4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable a” steps to be taken to pass the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1912- 13, through all its stages without delay.
– I hope that in acknowledgment of: this generous treatment by the Opposition, Ministers will, when the Bill is before us, have a little more information to give than we were able to get last night, when I had to protest quite a number of times about the paucity of the information available. Never in my parliamentary career have I known Ministers to have so little information to give in explanation of Works Estimates. If Ministers themselves possessed the information, they suppressed it; but in some cases I had to correct misleading statements made by the Minister at the table.
– Made unintentionally.
– Made through sheer ignorance. Misleading information was given by the Minister of Home Affairs, who did not know anything about the matters with which he was dealing. There should at least be made available to members the official explanations which always accompany Estimates, so that we may have details respecting the proposals for which we are asked to vote money.
– I recognise the courtesy extended to the Government in allowing this motion to be moved without notice ; but similar courtesy has been extended to every Government in regard to this Bill ; and on many occasions the Works and Buildings Estimates and the Bill have been passed through the House at one sitting. There never before has been so full a discussion as has taken place on the present Estimates. I do not seriously object to that.
– Does not the Prime Minister see that it is lack of information that leads to discussion ? .
– My desire is that all information available shall be made known to honorable members; and I ask whether at any time information on any subject has been withheld by the Treasury Department, which has practically maintained an open door, so that honorable members may obtain what information they desire regarding all matters of public concern?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I draw the attention of the Honorary Minister to a telegram from
Sydney, which appears in this morning’s Argus, in which it is stated that over 100 cadets were prosecuted yesterday at the Paddington Court -
At the outset Mr. Payten, S.M., asked if any instructions had been received by the military authorities from head-quarters in Melbourne as to what action should be taken in such cases in future. He understood that some instructions of the kind had been received in Brisbane, but he had not heard, of any having come to Sydney.
Mr. Magney, who appeared for the prosecution in a number of the cases, said that he was not aware that any instructions had been received. He suggested that in each case defendant should be ordered to fulfil the duty in which he had made default.
In the majority of the cases dealt with this course was followed, the costs being fixed at 13s.
A similar paragraph has appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. It is understood that the Minister of Defence issued the instruction that these prosecutions should not continue. Has the Honorary Minister any information to give us on the subject?
– I have seen the paragraph referred to by the honorable member, and, if its statements are correct, there is some misunderstanding in New South Wales regarding prosecutions. Instructions were sent out some time ago to the District Commandants, directing that prosecutions be shaped in conformity with the provisions of the Bill that has passed the Senate and is now before honorable members. The instructions were clear and definite, and to the effect that where a lad had put in fifty-four of the sixty-four hours required for the year’s drill, and would give his personal undertaking to do the remaining ten hours, no prosecution of any kind should be commenced ; though, if he would not give that undertaking, some action was necessary. Where cadets were more than ten hours short, prosecutions were to take place, but in such cases the magistrate was to be specifically requested to accept the personal assurances of the lads that they would put in the necessary time, and then no punishment or fine of any description was to be inflicted. In addition, it was an instruction of the Minister that no legal assistance should be given. Furthermore, the Attorneys-General of the States were asked by our Attorney-General to communicate the wishes of this Government to their magistrates. The AttorneysGeneral of five States agreed to do this, but the Attorney-General of South Australia refused point blank to convey any such message to the magistrates of that State.
– iHe was quite right. Objection has been taken on several occasions to Executive instructions of the kind.
– I am not discussing that. The instructions to the District Commandants were quite clear. The Minister has communicated by telephone with the District Commandant of New South Wales, who stated that he had received the instructions some time ago, and had immediately issued them to his responsible officers. A report will be forthcoming, I hope to-morrow, respecting the cases referred to by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence make inquiries as to whether it is usual for the Department to request the Bench to exercise its discretion in a particular way, and whether the proper course is not to instruct the person prosecuting not to ask for the heavier penalties?
– I do not know about the practice, but the persons prosecuting were directed to ask for leniency in the direction mentioned by myself.
– That is quite right.
– But as an extra precaution, so that there should be no possir bility of error, the State Attorneys-General were requested, through the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, to allow the matter to. come under the notice of the several magistrates.
– That is wrong.
– From’ five of the States, replies were received complying with the rer quest, which was merely an act of courtesy, and in no sense a direction or order. Thereis no complaint against the State which has not replied.
– With a view to relieving the magistrates of any suggestion of refusing to enforce the Federal law in cadet prosecutions, would it. not be possible to. expedite the passage of the proposed legislation to mitigate the penalties?
– There is no obligations so far as the magistrates are concerned;: what was done was merely as an extra precaution. The instructions to the prosecuting officers in the various States were most clearSo far as expediting the passage of the legislation is concerned, my answer is that the Minister is most anxious that this should” be done. I may say that I have been almost bursting with the desire to. speak on this question, but I have been prevented owing; ta’thaiei’rgtb-ofs time occupied. bythe,Oppo> sition on the Works and Buildings Estis mates.
– I- desire tp askvthe .Prime Minister:: whether., ,iiv : view-, of the press criticisms) we .have seen^. something cannot be i done by -the- Governaoent. to dispel the ide& which is evidently gaining, ground.. that we . or the .Australian, people have given the “cold shoulder” to. the. visiting,; Canadian cadels?
-^I am happy to be able tO’tefW thei House1 and the honorable mem-, ber that- the chief representative of . the party of> Canadian i cadets makes -.no com-* plaint whatever; and. dissociates.- himself from’ any complaints that- have ‘been made.
– - What about, the comments in- the ‘newspapers ?
M’n FISHER”. - I am-: speaking: now ; om the1 authority ‘of ‘the Minister of Defence:
— Is Is’ ‘the -Honorary ‘Minister aware that the Minister- of > Defence has made arrangements for the cadets of. -Mel i “bourne to- give’ a military- reception to- the Canadian cadets to-day ?
– Yes. I do not know anything about any misunderstanding that is alleged- to “ha ve. arisen- in another part of the* Commonwealth: but - 1 am- confident that”1 the Minister- of- Defence is- not’ resporrsib’le fbr an v -want of’ courtesy in this direction: Hrs feeling is’ most- friendly towards’ our’ Canadian brethren.
– Was there not some question about railway fares?
– I am. not sure of “details; some slight misunderstanding may have occurred.’ The Minister of Defence, however, is doing.. his best ,to remove :any misunderstanding,, and . is . receiving the visiting cadets with the utmost possible cordiality.
– I desire to ask the. Minister- representing the Minister of Defence whether the Department, has yet been advised that three days ago ,340 out of 350 artillerymen refused to gq tq drill at. South Head, Sydney, ,and resolved- to refuse to gq until some changes were made “in .the conditions. I ‘do not suppose the Honorary Minister can. .answer- now,, but will he let the House knpw what is. gping to be done?
– Some few .days .ago there were ,a -number, of resignations for a particular reasom The men objected to -the increased number of, days for drilling nraposed, byi , virtue- of .theinew regulations;
-Is’ the the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that the. Melbourne Har* bor Trust has considerably reduced the wharfage rates to oversea vessels? - If so, does he consider such, act an unjustifiable preference to foreign traders, and- will he. do anything W remedy this ‘.state: of affairs??
– Why not/build ‘a wall round Australia?
– I want a wall.
– I understand that, this matter. .was -before the Conference, of. State Premiers some, time ago, with a view to arranging for. uniformity in wharfage rates, It- was, ascertained, .from. a return. prepared at, the request, of the honorahle member for Wilmot,, .that there ‘were differential rates in various. Stajtes-r-that. preference was -given at certain ports.; and the Melbourne -Harbor Trust, I believe, is endeavouring, to have the rates, placed on a. uniform basis,., so far ‘as this , State.. is concerned. I shall have the matter inquired into; and if there is -any unfair discriminatioa against, any Australian vessels, we can, deaL with it; but, apart from that,. we have no. power..
– So, far as j the- question asked is.-ini accordance; with’f act, Lean answer that:-I have. drawn.’the Governor’s attention to, this .particular, regulation.- No- resolution, howeverj has been. (passed: by :this House- The, Governor made certain representations toi me to .-the effect: that– nearly every other Savings. -Bank had a. similar, regulation, and, he would, like to see how it workedjin.connexion. with the. Commonwealth Bank* I can say, pn-. behalf: of the Government, .that if the-.regulation is. found tor.work inequitably, I think. that* .will prove -the- end o£it,
-rrlt-j is- rough ,on the people, who lose their mealey .> -Mr. FlSHE’R.-^We thrall see about that, but none has been lost yet.
– I could not say, and I should like ‘the,, honorable, member to give notice of the question. The returns are on the table of ‘the House. I- shall have to inquire from Ministers as -to the facts.
“WIRELESS’ STATION’S-: -‘SOUTH AUSTRALIA.
-.-asked the /PostnjasterGeneral, upon notice -
When will a start be made with the erection ‘of wireless” stations -at- Mount ‘-Gambier, /and Victor Harbor ?
Mr. THOMAS__ The exact location ;of the Radiotelegraph Station irlo.’fee situated at’ .or about’ -Mount ‘ :Gambier has :not yet been .de.cid.6d ppon. ‘ This station is expected ,to4>e .completed by ,30th ‘December nest.
asked the’ ‘Minister of; Home Affairs, upon notice -
YtWithj-referepce ,to-,,the - Tians. Australian ..Railway -i. -Gnuwirat’-.dates.Tvere rthe agreements neces sary to>be^signed iby^South :Austr.aliianand Western ‘Australia >‘sont> for.’-signatnire to. r those Governments respectively? -2. HasUhere been- iany objection byieitlrer: of those”Governments ‘to sign the. agreements ;naisd, if’Tibt, 4ia<ve “they signed itbem?
– The a - The answers to i the ihnpnonabler mornberv’s ^questions are as follow : - 1 ..to, 4. 1 South, Australia passed an Act of Parliament, assented, to. 4th January .last, agreeing to certain Crown .lands being granted, for the. purpose of the railway, but the lands specified, in the Act were, not, in the opinion of the Minister pf Home Afrair.s, sufficient, and ‘there were certain conditions which it ‘was thought should be amended. ‘Negotiations” between the respective Governments have been proceeding, as a result- of which :tie ,State”>Govcmm’ent is- -introducing *>-tm am«n’dmig Bill- in’-the”‘Stat6,’Rarliament. iAf<kaft agreement was forwarded’- o’1he -State ‘‘Premier on… asn d. May, 1.912,1 but ‘.the-. State Government was unable to concur, with the terms thereof,, and the agreement was Withdrawn. ‘After ‘the- negotiations between the respective Governments a fresh draft was forwarded, and it is,. anticipated that it will be approved shortly.
Western Australia has passed the necessary legislation, .and the Governor in Council has agreed to grant- to-the’ Commonwealth the Crown lands -whicfi, in ‘the opinion vof” ‘tjie (Minister of Home Affairs,, are. necessary. The* execution of the formal agreement a-waits ‘the final settlement w5rh’;5outh iAustanlia. 1 The 1 actual ‘ Construction.’ oMlhe railway. -xauld not –be ^commenced t-pendinfr . a ^settlement, itat much preliminary work has: been undertaken, far. FOWLER a’sked ‘the Minister of Home Affair,s, <ufi0n-< notice -
Will 4ie -‘lay uon ‘4he .”ltalble.’of ‘the ‘House thetender ‘accepted “from the’Western Aiustrnliari Gove ment ,for. tha supply .of ‘s4eepers’>in– connexion, with %he “construction” of -ithe fcransocmtineatal naitway ?
-T -The tender is Qnly.for.portion-.of the . sleepers required, and. dt is - >not ‘.proposed to -make public the prices until ‘the.teriders’ for /the-rest of’the sleepers to be purchased’ have been ‘dealt, with. jF’EIDE’KAL -territory. 1 JBankeng- Facilities : Electric Power.
-‘CHAP-MAN asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice - >j.l Is:.hei awa-re :4hat “under. the. >:law .of J New South “(Wales Jthe .State-Savings ?Bank. authorities are debarred from granting loans -.outside :5the State ?
Mr. ‘-‘.K.OTG ‘ ‘ O’MALLEY The answersto the .honorable .member’s questions, are.as follow : - 1 to 3. I am giving the matter my personal attention, -and hope- to :be in a position to -make an> announcement ‘shortly.
asked the Minister of - “Home o Affairs, tipon -notice - i.i Has. his attention. ;been directed to .a; statement in the Sydney press stating that sufficient power can be obtained -in the .Shoalhaven-‘ River,, near ‘Marulan, to supply all the railways,, tramways, and lighting, r.equireraents-vin .the. Federal Capital at Canberra? 2/ -Will ‘-the -Minister have inquiries made, .into the proposal of .’the -Rev. .’Mr. ‘‘Richmond., of Marulan, to have ‘electric power generated in’ the?
Shoalhaven River near Marulan, and conveyed to the Federal Capital for railway, tramway, and lighting purposes?
– T - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, ufon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– And carry all the privileges? Mr. THOMAS- Decidedly “?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, ufon notice -
– The The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, ufon notice -
– A fixed sum was agreed upon for advertising the Commonwealth Bank in the Victorian provincial newspapers. The amount which it was originally agreed to pay was not increased.
– On 7th August, the honorable member for Capricornia asked me the following questions: -
I then gave the honorable member an interim reply; The following supplementary answer is now available : -
New South Wales - Yes. Victoria - Gazette, no ; Parliamentary Papers, if approved by the Speaker or the Parliamentary Printing Committee. Queensland - Bills to Chamber of Commerce, Toowoomba and Maryborough ; Bills and Hansard to Chamber of Commerce, Brisbane ; all Parliamentary Papers to Chamber of Commerce, Rockhampton. South Australia - Yes. Western Australia - Gazette, not to Chambers of Commerce, but to municipalities and Road Boards; Ilansard to Farmers’ Associations and Progress Associations if applied for through the honorable member for the district. Tasmania - Gazette, yes; Parliamentary Papers to Chambers of Commerce, Launceston and Devonport only.
Development of Northern Territory : Railway Policy. - Official and Allowance Post Offices - Federal Capital Territory: Supervision of Expenditure : Railway Construction : Parliamentary Representation of Residents : Savings Bank Accommodation. - Fixed Defences, Sydney and Thursday Island - Drill Halls and Mobilization Stores. - Standard Railway Gauge. - Perth Post Office - Telephone Lines. Question - That the resolution reported from Committee of Supply be now adopted - proposed.
– I desire the Minister of External Affairs to give some information with respect to an item incidentally mentioned at an early hour this morning. It had reference to the question of the adoption of the gauge for railway construction in the Northern Territory. A small sum of four thousand pounds odd appears in the Estimates tor the survey of a railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River, and when it was asked on what gauge the survey was to be based, the answer was “the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge.” At present there is a direct railway line from Port Augusta as far as Ooodnadatta on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. The Commonwealth has taken this over with its liabilities, and it represents to us a value in all of ,£2,242,000 of loan money. There is also a line from Darwin to Pine Creek, in the Northern Territory, representing in all, with the harbor improvements, ^1,184,612. These two lines represent a very large sum of money ; and the alteration of their gauge will be a very serious proposition for the Commonwealth. The 3-ft. 6-in. gauge has been adopted in Queensland. Very large railway extensions are being made in Queensland at the present time, and it is also suggested that the New South Wales Government should run a line out west, towards the Queensland border, where it would connect with the line to be constructed by Queensland, which will run from the south of that State right away to the north. If that scheme be carried out, then, when the line running through western Queensland to the South Australian border is completed, and the Northern Territory line is constructed, we shall also have direct communication with that Territory, through Queensland and New South Wales. I am not suggesting that the people of South Australia should not get the railway to which they are entitled under the agreement made with them. My own opinion is that we shall ultimately see three railway systems in the Northern Territory.
– There is plenty of room.
– Quite so. We must have ultimately, if only for defence purposes, a line connecting the Northern Territory with Western Australia, and, no doubt, the South Australian railway system will also be connected with the Territory, and there will be also the connexion with the Queensland system. We should fulfil our compact with South Australia, but, in building our railways in the Northern Territory, we must pay attention also to natural avenues of trade and commerce. If this 4-ft. 8^-in. line is to be constructed
Mp. Fisher.’ - -Thd > surveys is- tru be if or that “gauge.
– - The Minister- said that ultimately 4 ft. 8j’ in; was to be’the gauge throughout’ Australia:
– U - Ultimately,- most’ certainly. Does not the honorable member think it ought to be the standard gauge?
– I wish to ascertain whether the Minister will inform the House what ‘are the actual railway /commitments ultimately contemplated? I presume .that the Government are working according “to a defrhite plan in the development of* the Northern - Territory, 1 and- that- :the Minister will be able to give us some ‘idea- of the ultimatecost -of the railway, allowing for the conversion -of the- 3-ft: 6-in. line?
– W - We are- appointing a committee to -inquire ‘into - that- matter^ and to report to “us.:
– Whilst I do not expect the Minister to be able to work out the- deltails’, now, I think’ he. ought to.be able’ to give . us a. fair. idea of fh’e cost.
– It would be. quite worthless in., the meantime, to attempt to do so.
– - I hope that when the general Estimates are under, consideration the_ Minister will put. .before us the policy which the -Government, have in mind for. the development of the Northern Territory. We are. dealing with public works,- and ‘the development of ‘ the Territory should .’ be upon, the basis of ‘the public works submitted to us. We desire to know what- the ultimate railway commitments, including the cost of conversion, will involve?
– We purpose asking- .men whose opinion.’ will.’ be worth- having to secure that information- for us.
Mi?… GROOM- I. gather;- then, that there, is no estimate-available -at; present:
– Therei could’ be;’ at”.present, . nothing .more ‘ than;- .mere .surmise. No man. could give an ^estimate * without .personal -investigation)’.
– We- are now being asked ito agree* to a survey, and- we1 ought to have somej.idea of - what the cost of this- line” will bei’ We are asked !to’ agree- to a definite survey;-
– Why , not . have a 4-ft: 8J-irr. survey?
-I ask the Minister.to tell us what will’ be the..ultimate financial, codit mitment of. the Commonwealth » as regards these- railways ?
Mr.- Fisher: - We shall’know’:better after the survey is made.
– Even then I dd not think the Government .’will be in -abetter, position thara- they are to-‘day..- Have- theyt any idea yet as .to the route to be taken? Is the line* to be continued along , a definite route> or’ is a Commission at. a later- stage to advise the; Government ?
– The railway line, whether it goes one way or the- other; is justifiable.
– But what- policy have the Government in view? I could understand Ministers saying/. “We are satisfied that this portion of the line is essential, ‘but’ we-can* not say what will be- its -route as it -goes further south.”
-1- Is not a’Cohirms1 sion to report?
-I : asn, .endeavouring., to ascertain:
– There will ‘be-an expert inquiry.1
– I - I trust that , att-a -later stage, the Minister- of” External Affairs- will submit to the .House a statement “ shewing what ‘has; been done,, and what, steps he1 .proposes -to take- in.-conaaxie«”witb.:the^de.velop* ment- of’ the Territory.
:- Th The quest-ion’ ito. 1 which.. I am. about tovrefer. is distasteful- to me; but; in -view of^state1ments that I made’ during a recent election campaign 1 in - New South Wales regarding the-.travelHng.-expenses-‘of Ministers;. I .feel in duty ‘bound to refer- to iti We had the other day a statement from the Prime Minister in connexion with the matter. He then- laid on the- table of the House: a document which I have just received from the Clerk.
-The question of travelling expenses of Ministers has nothing . to do with the Estimates now under consideration..
– If. you. rule,, sir, that I am.out of order at .this .stage, in. referring to the. matter, . I shall- avail .’myself :o£ another opportunity to do so.. m
.– I am quite. -in .accord with the.. honorable member for Darling Downs in regard. to, the, expenditure of puhlicmoney in . the Northern. Territory;, which iss likely, to -be . a sink. “foi Commonwealth funds fdr many years’ to. come,
– Does -the honorable member for Darling Downs agree with’that ?
– I ; did not make .such . a statement,. tMr, PALMER. - In my , judgment, (be fore these . large ‘expenditures ; are entered upon, 1 wei shoiiid have- before .usj. a welldefined’ scheme of what is going to: be. done.
– When is the honorable member’s party going’ :to issue one? :iMr. RALMER.-nMy party, .unfortunately, is not intthe position in. which 1 it coiald issue a .scheme, but I am confident that, when -they, come into; power, as they willi do,” af ter’tfee next- general elections, they will submiti a. scheme to the House,-‘ so that honorable “members .will. know exactly -what is (intended- to :be. done. -At -present) -we know. nothing rof the 1 intentions, of . the Government, save ; that it proposes ito .tease land .iri. the ‘Northern. Territory under ‘Conditions, Jviiich, in my opinion,1 will not’ lead to perma-nehtisettlement. Asxwe are -being asked, to- .-vote large .sums -for public works in. the’ Terriior-y./the -.Ministry, stauld inform’, the jHouse’Ofi the scheme- on., which it is pcoeeeding. -In the absence. of: such, a scheme 1 1 am :, opposed vto .the voting of money. .Qf course, ;>my (opposition wilMbe fruitless, .-.because ‘.Ministers :.are “strong enough, ito r force .their -own .will .on .the House, ^eing>6upported by .many Avhcr.do mot iseem , to realize rthat they isbould -be merqbers.-bf Parliament /first, jamd members of i a: party afterwards. Jf.; a? scheme .has been. formulated, ‘the” .House should . be made aware.. of the.- fact ; and, iif ‘there -is mo scheme, and Ministers .-are proceeding ;haphazard, .thercountry should know it.
