4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 4.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-Has the Prime Minister yet come to a definite decision regarding the occupancy of Government House, Sydney, by the Governor-General?
– I did not think that finality had been reached, but if I am to accept what is stated in the press, we are very near it. As soon as the incident has closed, I shall, in accordance with my promise, lay all the correspondence on the table of the House.
-I wish to know from the Postmaster-General whether the Government have yet accepted a tender for the conveyance of mails between Tasmania and the mainland, and, if so, for what term, and at what sum per annum?
– The Government have not yet accepted a tender, the matter being in negotiation between the shipping companies and myself.
-I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if he has observed that the Rev: Alfred Madsen, of the Methodist Church, Collingwood, has been fined £2 for declining to register his son as a cadet, and that the reverend gentleman gave as his reason for refusing to comply with the law that it requires him to act in opposition to his most sacred convictions. Will the Minister of Defence reconsider the question of inserting in the Act a conscience provision, allowing religious opponents of militarism to exempt their children from military training in all cases where they can satisfy him of their bona fides?
– I shall submit the question for the consideration of the Minister of Defence.
– In the Argus report of yesterday’s proceedings in the Coal Vend Appeal Case, it is stated that Mr. Wise, counsel for the Crown, pointed out that thirty persons had accepted the judgment, but that Mr. Mitchell, counsel for the Vend, objected, adding -
If my honorable friend will produce the little arrangement upon which it was done, I will not object.
I ask whether there was any “ little arrangement,” or any arrangement of an improper ‘ character, as suggested by Mr. Mitchell’s remark ?
– There is no truth in the statement made by the counsel for the trusts. It is perfectly true that thirty of the defendants accepted the judgment, and paid an amount which satisfied the Crown. There was no arrangement, proper or improper, and no condition, the payment being unconditional. The statement made by Mr. Mitchell is one quite in accord with those generally made by trust lawyers under such circumstances.
– Is it not a fact that those who accepted the judgment are interested wholly in the coal trade, and were not concerned in the charge of being connected with a combination in respect to the coal and shipping trades?
– That is so.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral be good enough to inquire into the circumstances under which the statement referred to was made by Mr. Mitchell ? Reading it this morning, I assumed that it relates to the well-known fact that there had been an arrangement between those interested in the coal trade and the shipping companies. Those who know Mr. Mitchell, and his practice as a K.C. at the Bar in Australia
– The honorable member is not now asking a question.
– Will not credit him with any false statement.
– The circumstances under which the defendants paid costs and the amount asked by the Crown are perfectly well known to me, so that there is no need for an inquiry with regard to them. It is true that the Vend defendants asked for an arrangement, but it is untrue that I consented to any. I demanded an unconditional payment.
-I asked the honorable member to inquire concerning Mr. Mitchell’s statement.
-I shall do that.
New Appointments - Land Tax Appeals
– Is it a fact, as recorded in the press, that there is considerable congestion in the High Court, and that it is intended to appoint two additional Justices?
– The question should be addressed to the Attorney-General. As a layman, I have ventured the opinion that there appears to be congestion, notwithstanding the ability and energy shown by the occupants of the High Court Bench. I do not go further than that.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that . 100 or more appeals have been lodged in connexion with the Land Tax Act, making sufficient work to keep the Court going for the whole of next year? Under the circumstances, does the Government propose to make additional provision for the hearing of cases?
– I am aware that a number of appeals have been lodged, but I do not know how many. I do not know that there is anything unusual in the circumstances. The Crown has made arrangements for being represented at the hearing of the appeals.
-Is the Attorney-General aware that in South Australia, when assessments were made under the State Taxation Act, about the time at which the Commonwealth assessments were made, no fewer than 10,000 appeals were lodged, but that the greater number of them were amicably settled by the Commissioner?
– Does not the Act provide for appeals as regards valuations being heard in each State by the Supreme Court, or the District or County Court, or other approved tribunal?
– The honorable gentleman is quite correct, and, as a general rule, these appeals are so heard
– In view of the statement in this morning’s newspapers that, as the result of the scale of wages fixed by the Minister of Trade and Customs being applied to the sugar industry, some 1,500 men have been discharged, will the honorable gentleman take the situation of the industry into consideration, and reconsider his attitude?
– No representation from any employes to the effect that any man has lost employment by reason of the scale of wages referred to has reached me.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs communicate with his inspectors in the various sugar districts, and ascertain what foundation there is for the circulation of the rumour that 1,500 men have been dismissed from their employment because of the scale of wages imposed ?
– Yes, to-morrow.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that there is a shortage in the sugar crop, and that there will be a shortage of Australian sugar next season, and, in these circumstances, ‘ will he consider the advisability of relaxing the import duty on sugar?
– I am well aware that there will be a shortage in the sugar crop. According to the figures supplied by the Department, and as the Treasurer pointed out in his Budget-speech, we shall probably produce this year about half the amount that we produced about two years ago - 115,000 tons I think. It is not my intention to propose an alteration of the Tariff this session.
– In view of the possible shortage in the production of Australian sugar, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the question of the Australian Government importing the balance required, and offering it to the people of Australia at a reasonable price?
– I think that when a policy of the kind suggested by the honorable member is inaugurated, it ought to include, not merely sugar, but everything else. In the meantime, the matter will be considered.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to an article in to-day’s Argus on the opinion given by Mr. Mitchell in reference to the wages and conditions which he has fixed for the sugar industry, and, if so, does he intend to revise the regulation, cancel it, or take other action?
– I read Mr. Mitchell’s opinion with interest. Practically it is similar to the opinion expressed the other day by a King’s Counsel in Queensland, that I had no power to issue the regulation. I admit that I have stated all along that there is no such power. I have not fixed the wages; but, as I have stated in reply to other questions, the payment of the bounty will not be imperilled if certain rates are paid. Some of the persons who are opposing the new order say that the rate prescribed previously is the standard. If there was a right previously to fix the rate at 25s. and keep, or at any sum, the right exists now. I thought that it would be better to take action, and not to leave the growers to produce sugar, and then to be faced with a position afterwards.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral prepared to accept the offer which, I understand, was made by the Marconi Wireless Company ?
– I did state in the House a little time ago that negotiations were proceeding with the attorneys of the Marconi Company in Australia, who were also acting on behalf of the Australasian Wireless Limited. The Government have decided to refuse the offer that was made in their joint names, and to proceed with the erection of the stations round the coast of Australia on the system that has been adopted in Melbourne and Hobart.
-I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of some extraordinary statements attributed by the press to some clergymen who waited upon him as a deputation yesterday, he will cause the shorthand notes to be transcribed, and the transcript to be laid upon the table of the House, or the Library, so that honorable members may have full information as to the views of these gentlemen with regard to the maternity allowance?
– It is quite true that a representative deputation did meet me and make some remarks on the subject. I shall get the shorthand notes transcribed, and copies of the transcript made, if honorable members wish it. I think that it would be too great an honour to lay a copy on the table of the House.
– Will the Prime Minister also have a transcript made of the Ministerial reply to the deputation?
-I fail to comprehend the question.
– He wants your reply, too.
– That, I presume, is part of the shorthand notes.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether, after receiving the deputation from the Council of Churches yesterday, he was not of the opinion that their real desire was to get hold of the money to distribute it themselves?
– I took the representations to be made bond fide by representative men. I was unable to agree with them, and the public will have to judge between us.
– As the motion to disallow the Northern Territory Land Ordinance occupies a low position on the notice-paper for to-day, has the Minister for External Affairs any objection to state what he proposes to do with the motion, and when its consideration will be resumed ?
-I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of the question.
. -On behalf of the honorable member for Richmond, who is absent through illness, I move -
That the consideration of Order of the Day - Banking Companies Reserve Liabilities Bill - be postponed until this day week.
-I rise to a point of order. I wish to know whether the honorable member is in order in asking for this concession at the present stage? Is not the Bill now in the hands of the Committee?
-The honorable member for Lang is quite in order in moving, on behalf of the honorable member for Richmond, that the consideration of the Order of the Day be postponed. I am sure that the honorable member for Lang has the authority of the honorable member who is in charge of the Bill to seek the postponement of its consideration. In the circumstances, he is quite in order in moving the motion. Of course, it is for the House to decide whether or not it will agree to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 22nd August (vide page 2564), on motion by Mr. Mathews -
That, in the opinion of this House, legislation should be introduced to provide a system of pensions to the members of the Defence Forces, and that the resolution be communicated to the Senate, with a’ request for its concurrence.
Upon which Dr. Maloney had moved -
That the following words be added : - “ and shall not come into force until the people who pay shall vote ‘Yea’ by the Referendum.”
.-On behalf of the honorable member for East Sydney, I ask for the postponement of the consideration of this Order of the Day?
– I would point out that the honorable member is not in a position to ask for a postponement. He may continue the debate if he so desires.
. -I shall be glad if the honorable member in charge of the motion will consent to its postponement.
– As the mover of this motion, I object to the postponement of its consideration. We have already discussed it for two days, and if the Ministry intend to say anything upon it, they ought to be prepared to do so now. If they are not willing to do anything in connexion with it, they may as well tell us so at once.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has already spoken upon this motion.
– I take it that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is now speaking to the amendment.
– I would point out that there are before the House a motion, and an amendment which was moved by the honorable member for Melbourne. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports must now be taken to be speaking to the amendment.
– I am not speaking to the amendment.
– I object to the honorable member replying if other honorable members desire to speak to the motion.
-I am objecting to the adjournment of the debate.
– The honorable member is doing more than that. He cannot speak again to the motion, but he will be in order in discussing the amendment.
-I do not desire to discuss the amendment. I merely wish to object to the adjournment of the debate.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided.
Majority …… 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 8th August (vide page 1913), on motion by Mr. Sampson-
That for the purpose of enabling the Parliament of the Commonwealth to effectively legislate in respect to water conservation and irrigation, the Constitution should be amended to place under Federal control the Murray River and its tributaries.
– I have pleasure in supporting the motion, the introduction of which is a very healthy sign of a growing feeling amongst, at all events, some Opposition members in favour of extending the functions of the National Parliament. I hope it is also an indication that when a larger extension of power is shortly asked for, we shall have the honorable member for Wimmera and others opposite supporting us. There was a marked contrast, however, between the speech of the honorable member who moved the motion and that of the honorable mem ber who seconded it. Throughout the speech of the honorable member for Wimmera we observed a very laudable desire to hand over to Federal control a matter with which the States have, for many years, shown their inability and unwillingness to deal, but the honorable member for Echuca, who seconded the motion, took up a very different line of argument. The honorable member for Wimmera stated in his speech that he recognised that he represented the Goulburn Valley, whose interests are inseparable from irrigation, and showed himself keenly alive to the urgent necessity of the assumption by the Federal authorities of such power as is asked for in the motion. At the same time, there was, later on in his speech, a very strange contradiction of the first part of it. He said that a proposal that the control of the waters of the whole of the tributaries of the Murray, as well as of the Murray itself, should be vested in the Federal Parliament, was a proposal to invade very seriously the right of the States to carry out the very big irrigation policies upon which they had entered. The introduction of the rights of the States is the introduction of the kind of argument that has so long debarred the Federal authorities from taking Over the control of this great question. Personally, I recognise no rights of the States in a matter of this kind, or anything else. What I do recognise, and what every one who has the best interests of Australia at heart should recognise, is not so much the so-called State rights, but the rights of the people. The rights of the people are paramount to every other consideration, and, seeing that the people of the Commonwealth are also the people of the States, there are the very best reasons why the Commonwealth should undertake a matter of this kind - which has so long baffled the States, or with which the States have been so unwilling to deal - and deal with it effectively and for all time. Although the honorable member for Echuca seconded the motion, he used such peculiar arguments as these: He said,” I am one of those who are somewhat distrustful of any serious enlargement of the Federal power,” and, later on, “ I pose before this House as a Staterighter.” Seeing that this matter has been debated for at least forty years, and has been the subject of various conferences, besides being the subject of debate for several weeks at the Federal Convention, and seeing, also, that there is evidence on all sides that it has been beyond the power of the
States to deal with it, it is deplorable to., find a member of the National Parliament “who cannot dissociate a great national question of this kind from that petty State-right attitude which, during the last two years, I regret to find so very prominent amongst some members of this House.
– That does not say that the honorable member for Echuca must vote for every amendment of the Constitution.
– This is an amendment of the Constitution in connexion with a matter with which the States have proved their inability to deal. The honorable member for Echuca, whilst stating that the matter is one of urgency, and admitting the inability of the States to deal with it, is so enamoured of the rights of the States that, through party bias - I can call it nothing else - he will not allow the National Parliament to step in, although that body is the only one able and willing to settle it.
– Do you want to pin the honorable member for Echuca down to voting for every amendment of the Constitution ?
– I am dealing with only one -amendment of the Constitution. A question of this kind, relating to irrigation and water conservation, especially through the means of .a river and its tributaries, which are connected with four of the States of the Commonwealth, must be admitted to be more of a national question than one affecting the rights of any particular State. Ever since that inglorious 26th of April of last year, when a certain vote was cast which, I venture to say, was not indicative of the true feeling of the people, there has been a great desire on the part of some honorable members opposite to run away from anything which makes in the direction of extending the powers of the National Government.
– Do you say the people ran away?
– No; I say honorable members opposite do not represent the people in regard to this national question. I think we are all agreed as to the benefits of utilizing the waters of the Murray and its tributaries for conservation and irrigation. Not only in Australia, but all over the world, especially in the older countries, we have proof positive of the beneficial results of that policy. Egypt has an area of 12,000 square miles, and a population of 10,000,000 people, and I venture to say that the chief thing that ac counts ‘for that fact is the way the waters of that country have been conserved and utilized.
– And the wages paid. Do not forget them. Irrigation in India and Egypt is a very different thing from irrigation here.
– I am speaking of the effects of irrigation itself in settling people on the land. We have in the older countries of the world, and also in Australia, positive proof of its beneficial results.
– And in America.
– Yes; California is another example.
– America is a safe comparison.
– I have read very interesting material from the pen of the Leader of the Opposition in regard to irrigation, and have benefited by it. I think we are all agreed as to the beneficial effects of water conservation.
– It is the hope of Australia.
