5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers..
Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to standing order 25, laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Charlton, Dr. Maloney, and Mr. John Thomson to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he can tell us approximately the date when he will deliver his Budget speech ?
– I should be very pleased if I could definitely fix a date. All I can say is that the Budget will be delivered very soon, and that I shall inform the House as soon as possible of the intended date of delivery.
Tasmanian Mail Service - Lighting op Post Offices - Erection of Telephones - Mechanicians - Halfholiday: Letter Carriers - Sea Elephants’ Bat to Currie Harbor Telephone - Importation of Mechanics - Posting of Circulars.
– I gather from the newspapers that a decision has been arrived at in connexion with the Tasmanian mail service. Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House when it will be made public?
– Negotiations for the improvement of the Tasmanian mail service have been passing between the shipping companies and the Postal Department, and I have given instructions for an agreement to be drafted for submission to the companies, but I cannot say when it will be completed.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if his Department has yet come to a decision regarding a - new illuminant for postoffices, which was promised twelve months ago?
– I shall inquire into the matter. I have not heard of it.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General a question, without notice. It will be well known to honorable members that, in regard to the construction of telephones, there are some lines that are not covered by guarantee conditions.
– Order I
– Certain lines are erected partly by residents.
– How much longer is the honorable member going to be?
– I should like to ask the Postmaster-General whether, when a contribution has been made by residents towards the cost of construction of a telephone line, and that line subsequently becomes payable, he will refund, under proper departmental safeguards, the amount so contributed by the residents? That could be done when the departmental officers certify that the line is, and continues to be, payable.
– The desire of the Department is to encourage people to erect telephones, and when they become payable lines, as far as can reasonably be done, a refund will be made of the cost incurred by private persons. That is to say, as far as I am concerned, that policy will be observed.
– Following up the question asked by the honorable member for Wimmera, I wish to elicit further information. I understand, from the answer of the Postmaster-General, that he has arranged that where the telephones have been built on the guarantee principle-
– On the partcontribution principle.
– What is the difference ?
– I desire to know whether the action taken by the Minister is to be retrospective, or is to apply to the future ?
– It will apply only to the future.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral a question without notice. With a view to the extension of country telephone lines, and the cheapening of the cost of construction, has the Minister given any instructions to the departmental officers to prepare new specifications with a view to carrying out that object; if he has not done so, will he give such instructions, and permit residents to take part in the construction of lines in accordance with the new specifications ?
– Some time ago, I asked the Chief Electrical Officer to draw up specifications for the construction of cheaper lines than are being built at the present time.
– Cheaper than the tree and post lines?
– Yes; with lighter materials and lighter posts, I think that we can probably build 2 miles of line for the present cost of 1 mile. My view is that if we can build a line to last for ten years, when it is proved to be a profitable investment, it will pay the Department to put up larger posts if required. These new specifications will, I believe, be ready very shortly.
– We have had a fair statement from the Postmaster-General as to his intentions regarding postal services.
– I must refer to the Minister’s previous answers in order to base a new question upon them. The Postmaster-General has made a statement about new telephone lines becoming ultimately paying propositions. Is he in possession of any facts or figures from any of the States as to what the financial obligations for the Commonwealth maybe in the event of his deciding to adopt the course he has suggested ? I ask that question quite seriously, because I think it is an important matter.
– I am not.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General, without notice, whether, in view of the fact that he is going to make the cost of the construction of telephones somewhat less, he will look into the necessity of constructing a line from Sea Elephants’ Bay to Currie Harbor, King Island?
– The localities named are not known to me, but I will inquire into the matter.
– Before a decision is arrived at by the Postmaster- General or the Government in regard to telephone extensions and the possible losses, will the honorable gentleman endeavour to place the House in possession of the figures as to the probable annual cost?
– I do not think that one can prepare an estimate in connexion with this matter, but none of the lines will be put up without the consent of the Department. In the case of an extension for which the people of a district contributed money, I think it is only fair that when the line becomes payable they should be refunded their proportion of the cost.
– With regard to the remission of moneys which have been paid by the residents for lines that have been constructed by the Department, does the Postmaster-General acknowledge that there is any difference between money contributed towards the construction of a line and the amount paid down under guarantee conditions; and, if he does not, will he apply the same principle to the return of money paid on guaranteed conditions as he will apply in regard to lines, built under subscription conditions?
-In the Department there is a regulation providing that where a line has become payable, and the full amount of the guarantee is received, the Department shall refund to the guarantors the amount they have paid. I think that that arrangement was proposed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie when he was Postmaster-General.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral a question relating to the position of the mechanicians who were permitted to appeal to the Arbitration Court. A judgment was given by Mr. Justice Higgins in regard to their case. I should like to know, in the first instance, whether the Government intend to accept Mr. Justice Higgins’ decision, which has been laid upon the table of the House; and, secondly, whether it is intended to honour the promise which I gave that the casual employes affected by that award should have their increased remuneration dated back.
– Are you prepared to say whether you think it is a fair thing to do?
– I do think it is a fair thing.
– You think that the award is all right?
– I do. I think they are a very valuable section of the community.
– I would point out to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that on the notice-paper there is a question relating to this matter.
– If the PostmasterGeneral prefers it, I will give notice of the question.
– That will be better.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the question of granting a half-holiday to the letter-carriers in Sydney and suburbs - the same privilege as the men in Melbourne enjoy at present?
– I will inquire into the matter. I would like to know from the honorable member if the halfholiday on Saturday is universal in Sydney, the same as in Melbourne ?
– I will look into the matter.
– When the PostmasterGeneral is considering the terms of the new Tasmanian contract, will he consider the advisability of altering the present poundage system between Hobart and Sydney, with the view of securing a contract that will give the Government very much better control over the ships, and be a very great convenience to the shippers, that is, in regulating the time of departure?
– I shall look into the matter.
– I learn from the Hobart press that the business people are suffering great inconvenience owing to the non-arrival of the mainland mails, particularly on Saturday night. Will the Postmaster-General kindly make inquiries with the view of having the mails delivered as usual on Saturday night, instead of on Monday?
– Certainly, I will.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister a question in reference to the importation of mechanics for the Postal Department, and to work the machinery at the Woollen Mills, Geelong. I know that the Prime Minister has said that he had no desire to gooutside the country for such labour, but that the Department could not be “ held up; “ and, further, that if we had to go abroad for it he would like to go to Great Britain. Personally, I think there are men in Australia who can do this work; and I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he does not know that, as soon as the Postal Department pays the wagesset down under the Arbitration Court award, there will be thousands of men available.
– I am not aware of that fact, and all I have to say is that I am glad to hear it. The reason I made this matter public before acting was in order to see if we could not get these people in Australia.
– With reference to advertisements which have been issued calling for applications for the position of telephone mechanician in the TelephoneDepartment, Sydney, will the PostmasterGeneral undertake to seriously consider the claims of men who, although graded as temporary hands, have been carrying out the duties satisfactorily for the last five or six years?
– The applications are called for by the Public Service Commissioner, who will deal with them. I have no doubt that he will consider those from men who have had experience*
– There is a regulation preventing business men and others from posting a considerable number of circulars at a reduced rate of postage in the suburbs. Suburban business men when they have a large quantity of circulars to send out are thus forced to bring them into the city to be posted. Will the Postmaster-General see that the regulation is repealed, so that the suburban business men may have the same advantages as the city business men ?
– I shall look into the matter.
Military Encampments - Karrakatta Rifle Range - Captain W. Brazenor - Naval Brigade Band, South Australia - Arrival of the “Australia “ - Regulations - Restoration of the Kilt.
– I ask the Minister Representing the Minister of Defence if the Government will take steps to avoid in future the holding of encampments for the citizen forces in the month of December? Part of my district is affected by an encampment which is to be held, next December. To take away assistants from their work in that month causes great inconvenience to farmers and business men. I have waited on the officers of the Department in connexion with the matter. They were very courteous, but pointed out that the arrangements for the encampment had been made six months ahead, and could not now be altered.
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister of Defence, who will, no doubt, reply to it at a future date.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he will lay on the table of the Library all the papers connected with the matter of the Karrakatta rifle range, Western Australia?
– I will ask the Minister of Defence, if possible, to lay the papers on the Library table at an early date.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence lay upon the Library table all the papers respecting the appointment of Captain W. Brazenor to the position of Area Officer, 70a district, Ballarat.
– If the honorable member will give notice of the question, I will give him an answer on Wednesday next.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether the naval authorities have agreed to alter the uniform of the Naval Brigade Band, South Australia? I referred to this matter some time ago, and wish to know whether any action has been taken ?
– I will get my honorable friend the information which he desires within a few days, and hope to be able to give it to him at the next meeting of the House.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he can inform the House of the date of arrival of the battleship Australia; and whether honorable members will have an opportunity of visiting the port of Sydney to welcome the vessel ?
– I have already told the honorable member that if he will go away, and not come back, we shall endeavour to make him quite comfortable.
– What is the date?
– I do not know the exact date, but we shall be glad to afford all facilities to honorable members who wish to visit the ship.
– In view of the increasing bulk of the regulations under the Defence Act, which are now much bulkier than the Act itself, and of the fact that the regulations are constantly increasing, will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence be good enough to consider whether a useful compendium of the regulations might not be published, which would enable us to see where we are with regard to the Act?
– I shall place the honorable member’s suggestion before the Minister of Defence for his favorable consideration.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether, seeing that a motion was carried here on the last day of the last Parliament, in favour of restoring the kilt, he has taken any action in regard to the restoration of that national dress?
– I hope that my honorable friend will ask me this question, next week, when I shall have an opportunity to give him an answer.
Presentation to Liberal League Secretary - Liberal Party’s Funds - Mr. Fowler’s Electoral Expenditure - Prosecutions - Amendment of Act - Return of Electoral Expenses
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he was correctly reported in the Argus on Saturday last to have presented, at a meeting held at Kyneton the night before, a bangle to a young lady who is secretary of the Liberal League of that town ? If so, was not his action in contravention of the Electoral Law?
– I both made a presentation and received a present, a very nice gift of chocolate. The presentation was made on behalf of the members of the League in Kyneton to their president, the gift being a beautiful gold watch-bangle, which I believe the recipient greatly appreciated.
– In view of the fact that the Electoral Act prohibits a candidate for this Parliament from spending more than £100 in his electoral campaign, I ask the Minister of Home Affairs if he is aware of the statement made in this House by the honorable member for Bourke that Mr. Herbert Brookes, during the recent campaign sent a cheque to the honorable member for Perth, who was at the time a candidate for that division. If so, as the money was sent obviously for use in the campaign, will the Minister ascertain whether the honorable member for Perth spent more than £100 on his electioneering ?
– As a personal explanation, I wish to say that I am very sorry that the honorable member for Barrier has thought fit to put this construction on a matter that he understands perfectly well. The sum of £500 was remitted to me by Mr. Brookes for the Liberal organization of Western Australia, which sent an acknowledgment of it to Mr. Brookes, and I have his authority to say that it can be seen by the honorable member for Barrier at any time that he wishes to see it. I was given to understand at the time that the money had been collected as the result of an appeal to a number of persons in and around Melbourne who were interested in Western Australia, and the facts, I think, indicate that the thousands of pounds which are alleged to have been subscribed to the funds of the Liberal party by trusts and combines in the Commonwealth did not reach Western Australia at any rate.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General a question in relation to prosecutions under the Electoral Act for offences alleged to have been committed during the recent electoral campaign. Before I left office, certain prosecutions were authorized, and the initial steps were taken. I should be glad to know what has been done in regard to those prosecutions in which instructions were given to proceed. So far as I know, none of the cases have come before the Court, except in the matter of one obscure newspaper in Manly, New South Wales. There were some other cases of much greater importance of which I have heard nothing since ; and I should like to know what is to happen in regard to them.
