamstown for rifle practice. Under present conditions some men have to travel a distance of from 10 to 15 miles in order to practise on Saturday afternoons. Efforts should be made to establish rifle ranges in every district where rifle clubs exist. Members of such clubs give their services free, and, on the average, they are better shots than are members of the Permanent Forces. I think that it would be possible in every district to select halfadozen members of a rifle club who would heat the same number of men from the Permanent Forces or the militia. These men provide their own ammunition, and often travel great distances in order to take part in competitions. Surely they’ should have some encouragement. The Defence authorities, however, appear always to have been antagonistic to the rifle club movement. I do not know who is responsible for this state of affairs, but it cannot be denied that the rifle clubs have never received the encouragement of which they are deserving. That has been our experience from the inception of Federation. Seeing that the feeling of the Committee is so strongly in favour of these clubs, I trust that the Minister will take this matter in hand ; that he will see that ranges are established in as many places as possible, and that greater encouragement is given to the rifle clubs themselves and to men to join them.
.- Reference has been made during this debate to the question of uniforms for riflemen, and I am inclined to think that a good deal of the antipathy of the permanent military men to rifle clubs is due to the fact that their members do not wear a uniform. It may appear to be simply a matter of sentiment, but the fact remains that the spectacle of a large body of men, in plain clothes, carrying rifles, is a very ludicrous one. I was one of the original founders of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, and at our first camp there were about 600 of us in plain clothes. Dressed, as we were, in varied shades of clothing, and wearing, as we did, hats of all shapes, we were the laughing-stock of the people; but as soon as we got into our uniforms we were cheered by them.
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that the people cheered the clothes and not the men?
– They cheered the men in uniform, although they had laughed at them in plain clothes. The question of uniform is an important one. I know of many riflemen who would be prepared to undergo some drill if they were provided with uniforms, and I am sure that the militia would be only too happy to -assist them to secure drill instruction. When I commanded a militia regiment I was always willing to allow ray sergeant-major and drill instructors to give some instruction to members of a rifle club. But you cannot get members of such clubs to come together in large numbers in plain clothes. The decision recently arrived at that all our militia shall wear a drab khaki uniform has damped to a large extent the enthusiasm of the militia. It was a mistake to do away with the distinctive uniforms of the service. Distinctive uniforms promote a spirit of healthy rivalry amongst the different regiments, and. what is more, enable an officer to tell at a distance to what regiment any men who. may be misbehaving themselves belong. Like the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, I know that riflemen in some instances ride from 15 to 20 miles in order to secure rifle practice, and whilst dealing with the question of uniforms, I shouldlike to say that unless a rug is placed on the mounds there is nothing that will wear out a man’s clothes more quickly than will rifle practice. These mounds in country districts are not covered with a green sward, but are rough and gravelly, so that a man who is constantly lying down on them must quickly wear out his clothes. Riflemen should be provided with a uniform, or at least with a sort of overall as suggested by the honorable member who introduced this question. The provision of uniforms for riflemen would involve a great deal of expense, but the effect would be most encouraging. I come now to the provision of drill halls for cadets, which involves not only the success or otherwise of the scheme, but also, perhaps, the health of the rising generation. The cadets are often forced, or, at any rate, they have been forced, to drill in pouring rain, though, I understand, that some instruction has been issued that the area officers are to use their discretion. The boys may have to travel five miles or more from their homes; and we all know that it is most injurious for a growing lad to remain for hours in wet clothes. No matter what the cost, some arrangements should be made for covered drill areas. Drilling at night is objectionable on many grounds, and absolutely ridiculous unless ample lighting is provided. The question of drill halls is, of course, a big one, involving an enormous expenditure, if a place has to be provided wherever there is a company to be drilled. As already pointed out, people in various localities have given evidence of their willingness to contribute; and if the Government make it clear that they are prepared to do their share, the public will not be lacking in patriotism. There are many other causes which may contribute to the breakdown of the system -causes which I am not allowed to mention now - but one great cause is that the lads may be compelled to drill in the rain.
– There is every reason for the Government to turn their attention to the rifle clubs, the members of which, in their own time and at their own expense, are perfecting themselves in the use of the rifle, so that they may be ready should their services be required in the defence of the country. So far as I have been able to discover from the Estimates, no proper recognition is givenof the public service thus rendered ; and the claims urged on behalf of the clubs deserve the serious consideration of any Government which may be in power. Indeed, so tar as can be seen, the rifle clubs have received practically no recognition at all; in many instances disabilities have actually been placed in the way of these volunteer riflemen obtaining access to ranges for practice.
– As a matter of fact they are treated as the “ ugly duckling “ of the service
Mr.W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.- The clubs seem to be regarded as a sort of excrescence on our military system ; and that is a most unfortunate view to take of this most useful body of men. The members of these clubs ought not to be made to feel that they are of no consequence, but should be encouraged by some substantial financial assistance in a number of useful ways, and not compelled to fall back entirely on their own financial resources.
-We shall be glad to look to them in time of trouble.
– Certainly ; and no more capable body of men at such a time could be found than those patriotic citizens who give up leisure which might otherwise be devoted to sports and amusements. The clubs areformed, and the members go about their work in a most unostentatious manner, perfecting themselves in a very necessary branch of defence, and forming a very valuable auxiliary in time of need. Very inadequate provision is made in the Estimates for drill halls. I find that, in New South Wales, Newcastle and Singleton are selected as places where drill halls are to be provided; but there are larger centres of population in which halls are urgently needed. A short time ago, I had occasion to bring under the notice of honorable members a letter from the municipal body of Marrickville, where I reside, in which complaint was made of the manner in which the drills are conducted ; and it was pointed out how the health of the boys might be injured by being called upon to undergo the drills in all sorts of weather. We cannot wonder that a great number of parents are very chary about allowing their boys to drill under such conditions. I feel satisfied that, if proper halls were provided, with adequate lighting and supervision, a great deal of the present trouble, caused by absence from drill, would be avoided. I notice that £3,000 iis provided towards the cost of the erection of buildings at Victoria Barracks, Sydney ; and that ^2,000 is set aside for improvements to the paradeground at the same barracks. There has been some talk of negotiations for a site for the Victoria Barracks, in some other part of Sydney; and, if a change be contemplated at an early date, or a comparatively early date, the proposed expenditure is not, in my opinion, justified. The Honorary Minister may, perhaps, be able to give us some information on the subject.
.- I indorse the complaints about the inadequate consideration extended to the rifle clubs, which I know, from personal experience, are a valuable adjunct of our defence system. The members of these clubs contribute out of their own pockets towards the expense of making themselves efficient in case they should be called upon to defend the country. As to the cadets, many of whom have to travel great distances, they ought not to be called upon to drill out in the rain ; and any offers made by municipal or other bodies to contribute towards the cost of drill halls ought to be accepted. As the representative of a country district, I know that many of the trainees have to travel far ; and I think there ought to be some change made in the direction of providing free railway travelling for them. When I was a volunteer in the State service, the members of the Forces were always passed free on the railways; and I think that that policy ought to be continued. The States and the Commonwealth are one from a defence point of view ; and I see no reason why the State Government should refuse to continue a practice which they followed in the past. I quite agree with the complaints made by the honorable member for Nepean about the Government not contributing towards the maintenance of certain roads. In the past, the Commonwealth Government have granted a sum for this purpose at Queenscliff, which is the centre of very active military operations; but the practice has been discontinued hy several Governments. Stationed at Queenscliff are the Royal Australian Engineers and the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery; and very heavy material is carted over the roads. Queenscliff, itself, has no heavy traffic, and all to be found there is caused by the presence of the military. The local muni cipality would, I believe, be quite satisfied with a contribution of something like £4.0 a year; and I think the matter might receive the consideration of the Government.
.- It was stated in the newspapers some weeks ago that the Minister of Defence intended to make an adequate provision of drillhalls throughout the Commonwealth ; but the amounts set down in this . schedule are very small ; and, apparently, unless it is proposed to ask for further sums on the Supplementary Estimates, the matter will have to be left over for another year. I should like some information from the Honorary Minister on the subject. I have already expressed my opinion about the treatment given by the Government to rifle clubs ; and, even at the risk of tedious repetition, I shall declare my grievances again, and move a reduction of the vote by £1 to express disapproval of the Government neglect of the clubs. Every part of Australia is interested in this matter, and every section of the community. Honorable members generally approve of the compulsory training of youths for the defence of the country; but it is a serious want that no provision is made for enabling middle-aged men to make themselves of service in time of war, when we shall have to call on the whole manhood of the country for our defence.
– They would, respond.
