5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs -
Whether, in view of the statement in the report of the Chief Commonwealth Engineer for Railways (Mr. H. Deane), “ That it is confidently anticipated that, while jarrah sleepers are known to have a life of only about fourteen years, karri powellised sleepers will last double that time,” the Minister will obtain from Mr. Deane, and lay on the table, the following particulars : -
Full details of any experiments with powellised karri sleepers covering the period of twenty-one or even fourteen years.
The names of responsible Australian railway engineers who nave recommended powellised karri sleepers in preference to jarrah.
The report of Captain Saunders, the constructing engineer at Fort Augusta, who has had special experience as a responsible officer with the powellising company.
The experience of New Zealand in regard to powellising.
– Replying to the last question first, I do not know that it would be advisable to ask for the opinion of an officer who is subordinate to the Engineer-in-Chief, but I shall call for a report upon the matter.
Mr.FRAZER. - I wish to ask a question of the Postmaster-General or the Attorney-General ; the matter of the question affects the Departments of both Ministers. The Marconi Company brought an action against the Commonwealth, and. endeavoured to obtain an inspection of the Commonwealth stations.
– I am perfectly in order in outlining the case upon which I base my question. The Court decided that the company should make an inspection within three days. Permission to appeal to the Privy Council was applied for, but refused. I wish to know what is the present position of matters? Has the inspection been made, and, if so, what has been the result? Has any further action been taken against the Commonwealth by the Marconi Company ?
– The matter has come before the Attorney-General’s Department, but, having been engaged in the case as counsel for the Marconi Company, I have asked the Minister of External Affairs to deal with all matters affecting the Commonwealth in connexion with that litigation.
– The question whether inspection has been made has not directly come before me, but I believe that an inspection was made. It would be better if the honorable member did not press for an answer as to the exact position at the present time. I could tell him what he wishes to know, but it would be better if he did not ask the question. The advisability of getting evidence from London has been under my consideration, but I ask the honorable gentleman to defer any question as to exactly what is being done at the present moment.
– The Attorney-General says that he was counsel for the Marconi Company in its action against the Commonwealth. Will he state whether he still retains that position ?
– I hold a general retainer for the Marconi Company, as for a number of other companies, but I have entirely severed myself from the particular litigation against the Commonwealth to which the honorable member refers.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General a further question. In reply to the last question put by me, the honorable gentleman stated that he held a general retainer from the Marconi Company. I wish to know whether, in view of the fact that the Marconi Company is engaged in litigation against the Commonwealth - litigation that may involve the Commonwealth in many thousands of pounds - he thinks that he should con tinue to hold even a general retainer from that company ?
– I think that the question proceeds from a misapprehension of what a general retainer, given to a member of the bar, amounts to. A general retainer merely gives to the person giving it the right to call upon the barrister by whom it is received, before he accepts a brief from any one else, who may be engaged in litigation, to give notice of the intention of the opponent to retain his services. That is all. When that notice is given, the barrister who has accepted the general retainer is obliged, of course, to consider all the circumstances that may, or may not, permit of his accepting a brief. In this case, as I have already said, I have completely severed myself professionally from everything connected with the litigation by the Marconi Company. That company, like every other company or individual giving a general retainer, has the right to say that it shall have the services of a member of the bar if there is nothing to prevent his giving them. There are a number of other matters in which the Commonwealth has no concern, and with regard to them I should not be justified in depriving the company of its right to my services if there was nothing in the position which I held against my giving those services.
– The honorable gentleman says that he is at liberty to accept a brief from the company in proceedings that do not affect the Commonwealth.
– Quite so.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs what position he finds himself in as to the payment of the sugar bounty - whether application has been made for the payment) of bounty, and whether bounty has been paid up to date ?
– The bounty payments have been withheld for the time being, pending communications which have been
Bent to the companies concerned, with a view to securing to the growers the payment of the full amount of the Excise remitted by the repealing Act. We are awaiting replies to the communications which have been sent out.
– The honorable member might well lay a paper on the table dealing with the subject.
– I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs whether he is having balance-sheets prepared of the Socialistic enterprises of the last Government, to ascertain the exact loss in connexion with each by means of a comparison of the prices paid in the open market with those which the late Government paid?
– Analyses of the costs of the undertakings of the late Government are now being made, and I hope to be in a position before long to afford the House full information.
– I desire to know if the head-quarters of the InterState Commission have been fixed at Melbourne. If so, does the Prime Minister intend that the Commission shall remain here? What is wrong with Canberra ?
– At the present moment, I do not know where the headquarters of the Commission are to be; the matter is under consideration. No doubt, if the honorable member will address a question on the subject to the Minister of Trade and Customs, the latter will afford all the information required.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether, during the recent electoral campaign, or at any time, he has stated that-
The trend of economic thought, and even of popular thought, realizes the iniquity of the recognition of private property in land. It is the one thing above all others that has cursed this country, and has cursed every other country of which we have any knowledge; and unless it be abolished it will curse these countries in the future as they have never yet been cursed.
I desire to know whether the Prime Minister, if this statement regarding his public utterances be correct, intends to do anything to abolish private ownership in land.
– I wish to say once and for all that I absolutely decline to answer any question which is in the nature of an attack under the guise of an interrogation.
– It will be observed that the Prime Minister does not deny having made the statement.
– Order !
– In the policy statement presented by the Prime Minister yesterday we are told that -
Parliament will be asked to provide funds for trial surveys with the object of connecting by railway Port Darwin with Port Augusta via Macdonnell Ranges, and with the Eastern railway systems via Camooweal, which will open up the country for agricultural and pastoral settlement.
I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether that statement refers to a proposal to appoint a fresh survey party, or does it refer to the work of Messrs. Chalmers and Lawrence, who were appointed by the late Government some months ago, and whose report must be presented by the beginning of next year?
– It refers to a new survey. The question put by the honorable member was whether the reference was to a new survey party. There may or may not be a new party, but the reference is to a final survey before the construction of the line. The survey begun under the direction of the late Administration will, I hope, be completed by the end of the year. The field data has been collected for all parts except a stretch between Newcastle Waters and Alice Springs. Mr. Lawrence is at present in Melbourne, and intends to carry out all the office work. He told me this morning that he hoped that the survey would be completed by the end of the year. What we intend to ask for is that a survey before construction of the line itself be authorized by Parliament, so that we may push on with the building of the railway.
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether, in view of the knowledge of the Department which he has acquired since he became Minister, he thinks that a larger number of official appointments have been made to the Northern Territory than were necessary, and, if so, what is the nature of those appointments?
– The honorable member was good enough, before the House met, to tell me that he intended to ask this question. I have not especially directed attention to the number of officers who have been appointed in the Territory, and I cannot say that any excess has been obtruded upon my notice.
Everything depends upon whether .the Territory is to be left in its present condition, or whether Ministers had in view a policy of development which would justify the appointments made.
Outbreak of Measles on “ Hawkes Bay “ - Accommodation on Immigrant Vessels.
– Yesterday two questions were put to me by the honorable member for Maribyrnong and the honorable member for Melbourne, and to these I promised to obtain answers. In reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Maribyrnong with reference to the s s. Hawkes Bay, I desire now to say that that vessel arrived on the 11th August with a shipload of immigrants, amongst whom there were twenty cases of measles. These immigrants are isolated at the hospital at Coode Island, and the expense of this isolation is being borne by the shipping company. The isolation is effective. As to the question concerning the accommodation on board these immigrant vessels, which was asked by the honorable member for Melbourne, I wish to say that the matter has already been twice under the notice of the Board of Trade. In addition to this, a circular has been prepared for issue to the shipping companies setting out the requirements desirable on board these immigrant vessels, and that circular will shortly be issued.
Prosecutions - General Election Inquiry - Payment of Presiding Officers and Poll Clerks - Alleged Impersonations - Circular to Returning Officers - Petition against Return of Honorable Member for Fremantle.
– A number of prosecutions for offences under the Electoral Act were initiated before the present Attorney-General took office. I shall be glad to learn from the honorable gentleman what stage the proceedings have reached in those cases, as well as in any others that have been instituted by him ?
– Some, in fact I think all, of the matters to which the honorable member refers are under the Department of Home Affairs, and were referred to the Attorney-General’s Department, under section 206 of the Act, to obtain a determination whether the Chief Electoral Officer should be directed to proceed. That is a matter to which, so far as the Attorney-General and the advice tendered by him is concerned, I should not be called upon to give an answer here. With regard to all prosecutions I may say that, so far as the Attorney-General’s Department itself is concerned, the persons to receive the first intimation about them will be those who are primarily affected. I do not propose, while I hold office as AttorneyGeneral, to give specific information of the advice which I tender to my colleagues with regard to prosecutions or intended prosecutions unless they are actually launched.
– The present Administration has entered into an investigation of the voting at the last general election, and having regard to the figures published, showing that some 5,000 votes are supposed to have been duplicated, or in some way rendered ineffective, I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether it is intended to continue the investigation ?
– I may inform the honorable member that the particular investigation that has just taken place is not the only one that has been made. There have been some other investigations dealing with various phases of electoral management. For instance, I have endeavoured to trace the safeguards necessary in connexion with the ballot-papers, and there is no harm in telling the honorable member that that investigation has revealed the loss of 4,000 absent voters’ ballot-papers for the referendum. This shows that the checks existing at the present time are not altogether satisfactory. The investigations that I am making in regard to the electoral administration generally do not cease with the examination that has recently been concluded. That examination was to see how far the duplication of voting occurred, and it does not prove how far there was impersonation. In the case of a voter having impersonated another voter, and the original voter being subsequently refused the right to vote by the presiding officer, the inquiry breaks down as a check. We shall make all the inquiries that are practicable in the interests of the public.
– Has the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs received any report from the Chief Electoral Officer in connexion with the election irregularities, and, if so, will he have the same placed on the table and printed ?
– Yesterday I laid on the table a copy of the statement presented by the Chief Electoral Officer.
– That is not a report.
– I have received no other report for presentation to the House in this connexion.
– Is the Treasurer aware that a number of the presiding officers and poll clerks employed during the recent election have not yet been paid, and will he see that they get the money?
– I was not aware that these officers had not been paid. I have had no complaints in regard to the matter, but if the honorable member will give me some of the instances I shall have them attended to. There is no reason why these officers should not be paid, and I shall ask the Chief Electoral Officer to attend to the matter as soon as he can.
– I understand that the Returning Officer in each electorate has submitted a report to the Chief Electoral Officer regarding the alleged cases of impersonation and duplication. Will the Minister lay on the table of the Library the reports of these Returning Officers that have been submitted?
– I can see no objection to the course suggested.
– In view of the fact that the Government propose an amendment of the electoral law, will the Prime Minister and his colleagues promise that before any alteration is made there shall be a thorough investigation of all the circumstances of the last election?
