4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., andread prayers.
– Yesterday, the honor able member for North Sydney referred to Military Order 497, relating to the firing exercises of senior cadets, and I told him that that order had been’ suspended. I have since found that that is not so, and desire at the earliest moment to make this correction.
– When is the
Minister of Home Affairs likely to take steps towards having plans prepared for what he calls the shell of the Federal Parliament House, and for the other buildings which must be erected before the Seat of Government can be removed to the Capital site ?
– The matter will be gone into as soon as the Board which has been appointed furnishes a report on the designs.
– In view of certain difficulties which have arisen in connexion ‘ with the furnishing of birth certificates, has the Prime Minister anyinformation to give the House regarding the arrangements made for the obtaining of certificates in connexion with employment in the Commonwealth Public Service?
– The Premiers of the States have agreed that in furnishing certificates of the registration of birth no unnecessary particulars shall be given.
MINISTERS laid upon the table thefollowing papers : -
Government House, Sydney - Copy of letter to be included in the correspondence between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales respecting occupancy by the Governor-General.
Ordered to be printed.
Census and Statistics Act - Regulation - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 184.
Northern Territory Lands Acquisition Ordinance - Land acquired under, at Goyder (Hundred of), County ofPalmerston, Northern Territory - For Experimental Farms.
Public Service Act - Department ofHome Affairs - Appointment of L. Haslam, as Draughtsman - Recommendations.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - .
Universal Training -
Statutory Rules 1912, Nos. 176-178.
Military Forces -
Statutory Rules 1912, No, 175.
Mr.KELLY.- I ask the Attorney-
General if the newspaper statement that the Government have withdrawn the information against Mr. Knox, the chairman of directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, is correct?
– Does the honorable member refer to a Police Court prosecution?
– All the Informations have been withdrawn.
– Why did the Government proceed against Sir Normand MacLaurin, who was on a sick bed, and withdraw the information against Mr. Knox, who, I understand, disturbed the peace of the Royal Commission when sitting in Sydney?
– The information was withdrawn against Mr. Knox and his codirectors because the law had been stated by the magistrate in the case against Sir Normand MacLaurin, and the question at issue had been referred to the Supreme Court of New South Wales. We are satisfied to leave the matter to the decision of the superior Court.
– Why was Mr. Knox not prosecuted, seeing that he was the source of the trouble, when Sir Normand MacLaurin was fined, although guilty of only a technical offence?
– The Department, in directing prosecutions, acts in the way which it thinks most conducive to the public interest. That is why the course to which the honorable member refers was taken.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he was requested by the Queensland Opposition to use his influence with Mr. Asquith in regard to the protest against the King’s assent to the Arbitration Bill recently passed by the Queensland Parliament?
– I had heard nothing about the matter until the honorable member asked this question.
Undergrounding of Telephone Wires - Wireless Stations, Western Australia and Queensland - Common Battery and Automatic Telephones
– Has the PostmasterGeneral seen the article in to-day’s Argus, headed “ The Man on the Job”? If so, I ask him whether the statements in that article are correct, or anything like correct?
– I again point out to honorable members that the asking of questions, based on rumours or reports in the newspapers, is contrary to the rules of procedure, and I ask honorable members not to ask such questions.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General if it is true that 200 men have recently been put off the telephone tunnel work in the suburbs of Melbourne; secondly, if a deputation has waited upon him from the Navvies Union with respect to that matter; and, thirdly, if it is the intention of the Government to re-start the works on a new and better system?
– It is true that, on the completion of the work on which they were engaged, certain gangs have been discharged. It is not correct, although it soon will be correct, that a deputation of those who were working on these particular jobs will wait upon me; I expect them this evening. It is not correct to state that there is any association between statements that have been made as to how the work has been conducted and the fact that we are discharging certain men. We are finishing up the jobs, and dispensing with the services of the men. It is intended to keep sufficient men to carry out the works which are outlined for the current financial year, and it is estimated thatthe whole of the works provided for in the Estimates will be completed by the men who will be retained by the 30th June.
– In view of the grave anxiety recently felt for the safety of shipping voyaging between the eastern and western States, I ask the Postmaster General when the wireless telegraph station at Fremantle will be open for public business ?
– The engineer for radiotelegraphy departed for Western Australia yesterday. He intends to open the Adelaide station to-day., and then to proceed to Fremantle. If the tests are satisfactory, the Fremantle station will be opened for public business about this day week. I might add that a gang has already been sent to Western Australia for the purpose of erecting three additional stations along the north-west coast, which we hope to have working by the end of April next.
– Is it the intention of the Postmaster-General to erect a wireless telegraphic station at Cooktown in the immediate future?
– Yes. The gangs have, I believe, finished the Brisbane station, and the work of constructing stations at
Townsville, Rockhampton, and Cooktown, will be proceeded with. It is expected that six stations - namely, three on the northern side and three on the western side - will be completed about the end of April.
Mr.W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.- Is the Postmaster-General able to tell the House what is the position regarding the Pennant Hills wireless station ?
-The pulley, wheel, which unfortunately broke the other day, has been fixed up, and the station is, I believe, working comparatively satisfactorily.
– Is it in full working order?
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he place on the table of the House the whole of the correspondence and official documents which passed between the firm of Clarke, Padley, & Co., of Melbourne, and the Postal Department concerning proposals and offers in connexion with the introduction of the common battery and automatic systems of telephones?
– I have not the least objection to letting the honorable member see the file in question, but do not think it advisable to place it upon the table of the House.
asked the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -
When will an automatic switchboard be installed at the Ballarat Telephone Exchange?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
I am unable to say. An order was placed some time ago for a modern common battery switchboard of the latest pattern to be installed at Ballarat, and the work of its erection has already been commenced. It is proposed, when new switchboards are required in telephone exchanges with more than 500 existing lines, to give consideration to the suitableness of automatic and semi-automatic systems. The working of the automatic switchboard at present installed atGeelong is being carefully watched, and the experience gained will be utilized in deciding the type of working to be adopted in other telephone network, each of which must, however, be considered entirely on its own merits.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister of Defence any information to give the House pertaining to the cost of uniforms?
– The information regarding the cost of uniforms for the Permanent Military Forces will be available in the course of a few days. The other information desired by the honorable gentleman is as follows : -
asked the Minister of
Home Affairs, upon notice -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Claims of Public Servants Transferred from South Australia - Colonial Sugar Refining Company: Prosecutions - Independent Press Cable Service : Labour Daily Newspaper - Sleepers : Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Railway - Senior Cadet Training : Field Firing : Area Officers : Uniforms : Apportionment of Duties : Reimbursements - Summons for Non-attendance at Drill : Cadet Roberts - Home Affairs Department: Public Works Schedule - Sydney Post Office : Overtime.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I regret that, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, the exigencies of public business were such that it became necessary, so early in the session, to pass a motion which practically placed business in the names of private members on the shelf. It was because of that action I realized that I should not have the opportunity of dealing with. a motion which had appeared in my name on the paper for a considerable time ; and, therefore, I take this opportunity of bringing its subject-matter under the notice of honorable members. It was my intention to have moved, on the 3rd October -
That, as the Honorable Josiah Thomas (then Postmaster-General) on 15th December, 1 910, promised the officers to submit certain questions relating to the rights of South Australian transferred officers for settlement by arbitration on the grounds of equity only, and as, subsequently, the Attorney-General discovered that the then state of the law compelled the Government to withdraw such promise, and also, in view of the heavy costs of actions before the Arbitration Court and the grave doubt as to its untrammelled jurisdiction in matters of the accrued and accruing rights of transferred officers, this House directs that the three questions referred to by Mr. Thomas, namely, postmasters’ “ emoluments,” “ increments,” and “ age retirement,” be referred for settlement on the merits to a representative of the Government and representatives of the officers of the South Australian Post and Telegraph Service.
Although, presumably, there is no chance of my obtaining a vote on this important motion, I do hope that the Government will see their way to meet the wishes of a large body of men and women in South Australia who unanimously consider that an injustice has been done to them. This is not a question which merely affects this Government . It is one which involves the honour of this Parliament and the honour of the Commonwealth. I am going to ask the House whether it is prepared to allow to be broken what is practically a contract entered into in the name of the people of Australia with the officers of the Post and Telegraph service of, at least, South Australia. Some of my remarks will apply equally to officers of various other Departments - such, for instance, as the Department of Trade and Customs - in South Australia, who have not had their rights preserved; but, for the sake of convenience and conciseness, I shall confinemyself this afternoon to a statement of the case, as I understand it, on behalf of the Post and Telegraph Association of South Australia. I shall endeavour to show that, intentionally or not, by accident or design, something approaching a confidence trick has been perpetrated on a large body of men and women who, under State control, gave enthusiastic and loyal service to the Crown, as the result of which, an undertaking was given that their positions would not be worse, but rather better, when they came under the control of the Federal authorities. I know many of these men and women. Some of them were schoolmates of mine, many are old friends, and, from my knowledge of them, I have no hesitation in saying that they are a fine body of men and women, of whom the Public Service of Australia has every reason to be proud. They are giving to-day loyal and enthusiastic service to the public, and the Parliament of the Commonwealth ought not only to be prepared to listen to their appeal for fair play, but should be eager to give them justice. A feeling of intense surprise and chagrin came over officers when, in June, 1904, the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner’s “ classification “ was issued, and it was found that the salaries of a large number of officials were reduced. Prior to that, there was not a man in the Service who did not implicitly rely on the Constitution and the Commonwealth Public Service Act preserving “ all the existing and accruing rights “ enjoyed under State Acts. About 100 postmasters had their incomes detrimentally affected in sums of from ^5 to ,£150 per annum - an average of about ;£34: - and eighty or ninety officers, entitled to “increments,” were called upon to lose from £Io to ,£30 per annum - most of them ^25. When classifying the Service in 1904, the Commis»sioner found postmasters and postmistresses in South Australia in. receipt of certain payments or allowances, such as rebate on sale of postage stamps - of these there were only a few - cases - and Savings Bank salary, &c, in addition to statutory salary. With the exception of one or two small allowances, such as fees for registering births and deaths, which the postmaster retained only until transferred to another office, the Commissioner abolished all emoluments, and, with only two or three exceptions, classified the officers at their statutory salary. The result was that sixty-four postmasters, and a large number of other officers, were deprived of portion of the remuneration which they had receive1?! under State control. Several postmasters were also deprived of increments to their statutory salary, which had accrued, and were accruing, under State law. The question to which we have to direct our attention this afternoon seems to me to be, “ Why should officers be penalized when transferred from the State service to the greater service of the Commonwealth?” That that was not intended by the framers of the Constitution I shall show by making one or two small quotations - they could be extended - from the reports of the Federal Convention. At the Adelaide sittings of the Convention, in April, 1897, Mr. O’Connor - now Mr. Justice O’Connor - used these words - .
I think we are all agreed that when an officer is taken over’ by the Commonwealth, he should not be placed in an unfair position or lose any rights by being taken over, because it is no fault of his that the continuity of his service has been broken.
Then we have no less an authority than Mr. Isaacs - now Mr. Justice Isaacs - saying
I think it is important to put in the word “ accruing.” It is a principle we have adopted in Victoria. When gigantic establishments like the Post Office and Customs are taken over, there must be some hundreds and thousands of officers taken over, some of whom have rights now existing, and others who have rights accruing. In Victoria, when we have passed new Public Service Acts, we have been very careful not to take away from a man any interest he may have acquired when he joined the Service, irrespective of whether those interests have ripened into actual rights or remain in an inchoate state. When we transfer men to the Commonwealth - and this is the point I wish to emphasize - it behoves us to do them no injury. We ought to preserve to them not only their existing, but their accruing rights.
Another member of the Convention, Mr. Gordon - now Mr. Justice Gordon - referring to the public officers, said, ‘ ‘ Let all their rights be preserved.” He went on to say -
It is our duty to see that the civil servants do not suffer through the establishment of Federation.
These quotations from the proceedings of the Federal Convention prepare us for a declaration made in this House by a re-* presentative of the Government of the day, Sir William Lyne, in moving the second reading of the Bill. According to Hansard for 1901-2, page 1084, he made, on behalf of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, a promise that the promissory notes - if I may so express the situation - issued by the Federal Convention would be redeemed by this Parliament. He said -
I wish to emphasize the point that under clauses 51 and 52 of this Bill, and under section 84 of the Commonwealth Constitution Act, there is a provision to make it quite certain that no trouble shall arise with regard to transferred officers, and that all the rights that accrue to those officers who are taken over from the various States will be respected.
– Is not this provision practically a repetition of the words of the Constitution? Is there anything gained by putting the provision in this Bill? The Commonwealth Act requires us to do everything that this clause says, and no further enactment is required.
Sir William Lyne, however, desired to emphasize the provision, and he said -
It will show to the public servants that we are not unmindful of their rights, and of the way we are directed by the Commonwealth Act to deal with them.
That pledge made in this Chamber imposes an obligation on this Parliament to-day. I do not know what public servants in other States were promised when the public were invited to vote “ Yes “ for Federation, but
I do know that in South Australia from the public platform, as well as in the press, State servants who were likely to be taken over by the Federation were distinctly promised that their existing position would be improved in the Federal Service. On 18th May, 1899, Messrs. C. C. Kingston, then Premier, and Holder, then Treasurer, of South Australia, addressed a meeting convened by the South Australian Public Service Association for the purpose of giving civil servants an opportunity of hearing their views on the Commonwealth Bill. They said that public servants would lose nothing by Federation; the rights of transferred officers were amply preserved under the Constitution. On the contrary, said Messrs. Kingston and Holder, they thought the probabilities were that the public servants would gain by the transfer. Public servants, they declared, had everything to hope for, and nothing to fear from Federation. But the experience of a large body of men and women in South Australia is that that promise has not been fulfilled, and the South Australian Post and Telegraph Association, which comprises a large body of officers, set out their claims as follows : - “(1)That the Federal Convention intended that no transferred officer should be worse off under Federal control than he was under State control, and enactedsection 84 to insure that intention being carried into effect. (2) That the first Federal Parliament felt bound by section 84 to respect the rights of transferred officers, hence section 60, Commonwealth Public Service Act. (See Sir William Lyne’s speech in moving second reading - Federal Hansard, Session 1901-2, page 1084 ; also see Quick and Garran’s Commentaries on Constitution, page 818, and pages 656-661.). (3) The High Court in Cousens v. the Commonwealth ruled that officers did take over with them rights - such as the right to a certain salary - in their transfer from the State, but that the Federal Parliament was a competent authority to vary or abolish such rights. (4) That the Public Service Commissioner, finding himself clothed with all the powers of Parliament in respect of Service matters, exercised the power claimed for the Parliament by the High Court in the Cousens case, without regard to the moral obligations imposed on the Commonwealth by the tacit agreement between the Convention and the Service (vide section 84), and in disregard of the direction given him in section 60, Commonwealth Public Service Act, by the First Federal Parliament. (5) That this action of the Commissioner, under the circumstances, amounted to an abuse of power, and, though his action by virtue of the powers conferred upon him by the Public Service Act has the force of law, it was an unjust and oppressive action, and a distinct repudiation of the Commonwealth’s obligations towards its servants. (6) That the law, apart from the Commissioner’s action, did not forbid, but clearly contemplated, the continuance, until their natural expiration, of the accrued and accruing rights of transferred officers. (7) That, in view of the Attorney-General’s statement that the Commissioner would not have been acting unconstitutionally had he, in his classification, recognised and provided for the accrued and accruing rights of transferred officers, the matters in dispute should, by direction of Parliament, be settled by arbitration on the grounds of equity without involving the officers in the heavy costs of a suit before the High Court or the Arbitration Court.”
The Federal Attorney-General, in a letter dated 26th February, 1911, addressed to the South Australian Post and Telegraph Association, said -
In making the first classification of the Clerical Division, I know of nothing in the Public Service Act which prevents the Commissioner from recommending that any officer be placed in any class or subdivision which he thinks appropriate - whether that involves an increase or a diminution in the salary and emoluments previously received by the officer.
That clearly shows that, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, there was nothing to prevent the Public Service Commissioner from recognising the claims of his officers, and the promise contained in the Constitution, which promise was also made on behalf of the Government of the day by Sir William Lyne. The following is a copy of a letter sent to the Postmaster-General, Melbourne, on behalf of the South Australian Post and Telegraph Association, and as it contains their case in a very short compass, I wish to submit it to the House.
Copy of letter to Postmaster-General, Melbourne, dated Adelaide, 7th December, 1911, from South Australian Post and Telegraph Association.
We have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 24th ult., and beg to thank you for same, and for minutes of deputation.
The managing committee of this association desires us to express its great regret that you are unable to meet the wishes of the South Australian officers with regard to the requests placed before the Prime Minister in a memorandum of the 14th October. The committee had hoped that the principles involved in the “ accrued and accruing rights” questions, and also in the claims of the South Australian postmistresses to be placed on the same footing with postmistresses occupying similar offices in New South Wales and Tasmania, would have appealed to the sympathies of your Government. Indeed, the association is most reluctant to believe that the present Government, by adopting a negative attitude in regard to the flagrant injustices inflicted upon South Australian transferred officers by the Commissioner at the time of classification, indorses the repudiation of the moral obligation imposed upon the Commonwealth by clause 84 of the Constitution, and recognised by the Federal Parliament in clause 60 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Nor does it seem possible that the Commissioner’s demand that the postmistresses shall accept a degradation in status as a condition precedent to receiving a small increase of salary, can have the approval of a Labour Ministry. To indicate how keenly the postmistresses feel the slight cast upon them by the Commissioner, I beg to quote the text of a letter from a postmistress declining the Commissioner’s offer - “ In reply to your letter received on the 22nd instant, I note your acknowledgment that an increase to my salary is possible, but I must respectfully decline the alteration of my designation and subsequent degradation from the Clerical to the General Division. I have done nothing to deserve such indignity, and I feel I should be wanting in self-respect if I accepted it.”
Most of the postmistresses have indicated their intention not to accept the increased salary with such a condition, and my committee respectfully but strongly urges that increases should be given and their present designations retained.
From inquiries made, we gather that it is doubtful whether the accrued and accruing rights questions come within the scope of the Public Service Arbitration Bill now before the Federal Parliament. If the Court has jurisdiction on these matters, however, they appear to be prejudged by the provision that awards may be disallowed by Parliament if they conflict with the Commonwealth law or regulations.
With regard to the legal position stated to us by the Honorable the Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes was good enough to advance the opinion in a letter of 22nd February, that, had the Commissioner granted the claims of transferred officers in his classification, he would not have acted contrary to law. It is clear to us, therefore, that it was an act of the Commissioner - as a deputy of Parliament - which raised the legal difficulties spoken of by the Honorable the Attorney-General, and not any express act or intention of the Legislature.
Our committee would be glad to know if your letter of the , 14th November must be regarded as final reply of the Government to the association’s requests, contained in memorandum of the 14th October, to the Prime Minister. Also whether it will be competent to submit the questions of “accrued and accruing rights” to the Arbitration Court under the proposed Act, and which of the matters mentioned by us are covered by the proposed, amendments to the Public Service Act, vide paragraph 4 in your letter.
The only reply to that letter was to the effect that the Postmaster-General thought these accrued and accruing rights of transferred officers could be dealt with by . the Arbitration Court, but the Court itself would decide what matters were within its jurisdiction. Those matters to which I am referring are not new to the present Postmaster- General, or his predecessor. The grievances have been felt for a considerable time, and are causing discontent, more or less, throughout the Department, which has given, and is prepared to give in the future, loyal service to the public. So impressed was the predecessor of the present PostmasterGeneral with the facts brought before him that he made a distinct promise to this Association in Adelaide. The following are extracts taken from an official report of a deputation to the then Postmaster-General, the present Minister of External Affairs, on the 15th December, 1910 -
Mr. Macdonald said that when the Constitution was being prepared the position of the transferred officers was considered to be an important one in the opinion of the Convention. . . . Mr. Trenwith had said that unless the rights of the transferred officers were protected, a large number of the community might be induced to vote against Federation in defence of their own rights and their living, and in defence of justice. That was practically the keynote of the matter in connexion with the rights of transferred officers.
The Postmaster-General said that if that was the point, they would see that, in view of all that had taken place in the past, it was rather a difficult thing for the Government to say that it would pay these emoluments, but he would promise that if the officers would suggest a friendly suit to meet the case, the Government would do all it could to meet them.
Mr. Lucy said that Mr. Glynn, M.P.,had suggested such a course, but the Government said “no.” Mr. Glynn said he had had the utmost difficulty in getting any information whatever. All at once the position changed. The Cousens case came before the High Court, and Mr. Glynn advised them not to go on with a case in the face of the Cousens case, as the expenses would be heavy if they lost.
The Postmaster-General said he did not want anything of that kind, or to put them to any expense.
Mr. Macdonald said that before any decision was arrived at as to the suit, he would like to know whether it would be a question of equity or law.
Mr. Lucy. ; Arbitration or law?
The Postmaster-General said he would like them to have some one who would be mutually agreed upon as arbitrator. If they agreed to a Judge, they would endeavour to get one. There should be no difficulty in getting an. arbitrator in the matter.
Mr. Macdonald said they would have to submit the proposal to the Association, but he thought the wisdom - of the suggestion would commend itself, to the officers. He thanked the Minister for the proposal. Would the matter of increased payment (really the matter of increments) also be submitted to arbitration?
The Postmaster-General. - Yes. That ‘could be considered..
asked as to legal expenses, and the right of officers to be present to state their case and to give evidence.
The Postmaster-General said, if possible, he would like to have no lawyers in the case, and to decide the matter on equity. They wanted to see justice done, and the men could, of course, get away. He presumed it was quite clear that this arbitration referred only to transferred officers.
At a later stage the Postmaster-General said - . . . He was very pleased to meet the representatives, and to have a talk with them. He could only say that, so far as the first matter was concerned (that of the postmasters’ emoluments), they could have this friendly suit. Mr. Batchelor, M.P-, would be acting for him for a. fortnight, during which he (Mr. Thomas) would be away, and they could make arrangements with him as far as arbitration was concerned. They could rely on him to deal with the matter.
Mr. Lucy. That will refer to three things emoluments, increments, and age of retirement.
The Postmaster-General replied that he had not said anything about the last, but it could be inserted.
Mr. Virgo asked whether the arbitration referred to all State rights?
The Postmaster-General said that what he had stated was that it referred to those who had these emoluments prior to Federation, and had had them taken away.
Mr. Hiscock said the question of their right to remain in the service beyond the age of 65 was a State right.
The Postmaster-General said that was not raised at the time. Apparently, there was no age limit at the time of Federation.
Mr. Hiscock said there was a clause in the Act which permitted an officer to remain indefinitely if competent.
The Postmaster-General said that after Federation the State had made the retiring age 70. But he had no objection to submitting the point to arbitration.