– It is, the , duty .of the Government, l having taken ‘over ifche .Northern Uerritory, ito -do all- that is. possible for :its ..development. Ifdoonot-.-kjiBw^that Minister! are .following line&tof which Ii approve, f.but I’ rwhh cto see /them *fdo something. The oountry-.ca.n- HOt be. allowed .to lie idle. .–It ds useless :to say.thati there is mot iyet<enough information available. about it. ibecaiuseitthe South iAustolian./Goyerjament itook :ao. end: of: trouble to collect, all the information possible,. ;and that information is in print, and readily accessible. -.Mr. .Strawbridge,- Mr. Lindsay, and ,manyi odgers have reported .on- the- Eerritory. .As the , honorable member for Grey has,-,pointed .out, : South 1 Australia’s ,need was:not information, -but . money to:extend her.railway ,?rjra.-0.odnadattatto Pine .Greek. A . mistake was made in.not-.proceedingj with that . work; immediately, after, the transfer of .the, Territory; to the Common wealth. It has been -suggested .-.that there > should <be threeilines; butr-our first- duty is toMnaikea raUway/iright.across Australia,. irom which other lines can; branch in various directions. Capitalists - will not invest -money in . the Northern Territory until; they have seen it > but when it has been made, accessible by railway many persons who have . money will be only too pleased to assist their-sons to make their : homes there. ‘ Mr. Lindsay has stated that .he -drew a survey line -over 100 miles of country without touching a stone or a stick, there being nothing -but high grass all the -.way. It was suggested some time ago that -a. party of legislators should be sent to inspect die1 Territory. I know something of country,, and am certain that more than a . month would be required to make such an inspection *y the information to be obtained . by skirting .the .coast on a steamer -. is not worth talking about. It has been the .experience of . Canada and the United States .that .settlement follows railways, and we cannot -expect , our people to endure hardships in the Territory without die -convenience. of railway facilities. .The money spent on this- railway will, not .be thrown away, and die line will: prove.- a valuable’ asset. I Jiave always been proud of. South Australia for .having -kept the Northern Territory,for Australians,, although she did so at a loss to herself. I hope that the Government will develop the Territory, and develop it on proper lines.
– - I wish to add my voice to that of the ‘ honorable -member for Echuca in recording dissatisfaction with ‘ the very unbusinesslike way ‘in -which i the Northern Territory -question ‘is being dealt -with. It is generally acknowledged that our commitments in regard to ‘ the ‘ Northern ‘ Territory are ‘about ^iri-jOoojooo, so ‘that .’the- settlement and government of the Territory is- really our largest enterprise. ‘‘Yet ‘the ‘-Government seem ‘to have -no definite policy in Tegard to -it. If’ Ministers :say- -openly-‘ that they have’-Tiot had’ time- to’ determine what to do, the ‘country ‘will know ‘how we stand; but if ‘they have -any plan, we should ‘know what they propose. ‘.At present, all* we know is that they have- adopted -an impracticable .-scheme for “settlement by- refusing to grant freehold estates -to ‘those who ore expected. to leave the-more civilized’-partsof Australia to settle in tfee Territory. Like many-other ^honorable .members, I^annof opinion.. that- the ileasehorid -system’ wilh! not induce-‘populationcto ieave. the’ more attractive ‘. districts, where :ifae-.tdimate<is -good, and. life,- energy, and enterprise .abound, tfo go to a remote and tropical district. We have taken over from South Australia railways that we are running at a loss, but no proposal has been made for extending the line from Pine Creek either immediately or in the future. If Australia were a national Crcasus a liability of ;£i 1,000,000 might not give us any great concern, but to a young country this is a very large matter. The people would be astonished if they knew that the Government have no definite policy in regard to the Northern Territory. If there is a policy, we should know it, and should have an opportunity to criticise it before a penny is spent on the Northern Territory. Until Parliament is prepared to indorse a policy, money should not be expended there. The honorable member for Darling _ Downs made a reference to the Queensland railway gauge, but I hope that Ministers will not promise to depart from the standard gauge which we have resolved shall apply to all the railways constructed or controlled by the Commonwealth. The State of New South Wales happens to have adopted the 4 ft. 8^-in. gauge, which is recognised by engineers throughout the world as the standard gauge, and is used by most of the big railway companies.
– Leading engineers are turning against that gauge.
– Victoria has another gauge, and Victoria is the world to the honorable member, but in the ordinary acceptation, of the term the world’s standard gauge is the 4 ft. 8 J-in. gauge, which is therefore more economical and convenient than any other. I hope that the Government will not be beguiled by the representation of any State to depart from that gauge. When the Northern Territory question was under discussion, it was suggested that the South Australian Government should be asked to sanction a deviation of the transcontinental railway to the east, so that it might pass through land of a better quality than would be traversed by a direct route, and might be connected with the Queensland, New South Wales, and Victorian systems at less expense. Of what is to be done in that matter we have heard nothing. Although in regard to many small enterprises the Government shows great activity, it has allowed months to pass without formulating a policy regarding an undertaking which commits the country to an expenditure equalling halfayear’s revenue. In the meantime, it is maintaining railways on which it loses money. I hope that Ministers will take the matter up, and say definitely for the information of the public what they intend to do.
.- This is a very tempting opportunity to discuss the Northern Territory, but I do not intend to do so on this occasion.- I desire merely to call the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to the fact that, according to the answer given to a question to-day, a new regulation has been issued raising the qualification of an official office from a revenue of ^200 to a revenue of £300. When the question of penny postage was before us, the present Minister of External Affairs promised that country post-offices would not suffer as a result of any reduction in the revenue, and that £200 would be the maximum required to establish an official office. I do not know who is responsible for the new arrangement, but it is a distinct breach of faith and a grave injustice to country districts and sparsely-populated areas. It is difficult enough to attain to an official office with revenue of jQzoo, and 0 the difficulty, of course, is intensified if the maximum is increased. I do not intend to let this matter rest, because I believe there is a majority of honorable members who agree that the new regulation is an absolute imposition.
– It is probably an exercise of the official mind !
– Then the exercise of the official mind should be curtailed. If we have a statement from the Minister that country offices are to be placed at no disadvantage as a result of penny postage, no official outside this House should have the right to reverse the policy stated on behalf of the Government. If the new arrangement is the outcome of the Government’s policy, I should like to know what justification there is for the change of front ?
– The Government might as well at the same time let us know what policy they have in relation to the Federal Capital area. A very large expenditure is going on, and the Government ought to adopt some definite plan. I am not cavilling at the officers, who have done very well ; but I think the time has arrived when we should have a Commission or Committee of Public Works, such as is found in some of the States. We are asked to spend this year only from ^100,000 to ^150,000, but this is the foundation of ati expenditure of millions,; and we ought to have some continuity of policy. There are railways, electric works, water and sewerage works, and so forth ; and up to the present the Minister of Home Affairs is left practically a monarch to do as he likes. We have resumed 85,000 acres of land ; and as there will doubtless be a big revenue presently, some policy ought to be laid down. There is some doubt in regard to the route of the railway from the Capital to Jervis Bay, and representations have been made to the effect that by an alteration of the route nearer to Braidwood, there could be tapped a big timber country with large deposits of coal. Strong statements have been made regarding the resources from which electric power can be obtained ; and it is contended that sufficient power can be obtained from the Shoalhaven River near Marulan to supply the Capital and all the railways. Who is going to fix the route of the railways? Has it to be the Mhv ister, or are we to have these public works supervised and investigated as in some of the States. We have been going . along in a very haphazard way, leaving everything to the Minister. The honorable gentleman is, of course, advised by his Secretary, but that gentleman resides in Melbourne, and visits the Territory only once a month’. He or some other official ought to be kept in the Territory all the time, because the works there are sufficient to warrant the supervision of one or more men. There ought to be some Committee or Commission appointed.
– We should need 500 Committees !
– It would be better to have a number of Committees than to go on in the way we are now going. Is the Prime Minister, with his reputation for caution, satisfied with our present method under which no one seems to assume absolute responsibility? Wild charges are made of men being intoxicated, and not doing their work.
– Does the honorable member believe the charges?
– I do not, but the Government ought to be in a position to refute them.
– The Government have, refuted some of the charges.
– That is so, but is it reasonable to accuse men of being intoxicated when there is no liquor within the area?
– The whole thing is a slander on the working men, and the charges are mere electioneering claptrap !
– There is no doubt that men, whether working on day labour or under contract, will have a whisky if they can get it; but, as I say, I do not believe these charges. The Minister of Home Affairs has done, and is doing, good work; but I object to his being a king not only in name, but in reality - to his being in a position where he has simply to wave his hand, and say, “ Do it,” and the thing is done. Notwithstanding all the hard things that are said about the honorable gentleman, I believe he has done good work, and .approached this matter in a business-like way ; but he ought to be relieved of some of his present responsibility. He has enough ‘ to do to look after the work at his office, and, as I said before, there ought to be a Committee of some kind appointed. At present, I am a sort of unofficial representative in this House of the people of the Capital area. At the present time no one can say when those who have sold their land- will get their money. Under the Act, they have to go to the High Court to get the values fixed, if they are not satisfied ; but the Prime Minister has promised that some sort of intermediary local tribunal shall be appointed.
– We shall not embarrass them in trying to get a final decision.
– Quite so; but they are being embarrassed by the delay, which is serious in view of the fact that many of them desire to make fresh homes. We cannot expect the Prime Minister or the Minister of Home Affairs to have time to give ail these matters their personal attention, and, though they no doubt mean to carry out their promises, their hands are too full already. If necessary, let us make the Minister a Commissioner; at any rate, let us. have some local government in the Capital area. As I say, there is some doubt whether the railway to Jervis Bay . ought not to tap some big timber country which is spoken of. Who is to settle the route of the railway?
– The surveyors.
– -Surveyors never settle routes.
Mr.i Fisher. - Tfaey report.asi.t6.the most economical mate.
– Who :is.to judge of their reports ?
– We, who . are responsible for the government of the country. < Mr.-.AUSTIN CHAPMAN,- The building of railways is -not the j government of the country.
– We shall judge on the evidence we get from practical surveyors. .No gerrymandering for . political purposes ! We .shall, have an economical railway.
– .Does ,the Prime’- ‘Minister .accuse, me of . gerrymandering for- political.. purposes?
– :No; but. I, say- ..there .has been a (good deal of. it in .the past.
– And I say there will be a good deal of.it. in the Capital area, unless there, is some .alteration, and. some system .adopted.
– Does the Jaonorahle rraember object-.to the .railway ifrom Queanbeyan to the. Capital. .City site ? -Mr. AUSTIN. CHAPMAN.-*-! -say that that -railway should ..be permanent. There is a proposal; to buijd.a ..railway’ from (the Capital -into. Queanbeyan, .and of that I am strongly., in .favour.
Mr. .- FrsHER-.- e-Ste’rtingi from > the.jQueanibeyan jend of. the- railway. !Mr. AUSTIN ©HAPMAlN-.^But the Pirimei’Minister -Jas- proposed -to- skip away from’ Qraeanbeyan.
– The The railway is -going to stalrt at Queanbeyan all right.
– That will suit ‘me.
– Will it. suit the country? “Mr. . AUSTIN “CHAPMAN.- It will suit the country, too. ‘ But who’ is to .’decide whether “the railway is to go to Queanbeyan,, -arid- to’ Bungendore, .too?
– C - Could, a .”Committee, decide’ the matter?
– A - A Committee, -.with time .totgoi into the matter,-, and advised by surveyors .and engineers, - would be., in. a - better- position .to judge. The people in,the Territory, -who .have .sol ditheir land, ..think ..that .the .Government are’ going iotreat .them, badly, though. I hope that they. will be treated well. -/Mr. vW.. Elliot Johnson.- We ;carrnot afford any serious-mistake atfttieffeeginning. rMr.-EaiNTONf–^We, cannot Bfford.to spend much money there at all.
– In that interjection.. may ;be the (kernel .of .wbat”has been. ; called “ political r gerryoaandering “ ; a .lange -.section .of hsnorable .’members may nbt-.-be in favour of -j -spending any .money there. An , unfortanate; feature is. that ‘the residents in: the Territory,- who1 are deeply interested, have no representation here; they have. to pay taxation, -.and yet haveuio voice in the.expenditure-.of the’money.
– Th There ‘are 400,000 .people at Washington* who-haveno representation.
-^Does the -Minister, say that -the people- jin’ the ; Territory -should’ have no- representation ?
– :We :We could riot hatve 2’,ooo”.peoplei -represented- Kin the:-,floor here, as: against 30,000’ people,- -unless-‘ at the ‘Bar 1 of the House. i-Mr. -AUSTIN CHAPMAN.- If is -an anomtily that there -should be taxation- without -representation; arid I am- surprised’.at the attitude of the’ ‘Minister, -seeing -“that most of ‘the people in- ‘the Capital area would-be supporters- of the present ‘Government. ‘ 1 The Federal ‘ Capital is going ‘ to cost’ a ‘few ‘-millions,^ arid-‘we -ought to ‘start properly, -and ‘have some -continuity .of policy. The ‘ officials in the Territory -at present do .not know-how1 long they may remain ;there ;: and so the” thing goes on. -‘I give /the ‘Minister .t>f ‘Home Affairs credit for ‘doing’ splendid :work, -and”the* foundations, ,so far,’ are- reaUy- good ; but ‘trouble is. ahead’ unless something further -be ‘ done:
I suggested’the-otherrday that the” Secretary of- -the Home Affairs’ Departrnent ‘ would ‘be a ‘-very vgood- man’ ‘to- place1 in charge <hi’ the spot.
-^-I am am sending him up therei ito “.take /diatge’-iater on y he will be administrator. !Mr. AUSTIN ‘ ‘ (SHOPMAN -. - -That .is all I ;am>. asking cfor. iThe -people” in’’ the Territory - are - entitled to– some- system -of local - government. ,My suggestion^ is- that wediimp :New Guinea, * the’. Northern Territor.y, and .the Federal Capital ;areai together, and ^give Them -.a mjepresentative ‘“in ‘‘rtfae House.
– The The ‘whole, 111 members : of >‘this-. Parliament: xepnesent’ ‘the people of these Territories. -Mr. - AUSTIN TCHAPMAN– That - » all-«Mery .well.
– What -does’ the ‘honorable member -.suggest? A .’Jnember ‘tin (this House ?
Mrc AUSTIN- CHAPMAN. - Yesy for the’.Terrirories -I ‘have- mentioned-:
– How many electors would there be?
Mir.] King . O’Mau-ey. - About; 2 ,000- .’in the..; Federal Territory..
– There -are 1,700 or’i,8oo-in the-Federal area. already, and, according to “the Minister, there .will presently be 17,000- or 18,000. However; itv is not a question of numbers ; if we have- a Territory, it” is. an anomaly that taxpayers there should hajve no say in- regard to the . public expenditure. Why should these people’ be taxed? The Minister of Home Affairs his told us’ that he is making money out of titer Territory,- and ‘that the -resumption! ‘oft land will pay. I believe-the Minister -will make money- out- of the- Territory, but’ ‘the men out- of wtoomhe is making it ought to have some say in this House with regard to taxation. If we are not to have a Committee or Commission to decide - on* the route of the- railway from- the- Capital to the coast, the Minister should have the .re* ports on- the -different- routes laid- on- the table of the House, so that honorabre menrbers can see for themselves which is1 the best. We cannot decide on a railway without the fullest information..- Three different routes ‘ have been proposed-‘ from the Capital ‘td Jervis’- Bay.
MY. King “OiM-ArEEY.r- We’ -have filially decided to- run the railway from Quean? bey.an up to the Capital.
– I . think I . think the Minister has done well in. that;, but who are “ we “ ? ‘
– T - The Govern, ment..
– It is- not the .function of- the Government to decide on railway routes .without.- giving the. House an opportunity of >discussing, them.
– From .Queanbeyan? .
– I did; not say from Queanbeyan.
– That-, is alL the’ Minister of Home Affairs spoke of…
– There1 is only one possible; route-, for.- that - rail wttfn- a sbeerline; frorxL-Queatibeyan, torthe- Capital)
– W - We : will not start the :. railway, -from. Jervdsi.Bay tor. the Capital at- .pjeseatii ,
– Ib -should besstarted ias.sooH as possible.;- The: trouble is, thati. the. Minister:.! is ; a .regulaerautozxat in i the* Federal; Territory;; He; decides .what iss’toi be-done and.what ismofto be> danei I . object:- toi the> system, which’ is, bad;’ Something has been said. .about the-gauge of> oun railways: Has. the Minister no intention, of connecting :the- Federal Capital up with Melbourne,. Adekii.de, -and the W est ?. Is-, there- to be no .connexion with Yass or Orbost? It would-, notj take- much to connect the /railway ‘ up. from Orbost to .Bombala* The < different- lines should be connected up in- such a; way as–. to give a direct run 1 through fnomr South. Australia”, and Western. Australia.: to- the. Capital. Big questions like this require handlingv’ini.a proper business-like. way:.
– S - Should : we 1have a uniform gauge?
Mr:i AUSTIN. ‘CHAPMAN. - I anr.n-at keen on’- .tha- gauge, though, persona l I y-,”- 1 like- the .’gauge of- my > own State. However;, wei-ought” to :do .something definite; and the only thing to da’ is to tackle- the matter, in a systematic, way. 1 1 wish to iri,’ dorse/: what: the;: honorable member : for Grey .has. said .about, the’ Postal Depart* ment. Some consideration ought to ‘be given to .those.- in. charge of .small allowance prat-offices… They - are . badly paid ; and there are thousands of them, in Australia. Itris all very -welhto talk, about spending a -lot of-.money,. but where are. we to get the money from..? If we go. on in the way we-are going af present,, weshall soon.be in the Bankruptcy Court.
– How would the. hon-. orable member provide.. the expenditure -for a -railway from. Jervis Bay to the Capital.?
– Does the honorable- member, think that the money for all these-works is to come out of revenue? I am not. keen on public borrowing,. but it is an: absolute impossibility for the Government to . meet their present en, gagements in the- way of defence and other works without borrowing ‘money- It is of-. noi use. to create- a ‘great, national .debt to- buy- ships, that will be obsolete- in ten year* 1 and,, in. my opinion^ the people of this country are- nearly up* to the limit, as regards..- taxation. . E.verything is: on the risev” and . thei time- will- corner when.- the people will begin to think that :. the :pol icy of. the. icountry.- is -(spoliation. It is - time we-, cai led. a halt: andrasked ourselves where wer are> goinga We ‘certainly cannot go -on with: this expenditure) out .of ‘revenue only; Let-sthe Government, formulatersome definite scheme ‘fori the ; Federal Capital;; and. /let usihave ^somebody in rcontrol- there.- Give the. residents a system of -local governmenti
I do not say this unkindly towards those who are in charge there now, because they have done very well. Mr. King O’Malley. - If we had acted any differently, we should have spent too much money in administration. That is the danger in Australia - that too much money is spent at the top.
– The Minister cannot be charged with spending too much money there. There is an impression abroad that, owing to the agitation in Victoria, the Minister is slowing down in this regard.
– N - No; it has no effect on me whatever.
– I did not believe it, because we have the Minister’s public promises ; but the impression is gaining ground throughout the Commonwealth. People do not seem to realize the importance of the Federal Territory yet. We have there nearly 100,000 acres of good land, yet the Minister goes down to Liverpool to buy land for a depot for horses.
– B - Because it is near Sydney, where the men are. That is the big city.
– The money ought to have been spent in the Federal Capital. The curse of this country is the going near the big cities. The Federal Capital is too important a matter to monkey with, or to handle without some continuity of policy, and some definite system of control. Washington is run by a Commission.
– T - They started with one man, and it was only in i860 that the commission system was adopted.
– Then let us start with a one-man system at the Federal Capital. Queanbeyan is on the watershed of the Capital, and the water supply for the Capital will be polluted. Are the Commonwealth Government going to find the money to do all the sewerage works necessary there to prevent this?
– T - The New South Wales Government have to do itj I think that is in the contract.
– They say they have not. It would be unfair to ask the Queanbeyan taxpayers to do it ; the New South Wales Government ought to do it, because they would not let Queanbeyan be included in the Federal Territory, and they would insist on the Capital being where it is.
– I - If they would give us the catchment area at Queanbeyan: we would do it.
– That is another of the big questions that will, have to be tackled; but the biggest is the ques-‘ tion of the representation of the 2,000 people in the Territory. Under the New South Wales law, the State Savings Bank cannot lend money outside the State. Loans have been made to residents inside the Federal Territory, which has been declared outside the State. The bank has notified the people there that they cannot renew the loans, and cannot give them fresh, ones.