– The Government feel it necessary to introduce the Electoral Act Amendment Bill at an early date for a number of reasons, which, I think, are apparent to all honorable members. In the meanwhile, we shall proceed with the investigation to which I have referred, and endeavour to see that the next election is held on a basis, as far as possible, satisfactory to every elector in Australia.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the late Minister for Home Affairs issued a circular marked “ private and confidential,” authorizing any returning officer to allow any elector to exercise the right to vote, although another person had previously done so in his name?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The circular referred to was issued as the result of advice from the Attorney-General’s Department by the Chief Electoral Officer to Commonwealth Presiding Officers and Assistant Presiding Officers (10,119). The circular reads as follows : -
Confidential Circular for the Information of Presiding Officers.
Advice has been obtained that an elector does not lose his right to vote because some one personating him has voted in his name, and therefore an elector who, not having already voted at the elections or referendums, claims to vote, and answers satisfactorily the questions put to him by the Presiding Officer, is entitled to vote, notwithstanding that some one else has voted in his name, and his name has been marked off on the list of voters.
Presiding Officers will act upon this advising should occasion arise, but it is not necessary or desirable that it be promulgated for public information.
A note should be made in the Presiding Officer’s memo. book giving particulars of any case coming within the scope of this circular.
Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the petition lodged by Mr. W. N. Hedges against the return of the honorable member for Fremantle, will the Minister advise whether the Commonwealth Electoral Officer will be represented by counsel before the Court of Disputed Returns?
– This matter cannot be decided until further information is available.
Road Tractor - Site of Buildings at Acton - Leasehold Tenure.
Colonel RYRIE. - Has the Minister of Home Affairs any information to give us with regard to the purchase of a road tractor for the Federal Territory? During a recent visit to the Territory, I found the road tractor in a most unsatisfactory condition. The tractor, I understand, was purchased against the recommendation of responsible officers; and I should like to know whether the Minister has any information on the subject?
– My information is that the road tractor to which the honorable member refers is in a most satisfactory condition from the point of view of the Commonwealth, seeing that it is lying in the store and unused. It proved very expensive in working during the few months it did work, and since then it has resolutely refused to work at all.
– Is this a question without notice ?
– I do not seem to be able to please my honorable friends opposite; when I start to answer a question, they are delighted, and, when I give a full answer-
– I only desire to point out that this is, apparently, not a question without notice.
– However, I shall have inquiries made in regard to the concluding portion of my honorable friend’s question, and will, I hope, be able to afford the House early information.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs aware that the officers at the Capital forced this tractor through the Molonglo River when it was overloaded, and that, in consequence, all its oiling appliances were spoiled ?
– That is why it will not work.
– Just so; and we desire to get at the facts, and ascertain what is the true reason for this tractor not working.
– I heard of this matter for the first time yesterday, and I think I may, perhaps, without offence, state my authority.
– Yes; I told the Honorary Minister.
– My predecessor told me. I shall have this question investigated, because I think it has an important bearing on the whole matter.
– Is not the objection that the tractor was made in the Commonwealth ?
– No; the objection is that the tractor will not work in the Commonwealth.
– The Government do not want the tractor to work because it was made here.
– Is it a fact that some of the principal buildings at Acton, in the Federal Territory, have been erected on the main avenue of the Capital, and will, therefore, have to be pulled down ? At the present time the bank is being erected on this avenue, and, I suppose, will have to be removed.
– The bank building is, I believe, directly on the avenue referred to. It is not the main axis of the Capital, but one of the two main avenues ; and it is rather unfortunate that buildings of a permanent character on the Acton side should have been erected in a way that will possibly interfere very materially with the avenue, or necessitate their removal as soon as we are ready to establish the city.
– Will the Minister “sack” the responsible officer for this?
– I am not prepared offhand, at the request of a member of the Opposition, to “ sack “ any officer.
– In regard to the buildings that have been erected out of their proper alignment, will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs lay on the table of the House, or of the Library, a report showing what officers are responsible for this?
– I am having the whole question of the cost of these buildings gone into now. I had hoped to have the information ready to-day, but the inquiry has proved protracted. My predecessor will, I think, recognise that it is rather difficult to properly allot responsibility as between the political head and the subordinate officers of the Department in a case like this.
– The political head does not say where the buildings have to be erected.
– My predecessor will, I think, recognise that I am not taking advantage of the fact that his official approval was required in this connexion. I have no desire to rake up these matters connected with the past, but if the honorable member for Cook insists on the information, I shall make it available.
– In view of the reply which he has just given, I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he will see that no further buildings are erected at the Capital until a proper survey of the city has been made ?
– The survey of the actual city site has now been completed, and I am giving the question of the Acton settlement very careful consideration, with a view to seeing that nothing that we do now can possibly interfere with the future development of the city.
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he is aware that the Federal Capital city is some distance from Acton, and that a thousand years hence Acton will probably be a suburb of the city?
– - I am not aware that the honorable member’s statement is correct. I am aware that on the first premiated design one of the principal avenues of the city runs through the Acton settlement.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he is aware that in America, Broadway runs up to Albany, 150 miles away, and whether he would say that Albany was therefore on Broadway ?
– I am endeavouring to prevent my fancy roaming to America just now, because it is urgently necessary that I should keep it on the spot.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs cause an inquiry to be made into the question of whether the opposition to the purchase of the tractor was not the outcome of the tractor being made in Australia ?
– I have not examined the papers relating to the purchase of the tractor. I am not aware that there was any opposition to its purchase. I only know the facts as I saw them myself at Canberra a few days ago. But I will have the fullest inquiry made into the matter if my honorable friend desires it.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is proposed to abolish the leasehold system of land tenure in the Federal Capital Territory, and to substitute freehold tenure?
– The question has not yet been considered.
– Recently in the Supreme Court of New Zealand, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had an appeal under the Anti-Trust Act, and judgment has been given. Will the AttorneyGeneral take steps to obtain a copy of that judgment, and lay it on the table of the House?
– Certainly, at the earliest possible moment.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the Argus of today it is reported that whilst the honorable member for Hume was speaking yesterday he stated that he was pleased to see the proposal of the Government to exclude rural workers from the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and that I interjected “ They are too well off.” I wish to say that I did not make use of those words, and, further, that I made no interjection whilst the honorable member for Hume was speaking.
– I desire to ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the proposed abolition of preference to unionists is to extend to the legal profession. Does the Attorney-General intend to confine all the legal work of the Commonwealth to members of the Barristers and Solicitors’ Associations, and if, by any chance, there should be a non-unionist solicitor or barrister in Australia, will he be given a fair share of such work ?
– The question of the honorable member is totally beside the Bill which it is intended to introduce. I can assure him that the provisions of that measure will apply to members of the legal profession as well as to members of other professions, so far as they are applicable.
Tasmanian Mail Service - Country Telephone Lines: Guarantees - Late Fee Postage at Railway Stations - New Postage Stamp - Postal Employes : Absence from Duty through Vaccination.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether the Government has taken any step towards improving the Tasmanian mail service?
– There has been negotiation between the shipping companies which carry the Tasmanian mails and the Department, and I to-day received a communication from the companies setting forth the terms on which they would be prepared to give an improved service. I have not yet submitted that communication to the Cabinet.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether, in cases in which there is a surplus revenue in one year above the amount required upon country telephone lines which have been constructed on guarantee conditions, he will have that surplus set off against the losses which may occur in other years?
– I think that the suggestion of the honorable member is a reasonable one in cases where a guarantee is provided.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General if anything has been done in connexion with the abolition of the late fee stamp upon letters posted at country railway stations?
– Shortly after I assumed office I called for reports from the Deputy Postmasters-General of the States as to whether the late fee stamp upon letters posted at country railway stations could be abolished. Each of those reports was adverse to the proposal, but a list is now being prepared of the small townships along thevarious railway lines throughout the Commonwealth at which letters can be posted without inconvenience to the railway officials, and no late postage fee will be charged upon such letters.
-I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether an instruction was not issued over my signature, more than twelve months ago, to the effect that where a post-office is situated an unreasonable distance from a railway station letters may be posted on the trains without a late fee being charged ?
– I do not think that any such rule has been observed. I understand that in some places effect was given to it. Where a post-office was situated three-quarters of a mile or more from a railway station certain concessions were made. But under the new proposal it will not matter where a post-office is located. In the cases I have indicated no late fee stamp will be required.
– While not deprecating the abolition of the existing postage stamp, I wish to ask the Postmaster-
General whether he will give careful consideration to the question of providing a stamp of a different quality of paper with improved perforation, the present stamp being an abortion of philatelic art ?
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he kindly furnish a return showing the number of officers in his Department in New South Wales who have been absent from duty as a result of the after effects of vaccination, the total number of days of absence, and the total amount paid as salary to the officers during such absence?
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
Electoral Inquiry - Admiral’s and Visitors’ Houses, Jervis Bay
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
Fitzroy Dock - Trainees : Prosecutions and Collection of Fines - Henderson Naval Base : Discharge of Hands - H.M.A.S. “ Australia “ : Visit to Fremantle - Garrison Artillery, Wollongong
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs whether steps have been taken to place on the table of the Library the papers relating to the condition of the Fitzroy Dock as disclosed by an investigation regarding lack of efficiency in its working which was recently attempted ? The Minister promised yesterday that the papers should be produced.
– I promised to bring the matter before my colleagues, and to endeavour to have the papers laid on the table. My colleague has this subject under consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
Prosecutions for Non-attendance at Drills to 30th June, 1913.
-I would direct the attention of the Honorary Minister to the fact that he has supplied answers to the first and second paragraphs of the question which I addressed to him, but that he has failed to reply to the question contained in the third paragraph.
– Will my honorable friend put the question on the noticepaper to-morrow?
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What is the reason why all men engaged on Henderson Naval Base, Fremantle, except surveyors, have been discharged ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is: -
All men have not been discharged as stated, but it is intended to cease all work except that of obtaining preliminary data pending full consideration of the whole scheme.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
With reference to a letter written by the member for Fremantle on 7th July to the Minister for Defence, asking that H.M.A.S. Australia should call at Fremantle on her way out from England, and to the Minister’s reply, dated 29th July, in which he states “ the exigencies of the service precluded this being done” - What are the “ exigencies of the service “ referred to?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is: -
It was desired that the first official welcome to the Australia should be given at Sydney, and also it was necessary that she proceed to Sydney as early as practicable in order that the’ transfer of the command of the Naval Station may be taken over from the Admiralty.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Minister to disband the Half Company (No. 4) Garrison Artillery, Wollongong?
– No decision has yet been arrived at in regard to this matter, which is still under consideration.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he please lay on the table of the House all papers in connexion wilh the appointment recently made of Director of Lighthouses?
