5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair’ at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Allotment of Party Rooks
– Will you be kind enough, Mr. Speaker, to inform the House when the Opposition will have the use of the room in this building that has always been used by Opposition members?
– My desire is, of course, to meet the convenience of every honorable member, as far as practicable, in this matter. It has been represented to me by those who are at present in occupation of the room on the ground floor, usually known as the Opposition room, that they wish to remain there, but I have tried to get the Whips of the two parties to come to an agreement as to the disposition of rooms. The suggestion has been made, and I think it is a very good one, that the members of the Ministerial party might occupy the room on the ground floor which has hitherto been the Opposition room, and of which they are now in possession, and that the members of the Opposition party might retain the room on tha floor above, taking in addition the room on the ground floor that was last session used by the Independent party, and which I am informed has generally been regarded, and sometimes used as a Ministerial room, the Independent party being no longer in existence. If it is not agreeable to members of the Opposition to keep the room that they now have, with the smaller, room on the ground floor, the Ministerialists will take the upstairs room, and the smaller room on the lower floor will be allotted to the member for Eden-Monaro on account oE his physical disability to move freely up and down so many stairs. I do not propose to disturb the present arrangement if it meets with the general approval of members.
– Am I to understand that the members of the Opposition party are not to use the room that has always been known as the Opposition room, unless the members of the Ministerial party consent ? *
– As I have said, it is my wish to meet the convenience of honorable members of both sides, but any conflict of opinion on this matter makes it necessary if somewhat difficult for me to come to a decision. If the members of the Opposition desire th.8 ground floor room now in possession of the members of the Ministerial party, they are at liberty to take it, but if they do so, they must give up the small ground floor room occupied for some time by what was known as the Independent party, because there is one member of the Ministerial party, at any rate, who has informed ms that he cannot, on account of severe physical affliction, go up and downstairs frequently, and accommodation must be found for him on the lower floor. I propose, in the circumstances, that if the present arrangement is not continued the small room on the ground floor shall be set aside for him.
– I desire to thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the way in which you have attended to the comfort of honorable members, and especially for your desire to meet the wishes of the Opposition. I wish now to ask whether, if the Opposition desire to have the use of the room on the ground floor, which has always been at their disposal, you will facilitate their getting it?
– I shall have no objection, but I wish it to be understood, in that case, that the room adjoining will be reserved for an infirm member of this House, who is unable to go to the upstairs room.
– I wish to correct a statement that has been made in regard to these rooms. You stated, sir, that you had been informed that a certain room had always been used by members of the Ministerial party. I wish to inform you that when the first Parliament met members of the Labour party had no room at all, save one in the basement which was shown to us. We were then permitted to use the room on the ground floor, to which reference lias just been made, and we used to meet in that room. We continued to do so, at least during the life of the first Parliament, if not afterwards. There were only twenty-four of us at that time - sixteen members in this House and eight in another place - and we held all our meetings there; so that you must have been misinformed, Mr. Speaker, as to that room having been used always by members of the Ministerial party. The Ministerial room was then, as now, upstairs. That being so, there is no precedent for members of the Ministerial party using the room in question on the ground floor. If the room were placed at our disposal, it woul’d be a very great convenience to those members of my party who are not too agile in getting up and down stairs.
– One honorable member of this House has informed me that it is physically impossible for him to go upstairs owing to the stroke of paralysis
Ii3 suffered some time ago. I must provide accommodation for him, and, if the present arrangements are unsuitable, and no other accommodation is available, I shall have to retain for him the use of the smaller room to which I have referred. Under the existing arrangement there is no necessity for the honorable member for Herbert to have his room upstairs, as the extra room oil the lower floor is at present available for his use.
– In view of your reply, sir, have you considered that it is well known that members in another place, and members occupying seats in this Chamber use a room at times for joint deliberation ? And has it been considered that giving the Ministerial side the large room in conjunction with the small room means giving forty-five members larger accommodation, while refusing to sixty-six members that accommodation which had practically been set aside for them by the rules?
-It was precisely the fact that those occupying the Opposition benches in conjunction with members of another House required more accommodation that suggested the idea that they should retain’ the largest room available. That was the main guiding principle that led me not to disturb the present arrangement, because I recognised that the large room upstairs was certainly the best for large gatherings. I was desirous of meeting the convenience of honorable members. I recognised that the larger room upstairs was best adapted to meetings such as the present Opposition members were likely to have, and that the room below does not confer anything like the accommodation the room upstairs gives in this respect.
– Has not the small room downstairs always been regarded as a Ministerial room ? I would also like to know, sir, whether you deem it an imperative part of your duty to provide accommodation on this side of the building for senators for purely party purposes ?
– With regard to the first part of that question, from inquiry I am informed that the small room below is properly a Ministerial room, and was at one time occupied by the Ministerial party, and that not very long ago.
– Since Federation?
– Yes; during the Deakin and Reid Administrations, lt has been used for various purposes, but has been used as a Ministerial room. It was almost exclusively used by the late Sir William Lyne as his room for some time; but, by courtesy of Sir William Lyne, other members were permitted to go into it for the purpose of writing their correspondence. I am not laying this down as a statement from my own knowledge, but I have made inquiries on the subject, and, so far as I can learn, it was so. As to the other portion of the Prime Minister’s question, as I have said, while it may not be my duty to provide accommodation for members of another place, still it is my desire to meet the convenience of members as far as possible.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he has seen the little pocket-book of statistics issued by the Government Statistician of New South Wales, and whether it would be possible for the Commonwealth Statistician to issue a similar book, but a little larger, say, a book 4 inches by 3^ inches, which would contain in handy form information relating to the whole Commonwealth.
– I shall look into the matter and see what can be done.
– Adverting to the question put by the honorable member for Yarra, I desire to ask the Honorary Minister whether, in the event of such a book’ being published by the Commonwealth, he will consider the desirableness of furnishing in it statistics relating to the value of the estates of deceased persons in groups, and the same figures in relation to income tax ?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s request.
– Yesterday I asked if iti is the purpose of the Government to import an internal combustion . locomotive for the Federal Territory. I should have asked, Is it intended to import such a locomotive for any of the Commonwealth services? If it is the intention to import such a locomotive, will the Minister, in view of our Protectionist policy, consider the advisability of first calling for tenders throughout the Commonwealth ?
– The question of getting an experimental internal combustion engine for use on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line has been under consideration for some time past. The Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways has reported that an estimated saving in constructional cost for water conservation of over £250,000 can be effected if we can procure a satisfactory type of internal combustion engine. That saving would be apart from the saving that would result from the use of such engines instead of steam engines for the ordinary working of the line over country where there are difficulties in obtaining water for boiler purposes - difficulties due, not to scarcity of water, but to defects in the water. Thequestion is engaging the serious attention of the Government; but if the honorable- member desires fuller information, and will give notice of detailed questions, I shall obtain for him all the information that the Department can give.
Bill presented by Mr. Kelly.
– In order to facilitate the consideration of this Bill, I move -
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I wish to ask a question.
– This motion is formal. The honorable member’s right to ask a question will not be interfered with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) proposed -
That the second reading be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
.- I rise to make inquiries about this Bill. When we were speaking yesterday in connexion with the introduction of the Electoral Bill the Honorary Minister repeatedly told us that if we would sit down he would give us the scope of the Bill.
– Hear, hear ! He misled the House. He grossly deceived us.
– He not only misled me, but all the members on this side of the House. He sat at the table and flourished the Bill, saying, “ If you will only sit down I will explain the Bill.”
– The only question before the House is whether the second reading of the Bill shall be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
– I do not wish to delay business. I merely wish to assert my rights. When I rose previously you told me that I would have a chance later on. I am accepting that chance. I wish to know, if the Honorary Minister had the information last night, as he said he had, why he did not give “it to us then, instead of abusing us?