– Quite so. No honorable member will dispute the fact that Australia, so far as it has gone in this direction, as well as many older countries, has benefited’ greatly by the conservation of water. It is remarkable, however, that, whilst we all recognise that this is so - whilst this great question of the conservation of the waters of the Murray and its tributaries, and the utilization of those waters for irrigation purposes, has been dealt with at various Conferences and Conventions during the last forty years - nothing tangible has been done in the direction which, I venture to say, is desired by the whole of the people of Australia. Various proposals have been laid before the Victorian and other State Parliaments, and Commissions have been appointed to deal with the matter ; but again and again the reports and recommendations of such Commissions have been brought before Parliament only to be rejected or laid aside. This is essentially an .InterState question. It affects Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and, consequently, it cannot be said to be a State matter. The very situation of the Murray and its tributaries, together with the sources from which they draw their supplies, make it essentially a Federal matter, and one that can be dealt with properly only by the central authority. The honorable member for Wimmera; in submitting this- motion, quoted those sections of the Constitution which define our powers in this regard. I do not propose, therefore, to discuss them’ to-day, save to point out that, whilst certain powers in respect of navigation were conceded to the Federation, it was provided under the Constitution that the Commonwealth should not abridge the right of a State to the use of these waters for irrigation and conservation purposes. It would seem that the question was, in the minds of the members of the Federal Convention, of primary importance. Whilst the States were allowed to retain their powers in respect of irrigation and conservation, it seems to me, reading between the lines of the debates, that the intention of the Convention was that those powers should relate to Intra-State, and not to Inter-State, rivers. The Murray and its tributaries are Inter-State streams, and the consensus of opinion, as expressed at the Federal Convention, was, apparently, that the conservation of the waters of those streams was essentially a matter for Federal control. In reading the debates at the Federal Convention, one is struck by the peculiarly parochial utterance? of some of its members, and particularly of the representatives of New South Wales. Almost every representative of that State who discussed this question expressed the opinion that New South Wales should have control of the Murray from bank to bank, or, in other words, that its control of the Murray should extend to the southern bank, so that Victoria would be deprived of the right to use the waters of that stream. One cannot help marvelling at their generosity in refraining from making a claim to the clouds that float over New South Wales, as well as to the waters of the earth that flow through it. To say that New South Wales has first claim to the whole of the waters of the Murray, as well as to those of its tributaries on the northern side, leaving Victoria in possession only of the tributaries flowing north from the Dividing Range, is to put forward a peculiarly narrow view. The outstanding feature of the debates at the Convention, as well as of the speech made by the honorable member for Echuca, who seconded this motion, seems to me to be an inability to recognise that water, in the first place, is a national asset, and that, consequently, so far as Australia is concerned, it should not be reserved as the sole right of any one State. The national interest, rather than the territorial claim of any particular State, should be the dominant consideration. We can obtain some idea of the extent of the country capable of being irrigated by the waters of the Murray from certain evidence given by Mr. Elwood Mead - whom, I think; we shall all accept as a reliable authority on irrigation matters - before the Royal Commission on the Murray waters. In the report of that Commission there are some very interesting statements, some of which are peculiarly striking and relevant to a debate of this character. In giving evidence before the Commission, Mr. Elwood Mead said that -
The catchment area of the Murray includes 414,253 square miles, or over 250,000,000 acres of land. Of this the following areas are irrigable, if the water for this use can in any way be provided : - New South Wales, 43,542,000 acres; Victoria, 4,000,000 acres; South Australia, 2,700,000 acres.
The whole of this vast area is semi-arid. Without the use of this river for irrigation it can only support a scanty population. It can only produce crops of low acreage value, and the conditions of life must always lack the attraction which comes with a plentiful water supply for irrigation.
Mr. Elwood Mead spoke of that great area as being semi-arid, and.,declared that without the use of the waters of the Murray for irrigation purposes it could support only a scanty population. Such an argument, coming as it does from a recognised expert, is entitled to considerable weight.
– Mr. Elwood Mead is one of the most eminent irrigation experts in the world.
– That is so. In another part of his report, he says -
There is no other safeguard against the hazards and losses of dry years, or the suffering of helpless dumb animals which these years entail. I have no data as to the number of live stock owned in this area, nor of the magnitude of the losses in years like 1902, but some idea of the magnitude of this interest is shown by the effect of the drought of last season on the live stock interest of this State. The ‘report of live stock in Victoria for the year ending March, Nog, shows a decrease from the previous year of 268,645 cattle, and 1,600,992 sheep. This decrease is almost wholly due to the drought of the previous yeaTS. Not all the stock died ; a large part was shipped to other States; but under conditions which involved heavy losses to individuals and to the State. All these losses could have been averted .if our irrigation system had been more fully developed.
When we consider the loss indicated in that passage as having taken place with regard to sheep and cattle in the drought year 1902, and when we add what we ourselves know to have been the loss entailed to people getting their living off the lands of this country through past droughts, we can all strongly sympathize with the idea expressed by Mr. Elwood Mead, and can fully realize the importance of his opinion. He deliberately states that all these losses could have been averted if our irrigation system had been fully developed. That is one of the strongest arguments that could be advanced in support of the motion. I observe that a Conference between New South Wales and Victoria, in 1886, actually recommended an Inter-State policy. What they recommended was precisely the same as has been suggested by other Conferences and bodies, except that the idea was couched in different language. They concluded that the Murray and its tributaries should be under the control of some central body.
– An Inter-State body.
– Yes. The Royal Commission of 1908 recommended something of the same kind. I will quote an extract from its report to show honorable members exactly the opinion of the Royal Commission, and they will see how closely its recommendations resembled the idea contained in themotion submitted by the honorable member. The principal recommendations of the 1908 Commission are summarized as follows -
That an Inter-State Commission of control be appointed.
That diversions by New South Wales and Victoria shall be in proportion to contributions by these States.
That for twelve years, between July and January, New South Wales and Victoria can divert 350,000 cubic feet per minute until the flow in South Australia is reduced to170,000 cubic feet ; and between February and June, New South Wales and Victoria can divert 250,000 cubic feet per minute until the flow in South Australia is reduced to 70,000 cubic feet per minute. When the flow falls below 170,000 cubic feet per minute and 70,000 cubic feet per minute respectively there are to bepro rata reductions.
That for all time 60,000,000,000 cubic feet per annum be allowed South Australia, subject to a pro rata reduction if the total flow is less than 321,000,000,000 for the year.
That the construction of Lake Victoria storage and a complete system of locks be forthwith proceeded with, at the three States’ joint cost.
That, I think, is the latest body that discussed this question. As I have already shown, as far back as1886 it was suggested that this was a matter that ought to be. dealt with by an Inter-State body. Every one who has the best interests of Australia at heart is in agreement that something should be done with regard to the conservation of the water of the Murray and its tributaries. Consequently, the honorable member for Wimmera, in submitting this motion, is simply asking the House to agree to something that experts, Royal Commissions, and Conferences for the last forty years have concurred should be done in the interests of the national welfare. As I said before, water is a great national asset in Australia, and this great body of water should be controlled by some national central body, and not by a body imbued purely with ideas concerning the rights of any particular State. Territorial rights should not be allowed to supplant the rights of the nation in respect to this most important question. I hope that the House will express its approval of the motion, and thereby indicate that it is in agreement with the experts, Commissions, and Conferences that have devoted attention to the subject. It is evident that the States have absolutely failed to provide an effective remedy, because theyhave been unable to grapple with the question from a national point of view. We can find in the failure of the States the best argument that can be advanced as to why the Commonwealth should deal with the question. In addition to that, I contend that because the Murray and its tributaries affect four of the principal . States of Australia, it should be under Federal control, for it has to be remembered that this great river system affects Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria in regard to its origin and flow, and that the river itself, in the last part of its course, runs through South Australia into the sea.
– Can the honorable member call the Queensland interest a very real one ?
– There is the Darling and some of its tributaries.
– It is only the upper tributaries of the Darling that are concerned.
– A large portion of the watershed of the Murray extends into Queensland. However, there are four States concerned.
– Three, vitally.
– That is so, and, therefore, this is a matter essentially for an Inter-State or some central body to deal with as suggested by the motion. I hope the question will reach finality at an early stage, so that it may be shown that this House, at all events, is tired of the dilly-dallying by the
States, and that the time has come when a matter of such national importance should be dealt with by a national body.
– I had no intention of occupying the time of the House on this motion, because it is evident that we have our hands pretty full already of proposals for constitutional amendments increasing the powers of the Commonwealth, and it does not seem necessary to join in the discussion of that question at the present stage. I desire to say that this House, and all interested, are indebted to the honorable member for Wimmera for the manner in which, both in a previous Parliament and in this, he has brought forward one of the most practical issues affecting a large portion of Australia in such a manner as to evoke attention and criticism to it outside this House, and, at last, something like serious consideration by this Legislature. The facts as presented by the honorable member show in a very direct fashion the multitude of interests which the people of the country have in the utilization of their water resources”. If no steps have been taken in this regard hitherto, it has not been for the want of stimulus freely applied through the State Parliaments, the press generally, or individual enthusiasts; while in later years we have had the advantage of the opinions of experts of high standing. The verdict has been universal that, in a continent like this, with large areas of relatively arid country, the question of water conservation and distribution ranks among the very first that ought to engage the attention of those resident in such districts, and, particularly, of the Parliaments in which they are represented.
In the future, when this period of our history is being scanned by those interested in what must yet become relatively gigantic developments of our water supply and distribution, nothing but amazement will be expressed in regard to the almost unconquerable apathy and tardiness exhibited in this relation for many years. Repeated droughts, enormous losses, and extreme fluctuations in prices and output have characterized the history of our interior, in many portions of which much was possible by the judicious application of water to the soil ; yet in those portions practically nothing has been done. This statement, of course, must be qualified by the recollection that something decisive has been accomplished in Victoria at the Mildura settlement, and that something great is about to be accomplished under the Burrinjuck scheme in New South Wales. Beyond those developments, however, I do not recall any systems worthy of special note; yet we had lessons from other countries upon the possibilities of water supply drawn from very wide areas, tropical, sub- tropical, and temperate in their conditions. Where watering on a huge scale constitutes one of the most important conditions of life, as notably in India, the conditions in the bulk of those cases have been economically so entirely different from our own that they furnish little more than a vague and general illustration of what can be done by cheap and continuous labour. They teach little towards a solution of -the problem how to utilize water to the greatest extent at the lowest possible cost by white, and relatively expensive, labour. For the last twenty or thirty years, however, we have had under our eyes, in the western portions of the United States, examples of the highestpaid labour engaged upon water cultivation, returning astonishing profits to those who have engaged in it with any seriousness and persistence. Between irrigation in India, for instance, where the barest living is obtained by large multitudes, dependent for their very existence on great river- fed schemes, and irrigation in America, where water is applied to the soil in a different climate, wherever possible, by mechanical means, and by white people, either paid high wages or earning large profits, the contrast is great and striking. One cannot ‘but be amazed to consider that, with this whole gamut of experience before us, Australia has taken relatively so few steps towards emulating what has been accomplished in the United States. Many of us, not speculative in our disposition, but, in regard to such matters, somewhat simple-minded, cannot but look back on the opportunities they have thrown away of making fortunes, which we can now never dream of obtaining, but which might easily have been made by those witnessing, as I did, so long ago as 1885, what was being done in America. There, on comparatively trifling areas of land - little spots which would be lost to sight in a great continent such as ours - and on supplies of water that often seemed absurdly minute and uncertain-
– Look at Garden City, Kansas !
-I have been there; but in California I saw irrigation work in a much more developed state than in Kansas or Colorado. I went from north to south, even through Mexico, where I saw what was being done by means of irrigation under semi-tropical conditions. An intelligent man, possessing comparatively little capital, who had purchased land in or immediately adjoining the irrigation colonies of southern California, in 1885, could have become a millionaire, or nearly one, by the development that has since occurred. Despite small areas, small water supply, high wages, and, when I was there, high freights on the C.P.R and other lines, it was plain that the settlers were climbing to affluence. Yet an impressive feature was that many of them had not been trained to agricultural work.
– A lot of them were school teachers.
– Yes; male and female. You found irrigated farms controlled by two or three ladies who, tiring of teaching in the east, had been attracted to California by the charm of its climate and outdoor life. They hired help for work requiring muscular strength, but their taste, skill, and judgment in handling the fruit and flower products of their little estates enabled them to live in comfort and ease amidst delightful surroundings, and with an assured income.
– The irrigation settlements are now supporting communities of 100,000 or more.
– Since the time of which I am speaking, the population of these areas has grown by tens of thousands. Broken-down professional men and women, suffering mostly from chest complaints, contracted in the trying winter climates of the north-eastern States, went to California to find health and an occupation in which they became absorbed for its own sake, while earning incomes which put them at their ease.
– Here we have a better climate.
– Australia, like the United States of America, has many climates, some better, and others worse, than that of California.
– There is a big local market in the United States of America.
-Yes; but, in 1885, the difficulties of transport were so great, the wages, commissions on sales, and freights so high, that it was amazing to see the
comfortably and even artistically furnished homes. Where the trees and flowers had time to grow, the houses were embowered in beautiful verdure. It would be hard to find more attractive spots to live in, or communities possessing a higher level of culture, or giving greater opportunities for pleasurable social converse. Similar conditions, though then in a less striking degree, existed in Arizona and Colorado. Cultivated persons, many of whom had passed a considerable part of their lives elsewhere, were thriving under conditions which, as they frankly told me, surpassed their previous experience, no matter how favorable it had been.
Do not let me convey the impression that it was only the educated and those in search of health who went to these settlements. I spoke to many immigrants, some of them knowing little of the English language; seeing some of them before they had settled down, others while they were making their homes, and others after they had been established for a few years. In no case was one to be found who regretted the step that he had taken. Many of these immigrants were from the northern and colder parts of Europe. All were doing well. An allotment having been obtained, the house father would take work wherever it could be got in the neighbourhood, employing his spare time in improving his holding. As his trees grew to maturity, he became relatively well off, and was able to engage wholly on his own plot in an occupation as healthy, hopeful, and attractive as any that could be found.
– What is the system of settlement ?
– It was all under private enterprise. Areas having been purchased or otherwise acquired were subdivided, a water supply provided, the ditches being carried to the borders of the farms. These were bought on terms. The buyers made the remainder of the channels necessary for their own water supply, and any drains required to meet excessive seepage. The communities differed one from another in style and character, according to their inhabitants and the cultivation pursued, but all were prosperous, thriving, contented, and hopeful. Those who had been engaged in arid agriculture, north or east, agreed that it was not comparable as a mode of earning a living with the irrigated colony system.
Many Australians have seen what I saw, and have witnessed the enormous; development which has since occurred, so that I cannot understand why this country has ignored opportunities as great as those of California. By the proper utilization of our water, we might have added to our population thousands of prosperous citizens. In Victoria, extensive preparations for a great irrigation system had been commenced when what was known as the boom burst. A reaction followed; Government expenditure had to be curtailed, and the few experiments that had been made were regarded with the greatest animosity, consequent upon lax efforts, bad fortune, and low prices. From 1892 for a number of years everything combined to throw Victoria back.
– It is coming out all right now.
– Yes, but one regrets the years that have been lost, the population that has been lost, and the prosperity that has been lost by our tardiness. Looking back over a relatively long period, it seems that perhaps a few words in this regard might not be altogether wasting the time of the House. They may serve to remind our people of the opportunities which are now afforded in Victoria, and in New South Wales, at Burrinjuck, where one of the greatest works likely to be constructed on this continent is now in course of completion. There we may confidently expect that the advantages to the thrifty and the patient who settle there will not only far more than repay them for their exertions, but will furnish other object-lessons such as Mildura furnishes in Victoria to-day.
Any one who had seen the original site of Mildura as I saw it would have agreed with the bulk of the persons who had been engaged in the neighbourhood for years in pastoral pursuits, who did not hesitate to express in the most unqualified language, their absolute disbelief in the possibility of that soil, and those conditions ever resulting in the establishment of a really successful agricultural community. Nothing could convince them that we were not commencing a venture which would become a burden upon Victoria, of misapplied labour and lost money. Being there a few months ago, I saw a settlement that rivals some of the7 best Californian colonies that I saw in their early stages. What delighted me was that the transformation scheme had not only turned an arid waste into a garden of beauty and of productiveness, but had filled it with the homes of people who, no matter how they were engaged - whether their interest waslarge or small - were all prospering. ‘ I could not find one who talked or thought of leaving there.
– The population is about
– Yes, now. The transformation is complete. One of the most attractive spectacles in Australia is to be seen there - one of its beauty spots, absolutely created in an arid waste. Renmark, when I saw it, was in too early a stage for me to express an opinion. I have not seen it lately, but have not the least doubt that it furnishes exactly the same spectacle on a different scale and with minor differences.