The following is an extract from the report of the deputation to the then PostmasterGeneral at Adelaide, on the 4th January, 1911 -
Mr. Lucy asked the Minister whether he would Acquiesce in the nomination of Mr. Commissioner Russell as arbitrator in connexion with the questions to be submitted to arbitration, as agreed upon at the deputation of 15th December, or whether he would prefer Mr. Justice Higgins?
The Minister said he had seen Mr. Batchelor (Minister for External Affairs), who had been dealing with the matter in his absence. He felt it would be a little inadvisable to have Mr. Russell, and he preferred, and felt sure the Government would prefer, the nomination of Mr. Justice Higgins.
On the 14th January, 191 1, the following telegram was sent to Mr. E. R. Lucy, President of the South Australian Post and Telegraph Association -
I am desired by Postmaster-General to inform you Government agreeable to friendly suit in High Court to decide questions of legal rights in dispute. Every effort be made to minimize costs. Government favours settlement of other than legal questions by arbitration. Details to be arranged by Attorney-General. (Sig.) Oxenham,
Then we come to another stage of these negotiations as shown in the following extract from the report of a deputation from the South Australian Post and Telegraph Association which waited on the then PostmasterGeneral in Melbourne on the 17th February, 19 11 -
Mr. Hiscock …. Now, you offered us arbitration on three points when you were in Adelaide - on the postmasters’ emoluments question, on the increment question, and on the question of age retirement. Since you returned to Melbourne, we have had a telegram from you modifying that to some extent. Can you now let us see where we stand with reference to those points? Because, if the questions are to be submitted to arbitration, we need not deal with them now.
– On those matters, I would like you to see the Attorney-General. As far as I am concerned, and as far as the Government is concerned, we are prepared to submit every question it is possible to arbitration. If, however, there are any questions which cannot constitutionally be submitted to arbitration, then we are willing to have a friendly suit; but, in regard to every question which can be submitted to arbitration, we are willing to submit it. On these matters I would be very glad for you to see thS Attorney-General, and deal with him. Everything we can legally and constitutionally submit to arbitration will be submitted. In regard to the other questions, we cannot submit them to arbitration, as it is not in our power to do so.
– Your statement in the telegram does not amount to any modification of your previous unconditional offer, because you remember you said : “ Keep the lawyers out of it. We only want justice.”
– I cannot say what the law is
Dr is not. My wish and the wish of the Government is to have the whole thing settled; all, if possible, by arbitration. Where there are constitutional questions which cannot be settled by arbitration, it is impossible for us to say what will be done. But in regard to any point which can possibly be referred to arbitration, the Government are quite prepared, willing and anxious to have it referred. We cannot say anything about those questions which cannot be referred to arbitration. While you are here, you must see the Attorney-General on these points, and you can deal with him. As far as the Government is concerned, we are only too anxious, but we cannot go behind the law and the Constitution. As far as I am personally concerned, I am one of those who are against the lawyers every time ; but, at the same time, we have” a Constitution, and I am not in a position to say that we can go behind the Constitution.
This brings us to an interview between the Association and the Federal AttorneyGeneral which took place in Melbourne on the 18th February, 1911. The following is an extract from the report of what then took place -
Mr. Hiscock stated the position in which South Australian officers stood with regard to postmasters’ emoluments, increments under State law, and the right of officers to remain in the Service till incapacitated, irrespective of age.
Mr. Macdonald supported and claimed that, though State Acts had been superseded by Federal legislation and the Commissioner’s classification, the Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1902, section 60, kept alive certain rights enjoyed by transferred officers under State control. Section 60 was practically a repetition of section 34 of the Constitution, and he quoted the words of Sir William Lyne when moving the second reading of the Public Service Bill in the House of Representatives. Sir William Lyne had said : “ I wish to emphasize the point that, under clauses 51 and 52 of this Bill (clause 60 of the Act), and under section 84 of the Constitution, there is a provision to make it absolutely certain that no trouble shall arise with regard to transferred officers, and that all rights that accrue to those officers who are taken over from the State will be respected.”
The Attorney-General, in the course of his reply, indicated that the three points mentioned by the delegates - “ emoluments, increments, and Retiring age” - could not be submitted to arbitration, but must be decided by the Courts. He quoted the case of Cousens v. The Commonwealth, “ in which the Court lays down the position very clearly, and decides that section 84 of the Constitution, preserving accruing and accrued rights, is subject to Commonwealth, legislation, and it is not a right that is immutable, but that it is subject to legislation by a competent body.” Opinions by various AttorneysGeneral supporting this view were quoted by the Attorney-General, all of which, he said, went to show that the points mentioned could not constitutionally be submitted to arbitration.
– -The Federal Convention, in dealing with the question of the rights of transferred officers, was faced . with the possibility that, if the transferred officers were left open to possibly unjust treatment by their new employer, they would vote against Federation. Those very words were used by one member of the Convention. The various members of the Convention referred to what had been done in a particular case in Victoria, and another case mentioned in India, when the servants of one company or one service went over with the business to another service. In each of these cases it was stated that the rights of the officers were so preserved that they could not suffer loss ; and clause 84 of the Constitution was designed by the Convention for their protection. I take that to be the whole tenor of the debate. It was designed to prevent the officers who were to be transferred being unjustly treated or losing anything under their new employer. That is the way we viewed it, and that is the way we accepted Federation.
The Attorney-General. - I quite agree with you, butwould like to point out the difference between a private employé who has a contract with an employer and a public officer who is working under a Statute, both being transferred, is that the one has a contract which is not at all subject to anything except the terms ofthat contract and its interpretation in a Court of law, while the other is working under a Statute which can be annulled., modified, or amended by a competent authority. When they are handed over or transferred to another public body either to a State or to the Commonwealth, that qualification upon their rights continues, and that other body, that other Legislature, whatever it may be, has the right to take away every privilege and every right which he possessed. That does not happen at all in the case of a person who has a private contract. If. you have a private contract with me that I must pay you, say, £10 a week for life, it does not matter how much the thing is transferred. It is like the case of an apprentice transferred by one employer to another - if the transfer is properly done, then all the apprentice’s rights continue to the transfer ree, and the new employer has upon him all the burden that the original employer had. The transfer does not alter it, nor can he alter it without consent. I only want to point out to you that the analogy of a private employer is quite different from that of the State employer. The South Australian Legislature could, if it liked, of course, simply say. that all its employes should have£600 a year, or on the other hand only£50 a year, and there would be an end of it so far as the law is concerned, but not of course so far as other things are concerned.
– Had that view of the case been put before the Service prior to Federation there is no doubt whatever that it would very seriously have affected its vote with regard to it. That decision practically makes clause 84 of the Constitution so much waste paper so far as we are concerned.
The Attorney-General. - That is perfectly right. The only point is that the interpreter of the Constitution is the Court. I am only giving you what the Court says, and its reading of what is declared to be the law. As to whether the thing is right or wrong is a matter upon which we can all have our opinions:
The South Australian Post and Telegraph Association has been legally advised that it is extremely unlikely that the Court would make an award retrospective to the date of their claim. Unless the award dated back to the time of the classification, in 1904, it would be absolutely useless to the South Australian officers. This supports their contention that the Arbitration Court cannot satisfactorily deal with the matter in dispute. I think I have shown: - 1. That it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution to provide that officers transferred to the Commonwealth should not be reduced in status or in salary. That is clearly shown by the debates in the Federal Convention, and by the provision in the Constitution. 2. That the first Federal Parliament, in the Public Service Bill, undertook to preserve all rights of public servants, it being stated on behalf of the Government of the day that provisions were included in the measure to make it quite certain that no trouble could arise with regard to transferred officers. 3. That the classification of the Public Service Commissioner not only did not preserve existing and accruing rights, but actually reduced officers in status and salary, and in respect to the age of retirement. 4- That, recognising the special claims of officers of the South Australian Post and Telegraph Association, a promise was given on behalf of the present Government, to refer their claims to an arbitrator - not the Arbitration Court. 5. That such promise cannot be redeemed by inviting the officers to take their case to the Arbitration Court, as the Court would not be likely to make an award retrospective to the date of their claims. If we are to have an efficient Public Service, we must remove all suspicion of grievance or cause for discontent. Officers in South Australia feel deeply that a grave injustice has been done- to them. They are appealing to their employer, the Commonwealth Government, representing the people of Australia, to consider their claims, and give them a fair and square deal. The people of this country were invited a few days ago, in eloquent phrases by a Minister of the Crown, to liken Australia to “ the great Temple of Liberty, the corner-stone of whose strongest arch is universal justice, and the Bill of Rights and our matchless Constitution are its solid foundation.” I accept that invitation, and to-day, on behalf of a deserving body of men and women, who are giving loyal service to the Commonwealth, I appeal to the Government and to this Parliament for that measure of justice which our “ matchless Constitution,” in the words of the Minister, decrees shall be given to these public servants. These men and women, loyal servants of the public as they are, ask for no favour or concession, but they do appeal to this Parliament and to the Government for a fair hearing of their claims, confident that those claims are reasonable, and that justice will eventually be done to them. Although I have not had the opportunity of moving the motion which I had upon the business-paper, and of obtaining from all sections of the House that support which I am sure would have been forthcoming to such a reasonable request, I do sincerely hope that the Postmaster-General will give this matter all the consideration that he possibly can, that he will realize the difficulties which confront the officers in approaching the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and that he will see if it is not possible for this -country to do bare justice to its servants. We do not want to reduce either the status or the salaries of the men and women who are giving such good service to the Commonwealth. We wish, rather, to remove all feelings of discontent from the ranks of the post and telegraph officials, because we recognise that they are rendering valuable service to the public. We want that service to be not only a loyal but an enthusiastic one, and the only way in which we can secure that object is to make these transferred officers feel that, when they left the State Service, they entered one which is prepared to pay them well, to deal justly by them, and to see that the conditions which they enjoyed under the State are fully preserved under the Commonwealth.
.- I must compliment the honorable member for Boothby upon the clear and convincing case which he has made out for Ministerial consideration of the claims of transferred officers. As far as my memory serves me, I can bear out his statement that the position of these officers is a matter upon which opinions have been given by AttorneysGeneral upon four or five different occasions. Their opinions related, not merely to the South Australian transferred officers, but also to the transferred officers of Victoria, and of some of the other States. In all cases, I think, the opinions stated that it was competent for this Parliament tointerfere with the salaries or privileges of such officers, which were the equivalent of payments, by legislative enactment. I think that was the advice which was given by ex-Senator Drake when he was AttorneyGeneral, and also by Sir Josiah Symon. If I remember rightly, Mr. Isaacs also expressed the opinion that certain claims made by transferred officers were capable of alteration by this Parliament. But the point is that, though the matters at issue are comparatively small in regard to some of the States, they amount to a very substantial sum in the case of the South Australiantransferred officers- As has been mentioned by the honorable member for Boothby, under the classification scheme which was adopted by the Public Service Commissioner, and which became effective onthe ist June, 1904, the South Australianpostal and telegraph officers suffered anincidental reduction of their salaries ranging from £5 to £150 per annum. I do not say that the Public Service Commissioner- was not obliged by the terms of the Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1901 to classify them in such a way that there would be an incidental reduction of their salaries. There may be two opinions upon that point I understand that the present Attorney-General has ventured the opinion that the classification might have been so made that the claims of the transferred officers could have been recognised. But, whether that be so or not, it is competent for this Parliament to so amend our Public Service Act - without referring this matter to the High Court - as to give to those officers who thought that their position would be untouched! by Federation, the salaries which they consider to be their “ accrued “ and “ accruing “ rights, as well as the other privileges which they would have enjoyed if Federation had not been consummated. The South Australian officers say that there are four privileges or rights which they enjoyed under the Public Service Act of that State which have been interfered with by Federation. The first is their right to annual increments of salaries, which would have placed them in a much better position financially than they occupy at the present time. The second is their right to extended furlough. The third has reference to the question of retirement. Under the South Australian Public Service Act, they were entitled to remain in the Service as long as they were capable of discharging their duties. There was no provision in that Act for their retirement upon reaching the age of sixtyfive years. They were also entitled as part of their salaries to an allowance in connexion with the sale of stamps and for business done by them in connexion with the Savings Banks. When all these amounts are totted up it. will be found that, through the classification scheme which was framed by the Public Service Commissioner, and adopted by this Parliament, there has been a very substantial reduction in the salaries and privileges which certain of these transferred officers enjoyed. When this matter was mentioned about 1903, I remember that Sir George Turner estimated that, in the case of South Australia, about ,£4,000 a year would have covered the whole amount which was then involved. It does seem to rr.e that at that time Parliament would have agreed to any amendment of our Public Service Act which would have made special, provision for these transferred officers. They did understand that the provision in the Constitution relating to their accrued and accruing rights would have preserved to them, not merely their pensions, but their annual increases as established by the South Australian Public Service Act of 1874. That Act has been respected by the State- I do not think there has been more than one reduction under it since it was passed. In one year, I believe, there was a percentage reduction made in the salaries of the public servants of South Australia, because it was a time of very great financial depression. It is rather significant that the officers whose salaries were made up of annual salaries and allowances were affected under the classification of the Public Service Commissioner, not only by percentage reductions in their salaries, but also in their allowances. They contend that the allowances which have been cut. off by the Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1901 were part of their regular salaries, and ought, consequently, to have been preserved to them as an accruing right. But apart altogether from the legal aspect of the matter, I ask honorable members to recollect that the public servants of South Australia were told, prior to Federation, that if they were transferred to the Commonwealth, their existing and accruing rights would be respected. What they had in mind was, not merely pension rights, which have been respected, but certain statutory increments of salary. There is no doubt that an Act of Parliament could have altered their position prior to Federation. Hence the High Court decided, in the case of Bond v. The Commonwealth, and, later, in the case of Cousens v. The Commonwealth, thereby indorsing the opinions of Attorneys-General, that whatever a State Act could have done in the way of altering salaries, it was competent for a Commonwealth Act to do, the Commonwealth being the sovereign body to which the State powers in the matter have been transferred. But the question we have to consider is whether it is politic to stand strictly by the legal position. Did not these public servants think that their salaries would be as good, and their increases as regular, after Federation as they were under State control? They were led to think that, not only by what was said in the Convention, but also by what was said by the honorable member for Hume when he introduced the Public Service Bill, and by the fact that section 60 of the Public Service Act practically repeats the words of the Constitution preserving their accrued and accruing rights. The annual outlay involved in meeting their claims would be comparatively small, and would diminish as the officers concerned leave the Service or die. The proper course would be to bring in an amending Bill permitting the Public Service Commissioner to pay, in addition to the ordinary salaries fixed according to the classification, such an amount as would keep South Australian officers in the position which they would have occupied had the States not federated. I think that is what the suggestion of the honorable member for Boothby amounts to. I do not think that the Arbitration Court could, under the Act of last year, decide the question of accruing rights. You might refer to a tribunal the question whether, in view of all the circumstances, provision should be made for the case of these transferred officers, but it is competent for Parliament to. deal with the matter without such a reference. You cannot refer to the Arbitra- tion Court, or to any other tribunal except the High Court, the question whether, under the Constitution, these officers are entitled, as accrued or accruing rights, to the increments of salary, furlough, allowances, &c, of which they have been deprived by the classification. That is a pure matter of law, which can only be determined by the High Court, and that tribunal has practically decided already that this Parliament has the power to alter the status of officers transferred from the service of the States to that of the Commonwealth. But, considering the way in which the words “ accrued and accruing, rights “ would3 be interpreted by the man in the street, would it be proper to send the question to the High Court? The proper course is to refer it to a Committee, or to some other body on which proper representation would be given to the officers concerned, or, better still, to deal with it in an amending Bill. I think that if the facts were thus laid before Parliament with the clearness arid convincing logic that the honorable member for Boothby has applied to-day, honorable members would not hesitate to make thesmall provision that would be necessary to realize the just expectation of these officers. As. for arbitration proceedings, unless the Government helps the officers to put their case clear of technicalities, they may be defeated. I am doubtful whether they constitute a body that can be an organization within the meaning of the Act.’
-That ‘ will not affect the merits of their case.
– Then the Minister should waive all objections that may be taken to the technical procedure adopted to present the case, which, I think, is one of the demands made by the officers’ in their letter to the Attorney-General read this afternoon. If the case is to go before the Arbitration Court, or any other body, I suggest that it should be decided, not on a question of law, but on its pure merits, and that no technical objection ‘ should be raised to its adequate presentation.
– The question that has been brought under the notice of honorable members affects the honour of this Parliament, and is of great concern to many officers in South Australia. Although the present PostmasterGeneral must meet the case submitted by the honorable member for Boothby, the difficulty is a legacy which was left to this Government by its predecessors, and without wishing to reflect on earlier Parliaments, I say that it is to be regretted that a matter of so much importance was not . settled long ago. I hope that the debate and the inquiry by the Postmaster-General will finally dispose of it. A large body of public servants ought not to be permitted to feel that, although the law is against them, they have a good case in equity. I shall not go over the ground traversed by previous speakers, but shall mention one or two points that have occurred to me. Prior to Federation, the public servants of the States were told that their transference to the Commonwealth Service would not destroy the rights which they enjoyed under State control. In South Australia the principle has been laid down that, whenever a change of conditions is made by the passing of an Act, the status and salaries of existing officers shall be left unimpaired, any alteration affecting only those who were appointed afterwards to the Civil Service. That is a principle which has been recognised by Governments all over the Commonwealth, and I believe outside of Australia, too. In the Convention there was a great amount of tall talk indulged in by those who were advocating the Federation of the Colonies. Very often they must have had their tongues in their cheeks when they were addressing the public, knowing, full, well that a good deal of what they were saying was buncombe, and would not be realized. I donot know whether that was the impression with regard to the rights of civil servants, but. it seems to me .that deception, was. practised in that respect. The Constitution, as submitted to the people, was one which had been drawn up by lawyers. There was a feeling amongst the people of Australia- unwisely, I think - that it was well that lawyers should have the settling of a matter of such great importance, as laymen, although all very well in their way, knew nothing about such questions. What are the facts of the case? The lawyers knew full well when they indulged in their tall talk that a measure could be passed by the Commonwealth Parliament which would break all the promises made to civil servants, and which, while annulling their rights in equity, would still be sound in law. In the face of that it does not seem to me remarkable that, although leading men had made promises to civil servants that their rights should be protected, they passed a measure in this House “knowing that those rights were being taken away. I believe it is a matter of law that as a State could vary its contracts or the salaries of its employes,- so the Commonwealth inherited all the rights which the States possessed in that respect. I submit that the gentlemen who advocated the adoption of the Constitution knew all that. Unfortunately for the postal employes of South Australia, who, of course, had had no legal training, they accepted the statements of these men, believing them to have been made in good faith, and they have fallen in. In submitting the measure which empowered the Public Service Commissioner to fix the status and the salaries of public servants, including the employe’s of the Postmaster-General, what seems to me not at all a fair or just thing was done. A clause could have been introduced directing the Commissioner to recognise the moral claims of these men, and to see that justice was done to them. What was put in the Bill? Nothing at all. We have occasionally heard a quotation from a speech by Sir William Lyne, that the men were entitled to all their rights, to this, that, and the other; but that could not have been the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral who sat by him, for he must have known that his colleague in charge of the Bill was allowing the House to draw an inference which would not be borne out. Without passing any reflection, I hold that in consequence of the error of judgment committed by previous Parliaments of the Commonwealth, this grievance of postal employes in South Australia should be finalized. It appears to me that for some reason or other there has been an error of judgment or a general muddle all round. It should be remembered that these men are not lawyers. They are very much in the position of the man in the street, who knows absolutely nothing about law, and who is bound to take in good faith statements made to him by those who occupy responsible positions, and ought to know the law, and how it affects the equity of a- case of this description. Therefore, it is of no use for the Postmaster-General to tell me that his employes can appeal to the High Court, because that Court has already ruled that their claim is untenable. If they appeal to the Arbitration Court, what is likely to be the position? I take it that if they did appeal the Arbitration Court would rule that it had no jurisdiction over matters which arose a considerable time prior to its being clothed with power to deal with appeals from public servants. I am of that opinion, and have hesitated over and over again to advise postal employes in South Australia to place any faith in the jurisdiction of that Court. Now, what course can be taken to finalize this grievance? The honorable member for Angas has stated that it is possible for Parliament to pass an Act to grant the justice to which these rr.en are, in my opinion, entitled. What I would urge the Government to do, and what I believe would bring about finality, would be to submit the equity of the case between the Crown and its employes to the decision °of an arbitrator who might be a Judge, or other person of ability in the Commonwealth. We’ want the matter dealt with in equity, and not in law, because we have had plenty of law already. In my youth, in the .Old Country I heard of the fusion of law and equity. There is a fusion of law and equity here, but not so far as these postal employes are concerned. They can get any amount of law which does them an injustice all day long, year in and year out. If the Government will agree to refer the question in equity to an arbitrator of the kind I have suggested it would be competent for the Parliament to adopt his recommendation. I admit that this grievance is well known to the representatives of South Australia, but its merits or demerits are not so well known to other members of this House. It would take the latter a considerable time to make themselves familiar with the merits of the case. I think it would be better settled as- I have suggested. I do not know how the-
Government view my suggestion. They may take up this attitude. “ As our predecessors were not disposed to act when the matter was ripe, and as the postal employes have evidently slept over their rights for a considerable time, we are not going to intervene.” Undoubtedly some Governments would be disposed to take that line of action, but I do not know whether it will be taken by the present Government. It would be no reflection upon their dignity to accept the decision of an independent arbitrator, and if the arbitration should go against the postal employes in equity, they would know that they had had a fair inquiry. They would know that the matter had been fairly gone into, and if the proceedings had not worked out as they thought they would, they would have to put up with the situation. In a case of this kind, the supporters of a Government do not care to oppose them when they have taken up a certain line of action, and there are many reasons why such a question cannot be settled on the best principles in an assembly of this kind. The facts show that this is a trouble which the Minister has inherited. A decision has been given, which I hope will be reversed, and an effort made to finally settle the matter. A few days ago I called the attention of the Postmaster-General to this difficulty, which I have had under my attention for some time, and I am very anxious that it should be settled. Unless it is, it will be raised again in the next Parliament, and is bound to be canvassed until the men feel that their grievance has been referred to some equitable tribunal, and that they have had :i fair deal. Australians labouring under what they believe to be an injustice are not likely to remain quiet. I think that these officers will continue to do their duty to the Commonwealth as they have always done. I take no notice of the threats that have been made; but as long as they have a grievance - and a grievance they have - they will find that there are in this Parliament men who are prepared to ventilate it. If the Government desire a healthy agitation of this kind to cease, the best thing they can do is to devise a means of finalizing it so that we shall be free to devote our attention to the grievances of other sections of the community. We do not want to have this vexatious question constantly before us. I hope that the Minister will disregard the fact that this is a trouble which he has inherited, and that he will deal with it on its merits. I certainly trust that the Ministry will not decide to give us two or three editions of law. We know all about the law at the present time. We know that it seldom helps any one in equity. The law Courts , may afford a very ready means of spending money; but these employes of the Commonwealth have no money to waste on the lawyers, and they have too much wit, I trust, to do so. Money spent by them on the lawyers might just as well, for all practical purposes, be thrown into the sea. I ask the Minister to deal with this grievance from the stand-point of equity, and to be prepared to waive his legal right. The honorable member for Angas said that to grant what was desired would involve an additional expenditure of about ^4,000 per annum; but I am confident that the Commonwealth Government is not so poor as to think it necessary to retain ^4,000, or even £8,ooo, year after year if there is any section of the Service honestly entitled to receive it. In the long run, we shall be none the poorer if we deal with this trouble on just and equitable lines.