– A - Are the privatebanking corporations of Australia treating the people there in that way ?
– There is such uncertainty that they will not touch them.
– H - How can there be any uncertainty when , they are the same people, under the same flag, and living in the same country ?
– It is the duty of the Government to see that these people are not penalized. I believe the Prime Minister will look into the matter, as he has promised to do. The Commonwealth Savings Bank should give the same privileges inside the Territory as the State Savings Banks have given in the past-
– They will certainly get them.
– The Prime Minister says that in all good faith ; but what about the man with a loan of ^2,000 on his property maturing next month, and unable to get it renewed because the Territory has been declared outside New South Wales borders ? His home will be sold up.
– The credit of the Commonwealth is good enough for him, I think.
– But he owes the money to the New South Wales Savings Bank, which says it cannot renew the loan.
– I think we shall be able to accommodate him.
– The people in the Territory will be delighted to learn that the Prime Minister will come to their rescue. There should not be any favour about this matter, nor should they be dependent on the whim or will of any Minister. We might have another Treasurer who would not look at the matter in a reasonable light. It should be a matter of law that the people in the Territory should have the same rights and privileges as those in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– Why not have a branch of the Commonwealth Bank there?
– Perhaps the Prime Minister has that in his mind now. He says very fairly that he will meet any genuine cases that arise. It is a great anomaly that 2,000 people living in the Federal Territory should be Ishmaelites, as it were. They have to apply to the Minister of Home Affairs to know what they are to pay for water or lighting, and they have nothing settled. A man inside the Federal Territory does not know what he is to get for his land, who is to fix the values, whether he will have to go to the High Court to fight the matter if he does not like the values, or when he will be paid, and at the same time he cannot go anywhere else. This matter must affect us as Australians, because it involves a great principle. I urge the Government to do something to give these men, not only representation, but some consideration in the shape of a definite policy, .so that .they will not be handicapped in any way, or have withheld from them the privileges which other citizens enjoy.
. -The interest displayed in the welfare of the Northern Territory by honorable members opposite, and more particularly by the honorable member for Darling Downs and the honorable member for Parkes, must be refreshing to the House and gratifying to the residents of the Northern Territory, as well as to all who are anxious for its advancement. Standing by itself, it would appear to be very good, but we have had the further information given to us that an agreement has been made by the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, under which it’ is intended to construct in New South Wales a 4-ft. ^inline, to connect with the Queensland system, so that ample opportunity will be afforded for the trade of the Northern Territory to “flow to its nearest port,” and so forth. This information is deeply interesting, and I hope that it will be very carefully considered by the Government when they are determining their policy iri regard to the Northern Territory. As to what that policy is to be, we have only the very slight indication furnished by the appearance on these Estimates of an item of ,£5,000 to provide for a survey for a proposed extension’ of the Pine Creek railway to the Katherine River. I do not say that the Government have made up their minds in. this respect, but straws in the air sometimes indicate which way the wind is blowing. What I do hope is that there will be no” scheming on the part of any of the States to obtain an advantage in respect of the trade of the Territory before the Territory itself is opened up. In the interests, not only of the Northern Territory, but of Australia as a whole, it is essential that the Territory should first of all be opened up and developed. I do not think it is going to be a sink for Commonwealth moneys, as the honorable member for Echuca has suggested ; but it certainly will be if the State Rights’ brigade “gerrymander ‘ ‘ a policy for the purpose of diverting a trade that -is not yet created, but which, after millions have been wasted, would probably be enjoyed by certain States against the interests of the rest of the Commonwealth. That sort of game is very amusing.
– What does the honorable member mean?
– There seems to be much anxiety on the part of some members of the Opposition that, having regard to the arrangements that are being made between New South Wales and Queensland, the Territory railway line shall start from the north, and not in the south, where we have the highlands.
– I know of no arrangement between New South Wales and Queensland. . .
– The honorable member is one of the most innocent men in Australia ; but I am very glad that the honorable member for Darling Downs and the honorable member for Parkes, in their thirst for knowledge, have given us tne valuable information to which I have alluded. I sound a note of warning to the people of Australia, and earnestly appeal to the House to get above State Rights scheming, and to determine that the Territory shall be opened up in the interests of Australia as a whole.
– I have no doubt that my honorable friend is very earnest, and very honest, straightforward, and outspoken. In short, I have no* doubt that he is the one man in the House who takes a “broad national view “ of all these questions. Every one knows, however, that he has an eye on his own State all the time. Indeed, it may oe set down as a rule in this House that an honorable member who protests most vigorously, and, apparently, whole-heartedly, that some one else is taking a “ parishpump “ view, is, in reality, speaking with his own mouth full of “ parish-pump “ water. Here we have another instance of the kind. The honorable member has been attributing motives to the people of certain States and asserting that they want to “gerrymander” a railway, and that they desire to divert the trade of the Northern Territory from its natural courses. I have heard of no such scheming and no such scheme. There is a natural anxiety on the part of the taxpayers that we shall begin our process of Northern Territory development on proper lines ; that the work of development shall start from some -centre which will give the Territory the greatest and freest access to the markets of Australia, and so provoke reciprocal trade, which will help us. to look forward to the time when it will be self-supporting, and a buttress to, rather than a burden upon, the rest of Australia. The honorable member should cease these ridiculous innuendoes of his, unless he is prepared to furnish some substratum of solid information as to the existence of such schemes. I know of no such scheme as he suggests to the House, more by insinuation than by straight-out frank statements. What I do know is that we have a proposal by this Government to construct a section of the Northern Territory railway from the north downwards. If that is to be the extent of the survey, it appears to me that it will be a very ridiculous one. Before entering upon a survey of the kind, the Government should have definite plans as to the route to be taken, and as to where they are going to look for a way out. What is the good of carrying the Pine Creek railway to the Katherine River, unless we proceed further and know in what direction it is proposed to go? What is the use of merely carrying the railway to the Katherine River, and so adding enormously to the already large debts we have taken over in connexion with the Territory? If all the produce developed by such a railway is to go up north, where will it go when it reaches there? These are questions that we need to put to ourselves. If the honorable member would ask them, he would do very much better than he does by throwing out insinuations regarding representatives of other States, who may be just as patriotic as he -is to Australia as a whole. What motive can, we have but to develop the Northern Territory on lines that will make it a paying proposition, and enable it to go on its own way adding to the material prosperity, security, and safety of Australia? But to throw a proposal like this before the House, as the Government have done, and to leave it without a word of explanation, is to be guilty of one of ‘ those mysterious actions which I do not pretend to understand in connexion with the present Administration. Instead of criticising his own Government, which he follows so slavishly and blindly - instead of criticising the Government which are doing this apparently wooden -headed. thing - the honorable member tries to divert attention to some one else. His own Government are responsible for what is being done, and that is the first fact to which he should direct his attention.
– We should get a worse policy from the honorable member’s party.
– There speaks this great nationalist ! There speaks the Caucus party devotee, who is covering up his own tracks as a blind, sordid supporter of this Government in anything and everything they do, whether it be against his State or not ! There speaks the man who is trying to throw dust in the eyes of his own electors by referring in this insinuating way to members of others States, and accusing them of all the political crimes in the calendar. The honorable member had better look to himself. If any -one is to blame for this patchwork business - if patchwork it be - his own Government most assuredly is. They are spending money on a partial survey, and will not even give the House any explanation. They will not say what is in their minds. I suggest that the honorable member for Hindmarsh is grossly unfair in belabouring honorable members as he has been doing, while all the time his trouble U nearer home in connexion with his own Caucus and his own Government. This House ought to have a full explanation of the purpose of the Government with regard to surveys of developmental lines. 1 am not so sure that I do not agree with my honorable friend, that we ought to begin at another spot rather than where we propose in our process of developing the Territory.
– Does the honorable member think that we ought to start from the south and go north ?
– I did not say where we should start. The very first step we ought to take is to set the experts at work, and not to dictate to them as to where they shall commence their operations. I should select the best men I could get - men in whose judgment I had the most implicit reliance - of the best calibre that could be obtained in the Commonwealth, and I would say to them, “ Find us the best route for developmental railways. Give us the benefit of your judgment as to where the survey should begin.” Instead of doing what the present Government are doing, I would ask them to direct me as being better informed - as knowing more about this business than I could possibly do owing to my want of training. In other words I would get about me the best ability I could command in the continent for the purpose of making proper surveys, and investigating the country through which those surveys passed. My honorable friend may well leave the Opposition alone in this matter. He will find that they are as patriotic as he is. He will find that they are just as ready as he is to observe the broad lines of the bargain that has been made with his own State - and made, as I think, much to the advantage of South Australia. He certainly will not promote his cause by making insinuations and attributing unworthy motives to men who are as anxious as he is that the Territory shall be developed on right lines, and quite as anxious as he is to do the best for the Commonwealth which we are all here to serve.
.- I have been rather struck by the attack made this, afternoon by honorable members of the Opposition on the administration of the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Echuca began by attacking the Government for expending any money whatever in the Territory, and he was followed by the honorable member for Parkes, who complained very bitterly of the fact that this Parliament had made itself responsible for an indebtedness of £11,000,000 in respect of the taking of that’ Territory from South Australia. This Government has had control of the Territory for practically only twelve months, and is endeavouring now to do what the Tories, Liberals, and Fusions of South Australia neglected to do in the past. The honorable member for Parkes expects this Government to say in detail what it is going to do with a Territory whose area is, I suppose, fifteen times that of Victoria, but, as a matter of fact, we are proceeding in a business-like way, and are providing for works necessary for its settlement and progress. Objection has been taken to the proposal to expend £4,000 on a railway survey, but the remaining ,£50,000 odd is for works that are urgently needed, which the Tories of the past have neglected to carry out. The expenditure proposed is to make ready for the reception of a population. That is the first .step to take. The sum of £3,000 is to be spent on additions to buildings, while for the Darwin Hospital £1,650 is asked; for artesian water bores, ^2,000 ; for houses for Government employes, .£21,000; for quarters for the guard of the gaol at Fanny Bay, £625 ; for workshops and fittings, ,£1,100; for the survey of a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, ,£4,200; for the erection and equipment of a steam laundry £i,°°o; for a new public school at Darwin, .£1,500; for another school at Brock’s Creek, £365 ; for a police station, £500 ; for a court-house and warden’s office at Pine Creek, ,£600; for a public works store, £^4,000; for additional office accommodation, ,£4,000 ; - and for well sinking and water conservation, .£3,000. Are not all these, and the other undertakings which are provided for, necessary? Is population to flock to the Northern Territory and no provision to be made for it? The Government has engaged a Geologist, a Director of Lands, a Chief Surveyor and staff, an Administrator, and a Judge, and is now looking for an Inspector of Mines. It has also sent a doctor to Darwin, to clean up the pestilence that the Liberals, Tories, and Fusions of the past handed over to us with the Territory. What I have heard of in that connexion is not fit to describe. This Government is accused of having no policy, but it knows its duty, and is endeavouring to make Port Darwin a little cleaner.
– It wanted that badly.
– Almost as badly aa Sydney.
– To hear from persons who have been to Port Darwin what has taken place there is shocking, and thi* state of things remained while the Territory was under the control of the Government of South Australia. The Labour Administration of that State, however, had no responsibility in the matter. What, more could the Opposition have done, had it been in power? .1 doubt if .it would have done half as much. Members opposite sat on the Ministerial benches for ten years, but it was necessary for this Government to come into power to accomplish the taking over of the Territory. We are blamed for not proposing large expenditure on railways in the Northern Territory, and, at the same time, the Fusion press is attacking the Labour party for its extravagance. How can we please our critics opposite? The honorable member for Parkes desires the 4-ft. S^in. gauge, while the honorable member for Darling Downs wishes for a 3-ft. 6-in gauge for the railways of the Territory. The Government has done all that it can in the time at its disposal. It has appointed experts to report as to the best means of developing the Territory, and next year, if still in power, as I believe it will be, it will have proposals to make to Parliament. If the Government formulated a policy before its experts had made inquiries, and furnished reports and recommendations, the Opposition would declare that that policy wanted ground to sustain it. Honorable members opposite appear to me to talk for the sake of talking. They accuse us of not spending enough, and, in the same breath, with being too lavish. What can we do to please them?
.- There does not seem to me to be reason for the heat which Ministerial supporters are displaying in the discussion of this matter.
– The honorable member should have heard the honorable member for Parramatta.
– He was replying to a very warm speech from the other side. It is the unanimous desire of honorable members that a policy for the development of the Northern Territory should be formulated at the earliest moment on a sound basis. We all recognise die enormous responsibility devolving on us in this matter ; but, like the honorable member for Parramatta, I must protest against proposals for expenditure about which we have no information, especially the proposal to spend money on railways. We have already had occasion to complain of the adoption of a system of land tenure without regard to the opinions of Parliament, and now we are being committed to a railway policy which, so far as we know, forms no part of a general scheme of development and settlement. Railways, of course, are necessary, but the money will be wasted if they are not constructed in accordance with a de finite scheme. It has been contended by South Australian representatives that a transcontinental line should be constructed through their State, while many other honorable members think that the Territory would be better served by a line going through the eastern States. This conflict of opinion is evidence of the need for an investigation by an independent body, which could make recommendations on the subject to Parliament.
– Members of the Opposition are always asking for Boards and Committees.
– The expenditure of public money should take place only after a proper investigation of the proposals of the Government.
– Of what use is it to appoint high-salaried officers to report to us if, in addition, we are to appoint Boards of Inquiry ?
– There are no officers in the Territory specially qualified to report on a scheme for its development.
– We have an engineer there.
– It It is his business to report on particular questions. There is no body or Committee whose duty it is to report on proposals for important public works.
– Of whom should such a body consist - of members of Parliament? “ Mr. SAMPSON.- No. Members of Parliament have neither the time nor the opportunities for doing this work. There is a great multiplicity of appointments in the Territory at the present time, and it might be possible for the Government to create a responsible board from those already there, with instructions to make a comprehensive report as to a system of railway construction.
– I take it that those officials will act together in any case.
– But we should place on them the responsibility of laying a scheme before the House.
– That is to divide responsibility.
– Not so j it is appointing a Committee of responsible officers charged with the duty of making specific recommendations’. If this railway, as said, is part of the trunk line, it might be dealt with separately from the ordinary scheme of development.
– The honorable member knows full well that it is part of the trunk line.
– I conclude that it is so, though I do not know the fact “ full well.” 1 am taking this opportunity to protest against the absence of any general scheme of public works,- including railways ; but, as I say, an exception might be made of this section of railway, if we understand it to be part of the main trunk line. I am not prepared to say, in the absence of the fullest information, whether this main trunk line should run from the coast southward, or from South Australia at Oodnadatta northward, but our first duty is to formulate a scheme to develop the resources of the Territory, and for the construction of railways to carry the produce to the coast, so that it may be carried to the London and other markets. Most of the products that will be generally :grown in the Territory we are already overproducing in the southern parts pf Australia. We hope that, the Territory will become one of the greatest stockraising and dairying centres in Australia.
– What are we overproducing ?
– We could export more meat and more dairy produce.
– Look at the prices !
– It is not a matter of price; we are an exporting country for -meat.
– Not in the last month or two.
– That may be true; but I cannot now deal with special cases. All the eastern States are more or less exporters of meat and butter, which are the two products that for many years will be chiefly raised in the Northern Territory.
– How can we be overproducing if there is a ready market?
– Meat and butter form the great proportion of our export business, which enables us to pay the interest on the cost of our public works. Before we are called upon to vote any further sums for the construction of public works in the Northern Territory, we ought to be able to review a fully developed scheme, so that we may know how the money is to be expended, and the probable results. From what I gathered when travelling in a portion of the Northern Territory, I think the railway should, in the first instance, be run from the- coast inland, so that the interior may be developed. The possibility of making this a settled country will depend on the encouragement given to the growth of products that have chiefly to be sent to the markets of the world. I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro with regard to the P’ederaj. Capital area. It seems to me that the honorable member touched a very important point. This Territory is part of our Commonwealth properties, and it has been stated by some honorable members that there is a chance of developing an agricultural community there. There is poor land, and land of average quality; but in the long run there is the possibility of a large number of agricultural settlers. If this be so, the , Government could give a tremendous im- . petus to settlement by the establishment of-, the Credit Foncier system in connexion with the Commonwealth Savings Bank, as has;.i been done in connexion with some of. the5 State Savings Banks. I can conceive of .. no better way of investing the funds of the bank than enabling settlers in the Federal area to borrow freely on a safe basis. According to the Constitution, this land must remain the property of the Government, and doubtless special legislation would be required to enable money to be lent on lease- . hold properties; at any rate, some financial. assistance ought to be given with a view to . encouraging new settlers, and also with view .to relieving the financial tension noi being experienced by a large number of people already there. _
– And there ought to be some system of local government.
– We all desire some system of local government, because it is only right that people who pay taxation should have representation. There are, of course, great difficulties in the way which have not yet been solved, but their solution is a matter of growth and evolution. In South Australia, Western Australia,, and Victoria, the State Governments have found it a safe plan to lend out, not large sums, but small sums, on their own land, mostly on the security of the improvements and the added value given by the industry of the occupiers. These advances have generally been repaid, and some such scheme might be introduced with benefit in the Federal Territory.
.- I was rather amused to hear the honorable member for Parramatta make a very strong demand for the appointment of experts in the Northern Territory, and his expressions of faith that the advice of those experts- would be followed, especially in view of the fact that, during the last . fortnight, honorable members, particularly honorable members opposite - though there are several on the Government side - have done nothing but condemn the decision arrived at by the expert selected to advise as to the site for the Woollen Mills.
– He was not allowed a free choice.
– If honorable members disagreed with the advice of the experts in connexion with the railways of the Northern Territory, we should be told that these experts were not given a free hand.
– They always disagree with experts unless the money is to be spent ait their own back doors.
– There is no doubt about that. As to the railways in the Northern Territory, if the honorable member for Hindmarsh required any confirmation of his fears, I think he got it in the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta. There is no need for the honorable member for Hindmarsh to be told that he is hinting, and that he ought to come out with what he means. We all know, as can be found in Hansard, that when the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill was before us this very question was dealt with. I am referring now to the desire of the representatives of the eastern States that the railway which should develop the Territory shall be diverted in order to develop the back portions of those States. I have no fault to find with the proposed railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River, because this line must be part of the main line, whichever route the latter may take. The Minister has made a statement to that effect in this House on more than one occasion. Last year when the matter was discussed, the Minister told us that he would have a survey made of the extension of the line to Katherine River, and that this would form part of the main line, whether this went east or due south. The fault I find with the Government on this occasion is that they give no hint of their intention to develop that immense part of the Territory which lies to the south. One would think that the Territory consists entirely of the country in the north ; the Government seem to forget altogether the land about the MacDonnell Ranges and a little further north, which has ‘ been described as excellent pastoral and mineral land, suitable for the habitation of white people. This part of the Territory can be developed only by the extension of the railway from Oodnadatta north ; and we ought to have a proposal from the Govern-: ment to survey a line from that place to, at: least the MacDonnell Ranges, simultaneously with the proposal to survey theline from Pine Creek to the KatherineRiver.
– That line has all been: surveyed, and the data obtained.
– If so, there is no excuse fori the Government not providing in the Estimates for the extension I have indicated.. To suggest that the line from Pine Creek, to the Katherine River shall be turned off towards Queensland, and then connected with the New South Wales railways, is te* deliberately ignore the Northern Territory,; and leave the greater portion of it without any attempt at development. This, to my’ mind, is a matter of the most serious; moment, and the longer it is left unattended* to “the greater will be the loss to the community, and the longer the Territory will: remain undeveloped. I hope to see the -lines continued as nearly north and south as possible, and ultimately connected up with extensions both from Queensland andi New; South Wales. . .
-^ Although the Government have expressed a; desire to get these Estimates through asi quickly as possible, they are going theright way to get them through as slowly aspossible. I have no great objection to any-: of these items for the Northern Territory^: but they ought to have been accompanied by some general scheme. If the Minister of External Affairs has not had time to prepare a scheme - and it is quite possible that he has not, because it will take the officers who were recently appointed a long time to get accustomed to their surroundings - he should tell the House so. If he would: only say that at some particular period - say, three months from now - he proposes to put a full scheme of development before Parliament, I think members on this? side would be satisfied, but we cannot get a word out of him. Will he assure the House that these works are simply of atentative character, and that before the enormous expenditure foreshadowed is entered upon a general scheme for develop-, ing this great Territory, which is one of the most difficult problems before Australia, will be put before Parliament? If he said so, it would give members some sort of confidence. I am inclined to agree that there will have to be far more’than one line of railway through the Territory. The line from north to south appears to have its uses, and I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland that one of the first steps Ought to be to continue the existing line at least down to Macdonnell Ranges. We hear glowing wordopictures of this country, and the Government ought to verify them. If their officers are satisfied that the Macdonnell Ranges country is what it is described to be, there will be no excuse for not continuing the line to that point. If we have country of that sort not so very far distant from Darwin, . why not make a start in developing it? It might be a stepping stone toward the further development of this great Territory. This is a broad national question concerning every State, and we ought to have an assurance that some day a proper scheme of development will be put before us.