– It would be of little use to respond unless they were expert in the management of the rifle. The honorable member, more than any other, knows the need of good marksmen.
– In my electorate, 95 per cent, of the men are good marksmen.
– They are bushmen, and have constant opportunities for using their rifles ; but, in most places, good marksmen can be obtained only by shooting on rifle ranges. In South Africa, it was found that the men who were good shots soon learned the drill, and became able to carry out the orders of their superiors, and obedient to discipline. If the provision for rifle clubs were greatly increased, it would immensely improve the efficiency of our second line of land defence ; but, either the Minister is out of sympathy with the rifle club movement, or he is so much occupied with matters concerning the Permanent Forces, that he has to neglect it. The rifle clubs have been neglected since the inauguration of Federation ; and this neglect is the more reprehensible now, because of late years there has been a great increase in the Defence expenditure. Notwithstanding that our Defence expenditure increased by£4,000,000 between 1903 and 1910, the rifle clubs of Victoria, and, I believe, of Australia, have decreased in number. That is a very serious matter. The vote for this year is less than that of last year, when we voted£22,900, and only ; £1 1,400 was spent.
– We had better deal with this matter when we come to the item itself.
– I shall act on that suggestion. Protests against the neglect of the rifle clubs cannot be made too frequently. Those who know the work done by the dubs in the past know how readily they would respond to liberal treatment; and it is our duty to give some direction to the Minister in this matter when we disapprove of his action. Sometimes there is a delay of two or three years before a rifle range can be obtained. I am not sure that it would not be a good thing to make rifle shooting compulsory, and to require attendance on rifle ranges on certain afternoons for the practice of shooting: But it is first necessary to provide rifle ranges in all convenient centres. The rifle club movement has vast possibilities, and the time has arrived when the House should express its opinion definitely in regard to it, in the attempt to remove the neglect which this useful branch of the Defence Force has suffered under since the beginning of Federation, with certainly little excuse of late years, when the expenditure on defence generally has been very large.
– Except for the statement that the Minister of Defence has neglected the rifle clubs, I thank honorable members for the tone of their remarks about the Defence Department, and am grateful for their criticism. On behalf of the Minister I should like to say that his is a stupendous task, something unique in administration, such as has never before fallen to the lot of an Australian Minister. He has undertaken the inauguration of a new Defence -system, and the reorganization of our forces on a plan which provides for the equipment, training, and accommodation, not of thousands, but of tens of thousands of new men. His desire to honorably and effectively do this work is beyond question, and his zeal is such that it is seriously . impairinghis health,so that
I, personally, have suggested to him that, in his own interests, he should go more slowly. With all respect to his predecessors, who did excellent work, I doubt whether we have had, or ever shall have, a Minister capable of better work. But, in my opinion, it is impossible for the honorable gentleman to continue very long as he is going. It is impossible for . any one man to continue doing so much work. Coming now to the criticism of the Committee, it must be remembered that the sum available for expenditure on Defence is limited. Drill halls, rifle ranges, uniforms, and equipment cannot be provided without spending money, and when honorable members ask for additional expenditure, they need to be reminded that a great deal has been said about alleged extravagance. No details have so far been furnished, and no specific charges have been made, but generally this Government has been condemned by party newspapers and placards for profligate expenditure, and for leaning to alarming increases. The Minister is most anxious that our Defence shall be brought into full working order, with the least possible inconvenience to all concerned. He must, however, in the interests of the country, study effectiveness and economy.
– Cut the expenditure down a bit.
– There are others who ask us to increase it. The position of the Minister is extremely delicate, since he is asked to meet the wishes both of those who desire further expenditure and of those who draw attention to the increases in outlay. There is a considerable sum on these Estimates for Defence purposes - as much as can reasonably be allotted during the present financial year.
– Is£17,000 for rifle clubs a fair proportion to allot?
– In that matter the Minister must be guided by the advice of his experts. We had the benefit of Lord Kitchener’s advice on the scheme for establishing citizen forces in Australia. We have the advice of an able inspector so far as the general work is concerned. We have the advice of other able officers who occupy responsible positions and receive reasonable emoluments, and necessarily their advice must be some guide to the Minister as to the way in which the expenditure . shall be allotedto differentbranches of the service and different places in the Commonweal A.
Honorable members representing particular districts necessarily ask for a hall here or a rifle range there, but, from the Commonwealth point of view, it would not do for the Minister of Defence to permit himself to be dragged to a drill hall at Singleton at one moment and a rifle range in Western Australia the next, and so on over the length and breadth of Australia. The whole Business must be undertaken in a uniform and systematic manner, in order to insure efficiency and economic expenditure of the money voted by Parliament.
– Is this sum to be taken as an evidence of the Minister’s estimate of the value of rifle clubs?
– It may be that the Minister, individually, would be prepared to spend two or three million pounds more on defence in general. I do not know, nor can it be said of any particular member that, because he votes for an item allocating a certain sum, it necessarily discloses his opinion as to the total amount that ought to be spent in that direction. We have to cut our coat according to our cloth, and the allocations are made largely as the result of expert advice in the endeavour to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth. I wish to say right away that the Minister of Defence is distinctly Sympathetic towards rifle clubs, and anxious to foster them to the best of his ability. He recognises to the full their undoubted value, and the value of effective riflemen, and it has been, and will continue to be, his effort to see that they are properly treated, and that all the facilities possible in the circumstances are afforded to them. I should like to add to the opinion of the Minister my own recognition of the value of the rifle clubs, and to say that, as far as I personally know, there is no jealousy of or objection to them on the part of the permanent officers. I know of no unsympathetic administration regarding them. There is practically a sub-department for rifle clubs, and Major Boam is at present at the head of it. He has direct audience with the Minister, and all matters relating to rifle clubs go through him. It should be possible for him, through the Secretary, to bring these questions directly before the Minister without being, hampered by what is ordinarily called red-tape or having to make his representations through different officers of the permanent force.
– Has not a little friction developed between the rifle club authorities and Major Boam?
– It is quite possible that in the reports coming from the different States there may be differences of opinion between Major Boam and the officers reporting to him, but I know of no special instance to indicate that any permanent officer, holding a reasonably high post, is unsympathetic towards the rifle clubs,
– How does the Honorary Minister explain the reduction of the vote?
– If I found that any permanent officer in the Defence Force allowed his personal antipathies or jealousies, or even opinions, to influence his official work in relation to rifle clubs, I should, to the best of my power and influence, have him dismissed. If any instance of it is given, I have not the shadow of a doubt that the Minister will at once investigate the matter, and that the offender will be duly dealt with.
– Do you not think it is fair to tell the Committee the reason for the reduction of this vote?
– Yes, instead of ignoring interjections and legitimate questions.
– The honorable member is not fair in saying that I am ignoring interjections. Will the honorable member draw my attention to the item .where there is a reduction so far as rifle clubs are concerned ?
– Look at page 241 ort the Estimates. The vote this year is ^17,820, as against ^22,900 last year.
– It .is scarcely fair to ask me for a detailed explanation of an item which is not yet under consideration. I shall be prepared to give details when the Committee reaches that item, or I hope to be. I assure honorable members opposite that the Minister is in full sympathy with rifle clubs, and desires to foster them in every possible way. The honorable member for Parramatta touched on the question of rifle ranges. The Minister is anxious that the number of ranges shall be increased, and increases are being made wherever possible, limited only by the amount of money available and conditional on the presence of expert workmen. Still, considerable delays occur. For instance, persons write down, saying they want a rifle range- at a particular place, and a recommendation is made to that effect. We have then to acquire the land. Some citizens are very generous in their treatment of the Government, but the moment that others find that? the Government want a piece of land they put the price up by anything from 50 to 200 per cent., and immediately make heavy demands upon the Department, resulting in legal expenses, or continual delays before a satisfactory arrangement can be arrived at. Some of the old ranges are becoming obsolete, because the new weapons carry further, and the danger zone is materially increased. While the Minister is anxious to increase the number of ranges, and honorable members very properly bring these requests before him, I am confident that if he were to hurry things, and an accident, causing permanent injury, or death, to some one resulted, the outcry would’ be considerably greater than it can possibly be at present. Difficulty sometimes arises in fixing up the necessary leases, even with State Governments, whose assistance is not always perhaps quite so readily given as the Minister may desire. Attention was called to the question of drill halls, in the first instance, by the honorable member for Richmond, who only quoted two small items relating to them. I pointed out to him at the time that he had neglected to look at other items totalling £4.300- Honorable members will find at page 227 that £80,000 is set down for expenditure during the current year for the acquisition of sites for, and the erection of , mobilization and store buildings and drill halls. Recognising the difficulties under which our cadets in particular are placed, the Minister is anxious that drill halls shall be provided in every possible direction to meet the requirements of the forces, and he and the Department, generally, will welcome the assistance of all local bodies in facilitating their acquisition or erection for the purpose of drilling our cadets, and thereby removing some of the difficulties under which, much to the regret of the Minister, and of all connected with the Department, the lads at present labour. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro referred to the holding of military camps in the Federal Territory. I am not sure what his exact desire is, but would point out to him that it is practically impossible to hold all the camps there. It would be quite out of the question to ask troops from South Australia, or Western Australia, to go there for their annual camp. Their whole time would be spent in the train.