– The papers referred to in the honorable member’s question will be laid on the table of the Library.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Having reference to the Panama Exposition and a reply ma.de by the Prime Minister to the press on the 4th of August, viz., that he was not prepared to say off-hand whether, in view of the attitude of the British Government to the Exposition, the Commonwealth Government would proceed wilh its negotiations for a general Australian display - Has the Commonwealth Government decided not to be represented at the Panama Exposition ?
– The Government have not so decided.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is still prepared to receive suggestions in respect to the design for the new postage stamp?
– From time to time we have heard that further inquiries are to be made regarding cases of alleged personation at the recent general election. Will the Prime Minister tell us what form that inquiry is to take?
– I am afraid that I must ask honorable members opposite to give notice of any further questions so far as to-day is concerned. Ministers have been answering questions now for 40 minutes.
– When the Prime Minister was in Opposition the Opposition often occupied an hour.
– That statement is as reckless as are many of the statements which emanate from the same source. .We shall require notice of any further questions to-day.
– In continuance of a question that I put to the AttorneyGeneral yesterday, when he said that he anticipated receiving a certain report from the Chief Electoral Officer, I ask now whether he has received that report, and, if so, whether he will lay it on the table and have it printed.
– I should be delighted to answer the question, but I must ask the honorable member to give notice of it, because of the statement of the Prime Minister that no further questions without notice will be answered by Ministers this afternoon.
Questions having been asked by the honorable members for Melbourne Ports,. Kalgoorlie, and South Sydney without replies being made by Ministers,
– The Prime Minister has already- intimated that it is not the intention of Ministers to answer further questions unless notice is given of them. It seems to me, therefore, that, honorable members should give notice oftheir further questions, as no useful purpose can be served by asking questions* without notice in the face of the Ministerial intimation that any further such questions would not be answered at thepresent time.
– Do you, sir, direct that that shall be done?
– There is nothing in the Standing Orders empowering me to prevent honorable members from asking proper questions so long as there appears to be 110 deliberate intention to abuse the privilege for the purpose of obstructing the business of the House. I merely point out that, the Prime Minister having intimated that further questions without notice will not be answered this afternoon, honorable members should, as a matter of courtesy, give notice of their questions.
– Ministers might, as a matter of courtesy, reply to questions of a public character.
– Organized obstruction V
– I rise to order. I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the remark of the Government Whip, who has referred to what has taken place as “ organized obstruction.” I wish to know from you whether the honorable member was in order in making that interjection.
– If the honorable member made that interjection it was not in order, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
The honorable member for Capricornia asking a question to which no reply wau given,
– It might be convenient to intimate that questions of which Ministers ask notice are not recorded in Ilansard.
– This is outrageous.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is not your duty to see that justice is done to every member of the House, no matter on which side he may sit. Do you deem it lone of your functions to lecture the members of the Opposition because Ministers decline to answer questions without notice?
– The honorable member’s question implies a reflection upon the impartiality of the Chair. I have merely informed the House of the usual practice obtaining in the reporting of our debates.
– I ask for my own information, and for that of other honorable members, in regard to your intimation that questions without notice to which replies are not given will not be recorded in Hansard, whether that is a new practice, or whether it is the practice already prevailing?
– It is the practice already prevailing.
– I wish to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker, about some of the unnecessary adornments of this Chamber. I am not alluding to the members on the Ministerial side, although their presence here is unnecessary.
– The honorable member is not in order in asking me a flippant question of the kind that he is now framing.
– I think the matter to which I wish to refer is of great public importance.
-The honorable number is out of order.
– I think, sir, you should allow me to ask the question.
– The honorable member is not in order in asking a flippant question on the subject to which he has referred. I ask him to resume his seat.
– You must excuse me, sir.
-The honorable member will resume his seat. If he persists in defying the authority of the Chair I must, though very reluctantly, take another course.
– I ask whether it is under your instructions, sir, that this bauble was placed-
– The honorable member is now attempting to do what I have already ruled may not be done. He must not proceed on those lines.
– Under what standing order, Mr. Speaker, did youask the Sergeant-at-Arms to place this thing on the table?
Colonel Ryrie. - Put him out !
– The honorable member is attempting to evade a ruling which I have given. If this defiance of the authority of the Chair is continued, I shall take other steps to maintain that authority.
– On a point of order. With the assurance that I shall give you every assistance in carrying out your duties, Mr. Speaker, I ask you, sir, to be good enough to call upon the honorable member for North Sydney to withdraw the rude expression which he used, and which amounted to an incitement to a breach of the peace? He asked that I should be put out. I ask that he be called upon to withdraw his expression. You were on your feet at the time, or I should have risen earlier.
Colonel Ryrie. - I made use of the expression “ Put him out,” and had I been in your place, Mr. Speaker, I should have had him put out.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the expression complained of.
Colonel Ryrie. - I withdraw it.
– I ask you, sir, whetherany articles of furniture or adornment in this chamber upon which public money is expended-
– If the honorable member is referring to a matter just dealt with, I shall not allow him to attempt to evade my ruling. I have already given one or two warnings, and if an honorable member persists in flouting the Chair, I shall ask the Prime Minister to take the ordinary course.
– I desire to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker, regarding the expenditure of public money.I wish to know whether I shall not be in order, as the representative of a considerable number of persons, in asking a question regarding articles bought with the public funds. Am I not in order in asking such a question, even regarding articles the purchase of which comes within the Speaker’s Department?
– The mace is such a miserable devil, too.
– If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports offends again, I shall have to name him. I have already more than once cautioned him.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Will the honorable member resume his seat?
– As a matter of privilege-
– The honorable member must resume his seat when requested to do so.
– I did resume my seat. I now desire to ask, as a matter of privilege, whether I am entitled to an answer from you regarding the expenditure of money coming within your Department? As a representative of the people, am I not entitled to ask you such a question?
– The honorable member would be in order in asking a question relating to the expenditure of money by the Department over which, as Speaker, I have control; but he must do so in a regular and proper manner.
– As a representative of the people, I wish to know what are the items upon which public money has been expended, in regard to which I am not entitled to ask you a question?
– You must not touch that eye-sore.
– The honorable member may give notice of his question in the usual way.
– Why! the State House-
– Order !
– I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether I am entitled to place on the notice-paper a question addressed to you ?
– No. But the honorable member may make inquiries from the Ministers of the House in regard to any such expenditure.
– Am I to understand, sir, that in regard to items of public expenditure, I am to address my questions to an officer of the House, and not to you ?
– No; what I wish the honorable member to understand is that with regard to all matters of expenditure of the kind referred to by the honorable member, I refer him to the Treasurer for information. I have not in my possession information as to all such items. If he desires particulars in regard to them, he had better address his question to the Treasurer.
– Will the Treasurer tell us how much it cost to build the mace ?
– I now name the honorable member for Melbourne Ports for wilfully disregarding the authority of the Chair after being previously warned. I ask the Prime Minister to take the necessary action.
– I ask the honorable member for Melbourne Ports whether he does not think he ought to obviate this duty on my part. He knows what to do. I ask him to make amends so that we may end this trouble.
– I desire, Mr. Speaker, to withdraw without any qualification what I have said, and to assure you that I had no intention of being disrespectful to the Chair.
– I am pleased to have the honorable member’s assurance, but I wish it to be understood by honorable members that they cannot disregard with impunity the authority of the Chair. In taking this stand I am endeavouring only to maintain the dignity of the House, in which every honorable member is interested.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Arbitration (Public Service Act)- Award by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the case of the Postal Electricians union ; and memorandum by the Public Service Commissioner.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act - Regulations, amended, &c. (Provisional) -
Universal Training -
Statutory Rules1913, Nos, 183 to 186, 189,191,192,197, 210 to 212.
Military Forces - (Regulations) - Statutory Rules1913, Nos.
180, 187,196, 203.
(Financial and Allowance Regulations) - Statutory Rules1913, Nos. 181, 182, 188,190,198, 204 to 206.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Second Annual Report of the Commissioner of Land Tax - Year 1911-12.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations, amended, &c. (Provisional) -
Naval Forces -
Statutory Rules1913, Nos. 201, 202, 207.
Debate resumed from 12th August (vide page 76), on motion by Mr. Ahern -
That the following Address-in- Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to bv this House : -
May ti Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Represntatives of , the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyally to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- lt is not news to honorable members cf either House that this, the Fifth Parliament of the Commonwealth, meets under very peculiar circumstances in so far as the relation of parties is concerned. There is evidence in both Chambers of a position which is not satisfactory with respect to the carrying on of public business, and there is evidence also of that fact in the speech made by His Excellency the Governor-General when opening the present session. The Speech was practically nominal, and offered to Parliament no guide to the policy of the present Government. The statement which was laid on the table of the House yesterday by the Prime Minister, and which purported to outline the policy of His Excellency’s advisers, does not do very much to enlighten honorable members and the country as to what is likely to take place. In my opinion, it indicates, on the part of the Government, a mere policy of marking time. So far as we can see, they do not intend to launch any of those large and national schemes, such as were dealt with by the last Parliament, and which have tended to make Australia what it is today. Nine-tenths of the Government policy is purely negative. The Government, apparently, do not propose to make adjustments in the light of experience, but intend to hark back to ancient ideas, and to the most Tory principles. They mean to entrench privilege and to attack those who really need assistance. My first duty, however, is to oiler my congratulations to the honorable members who moved and seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I think that they discharged that duty with credit to themselves and with honour to the House. Both have been returned by constituencies which were represented by others in the last Parliament. One constituency was represented by an honorable gentleman who has passed away, while the other was represented by a man who is still young, and who may be heard of again in Federal politics. Let me say that I appreciated some of the statements made by the honorable member for Indi. The honorable member, in the course of his remarks, made an appeal to the Opposition to see that the national policy of Protection was carried out. That appeal will not go unheard. In another statement, which, I presume, was made with Ministerial authority, the honorable member conveyed to the House and the country that it was intended to place tha maternity allowance on a contributory basis. I do not see anything in the official Ministerial statement that quite bears that out; but I presume it is an indication of the policy we are about to hear. In this lengthy document, which the Prime Minister threw on the table-
– Threw on the table ?
– Yes, in a somewhat indignant manner, if not with indignation - something after the manner in which the honorable gentleman, later in the sitting, exclaimed, “ If that is the feeling of honorable members opposite I shall not say ‘ another bloomin’ word ‘ ! “ I quote the elegant language of the Prime Minister, because he is entitled to have his own words used.
– I stand corrected by the elegant gentleman over there !