– I am astounded at the extraordinary attitude of the Attorney-General in regard to the prosecution of directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Honorable members will recollect that the general manager of that company, who was called before a certain Royal Commission to give evidence - and was called first on the very reasonable ground that he was in the best position to give technical evidence as to the affairs of his company - asked permission to make a statement, and that that permission, which had been granted to other persons appear-., ing before the Commission, was refused to him.
– Does the honorable member hold a brief in the Sugar case?
– The honorable member adds to the gaiety of nations, but I cannot otherwise understand him. When the general manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was refused the right to make a statement, he went on talking, apparently, while at the same time the Chairman did so; and his attitude before the Commission was described, shortly afterwards, by Ministers, as tantamount to brawling, as contempt of Court, as intolerable conduct, as conduct which not only must be put down, but called for a special amendment of the Royal Commissions Act to prevent the recurrence of such a terrible thing. Mr. Knox it was, who, if this be brawling, as Ministers said, brawled. There are, of course, other directors of the company, and one of them happened at the time to be in a delicate state of health. He was the one man who could not possibly have brawled, even had he wished to brawl. When the question of prosecuting the directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for their action before the Commission came to be decided, against whom, do honorable members think, proceedings were instituted? Was it the brawler - the alleged breaker of the peace in the presence of Royal Commissioners? Not at all. The Government went for the man who was too sick to brawl. They went for a man who knew so little about the evidence that it would be perfectly safe to prosecute him, since he could not enter the witness-box and swear as to what took place before the Commission. Had they proceeded against the alleged brawler, he would have been able to go into the Court, and on oath state exactly what were the facts, and, bearing upon those facts, why he thought it was unreasonable to ask him to appear before such, a Commission. The Government, however, attacked the unfortunate Sir Normand MacLaurin, a sick man, who had no part in this brawl. The real head and front of the company–
– The honorable member is now discussing a matter which is sub judice.
– It is not now sub judice. I am not dealing with the question of whether or not a fine was properly imposed. I am referring simply to the fact that Sir Normand MacLaurin was prosecuted.
– Is not the other matter to be proceeded with to-morrow?
– No. The information lodged against Mr. Knox, the alleged brawler, has been withdrawn.
– The case is not settled, and the honorable member ought not to deal with iit.
– I am not dealing with the merits of the case as against Sir Normand MMacLaurin. My point is that, while the Government had a case, as they must have thought they had, or they would not have commenced proceedings, against all the directors of the company, they proceeded against one man who had no part in the brawl.
– I am of opinion that the honorable member cannot separate particular men from the case to which he refers. He must know that’ they are all more or less involved. There may be further appeals to the Court in which all these men may be more or less involved, and I ask him, therefore, not to refer to the matter. He must recognise that it is not right to do so.
– I should be the last, Mr. Speaker, to discuss any question bearing upon the appeal or the merits of the recent action in the Sydney Court. The point really is this : To-day the AttorneyGeneral, in answer to a question put by me, told us that the information laid against Mr. Knox and others had been withdrawn. I am making the mere passing criticism that it seems to be astonishing; apart from the merits of the question altogether, that where there are a number of alleged malefactors, one should be singled out, whilst the others are passed over. It seems to me that when the Government are about to proceed against a number of persons, they ought to proceed against the principal malefactors first.
– Order ! The honorable member is now again discussing the case. He must not do that.
– I shall not proceed any further with the point. I have said enough to emphasize my criticism. Another matter to which I wish to refer is one upon which I think I shall have the sympathy of my honorable friends opposite. I received a few days ago, through the post, an advertisement from the Daily Standard, the projected Queensland daily newspaper, in which it is stated that the first issue would be published in Brisbane on 2nd December next. o
– That is good news.
– It is excellent news. This journal is to be carried through the post because, I suppose, of the beneficial educational effect it will have in accurately enlightening the public of Queensland upon public matters.
– Will it be carried through the post under different conditions from those which apply to all other newspapers ?
– Not at all.
– I wonder whether the man who sent the circular to the honorable ‘ member has any humour.
– The electors who sent my honorable friend here are humorists,
I think. The fact remains that we do grant to newspapers special consideration under the Post and Telegraph Act, on the ground, which is generally urged, that they aid in public education. There is no principle of new Protection involved. We do not say, “ If we give you these postal facilities you shall render accurate service to the public.” Here we have a newspaper which is just about to start, and I think it is a fair thing to direct attention to one matter in relation to it. In this circular we have emphasized in the reddest of red ink, the following statement : -
The independent cable service is admitted to be the most complete and up-to-date in Australia, and the fact that we have secured the sole right to this excellent service should recommend the Standard to the reading public of Queensland.
– Why did the newspaper secure the sole right?
– Why did it secure this monopoly? Bless my soul; is the honorable member going to support a monopoly ?
– The reason is because the cable syndicate, which is a monopoly, will not allow other newspapers to participate in the service.
– This newspaper is not securing the sole right, then? It merely happens to be the only user in Queensland? What a delightful piece of sophistry. This advertisement states most clearly that the Daily Standard has secured the sole right to this cable service. The Postmaster-General, in his reply to me to-day, said that it has done nothing of the kind. He stated that the terms upon which this independent cable service receives monetary assistance from the people of Australia are specified in the Governmerit Gazette, and that they receive £1 2,000 a year, on the condition that no monopoly shall be established. Yet this Labour daily newspaper alleges that it has received a monopoly at the hands of the Independent Cable Service. The Minister in his reply goes on to say that if the Independent Cable Service has made any such arrangement as this Labour newspaper alleges, he will take immediate steps to terminate the subsidy. As the Independent Cable Service managers know the terms under which they receive the subsidy, we may take it for granted that they would not quarrel with their bread and butter. It is clear, therefore, that this new Queensland Labour newspaper is setting out upon a career of mischief with a lie of the most obvious character.
– Oh, no, not necessarily.
– It is a good beginning. This journal is born in deceit, and no doubt it will continue in accordance with the methods of calumny which are so often adopted by journals which support my, honorable friends.
– The honorable member is giving the newspaper a great advertisement. Mr. KELLY. - Here is the first Australian daily Labour newspaper getting what the honorable member for East Sydney calls “a great advertisement,” when I am proving it to be a public liar 1 This circular says -
The policy of the Standard is clearly defined, being consistent with the advocacy of the objective of the Queensland Labour party, as set out in the official programme and adopted by the Labour Daily Newspaper Company Limited in their articles of association. ‘
– The policy of supporting Socialism with a lie.
– It is that; this journal starts with a lie..
– It is only the honorable member who says that.
– My honorable friend is an authority on certain forms of goodness.
– He must be different from the honorable member then.
– Honorable members opposite must find it very hard to get over the statement made by this Daily Standard in seeking for subscribers. In the boldest of red ink, which strikes the eye a mile off, it says -
We have secured the sole right to this excellent service.
There is no getting over that. Obviously, the Daily Standard has not secured “ the sole right.” Obviously, it could not have secured .” the sole right.”
– It is just as obvious that there is no other newspaper in Queensland which is using the Independent Cable Service at present.
– I do not know that that is so. The Minister did not say so in his reply to my questions this afternoon. He stated that the terms under which the subsidy was paid were published in the Commonwealth Gazette of 10th September, 19 10, and include the following provision -
The proprietor of any newspaper in the Commonwealth shall be entitled to become a subscriber to the association for the cable service on payment of the annual rate applicable under Schedule A.
In answer to my question concerning the advertisement of the Daily Standard, the Minister stated, “ I am not aware.” Apparently, projected Labour newspapers only send their advertisements to Liberal members of Parliament. My next question was whether the newspaper had secured the sole right to this service. The Minister’s answer was -
I have no knowledge of any arrangement to this effect.
In answer to my fifth and sixth questions, the Minister stated that -
Any such arrangement would be contrary to the conditions agreed upon with the Government. I shall make immediate inquiries from the association to ascertain the facts of the case. In the event of any monopoly having been granted to a particular* newspaper the payment of the subsidy will be stopped.
There is not a whisper about any other newspaper in Queensland not getting the service.
– The honorable member knows that the leading newspapers in Queensland are working under an agreement with the cable syndicate that prevents them from using the Independent Service.
-I do not know that as a matter of strict fact.
– Evidently the honorable member does not know as much as he seems to know.
– I only know what I see before me in this paper.
– Probably Labour newspapers allow only Labour members to know their business.
– I received this circular through the post only within the last day or two, and have not had time to ascertain what Queensland newspapers are doing. In New South Wales, one newspaper, the Sun, takes the Independent Cable Service, and I presume that there are other newspapers that use it. Surely my honorable friends opposite do not mean to tell me that this service, which the people of Australia are paying for, is specially provided to cater for Labour journalism ? Do honorable members opposite mean to assert now what they denied with so much heat when the proposal to establish this service was before the House - that arrangements are in existence which will prevent any other paper in Australia getting this publiclysubscribedto cable service?
– There is no arrangement by the Government or the Cable Company.
– It is very convenient for the Government to be able to tax the public of Australia to start a newspaper like this - the first Labour daily, I believe - which cannot even state the fact correctly as to how it is getting this cable service. If the paper were as accurate as it states it is going to be in its news, it would have said that this cable subsidy was granted with the express intention of helping the institution of Labour dailies in the Commonwealth.
– It would not be accurate to say that.
– The statement is quite correct if the honorable member for Wentworth will read it correctly.
– I shall read it again -
The Independent Cable Service is admitted to be the most complete and up-to-date in Australia -
– Is that correct?
– I do not know, but that is as far as we have got, and we shall not quarrel on that point. It goes on - and the fact -
The “ fact,” mind you- that we have secured the sole right -
Not the right, but “ the sole right “ - to this excellent service should recommend The Standard to the reading public of Queensland.
– It is quite correct- it means that this will be the sole daily paper in Queensland using this service.
– The circular says that this paper has secured the” sole right”; and even the Honorary Minister, in his most honest moments, could not rise to heights of mendacity equal to this. I suggest that it is “a little bit over the odds “ when Ministers try to tell us that the brains and intelligence of their party - the persons they select to preach the gospel to the public in black and white; not in red ink - do not know the difference between the “ sole right “ to a thing, and being the only user of a thing. It may be possible that this newspaper is the only user of the service, but the statement that it has the “ sole right “ is untrue and unworthy, and augurs badly for the future decent conduct of the first Labour daily newspaper in the Commonwealth. I do not wish to detain honorable members any further; the time I have taken is due to the refusal of my friends opposite to appreciate the plain English of this red-type advertisement. I implore honorable members who take an interest in Labour journalism - I implore the sophists opposite, including the Honorary Minister - to advise their friends in Brisbane that it is bad business - I do not ask them to advise on commercial morality - to issue false advertisements as to the nature of a publication to be issued. I hope that this circular will be immediately withdrawn, and that the first issue of this newspaper will explain to those persons who have been induced to subscribe by a false advertisement that it was not intended to convey anything that was not the truth, but the fact was that those who issued the circular did not know the difference between having the “ sole, right “ to a thing, and being the only newspaper that cared to use the right.
– I desire to take this opportunity to make a few remarks in reference to the classification of the Public Service in South Australia. I should have preferred a direct motion on which we could come to close quarters, because in this connexion there has been trouble ever since the classification was made a few years ago. I feel confident that until justice is done to those who are affected there must be continuous trouble. I do not blame the present Government, for this is a heritage from previous Governments; but, all the same, 1 he results are most unfortunate for members of the Public Service. Men who were well advanced when the classification war. made have been made junior to others who joined many years after them, and, further, in some cases they have, for many years past, been deprived of a portion of emoluments which they received when in the service of the State. It is true that these payments ‘ were made under different forms, but, under the State Government, they were recognised as part of the salaries attached to the offices. Perhaps the worst case of the lot is that of an old public servant who was utterly “broken up” by this classification. He had given long and faithful service, having joined about the same time as the late Sir Charles Todd, and he found that under the classification he suffered to the extent of ^150 3 year. There are- many other cases in which loss has been sustained, though, as 1 say, the one I have cited is, perhaps, the worst. It is quite clear that at the Federal Convention, when this question was discussed, it was fully intended that, under the section which has caused the trouble, the rights and accruing rights of the transferred public servants were to be preserved. I wish to make a brief reference to the points raised in connexion with this matter at the Convention. When clause 83 of the Commonwealth Bill was before the Convention in its original form, Mr., now Mr. Justice, Gordon, one of the delegates from South Australia, drew attention to the fact that it did not cover all rights and accruing rights of transferred officers. He was followed by Sir George Turner, who said -
When these men enter into the service of the various States there are given to them by Act of Parliament certain rights which they enjoy
S3 long as they remain in the service of those States. If, therefore, they are transferred to some other body, surely it is only fair and right that they should carry to the new body whatever rights they had *in the old body.
Mr., now Mr. Justice, O’Connor, at the same time, said - i think we are all agreed that when an officer is taken over by the Commonwealth he should not be placed in an unfair position or lose any rights by being taken over, because it is no fault of his that the continuity of his service has been broken.
A reference was made to certain cases in which the continuity of service of officers under existing Acts in South Australia would be broken by their transfer, and the men would be deprived of certain rights they possessed under those Acts. The present Mr. Justice Barton also dealt with the matter, and said -
All we suggest is that where a person is entitled to a locally-accruing right, tinder the law of the State in which he has served, that right shall not be impaired ; but where under the law of the Stale in which he has served he is not entitled to any gratuity, pension, or retiring allowance, the mere fact of the transfer does not give him the right to the payment of such.
Mr. Deakin said ;
I do not understand why all rights and privileges are not simply continued, and why a change of master should involve any change in the conditions under which he is employed. Any statutory rights which exist should be continued.
It apperrs to me that the legal decision given in the Victorian case turned entirely upon the question of what was a statutory right. The claims of the South Australian officers may not be looked upon in a strictly legal sense as statutory rights ; but, viewing them on the ground of equity and in the light of die debates of the Federal Convention, no one can doubt that the rights of these men are accruing rights, and should be preserved to them. Acting upon a suggestion made by Sir George Turner,
Mr. Deakin moved in the Convention the amendment of the clause, so that it might read -
Arid all existing and accruing rights of any such officers who shall remain in the service of the Commonwealth shall be preserved.
Referring to this later, Mr., now Mr. Justice, Isaacs, said -
I think it is highly important that we should have some provision such as is suggested by my honorable friend, Mr. Deakin. I think it is important to put in the word “ accruing.” It is a principle we have adopted in Victoria.
Later he said -
I think we shall be doing more harm than good if we ignore rights. As States, when we are entering into this bargain, we must preserve honour and faithfulness towards our public servants as well as towards our other creditors. I think the words proposed ought certainly to be inserted.
I shall not quote further extracts from the Convention debate, but I express a hope that the Minister will view this matter apart from legal technicality. I have no doubt that, if he does so, he will find that injustice has been done to certain transferred officers by the Public Service classification. I have already referred to the case of some bright men in the Service, who, by that classification, have been made junior to men who were boys when they held high and important positions in the service of the State.
– How do they stand from the point of view of merit?
– There has never been a mark against them. Their present position is due entirely to the classification. Quite a number of officers who filled important positions for years are to-day receiving far less remuneration than when they were taken over by the Commonwealth. I am quite sure that that was never the intention of the framers of the Constitution. I do not believe that it is the intention of this House that the injustice which these public servants have laboured under for so long should continue. If the Minister finds that he is legally not in a position to do justice to these men, I am satisfied that this House will support him if he takes the necessary action on grounds of equity. The men for whom I am speaking, and whose case has also been put by the honorable members for Hindmarsh and Boothby, desire only fair play, and they will never consider that they have been given fair treatment while the settlement of this matter is de ferred. We cannot expect that men who have had up to £150 a year cut off their remuneration, and who have been classified as juniors to men who were boys when they held prominent positions, will be satisfied with such a condition of things. I trust that the Minister will have a thorough inquiry made into the matter, with the object of having justice done to a number of public servants from whom it has been withheld for a very long time.
– I wish to bring under the attention of the House a matter which I hope will not be treated as a party question. I refer to the class of timber to be used as sleepers on the Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie railway. I am as deeply interested in the welfare of Western Australia as is any member of this House, and I have no desire that any injury should be done to that State. The information given to honorable members from time to time has pointed to the fact that a big contract has been made with the Western Australian Government for the supply of 1,500,000 karri sleepers for use in the construction of the railway. In connexion with this matter, the Minister of Home Affairs has stated -
It is only within the last few years ‘ that sleepers in Western Australia have been treated with preservatives, and during such period I am advised that no karri has had to be taken up.
In the course of my remarks, I shall show the value of that statement. The Minister said further that he was making arrangements for 9,000 sleepers per week to be powellized at Bunbury. I shall show the value of that before I have finished. He has also stated that no decision has been arrived at with regard to the kind of preservative process to be applied to the remainder of the karri sleepers, indicating that the Government are still in the dark as to what shall be done with them. These karri sleepers are to be used, we are told, not because jarrah sleepers are not available. I have * a report here on the timbers of Western Australia which was made by Mr. G. A. Julius, B.Sc, M.E., Engineer-in-charge of all testing operations on behalf of the Western Australian Government. This gentleman, I believe, is now running the powellizing process in Australia. His report sets out the exhaustive tests” which he made of this class of timber, and the conclusions at which he arrived whilst he was in the service of the Western Australian Government. I wish to show that it is
not because jarrah is not available that karri is being used for railway sleepers. His report states -
The State Royal Commission on Forestry, which sat in 1904, and took very exhaustive evidence, reported to the following effect upon the available supplies of jarrah, karri, tuart, and blackbutt : -
Supplies of Jarrah. - Virgin jarrah forest to the north of Blackwood River, and suitable for milling, is estimated at 2,000,000 acres. Based on the present rateof cutting, this would be equivalent to about thirtv-two years’ supply. To the south of the Blackwood River there are also considerable supplies of this timber; but, being so constantly intergrown with karri, blackbutt, and red gum, no fair estimate of quantities can be given. In addition to these areas, there are several millions of acres of jarrah country not of sufficient commercial value for milling purposes, but which will, as the railway system develops, afford immense scope for sleeper-hewing.
Surely our railway system is developing, seeing that we are now about to build our first transcontinental railway, which will cover a distance of over 1,000 miles, and which will be the longest line in Australia. I hold that the sleepers for that railway should be hewn in this tract of country, which is suitable for no other purpose. Men can hew them there in a quarter of the time that they can be obtained by any other means. I have had tens of thousands of sleepers hewn, so that I know what I am talking about. Where time is a consideration”, obviously it would be common sense to adopt the course which I have suggested. By doing so, we should obviate the necessity for spending thousands of pounds in erecting mills, and providing machinery, horses, whims, &c. The reportfrom which I have quoted conclusively proves that in the construction of the transcontinental line, we should use timber which is suitable only for sleeper hewing. We ought not to utilize the timber of our best forests in building this transcontinental railway, when we have large areas of country which is suitable only For the hewing of jarrah sleepers. I hold in my hand a report upon the economic uses of the principal timbers of Western Australia. It states -
Jarrah. - This timber is the most generally employed for railway construction, railway sleepers, marine and engineering work of all kinds, and building construction, and is specially suitable for underground use, and where in contact with wind and water.
The chemical and microscopical examination of eucalyptus woods generally dis closes certain special qualities, and is thus interestingly described by Baron von Mueller -
It may be summed up that the capability of different kinds of eucalyptus wood to endure for lengthened periods contact with humidity, air, and temperature, depends largely, and perhaps mainly, on phlobaphenic substance, unchangeable by water; further, probably, also on the occurrence of oleo-resin, on the reduced number of hollow vascular tubes, on the organization of the walls of the ligneous fibre, on the decreased copiousness of parenchymatic substance, and on the lesser space occupied by the medullary rays. The hard variety of jarrah wood fulfils most of these conditions, eminently so of the first one.
That opinion is backed up by the late Mr. O’Connor, M.I.C.E., who was the distinguished Engineer-in-Chief of Western Australia. He says -
For durability and general construction work of all classes, jarrahis undoubtedly one of the best of all State timbers. It is almost exclusively used throughout the State, in railway construction work, as sleepers, piles, bridge beams, &c, and shows great durability both in and above ground.
Mr. Palmer, his successor, has expressed a similar opinion, and Mr. Moncrieff, the present Railway Commissioner of South Australia, who was formerly the Engineerin Chief of that State, says -
Jarrah has been used for railway sleepers, in the construction of bridges, wharves, and jetties, and for general work in buildings, such as goods sheds and platforms, where a heavy durable timber is required; and where the timber was of full growth and seasoned before use, it has in every case proved satisfactory.
Appended to that report is a footnote which reads -
As regards the value and advantages of jarrah for use as railway sleepers, a full account is given further on in the special report by Mr. Dartnall, M.Inst. C.E., Chief Engineer of Existing Lines for Western Australia.
Mr. Dartnall says ;
The following instance is given of the life of jarrah sleepers where they have not been disturbed : - A portion of the Great Southern Railway, from Beverley to Cuballing, about 50 miles in length, was laid with about 110,000 8-in. by 4-in. jarrah sleepers in the year 1886 or 1887, and the line was purchased by the Government in1896. Practically none of the sleepers had been renewed when the line was purchased, and since that time the Railway Department has renewed about 4,300, equal to about 3.9 per cent. in eighteen years; and the balance is still in the road.
The species of timber chiefly used in Western Australia is jarrah. The total number used on the railways, including renewals, has been 4,000,000 to 5,000,000.
Why is this Government disregarding the experience of Western Australia? Mr. Dartnall says -
Kairi has been used, and used by myself, in Government work on bridge construction. . . . Although this report has more particular reference to sleepers, it may not be out of place to mention the fact that renewals in timber bridges are being effected with jarrah timber.