– “ Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
– No body of commonsense business people, as the Australian people are, ought to be expected to go along on that principle. They want to see that not evil, but good, comes out of the Northern Territory.
– Why do not you give them time to look round?
– I want to do so, 4>ut we cannot get a word from the Mindster.
– Is not the Minister going to give us an explanation?
– It does not look Hike it. We have had very little explanation of these Estimates so far.
– The Government will not get them through until we have had an. explanation.
– I think that is a fair position to take up. We are just as much trustees of the public money as the Government are. We do not know whether these embryo expenditures may not entail enormous liabilities to make them ot any use later on.
– The railway will involve an -enormous expenditure.
– We have no assurance that the Government are going to build 3t. I have made my protest, and even if mo notice is taken of it, I have done my duty. If we have a disaster, as I am sure we shall have, if we are going to fluke along in this way, I cannot be blamed for it.., I wish to indorse the remarks of the “honorable member for Eden-Monaro regarding the difficult and cruel position in which settlers in the Federal Territory ‘have been placed. Some of them have borrowed money, and their bankers will say to them, “ You are in a most extraordinary position ; your security is damaged, and we do not know what our security is.” Naturally, they will be pressed for payment, and the outlook is very bad for them. 1 hope the very first action of the present Socialistic Government towards the few Commonwealth subjects they have will not be to cause them great distress. We were promised that such advantageous terms would be given to all on Commonwealth Territory that people would flock there, but these people have been put into a most precarious position, and should be removed from it as soon as possible. They have to pay taxes, and they have no representation. Some form of government must be given to the residents in both the Federal Territory and the Northern Territory.
– Give them local selfgovernment.
– Why do not honorable members opposite insist on it? The Government are threatening to take away these people’s properties. They do not know what they are to be paid for them, or when they will be paid.
– Does not the honorable member know that a legal process has to be gone through in resuming property ?
– I do, and these people ought to have been informed of the fact. I understand that they are under notice that their holdings may be resumed from them.
– O - Only two big stations, Yarralumla and Duntroon, and we also took Acton. We have given them notice, and the property is ours now. We are not touching anything further at present, and the people there know that.
– My informant was the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who said that the owners were in a very precarious condition. I am not aware of their financial position, but they may have loans in respect of their properties, and the Minister will recognise that difficulty is likely to arise if he does not press on with this work. I know that there are complicated legal proceedings in connexion with the resumption of land, and that valuations must also be made; but the matter should be taken in hand at once.
– W - We have only taken over two big stations - one of 40,000 and the other of 30,000 acres.
– I suppose that the honorable member desires to do justice, even to the owner of a big station.
– Cer Certainly. We have taken about 85,000 acres altogether.
– I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance that he is going to press on with this matter.
– l - lt is settled. We are not going to interfere with any of the others.
Mr. FAIRBAIRN.^ am pleased, and I am sure that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will also be pleased, to have that information. I wish particularly to call attention to the extraordinary position in which citizens of both the Federal and the Northern Territory are placed in regard to representation. I would ask the Minister of Home Affairs to see that they are given some form of municipal government in order that they may have a voice in the expenditure of the money which they are called upon to provide.
– The very moment we give them municipal government they will be taxed.
– They are taxed now.
– They must have some form of municipal government.
– T - They have. I am, so to speak, the government there.
– I believe that a beneficent autocracy is the best form of government we could have.
– C - Colonel Miller is going up very shortly to administer the Federal Territory.
– I am sure that the residents of both the Federal and the Northern Territory will not be satisfied until they have a voice in the management of their own affairs. The majority must rule in every part of this country, and I look forward with interest to a statement by the Minister in regard to these two points.
– There seems to be a constant moaning on the part of the Opposition. I do not know of one matter that has been brought before the House this session concerning which the Opposition have not complained that the information furnished is insufficient to enable them to come to an intelligent decision. There certainly must have been a Caucus on the subject, otherwise they would not have sung their song as well as they have done. I was rather surprised that the honorable member for Fawkner, who is usually a calm and eventempered man, should” have indulged indie language he employed a few moments ago when he suggested that this Government, notwithstanding their great schemes;, were, so to speak, simply “ fluking “ along.
– So they are.
– I am glad to know that, even when the honorable member has spoken, the last word of wisdom has not been uttered. I desire, in the first place,, to refer to the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, concerning which a great storm was raised last night. A cursory glance at the Estimates should indicate to an intelligent man that the work of providing these mills has just been entered upon - that a certain portion of the buildings is to be erected, and that portion of the machinery is to be installed to enable operations to be commenced as sooa as possible. ‘ It is evident that it is not proposed to refrain from doing any work until the whole building has been erected, and a vast quantity of machinery has been installed. The desireis, I take it, to start in a small way and toadd gradually to the buildings, plant, and machinery. Coming to another question, I would remind honorable members that the development of Australia was due, not so> much to squatting or farming interests as to the discovery of gold, which led to a great influx of population, and gave an impetusto the whole country*. I am one of those who believe that one of the best things that could happen to the Northern Territorywould be fresh discoveries of goldbearingreefs and other mineral deposits in that vast area; and I hope that the Government Geologist, Dr. Jensen, who is a man of very high standing in his profession, will soon surround himself with a capable staff’ of practical miners, and at once set out.
– We are now advertising, for a practical miner to assist him.
– I am glad to have that statement, for, whilst I am inclined to pay very considerable deference to the views of a geologist, I have even greater faith ina practical miner. I believe that when we have a few practical men associated with- Dr. Jensen we shall make some important discoveries that will be of very great benefit to the Territory. Men are prepared to endure all sorts of hardships, and to travel almost any distance in order to reacb a payable gold-field. 1 have not yet visited the Territory, but hope to have an opportunity to do so before long ; and I certainly believe that we have there areas which, climatically and in other respects, are among the best that we have in Australia. I am inclined to pay considerable attention to the views expressed by the representatives of South Australia in this regard, and to believe that the development of the Territory will be more rapid if we start from the south rather than from the north. I do not suggest that we should neglect the north, but I understand that he proposed extension of the Pine Creek railway to the Katherine will run directly south along what would be the ordinary route to be followed, whether there was any deviation or not. In this regard, however, I am looking to the development of not only the Northern Territory, but Central Australia, and the best way to develop Central Australia, as well as the Territory, is to construct a line as nearly as possible down the centre of the Territory, provided that there are no insuperable engineering difficulties in the way. Such a line would develop not only the Territory, but the eastern portion of Western Australia. I hold the view that, in the far east of Western Australia, there is untold mineral wealth, and a line running through the Territory from north to south, with branch lines running both east and west, would do more to develop Central Australia than any other scheme of which I know. Reference has been made this afternoon by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to the want of banking facilities in the Federal Territory. The honorable member takes a keen interest in the Territory, and, in passing, I may say that I think that one way of getting over the difficulty in regard to the nonrepresentation of residents of the Federal Territory in this Parliament would be to attach that area to an adjacent constituency. I am satisfied that in that way residents of the Federal Territory would be as well represented as they would be if they had separate representation in this House. As the result of the transfer of the Federal Territory to the Commonwealth, the State Savings Bank, we are informed, is not now carrying oh business there, and cannot renew loans made by it to local land-owners prior to the transfer. We have, therefore, a splendid opportunity to establish there a branch of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. There are a number of workmen in the Federal Capital, and we should afford them every facility to place their savings in safe keeping. We should also give some consideration to local residents w’ho have borrowed money from the State Savings Bank, and who, because of the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, cannot obtain a renewal of their loans. I wish to impress upon the Minister the importance of the three points to which I have referred, and I trust that he will take them into consideration.
– The Government would have done much better than they have if, before making any proposal for expending money in the Northern Territory, they had submitted to the House a complete schedule setting forth a definite policy. I also take the view that they would have acted more in the interests of the Territory had they started the work of development from the south. We have had submitted to u£ reports to the effect that there are exceedingly valuable agricultural, pastoral, and mineral areas in the vicinity of the MacDonnell Ranges, and with such reports before us, we could not make a greater mistake than that which we are now committing. The attempt to develop the Territory from the north has been responsible for the failure that has hitherto been experienced. It is the one mistaken policy that has resulted in one of the greatest failures in the history of British settlement. We have there an indebtedness of £3,500 per head of the white residents of the Territory, and that gives us an expenditure of ,£144,000 per annum in .respect of interest. The Government are adding one-third more to this indebtedness, and this, capitalized, brings the indebtedness per head of the white population up to nearly £4,500. The whole history of British settlement cannot show a more disastrous record.
– Who was responsible for that but men of the honorable member’s class and type?
– Nothing of the kind. It was want of money.
– I would remind the honorable member for Bass that the party to which he now belongs has sat on the Government side of the House, and has held the balance of power, almost ever since I have been a member of this Parlia ment, so that they must take their share o’B the responsibility.
– Did they sit on this side when the Fusion party was in office?
– No ; but, with the exception of a period of about twelve months, they have sat on the Government side of the House ever since I have been a member. The policy of successive South Australian Governments has ended in disastrous failure, because of the attempt to settle the Territory from the fever, the malarial, and the tick or tropical zone. They have overlooked the fact that rich and valuable land is to be tapped from the south, where we have, comparatively speaking, the temperate zone of Australia. The Territory would derive very much greater advantage from the construction of a line starting from the south, and. working in a northerly direction, than it will do by a continuance of the disastrous policy under which an attempt has been made to settle the Territory from its more tropical northern extremity. I was one of those who opposed the taking over of the Northern Territory from South Australia, because I felt that the Commonwealth was making a very bad bargain; but having assumed responsibility for the Territory, no good puipose will be served by imitating the mistakes of South Australia. We are, however, following the example of that State by continuing the policy which has brought about the present condition of affairs. We have sent to the Northern Territory a large batch of highly-paid officers, but have not attempted to induce one white settler to go there. We are providing a steam hammer for the cracking of nuts. At an expenditure of over £60,000 a year, the Northern Territory is to be governed by officials.
– It is the German system of colonization.
– Exactly, we have sent to the Territory nearly a dozen highly-paid officers.
– To govern an area fifteen times as great as that of Victoria.
– But having a population of only 1,000 white persons. The indebtedness of the Northern Territory is .£3,500 per head of the white population, and to that this . Government has added one-third without increasing the tax-paying population in the least; all those whom it has sent to the Northern Territory are a burden on the taxpayers. Honorable members opposite are as dissatisfied with the way in which these Estimates have been put before us as we are. The honorable member for Hindmarsh knows that the policy of settling the Territory at its northern end is condemned throughout his “own State, but he will do nothing to remedy the disaster brought about by South Australian methods. But instead of dealing fairly and squarely with the position, he played the part of the squid, that unsavoury fish which, when disturbed, ejects an inky fluid, under cover of which it tries to escape. He tried to make out that there is a conspiracy to depart from the arrangement with South Australia in regard to railway construction. The honorable member for Grey knows that I have stated publicly and privately that I consider that the Commonwealth is pledged to construct the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. One of the reasons why. I opposed the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth was that it was accompanied by the condition that the line should be taken from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. Being now bound to construct that line, it would be a common-sense course to commence its construction at the southern end, spending our money on the development of the temperate lands of the Territory, where something like, comparatively speaking, closer settlement may be possible. The leasing of the Territory to squatters will not materially increase its population. For half a century a great part of the land there has been held under pastoral lease ; but the work of the stations is done largely by aboriginals who, although disinclined for ordinary work, make fairly good stockmen. If practically all the Territory were under pastoral lease, its population would not be much increased. But in. the temperate region near the Macdonnell Ranges, there is a hope of settling the country. Before we spend a shilling on railway construction, we should have a full and definite scheme of railway development put before us, and should proceed in accordance with that scheme. Short lines like that from Darwin to Pine Creek will do little for the development of the country. Nothing much is to be expected from continuing that line for a few miles. All that will be done will be to add to the enormous indebtedness of the Territory, and to increase the army of officials who merely help each other to do nothing,, from the geologist to those employed in the steam laundry. The acme of absurdity was reached when a market gardener was sent to teach the Chinamen how to grow cabbages. The debate on these Estimates has been unusually long, but for that Ministers are responsible. Never before has so little information
Hieen placed before members in regard to Works Estimates. I felt sorry for the Minister of Home Affairs last night, because be could tell us so little. It is the practice of every Parliament for Ministers to inform members fully regarding their works proposals, and not one item should be passed until members have obtained from Ministers :the explanation they require regarding it. In this case, we have had no information as to the purposes for which money is asked, or as to the ultimate cost of works towards which we have been asked to vote money. We have been expected to vote blindfold. If the supporters of the Government were on this side, they would be as eager as we are for information. Why has it been refused? Is it because the departmental officers have not supplied it to Ministers, or because the Jatter wish to bludgeon through their proposals without regard to what we may say, or what the public may think? Our Defence expenditure is likely in the future to prove a mill-stone round our necks. It now -amounts . to .£5,000,000 per annum - a shocking sum to vote without the slightest information.
– There has been as much criticism from this side as from that,
Tegarding Defence proposals, though very little from either, both sides having tacitly agreed with what is being done.
– There has not been aiearly as much criticism as there should have been. Our Defence expenditure per head of population is higher than that of any country in the world except one; but there is no country which could not put a better fighting force into the field at one-fourth the cost per head of population.
– What ground has the honorable member for such a sweeping statement ?
– The Statesman’s Year-Book, Whittaker, and HazelVs Annual bear me out.
– For what year?
– The latest availAble.
– That information does not apply to our present position.
– Not much has been done to turn out a fighting force since last year. Our expenditure on Defence per head of population puts us at the head of the list, and the efficiency of our fighting force at the bottom of it. The Defence vote will have to be taken in hand before very long by one side of the House or the other. One matter mentioned by the hon orable member for Eden-Monaro requires consideration. Some of the small landholders in the Federal Territory . may be placed in a very awkward position owing . to the fact that they have borrowed money from the New South Wales Savings Bank, which is not permitted to advance money on any lands out of the State. This presents a chance for the Federal Government to establish their Savings Bank in the Federal Territory, and take up the position held by the State Savings Bank prior to the transfer.
– Did not the honorable member hear the Prime Minister assure the House that consideration would be given to every case?
– What i suggest should be done at once, because, as the loans are falling due, the settlers may, as I say, be placed in an exceedingly awkward position. In regard to the Federal Territory, I hope the House will pause before committing itself to any railway extension from the north, but will rather decide to continue the line from the south, where there is, at any rate, a chance of earning some revenue.
.-! notice that no expenditure is proposed for armament at North Head, Sydney, and Goode Island, although that line remains in the Estimates. Evidently the Government do not intend to spend any money whatever in fortifying North Head, although we know that, according to the military authorities, it is most desirable that it should be fortified. Last year ,£5,000 was voted, and apparently, .£5,000 was spent on the armament of the three places mentioned.
– Provision is made this year for the expenditure of ,£115,000 upon armament and stores for fixed defences. There is a slight difference of opinion amongst experts as to the exact locality of the guns. We are providing two 9-in.. guns.
– I know that two 9-ln. guns were to be provided for North Head,, and I understood that it was the intention of the Government to place them rheie. Are the guns to be placed at North Head ?
– I am not sure, within a yard or two, where the guns are to be placed ; there is a difference of opinion on the matter.
– The guns are either going to be placed at North Head or they are not ; and North Head is a most important strategical position.
– I have already said that £115,000 is provided for armament and stores for fixed defences.
– If the money is intended to be spent at North Head, the fact should 0 appear in the Estimates. This bears out Itfae contention of honorable members on this side that the Estimates are prepared in such a ague wav as to make it not at all sur prising that we do not understand where the’money is to be spent. There were two ne_>y guns placed at Middle Head last year, but these can be of no use if North Head is left unprotected. Lord Kitchener not only expressed the opinion that North Head should be fortified, but wondered why it had not been fortified before. Fortifications at Middle Head, or at any other inside point of the harbor, are futile against a foreign warship, which might lie off the North Head, where there is a lot of dead water that cannot be touched from the South Head, and from which any vessel could shell Sydney. So far as I can see, however, no provision is made this year for the fortification of North Head, for, if any portion of the ,£115,000 was intended to be spent there, the fact would appear in the Estimates. Evidently none of the £5,000 voted last year was spent at Goode Island; and this means, 1 suppose, that the old fort at Thursday Island is to remain. As I pointed out once before, Thursday Island as a fortified position is simply a joke.
– I give the honorable member my assurance that the £115,000 is intended to be expended at Sydney and Thursday Island.
– Thursday Island is not Goode Island ; and it is essential that the fort should be removed from the former place. Recently, when on a visit there, I inspected the place, and obtained all the information I could in the limited time at my disposal from the officer in charge ; and I discovered that the fort is, to all intents and purposes, useless. The guns are short ranged and obsolete; the projectile which they could throw would not pierce the armour of a modern warship.
– There is not a decent, up-to-date gun in Australia.
– I should not go so far as to say that, because I think there are some up-to-date guns here, though they may not be of the longest range, or of the heaviest calibre. The ostensible reason for the fort at Thursday Island is to protect a naval base and coaling station, which is supposed to be between Goode Island and Wie-wier Island. It is only a small exT panse of coral-bound water, and the guns at Thursday Island are supposed to protect merchantmen or men-of-war who put in for coal, or for protection. The absurdity of the position is that the fort is dominated by many of the surrounding islands, and that, at the back of those islands, on the further side from the fort, there is deep water and good landing places for both men and guns, the latter of which could be taken on to the hills of theislands, and from there have the fort at their mercy. There are from eighty to one hundred men, with officers, stationed at. Thursday Island; and there is a large expenditure each year on wages, upkeep of barracks, and so forth, although the fort serves no good purpose. It is said that the fort, if removed, should be taken to Goode Island, but of that I do not approve, because the proper place would be Simpson! Bay, which has the mainland for a background, and an excellent harbor, with anisland about 2 miles from the shore, eim% nently suitable for the magazines and stores. In any case, we ought not to have obsolete guns at Thursday Island. As to the Northern Territory, I fail to see much use in constructing the proposed line fromi Pine Creek to Katherine River at the present time. Such a line cannot confer much benefit, even on the people of the NorthernTerritory, for, during my visit, I did not see any evidence of much population in thevicinity of Katherine River. Further, what is going to be done in regard to the necessary alteration of the gauge?
– This vote is only for a survey.
– There ought to be some mention of the intentions of the Government in regard to the alteration of the gauge- If the gauge is not altered, there will be 150 miles, from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, of a 3-ft. 6-in. line, and 60 or 70 miles, from Pine Creek to Katherine River, of a 4-ft. %-a. line. Two gauges on this small railway would mean, for one thing, two sets of rolling-stock. It would cost very nearly as much to alter the gauge from Darwin to Pine Creek as to build the railway itself. The present sleepers will be all useless to carry a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, and they are a very expensive item. Alterations will have to be made in the cuttings, in the curves, and in the rolling-stock.
There is also the question of where the railway is to go after it is brought to the Katherine River.
– What colour would the honorable member like the fish-plates and dogs painted? The honorable member’s whole speech is anticipatory.
– We want to know what we are going to do ultimately with the railway. It will not serve much country by going to the Katherine River.
– That is an essential part, apart from any other question.
– I could see nothing in the direction of the Katherine River which would warrant the railway being built from there to Darwin.
– All our reports are to the effect that there is good land over the Katherine.