– I think the honorable member meant it to apply only to New South Wales.
– There are many parts of New South Wales where the necessary expenditure and delay in train travelling would quite remove the possibility of the troops holding effective camps at the Federal Capital. I have no doubt that the Department will provide that camps shall be held within the Federal area wherever it is reasonably possible. We have been asked why a site for artillery horses was being bought at Liverpool. A portion of that site, known as Cunningham’s farm, is within the Liverpool manoeuvre area, and some part of the farm is outside of it ; but the special reason for acquiring it is that the Department have purchased a large number of very valuable horses for artillery purposes. It is impossible to train artillery properly with hired horses, as was attempted for a number of years. The horses we have acquired must be taken care of, and paddocked where they can be effectively used in whole-day drills, near the large centres of population, where the field artillery require them. That is the only reason why these areas have been purchased.
– It is the last place in the world on which you ought to have put horses.
– It is being done tinder the advice of artillery experts. We cannot put unbroken horses into the artillery. They have to be trained. With regard to the barracks in Sydney, all that is Before the Department at present is that New South Wales members, and other persons, have asked for the removal of the Victoria Barracks from Paddington; and the Department have replied that, if a site equal to the old one is given, and the Department are placed in a precisely similar position so far as buildings generally are concerned, the Minister will consider the proposal favorably. Some piece of property hhas been inspected ; but, outside of that, nothing has been done.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.7$ f.m.
– Before we adjourned for lunch the Minister representing the Minister of Defence made a statement regarding the works policy of his Department, as to which generally no exception can be taken. Referring to the criticisms that are levelled from timeto time at his Department, he said that the Government were charged with extravagance, but that we had not yet furnished any particulars. Having regard to the money that was being expended on necessary works in this Department, the rifle clubs, he told us, had to be content with a less amount than was voted for them on other occasions.
– The honorable member is not justified in placing such a construction on my remarks. I did not make that statement.
– Then I withdraw it. Am I correct in saying that the honorable member did not intend the statement in question as a reply to the criticism addressed to him this morning?
– Let the honorable member make his speech, and I will make mine.
– I intend to point to some items of extravagance. The public have a right to ask this Government why less money than usual is be’ng expended upon rifle clubs while so much money is being spent on things that could be done without. For instance, the Commonwealth Woollen Mills are not an absolute necessity at this stage.
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to the woollen mills.
– The Minister said that no particulars had been given in support of the charges of alleged extravagance, and I am replying to his statement. It seems to be the rule to allow a Minister to roam from Dan to Bersheba-
– The honorable member is not in order in reflecting on the Chair. The Minister did not speak about the woollen mills.
– He referred to his Department as a whole, stating that the men had to be clothed and supplied with arms and ammunition, and the new scheme as a whole had to be put into operation. The statements made by the Opposition this morning were in respect of a subsidiary arm of the Defence Force known as the rifle clubs. The Minister’s reply to the criticism that these clubs are not receiving fair consideration is that the Government are spending public funds as economically and as usefully as possible, and that because urgent matters relating to the defence organization as a whole have had to be attended to more money is not available for the purposes indicated by us. I hope that I am not misrepresenting the honorable gentleman ; I do not wish to misrepresent him in any particular. I desire, however, to make some reply “ to his statement that we have not pointed to any items of extravagance. He asserted that we had given no particulars, and practically challenged us to do so. Now that I desire to make some reply to him, however, I am told that I shall not be in order in doing so. I think that I am entitled, by way of illustration, to refer to other proposed votes in these Estimates, but I shall make the general statement, without reference to any particular item, that the Government could have found plenty of money to provide for rifle clubs ranges and drill halls if they had not spent as much as they have done on Socialistic enterprises. Instead of attending, first of all, to the most urgent matters, they are leaving them until the last. Instead of attending to important, imperative, and urgent matters - and nothing could be more urgent than facilities for efficiency in connexion with defence - they are dabbling in Socialistic concerns. It seems to be their rule in connexion with every Department to look, not to what is necessary to minister to the efficiency of that Department, but to that which will serve as propaganda work. Politics saturate the whole of their policy.
– The honorable member’s remarks would be in order if we were engaged in a general discussion on the first item of the Estimates, but they are not in order at this stage’.
– Then I shall say no more at this stage, but will wait until a motion is moved that will put in order the remarks I desire to make. I shall take care also to call attention to the next statement of policy in like circumstances.
– We have listened to some violent outbursts of parochial anger on the part of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, and other Victorian representatives, as well as by some municipal bodies outside, regarding the expenditure on the Federal Capital. Their objection to that expenditure is based on the ground that the money proposed to be laid out in that way is urgently needed for defence purposes.
– And a very good ground, too.
– It is also a very good ground for objecting to some of the items in the” division now before us, which provides for a heavy expenditure in Victoria, but to which neither the honorable member for Laanecoorie, nor the honorable member for Maribyrnong, have called attention. There are, in this division, items providing for an expenditure of upwards of ,£200,000, in and around Melbourne, although the money proposed to be spent in that way might very well be devoted to defence purposes. We have not heard a word of protest, however, on the part of either the Victorian municipal bodies or the representatives of this State, who have been so loud in their complaints concerning a small item of expenditure in connexion with the Federal Capital. If it is fair to attack Federal expenditure of a necessary character when it applies to New South Wales it is equally fair for representatives of that State to raise something in the nature of a protest against a like expenditure in Victoria. Let us give our Victorian friends a little dose of their own medicine.
– Let us be generous for once.
– We have always been too generous.
– Why, New South Wales has “ run the show.”
– The representatives of New South Wales have never raised these petty parochial considerations. They are always originated by a few Victorians, who, so far as their political views are concerned, are under the domination of certain local newspapers. Of course, they do not like to be reminded of these things. I wish to see whether the grounds of the objections raised against expenditure in New South Wales have any real merit; because if they hold good in regard to New South Wales they hold good with a hundredfold force in regard to Victoria. We are asked to vote £3>500 for the saddlery and harness factory near Melbourne. Last year we voted £4,700, and the expenditure exceeded that by £45. When the question of the Naval College was before us we heard a great outcry about the “ broad national view,” and it was strongly urged by Victorian members that such institutions, together with the Commonwealth factories, should be in Federal Territory. I now ask the Victorian representatives to honour their own declarations of principle and insist that this vote for the harness and saddlery factory shall h- struck out, so far as it applies to Victoria, and placed in the New South Wales estimate for expenditure in Federal Territory. If those gentlemen are not prepared to redeem their declarations I hope we shall have heard the last of this cry of theirs about the » “ broad national outlook.” Then, again, it is proposed to expend ,£7,000 on a clothing factory in Melbourne. For this factory we voted .£6,500 last year, and expended £7,8.2 1. I intend to move at the proper time that the item of £3,500 for a harness and saddlery factory be struck out.
– The complaint of the Minister of Home Affairs to-day is that the Government have not enough money to carry on the works as they would like, with the requisite efficiency so far as managing and organization go. We have been told today that some votes of the Department are dwindling while others are increasing ; and the Minister, of course, gets back to general policy, and, referring to criticism which has been directed from this side, challenges us to show in detail where there has been extravagant expenditure. I presume that the inference to be drawn is that, if we can point specifically to extravagance, the money so saved will be applied to the more useful purposes of the Department. All I have to say is that the answer to the Minister is in the Estimates. I know, of course, that harness and saddlery are very necessary for defence purposes; but is it, at this stage, more important to establish such a factory, or a. clothing factory, than it is to fully equip our rifle ranges and drill halls, and look after our rifle clubs decently?
– The Government have still to obtain supplies of clothing from contractors all over Australia.
– Of course. The Government are only toying with the question; it is only a little thing to be dangled from the platforms of the country..
– Does the honorable member suggest that the members of the Defence Force should go without clothes?