I draw attention to this statement in the standard specification of the Western Australian Government -
Unless the specification agreed upon between the contracting parties is in reasonably close accordance with this standard specification, the Government will not accept the responsibility of inspection. First-Sleepers may be cut from either of the following timbers : - Jarrah, wandoo
There is no mention of karri. Wandoo is not much used, because it is so expensive to cut. During the time that I have been in Western Australia, karri has been barred in Government specifications, and had we put it in the railroads, we should have done so at our own risk, and should have had to take it out again. Although the Commonwealth Government is undertaking an enterprise such as it has never before engaged upon, and its officers, perhaps, have no practical knowledge of Western Australian timbers, it is ignoring the experience of that State, and failure is bound to follow. Karri was used in the first jetty at Port Darwin, which was constructed with iron spans and karri beams, but the ‘white ants ate the beams, and the teredo riddled the piers. Honorable members must bear in mind that in this matter the Commonwealth has nearly ,£2,000,000 at stake, everything being made to depend on the success of a process called powellizing, which may be a good one, but on which we are not justified in risking so much with bur present knowledge of it. It will take nearly ,£1,000,000 to provide the first lot of sleepers for the railroad, and the replacing of them with jarrah will cost a great deal more, because the work will have to be done without disturbing the traffic, and the replacing of sleepers under such circumstances costs ten times as much as the original laying. The acid sap of karri eats away the dogs, which, if removed after they have been in position for a time, are found to be flaked with rust.
– What effect will powellizing have on it?
– I shall deal with that directly. It is necessary, in any preserving process, to first withdraw the sap from the timber, by creating a vacuum, or in some other way. Freshly cut karri is as full of moisture as a carrot, containing 40 per cent, of water. To be powellized it is put into a bath, but I have been told that when timber so treated has been afterwards cut up it has been found that it has not been affected for more than one-eighth of an inch from the surface. On only one railway in Western Australia were karri sleepers used, and every one of them had to be pulled up, because they rotted so much that* in treading on them one’s foot sank to the ankle. Karri is useless for sleepers, unless it can be preserved. For waggon building, and other work in which it is exposed to the weather, it is one of the finest timbers of the world when properly seasoned, but should be cut two or three years before being used. I built between 150 and 200 railway waggons with karri, which had been cut for over three years, and no finer timber could have been used. The freshlycut karri will shrink as much as an inch in a foot, so that if you want a length of twelve inches you must cut thirteen. The karri to be used on the proposed line will have to be carried altogether a distance of 800 miles, and, as 30 or 40 per cent, of moisture is to be found in the freshly-cut wood, it will be seen how costly its transport will be. Even if jarrah sleepers had been determined on, a supply should have been commenced as soon as the construction of the line was agreed to, because the longer sleepers have been cit before being used the better they last. Australian timber rarely gets a fair show in railway construction in this country. When it is exported to South America, India, and other places, it is laid down in a much better condition than here, because of the seasoning it has received while lying in stacks previous to shipment and on its journey. We are risking nearly £2,000,000 on the faith of an experiment made with thirty sleepers put into a cutting near Perth, 400 miles from the proposed railway. They were laid on sandy soil, and it is known that white ants will not work on such soil, unless there is clay with it, because they always use clay for their covering. I sent the following telegram to find out the position -
Karri sleepers reply through any office stating total number used in Government railway construction during past twenty years, also number used for experimental purposes, and locality where used, and any authentic information available.
To that message I received this reply -
Karri sleepers have never been used in Government railway construction. Great Southern Railway was laid principally with karri, which had to be replaced with jarrah. A few years after existing railways experimented with about thirty powellized karri sleepers in cutting between East Perth station and river now reported good as day put down six years ago. Small quantity untreated karri laid same time and place rotted within two or three years.
– How long has that powellizing experiment been made?
– It has been made for six years with thirty sleepers, but we are going to use 3,000,000 sleepers. Why did they make the experiment in a country where white ants cannot live? Why did they make the test in the sand nearPerth? In dealing with railway construction inland, there is quite a different proposition. It is not only a matter of white ants, but also a matter of dry rot. I saw at Broken Hill years ago verandah posts which had been put into dry soil. While that portion of a post which was above the surface was as sound as a rock, one could kick his foot through that portion out of which the dry soil had taken all the nature - dry rot had made it perfectly useless.
– It was loose soil.
– It was tramped on enough, being on the main street. It has been reported that powellizing has been an unqualified success in New Zealand. 1 took the trouble to send a cablegram to find out whether that was the case or not, and I received the following reply -
Your cable re powellized timber experience in New Zealand insufficient enable authoritative opinion to be expressed. A number of sleepers which there is reason to believe were not properly treated by the process have been unsatisfactory. But, on the other hand, timber that has been efficiently treated for carriage and waggon building has been satisfactory.
– From whom did the reply come?
– From the Prime Minister of New Zealand. I wired to the head man there, in case my statement might be questioned. The fact that this timber powellizes for waggon-building has nothing to do with matter, because I can prove without doubt that before powellizing was invented karri was a great success for waggon-building, and was always looked upon as a good timber. What has the fact that powellized timber is good for waggon-building to do with the position? The best excuse which they can find for these sleepers not being unsatisfactory is that the process was not properly carried out. That is what they say afterwards. It is more likely that the process was properly carried out in experimenting with a few sleepers than it will be when millions of sleepers are being handled, and the cryis constantly coming, “ Send them along; we* must keep the work going.” That is the time when the process must be done in a rush, and it will not be carried out properly. I claim that we are taking too big a risk in this matter - a risk which should not be taken when there are millions of acres available from which to get hewn sleepers of the best jarrah. We should not be asked to make this experiment. We certainly should not act on five or six years’ experience of only thirty sleepers.
– What proportion of karri sleepers are to be used in the line?
– A million and a half, it is said.
– What is the total . number ?
– The honorable member can work out the number, as he knows that 2,000 sleepers to the mile will be used. So far I have expressed my own opinion’; but I have a cutting from a newspaper which I wish to read, and which is headed, “ The Timber Industry- The Employes Union - Half -yearly report.”
– Where is this ex- , tract taken from?
– It is taken from the West Australian of the 5th instant. It is not ancient history ; it is quite new compared with a lot of things which we dig out. It reads as follows -
During my visitto the Eastern States I spent considerable time in my efforts to secure for Western Australia a fair consideration. I personally interviewed the Prime Minister, the Minister in charge of the work (Mr. King O’Malley), Senator Pearce, also Messrs. Thomas, Tudor, and Frazer, and the Engineer-in-Chief (Mr. Deane), and urged the use of our native timbers.
That is all right so far. The extract continues -
I also made ah effort to secure the work direct for the Union, but did not press this when I found the State prepared to supply. I personally advocated the use of jarrah sleepers in the work, but the reports concerning the powellised karri are favorable, and it isto be hoped that the anticipation will be realized to the fullest extent; though I regret to say that from what I saw in Melbourne an effort had been made to push forward the karri rather on the demerits of jarrah than upon its own merits. This, in my opinion, is altogether wrong. Jarrah has a world-widereputation as a durable timber.
Karri is splendid in superstructure; if the powel Using will impart the necessary preservative qualities to the karri underground it will mean a vast increase in the marketable value of the forests of this State.
The secretary to this union regrets that this matter has been pushed forward. He says there is no doubt about the durability of the jarrah.
– For what union is he speaking?
– The Timber Union of Western Australia employing 3,000 or 4,000 men. I quote that statement from a man who knows a little about the subject. The credit of Western Australia as a timber producing State is at stake.
– Was that a report by Mr. Holman ?
– Yes. I want honorable members on that side as well as on this side to look at this matter without any feeling. I desire to protect the Commonwealth from a big error. I wish to do this in the interests of the Commonwealth, and not of a particular State. When we have in Western Australia timber which is suitable for the purpose why should we make an experiment? The question at issue is of so much importance that we should not be experimenting. I doubt whether it was ever mentioned when we were considering the Bill that this was to be an experimental railway in applying material which had never been used before, or that we were to experiment with processes which would make some material altogether unsuitable before that date suitable now. We are not authorized to make these experiments. We should proceed on good fixed lines - on a certainty. We ought to build this railway so as to get the best use of it for the greatest number of years. We should ad- here to some well -beaten track, using good material. I advocated the use of 80-lb. rails, and I wish to congratulate the Government upon using them, because to-day I read a report to the effect that the great Canadian Pacific Railway Company had decided to pull up the last part of their 60-lb. rails, and to put in 80-lb. rails. There is no harm in our being a little ahead of them, because it is recognisedthroughout the world now that a heavy rail is the cheapest in the end. Would it not be a calamity if under these splendid rails we were to put sleepers which would have to be continually renewed, because if they will get dry rot anywhere, they will get it there? I do not know of any place in Australia where it would be more costly to carry material, and to pay wages for men to renew these sleepers a few at a time, than it would be on that long stretch of line. I trust that the Government will seriously consider this matter. If, as the Minister has told me, a contract has been entered into, I hope that they will look through the papers, and see whether it cannot be cut down to the minimum. If we are to have an experiment of this kind, let it be a small one, and let it be made at either end of theline, where the sleepers can be kept under close supervision, and, if unsatisfactory, can be readily removed.
– Does the honorable member think that the Commonwealth should experiment at all in this matter?
– I do not. In his report on “ The Physical Characteristics of the Hardwoods of Western Australia,” Mr. G. A. Julius, B.Sc, M.E., deals with diseases to which timbers are prone, and, referring to dry-rot, writes -
The disease occurs generally in timber used in damp and unventilated conditions, particularly when the timber has been used in the “ green “ state -
We shall have to use this timber in a green state. We have no time to season it - and hence railway sleepers are very prone to develop it.
It appears to be infectious, and is probably due to, or at least assisted by, the decomposition of the sap.
I invite honorable members to read the last paragraph in conjunction with the following paragraph in the same report -
Karri, whilst in every other respect almost unequalled as a sleeper timber, is prone to develop dry-rot if used when green in damp ground, and in the examination of its sap it was found to decompose when exposed to the air; and, further, that it exercised a greater effect upon the metals immersed in it -
That is to say it eats away the “ dogs” - than was the case with any of the other saps. First of all, we have the statement that dry-rot is assisted by the decomposition of the sap, and then we have the further statement that the sap of karri is found to decompose when exposed to the air. The effect of this sap on the “ dogs “ is very like that of spirits of salts. It is so acid that it eats away the “ dogs “ altogether. In this report, a table is given showing the moisture per cent. of dry weight in various timbers. In this, it is shown that there is 54 per cent. of moisture for green karri of all sizes, and that for sizes up to 30 square inches sectional area, there is 38 per cent. of moisture after six months, whilst for sizes from 60 to 80 square inches sectional area, there is 37 per cent, of moisture after twelve months, and 28 per ;cent. after two years. This is a very heavy percentage of moisture. Every one knows .that the eucalyptus tree contains .a certain amount of acid, but an excessive quantity is found in karri. “The sap breeds a fungus. If we take .a piece of wood which is full of moisture, and place it, .as we do a sleeper, on the surface of the soil, we find that a fermentation takes place, and breeds a fungus which is very like a cobweb. It then proceeds to rot, in an oval shape, leaving the corners. I have seen karri sleepers rot in this way. Many people have told me that, in the interests of Western Australia, I should not bring this matter before the House, but I bring it forward in the interests of not only Western Australia, but Australia generally, believing that I should not do justice to myself or to the country if I did not place before honorable members all that I know in regard to this matter. I should have liked before speaking to look through the reports which the Minister has kindly consented to lay on the table of the House to-morrow, but I hope that other honorable members will do so with a view of determining their true value. They will find that those reports have been made by people who have not had, as the right honorable member for -Swan and I have had, an experience of Western Australia extending over twenty years. They come from people who know little or nothing about the country, or it may be that they are connected with the Powellizing Company. That company has nothing to lose and everything to gain by the use of these timbers. I think that the Powellizing Company could be induced to view this matter in a reasonable light. It is immaterial to them whether they “powellize” jarrah or karri. Even if we use jarrah sleepers we can, if it is thought necessary, powellize them.
– The system has been applied in Sydney to both timbers.
– I am not certain about that, but I think -we should all welcome any process that would add to the life of the timber used on the railway. If it is true that powellizing is a good thing, by all means let us powellize the good timber, and use that timber on our railways. Let us powellize timber which is known to be suitable for use as railway sleepers, and not a timber that has been proved to be unsuitable.
.- I desire to ‘refer to the question introduced (by the honorable member for Boothby, regarding the rights of a section of -the Public Service in the employ of the Postal Department in South Australia. This much-agitated question was carefully considered -by myself, and, to some extent, by my fellow -members of the Postal Commission when we were inquiring into this great service. We devoted much time to the consideration of the question whether we as a Commission could deal with a. matter of such complexity as this eventually proved to be, and the majority of the Commission finally decided that we could not. In view of its many interests and issues it was considered that it was not a matter that could be reviewed effectively by such a Commission. My own opinion is -that it should form .the subject of a special inquiry by an individual qualified to analyze and to assess the merits of the case. We referred to the matter in our report, and expressed the opinion that it was one with which we could not deal. I feel, however, that it should be settled one way or the other. There is no doubt that these men were led to believe, prior to Federation, that their rights would be preserved. Some misrepresentation certainly took place. The statements I have read convince me that those who tried to satisfy these men that their interests would be safeguarded under the then pending Federation either sought to deceive them or were themselves unaware of the exact powers in regard to classification conferred by the Constitution. This question at first involved a very large number of officers, but the number is not as large as it was at the time of the Public Service Commissioner’s classification. Mr. Gordon. - They are dying out. Mr. WEBSTER.- Many of _ them have had their cases adjusted in the ordinary working of the service, birt there are some who still feel that they are labouring under an injustice- They felt that the rights which! they had under the State regime should have been preserved to them, and that they were entitled to receive from the Federation that treatment which they were led to believe was safeguarded under the Constitution. But to investigate the matter fun. requires a -qualified person .to give the whole of his attention to it. He must look into the merits of the four “or five issues involved. Then he must consider the unadjusted cases, and make a recommendation to the Government for dealing out justice. I am well aware that the Public Service Commissioner, standing on his rights, with the judgment of the High Court behind him, has set aside these claims. He considers that there is no room for further discussion. I do not agree with him. Even if the High Court decided upon some technical point of law that certain men had not rights which they were led to believe were reserved to them, this Parliament could not afford to allow an injustice to continue. It would be to the credit of the Postmaster-General if he would set aside the domination of the Public Service Commissioner in this matter. The judgment of the High Court was a very convenient one as affecting the Public Service Commissioner’s classification. I do not wish to consider now the methods whereby the Service was classified. I shall not deal at length with the anomalies that were left unadjusted, and ihe many apparent injustices that were created. The whole subject bristles with difficulties. Considering the haphazard methods adopted in the various States for assessing the value of the services of individual officers, it is astonishing to me that more trouble did not arise out of the classification than was the case. But while many difficulties have been adjusted during the last few years, and whilst the Public Service Commissioner has climbed down from his high pedestal, and practically set aside all those essentials which he had insisted upon during eight years of administration, nevertheless there remains this small section to whom, apparently, justice has not been done. I do not know how the Postmaster-General regards the matter. It is essential that he should say something. His predecessor, the present Minister of External Affairs, made things rather worse than they were before. He promised these men that they should have an opportunity of discussing the merits of their case with the Public Service Commissioner- That was a proper promise to make; and I fail to see why any officer should be so high and mighty as to deny a body of men the right to present their case to him. If the Commissioner had a just case, there was no need for him to refuse to listen to fair representations. If he had not a just case, and the case of the men was right, he was not acting as a fair-minded public officer, but in an arbitrary manner, in not allowing the men to have an opportunity of explaining the grounds of their contention.
– He should have been prepared to live and learn.
– Well, no man has learnt more than the Public Service Commissioner has done during the last few years. No man has adapted himself more to the requirements of reason than he has done; but in this case he stands behind the law. He is not flouting Parliament or the Government, but simply asserting the law. It was for that reason, apparently, that he would not respect the promise which the ex-Postmaster-General made to these men that they should have an opportunity of”, presenting their case from their own standpoint. When the ex-Minister approached the Public Service Commissioner, evidently that officer told him in so many words that the case was closed. I say that the Minister was weak in accepting that position. The Government in other matters forced the Public Service Commissioner to climb down. There is no doubt about that. He should have been forced to climb down in this instance. The Minister should have persevered respectfully and courageously in his attempt to induce the Commissioner to give these men the opportunity which they and all other officers had when the Royal Commission was pursuing its inquiries.
– Did the Public Service Commissioner refuse to hear the men?
– Yes; he refused to carry out the Minister’s promise. I take it that the ex- Postmaster-General was perfectly sincere when he made his promise. Any man in his position would naturally think that these officers were entitled to a hearing; but when he came to Melbourne his promise went by the board. I say, unhesitatingly, that these men should have an inquiry. I do not want to go into the case fully, because it would require some time to deal with ali the details ; but it is sufficient to know that the matter in dispute cannot be dealt with by Parliament, or b> the Postmaster-General, who has not time to unravel a difficulty of the kind. It can, however, be dealt with by an officer capable of analyzing evidence, and of seizing the facts of a difficult position. I trust that the Minister will see his way clear to give the House a promise that the matter will be finally, settled by some tri- bunal that will be called upon to give him that guidance which is necessary to determine whether the claim of the men is equitable or otherwise. There is no necessity to say anything more, because the matter rests with the Minister. If he will not grant an inquiry, this House can do nothing. I am. satisfied, however, that honorable members have no desire to see any public servants labouring under what they believe to be an injustice. Feeling as I do in this matter - knowing that much of the trouble has been settled, and believing that more will be settled in the future - I see no reason why the Min.inister should not grant an inquiry, which would not cost a great deal of money or occupy much time if concentrated on the one case. This would rid this House, and relieve the State, of what has been a source of difficulty ever since I came into Parliament.
.- I desire to add something to the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle in regard to the extraordinary action of the Government in deciding to use karri timber in preference to jarrah in the construction of the Trans- Austral ian railway.
– Is it a Western Australian timber?
– Yes ; and I should have been very much better pleased if I could recommend karri timber, Eucalyptus divericolor, which is one of the finest of the eucalyptus trees in the world, and a valuable product of Western Australia. I do not suppose there is another timber that grows so high or has such girth, and I should have been glad to be able to say nothing but what is good in regard to it. However, I owe it as a duty to this House and to my country to do my best to see that, in the construction of this railway, only, such timbers are used as have stood the test of time, and proved their durability and other qualities. A plentiful supply of the renowned jarrah, Eucalyptus marginata, may be. obtained closer to the scene of the construction work, as cheaply, and, indeed, I think more cheaply, than can karri. Jarrah is in universal use in Western ‘Australia and is largely exported, and has been used for many years in the construction, of railways, jetties, wharfs, and so forth, where durability is required both in and out of water, and under and above ground. Karri timber, on the other hand, is excellent for superstructures, and, as the honorable member for Fremantle has said, for the manufacture of waggons and many other similar uses. This timber has tremendous strength, and is used for very long spans in preference to other timber ; but never for sleepers in the construction of railways. About 300 miles of the railway constructed by the Great Southern Land Company to Albany was constructed with karri sleepers, jarrah being used for the remaining fifty ; and I know from personal observation that the karri rotted in a very short time, and had to be replaced with jarrah, whereas the original jarrah sleepers lasted for the ordinary period of fifteen to twenty years. In my opinion the Government are taking an unnecessary responsibility and risk in electing to use karri. I cannot understand what has induced them, in a great work of this kind, to select timber which, except in the instance I have given, and in the case of some jetties at Carnarvon, and further north, where it proved a failure, has never been used for the purpose. In Western Australia there are 3,200 miles of railways - Government railways for the most part - and all have been constructed with jarrah sleepers. I- never heard of any other timber being used, but I can well understand that the wandoo, Eucalyptus redunca, might be suggested as a very hard “ timber ; although this could not be found so near the scene of the work, nor is it so plentiful as jarrah. With these facts before us, what can be said of a Government who ignore all previous experience in a great work of this character, in which sleepers cannot be replaced except at considerable expense. The selection of karri cannot be due to the fact that it is the more plentiful or cheaper, or can be obtained near at hand. There seems to me no practical reason whatever for this decision of the Government.
– Is the karri not cheaper ?
– I think that jarrah is the cheaper of the two, seeing that it will not have to be carried so far, and that it is just as easy to work. I saw some prices quoted which seemed to indicate that karri sleepers, powellized, are dearer than jarrah sleepers; indeed, I fancy that the price paid for the few thousands of jarrah sleepers already used is lower than that of karri. I have been associated with the construction of railways in Western Australia for over thirty years - from the construction of the first railway to the present time - and with the one exception I have mentioned, which proved disastrous, when the karri was the closer timber, jarrah has invariably been selected. The only reason for the decision of the Government is that there is a Socialistic wave in Western Australia at the present time, and the State Government are carrying out a good many works. It has occurred to the State Government that they can run Government saw-mills and cut and supply timber. I have read in the press, and I have no doubt the statement is true, that most of the convenient jarrah country is leased to private companies. It is not an inexhaustible product, although there is an immense quantity of it in Western Australia. A great deal of the good karri country is still in the hands of the State Government. They do not propose to lease it, but to work it themselves. There is railway communication near to the karri country, and it could easily be taken into it; and in carrying out their policy the ‘State Government propose to erect mills and supply karri timber as a Government enterprise. If they can get a large order from the Commonwealth Government they will be assured of an easy market for their timber. The karri is a good timber for superstructures, and no doubt for that purpose the State Government could get a market for it beyond Australia, though not for use as sleepers; but if would be much more convenient for them to make a contract with the Commonwealth Government, and to be able to send the timber by rail from their mills straight away to the place at which it is to be used. There could not be any objection to that if the timber were suitable for the purpose. I do not say that the powellizing process may not yet be proved to be all that is claimed for it, but I do say that our experience of it ls so limited that we are not justified in using powellized karri sleepers for this very extensive work.
– Powellizing sleepers is a very expensive job.
– I do not know the process.
– The timber has to :>e boiled.