– It will have to be “over the Katherine,” because I saw none from Darwin to the Katherine, and I saw none at the Katherine. Is the railway ultimately going from the Katherine down to Oodnadatta, in South Australia, or is it to be connected with the Queensland railways? In my opinion, the latter course should be followed. Although I know there is an understanding or contract between the Federal and South Australian Governments that the line shall be continued from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, no time is set down for carrying it out, even if there be a definite contract. To solve the problem of settlement in the Northern Territory, we should without delay connect it with the greatest centre of population in Australia, and that is Sydney. This can be done more expeditiously than to make a connexion with Oodnadatta. The honorable member for Hindmarsh made rather a heated attack on those members who dared to say that the railway should go anywhere else than through South Australia, but I hold that if we wish to encourage settlement in the Territory we should give settlers there an opportunity of reaching the best and biggest market in Australia. Sydney, as the most populous centre, would offer that market. We should construct the railway to connect with the Queensland system. I understand that there is some arrangement between the New South Wales Minister of Works and the Queensland Government to link up the New South Wales and Queensland railway systems. That connexion would go out from Bourke by Hungerford and Tobermory. The Queensland Parliament have already voted ,£6,000,000 to extend their western railway system out to Camooweal. When that line was completed, and the connexion with Bourke made, the Commonwealth Government would have only 640 miles of railway to construct from Pine Creek to Camooweal, instead of over 1,000 miles from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta.. If the line went from Sydney via Bourke, it would go practically through good country all the way, whereas from Oodnadatta a great part of the way would lie through a desert, where the rainfall is only 4J inches in the year. The best part of the country in the Northern Territory is the Barklay tablelands, which are adjacent to the western border of Queensland. I am told that the railway would pass through a magnificent stretch of country there, and I strongly advocate that no time should be lost in endeavouring to link up the Northern Territory with our greatest centre of population by this route. From a defence point of view also, the Territory should be linked up with the most populous centre, because that is where the “most troops will be situated. The greatest number of troops would be available in Sydney, and for that reason alone the route I advocate should be adopted. Had the Nor’.hern Territory been connected with the Queens-‘ land railway system during the last drought, it would have been of enormous benefit to the people of New South Wales, who could have saved, millions of stcck by sending them up into this country for agistment. If Queensland and the north had been linked up, > the present meat famine in parts of the Commonwealth, particularly in New South Wales, would have been prevented. From Sydney, via Bourke, to Darwin, by the route I have indicated, the distance would be 2,173 miles, as against 2,966 miles if the route via- Adelaide were adopted. That would mean a saving of close on 800 miles for the people of Sydney, and, surely, they are worthy of some consideration. The distance from Brisbane to Darwin by rail would be 2,000 miles, as against 3,691 miles via Adelaide. Passengers by train from Rockhampton could reach Darwin by travelling 1,900 miles, as against 4,000 miles if they had to go round by Adelaide. Passengers from Melbourne to Darwin would have to travel 2,463 miles, as against 2,379 miles via Adelaide, so that there would be very little difference for them. From Ad’elnide by rail to Darwin, through Sydney, the distance would be 2,947 - miles, instead of 1,896 miles via Oodnadatta. The greatest number of people will be served by taking the railway to Sydney instead of to Adelaide. The census returns show the population of New South Wales and Queensland to be 2,252,000, as against a population of 1,724,000 for Victoria and South Ausr tralia, and it is this smaller number who would have a shorter distance to travel if the route were via Adelaide. From the point of view, therefore, of the greatest good to the greatest number, there can be no doubt that the line from Sydney to Bourke via Camooweal to Darwin should receive the earnest consideration of the Government. There is, of course, the problem of the gauges, but that is for the Government to solve. If they are not able to solve it, they will have to make room for some one who can. We have a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge in Queensland. I asked the Railways Commissioner in Brisbane, some time ago, when Queensland was going to fall into line with the rest of the Commonwealth by altering its gauge from 3 ft. 6 in. to 4 ft. 81 in. He laughed, and said he had. not the slightest intention of altering it, adding, “ It will cost us £27,000,000 to alter the whole of our gauge.” Mr. Fisher. - Was it Mr. Evans who said that?
– - It was Mr. Pagan, one of the Commissioners for Railways.
– I suggest that the honorable member should verify that before he puts it in Mr. Pagan’s name.
– Probably he included the cost of the consequential alterations.
– He told me himself that it would cost that amount to alter the mileage of gauge in Queensland. I understood that that means every expense in connexion with the alteration of the gauge.
– I know the gentleman to whom the honorable member has referred. He is a very able engineer; but that is a ridiculous estimate.
– -It is what he told me. He said, as we know, that it would cost far more to convert a 3-ft. 6-in. line to n 4-ft. 81-in. gauge, than it would to alter a wide to a narrow gauge. He pointed out that a great many of the curves would have to be altered if the Queensland railway gauge were raised to 4 ft. 8J in. - that tunnels, platforms, and rolling-stock would also have to be altered - and he sp:<1 distinctly that the cost would be that which I have stated. The problem is very dif ficult of solution; and I wish to ascertain whether the Government are doing anything to solve it? Are they communicating with Queensland? The difficulty must be accentuated as time goes on, for new lines are being constructed in New South Wales and Queensland every year.
– The question hardly affects Queensland.
– I understood the honorable member to say that it was proposed to build this railway on a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, and that we must eventually have that as the standard gauge of Australia.
– If the honorable member looks at the map, he will see that the Queensland railways run inland from the sea-board, and are in sections.
– But if the North-western line in New South Wales is eventually connected with the western railways of Queensland, we shall immediately have a break of gauge. We should have another break of gauge if the Pine Creek line were linked up with the Queensland system at Camooweal ; so that between Sydney and Port Darwin there, would be two breaks of gauge. The Government ought to endeavour to grapple with the question of uniformity of gauge. If Queensland is going every year to construct mile after mile of railway on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, we shall never be able to look forward to a solution of the question. I understand that conferences .have taken place, but that nothing definite has-been arrived at. Surely some steps should be taken to bring about conferences of the States in order that finality may be reached. I have no desire to labour the question ; but to survey a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River is to start in the wrong direction. A complete and comprehensive scheme of railway construction in the Northern Territory should be mapped out for us. We should then be able to determine where a start should be made, or we could leave it to experts to guide us in the matter. It seems to mc that this bit of a railway line is to be planked down, so to. speak, in the dark. The Government have no idea whether it is going to be carried on. or what is to be done in regard to the question of break of gauge. In short, these Estimates have been submitted to us on such vague information that it is difficult to know where we stand.
– I hope that the Ministry, before coming to a decision with regard to the question of gauge, will get from experts a report as to what ought to be the standard gauge for Australia. They ought not to assume that the decision to construct the transcontinental railway on a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge was a direction from Parliament that the Commonwealth Government, in agreement with the States, should make the standard gauge for Australia 4 ft. 8J in. I have no desire to repeat what I said when this question was discussed last year; but, having heard the honorable member for Parkes say that the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, in opinion as well as in fact, I suppose, is the gauge of the world, I feel it necessary to call attention to the last report on the subject of gauges. I refer to the report of the Irish Railway Commission, which sat in 1909. That very important Commission was appointed to consider the monopoly of private companies of transit, and to what extent it interfered with legitimate development. The English engineers who gave evidence then, as well as the Irish engineers, concurred in the statement that 5 ft. 3 in. was the best of all gauges. It was said that if the gauge of the railways in England could be changed from 4 ft. in. to s ft. 3 in., the alteration would be made ; but that they were faced with the fact that a tremendous bill would be consequential upon it. In America, where there are nearly 300,000 miles of railway lines, there is a very large mileage on a 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge running through forty-six or fortyseven States, and passing through some territories which practically rendered it impossible to act on the opinion of modern engineers that the wider gauge is the better from the stand-point of economy, as well as in other respects. I hope that we shall obtain some expert advice upon this matter, and not rest content with the advice of one or two engineers. I should be sorry in any way to impugn either the ability or the bona fides of any of the experts that have reported in connexion with the Western Australian transcontir fal railway ; but it would be a very grea. help to Mr. Deane himself to have the deliberate opinion of a conference, on which the Commonwealth as well as the States could be represented, called for the .«r»ecial purpose of considering what should 1 ‘ihe standard gauge for Australia. The meeting of engineers, to which reference was made when this question was discussed If’ vear, was not called to give an opinio’ in respect of the gauge to be adoptc’. They referred incidentally in their report to the advisableness of adopting a 4-ft. 8L-in. gauge ; but I have reason to think some of. them would not indorse that view if they were called upon now to express a deliberate opinion. It is a mistake, without having the guidance of experts, to introduce another gauge in connexion with the Northern Territory. There is already a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line there, and some say that it should be continued on the same gauge with a view to linking it up with the railway system of Queensland. If the Government do decide to adopt the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge, I hope they will follow the suggestion made by Mr. Eddy, when Commissioner of New South Wales, that all rollingstock ordered should be capable, if necessary, of accommodation to the wider gauge. He recommended many years ago that a conference should be held to determine the standard gauge for Australia.
– Does the honorable member mean adjustable rolling-stock capable of being placed on either width of rail.
– No. There have been various suggestions as to the use of a third rail, and so forth, but all have been passed by.
– The most important: part of Mr. Eddy’s report was that theconversion should be made a Federal expenditure.
– A very good idea. I went specially from South Australia -in 1888 to see Mr. Eddy. The South Australian House of Assembly, of which I was a member, had carried a motion submitted by me that a meeting of the Railways Commissioners of the States should be held to decide what ought to be the standard gauge for Australia, and I went to Victoria and New South Wales to ascertain wnat chance there was of that motion being acted upon. It was owing to the opposition of Victoria that action was not then taken. Mr. Mathieson was then, I think, Commissioner for this State. At all events, Victoria did not acquiesce in the suggestion, and the result was that Mr. Eddy’s anticipation of a uniform gauge being adopted in about ten years’ time was not realized. There was no concert as to what should be the standard. Mr. Eddy pointed out that if a standard gauge were decided upon, allfuture rolling-stock could be so made that it could be used on the wider gauge lines. I ask the Government to see that the rolling-stock which they order for use on the Northern Territory railwavs is also capable of being used on a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. There is no reason for the Government to believe that, because the House decided that the transcontinental railway should be built on a 4-ft. gauge, the line across the continent to Port Darwin should not be built on a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. The South Australian Government would probably be inclined to continue its 5-ft. 3-in. line to Port Augusta, and if the Commonwealth Government widened the 3-ft. 6-in. line to Oodnadatta, and eventually constructed - as they must, according to the moral, and what seems to be the legal, obligation - the line to Port Darwin on the same gauge, we should have one grand trunk line on a uniform gauge running from Albury right up to that port. There is nothing to prevent lines from Queensland and New South Wales being connected with that line either on their present gauge, as feeders, or upon what ultimately may be the standard gauge of Australia. I am asking, not that we should decide to adopt the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, but that the Government should have a special inquiry on the subject. I urge that they should not act upon a merely incidental reference to the question of gauge on the part of a Committee that was not appointed to deal specially with that question. A deliberate decision should be given in the light of expert advice.
– Does not the honorable member think that the question is settled so far as this. House is concerned ? The whole matter was discussed.
– No; only in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. I have already said that we should not regard the decision then arrived at as a direction as to what should be the standard gauge for Australia.
– A Commission of engineers has reported.
– During the discussion, it was doubtless pointed out several times that if we adopted a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge now, others later on, acting against their better judgment, might be forced to adopt 4 ft. 8J in. as an established Federal gauge. It was never said that because the Government were adopting the 4-ft. S^-in. gauge for the Western Australian railway, therefore that gauge, without the guidance of a special conference, should be accepted as the standard for all Australia. In the light of modern evidence
– There was a modern Commission.
– A Conference of engineers, which met in 1903, incidentally expressed an opinion in favour of the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. That opinion, however, was not based on a comparison of the merits of that gauge with other gauges.
– If my recollection is not wrong, a Conference of State Railways Engineers-in-Chief met prior to the decision in this House, and reported in favour of a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge.
– I did not know that.
– There was a conference with some military gentlemen.
– I am not dealing with that inquiry.
– There was another. The Railways Commissioners met in 1903.
– There was no meeting at which any evidence was taken, or any deliberate and final expression of opinion given, in favour of a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. I know from experts in South’ Australia, whose names I shall not mention, that if some of them were asked for their deliberate opinion, they would recommend a 5-ft. 3-in., and not a 4-ft. 8J-in., gauge. Since 1903, the opinion of experts has been in favour of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.
– The 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge was recommended for the railway to Western Australia.
– There has been no recommendation following upon a proper investigation by experts. However, I shall not discuss the matter now, because finality cannot be reached at this stage; but I ask the Minister to follow the suggestion of the late Mr. Eddy, one. of the most competent railway men, from what I have heard and read, whom we have had in Australia, and have the rolling-stock of the Northern Territory constructed so that it may be accommodated, if necessary, to another gauge, or have an inquiry in advance made as to the gauge which should be adopted for all Commonwealth railways. That should not take more than a month or two. It is not to be expected that the transcontinental line through South Australia should be delayed to enable a connexion with Camooweal to be made. The transcontinental line was recommended for defence purposes by Major-General Edwards many years ago, and Lord Kitchener recommended it for the same reason, and also, I think, to promote development.
.- The question of gauge is of great importance to the Commonwealth, because in the near future we shall be constructing more than one long length of line ; and if there is to be the conference suggested by the honorable member for Angas, it should be held very soon for its recommendations to be of any practical value. If the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line is constructed on the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, all the other Commonwealth lines will have to be on the same gauge. I do not offer an opinion as to whether the 4-ft. 8j-in. or the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge is the better ; I ‘agree with the honorable member for Angas that we should endeavour to choose the best gauge, because, in years to come, that will mean economy in working expenses. I wish to know something about the proposal to construct a Une to the Katherine River. For the development of the Territory, the first thing to be done is the construction of a transcontinental line through South Australia. I was opposed to the agreement which was made with South Australia, because of the condition regarding railway construction, which, I thought, bound the Commonwealth too strictly ; but, having made that agreement, we must keep our bargain. Railway connexion with the Queensland system may be a good thing ; but we have agreed to construct the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. South Australia has had the best of the deal, and has made an agreement whose terms are not fair from the Federal stand-point, as the rights of the other States are not considered. I favoured the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth, though I objected to the terms of the agreement; but that agreement must be kept. We were told that there are about 80,000,000 acres of good wheat land just beyond the Macdonnell Ranges. If that is’ so, we should push the line north from Oodnadatta. It is useless for people to try to grow wheat without means of transport to market; but if there is this area of suitable wheat land, we should provide a means of communication by extending the Oodnadatta line, which, at present, does not pay, to that district.
– What is the rainfall there ?
– Ten inches, or a little more, which, we have been told by those who ought to know, is enough for wheat. It will be a long time before there will be a large white population in the tropical portion of the Northern Territory ; but by tapping this wheat land we might induce settlement in the southern part of the
Territory. The tropical districts north pf the Barklay tableland have not been shown to be suitable for agriculture and close settlement, and pastoral occupation will not greatly increase population. Already we have to find interest on a national debt, and, in addition, make a heavy annual outlay for developmental purposes. Instead of sending officials to the Territory, it would be better to allow a railway to be built there on the land-grant system.
– Why is the honorable member “ stone-walling “ the Works Estimates? . There are men waiting for work.
– I have waited for some days for Ministers to explain these proposals for the expenditure of £4,000,000, but have heard nothing from them. Is the Katherine River line to form part of the connexion between Pine Creek and Oodnadatta; and on what gauge is it to be constructed ? We, on this side, cannot learn anything from Ministers, and receive but scant courtesy from them. If the Prime Minister thinks that he can quieten the Opposition with threats, he is mistaken. I protest against the way in which the people living in the Federal Capital area are being treated in regard to land matters. About nine months ago I attended a deputation which waited on the Minister, but I have to learn that those who put their grievance before him have yet been properly settled with. They have another grievance. The Savings Bank of New South Wales, under the Act, is not permitted to lend money out of the State; and the settlers will be placed in an_ awkward position if they cannot renew their loans. In our great prosperity, for which our friends opposite take all the credit, the price of money is rising fast, and mortgagors are in for a bad time in the near future. When in Collins-street the other day I saw that a building society was offering 5 per cent, on deposits for two years, and I wondered what interest the borrowers from the society would be called upon to pay. Settlers in the Federal area will not be able to renew their loans on anything like the original favorable terms; and, therefore, the Commonwealth Government should come to their assistance, and see that they are not penalized. Their present position is not due to any fault of their own. They have not been paid for their land, although the Prime Minister last ,year borrowed £2,000,000, of which ,£600,000 was to be used for that purpose.
– Does the honorable member say the Prime Minister borrowed £2,000,000 ?
– The Prime Minister admitted it was a loan. The only way it differed from the ordinary foreign loan was that we borrowed the money from ourselves, and it is the first loan raised by the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member, must confine himself to the question.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– As to the proposed railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River, I hope the Government will exercise due care, because we are starting our works in this part of Australia, and a false step may lead to endless trouble and expense. There is a tremendous responsibility cast on the Minister in charge of this Territory, and I hope that he and the officials of his Department will exercise wise caution. The Commonwealth will, of course, be f orced to experiment ; and if we do not hit on the right procedure at first, we must take the consequences. For some time, we shall derive comparatively no revenue from the Territory, and unless we induce settlement of the right sort, it will be long before any revenue to speak of comes to hand. At present, we have to provide large sums every year; and if we are not exceedingly careful in the public interest, we shall not only lose a lot, but the Territory will be set back for a considerable period. Should this occur, the taxpayers of the southern parts will be disheartened, and Australia will receive such a bad advertisement that many intending settlers will change their minds. I hope, however, that this is not to be our fate, but that we shall see some real progress in this undefended part of the country. The proper way to tackle this railway problem is to go boldly forward from the south, and thus carry out our agreement with South’ Australia. I am not at all satisfied with the way in which the Government have treated the House. We have before us the largest works schedule, representing some £4,000,000, eveT presented to this Parliament ; and Ministers ought to come here fully primed and prepared with all the necessary information. Indeed, seeing that a number of these items are new, Ministers ought not to wait to be asked Questions, but should at once inform the House of the policy which they intend to pursue. Several of these items represent a policy in them selves; and on such an occasion as this, it is not for members to probeand ask questions, but for Ministers to take the House into their confidence. The fact is, however, that Ministers will not even answer questions ; and when we asked for certain reports that are in one of the De-, partments, we we’re met with a point-blank refusal. We are asked to vote £200,000- for some naval expenditure, and when we endeavour to obtain a little information as to what the item means, not a syllable canwe get from the responsible Minister. Then,, again, there is an item of £80,000 for mobilization, stores, drill halls, and so forth ; and in regard to this no information is forthcoming.
– The honorable member wasnot present, but an explanation was given.
– I did pot hear any explanation, but^I know that the honorable member for Parramatta, when he asked how much of the £80,000 was to be spent on mobilization stores, did not get an answer. Some of the information that has been wrung from Ministers is, we are told, not correct.
– W - What information was that?
– I do not know ; I am just stating what I have heard. I heard that a Minister opposite gave some information, and, if I remember rightly, that the honorable member for Parramatta said that, from his own knowledge, it was not correct, and that the Minister must have been misinformed.
– T - The honorable member ought to specify what information he means.
– I was not in the House during the whole of last night, and I may be wrong. I know that the Minister would not intentionally give incorrect information ; and my complaint is that we cannot get any information at all on matters of importance. For instance, there is tne item of £45.000 for the Military College, and when we ask for some particulars, the Minister simply tosses his head and says nothing. No information has been vouchsafed while I have been in thechamber, and I have been here as long as. any other member during the last two days.. Even if information has been given on some of the items to which I have just referred, that does not detract very much from the charge I have levelled against the Government, because I can pick out many another item of almost equal importance, and no ihonorable member opposite can say that the Government have given us any information about these. The charge as a whole, therefore, is well substantiated. When the Government ask the House to vote so much money as is involved in .these Estimates, they should be prepared to give more inforimation than they have afforded us during the last few days. As a rule these Estimates go through fairly quickly, and they would have been passed long ago on this occasion if the Ministry had come here prepared to answer questions, or had made ;an intelligent statement to the House. If they think they are going to bludgeon the Opposition into silence, they are making a huge mistake. We have not been treated even with the courtesy which we might have expected as representatives of the people trying to obtain a little information on matters of great public importance.
The honorable member for Wilmot said that the honorable member for Parramatta last night declared that I gave incorrect information. I cannot let such an assertion pass. Why should I stand here and give incorrect information ? If I were trembling in the balance, or frightened, or something of that sort, it would be different ; but what reason is there for me to do anything of the kind ?
– I suppose you gave the information which was given to you by your Department. There may have been a mistake there.
– The The Secretary for Home Affairs, Colonel Miller, was present. I went to him and obtained the information that we were going to spend £8.000 on the temporary Naval College at Geelong. The honorable member for Parramatta said we were going to spend either £12,000 or £13,000. I told him exactly what we were going to spend.
– I said the Minister told me that the estimated cost of fitting up the Geelong establishment was ,£13,000.
– Tha That is what the Minister said, but what my Secretary told me was £8,000. I did not go to any ‘Other Minister, I just took my Secretary’s statement for it.
– His statements are quite wrong. The fact is, you gave us all the information you had, but it was not much.
– I t I told the Ihonorable member what I have to spend. As Minister of Home Affairs, I have to spend ,£8,000 on the Naval College at Geelong. I am sorry to see that our honorable friends in Opposition are getting weary, as it were. They are always “ jawing “ now.
– What is that?
– It It is that acrimonious disposition which causes unspiritual feelings. I had hoped that our good friends opposite would be the best of friends with us. We have put these things through, and we are not pressing them on with any unkind feelings. God knows, we should like to give honorable members opposite everything - except office. No matter what Christians we were, we could not surrender that. I hope they will now cheer up, and let us finish this matter, so that we may get on with some business for the country.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The Minister was scarcely correct in saying that I declared that he had given wrong information. What I said was that I heard him give some information which the honorable member for Parramatta challenged. I was not in a position to know whether it was correct or incorrect, and I think I said also that, even if it was incorrect, I knew that the Minister did not intentionally submit it to the Committee.
– While I appreciate the pleasant little homily of the Minister of Home Affairs, it is not exactly what we want. We are ‘here to discuss important questions of public expenditure covering a multitude of very large works, and involving millions of money. As watchdogs of the public purse, what we are asking for-
– You are talking against time.