Along the Murray the opportunities are still there, the land and the water are there, but there is not enough water. When, at Mildura a few months ago I witnessed’, a very unfortunate spectacle - the lowest Murray that has ever been seen at Mildura.^ That brings home the absence of the necessary insistence on the part of the Governments concerned, their neglect to unite in a work of not unparalleled difficulty - involving a good deal of expense, but onewhich will repay the investments made in it over and over again, that is to say, thework of utilizing the waters of the Murray. It is going too far, sir, to discussthe question how far it would be possible to combine with irrigation a system of locking the Murray, which would give usa permanent stream of sufficient size to enable a traffic by water, of course, the most economical that can be carried on: Although the railways, while more expensive, are by the rapidity of transit, in many cases more beneficial, especially to the growers of fruit and other perishable products, than taking to the river ; still, for pastoral products - the sending down of wool and other heavy loads - undoubtedly the locking of theriver affords a means of transit of great importance. That involves a practical problem of a very important character.
Where I differ from the honorable member for Wimmera is in considering that’these are or ought to be, Federal works. This is a project in which the States concerned ought to agree. If anything is proposed to be done in the north, which I doubt, it might be desirable to have an arrangement with Queensland as well, but’ really New South Wales, Victoria, and’
South Australia are the three States concerned, because the river is upon their boundaries. The Murray itself and its development as such has really no interest for Queensland, none for Western Australia, and none for Tasmania. I also doubt whether this Parliament, already overburdened with the extension of its functions, would give .the same care and consideration as the three States affected could apply if they would only join hands and tackle this work as one undoubtedly of the greatest importance to each and all of them. However, that is a question on which I do not propose to detain thi House, as it is not immediately material to the motion before the Chair, but it seems to me that that would be the most practical and immediate method of dealing with the triple problem. Those directly concerned would be directly responsible for making their expenditure profitable. We should probably get a cheaper method of construction, and a more thorough utilization of our water resources in the interior.
The honorable member for Indi has given figures which I do not propose to repeat, and the honorable member for Wimmera, who introduced this question, has made a general statement which is ample in this connexion. What I have had to urge comes perhaps a little late in the day, since the Victorian Government have engaged Mr. Elwood Mead - one of the wisest appointments probably ever made by this State, and- one which in the future will repay itself scores of times.
– In Australian assets.
– Yes. Moreover, the recent movement for the introduction of experienced American irrigators - men with some experience of the methods of cultivation adopted for wet farming with orchardgrowing in the western States - cannot be overlooked. These people are simply invaluable assets to this State and to this country. They know by practical experience how to obtain the best results in differing qualities of soil with ‘ differing climatic conditions. They can put into active operation lessons our own agriculturists can rapidly absorb, which if described to them in pages of print would lose much of their significance. There is nothing like having a thing done before our eyes by men who know how to do it. We thus obtain the training which has developed in America for the last thirty or forty years. We can combine the en- gineering skill and experience of Mr. Mead, who is at present in the United States, with the practical knowledge of the American immigrants whom I had an opportunity of seeing when they landed here some months ago. Australia obtained in those settlers living assets whose value to us it would be hard to assess, because their experience possesses a high actual, practical, and financial value to this country. Irrigation, handled under colony conditions - that is small areas under intense culture - is a pursuit in which a feeble woman or an old man can engage, obtaining better results than are possible for them in any other manner.
– And good health, too.
– Under the healthiest possible conditions, living largely in the open air, they will be physically and mentally benefiting in many ways. I do look forward now with a great deal more hope than I have been able to do for the last twenty years to the immediate future of irrigation in Australia. I trust that the costly Burrinjuck experiment in New South Wales will be a brilliant success, and personally have not the slightest doubt of it. I trust that the scheme will be carried out to its full capacity, and thus cheapened to the settlers. A well-digested scheme which will take more than a year, perhaps more than two or three years, to complete, providing for the collecting and utilizing of the whole of the waters of the Murray basin - not only the Murray so called, but all its tributaries, so far as it is necessary to link them up with it - a scheme of that character, apart from its locking possibilities to which I have made reference, would create in that portion of Australia a score, probably several scores, of prosperous settlements, highly productive, giving good returns both to the labour and the capital employed in them, and thus enabling us to develop & portion of this country which, as a boy, I remember was looked upon as a, “desert. It was regarded as almost hopeless, except for casual developments in a very small way on the borders of the stream. Otherwise, this area was remitted to extensive stations suffering from periodical droughts, and sometimes carrying a very large, and sometimes a very small, number of sheep and cattle. But the whole character of that country can be altered, and a new base for operations touching the centre of Australia can be established, by the full development of a scheme for the utilization of the waters of the Murray and of its tributaries. In my opinion, the key to Central Australia lies in the development principally of the Murray waters’ system, but also in the utilization of the water system of Queensland.
– Not neglecting our underground supplies.
– I hesitate to speak of them with definiteness until the very important problem which has been raised by Professor Gregory has been determined. His theory is that our artesian supply in Australia is limited, and can be exhausted.
– Others hold a different opinion.
– The question is by no means settled.
– There is Mr. Pitman, for instance.
– Yes; I would much prefer to believe that Professor Gregory’s theory is wrong. But, having regard to the standing of that eminent authority, I realize that his criticism is a very valuable reminder to us.
– He says that the exhaustion of our artesian supplies is possible, and practical men who have watched those supplies agree with him.
– Some of them do.
– We must bore through Central Australia before the problem can be determined.
– The supply from some bores is visibly declining. But, in other cases, contiguous bores have provided as large a supply as the original bores.
– I believe there is more water below the surface than there is on top.
– I hope so. But whether the supply be large or small, the settlement of Central Australia depends upon thewater supplies existent there or yet to be discovered on its boundaries, which may enable that Territory to be handled in bad seasons without too great a sacrifice. We know that, in some portions of it, the good seasons may be expected to pay for the bad. But that is a very precarious method. Our base of supply requires to be as near Central Australia as possible. The Murray waters offer us a base which I hope we shall use to conquer the interior.
I must apologize to honorable members for detaining them so long, but hope that the excellent results we have already obtained from such irrigation developments as we have pressed forward will inspirit the States and coerce them into union upon this question. The Murray River problem cannot possibly be handled by any one State. At least three States have to be considered, and possibly a fourth. What is needed, therefore, is an early union of the States, with a view to securing a thorough examination of the whole of the Murray, including the mysterious, and not yet explained, losses which, to our knowledge, occur to the west, and, to some extent, to the east of Echuca. On the west it is asserted that a large stream of water disappears within a comparatively short distance.
– The same thing occurs on the Darling.
– But the Murray loss is more serious. It will be necessary, to prevent that loss by artificial means, if we are to reap anything like the advantage that we are entitled to reap from the magnificent stream which the Murray usually pours to the west.
Then there is a problem which has to.be solved off the Western Australian coast, in the Great Australian Bight, where one can obtain fresh water out at sea in considerable quantities. I was amazed the other day to see it authoritatively declared that absolutely fresh water from the Niger, one of the largest rivers in Africa, had been obtained 200 miles out at sea. If that statement had not appeared in a scientific periodical, and under a signature, I should have doubted its accuracy. From somewhere on the mainland there is pouring into the Great Australian Bight a supply of fresh water which would prove invaluable to the portions of the country from which it comes. If that water can be captured and utilized, it may effect a transformation in that part of Australia where water is most needed. No pursuits are more attractive than horticulture, agriculture, grazing, fruit-growing, and beefarming. Nothing is more beautiful than the healthy and natural labour by which upright and honest people obtain a sufficient living, and even what may be termed luxuries, under conditions which our greatest cities cannot hope to rival. Those engaged in such employment are in touch with nature, . their homes are healthy and restful, their freedom and independence making their citizenship a far greater prize than it is in city communities as we know them.
.- The very interesting speech to which we have just listened seems to me to offer one of the strongest reasons why we should pass this motion. I congratulate the honorable member for Wimmera upon realizing that Australia has a responsibility in regard to her greatest asset. It cannot be denied that the River Murray and its tributaries form the greatest asset which the Commonwealth possesses. This asset has hitherto been neglected. Why? Because the framers of our Federal Constitution thought fit to leave the settlement of this very vexed problem to the four States which are chiefly concerned in it. But it does not concern merely those four States. The question of the settlement and development of Australia as a whole is of vital concern to every Australian citizen. Whether a man lives in Western Australia or Tasmania, it is equally important to him that our population should increase, and that our productivity should be vastly augmented by some sensible utilization of our assets, such as is suggested by this motion. The Constitution itself seems to be most delightfully vague in the reference which it contains to the question of the Murray waters.
– If the honorable member will look up the debates of the last Federal Convention which was held in Melbourne, he will see why that is so.
– The interjection of my leader reminds me that the Constitution itself is very largely a compromise. It is a compromise, in some cases, between the necessities of Australia and the vested interests of State politicians, who were meeting together in the Conventions, and, in other respects, as between the jarring and warring interests of States, which, at that period, took purely provincial views of national problems, and so left us with an imperfect instrument. I have never held, and. I do not think any honorable member on this side of the House has ever held, that the Australian Constitution is an absolutely perfect instrument. All that we say is that you must show cause, when you are dealing with such an immensely important matter, for the alteration of any line of it. In this particular instance, section 100 shows most conclusive cause why this amendment should be made and this power handed over to the Commonwealth Parliament. It provides -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
What is the “reasonable use” of the waters of the Murray ?
– Ask the High Court !
– Why should we ask the people of Australia to bear the cost of interpreting this matter when the Australian Parliament could ask them to intrust it with this great power?
– On an Inter-State question, too.
– On a purely Inter-State question that concerns the residents of more than any one, two, or three States.
– The word “ reasonable” was put in to settle a squabble amongst them.
Mi. KELLY. - I can imagine no word more fruitful of litigation to fill the pockets of lawyers.
– It was proposed by -a lawyer.
– I have not the slightest doubt of it. I sometimes think that the members of that profession frame Statutes with a tender eye for the possibilities that may arise when they afterwards come to be interpreted. Here we have a possibility of enormous fortune to any constitutional lawyer. Take, for instance, that distinguished constitutional authority, the honorable member for Angas. Can we not imagine him finding countless precedents throughout the records of the Courts of the United States of America, and fixing them into British common law, until eventually decision after decision is given through all the Courts, as the matter goes up to the Privy Council, each one differing from the last, and the people of Australia having to bear the burden of having the matter “interpreted” for them?
– Does the honorable member suggest that the honorable member for Angas had anything of that kind in his mind when he was a member of the Federal Convention?
– Of course not. We all know that the honorable member for Angas is entirely disinterested. I mentioned him as a constitutional lawyer, and mentioned the matter to show both sides of the House that the provision, as at present framed in the Constitution, is entirely clouded, and will give rise to a vast amount of ingenuity on the part of lawyers to defend or attack it, as the case may be, and must occasion tremendous expense to the residents of the various States, who will have to fight this matter out in the Courts of the country.
It must not be forgotten that, when all is said and done, the cost of interpreting laws ought properly to be reckoned as part of the cost of governing a country. We often hear that the Parliaments of Australia cost so much money, and the salaries of members, and the cost of issuing Hansard, and this, that, and the other, are put down, but to that amount we must add, in my humble judgment, the cost of interpreting the laws passed by the Parliaments before we can arrive at anything like a true appreciation of what Australian government actually costs. Honorable members who look up the Constitution will, I think, realize that, so far as this particular side of it is concerned, the instrument is faulty, and that we ought to ask from the Australian people power to have it put right at the earliest possible moment.
One’ thing that strikes .me very forcibly ‘in connexion with this proposal is that the only means that the presentday world offers for settling a large population on the land lies in the direction of intenser culture, which can be obtained only through irrigation. I cannot help thinking that we in Australia, who are constantly endeavouring to split up land into small sections, instead of endeavouring to make it most productive, forget that we have to compete in the products of the land with countries where land is held in very large areas, and, if properly used, can be worked at much less expense in consequence. The reason the farmer in England cannot compete successfully with farmers in other parts of the world for the supply of English food is largely that every holding in England is a small one, and every farmer, as a consequence, has to work practically with a one-furrow plough. The result is that the expense of farming to him is at least double, if not quadruple, what it is in other parts of the world. In America they are largely farming with traction engines, and this means so much saving in the cost of production, and so much greater difficulty to our Australian producers to compete with them unless they are put in the same position.
– Thai is why we must have Protection.
– Protection for the principal products of Australia that have to find their market mainly in London? I think the Minister studied the question of land more closely in America than he has found time to do in Australia ! Undoubtedly, small holdings are suitable, and in some cases necessary, for intense culture; and if we made use of our great national asset in the waters of the Murray that are yearly running to waste, Australia ought to be carrying two or three times its present population without any difficulty, and without, disturbing in any way the industrial conditions of these great centres, and the general life of the community.
The honorable member for Ballarat referred, also, to the necessity of locking the Murray and the Darling. Generally speaking, that proposition is put forward almost entirely on behalf of navigation, but I venture to suggest that some comprehensive scheme of that character might very materially alter the climate of the basin of the Murray and its tributaries. The dam that has been recently made at Assouan, in Egypt, has, to a large extent, altered the character of the climate of Lower Egypt. A country that knew no rain at all eventually began to realize its blessings. There was evaporation from the surface of the lake, and some of it was precipitated again on to the fruitful soil of Lower Egypt. So, the more water you can hold up in the centre of Australia the more evaporation you will get from it, and the greater the degree of precipitation that will result. It appeals to me as, at any rate, a possibility that, as this process went on, we should find the evaporation and precipitation growing in the nature of a geometrical progression. Honorable members may say that anything of this sort is a little too vague to risk the expenditure of money upon; but when one considers what an enormous benefit would accrue to Australia as the result of some such change - not necessarily a great change - in the climate of our central regions, one must realize that it will be worth an effort’, at any rate, to see what would result from starting the locking of the Murray and its tributaries. Although most settlers in the central parts of New South Wales are inclined to take the pessimistic view that nothing will alter climatic conditions, and so forth, it seems to me that we might take a lesson from the experience of other countries, and make an effort to confer this boon upon Australia in the way I have suggested.
I do not wish to take up the time of the House further in connexion with this proposal, but I think it is of such importance that the Government might well set apart a day during the present session for its consideration. It is not an ordinary question. It is removed entirely from the arena of party politics. It is a purely Australian question, and I suggest that the decision of the Parliament should be given this session, for the reason that the Government are going, I understand, to submit to the electors next year certain proposals for the amendment of the Constitution, and that, without adding to any appreciable extent to the cost of that reference, we could have, at the same time, a referendum on this great national question. I ask the Minister of Home Affairs to suggest to his colleagues that they take into the most earnest consideration the desirableness of giving the House an opportunity to consider, not so much this motion as a definite proposition that the Commonwealth shall take over this power for the people of Australia so that it may be submitted, with their own referenda proposals, at the forthcoming referendum.
Debate (on motion by Mr. W. Elliot Johnson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 15th August (vide page 2234), on motion by Mr. Agar “Wynne -
That in the opinion of this House, a referendum should be taken to decide whether the Capital of the Commonwealth should be at YassCanberra or Sydney.
.- When I was granted permission on a previous occasion to continue my remarks, I had in mind the idea of testing the opinion of the House as to whether or not the best use was being made at the present time of the opportunity which the Federal Capital site affords us. As the time allowed to private members’ business has almost expired, it would be impossible for me to submit my reasons for asking the consideration of the matter, and I therefore beg leave to continue my remarks in that connexion at a future date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 15th August (vide page 2248), on motion by Mr. Greene -
That a Royal Commission be appointed forthwith to inquire into the operations of the Tobacco Trust in the Commonwealth.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth) [6.261.- The time allotted to private members’ business having almost expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22nd August (vide page 2578), on motion by Mr. Kelly -
That this House, following the- practice of the House of Commons, is of opinion, in view of the unequal distribution of Federal properties in various municipalities of Australia, that the Commonwealth should grant yearly to each municipality as an act of grace an amount equal to the municipal rates and taxes which it would have to pay were it not exempt from taxation under the Constitution.