– I desire to see the men well clothed, and in garments which fit better than many of those supplied to-day. However, I make no complaint on that score, knowing, as I do, the difficulties of the Department. I am making no unreasonable criticism as to the clothing or equipment, because I believe that the best is being done with the money available. It does not lie with me to criticise some of the details, because I have had a hand in putting some of them into operation; though, judging from what the Minister has said to-day, one would think that nothing had been done until this Heaven-sent Ministry came into power. The establishment of these Socialistic enterprises might very well be left over for a few years until more important and urgent matters had been attended to. I repeat that the Government are starving the rifle clubs to-day in order to find money for Socialistic enterprises.
– The most Socialistic of all is the Federal Capital.
– Is that a Socialistic enterprise?
– Surely the honorable member does not call the clothing factory a Socialistic enterprise?
– I have heard honorable members opposite so describe it, but perhaps they are “ fooling “ the people outside. The fact is, the Government are neither doing this work nor letting it alone ; a little bit of a factory is supplying a small portion of the clothing, while the rest is provided by contractors. The Government ought to put the first things first, if they must make a choice in the expenditure. I know that we cannot have everything at once; but it is time to protest when we find important branches of the Defence Forces pinched and starved. It is politics getting into the Defence administration ; and not merely in connexion with this vote, but many others, as I should like to point out if time permitted. Already there is trouble in connexion with the building of the vessels; and the Government are tinkering with Socialism in the Department, while defence equipment is retarded. If ever there was urgency, it is just now in connexion with the organization on both the military and the naval side. Many things are being done in regard. to which I have no criticism to offer. I have never indulged in carping criticism of the Department, so long as the Government give fair, all-round attention to the requirements of the service. I do not even say whether it is good or bad policy that the clothing of the soldiers should be provided by the Department, or whether the saddlery and harness should be so provided ; my point is a point of time, and I contend that we ought not to push these Socialistic enterprises ahead while we starve the rifle clubs, and neglect to provide ranges and drill halls.
– I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that we ought to do our best in the interests of the rifle clubs; but I cannot accept his views as to the clothing factory, and the harness and saddlery factory. The honorable member does not discuss whether these particular projects are good or bad in themselves ; but I contend that, in order to criticise any proposal, we must have regard to whether it is sound or otherwise in the interests of the Commonwealth. If we leave such questions for the future, because of certain expenditure that is necessary in other directions, it may prove, to be false economy. The question we have to decide is whether we should make arrangements for providing our forces with everything they require, or depend on outside sources. In my opinion, it is better to provide everything ourselves. In that way we shall best be able to meet emergencies. Further, the establishment of these factories will result in a saving to the Commonwealth. The objection to them is, not so much that they are unnecessary, but that they are Socialistic undertakings. If it were proposed to remain dependent on private enterprise for the supply of uniforms, equipment, and the like, nothing would be said. Ever since I have been in this House, it has seemed a sufficient reason to some honorable members to condemn a proposal to say that the work provided for was to be carried out in some State other than that in which their electoral division was situated. It is time that this parochial feeling was put aside. What we must consider is whether expenditure is necessary, and whether concrete proposals are the best that can be put before us. If the House had to decide exactly where the various Commonwealth works were to be situated, a fine mess would be made. We must depend largely on the opinions of experts in these matters. They are not likely to be influenced by provincial considerations, and their recommendations are likely to have in view the welfare of Australia as a whole. It is time that the House, instead of being influenced by parochial considerations, had regard to the interest of the whole Commonwealth. It cannot be charged against me that I have ever raised the cry of State interests. I have always taken the view that our business is to decide what is best for the Commonwealth, and if that view were taken more generally we should get on faster. As it is, much of the debating is mere waste of time, honorable members airing their views in regard to the claims of their particular States.
– For what else are they sent here?
– The honorable member may consider that he is sent here to support specially the interests of a particular State, but provincial interests do not influence me. We shall obtain better saddlery, clothing, and equipment generally from our own factories than from private contractors.
– We are following the British policy.
– Yes, the policy that is best for our defence system. The honorable member for Perth has complained that, notwithstanding the expenditure which has taken place, clothing is still being purchased. That is because provision has not yet been made for the manufacture of all the clothing needed; but the Government has decided to increase its expenditure, with a view to the manufacture of its complete requirements, which will mean a, big saving to the Commonwealth. I hope that these Estimates will be allowed to pass without further delay.
.- The honorable member for Hunter has delivered a lecture to honorable members for the parochial or provincial spirit shown in regard to the proposals on these Estimates.
– It was very badly needed.
– It is a remarkable thing that the clothing factory, the harness factory, the naval school, and many other Commonwealth institutions are all situated in the constituency of Maribyrnong. Let me read the list on page 216, items 26 to 31 : - Maribyrnong - Access to Powder Magazines ; Maribyrnong - Barracks, Quarters, Gun Parks, Pharmacy Stores, Stables, and other Buildings; Maribyrnong - Barracks and Stable, Remount Section Australian Army Service Corps ; Maribyrnong - Proof Ground ; Maribyrnong - Site, Buildings, and Engineering Works for Cordite Factory ; Maribyrnong - Timber Storage Shed.’ My complaint is not based on provincial feeling, but is grounded on the disregard by the Government of the national policy which it announced. The Government acted on this policy in choosing a site for the Naval College at Jervis Bay. In connexion with that matter Ministers declared that all Commonwealth institutions and factories should, where possible, be located in the Federal Territory; but the Government is now largely departing from this national policy to please Victorian supporters.
– I think that it was the Government in which the honorable member was a Minister that established the Cordite Factory in the Maribyrnong division.
– There was no Federal Territory available then. I resent the charge of provincialism. My objection is to the Government’s departure from its national policy. Maribyrnong has been pretty successful, so far as this Government is concerned. I should like to know in regard to the timber storage shed which is to be placed there whether the system of preference to unionists is to be followed. Is that system to be applied to all these factories ?
– Certainly, if I have anything to do with it.
– It is stated in to-day’s newspapers that the system is to be applied to a timber storage shed in the Northern Territory. I have obtained the specifications from the Home Affairs Department, and find that there is gummed to them a slip of paper on which is printed this notice -
Preference to unionists. For all works carried out under this contract absolute preference is to be given to unionists.
– That is a Christian act.
– A very Christian act towards all who are not members of unions, this is, towards the great majority of the people of Australia. Unionists alone are to be entitled to earn a living on works carried out by this Government on behalf of the whole Commonwealth. Ministers are supposed to represent the people as a whole, but they study the interests of only one small class, and pander to it in every way possible. Men who were sent to the Northern Territory to do a little gardening were so dissatisfied with the climatic conditions that they soon returned to more temperate regions., and yet we find it provided that, in the erection of a timber seasoning shed, no one is to be employed who is not a member of a union. Apparently the same rule is to apply to all these Maribyrnong factories. The rule is an absolutely unfair one. The Government showed itself very obedient to the Caucus in regard to the location of the Naval College at Jervis Bay.
– How does the honorable member know that it did?
– The honorable member knows it as well as I do. I appeal to honorable members opposite whether I am not right in saying that the decision to establish the Naval College at Jervis Bay was only come to after a Caucus meeting in Melbourne, the members of the Caucus insisting on the college being established in Federal Territory.
– You are wrong.
– The honorable member knows that it was the decision of the Caucus, looking at the matter from a national point of view, that put Geelong out of the running on that occasion.
– The honorable member’s statement is absolutely untrue.
– I see the honorable member is to be satisfied on this occasion by the erection of a new boat-shed in the famous Corio Bay.
– Is not all defence based on unionism?
– Of course; but that is a unionism in which we ought all to join. This particular business, however, is to be kept within a little aristocratic set, and only those who happen to be within the fence are to have any rights. To limit any works in the Northern Territory to unionists alone is certainly to take the first step towards disaster, so far as the occupation of the Territory is concerned.
– In accordance with the notice I gave just now, I move -
That the item “ Clifton Hill - Harness, Saddlery, and Leather Accoutrement Factory, ^3.500,” be left out.
I do this in order that the Government may stick to their declared policy of putting all these works in the Federal Territory.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) £3.3]. - I shall vote for the amendment, not for the reason given by the honorable member for Lang, but because I think the money can be more usefully expended in facilitating the organization of the Defence Forces and ministering to their efficiency in other ways.
.- It is not the intention of the Government to accept the amendment.
.- I differ from the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Lang. If the Harness Factory must be established anywhere,
Victoria is the best place in which it can be put ; but, so far, no reasons have been furnished to the Committee for establishing the factory at all ; nor has the Honorary Minister told us why the articles required by our forces should not be obtained from the various private factories in existence. I intend to support the amendment on those grounds, and not because I think the factory should be placed in Federal Territory in preference to Clifton Hill.