– I have no desire to say anything against the karri timber. It is not to the interest of any member of this House to decry any product of the Commonwealth. At the same time, we should not let our interests carry us away in so important a matter. I was anxious to find out all about this proposal to use karri timber, and at the beginning of the session asked several questions on the subject of the Minister of Home Affaris. I cannot say that the honorable gentleman met me in the spirit in which I had a right to be met. There were several attempts made to avoid answering the questions. To such an extent was this the case that I at last gave up asking questions on the subject. I was answered as if I had some ulterior object in view, and desired to serve some party purpose. My questions were not answered as they should have been answered. I asked whether karri timber was being used in the construction of railways in Western Australia. The Minister, said it was. I did not pursue the question, but I now deny that it has ever been used in the construction of railways in Western Australia, except in the case I have men:tioned where it proved disastrous, and the Minister must have been grossly misinformed when he made that misleading reply. To say that karri was being used in railway construction because thirty powellized sleepers were laid on a line as an experiment is a subterfuge. It was dis-: creditable .to the Minister to give such an absolutely incorrect answer. I then thought that I would apply for information to the Commissioner of Railways in Western Australia, whom I know very well. I asked him what length of line in Western Australia had been laid with powellized karri sleepers, and in what locality. I could not get an, answer. The honorable member for Fremantle has given an .answer, and I should like to know why I could not get one. I think it must have been because the Government did not .desire that I should have the information. I think that is a reasonable conclusion for me to arrive at. At any rate, we now find that thirty powellized karri sleepers have been laid down in Western Australia. If it was desired to make an experiment, a mile of line, in different localities, should have been laid down with these sleepers. The fact that thirty powellized karri sleepers laid in one locality have stood a good test for six years should not be sufficient to induce any reasonable-minded Minister to embark upon an expenditure of about £1,000,000 for powellized karri sleepers for a great undertaking such as the Trans- Australian railway. I am surprised that the PostmasterGeneral and the Minister of Defence, who know all about the matter, should be parties in any way to so great a risk being run in connexion with this undertaking. We should let the company concerned go on powellizing karri and other timbers, and give them every opportunity to show the durability of pewellized timber. No one will rejoice more than I shall if they are successful. But we should not permit any one to foist upon the Commonwealth timber for sleepers,, whether powellized. or not, the ‘durability of which we have not jet had sufficient experience of. We know that karri timber, if it is not powellized, is useless for this purpose. Another thing which has to be borne in mind is that no mills have been erected yet for the cutting of these karri sleepers, and that it will take several mills to cut the number of sleepers required by the Commonwealth Government for this railway.
– They will have to be put into the railway green.
– I expect that many of them will be used green. It would be better, of course, if they were seasoned before being used. As no mills have yet been erected to cut these sleepers, I should Tike to know when they are to be delivered. I think the Government pro”posal means delay, and unnecessary delay. On the other hand, it would be an easy matter to let contracts for the immediate supply of jarrah sleepers. There are two or three companies in a position to supply jarrah sleepers at a reasonable rate. I saw that the price paid for jarrah sleepers recently was less than for powellized karri sleepers.
– The jarrah sleepers need not be cut in mills.
– That is so. Most of the jarrah sleepers used in Western Australia are not sawn sleepers, but have been cut by hewers, and they are really better than sawn sleepers. Large areas of jarrah have been specially reserved for hewers, and there would be no difficulty in getting a large supply of jarrah sleepers. Why, in the circumstances, do the Government turn aside from this big and certain supply to follow this will-o’-the-wisp down into the karri country where no mill has yet been erected?
– And which has only one outlet by rail.
– That is so; whereas there are many lines already connected with the jarrah country, and there is an army of hewers at the work of cutting sleepers. I may say that practically all the sleepers- used on the Western Australian railways’ are provided by hewers. Why all this risk - all this delay? It is intended to assist the Western Australian Government in their Socialistic enterprises. I do not mind that, so long as they provide the Commonwealth with a good sleeper; but why should we incur all the risk ? I will not be a party to foisting upon this Commonwealth a timber which has not been proved to be suitable for railway sleepers. The suitability of karri depends upon the effectiveness of the process of powellization, of which we have had insufficient experience. I am surprised that, notwithstanding the plentiful supply of. jarrah which is available for the purpose, the Minister of Home Affairs should have lent himself to this scheme, which will only bring discredit on him and injury to the country.
– I was not present when the honorable member for Fremantle was discussing this question ; but I have listened attentively to the remarks of the right honorable member for Swan, and I fear that both of them are labouring under a misapprehension. In the first place, the powellizing process: is not a new thing in Australia. It has. been practised in Western America for thirty years.
– In America?
– For experience of it, I can only go- to those countries in which it’ has been tried. The honorable member for Fremantle, and’ the honorable member for Swan, stated that, with the exception of six years, we had had no experience of the process in Australia. But even that six years’ experience has been sufficient to demonstrate the superiority of powellized karri over un-powellized jarrah. I know that a storm of opposition has been created because we have seen fit to go outside of certain specified timber rings to obtain the sleepers required for the construction of the transcontinental railway. Recognising, that, I shall’ endeavour to put before honorable members the opinions of men who are without bias upon this question. For a long time I was not prepared to adopt powellized sleepers - at any rate, not until I had had a thorough examination1 made of them; but I do not believe that because our great-grandfathers and grandmothers did not change, we ought steadfastly to refuse to change. We know that the things which suited them wil’l not suit now. What would be thought of us if to-day we insisted upon travelling by the old stage-coach instead of by railway train? We do know that for the past six years powellized karri sleepers and un-powellized jarrah sleepers have been down in Western Australia.
– Thirty sleepers.
– In that State the two sleepers have been subjected to a fair test. I propose to show honorable members that whilst the jarrah sleepers have been bored through with white ants, the powellized karri sleepers are just as good as they were on the day they were laid. In fact, they are better. They are more durable. From that six years’ experience, it seems safe to predict that they will last thirty or forty years longer.; and we know that fifteen years is the average life of a sleeper. I hold in my hand a copy of a memorandum dated 17th July, 1912, from the EngineerinChief of Railways to the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, which reads -
With reference to the Powell wood process, I beg to furnish the following notes : -
On the 2nd May, 1911, I wrote to Mr. Light, Chief Engineer of Existing Lines, Government Railways, Perth, asking him for information as to his experience, and his opinion, of the process. On the 31st March, 1910, Mr. Light forwarded a letter to the managing director of the Australian Powell wood process, stating that certain karri sleepers were treated by the Powell wood process in 1906, and were placed on the road on the 16th November, 1906, alternately with some untreated karri sleepers. In November, 1909, an examination was made. One sleeper of each kind was handed over to the Departmental analytical chemist, who showed that the untreated sleeper was affected with dry-rot, but that the powellized sleeper was free from disease.
A report on the Powell wood process by Professor Norman Rudolph, M.Sc. (Victoria and Liverpool), Fellow of the Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland, Chief of the Department of Applied Chemistry of the Indian Institute of Science, deals chiefly with the treatment of Indian timber, and is undoubtedly very favorable to the Powell process.
There is a report dated 20th August, 1907, by Professor D. F. Mackenzie, Fellow of the Surveyors’ Institute, Fellow of the Botanical Society. It concerns the treatment of three sections of karri sent to him to test for “dry-rot” on the 13th November, 1906. The specimens were embedded “ in active dry-rot “ for nine months. The untreated timber became covered with fungus. The treated timber remained unaffected.
There is another report by Professor Mackenzie, dated 4th November, 1905, where he writes, apparently to the Powell Company, that he is prepared to indorse all that they claim for their process.
Professor G. S. Boulger, F.L.S., F.G.S., F.R.H.S., A.S.I., in a book written by him, says that the processed wood will take paint or varnish, and is completely immune to the attacks of dry-rot. .
On the 24th July, 191 1, Mr. Bethell wrote te* me forwarding two samples of Victorian mountain ash, both out of the same board, one in itsnatural condition and the other powellized seasoned, showing a very great improvement due to the process. This was in compliance with a request which I had made to Mr. Bethell
On the 2nd September, 1922, Mr. Light, Chief Engineer of Existing Lines, Perth, wrote to me on the subject of the Powell process. He said : - “ Some years ago a number of processed sleepers, karri, were placed in the line sandwiched in between sleepers badly affected with dry-rot, and have stood the test well, proving thoroughly resistant to the inroads of the fungus. “ The Public Works Department also has carried out exhaustive tests with powellized timbers in the north-west of this State (where white ants are particularly numerous and voracious) to determine the efficacy of the treated timber in resisting the attacks of the termites, with generally satisfactory results.” Then he adds : - “ The value of the treatment having been- fairly well established, the Government authorized the construction of a powellizing plant, and one capable of processing on an average 9,000 sleepers per week has been erected at Bunbury.”
I think it will be seen that the evidence as to the effect of treatment of karri by the Powell wood process is very favorable.
Since writing the above, a telegram from Mr. Light, Chief Engineer of Existing Lines, Perth, conveys the following information : - “ Powellized karri culvert perfectly sound, although erected for test purposes inside old jarrah culvert, which has been destroyed by white ants.”
I think that that disproves the statements of the honorable member for Fremantle.
– Why does not Western Australia use powellized karri for its own lines?
– Like Mark Twain in regard to early rising, it thinks it excellent for other people.
– I have also an extract from the report of the Consult- ing Railway Engineer, dated 20th September, 191 1, relating to sleepers -
The question of the supply of sleepers is one of considerable importance. The forests in Australia where the best classes of timber grow are becoming rapidly depleted. This is particularly the case on the eastern side of the continent, where, at one time, ironbark was considered the only timber suitable for sleepers. Since then, owing to the growing scarcity of ironbark, other very good but relatively inferior timbers are being used.
In Western Australia the forests in the southwest can yet be depended upon for large supplies. Jarrah is the only suitable timber, karri not being sufficiently durable or resistant to white ants. -“The Railways Department of Western Australia possesses a powellizing plant, and the results are said to be most satisfactory. The process seems to cause a wonderful improvement in the quality of even poor timber.
In Gippsland and Tasmania there are large forests, including the so-called mountain ash, messmate, and bluegum. These timbers treated by the Powell process seem to be completely altered. Judging by results on other timber, they would resist the ravages of white ants and dry-rot, in which case they should make remarkably good sleepers, and afford a source of supply for the South Australian end of the railway. I have asked Mr. Bethell, the manager of the company in Sydney, to furnish me with particulars of the plant which would be suitable for erection in Port Augusta, on the assumption that it would be necessary to treat 4,000 sleepers per day.
I have inquired of timber merchants in Sydney as to the possibility of obtaining large supplies of sleepers from the coast of New South Wales, north of Newcastle, but it is thought impracticable, owing to the absence of co-operation among timber getters.
Then there is this report by the Chief Engineer for Existing Lines, Western Australian Government railways, dated at Perth, 21st March, 1910, and addressed to the Managing Director, Western Australian Powell Wood Process Limited, Surrey Chambers, St. George’s Terrace, Perth -
In the year 1906 some karri sleepers were treated by the Powell wood process in the experimental plant at Midland Junction railway shops.
These sleepers were placed in the road on the 16th November, 1906, at certain points alternately with non-tieated karri sleepers, all of the sleepers having been cut at the same time.
On the 17th November, 1909, one set of these sleepers was examined in the road, and “dry-rot “ was found to exist in some of the non-treated ones. One of each kind was removed from the line, and has been examined by the Departmental Analytical Chemist, a transcription of whose report I have much pleasure in submitting hereunder for your information : - “ With regard to the above, I have to state that I have physically examined the two sleepers submitted. I find that the untreated karri sleeper is affected with dry-rot.’ This timber disease seems to have travelled in a certain direction, as one side and the end are the parts most affected. I found in several places along the side that the apparent affected area extended to a depth of five-eighths of an inch. At these places the fibrous nature of karri has almost disappeared, having given place to a granular and friable mass, which can be readily removed with the finger-nail. This structure is best seen with a microscope, which explains the cause for the disintegration.
It is impossible for me, at this stage, to say whether the ‘dry-rot ‘ has penetrated deeper. If it has, the fibre has not been visibly affected by it.
I have examined the powellized karri sleeper, and find it free from the above disease. In no part of the sleeper could any of the fungi be found, and the fibre is sound all over the portion exposed. The condition of this sleeper is much more sound than the untreated sleeper.”
We admit that untreated karri is not good, but the treated timber is another matter. I have also a report by Professor D. F. Mackenzie, Fellow of the Surveyors Institute and of the Botanical Society. It is dated 4th November, 1905.
Referring to the specimens of powellized timbers submitted to me some time ago for the purpose of testing, I have to report that I have now completed the tests, and, in consequence of the results obtained, I am prepared to indorse all you claim for your process.
With regard to its immunity from the attack of “ dry-rot “ (Merulius lacryntans), I have made a prolonged and thorough test. In order that this test might be thoroughly reliable, I took care to produce and maintain the necessary conditions to induce the attack of the “ dryrot” fungus. These conditions are moisture, temperature, and full contact with a vigorous fungus. As is well known, the moisture and an equable temperature predisposes the wood by dissolving the soluble matter and softening the cell walls, rendering it liable to attack from fungoid plants, and thereby causing rapid decay.
In order that there might be no mistake, such as weakness of the fungoid growth, I had placed alternately with your specimens similar pieces of other well-seasoned timbers. These were all attacked by this “dry-rot” and partly consumed, while those sent by you had no appearance of being even touched by Mycelium, and, what may be considered a good feature, the tissue was hardly at all affected by months of contact with moisture.
Examining the tissue of your treated timbers under the lens of a powerful microscope, I did not find a single “ thread “ of Mycelium or a spore. There being no penetration by Mycelium there was, consequently, no disintegration of the cells or general tissue.
Making a similar examination of the untreated wood, I found the whole tissue permeated with the Mycelium of the “ dry-rot “ fungus, with a large proportion of the cells and tissues disintegrated and collapsed. A more severe test than I have made would be impossible to carry out.
– Does he live in Perth ?
– Where does he live?
– I cannot tell the right honorable gentleman, as that is not stated.
– Did he make that test seven years ago?
– He made this test.
– Where did he get the stuff from?
– I cannot tell the right honorable gentleman. Australians had sent it to him.
– When did he make the test?
– On the 4th November, 1905. This is the report of Professor D. Mackenzie, Fellow of the Surveyors’ Institute.
– Of what country?
– That is not set down here. I suppose that it would be the institute of some country; otherwise the statement would not be made.
– For how long was the test made?
– It is seven years since he made it.
– But how long had the test been made on the 4th November, 1905 ?
– My honorable f riend can take the report and read it. I have another document to which I ask honorable members to listen -
The Hon. King O’Malley,
With reference to the powellizing of sleepers and timber for the transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, we assume that at least two million sleepers will be treated out of the total amount required, and that at least twenty million feet of timber will be required for various other works and buildings, or, say, a total - not taking into account any future requirements during the continuance of the patent - of one hundred million super, feet.
The royalty we asked, i.e., two shillings (25.) per 100 super, feet, is the same amount that we are receiving from other Governments, and would amount on this basis to ^100,000. We are willing, however, to accept the sum of sixty thousand pounds (,£60,000) payable in cash or Treasury bonds, for the right to use the Powell process during the continuance of our patent, for the treatment of all timbers required by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta.
It will be seen that they do not consider it very cheap. Generally an article which has a marketable value has a big one.
– They are sawn and hewn. We have an agreement to get so many thousands of karri a month until this thing is ready.
– Are they to be newn or sawn sleepers that you are going to treat?
– Some will be hewn and some will be sawn. The document continues -
The amount we would receive per sleeper is about fourpence, which is small compared to the value in the lengthened life of the sleepers, apart from any cost of renewals, and the results of the process to date are as definite as it is possible to be.
With regard to the white ant resisting timbers, we venture to emphatically state that there is no timber suitable for sleepers that will resist the attacks of these pests, more particularly those in the country through which the proposed line will pass.
The Western Australian Government recently powellized the whole of the jarrah sleepers and scantling required in the Port Hedland to Marble Bay Railway, and are enlarging their present plant to powellize all timbers used by them.
It has been found by the Indian railways that the ravages by white ants and dry-rot were increasing to an alarming extent, so much so that a Commission was recently appointed to go into the question. The report of which shows that timbers hitherto looked upon as dry-rot and white ant resisting, were found to be quite the reverse. Two further powellizing plants are tobe erected in India to cope with the increasing demand, so satisfactory have been the results of all tests made.
We would also take the liberty of pointing out that the establishing and proving of the Powell process in Australasia has entailed the spending of large sums of money, but its proved efficiency” will make thousands of acres of inferior timbers into valuable marketable ones, sothat the benefit to the country at large is of such magnitude as to make the sum we ask of small account; and with all due deference we would point out that the use of steel sleepers - inferior as we think they admittedly are to wooden ones - would probably entail the spending out of the country of considerable sums of money which would otherwise be spent here. The adoption of the process would doubtless be of benefit to us, but it would also be a great advertisement for Australian timbers throughout the world, whereas the use of steel sleepers would be the opposite.
We quite recognise that the powellizing of this amount of timber will entail considerable outlay on the part of your Government in the erection of works, but we think this amount will not reach twenty thousand pounds (£20,000), nor do we think the cost of these works should altogether be put against the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway; we hope and believe that the benefits of the process will be such as will induce the Commonwealth to treat other timber for further works.
The plant is one that, owing to its nature, suffers only slight depreciation, and we have no doubt that should it meet with your wishes, the South Australian Government would from time to time take advantage of the plant being on its territory, to have timber treated there.
We take the liberty of sending herewith some few reports and testimonials.
The following is an extract from a letter written by the Assistant Engineer at Perth for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway to the Engineer-in-Chief of Commonwealth railways : -
Mr. Scaddan informed me that all the Government Engineers have convinced him that powellized karri is better than treated jarrah, and as the karri forests are quite in the hands of the Government, whilst the jarrah areas are almost exclusively in the hands of. Millars Company, the State Government are determined to utilize this timber (karri) for their own benefit.
Mr. Light, the Chief Engineer for Existing Lines, is thoroughly convinced that treated karri sleepers are better in every respect than jarrah, and that the extra cost for the powellizing will more than, double the life of an untreated jarrah sleeper.
It will thus be. seen that the Premier of Western Australia declares that all the Government engineers have convinced him that powellized karri is better, than treated jarrah, whilst the Engineer-in-Chief, Western Australia ; Mr. Deane,. EngineerinChief; Mr. Saunders, Assistant Engineer, South Australia; and Mr. Chinn, Assistant Engineer, Western. Australia, all report in favour of it. We have the tests of eminent scientific men to support us, and we know that the Indian Government is putting in a powellizing plant. I had thought of using, steel sleepers, but when I went to Western Australia and had interviews with Mr. Thompson and other engineers, who put before me all. the evidence that it was possible to obtain, I decided upon the course I. have followed. I waited all this time before arriving at a decision. The right honorable member for Swan has put to me many questions relating to the railway, but no one knows better than he does that when things are at the experimental stage - when they are in a state of nebulosity - it is unwise to tell every one about them. If you do, the whole world is in your business, and, indeed, knows, your business better than you do yourself. No matter how successful a man may be in managing a business, he will find that there are some people who have failed in a great many undertakings, but who think nevertheless that they can manage that business, a great deal better than he can. I therefore keep these things to myself, not that I desire to give unkind or unsatisfactory answers to questions put to me-
– I do not like to do that, but I am prepared to tell any- honorable member privately anything that he wants to know regarding any bargain before it is. actually completed. Once a bargain is made, all the facts relating to it are laid on the table of the; House.
– Why did not the honorable member select jarrah sleepers?
– I decided to use karri sleepers because I was convinced of their value by the tests of engineers all over the world.
– Why does not the honorable member tell the Opposition that the jarrah, forests were cornered,, whilst the’ karri forests were not.
– I do not like to hurt, their feelings. I am, perfectly satisfied that the sleepers- used in the construction of the transcontinental railway will outlive most of us.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.45 p.m.
– Earlier in the afternoon the honorable member for Wentworth, under cover of a circular which he said he had received from the promoters of a newspaper in Brisbane, made a very serious attack upon the Independent Press Cable Association, and also upon the directors of the projected journal. Assuming that the honorable member was prompted by the highest of motives, namely, to protect the interests of the Commonwealth and inform the House of some wrongs-doing, he was quite right in bringing the matter forward. The new Cable Company is drawing a subsidy from the Commonwealth, and if the honorable member’s statements were true, they were sufficiently serious to warrant a reply. I do not think that the honorable member ought to be ignorant of the position, in view of disclosures which, have been made in this House. There are two Press Cable Associations operating in the Commonwealth for the purpose of supplying news to journals published here; One is known as the
Argus-Herald syndicate, and the other is the Independent Press Cable Association, which was recently formed. The evidence; adduced here, the record of which, can be found in Hansard, shows that the ArgusHerald Cable Syndicate enjoyed a very close monopoly up to a certain point, and had control of the whole of the cable news distributed throughout Australia and NewZealand. It exercised its monopolistic powers to the extent that the newspapers that came in at a later stage were charged very much higher rates than those which constituted the original syndicate. Further, any newspaper entering into the syndicate had to sign an agreement, carrying a penalty of £1,000, not to deal with any other cable association. Then, again, the syndicate claimed the right to determine what newspapers should participate in the service and the conditions under which they should enter. It was contended, and I think the evidence is fairly conclusive, that the promoters were animated by certain political bias ; so much so that the conditions .they laid down for newspapers that did not conform to their opinions were practically prohibitive. So that, under this arrangement, newspapers advocating strong or ultra-democratic views were practically excluded from the service.
– Does the honorable member state that on his own knowledge? It is absolutely denied.
– The evidence is to be found in Hansard, and though it has been denied it has not been refuted. It remains for those interested in the syndicate to refute the evidence brought forward.
– A Committee of the Senate inquired into the matter.
– The Committee did not find what the honorable member for Calare has represented.
– They found something pretty close to it.
– The evidence showed that the syndicate published the news that suited it.
– That was one of the strong inducements which led this Parliament to subsidize a cable service that would be free from such monopolistic con’ditions. The outcome was the formation of the Independent Press Cable Company. This organization has had a very severe fight against the Argus-Herald combination, which had practically secured’ all the large newspapers, and held them1 in the thrall of its agreement, which prevented them from publishing cable news that came to them from other sources. It is well known that a newspaper in New South Wales, when the new company was in the stage of formation, took an option upon its news. But, although it obtained the news, the journal was unable to publish it because of the existing agreement with the other syndicate. The newspaper only got the right to publish the news when it entered into liquidation and secured other and better conditions, relieving itself of the legal obligation to the older press cable syndicate. The articles of association of the Independent Press Cable Company have been published, and the honorable member for Wentworth could have informed himself concerning them. They stipulate that -the news obtained shall be available to alt newspapers desiring to purchase it, irrespective of their political opinions. The news can be published by Conservative newspapers or by ultra-democratic journals.
– It was practically the same with the news obtained by the older syndicate, which served all kinds of journals.
– The honorable member has not been connected with any democratic or ultra-democratic newspaper, or he would not be disposed to make that statement.
– The Age was a member of the syndicate.