– On a point of order, is it not rather irregular, when questions are being asked, for a Minister to introduce a Bill which evidently will provoke considerable discussion on the issue as to whether it should be read a second time to-morrow ? It may prevent us from proceeding with the other business on the notice-paper.
– On a point of order, is it competent at question time for the Government to introduce a Bill and move the first reading?
– It is in order to do so. There is nothing in the Standing Orders against it, so far as I know, and I am informed by the Clerk that it is in accordance with occasional practice.
.- I think this Bill should be made an Order of the Day for to-day.
– Under our Standing Orders the. second reading must be an Order of the Day for a subsequent day.
– Last night the Honorary Minister told us that he was bursting with anxiety to give us information. Far be it from me to obstruct business. I merely wish to draw attention to the fact that last night the Minister was evidently not ready. Apparently he and the Attorney-General have been in collaboration since then, and have discovered something that had to be put in the Bill.
.- While I have no objection to this motion, at the same time I think we should have had an explanation from the Honorary Minister why he did not take the first reading last night when permission was granted by the House. He could also have moved last night to fix the second reading for to-day. It seems to me, however, that he did not have the Bill ready. If that is so, then the Opposition cannot be accused of having obstructed business yesterday.
– The honorable member is not now discussing the motion before the Chair, which is that the second reading of the Bill be an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
– It is a pity that it is not to be proceeded with to-day. It could have been if the Minister had moved yesterday that it be read a first time.
– By leave of the House, sir, could I not bring on the motion for the second reading of the Bill to-day ?
– Order ! The honorable member must not address the Chair while sitting down.
– The Government with their majority could so arrange the business
– Have we a majority ?
– I have read that the honorable gentleman says that he has a majority of one.
– And some of the Opposition have declared that it is a shameful thing to say.
– I have not, but in the division on the motion of censure the Government had a majority of one. It seems to me that if the Minister had the Bill ready he could have moved the first reading yesterday. If it was not ready, then the Opposition cannot be blamed for debating for some hours, as we did yesterday, the motion for leave to introduce it.
– On a point of order, sir, I notice that honorable members opposite express a burning anxiety to proceed with the Bill to-day, and I wish to know whether, with the consent of the House, the second reading of the Bill could be made an Order of the Day for this day ?
– That could certainly be done if the House agreed to the suspension of the Standing Orders and gave leave on the lines suggested by the honorable member.
– I ask that leave be granted.
– It will not be granted.
– It could not be done by leave. The Standing Orders would have to be suspended.
– Now the Opposition have fallen into their own trap.
– Do not worry; there are plenty more traps.
– Hear, hear !
– I ask occupants of the Ministerial bench particularly to set an example to the rest of the House. I have repeatedly appealed to honorable members to observe the propriety and decorum of debate.
.- It would be much better for the Honorary Minister to fix some day next week for the second reading of this Bill instead of proposing that the House shall proceed with its consideration to-morrow. The honorable gentleman had ample opportunity yesterday to bring the Bill up to the second-reading stage. Had he done so it would have been distributed this morning, and we could have studied it this afternoon during the consideration of private members’ business. It requires to be carefully considered, and had this course been followed we should have been in a position to discuss it to-morrow. As it is the Minister has placed the whole House in a most awkward position. Im portant matters are set down for consideration after dinner, so that we shall have no time to look through this Bill before the meeting of the House tomorrow morning.
– This is hasty legislation.
– And hasty legislation is detrimental to the best interests of the country. I trust that the honorable gentleman will allow the further consideration of this Bill to be postponed until Wednesday or Thursday next. We should then be prepared to deal with the second reading. If the Prime Minister will agree to that course I shall have nothing more to say.
– I am very willing to meet my honorable friends in any reasonable way, but with what object do they suggest postponing this matter till Wednesday or Thursday next?
– Tuesday next will do. Our complaint is that we shall not have time to study the Bill before tomorrow.
– We want to know why it was not laid on the table yesterday?
– Order !
– I think, on consideration, that it is a great pity that we did not move the first reading of the Bill last night, so that the Opposition could have considered it at its caucus this morning.
– There is nothing funny about that.
– Why did not honorable members opposite mention last night what they wanted ?
– Because the Government did not have the Bill ready last night.
– We had it ready yesterday.
– Will the Prime Minister resume his seat? Every day I have had to call the attention of the House to the frequency of interjections, and to appeal to honorable members to assist me in carrying out the Standing Orders.I cannot do this without the assistance of the House, and it is not right that I should be compelled continually to interrupt honorable members while addressing the Chair in order to try to get a hearing for them. I hope that it will not be necessary for me to make any further appeal, but that reasonable opportunities will be given every honorable member to make his speech with something’ like coherency.
– What took place last night was not at all unusual. The Government did not introduce the Bill last night for reasons of its own, which do not concern in tie least my honorable friends opposite. If they want to know these reasons I invite them to come to our next Cabinet meeting. Meantime, may I suggest that a debate of this kind is unprecedented in this Chamber ?
– Not when the honorable gentleman and his party were in Opposition ?
– Such a thing has never been done in the history of this Parliament.
– Evidently the honorable gentleman did not know everything when he was on this side of the House.
– I hope I did not know anything of these unworthy tactics.
– This is rich from the Prime Minister.
– Order !
– I must ask honorable members opposite to allow business to proceed in the ordinary way, and to extend to the Government the timehonoured privilege of shaping its own business in its own way. That, I think, is a reasonable request.
.- I am inclined to the view that the Prime Minister is correct when he says there is no precedent for the procedure now being followed. No doubt that is due to the fact that no Minister in the past was so frightfully inept as to bungle matters as the Minister in charge of this Bill has done. It is, perhaps, a matter for regret that the very first Bill which it was his honour to introduce to the House should have been so badly bungled. That, however, is a matter which concerns only himself and his colleagues. In a direct sense the Opposition have nothing to do with it. We have something, however, to do with the procedure, and the right to ask for information. Of course, the Government have the right to withhold the’ information, but we are entitled to ask that the ordinary procedure be observed unless there is something to justify an irregular procedure. While the action of the Honorary Minister in moving the first reading of the Bill during question time is not out of order, having strict regard to the Standing Orders, it nevertheless is somewhat irregular. If the honorable gentleman proceeds in an irregular way, though not necessarily out of keeping with the Standing Orders, it is not fair on the part of the Prime Minister to complain if the procedure becomes irregular because of the irregular conduct of his own Minister. In the circumstances, the Prime Minister’s complaint falls to the ground, in that, if the procedure is in any way irregular, it is entirely due to his Minister, possibly for Governmental reasons, adopting a particular course. However, the Prime Minister seems to have taken some credit to himself on one point. He says that the Bill was withheld from honorable members yesterday for Governmental purposes.
– The only question before us is whether the second reading shall be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
– I understand that; and the statement I am making leads to the question whether the Bill shall be discussed to-morrow or postponed, say, until Tuesday. I know of no honorable member on this side who desires any unnecessary delay ; but we certainly ask that we shall be treated with ordinary courtesy. If the practice to be adopted is to be irregular, a courteous intimation of the fact might be vouchsafed to us. It is regrettable that the Prime Minister and one of his colleagues should differ materially. Yesterday evening the Minister in charge of the Bill repeatedly assured the House that he was anxious to introduce the measure, and that it was only because of the discussion that he was unable to do so. Now we have it from the Prime Minister that the Bill was withheld for Governmental reasons only. Here we have a distinct’ difference of opinion, which, of course, those two gentleman can settle between themselves. It is necessary, however, that attention should be called to the point, in order that we on this side may not be put in a wrong light before the constituencies. The course adopted by the Honorary Minister results in the Bill being put back at least twenty-four hours, and in placing honorable members on this side in a very unfortunate position. Had the course been pursued that the Honorary
Minister assured us he desired to pursue yesterday, we should have had the Bill in our hands this morning, and have been able to follow intelligently the secondreading speech, which he professes himself desirous to make. As it is, if the honorable gentleman makes his secondreading speech to-morrow, he will make it presumably a few minutes, or at most an hour or two, after the Bill has been placed in our hands.