.- I am sorry to disagree with the honorable member for Lang, but it would not be common sense to put a factory in the wilder, ness of the Yass-Canberra site, where there is no labour to be secured. I understand that the factory is now in working order, so that the question of establishing it is no longer before us. I quite agree with the honorable member for Wimmera that the work ought to be given to existing factories in the different States, because I have never believed in the Government doing this class of work. The factory has been started, however, and to vote against something which is absolutely required to carry on the military work of the country is ridiculous.
– We have had enough experience of harness contractors in Australia.
– I should think that a Government contractor would be far worse than an ordinary army contractor ; but; in any case, it would be an act of midsummer madness to establish a factory of this kind in the Federal Territory under present conditions.
– I intend to support the amendment for several reasons, one of which is that I am not at all satisfied with the work I have seen turned out by this factory. I have seen only two bags, but they were a disgrace to the factory that turned them out. I understand that the factory charged the Department to which they were sold 45s. each for them ; and I undertake to say that similar bags could be bought anywhere in Melbourne for about 28s. each, retail.
– To what Department were they sold ?
– I cannot tell what Department they were sold to; but I think the Minister of Trade and Customs knows.
– I do not know anything about it.
– I understand they were sold tq the Customs Department.
– The honorable member said just now that he could not tell us.
– I know; but I have no documentary evidence. I saw the bags, and I know they were made, or reputed to be made, at the factory.
– Will the honorable member inform me if they are the ones supplied to the Fruit Commission?
– They may have been supplied to the Fruit Commission, or the Pearling Commission.
– The Pearling Commission is not under the Customs Department.
– It was probably the Fruit Commission. The bags had no proper stiffening around the edges, and were lined with brown paper instead of leather; and, after about two trips, they will be found utterly useless. If that is the sort of work the factory is doing, it is time we put an end to it. I understood from the Prime Minister the other day that we are to have balance-sheets presented to us to prove that the factories are paying. I should like to run a factory on the lines on which the Harness Factory is being run. If I could charge 45s. each for bags of that description, I am sure that I could show a very handsome profit, although I know nothing about bag-making.
– That is why you are criticising it, I suppose.
– I do not know anything about “the process of manufacture, but I know enough about a travelling bag to tell when I have a good or a bad one.
– I have heard very pronounced criticisms of this branch of the Defence Department. Honorable members imagine that the Harness Factory is engaged in equipping the Forces, but I believe it will be found that it is doing a very small modicum of that kind of work. I am told that part of its work is to make mail-bags for the Postal Department, although there was no need for it to take up that work, which was being done by the Post Office authorities themselves, by the agency of capable, practical bag-makers. These have not been taken over with the factory ; but outsiders have been brought in and taught to make these bags at the expense of the country.
– What became of the Post Office bag-makers?
– I understand that they are still in the Postal Department, but have been put to some other work in the Mail Branch. Such a proceeding does not seem to be in the interests of the country. These statements have been made to me; and I ask the Minister to have them inquired into. I am told, moreover,, that, since the factory began to make bags for the Postal Department, it is costing the Department more per bag than when they were made in the Department itself.
– Who made the statements to you?
– I cannot tell the honorable member.
– The Employers Federation.
– The honorable member is always making reckless and irresponsible statements. The information was not given to me by any body who had anything whatever to do with employers. If that kind of thing is going on, it ought to be stopped.
– You are not sure that it is going. on?
– No ; I am told that it is.
– I shall call for information on the subject, but the honorable member is not sure that these things are going on.
– I am not. Does the Minister know that mail bags are being made at this factory?
– I would say that they are.
– Very well. As to the other matter to which I have referred, I ask that it be looked into. I should have thought that a factory of this kind, which was said to be urgently required to provide for the clothing of the Defence Forces, would have concentrated the whole of its attention on military equipment, instead of which it seems that it is doing work for other branches of the service. Work has been taken from trained men in other branches of the Public Service in order to give this factory something to do.
– That cannot be the case, because the factory finds it impossible to cope with its work.
– Does not that seem a reason why the making of mail bags should be left to the Postal Department? The more I see of this proposed vote the more it appears to me to be unnecessary at present. The money could be devoted to some more useful purpose, such as to encourage our rifle clubs.
– The honorable member for Lang is rather late in objecting to this item. He claims that the factory should be established in Federal Territory, but as a matter of fact it has already been established at Clifton Hill, and is in working order. I do not think that my honorable friend would suggest that the thousands of pounds already expended on this property should be thrown away, but that would practically be the result of the adoption of his suggestion.
– The property could be sold.
– The land could be sold, but large sums have also been expended in erecting upon it necessary buildings, for the sale of which a ready market would not be found. We must not forget that the factory is already built, and that the vote to which the honorable member takes exception is designed only to extend or complete it. When it was first proposed that the Commonwealth should undertake work of this character objection might have been taken, but the honorable member’s objection cannot seriously be taken into consideration now that so much money has already been expended on the venture. If we are to have such a factory, I know of no better situation for it than is Clifton Hill. Clifton Hill is a workman’s district, comprising portion of the city of Collingwood, and it is a very eligible locality for an industrial factory of this character.
– Leather workers abound there.
– A number reside in the neighbourhood, and the district is one in which cottages and. houses can be obtained at a reasonable rental. The statement made by the honorable member for Parramatta is certainly entitled to attention. If men who are expert in a particular class of work have been taken from it and novices put in their places, the position is a very serious one. The Minister, however, has promised to make an inquiry, and I do not think we can press the matter any further. I repeat that the honorable member for Lang is rather late in bringing forward at this stage an objection which might have been raised more meritoriously when it was originally proposed to establish a factory of the kind.
– I move -
That the item “Clothing Factory, Melbourne, £7,000 “ be left out.
The arguments urged against the amendment which has just been negatived will certainly not hold good in this case, for nothing has yet been done in the way of erecting this factory. I understand that £15,000 or £16,000 is the present estimated cost of the work towards which we are now asked to vote , £7,000- By consulting another portion of the Estimates I find that there is another heavy item, . relating, I think, to the acquisition of a site for the erection of woollen mills at Geelong.
– The honorable member is mistaken
– At all events, this is new expenditure, and the Government have another opportunity to carry into effect their declared policy that Commonwealth factories shall be established in Federal Territory. My amendment will afford those who, like the honorable member for Wimmera, the honorable member for Maribrynong, and others, have been airing their “ broad national views,” an opportunity to show their sincerity and to prove that their national horizon is not limited by the boundaries of Victoria. Let us have these mills erected in the Federal Territory.
.- I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether this item is designed merely to provide for additions to the present factory or for a new factory?
– This is not, as has been asserted by the honorable member for Lang, a proposal to build a new factory.
– I find that I am mistaken.
.- Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence give us a general idea of the purposes for which this proposed vote is sought ?
– It is to provide generally for additions to the Clothing Factory, to facilitate the work That it has in hand.
– I move -
That the item “ Geelong Boat Shed, “Naval Forces, £800” be left out.
I have known a commodious boat shed to be built for £40, and I should like to know why it is proposed to incur this expenditure at Geelong. We ought to have some information concerning an item which seems to me to be unwarranted.
.- I hope that the Minister will give us an explanation of this item. Any one who has visited the beautiful bay on which Geelong is situate will know that it is amply supplied with boat sheds, and it is difficult to understand why this expenditure is proposed. Before we pass the item we are entitled to some information, because it points to the grossest extravagance, if not to some sort of political work.
– The Government do not intend to accept the amendment, and I assure the honorable member for Lang that we have no intention to place the Geelong naval boat-shed in his district. The shed is for exceptional uses, differing altogether from the ordinary rowing-boat sheds with which the honorable member is familiar. It is intended for general naval purposes, including the accommodation of cutters and whale-boats of larger size.
– What is the matter with Swan Island? Why Geelong?
– Because a certain number of naval people will be centred at Geelong, not only immediately, but later on.
.- I should like some information in regard to the item of £4,000 for the improvement of the rented premises to be used as a navy office in Melbourne. In my opinion, this money could be better spent on property of our own than on rented premises; and I should be glad to know the nature of the alterations which are to cost this enormous sum.
.- We do not intend to expend this £4,000 unless we get a long lease that is satisfactory to the Government. These premises are in Lonsdalestreet, and are intended as the headquarters of the Naval Department.
– What does the Minister call a long lease?
– I shall not say just now.