– That is true ; but surely the honorable member would not say that the Age is an ultra-democratic publication. The ‘Independent Press Cable Company knows no political opinions. Its service is open to newspapers of all shades of political thought on equal terms. The company does not differentiate between one newspaper proprietor and another because one came in earlier than another. One of the conditions laid down in regard to the subsidy is that the news obtained shall be available to the whole press of Australia uponthe same conditions, and irrespective’ of thepolitical views that obtain expression in thacolumns of the journals. It is, further, a condition that the news shall be transmitted’ over the All-Red Cable line, a service which the Commonwealth of Australia has to subsidize, and for any deficiency in the working of which it is partly responsible. The subsidy is open to ‘the Argus-Herald” combination, if that combination is prepared to conform to the conditions laid” down ; and the fact that it has not applied1 for the subsidy is a fair indication that it will not comply. I cannot understand’ how it is that, in the face of these facts,, any honorable member can make the charge of giving exclusive rights to a particular - newspaper. The Minister is quite rightto say that he will have the matter investigated, but I venture to predict that such an investigation will only substantiate the position I have stated. This Cable Company is true to its articles of association, and to the undertaking it entered into with>. the Commonwealth, namely, to make its service available to all newspapers, irrespective of their political opinions, and on the same terms. As regards the projected newspaper in Brisbane, I have not been favoured with a circular such as that claimed to have been received by the honorable member for Wentworth. All I know is that there is a project for a new daily paper which will be in strong contrast to the newspapers already published there, inasmuch as it will be thoroughly democratic. It may be that this newspaper will be the only one to use this cable service, but, if so, that will not be because the service is not open to other newspapers; it will be because those other newspapers are bound by agreement with the Argus->Herald Press Cable Syndicate, and cannot, except at very heavy loss, publish a cable coming through any other channel. This Parliament voted a subsidy for the purpose of establishing a company free of monopoly rights ; and it ought to be made known that the garbled statement of the honorable member for Wentworth is not in accordance with fact.
Mr. RYRIE (North Sydney [8.0].- lt is a very serious matter for the Government, in embarking on a big undertaking such as that of a transcontinental railway, to accept sleepers for practically 1,000 miles of line without being absolutely certain that the sleepers will be serviceable. Nothing that the Minister has told us would convince me, nor, I think, honorable members opposite, that karri sleepers will prove more durable simply because they have been powellized. In company with the Minister of External Affairs and other honorable members, I was shown blocks of karri and jarrah by the superintendent of the railway workshops at Port Darwin. Some of those blocks had been subjected to the powellizing treatment, while others had not; and I can say emphatically that, while the blocks which had been treated were not so badly infected as the others, they had been riddled through and through by the white ant.
– Try powellizing on the Opposition !
– I should advise the honorable member not to show his head in the Northern Territory - the white ants go for anything wooden. I was given to understand at Port Darwin that the Minister of External Affairs was to bring those blocks of wood down to Melbourne in order to show them to the Minister of Home Affairs.
Whether that was done or not I do not know; but I saw the Minister of External Affairs examining the blocks, the powellized portion of which was, as I say, riddled through.
– I believe my own eyesight.
– Is it not a fact that every wooden sleeper on the Port Darwin railway has been taken up?
– The wooden sleepers used” on the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek were subjected to every possible treatment to prevent the white ants eating them, and ultimately they had to be done away with.
– It is many years since wooden sleepers were used on that line. They were taken up long before the powellizing process was invented.
– That may be so. I know that the man in charge of the railway sheds at Darwin, who had long experience of conditions in the Northern Territory, assured us that, so far, no timber is known which will resist the ravages of the white ants, and no process has been discovered which will make timber proof against white ants. On these facts it is quite clear that the Government will not be safe in depending upon karri sleepers merely because they are to be powellized It has been admitted by the Minister of Home Affairs himself that, assuming both are untreated, the karri timber is inferior to the jarrah timber. It may be assumed from this that if the jarrah timber were powellized it would be superior to powellized karri. I have no personal knowledge of the matter, but listening to the debate I have come to the conclusion that karri timber is not procurable at a lower rate than jarrah. In all the circumstances, I ask why we should decide to use timber which is known to be inferior when we might use a superior timber? We have had no explanation from the Minister of Home Affairs as to whykarri sleepers are to be used in preference to jarrah. I am given to understand that there is a reason for the preference. We learn that it is in contemplation by the State Labour Government of Western Australia to erect State saw-mills, and the Commonwealth Government have decided to use karri sleepers for the transcontinental railway merely in order to put work into the hand’s of this Socialistic concern. That, I believe) is the true reason- for the decision arrived at.
– That is the only reason.
– It should not be forgotten that it is, the. people of the Commonwealth who must foot the big bill which will have to be paid for sleepers for that railway. I suppose that to secure and lay down the sleepers will cost about £2, 000,000. It is not fair that the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, including those who do not believe in these Socialistic enterprises, should be taxed merely for the benefit of a few individuals engaged in a Socialistic experiment. The Minister of Home Affairs in his reply dealt with nothing but reports from various, individuals as to the efficacy of the powellizing process to prevent dry rot. He quoted no report from a recognised authority asserting that powellized timber will resist the ravages of the white ants. Before we are committed to the use of karri sleepers for 1,000 miles of the trans- Western Australian railway we should be absolutely certain that they are the. best for the purpose. I do not think that the Minister of Home Affairs can be absolutely certain that karri sleepers will be a success on that railway.
– We are getting. 750,000 karri sleepers, but we shall require over 2,500,000 sleepers for the line.
– I understood that it had been decided to use karri sleepers for the whole of the line.
– The Minister stated, in reply to a question, that he had let contracts for 1,500,000 karri sleepers.
– Not all karri sleepers.
– Yes, all karri sleepers.
– No; a great’ many jarrah sleepers are. to be furnished. We are to get 750,000 powellized karri sleepers.
– I can assure the Minister that the powellizing process, will not make these karri sleepers proof against the attacks of white ants.
– Let the honorable member ask Sir Allen Taylor, of Sydney.
– I am not aware that he fa an authority on. white ants.
– The honorable member evidently is; an authority.
– I speak of what I know. I cannot positively swear that the timber I saw at Darwin was powellized. I can only say that the superintendent, of the railway sheds there showed us the blocks of timber. He said, “ This is powellized, and this is not. This is a piece of jarrah, and that is a piece of karri.” The Minister of External Affairs was present at the time, and we examined the timber, and! shook it to remove from it the dust which was caused by the ravages of. the white ants. We found that: the whole of the timber shown us had, been more or less perforated by white ants. I wish now to briefly refer to another subject. I am glad that the Honorary Minister representing the Minister of Defence has corrected the statement he made yesterday in reference, to the cadets’.. I hope that the honorable gentleman will in future treat me as fairly as I have treated him in this matter. I might very easily have taken him at a disadvantage, because as he might have, gathered from my interjections, I knew when he was, speaking that he was making a mistake. To be quite certain I went down to the offices of the Defence Department, and ascertained that his statement was not correct. Instead of coming back, and charging the Minister with deliberately making an incorrect statement, I arranged practically with his officers that he should be informed that his statement was not correct.
– The honorable member does a good deed, and then waters it down.
– I found, upon conversing with the officers, that the Honorary Minister had not deliberately made a misstatement.
– When did the honorable member find out that my statement was incorrect ?
– This morning,
– Then the honorable member could not have come back to the House to do what he has said.
– Why not? Could I not have doneso this afternoon on the formal Supply motion? I hope that the Honorary Minister will treat me in future as I have treated him in connexion with this matter.
– I shall treat the honorable gentleman, with, exceptional-, leniency.
– I wish to say a few wordls in regard to the order about which the Honorary Minister made a mistake. It was issued, by the Defence Department, and required cadets to do field-firing with ball ammunition. Yesterday the Honorary Minister said that if I had read that order I would have seen that only those cadets who had proved themselves efficient were to be selected to take part in these competitions. But I would point out that it is absolutely impossible for any cadet to hecome efficient with the rifle, because he has only a few hours in which to qualify himself.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Further, this order is absolutely contrary to the regulations which have been issued in respect of universal training. Yesterday the Honorary Minister was particular in stating that we must adhere to those regulations.
– Do I understand that the honorable member is replying to a speech made yesterday by the HonoraryMinister ?
– No; I am merely touching upon his reply incidentally.
– I thought I heard the honorable member say that yesterday the Honorary Minister said so-and-so.
– Only by way of reference.
– The honorable member must not comment upon a debate which has already taken place.
– Very well’. This order is absolutely contrary to the regulations under which cadet training is carried out. Paragraph 4 of regulation 50 says -
Ball ammunition is not to be issued to senior’ cadets individually except when in position to /ire, and the officer commanding will be held responsible that no ammunition unfired is allowed to remain in their possession on leaving such position. .
The order which was issued makes it incumbent upon those who are in charge of these tactical exercises to supply ammuni-tion to the cadets. They must have it in their pouches. In carrying out this field - firing practice, the cadets will be in extended order, So that it is absolutely impossible to comply with the regulation. I now wish to say a word or two regarding the number of cadets who have used the rifle at all, and in this connexion I propose to quote from the report to Parliament of the Minister of Defence himself. Let us see how many cadets actually use a rifle. Appendix vi. of the Minister’s report sets out that the annual musketry course for
Senior Cadets is to comprise twenty rounds, which are to be fired at distances of 100, 200 and 300 yards. Part II. deals with instructional practice at 300 and 400 yards, at which distances twenty-five rounds are to be fired. In other words, forty-five rounds are allowed for the annual musketry course for Senior Cadets. Now, there are .92,276 cadets in the Commonwealth. How many of these have gone through this very simple course of musketry? How many have fired even the forty-five rounds of ammunition? The Minister states in his report that the number of partially exercised cadets is 2,077, and the number who have completed the course is 3,117- Only 3,117 of our cadets out of 92,276 have gone through this simple course of musketry. Yet this most inexplicable order has been issued that cadets are to engage in field-firing - a tactical exercise. The thing is simply grotesque.
– It is a burlesque.
– Absolutely. Fieldfiring is the highest exercise which can be carried out by a soldier. After he has passed through a recruit’s course, which occupies at least from seven weeks to three months of continuous training, he has to undergo the trained soldier’s course, which occupies him for a further period of six months. Yet under this order boys who have never used a rifle are supposed to engage in the same exercise. The order will have a bad effect, because there are many military men whose sons are cadets, and they know the danger.
– The team contests took place with exceptional success.
– I do not deny it. They were successful because the order was ignored, and the only teams competing were composed of State school or college boys, who had been trained with the rifle for years. The teams were not formed from the ordinary area cadets. The danger lay in the initial procedure in the areas.
– The teams were composed of picked cadets.
– How can cadets be picked without being tested?
– A large number of those in the teams had been using rifles for years.
– I have said so; but the order did not discriminate.
– It allows for the picking rf of teams.
– You cannot pick teams unless you test the cadets. You cannot select a team for a shooting contest, cricket match, or anything else without testing the capabilities of your material, and there is great danger in testing for these teams boys who have not been through field practice.
– Would you never give boys field practice until they had had field practice ?
– Boys should not have field practice until they have been through their musketry course, and have become efficient with the rifle. It is a mistake to allow boys to go through field practice at all. There will be time enough for that when they enter the Citizen Forces. There is a serious danger in field practice even with adults, because the men have to act largely on their own initiative. They have to load, fire, and judge distances.
– The distances are all marked.
– I understand that they were marked for the contests, but I do not know that they would be marked in the initial tests in the areas.
– The distances were given in the initial tests.
– The order made it incumbent on Area Officers to select teams by giving the cadets field practice. That was a blunder which the Department should see is not made again. The order is still in force, but its effects will not be so bad in the future, because next year there will be more boys who have gone through the musketry course, though there will always te recruits coming in. The danger was greater last year, because the boys only got their rifles in November.
– The first year has been passed through satisfactorily.
– Because the order was ignored. It had to be ignored to prevent disaster, but it is against all traditions of military discipline to ignore an order from head-quarters. Another serious matter is that, although the universal training regulations say that the cadet officers shall wear uniforms, not a single garment has been supplied to any cadet officer, notwithstanding that , the scheme has been in working order for sixteen months. This is very discouraging to the officers. To military men it is incongruous to have officers -in plain clothes drilling boys or men in -uniform. You may occasionally see officers ; in uniform drilling ununiformed recruits, although that looks bad enough, but it is a horrible sight to see a man in mufti drilling boys or men in uniform. I would no more go out in front of a body of uniformed men in the suit that I now wear than I would try to fly to the moon, because I should look and feel out of place if I did so. There is a great deal in clothes. You can call it sentiment, but when a soldier dons his uniform he feels he is a different man. I know it from my own case. Uniform has an effect upon the men under you, and makes your position and theirs clear and distinct.
– It makes you throw out your chest.
– Yes. You walk about with a cane, and slap your leg with it, and feel that you are somebody. The distinction between the officer and the men in the ranks must be marked. Without it there can be no discipline.
– A good argument for doing without uniforms.
– I think that would be absolutely wrong. I have had brothers under me. Of course, when out of uniform we call each other by our Christian names, and act with perfect freedom, but when we are in uniform it is a different matter. If I noticed that certain lines were not clean I would ask, “ Where is Captain Ryrie?” He would come, and I. would say, “ Captain Ryrie, what is the matter? I see that there are certain things wrong in your lines.” He would salute, and reply, “ Yes, sir.” I would say, “ See that it does not occur again.” A man cannot act in that way unless he is in uniform.
– I suppose it is a case of attitude being the art of gunnery, and the uniform making the colonel.
– I do not say that, but the emblems of authority should not be dispensed with. It is essential for discipline that the men should respect their officers, and they recognise them by the badges of rank on their shoulders.
– Does the honorable member call the cane an emblem of authority ?
– The whole uniformis that. No army can be successful without discipline in all ranks, from the humblest bugler to the colonel.
– Did the Boers have uniforms ?
– I do not know that you would call the Boers an army. A great many of them had uniforms ; whenever they could get a uniform they wore it. It has- been a cause of very great dissatisfaction to those who have volunteered to fill the position of commissioned officers in the Cadet Forces that they -Have not been given uniforms. I know a case where the .young wife of a man who had volunteered to be an officer went to the area office, and asked “ What sort of a uniform is John going to have?” He told her that he would get a uniform. She was as pleased and proud as Punch, and John was waiting every day for the uniform, but it never came. He was always wondering, and she was always wondering, about the uniform, but it never came, and he resigned. So it is with a great number of these officers.
– And this is your Army !
– It is disgraceful that the uniforms which it is laid down in the regulations shall be served to these men, and which have been promised over and over again, have never been given. A great many officers have resigned purely and solely because they have not been able to get uniforms, because they refuse to go out in plain clothes in front of the boys to be jeered at. Do honorable members know that there are parsons, chemists,drapers, and all sorts of men who have volunteered to become officers, and good officers they would be if provided with uniforms? Do they expect a parson who has to preach in the pulpit to go out in his clerical robe, and choker collar to drill boys; do they expect a draper who has to serve customers over the counter to go out in the suit he wears in the shop, to be laughed and. jeered at by the boys? That is altogether subversive of discipline. Honorable members may laugh as they like, but it is a serious drawback to the success of the cadet scheme that the Department has not yet supplied cadet officers with a single garment of uniform, although they have been promised it for so many months. In regard to the cadets generally, one of the greatest grievances that Area Officers have is that the work is not fairly apportioned. I find that there are good grounds for this complaint. In the metropolitan areas, an Area Officer can do the work in a few hours, and then attend to private business, and the remuneration or allowance of ^150 a year is sufficient if he has only one area to attend to. I think that in the metropolitan’ centres we might put more than one area in the charge of one good man, and give him sufficient remuneration ito make it worth his while to give up his private business, and attend to that work only. But in the country areas, it is a” different matter altogether. I can assure the House that the officers in these areas have absolutely not one minute to spare, and that it is impossible for an Area Officer there to attend to any private business. Here the allowance of £150 a year is not sufficient remuneration - at all events, it is not sufficient to attract the men whom we should have in the service. In my opinion, the Minister ought to consider whether he cannot more fairly apportion the work of the Area Officers, and knock two or three areas into one in the metropolitan centres. I am quite certain that one good Area Officer could attend to more than one area there because he has only one training centre or drill hall to go to, and has the cadets more under control. They do not live long distances away. He can get his parades over in a short time, return to his office, and attend to his work. The unfortunate fellow who has to put in the whole of his time gets only the same remuneration. There should be some alteration made in the arrangements. In looking over the Inspector-General’s report, I was surprised to find that he does not mention any of the matters to which I have referred. He makes no reference to the failure of the Department to supply uniforms to cadet officers. The only reference which he makes, I think, to the uniforms of the cadets is in a statement that the hats supplied were too small. I think it is part of his duty to inquire into all these matters. When Major-General Kirkpatrick came out here, at the inception of Lord Kitchener’s scheme, we took it that he would report all these matters through the Military Board “fo the Minister, and I am rather disappointed to find that such reports have not been made. With regard to the Pay Department, the delay which takes place in re-imbursing both Area Officers and sergeant-majors the sums which they have to pay in the carrying out of their duties is a source of very great dissatisfaction. I have come to the conclusion that the fault lies with the civilian member of the Military Board. I have had some knowledge of Mr. Laing in the State of New South Wales. I have every reason to believe that he is an estimable man, and has no wish to retard the work of the Minister, or the carrying of this scheme to a successful issue, but he is steeped in conservatism and red-tapism. I do not think that he can help it. I really believe that he is honestly trying to carry out his duties properly, and there is no doubt that he is a capable man ; but, as I say, he is a Conservative through and through, and is steeped up to the very ears in red-tapism.
– Is he politically a Conservative ?
– I am speaking now of his profession as a paymaster. I know that, as the financial member of the Military Board he is a great chap for red-tape. I believe that a great many of these delays would be traceable to him.
– Do you believe that?
– Before you deliberately attack an officer, you ought to have an instance to cite.
– At all events, he is the financial member of the Board, and is responsible for these delays. No notice has been taken of resolutions carried and recommendations made at a Conference of Area Officers and the Instructional Staff at a big school held at Victoria Barracks, Sydney. At that Conference these delays were discussed, and it was recommended that the Area Officers, instead of receiving only£10 out of the contingent fund in each area at the commencement of the financial year, should receive . £25, and that there should be no delay in giving them this money. How they hoped to carry out the recommendation that there should be no delay I do not know, but, at all events, they thought that there should be no delay in reimbursing officers after the first payment had been made. No notice was taken of that recommendation.
– If that recommendation was not approved of, no blame can attach to Mr. Laing.
– The recommendation, at all events, was worthy of serious consideration.
– It would be a question for the Minister, not Mr. Laing, to deal with.
– I have no doubt that the Minister would be guided by Mr. Laing in regard to all matters connected with finance.
– The Minister takes full responsibility for the refusal or acceptance of a recommendation.
– There is one other matter to which I desire to refer. A cadet named Roberts, son of Commander Roberts, of
Osborne-road, Manly, was served with a summons, although it would appear that the service of a summons upon him was quite unjustifiable. It transpires that he had never missed a parade or a drill of any sort. His father was very wrath, and, at his request, I took up the matter, and brought it before the Department. In reply, I received the following letter from the Minister of Defence -
Melbourne,29th August, 1912.
Dear Sir,- With further reference to the letter addressed to you by Commander M. A. Roberts, “ Maiolsa,” Osborne-road, Manly, relative to the case of his son, Walter Frederick, I desire to inform you that reports received disclose -
That the cadet concerned was not transferred from “B” Company to “A” Company.
He neglected to apply to the officer commanding for transfer, as instructed by officer commanding “A” Company.
At roll-call in each parade, cadets whose names have not been called are asked to signify, in order that no one may be missed, and that cadets putting’ in parades with other companies than their own may receive credit for same. Cadet Roberts failed to signify his presence when called upon to do so.
The company officer concerned, (however, is considered to have shown lack of supervision in repeatedly passing over this cadet, and has been informed to that effect, and given instructions, to exercise more care in this regard.
This is evidently an attempt to saddle Cadet Roberts with the blame - to show that it was due to his own neglect that a summons was served upon him’. The boy,” however, has made a statutory declaration, which reads as follows -
I, Walter Frederick Roberts, of Manly, near Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, schoolboy, do hereby solemnly and sincerely declare that -
I am the cadet referred to in a certain letter from the Department of Defence to Colonel G. de L. Ryrie, M.P., Federal Parliament House, Melbourne, dated 29th August,1912.
I will be seventeenyears of age on the 23rd inst., and reside with my parentsat “ Maiolsa,” Osborne-road, Manly.
With regard to paragraph 1 in the abovementioned letter - in which it was stated that he was not transferred from “ B “ Company to “ A “ Company -
I was transferred to “ A “ Company in January last, with the full knowledge and approval of the officer commanding same, who, at the time and subsequently, told me that he would see me fixed upall right.
This declaration was signed by Cadet Roberts, in the presence of Mr. Maddock, J. P . Incidents of this kind cause dissatisfaction among, the cadets. I do not know on whose report the Minister based his letter, but there can be no doubt that -an effort is being, made to put all the blame on Cadet Roberts. The facts of the case are that a policeman, called, at CommanderRoberts’ private house, and, entering it, served the toy with a summons. This lad, who had shown the greatest enthusiasm in his work, and had attended every parade, was served with a summons owing to the. blundering of an officer. There is only one remedy for this sort of thing. It is that the people themselves should take the matter in hand. Let them wake up, and return to this House men who have some knowledge of military matters. If they do that, we shall have a different! state of affairs. Is. there no man in Australia who is. able to put things right ? When the Inspector-General was appointed we thought that he would set everything right, and see that Lord Kitchener’s scheme was carried out in its entirety. We have some ground,. I think, for a little disappointment in. this regard. I do not know what is the reason, but it. seems to me that things are drifting in connexion with, the great scheme of compulsory training. They appear to be drifting hopelessly,, and it will be. a. very sorry day for Australia if we allow them to drift to such an extent that it will be impossible to place the system on a sound footing. I hope that the Minister, and’ his Department as a whole, will endeavour to see that these matters are rectified ; that there is no delay in making payments to the Area Officers, that cadet officers obtain their uniforms, and that the cadets themselves are not subjected to treatment which discourages them, damps their ardour, and does away with- their enthusiasm. If that be done, we may still hope for success; we may still hope to be able to create the great citizen army that we may require some day to defend our hearths and our homes; but, if not,, we can- look forward only to failure.
.- The honorable member who represents North Sydney has referred to my head as being wooden. But, sir, I assure you that if my head is wooden, I am not suffering from white ants.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Capricornia in order in suggesting that the honorable member for North Sydney has white ants in his head ?
– I did not understand the honorable member to say so.
– I did not say that. I am prepared, to leave, it to the House, after having heard the honorable member’s speech on clothes. It will be a. sad day for Australia if we ever have to depend on military gentlemen who can only get up Dutch courage when they put their uniforms on. The honorable member has told us that when he puts on his uniform his chest swells, and he marches along striking his leg with his little cane, feeling immensely proud.
– I did not expect the honorable member to understand the argument.
– In the Boer war I think there were some 50,000 Boer soldiers - they were hardly called an army - who had not a uniform amongst them. I saw pictures of them in the newspapers, and if I remember rightly the only uniforms they had were those which they took off their opponents. It is not necessary, I think, and I hope it will not be necessary in Australia, for our soldiers to work up Dutch courage in that way. I can well imagine the. honorable member to be of. the man-milliner type. I understand that some of our officers belong to that class; but I should be very sorry to think that all the military officers in Australia were like the honorable member. He probably spends most of his- time discussing with his brother officers as to whether he should have four buttons or three on his coat.
– Probably he. wears corsets.