– I have the same answer to give that I gave to the same question some weeks ago. That answer is that the prosecutions to which the honorable member refers are prosecutions initiated, if at all, by the Department of Home Affairs. The only way in which such, cases come before the AttorneyGeneral is, I think, under section 208 of the Electoral Act. By that Act the AttorneyGeneral is called upon to advise any other Department as to prosecutions which that Department may contemplate. As to the advice that I have given as Attorney-General to my colleagues, I decline to disclose it, or any part or it, to this House. With regard to actual prosecutions, so far as the Attorney-General is responsible for the initiation of them, the persons who will first require any knowledge of them will be, as I said before, the persons mainly and primarily interested, namely, those who are accused. If the honorable member desires any further information as to those prosecutions, which are in the discretion of the Department of Home Affairs, I suggest that he had better ask that Department.
– The honorable gentleman seems to be under the impression that I am asking for information to which I have no right. I do not desire information that is private, but only that information which should be given to the House in reference to matters of first public importance. A great many statements have been made about improper practices during the election - statements affecting the election and affecting the Labour party - and I wish to know, in particular, what has been done in regard to the prosecutions in which the secretary of the Liberal Association of New South Wales was implicated?
– I thought the honorable member would be quite familiar with the rule on which, personally, I have always acted, and believe to be the rule always acted on in the House of Commons and other Legislatures in the British Possessions. The Attorney-General, as the honorable member knows, occupies a dual position.
– He does - the AttorneyGeneral is quite right 1
– The AttorneyGeneral occupies a dual position. He is the King’s Attorney in the King’s Courts, and in that position has no responsibility to this House. In his own Department, he is a responsible officer administering that Department, and, like every other Minister, is responsible to this House. Under the electoral law, there are certain offences, and that law is administered by the Minister of Home Affairs, just as Customs prosecutions are initiated or carried on by the Minister of Trade and Customs. The responsibility for initiating or carrying on a prosecution under the electoral law is a matter for the Department of Home Affairs, and rests with the Minister of Home Affairs. There are certain matters - and their range is practically unlimited - in which the AttorneyGeneral, as Attorney-General, on his own initiative, finds it his duty sometimes to inaugurate prosecutions, whether under Act of Parliament or otherwise. With regard to these, he acts as King’s Attorney in the King’s Courts, and not as a responsible Minister of the Crown.
– But this prosecution was initiated.
– And I say that it was initiated, if at all, by the Home Affairs Department.
– It was not; it was initiated by my direction, on the recommendation of the Departmental officers.
– Perhaps I had better refer to the Act.
– The Department of Home Affairs simply carries out the formal part of the business.
– That is where I differ from the honorable member.
– I am perfectly well aware of the law. I want the facts; never mind the law.
– I am giving you the law, and, in giving you the law, I am telling you the proper quarter m which to apply for the facts. That proper quarter is the Department of Home Affairs.
– The honorable member for West Sydney had better ask the question of the Minister of Home Affairs.
– That is what I suggest; and the Minister of Home Affairs is anxious to supply all the facts of the case if the honorable member for West Sydney will go through the form of asking him.
– I shall have one more try, and put the question to the Prime Minister, who, I understand, is Minister of Home Affairs.
– Put it to the Assistant Minister.
– I shall do nothing of the sort. I ask the Prime Minister, as Minister of Home Affairs, to supply me with information in regard to the prosecution initiated by the previous Government for offences alleged to have been committed under the Electoral Act, and, in particular, in regard to a case in which Mr. Parkhill, the Secretary of the Liberal Association of New South Wales, was alleged to have been implicated ? I do not wish the Prime Minister to refer me to the Department of the Attorney-General, but to tell me in plain terms exactly how the position stands.
– The honorable member persists in asking me this question, and my reply is that I do not know how the matter stands. If the honorable member will give notice of the question, I shall try to give him an answer.
– All right.
– The AttorneyGeneral has said that the AttorneyGeneral of Australia has a dual capacity as representing the King and the Parliament of the country.
– No, I did not say that.
– I desire to ask now whether or not it is a fact that the AttorneyGeneral has a triple duty to perform, namely, to the King, to the Parliament, and to the Marconi Company ?
– The honorable member shall have a very full answer to that question next Tuesday.
– I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral, without notice, whether there is any truth in the statement published by the Adelaide Register, on Tuesday last, on the authority of “ A wellinformed legislator,” that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill to amend the Electoral Act, the Bill consisting of one clause only, and its intention being to re-establish the postal vote? It was further stated that this Bill was to be forced through the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate, with a view of endeavouring to secure a double dissolution. If there be any truth in this statement, will the AttorneyGeneral be good enough, when asking for leave to introduce the Amending Electoral Bill, to explain the main features of that measure?
– The honorable member will learn the intentions of the Government respecting the matter and form of Bills which we intend to introduce at the same time as every other honorable member will learn them - that is, when they are introduced.
Charges against Ex-Ministers. - Ministers’ Travelling Expenses.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in connexion with a speech made by the honorable member for Kennedy last night, containing a reference to an affidavit read to the House at an earlier stage of the same debate by the honorable member for Yarra. The affidavit is said to have been signed by four residents of Costerfield, who made this declaration -
Mr. Palmer, M.H.R., at his meeting here, held in the public hall on the evening of Monday, May 26th, 1913, said that Mr. Fisher, Prime Minister, and Mr. O’Malley, Minister for Home Affairs, were robbers. He accused them of taking money out of the Commonwealth Treasury and putting it in their own pockets, and said there were men in gaol doing two or three years for lesser crimes than these Ministers had committed.
I disclaim the verbiage there attributed to me. In the first place, the ex-Minister for Home Affairs was not mentioned by me; my reference was to the ex-Prime Minister, the ex- Vice-President of the Executive Council, and the exPostmasterGeneral. I was challenged on several oc casions during the no-confidence debate to prove my statements, and last night I told honorable members that I would reply tothe remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy, but subsequently, as I understood it to be the general wish that thediscussion should close in time to allow the last trains to be caught, I waived my right to speak then, and now crave the indulgence of the House to put what I haveto say into a personal explanation. I am reported in Hansard to have interjected,, when the honorable member for Yarra was speaking, “ I mean to prove it in parton the floor of the House,” and I mustlay stress on the words “in part,” because- I do not profess to be able to prove statements which I did not make. What I said was, that persons who took money out of the tills of their employers to which theywere not entitled, and did so without theknowledge of those to whom it belonged,, were put into gaol, and that the thenPrime Minister and the other Ministers whom I have mentioned had been guilty of ,an offence worse than that, or words tothat effect.
– This is worse thanthe original statement.
– An explanation hasbeen demanded from me by my friends opposite. They have asked for proof, and if I am permitted, I shall submit it now.
– The honorable member is entitled only to make a personal explanation in regard to something about, which he has been misrepresented.
– I regret if I am prevented by the forms of the House from making an explanation which I know every honorable member desires.
– A personal explanation must refer to a matter upon which, the member making it has been misrepresented, misquoted or misunderstood. In making a personal explanation, it is not permissible for an honorablemember to go beyond what is necessary to make his position clear. If, however, it is the desire of the House that the honorable member for Echuca should be allowed to proceed further, the House can grant him the requisite leave. I takeit that it is the pleasure of the Housethat that leave should be granted to him ?”
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Leave is granted.
– When addressing a. public meeting at Costerfield I quoted from Hansard certain words which fell from the lips of the ex-Prime Minister on the 19th December, 1911. Those words will be found in Hansard, page 4871. It was the last day but one of the session of 1911 that the Prime Minister came down to the House and made a statement in the course of which he said -
I wish to intimate to both Houses that the Government think it would be fair for the Prime Minister, while on official visits only, to be allowed 40s. per day, and other Ministers holding portfolios to be allowed 25s. per day when on similar visits.
At that stage Sir John Quick interjected -
What assurance have we that Ministers might not engage in party business? and Mr. Fisher replied -
I said on purely official business. If Ministers went on party business, they would, of course, not draw any allowance.
But what happened ? On the first day of the following session I gave notice of my intention to move that a return be prepared, showing the amounts drawn by various Ministers for travelling allowance during the recess.
– And the honorable member got more than he wanted.
– I experienced considerable difficulty in getting that motion through the House. I was personally dissuaded from moving it by the ex-Prime Minister–
– I do not believe the honorable member.
– Order ! The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has interjected, which is disorderly in itself, and he has also made a statement which is not parliamentary. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it in deference to your request, sir, but I can still hold an opinion of my own.
– The honorable member is quite welcome to hold his opinion, and I am quite indifferent as to what his opinion may be, because he is involved in this charge. On the 8th August, 1912, my motion was moved, and with an addition upon which the ex-Prime Minister insisted, was carried. On the same date the return was laid on the table of the House. From that return certain facts were made apparent to those who chose to investigate. But they were so shrouded by other information which was not pertinent to the case that it was difficult to find out their meaning. However, investigation proved that within five months of the ex-Prime Minister making the virtuous statement -
I said upon purely official business, he was in Queensland fighting the battle of his own political party, and drawing his travelling allowance during the time he was there.
– The honorable mem. ber has only made that statement. He lias not proved it.
– I have the proof in the return which was presented to the House, and in the reports which appeared in the press of Queensland, showing that night after night while the Prime Minister was there, he was engaged in fighting the party’s battle and in speaking from the public platform.
– Does the honorable member say that the ex-Prime Minister had no public business while he was there !
– I say that he should have drawn his travelling allowance only while he was engaged upon official business.
– It is to be hoped that the present Government will adopt that principle.
– They will not draw the allowance.
– These proceedings are grossly irregular. .1 am sorry that day after day I have to repeat my request for order. When the Speaker calls “ Order “ it should not be followed immediately by another interjection, and still less by a series of interjections.
– We have the fact established by the return which was published in Hansard, that the ex-Prime Minister drew his travelling allowance all the time he was in Queensland, notwithstanding his promise that he would draw it only when he was engaged upon “ purely official business.” He went to Queensland to fight the battles of his party and drew his allowance for the whole time.
– He did not.
– The return disclose^ that the ex-Prime Minister was in Queens-,, land from the 9th to the 29th April, 19l,.f and that for the whole of that time, with the exception of seven days, which lie spent in his own constituency, he drew,’ his £2 per day from the Treasury.
– The honorable member is even indecent enough to mention that.
– I will mention any facts. The caseof Senator McGregor, who occupied the position of Vice-President of the Executive Council at the time, differs from that of the honorable member for Wide Bay, because honorary Ministers have always drawn a travelling allowance when engaged on public business. But Senator McGregor, as a representative of South Australia, had no official business in Queensland at all. Yet he drew his travelling allowance from the Treasury for every day that he was there fighting a political battle. In the same way the records of the Tasmanian newspapers show that the ex-Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, went to that State ostensibly upon public business. He arrived there some days before the elections took place, and the newspapers show that in the most inflammatory language he was day after day engaged in fighting the party’s battle. Whilst so doing he drew his travelling allowance. I say that if we put a man in gaol for dipping his hand into his master’s till and taking money which does not belong to him, those who occupy high places in the government of this country and who use their power to dip their hands into the public Treasury and take out money to enrich themselves under conditions which Parliament has not sanctioned, are guilty of an even worse offence.