– I desire to call attention to the item of £500 in connexion with a powder magazine; £25,000, for barracks, quar ters, and so forth; £4,000, for stabling, and so forth; £250, for a proof ground; and £6,400, for a site, buildings, and engineering works at the Cordite Factory. All of these works are at Maribyrnong, the honorable member for which has had so much to say against any proposed expenditure on the Federal Territory, and about the necessity for our taking a “ broad national outlook,” though when these items to be spent in his own district are before us, he is conspicuous by his absence. For reasons altogether insufficient, that honorable member has opposed expenditure in the Federal Territory ; but we hear no word of protest from him in regard to the proposed expenditure in his own electorate. Did time permit, I should feel strongly tempted to move the omission of each of these items, in order that honorable members who have declared for the “ broad national outlook “ shall not stultify themselves.
.- I shall not comment on the merits of the proposals just referred to, but I should like to know whether it is the intention of the Minister to impose absolute preference to unionists as a condition in the carrying out of the whole of these works. We are entitled to the information, in view of what has been stated by the honorable member for Illawarra in regard to a contract for works in the Northern Territory.
– In all the transactions connected with the Department of Home Affairs we give preference - first, preference to Australia ; and, secondly, preference to Britain. Everything in this country is based on preference; the very British Empire rests on the corner-stone of preference. The religion we were brought up in, and our very salvation, rest on preference. Everything is preference, and we cannot carry to perfection anvthing in the world without it. Defence is based on unionism. We unite to carry out great-
– Is the Minister going to answer a very simple and plain question, or is he not?
– We have a great national industrial organization, and we must carry out all our works on a basis of that organization. We must hold some organization responsible for carrying out the works. To me it is amazing when I see unionists-
– What about the question that the Minister has been asked?
– Let the Minister answer the question in his own way.
– I shall “ run my own circus.”
– Hear, hear ! It is a “circus.”
– It was a “circus” at1 o’clock this morning. The honorable member for Wimmera is a member of the Journalists Union, and the honorable member for Flinders is a member of the Lawyers Union.
– What of it?
– Though I may know as much about law as the honorable member for Flinders does, neither I nor any one on this side could go into the Courts and defend a man.
– Will the Minister confine himself to the question?
– If a work is connected with the Home Affairs Department, it will be carried out on the basis of preference to unionists.
– Notwithstanding the foolish rhodomontade we have been enduring on this occasion, as on many other occasions, from the Minister of Home Affairs-
– Then put us out.
– The Minister of Home Affairs seems to think he can answer the most serious questions by a species of buffoonery. We gather from his reply that the Minister intends, apparently, not only to give preference to unionists in connexion with the work immediately under his control, but also to impose preference as a condition on contractors and tenderers.
– Hear, hear!
– Then all I have to say is that this matter cannot rest here. The country will require to know, not merely whether this is the policy of the Minister of Home Affairs, but whether it is a policy that has received the sanction, or is going to receive the sanction, of the Prime Minister and of the Government. The Minister of Home Affairs does not seem to have the slightest perception of the seriousness of the position he has taken up ; he seems to forget that he is dealing with the taxpayers’ money, and that, in using the powers with which he is intrusted as a responsible Minister of the Crown, to reward the particular class of people who have voted to place him in his present position, he is guilty, not only of a political outrage, but of a defalcation of public moneys. The matter cannot be allowed to rest here.
– Then let us have a no-confidence motion.
– In some way or other the matter will be brought up, until the House and the country will have to face the question of whether the public moneys, which have been subscribed by all classes of taxpayers, are to be distributed in giving employment to one particular class, who happen to be the political supporters of the Government. That is the question; and no amount of buffoonery, rhodomontade, or bluster will prevent it being finally determined by the people of the country,”
– We welcome that challenge.
– I am glad to hear from the honorable member that his party are prepared to take that as a definite challenge.
– Hear, hear !
– It brings us face to face with all the differences between this side “and the other side. The plain issue, in this case is whether the government of the country is to be carried on for the benefit of a particular class of voluntary associations banded together for the purpose, not merely of securing benefit to themselvesindustrially, but of seizing the reins of government.
– It is rather surprising, at thisstage, to hear the honorable member for Flinders breaking out in this direction. We have been listening to this sort of stuff for over twelve months. The Opposition have done as much as they can to try to discredit the Labour party by telling the people that we have handed over everything to the unions.
– The honorable member and his party do not face the question.
– We are prepared to continue to face any charge made by the Opposition. If the Opposition were in power, they would find it impossible to carry on any works without unionists.
– That is another thing altogether.
– Let the Opposition, try the game. What would they do?’ They would give preference to nonunionists.
– Who said that?
– We had an instance the other day, when what we may call a non-union union” - Packer’s union, which is supported by the Employers’ Federation and all the other employers in Victoria - was given preference. I suppose that that is what the Opposition intend to do. If the honorable member for Flinders thinks he has thrown down a challenge to us on the question of preference, we shall take it up; and I think we shall win, if it comes to a matter of preference to unionists or preference to non-unionists.
.- I do not think that this matter can be allowed to rest here.
– Well, put us out. The honorable member was sent here on a minority vote.
– I wish to know from the Minister if his statement means that, not only is the Government going to employ unionists in preference to others, but that it is also going to compel its contractors to employ unionists whether they like to do so or not.
Mr.King O’Malley. - The honorable member belongs to the lawyers’ union
– Clownish replies do not answer plain questions. Whether I am, or am not, a member of a union, the Government has no excuse for seriously abusing its powers. It is supposed to hold the scales level, and it is not right for Ministers to use the taxpayers’ money, contributed chiefly by non-unionists, for the benefit of their supporters, refusing bread and butter to equally worthy, and, perhaps, more competent, workmen who have the courage to refuse to be coerced into joining unions which are now largely bossed by politicians or candidates for Parliament. The Minister has taken the outrage a step further. Last year we were informed that absolute preference to unionists was to be given in regard to casual and temporary work, but now he tells us that the contractors for Government work are to be compelled to employ unionists in preference to all others, whether the unionists are more competent or not.
– The honorable member says so.
– The words used are “ absolute preference to unionists.”
– Well, unionists arp competents.
– Is this discussion in order? There is nothing in the Estimates in regard to preference to unionists.I think that honorable members should be confined to the items before us.
– The Minister says that preference is to be shown to unionists on all works.
– The discussion is, to a great extent, irregular, and is the outcome of a question asked of the Minister. A condition of a contract was quoted by way of making a comparison. I ask honorable members to confine their remarks to the items now before the Committee.
– The honorable member for Wimmera asked the Minister whether he intended to adopt absolute preference to unionists in connexion with all works, including those covered by the items immediately under discussion, and the reply was “Yes.” Therefore, we are entitled to fully discuss this question in regard to every item of the Estimates. Whether absolute preference to unionists shouldbe given is a relevant consideration in respect to every item. To prevent us from discussing that question would be to prevent us from dealing with one of the most material considerations connected with these items.
– Has the Chairman ruled that we cannot discuss it?
– I have always protested against preference being given to unionists. If it must come, let it be enforced by means of an Act. Ministers are using their powers in a way that has never been heard of before in connexion wi;h British administration. If Parliament decides in favour of preference to unionists, and provides for it bv an Act, we must give way, but what is now happening is most unsatisfactory. To my mind, a great deal of money is proposed for expenditure on the purchase of manoeuvre areas and other large undertakings which might with propriety be devoted to other defence services which, as honorable members have shown, have been starved. Many of the proposals before uscould be deferred for a year or two, and until requirements for which the Forces are calling out have been met. We should do all we can to encourage the Defence movement. There is a fine body of men in the rifle clubs, and we should see that they are encouraged.
.- To force the contractors to give preference to unionists is an even greater abuse of the public funds than to require departmental officials in employing day labourers to give preference to unionists.
-i submit that that matter is not dealt with in these Estimates.
– We are discussing proposals for expenditure on works that are to be constructed wholly by day labour.
– Are honorable members afraid to debate the principle?
– No, but it is not being properly raised now, and no one is stronger on technicalities than is the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Bourke is hardly justified in the suggestion that the proposals before us relate to works which are to be carried out entirely by day labour.
– They will all be carried out by day labour.
– The Minister also said that if any contracts are let for works under the control of his Department, they will contain a clause providing for preference to unionists.
– We will see that there are no contracts. These works will be done by day labour.
– I can only take the statement as the Minister made it.
– I am not to know whether the works in question are to be constructed by contract or by day labour. All I know is that the Minister said that preference was to be given to unionists in cases where contracts were let, all things being equal.
– He never said “all things being equal.” That phrase is not in the specifications.
The CHA IRMAN. - I do not know what is in the specifications. I simply know what the Minister said. I was then asked if honorable members would be in order in discussing the question of preference to unionists in connexion with the Estimates, and I ruled that they would be. I adhere to that ruling.