.- I wish to move - ‘
That after the word “ municipality,” line 6, the words “ which pays its aldermen a fair and just allowance for services rendered,” be inserted.
I ask leave to continue my remarks at a future date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7.45
– - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members are aware that, in 1903, the Commonwealth , entered into an agreement with the Imperial Government which provided that certain ships of the Royal Navy should be .placed on the Australian Station, and that, in addition, there should be paid from the revenue of the Commonwealth a certain sum> towards the upkeep of that Fleet. Later on, it was agreed between the two Governments that a certain number of men should be recruited from Australia as seamen, petty officers, and officers for the Royal Navy. Later again, when it was decided that the Commonwealth should commence the construction of a Fleet Unit of its own, it was thought that the men so recruited would be sufficient to form the nucleus of crews for the Australian Navy. But, owing to differences in the rates of pay, the arrangement as to recruiting men in Australia for service on the ships did not meet with quite that amount of success that some of us anticipated when the idea was first promulgated ; with the result that the number of men available for manning the Australian Fleet Unit will not be sufficient for the purpose required when the vessels are ready for manning. Some slight altera-‘ tion, therefore, was deemed essential, in order that we might man and officer the vessels when they arrive. One vessel, the Melbourne, will be ready, I think, in about
January next year. She will come through the Suez Canal to Australia. The Australia and the Sydney will be ready a few months later; we cannot say definitely when, within a month or two. They will come round the Cape of Good Hope, complying with the invitation of the South African Government to call there on their voyage out. When those vessels arrive, it will be necessary that we should have crews for them. As far as concerns officers, and the higher ratings, it will be impossible for us to train men within the time at our disposal. Here, I should like to say that we have been met with exceptional generosity on the part of the Imperial Government in the matter of the lending of officers for this service. The Minister of Defence realized some time ago that the Australian crews would not be sufficient. He then made certain suggestions to the Imperial Government with a view of obtaining greater assistance than had been previously rendered, suggesting that they might help us with the loan of a training ship, and a certain number of officers and men. The memorandum sent to the Imperial Government met with very fair consideration at the hands of the Admiralty, who forwarded to us what might be considered a modification of our proposal. After due consideration, the Minister of Defence, in conjunction with the expert officers, arrived at the conclusion that a somewhat different scheme might meet the views of the two Governments. His amended suggestions were submitted to the Admiralty, and I am pleased to say that they met with full and frank approval.
An arrangement has been entered into between the two Governments, subject to the ratification of Parliament, involving an alteration of the Naval Agreement Act 1903. Under this arrangement, one vessel now on the Australian coast will be freed from duty thereon, and be able to proceed almost immediately to England. A vessel will be called in from the China Station, and will take a place on the Australian Station. As far as the Encounter is con,cerned, a certain number of officers and men will shortly proceed to England; but what may be termed the nucleus of a crew for the Encounter will remain here with the vessel, and officers and crew will be specially selected for the duty which they have to perform on that vessel, which will remain under the control of the Australia^ Government until such time as the third cruiser, Brisbane, is ready for manning in Australia.
– When will that be?’
– I am unable to saydefinitely when the Brisbane will be ready. She is to be constructed in Australia.
– Eighteen months is thecontract time.
– As I have said, the Brisbane is to be assembled in Australia; and I sincerely hope that our Australian officers and men will show themselves in every way competent to undertake the duty allotted to them ; so that, eventually, when the necessity arises, we shall have here dock-yards, mechanics, officers, and men,, quite capable of building and manning whatever Navy it may be the desire of Australia to possess in the future. However, until such time as that cruiser isready, the Admiralty, as I have said, has very generously placed at our disposal the Encounter, with the nucleus of a crew and officers. Upon that vessel the training of Australian crews will almost immediately commence. I am pleased to be able to inform honorable members that the arrangement entered into suits the Admiralty, and meets their requirements at the present time; and the Admiralty in turn have met very fully the desire of the Commonwealth Government for such an arrangement as would facilitate the establishment and bringing into working operation of our own Fleet Unit. In order to secure thisarrangement in legal form, it is necessary to seek the approval of the Commonwealth Parliament. With that object in view, the Minister of Defence submitted to the Senate, a little while ago, this Bill to amend the Naval Agreement Act 1903. The Bill consists of two clauses. The first clause enables the Governor-General from time to time to arrange with the Imperial Government for the reduction of the Naval” Forces now on the Australian Station under the terms of the Act of 1903, and also for the reduction of the Naval Subsidy which we now contribute to Great Britain. The second clause of the Bill provides for ratifying any arrangement that may have been come to between the two Governments prior to the submission of this Bill for the approval of Parliament. The Bill not being, a long one, and showing on its face quite clearly what if means, I hope that the arrangement arrived at between the two Governments will be considered by honorable members to be mutually advantageous.
– What is the amount that has been agreed on?
– The amount will be about £25,000 a year ; it practically means the difference between the present cost of the upkeep of the Encounter and the cost as it will be under the Australian Government, when the latter are meeting the whole of the expense. The Admiralty have agreed that while the Encounter remains under the control of the Commonwealth Government, the pay of the officers and men shall be at precisely the same rate as the pay of the Australian officers and men. The Bill seems to convey a very clear intimation to honorable members as to what it means, namely, a ratification of the agreement practically entered into by the two Governments, while permitting the Commonwealth Government to make such alterations as shall be of mutual advantage. Under the circumstances, I have much pleasure in submitting the Bill for the consideration of honorable members.
– I have no intention to oppose this Bill in any way. The measure is necessary, owing to the fact that the building of the Australian Fleet is not proceeding with that despatch which was contemplated when the agreement was made. I know that this is in part due to the congested state of the shipbuilding yards at Home; but we have the anomaly that tremendous engines of war are there being turned out for foreign Powers, while the construction of our own vessels is delayed, and cannot be completed in contract time.
– Does the honorable member say “cannot” be completed?
– I shall say that the vessels are not being completed. I am not attaching blame to anybody for that, but merely . pointing out the fact that the delay is costing Australia a great deal in cash and in the backward state of our preparations. The decision to build this Fleet was arrived at when the Imperial Conference was held in 1909, and the whole arrangement is set out briefly in the memorandum which was placed on the table of this House shortly afterwards. The delay in the completion of the Australian Unit necessitates the British vessels being kept here for another couple of years at the very least, though I should be inclined to say that the period may be three years. It therefore becomes relevant to consider the rate at which the Australian ships are being built, and when the Fleet Unit, on which the scheme is based, is likely to be completed. We were told in the Admiralty memorandum that the construction of the armoured cruiser should be undertaken as soon as possible, and the remaining vessels should be constructed under conditions which would insure their completion as nearly as possible simultaneously with the completion and readiness for service of the armoured cruiser, which, it was understood, would be in about two and a half years. It is now three years since that memorandum was published, and about two years and nine months since the order for this large vessel was placed.
– Is she not obsolete now ?
– No, I think not ; and I do not believe that the Imperial Government would send us an obsolete vessel; consideration for their own interests would prevent them doing anything like that. They have given us, I believe, a good type of warship, and, moreover, we are told iri the Budget-papers that, owing to the differentiation in those ships which modem science has shown to be advisable, we have to pay about .£350,000 over the first estimate submitted to the Imperial Conference, showing that, when completed, these ships will be provided with all the latest and most modern requirements. That, however, is not my point just now. I am anxious to draw attention to the cost which this delay is entailing on Australia. We are now told by the Honorary Minister that it will be another six monthsbefore the first of the boats is ready, and nine months before the other two are completed. But we have begun to build ships of our own in Australia ; and, for some reason or other, which has never been satisfactorily explained, we find it well-nigh impossible to get any information in regard to these vessels. It is time some complaint was made about the paucity of the information we are able to obtain in this Chamber on these very important matters. I am not blaming the Honorary Minister, who may or may not have the requisite information at his command; but, if he has it, he is culpable in not informing honorable members of the details connected with these contracts, which have a very important financial bearing.
We are told that the subsidy of £200,000 per annum payable under the existing agreement has to be paid, as heretofore, up to the time when the present Australian Squadron shall be relieved by the Australian Fleet Unit ; and from this it will be- seen that for every year the completion of the Unit is delayed, it is costing us that amount.
– Is it?
– Yes, less £25,000.
– We voluntarily said that we would make that payment, contrary to the agreement made by the honorable member’s Government.
– We said that we would continue the payment until we were ready to take over the whole naval defence of Australia.
– Of course, the Government said that in the agreement.
– And we told the public we would do that.
– It was said, in the agreement to which I am referring, that the subsidy would be paid.
– Until the Australian Squadron was relieved by the Fleet Unit.
– And the honorable member’s party desired to cease that subsidy.
– Nothing of the kind !
– The fact is on record.
– The Prime Minister has, apparently, not heard the observations of the honorable member.
– The Prime Minister hears, but evidently does not understand. It does not matter what we said =- the position is not affected in the slightest degree. For every year that the Fleet Unit is incomplete, and the British Squadron remains here, we shall have to continue paying ,£200,000.
– We are paying it to the Mother Country.
– We are paying it to keep the British Squadron here, which otherwise could be withdrawn for service elsewhere, because our own is not ready to take its place. I am afraid I cannot get that point into the Prime Minister’s head.
– Surely the honorable member does not object to paying the subsidy?
– I object to the delay in the building of the Unit.
– Supposing that the ships cannot be built quickly enough, whose fault is it?
– The fault of the Government, for having bungled the business from start to finish.
– The delay is due to the fact that the shipyards at Home are too busy. The honorable member is making party capital out of the position.
– Is it to make party capital to criticise the methods of the Departments? What have we come to if we cannot criticise the way in which this . business has been mismanaged by the Government? An arrangement appears to have been come to lately about the terms under which these boats are to be built here, of which we cannot learn anything in Parliament, and have to go to the newspapers for our information. According to the press -
After delays aggregating over twelve months, the contract between the Federal and State Governments for the building of the cruiser Brisbane and the torpedo destroyers of the Warrego class has at length been signed.
Mr. Griffith, Minister of Works, made the announcement to-day that the points in the proposed agreement to which he called the attention of the Minister of Defence a fortnight ago had been satisfactorily, cleared up, and everything was now ready for the work to begin at the earliest possible moment. Large quantities of material intended for use on the battleships have been stored at Cockatoo Island for some weeks, and, though there will still be some delay in getting matters finally in order for the .biggest ship-building job yet undertaken in Australia, it was satisfactory to know that bargainings were at an end, and that the work of construction could be proceeded with. The chief cause of disagreement hovered round the question of time limit, a point upon which Mr. Griffith refused to be bound down too severely.
In the agreement arrived at 22 months is the time stipulated. The final test is stated to be distinctly less harsh than was originally contemplated.
As the result of the parleying between this Government and the Government of New South Wales, the arrangement has been made a little easier for them, and a little worse for us. This is a very important matter, upon which we should have a statement from the Government. The loss of half-a-million is no laughing matter. Apart from other considerations, the position merits- the serious attention of honorable members, because of its effect upon our naval efficiency. The point I wish to impress upon the House is that, although it was to be built within two and a half years, it will be nearly six before the Unit is completed. For every year’s delay we pay, unnecessarily, £200.000-
– That is. not so.
– Less £25,000 under the new arrangement. Our subsidy of £200,000 to the British Squadron is to cease directly the British warships can be relieved by the Australian Unit. I have referred to the increase in the estimated cost of the Unit, assuming the vessels to be built as three were built in the Old Country; but an additional ,£210,000 will have to be spent in getting them built here. On page 64 of the Budget-papers, the estimated total expenditure is set out as £4,250,000, to which there is this side note : “ Increase for extra cost of building certain of the vessels in Australia.” If we put down £200,000, less £25,000, a year for two years, allowing for the delay in the construction of the large vessels at Home, and £210,000 more as extra cost for building the vessels in Australia, we get the total cost of the delay in the completion of the Fleet Unit.
– Surely it is of value to train bur own people in the building of these vessels.
– I quite agree. Our defences will avail us nothing if we have not the ship-building resources. Those we must have, and I desire, therefore, that our ship-building industry shall develop as rapidly and thoroughly as possible, but the delay that has occurred is unnecessary. There are other vessels than those of the Fleet Unit which could be built here, keeping the Sydney dockyard fully employed for the future. Are honorable members aware that we have done nothing yet with regard to a depot ship which Admiral Henderson says should be constructed at the earliest possible moment? After setting out in detail the additions to the Unit to be effected by 1918, he says that there is one depot vessel which should be completed in 1914. The Government have not begun to estimate for that vessel yet, although Admiral Henderson says that in 191 4 it should be completed.
– That is after the next election.
– That is a very wise remark.
– The idea of any man seriously contemplating a thing like that !
– Exactly. The very idea of any man seriously considering this matter of defence until the election is over ! My honorable friend is quite right from his point of view. But I am afraid that our defence scheme cannot ‘wait even for the general election.
– I have noticed that each election has changed your opinions on the subject, and I am looking forward with interest to the next election doing the same thing.
– My changes of opinion will not rival those of the honorable member or his leader. I have them ready to quote. We have had too much of this “ gag “ lately, and whenever my honorable friends are ready I am ready, too. They had a taste of this the other night, and they did not like it a bit. There is plenty more yet to come. I have had quite enough of it. I mean that for the future it must not be all on one side, and it is not going to be, either. A depot ship is provided for under Admiral Henderson’s scheme, which he suggests should be completed in 1 914, and this bears on the point I am dealing with now - the development of our ship-building resources. What is this depot vessel? It is very desirable, Admiral Henderson says, that a depot vessel should be provided as soon as practicable for service with the torpedoboat destroyers, and that she should be Qf about 5,000 tons displacement. Here is as large a boat waiting to be built as any we are building now. I forget what the tonnage of the Brisbane is, though, perhaps, it is as big as that of this depot vessel, which Admiral Henderson describes in these words -
It is very desirable that the depot vessel should be provided as soon as practicable for service with the torpedo-boat destroyers. She should be of about 5,000 tons displacement, and be smooth-sided, without sponsons or other obstructions, so that destroyers can lie alongside her; she should be capable of steaming at least 15 knots, and be armed sufficiently to be able to beat off the attack of any armed mercantile cruiser.
It is recommended that her armament should consist of two 6-inch guns and two 4-inch guns;the former to be pivot mounted with light shields, one on the forecastle and the other on the poop; the latter to be mounted one on each side, and to be of the same pattern as those mounted in the destroyers.
I suggest that it would have been good business for the Government to have hurried on this Fleet Unit, saved this £175,000 a year, and gone on developing our ship-building capacity in Australia by tackling these other vessels which Admiral Henderson says are overdue. May I point out that the money which my honorable friends would have saved by having hastened ,the Fleet Unit would build this other vessel. That is the point.
– It is about time that you made one.
– That is one which the honorable member cannot answer.
– I will answer it presently.