– Nobody expects the honorable member to know or care much about these things. The honorable member may think he does his duty by making interjections of that kind, but that does not relieve me of the responsibility to do my duty by watching public expenditure, and trying to save the taxpayer from being unduly burdened. The fact that the taxpayer is the last person to be considered by the honorable member for East Sydney makes it all the more necessary that some others of us should protect the taxpayers of his district, and it does not alter the fact that matters of public policy relating to works construction, and involving the expenditure of millions of pounds, constitute some of the most important work upon which this House can possibly be engaged. When honorable members opposite attempt to charge us with wasting time because we closely criticise the public expenditure, and ask to be informed on various points in relation to it, they utterly misconceive the purpose for which Parliament exists. I can conceive of no more justifiable use of the time of Parliament than in a careful examination of proposals for expenditure such as we have before us in these Works Estimates. It is no light matter to call upon a population of just under four and a half millions of people to contribute such an enormous load of taxation as will necessarily be involved in the commitments ahead of us. We should, therefore, be absolutely failing in our duty as a Parliament if, when any Government1 brought down proposals for expenditure, we did not seek to be properly informed in regard to all the items before we voted for the spending of money which must come out of the pockets of the handful of people on this continent.
– You have not moved the omission of one item expecting it to be omitted.
– I have frequently called the honorable member for East Sydney to order, and now ask him to discontinue these interjections.
– If Ministers think that an undue length of time has been taken up in discussing these Estimates, they alone are responsible. There are proposals here involving in many cases hundreds of thousands of pounds, and we cannot get the slightest information from any Minister regarding their’ details. Because we try to do our duty by looking after the interests of the public, they charge us with taking up unnecessary time. I repudiate the suggestion, and if Ministers themselves had shown a little more tact and courtesy to honorable members on this side of the House-
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine himself to the matter hefore the Chair?
– This is the matter before the Chair. This is the question of Supply, and the whole principle underlying it is that there must be redress of grievances before Supply is granted.
– The honorable member cannot go outside the matters before the Chair.
– I am not going outside them. I am not going outside of any matter included in these Works Estimates. I do not want to go into detail regarding them, but if you think that I ought to do so, I shall read out a number of them. I thought I should be saying the time of the House by not doing so, but if I am to be confined only to the items, and am to make not even a passing reference to any question of policy involved, I must have recourse to the laborious method of going right through the whole of the Estimates. I do not want to do so, but am quite prepared to if necessary. If Ministers had given the information that was sought-
– Order ! The honorahle member is now going beyond the matter before the Chair. It is not a question; of what Ministers did or did not do.
– If Ministers had given the information sought about the Woollen Mills-
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the matter before the Chair.
– Did you know what I was about to say? I was going to say that if Ministers had answered the questions about the Wool lea Mills - the item appears on page 228 - I hope that is an item before the House-
– Order ! If the honorable member thinks he is going to get round the ruling of the Chair by that method, he is making a mistake.
– I should like to know what the ruling of the Chair is?
– Order ! The- honorable member must not rise when the Speaker is on his feet. If he proposes to deal with the Estimates item by item, he will be distinctly out of order.
– Your instructions to me a moment ago were that I must confine myself to the question- before the House. The question before the House is the adoption of the report of the Committee in connexion with these Estimates. If I am not allowed to deal either with the general policy or want o£” policy shown by the Government in connexion with the Estimates, and if I may not . deal with any item in the Estimates, may I ask, sir, with what I may deal?
– It is not my duty to direct the honorable member.
– Shall I be in order in referring to the Commonwealth Woollen Mills? The Minister of Home Affairs has just given us some information in regard to those mills, and the honorable member for Wilmot asserted a few minutes ago that erroneous details have been given by the Minister concerning the actual expenditure on some ot the items relating to them. This is one of the items concerning which we desire further information. In the Estimates we have an item of £8,000 in respect of “ Woollen Mills,” but on reference to a paper dealing with those works, I find that £8,000 does not represent anything like the cost of the building.
– I did not wish to interrupt the honorable member before, but I must point out to him that he is now dealing with distinct details. The honorable member knows as well as I do that the Committee stage is the proper one at which to discuss details.
– You will not let me deal with matters of policy, Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member is at liberty to deal in a general way with the whole . question of the report. As long as honorable members have done that I have given them the fullest possible latitude, and I ask the honorable member not to diverge from that course.
– ELLIOT JOHNSON.- The Minister referred specifically to these matters, and I cannot understand why one rule should apply to a Minister and another to a member of the Opposition. I wish to say that certain information given by the Minister was not correct. The information that he gave to the House was that a certain sum of. money-
-The honorable member is now referring to a debate on something which took place elsewhere. He must not, do thai.
– I am referring to a statement made by the Minister.
– The honorable gentleman rose, I understood, to make a personal explanation in respect of a statement made concerning him. He occupied about a minute and a half in doing so, and the honorable member is now trying to debate in detail the question then raised. I shall allow him the fullest possible latitude to deal with the question in a general way, but he must not refer to it in detail.
– On a point of .order, MrSpeaker, I wish to know whether we are not empowered at this stage to refer back any item to the Committee with instructions to alter or to eliminate it? If that be so, surely we are entitled to refer to any of the items to which this report relates.
– When such a question arises I shall be prepared to give my ruling in regard to it. The honorable member must not ask me to give a ruling, concerning a matter that is not before the House.
– I have a statement which shows that some of the information that has been given to the House is not accurate, and that the total amount set out in the Estimates in respect of certain works does not represent anything like the amount actually to be expended. That statement will apply, not only to one, but to several cases. It has been the practice with other Governments to submit for the guidance of honorable members, in connexion with the Estimates, a general statement covering the proposals embodied in them. That practice has not been followed by the present Ministry, and one complaint is that we are left entirely in the dark as to the nature of a lot of the expenditure involved in the proposals put before us. In the most courteous way we have asked Ministers for information about matters of expenditure, and questions of policy underlying that expenditure, but, in most cases, it has not been forthcoming, while in others the particulars given have been of the most meagre and unsatisfactory description. In more than one instance, the information has been misleading. I do not say that Ministers have intentionally sought to mislead the House, but the few disjointed scraps of information given by them in. some instances have been misleading, and misleading probably because they have not had the details to set before us. They do not seem to have come here primed with the information necessary to enable honorable members to know what they are doing. We are placed in a most singular and peculiar position. I have never heard of another Parliament being so situated. A request for information by members of the Opposition is regarded as a gross impertinence, and as something that must be resented and punished. When the Prime Minister was leaving the Chamber just before the adjournment for dinner, he made the covert threat that he would keep us here all night. Why ? Merely because we are asking for information. Surely that is not the way that we as an Opposition should be treated when we are considering important proposals to expend public money. From a remark made by the Minister of External Affairs, I gathered that out of a lump sum appearing in the Estimates, provision is to be made for expenditure on fortificatioris at Thursday Island, although that fact is not shown in the Estimates themselves. While at Thursday Island recently, I saw the fortifications, and also heard the opinions of local residents, military, nautical,, and otherwise. I believe that military experts who have been up there do not agree that Thursday Island is a fit site for fortifications, and that, as a matter of fact, a vessel from the east desiring to land troops in Australia need not go near Thursday Island.
– Did Lord Kitchener include Thursday Island fortifications in his recommendation?
– No, he did not. He recommended another island, and naval experts have pointed out-
– Admiral Henderson?
– I think Admiral Henderson, amongst others, has pointed out that there are better strategic positions. About Thursday Island is a cluster of closely-grouped islands separated only by two or three miles of water, and some of these being of greater elevation afford opportunities for the landing of troops and guns which could command the forts on Thursday Island.
– Is not Thursday Island the key to Torres Straits?
– No .; according to several naval and military authorities, that is quite an erroneous idea. As a matter of fact, vessels coming from the east, and desiring to land troops on the mainland, could easily keep out of range of any guns that might be placed on Thursday’ Island- If that be so, there ought to be some further investigation to determine whether there is not a more suitable place in the north for fortifications. It has been said that Simpson Bay is far more valuable from a strategical point of view, but since the honorable member for North Sydney, who is a military expert, has more fully pointed out the weakness to which I have referred, I shall not make further allusion to it. Every one who has been to the Northern Territory is aware that the railway line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek is built on a very narrow gauge. It is now proposed to extend that line on a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge to the Katherine River, and this break of gauge is going to be a very serious matter. My recollection is that steel sleepers are used on the Pine Creek line, and if they are not wide enough to carry a 4-ft. 8j-in. line, new sleepers will have to be provided for the whole length of railway from Pine Creek to Port Darwin. The existing line has cost upwards of £1,000,000, and if it is to be made practically useless by an extension on a broader gauge,, we should pause before we commit the country to the proposed expenditure. We ought to have something in the nature of a railway policy for the Northern Territory before any expenditure on railway construction there is sanctioned. As it is, we are working in the dark. The Government have adopted a most slipshod, method of doing business in this regard. A lot of schoolboys could not be more unbusinesslike. Imagine a public company saying, through its directors, at the annual meeting of shareholders, “ We want money to carry out certain works. What those works are going to be, or what they are going to cost, we do not propose to tell you. All that we shall tell you is that we intend to go on with those works, although we have not even an estimate of what they will cost.” A body of shareholders would make very short work of a board of directors that put such a proposition before, them. That, however, is our position. We are supposed to be practically occupying the position of a board of directors watching expenditure on behalf of .the public. Yet when we ask Ministers to give us some reliable information regarding the huge sums which it is proposed to expend, we are treated as if we were making a most unreasonable request. I have not heard of such proceedings in any other Parliament, and they are not likely to increase the respect felt for this body. Had I followed my own inclinations, I should not have spoken on this question; but what would our constituents say if we remained silent, and when asked, “ Why did you vote for certain proposals?” could only reply, “ We did so, because we were asked to do so. We tried to ascertain why the money was needed, but, when told that that was not our concern, we did not pursue the matter further.” Under such circumstances, would not our constituents be justified in saying that we had not done our duty, aijd that they would send other representatives here? 1 do not know what answer the supporters of the Government will give when their constituents ask them what this money is to be expended foi, and whether the country will get value for the expenditure. All their time will be taken up in explaining. Their present attitude may have this satisfactory result : that the next Parliament may be composed of men who will study more carefully the interests of their constituents, and see that the load of taxation is reduced. It is the policy of the Labour party to pay for works out of current revenue. Therefore, the proposals now under consideration will have to be paid for with money taken from the pockets of the people, the great majority of whom are wage-earners only. It is not the wealthy who suffer for our extravagance ; it is those who earn merely bread and butter, and find it hard to get the butter. The burden of taxation on them is heavy enough already. I hope that Ministers will recede from their truculent attitude, and recognise that the members of the Opposition represent many thousands of electors, and, in asking for information, are prompted, not by individual curiosity, but by the desire to study the interests of their constituents. In my electorate alone there are something like 50,000 voters. Have they not a right to know why the expenditure of the country is increasing? And to whom should they come for information but to me, their representative in Parliament? I can get this information only from Ministers, whose duty it is to give it without even being asked. Ministers should have statements accompanying their Estimates, and should be prepared to at once give the fullest explanation of every item. I hope that before the debate is concluded we shall have further information in regard to a number of the matters to which reference has been made.
.- I was astounded when the Minister of External Affairs to-day gave certain answers to’ questions which I had put on the noticepaper. Two sessions ago we were distinctly promised by the Postmaster-General of the day that official post-offices would be established wherever the postal revenue of a place was ,£200, and that the rule would not be altered by the introduction of penny postage. Now I am informed that official post-offices will not be established, except in places where the postal revenue is ,£300 a year, and there is a revenue of £40 a year from telegrams. If that rule is going to be adhered to, I hope that an early opportunity will be given to honorable members to express their views in regard to it. It appears to me that the new rule has been introduced by the Department without sufficient consideration by the Minister, the promise to which I allude being overlooked for the time. I hope that that may be so, and that, on representations being made to the Minister, the promise will be acknowledged, and official post-offices granted on the original terms. I shall not occupy much time in discussing the question before the House. My great objection to the course that has been taken in regard to these Estimates is .that no definite scheme has been laid down by the Government in regard to large proposals for expenditure, and that we have not been told either how much we are committed to, or how Ministers propose to finance their undertakings. Although only small amounts are covered by certain items, they really commit the country to the expenditure of millions ; and I maintain that it will be impossible to meet these commitments out of revenue, or, at least, out of the present revenue. When the Budget is under discussion, I think it will be shown that our revenue is likely to decrease later. We ought to know how Ministers propose to find the money for the undertakings of which we approve. If additional taxation is to be proposed, let Ministers say so; while, if Loan Funds are to be resorted, to, the public should know. Befors consenting to initial expenditure, we should have definite statements as to what is proposed and what the ultimate cost will be, and should be informed how it is intended to raise the necessary funds. Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat) [8.36].- Honorable memkirs have been, in a measure, at cross purposes, the difficulty that has arisen being due to misunderstandings on both sides which, I hope, may shortly be removed. Ev. 1 the Ministerial supporters will not dispute the doctrine that the representatives of the nation are entitled to the fullest information regarding every proposal for expenditure. Yet, when the proposed appropriations are larger than ever before, there has been more difficulty in obtaining explanations of items regarding which information has been sought than on any previous occasion.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– When the Prime Minister has been here, there may not have been so many dead-locks, though these occurred again and again because particulars which ought to be made known to the public could not be obtained from Ministers.
– Very few members are as often here as I am, or remain as long. .
– The reverse is not suggested. During the discussion of these Estimates, which has extended over several days, the attendance has varied greatly, and important questions have sometimes been discussed by a very thin House. A preliminary misunderstanding arose regarding the charges about the manner in which the making of tunnels and trenches for the Post Office Department has been conducted. It is impossible to understand the- reason why the Government decline to give the reports of responsible inspectors who have signed the reports and made themselves responsible for them - reports, only selections from which have been placed before the House. In a somewhat long experience, I cannot remember any previous occasion when information of this kind - absolutely innocuous so far as I can see, and which every honorable member, standing alone, is entitled to demand on behalf of his constituency and the public generally - has been refused. These reports clearly ought to be in the possession, and the property of, the House if it so desires. I trust that, on further consideration, these ‘ obstacles which have caused a great deal of heartburning will be removed.
– Was it not tittle-tattle?
– The proof whether it was tittle-tattle or not requires the production of the reports. This involves matters on which the House as a whole, or any individual member, is entitled to ask, and to obtain, information.
– To see all the reports?
– When they relafe to matters which are made the subject of serious charges and debates.
– By a hostile press? Do not forget that the whole press is against us.
– I am sure that the whole press is not against the Government.
– A direct charge was made against the Government by an honorable member.
– After tittle-tattle in the press.
– The honorable member said that the official reports would disprove what the Government had said. “
– The Labour party have more devoted supporters in the press than any other party in the Commonwealth.
– Not in the editorial chairs, anyhow.
– That is not the subject we have to discuss.
– It is government by press, not by Parliament.
– Press or the Caucus ; I would rather have the press.
– The honorable member is Caucus mad !
– I call attention to these matters because there have been inflammatory results, owing to the refusals on the part of the Government, when requests for information have been pressed and urged. This has created a suspicion that there is an organized policy of refusing to this Opposition information which, in our experience, has never before been refused. Of course, the Government can remove these apprehensions. The Government have that in their power, and I hope they will supply the facts in the case alluded to, and in other special instances to which attention has been invited during the debate, but, so far, without success.
For instance, on page 227, a vote of. £80,000 is proposed for the acquisition of sites for the erection of mobilization stores, drill halls, and so forth. The information asked for by honorable members has been of a most general kind - as to the manner in which the particular item is made up - where the sites are, whether there are any special sites, and the general purpose and outline of the vote. More than this honorable members do not ask. Their requests are for such a reasonable understanding of the vote as will enable them to face their constituents at the coming election or at any meetings.
– Full and frank information was given on this item alone.
– The honorable member for Ballarat was not here.
– I was about to say lhat this debate has straggled over about four sittings.
– Whose fault is that?
– I advise the honorable member not to ask. The point is that some honorable members have not been in attendance at the whole of the sittings. Consequently, in regard to particular items, it is possible that explanations have been made at one stage which have not been repeated when asked for at another ; in this way the difficulty has arisen.
– On this item, on three separate occasions, full and frank information was given.
– That is absolutely incorrect !
– It is not necessary to multiply differences of opinion on the matter ; it is possible that both honorable members may be correct. The Honorary Minister considers that he has given sufficient information, while my colleagues consider the information insufficient and unsatisfactory. I am certain that if all honorable members had been present at the same time, the common sense of the House would have found a practical method of settling their differences, which are of no magnitude, without any unnecessary friction.
On the next page is another item on which general information should be given, and with more particulars than in the previous case ; 1 allude to the establishment of the Military College. According to the Estimates we voted for this purpose last year> .£40,000, but ,£68,000 appears to have been spent. Judging by the position of the item on the Estimates, the £28,000 appears to have been spent without authority, and we are now asked to spend £[45,000 more. It is perfectly fair, I think, to ask how that extra £28,000 was spent last year, and how it is proposed to spend the ,£45,000 this year?
– It ought not to be necessary to ask for this information ; it ought to have been proffered.
– It may be stated that part of* the information has, at some time., been given to some honorable members ; but to the Committee as a whole the information has not been imparted. On page 241, it is proposed fo vote no less a sum than £[300,000 for the purchase of warlike stores. These figures are in excess of anything we have been accustomed to in the past. Foi myself, I believe this expenditure to be necessary1 and essential.
– The honorable member says that these items are in excess of what we have been accustomed to in the past; but if he looks at the Estimates, he will see that last year £[290,000 was spent in precisely the same way. The item was explained last year, and also this year.
– There, again, the Honorary Minister misunderstands. I mean that it is only within the last two or three years that we have been able to spend such sums. Prior to that it was impossible. We are not only justified by the circumstances of the situation - in the new departures - we are making in military and other matters - but. we are equally entitled to make just as close a scrutiny as ever before of all these items.
– Information was given about this item, which satisfied even the Deputv Leader of the Opposition.
– No No doubt the Honorary Minister himself is satisfied, and I hope other honorable members are ; but many are not ; and it is for the purpose of satisfying them that I am returning upon the chief items which have caused dissension and prolonged debate.
On the next page, the vote for naval works springs up to £200,000 from £20,000.
– A full explanation was given of this yesterday to the honorable member for Darling Downs, who expressed himself satisfied.
– I am glad fo hear that; but, again, unfortunately, the honorable member for Darling Downs is not present now. -
– A full explanation ! The Honorary Minister never rose to make one.’
– Opinions will differ as to what an explanation is. In the face of the whole House, for the purpose of bringing this prolonged discussion to a conclusion, I have run over some of the chief items to refresh the memory of the Prime Minister.
On the next page, 244,’ provision is made for the construction and survey of a railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River. This obviously does not need a full exposition of policy ; but it does need a sufficient statement. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, when the Bill is before the House, a full opportunity will be afforded to discuss it. In the meantime; however, this item is the signal of a possible commitment of the House. A policy of some kind ought to be laid before us. The- Minister of External Affairs was overflowing with information on this topic for which no one asked him.
– That is not my fault.
– The information we .do ask for is not available, because the particular Minister concerned is not present; whereas we have a Minister who is overloaded with information, but who is not asked any question. These little contretemps will happen, and may be ignored; but. a great deal is bound up with this proposition. This small vote is the first step in a great railway policy for the Commonwealth - a great developmental policy. It is intimately associated with the fortunes of the Territory, and it relates to railway problems that will affect every State of the Commonwealth except Tasmania. Under the circumstances, the general outline which the Minister of External Affairs is prepared to give is absolutely necessary to anything like a clear understanding of the great problem about to be launched.
I have now called attention to a sufficient number of items on the great bulk of which Opposition members have not yet been informed. They believe themselves entitled to be informed ; and when they are informed, they will be most happy to assist in the expeditious discharge of business.
– They have to decide when they are informed ?
– Who else?
– Of course they have to decide for themselves.
– Let us refer it to arbitration.
– It would be somewhat autocratic if the Minister, who is going to spend the money, were left to himself, as against the rest of the House, to decide when sufficient information had been given, as to how it was to be spent. On that point, the House should exercise its own judgment. Although the Estimates bristle with, contentious topics, and must necessarily be regarded from different points of view, I fail to see that any real difficulty would have arisen, if honorable members had been met with even elementary straightforward explanations of the particular purposes of the votes, and a general indication of the Government’s intentions. We should have been saved many hours of fruitless discussion ; since it is evi dent that there have been occasional duplications of information, and that many honorable members have been unfortunate enough to miss some of it.
– Most of the big items are connected with defence, which is not a party question.
– True; but all these items are of great moment to honorable members. We are all responsible to our constituents.
– Of course, the honorable member for Maribyrnong is satisfied, seeing that £220,000 is to be spent in his electorate.
– The Cordite Factory is a nightmare with the honorable member.
– Not so ; I placed the factory there myself.
– Honorable members in the Government corner do not seem to realize that, while it is quite legitimate for them to place implicit confidence in the Ministers, there is no such obligation upon honorable members on this side. On the contrary, this side of the House exists to criticise, where, perhaps, honorable members opposite do not desire criticism, or may be satisfied with the information given by the Government. The attitude of the Opposition is either that of hostility to, or acceptance of, these proposals for expenditure, but they cannot be expected to support any proposal until they have had an opportunity of informing their minds by a knowledge of the facts. It is claimed by the Opposition that in all the instances mentioned - which are given after consultation with half-a-dozen honorable ‘ members on this side - the Opposition have reached dead-ends ; that they have not obtained the explanation which is their due, and which it is in the interests of Ministers to give.