– In the Ministerial statement, attention is first directed to the question of the rolls, and the Government express a desire that these shall be kept” in proper order. Every member of this House - every member of the Labour party - agrees to that. We are glad to know, however, that the rolls are in fairly good order, notwithstanding the wildest and most reckless statements ever made by public and responsible men. The rolls contain the names of the people of Australia who are entitled to the franchise, and there is an excess of names, because, under the conditions of the check system, there must necessarily be more names than there are people with the right to vote. It is, and always has been, the policy of retro.gressionists, of Tories, and of privileged people to have as few names on the roll as possible. In a Democracy it is the business of the Parliament to see that the poorest and humblest citizen is enabled to exercise the franchise; and the outburst of anger and annoyance amongst honorable members opposite is because of the fact that such people have been accorded the privilege. The insidious, mean, and contemptible insinuation is that those people, if any, who did violate their election privileges, were not those with most of the world’s goods, but those who are poor and needy - in other words, not those who support honorable members opposite, but those who support the Opposition. The statement reported in London as made by the Prime Minister-
– No, no.
– The statement was reported to have been made by the Prime Minister, and was given in the first person at a special interview; and it is an outrage on the credit and standing of the people of Australia. This country has been represented here and overseas as inhabited by men and women who are actuated by corrupt motives, and who act corruptly at the ballot-box. This slandering of the name of Australia is in keeping with the traditions of the party opposite ever since the Federal Parliament came into existence. When they were in Opposition, and the White Australia policy was before us, they denounced that policy in such language that Australia was misrepresented, and from that day to this the traditional policy of the Liberal party has been to traduce the good name of Australia here and in other parts of the world.
– Why did the honorable member not trust the people with the postal vote?
– I refer the Government Whip to his leader, the Prime Minister, who said that the absentee vote is as good as the postal vote - that one vote is as good as the other.
– That does not answer my question.
– If the absentee vote is as good as the postal vote, it is undoubtedly safer.
– The honorable member said he would not trust the people with the postal vote.
– The Government Whip is evidently anxious to make his speech by way of interjection.
– Will the honorable member give me a reference to the statement he says I made?
– It is a quotation from Hansard. Does the honorable member deny it? In Hansard of 7th December, in dealing with this matter, the Prime Minister is reported as saying: -
– Queensland has increased the facilities for voting.
– It abolished postal voting.
– And put in something just as good - absent voting.
Could hypocrisy go any further ?
– Where is the hypocrisy about that?
– Surely the Leader of the Opposition does not think that the absentee vote is as good as the postal vote for sick people ?
– I do.
– Or for the thousands of women who cannot get to the poll?
– I had not intended to go deeply into this matter, but the people of Australia might just as well know how it stands. When the postal vote was allowed, how was it used ? One would imagine that in the great spaces of Australia, such as we find in Western Australia and Queensland, the postal vote would be mostly employed by the women, who there very often reside great distances from the polling-booth. As a matter of fact, however, the number of postal votes used in Victoria during the Federal election of 1910 was extraordinary. In order that there may be no misunderstanding, I shall give the figures for all the States. The postal votes used on that occasion were: - New South Wales, 6,219; Victoria, 14,049; Queensland, 4,020; South Australia, 1,751; Western Australia, 1,977; and Tasmania, 1,233. Thus we find in the most densely populated State of the Commonwealth there were 14,049 postal votes used.
– The honorable member must know that the reason for. that is that in Victoria we were previously accustomed to vote in that way.
– It is quite evident the people were accustomed to vote in that way, because in the honorable member’s electorate of Kooyong there were more postal votes cast than there were in the whole of Western Australia.
– What is wrong about that ?
– Does any honorable member believe that all these were the bond fide votes of sick people ?
– Does the honorable member say that they were not bond fide ? Does the honorable member challenge the honesty of those votes?
– I say that the abuse of the postal-voting system was greater than any other abuse I know under the electoral law. It is quite evident that the honorable member and his colleagues are very much annoyed at the position occupied by them in this matter. The honorable member for Darling Downs, who is the Minister of Trade and Customs, was, I think, chairman of a Committee that investigated this question.
– I was a member of the Committee on the working of the postalvote provisions, and we gave a report which the honorable member said was right and proper.
– Here are the words of the report: -
The evidence justifies your Committee in finding that many persons who voted by post had not reason to believe they would be more than five miles from their polling place on the day of election, and were on that day within the limit. It would appear that the voting facilities provided have been used contrary to the intention of the Act.
– And the report was adopted by the whole of the House.
– And Parliament took action to prevent this power being abused. The honorable member for Lilley knows well that gross abuse took place at Gyrnpie in respect of the postal vote. On the 8th August, 1907, Mr. Kidston made some significant statements in the Queensland Parliament. He said -
Every one of us knows quite well that the way in which postal voting was carried out in many cases made it to all intents and purposes open voting - open voting under this peculiar condition ; open voting under the eye of some one who probably had some power over the person voting.
I venture to assert that if another election takes place with the Postal Vote unrepealed all parties will do their best to get the great bulk of the women to vote by post. . . . There are plenty of women that can protect themselves. There are plenty of women who are in such a position that they are not afraid of their husband’s position if they vote the wrong way; but, unfortunately, there are a large number of women who are not in that happy position, and it is chiefly for their protection that it is sought to remove this blemish from our Act without any delay. … I consider it the duty of this House to wipe out the postalvote root and branch, and to wipe it out at once.
The Prime Minister has said that the absentee vote is just as good as the postal vote, and that it is less liable to abuse.
– Is the honorable member aware that in Queensland the postal vote is being restored ?
– By a Tory Government.
– Of the postal votes allotted to Queensland, what proportion came from the Wide Bay district ?
– I am quoting the figures relating to the election of 1910.
– And what proportion of the postal votes allotted to Queensland came from the Wide Bay electorate?
– For the benefit of the honorable member I will say that the elections which have been conducted in the Wide Bay constituency have been clean beyond all question.
– I am not imputing that they were not.
– Nothing but an absolute and full apology by members of the Government will remove the stain which has been put upon Australia by the statements which they and their supporters have made in the press in regard to alleged electoral irregularities. These wild and reckless statements gave Mr. Foster, a leading Minister of the Canadian Parliament, an opportunity to make comparisons which did not reflect credit on the integrity of the people of Australia, as compared with the people of Canada. Anybody who knows America will recognise that it is the last country in the world with which Australia should be compared to our disadvantage in a matter of this sort. Yet, up to the present time, there is not a responsible Minister who has been honest enough to say that the allegations made in respect of impersonation and plural voting at the recent elections were not warranted. As a matter of fact, the number of irregularities which have been discovered are not more than those which are usually found even when a vote is taken in this chamber. Therefore, the voting of the people of Australia was creditable to them, and to this great Democracy.
– The statements of which the honorable member complains were chiefly made by the newspapers.
– And by Ministers. I am sorry that I have not the time to quote the statements of Ministers to the effect that the electoral irregularities represented thousands of votes. The Attorney-General made only one speech dealing with this matter, in which he conveyed the idea that ho believed in these allegations. Immediately he saw the rolls, he hedged, and said, “ I do not say that there are any irregularities which cannot be explained.” But other Ministers were not so careful, and therefore the good name of Australia has been injured. The next point in the Ministerial manifesto is a rather important one. Paragraph 2 deals with two phases of social legislation which was enacted at the instance of the late Ministry. We are told that the present Government intend to abolish preference to unionists in the Public Service. Now, the only preference permitted in the Public Service by the late Government was preference to unionists, other things being equal.
– Preference did not apply to the permanent officers.
– No; but in regard to casual employment preference was given to unionists, other things being equal. The second part of paragraph 2 in the Ministerial manifesto is nothing more nor less than a stab in the back of associated labour. It has always been the practice when privileged parties wished to inflict an injury upon the masses who were struggling for liberty and protection, that they secured a renegade to inflict it. At all times they have endeavoured to use the tools which were most convenient to their hands. T say here that the world of labour, industry, and progress would never have attained to what it is-
– I rise to a point of order. Is this insulting language in order ?
– What is the language of which the Prime Minister complains?
– The honorable member has alluded to me as a “ renegade,” and I ask that he should be required to withdraw the expression and apologize.
– I did not catch the expression, but if the honorable member for Wide Bay used it, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the phrase altogether, but what I have stated is an historical fact. Nevertheless, I withdraw the expression absolutely so far as it re fers to the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman will admit that every step in the direction of progress won by the toiling masses has been won after the roadway has been strewn with the corpses of men who succumbed in the struggle for freedom. They had to band themselves together when unionism was unlawful, and that is not so very long ago. There are men living to-day who remember the time when it was unlawful to form a union at all, and when imprisonment was the lot of workers if they were known to be united for the purpose of raising their wages from 9s. per week upwards. They were outlawed. But all the powers of monopoly and vested interests could not keep them down. They rose, not because of the help which they received from the privileged classes, but because they banded themselves into associations, and by so doing were able to help each other, and thus to help the nation. We have reached and passed a period in our history when this Parliament deliberately - Liberals as well as Labour members - supported the principle of allowing an organized body of workmen who felt that they had a grievance access to an Arbitration Court, and of empowering the Judge of that tribunal to determine whether preference should be given to those who brought their plaintefore him. Is there anything unfair in that? If a body of industrial workers choose to go before the Arbitration Court and ask for a judicial decision upon the plaint which they have lodged, is the Judge of that Court to be refused the power to grant them a preference, even though he believes that they are entitled to it? Are these men and women to have no protection at all ? The honorable member for Hume has made an interjection which I did not catch. Is he aware that one of his confreres has published the statement, here and elsewhere, that an organization exists in this country to keep men who are free labourers for the purpose of breaking up our industrial unions? Mr. Blackwood does not deny that fact. But men who are aggrieved will fight for freedom. Is it not a deplorable state of things that agents should be paid to break up industrial organizations, which have done more for the progress of the world than all the Parliaments that ever assembled ? No more severe condemnation of the Government policy could be found than this at- tempt to injure the organized bodies of labour throughout Australia. Paragraph 3 of the Government manifesto relates to the duties of the Inter-State Commission, and with the manner in which the Ministry propose to deal with the question of Protection. It is quite evident that no serious attempt is to be made by the Government to deal with the fiscal issue. It is evident that no effort is to be made by this Government to obtain increased powers for this Parliament, lt is equally evident to every man here, and to the country, that there are certain great industries, primary and other, that could not last for a single year without ample and effective protection on the seaboard of Australia.
– Will the honorable member give us their names ?
– The sugar industry is one of them. That industry is open to attack from all directions outside Australia, because everywhere outside ‘this country sugar is produced with the aid of coloured labour, which is the cheapest labour in the world. The sugar industry cannot live in Australia without ample protection at the seaboard. The industry has been developed by white labour in the districts lying on our north-eastern coast, in a way that was not anticipated ten years ago, even by the most sanguine. It is an industry which must depend for its existence upon the good-will of the people of Australia. The President of the United States of America, finding it impossible to obtain the powers necessary for the protection of the people’s interests, and the prevention of monopoly, proposes to wipe off the American Tariff duties, and to open the ports of America to free sugar. This Government has, apparently, no intention of asking for larger powers for the Parliament for the prevention of monopoly and the protection of consumers. Does the Government intend to prevent monopoly in Australia by opening the ports of the country to free sugar, thus destroying our great sugar industry? That must follow. In the United States of America the sugar industry is carried on largely with coloured labour, and, therefore, will not be affected so greatly by the loss of Protection as the sugar industry here would be. Were it not for the development brought about by the sugar industry on the north-eastern coast of Australia, we should have to spend hundreds of thou sands of pounds in preparing for the more effective defence of that part, as we are doing in the Northern Territory.