– I hope that I shall have the pleasure of hearing the honorable member answer it. Owing to the delay in building this vessel, we are encouraging an expenditure of, to put it moderately, £^350,000. That sum, together with the £210,000 which we expect it will cost us to build the smaller boats here, would have gone a long way to equip this big boat, which Admiral Henderson says is overdue. There has been bad business displayed in the whole of these arrangements, and I must not be told that, in making these remarks, I am doing anything which will interfere with the development of our ship-building capacity in Australia. I point out that there is as much as we can do - indeed, more than we are likely to do - for a long time to come in catching up to this scheme of Admiral Henderson. I point out, too, that, owing to the business arrangements which have been made, we shall fritter away more money than would have built this ship at the same time that our shipbuilding capacity was being developed to its fullest possible extent. That is, I submit, a very serious state of affairs, particularly in a Department which has had but little criticism, and which we are never tired of hearing is managed and controlled in the most perfect way.
Much money as we are spending now on naval development and ship-building we are not tackling this scheme of Admiral Henderson. He says that we should have spent last year, as well as this year, £3,000,000 on the scheme which he outlined. We are now over £1,000,000 behind that. The Government say that they have adopted the scheme; but they are not carrying it out. I am not complaining of the money they have spent. They have spent a lot of money, but not as much as Admiral Henderson’s scheme requires to be spent. When is it going to be spent? If the Government cannot keep up in the first period, which he estimates at £3,000,000 a year, how are they going to catch up in the other periods when £4,000,000 a year will be required? I think it is time that we had from the Government a plain’ ;$F,.;, J the business aspect of this matter, so that the House and the country may know whether they have finally adopted the scheme of Admiral Henderson, and, if so, what proposals they have for carrying it through. That, however, is another matter which need not interfere with the statement to which I have just called attention. On several occasions we have addressed’ queries to the Government as to the detailsof Admiral Henderson’s scheme, and as to what proposals they intended to make tocarry it through, and the last answer of the Prime Minister was that he would deal with, it in the Budget.
– In the Estimates.
– There is nostatement about it in either the Budget or the Estimates. We know nothing about it ; we cannot obtain any information. It is about time that the Government told thisHouse what is their mind on this matter, so that the country may know what it isdefinitely committed to. . What I point out is that, owing to delay in building, our Fleet Unit, we have to make thesearrangements. I have nothing to say against this Bill. It is necessary, and* we must prepare our personnel as speedily as possible; but I fear that, after we have done our best, we shall be all behind when* the ships reach here. The carrying out of the scheme is occupying twice as long: as it should occupy, and every year’s delayin giving effect to it means that we haveto pay a subsidy of £175,000 to the Imperial authorities - a subsidy of which we shall be relieved the moment that our Unit is completed. Clearly, therefore, it is good business to speed up its completion, because the money thus saved might then> be devoted to the building of other vessels, which we cannot touch now for want of’ funds.
.- I do not rise with any idea of opposing thisBill. But there is just one phase of theexisting Naval Agreement with which I desire to deal briefly. I refer to that portion, of it which provides that our Fleet Unit shall operate only within certain waters and. within certain boundaries.
– That is not touched in this Bill.
– But it is touched in theNaval Agreement of 1903. It is patent to us all that our national life depends upon the supremacy of Britain’s Fleet. I say, therefore, that it should be our desire in every way to assist the Mother Country to maintain her sea supremacy. Article ‘2- nl the present Naval Agreement, in re ferring to the Naval Force on the Australian Station, provides - “The base of this force shall be thc ports of Australia and New Zealand, and their sphere 2i operations shall be the waters of the Australian, China, and East Indies Stations, as defined in the attached schedules, where the Admiralty believe they can most effectively act (gainst hostile vessels which threaten the trade or interests of Australia or New Zealand. That is a provision to which I object. T hold that our Fleet Unit should automatically pass under the command of the Admiralty in the event of war breaking but between Great Britain and any other nation.
– Rubbish !
– Ot course, the honorable member for Capricornia is one who believes in an Australian sentiment and an Australian sentiment only. I have no objection to an Australian sentiment, but I think we should be Britishers first and “ Australians afterwards. -Our Fleet Unit should be part and parcel of the British Fleet, and, in the event of hostilities breaking out between Great Britain and another Power, it should automatically pass under the command of the British Admiralty. It is absolutely essential that in such circumstances there should be no delay. We do not know with what suddenness war may break out. It may come as swiftly as a flash of lightning, and it may be essential that Great Britain should have the help of our Fleet Unit immediately. If that Unit can be used by the Imperial authorities only with the consent of this Parliament, delay will be inevitable. The amendment of the Naval Agreement Act, which is proposed in this Bill, is, perhaps, a necessary one. That Act is to be amended by adding after suction 3 the following section–
The Governor-General may, from time to time, arrange wilh the Imperial Government for the reduction of the Naval force to be provided under the Agreement on the Australian Station, and for any reduction in the amount of the subtidy payable under the Agreement by the Commonwealth, and for any alteration of the Agree, -ment to give effect to any such arrangement.
– The Australian delegate at that Conference was Colonel Foxton, who was sent by your party.
– An Imperial. Conference has been held since then.
– Not for anything in relation to this.
– It was the last Confer’ence that decided on this Naval Agreement.
– It was the Conference of 1009.
– I know, and the Honorary Minister knows, who represented Australia at the last Conference. It was not Colonel Foxton at all. I take it that the present Government are responsible, because the Prime Minister was one of -the delegates at that Conference, for having that clause inserted; and therein they display a very paltry national spirit. They are Little Australians ; they are not Nationalists or Imperialists, and it is Imperialists that we want in this Parliament. We want here a display of National and Imperial spirit, and we are not getting it from those who are sitting on the Ministerial benches.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas) [8.37L- The agreement entered into in 1903 was between the Imperial Government, the Commonwealth, and New Zealand; but the Minister has not told us how New Zealand stands in this matter. The agreement was entered into before it was submitted to Parliament. It was a complete agreement, and was declared to be a three-party agreement, with mutual advantages. New Zealand was concerned in the sphere of operations of the Fleet, for instance, and now we are giving practically unlimited power to the Government to make alterations in the agreement which may affect the position of New Zealand.
– New Zealand has placed itself in the hands of the Imperial Government, and nothing can be done without the consent of the Imperial Government.
– I am not quite sure that we are going the right way to work. In the case of all these International agreements, an agreement is drawn up and signed by the Governments, because the Executive has perfect power to enter into agreements, which are then submitted’ to Parliament for ratification. A Governmental lead must be given in matters of- this kind. In 1903 the agreement was drawn up by the Government, and all the terms were settled. They were incapable of alteration by us. The agreement as drawn up was submitted to us. We could not alter a tittle of it. It was simply put before us for our acceptance or rejection. Similarly, the proper method of dealing with a substantial alteration of the agreement, especially when we are touching a sphere of operations in which the interests of New Zealand and ourselves are different, is to have the three-party agreement modified, or otherwise it is not absolutely binding. I merely refer to that point of view in order to get perhaps a little more information than seems to have been given by the Minister in connexion with this Bill. One part of the agreement of 1903 is expressly stated to be alterable. It is laid down that “no change in. this Agreement shall be made without the consent of the Governments of the Commonwealth and New Zealand.” Right through, it is the Governments of the Commonwealth and New Zealand that are to be parties to any change. Not one. Government alone, but both, must be party to it. I do not think anything very serious will occur from adopting this course, because it simply means that an alteration will be made by the Imperial Government according to what is agreed upon ; but if an objection was made by New Zealand that it was not a party to any diminution of the Fleet, or to any alteration’ of the sphere of its operations, technically, at all events,, it would be a very valid objection. As regards the policy of Imperial defence, we undoubtedly have imposed upon us a very strong obligation to help to maintain the Fleet of the Empire. In 1910, of the total Imperial trade, about £328,000,000 - I think something like 30 per cent, of the export trade, and about 2 5 per cent, of the import trade - was with British Possessions. The Imperial Government are spending somethinglike £44,000,000 this year on the Navy which protects the joint interests of the British Dominions in that total trade of £328,000,000, and I believe there is close upon £300,000,000 of Dominions’ trade - perhaps more than that now - that never touches the shores of the United Kingdom at all, but, at the same time, is protected by the British flag. I say this because we cannot too often remind the people of the Commonwealth and the people of the Empire of the strong obligations that we are all under to maintain, in times that are becoming more and more critical, the supremacy of the British Navy for defensive purposes. I would also say that, in a few years, the obligations of Australia will have been discharged to the full. Whether you take the liability as a per capita contribution based upon the white population of the Empire, or join that with trade, or wealth, or anything else, when Admiral Henderson’s scheme is carried out - if it is to be carried out- we shall be contributing . something like £5,000,000 a year, and probably more, for naval defence. I think his estimate was that the total annual cost of the Australian Navy within eight or nine years from this date, including provision for a sinking fund and repairs, would be £4,750,000. It will probably be more, because he was basing his estimates upon the conditions that held two years ago. When that’ time arrives, Australia will have discharged, as fully as any part of the Empire, its obligations towards the maintenance of the Fleet. I think one should mention that fact’ in connexion with any statement made as regards the necessity of co-operating with the Imperial Power, because too many of the criticisms I have read within the last year or two dwell a great deal upon the obligations of the Dominions - and they are not separated - to do more than they are doing in connexion with ‘ the moral and material obligation to support the Imperial Navy. As regards the question of the control of the Fleet, reference has been made to what was done by Colonel Foxton. He, acting on behalf of the Deakin-Cook Government, went a great deal farther than any previous Government had done towards recognising the desire pf the Imperial Government that there should be unity of command. Although technically the Fleet was not placed under the command of the Imperial Government, it was arranged that, when any critical emergency did arise, the Commonwealth Government would transfer the command; but, as a sort of recognition of our autonomy, a technical reservation of the local command was preserved until the occasion should arise for the passing of the command to the authorities at Home. It has been the policy, or, at all events, the desire, of the Imperial Government for the last ten years that the command of the Navy should be one. Mr. Chamberlain pressed it in the Conference of 1902 ; and the honorable member for Ballarat will remember that, in the Conference of 1907, Lord Tweedmouth, in discussing the question of whether our obligations should be discharged by the development of a local Navy, or take the form of increased contributions to the Imperial Fleet, finding that the local Navy would probably be the policy of Australia, impressed upon our representatives the desirableness of, at all events, having the one command. I believe that the last Government went farther than any other Government did in recognising that legitimate hope of the Imperial Government.
.- I regret that there has been so much criticism of this Bill, which has been introduced merely with a desire to facilitate the carrying out of the arrangement that has been made with the Imperial Government. The honorable member for Parramatta seemed to be inclined to criticise the Ministry for the delay that has taken place.I should like to point out, however, that the .Government could not get any one in the Commonwealth, save the State Government of New South Wales, to tender for the work to be done here. There was no eagerness displayed on the part of any other State to enter into a contract to build these ships, and the State Government of New South Wales went to a great deal of trouble to oblige the Commonwealth by undertaking the work.
– Did the Commonwealth Government try to get any one elseto take a contract for the work ?
– I understand that tenderswere invited.
– I do not think so.
– At all events, no oneelse in the Commonwealth was prepared, at the time to tender for it, although I understand that the Victorian Government will be prepared later on to do so.
– The offer was made tothe New South Wales Government; they were requested to take it up.
– Yes, because they had themachinery and other facilities for speedilycarrying out the work.
– Admiral Henderson says that we also ought’ to encourageMort’s Dock.
– That may be. The point that I wish to make is that, the Government of New South Wales have gone out of” their way to oblige the Commonwealth by undertaking the construction of theseships. They have removed their local works from Cockatoo Island to Newcastle,, with a view of giving over the whole, island; to the construction of these vessels. 1 have it from men working there that every > thing possible is being done to get thework under way, and to make it a success. One destroyer has already been built at the Government dock in New South Wales, and I understand that it is the fastest of thethree that we have.
– Not built ; the parts weremerely assembled.
– The parts were put together, and that is practically the samething.
– Oh, no ! I wish wecould say that the destroyer had been built there.
– They are not in a position to meet all the requirements in connexion with the actual construction of these vessels, but still the parts have been assembled, and that is a most important work. As to the complaint regarding the delay that has taken place, I would remind honorable members that reports of the debates in the House of Commons show that even the Imperial Government is frequently criticised for . its failure to build certain battleships earlier. The trouble is that every country is clamouring for battleships, and displaying great anxiety to get new vessels on the water as speedily as possible. In the circumstances, therefore, the Commonwealth Government is not to be blamed because of any delay that has taken place. Unfortunately, there seems to be in. every country an outcry for battleships of a higher standard, and this demand must necessarily cause delay. As to the command of our Fleet, I have only to say that if the time ever arrives when the British Admiralty requires the assistance of the Australian Fleet, I, for one, shall be prepared to place it under the command of the British Admiral. But until that time does arrive the Australian Admiral should be in command of the Australian Navy, since it is manned and paid for by the Australian people. I hope that this Bill will be speedily passed, so that we shall be able to facilitate,’ as far as possible, the construction of our Navy, and to develop the shipbuilding trade of Australia. Even if delay should occur, we must recognise that it is desirable that we should have the industry established in our own midst, instead of being compelled to rely on foreigners or British shipbuilders to construct our vessels. Then, again, if we have facilities for shipbuilding we shall have all the facilities necessary for a great repairing shop.
– It need not cause delay. There is plenty of other work which can be given.
– I can assure the honorable member that even Mort’s Dock has on its books more orders than it can complete. The whole of the iron trade of New South Wales is very busy, and the necessary mechanics and material cannot be obtained.
– Is there a shortage of artisans?
– There has been until quite recently a shortage of skilled artisans There are plenty of labourers and other men who can do the rough work, but even at the present time there are not too many engineers.
– Replying to the. honorable member for Angas, I should like to say that the Australian Fleet Unit is being constructed in such a way that at any moment-
– I regret to interrupt the honorable member, but my reading of new standing order 257A is that under lt there is no right of reply. This is the first occasion on which the point has arisen. The standing order in question provides that-
No member shall speak for more than one bour and five minutes at a time in any debate in the House…..
My reading of this provision is that the honorable member, having already spoken, has no right of reply.
– In the’ circumstances; perhaps the Leader of the Opposition wilt not object to a suspension of the Standing Orders to enable me to reply?
– I have no objection.
– I am confident that’ when the new standing order was passed it was not anticipated that under it an honorable member, moving the second reading of a Bill, would have no right of reply.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would point out that the standing order provides that no member shall speak for more than one hour and five minutes “at a time.” I put it to you, with great respect, that the words “ at a time “ mean the particular occasion when an honorable member is speaking.
– I have given this matter a good deal of consideration. The Honorary Minister, in moving the second reading of this Bill, occupied only about ten minutes, and I put to myself the question whether I could permit him, if he de- sired, to occupy the remainder of the one hour and five minutes allowed under the standing order in speaking in reply. After consideration, however, I came to the conclusion that that would not be a correct reading of the standing order, and that neither the Minister nor any other member had any right of reply.
– On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would draw your attention to the words “ at a time,” which are used twice in the standing order, and which I should think, according to every rule of interpretation, would be given the same meaning in both cases. It is provided that -
No member shall speak for more than one hour and five minutes at a time in any debate in the House - whilst it is provided further on that -
In Committee of the House no. member shall speak for more than thirty minutes at any one time, or more than twice on any one question before the Committee. . . .
The words “at a time” and “at any one time “ must refer to a particular time. Other standing orders permit an honorable member to speak only once on the motion for the second reading of a Bill, but an unlimited number of times in Committee; and the new standing order, I understand, was intended to have the effect of merely limiting the time during which an honorable member shall be permitted to speak at any one time. That reading would give the same meaning to the words used in both these cases.
– Much as I, as an Oppositionist, would desire such a reading to be given to the new standing order as that just suggested by the honorable member for Flinders, I should like to point out that if it were correct we should be at liberty to speak an unlimited number of times.