– The Bill will be circulated to-day.
– I hope it will ; but if the House adjourns at eleven o’clock to-night, to meet at half-past 10 tomorrow morning, there will scarcely be time for honorable members to consider it. I am not presuming to complain of the method adopted by the Government for the conduct of business - it is their right to conduct the business of the House as they think best - but I have the right to draw attention to the unfortunate position in which honorable members on this side are placed because of the methods adopted. Had the ordinary procedure been followed yesterday, the first reading might then have been passed, and the Bill have been in our hands this morning. This would have enabled the Minister to make his second-reading speech tomorrow or on Tuesday, or whenever he thought fit.
– I think the Government have altered the Bill.
– I am not prepared to say that the Bill has been altered, even to the extent of a comma ; if it has, it is the business of the Government, who have a perfect right to make any alteration to which they feel inclined. But the Government have no right, particularly the Prime Minister, to place honorable members on this side in a position in which they ought not to be placed, and to attempt to make political capital out of the procedure the Government themselves have adopted. While I am anxious that the Bill should be in the hands of honorable members and discussed at the earliest possible reasonable moment, I suggest, notwithstanding what may be said of my action later on, that, the delay having been caused by the method adopted by the Government, they should not proceed with the Bill to-morrow. I am anxious, because of the importance of the Bill, to be placed in a position to follow closely all that is said in relation to it, and I suggest that, as the Ministry has adopted an unfortunate course of action, honorable members be given time to look at the Bill before the second reading is proposed.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat suggested that this is an irregular procedure, but I have to point out that a similar course has been adopted before. The last occasion on which it was adopted was on 12th November of last year - in the last session of the last Parliament - when the honorable member for West Sydney, as AttorneyGeneral, immediately after petitions had been presented, moved that the Bankruptcy Bill be read a first time. Immediately afterwards, and also before questions had been dealt with, the honorable member moved the first reading of the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill; and a third Bill was also introduced before the business of the day was called upon.
.- The action of the Honorary Minister is not worthy of a Minister of the Crown. No one deplores more than I do that this discussion should have arisen, but there is every reason for our addressing the House, irrespective of what may have been ‘ the custom hitherto. An unusual course was adopted all day yesterday by the Minister in charge of the Bill. The first reading of the Bill could have been agreed to last night, and the measure placed in the hands of honorable members this morning. Whose fault is it that the Bill did not pass its first reading last night, so that we might have proceeded with the second reading to-day? Throughout yesterday we were told by the Honorary Minister that, if honorable members on this side would sit down, he would inform them as to the contents of the Bill. The honorable member sat on a piece of paper, and produced it and reproduced it repeatedly as though it were the Bill itself. All the time he was deceiving the House and the country.
– The honorable member has now stated definitely what has been insinuated by nearly every honorable member opposite, that when I held in my hand yesterday what I represented to be a copy of the Bill it was not in fact a copy of it, and I was deceiving the House in what I did. As the statement is absolutely devoid of foundation, I ask that it be withdrawn. I suggest, if I may venture to do so, that for an honorable member to accuse another of deceiving the House is disorderly.
Mr. SPEAKER. If the honorable member for Gwydir made that imputation, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it if the Honorary Minister thinks that I made it. I said that his action in sitting on the piece of paper and repeatedly producing it was calculated. to deceive the House by making honorable members think that it was a copy of the Bill. The tactics of the Minister are responsible for the present position. Parliament has been flouted by a juvenile Minister who does not understand his business, and who is not willing to learn from older members. He has neglected to treat the House with the respect to which it is entitled. Although he promised repeatedly to give us information as to the contents of the Bill, he did not do so. His conduct is calculated to dislocate the continuity of thought of honorable members.
– The discussion is going beyond the bounds of order. The question before the Chair is whether the second reading of the Bill shall be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow. Honorable members may not go beyond that question into irrelevant matters.
-It is the question with which I am dealing. I am giving reasons why the second reading should not be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow, but should be made an Order of the Day for a later date.
– Next year.
– I would not say that. I am anxious for an opportunity to thoroughly review, analyze, and dissect this measure. It requires all the keen, penetrating thought of this party to watch what the party opposite is likely to do with a Bill of this character. We are not playing with politics; we are here to do the business of the country in a manner that will reflect credit on the House and on the people. For that reason there should be ample time given to honorable members to make good the loss occasioned by the deficiencies of the Minister. I hope that what happened yesterday will never occur again in this House. When we asked the Minister for the Bill, what did we get but taunts and abuse from one who should have, treated members with the respect that is their due. The Prime Minister has stated that never before has a motion of this kind been debated. Might I remind him that, when the honorable member for Brisbane was moving for the right to set down for a definite day a motion relating to temperance reform, he and the Honorary Minister and others discussed the question at length. Yet to-day he says that the discussion is irregular. His action shows to those who listened to him that when it suits his purpose he can digress from the straight and narrow path. The Bill is a very important one; at least the Minister tells us so, and any one who saw him when he was professing to have charge of it could see that he thought that it was mightily important. If the Minister would indicate to the House that he will endeavour to expedite the business committed to his care, in the public interest and for the sake of the reputation of the Government, I shall be prepared to forgive him on this occasion, hoping that what has occurred will never be repeated.
.- In addressing myself to this important question I hope that the Honorary Minister, for his own sake, will not deny that he repeatedly gave honorable members on this side to understand that if the person who at the time was addressing the Chair would sit down he would immediately make known the provisions of the Bill.
– And I would “have done so. I was dying to do so all the afternoon.
– The Honorary Minister repeatedly gave the House that assurance.
– And I would have done it had honorable members sat down.
– The Honorary Minister left the House under a misapprehension, and he may have done it deliberately.
– That is absolutely without foundation. I was ready to make a statement all the afternoon, but I was not going to make one at 11 o’clock at night.
– The Honorary Minister repeatedly tapped a document which he had with him, and said, “ If you sit down I will tell you what is in the Bill. I am only too anxious to do so.”
– So I was, but it was not until the last trains were about to leave that I was given a chance.
– Honorable members on this side, having availed themselves of the opportunity given for the discussion of the general question, as they had a perfect right to do, accepted the promise of the Minister that as soon as the discussion closed he would give them the information for which they sought.
– That statement is not correct. It was at the request of the honorable member for West Sydney, who is at present leading the Opposition, that I curtailed my remarks.
– If the Honorary Minister persists in denying what the Opposition unanimously hold to be the facts, I must accept his denial under the forms of the House. I do not in the slightest degree object to or criticise the action of the Government in withdrawing the draft Bill to amend it, because the discussion of yesterday made amendment inevitable. The information then given was of a character bound to clarify the mind of the Honorary Minister.
– There was no amendment of the Bill.
– I ask the Minister a question which he will have an opportunity of answering when he replies, namely: Is it not a fact that the members of the Ministerial party long ago had detailed information of the contents of the Bill, and that the Bill has been submitted to the press?
– Neither statement has the slightest foundation.
– The Honorary Minister is out of order in interjecting.
– I have the assurance of the Honorary Minister that I am incorrectly informed that the provisions of the Bill have been submitted to the press.
– So far as I am concerned, the statement is absolutely untrue.
– That is a qualified denial.
– I cannot say what, has happened at the Printing Office, of course.
– The Honorary Minister must cease these continuous interjections.
– I thought that on important matters of this kind the Honorary Minister would have been able to speak for the Government, seeing that he is in charge of the Bill. When I tell him that I am credibly informed that the Bill was in the hands of the press yesterday, is he able to give the statement an emphatic denial?
– On behalf of the Government, I give it an emphatic denial. What back-stair knowledge of the doings of the press the honorable member may have, I do not know; certainly the press did not get the Bill from me.