– And their names should be Palmer.
– I am very glad to know that the present Government are above suspicion in this regard, because its members are not drawing the travelling allowance at all. I repeat that the man who takes money which does not belong to him is guilty of robbery, be he the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth or the lowest individual in the community. Both should be judged by the same standard.
– I crave the permission of the House to make a personal explanation, as I was the honorable member who read the affidavit to which the honorable member for Echuca has replied.
– I would point out that in the case of the statement of the honorable member for Echuca, leave was granted by the House, which is the master of its own proceedings. Standing order 258 reads -
By the indulgence of the House a member may explain matters of a personal nature, although there may be no question before the House. But such matters may not be debated.
I take it that it is the pleasure of the House that the honorable member for Yarra should be granted leave to make a personal explanation.
Several Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Leave is granted.
– During the debate which terminated last night I referred to the honorable member for Echuca, and read the following statutory declaration : -
We, the undersigned residents of Costerfield, in the State of Victoria, hereby and herein do solemnly and sincerely declare the following undermentioned statements to be true and correct in every detail and particular.
– They are not.
– Then why does not the honorable member prosecute them?
– They are not worth prosecuting.
– I will finish reading the statutory declaration, and will deal with the honorable member afterwards.
– Why do not the parties involved prosecute the honorable member for Echuca for having made these statements outside ?
– Let him make them outside in reference to myself. The affidavit proceeds -
Mr. Palmer, M.H.R., at his meeting here; held in the public hall, on the evening of Monday, May 26th,1913, said that Mr. Fisher, Prime Minister, and Mr. O’Malley, Minister for Home Affairs, were robbers. He accused them, of taking money out of the Commonwealth Treasury and putting it into their own pockets, and said there were men in gaol doing two or three years for lesser crimes than these Ministers had committed. And we make this solemn declaration, conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of an Act of Parliament rendering persons making a false declaration punishable for wilful and corrupt perjury. (Signed)
Declared at Costerfield, in the State of Victoria, this 15th day of July, one thousand ninehundred and thirteen, before me -
When I read that affidavit during the debate on the no-confidence motion the honorable member for Echuca interjected -
I mean to prove it in part on the floor of this House, to which I replied -
Why does not the honorable member prove it altogether?
He then said -
I will prove it as far as it applies to the exPrime Minister.
That is to say, he would prove that the ex-Prime Minister is a robber, and ought to be in gaol. Other honorable members went on to say that they would have him in gaol. However, I understand that they did not mean that, although the honorable member for Echuca has not denied that he would have the ex-Prime Minister in gaol. It is very unfair to attack a man who is not present to defend himself. The honorable member for Echuca had ample opportunities to raise this question when the ex-Prime Minister was present.
– I referred to this matter in the House on the 19th ultimo, and the ex-Prime Minister did not leave for Queensland until last Tuesday, 2nd September, so that there were fourteen days, or about eight sitting days, during which the honorable member for Echuca could have brought forward this matter in the presence of the ex-Prime Minister.
– He was specially invited last night by the honorable member for Kennedy to bring it forward.
– When I was referring to the matter on the 19th ultimo, the honorable member for Echuca said that he would prove his statement, so far as it applied to the ex-Prime Minister, but ever since then, as long as the honorable member for Wide Bay was in the House, the honorable member has remained dumb. This is a cowardly action on his part.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw, that remark.
– May I not say that an honorable member’s action is a cowardly one 7
-No. Under the Standing Orders an honorable member may not make use of an insulting reflection upon another honorable member.
– But this is not a reflection; it is the truth.
– I regret that the Standing Orders do not permit of the honorable member being described in the terms I have used, but I will withdraw the remark. This question of travelling expenses was raised by the honorable member on 8th August, 1912. The intention of the Government with regard to the drawing of travelling expenses was put before the House in December, 1911, not after an all-night sitting, as has been said, but at 9.15 p.m. The ex-Prime Minister then stated distinctly the course that it was intended to follow in regard to the payment of travelling expenses. When the matter was mentioned in the Senate by the then Vice-President of the Executive Council, Senator McGregor, Senator Millen, the present Minister of Defence, made a speech in which he approved of the proposed action.
– It is not the action to which the honorable member for Echuca objects, but rather the abuse of it.
– I do not think there has been any abuse of it. The honorable member has to prove that there has been any abuse. Prompted by the honorable member for Cowper, who, I understand, is the Deputy Whip, the honorable member went out of his way to say that the present Ministry were not drawing these expenses. Perhaps they are able to draw from some other fund.
– Chair ! What about that for a contemptible insinuation?
– The honorable member for Echuca may say what he pleases without objection on the part of his party, but I am not to do so.
– The honorable member is saying something that he does not believe to be true.
– I think the statement should be withdrawn. It is absolutely without foundation, and ought not to be made.
– I ask,- Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for Yarra be directed to withdraw the remark - that members of this Ministry were able to draw from some other fund.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– The honorable member insinuated it.
– Owing to the number of interjections I was unable to hear the point of order raised.
– The honorable member now says that he did not say what I thought he did.
– The words which the honorable member used were that “perhaps” we had other funds to draw on. The honorable member should be requested to withdraw such a statement.
– It is customary when any honorable member feels that he has been made the subject of a personal reflection in the House for the remark complained of to be withdrawn.
– Certainly, sir, if honorable members opposite object to the insinuation which they say I made I shall withdraw it with pleasure. Apparently the honorable member for Echuca may say anything he pleases. He can make any insinuation he likes against the Opposition without objection on the part of his party, but because I am alleged to have made some insinuation against them they get up on their hind legs as if the remark had hit them.
– They could not get up on their fore-legs.
– No, but they could crawl like they usually do.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– Withdraw what, sir ?
– The honorable member was disorderly in the first place in interjecting across the Chamber whilst another honorable member was addressing the Chair) and disorderly also in applying to other honorable members an offensive (term.
– I withdraw the disorderly interjection.
– The honorable member for Echuca says that, so far as he is aware, no blame can be attached to me in regard to this matter of travelling allowances. With that admission I am perfectly satisfied; but I do think that he has acted unfairly in attacking the ex-Prime Minister in his absence. The right honorable gentleman made the position perfectly clear. He showed clearly on a previous occasion that long before either the first or the second Fisher Ministry took office Ministers were drawing this allowance. An Executive minute was passed as far back as 1901 providing for Ministerial travelling expenses, and that minute has never been revoked. Some members of the Ministry in 1901 and also in 1909-10 drew expenses on the authority of this Executive minute. There was authority for the drawing of the money to which reference has been made, otherwise the Auditor- General would nothave passed the accounts. It has been said that the ex-Prime Minister drew travelling expenses whilst he was electioneering in Queensland in his own electorate, or in other electorates.
– So far as I am aware, that statement is absolutely without foundation.
– There are none so blind as those who will not see.
– Will the honorable member make the same statement outside.
– The honorable member for Yarra says that the honorable member for Echuca has made this statement outside. Why not let him prove it in a Court of law ?
– I agree with the attitude taken up by the present Attorney-General on 8th August, when he said that he was personally anxious to see the matter settled and that it was a distasteful subject to raise. I do not think that any one, save the honorable member for Echuca, would have raised it.
– The sewer rat.
– I do not say that he is a sewer rat.
– The honorable member for Grey must withdraw that remark.
– In deference to your wish, sir, I withdraw it.
– I regret exceedingly that this matter has been raised, but since it has been we have the right to clear the character of an honorable gentleman who stands high in the estimation of the people of Australia. I believe that nine-tenths of the Government party are prepared to say that every action taken by the exPrime Minister would undoubtedly be perfectly straight, correct, and honest. Apparently, there is only one member of the party who is prepared to indulge in these tactics. The ex-Prime Minister stated distinctly that during the whole time that he was in his own electorate he did not draw a penny for travelling expenses, although every one knows that a Minister, even when visiting his own electorate, is called upon whilst there to transact official business. My leader said that, whilst he was transacting official business in Brisbane on. the occasion in question, he did draw travelling expenses, and I am informed by his private secretary that only on one night out of the number that he spent in Brisbane did he speak at any political meeting. Surely a politician’s nights are his own. I think it absolutely disgraceful that the honorable member for Echuca has not accepted the statement made by the ex-Prime Minister on the8th August, and I have only to say that if the honorable member chooses to say anything about me outside I shall be prepared to deal with him either inside or outside the House.
– I desire to make a personal explanation -
– I rise to a point of order.
– The Prime Minister cannot deprive me of this right.
– How long is this going on ? Is this intended to waste the day?
– I rise to a point of order. I ask that the Prime Minister be directed to withdraw the remark that this is an arrangement to waste the day.
– I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the remark.
– I do so; but may I say by way of explanation-
– Order ! The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is in possession of the floor.
– The honorable member for Echuca has associated my name with certain statements regarding a visit that I paid to Hobart. I shall not adopt the honorable member’s attitude. I will make him a present of it. I wish, however, to say that the present Treasurer is the custodian of the accounts relating to Ministerial expenses, and that I challenge him to examine them to see whether, on the occasion that I visited Hobart in my official capacity as Postmaster-General, I was not in the office on every day in respect of which I drew my allowance. I challenge him to say that documents cannot be produced from the office to prove my statement. It is true that there was an election in progress whilst I was in Hobart, and that I made two speeches on behalf of my party, but it is also true that I did not draw expenses in respect of the day on which I delivered those speeches. I invite the Treasurer to look through the documents, and if he can produce to this House evidence that the statement I am now making is not correct
I undertake absolutely to walk out of political life.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether it is true, as stated by the honorable member for Echuca, that Ministers are not at the present time drawing any sums by way of travelling allowances. Have Ministers drawn any travelling allowances since they were sworn in ?
– No allowances have been drawn for travelling by present Ministers of State. Honorary Ministers have the right to draw expenses when travelling on public duty; but, so far as the Ministers of State are concerned, they have not drawn any, nor, so far as I know, have Liberal Ministers ever drawn any from the very earliest days. At any rate, the present Ministry have not drawn any travelling allowances, nor do they propose to do so.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister of Home Affairs. For that purpose I must quote section 172 (a) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which provides -
Every trades union registered or unregistered, organization, association, league, or body of persons which has, or person who has, in connection with any election, expended any money or incurred any expense -
on behalf of, or in the interests of, any candidate, or
on behalf of, or in the interests of, any political party. shall in accordance with this section make a return of the money so expended or expense so incurred.
In view of the statement made in this House to-day by the honorable member for Perth that he did receive from Mr. Herbert Brookes £500 for political purposes
– Will the Minister kindly ascertain from Mr. Brookes the date when that money was paid ?
– I see! Do I understand that the money was not paid for political purposes ?
– Order !
– If it was paid for political purposes will the Department of Home Affairs see that a statement is made as to how the money was spent?
– I should like to say, in reply to my honorable friend, that I am very anxious that I should not add to my reputation byacting as a detective.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General, without notice, whether he will inquire if it is a fact that several thousands of pounds were transferred last year from the funds of the trade unions df Western Australia to the Political Labour party there; and will he also ascertain whether the conditions regarding, certain sums mentioned by the honorable member for Barrier will apply to that money?