– I do not know. Possibly he does wear stays. Before long we may have him brought before the Courts for wearing hat-pins without shields, I could not help thinking, when the honorable member was speaking, of a story I heard about him. I am informed that when he goes abroad he travels with a set of boxing gloves and a German concertina. I do not know what he does with the boxing gloves; it may be that he makes his opponents giddy with punches from them, and then sends them mad with a tune on the German concertina. I leave it to other honorable members to explain how it is that one who holds such fiscal views as he does should travel around with a German concertina. But that is not the point with which I wish to deal now.
– I should think not.
– I wish to make an appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs to delay the construction of the transcontinental railway, in view of the revelations which we have heard from the right honorable member for Swan, and the honorable member for Fremantle, who have told us this evening that it will be very unwise to use Western Australian timbers as sleepers on the line.
– Tell the truth. Speak correctly.
– How dare you say that to me, you ridiculous Knight Commander of the Bath !
– Oh, he is not up to that yet.
– Well, he is a Knight Commander of something. However, whatever he is, I object to his statement that I am not telling the truth. I appeal to honorable members as to whether we were not told that the Western Australian timber which is to be used in the construction of the railway is not suitable. Probably millions of money are at stake, and it is time that we took into consideration the warnings of these two honorable members. It is evident that if Western Australian timbers are used we are likely to lose a considerable amount of money.
– We shall not lose any sense, I hope.
– That remark only confirms me in the opinion I have already expressed, that before we powellize any timber, we should try to powellize the Fusion, to prevent the dry-rot which is, apparently setting in. I have read that there have been many inventions in the nature of concrete sleepers. I suppose that more than a dozen have been patented at the Commonwealth Patent Office. One man has invented a concrete sleeper, and another has improved upon it. In fact, I believe that many improvements have been made. The Minister ought to ask for a return from his officers as to the various inventions of concrete sleepers. In that way we might possibly avoid the expenditure of a tremendous amount of money, and save the lives of many of the people who use the railway. If we are going to use such rubbishy timbers as have been described this afternoon by the right honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Fremantle, we may suffer a serious calamity. The matter is of very great importance, and the House is indebted to the two honorable members who have given us the benefit of the information which they possess. If there is any honorable member who ought to know the qualities of Western Australian timbers, it certainly is the right honorable member for Swan, because he has made many explorations in Western Australia, and no doubt he has become acquainted with these timbers. He certainly knows good timber from bad.
– He is a good sleeper himself.
– I have always found him very much awake, especially when the transcontinental railway was being discussed. I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
– We only want the best timber.
– That is so; and the right honorable member has properly pointed out that we cannot get it in Western Australia.
– The best timber in Australia is grown there.
– In Queensland we have several hardwoods which have been in use for forty years or more in railway construction, and we have a greater mileage of railways than any other State.
– Why does not the honorable member look at the matterfrom a national stand-point?
– The honorable member who interrupts me should go and play a tune on his German concertina, or have a consultation as to whether he should not wear five buttons instead of four on his coat, and possibly put in a gusset as well.
.- The discussion which has arisen in connexion with sleepers has introduced an exceedingly serious subject. Last session, on the nth November, this very question came up. There was an item in the Estimates for making provision for the storage and testing of certain timbers. Then the question of preserving timbers was mentioned, and I understood that the Minister informed the House that experiments would be made. But, apparently, we have waited until the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway is being commenced; and now the Minister tells us that experiments are being made with the powellizing system. We all know that that is a simple system. It consists either of steaming or boiling timber to remove the sap, and then dipping it in a solution of molasses and arsenic. The questionis whether if is the steaming and the removing of the sap, or the ingredients used afterwards, that confer the benefit on the timber. The steaming of planks for boatbuilding has been done in my own State ever since I can remember ; and there is no doubt that the process does improve timber, and make it easier to handle. We ought to remember, however, that the Western Australian Government have never used karri sleepers for a mile of railway. I think that the honorable member for Capricornia was labouring under a mistake in regard to what was said by the right honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Fremantle. I understood those honorable members to say that jarrah, which is admittedly one of the best timbers in the world, is exclusively used by the Western Australian Government as railway sleepers, though we find that, when there is a contract with the Federal Government, about 1,500,000 sleepers are “ run in” which they would not put down themselves. The Minister said that the number was 600,000 or 700,000, but I find that in answer to a question in the House he said that the Western Australian Government were supplying 1,500,000 sleepers, consisting of 680,000 of powellized karri, 100,000 of jarrah, and 720,000 untreated karri. It has been said that powellizing will convert an inferior timber into a superior timber. It will do nothing of the kind; there is no system in use in Australia, America, or Great Britain which will do so. There is no doubt that powellizing will make a good timber better, or an inferior timber better ; but there is no process on earth that will make the inferior Karri equal to jarrah, much less equalto the bluegum or stringy bark of Tasmania. Has there been a fair deal ? Has every State been given the same opportunity to compete ? During the whole of the session I have been trying to ascertain the terms of the contract, but without success.
– It is on the table of the House.
– The Minister of Home Affairs, in reply to the honorable member for Parkes, said that it was not advisable to put the contract on the table.
– That was a long time ago.
– Are the tender and prices obtainable now? The Minister told us to-day that there are only 750,000 karri sleepers tendered for, whereas, in answer to a question, he formerly said there were 1,500,000.
– There are about 700,000 yet to be treated.
– Not a report which the Minister read to-day declares that karri should be used, untreated, as sleepers. No doubt reports tell us that treated karri can be used, and amongst them is a report from the agent of the Powell Company, who is not likely to say that the system is not a good one. On the other hand, Mr. Julius, a Government expert in Western Australia, tells us that karri is not a timber to be used for sleepers.
– Does he speak of that timber untreated?
– There are 750,000 sleepers untreated.
– That does not say that those sleepers are going to be laid untreated.
– Of course, I cannot answer that question. In my opinion, it is time there was a re-allotment of portfolios in the Government.
– Does the honorable member not think that that is for the Prime Minister to say?
– I think it is for the House to say, if circumstances warrant. I am not speaking harshly of the Minister of Home Affairs ; but there is no doubt that he is asked to do work that no man in Australia could perform. In the earlydays of Federation the Department of Home Affairs was admittedly the easiest to administer.
– Does the honorable member say that the Department of Home Affairs is not competent to manage its business now?
– I am not saying; so.
– Let a Committee of Inquiry be appointed, and we shall see whether there is an office like it in the world.
-I am not questioning the capabilities of any Minister, but pointing out that the allotment of work to the various Departments is entirely different from what it was at the beginning of Federation. Then the Department of Home Affairs was the easiest, and it remained so until two or three years ago.
– It is. the easiest now.
– Since that time these great railway works, and the construction of a Federal Capital, have been undertaken; and’ there should now be a Public Works Department, with a Minister of Public Works.
– Does the honorable member advocate an increase in the number of Ministers?
– No; but I have always thought that the position of Honorary Minister, if not unconstitutional, is very near it; and I never heard a better or stronger argument in condemnation of the office than that by the present Prime Minister in the case of the late Government. The public works now undertaken represent many millions of pounds. The railway to Western Australia will cost anything from £5,000,000 to , £8,000,000, and the railway from Port Darwin southward will, on the Minister’s own estimate, cost£10,000 a mile, which means, for the 1,000 or 1,100 miles, from£10,000,000 to £11,000,000 for construction alone. Such stupendous works ought not to be the business of a mere branch of a Department ;, and it is time, as I say, that we had a Public Works Department, with a Minister at the head of it.
– Without portfolio?
– No; what I mean is a re-allotment of offices, and all the public works in connexion with the Postal and other Departments should be under one head. Under present conditions, we are creating two staffs and two responsible bodies, when there should be only one set of responsible officers.
– Is not the Department of Home Affairs a Public Works Department?
– It is not..
– What is it? Has the honorable member any trouble in getting any information from the Department now?
– I do not wish the Minister to take my remarksas personal. I am not making a personal matter of this at all. I am merely pointing out, what every honorable member knows, that during the last five years the work, of the Home Affairs Department has been multiplied three or four times. We are putting upon that Department responsibility for work which could be very much better carried out if it were separated from the Home Affairs Department. If my honorable friend the Minister of Home Affairs would prefer to look after the construction of public works, there is no reason why he should not become Minister of Public Works. It is unreasonable to expect a Minister charged with responsibility for the ordinary business of the Home Affairs office to properly supervize such enormous expenditure, approaching, perhaps, £20,000,000, as will, be involved in the public works which are to be carried out at the Federal Capital, the construction of the line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, and the construction of this great Western Australian railway. It is time the House and the Government seriously considered the question of a re-allotment of Ministerial portfolios, and the creation of a Public Works Department. One mistake in connexion with the great public works which we have in hand may involve a loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds to the people of the Commonwealth. The mistake now being made by the Government in deciding to use karri sleepers for the Western Australian railway may involve us in enormous loss. These sleepers will ‘probably cost 10s. each, and we are being committed to an expenditure of about £750,000 for sleepers of practically untried timber, which has, so far, been condemned by everybody who has tested it. It is not fair for the Government, the Parliament, or the people, to expect any one man to shoulder the enormous responsibility now placed on the Minister of Home Affairs. It does seem strange to me that the bluegum and stringybark sleepers of Tasmania should have been turned down as they have been.
– They would have to be treated for white ants.
– Why has not a test of them been made? Why has the Minister decided to use karri sleepers, when he must know that that timber has been condemned, that there has never been a. single karri sleeper exported from Australia, and that only a few of them have been put down as an experiment by the Western Australian Government? Tasmania is exporting millions of feet of timber every year in the shape of railway sleepers, which are sent to South Africa, America, China, and different other parts of the world. It does seem strange that when Tasmania can secure tenders for sleepers in competition with the timbers of the world, the Commonwealth Government should adopt an untried and an unknown timber. Honorable members are aware that the sleepers used in Tasmania are small sleepers, compared with those which will be used on the Western Australian railway. 1 have here an expert opinion on the life of a Tasmanian bluegum sleeper. I quote from a pamphlet by Mr. A. O. Green, which has been circulated by the Tasmanian Government, and for which they accept responsibility -
With a rainfall in the different districts running from 20 to 60 inches per annum, on Government railways ballasted with gravel and laid with bluegum sleepers, 6 ft. 6 in. by 9 inches by 5 inches, it is shown that the average life of the sleeper is fourteen years.
The Tasmanian bluegum sleepers, under the heaviest rainfall under which any railway sleepers are tested, are shown to have an average life of fourteen years. Yet the Minister of Home Affairs turns that timber down without a fair chance, and accepts a tender for 1,500,000 sleepers of a timber which has been condemned, and which the State Government of Western Australia have not used. The State Government have been able to secure an enormous order from the Federal Government for the use of these karri sleepers without any reasonable experiment. I think that the timbers to be used on the Western Australian line should have been subjected to careful experiment. Had it not been for the enormous amount of work in the Home Affairs Department, no doubt the promise made twelve months ago to have timbers tested would have been carried out. Powellizing is not a new thing. It has been known for some years at least. Before accepting a tender for sleepers for this tremendous work, the Minister should have carried out severe tests of the timbers to be Used. It is not fair that the people of Australia, who will have to find the money, should be committed to the use of this untried timber. It may not yet be too late to carry out some tests of the karri timber. The order for these sleepers has been given to the Western Australian Government, and we cannot believe that they would seek to take advantage of the Commonwealth in any way. I suggest that the Minister should even now have these karri sleepers subjected to a severe practical test. They have never been tested yet.
– They have been tested for six years.
– Is six years the life of a sleeper?
– That is right; put back the railway for another six years.
– You people never intended to build it.
– This red herring business is a very old game. Every member of this House must be aware that a mistake has been made by the Government in this matter. I heard one honorable member say that the Jarrah Timber Company have a monopoly of the supply of jarrah timber, whilst the Western Australian Government will have a free hand, and may use any suitable timber. Can. any one believe that the people of Western Australia have during all these years been satisfied to take jarrah sleepers at . the price charged for them, when this karri timber was obtainable at a cheaper rate, if it be equally good?
– It is admitted that it is not equally good without treatment.
– But the Government have decided to take 750,000 untreated karri sleepers.
– They have not arranged yet to treat them. We are thinking of some other scheme. The honorable member does not expect everything tobe done in a day.
– I do not wish to take advantage of the statement which the Minister has just made. But I would” urge the Government to pause before committing this country to the expenditure of£750,000 without knowing where it will land us. I have spoken upon this subject, because I believe it demands the serious attention of the House, because I believe the Government have been rushed into the acceptance of this tender by the Government of Western Australia without giving the matter proper consideration, and because I think that in a desire to help along the newly-started socialistic industry in karri timber they are going to commit the Commonwealth to a costly experiment. Their action is not fair to the people of Australia, and I would appeal to the Minister to try our known and tested timbers, at least, in the construction of the first few miles of this railway. From the orders which have been given there does not seem to be very much in the nature of a monopoly in timber. About halfadozen different companies have supplied jarrah to the Government under contract, but the only contract for karri which has been accepted is that with the Western Australian Government. I admit that jarrah is a good timber, but I contend that every test which has been made shows that bluegum is a better. It stands at the head of the timbers of the world from the point of view of the breaking test. It has been tried in Tasmania for fifty years in connexion with various works, and today is as good as it was when it was laid down. The stringy bark is not far behind it. The Minister is simply looking for trouble when he turns down these known timbers in order to experiment with1 a timber which has never been used, even in the State in which it is grown. The chief claim which is made for the powellizing process is that it enables timber to resist white ants. But if it will add five years to the life of a karri sleeper it will also add five years to that of a bluegum : sleeper. I make bold to say that if a karri sleeper be subjected to the same treatment as a bluegum or stringy bark sleeper the bluegum or the stringy bark will outlast it twice over. So, too, will the jarrah. From whatever stand-point we may .view this question the tried timber is superior to the karri. If the process of powellising will add five years to the life of a five-years’ sleeper, thereby making it last ten years, it will also add five years to the life of) a fourteen-years’ sleeper, making it last nineteen years. Under all these circumstances, I urge the Minister not to court disaster to the Commonwealth. When we consider that many millions of sleepers are to be used in the construction of- this railway, is it not manifestly unfair -to the taxpayers that we should plunge into such an enormous experiment as that which “is contemplated? If the Minister adheres :. to. the position which he has taken up. he will merely cause the House and the country to demand the establishment of a permanent Commonwealth Public Works Department at the earliest possible date.
– Having listened attentively to several honorable members who have spoken upon this question, I am afraid that we are up against a very tough proposition in the matter of the kind of sleepers which should be used in the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. It is very evident that there are no Western Australian timbers which white ants cannot digest. We have heard the right honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Fremantle declare that karri is of no use.
– Only from the stand-point of sleepers.
– Then the Minister of Home Affairs read a number of testimonials to prove that jarrah cannot live alongside of powellized karri. Thus we have a general condemnation of the timbers of Western Australia, As we know, white ants are very bad in that portion of the Commonwealth, and as the dry-rot is worse we shall have to consider this matter very seriously in the near future. Both the right honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Fremantle told us that karri sleepers will not last more than five or six years. The Minister of Home Affairs read a letter from a gentleman which showed that, after being down six years in a bed in which jarrah had rotted, powellized karri sleepers were still good. Thus we have most conflicting statements, and consequently we shall have to look round for some other kind of sleeper. I know that some time ago the Department of Home Affairs had submitted to it a combination, of ironstone and cement sleeper. It is very evident that the white ants cannot digest that.
– Why not take the jarrah ?
– Because jarrah is evidently no good. Honorable members heard the Minister of Home Affairs read a statement by a gentleman who is not only well respected, but who occupies a position in Western Australia which he ought not t5 occupy if his assertions are incorrect. I refer to Mr. Light.
– He never said anything against the use of jarrah.
– He said that karri sleepers, after lying for six years in a place in which jarrah had rotted in no time, were perfectly good.
– Oh, no, no !
– If the honorable member does not believe my statement, perhaps the Minister of Home Affairs will again read the communication to which I refer. The honorable member for Franklin has put in a few words on behalf of the timbers of Tasmania. It was very good of him, from the point of view of his State. He did not, like the honorable members for Swan and Fremantle, dirty his own nest. He said nothing but what was flattering about Tasmanian timbers, and, in passing, praised those of Victoria, adding, of course, that they did not amount to much.
– Why not use timber that is renowned throughout the world?
– Like other honorable members, this question deeply concerns me. Apparently there is no timber in Western Australia suitable for sleepers.
-What would concrete sleepers cost ?
– Something like 8s. each, I believe.
– We can get steel sleepers.
– Steel sleepersrequire more packing. than wooden sleepers, while concrete sleepers require less, and cannot be eaten by white ants, which destroy jarrah.
– And get as fat as crayfish on karri.
– I ask the honorable members for Perth and Fremantle whether it is a fact that, had it been decided to use only jarrah sleepers, the price would have risen 4s. or 5s. ?
– No. There is twenty times as much jarrah as karri.
– Is there no truth in the statement that there is a combine in regard to jarrah ?
– And that the shares in the jarrah companies have gone up to a high figure ?
– The honorable member would take away the bread from his own people, the hewers of timber.
– I do not know that the honorable member should not be called to order for that statement. I think that reinforced concrete sleepers would be the most suitable.
– It is good country for making them.
– I do not know about the Western Australian country ; but there is plenty of iron-stone at the Port Augusta end which could be mixed with concrete, and thus excellent sleepers could be obtained at a price less than 8s. each. We have been told that none of the Western Australian timbers is of any use.
– Who says so?
– The honorable member has stated that karri is useless.
– It is not good for sleepers.
– The Minister, on the other hand, has read the reports of engineers, with letters after their names stretching out to the length of my arm, proving that jarrah is no good.
– What are you going to do with the poor fellows who are hewing timber in Western Australia?
– They can continue to make a good living, but, in the interests of the people of Australia, we should use the best, most durable, and cheapest sleepers.
– It is the people who have to foot the bill.
– Jarrah is the only timber used in Western Australia for. sleepers.
– I say that neither karri nor jarrah is of any use for sleepers without being powellized.
– Powellized karri will cost 10s. per sleeper, I understand.
– No, 7s. and something.
– And powellized jarrah will cost about 8s. 6d. per sleeper.
– There is not much difference in cost, but the karri powellized is superior to jarrah, powellized or not powellized.
– That is a remark which the Minister has no right to make. It is not founded on any statement which he read here.
– I was correct when I said that neither of these timbers was any good, according to the evidence which has been placed before us to-night. If such be the fact, and the sleepers are to cost 8s. each, why not use reinforced concrete sleepers at a cost of less than 8s. each, and provide something which the white ants cannot digest? If honorable members do not consider the matter from that stand-point, they will give the people of the Commonwealth something which they will not digest.
– I have listened with a good deal of attention all the evening to this interesting debate on the system known as powellizing timber. I listened very attentively to the testimonials which the Minister of Home Affairs read, and the only thing I have to say about them is that they are quite inconclusive, being too old. There is an insufficient amount of data to make them of any use, I think, in estimating the final value of powellizing as a process. For instance, the Minister quoted some statements made so far back as 1905, but in not one of them did I hear anything which would indicate how long this process had occupied.
– A number of years.
– Or for how long the test had been applied. It seems to me that time is the very essence of this matter.
– You were not here while the Minister was reading them,.
– I heard most of them.
– A test was made for six years.
– It is six years since the report was furnished.
– No; six years in the ground was one test.
– Among the white ants.
– I heard that; and it seemed to me, as I listened to the Minister, that there was a very simple explanation of that fact. The case, as I understand it, is that a bridge built with jarrah was lined with powellized karri, and that stood the test.
– With the jarrah eaten up.
– That might very well be.
– It was a six years’ test for sleepers.
– I shall come to that point in a moment. I understand that the material for this powellizing process is made of arsenic and other ingredients.
– Arsenic and sugar.
– Any one who is acquainted with the matter knows that white ants will not eat arsenic without something happening. It is just possible that the lining of this bridge with a dose of arsenic, so to speak, did destroy all the white ants ; but that is not a conclusive test as to the value of the process in connexion with the laying down of a railway for, say, fifteen or twenty years. What I do not understand is the depth of the saturation. For instance, if it only stops the pores of the wood, that may be effective for a little while; that is, until one white ant after another has had his dose and died and another white ant comes up, finds a way in where there is no arsenic, and lives on, and then occur those things which we are told happened in the Northern Territory.
The whole question is, How long is the protection afforded by this process going to last? If it is only going to last for six or seven years, it simply means that after that time the karri timber will be practically useless on this railway. Even the Minister admits that the moment the powellizing is exhausted this timber is very inferior for sleeper purposes. Therefore, he has applied no test to show that by powellizing he will make the life of the karri longer than the ordinary life of a good sleeper which is untreated. That is the test, and there can be no other test which is satisfactory, it seems to me. I would suggest that the Minister ought to go very warily in connexion with this process, and ought not to commit himself to a huge expenditure of money when the whole way is untried, so far as the laying down of sleepers is concerned. Can he point to a railway anywhere where powellized sleepers are used? In connexion with the bridge matter, which has been made so much of, it is admitted, I believe, that karri is good for superstructures. That was mentioned in the report read by the honorable member for Fremantle to-day. That is the information supplied, I believe, where the matter has been under test in New Zealand. They say that it is good for anything above ground, but below ground nobody has yet undertaken to use it, and to trust to it for any permanent works of any kind. Although the Minister has supplied a lot of interesting material, and a lot of testimony to the value of powellizing from these gentlemen, it must only go for what it is worth. I submit that he can have no test which he can apply as showing that experience has proved the value of this timber, powellized or otherwise, except the test of practical experience in some part of the world or other. It has not been tried, so far, and I cannot understand why, if the powellizing of inferior timbers makes them into superior timbers, or into timbers which are usable and suitable for the purpose of railway construction, it has not been tried in other parts of the world where the timber problem is a very severe one so far as railways go. There are men to-day all over the world looking for something of this kind, and the fact that even in his own country, where men are specially _keen in these matters, the Minister cannot point to a single line of railway laid down with sleepers made of inferior powellized wood shows that the process is by no means conclusive so far as the world’s experience goes. I should think that in an undertaking like this, where there is so much at stake, and where every foot of the road has to be pioneered, the place where there is an abundance of good timber dose by is the very place where my honorable friend ought, above all others, not to make experiments. It is time to experiment when he must, but there is no need to do it here. We are told that a better kind of timber is infinitely more available, and is easier and cheaper to obtain. Why the Minister should select an inferior timber with superior timber all round must, I think, pass the comprehension of any ordinary human being. I could understand my honorable friend making experiments if he were hard put to get suitable timber for making .sleepers ; but, according’ to all the information we have, it is easier to obtain superior timber. Although there is more of this superior timber close at hand, yet he deliberately selects inferior timber for the purpose of constructing this line. That is a point which has not been answered, and which, I think, requires an answer from this Government. They ought to explain why they are resorting to experiments where they are not needed; why they are taking an inferior timber in preference to a superior one, for use in a part of the country which, because of its peculiarities, requires to be dealt with in the light of experience. Moreover, the tests will not be complete until the two timbers have been tried side by side and it is shown that treated jarrah is inferior to treated karri, or at least that they are equal. I strongly urge the Government, in the interests of the work itself, in the. interests of their reputation as administrators, and of the taxpayers, not to make these experiments until further tests have been carried out. If they are inclined to be experimental in their mood, let them select some end of the railway on which a close watch can be kept, and try the experiment there on a small scale. Why they should commit themselves to this huge expense for an inferior article while a superior .article is more easily available requires an explanation that has not yet been furnished. I hope to hear the Government do more than quote statements - written six years ago- as to the value of the powellizing process. We may admit, for the purpose of our argument, that powellizing is good. If it is - if it will preserve the inferior timber, and make it last longer, it surely will have the same effect upon the superior timber.. It is, therefore, not in point at all to say that powellizing will improve timber. The only point that we have to consider, as guardians of the public purse, is whether this process will make the inferior timber better, while it will not have the same effect upon the superior timber. The life of a sleeper on this line, I dare say, will not be more than fifteen years.I do not quite know what is the average life of these sleepers.