– This dialogue is irregular, and the Honorary Minister, having the right to reply, has the less excuse for interrupting.
– The honorable member has addressed a series of questions to me, pausing after each, and, although I did not wish to answer the questions by interjection, I felt that if I allowed them to pass unanswered, an entirely untrue impression would be created. I submit that the honorable member is not in order in putting a series of questions to me in a way that is likely to mislead unless I reply to them immediately.
– I have on previous occasions pointed out that I cannot dictate to any honorable member what method he shall employ in delivering his speech, but that, in using an interrogative form, disorderly interjections are invited which make it difficult for me to maintain order and enable the member himself to be properly heard. But the fact that a member is addressing the House in an interrogative way does not furnish a valid excuse for a series of interjections, which are always disorderly.
– In adopting the Socratic method for extracting information for the benefit of the House, I thought that the Honorary Minister would be able to contain himself until his opportunity to reply came. I do not wish to delay business, more particularly as the Electoral Bill is a measure of vital consequence. But, notwithstanding the offensive suggestion of the Honorary Minister, that I have received from the press information not available to other honorable members, I repeat that I have been credibly informed that the terms of the Bill were supplied to the press yesterday. As to whether the second reading should be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow, I know that yesterday the Honorary Minister declined to give any information as to the scope of the Bill, although he conveyed the impression to every member on this side that he would be most happy, immediately the discussion closed, to afford us every information. I know, because I was here, that when the discussion closed the Honorary Minister dramatically, and obviously with great selfsatisfaction, because he thought it was a coup, sat down after simply moving the motion in his name. In those circumstances, I think it is due to enter a protest in discussing whether the second reading should be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow, and I shall be glad if the Minister will inform us that no member of the Government conveyed to the press the contents of this Bill. If he can do so, it will be a satisfaction to us, who are interested in maintaining the privileges of the House, and in discussing this matter in an ordinary way.
.- I wish to appeal to the Prime Minister, and enter my protest against the second reading of this Bill being made an Order of the Day for to-morrow. Many members are away from the House with the approval of the House, and next week many members will be away also with the approval of the House. The circumstances of their absence are well known to every member. Therefore, I ask that this question be put down for consideration no earlier than Wednesday or Thursday next, when every member will have the opportunity of being in his place and dealing with this important measure to the best of his judgment. There is no necessity for the Government to push on with such haste as to put it down for consideration to-morrow, because tomorrow is an off day. The Ministry will lose no time if the Prime Minister will assure the House that the measure will not come on until Thursday next. If he will give that assurance, this matter can pass without further trouble.
– I add my plea to those already put forward. I have glanced through the Bill, by the courtesy of the Clerk, and I notice that it contains a number of pages, so that if we are to follow the second-reading speech intelligently it is absolutely essential that the Bill should be in the possession of members for a considerable time. Postponing the con sideration of the second reading does not cause any loss of time between the introduction of the Bill and its final exit from this House. The second reading ought not to be proceeded with almost immediately, because it will be tomorrow morning before any member can be in possession of copies, and as the measure contains a number of pages, on each of which, I presume, a vital principle is affected, it seems a very fair request to make that the second reading should be fixed for some day next week. I am making my protest quite apart from any party spirit, because I consider that if the progress of the Bill is to be expedited, it is absolutely essential that members should have the chance of conning it and extracting from it some idea of what its provisions are. If they have this opportunity they can more intelligently follow the remarks made by the Honorary Minister in moving the second reading. I hope the Prime Minister will accede to this exceptionally moderate request. As remarked by the honorable member for Grey, many members are away, and it is well known that if a member hears a second-reading speech he is in a much better position to grasp the principles of a measure, and to take part in the succeeding discussion.
– On a point of order. This is the day set apart for private members’ business, which should come on immediately after the questions. This discussion has now been going on for nearly an hour, and can scarcely be called “ questions.” Is it competent for time to be taken from private members’ business for the discussion of the principles of a Bill?
– On a point of order. I submit that this is Government business, and that Government business cannot be introduced to take precedence of private members’ business on private members’ day. Upon the introduction of this Bill the House is entitled to debate the proposition, and the discussion may go on for the whole afternoon; but whether there has been discussion or not, the Government have deliberately introduced Government business on the day set apart for private members’ business. I submit that if the Government can do this, then it is in their power to deprive private members of their rights under the Standing Orders on private members’ day. So I submit that this business is, at the present stage, out of order.
– That point of order has already been decided. The procedure is perfectly in order, and I have quoted a precedent of not later than November last, on which date a similar practice was followed. This motion could have been taken as formal, and there is no obligation on any member to discuss it unless he so desires. Usually such a motion is taken as formal, and without debate; but if honorable members themselves desire to occupy the time which otherwise would be devoted to private members’ business, it is their own concern, and not the Speaker’s,
– Was the precedent you quoted, sir, an occasion on which Government business was introduced on private members’ day?
– That, I am unable to say. It makes no difference to the principle, even if it were not so. There have been several such occasions.
– There are many reasons why this Bill should not be considered in such a hurry. It is evident the Government intend to make this measure the great piece of legislation of the short session they are likely to have. I am an unsuspicious character; but knowing the deep guile of gentlemen on the Government side, and the fact that they are quite capable of taking advantage of any opportunity to put their case in a very good way before the public, I am rather suspicious that they are after something on this occasion. As Ministers have control of the House, so soon as this Bill is settled we may have to go away. So as a party we are deeply concerned as to the contents of the measure. Further, we would like to consider it deeply before we address ourselves to it in the House. It is no great stretch of imagination - and you, I am sure, Mr. Speaker, will agree with me - to think there may be something deep in this Bill, because, so far, we have heard of nothing but dissolutions and alterations of the Electoral Act to suit one particular party.
– The honorable member is not in order. The question is whether the second reading shall be? made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
– I am trying to show that it is the Bill of all Bills to be presented to the House in the present situation, and that it is one which should receive deep consideration. Both inside the House and outside, at pleasant Sunday afternoons, political meetings, and smoke nights, nothing but the alteration of the Electoral Act has been considered by the Ministerial side of the House.. This is an undoubted fact that can be read in every newspaper, and heard at every meeting they hold; and it is my only reason for saying that, before the Bill is considered in the Chamber, members should peruse it. Yesterday we were charged with obstructing business,, but we are not quite innocent on this side, and we know that the gun is loaded. We are just as capable of looking after ourselves as are members opposite. They taunt us. That is why I believe the Government have something up their sleeve, and that is why I desire to have the time to consider the Bill. It certainly cannot be sufficiently considered intime for us to go on with it to-morrow.
.- I hope Ministers will not wipe out private members’ business altogether, and 1 trust they will agree to let this matter be postponed until Wednesday next. I have looked upon private members’ day,, and the words “ precedence until 6.30 p.m.,” as a shibboleth of truth. Whether it is any malign influence or the intention of the Minister to get at me directly or indirectly, I do not know; but I appeal to my friends of the Opposition not to cause me to lose the whole of the time for dealing with the motion I have upon the notice-paper.
– I shall say only one word. There are one or two suggestions to which some reply should be made. It has been charged that I did not act fairly with honorable members yesterday when I expressed myself as ready to give an explanation of the bread principles of the Bill if they would sit down, and did not take steps last night to do it. I was prepared yesterday afternoon to make that explanation, although called upon to do so at an unusual time. I was willing to do anythingto expedite business, even at 10 o’clock’ last night, when only an hour remained for the Government to introduce business ; but when 11 o’clock strikes, as honorable members know, no new business can be brought on. In the middle of the speech of the honorable member for Gwydir, the Opposition Whip drew the attention of the honorable member to the fact that there was no occasion to speak any more, as 11 o’clock had come.
– That is not true; I deny it.