– When the items were under discussion honorable members expressed themselves entirely differently from the honorable member.
– That is a very strong statement.
– I refer the honorable member to Hansard.
– The Honorary Minister is wrong again, as usual.
– I appeal to honorable members to cease these interjections across the chamber.
– Vigilant as the Honorary Minister has been in attending to the items, particularly relating to the Department of Defence, there have been occasions when I have noticed his necessary absence from the chamber while certain requests were being made which were not complied with.
– I am looking over a few of the explanations I gave you yesterday. Mr. DEAKIN. - If everybody were as satisfied with the Minister’s explanations as he is himself, we should, indeed, be a contented party. That utmost height of self-satisfaction cannot be attained by every person.
– I am afraid the Angel Gabriel could not satisfy you.
– He has not tried yet. Whatever disguise he may assume, I cannot fancy it to be that which the honorable member usually wears.
I have called attention to these matters in the hope that, in a practical and business-like manner, we shall be able to dispose of them, having, as far as we could, registered any necessary dissents upon the great and important issues of policy as here embodied. We cannot afford to treat lightly the Bill which will be founded on these resolutions, or to pass by the questions involved in it as being of little moment. They are not to be decided for us on the ipse dixit of members on the other side. On the contrary, these expenditures touch a large number of most fundamental questions affecting and interesting the people of the Commonwealth, who are entitled to be fully informed on them. They cannot be fully informed unless we have an opportunity in this House of utilizing the sources of information in the possession of Ministers, and, perhaps, of some of their supporters, but which are denied to us, except so far as they are now laid on the table of the House. It is our duty to bring into the full and searching light of day every questionable expenditure that we notice on the Estimates, and to point out the relation of questions of policy to matters, of expenditure. It is, therefore, in the discharge of one of the most grave and serious of our obligations as members pf Parliament that we ask for fuller and clearer information than has been accorded to us, with the assurance that, this information being supplied, we shall be found as active as the Government in pushing this measure through its various stages.
– Honorable members with some parliamentary experience will be in hardly any doubt as to the real meaning of this long criticism. Early in the session the Government were attacked on their general policy. That attack miserably failed.
– On a point of order, I should like to know whether the honorable gentleman is speaking in reply.
– The honorable member is merely speaking now as a member of the House. He has not spoken before.
– But some one moved the motion for the adoption of the report.
– I put from the Chair the question that the report be adopted. It was an Order of the Day.
– No one can take exception to the Leader of the Opposition pointing out the necessity for the Opposition criticising the Government, and watching items of expenditure; but I deny that any information has been withheld.
– The honorable gentleman has not been here, and does not know anything about it.
– Those who know the honorable member will give full weight to his words.
– The honorable member was not here for two hours yesterday.
– The honorable member for Parramatta must cease these interjections.
– Let me deal now with one item by way of illustration. The sum of ,£4,200 for “ Railway and construction survey from Pine Creek to Katherine “ is for a survey. The Government will take the very correct step of bringing that matter down in the shape of a Bill afterwards, providing the money here. No further explanation is necessary.
– Cannot you tell us something about the railway?
– The time to deal with that matter will be when the Bill is before us. Those who are against the survey will move for the omission of this item. They know exactly whether they are in favour of a survey or not.
– Is it part of a larger scheme ?
– Is the honorable member in any doubt as to what it is ? Honorable members opposite always want to know something that is not there. This item states as distinctly and clearly as the English language can put it, what it is, but the Opposition say, “That is not it; what does it mean?” We are not here to make any such explanation. The item is for a survey. The Bill will come along later, and it is advisable that there should be a Bill. Honorable members who have been in public life for any length of time know that more money has been wasted in Australia through the want of proper surveys than in any other way. Every precaution should, therefore, be taken to see that correct surveys are made of railways, docks, and other works before any money is practically thrown away.
– Is this a part of a general scheme of railways, or portion of a trunk line?
– Does the honorable member want all the information on this item, or does he want me to deal with the items noted by the Leader of the Opposition? Apparently the Opposition object because something is not there which they would like to have there. The English language conveys clearly that this money is for the cost of a survey, and it is the policy of the Government to make a survey between the two points indicated. If the honorable member wants to know what the item means, it means a survey between those two points to begin with. The next item referred to was the sum of £200,000 for “ naval works.” This deals with Western-, port in Victoria, Port Stephens in New South Wales, Cockburn Sound in Western Australia, and, I think, incidentally with the Williamstown dep6t.
– Will there be a Bill for these works?
– I do not think it is necessary, as they are part of the defence scheme. It is for the honorable member and others in Opposition to say whether this is an urgent, matter or not. If it had been less urgent, I venture to say it would have been easier to give fuller details. Honorable members opposite have been charging the Government with retarding progress in defence matters, and not showing the expedition we ought to have shown ; but now, when we anticipate in every possible way in order to provide for the defence of Australia, it is suggested that we are concealing something, and not giving sufficient information.
– We want to know what the total cost will be.
– Of course, and the Opposition would rather wait years than have the work done. The honorable member is like some of his present colleagues ; they never did anything themselves, and are surprised that anybody else is able to do something.
With them, it is nothing but talk. If the defence of Australia could be made effective by waving the hands about, it would have been done long ago, but we as a party think it should be done in a more solid and substantial way, and believe in providing the money when we have it to enable it to be done effectively.
– Meantime this is a perfect explanation of that item!
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say so ; it is very seldom that he is so frank.
– Is there anything for the Tamar in that item?
– I should not be sorry if there was, but I do not think there is. However, no prejudices on my part, or on the part of the Government, will withhold from any part of Australia the necessary money to make its defence effective. Another item referred to was that of _£45,ooo towards the cost of establishing a Military College for Australia. Last year, there was a vote of £40,000, and ‘ we spent £68,454. Was not that a laudable action on the part of the Government, who discovered that the revenue was available, and were able by means of the Treasurer’s advance to provide an additional amount for constructing the Military College?
– How much is the Gompleted building estimated to cost?
– I think the total amount is provided for this year, or nearly so. We pjovided last year as much as we thought we could economically spend. I am advised by the officers that the increased cost of material and work was the cause of the chief part of the increase. Honorable members are aware that during last year the cost of material increased greatly,- and no sensible representative of the people would stand by and say that, because the cost of labour and material increased, we should not go as far as we could if money could be provided. Practically the same amount of work has been done by the extra amount of money that was provided. Surely that is a fair policy to carry. out?
– Can the Prime Minister say whether plans of that expenditure have ever been put upon the table?
– I do not think they have, but they can be if honorable members so desire.
– I should like to see them.
– I say on behalf of the Government that those, and all other plans that are desire3 by honorable members, can be seen, and copies laid on the table, if required. I think they have always been published, and issued to members.
– Could not any member see them at the Defence Department if he so desired?
– Yes. It is obvious that honorable members can obtain access to them, but care will be taken that they are put on the table. If I remember rightly, they have been issued in the Gazette. Another item which has been much discussed is, “ Acquisition of sites for, and erection of mobilization store buildings and drill halls, towards cost, £80,000.” This arises out of an effective defence poiicy. It does not deal specially with cadets.
– Can we be informed where these halls are to be erected ?
– The right honorable member will not be in order in dealing in detail with that matter.
– I can make only a casual reference to the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit, sir, that on this report we may discuss any item that has been the subject of a resolution in Committee. May lays that down “very clearly, and so long as the debate is relevant to a resolution in Committee of Supply, I submit that it is entirely in order. At page 627 of May’s Parliamentary Practice we have the statement that -
According to existing practice, procedure upon a report of the grants made by the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means consists of debate strictly relevant to each resolution, as it is separately submitted to the House, raised either on Hie grant itself or on an amendment proposing a reduction thereof.
The question is that the report of the Committee on a series of resolutions be now adopted, and I submit that we may refer to any resolution covered by the report, so long as the debate is relevant.
– The proper stage at which to discuss items in detail is in Committee. The honorable member must know that, while great latitude may be allowed in respect of a general discussion, an honorable member is not entitled, at the report Stage, to discuss actual details, which should have been dealt with in Committee. As to the question of relevancy, I have al lowed ample latitude to every honorable member who has kept fairly within the limits -r but if I were to allow a detailed discussion of items, there would be prac tically no limitation to the debate, and it is the* duty of the Speaker, whoever he may be, to control, in some way, the debates in the House.
– He is not entitled to shorten a debate.
– There has been no attempt on my part to shorten the debate, and I do not think that any action I might take to prevent an honorable member from discussing details at this stage would shorten the debate. If I were to permit a departure to be made from the practice which I have stated, however, 1 should open up a course the following of which would make it almost impossible to control the debates.
– I shall not depart, sir, from your direction. It will be sufficient for me to say that the amount to which reference has been made has been placed on the ‘Estimates for purposes of utility, and to promote the efficiency of the Citizen Defence Forces. Military areas have been prescribed all over Australia, and halls and other necessary equipment will be required for the increased Citizen Forces. This item, as I have said, does not particularly affect the Cadet Forces; but it must not be forgotten that our Citizen Forces have practically been doubled. We had formerly about 20,000 men in our Citizen Forces, whereas we have now about 40,000, and this vote of £[80,000 will provide hall accommodation and . equipment necessary for mobilization throughout Australia. I regret that, owing to our anxiety to push on with the work of making efficient the Citizen Forces of Australia, we are not yet able to give as full details as I should like to be able to give in regard to this item; but it is well to remember that military areas have been prescribed all over Australia, and that I pledge the Government to expend this money in the particular centres where the greatest efficiency will be secured from its outlay.
– All that we have asked for in regard to this item is that we shall be told what proportion is required for mobilization stores, and how much is required for drill halls. We have not asked for details.
– I cannot even give that information in detail to the honorable member. I take the full responsibility for the item in question. The Minister of Defence, after discussion with his officers, saw that the efficiency of the Forces would be greatly promoted by an expenditure of about £80,000 during the current year on mobilization stores and drill halls.
– Do they not know now where these places are to be erected?
– There is not sufficient to provide for their erection all over Australia. We are spending this year something like five and a half millions of money on our defence system, and we must trust the Department to expend a few thousand pounds where it is thought that the greatest efficiency will be secured in respect of the amount that is available for the purpose.
– Then they do not know now where these places are to be erected ?
– That being so, they need not have this money.
– That is only the right honorable member’s opinion.
– I am simply stating the plan usually adopted in framing the Estimates.
– I take the responsibility for the course we are now pursuing. We mean to make the defence system efficient, and to secure that efficiency it may. be necessary to have drill halls in some parts of Australia and not in other parts. It would be paltry in the extreme for the representatives of one State to say that they objected to the vote because they thought that the greater proportion might be expended in another State.
– The Treasurer does not know what he wants for the next eight months ?
– The right honorable member does not do himself justice in speaking in that way.
– And the Prime Minister is not doing himself justice by calling names, instead of giving information.
– I do not understand the honorable member, but I am not blind to what I see. I am not blind to the tactics that are being pursued, but I am neither embarrassed nor intimidated. We intend to carry out our programme, and at the same time we shall give to the country all the information that we can. The Treasury is open to any and every member. No one knows that better than does the right honorable member for Swan, and when the details at. the Treasury can be shown - as they have been shown by us in a way unknown in any other Parliament - to members of the Opposition^ the interests of the country cannot go very far astray. In the opening part of his speech, the Leader of the Opposition sought to .make much of a little incident in regard to the alleged inefficiency of workmen employed by the Government, and the demand that as soon as a suggestion of inefficiency or loafing ori the part of Government employes is made - as soon as it is suggested that men are not giving the Government an equivalent in labour for the pay they receive - we ought to have an inquiry, and present all the reports to Parliament. Parliament would cease to be a deliberative and representative body if that course were followed. The Postmaster-General being, sick and unable, unfortunately, to attend to his departmental duties, I brought down a categorical denial of the statements in question, together with a covering letter by Mr. Bright, the Deputy Postmaster-General.. These are either official or they are not. Mr. Bright as Deputy Postmaster-General’ is as much responsible for the working of his Department as is the Minister, and in my opinion that which I produced was an effective answer to the question raised. The Leader of the Opposition has had a long parliamentary experience, mostly as a Minister, but I venture to say that he was never a member of a Government to which the whole press of Australia displayed its teeth as it has done in our case. We have no chance of defending ourselves.
– We have no chance whatever. The smallest point is seized1 upon and built up.
– The right honorable gentleman is now going beyond the question before the Chair.
– I am certainly following the bad example of a leading parliamentarian, but I have no desire to come into conflict with the Chair. AH that I shall say is that in the history of this Parliament no Works and Buildings Estimates have been treated as those now under consideration have been. Never before have we had weeks of criticism such as that to which we have ‘ been listening lately. I am not complaining ; I am simply making a statement of fact. If the Opposition think it wise to pursue this, course I shall not complain.
– Order 1 . *-. .-
– We hope to get these Estimates through as soon as possible, because as- has been stated many times already, we desire to send them to another place in order that they may become law, and that the works for which they provide may be proceeded with. The delay which is taking place can be avoided by the Opposition, and I say with the greatest courtesy that we shall be happy if the Bill passes through as quickly as possible, so that we may proceed with works necessary for the defence and the development of this great country which we have the honour to govern.
.- I had no intention of interposing in this debate, and 1 rise now only to pour a little oil on the troubled waters. I was astounded at the speech to which we have just listened. One might have thought that the Prime Minister was suffering under a sense of personal injustice, but all that the Opposition have wanted, and all that they desire is the information that on all prev’ous occasions has been readily afforded by Ministers when asking for Supply in respect of matters of this kind. We have asked for no more, and we are entitled to no less. The Treasurer appeared to think that because it became necessary for us to ask how certain amounts fitted in with general schemes concerning Australian defence, we were in some vague and indefinite way insulting him, so far as his capacity to reply is concerned. I would no more dream of indicting the right honorable member’s power? of exposition than I should dream of affronting that delectable sense of humour with which he so often delights the House. I wish to say to him, however, that we have never yet had from this Government any general statement as to how far they are committing themselves in matters of naval defence to which some of these items relate. Take, for instance, the vote for naval works. The Prime Minister thinks - he is not quite sure, and does not think it quite fair to ask him to be quite sure - that the vote has something to do with the construction of new naval bases about the coastline of Australia. This system of naval bases is a new proposition, which was made in Admiral Henderson’s report. We do not yet know whether the Government has indorsed that report. If it has indorsed it in toto we shall know in what direction we are tending. If it has not indorsed it be yond this particular section then we desire to know on what authority the Prime Minister is proceeding in this direction. For my own part 1 have some doubt that perhaps we may be following too blindly the example of the Mother Country in endeavouring to separate our naval bases from our ordinary mercantile ports. In the Mother Country it is essential to have mercantile ports and naval bases separate, because the constant movements of ships of war would interfere materially with the mercantile shipping. But oui vessels of war are not so numerous or ubiquitous that we need fear that their passing in and out of ports will seriously interfere with the ordinary shipping. I suggest this as a consideration worthy of passing notice, because every penny spent on naval bases which may he unnecessary could be better spent on the construction and arming of ships. Therefore we should be told what is the policy of the Government in this regard. But when we ask for information, our questions are regarded as insults, and our protests as a nefarious attempt to retard the passing of the Estimates.
The Prime Minister referred to the vote for the Military College. I should be the last to wish to retard the passing of an item of that kind, because the establishment of the Military College was first suggested in this Parliament by me, and agreed to at my instigation. But I should like to know whether the money asked for is for new works, or to repair the blunders of the past year or two? It may be necessary for the rebuilding of the stables, which, apparently, were designed by an architect accustomed to the accommodation provided for horses on shipboard, since so little room was given that the horses could not flick their tails without upsetting the domestic economy of the edifice. These things have constantly to be done because of the departmental bungling under the auspices of this Cabinet of business men. There is another item of £80,000-
– The honorable member may not deal with separate items.
– I am doing so only by way of illustration. The Prime Minister told us that £80.000 is asked for to provide drill halls and mobilization stores. There are 200 military areas, and if each area is to get a hall, which is what I understood from his lucid explanation, there will be something like £490 for the site and building in each case. But, in addition, out of this amount, we are to have mobilization stores.
– The honorable member has not read the Estimates.
– The Honorary Minister refers to the footnote.
– I am not dealing with the footnote, which, I take, it, is like the Honorary Minister himself, more or less under the influence of the Prime Minister, who has just stated that all the drill halls, with, I presume, their sites, and the mobilization stores, were to be provided out of this item. The Prime Minister, who, at this last hour, was going to afford us every information, though in a spirit that, to me, seemed hardly gracious, has misled us, and we have to trust to the cryptic utterances of the Honorary Minister for the correction of the wrong impression made upon our minds by his chief.
– I am correcting the honorable member’s ignorance. He has not read the Estimates that he is presuming to criticise.
– I am grateful to the honorable member ; but there is no reason for his bitterness. The footnote says that the total estimated cost is £”300,000.
– How much of the money is to be spent on drill halls, and how much on mobilization .stores ?
– That is the question.. We still do not know how many areas are to’have drill halls, and how many mobilization stores are to be provided? The sum provided for training the levies under our new system is, according to the Minister’s interjection, only about one-fourth of what will be necessary eventually. If we have to wait four years, what evidence is there of this determined haste to proceed with our military organization of which we heard a few minutes ago from the Prime Minister? I am the last person to desire to hold up the Estimates, but I want something in the nature of a reasoned explanation of them. Perhaps it is hopeless to expect -that from Ministers, though I should like a broad, comprehensive statement of policy in regard to the large question of Australian defence. Indeed, I despair of getting it from Ministers. The Prime Minister, in his hotheaded attack on the Opposition for having the temerity to ask questions, did not do himself or us justice. We are here to ask questions, to try to find out what is being done with the public’s money. When we asked what Ministers are spending on themselves, there was an uproar; and now that we wish to know how they propose to spend money on big . public enterprises, we are threatened with a bludgeon.
– This is only a trifle of £”4,000,000.
– The spending of other people’s money is always a trifling matter to a Labour Government. But we are the trustees of the public, to whom an expenditure of nearly £1 per head is a matter of importance. The people desire that their money shall be spent wisely ; and it is the duty of the Opposition, a duty which will be determinedly faced, despite the bluster and bluff of honorable members opposite, to criticise lax methods of administration, and to protest against the non-explanations which have disfigured this debate, and the discussion of the Estimates in Committee.
.- While the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, Ministers were very loud and persistent in their assertions that all the information asked for by the Opposition had been given. I wisn,’ therefore, to draw attention to a specific instance to the contrary . I noticed with surprise that £[5,000 is set down for the construction of a new General Post Office at Perth. On the. face of it, that is an absurd proposal. I wished to know what the plans of the Government are ; what was its object in placing this item on the Estimates; whether there was any further development to announce; and when the building was likely to be taken in hand ? On these points, I have not yet received a word of explanation. The people of Perth and of Western Australia have been clamouring for this post-office for several years. Since it was promised, they have been awaiting impatiently the erection of the building. The site has been acquired, I believe, the Minister of Home Affairs having busied himself about the matter when in Perth recently. I understand that a plan was drawn - I saw a reproduction of it in a newspaper some time ago - in which the post-office was relegated to a sort of backyard, and was surrounded with shops and warehouses. That plan has been discarded, as it deserved to be ; but we are yet in the dark as to what is to take its place. This matter is important enough to require more explanation than has been given. If an explanation is not forthcoming, I must take it that the Ministry are in the dark as to what- they are going to do in the matter. The Prime Minister has indicated that, in the item for Naval Works, money is to be found for the creation of a naval base at Cockburn Sound, which, in the opinion of Admiral Henderson, is one of the most necessary and immediate requirements of the Commonwealth. When constructed, it will be the most important naval dep6t of the Commonwealth, and will greatly affect the interests of the Empire. Yet. at this last stage of the consideration of the Estimates
– With some reluctance, I ask whether the honorable member is in order in discussing these details ? Information regarding the Perth Post Office, and the Cockburn Sound naval base, was given last night.
– The honorable member is keeping in a general way to the question.
– At the eleventh hour, this important public work is referred to by the Prime Minister in the most casual way. He says that he thinks that a certain item includes money which is to be spent at Cockburn Sound. The Minister is evidently not quite sure.
– The information was given to the honorable member for Darling Downs when we arrived at the item.
– The Minister is very much befogged, because he is evidently not sure what is to be done.
– It is not our fault if the honorable member was not here when the explanation was given.
Hr. FOWLER.- I am referring to the statement made by the Prime Minister tonight, and I take it he has the most uptodate information. I may have missed this particular item, but I was very much surprised to hear the casual reference made to it by the Prime Minister. If he is not sure what is going to be done at Cockburn Sound, do his officers know precisely what they are going to do? In the absence of definite information, are we to assume that the officers have asked for £200,000 to be placed at their disposal for naval works, with no definite plan or scheme to enable the country to get full value? If that -is not an unsatisfactory state of affairs, I do not know what is; and the Opposition are fully justified in asking for information. If the Government do not give the information, the country .will demand to know the reason why before long.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
That Mr. King O’Malley and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. King O’Malley, and read a first and second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Appropriation of Supply).