– Fifteen years is the minimum for a jarrah sleeper.
– On the average, I should say it would be from fifteen to twenty years. To begin to renew 1,000 miles of railway is not an easy task, and the railway is not going to turn in a surplus of millions so as to enable us to deal with it in this way.
This, of all other railway projects, requires the strictest economy and the greatest care in its construction consistent with its efficiency. We are building this trans- Australian railway, not merely because we hope that it will be revenueproducing, but for a Federal purpose pure and simple, and it ought not to be the ground of experimentation for various processes which may or may not prove to be good. I am not going to say one word, good, bad, or indifferent, about the powellizing process. I take the Minister’s statements for what they are worth. But let us regard the situation in the favorable light in which he tried to present it. Let us admit that powellizing will add to the life of the timber, and even then we shall .have vo reason for giving a preference to inferior timber. In the country yonder, where both these timbers grow - let us say where, in some instances, they are equally available - the jarrah has been preferred. The one has been taken, and the other left. That is what experience teaches the people over there. We are throwing that experience to the winds, setting it absolutely aside, and deliberately selecting a timber the superiority of which has never been provedOn the contrary, its inferiority has been proved wherever it has been tried. The. : is no case in point where the powellizing process has been adopted upon a large scale of this kind, and in connexion with works which have to stand the wear and tear of a railway line. Every one who has tried karri says that it is satisfactory for superstructures, but it has never yet commended itself to the railway experience of the world when used where water has to be faced. The Minister often tells us that he is fit to run the world. He told us upon one occasion, I think, in a burst of exultation, that he thought the world ought to pay him a million or two a year to run its big things. In this case, he is deliberately setting aside the experience of the world. I submit that he ought not to make these experiments when there is no need to. If he were forced to take this step, I should say, “ Make a trial by all means.” But he is not. This is a deliberate act of choice on h”is part, prompted by some motive which I do not attempt to fathom. It is the duty of the Minister and the Government to show why they are adopting this course, and why they insist upon applying the powellizing process to an inferior timber for use as sleepers on this railway. Unless an answer is forthcoming, it will be the duty of the House to try to learn something more about the matter. I should have thought that the Government would undertake at the earliest moment to make a complete statement of the motives that have induced them to enter upon this departure, and to endeavour to lead the world in connexion with a matter of this kind.
I wish now to call the attention of the Postmaster-General to the matter of overtime in connexion with the General Post Office, Sydney. I do not think he can be aware of what is going on there, or he would not tolerate it.
– I do not think the honorable member,is aware of what is going on.
– Does the honorable member know, for instance, that men have been working until 10 o’clock at night nearly all the. year round; that they have had no holidays, and have not yet been paid for this overtime.
– The honorable member’s statement is quite correct.
– The honorable member for Parramatta made a statement in the’ House the other day in regard to overtime worked in the Money Order and Accounts Branch. I obtained a report from Sydney in which I was informed that there was no overtime worked during the period to which the honorable member referred.
– Will the honorable member allow me to say that he is quite wrong about that?
– If I am wrong, I have the Deputy Postmaster-General’s statement to support me.
– Will the honorable member allow me to say that I know what I am talking about. I do not want to go into details, but I do say that overtime is being worked now in that branch. Does the honorable member know that?
– I do not say that there is not an occasion on which overtime is worked.
– Does the honorable member know that overtime is being worked every night in the branch?
– And that it is not being paid for? The honorable member is quite right.
– I do not think the Minister is aware of what is going” on there. It is time that he made himself acquainted with the facts. When the trouble first occurred, it was stopped on the Minister’s order. It is going on again. Men are working until 10 o’clock night after night, week after week, and month after month. They get no payment for their overtime, and no time off in lieu of payment. I say that this system should be stopped at once. It is nothing more nor less than a public scandal.
– What is the Deputy PostmasterGeneral doing ? He ought to know about it.
– I am only stating the facts.
– I should like the honorable member to give me the names of the men who are doing this work.
– I shall do nothing of the kind. I am making no party attack on the Minister. I am simply stating the facts calmly.
– Why did not the honorable member send a written communication to the Minister about the matter?
– Why did not the honorable member for East Sydney inquire into these matters, which are taking place in his electorate?
– I ask the Minister to make inquiries, and tell the House what the facts are.
I turn to another matter. I allude to a very interesting little enterprise of the inimitable Minister who has been addressing us this evening - I mean the Minister of Home Affairs.
– Is it. a ‘ chaser ‘ ‘ that the honorable member has before him?
– I do not think it is what they call a “ chaser.” It is a schedule. The issue of this interesting schedule by the Home Affairs’ Department began in a very small way, but it is developing. What I strongly object to is the political tone that it is taking. I do not want the Minister of Home Affairs to send me the latter part of this stuff. I do not object to the earlier part of the publication. If the Minister will confine himself to telling me how works are progressing in my electorate, I shall be glad, although I must confess that I have not gathered much comfort in that direction up to date. I do not mind that, however, as long as I am reminded that something is being attempted, something done. But when the Minister sends me political argument in this form, I say to him that I would rather make my own political arguments, if he pleases. I should like to inquire whether the section of “ Census and Statistics” to which I allude has been inserted by Mr. Knibbs without consultation with the Minister of Home Affairs, or whether the Minister has directed the Statistician to make the compilation in this particular way. For instance, here is an article under the heading “ The alleged withdrawal of capital from Australia.” It is stated -
It is alleged in certain quarters thatin the last year or two there has been a marked withdrawal of foreign capital from Australia.
Now, such statements have been made in this House by a. number of honorable members. . This is ostensibly a reply by Mr.
Knibbs, who offers a political argument to members of this House amongst others; and I have yet to learn that that is a function of a Statist, the very value of whose work consists in its freedom, as far as possible, from any tincture of political bias.
– These are facts , which the people of Australia should know.
– Are they facts? I ask the Minister if this statement has been put in this compilation by his direction ?
– Did the Minister direct the figures to be compiled in this particular way?
– In which way? I simply asked Mr. Knibbs to furnish the statistics.
– Then the Minister did ask Mr. Knibbs to furnish them in this particular form?
– I asked him to furnish them to the Department.
– Is it not strange that on one page I find a table of comparative data, going back as far as’ the beginning of Federation, while on another page I find a table for two years only?
– We are not interested up to the beginning of Federation, so far as this book is concerned.
– This second table is not to the extent that Federation takes us; but - I suppose it is quite a coincidence - the extent to which the present Government take us.
– I never gave that part of it a thought.
– It is a singular coincidence, then. The table for the years 1909-11 just covers the two years that the present Government have been in office.
– We have not been in office since 1909, but only since the 1 3th April, 19 10.
– But it is from 1909 that the Minister gets his basis.
– There is nothing in that.
– When we get this and the other set of figures with the heading, “ Alleged withdrawal of capital from Australia,” and it is sought to be shown by a reference to figures that there has been no withdrawal, it looks as if this would be a very handy political compilation for honorable members opposite a little later on. Then there is another table setting out the Commonwealth Acts passed, not since the beginning of Federation, but since the opening of Parliament on the ist
– It is very interesting.
– No doubt it is very interesting to my honorable friends opposite. It is tabulated information which will do admirably for them, but which will inflict a slight injustice, in many particulars, to honorable members on this side.
– How can the honorable member say such a thing? He must have an unspiritual mind.
– I am only anxious that these figures should be kept from party tincture of any kind.
– Hear, hear ! That is what I desired. I simply asked Mr. Knibbs whether capital was leaving the country, and to make a statement - that was all.
– It is time that the people of Australia knew the truth.
– Does the honorable member think that we shall get the truth from this statement?
– I do, honestly.
- Mr. Knibbs goes on to say -
As a matter of fact, no such evidence is furnished by the trade or financial returns.
In the first place, I do not think that the trade or financial returns, as he is able to tabulate them here, are conclusive on the point. There are so many intricate matters to be considered in endeavouring to make an estimate of the kind that the data he supplies are not at all conclusive. It is not conclusive for another reason, which he himself sets out right at the foot of the figures -
As regards the private investment of foreign capital -
That is the very point - there are no reliable statistics available -
If there are no reliable statistics available, how can Mr. Knibbs prove his argument concerning the figures?
– Read the whole of what Mr. Knibbs says.
– The man is fair to the honorable member. Why is the honorable member not fair to him?
– I have no desire to be unfair.
– It would seem that the honorable member has that desire.
– There is nothing that follows that materially alters the statement; but Mr. Knibbs goes on to say - but the amount invested in the public loans of the several States is known, and indicates that, on the whole, during the six years mentioned’ the amount of Australian public debt which had been floated in London remained practically stationary, being£190,887,001 on 30th June, 1906, and , £189,067,671 on 13th June, 1911, but exhibiting slight fluctuations during theperiod. On the other hand, owing to the prosperityof the Commonwealth, the amounto f capital invested in such loans floated in Australia has increased during the same period from£47,548,819 on 30th June, 1906, to , £78,059,612 on 30th June, 1911.
– The English returns will give the foreign capital invested.
– Only approximately.
– What does the honorable member mean - not down to a farthing ?
– I do not think we could get the information exactly from the English returns.
– They are all published month by month in England.
– If they are so easily obtainable, why has Mr. Knibbs not given them here ; and why does he say they are not reliable and available?
– He cannot get them.
– That is the answer to the honorable member for Maribyrnong. If there are no reliable statistics available concerning the movements of foreign capital, Mr. Knibbs is not able to give us the information to support the argument here.
– He might have to get information from France or Germany.
– Wherever the capital goes - to China, Germany, or Timbuctoo - it must be followed up before there can be a conclusive argument. A statistician has to deal with hard facts and figures only, and unless these are available he should not be asked to use an argument of this kind, which is certainly political.
– I do not think so
– It is an argument that has been used in the House lately during the discussion of financial matters.
– It cannot be proved.
– If it cannot be proved on one side, it cannot be proved on the other; and for the reason furnished by Mr. Knibbs, who states that returns are not available.
– Does the honorable member mean that the two statements are in conflict?
– I do not say so; I simply say that the argument is inconclusive, because Mr. Knibbs has not the data by which to prove it.
– Where is the deduction drawn?
– I do not wish to indulge in chop logic over this matter with the Minister.
– It is a very serious matter.
– I am calling attention to what I think is the introduction of a political complexion in the figures supplied by the Statist at the direction of the Minister. Taking that argument in conjunction with all the others, and this statement of what has taken place while this best of all Governments have been in office, and quietly leaving out everything that went before-
– This schedule was not issued before, or I should have kept up the information. It was introduced by myself.
– All I wish to know from the Minister is whether he instructed the Statist to provide the table which appears on page 101, and refers to the population, the area of land under cultivation, the area under wheat, the number of sheep, the return of gold, the number of factories, and all that sort of thing. I wish to know whether the Minister directed Mr. Knibbs to furnish all these particulars for two years only.
– No; I simply told him to give me the latest information, that we might know whether the country was advancing.
– I am not on that point at all. The honorable gentleman would have been given a far better idea of things if the Statist had gone back a few years more. He would then have provided a better basis for comparison. It is strange that he goes back only for two years.
– The publication is becoming coo large now.
– That may be so, but there are tables now includedwhich might very well be left out. When dealing with State matters, for instance, the Statist goes back for about eleven years, to the beginning of Federation, but when giving details of Federal matters he goes back for only two years, or since the present Government have been in office.
– This is all new to me, because I merely asked for the statistics.
– I am only pointing out the facts to the Minister, and referring to the page on which are enumerated all the good deeds of my honorable friends opposite since the beginning of this Parliament.
– It would take a whole book to do that.
– No. It is all here on about a page. I hope that the Minister will understand the spirit in which I bring these facts under his notice. If he is going to run a statement of the affairs of the country on his own, in addition to the publication which Mr. Knibbs is getting out, it seems to me that we shall have a duplication of work which will involve unnecessary expense to the country.
– That schedule costs no more once we issue the works statement.
– It is surprising to hear that if we double this publication it will cost no more. I guarantee that my honorable friend will have to pay a lot more money for the printing of this book. I suppose that, having succeeded, as he imagines he has done, in connexion with his schedule, the honorable gentleman is proceeding to run the world as usual. He cannot help it.
– If honorable members do not require these statistics I shall gladly have them left out.
– I do not object to them at all, but I would advise the honorable gentleman to give us full information upon Federal affairs, and not to make this invidious distinction between the affairs of the States and the affairs of the Federation. We should not have particulars of the affairs of the States since Federation began, and of affairs of the Federation only from the time the present Government took office. That concludes what I have to say at the present time.
.- With reference to the last few remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta, I may say that, so far as I am concerned, I am always thirsting for information. My complaint is that the Commonwealth Y earBook and various publications issued with a view to giving information do not contain all the information which honorable members and the people generally desire. One has only to make a comparison between the statistical records of the Commonwealth and of’ the several States, and the statistical records and information supplied by the Statisticians of other countries of the world, to realize how deficient is the information which we receive from time to time. I admit that I have pleaded with the Minister of Home Affairs, as head of the Statistical Department, for certain information which does not at present appear in the Commonwealth Year-Book or our other statistical publications. We only have to turn tq Mulhall or to Webb, who is continuing Mulhall’s work, to discover information as to where the wealth of the community resides, which is very valuable. We know that elsewhere, as well as in Australia, people are calling for information in regard, for instance, to the cost of living. So far from curtailing the information given in the publication referred to by the honorable member for Parramatta, I hope the Minister will extend it considerably.
– Only it should not be made political in character.
– I have failed to read into it the meaning suggested by the honorable member for Parramatta. I am aware that an honorable member may become so obsessed with his own idea of things as to read into speeches and writings what the speakers and writers never intended to convey.
– All we desire is that public officers should be impartial when “dealing with facts and figures.
– If any public official can claim to be impartial, he is our present Statistician, Mr. Knibbs, who is an extremely valuable officer. I have had occasion from time to time to appeal to him personally for information I required in order to enable me better to deal with public affairs. I take it that any honorable member has a right to apply to the Statistician for information of that kind. I am certain that if it is possible for Mr. Knibbs to give the information asked for he is only too happy to give it. I cannot say that I have read every page of the recent issue of the statistics, but I saw no political leaning in the references made by the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I wish .the honorable member to understand that all I have done is to suggest that there may be a border line.
– Perhaps in the honorable member’s opinion the Statistician has sailed too close to that border line.
– It may possibly have been done quite unconsciously. I am making no charge.
– I have asked for information which I hope will appear in the next issue of the Commonwealth Year-Book. I find that many British and American publications deal with these matters, which “are of vast importance to the people. Unless we have proper statistical information relative to the wealth of our own and of other countries, we shall not be prepared to place upon legislation that stamp that I would like to see placed upon it.
– The honorable member is all right. The members of his party will vote together.
– It seems to me that nothing I can say will mollify the feelings of honorable members opposite.
– The. honorable member knows what happens when a man comes under the influence of the Minister.
– I hope that the Minister will exercise a hypnotic influence on the honorable member, especially upon nights when we desire to get to bed early.
– He does so. I have more cause to quarrel with him than has any honorable member, but I cannot.
– The honorable member for Fremantle in raising the question in respect to the quantity of sleepers to be used in the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line opened up a subject for a debate which has proved extremely edifying. With his consent I have been turning up some of the documents from which he quoted, and I do not think they paint the karri in such black colours as it has been presented here to-day. We know that there were times when the Kings of England and those who were supposed to be quite novices in legislation, legislated in connexion with its forests in such a way that the timber taken from them was better than that which is obtained from our forests to-day. There are periods when timber contains a maximum of sap, and there are other times when it contains a minimum of sap. If we cut it when it contains a minimum of sap it will last longer than will timber which contains a maximum of sap.
– Everybody knows that.
– The time when it is taken from the forests has much to do with its future utility and life. Where karri has been used in Western Australia for underground purposes it has lasted from fifteen to forty years.
– There is too much timber cut in this country when the sap in it is rising.
– Exactly.We sometimes condemn timber as unsatisfactory, because it has been cut when it was full of sap. The same class of timber, whether jarrah, karri, or other timber, will last longer if cut with a minimum of sap than it will if cut with a maximum of sap. The Minister of Home Affairs showed that karri sleepers which had been down for six years in a certain length of railway in Western Australia were as good as the day upon which they were laid.
– Only thirty of them.
– They were tested, and proved at the end of that period to be in really good condition, and to show no signs of wear. Certainly the white ants had not attacked them, nor had dry-rot set in. I take it that the Minister is acting on the advice of his experts.
– Why does he wish to take inferior timber when there is superior timber available?
– It would be a magnificent thing for the Commonwealth and for Western Australia if this experiment proved to be a success. We know that jarrah is a magnificent timber. Unfortunately, in Victoria, through the negligence which has prevailed in respect of our hardwood timbers, more Australian redgum can be obtained in the Transvaal today than can be got here.
– What will be the result if this timber does not turn out to be satisfactory?
– I hope that Western Australia has noted what has taken place in some of the States, and that the Government of that State is endeavouring to preserve its forests. Future generations, instead of blessing us, will be more likely to curse us for our criminal negligence towards the forestry of Australia. We are a mere handful of people with a great territory, and yet we are complaining of the shortage of timber in certain lines. That is a disgrace to us. Should we not be following the example of Germany, Sweden, and other countries where whenever one of the kings of the forest is hewn down a seedling is planted to take its place? That is the only way to preserve our forests. Seeing that jarrah is extensively used in every State, it will not be many years before the supply will be giving out.
– What is the point that the honorable member wishes to make?
– That it is time we started to use other timbers if, as the result of powellizing, we can use them with equal safety.
– Is that the object of the Minister?
– I take it that the Minister has acted upon the advice of experts. He did not read the whole of the document from which he quoted this afternoon. I have in my hand a paragraph which speaks in eloquent terms of this karri timber if it be powellized.
– Then why is it that it has not been used everywhere?
– Because in Western Australia there have been such plentiful supplies of jarrah that it has not been necessary to encroach upon the karri forests. But that time is fast approaching.
– Why has it not been used somewhere?
– No timber in Australia can be used for so many and such various purposes as jarrah, and none has been better advertised ; but new processes are being evolved for the preservation of timber, karri is plentiful, and, apparently, when powellized, has as long a life as jarrah. I desire that we shall do what is best for the Commonwealth, and the day may come when the honorable member for Fremantle will realize that it was a good thing that the Minister and his expert advisers decided to use powellized karri.
– I do not detract from the honorable member’s experience and expert knowledge, and am glad to hear his views from time to time on questions of this nature, but he is not the sole embodiment of wisdom on these subjects. Mr. Julius, B.Sc, M.E., from whose report he quoted, made experiments in 1906 in regard to the qualities of a number of Western Australian timbers, and laid the result before the Government of the State. I have taken out the figures which he allots in his comparison of karri and redgum, about which I know more than I doof jarrah or karri. They show that karri tallies very much with redgum.
– Those figures relate to strength. We are discussing the question of durability when placed underground.
– He says that karri gives excellent results, both above and underground. This is from his report -
There is now a. simple process being experimented with which promises to make thiskarri timber immune from dry-rot and white ants. The process is simple and cheap, and when treated in that way karri will prove one of the most valuable sleeper timbers in the world.
-Ishenot interested in the powellizing process?
– He is a very good man.
– When he made his report he was an officer in the service of the Western Australian Government, and, no doubt, gave the best information that he could supply. A man may be a public officer to-day, and in private business tomorrow. The Agricultural Department of Victoria has just lost one of its most valuable officers, who has joined a private company which intends to buy large estates in Victoria and elsewhere, and subdivide them for purposes of settlement. No man could make the full and complete analyses contained in the report of Mr. Julius without understanding the subject with which he is dealing. The honorable members for Fremantle and Swan . are broad-minded enough to be Australians first and Western Australians afterwards, but, did I represent that State, I should rejoice in the fact that this experiment was going to be made, because of the effect it must have on the other transcontinental line.
– Two million pounds is too much to spend on an experiment.
– We have been told that so many jarrah sleepers are to be used and so many powellized karri sleepers, and about 700,000 untreated karri sleepers are to be obtained. I presume that they will not be used on the line itself, because, in the face of the official reports, it would be criminal to so use them. The powellizing process will give opportunities for the use of the new timber, and will benefit the taxpayers. Jarrah timber is mostly in private hands.
– Not one-sixteenth of it.
– It has been well advertised by two or three big companies, which, no doubt, practically control the best jarrah forests. This Government are acting in conjunction with that of Western Australia, and I believe that it is in the interests of the people of Western Australia as well as of the Commonwealth as a whole that the experiment should be made.
– Why incur an expenditure of £2,000,000 on an experiment?
– The honorable member knows that £2, 000,000 is not going to be spent on that particular line for sleepers.
– It is.
– The honorable member is talking about laying down a line solely with karri sleepers, and having to relay it after a little while. These same experts tried this timber after it had been in use for forty years, and found that it had become so hard that ordinary tools would scarcely touch it.Practically, it had become as hard as granite. I should say that this timber, especially when it is powellized, will be exceptionally valuable, but I do not wish to take undue risks. I hope that, after the evidence which has been placed before the House, further inquiry will be made into the matter. Surely the Department would not have moved so far unless they had been thoroughly convinced by expert evidence that powellized karri was a very good timber to use. I am very glad, however, that the matter has been ventilated to-night. I should think that the Minister is not above receiving advice. I presume that in the light of this debate he will go forth, and once more question his officers, and need to be reassured as to whether the step he is taking is justifiable or not. If he is convinced that he is taking a right step, well and good ; but if he is not so convinced, I, if I were in his place, would make further inquiries in order that I might be absolutely assured on the point.I hope that the further evidence which he will be able to collect will prove that karri, when treated, is, as this report says, one of the most valuable timbers in the world for sleepers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Palmer) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120919_reps_4_66/>.