Paragraph 7 of the Prime Minister’s memorandum says that -
Inquiries are being made, and material is being gathered necessary for the formulation of a comprehensive scheme of national insurance on a contributory basis, embracing sickness, accidents, maternity, widowhood, and unemployment.
I ask the Prime Minister whether he considers that there are ample powers in the Constitution for all these purposes, and whether he is prepared to say on what basis contribution shall be levied ? If it is proposed to interfere with the maternity allowance for the purpose of pauperizing recipients, I very much regret it. The social legislation now on the statutebook might well stand as it is, and will bear the test of time. That Australia can well afford to find the money I have no doubt at all. The principle underlying the maternity allowance is that the wolf of poverty should be kept at a considerable distance from the door when the lives of, perhaps, two persons are at stake. I hope that our legislation will not be disturbed, and I speak for every member of my party when I say that it will not be disturbed with our consent.
– Does not the honorable member think that abuses have occurred under the Act?
– Very few abuses have occurred that have not been discovered. 1 discovered none to speak of during my term of office. If there are abuses, it is for the Ministry to prevent them. Some persons may be accepting allowances who could afford to do without them, but it is more important to maintain independence among the recipients of allowances than to prevent those who can afford to go without them from obtaining allowances. We should not differentiate between those who need and those who do not need.
Colonel Ryrie. - We differentiate when paying old-age pensions.
– Because we have to; but the principle is not a sound one. Where we can maintain what is the right principle we should do so.
A number of references are made to the development of the Northern Territory, but I have read in the newspapers statements regarding the policy of the Government in the Northern Territory which are not reassuring. Paragraphs have appeared which suggest that Ministers are a little uncertain as to whether the White Australia policy can be maintained in the Northern Territory. I hope that it is not intended to interfere with that policy there.
– To what statements does the honorable member refer?
– To statements published in various journals regarding the difficulty of settling the Territory effectively with Europeans.
– Statements made by whom ?
– Statements attributed to Ministerial supporters and others. It is my public duty to mention them, so that the people of Australia, and of the world at large, may know what our policy is in this matter. The Minister of Trade and Customs knows that many of the present Ministerial supporters denounced the White Australia policy from A to Z when they were in Opposition, saying that it could never be established effectively. The honorable member for Parkes, for one, would not deny that he did so. He was utterly opposed to the repatriation of the Polynesians and the adoption of the white labour policy in connexion with the sugar industry. He has also condemned the white labour policy generally, time and again.
The Government propose to abolish the day-labour system in connexion with the construction of public works, and to revert to the contract system. That, I believe, will be a mistake. It will be found difficult to prove that, even in railway construction, the contract system is cheaper than the day-labour system. It may suit or please friends of the Ministry to have the contract system reestablished, but, on the strength of statements made in New South Wales and in Queensland, I say that the Ministry should hesitate before departing from the day-labour system. In an official report by the Queensland Minister of Railways, published last year or the year before - these are not figures prepared by a Labour Government - it was stated that the estimated cost of railways constructed by day labour was £2,135,914, and the amount actually expended only £1,864,562, showing a saving of over £271,352, or a net saving of 12.7 per cent. It has also been stated in the press - though not verified officially - that in New South Wales day labour has proved more economical than contract labour.
– The Secretary for Public Works in New South Wales has stated that the cost of the North Coast line, the biggest work there undertaken, has not been included.
– At any rate, the case against day labour has not been proved, and I hope that no change will be made until it has been justified after a sufficient inquiry. I think that the proposed establishment of a Public’ Works Department is a good thing. The late Government did what they could in that matter. It must be remembered that there was no large” expenditure on public works until we took office. Our expenditure was commenced under circumstances of great difficulty, there being no adequate staff; and in my opinion the work was carried on admirably. My recollection is that when the late Mr. Eddy came to New South Wales he asked for £3,000,000 to put the railways into order, and the- Treasurer of the day promised him the money. But there was no staff with which to expend the money efficiently. Mr. Eddy said that it would take him a year to get a staff to look after the expenditure of £1,000,000. For several years the Commonwealth Public Works Branch was absolutely neglected. During our term of office demands for public works came from every direction. Our expenditure had sometimes to be made at a disadvantage, but, considering the difficulties under which we laboured, I think that our public works were done wonderfully well. There is now a better staff, and better facilities for the construction of public works, than when we assumed office, and I pm sure that honorable members generally are glad that that is so.
I think we are all agreed that any extension of the old-age pensions will be beneficial, but I hope that the Government will not limit it to providing for the payment of pensions to charitable institutions. The principle underlying our pensions system is that opportunity shall be given to old persons to continue to live in their own homes. That was the desire and aim of those who inaugurated our pensions system. Persons who are unfitted to take care of themselves, and must be cared for iii an institution, are, of course, an exception. So far as they are concerned, no serious objection is to be made to the proposal before us.
Regarding the proposed alteration of the Audit Act, I have indicated again and again that, in my opinion, the Government ought, for their own convenience, to be allowed to spend money in July on the basis of the appropriation for the previous year. That is a convenience, and is absolutely necessary, having regard to the period at which the term of office of senators expires.
– Why not alter the date of closing the financial year of the Commonwealth ?
– Then it would be at variance with that of the Slates. That would be rather a disadvantage.
– I should like them all to come into line with us.
– We cannot induce them to fall into line with respect to any matter. I think the proposal to alter the gold reserve in respectof the note issue is a mistake.
– I should have thought that the right honorable member would have no objection to that proposal in view of the policy that he tried to follow.
– I think it is an entire mistake to hold a larger gold reserve than 33 per cent. There should be a statutory reserve of not less than 25 per cent., with a working margin of 33 per cent. I have always held that view, and have no reason to depart from it. The margin I have mentioned is ample, and will become increasingly so. At the present time, probably, the fund is in credit to the extent of about £320,000. That is to say, the earnings are being placed to the credit of a Trust Fund, and so add to the total amount of gold held or invested against the note issue. We have, therefore, every year an increasing reserve, if not in gold, at least in securities equal to gold, and it is most inadvisable at present to alter the Act in the direction mentioned.
– Why? Consider the present financial stringency.
– The point is that the proposal made by the Government will lead to a still greater demand on the gold in the Commonwealth, so that if there is any financial stringency that stringency must be increased. The proposal is unsound, and is one which I hope the honorable member will assist me to modify, if not to turn down.
– I fear that I cannot help the right honorable member. I prophe sied that the Act would create a good deal of financial stringency.
– It did not. As a matter of fact, it relieved the financial stringency.
– The Governor of the Bank said it had created some stringency. Remember, I am not attacking him.
– The Prime Minister evidently refers to the communication which the Governor addressed to the Times; but in it he made no such statement. These were mere trifles, like feathers in a whirlwind, and did not seriously affect the question of the stringency of the money market. The greatest compliment ever paid to the Commonwealth was that given by the Opposition when they said that the financial administration of the Labour party had influenced the money markets of the world. The money markets of London, New York, Paris, and Berlin, according to them, were all shaken ! It is worthy of note, in this connexion, that since the present Administration took office the money market has become much tighter. When I opened my speech, I remarked that the peculiar position in regard to the state of parties in this Parliament made it very difficult to carry on the business of the country as it should be carried on.
– Hear, hear ! There is no doubt about that.
-There can be no doubt about it. Although the Labour party came back with a. larger number of members of both Houses than it comprised in the last Parliament, the Liberal party are now in power. I believe that the “ beat time “ policy on the part of the Government is in keeping with the best traditions of all Conservative parties. We cannot blame the Government for doing nothing while they pretend to be doing a great deal ; but their attacks on the social and industrial legislation passed by this Democratic Parliament are wholly unwarranted. The mandate they have received from the country does not justify them. Indeed, they are not in accord with the policy which they put before the people, so far as I have been able to understand it. They contemplate a retrograde step, and if their proposals are given the force of law, they certainly will not prove beneficial to the people. It has been my lot tobe seriously misrepresented regarding the statement I made in 1910 concerning our attitude towards the fiscal question. I said then, clearly and definitely, that if the Commonwealth Parliament had the power to protect the workers as well as the employers, there was no reasonable protection that we would not give to enable the manufacturers of Australia to secure the trade of the Commonwealth. That was a clear and definite statement. We intended to appeal to the people by way of a referendum to give this Parliament larger powers, so that the workers might apply to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to remedy any injustice under which they considered they were suffering. We did appeal to the electors, first of all in 1911; but our referenda proposals were rejected. At the last general election we made another appeal by way of a referendum, and our proposals were again turned down. In putting our policy before the people, we said that if the powers for which we asked were granted this Parliament, we should, as a party, introduce and pass legislation for the protection of Australian industries; but that, even if they were turned down, we should feel that since we had submitted our referenda proposals on two different occasions, and the people had seen fit to reject them, it would be our duty to endeavour to carry out a fiscal policy consistent with the protection of Australian industries, and the development of the secondary industries of Australia. That was, and is, the policy of our party. We should also lower taxation. I do not agree with the honorable member that it necessarily follows that local production is always dearer than are importations.
– I quite agree with the right honorable member that it is not always so.
– Any one who views the world’s outlook and the position of Australia and New Zealand to-day must recognise that this country, isolated as it is, is not safe unless it has a large artisan population, and is in every respect practically self-contained. It is, therefore, doubly the duty of this National Parliament to deal with the question. I understand the Prime Minister took exception to a statement I made concerning his attitude towards old-age pensions. I have here a number of quotations from speeches made by him, all of which I shall not read; but those which I shall read should convince him that he has expressed himself very freely on the question.
Speaking in this House on 17th November, 1911, he said, as reported in Hansard, page 2840 -
For a long time I have felt that our scheme is upon a wrong footing. Old-age pensions should be lifted out of the charitable rut in which they are running. The taint of pauperism and charity should be entirely eliminated from them. Moreover, the Act, as administered, is harsh and irksome in every way.
In the same speech he said, as reported at pages 2840-1-
I think the system should be upon an insurance basis. It should be an insurance and not a pension. . . . The more I think of it the more am I convinced that we must come ultimately to a form of national insurance which will give every man - the millionaire as well as the poor man - who has subscribed to his own insurance fund the right to receive that insurance, without taint of pauperism or charity, in his old age. That is the scheme which commends itself to my mind.
– The only trick the right honorable member’s party played was in trying to make the people believe that we were going to do that at once.