– No; other standing orders would prevent anything of the kind.
– I doubt if they would, in view of this new standing order. I am sure that none of us anticipated that it would interfere with the ordinary right of reply.
– We can get over the difficulty on this occasion, as there is no objection on the part of the Opposition to the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– I have not the slightest objection to the adoption of that course, but I hope that the honorable gentleman, if he is granted the concession which he suggests, will remember the treatment meted out to a member of the Opposition a few nights ago by supporters of the Government.
– If honorable members desire that some other interpretation shall be placed upon the new standing order, that can be done. My object in bringing the matter forward now was to settle the interpretation of the standing order. This being the first opportunity that has presented itself, I thought that it was right that the House itself should decide definitely what ought to be done. I remind honorable members that we practically took our standing order limiting the duration of speeches from New Zealand. But, unfortunately, we did not adopt the New Zealand standing order in precisely the same terms. I consider that I was justified in taking this opportunity of raising the point, in order that a precedent may be laid down affecting our future procedure.
– I am unable to take the view that you have put, Mr. Speaker. I doubt very much whether the new standing order affects standing order 261, which provides that -
A reply shall be allowed to a member who has made a substantive motion to the House or moved the second reading of a Bill, but not to any member who has moved an Order of the Day (not being the second reading of a Bill), aa amendment, the previous question, or an instruction to a Committee.
You have evidently read the new standing order as affecting standing order 261. According to my reading, the limitation of speeches has no effect whatever on the right of reply of a member who has moved the second reading of a Bill or a substantive motion.
– The new standing order does not affect any other standing order that is not inconsistent with it.
– The new standing order is not, in my opinion, in the least inconsistent with standing order 261. As the matter is of some importance, I suggest, that we should not come to a decision upon it at once. Evidently, if your interpretation be the correct one, the new standing order will have to be altered.
– I venture to suggest that we can overcome this difficulty quite easily. We can consent to set aside this standing order on the present occasion in order to give the Honorary Minister a right to reply, and, in the meantime, Mr. Speaker will have an opportunity of reconsidering the matter, and honorable members can equip themselves to decide what ought to be done. We can get out of the difficulty and proceed with business by granting permission to the Honorary Minister to reply.
– We have objected to other honorable members being allowed special concessions under the new standing order.
I think that Mr. Speaker has ruled that if the House gives its consent unanimously, the Honorary Minister can speak in reply. That, of course, is a matter for the House to determine; but, in my opinion, when we have made Standing Orders we ought to adhere to them. I am prepared to support you, sir, in your ruling.
– I submit that the new standing order 257A ought to be construed as suggested by the Prime Minister. Although the House adopted that standing order it did not repeal standing order 261. The usual rule of construction applied to Statutes dealing with the same subjectmatter is that, where there is no express repeal of a previous Statute, it stands, unless it be inconsistent with a later Statute. If Parliament desires to repeal a statutory provision, it does so by express words. If the two enactments can be subjected to a consistent construction, they both stand. Inasmuch as standing order 261 stands unrepealed, I submit that it is not affected by standing order 257a, as the two can be read consistently.
– In the honorable member’s opinion, the right of reply is not taken away ?
– No; as long as standing order 261 stands, and can be read con,sistently with the new standing order, the proper construction is that the right of reply remains. What is limited by the new standing order is not the number of times that an honorable member may speak, but the length of time for his speech. Adopting the usual rule of construction, I submit that the Honorary Minister certainly has a right of reply. But Mr. Speaker was placed in a difficulty, and, under the circumstances, he acted properly, in my opinion, in giving the House an opportunity of reviewing the difficulty that has occurred. We are making these suggestions with the object of assisting him.
– As I was, I think, the first victim of the new standing order, it is a matter of satisfaction to me that the Honorary Minister is the second. What has occurred shows clearly that the new rule should never have been introduced at all. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that special permission should be given to the Minister to speak. In my view, the proper thing to do is to withdraw the new standing order altogether. I quite agree with the Prime Minister that it ought not to apply in this case. What has occurred shows the absurdity of the whole procedure. I heartily agree with the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the Honorary Minister should have leave to proceed.
– As the original mover of a motion for the limitation of the duration of speeches, I wish to say that I had no idea of taking away the right of reply. In my judgment, the right of .reply is not taken away . by the new standing order. The duration of the speech which an honorable member may make in reply is affected. With all due respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I doubt whether you have taken into consideration the fact that we did not repeal standing order 261, nor did we abrogate the right which that standing order gives to the mover of the second reading of a Bill, or of a substantive motion.
– I take it that our Standing Orders ought to be construed strictly, but not so as to take away a right enjoyed by any honorable member, unless that right is taken away by plain words. The new standing order is number 25 7 a, and it has to be read alongside standing order 257. Standing order 25 7 a deals with the time for which a member may speak, and does not in any way refer to his right of reply. The right of reply is given in standing order 261, and is not affected by standing order 257A, which evidently relates to the curtailment of the right of speaking. That new standing order may limit the length of the reply, but it cannot take .away the right of reply previously enjoyed under standing order 261, unless it does so in plain words, which is not the case in standing order 257A. I submit that when the privileges of a member are in question, the Standing Orders must be strictly interpreted, and that when a standing order is capable of two interpretations, we should -lean to that interpretation which least interferes with our rights and privileges. Standing order 261 is that under which my colleague is claiming the right to reply; and that right, I contend, is not affected by the new standing order.
– I should like, if possible, to emphasize the point put by other honorable members, namely, that standing order 257 a does not in any way touch the question of the number of speeches an honorable member may make in the House. That standing order was passed wholly and solely for the purpose of limiting the time a member may occupy in speaking, and there is a specific difference made between speeches in the
House and speeches in Committee. At no time had any member, except in reply, the right to speak more than once in the House; and the right of reply, when moving the second reading of a Bill, is specifically given in standing order 261, quoted by the Attorney-General. Honorable members could not possibly have had in their minds the construction now so suddenly placed on this standing order. This is proved by the very words of the standing order, which draws a marked and clear distinction between speeches in the House and speeches in Committee. In the House, the limit of time, and that limit only, is placed on speeches, -but in Committee a member is limited, not only in point of time, but in the number of speeches he may make. This seems to show that the House had in its mind only the limitation of time, with no desire whatever to interfere with standing order 261, which gives right of reply on a motion for a second reading.
– As I have already said, this is the first occasion on which I have had the opportunity to give an interpretation of the new standing order. The Attorney-General lays stress on the fact that the standing order 257A follows standing order 257, but I have to point out that it was not the House that placed it in that position, but ‘ the officers of the House, with my consent, and because I thought that position the most suitable. If the new standing order had been placed, say, further down, would the Attorney-General have submitted the same contention? In my opinion, this is not a question of the position of the standing order. As to the wording itself, it is, to my mind, as clear as possible -
No member shall speak for more than one hour and five minutes at a time in any debate in the House -
The standing order then goes on to make certain exceptions in regard to a noconfidence debate and other debates, when the time is one hour and thirty-five minutes. There is only one question at present before the House, namely, “ That the Bill be read a second time.” The new standing order provides that in Committee, a member shall not speak more than twice, or for more than thirty-five minutes at a time. Previously, a member might speak 100 times if he so desired ; and, therefore, it became necessary in the new standing order to place some limitation on the number of speeches ; and the decision of the House in this re gard is shown in the standing order. In the House, however, according to my reading of the new standing order, it is distinctly laid down that a member shall not speak more than once. That is my interpretation; and it is now for the House to decide what it means by the new standing order, and whether I am to allow the right to reply.
– How can we do so?
– Under the circumstances, the House must make its own decision ; it is not a matter for me entirely. My duty is merely to bring the matter before the House, and give honorable members an opportunity to arrive’ at a decision. I have taken that course; and it is now for the House to decide.
– May I say-
– The Prime Minister may speak only with the consent of the House. Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the Prime Minister have leave to speak?
– It is clear that we cannot go on with the business as matters now stand; and I should like to move to the effect that your interpretation, Mr. Speaker, is not the interpretation that the House places on the new standing order. By this, I mean that the right of reply in a debate of this character is in no way limited.
– Let the Prime Minister give notice of a motion to that effect for to-morrow, and, in the meantime, the Honorary Minister may reply by leave.
– I would rather have the matter settled now.
– Out of respect to Mr. Speaker, I think it would be better to amend the standing order.
– I thought Mr. Speaker was willing that I should take some such course as I suggest.
– Have you, Mr. Speaker, given a ruling, or have you not, rather, asked the House to help you to interpret the new standing order? I was under the impression that you spoke, recognising that there was some doubt about the construction ; and, if that be so, the Prime Minister might move to the effect that the new standing order be read subject to the right of reply given in standing order 261.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That standing order 257A shall not prevent the right of reply under standing order 261.
– In replying to the criticism of honorable members opposite, I shall commence with that of the honorable member for Angas, whom I would remind that the Australian Fleet Unit is being constructed, armed, and manned in such a way that at any time it can form an integral part of the Imperial Navy. The agreement and understanding with the Governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, and South Africa is that, no matter where their several Fleet Units may be, the senior officer of the Naval Forces present there shall have control of the whole Navy. The ordinary sphere of action of the Australian Fleet Unit is defined by boundaries arrived at in the Conference of 1909.
– The boundaries were not fixed until 191 1.
– It was decided at the Conference of 1909 that boundaries should be determined, and these were arrived at and approved at the last Imperial Conference. The method of attack adopted by the honorable member for North Sydney was unfortunate. He read from the Naval Agreement of 1903 the words “ no change in the arrangement shall be made without the consent of the Governments of the Commonwealth and of New Zealand,” and proceeded to hurl against this Government the charge of disloyalty and other improper conduct. But the Agreement of 1903 was made when the Barton Government, in which the honorable member for Ballarat was Attorney-General, was in office; this Government is in no way responsible for it. Therefore, the attack of the honorable member was not justified, and the course which he pursued is one which, if continued in, will not reflect credit on him. Moreover, he told the House that, although certain things might have happened over which the Government had no control, it was still blameworthy. There is not much force in the argument that if anything goes wrong the Government is to blame, although it can have no control. Such statements may appeal to prejudice, but will not affect those who have any knowledge of things political, or who, being of an inquiring mind, are not prepared to take things for granted. As to the honorable member for Parramatta, I would ask him to take his mind back to the charge recently hurled against the Government in this Chamber, and continually repeated on the public platform by the paid organizers of the different unions and associations known as the Fusion, that Ministers have been guilty of unparalleled extravagance. Those, who attack us say we have spent too much money. Except for the specific objection of the honorable member for Flinders to increases in the salaries of the Public Service, there has been an amazing absence of specific detail in connexion with that charge. Now, however, the honor.able member for Parramatta says that we have not spent this year, by at least £1,000,000, what should have been spent in accordance with the recommendations of’ Admiral Henderson. . I hesitate to think what would have been said had we, as the honorable member suggests, spent another £1,000,000. This Government is committed to what is termed the ‘ ‘ first Fleet Unit.” recommended by Admiral Henderson.
– Admiral Henderson did not recommend that. He assumed that it would be provided.
– In his report, dated 14th September, 191 1, paragraph 21, he says that “the first step towards the development of a Commonwealth Navy has already been decided upon,” and he proceeds to embody in his recommendation the building of a Fleet Unit comprising one armoured cruiser, three protected cruisers, six destroyers, and three submarines. That is the Fleet Unit to which this Government is committed, and we are also committed to providing the necessary facilities for its safety and general working. Whatever may be the requirements of Australia, real or fancied, no Government should commit the country to expenditure of which the electors, when appealed to, may not approve, and from which there would be no escape. The honorable member desires that we shall commit the country to an expenditure extending over three, six, or nine years,, forgetting that (the electors must be appealed to every three years. If, in these circumstances, our appeal is not supported, what will the position be?
– You will not have a Fleet.
– If the people say that we are not to have a Fleet, we are not to have it. It will not suffice for the honorable gentleman, or any other member on the opposite side, to say that he, because he is elected to this House for three years, shall commit the Parliament and the country-
– You committed it.
– To an expenditure for a period of years.
– You committed it.
– Order ! The honorable member for Mernda is distinctly out of order in interjecting with his hat on his head, and I again remind him that he, above all others, desires silence when he is addressing the House.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker, though personally I have no objection to the honorable member’s interjection.
– Are we to understand the Minister to say that the Government will not commit themselves to any more of this scheme than can be built in three years?
– I do not commit myself to anything of the kind.
– That is what you said.
– And the honorable gentleman must not put words in my mouth.
– That is the inference.
– I have limitations, but I am able to express my opinions, and I do not desire that the honorable gentleman should interpolate his ideas into my speeches. I was going to say that, so far as the honorable gentleman is concerned who was persistent with his interjection, that it will not do for any Government to commit the country to an expenditure extending over a period of, perhaps, six, or nine, or twelve years, when, as a matter of fact, an appeal to the country might result in the people saying that the expenditure must not be, and ought not to have been, incurred. What will the penalty be? Not merely that the Government will have to turn out, but that the people will have to carry a burden.
– None of us understands what the honorable member means, so far.
– Order !
– In that respect, I view with great pleasure the report of Admiral Henderson, which is cut up into periods. iHe does not necessarily say that any Government to-day shall commit the country to the whole of the recommendations in his report.
– They are all parts of a design.
– He has cut up his report into periods, and he suggests that in each period a certain sum shall be spent ; but to say that the Government to-day should commit the country to an expenditure estimated by the honorable member for Parramatta, a few days ago, at something like £70,000,000 is, I think, going a little too far.
– At any rate, it is quite outside of the charge which has been hurled against this side, during the last few months in particular, of involving the country in a torrential expenditure. And now, when I point out to honorable members that, in the opinion of the Government, it would be unfair to commit the country to the whole of this proposed expenditure, and that the people have the right to express an opinion periodically upon how the expenditure shall proceed, honorable members object. However, that reference is only of a general character in reply to the statement of the honorable member.
– To what is the Parliament committed?
– The Parliament is committed to an expenditure up to and including what is known now as the first Fleet Unit and the necessary work for its upkeep, protection, and general safe working. Outside of that, Parliament is not committed at the present time.
– Are we not committed to works at Westernport and elsewhere?
– Parliament is committed to certain works at Westernport, Cockburn Sound, and Port Stephens - works which, as reported by Admiral Henderson, can proceed in certain stages, and at each stage will be useful up to the requirements of the Navy as then constructed.
– And I have pointed out that in these two years you are, in your expenditure, £1,000,000 behind his recommendation.
– That is what I am referring to - the fact that you complained that the Government have not spent another £1,000,000.
– Will you kindly let me use my own language?
– Order ! The honorable member must not interject.
– I never used the word “ complain.”
– Order ! The honorable member has no right to interject.
– Well, the honorable gentleman drew attention to the point that we had not spent another £1,000,000 on the Navy. So far as the three places I mentioned just now are concerned, the position is that we are committed to certain expenditure there in keeping with the strength of the Navy ; and the work is going on in sections, each section being complete within itself. Additional work will, of course, be indispensable in these places as the strength of our Navy and its requirements increase, in the way of harbors and so forth. May I say to the honorable member for Parramatta that, in so far as his references to the annual subsidy are concerned, he is slightly at fault. It may not be inappropriate that he should adopt a bellicose attitude when speaking on a naval subject.
– There was no bellicose attitude.