– I must decline absolutely to undertake any such obligation as the honorable member suggests. The administration of the Electoral Act is placed primarily in the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer, aud anything in the nature of investigation ought to be made through the Department under his control.
5LOAN TO VICTORIA: INTEREST.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer if it is true that the Victorian Government are paying 5 2-5ths per cent, on the £1,000,000 borrowed from the Commonwealth. If not, will he say exactly what interest is being paid?
– I shall be obliged if the honorable member will give notice of the question. I do not think there is anything of the sort, but I am not aware of the exact facts. I shall give the information on Tuesday.
– I should like to make a personal explanation, because, I take it, the question of the honorable member for Kennedy is directed at myself.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to say distinctly that I asked the Treasurer for genuine information, and that the question has nothing whatever to do with the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member may make a personal explanation afterwards.
– The honorable member for Kennedy referred to this matter last night in direct relation to myself. Does he deny that? My statement was that the current rate of interest was being charged on the Victorian loan, but that, when there was added to the interest the amount which the State Government had lost by a removal of the note tax, it amounted to 5 2-5ths per cent. That statement is absolutely correct.
– The Prime Minister has made a personal explanation in regard to something that took place last night. The statement of the honorable gentleman, which drew forth my remark then, was that the people of Victoria were paying 5 2-5ths per cent, on the £1,000,000 borrowed from the Commonwealth. I have asked the Treasurer whether that is so; and we shall know on Tuesday whether the Prime Minister is speaking the truth or otherwise.
– I desire* to ask the Prime Minister whether he will consent to an adjournment of Parliament for a week during the visit of the British Parliamentarians ?
– Considering the enormous amount of business already transacted, I think it is about time that this Parliament had a rest, and I will consider the honorable member’s request very seriously.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether, seeing that both sides of the House are pledged to a policy of Protection, it is correct that the Home Affairs Department purpose purchasing from Germany an internal combustion locomotive for the Federal Territory? If that be so, will he take such steps as will enable the various builders of engines in Australia an opportunity of tendering for the machine ?
– If my honorable friend will place a question on the notice-paper, I will give him the fullest information.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs supply me with information as to the operations of a road tractor supplied to the Federal Territory; will he let me have the log of the efficiency of the engine, and also inform mc whether it is laid up at present?
– I will get the honorable member the detailed information if he requires it. The information given to me orally by the officers is that the machine was laid up because it was too expensive to run, and that it is cheaper to keep it laid up than to try to run it.
– I should be thankful for the information if you will supply it to me.
– I should like to know, from any Minister who can answer the question, who is responsible for discontinuing the issuing of quarantine orders to enable passengers to travel from Newcastle. This order is causing considerable inconvenience. People who desire to leave Newcastle on a Sunday must begin their journey on the Saturday morning, and stay in Sydney until the Sunday night, in order that they may obtain the official permission to travel. Will the responsible Minister see at once that the Government Medical Officer at Newcastle is enabled to issue orders on Sunday as in Sydney?
– I can only say that I shall look into the matter, and see that every facility possible is given, so that persons who have been vaccinated may be permitted to travel. I know only too well the inconvenience that has been caused, and whatever can be done in mitigation I promise shall be done.
– I desire to ask a question arising out of the answer given by the Prime Minister to the honorable member for Barker as to adjourning the House in order to afford an opportunity to honorable members to visit Sydney on the arrival of the battleship Australia. Telegrams have been sent to the High Commissioner, the Agent-General of New South Wales, and representatives of that State in America to the effect that the skin disease which has broken out in Sydney is only of a very mild form. Seeing that there is a large number of honorable members on the other side who have arrived at an age when it would be almost dangerous to be vaccinated, and seeing that they could not leave Sydney without being vaccinated, will the honorable gentleman grant to these honorable gentlemen exemptions, as is provided for in the Quarantine Act, the same as have been granted to the parliamentary visitors from the Old Land? Will he take that course and so endeavour to remove the unjust stigma put on New South Wales in particular, and on Australia in general, by the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs in quarantining Sydney?
– Order .
– I have really forgotten what the question is, sir.
– Would you like him to repeat it?
– I think that my honorable friend had better repeat the question.
– The Prime Minister has already said here that he will consider the question of adjourning the House for the purpose of enabling honorable members to visit Sydney on the arrival of the battleship Australia from England. I desire to know if he will take into consideration the age of honorable members on his side of the House, and the danger attached to their being vaccinated ? I wish to inform him that telegrams have been sent to various portions of the world stating that the skin disease, in respect of which Sydney has been quarantined, is of a very mild form.
– Order ! Honorable members seem to be under a misapprehension as to the right of asking questions. Questions are asked to elicit information, not to give it. A question addressed to a Minister must not involve the making of a speech, or statements of facts, though a statement may be made of a very brief nature to explain the nature of the question. The honorable member is going beyond that.
– I am always prepared, sir, to obey your ruling, but perhaps you do not quite understand that this is a great national issue, and that therefore I had to be somewhat voluminous in stating my question to the Prime Minister. Will he allow to honorable members sitting on the other side the same privilege under the Quarantine Act as has been granted to others? Will he allow an exemption to honorable members whose age would make it dangerous for them to receive poison in their blood as they would do if vaccinated?
– In the first place, I wish to dispute my honorable friend’s premises that their age and other circumstances surrounding honorable members on this side should indicate the necessity of granting special privileges on their behalf. I venture to say that, except in one particular, the physique of honorable members on this side is quite equal to that of honorable members on the other side.
– What is the exception ?
– I am referring to the strength of the jaw.
– He is thinking of “leather lungs.”
– Yes; if my honorable friend will have that phrase. That is the only point which we will surrender to our honorable friends opposite. As regards distinctions being made, so far as I am aware, there have been no exemptions from quarantine granted to anybody.
Preference to Unionists.
– I desire to ask the Honorary Minister whether there is any truth in the statement in the Adelaide Register of Tuesday last, to the effect that it was proposed to introduce an Arbitration Act Amendment Bill of one clause only, and that to abolish preference to unionists, and that it was proposed-
– Order ! Questions of this character are becoming so frequent that I would again draw the attention of honorable members to the nature of the questions which are permitted to be asked -
It is not in order to ask merely whether certain things, such as statements made in a newspaper, are true ; but attention may be drawn to such statements, if the member who puts the question makes himself responsible for their accuracy.
That is laid down in May, at page 250, eleventh edition. I thought it wise at this juncture to quote the rule, because we so frequently have questions such as “Is such and such a statement which appeared in a newspaper true?” Strictly, these are not questions within the limits of our Standing Orders.
– May I say, sir, in personal explanation, that I was brought up in a very bad school. I have been reading where the honorable member for Lang asked a number of questions occupying nearly a page, and containing statements that had appeared in newspapers.
– Order ! The fact that one honorable member may, in a previous Parliament, have transgressed is not sufficient to justify the honorable member’s transgression in this.
– I desire to ask the Honorary Minister whether the Arbitration Act Amendment Bill, which he proposes to-day to ask leave to introduce, contains only one clause, and that clause having reference to the abolition of preference to unionists; if it is his intention to force that measure through the House, and to send it to the Senate for the purpose of securing a double dissolution; and if, when he is asking for leave to introduce, the Bill, he will explain its main provisions ?
– I ask the honorablemember to read very carefully in Hansard, when it comes to him in the morning, the answer given to an exactlysimilar question by the Attorney- General r in which answer I fully concur.
– Remembering a statement made by the Prime Minister shortly after 31st May, that he would appeal to the patriotism of the members of this. Parliament, I wish to know whether, in view of the state of feeling disclosed by the division last night, and the discussion of the past three weeks, the honorablegentleman will introduce for our first consideration such measures as may be described as somewhat non-contentious. I wish to know whether, before introducinga Bill to amend the Arbitration Act, byabolishing preference to unionists, and a Bill for amending the Electoral Act, byreinstating the postal vote, he will propose measures for the establishment for a general works Department, the taking over of Norfolk Island by the Commonwealth, the regulation of life and fire insurance and bankruptcy, the punishmentof offences against the Commonwealth, and the taking over of the public debts of the States. I ask the question so that, so far as possible, public business may be expedited, and the Government assisted in carrying out legislation. Will the Prime Minister remove contentious matters from the business-paper, and bring forward such as might possibly be noncontentious ?
– The Government is painfully aware of the determination of honorable members opposite to assist us in carrying on the business of the country. We know that they are dying to do so. They show their determination at every possible opportunity. I shall be glad if the honorable member will intimate the measures that he desires us to pass, and that he pledges himself to help us to pass.
– I wish to ask a question which I do .not know whether to address to you, Mr. Speaker, or to the Prime Minister. Perhaps I had better ask him through you if he will take into considera- tion the enforcing of standing orders 95 and 96, which read as follows -
Notice of question shall be given by a member delivering the same at the table fairly written, signed by himself, and showing the day proposed for asking such question.
When notices of questions are given the Clerk shall place them at the commencement of the Notice-paper, according to the order in which they were given.
If those standing orders were followed, we might get business done without wasting an hour and a half at the beginning of the sitting.
-It is the province of the Speaker to see that the Standing Orders are enforced. Had the honorable member read the three standing orders in front of those which he has quoted, he would have seen that standing order 92 provides -
After notices have been given, questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs, and to other members relating to any Bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the business on the Notice-paper, of which such members may have charge.
Then follow these standings orders -
The practice of permitting honorable members to ask certain questions without notice is a perfectly regular one, though it is, of course, for Ministers to say whether they will answer such questions, or request notice of them. I have this morning again drawn the attention of the House to the nature of the questions that may be asked, and have desired honorable members to frame their questions in conformity with the Standing Orders.
– One reason for allowing a little latitude this morning is that all these questions have been bottled up for a month, and they had to be asked or there would have been trouble. I do not know that we should object to furnishing an opportunity to our honorable friends opposite to demonstrate to the country their time- wasting capacity.
– I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, but protest against the time that has been wasted.
– The honorable member is making a reflection on honorable members opposite, and must withdraw his words without qualification.
– Do you rule, sir, that it is unparliamentary to describe the tactics of honorable members opposite as time- wasting ?
– It has been ruled, on several occasions, that that is a reflection on honorable members which cannot be allowed.
– Then I withdraw the words. May I make an appeal to my honorable friends to assist us with the business of the country?
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General, without notice, whether he thinks that it is a fair thing to throw the burden of his responsibility upon a colleague while he hangs on to his retainer ?
– That is not a proper question to be asked.
– I desire to say that we shall not answer any further questions without notice this morning.
Mr. J. H. Catts, proceeding to ask the Treasurer a question without notice,
– The Prime Minister has intimated that no further questions without notice will be answered this morning, and, therefore, it is useless to put them.
– I submit that I am entitled to ask my question, and that’ you, Mr. Speaker, cannot stop me from putting it.
– Questions without notice have been asked from the commencement of the sitting at half-past ten until the present moment - ten minutes past twelve - and the Prime Minister has intimated that no more such questions wil; be answered this morning. If Ministers will not answer questions without notice, the further asking of them is obviously a waste of the time of the House, and the honorable member will not be in order in proceeding with his question.
– As a matter of privilege, I submit that I am entitled to ask a Minister any question I choose relating to public business, without interference by the Speaker, although the Minister may, if he wishes, decline to answer the question.