– What does the present Attorney-General say about the matter?
– So the Government do not intend to take action at once ? The present Attorney-General has been quite frank as to his attitude. Speaking in this House on 10th July, 1912, he said, as reported in Hansard, page 592 -
I should regard it as one of the worst things that could happen to the country if we were to adopt, as a permanent part of our future policy, the providing for the wants of old age and invalidism by doles out of the public Treasury.
Here is another quotation from a speech made by the present Attorney-General in this House on 14th November, 1911, and’ reported in Hansard at page 2575 -
I feel that it is not only repugnant to common sense, but opposed to the best instincts of our people, that we should plant here a tree which will not stop at the growth that it has already got, but which will go on growing if we do not substitute for it something based upon the contributory system - something based upon a principle that will give play to the very best instincts that our race possesses.
My colleague, the honorable member for West Sydney, attacked honorable members opposite on these statements, and the Melbourne Argus of 5th July last then published this statement -
Everybody knows, and none better than Mr. Hughes, that Mr. Irvine and all Liberal candidates adopt Mr. Joseph Cook’s declaration for the party on these questions, viz., that the bonus and pensions will be reconsidered in connexion with a broad scheme of contributory insurance.
That is from the mouthpiece of the Liberal party. Can the Prime Minister deny thathe had anything to do with this ?
– With what?
– The press mouthpiece of the Liberal party accuses the honorable member for West Sydney of gross misrepresentation, because it says -
Everybody knows, and none belter than Mr. Hughes, that Mr. Irvine and all Liberal candidates adopt Mr. Joseph Cook’s declaration for the party on these questions, viz., that the bonus and pensions will be reconsidered in connexion witha broad scheme of contributory insurance.
It is no use the Prime Minister shaking his head ; this is the kind of thing that goes to the public, and then honorable members opposite say that they are misrepresented.
– Does the honorable member say that I put that to the public ?
– I quoted the Prime Minister’s statement, and here we have what the press said about it.
– The honorable member is too ridiculous altogether !
– Whatever may be said of other newspapers, we know exactly what the policy of the Argus is. It is a Conservative, Tory policy which that organ desires to see carried out, and the paper’s case has never been put otherwise. At any rate, the Prime Minister speaks with two voices regarding a question on which there should be no two voices. Perhaps honorable members have noted a singular omission from the Ministerial statement. There is not a single reference to finance.
– They do not understand finance !
– Perhaps the finances were so confused they could not understand them !
– It is not a question of understanding; at any rate, the finances could not be more confused than the Prime Minister’s statements regarding them. He has made various statements from time to time, and one or two of them have been answered in the press. In the
Argus of 15th July of this year, the Prime Minister, in a controversy regarding Federal finance, said -
My reference was to the fact, and 1 think I quoted the figures, that this year there had been an increase of £6,000,000 in their(i.e., Fisher Government’s) income, and it had all been spent, and it was estimated to be spent within the year. As a matter of fact there is only a surplus, as Sir John Forrest showed in the House, of income over expenditure for the year of£265,000, and this notwithstanding that the expenditure on public works is £1,100,000 less than Mr. Fisher estimated.
The facts are that the total revenue for 1911-12 was £20,546,361, and the total revenue for 1912-13 was £21,878,126, showing an increase of £1,331,765, and not an increase this year of £6,000,000, as stated by the Prime Minister. A statement issued by Sir John Forrest on 2nd July shows that the estimated expenditure on new works for all departments for 1912-13 was £2,679,092, and the actual expenditure £2,699,375, showing an increase of £20,283, not a decrease of £1,100,000.
– Is that a fair statement?
– Will the honorable member allow me to tell him that he does not know what he is talking about?
– It is the Prime Minister’s own Treasurer that I am quoting.
– The honorable member knows that he is playing a trick with those figures. The trick is to refer to new works instead of to the total amount for public works, which is £4,000,000, and not £2,600,000.
– Does the Prime Minister say in this House, and before the people of Australia, that there was not in the Consolidated Revenue an actual surplus of about £2,500,000, and an accumulated surplus in the Notes Trust Fund of £291,000 when he took office?
– I have never denied it.
– Is it true or not true?
– It is true.
– This is the first time that it has been admitted.
– It is not the first time that it has been admitted - it has never been denied.
– I can assure the honorable member that his admission is worth something to the people of Australia. I have had hundreds of letters from various parts of the country declaring that the Prime Minister stated the contrary, and the press has iterated and reiterated that we were in debt instead of having a surplus, and, owing to his credit and reputation for veracity, the Prime Minister was believed by many people. The Prime Minister will now admit that the late Government did not spend every penny it received or could lay their hands on ?
– The money came in quicker than the late Government could spend it.
– We were the first Government to pay off a deficit left by another Government. The Argus, in 1910, said that one of the chief points for the outgoing Fusion party was that the Labour Government would be faced with a deficit of £1,000,000, and the newspaper was anxious to see how the new Government would deal with it. The one hope, consolation, and source of satisfaction on the defeat of that immoral combination of parties for office was the embarrassment which the Labour Government would meet in dealing with the deficit left by their predecessors.
– And the Labour Government took it from the States.
– Whatever the faults and failings of the Labour Government may have been, they paid their way. They built an Australian Navy, and paid for it.
– Is it paid for yet ?
– It is a large Navy, and has been paid for and provided for out of surplus; and I am sorry to say we find no naval policy in the Ministerial statement. I appeal to the vast majority of the intelligent people of Australia when I say that there is only one policy for the oversea Dominions, especially Australia and New Zealand, and that is the policy of providing first class ships for the defence of these shores. That is a policy which is absolutely necessary for our own protection and for the help of the Mother Country. The policy of the Labour Government in this regard was known from the first, and was laid down definitely and distinctly. It was known to the Imperial authorities long prior to the Conference of 1909, when Australia was represented by Colonel Foxton. The policy of the Labour Government is, I believe, the policy of the people of Australia.
– That is not the policy that has been carried out.
– The Prime Minister has five different phases of his policy for Australian defence.
– How many has the honorable member?
– Since the Labour party said that £500,000 was sufficient, how may phases have they had?
– The honorable member will admit that the £500,000 has had to be exceeded ?
– I do not say that these interjections are deliberately designed to take up time, but they have undoubtedly been deliberate and free. There has been but one policy of the Labour party on the question of Australian naval defence.
– We were to have a mosquito Fleet.
– What have I done to honorable members opposite that they should interject so much? The Liberal Government were too” big ‘ ‘ to start with a mosquito Fleet - too big to start in a small way - and, therefore, they adopted the usual course of the party, and never started at all. The objection of honorable members opposite is not because of the size of the ships, but because of our having started to make adequate provision for Australian defence. No one more than the Prime Minister objected furiously to our doing anything of the kind, and he came to an agreement with Mr. Deakin and the Liberals, with the result that immediately the House met the Labour Government were challenged, without any opportunity being afforded to discuss our policy. The Liberals desired to follow the lead of New Zealand and present a battleship to the Mother Country.
– And a good idea, too.
– Happily, the Mother Country did not need any such gift, because it was in a position to build as many ships as it required at the time. All the Mother Country desired was to know the position of the Dominions in regard to their own general defences and the defences of the Empire. We made it perfectly clear what the policy of the Labour Government was, and we have seen no reason to vary it. If New Zealand presented a ship, the Mother Country had to man it; and that is a most material point. Canada finds it difficult to man the war-ships on her shores. Australia is the only Dominion in the Empire whose sons have offered themselves in larger numbers than are required to man the Fleet. The Old Country is in greater need of men to man the ships than it is of money to build the ships, and Australia will be a powerful auxiliary in time of need. The proposal of the Labour Government, as submitted by myself to the country, that there should be another sister battleship on these shores, is not, in my opinion, an extreme, but, rather, a modest policy highly desirable to meet our immediate needs. If there is any great delay, or any delay whatever, in the continuance of the defence policy of the Labour Government, we may live to regret it. I am not one to proclaim the dangers of war, but prefer to proclaim the virtues of peace. However, viewing things as we see them in every part of the world today, and especially viewing our situation, together with that of New Zealand, in the South Pacific, isolated from all European populations, we are in duty bound to take such steps, both as regards the sacrifice of revenue and demand on the services of the sons of Australia, as are necessary to provide for our adequate sea defence, irrespective of all other considerations. These are all the matters with which I propose to deal at the present time. There will be ample opportunity for me to touch upon other questions later on. But, as no policy has been put before us of a character which can commend itself to a democratic community like that of Australia, which desires progress and will not countenance a policy of retrogression, I have a duty to perform before I resume my seat. This is a young Parliament and a young country - a country endowed with an abundance of latent wealth, and one which only needs a lead. Had Governments like the present occupied the Treasury benches in the past, we should have had nothing in the nature of development and nothing of a national character. For these reasons, and also in view of the fact that the policy outlined by the Ministry is not in accordance with the pledges made by them, I beg to move -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address : - But regret your Advisers -
propose to destroy the beneficial character of our social and industrial laws;
indicate no intention of taking such steps as will reduce the high cost of living; and
fail to realize the urgent necessity of an immediate revision of the Tariff.”
– In view of the amendment submitted, I am sure that my honorable friend will permit us time to consider it, particularly the latter portion of it. In these circumstances, I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to ; debate adjourned.
British Parliamentary Party - Amendment to Address-in-Reply - Flagship “ Australia “ - Dismissal of Workmen on Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Fitzroy Dock: Cockatoo Island - Wages : Construction Branch, Postmaster-General’s Department - Record in “Hansard” of Unanswered Questions - Federal Capital: Building Alignment.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I should like to make a suggestion to the
Leader of the Opposition. He has made some observations to-day concerning the composition of this House. He knows, as we all do, how difficult it will be to keep all our members present during the course of long debates.
– So soon?
– I am making a suggestion, if I may be permitted to do so. I should like to ask the honorable member for Wide Bay whether there is any possibility of our agreeing to take a vote upon the amendment which he has submitted 011 a definite date ? It would be to the advantage of honorable members upon both sides of the chamber to know just when a division upon it will take place.I merely throw out the suggestion.
– We are not answering questions without notice to-day.
– Then I give notice to my honorable friend. I suggest that we should agree to take a division upon the amendment on a certain date, and at a certain hour, so as to give all honorable members an opportunity of being present.
– Nobody can take exception to a request of the character which has been preferred by the Prime Minister, although it has come a little early during the debate. I presume that there will be a debate upon the amendment, and if we were only granted an extension of the principle underlying my honorable friend’s suggestion, we could secure agreement upon all points. There is one matter that I should like to mention, namely, that I think this Commonwealth is largely the host of a party which is about to visit this country from oversea, where a number of Australians were hospitably entertained some time ago. In these circumstances, I think that an arrangement might be made whereby we could show our visitors that hospitality which we should like to extend to them, and with that end in view I would suggest that an equal number of honorable members from both parties in this House might be relieved from their attendance here. It seems to me that that would meet the case as far as it is practicable to meet it.