– We who know the honorable member are aware that he invariably adopts that attitude, and that it increases in strength in proportion as his hearers increase in numbers. However, so far as the annual subsidy is concerned, there is a statement in the proceedings of the Conference of 1909, at which the Commonwealth was represented by Colonel Foxton, who was appointed by the honorable gentleman himself, or his Government, and which reads as follows -
The annual subsidy of ^200,000 under the existing agreement should be paid as heretofore by the Commonwealth to the Imperial Government up to the time when the existing Australian Squadron should be relieved by the new Australian Fleet Unit.
This paragraph merely says that the subsidy should be paid until the Fleet Unit is ready. There is nothing in the agreement itself, nor is there one word in the Bill before the House,, which prevents that being done. But the complaint of the honorable gentleman is that the Fleet Unit will not be ready for three years later than was anticipated. In that he is wrong. One portion of the Unit, namely, the Brisbane, will be about two years behind the expected time, and most of that delay is due to the fact that the policy of the country is that the work should be done here. There is no objection to the building of this cruiser in Australia. Why my honorable friend drew attention to it and the extra cost involved, I am not aware. We knew that its build ing here would mean an extra cost. There is practically unanimity so far as the policy of local construction is concerned, but that policy means a little greater delay than otherwise would have been the case, or if the vessel had been assembled in England as she was being built. The Fleet Unit will be ready in about nine months-
– It will not.
– With the exception of the cruiser, the Brisbane.
– And the torpedoboats.
– To the extent to which the Fleet Unit is ready, we shall be able to reduce the subsidy payable to England.
– Where is the warrant for that statement? The Government will have to consult the Imperial authorities before they can do that.
– My honorable friend has stated that he does not object to this Bill, the chief clause of which authorizes the Government to enter into an arrangement with the Imperial Government. When I tell him that we have already entered into an arrangement under which the Squadron of the Imperial Navy which is now here will be reduced in numbers, and the subsidy decreased proportionately, it is surely manifest that nine months hence that subsidy, instead of being £200,000 a year, will, probably, be down to £25,000. If T understand the decision of the Imperial Defence Conference of 1909, it was that the payment by the Commonwealth of the Naval subsidy should cease, and that the Imperial Government should contribute towards the upkeep of the Australian Navy no less a sum than £250,000 per annum.
– Which we did not accept.
– I am pleased to say that the present Government preferred to meet the Imperial Government by continuing the payment of the subsidy rather than accept direct monetary assistance from them. If there is any community which is able to assist the Imperial authorities should that assistance be necessary, surely it is to be found in Australia. At any rate, it is to our credit that we preferred to continue the payment of the subsidy rather than accept monetary help from the British Government.
– I quite agree with the Honorary Minister.
– But the honorable member quite forgot to mention that the 1909 Conference, at which the Government of which he was a member was represented by Colonel Foxton, decided to accept that assistance.
– I said in a speech at the time that it cut across my grain to do so.
– It cuts across the grain of many persons to accept many things, and yet they do accept them. It cut across our grain to accept this proffered assistance, and, consequently, we did not accept it.
– After we had replenished the coffers for the Government. The Honorary Minister is very bold and heroic when the money has been found for him.
– Our coffers were not replenished. The revenue is more buoyant at the present time than it ever was before.
– I am speaking of the arrangement which we made with the States, and which the present Government adopted.
– My honorable friend is, doubtless, referring to the arrangement which was entered into at a secret Caucus of Premiers, the proceedings of which have never been divulged.
– The present Government denounced that agreement, and then accepted it.
– All we denounced was the proposal to embody it in the Constitution, and the people approved of our denunciation. Here is another paragraph ‘ from the report of the Imperial Defence Conference of 1909 -
The construction of the armoured cruiser should be undertaken as soon as possible, and the remaining vessels should be constructed under conditions which would insure their completion, as nearly as possible, simultaneously with the completion and readiness for service of the armoured cruiser, which it is understood would be in about two and a half years.
When, therefore, the honorable member for Parramatta declares that these things should have been done in two and a half years, and that, because they have not been done, there has been an alarming delay which has cost the Commonwealth. £600,000, he knows that he is making statements which will not bear examination.
– The statements of the Honorary Minister do not make the position any different.
– The Government of which the honorable member was a Minister gave orders for the construction of certain vessels in England, signed the contract for them, did everything in that connexion except pay for them. To defray their cost they proposed to borrow £3,500,000, the annual interest upon which would have cost more than will this dep6t ship-
– The Honorary Minister is stating the case incorrectly, and against himself. We did not sign the contract, nor did we agree to the specifications.
– This Conference took place in August, 1909, and decided that the vessels should be completed in about two and a half years. The honorable member remained in office till April, 1910. But, although he was in office all those months, the contract for the construction of these vessels was’ not signed. Yet, because, in less than two and a half years, they are not here, he has the temerity to charge this Government with delay.
– The order was sent within one week of this Parliament approving of the Naval Agreement.
– One can send an order by an urgent wire in a minute.
– That is precisely what we did.
– But of what use is the order if the contract be not signed? One might send a thousand orders in such circumstances, and nothing would happen.
– That is not correct.
– Does the honorable member suppose that if the contract were not signed the contractors in England would start to build?
– I think so.
– That is a new method of procedure. If there has been any delay in the construction of these vessels, the blame rests with the honorable member for Parramatta, although he seeks to place it elsewhere. But the Government have no control over the contractors in England. Certain delays have taken place there, with the result that these vessels have not been completed quite within the contract time. That often happens in the case of the Imperial Government itself.
-But the Imperial Government is usually prepared to give the House of Commons some explanation of it.
– Every paper relating to the delay which has occurred can be in the honorable member’s hand* to-morrow morning if he so desires. There is no need for secrecy in this matter. We are prepared to give him thefullest information.
– The Government are constantly refusing to supply information.
– Even the Imperial Government itself, with the same contractors, has experienced delay in the construction of ships of war. In these circumstances, as these vessels will be completed within a month or two of the contract time, where is the need for talking about delay, and saying that it will mean an additional expenditure of £600,000, when my honorable friend knows full well that no such expenditure will be necessary ? It may be that the honorable member does not understand that, even though we have the ships and the money, the men are an indispensable necessity. They cannot be trained in two moments. They are being trained with the utmost possible speed.
– The agreement sets out that the Admiralty will provide the men until we can do so. It is wonderful what a lot you do not know about that agreement!
– The interjection is unworthy of the honorable member. There is an understanding and a practical agreement that the Admiralty will provide the men-
– That is contrary to what you said before.
– No such thing. If the honorable member cared to look through the papers, or had as much desire to understand the matter as he has to do injury, he would know that the arrangement that is being entered into is suitable to the Imperial Government - more so than to the Commonwealth Government. My honorable friend ought not to ask me to make those statements, but when he makes so point-blank a charge-
– Hear, hear! You should not give him the information.
– When general charges are made for nothing but political and electioneering purposes, charges for which there is not a scintilla of foundation, and are made only because the desire to do injury is greater than the desire to gain knowledge, it is necessary to point out the facts. The men are being trained with the utmost celerity, and the arrangement entered into is mutually satisfactory to the two Governments. I believe the House will be studying the best interests of the Commonwealth by speedily agreeing to the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause1 (Short Title and Citation).
– The Honorary Minister took occasion to refer to an argument which I used in the course of another debate in relation to the Post and Telegraph Department, and referred to it in terms which we are getting accustomed to hear from the same quarter on the public platform, but which even the Honorary Minister has rarely the audacity to use in this House. He said that I had pointed out a way in which there was extravagance in the conduct of affairs by the Government, namely, in the increase of salaries in the Postal Department. He knew perfectly well the view which he intended to convey by attributing that statement to me, and he also knew perfectly well that that view was quite different from that which I had put to the House. It was one of those disingenuous statements, or distortions of arguments used by a political opponent, which no fair politician ought to use, even on the platform. Honorable members on both sides of the House know that, when criticising the Postal Department and the expenditure in it, I said that the gross sum expended on salaries had increased unduly in proportion to the amount of returns. I pointed out, at the same time, that that did not necessarily depend at all upon an increase in the individual salaries; in fact, that the average individual salaries had not comparatively increased during the period to whichI referred.
– Does the honorable member intend to connect this with clause
– I was referring to a personal attack made upon me.
– The honorable member should do that by way of personal explanation.
– I wantalso to deal with an argument used by the Honorary Minister in addressing himself to the Bill in the House.
– The honorable member has no right to refer to what took place on the second reading. We are now in Committee.
– I understand that the House takes no cognisance of what occurs in Committee, but I have always understood that in Committee honorable members were free to refer to any arguments used in the House in relation to the matter before the Chair.
– The honorable member must deal with the clause before the Chair.
-I propose to address myself, in connexion with’ this clause, to certain arguments which were used in the House.
-If such arguments are relevant to the clause, the honorable member will be in order, but not otherwise.
– The argument related to the delay in building the Fleet Unit, but I shall not proceed if you think it is not relevant to clause 1.
– It is not relevant to the clause before the Chair. The honorable member will have much more scope on clause 2.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Arrangement for Reduction of Squadron and Subsidy).
– The honorable member for Parramatta put forward the argument that the Government were responsible for the delay in the construction of the ships of the Fleet Unit. One answer made by the Honorary Minister was that, if there had not been that delay, there would have been greater expenditure in the Estimates of this year, and that, as we on this side of the House had complained of too great an annual expenditure, this would have given us further cause of complaint. The Honorary Minister used that argument in the endeavour to confute the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I thought the honorable member did. Perhaps I was suffering under a delusion. I certainly thought that the Honorary Minister said, with tremendous declamation, and with a view of showing the absurdly illogical character of the Opposition, that, whilst they had been opposing any increase in the annual expenditure, they were now, by their objection, urging on the Government to a greater annual expenditure. That statement shows, either that the Minister desired to mislead the Committee, or that he was entirely ignorant of the Estimates of his own Department. If he looked at the abstract of the expenditure given in the Estimates, he would know that the construction of the Fleet Unit is provided for, not out of the ordinary annual vote’s, but out of the Trust Fund, and that delay in the construction of the Unit, therefore, would not diminish by one shilling the ordinary annual expenditure. The special appropriation in respect of the construction of the Fleet is set down at £1,196,829. That is provided for, not out of the ordinary votes of the year but out of a sum of £2,261,541 in the Trust Fund. To use such an argument as that put forward by the Honorary Minister-
– The honorable member is wilfully asserting that I made a statement which I did not make.
– Will the Honorary Minister say that he did not advance the argument that, inasmuch as we were complaining of the delay in the construction of these vessels, we were actually claiming that the Government should have expended more than they have done?
– No. The reference to the expenditure of£1,000,000 had no relation whatever to the delay in the construction of the Fleet Unit. The honorable member was not listening to what I said.
– I was listening very intently.
– Then I failed to make myself clear to the honorable member.
– And also, I think, if the honorable member’s statement is correct, to honorable members on both sides of the chamber. If that argument is withdrawn, there is nothing more for me to say. If the Honorary Minister did use it, it would show that he had not paid due attention to the Estimates of his own Department.
– I know my own Estimates.
– I wish to refer briefly to the speech made by the Honorary Minister, which is one of the most remarkable that I have ever heard in any chamber. He talked largely about statements which I had made, but never once touched them. I made no complaint regarding the building of the ships at Home, except to express regret at the delay. I believe that the authorities there are doing their best to build them as fast as possible; but I should like lo hear from the Honorary Minister that the Government have endeavoured to expedite their construction. I said at the onset that it was regrettable that the British shipbuilding yards were turning out so many warships for other nations whilst our own work was so much in arrears. I made no complaint as to that, but said that it was to be regretted, and that this fact cast upon us a still greater obligation to have this work pushed on as quickly as possible. The Honorary Minister has not touched the point that when these vessels do arrive we shall still be two years behind with our construction here. My criticism is ‘that the Fleet Unit will not be completed until some six years after the making of the agreement, although it was to be completed within two and a half years of that time.
-. - Not two and “a half years from the date of the agreement.
– About two and a half years was the period.
– And that two and a half years’ period has hardly expired.
– The honorable member is quite right. The order for the construction of these vessels was sent Home about the 8th December of the year in question. I think honorable members will find that it was sent Home within a few days of the House agreeing to the construction of the Unit. No time was lost. Nothing could have been more prompt than the action of the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, in making the offer of a Dreadnought, in the first instance, and in ordering the vessels of the Unit in the second. We were all anxious that not a moment should be lost so far as the ordering of this Fleet Unit was concerned. The Honorary Minister, however, has the audacity to try to allege delay on our part, so far as’ the scheme of naval defence is concerned.
He made just now the astounding statement that no Government could commit itself beyond the next general election to any scheme of naval defence. May I remind Wm that in Germany, a while ago, a Bill was passed providing for a naval scheme ranging over from twelve to fifteen years.
– Many things are done in Germany that I should not like to see done here. .
– There are similar schemes in the Old Country from time to time. The Government can never hope to have a navy unless they do look beyond a general election. That fact is emphasized in Admiral Henderson’s report. The Honorary Minister made much of the point that Admiral Henderson’s scheme was divided over. several distinct periods or eras. But for what reason was it so divided? Admiral Henderson writes -
These fixed eras are suggested only as a convenient guide to a procedure by which the recommendations embodied in this Report can be carried out gradually, and by which the growth of the Fleet in size and number of vessels can proceed concurrently, as far as practicable, with the entry and education of the personnel that it will require.
The total period of 22 years is taken as the maximum required, the higher ranks of officers cannot be obtained in .1 shorter period, and a period of 22 years is also convenient because it is the length of service, from the age of 18, which continuous service men in the Mother Navy are required to complete to be eligible for pension, and is the period which is recommended fo.r adoption for “long service” in the Commonwealth Fleet.
Should the Commonwealth desire to hasten the completion of their Fleet and its requirements, it would be easy to do so, as regards the provision of the lower ranks and ratings required, by a proportionate increase in the numbers to be entered annually, but provision of the higher grades could not be accelerated appreciably.
– But they could be got from the Imperial Service.
– Yes, that was the arrangement, and it is absurd for the Honorary Minister to say that Admiral Henderson split up into periods the provision of the Fleet with a view of showing that one section would without the other give’ us what we desired. Nothing could be further from the actual report. All through it, Admiral Henderson emphasizes the point that we must build upon a plan ; that we must never relinquish our plan or never have it out of mind, but proceed with it continuously and persistently until the whole scheme is completed at the end of the twenty-two years’ period. Either the Government are, or are not, going to carry out this scheme. If they are not, they should tell the House and the country. They told us the other day, in answer to questions, that they had adopted it. We now learn from the Honorary Minister that they have not, and that they decline to commit themselves to any part of the scheme which would take them beyond the next general elections. The Minister of Defence has gone about Australia talking about Admiral Henderson’s scheme, and taking credit to the Government for what they were doing in connexion with it. In Werriwa, we never heard the last of it. We were continually told, “ Why can we not give credit to the Government for Admiral Henderson’s scheme?” But after the election they are turning the scheme down.
– That is not fair criticism.
– It is a fact. Here we have a statement from the Honorary Minister that the Government will not commit themselves beyond the next general election. What is that but turning the scheme down? They are not carrying it out.
– The Government are carrying out the scheme more expeditiously than the honorable member proposed to do, and without borrowed money.
– Again, the honorable member’s interjection has nothing in it, because, when I was” Minister of Defence, there was no such scheme in existence. I am talking about Admiral Henderson’s scheme of naval defence, which was formulated after we left office. How absurd to criticise us because we were not going to carry out a scheme that was not in existence ! The honorable member should either make sensible interjections or hold his tongue. The point is that Admiral Henderson formulated a scheme for which this Government has never ceased to take credit. Admiral Henderson says that it is of no use to touch the scheme unless it is carried out entirely.