– The honorable member may deny it, but I do not think the Opposition Whip will.
– On a point of order. The honorable member has stated that I received information from the Whip on this side of the House that led me to discontinue my speech. I say that is incorrect, and should be withdrawn.
– That is not a point of order.
– I certainly saw the Opposition Whip taking steps to warn the honorable member, who may have been deaf owing to his own eloquence. I do not say the warning reached the honorable member, but I certainly saw the Whip of the Opposition point to the clock and say it was time to let up. Feeling that I had not been dealt with fairly-
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, -whether the Minister is not out of order in failing to withdraw- a remark which was said by an honorable member on this side to be untrue and offensive? The honorable member for Gwydir called attention to the fact that the Honorary Minister had made an untrue statement, and he asked for its withdrawal.
– If the honorable member for Gwydir made that statement I certainly did not hear him . If “I had heard him say that the statement made by the Minister was untrue, I should have called upon him to withdraw it.
– I said that the Honorary Minister’s statement was incorrect.
– The remark that the statement was “ incorrect” is not out of order. If the Honorary Minister has made a statement which is a reflection on the honorable member, he must withdraw it. .
– I shall clear up this matter very easily-
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the state ment which the honorable member for Gwydir says is offensive to him.
– I have already done so.
– The honorable member has not.
– I said that if the honorable member stated that he did not hear what the Opposition Whip said to him, I would accept his statement.
– The Honorary Minister should withdraw the remark without any qualification.
– I cannot withdraw the evidence of my own eyes as to what the Opposition Whip did.
– The Honorary Minister must not argue with the Chair. It has always been the custom of the House, and no one knows it better than he does, that, when a statement made by an honorable member is regarded as offensive, and a request is made for its withdrawal, it shall be withdrawn unconditionally.
– In deference to your views, sir-
– Order ! The honorable member must not argue the point with the Chair.
– I am not proposing to do so. I say that in deference to your views-
– Order ! °
– I do withdraw absolutely.
– If the honorable member persists in this course, I shall take other action. He must assist the Chair to maintain order. The honorable gentleman knows that he has no right to involve the Chair in an argument. He knows that it is in accordance with the Standing Orders that a statement to which exception is taken shall be withdrawn unconditionally.
– Then I withdraw the statement. I had felt that honorable members opposite, either intentionally or unintentionally, had kept up a discussion on the motion for leave to introduce this Bill from 3 o’clock in the afternoon until a few minutes after that time when the Government . were free to introduce new business. I recognised the position, and realized, consequently, that honorable members opposite had merely been trifling with the Government when they were pleading, during the whole of those long hours, for information as to what was in the Bill. For that reason 3 when, later on, I replied to the debate in a few brief words, I accepted the suggestion of the honorable member for West Sydney that it was not a fair thing to enter upon a full reply at that hour of the evening.
– Acted on an interjection by me?
– I certainly ask the Honorary Minister to withdraw that statement. He is not going to make me the scapegoat.
– In deference to the ordinary procedure, I will withdraw it; but I find that my usually accurate memory is leading me very much astray.
There is one other statement made during the debate to which I am now replying that requires some attention. I refer to the statement made by the honorable member for Batman, that he had it on credible authority that a copy of this Bill was placed in the hands of a pressman.
– That is true.
– That statement, so far as I know, is absolutely without foundation.
– And in one newspaper office the matter is already set up.
– In what newspaper office?
– In ‘one of the daily newspaper offices.
– I shall be glad to have all information with regard to this matter. If I find out who is responsible, very serious steps will be taken to see that there is no recurrence of the incident. No member of the Government has given this information.
An Honorable Member. - What about members of the honorable member’s party ?
– The party to which I have the honour to belong did not have copies of the Bill, so that the information referred to could not possibly have been given by them to the press.
– Did not the honorable member have copies marked “ confidential “ ?
– I have not circulated any copies of this Bill.
– Members of the honorable member’s party have seen it.
– I have not.
– Honorable members of my party can speak for themselves. I suggest that this is a very unfair statement to make unless the honorable member who makes it is prepared to substantiate it, since it places in an atmosphere of suspicion a number of officers connected with our printing establishment, who do not deserve to have such a stigma cast upon them. Does the honorable member mean to charge members of the printing office, who are, I believe, above suspicion, or the confidential officers oi the Department, with having betrayed secret information? I challenge the honorable member to produce his pressman’ and his pi-oof, or to apologize to the Government Printing Office for having made this statement in the House.
– Do not put it on the printers; that will not do.
– I wish to place the responsibility on the right shoulders. The shoulders of the Government are blameless. If this thing has happened - and we know that the honorable member is connected with the capitalistic press-
– That is not so.
– I rise to a point of order.
– I will not say “connected “ with the capitalistic press.
– I ask that the statement be withdrawn. It is offensive to me.
– If the Minister has made a statement which is offensive to the honorable member for Batman, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I will. I would only point out that the honorable member has deliberately stated, with a knowledge of the weight that ought to attach to the words of a member of this House, that he was credibly informed that this thing had happened. I challenge him to produce his credible information. Let us see the man who has told him of this, and let us have definite, tangible information as to the newspaper office in which the matter is said to have been set up.
– He cannot produce it.
– Then he should withdraw the statement, which is a gross reflection on the honour and integrity of the Printing Department. I need say nomore, but I hope that my honorable friends opposite will not make further use of the forms of this House to hold up a Bill to amend the electoral laws of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he has available for the use of honorable members a copy of the regulations said by the press this morning to have been agreed to with regard to the Inter-State Commission, and applications for a revision of the Tariff?
– I am not aware for the moment whether they are available. I have not seen them, but if the honorable member will give notice of his question I will deal with the matter.
– The press informs us that the new cases of small-pox in Sydney are not diminishing, and I desire to know if the Government will take extra precautions so that the disease may not spread to other States?
– I believe that extra precautions are being taken. However inconvenient it may be, it is the duty and obligation of the Government to take every precaution to prevent the disease from spreading.
– On several previous occasions I have directed attention to the amended regulations laid on the table from time to time. My desire is that, along with any amended regulation, there shall be laid on the table the original regulation, so that the terms may be thoroughly understood by honorable members.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Statutory Rules?
– I am referring to all amended regulations that are laid on the table from time to time.
– Including the Statutory Rules?
– Yes. Without a search through voluminous original regulations it is not possible to arrive at the real meaning of amendments that may be made.
– Under ordinary circumstances, I should be inclined to say “ yes,” straight away; but having regard to the number of amended regulations that are constantly pouring out of the press, the question of expense must be rather serious.
– It is the large number that makes it desirable for the information to be given.
– It takes many hours to find out what an alteration means.
– I quite agree that there is a very real difficulty. The only question is whether the remedy suggested is worth paying for. If the cost is not much, I should say that the request might be granted; but, having regard to the multitude-
– They ought to be cut down 1
– I am not sure that that could not be very usefully done, and relief obtained in that way.
– We are entitled to have the amended regulations put before us intelligently.
– I shall see what can be done.
Vaccination of Postal Employes - Postal Mechanics - Telephone Lines - Nepean Electorate
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet obtained the information which he promised to get for me some four weeks ago as to the cost to which the Postal Department has been put as the result of the vaccination of its employes?
– In Sydney the cost of vaccinating the postal officers was 9d. a head. A percentage of those officers were absent from work for three or four days; and I gave instructions that they should be allowed full pay during their indisposition. I cannot tell the honorable member the amount involved, but I do not think it can be very large..
– Complaints have been made by a number of applicants for positions as postal mechanics that the educational examination is such as to bar otherwise eligible men. I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether this is a fact.