– But what has that to do with the amendment submitted ?
– The usual courtesies will be accorded to the Government in all matters of this kind. We are here as the representatives of thepeople, and are desirous of doing the best that we can in their interests. But, unless there is going to be a Coalition - of which I am not in favour - I do not see how we can get over the difficulty which presents itself. I will take the suggestion of the Prime Minister into consideration, and, as far as practicable, meet the convenience of honorable members.
– I think that the statement of the Leader of the Opposition is one which will commend itself to the sympathy of every honorable member. Everybody who had the privilege of visiting England acouple of years ago will remember the great hospitality which was extended to all Australians, as well as to visitors from the other Dominions. I am sure the Government will embrace any opportunity which offers of exhibiting our desire to make the stay of our visitors in this country happy, comfortable, and instructive.
.- I wish to ask one or two questions of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence. I believe that some intimation has appeared in the press to the effect that Sydney will be the first port of call of the flagship Australia, and I desire to know what arrangements, if any, have been made?
– While a vote of censure is pending, it is impossible for Ministers to answer questions.
– Oh, let that go.
– Does not the honorable member regard the amendment seriously, then ?
– I think that the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs might very well reply to the question which I desire to put to him. It is a courtesy that he owes to any honorable member, and that is the reason why I wish to ask the question.
.- Owing to the decision of the Prime Minister not to answer further questions without notice at the beginning of this short sitting, I was prevented from obtaining information which I desired to get from the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs. I fear that 1 occupy a similar position now.
– There is a want of confidence motion pending.
– And there will be a want of confidence motion in the right honorable gentleman when he endeavours to explain why the services of 250 men have been dispensed with on the transAustralian railway, about which he has “ blatherskited “ so much in this House.
– What is the meaning of this language?
– It is just about equal to the language used by the honorable gentleman when he spread out his arms last evening.
– I call attention to the language of the honorable member. He has stated that the Treasurer “blatherskited.”
– If the remark is regarded as offensive, I ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to withdraw it?
– Seeing the precarious position which the Prime Minister occupies, I withdraw the remark. Probably the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs will tell me why, in a place like Kalgoorlie, where there is no other calling to which they can turn their hands, 200 or 250 men have been thrown out of their employment ? This question of providing rolling-stock in order to enable the rails to be laid on the earthwork which has already been prepared is a very serious one. The earthwork at the Kalgoorlie end of the trans-Australian railway has been completed for a distance of 60 miles; but the rails have been laid for less than 10 miles. It has been found impossible to convey the rails further on the trolleys which have hitherto been used, and which have had to be drawn by horses. The necessity of providing waggons to convey rails to the head of the road is a very pressing one, and is a matter of urgent importance to the men who have been employed upon the work. I do say that an explanation should be forthcoming as to why rolling-stock is overdue in connexion with the contract which was let some time ago to a Sydney firm. If that explanation be, not satisfactory, the firm in question should be compelled to fulfil their obligations or to pay the penalty.
– -Th:y have been warned.
– I hope that the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs will follow up his warning. It is a matter which vitally affects the men who have been thrown out of work.
– The honorable member is finding fault with his own Government.
– I am finding fault with the present Government for failing to compel the contractors in New South Wales to complete their contract.
– They are too late, anyhow.
– No doubt my honorable friend desires that this railway shall be economically and expeditiously constructed, though he was nine years in office without getting an authorization of it; it was left to the Fisher Government to do that.
– The late Government only constructed 10 miles.
– It did a lot of platelaying at the two banquets which it gave.
– The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs is devoting his time to the investigation of the undertakings of one of my late colleagues, but it would be better if he gave his attention to seeing that these people are compelled to fulfil their contract, or pay a penalty for not doing so.
.- The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has given me a line. I have already asked the Government why it has taken certain action in regard to the Fitzroy Dock. The Prime Minister has attacked the Administration of the Fisher Government, saying that, in taking over the Fitzroy Dock, it did something wrong. I have called for the papers, and I wish to know whether the Prime Minister has in his possession evidence which justifies his charge that the Fisher Government spent £800,000 wrongfully in taking over property that was not worth that amount of money? Can he justify his statement? If not, why did he make it? The present Government have sent officials to make au examination of the boilers in the establishment. They have sent an officer to the Dock, and the result has been to throw the whole place into a state of disorder. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has referred to a matter affecting 100 or 200 persons; but the matter about which I am speaking affects, perhaps, 1,200 persons. A great number of men have been thrown out of employment for a week or a fortnight by this Administration’s lack of ability to control the officers under it. A property has been taken over, valued at between £700,000 and £800,000, and the Government, before it has had time to obtain information as to the real value of the property, or to know the officers under its control, has dismissed a number of the Dock employes. The Prime Minister has made most pronounced charges against the late Administration. I wish to know why a close investigation into the condition of affairs at Cockatoo Island was not made before thousands of men were thrown out of work? Mr. Julius never examined a boiler at the Dock, but on his report the Government is closing the establishment. Men of technical training, instead of doing that, would have taken out the boilers two at a time, replacing those that were good, and discarding those that were bad. But this Government, on the mere report of Mr. Julius, has closed down the whole place. There is something needing reform in administration like that. I ask, first, that Mr. Julius’ report be laid upon the table; and, secondly, that the Minister of Defence shall get the Dock into perfect working order. If this cannot be done, the Government is ineffective for its work, and the sooner it goes out the better.
.- I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if it is true that men in the Construction Branch of his Department in Queensland are to have their wages reduced by a shilling a day. A statement has been made that the Minister has given instructions that that reduction shall take place, but no reason for it has been given. I understand that there has been’ no similar reduction in any of the other States. The men feel that they are being deprived of money to which they are justly entitled. It is not known whether the step has been taken for some political purpose, but that is the feeling in Queensland. The men, previous to the reduction, were receiving only the wages paid in the other States, and it is difficult, therefore, to know why the reduction should be made. I hope that the Postmaster-General will give their case consideration, and I am sure that after making full inquiries he will direct that they shall receive what they were getting up to the beginning of last month. I trust that he will deal generously with them.
.- Several men waited on me in Brisbane, saying that they had been told that they were to be discharged, but that those who applied, would be re-engaged next day at ls. a day less than they had been receiving. If it is the policy of the Cook Government to reduce wages, the sooner the country knows it the better. I at once saw the Deputy . Postmaster-General for the State, who said that he could give me no information publicly, and suggested that I should wire to Melbourne. I sent a telegram to the PostmasterGeneral, asking whether it was a Ministerial instruction that the wages of these men should be reduced by ls. a day, but a more Jesuitical reply than that which was returned I have never received since I have been in Parliament. The Postmaster-General did not answer my question, but fenced it like an old warrior. Knowing him as I do, I feel sure that the reply was dictated by an official, but having signed it, the Minister is responsible, and he it is whom I am attacking. I ask him now, if he were receiving only 9s. a day with which to keep a home over his head, maintain his wife, and bring up five children, paying 16s. a week for rent, he would like to have his wages reduced by ls. a day, or 6s. a week. I did not expect a levelling down of wages by the Prime Minister, whose vote in this Chamber has always been given for a levelling up, and I ask the Postmaster-General in all seriousness if he intends to do this paltry thing. He is robbing these labouring men of ls. a day, which they have been receiving for the last eighteen months. It is of no use to fence the question. Directly the new Government came in, the wages of these men were reduced by ls. a day. I appeal to the Government to restore to these men the ls. per day that has been taken from them, so that they may not go down to posterity as a Ministry who took ls. a day off the wages of the lower paid men, while the highly paid officials - the curled darlings of the service - were left by them untouched. No one knows better than <does the Prime Minister what ls. a day means to a working man, and this taking of ls. a day from the wages of working men is the last act of which I thought he would ever be guilty.
– I shall do my best to answer the questions raised by the two honorable members who last addressed the House. I was informed by the Secretary of the Department that advices had been received from Queensland that a departmental officer had made a mistake in placing certain men in a class different from that in which they had previously been employed. It had been the practice to pay 8s. a day to linesmen and 9s. a day to another class of workers.
– To labourers.
– I was advised from Queensland that a local officer had paid 9s. per day to those who were entitled to receive only 8s. per day, and that this was upsetting all the arrangements. My reply was, “ Let the men finish the job on which they are engaged without suffering any reduction at all. Pay every man who is now engaged 9s. per day, but when you start other work keep to the scale that was fixed.” Thus no man was reduced.
– Men were reduced. A man was told one night to knock off, and to start again on the following day at 8s. per day.
– I directed that these men should continue to receive 9s. per day until they had completed the work on which they were engaged, and every mau was paid at that rate, I believe, until the job was completed.
.- I have never known the Prime Minister to do anything in this House to increase the rates of wages of the men in, at all events, the lower grades of the service ; but I have certainly heard him talk about the matter. The only time when he did anything in the interests of the poorerpaid classes was when he was leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, but since he has joined the capitalistic section of the community - since he is the leader of the capitalistic section of this House - we cannot expect from him anything else than an order to reduce the wages of workers by1s. per day whereever that can be done. We shall have, however, another opportunity to consider the honorable member’s attitude towards the working classes of Australia. I rose more particularly, Mr. Speaker, to ask you to reconsider the question raised today as to the publication in Hansard of questions that are asked, but not answered, in the House. You stated, sir, that it was the practice not to report any question which a Minister refused to answer. I have never known an occasion
– Order !
– I hope, sir, that you will not think that I desire to offer you any affront or to question your ruling, but I trust that you will reconsider the matter, sinceI venture to think that there has been a mistake. I believe that it is the practice not to record any interjection to which the honorable member addressing the House does not reply. That, I think, is perfectly fair. But the present Prime Minister said in this House, not long ago, when, as Leader of the Opposition, he was referring to a Minister -
The honorable gentleman seems to think that it is a proper Ministerial attitude to flout the House and tell honorable members that he will not give any information such as has been asked for. I have never known any such attitude taken up by a responsible Minister in any Parliament with whichI have had to do.
– Who made that statement?
– The present Prime Minister. That was his view when sitting in Opposition. I think you will recognise, Mr. Speaker, the disadvantage under which honorable members will labour if questions which are asked in this House, and which ought to be reported, are not recorded in Hansard, merely because the Ministers to whom they are addressed refuse to answer them. I ask you with great respect to consider the question, and to ascertain whether a mistake has not been made by confusing the practice in regard to interjections that are unwelcome to a speaker, and which are not reported, with that in regard to questions addressed to a Minister, and which that Minister may, discourteously or otherwise, refuse to answer.