– This question of absolute preference to unionists is more far-reaching than at first appears. The policy previously introduced by the Minister in connexion with day labour meant the use of public moneys, contributed by every taxpayer in the Commonwealth, to force certain workers to join unions, and to reward those unionists who helped the Government into power. In this new proposal of the Minister to enforce absolute preference to unionists in the case of Go vernment contracts, there is involved the use of public funds to compel every employer throughout the Commonwealth who contracts for Government work to employ union labour only. I can hardly conceive of a grosser misuse of public money. There are 1,300,000 bread-winners within the Commonwealth, contributing a revenue of from £20,000,000 to £21,000,000 per annum, and they are to be taxed for the purpose of rewarding, in the first instance, not more than 300,000 unionists, or less than one-fourth of the total number of breadwinners. The Government are trustees charged with the sacred duty of dispensing the public funds in such a way as to give the people the best returns for them; but, not satisfied with having used a portion of them to force day labourers into the unions, they are now going to penalize every private employer who takes a contract from them by forcing him to engage union labour.
– Do you not know that the members of the. Employers Federation engage men through the unions?
– I am not attacking the principle of unionism. If men voluntarily band themselves together in industrial unions to bargain with their employers in order to better their conditions, the system should be encouraged. There is plenty of room for difference of opinion on the question of preference to unionists when it is granted by a properly constituted Court, whose duty is to carry out the instructions of the Legislature; but when it is enforced by the Executive power of the realm, it is quite a different matter. The Ministry cannot rid themselves of the sacred responsibility of dispensing the public funds in such a way as to preserve the splendid traditions of government in Australia.I believe the Minister, when he introduced the question, did not realize the gravity of the issues involved in it, but after the discussion that took place on the matter, so far as day labour was concerned, it ought to have been brought home to the Government that they were even then going perilously near a serious misuse of the public funds. Now, however, they are extending that bad principle in a way that will bring private employers throughout the Commonwealth into a state of duress. I hope, with the honorable member for Illawarra and the honorable member for Flinders, that this serious misuse of the public funds will not be allowed to go unchallenged by the House, for the protection of its own honour and the preservation of purity in our public administra- 0 tion.
– The Government have a perfect right to place in any specification the conditions they want to be carried out, as a matter of policy.
– In spending the public mOney ?
– -Decidedly. We as a party have not come into this House with our light under a bushel. Every one who read our platform, or heard us speak, knew that we advocated preference to unionists.
– Not in this way.
– That is a matter for members who are elected to decide.
– Did you ever tell the public that you were going to spend the taxpayers’ money to give preference to unionists ?
– I believe that preference to unionists is in the best interests of the country, and if I have to spend public money I will spend it in the best interests of the country. Earlier this session a motion was moved censuring the Government for deciding, as a matter of policy, to give preference to unionists in all Government employment. In order to be consistent, we must take care, in letting a contract for the carrying out of Government work, to provide for preference to unionists. Unless’ we did so, honorable members of the Opposition would ridicule us for not having the courage to give effect to our policy. They would say to us, “ So far as day labour is concerned, you insist upon preference to unionists, but to get rid of a difficulty you let contracts without any such condition, so that private contractors carrying out work for the Government may employ whomsoever they please.” Our attitude in this respect is logical. We may be wrong, but we are at least consistent.
– The criminal who steals your waistcoat because he has already stolen your coat may also claim that he is taking up a logical position.
– We say that preference to unionists is right, and I do not know why the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Wilmot should object, to the principle, since they themselves belong to a union. If we were engaged in litigation, and desired to obtain the services of a barrister, we should not have to specify preference to unionists, because unionists alone are employed at the Bar.
– Because they are qualified men.
– This is not a question of giving employment to a man merely because he is a unionist. All that we say is “ preference to unionists, other things being equal.”
– That is not so in this case. The conditions provide for absolute preference to unionists.
– If I were a contractor, and accepted a Government contract in which provision was made for preference to unionists, I should be careful to discriminate in selecting my men, and if I thought that a man was not capable of doing the work I required, I should not employ him. In all arbitration awards making provision for preference to unionists we have the words “ other things being equal.”
– I wish the honorable member would not display his stupidity. Every arbitration award which provides for preference to unionists has a reference to “other filings being equal.”
– There is no such reference in the specification which has been quoted.
– A contractor who proposes to tender for Government work has the conditions put before him, and if he objects to those conditions he need not put in a tender. If he signs a contract, one. of the conditions of which is that preference shall be given to unionists, he knows what he has to do, and I therefore fail to see why we should have this storm in a teacup. My experience is that employers, where there are plenty of men to choose from, give preference to unionists because they desire that there shall be no want of harmony on the work. On what may be described as a “piebald job,” with unionists and non-unionists at work, there is bound to be a want of harmony amongst the men. I do not hesitate to say that the greatest contractors in this country give preference to unionists. There is not a contractor in the building trade in Sydney who does not do so. There is, indeed, an understanding between them and the unions that it shall be done.
– And there is not one in Melbourne who does not do so.
– That is to say, “ other things being equal.”
– That is only a commonsense way of putting the question. We do. not desire to make a farce of the matter, and I believe that the Minister will be Erepared to insert the words “ other things eing equal.”
– I am not going to give preference to non-unionists.
– If the Opposition think that they will obtain any kudos by fighting this proposal, they are welcome to do so. We as a party are prepared to stand up for preference to unionists. I hope that the Opposition will challenge the Government on this occasion. If they do, they will find that not one of our party has receded from the position which we have always taken up. We have been returned here as the representatives of the workers, and the workers have to thank the unionists for any benefits they enjoy to-day. That being ‘so, we say that unionists ought to be encouraged by preference being given to them in respect of all employment. In adopting that policy we do not impose any hardship upon any person seeking employment. A man who asks for employment is asked whether he is a unionist, and if he says that he is not he is given an opportunity to join a union. I trust that the Minister of Home Affairs will insert in these conditions the words “ other things being equal.” That is absolutely the principle on which preference to Unionists is granted. Other things being equal, there should be preference to unionists.
– If we have the words “other things being equal,” and do not have the word “ absolute” in these conditions, the unionists will not be considered at all. That would mean preference to non-unionists. I hold that, as a trustee of the people, I am doing my duty if I have public works carried out as cheaply as they could be executed in any other part of the world. I challenge the Opposition to show where my work has cost more because of preference to unionists than their work cost before with preference to non-unionists.
– There was never a more unjust effort to slander an Opposition than that made by the Minister of Home Affairs in his concluding words. I defy him to point to any occasion when provision was made for preference to non-unionists. I defy him to show where any effort, either administratively or otherwise, was made by this party to discriminate between the workmen of this community as to whether they belonged to a union or not. I venture to say that if this party, at any time in its history, had ever suggested the granting of preference to non-unionists, it would have been denounced, not only by honorable members opposite, but by every one throughout Australia having a sense of justice.
– Does the honorable member believe in preference to relatives?
– I believe in preference to the skilled workman.
– Did the honorable member ever give preference to relatives?
– Never in my public capacity, or in the discharge of any public duty ; nor would I ever be guilty of such a wicked thing. The honorable member knows that he is deliberately circulating a vile slander.
– That is untrue.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made the same charge against the Opposition, that we were in favour of preference to nonunionists. The Opposition have never at any time favoured, or even suggested any discrimination between the workers of the community. They have always denounced any discrimination of the kind, whether it was in favour of unionists or non-unionists. The Minister now suggests that, “ other things being equal,” he is prepared to give preference to unionists.
– He said he did not believe in those words being inserted in the conditions.
– He said, first of all, that he would give absolute preference to unionists ; but I regarded his later statement as being in the nature of a correction. In that later statement I thought he made use of the words “ other things being equal.”
– The Minister did say that.
– The Minister of Home Affairs was only repeating every judgment that has been given by the Arbitration Court, namely, that other things must be equal.
– At the outset the Minister of Home Affairs spoke of absolute preference to unionists, hut, when he was challenged, he subsequently said that “other things being equal,” preference would be given. That is what I heard him say, and, of course, T repeat it. If that is the policy of the Minister, he very carefully excludes it from the terms of contract. The Northern Territory contract, which has been quoted, provided specifically that absolute preference was to be given to unionists; there was nothing said about other things being equal. The specification represents, in writing, the policy of the Minister, whatever he may choose to avow now. We have been told that in all things the Labour party desire to be logical ; but I should like them, before being logical, to be at least constitutional. They knew very well when this proposal of preference was first introduced in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill of 1910 that there was no constitutional power to enforce it ; and it was only owing to the determined opposition of this side that they abandoned an idea which had for its object the enforcement of the principle so far as private employment is concerned. The Labour party realized that the proposal was unconstitutional, and for that reason they abandoned it ; but now they seek to bring about the same unconstitutional proceeding in another way. Some time ago it was decided by the Government that preference should be given to unionists in temporary employment in the Departments; and we have now a deliberate proposal of a far-reaching character. The object is to bring into existence a nefarious system which could not be realized by constitutional means. They are in conflict with the terms and spirit of the Constitution ; and we have a right to protest against this iniquitous and infamous proposal to discriminate between the taxpayers of the community, and to reward persons for political reasons only.