.- There are grave reasons why money should be voted with all speed for new works and buildings ; and my only regret is that we have not a system whereby these accounts are presented much earlier in the year, so that the Department may have the necessary money placed at its disposal at the earliest possible moment. Under the present system, the Minister of Home Affairs is placed in a very difficult position, and we can see that year after year amounts voted are not expended, those last year being very considerable.
– T - There was not time to spend the money.
– That is the position. Parliament meets in May or June, and the Estimates ought to be ready for Cabinet consideration . by the end of May, or the end of June, at latest, for submission to the House. They ought, indeed, to be under the consideration of Ministers long before the financial year begins, though, so far as I know, that is not the practice. It would help the Minister df Home Affairs very materially if he were given Supply at the beginning of the year instead of practically a third of the way through the year. The Department of Home Affairs labours under sufficient difficulties as things are at present, if only from the fact that all its servants are noi under Federal control.
It seems to me that the Department of Home Affairs might very well be abolished, though Heaven forbid that we should dispense wilh the services of my gifted friend now at its head. What I mean is that a Works Department, pure and simple, should be established, and a great many of the enterprises now left to the Department of Home Affairs should be carried out by the Departments which they immediately’ concern. Much of the work of the Home Affairs Department is now carried out in a circumlocutory way.
If an honorable member desires, for instance, a post-office or other building erected in his electorate, he has, first of all, to make representations to the PostmasterGeneral, whose- Department occupies, perhaps, three months in considering the matter. When the Department has decided that the building is necessary, the Department, of Home Affairs is requested to make the necessary acquisition of land, and the officers in the Department of Home Affairs have to go into the whole question occupying, perhaps, another three months. Then, when these two Departments have decided, the matter has to go on to the Treasurer, who, perhaps, takes another three months to find the money ; and in this way important public works, which are urgently needed, are delayed beyond all reason.
– Tha That is the system of checks and balances.
– It is the sort of check 4:hat was on the coat of the mad hatter in Alice in Wonderland. It is not a reasonable check j and it should not entail the combined wisdom of three Departments, >one* after another, being devoted to one detail of administration, that ought to be dealt with by one Department in a week or two. The present system should be uprooted, and the Department of Home Affairs made a Works Department. Mr. King O’Malley. - That is all it is. Mr. KELLY. - By no means. It is a Department for the acquisition of land and many other purposes, and its works are carried on largely by the Works Departments Of the States.
Let me give an instance in my own electorate. Some years ago, I recommended to the Post and Telegraph Department the wisdom of providing a postoffice in what was obviously going to be the best commercial centre in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. It took about six years to persuade the Department of the common sense of the proposal, and the Department of Home Affairs was then instructed to acquire the site it had chosen. Some trouble was then experienced in getting the Home Affairs Department to indorse the site selected, although, as we have seen, it had taken the Post and Telegraph Department a long time to make up its mind to go to that centre in the first place. After these two Departments had come to one mind as to a site, and after the Home Affairs Department had got an estimate of the value of the site from the New South Wales valuator, the Minister of Home Affairs asked the Treasurer to supply the necessary money. The Treasurer and the Minister of Defence then put their heads together, and they came to the conclusion that the amount asked for was a large one for a piece of land. It was the amount suggested by the New South Wales Government valuator, and represented, I should imagine, the price that the land would fetch in open market. But the Minister of JDefence and the Prime Minister, who had never seen the land,- and knew nothing of the conditions or of the intense competition for sites .in that particular area, decided in their wisdom, and from their wide experience as land valuers, that it was too much to give, and hung the matter up for three or four months. Whilst it was hung up through this circumlocutionary method of transacting business, the Commonwealth had “to go on paying rent for the other place it was occupying - the place it had’ taken temporarily to test the value of the locality for departmental purposes. An actual loss, therefore, resulted to the Commonwealth through the delays operating under the present system. I suggest that my honorable friend, whose business ability is recognised by every person opposite, including himself, should cast his eagle eye over a proposition for changing the character of his whole Department from one of circumlocution into one of actual work. .
– T - There is no redtape in my Department- now.
– The matter is too serious for badinage. A great deal of delay occurs in the construction of works and in the acquisition of sites when money is provided, and when their non-acquisition with expedition means the paying of rent in some other direction. The only way to abolish unnecessary public expenses of this kind is to make each Government Department responsible for its own small concerns, and the Commonwealth Works Department, the erstwhile circumlocutionary Home Affairs Department, a great Department for carrying on the big National works of the Commonwealth.
.- Last night the Minister of Externa] Affairs promised that when we reached the vote for the Postmaster- General’s Department he would tell, us the lines to be constructed in Queensland under the item “ Construction and extension of telephone lines, &c, £80,000.”
– I asked the Department for the information, but have not obtained it yet. I will get it.
– By that time the Bill may be through. If we had it now, we might make suggestions to the Minister for amendments. We are asked to appropriate about £830,000 in all under the control of the Postmaster -General’s Department-
– You are very pleased that so much is appropriated.
– I am glad to see as much money appropriated for any of the public services of Australia as will make them thoroughly efficient; but so far we have had no explanation of a single item. Perhaps the honorable member will be able to get the information for me when we reach the item in the schedule.
– I cannot get the information to-day.
Clause agreed to.
– I should like to ask a question with bated breath, after the very lucid and able statement of the case for the railway survey in the Northern Territory delivered by the Prime Minister a little while ago. It really was most informative, and made the position perfectly plain. He said, “ This sum is on the Estimates. Nothing can be plainer. There is no more to be said about it.” Somehow or other we are still unsatisfied. I suppose it is because we are unreasonable, and he is the essence and soul of reason. With the greatest possible deference, in the presence of a great authority like the Prime Minister, I humbly take up the position that we ought not to vote money for a survey of that kind until we know what is in the mind of the Government regarding proposals for opening up the Northern Territory by railway communication. Are we to develop it from the north downwards or from the south upwards? The very things we want to know are not in the Estimates. It was a farce to submit these items to the House with nothing in the mind of the Government as to what is to be done with the money when it is ‘Voted. The Government propose to survey a route for a piece of railway in between the terminal points of two railways on a different gauge. When they have put in that railway, the old narrow gauge will have to be altered. I understand that the sleepers on both sides will have to be taken up before the gauge can be made to fit in with the new line. Surely all these matters ought to be explained to members, and some definite concrete proposal put before them.
– You will get all that ii> formation when the Bill to construct the railway is before the House.
– We shall be told then, as we are told now, that it is in the Bill, and that really nothing could be plainer. This money, we are told, is for that particular survey. Why not provide money for a survey in some other and better climate, or where there is a prospect of opening up some mineral country ? Why not a survey where there is a prospect of joining the railway to some other system, which will make it a paying concern from he first? All these matters ought to be in the minds of Ministers before they ask the House to pass such an item.
– Before any survey is made, a Bill authorizing a survey will be brought down, and a full discussion will take place on it. The survey will not be started until the Bill is brought down.
– Surely a Bill is not required to authorize a survey?
– Yes; exactly as the honorable member for Darling Downs did in regard to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway.
– The. cases are not on all-fours. The necessity for that Bill was to authorize this House to enter into negotiations with certain States for the acquirement of land.
– Are we to understand that this money is to be spent first, and the Bill for a survey brought in afterwards ?
– No. No money will be spent until the Bill is brought down. If the Bill is thrown out, no survey will be made.
– I cannot see why a Bill is required to authorize a small survey of that kind.
– No Bill is required for a survey.
– The Bill is No. 7 on the notice-paper now.
– I should like the Minister to explain why a Bill is needed’ for the purpose. I am completely surprised at his statement. I want him to tell the Committee what the Government have in their mind in carrying through this survey
Do they think this is the place to begin? What have they in their minds with regard to existing railways, without which this railway and the survey will be quite useless? I do not see how they can proceed to build any railways up there until they have made up their minds to a general railway policy for the whole Territory.
– Whichever route you take the line must go from Pine Creek to the Katherine River.
– There is no “ must “ about this railway at all. There may be some railway required in another portion of the Territory. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, for instance, does not think this survey ought to be made. He thinks we ought to begin at the Oodnadatta end of the line. So do a number of other honorable members on that side.
– What do you think?
– I am not yet able to decide. C want enlightenment from Ministers if they have any to give me.
– You will not vote against the Bill if it is brought in.
– I do not know about that.- The Government may survey this route until they have spent all the money they care to, and still we shall be no nearer a definite, broad, -and statesmanlike railway policy for the development of the Territory.
– We will tell you next session what our railway policy is.
– Perhaps by that time there will be in office people who will afford information to the House whenever they ask the House to vote large sums of money. There is a frown on the Prime Minister’s face, and what he is calling me in his mind, so to speak, I do not wish to hear.
– I am praying for the honorable member.
– That settles me; I have nothing more to say.
– The request made by the honorable member for Parramatta is not unreasonable. He asks whether the Minister of External Affairs has evolved a railway policy for the Territory, and, if so, whether the railway survey in respect of which provision is made in these Estimates is part of that policy to which the Committee will commit itself by making this appropriation. As to the other question which has been raised, we have a message from the GovernorGeneral for a further appropriation, and I am not going to make any complaint if the Minister desires to introduce a Bill for the purpose.
– Shall I explain the position ?
– Very well.
– The Prime Minister thinks that the fairest course to adopt is to introduce a Bill dealing with this question of the survey, so that the whole matter of the railway policy can be raised in connexion with it. That being so, although the Estimates containing the item in question are passed, no survey will take place until a Bill providing specifically for it has been made law. A general discussion can take place on that Bill. If it is passed the survey will be made ; if it is not the survey will not be proceeded with.
– Does this survey cover part of the general railway policy of the Government ?
– The Prime Minister has said that the Bill will be introduced in order to give the House the fullest and freest opportunity to discuss the policy involved.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bil] be now read a second time.
This is a very small Bill, under which it is proposed to amend the Audit Act in one particular. Clause 2 of this measure provides that -
After section sixty-three of the Audit Act 1901-1909 the following heading and section are inserted : -
” NAVAL EXPENDITURE.
“63A. - (1.) Notwithstanding anything in this
Act contained, the Governor-General may make such regulations and arrangements as he thinks necessary or convenient relating to the expenditure of moneys for the purposes of the Australian Navy .and Naval Establishments, and to any matters incidental thereto, including the receipt, care, custody, and management of moneys, the due accounting for moneys, the keeping of books and accounts, the furnishing of statements, returns, and vouchers, and the inspection, record, and audit of books, accounts, statements, returns, and vouchers. “ (2.) The regulations made in pursuance of this section may direct that any of the provisions of sections thirty-three, thirty-four, and fortysix of this Act shall not apply in relation to any matter in respect of which regulations are made under this section.”
The object of this Bill may be briefly stated. It is the practice for captains of the ships of the Royal Navy to pay their men according to their ratings, without requiring from them any receipt. Under our Audit Act payment could not be legally made in .that way, and it is now proposed by this Bill so to amend the principal Act that that which has proved to be a satisfactory and convenient arrangement in connexion with His Majesty’s ships in the Royal Navy may prevail on vessels of the Australian Unit. The Bill will also permit of the captain or officer commanding any Australian ship to get credit and expend money in circumstances in which it would not be permissible for officers of the Public Service to do so. I am legally advised, and the Treasury also advises me, that the Bill will have that effect, and it is approved without any qualification. We think it necessary, for the efficient government of the Australian Naval Unit, in conformity with the custom and practice on vessels of His Majesty’s Royal Navy, to have this power.
– It seems to me - and the Treasurer will correct me if I am wrong - that this Bill Is really designed to apply to vessels of the Australian Unit the practice laid down by section 63 of the Audit Act in respect of moneys outside the Commonwealth. That section provides that -
Notwithstanding anything in this Act contained the Governor-General may make such arrangements as he considers necessary for the collection, receipt, custody, issue, expenditure, due accounting for, care, and management of any money belonging to the Commonwealth outside the territory of the Commonwealth, and fur the keeping of books and accounts and furnishing statements, returns, and vouchers, and for the examination, inspection, record, and audit of such books, accounts, statements, returns, and vouchers.
It seems at the first glance that the Treasurer is seeking by this Bill to apply to the Australian Navy and naval establishments the principle that is now applied in respect of moneys that are being expended and collected, let us say, in England by the High Commissioner.
– In referring to “naval establishments,” I have in mind naval bases.
– Yes; but the power may be limited from time to time.
– It is an important matter ; and I take it that the Treasurer will see that regulations are carefully framed to insure that all moneys are properly accounted for.
– Even the most Conservative of the officers whole-heartedly assert that what is desired cannot be done without this amending Bill.
– And regulations will be carefully framed?
– The Bill provides that the provisions of sections 33, 34, and 46 of the principal Act may not apply “in relation to any matter in respect of which regulations are made under this section.” One of those sections deals with the issue by the Treasurer of drafts, cheques, and so forth after a warrant has been issued by the GovernorGeneral; and this Bill provides that that practice may be suspended so far as the naval establishment is concerned.
– A ship might want money immediately.
– I am not finding fault with the proposal. Then, again, section 34 deals with the duties of paying officers, and is rather important. It is provided by that section that -
No public accountant shall pay any account unless he shall have been authorized so to do by some person appointed by the Governor-General for that purpose, and unless such account shall have been duly certified as correct by some person appointed by the Governor-General for that purpose.
– That provision can substantially remain, because it can be pre scribed that certain officers shall certifyThere must be a certifying officer, but we shall hot demand receipts from the men.
– I am simply asking for information.
– The provision to which the honorable member has just referred will, in effect, remain if it is possible for me to provide for it.
– I sympathize with the Treasurer in his desire to obtain this power ; but I ask him to follow, as closely as possible, the procedure that has been laid down in the principal Act, and which experience has shown affords a proper safeguard and check. Then, again, section .46 provides that no sum is to be allowed to have been duly received or paid without a voucher, unless by order. If proper safeguards are provided in the regulations, it seems to me that there can be no objection to the Bill.
– - The safeguards will be as strong as we can make them.
.- We amended the Audit Act the year before last to provide for expenditures outside the Commonwealth, so that the provisions of this Bill are not altogether anomalous. Substantially it means that some other method of checking may be substituted for that provided in the Act, but the regulations governing the matter will be subject to the Acts Interpretation Act, that is, they may be disallowed on the resolution of either House. Everything will be done by regulation. There is a provision in the Audit Act dealing with regulations which does not mention this power of Parliament to disallow them, but I think that it is qualified by the provision in the Acts Interpretation Act. If that is so, there seem to me to be sufficient safeguards.
– I should not have introduced the Bill but for the impracticability of running a navy on safe lines without flexible arrangements enabling the captains of our vessels to obtain credit and pay their men in the most convenient way. We shall follow the strictest practice of the Royal Navy, and I ask the co-operation of honorable members opposite as well as of my own friends, so that the regulations, while strict enough to protect the public interest, may yet be sufficiently flexible. If they are not, they will be altered speedily.
– They must, of course, be laid on the table.
– No regulation will have any effect unless laid before Parliament. Except in cases of emergency, no regulation will be operative until it has been laid before Parliament. I am advised that this legislation is necessary before the Navy is put into commission.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Governor-General may make such regulations and arrangements as he thinks necessary or convenient relating to the expenditure of moneys for the purposes of the Australian Navy. . . . .
.- In the making of regulations, Parliament has control, because it may disallow them, but I cannot find in the Audit Act any words throwing light on the significance of the term “ arrangements,” which may not be subject to the control of Parliament.
– I shall make no arrangement that is not.
– The right honorable gentleman is not immortal, and may be succeeded in the remote future by some one without the same sense of honour.
– Then move to strike out the word. If we find it necessary, we can reinstate it.
That the words “ and arrangements “ be left out.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed ;o.
Bill reported with an amendment; report, by leave, adopted.
– I should like, by leave, to move the third reading.
– Is it the pleasure of the House?
– This practice of asking for the suspension of the rules when there is no need for it is to be deprecated.
– It is irregular for the honorable member to speak, as there is not a motion before the House. Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the Prime Minister have leave to move the third reading ?
– I object.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That this House do now adjourn.
– 1 do not know whether the Prime Minister was aware before, a question was put on the notice-paper of the conditions under which advertising is being obtained from country newspapers, but he informed the House to-day that a lump sum had been provided for the advertising of the Commonwealth Bank, which had been -placed at the disposal of a press agent, who had made such terms with the proprietors of the country newspapers as he thought fit. I have been told that in some instances a two-inch double-column advertisement has. been paid for at the rate of jQ for six.’ months.
– That has nothing to do with the Governor of the Bank. He made a contract for the Bank’s advertising.
– I understand that the Prime Minister thinks that the Governor of the Bank, and, I presume, the Government, are absolved from responsibility because a contract has been made with an agent. If there is one thing which I thought this Government would have avoided, it is dealings with middlemen, which always result in sweating. I feel that a great wrong has been done to the proprietors of newspapers, whose necessities prevent them from standing up against this sort of thing. Honorable members know the difficulties under which most country newspapers are conducted, and their proprietors deserve sympathy in connexion with this attempt to extort from them advertisements at low rates.
– The advertising was let to Messrs. Gordon and Gotch, and was free from political interference of any kind.
– Would the same thing be done in regard to tenders for public works ?
– The Governor of the Bank is absolutely removed from political influence.
– I do not wish to appear unkind, but 1 am tempted to say that the Governor of the Bank thought it worth while to put an enormous advertisement in the metropolitan daily papers, in the most expensive position, which virtually only informed the people of Victoria where their post-offices are situated. This high official apparently thought that good business, though the advertisement conveyed little information to intending depositors but a good deal of money to the proprietors of the newspapers in which the advertisement appeared. A Government which professes to stand up for the rights of those’ unable to help themselves should say that the country newspapers are not to be treated in this shabby and invidious fashion. We are told by the Prime Minister that the Governor of the Bank is beyond political influence. Surely the right honorable gentleman is not going to allow him to commit a manifest wrong of this sort, and to infringe the policy which the Government says it was specially created to foster and develop. 1 am surprised that the Prime Minister has so readily sheltered himself behind the measure which he introduced to place this high official in such a position that be can not only break down the policy of a Labour Government, but can commit an offence against the sentiment of the Australian public. We do not wish our people to be at the mercy of agents. I have been told that the newspaper proprietors who were strong enough to stand up against the proposals of the agents were given a larger amount than was first tendered.
– They belonged to the order of Unionists. They were able to” stand up against the sweater.
– Is that the reflection of the Honorary Minister? The Governor of the Bank is placed beyond political influence, and therefore can uphold those who play the role of sweater ! The fact that the agents increased the amount offered to those newspaper proprietors who were strong enough to decline the first offer shows that there was a margin ; and I wish to know who will benefit by it. It will go, not into the public Treasury, nor to the country press, but into the pockets of the middleman.
– The ‘ Government had no more to do with it than had the. honorable member, as he knows.
– The Prime Minister admits that the Government is unable to check or criticise such action. If that is the sort of institution that he has set up, I wish him joy of it.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Laanecoorie indicate that he desires political influence in the control of the Commonwealth Bank, or wishes to present to the public a case which is not in accordance with fact.
– I desire neither.
– After much discussion in the press, and much twaddle from persons whom I shall not name, about the way in which the Bank would suffer from political influence, the Governor was appointed under the Act on the condition that he would be. absolutely free from political interference of any kind whatever.
– He made those terms himself, did he not?
– I made them.
– He made them; they are in his letter, anyhow.
– In the correspondence, which is here, the Governor says, “ I understand this to be in accordance with your conversation with me and with your wishes,” meaning my wishes; and they are my wishes. I said all along that I desired that the man who was to run this bank should be absolutely free from political influence ; and the success or failure of the bank rests on that. In reply to the honorable member, I have here a memorandum, dated 14th August, directed to the Secretary to the Treasury. It is as follows -
In reply to your memorandum I have to advise as follows : -
We agreed to pay an agent a certain fixed sum for advertising the Commonwealth Bank in the Victorian provincial newspapers. We have no knowledge as to the price offered to the newspapers or whether such price was accepted or rejected, or whether an increased price was subsequently offered. The amount which we originally agreed to pay was not increased.
This memorandum is signed by F. P. Coffin for the Governor of the Bank.
– Surely we must prevent sub-letting ?
– If the Governor of the Bank is to be free from political influence, he must remain free. He may contract with another party in any way he pleases, subject to the policy of this Parliament and this Government. When the country or other newspapers go to the Condliation and Arbitration Court for an award for proper rates, then will be the proper time to talk of sweating. The Governor must conduct the bank in his own way. I do not know, and there are no facts to show, whether the rates paid are sweating rates. I do know that a number of journals, who do not support Liberalism, never got a Government advertisement for twenty years ; and now trouble is raised because the Governor of the bank is independent, and gives this work to a firm without asking whether there is sweating or not. I do not know the name of the firm, but I believe it to be one of repute. I cannot take responsibility for what the Governor of the Bank has done, because it rests with himself.
Question resolved in- the affirmative. House adjourned at 10.43 P-m-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120814_reps_4_65/>.