.- I Wish to add my protest to that which has been made against the practice of leaving out of Hansard a record of something that transpires in the House. Yesterday I asked a series of questions in regard to the electoral inquiry. A number of those questions were answered, but one, which the Minister did not answer, was omitted from the Hansard report of the proceedings, so that the sequence of these questions was interfered with. The report, therefore, is not a true record of what transpired. I found when I received my proof this morning that this onequestion had been left out, although its omission interfered with the sense of the other questions. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that when a series of questions is addressed to a Minister we do not get a true record of what transpires if one of that series is not recorded in Hansard merely because it is not answered. If an awkward question is asked, and a Minister declines to answer it, there is no record of it. It seems to me that that is an altogether anomalous position. I have consulted the ex-Speaker, and understand from him that he was not aware that the practice of eliminating from Hansard questions that are unanswered was being followed.
– They are not eliminated, because they are never inserted.
– They are eliminated from the records.
– That has always been the practice.
– I noticed a Hansard reporter to-day taking a note of every one of the questions asked. It is apparent, therefore, that a record is taken, but that a question, if. not answered, is left out of the Hansard report.
– The rule has been to leave out of the report a question to which no reply is made.
– Then if I ask the right honorable member a question which he does not like - a question as to his attitude towards the Governor of the Bank, or as to using political influence with the Governor of the Bank - he has only to refuse to answer it, and there is no record of it?
– Certainly; that has always been the rule.
– If it is within the power of some person to prevent a full report of the proceedings of this House being recorded, and going before the country, the rule is a very bad one.
As to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley, I wish to add my protest against the discharge of a very large number of workmen from the Fitzroy Dock, owing, it now transpires, to a mistake on the part of the Government. The present Administration has done what I have never known to be done by any other Government. As soon as they took office each member of the Ministry went about like the man with the muck-rake in Pilgrim’s Progress, raking over every little matter in the various Departments in the hope that the attitude of his political opponents, might be placed before the country in an unfavorable light. In pursuance of this muck-rake policy it appears that agents of the Government went to the Fitzroy Dock to see if they could not find there something about which they could make a noise. The statement went forth that a number of boilers in use there were a danger to the persons employed at the dock. The statement appeared to be ridiculous on the face of it.
– A gents of which Government?
– Of the honorable gentleman’s Government. It was stated that these boilers were unfit for use, but we know that the boilers in all these large establishments are tested periodically. In the circumstances, it was simply a lot of nonsense to say that a competent manager in charge of the great works at Cockatoo Island would allow boilers to be used that were likely to burst and blow the whole place up. One of the members of the Government wired over to stop the works. They were precipitately stopped, and a number of the men were, if not permanently sacked, suspended from their work. Almost immediately it was discovered that a huge blunder had been made. Nothing wrong could be found, and an attempt has been made to start the works again. The men suspended from work were paid for two days they lost, and, as a result of the blunder made by the Government, a large number of men have been paid two days’ wages for which the Commonwealth has received no return. The honorable member who represents the district has stated that as a result of the action taken the work of an establishment in which 1,200 men were employed was interrupted, and he informs me that 400 of these men are now out of work. They are not being paid, whilst the members of the Government go round scandal-seeking in the different Departments to see if they can discover something upon which they may base a complaint against the late Government. This is only political engineering on their part.
Only to-day we found the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs anxious to charge his predecessor with some derelicton of duty because an officer of the Department has commenced the erection of a building at the Federal Capital out of its proper alignment. One would suppose that it was the duty of the ex-Minister of Home Affairs to go to the Federal Capital to determine the exact spot on which the building was to be erected, and drive in the pegs himself. The Assistant Minister for Home Affairs knows perfectly well that the Minister has nothing to do with the alignment of public buildings. He has responsible and wellpaid officers, whose duty it is to transact such business. Yet, in order to blacken and misrepresent political opponents, it was suggested here this afternoon that the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, in his official capacity, was in some measure responsible for the improper alignment of the building referred to. If there are officers in our Departments who, by their carelessness, leave Ministers open to charges of that kind, it is clear that they are unfit for their position. We should know who they are, and the extent of the dereliction of their duty.
In connexion with the reduction of wages at Brisbane, I wish to add my protest against the course which has been taken there. I understood from the present Prime Minister, when on this side, that he would take advantage of every opportunity afforded him to improve wages and conditions. It is true that all I know of the honorable gentleman in that regard is what he has said. I do not know of anything which her has done in that direction. I know that when he was Postmaster-General of New South Wales very low wages ruled in the Department. I know that the wages have been considerably increased since Federation, and particularly from the time the Labour Government took charge of the Post Office. I hope the protest made here this afternoon will lead to a correction of the policy of the
Government in reducing wages, and that we shall have some evidence chat the Prime Minister is prepared to carry out the views he expressed when in Opposition with regard to the improvement of wages and conditions of public servants. The honorable gentleman has the opportunity afforded him now, and I hope we shall see the reductions of wages stopped, and the honorable gentleman’s expressed desire for the improvement of wages and conditions given effect to.
– I have listened to a series of speeches on the motion for the adjournment that are quite unusual after a motion of censure upon the Government has been moved. Honorable members opposite seem to take no account whatever of the proprieties of the situation. They seem bent upon one thing only, and that is to pour vilification and abuse upon my head. I shall have to stand it, I suppose.
– We shall have to get a “ Ned Kelly “ helmet for the honorable gentleman.
– I shall need something if this kind of thing is to go on.
– The honorable gentleman has had only two days of it. We had three years of it.
– I hope I have never descended to vilification and personalities. ‘
– The honorable gentleman was worse.
– Hansard records more withdrawals by the honorable gentleman than by any two other honorable members.
– 1 ask honorable members to keep order.
– I wish to answer some of the statements made during the short discussion on the motion for the adjournment. To begin with, there was scarcely one statement made that is true. Scarcely a correct statement? has been made throughout the discussion. But if they were all true, what do they mean? They mean that we are doing our best to cure the radical defects of administration left us by our predecessors. They mean that we are trying to overtake the acts of mal-administration and of rightdown administrative inefficiency of those who were formerly in charge of the Public Departments.
– Who is now indulging in vilification? I defy the honorable gentleman to name one act of maladministration.
– The honorable gentleman should mind his own business.
– The honorable gentlemau at once indulges in vilification and abuse.
– The honorable member for Adelaide is out of order.
– I have yet to learn that a Prime Minister must sit down quietly and let honorable members opposite pour dirt on him.
– You are the dirtiest talker in the House.
– The honorable member is an excellent judge of dirt. Take the case of the Kalgoorlie railway trucks. Who let the contract for those waggons ? We did not. Our predecessors did. Who began to make this railway before they were ready to make it? Who have been dragging rails and sleepers 10 miles on a cart with all sorts of uptodate machinery to do this business lying idle? Whose is the fault? Is it ours? It is the fault of those men who went before us; but ft seems we are to be blamed for all this Ministerial ineptitude.
– You should keep the contractors up to their dates.
– We have never failed to do anything with the contractors to date that we should have done. The honorable member asks for details. He can have them all, and he will find that every fact reflects on our predecessors. We have nothing to do with the matter except to make the best of the trouble they have left.
– I ask you to see that the contractors to whom those contracts were let by the previous Government are made to keep to the terms of their contracts.
– Does the honorable member know of anything under the sun which will make a contractor deliver a waggon when he has not it made ? There is only one thing to do, and that is to visit on him the penalties provided for in the bond.
– Hear, hear; do it.
– Who says we are not going to do it? It does not help the trouble that exists; it does not interfere with it in any way. This talk of waggons is all behind the mark, and should have been addressed to the honorable member’s own Cabinet many months ago. We deeply regret that through the actions of our predecessors in not getting preparations forward, these men have to be thrown out of work, but do not taunt us; let honorable members taunt themselves and their inefficient administration.
– I did not taunt the honorable member.
– It is time for a little bit of straight speaking over these things. Honorable members opposite have had it all so far.
Now I come to the Dock - this precious Dock. We are told we have sent agents there to make mischief, the result of which is to throw hundreds -out of work. A more infamous statement never came out of the mouth of any individual. It is not true.
– ls the Prime Minister justified in saying that a statement made by an honorable member of the He use is not true?
– I withdraw it. I say the statements are absolutely incorrect. The fact is that the previous Government appointed engineers to investigate the machinery at the Dock - not our agents - their own agents, the specially qualified and specially paid agents of the previous Government.
– They are men of large ability.
– They were employed by the previous Government, and they are not the agents of this Government, specially appointed to make mischief. One man reports that out of ten boilers, five were dangerous, and that as to one of them the sixteenth of an inch was standing between the men and heaven.
– There were two engineers. Tell me who the man was?
– Order ! The honorable member has already spoken.
– The boilers that are kept going are kept going at reduced pressure in order to keep the men at work.
– I want you to mention the name of the man you are quoting.
– I will try to get the honorable member the name. These reports have been made, not on our initiation, but on the initiation of the previous Government. They showed that the boilers were dangerous, and, for the safety of the men, the Naval Board, on the strength of these reports, advised the Minister to close them down until they were repaired. I will give the honorable member all the information he wants. He need not bandy words. He shall have all the papers, and all the facts. And when he gets them he will 1]Ot like them. In the other case, they will prove that all this kind of thing has been going on, that the men have been working at the imminent danger of their lives, under the administration of our predecessors. I think it is going beyond the length of fair debate when honorable members make these reckless statements that we appointed agents to go to the Dock in order to stir up trouble.
– The honorable member does not know who made the report.
– It was said that we had appointed agents to make trouble in the Dock. That is the only statement I am combating, and I say that what has occurred in the Dock has occurred in consequence of a report by an officer appointed by our predecessors. That officer reported to the Minister, and the Naval Board, on the strength of the report, advised the Minister as to the course of procedure. That course has been followed in all cases.
– Are you “ stonewalling “ your own motion?
– Is it “stonewalling “ to let a little light in on these scandalous statements of yours?
– I made no speech on this particular item that the Prime Minister is talking of. I ask that the honorable member be called on to withdraw his statement.
– No doubt the honorable member will withdraw it; but many of these statements are invited by disorderly interjections. I have repeatedly appealed for order, and I ask honorable members, if they object to such statements when they are made, not to provoke them by their own disorderly interjections.
– I withdraw my statement. We are doing our best to repair these difficulties, and to purchase new boilers, and to get these works going to the fullest capacity, and we are doing it with only one end in view - to get forward the work already in course of construction, to get forward those ships which are years overdue, and to keep the men in employment to the fullest possible extent. But when responsible officers say that it is dangerous for men to work, the honorable member must not expect us, for the purpose of keeping them in work, to jeopardize their lives. We will not take that responsibility. Anything that will remedy these defects shall be undertaken at the earliest possible moment. Every effort is being made to repair the troubles which have been shown to exist at the Dock, and I hope it may soon be that all these men will be at work again, and under the best possible conditions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 August 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130813_reps_5_70/>.