– The Prime Minister % having intimated that Ministers will not answer further questions without notice, such questions are no longer allowable. Questions without notice may be asked only so long as Ministers are willing to answer them. It is evident that no good purpose can be served by asking questions which will not be answered, and persisting in asking them is merely wasting thetime of the House.
– May I submit for your future consideration, Mr. Speaker, that if the ruling which you have just given is adhered to, the rights and privileges of honorable members will be placed within the hands of the Prime Minister, who a minute after the assembling of the House might say that questions without notice would not be answered, which would, under your ruling, at once debar members from asking , such questions. The refusal of Ministers to answer questions is quite within their right, because there is no obligation on Ministers to answer the questions put to them, either with or without notice; but surely the exercise by them of the right to decline the answer does not take from honorable members generally the right to ask questions. The position of honorable members would well nigh be intolerable if that were so. I submit that we should not be prevented from putting our questions before the country. As to the statement that an hour and a half has been occupied this morning in the asking and answering of questions without notice, I point out that it is no unusual thing at the beginning of a session for a little extra time to be occupied in this way. We must recognise the right of the Prime Minister to control the business of the House, but he should not be able at any moment that he chooses to take from honorable members the right to ask questions. We are here as representatives of the people, whether our opponents like it or not, and our constituents may desire us to put certain questions. If the Prime Minister is permitted to say that he will not answer questions, and to thereby prevent us from putting them, we shall be prevented from representing our constituents in a manner in which they desire to be represented.
Mr.Fenton. - Speaking to the point of order-
– I do not require any further assistance in this matter.
– There has already been, a ruling on the point.
– I have already given a ruling on the point, and to discuss that ruling is irregular. Honorable members are not precluded from asking questions without notice of Ministers, but it rests with Ministers themselves to say whether they will reply to them or whether they will require notice to be given. As soon as Ministers intimate that they require notice to be given, any further questions must be placed upon the business paper, and the right of honorable members to get their questions answered is thus not interfered with. In the present instance the Prime Minister has notified that no further questions without notice will be answered to-day, and seeing that such questions are not recorded in Hansard, the mere putting of them cannot serve any useful purpose, and can only delay the business of the House. In these circumstances honorable members must avail themselves of the opportunity to put their questions upon the business paper, either for the next day of sitting or for any other day that they may think fit.
– I wish to know, sir, whether it is open to any honorable member, after you have given a ruling, to rise in this House and occupy ten minutes in arguing as to the correctness of that ruling ?
– Order !
– If that privilege is to be allowed to one honorable member, it must be allowed to all others. But I have always understood that the proper way to take exception to Mr. Speaker’s ruling is by submitting a motion of dissent. You, sir, have allowed the honorable member for Adelaide to discuss your ruling for ten minutes. I wish to know whether it is now open to me to debate the propriety of your ruling, and, if not, why that privilege was extended to the honorable member for Adelaide.
– Order ! The honorable member appeared to be labouring under a misapprehension. The honorable member for Adelaide, as I understood, rose, not for the purpose of questioning my ruling, but of submitting a question, as he said, for my future consideration, and if it referred to a new matter, it would have been in order. I did not understand him to raise the question of the propriety of my ruling; but to raise the question of privilege, affecting mem- bers’ rights. I have already dealt with that question. But now that a ruling has been given, it would be quite out of order for an honorable member to attempt to traverse that ruling. If my ruling is to be called into question, it must be done in the regular way.
– I wish to say, sir, that I was under the impression that you had already ruled on the point of order when the honorable member for Adelaide rose.
– I desire to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! Questions are not in order at the present time. The business of the day has been called on.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In Hansard of the 7th December, 1912, Mr. Joseph Cook is reported to have stated that the absentee voting was just as good as postal voting - Was he correctly reported on that occasion?
– I do not remember. I should like to say that a few lines before the interjection to which the honorable member has directed my attention, there appears a statement of mine to the effect that the abolition of the postal vote meant a deprivation to the voter, so far as facilities for voting were concerned.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
In view of the repeated statements made to the House that further inquiries are being, or are to be, made into the supposed cases of impersonation at the recent election, will the Minister acquaint the House with the full particulars of the form this inquiry is to take?
– It is not understood to what statements the honorable member’s question refers. It is not proposed at present to proceed further with any formal or public investigations.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it true that he objects to the introduction of nickel coins which may be used as pennies. If so, what are the grounds of his objection?
– No. The matter has not yet been decided.
asked the Postmaster- General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The reasons are : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table, and cause to be printed, the proposed reciprocal trade treaties between the Dominion of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia, and between New Zealand and the Commonwealth of Australia?
– No treaties of the kind have been concluded, and it would be obviously impossible to lay them on the table of the House until we are ready to collect the duties.
Naval Police - Authorized Clothing - Sub-Naval Base at Beauty Point.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In connexion with the recent appointment of naval policemen, for which applications were called, what was the reason that the Australian applicants - naval sailors with long service good conduct medals - were turned down and the preference given to Royal Navy men?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
Equal consideration was given to Australian and Royal Navy applicants, and candidates were selected on their merits.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What are the details of “ the clothing authorized,” referred to in Provisional Defence Regulation No. 49, sub-section (7), page 19, of Statutory Rules 1913, No. 212?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The clothing authorized is that set out in paragraph 3 of the regulation in regard to which the Question is asked. Regulation 49 (3) reads as f ollows : -
Officers will be supplied with uniform as follows : -
Military shirt, khaki, woollen breeches, cord, woollen pairs, hat, with band, numeral, and strap, puttees, pairs, cap, forage, one of each on appointment and every third year.
Jacket, Commonwealth pattern, khaki, trousers, Commonwealth pattern, khaki pairs, one of each on appointment and every sixth year.
In tropical climates drill may be substituted.
Under Regulation 49 (8), however, officers provisionally appointed to first commissions in the senior cadets, under Universal Training Regulation 34, will receive the following articles only, as a free issue, pending confirmation of appointment, viz. : -
Shirt, military woollen.
Breeches, cord, pair.
Hat, with band and strap.
On confirmation of appointment the additional articles mentioned in Universal Training Regulation 49 (3) will be issued free.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the facts that Admiral Henderson recommended a Sub-Naval base at
Beauty Point, Tamar River, Tasmania, and that the Launceston Marine Board proposes at an early date to blow away certain rocks or obstructions in the channel from the Heads to Bell Bay, and seeing that such undertaking, when completed, will give a depth of water of 60 feet from the sea to such proposed Sub-Naval base, will the Government take into favorable consideration the granting of a sum of money, namely, £20,000, to be spent in conjunction with the Launceston Marine Board on the £1 for £1 principle for the carrying out of such a national undertaking ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
AdmiralHenderson recommended the establishment of a destroyer sub-base and submarine sub-base in the River Tamar, the second stage (see page 59 of report), after Thursday Island, Brisbane, Port Stephens, Port Lincoln; but it is considered that that river at the present time is in a perfectly navigable condition for destroyers and submarines, and, therefore, the Commonwealth Government would not be justified in assuming any financial responsibilities in connexion with the proposed undertaking by the Launceston Marine Board.
Post-offices, Oxford-street and Haymarket - General Post Office, Sydney - Pacific Cable and Cable Transmission Forms - Electricians’ Wages : Arbitration Award - Acetylene Gas Plants - Sorters’ Increases - Taxed Letters Posted at Railway Stations and on Steamers.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
I would have visited Sydney before now but that I have had no opportunity of getting away.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– I am pleased that the honorable member has asked this question, to which the answer is - 1 and 2. The sender of a cablegram has the right to decide the route by which it is to be transmitted, and, with a view to reducing the number of separate forms used by the Department, only one form is used for cables sent from Departmental offices. I have now arranged for a statement to appear upon the forms intimating that the Pacific cable is State-owned.
I would have known nothing about this matter if the honorable member had not directed my attention to it -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he take into consideration the advisability of dating the wages portion of the award recently obtained by the postal electricians as from ist July, 1912, in view of the fact that the plaint was filed on 31st May, 1912, and the award was not obtained until May, 1913?
– The Public Service Commissioner advises that -
The award is not retrospective either as a whole or in part. The law (section 14 of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act) directs^ that noaward shall come into operation earlier than after the expiration of thirty days after the award has been Laid before Parliament. Further, the award itself expressly states that it shall not come into force until the expiration of such thirty days. Prior thereto the rates of pay are governed by the Public Service Act and Regulations, and up to the date the award? comes into force the officers concerned in the award cannot lawfully be paid any wages other than as prescribed by the Regulations.
If the award in the present case is departed from, as regards the date on which its principal! features shall come into operation, a dangerous precedent will be established for all futurecases. The Court has now before it claims by several Public Service Associations lodged at various dates back to the nth September, 1912, and, if the present request be acceded to, each of these associations will, no doubt, ask to have the awards in their cases also made retrospective in disregard of the provisions of the law. The present award will swell the salary bill of the Department up to an amount of ^30,000. per annum, and, if it were made retrospective, the Commonwealth Treasury would be required to immediately provide an additional sum for arrears of payment estimated at least at ^20,000.
asked the Prime Minister,. upon notice -
– The answer to this question is “ No.” The fact is, as I have already stated, that this award practically swallows up the whole of the income of the Telephone Branch of the Department. It will take the whole of the revenue to meet Mr. Justice Higgins’ award.
– How long haveseparate accounts been kept?
– Then we are not charging enough for the use of the telephones?’
– The position is as I have stated. In respect of the salaries alone this award will consume- every penny of the revenue of the Department.
– Does the Prime Minister think that the salaries are too high?
– I should think my honorable friend holds that view, since he stated long ago that these men had had justice done to them. He evidently thinks that the salaries are too high, and I fancy that some of his colleagues also hold that view.
– Does the Prime Minister think that the award is an unjust one?
– Without discussing the merits of the award at all, I wish to say that these men were told by this Parliament that they must go to the Court. They did not want to go. They tried their best to obviate the necessity of going to the Court, but they were practically driven to the Court by this Parliament. In my judgment, therefore, whatever the consequences, it would be a substantial act of repudiation to rob them now of the benefit of the award which they have obtained from the Court.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Secretary, Department of Home Affairs, has furnished the following replies to questions (1) and (3): -
Mr. WEST (for Mr. J. H. Catts) asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I may say that I received recently a telegram from the secretary of the union concerned dealing with the same question. The Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, has furnished the following information in regard to questions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6: -
Yes. 2. (a) From 1st of each month, January to July, 1913, inclusive, in the case of sorters receiving less than£168 per annum.
I may add that as soon as I received notice, I gave instructions that the matter should be pushed on at once, as I consider that these men were legally entitled to the increment.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When dealing with the subject of abolishing double postage on letters posted at railway stations, will he give the same consideration to letters posted on river and coastal steamers?
– Yes; full consideration will be given to this matter.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I may say that it is not controversial, and is by no means a party matter. In submitting it we have in view two objects. We desire, in the first place, to authorize payments to meet ordinary expenditure during July. Our proposition is that this provision shall apply only to payments that have been authorized by Parliament for the previous year. It is not proposed that any increase of salaries shall be paid under the provisions of this Bill. The payments made during July will be on the asis of the Estimates for the previous year.
– That is not provided in the Bill itself.