– After what took place in the House yesterday, I sent a copy of the Hansard report to the Public Service Commissioner, and this is the reply I have received -
As regards the statement that has been mad? that the educational section of the examinations for appointment to the mechanical branch is an obstacle to many capable men, and is one reason for the present shortage of permanent mechanics, I am informed by the Public Service Commissioner that such an asseveration has no foundation in fact. The educational examination is merely qualifying, is of the simplest character, and is imposed to guard against the introduction of men who are wholly illiterate, and who could not even write to the small extent required of some mechanics in their everyday work. I have here copies of the papers set at the educational section of the last examination held, and I do not think I have ever before seen more elementary tests. I can only say that the statement that has been made that “ a University education “ is required of candidates at these examinations is quite incorrect. I have here figures for these examinations, which should convince any one that the educational test does not produce the results claimed against it. At all examinations held for appointment as mechanic, 468 candidates from outside the Service presented themselves, and, of these, only twelve failed in the educational examination. Of these twelve, ten (10) also failed in the practical section of the examination, leaving only two who were debarred appointment by the educational examination. These two were foreigners, who could scarcely write a word of English.
Coming to the examination for junior mechanics, I find that 703 candidates have been examined, of whom thirty-three could not pass the educational tests. But of these thirty-three twenty-nine also could not pass the practical examination, which leaves only four out of 703 to whom the educational test meant failure at the examination.
It will be seen, therefore, that of 1,171 candidates who underwent examination, only six were failed by the educational tests, and, taking into consideration the easy character of the examination-papers and the leniency exercised in judging candidates’ efforts, I am driven to the conclusion that these six must have been so illiterate that their rejection was an advantage to the Department.
The attached are copies of the papers set at the last examination -
Examination No. 442. - May, 1913.
For Appointment as Mechanic, PostmasterGeneral’s Department, All States.
Spelling. (From which Handwriting also will be judged.) instructions to supervisors.
It is / a well-known maxim / in life / that: we ought to do/all things/when it is most easy/ to do them, / and when we are / likely to get /’ most produce / for our labour. / The angler / goes to the river / in the early morning / or the evening, / when the fish will bite; / the- farmer / makes hay / while the sun shines; / the miller / grinds corn / when the breeze is fresh, / or the stream full; / and the sailor starts / when wind and tide / are in his favour. / By long experience / farmers have found out / the best time / of the year / for doing /every kind of work. /
Examination No. 442. - May, 1913.
General Division. for Appointment as Mechanic, PostmasterGeneral’s Department, All States.
Time allowed : One hour.
Note. - Be neat and show the whole of your working. It is not necessary to use 3 separate sheet of paper for each sum; but, where several are worked on the same sheet, they should be kept quite distinct from one another.
Credit will not be given for answers only, except in Question No. 1.
The figures need not be copied : -
Mr.FENTON.- Is it a fact, as stated in the House, that the Government are offering £170 per year for mechanics from the other side of the world, and only £144 per year to those who passed the examinations the Prime Minister has just referred to ? If so, why is this difference made ?
– I do not know that the difference referred to is made, and’ I shall make inquiries. Honorable members may rest assured that it is neither- the salary nor the education test that is causing trouble, but simply a shortage of suitable men for the work; there is no other reason. I am informed by the PostmasterGeneral that the salary offered in Western Australia is the same as that offered for imported men - there is no distinction.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
Alleged Irregularities - Western Australian Rolls
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether detectives have been employed by the Electoral Department to investigate the alleged irregularities in connexion with the late election at Ballarat; if so, what has been the result of the detectives’ investigation?
– The Chief Electoral Officer states that an officer of the detective police was employed in assisting the Divisional Returning Officer for Ballarat to ascertain whether certain persons enrolled for that division, and who, in their claim cards, had given addresses at which they could not be found, are, as a matter of fact, resident elsewhere in the division. The reports indicate that the persons concerned are, or were until recently, so resident, except in one case.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are -
Major Anderson - Naval Drill Hall,
Launceston - Big Gun Cordite - Fitzroy Dock: Papers
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will lay the papers in connexion with the retirement of Major Anderson, of 19th Regiment, Ballarat, upon the table of the Library ?
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether the late Minister of Defence appointed a Committee to inquire into the manufacture of big-gun cordite; if so, has the Committee reported, and does the Minister intend to take any action in regard to the same?
– The answer to the first two questions of the honorable member is “Yes.” In regard to the third, the report is not sufficiently complete to enable the Minister to decide as to what action can be taken. Further information is being obtained.
– I desire now to lay upon the table papers and reports relating to the boilers at Cockatoo Island, which have been asked for by honorable members. The papers contain a copy of Mr. Julius’ report, the Naval Board minutes, documents relating to the appointment of the Board of Survey, a copy of the Board of Survey’s report, and the Naval Board’s letter to the manager. I move -
That the papers be printed.
Motion agreed to.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Before the Act can be proclaimed it will be necessary to frame regulations covering a very wide range of subjects, and many of them of a highly technical character.
To carry out this work a nucleus staff of expert officers must be appointed, and in connexion with this, preliminary inquiries are now being made.
When the draft regulations have been prepared it will be necessary, in accordance with a promise given by the late Government to the Imperial authorities, that four months’ notice shall be given of the intention to bring them into effect.
A large amount of work will also be necessary in the way of arranging for the full staffs required in various States, and for their housing, &c.
Every effort will be made to bring the Act into operation as soon as possible, but it will be seen that some time must elapse before the Proclamation can be issued.
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether there is any truth in the statement - “ That there has been no proper audit of the public accounts?”
– My attention has not been called to such a statement having been made.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply.
– His Excellency the Governor-General will attend in the library to-morrow at noon to receive the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech agreed to by this House. I shall be pleased if the mover and seconder, with as many other members as can conveniently come, will accompany me to present it.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Railways - Report by Engineer-in-Chief on certain lines which are being constructed or being surveyed.
Ordered to be printed.
Census and Statistics Act -
Official Year Book of the Commonwealth,. No. 6 - 1901-1912.
Labour and Industrial Branch Reports -
No.1. - Prices, Price Indexes, and Cosh of Living in Australia, December, 1912.
No. 2. - Trade Unionism, Unemployment, Wages, Prices, and Cost of Living in. Australia, 1891-1912, Hated April, 1913..
Labour Bulletins -
No. 1. - January-March, 1913.
No. 2. - April-June, 1913.
Shipping and Oversea Migration, 1911.
Trade and Customs and Excise Revenue,. 1911.
Australian Statistics - Monthly Summaries -
No. 6. - June, 1912; No. 7. - July, . 1912; No. 8. - August, 1912; No. 9. - September, 1912; No. 10. - October, 1912;: No. 11. - November, 1912; No. 12. - December,1912; No. 13. - January,. 1913 ; No. 14. - February, 1913 ; No. 15. - March, 1913; No. 16. - April, 1913 ; No. 17. - May, 1913 ; No. 18. - June, 1913, with separate Appendix re Small-pox and Vaccination ; No. 19.– July, 1913.
No. 13. - Localities; No. 14. - Mortality Investigation, 1881-1910; No. 15.- - Families; No. 16. - Occupations; No… 17. - Occupied Dwellings.
Finance - No. 6. - Summary of Australian Financial Statistics, 1903-12.
Population and Vital Statistics - No. 30. - Commonwealth Demography, 1912, and previous years.
Production - No. 6. - Summary of Commonwealth Statistics, 1902-1911.
Social Statistics - No. 5. - Statistics as to Education, Hospitals and Charities, and Law and Crime, 191 1.
Transport and Communication - No. 6. - Summary of Commonwealth Statistics, 1902-1912.
That the report of the Engineer in Chief for Commonwealth railways, presented on 12th July, be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Bamford) agreed to -
That a return be laid upon the table showing -
The number of persons engaged on the staff of the Chief Engineer of Commonwealth Railways at the head office, Melbourne, giving the name, position of, and salary paid to each person, and specifying generally the duties upon which such staff are engaged.
The number of men, exclusive of office staff, employed on the work of construction at the Port Augusta end of the Transcontinental Railway.