– He does not say anything of the kind.
– He says so in effect. We all understand the Honorary Minister’s bluff. We have had specimens of it to-night. He knows nothing about this matter, and tries to make up for his ignorance by bluff. It is time somebody brought him to book. We require more information and less bluff about these important matters.
The Honorary Minister says that I am complaining that the Government are not spending another million of money on the Navy this year. Again he misrepresents my contention. What I Stated was that Admiral Henderson said that£6,000,000 should be spent on the lines of his scheme in these two years. The Government have not spent £6,000,000, nor even , £5,000,000. They are at least £1,000,000 short of carrying out the scheme. I did not use either praise or blame with regard to the spending of the money. I merely pointed out the fact that either they were delaying the carrying out of Admiral Henderson’s scheme, or did not intend to do so. I hope we shall have no more prating about the country as to what this Government is doing. Let Ministers tell the country that they cannot carry out the scheme, and then people will know what to do. We shall never build a Navy on these lines. Every civilized Government has to plan years ahead.’ The great naval battle of the future is in reality going on now ; because, whichever nation ata given time has the largest number of ships, the best trained men, and is most fitted to fight, is most likely to win. So the bloodless fight proceeds apace in the workshops. My criticism was that there was plenty of work to be given to our local shops - more than they could undertake to keep them fully employed - and that the completion of the Fleet Unit should have been hastened. To have hastened the construction of the Fleet, as I suggested, would not have interfered in any degree with the development of our ship-building capacity, and would have made us better fitted to take our part in the naval defence of the Empire.
. -I am heartily in accord with any efforts that can be made to encourage ship-building in Australia.
– So are we all.
-I understood the honorable member to say that he would prefer to see the money required ‘for the Fleet Unit spent at Home than in Australian dockyards. In my opinion, the sooner we can train our men in our own docks to build our own ships, the better it willbe for the defence of Australia.
-Did not the honorable member hear me say, in my first speech on the subject, that that was my idea also?
Mr.FENTON.-I certainly understood the honorable member to say what I have attributed to him. With respect to the maimer in which Admiral Henderson suggested that his scheme should be carried out, in my humble judgment, he intended the period to be divided into four groups of years - the first, seven years ; the second, third, and fourth, five years each ; making a total of twenty-two years. I should say that, within that period, even Admiral Henderson himself would desire to make certain alterations in a scheme of shipbuilding. There will necessarily be important alterations in methods of warfare, as well as in the designing of ships, within so long a period as twenty-two years. Therefore, to say that we should swallow the whole scheme at once would not be dealing fairly with the country.
– If that argument were applied generally to naval defence, it would be fatal.
– In Great Britain, they provide every year what they are going to do in the matter of ship-building.
– But upon a plan extending over many years.
– And they provide for the very latest improvement in naval construction, and so forth. Already differences have arisen in the construction of the vessels; the last two yearshave seen great changes, and every succeeding two years will see further changes. Admiral Henderson, in suggesting four periods, did so, I think, for more than one reason. While outlining a certain plan, he believed, apparently, that each period would see improvements ; and I contend that we have a right to change in accordance with advice that may be given to us.
– Admiral Henderson tells us why he divided the time into four periods.
– But we may read into his report what I have suggested ; and, in my opinion, the Government are quite correct in the view they take. We pledge ourselves to spend the money, but the Government should be quite at libertyto take any equally good or, it may be, superior advice that may be given : indeed, any Government would be lacking in their duty if they did otherwise.
– Every one says that.
– Then why should the Opposition clamour for the acceptance of the scheme in globo? We have accepted part of it; but if any better scheme is forthcoming we should certainly adopt it.
.- Admiral Henderson divided the time for the carrying out of his scheme into four periods, with a view to the money being provided in accordance with’ the anticipated increase in population. He was under the obligation to supply a scheme extending over a number of years, because the money is to be derived from revenue, and not from any accumulated fund or loan; and he bases his recommendation on the principle that the population shall be expected to provide only a certain amount in each period. For the first period of seven years£3,000,000 per annum is to be provided; for the second period of five years,£4,000,000 per annum; for the third period, £4,500,000 per annum; and for the fourth period, £5,000,000 per annum.
No doubt there will be improvements in naval construction, but if we are to wait until the last word has been said in naval construction we shall never have a Fleet at all. On the highest technical authority we have before us a scheme which will take a certain length of time to, complete; and even since that scheme was devised much has occurred to make us wish that its completion might be made much earlier. From all portents, it, may be that the supreme occasion for the use of a Fleet will arise long before that time. I am not opposing the Bill ; but the Minister will see that the second clause provides for reducing the subsidy and the number of His Majesty’s ships onthe Australian Station.
This is being done at a time when the Government have not provided the money which Admiral Henderson pointed out they should provide in order to carry out the scheme even for a complete unit. We should have placed£6,000,000 aside for the last two years, and £3,000,000 for the coming year, but we are over £1,000,000 short of last year’s contribution. This money ought to have been taken out of “revenue, and placed into a Trust Account to provide for ships and works to be constructed.
The main point is the finding of the money ; if we have the money we shall get the ships and the works, and my complaint is that we are asked to reduce the Imperial Fleet before we have made provision for its substitute. The Prime Minister, a few weeks ago, in reply to pointed questions, “said that he adopted Admiral Henderson’s scheme; and as it has been the universal opinion of the country up to now that that scheme is being carried out, it will come as a shock to those who are interested in the supreme question of defence, to find that the Government are providing only for this Unit, representing less than one-fourth of the Fleet. We have an immense area of country, with a vast coast-line to protect, and enormous interests at stake; and Admiral Henderson has said that we shall require two Divisions under two Admirals, one in the east and one in the west, to patrol the ocean for the defence of our local commerce and our commerce from oversea. It is absurd to suppose that this country can be defended by a Unit consisting of one strong vessel and a number of smaller ones, which are mainly intended for harbor defence. To say that the country is safe under such circumstances is a delusion, a mockery, and a snare.
Before this Bill is passed we ought to have a clear and definite statement from the Government whether or not they mean to carry out Admiral Henderson’s scheme, which,, it must be remembered, is a scheme put forward by them, and not by the Opposition when they were in power. Admiral Henderson came here after the late Government left office.
– The Opposition claim that it is their scheme.
– The facts are plain. The Fleet Unit was ordered by the late Government in consonance with an arrangement arrived at by the Imperial Conference of 1909 ; but, as I say, Admiral Henderson came out when the present Government were in power, and it was under their instructions that his scheme was prepared.- It has gone forth throughout the British Possessions and all over the world that this great scheme, which involves the construction of a large number of vessels of various kinds, has been adopted, and is being proceeded with out of revenue. Admiral Henderson calls at;tention to the necessity for continuity of policy - everything done is to lead up to the completion of the scheme. As the honorable member for Parramatta pointed out, no navy in the world has ever been constructed in a day.
– We should have the money, though.
– We shall either haveto find the money or do without defence; we cannot “ have our cake and eat it.” If the Government mean that this country is not to be defended, the people ought to understand so. If the country says, as the Minister put it, that it does not want to go on with defence-
– I did not say any such thing. The honorable member wilfully misrepresents me.
– It ill becomes the Minister to say that, as he was convicted just now of having misled honorable members right and left. I had no intention to misrepresent. If I understood the honorable gentleman-
– I made no such statement.
– The Minister said they could not commit the country beyond the next general elections. o
– It seemed to me an extraordinary statement, inconsistent with the maritime policy of all the countries with which I am acquainted. Reference was made to Germany. They do many things in Germany which we do not do, but in the Mother Country they frame a programme for six or seven years ahead.
– Subject to the declaration of the people at the general elections.
– They change their mode of construction, it may be - adopt new ships - but they adhere to their scheme. We shall do the same, I hope. We may have to spend more than the amount estimated by Admiral Henderson.
– We have made changes in the Unit already.
– Yes. In this year’s Estimates about £450,000 extra is put down to cover the excessive cost of construcing one or two of the “ships through their being put together in Australia, and brought up-to-date. I presume that if a scheme be laid down, whatever Government may be in power will consistently carry it out, and, if improvements are needed, will make them. This is not a party matter, although it is one in which the country takes a live interest. The Minister’s statement will come as an immense surprise to the people, who believed that the Government were determined, above all things, to provide for defence. The Prime Minister, speaking on: the Budget, replied to an interjection of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that if you touched defence you had to do it completely, and that otherwise you might leave it alone.
– What is the matter with that statement?
-I indorse it. It shows that the right honorable gentleman knows what he ought to do, but I am afraid that he is not doing it. He is not finding the money, which is the first condition of success. The people and Parliament have not been fairly treated by Ministers in refusing to take us into their confidence, as is done in Great Britain. They should propound a scheme, tell us what they mean to do, and give us the assurance that what they propose will be carried out.
– If the desire to obtain information, and to assist the Government, were half as strong as the desire to find fault, honorable members would be better acquainted with the position. I did not say that the Government would not defend the country, nor that they would not find the money necessary for defence, nor make any of the statements which have been attributed to me by those who, recognising that they could not reply to argument, have been forced to set up scare-crows to knock them down again. What I said is that the Government are committed financially to the first portion of Admiral Henderson’s scheme, which is divided into four eras.
– He recommended an expenditure of£3,000,000 per annum for the first period.
– A few days ago the honorable member particularly objected to interjections of any description, and asked for the protection of the Chair ; but when others are speaking he is too prone to interject in a manner that does not reflect credit on him. Admiral Henderson recommended that the requirements of the Commonwealth completed Fleet should be met in four eras, of which the first would consist of seven years, and the remaining three of five years each. The first era ends in 1918. The Government are committed to provide practically what is recommended in Admiral Henderson’s scheme for that era, but, financially, to nothing more. As each era arrives, or the time for its consideration comes, the Government will give it the attention it deserves in the light of the knowledge then possessed, and will submit their intentions to the electors, who, I have no doubt, will indorse our proposals as they did nearly three years ago. If I understand the honorable member for Parramatta correctly, he would, if in office, regardless of to-morrow or twenty years hence, commit this country to an expenditure of , £88,000,000. The proposal of Admiral Henderson was to spread that expenditure over a period of twenty-two years. This Government are not prepared to commit Australia to-day to the expenditure of that sum. As each era approaches, and the necessity for undertaking the work recommended arrives-
– The honorable member says that the Government are committed for a period of seven years.
– We are committed to the construction of the first Fleet Unit and its requirements for the first era.
– More than the Fleet Unit must be provided in the first era.
– I include the naval bases and other things.
– There are other ships as well.
– As the occasion arises, the Government will submit its proposals for defence to the country. I wish to point out that each era mentioned in the report can stand by itself. In each era he suggests a Fleet Unit which is a Unit workable within itself and by itself ; but the four together will form a Fleet, and each piece of work which is being done will dovetail in with, and is in keeping with, the whole scheme; so that not one penny of expenditure is being indulged in which will either prevent, or even necessitate, the expenditure of a penny in a single era if the people of that era and the Parliament do not require it to be expended. Moreover, the methods of defence are altering so quickly that it seems to me it would be vastly impolitic for any Government to commit the country to an expenditure extending over so long a period.
– I am sorry that I cannot allow the honorable member to get away with this tissue of misrepresentations.
– Order 1 The honorable member is not in order in making that remark.
– It is a tissue of misrepresentations so far as I am concerned. I repudiate the Minister’s statements. They are not correct ; they are misrepresentations. He alleged that he understood me to say that if. I were in office T should at once commit this country to an expenditure of £88,000,000.
– Hear, hear So we all believe.
– I can begin to understand how it is that my honorable friends want to get away from the press. If they say all these things in the back country, where the press cannot get at them, they will have a fine old time. But they cannot get away from them here. We can follow up the wilfully absurd statements that they are making the whole time, and prick these little bubbles as they arise. I made no such statement as has been attributed to me. Only a diseased imagination could read it into what I said. I am not responsible for the Honorary Minister’s mental meanderings. I cannot help them. I much regret that we have a Minister conducting these affairs who is addicted to that kind of thing. It is unfortunate that, with our defence system, we cannot get an accurate statement from him at any time. He never makes a statement which is not a wilful distortion.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in using that expression.
– I withdraw the remark if it is not in order.. Really, the Minister hardly ever makes a correct statement in reply to an honorable member in the House. He has put into my mouth a statement which no one else here could dream of. Now he says that the Government are committing themselves to the first era of naval defence - a Fleet Unit. He evidently thinks that the construction of the Fleet Unit is all that has to be done in the first era. He must know better. ‘ He is trying to keep this information from the House. According to Admiral . Henderson, much more had to be done in the first era than to build a Fleet Unit. There were millions to be spent on naval bases and naval works, which he said should be hurried on at the earliest moment. A dep6t ship, he says, ought to be completed in 19 14; but no provision is made in that direction. The matter will not come before the House, so far as we know, until the last half of 1913. Admiral Henderson says there should be built a dep8t ship of 5,000 tons displacement in 1914.
– He says it should be built at the end of 1914; that is two years and four months from the present time.
– Is it really? Does the honorable member imagine that it will be built?
– It is quite possible, un* less the contractor-
– It is quite possible that the Minister may make a sensible interjection at some time or other. Is it not absurd for him to sit here and talk such rot over this important matter? He knows well that, unless something special is done in a few days, this depot ship cannot be built in the time..
– Now read the report.
– According to this scheme of Admiral Henderson’s, a dep6t ship is to be completed in 1914, three, additional submarines are to be built in 1916, and three more in 1917. That is to say, in the next five years, a depot vessel, three submarines, and three torpedoboats, are to be built in addition to the Unit, in addition to the expenditure on all these works. It is set out at the end of the report how £3,000,000 per annum is to be spent for seven years. Two years of that period have gone. The Minister told us, in his amended statement just now, that the Government are going to carry out the scheme for this period; but they are deliberately going over a million behind this year. Have they any prospect of catching up that next year? If the Minister’s statement is to stand, it means that next year they are going to spend £4,000,000 on naval defence, in addition to £2,000,000 on land defence. It is time that we got’ some de- ‘ finite, coherent statement from the Government in regard , to these proposals. I do not know whether the statement of the Minister will stand - it fe the latest and the most authentic utterance of the Government on the matter - but if that is the case, there is a very serious financial time ahead for this country. If the Government let this naval building get behind, I see very little prospect of them catching, up in the near future.- One of my criticisms is that, while they are piling up expenditure on absurd Socialistic schemes, frittering money away, this useful part k not being met as they have undertaken to meet it, and as they say it should be met. That is my answer to the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
– I move - That theHouse do now adjourn.
The first business to-morrow after the third reading of the Naval Agreement Bill will be the second reading of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill. There are sundry small Bills which will be taken, if possible. On Tuesday the debate on the second reading of the Navigation Bill will be resumed. On Thursday, it is proposed to meet at half-past 10 o’clock, and to sit until 1 o’clock, so that those who wish to go to the ceremony at Port Augusta may be able to leave in the afternoon.
.- This afternoon, the Prime Minister gave notice of his intention to resume for Government business the time allotted to private members. Is that to begin how ?
– Yes, I will move accordingly.
– Then there is to be no more private members’ business this session.
– I would point out that there is one important matter which was brought forward by a private member, now under consideration, still in doubt, namely, the motion of the honorable member for Illawarra, in reference to the Northern Territory Lands Ordinance.
-We will give the House a full opportunity of discussing the thing itself.
– What does the Prime Minister mean by “ the thing itself “ ?
-The Prime Minister means that it will come before us as a definite Ministerial proposal ?
– In some way that will meet the honorable member’s view.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 September 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120905_reps_4_65/>.