– That, at all events, is our intention. Then, again, any payments made during July under this Bill will be included in the first Supply Bill submitted after the meeting of Parliament, which may take place during the currency of the month.
– This is to cover the extra Supply Bill that is usually introduced ?
– I shall come to that point in a moment. As honorable members are generally aware, much inconvenience has arisen from the fact that the Treasury is without any legal authority to make any payment whatever after the close of the financial year, on the 30th June, until a Supply Bill is passed. It has been found necessary almost every year to interrupt the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to hurriedly obtain Supply in order that payments that are imperative shall be made. Under our procedure, in a great many cases, wages payments are made weekly, and it has happened on more than one occasion that payment has had to be deferred owing to the Parliament not meeting until close upon the end of June.
– When is it proposed that this measure shall operate?
– At the end of every financial year. Payments of wages have to be made in accordance very often with the award of an Arbitration Court or a Wages Board, but it has sometimes been found impossible to make them for the reason that Supply has not been obtained. A measure similar to this has been in force in New South Wales for many years, I believe, and has worked satisfactorily, so that there is no reason to anticipate that any injury will be done to the public affairs of the country by passing it. If it were usual to meet in May, or even early in June, we should probably be able to dispose of the debate on the Address-in-Reply, and obtain
Supply before the end of the month, but experience shows that that is next to impossible. As a rule, Parliament does not meet until nearly the end of June, so that, unless we alter the date of the closing of the financial year, or make up our minds to meet earlier, Parliament must either pass this Bill, or continue to submit to the annual inconvenience as heretofore. This is a matter which has been talked about a good deal by more than one Government. We could, of course, go on as before, doing the best we can; but it was felt that as we were amending the Audit Act we might submit this proposal for the consideration of honorable members. Of course, it could be said that such a measure might induce a Government to delay meeting Parliament a little longer than they otherwise would. At present we must meet shortly after the 30th June in order to get Supply, whereas under the Bill it will be possible to carry on until the 31st July, to which date, at any rate, there will be money available. The general feeling of the House is, however, that we ought to meet about the end of June as the most convenient time, and I do not think that a Government would be acting quite in accordance with what we expect, if they took advantage of a measure of this kind to prolong the recess.
– Why introduce the Bill if it has no advantage?
– As I have already pointed out, there are great advantages. We should not be so much hurried, and the discussion of the policy of the Government would not be interrupted each year by the introduction of a Supply Bill shortly after the House had met. We should have time to settle down to business before there was any necessity to consider the finances. The second object of the Bill is to give power to the Governor in Council to make regulations for the purchase, custody, control, and issue of Government stores, and also to constitute a Supply and Tender Board to regulate the purchase of public stores. In Victoria and other States the whole management of stores is provided for by regulations of a very complete character, in the same way as is contemplated under the Bill.
– Would this mean appointing additional officers?
– I do not think so. In Victoria, for instance, the work is undertaken by experienced departmental officers.
– But there will have to be a Board appointed?
– There will be power to appoint a Board.
– It will, doubtless, be a Board of officers in the Departments.
– But there will be power to appoint a Board.
– No, but there is no power sought to appropriate salaries or anything of that sort under the Bill.
– We ought not to be asked to discuss this measure without having an opportunity to consider it. The explanation of the right honorable gentleman has been purely formal, and he has not dealt with any of those points which are of vital importance. The measure, which has been placed in our hands only this morning, deals with matters of first moment, because nothing can be of more importance than the control of the finances. Some truly revolutionary suggestions are made in the Bill, but these were not covered by the right honorable gentleman’s speech. I certainly object to being asked to discuss this measure without an opportunity to see precisely how far it is proposed to extend payments after the conclusion of a financial year. Paragraph (6) of sub-clause 2 leaves very grave doubts as to the utility of the proposal. We have had Supply Bills this year, and, consequently, this clause would not apply until the next financial year. The proposal to institute a Supply and Tender Board creates an entirelynew position. No doubt a suggestion to give authority to make necessary payments pending appropriation might, subject to certain conditions, be considered favorably; but at present I am opposed to a Supply and Tender Board, because this seems to me to be giving the Audit Department duties quite foreign to its proper functions. The basic principle of the Audit Department is that it is charged with the duty of inspection and inquiry in regard to other Departments - in itself it does nothing - and it has to inquire how those Departments have done their work. Under section 45 of the Audit Act, it is one of the duties of the Auditor-General ta ascertain the quantity, description, and price of all stores purchased on account of, and all stores supplied to, every Department, and whether any person has requisitioned for or obtain:d any stores in excess of the reasonable requirements of his office. It is now proposed to clothe the Auditor-General with authority to regulate the supply, price, and so forth of stores. I am not arguing against a Supply and Tender Board, but I direct the attention of the Treasurer to section 45 of the Audit Act.
– This Bill will not destroy the effect of that section.
– But I think that sufficient attention has not been given to the point. I am not now expressing as opinion as to whether a Supply and Tender Board is rendered necessary by the facts; but we ought to have been given some reasons why there should be such a Board.
– The AuditorGeneral will have nothing to do with the board beyond such duties as he has to perform in relation to every other Department.
– The right honorable gentleman does not see that, in this case, the Auditor-General will be examining into his own transactions.
– No; there will be a Board.
– The Board will be under the Auditor-General. There is no authority in the Bill to create an independent Tender Board, and it will be a Board constituted under section 71, which gives the Governor-General power to make regulations for carrying out the provisions of the Act. The whole of the powers under section 71 have relation to the Auditor-General, his functions, and the duties of his staff. The Treasurer, I am afraid, fails to appreciate the fact that he is dealing with an Act of Parliament which was brought into existence for clothing with power an official who exercises the most important duties in the Commonwealth .
Sitting suspended from 1 to $.15 p.m.
– I suggest that I have leave to continue my speech on another occasion. I cannot move the adjournment of the debate, but it will serve * the same purpose if leave to continue be given. The Leader of the Opposition is very desirous of speaking on this measure.
– I thought the Opposition would put it through for us.
– I have some further observations to make on the subject, but I understand that the Prime Minister desires to move the second reading of the Bureau of Agriculture Bill.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill has usually been in the care of the Minister of Trade and Customs. Had he been here to-day he would have moved the second reading. In his absence I have to step into the breach, and, owing to the tired feeling which appears to pervade the Opposition benches, shall endeavour to give some pabulum which can be readily digested. The Bill proposes nothing that is difficult or occult. Its object is to establish a Federal Agricultural Bureau. I do not think that at this time of day any argument is needed as to the advisableness of taking a step of the kind. We have all agreed that anything relating to the primary industries of the country is of first-rate importance, and to take first place in our consideration. However much we may argue as to the importance of our secondary industries, and all the manifold and multiform social manifestations of our modern existence, it is undoubtedly the first and chief consideration of any body of individuals possessing a desire for the welfare of the community that the interests of agriculture should be promoted. Because, rightly comprehended, this is the basis of everything else. The aim in every country, it seems to me, ought to be to proportion development, to maintain a ratio, or, at any rate, a harmony, between primary and secondary industries. We have heard a great deal about the urgent necessity for Tariff revision. No doubt that is an important question. But I venture to say that this is equally important. Certainly, without attention to our primary industries, there would not be much need for the revision of the Tariff for the development of our secondary industries. This is the beginning of every form of natural development.
– It is unfortunate that there are not more farmers’ representatives in the House to listen to this.
– There are none over there. Is that the point ? I see before me fifteen or sixteen members of Parliament, and from one of them I receive the interjection that it is a pity that there are not some members representing farmers here. I suppose, therefore, that we may infer that my honorable friends opposite have nothing to do with the farmers. Otherwise, what is the point of the interjection ?
– We are in a good temper now. Do not stir us up.
– I would not for the world, but when an honorable member makes a statement like that I must take notice of it. It is a clear indication that honorable members opposite have nothing to do with farmers, and that the only members of this House who will take notice of their needs are those sitting on this side. I will pass on. Our primary industries are vital to the community, and of supreme importance to the State as a whole. As showing their importance, I point out that last year our total exports of pastoral and agricultural products amounted to £52,000,000 out of a total of £76,000,000, or 68 per cent. In this respect Australia is receiving attention from all parts of the world in a way that has not been the ca3e for many years past. Now and again we receive a delegation to our shores of people who are interested in investigating our conditions and natural resources. Everything seems to me to indicate that the world at large is looking to countries like Australia for the food and for much of the clothing of the future. We have here potentialities in abundance to supply the world’s needs. I was very much struck by reading some statements made by the Scottish Agricultural Commissioners who were out here a few years ago having a look at us. They refer, for instance, to the dairying industry: -
Indeed there must be very few parts of the world where Nature does so much to help and so little to hinder the provident and industrious producer of milk … It would not be easy to overstate the benefit a dairyman receives from being relieved of the need for housing, handfeeding, and tending his cows during a long winter . . . His anxiety, his work, and his expenses are reduced by half through the simple agency of a friendly climate.
This indicates the viewpoint of people who have to feed their stock during a portion of the year, and to look after them very closely and carefully during the winter,
– Australia compares very favorably with Canada.
– Yes, in that respect we have many advantages over Canada, where the farmers have to house their stock during the long cold winter; whereas here very little of that kind of thing is necessary in the bulk .of our dairying districts. This is a matter of general interest. It does not affect the Commonwealth Government alone. It affects all the States in common. The scientific, pastoral, and agricultural problems are differentiated in various ways in the various States.
– Will not this bureau clash with State Government institutions ?
– I do not see that it will ; but I will dwell on that point in a moment. A clear case is to be made out for a Federal Bureau which would not come into conflict with any work that the States are now doing.
– Is this to be a Socialists’ Bureau or an Anti-Socialists’ Bureau?
– I know very well that this does not concern my honorable friend very much.
– The Prime Minister knows nothing of the kind.
– There is not enough politics in it for him. This is far too useful a measure to appeal to him.
– The Prime Minister says that he is an Anti-Socialist, but yet he is introducing a Socialist measure.
– I am trying to introduce this Bill by grace of the honorable member. He has plenty of other opportunities of demonstrating his great ability to lead the party opposite, and need not interrupt when I am busily engaged in explaining this proposal.
– We are all going to help the Prime Minister to carry it out.
– In my judgment, this little Bill, which has been on the stocks for nine or ten years, is one of the most important that could occupy this Parliament.
– It was introduced originally by Mr. Justice Isaacs when he was the member for Indi.
– I know that he made some excellent speeches on the subject. So did Sir John Quick, and so did we all. Pests, and similar troubles, have a peculiar affinity for some States and for some degrees of our climate. Every State is peculiarly interested in their obliteration from the Commonwealth. Outsiders see this just as clearly as we do. I shall quote again from the report of the Scottish Agricultural Commissioners, because I think it well that honorable members should know the impression made on their minds in respect of thi3 subject. They came to the conclusion that, in connexion with the work of the States, a great deal of overlapping goes on. Here is an extract from their report -
It appeared to us, however, that a considerable amount of overlapping was going on, that in general there was a want of co-ordination and co-operation, that the policy of allowing each State to attempt to attack the solution of each agricultural problem by itself, was not the most economical. There are many problems which are common to the whole of Australia, or to the greater part of it, and it would appear that time and money would be saved by placing some of the work of research in the hands of a Federal Department. For example, every State is afflicted with various stock diseases. In Queensland there is “ tick fever,” in another there is “ coast disease,” and so on. A strong and wellequipped Federal Department would seem more likely to cope with such diseases than the weaker and less well-equipped State Departments. The prickly pear, again, is not a State monopoly, but may through time spread over most of the country, and here again is an argument for Federal control, which would not “ absorb or limit the energies of the State Departments, but concern itself with a broader and a wider field.