.- I do not see why there should be so much heat in the discussion of this question. To my mind, the matter was settled last year when the Leader of the Opposition put a number of questions to the Prime Minister. According to Hansardof 20th September, 191 1, page 634, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister -
Whether he will define the classes of Government employes within which members of unions will henceforward be given priority of appointment over all who are not unionists?
The reply by the Prime Minister was -
Other qualifications being equal,, preference will be given in all cases.
I take it that a declaration by the head of the Government is to be regarded as representing the policy, of the Government; andI hope and . trust that, throughout the
Commonwealth, nothing will be given forth as the policy of the Government in thisconnexion, except the reply given by the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Opposition. There are honorable members gasconading about the country and misinterpreting the official declaration made by the Prime Minister. Of the policy as set forth in that declaration, every honorablemember on this side is in favour.
– Are the gentlemen referred to by the honorable member for Maribyrnong not entitled to go about the country when they, find the kind of language which is set forth in the terms of contracts? I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether there is a new kind of preference that the Government have decided to grant in connexion with public contracts, and whether the language in the terms of the contracts represents the policy of the Government.
– I have not seen the language. I have declared the policy of the. Government again and again.
– Does the policy as declared by the Prime Minister still obtain ?
– There has been no variation?
– Then I may take it that the Prime Minister repudiates the language of the Minister of Home Affairs ?
– I know nothing about the language.
– Then mayI invite the Prime Minister’s attention to it, or is it beneath his notice to look at a thing like that? This is all of a piece with the contempt with which the Prime Minister has lately treated every question in this. House.
– There is not a morecourteous man in the public life of Australia.
– So courteousthat he will not answer a question.
– Was the honorable member for Parramatta courteous when he declined to answer the question of the AttorneyGeneral as to whether, if he had been in office, he would have sent troops to Brisbane?
– Is that relevant? May T ask the Prime Minister if he is in agreement with thelanguage contained in the terms of contract, namely,. that absolute preference shall be given without any further stipulation.
– The policy of the Government is preference to unionists, other things being equal.
– Then I hope that the language which has been referred to will be taken out of the terms of contract at the earliest possible moment since it misrepresents the Government policy.
– I must say that I was amazed when I saw the terms of contract, and the departure from the policy as laid down by the Prime Minister. That policy was accepted all round the House. The word “absolute” was used more than once when this question was previously discussed, and we were told that it had no right to be included, and was never intended to be included in the policy. Honorable members on this side are entitled to complain about the misrepresentation to which they have been subjected. It has been said more than once to-day that members of the Opposition are in favour of preference to non-unionists. That is not so. I do not think that there is a single honorable member on this side of the House who is in favour of that. But I wish that honorable members opposite were as fair as we are in contending that there should be no preference or discrimination to any one.
– Is it not a fact that Mr. Packer, the leader, of the Free Labourers’ Union, is also a member of the Liberal party, and is getting money from it?
– I know of members of the Labour party whom I think the Minister of Trade and Customs would not care to sleep with. I do not blame him for that. I do not hold him responsible for every member of his party, and I trust that in the name of decency he will not hold me responsible for every member of the Liberal party. I wish to protest against this misrepresentation, which is unfair, unjust, and certainly not correct. The honorable member for South Sydney frankly admitted that he is here as a representative of one section of the community. I do not know for how many members of his party he spoke, but I take a much higher stand than that. I regard myself as a representative of the people of Australia.
– Free Traders as well as Protectionists ?
– Exactly. I think I represent the Free Traders as well as the Protectionists, inasmuch as I assist in securing for this country a policy much better than the Free Traders could themselves provide. The honorable mem-‘ ber for South Sydney has frankly avowed that he stands as a representative of a section.
– What section?
– The unionists.
– No; I said that I was elected by the workers.
– I understood the honorable member to say that he was sent here by the unionists, who were the best part of the workers. I accept the explanation given by the honorable member, but I am afraid he will have to correct one word in his Hansard proof to bring his speech into conformity with what he has just said. Complaints are continually made in this House against the misrepresentation to which members of Parliament are subjected. Nothing is more likely to degrade or belittle Parliament in the eyes of the people than this avowed desire on the part of honorable members to regard themselves, and to be regarded, simply as representatives of a class or section. I do not know why the Minister of Home Affairs took scissors and paste to put into a contract the condition to which reference has been made. It was evidently put in some time after the major portion of the document was prepared. Any one who has examined it will observe that the last condition does not form part of the original document. It is typed in different ink, and is upon different paper. It has been snipped out of another piece of paper, and stuck upon this document. I hope that it will be snipped out again. If it is necessary to put in a provision of the character indicated bv the Prime Minister, I trust that it will be framed in the words used by himself. In the State of Victoria we have a very wise provision with regard to all Government contracts. We say nothing about preference to unionists, but it is specified that there shall be recognised rates of wages paid, and that certain conditions shall be observed.
– The trade union log.
– Quite so; and 1 agree with that. By adopting that system-, we get rid of this invidious discrimination which the Government are endeavouring to steal in. It could not be done, and probably would not be done on a contract of considerable proportions. I understand that this is a very small matter indeed. The work will cost some £2,000 or £3,000. Had it been a large matter, it would have come under the observation of a more considerable number of people. Had that been the case, this condition would not have been inserted. But the Minister of Home Affairs is very cute and clever. We all know his methods. We can quite imagine how when he was clipping out this condition, and sticking it into the contract, he said, “ Ah, this will please the boys ! Probably no one will notice it, but it will always remain as a record of my intention to carry out my own policy in my own way! “
– Does not the honorable member think that “ This Will Please the Boys,” would be a good title for a new play?
-I am not sure that a play would be a success under such a title. We are entitled to ascertain from the Prime Minister- what his view is ; because, after all, we may regard him as the head of the Government. We know that an alteration has been made by the party opposite in regard to the method of forming Governments. Probably that method is a step towards elective Ministries, under which system each Minister will be separately responsible to Parliament. But under the constitutional system that exists, at present, we look ‘ to the Prime Minister to see that the Ministers at the head of the various Departments shall pay due regard to his own published and expressed opinions regarding policy. The Prime Minister is the mouthpiece of the Government. If a Minister - apparently deliberately - has transgressed against the lines of policy laid down by the Prime Minister, we are entitled to receive from the right honorable gentleman himself a proper notification and assurance that any unfair, improper, and unjust discrimination, which undoubtedly exists in the case of this particular contract, should be withdrawn from it.
– I have listened carefully to what honorable members have said. There is no doubt that we have bad a display of rage from them. I do not know why they should get into such a bad temper. I want to remind honorable members of the questions that the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Min ister on this subject of preference to unionists in 1911. They were as follow -
He will define the classes of Government employes within which members of unions will henceforward ‘ be’ given priority of appointment over all who are not unionists?
Qualifications, such as ability, experience, or physique will be considered, and, if so, to what extent, in the appointments made? -
The. Ministry proposes to distinguish between unions when making appointments?
Ministers intend to impose any’ new conditions upon the choice of permanent employes under the Public Service Acts?
If preference is- to be granted to unionists, other things being equal between the applicants, who is to determine, and on what evidence, their comparative qualifications ?
The determination mentioned will be final, or subject to appeal?
Non-unionists appointed on the ground of greater personal qualifications or capacity will be liable to be subsequently displaced in favor of unionists applying for appointment?
To those questions, these answers were given -
I am absolutely carrying out that system. When I first gave preference to unionists, other things being equal, my instructions were not complied with. Then I issued the order that there was to be absolute preference to unionists, which meant that the first order must be carried out. Absolute preference to unionists means exactly what it says - other things being equal. But there is not- to be preference to nonunionists, and they are not to refuse to carry out my absolute orders.
– When the order of business was being determined, I stated that it would be understood that on Fridays the sitting would terminate at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and as I have not withdrawn or qualified that statement, and desire always to keep my promise; I shall not ask honorable members to remain longer to-day, but I wish it to be understood that this arrangement will not be considered binding on the Government after to-day.
SUPPLY BILL (No. z).
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper -
Ministers’ Travelling Allowances - Return to an Order of the House, dated 8th August, 1912.
House adjourned at 4.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120809_reps_4_65/>.