The number of persons employed on the staff and in the office of the Resident Engineer at Port Augusta, giving the name, position of, and salary paid to each person.
The number of men, exclusive of staff, employed on the work of construction at the Kalgoorlie end of the Transcontinental Railway.
The number of persons employed on the staff and in the office of the Resident Engineer at Kalgoorlie, giving the name, position of, and salary paid to each person.
I move -
The question upon which I propose to speak to-day is one that I have studied during many years. It is a question that pertains to no party, but in which every party is interested. No country can be happy and contented if its people are out of work and their potentialities unemployed. I have a vivid memory of the first public meeting that I addressed after I had been elected to Parliament. I was speaking to a body of unemployed, and I was wise, or unwise, enough to say that I did not know what hunger was, but I knew what thirst was, and if hunger was as bad as thirst I would take - let people call it what they will. Next morning I found myself famous, or infamous. The newspapers called me an Anarchist, a Nihilist, a Socialist, and I was the butt of many thoughtless people. But one kind individual wrote to the Argus saying that he did not think that I had erred in very bad company, because the great Cardinal Manning had used almost the same words, saying that “ necessity knows no law, and the starving man has a right to his brother’s bread.” Evidently my constituents held the same views as I did, because that statement was on my card at the next election, when I obtained the largest majority for a single electorate that has ever been obtained in one of that size. I maintain that more misery has been caused by want of work and unemployment than by anything else since the world began. Following the Paradise of the golden time, we read of crucifixions when the conquered were too numerous to be used as slaves, of whippings, of brandings on the face and hand, even in Merry England, of men who, unable to work on the land, were forced by hunger to beg, much unemployment being caused by what were known as the Enclosure Acts, which robbed the common people of free land to which they were entitled. Then came all the horrors of the French Revolution and the disturbances of the Chartist movement, and the miseries caused by the Vagrancy Acts. The man who is unable to obtain work soon gets down on his uppers, and loses the virile impulses of humanity. When a man has to ask for assistance, either in the shape of money to keep a roof over his family, or in the shape of food to still the cravings of his stomach, he loses a certain part of his manhood that, perhaps, can never be recovered. There is no thinking person but will agree that that land will be the happiest whose people are engaged in useful employment on works of benefit to the whole community. Those great scientists, Sir John Lubbock, known later as Lord Avebury, and Grant Allen, have told us that there were three intelligent orders of beings on this earth - the ant, the bee, and the man. Seeing with the eyes of these men of genius, we know that never in the hive of the bee or in the nest of the ant does the young or the worker want for the necessities of life if they are obtainable. The statistics which can now be found in every library show that it is not so in human society, although men are better gifted with intelligence than insects. ‘ I hope that that intelligence will be devoted by honorable members here to making this beloved Australia of ours the one continent in the world in which no man or woman shall be out of work through his own fault, and in which all will be assisted to obtain work, and protected from an abasement by poverty that no human being should be subjected to. 1 do not propose to quote too freely from books, because I wish to make my remarks as concise as I can. The opinions I shall cite will be those, not of Democrats, but of some of the most conservative men whose names stand on the roll of English statesmen. There is no honorable member but will agree that there is an hiatus between our school education and practical employment. What is the question that comes to every mother and father when a boy or a girl has terminated school life? It is what to do with them for the future. There is a gap between school life and adult life. This Commonwealth should assist the States in making the education of our young complete. It should begin at the earliest age when, under the splendid German kindergarten system, the minds of children maybe moulded, and continued through the primary and secondary schools, finishing with technical education, in which the British race are woefully behindhand. Germany, in the matter of technical education, is head and shoulders above Great Britain. Any one who has seen the splendid schools of Germany must wish, a3 I did, that we could have such schools in Australia, and even better ones. The old-time apprenticeship is going into the abyss of oblivion. ‘Of all the bootmakers that I knew when a boy, there are now only four at work in the city of Melbourne, though I know of more than ten who have become repairers of boots. Today, boots are turned out by the factories, one mau being employed at one stage of their manufacture, as, say, a clicker, another adding the sole, and so on, until the article is finished. The man who becomes expert in any of these processes is not a finished workman. But our technical schools should send out educated tradesmen equipped to face the battle of life. We know what has been done in Denmark, the country to which the author of the Go-operative Commonwealth pays the great compliment of borrowing his ideal of legislation. I, too, shall compliment this Government if it will follow the advice given in to-day’s Age. I recognise that every one of the seventy-five members of this House is a lover of Australia, and wishes to raise the country to the highest pitch of civilization. Disraeli has stated the aphorism that “ the happy progress of a nation depends on the health and strength of its individual units.” I ask you to apply that aphorism. It has a practical bearing on unemployment. We all know that if a man who looks weak applies for work his services will not be accepted, the boss not taking the trouble to ascertain the causes of his pallor and weakness- and naturally choosing the strongest applicant. A book called The Dawn of the Health Age, by Benjamin Moore, Master of Arts and Doctor of Science - which is the highest diploma that a man can obtain in the English-speaking world - a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, shows that the 30,000 medical men in Great Britain could be adequately paid by a contribution of Id. per man per week from the 12,000,000 male workers, and the same contribution from the employers, with an extra Id. from the Government. That would payall the doctors, commencing at the rate of £150 a year, and going up to £1,000 a year, or, in some cases, to a still larger amount, as an emolument to those in charge of administration. But as only one-third of the medical men of Great Britain are brought into contact with the workers, a much smaller contribution would be sufficient. It is a contribution of this kind that is at the base of the splendid measure that the British Government have introduced, namely, the National Insurance Act 1911, which will help on the nationalization of health. I say, without fear of contradiction, that the pallid faces of the British workers which I and my friends saw on our recent visit to the Old Country will get colour, not only by reason of the medical assistance that will be given, but also by reason of the constant work which will be provided by means of the unemployment fund. The nations whose youth are technically educated are amongst r,he strongest and most competent. The late Lord Playfair spoke of “ trained intelligence,” and there could be no better definition of technical education. He said that technical education means that those who are engaged in industry should have a trained intelligence for the special industries in which they enter as bread-winners. We all hope that the terrible evil of war will be abolished ; that tlie Peace Congress at the Hague will increase its beneficent power until the nations have become as wise as the individuals in civilized countries where the duel has been abolished. But there will still be the friction of competition. There will still be wars in the making of commercial products, and in them the best trained technical intelligence will win. Therefore, I say that we should fill up the gap between the school age and the adult age, so that our people may be equipped for the work of earning their living. All should have the highest trained intelligence that technical school? can give. I am sure every honorable member will agree as to that. Lord Kelvin, than whom no greater brain ever tried to solve the mysteries of electricity, said that technical training not only offered facilities for earning a livelihood, but offered knowledge which made life worth living. We all know that a healthy man, a highly trained mechanic, will go whistling to his work - may be, even humming. We know that, with health pulsing his heart, and with hands that know how to carry out the ideas of his brain, he is better equipped to face the difficulties of the world than the man who has not been trained, or who is troubled with ill-health. To show how this is carried out in Prussia, the largest State in Germany, and whose King is the Emperor of that mighty nation, I may point out that in that State there are eleven mining schools; at Crefeld, a dyeing school; at Hanover, thirteen weaving schools, and eight weavers’ apprentice shops. Also, in Westphalia, there are technical schools for the metal industry. In the North Sea and Baltic ports there are fourteen navigation schools. The trade unions of Germany maintain 294 trade schools for painters, decorators, locksmiths, blacksmiths, joiners, &c. I do not mean that the dis trict continuation and industrial schools should be confined to the leading industry of the district, but they should certainly have Lt as their predominant feature. For instance, where wheat is greatly grown, and we have our farming schools and agricultural colleges, a young boy who would like to follow a farming life can attend and get a technical training. Country members, and members like myself who are residents of the city, must agree that the greatest asset any country can have is an intelligently-trained scientific farmer ; occupying not a big area, but well-cultivated blocks where the highest intelligence, readily obtainable from public Departments, can be applied to the raising of food. To my mind, that is worth all the minerals, save coal and iron, that have ever been garnered out of the earth. I consider that primary subjects common to all industries, which are necessary as a groundwork, should be taught in every district school, such, for instance, as drawing, mathematics, geography, more particularly technical drawings to suit a useful purpose, and such necessary subjects as industrial bookkeeping and knowledge of business affairs. These are subjects that are now taught, I understand, in our agricultural colleges. I do not wish drawing to be devoted to the fine profile of a handsome face or figure, or to a landscape. I want the drawing a man can show another workman to teach him what to do. A friend of mine, whose name I am not permitted to mention, but to whom I owe a great meed of gratitude for assistance in many points, has said that if there be one universal language in the world, it is sketching. You can show a German or a Frenchman by a few lines how a house is to be built. Some one has said that the harmonious sound of music is the universal language, but I lean to the other view. I do not know any person gifted with eyesight, and with brains to think, to whom a pencil and a piece of paper cannot explain a great deal. Certainly, the apprenticeship question should be thoroughly threshed out. I should like to see the employer taking his apprentices from the technical schools, so that there would be continuity of employment, thus assisting to remove the evil of unemployment. Housing, adulteration of food, and environment also enter into this question. I cannot give a better example of environment than what we saw at
Port Sunlight, which we visited iu the Coronation year. There we saw the only complete big body of healthy men and women working that we saw in England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales. There was no body of workers there compared with the men at the Newport Factory; I never saw their equal ; but at Port Sunlight, not on charitable lines, but on business lines, the proprietor, in order to get healthy workmen, built this place. One instance alone must appeal to every one. The death rate in these little cottages and homes was but half of what it was in the suburb of Birkenhead, a few hundred yards away. Of those whom the reaper Death gathered, only half fell by the way under healthy surroundings, and in the absence of slums, compared with the numbers that were gathered by him in the town alongside, called Birkenhead.