Now, a great deal of work in these fields is already being done by the Federal Government. We are employing many of the State agencies to do work which I am inclined to think could be very much better done by a bureau of our own. For instance, we have all sorts of quarantine arrangements which are looked after by the States. State officers do the work for us.
– That would hardly come under this bureau.
– I think so. The purpose of quarantine is to locate disease, and, if possible, to eradicate it. Therefore, there must always be a close and intimate association between a Bureau of Agriculture and our general Quarantine Department.
– Would the Agricultural Bureau take over quarantine?
– Hardly. It would furnish scientific information to the Quarantine Department which it is unable to get to-day in regard to many matters.
– Diseases in plants.
– Yes, that is a very good illustration. The question of worm nodules in beef is being investigated in America, I know.
– They have a man here now investigating it.
– There is now an American here investigating the conditions under which our beef is sent away; in fact, our meat generally. The question of worm nodules in beef is, I understand, one which relates itself to both the Quarantine Department and the Agricultural Bureau.’ It impinges upon both Departments, and there must necessarily be a very close relation between the two. A bureau of this kind would help us to make our quarantine very much more effective, and perhaps very much more intelligent. At present the States are doing a great deal of this work for us. I find, for instance, that the Commonwealth pays about £150 a year to the Sydney Bureau of Micro-Biology for special services rendered by them. And we are investigating very closely the question of the worm nodules in beef, which, I believe, affects Queensland in a way that it does not affect any other State.
– I suppose it is safe to say that on that we have spent ten times as much as all the States have done.
– I suppose so. I know that the other day we gave a Melbourne scientist a commission to look further into the question on a holiday trip she was about to make in Europe. I refer to Dr. Sweet, who, I believe, in connexion with Professor Gilruth, has made a special study of this matter. There are others who are working in the same field. Then we pay £4,000 a year to a tropical school at Townsville. That, so far, has been concerning itself with human diseases, but it is enlarging its functions gradually to embrace animals and plants, and diseases of all sorts, as they express themselves in tropical lands. Again, there is the question of bitter pit. We are paying £1,000 a year for the investigation of that alone.
– There is also £1,000 paid in expenses.
– I am speaking of the salary which comes from the joint fund contributed to by the States and the Commonwealth. At any rate, Mr. McAlpine is engaged in investigating the matter, and he receives £1,000 a year for his work. It has always appeared to me that what we most need in Australia is a small select body of the best original investigators we can get. I am afraid that we have never gone to the top of the tree in engaging the kind of ability that we want in these matters.
– I think that in the United States they have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in the investigation of bitter pit, but they do not seem to know much more about it now than they did at the beginning.
– They do not know any more about bitter pit than we do.
– I do not know that that is a reason for not spending money - it is a reason for persevering. That reminds me that only this morning I received from a Tasmanian a letter telling me that he has a remedy for bitter pit. He says he can tell when he goes into an orchard whether bitter pit is there or not. I have no doubt that in many ways men are investigating in this field. The trouble is that there are so many theories concerning bitter pit. One of our University investigators says he has proved to demonstration that bitter pit is simply a poisoning of the apple, and that it is caused by the various sprays which are used, and, perhaps, some poisons in the soil. Another investigator comes along and says he has proved to demonstration that the spraying has nothing to do with bitter pit. Altogether, a great realm of exploration lies open to us, and we have to persevere until we find a solution for many of the problems. It appears to me that a great deal of this work will be done in the laboratory - it must be done there before it can be done in the field. I know that in connexion with fruit there are many troubles. If we got a man to deal with one of these troubles and solve it for us, he would be worth £50,000 a year to this country. Yet the ordinary salaries that are being paid by the States range, I suppose, from £400 to £600 or £700 a year. We cannot buy the best ability of the world for a sum like that. I do not want to say a word about what the States are doing, except in terms of the highest praise. I believe that they are doing, most of them, excellent work; but they are not doing the particular kind of work which a Federal Bureau ought to he set up to do. Over and above what they do in the practical fields of investigation there is the scientific laboratory work to be done, and for that purpose we want a small, well-equipped and thoroughly trained body of original investigators to tackle some of the problems that now afflict our people so much.
– But would you confine the operations of the Bureau to original research work ?
– To begin with, certainly. There is every possible facility in the States to test all their work. It would be an unnecessary duplication, it seems to me, for them to launch out into practical fields for the purpose of testing their own work. My own idea is to link up the practical Departments of the States to this Federal Bureau.
– But that can only be done with the consent of the States.
– Quite so.
– He has not got their consent.
– I think he will get it.
– Would the Bureau have anything to do with the Pastures Protection Boards, or would it leave that work with the States?
– I take it that the Bureau would supply information to anybody and anywhere. It would investigate all these problems so far as its ability and the resources we placed at its disposal would permit it, and the knowledge would be there for any State or local body to get.
– The Bureau would have nothing to do with practical work ?
– No. My idea is not to set this up as an administrative, but as an investigatory, bureau. Let the Bureau get on with the work which the States are not doing at present, and, when it has got scientific information, disseminate it. When it has traced the life history of a disease, and found the remedy to be applied, let it make that information available to the State Departments, which would test it in a practical way through their own organizations. I do not want this to be a competing bureau except in the highest sense of all.
– There is plenty of room in the Northern Territory for experts to conduct experiments.
– There is room for them in all the States. Take one matter alone, that of bitter pit. It would pay this country to get the best expert it could obtain in the world, and to set him to this work, and to be patient with him while he studies the disease for some years.
– And you do not want him to stay in Melbourne, but to go where the disease exists.
– There might be no result from the Bureau for some years, that is, until the expert had discovered a remedy.
– Let us get the kind of man we want, and then give him a fair trial. These problems cannot be solved in a day.
– Bitter pit is not peculiar to Tasmania.
– I know that, but there are some matters which are common to Australia. We want these diseases to be investigated at the point where we know its life history, and what its nature is, and I say that any one who could find out the remedy to be applied would be worth more than we could pay him in money. We must begin the work of higher specialization in this field of agricultural and pastoral pursuits.
– I presume you have no desire to cook the State bureaux.
– What I am speaking of would be entirely outside of what the States are doing.
– Would not the Bureau duplicate some of the work which they are already doing?
– No. My point is that the States are not doing this laboratory work to any extent, and that fact is proved by the huge payments we are making every year to outsiders to undertake the work. Take, for instance, the payment of £4,000 a year to the Queensland Institute.
M.T. Tudor. - That is in relation to tropical medicine.
– I know it is, but surely that is a work which we ought to be doing in connexion with an Agricultural Bureau.
– There is no more intricate or difficult problem than that of those diseases of the tropics which seem to have such a peculiar affinity for white people, and to cause them so much trouble. I do not wish to labour the question. But I desire to make it clear that the Commonwealth Bureau will in no way come into conflict with the State bureaux; on the contrary, it would assist the scientific work that they are doing, and the State agencies would test its laboratory experiments by practical application of their results. The intention is to link up the Commonwealth and State Departments, and supply what is now missing from the State machinery. We require a standard Australian wheat, which will take a place in the world like that of the Manitoba wheat. The experiments of the late Mr. Farrer in producing wheats specially suited to our climate and natural conditions have already produced results worth many times more than they cost. Federation wheat, and Bobb’s wheat, two varieties due solely to his efforts, have brought hundreds of thousands of pounds to our farmers. A great calamity befel Australia when death took Mr. Farrer away from the work he loved so much. I was brought into intimate relationship with him many years ago, when for a little while I had charge of the Agricultural Department of New. South Wales; and I know with what rare fidelity to his duty his work was done. He did not work for money, and could not be paid for what he did. Indeed, he had begun his experiments long before the Department got hold of him, and, as I have said, our farmers are to-day reaping hundreds of thousands of pounds from the results of his self-sacrificing labour. It is work of that kind that we wish to encourage. In time to come Mr. Farrer’s name will stand high in the records of the world as that of a benefactor of his race. Others who are further away are better able to estimate the worth of such work as his than we who are- close to it are apt to do. The Scottish Agricultural Commission, referring to Mr. Farrer’s experiments, said in their report -
There are a great many varieties of wheat, and beyond” doubt the possibilities of wheat raising in the Commonwealth have been in a large manner due to Mr. W. Farrer, who devoted his life to evolving wheats suited to Australian conditions.
A whole vista of duties and potentialities opens up when inquiry is made as to what there is to be done in Australia. Everything that is a pest elsewhere is a pest here, and the means we have taken to eradicate pests have often brought about the introduction of others. Indeed, at the present time there is a controversy as to whether the importation of ferrets should not be prohibited, lest they become a bigger nuisance than the rabbits which they have been brought here to destroy. A phase of the matter to which I draw attention is this : Parliament has been trying by the offer of bounties to stimulate and develop new industries, such as cotton and coffee growing, the production of fibre plants and other tropical products. The Commonwealth Bureau of Agriculture will be very useful if it carries out investigations along scientific lines to show how best to undertake this work. Our idea is to help the States, not to supersede their activity in any way. If they should feel that they can hand over to us special work which we could do better because of our greater facilities, we shall be glad to accept it, and thus bring about economy and improved efficiency. But the first idea is to supplement the work of the States; to take up the higher scientific work and make the knowledge that is obtained readily available to the whole of Australia. I ask the sympathetic and kindly consideration of the House for a very useful measure.
.- I ask the Prime Minister to consent to an adjournment of the debate, so that we may have time to consider his remarks.
– He has given us no information.
– If the honorable member is not ready to proceed, there may be others who would speak. I cannot consent to the adjournment yet.
– We are not likely to have the second reading carried this afternoon, and it is not far from the usual hour for adjournment. The Bill contains no information. Under it the cost of the proposed Department might be £5,000, or £50,000, or £500,000 a year. We have not been told whether it is possible to make arrangements with the Departments of the States for the doing of scientific work. The Prime Minister confused the work of the Tropical School of Medicine in Townsville with the work that would be undertaken by the proposed Bureau, but the two institutions will have nothing to do with each other. He might as well have said that the proposed Bureau will deal with diseases like small-pox. Of course, it might be possible to attach a laboratory to the Tropical School of Medicine at Townsville for the purpose of making investigations, much in the way in which the well-equipped laboratory at the Customs Department is being used to do certain work for Mr. McAlpine. The Prime Minister twitted us on this side with having no interest in the country districts; but I would remind him that, although Liberal Governments had this measure on the stocks for years, they did nothing to pass it. Without waiting for legislation, the Labour Government made an agreement with the States, under which Mr. McAlpine was engaged to carry out an investigation of the bitter pit disease. That is one of the things for which honorable members do not give us credit.
– The Prime Minister would not give the last Government credit for anything.
– I think that he would, privately. I was in charge of the Department of Trade and Customs when Mr. McAlpine was appointed. I hope that his work will be crowned with success, because bitter pit causes immense losses, not only to Australian orchardists, but to orchardists elsewhere. The United States of America have spent well over 1,000,000 dollars in trying to get rid of it. The last Government was also responsible for the investigation of the worm nodules that appear in meat. Professor Gilruth was sent by us to Northern Queensland to investigate the subject, and it was due to our efforts that the beef trade of Queensland was saved. Had it gone, the mutton trade would have suffered too, because our unscrupulous competitors were ready to make use of any statement to damage our meat business. A great deal of useful work of this kind can be done without establishing a Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau. If we merely add to six sets of professional State officers a seventh set of Commonwealth officers, there will be continual dissension. State officers will not work with Commonwealth officers unless some agreement is come to about their relative spheres of action.
– Why do they not quarrel in America?
– I do not know; but professional men - chemists, bacteriologists, entomologists and others - are very jealous of their reputations, and each assumes that he knows more than his fellows.
– The best scientific men of the world are above such feelings.
– I should like to think so.
– The university professors of the different States work harmoniously together.
– The position of matters might change if a Commonwealth university were established to do the same work that the State institutions are doing. I do not know that the States are willing to give up any of their powers. My view has always been that work of the kind to be done by the Bureau could be done more effectively by one body than by six, and the States are beginning already to cooperate to some degree. For instance, Victoria, finding it difficult to keep Mr. Elwood Mead, one of the best experts in his line, is seeking to co-operate with New South Wales for the retention of his services. No doubt, if the States find that they can save money by handing over work to the Commonwealth, they will do that; but their Departments are desirous of keeping as much as possible in their own hands, and will be ready to complain if the Commonwealth Bureau is started without consultation with them, and without an agreement with them. The Prime Minister has stated that if we establish the proposed Agricultural Bureau it will be able to take charge of the quarantining of fruit and vegetables passing from State to State. That is absolutely absurd. This Bureau of Agriculture could not undertake any of the quarantine functions which are referred to in section 112 of the Constitution, and which are defined in the Quarantine Act itself.
– The Prime Minister did not say that the Agricultural - Bureau would take over the inspection laws which are now administered by the States.
– He said something very much like it.
– I understood him to refer only to the quarantining of plants, and not to the inspection laws.
– The honorable member for Franklin made an interjection in regard to quarantine functions, and I understood the Prime Minister to say that these could be undertaken by the proposed Bureau. I admit that the honorable gentleman found himself in a difficult position this afternoon, owing to the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is at present with the British parliamentary party which is visiting Australia. Iregret that the head of the Government should have declined to grant me an adjournment of the debate, because the subject with which we are dealing is an extremely large one. The Bill before us contains only two important clauses, and yet it may involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure of £5,000 or £500,000 a year. I think we should know definitely to what we are committing ourselves. We should be told whether the proposed Bureau will have its headquarters here, or in the Federal Capital, or in the Northern Territory; and whether it will have branches throughout Australia. I do hope that the Bill will not be rushed through the House this afternoon. It is altogether too important; and I do not think that such a procedure would be fair to members of the Opposition, who are just as much interested in this question as are the supporters of the Government. The action which the late Government took in connexion with bitter pit, and worm nodules in beef, shows that they were thoroughly alive to the importance of this question. The Bill should not be passed before we know whether the States will co-operate with us in this work.
– There can be no conflict when there is no work being done at the present time.
– If the work of the proposed Bureau is to be confined to the laboratory, we have a right to be told that. I think we should be told how much it is intended to expend on this Bureau during the first two or three years of its existence. I am aware that in Queensland, which seems to be specially affected by pests such as the cane grub, and the worm nodule in beef, some of the best scientific work might be done. I take it that a portion of the work which is now being undertaken by the Commerce Department might with advantage be transferred to this Department. Notwithstanding that we are doing a trade in beef and mutton with Great Britain and the Continent, amounting to £4,000,000 annually, it is a fact that, until Mr, Cherry was appointed by the late Govern ment two years ago, we never had a representative there to look after our interests.
– Would the honorable member place the whole of the export powers under our Commerce Act in the hands of the Bureau of Agriculture?
– I do not know. But I say that in our Commerce Department we have practically the nucleus of an Agricultural Department. A great amount of work is being carried out by the Commerce Department in seeing that our exports are free from deleterious substances. Mr. Preedy is the head of that Department, and the analytical work is undertaken by Mr. Percy Wilkinson. I rose, not for the purpose of opposing the Bill, but of asking for further information.
– The honorable member can get all the information he requires in Committee.
– Fancy the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs suggesting that I should wait until the Bill gets into Committee.
– The honorable member used often to tell him that.
– Yes, and I recollect that he never adopted my suggestion. One or two honorable members were caught in that way, but not the present Honorary Minister. The general principle underlying the Bill is that we should establish a bureau to carry out investgatory work concerning many of the pests with which we are afflicted to-day.
– Does the honorable member approve of the general principle of the Bill?
– Yes; but I think we ought to know whether any arrangement can be made with the States to prevent overlapping. I do not believe in creating a seventh department, where six are already in existence, unless we have some guarantee of its usefulness.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Roberts) adjourned.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Colonial Sugar Refining Company - Judgment of the Supreme Court of New Zealand in the appeal case of the Merchants’ Association of New Zealand and others, appellants,
Chinn, Mr. H. - Papers connected with case of.
Mechanics - Ten-shilling Notes - Questions.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I am very sorry that the peaceful overtures which I made to the Prime Minister this afternoon were not received in the spirit in which they were offered. I have been accused of desiring to obstruct the passing of a certain measure. The Prime Minister told me that there were no politics in the Agricultural Bureau Bill so far as I am concerned. I wish again to place before the Prime Minister a proposal that he should select from the Ministerial programme such subjects as the Agricultural Bureau Bill, the consolidation of the States debts, the establishment of a general Works Department, the Bill dealing with the transfer of Norfolk Island to the Commonwealth, the question of life and fire insurance regulations, the Bankruptcy Bill, and Offences against the Commonwealth Bill, and proceed to deal with these matters, which are of a practical and non-contentious character. Honorable members upon this side of the Chamber will offer no obstruction to the passing of the measure which has been discussed this afternoon. But in the Government programme there are about fifteen other measures of a violently contentious character, and if they are to be proceeded with nothing will be done. If the Prime Minister meant anything when he said that he was going to appeal to the patriotism of honorable members on both sides of the House to carry on the business of the country he will recognise the wisdom of immediately proceeding with the noncontentious measures I have indicated.
– And we will help him.
– We will help him to do the business for which the country is waiting. That is the proposal which I submit to the Prime Minister. I do not know whether I am to get any information on the subject this afternoon. Perhaps it would be better if I placed the matter on the business-paper in the form of a question.
– I have no wish to charge the Public Service Commissioner with endea vouring to do something that he ought not to do. But I understand that it is his desire to introduce postal mechanics into the Commonwealth. It is idle for any one to tell me that we have not in Australia mechanics who can carry out any work that the Department may require. We have in the engineering trade men who are competent to do anything required in this respect. The Prime Minister, according to the newspaper reports, said he would be sorry if it were found necessary to take this action; and I hope that the Public Service Commissioner will not be allowed to do anything in this regard until the tradesmen of Australia have had an opportunity to assert themselves, and to show that they can do the work required by the Department. It is also peculiar that the Government intend, so I am informed, to introduce mechanics from the Old Country to fit up machinery for the woollen mills at Geelong. I do not know whether it is a case of the immigration question being always uppermost in their minds ; but I should like to know whether the intention is to bring out, to fit up this machinery, men who, as soon as the work has been carried out, will be thrown on the labour market of Australia. Is that what is proposed, or are these men to be made members of the permanent staff? There are already in Australia men who can look after such machinery, and do the work well. It may be necessary to introduce a leading hand to deal with some new features of the machinery; but it is an undoubted fact that we have here men who are quite capable of erecting machinery for woollen mills, and of looking after it when it has been erected. There are men here who have done such work. I do not like the introduction of this system. We had something of the sort done by the late Government in connexion with the Defence Department; and if the practice is to be continued, I shall be inclined to believe that officers of the Department are determined that Australians shall be given no opportunity in connexion with works under their control. I have nothing to say against men coming from the Old Country, for, no doubt, they would be highly capable mechanics and good citizens; but I would point out that the labour market in respect of the engineering trade is already overcrowded. I represent a constituency in which there are many engineering works; and I know that, both in my own electorate aa well as in other parts of the Commonwealth, we have highly-skilled men in all trades. I hope that the Government will see that Australians are given an opportunity to show that they have the ability to do this work.
.- I wish to indorse the remarks made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. In the case of an absolutely new industry, I could understand one or two leading hands being introduced, so that, under their direction, our own men could carry out the work of fitting up the machinery ; but, at the present time, there are out of employment some of the most highlyskilled mechanics in Australia, and they are, unfortunately, competing to-day with what is known as the general labouring class. Do the Government intend to flood our already overcrowded labour markets?
– How many are to be brought out?
– Ten for the Postal Department.
– I do not like to be dragging departmental officers into our discussions; but there does seem to be- an inclination on the part of some of the officers in charge of our public works to believe that men on the other side of the water are better than those we have here. It is generally conceded, however, that, both in the matter of the quality and the quantity of their work, there are no workmen who can compete with Australians. Since we have well-qualified men in our own community, I hope that the Government will not bring out others unless, as I have said, it should be found necessary to introduce a leading hand or two because of their special knowledge of a particular class of work. There is very little that the Australian, blessed with his great initiative, cannot master and carry out. lt has been said by some of the most expert men in the engineering and other trades that Australians seem to be the most readily adaptable of men.
There is another matter which I should like to bring under the notice of the Treasurer. It is stated in the press that there are not as many 10s. notes in circulation as it was thought there would be, and that a large number of notes of this denomination are lying in the King’s Warehouse.
– One cannot get them at the banks.
– I deal with the Commonwealth Bank, and always obtain them. I think that the 10s. note will become one of the most popular, and, although people have got into the habit of using gold, I hope that the Treasurer will not abolish the 10s. note on sight.
– The newspapers do not state we propose to do so, do they ?
– I hope that the Treasurer will wipe them out. They are a redundancy.
– If the honorable member prefers to handle a half-sovereign rather than a note printed in Australia, I do not.
There is only one other matter to which I desire, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to refer, and that is that I wished this morning, when a point of order was raised, to ask Mr. Speaker a question in regard to a ruling that he gave. I understand that early in the session, Mr. Speaker ruled that, although Ministers were within their rights in declining to answer questions,, honorable members would be in order in continuing to ask them. I wish to know whether the ruling given this morning overrides that decision.
I trust that the Government will bear in mind the protest made against the importation of mechanics, that the Treasurer will not abolish the 10s. note, and that Mr. Speaker will not rule honorable members out of order when they desire to ask questions.
– I was just as surprised as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was when I heard that these electrical mechanicians could not be obtained in Australia. The Commissioner, however, advised the Department that he called for applications in Western Australia, and did not receive one. He stated that he had the same experience in Melbourne.
– Did he advertise in Melbourne for men to work is Australia?
– He advertised, first of all, in Western Australia for men who were to be employed locally.
– He could not get them because he offered only £146 per year.
-Hecouldnot getthem.HealsoadvertisedinMel- bourneformenrequiredforserviceboth hereandinWesternAustralia.Ifhon- orablemembersbringalongmenwhocan dothework,IamsurethattheCommis- sionerwillbepleasedtoappointthem. IcertainlydonotwishtosendtoEng- landformentodoworkthatcanbecar- riedoutbymenalreadyhere.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 September 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130905_reps_5_70/>.