– Did the workers own their homes?
– No, they were built on a basis of 3 per cent.
– It was a business arrangement all through, and the employer says it pays well.
– Those born in the slums become mere waifs on the sea of adversity. They enter blind alley occupations, struggle on, eke out an existence of the most menial description, and when they attain middle age become what are called casual workers, and old age, if they survive as long, finds them beggars. In the forties the height for entrance to the British Army was 5 ft. 6 in. In the following decade it was reduced to 5 ft. 5 in. In another decade it came down to 5 ft. 4 in. It was reduced in about the eighties to 5 ft. 3 in., and in the nineties, I think, to 5 ft. 2 in., while in the stress of the Boer War 5 feet only was a permitted height; but during that time 75 per cent, of the men who offered themselves were refused because they were physically unfit. The slums, their surroundings, the want of proper food in their early days were the causes of this deterioration, because the British race, especially the Scotch and Irish, fundamentally are a healthy, strong, virile race, although the big cities, acting like cancers with their improper conditions of housing, are destroying that reputation. The greatest com pliment ever paid to Australia was by Dr. Rudolf Broda, Professor of Economics in Paris, who visited Australia to see our social conditions.’ I take the privilege of making a long quotation from his remarks. He paid a high tribute to Australian character, and the efforts being made in this country to elevate mankind. He declared that we were gradually, but surely, evolving the noblest sentiments of humanity, and he observed that there was a tremendous difference between Australia and America, where, amidst splendid national wealth, are to be found starving girls in sweating shops. The learned professor was particularly impressed with the system of Wages Boards in Australia. He said -
Their establishment was the victory of a great principle. The principles of humanity and equanimity have been introduced into industrial life, where formerly we had brute force. You have also adopted the principle of protecting those who, through sex or age, or other reasons, are unable to protect themselves. This great principle, you may say, is the principle of Christianity. I would call it the principle of humanity. I am quite overwhelmed with the working conditions which I have seen in your factories. I have a certain acquaintance with the clothing trade as a result of my journeys round the world. I know that in Vienna young women and girls work eleven hours a day for Ss. a week of your money. That is not the exception, but the rule, for girls of sixteen and eighteen. Tuberculosis and other diseases run through their ranks, and the degeneration of the race follows. In New York, not in factories, it is true, but in the sweating systems known as home industries, 1 found a worse condition of affairs. In the great progressive country of America, in the slums in the east end of New York, women are working fourteen to sixteen hours a day for half-a-dollar, and the same degeneration follows.
Here, in your establishment of Foy and Gibson, I found a splendid well-ventilated room, with 250 young girls working, not by their own force, but with the aid of mechanical power - handsome-looking girls, with the joy of life shining in their eyes. And there was the law that every_ adult was to be paid 20s. for a week of forty-eight hours. If I compare that with my experiences in Europe and America, I congratulate you heartily on what you have done. You have accomplished a splendid thing in the present workers and in the future of the race, for the well-being of the children depends upon the well-being of the mothers, and these girls will be mothers of the future generations of Australians.
I will tell my friends in France of your wonderful work, ‘and I hope France will follow your example.
That is a splendid tribute, and would be far more applicable to-day, because our factories are even better now than they were then, and our Wages Boards extend sometimes beyond the city, whereas when I had the pleasure of meeting him they were too frequently confined to it. In asking honorable members to take the necessary procedure to remove the evil of unemployment, I wish to place before them two typical causes of unemployment - one is that which is beyond the control of nations, the other is well within the control of each individual. I allude, first of all, to the calamity that too frequently in Australia overtakes us - the terrible thing called drought. Prior to the last drought Australia had 104,000,000 sheep, and in 1903 they were reduced to 56,000,000. Thus, nearly 50,000,000 sheep were lost in the primary industry of growing sheep and wool. According to Senator McColl - and I believe his statement - that drought cost Australia £130,000,000. It proved once and for all how dependent are the secondary industries upon the primary industries of Australia. It emphasized Gibbons’ maxim that agriculture is the foundation of the manufacturers. I have heard it said that the history of the world is only the history of cities and the history of Protection whereby those cities have . been built up. While I agree in a general sense with that statement, 1 do not fully indorse it. After all, the townsman cannot live without his brother of the country. I have always felt great sympathy for the man in the country who grows our food ever since I, as a poor little bank clerk, was seized with a mania to go on the land, and was sent by the beautiful Government of the day to the heavily-timbered country of Gippsland, where, on one acre of my land, I counted twenty-six trees all over 6 feet in diameter.
– That frightened the honorable member.
– No; by the use of the axe I developed my chest. That venture, however, robbed me, not only of my five years’ savings as a bank clerk, but of what my poor old mother had added. I picture to-day land laws which would throw open the lands of Australia to our own people. We might well follow the magnificent example of Denmark, whose splendid system of fostering and encouraging the man on the land is shown in the life of Captain Enrico Miglius Dal.ger8. When little Denmark was fighting against Austria and Prussia, a war which lost to her two provinces, Jutland was almost a barren waste, covered with heath. But this soldier, at the end of the war, exchanged the spade for the sword and set out to teach the Danes how to cultivate Jutland, and so make up for the lost provinces. Jutland was a forest iri the stone age, as shown by remnants of mounds that have been found, and in the 18th century 1,000 German colonists were brought over to try to cultivate the heath land there. That enterprise failed. It was then found that red spruce could be raised to a height of 3 feet or 4 feet, but that it would thereafter die away. In 1800, the Government laid out three plantations, and in 1866, 100 large landowners formed a Danish Heath Society, and never asked for a dividend in return for the capital they expended. They took up the work that had been started by Dalgers, and discovered a means by which spruce could be grown to advantage, with the result that the area of the forest land in Jutland has been increased from 157,000 acres in 1860 to 476,000 in 1907. A little over a century and a quarter ago, 100 human beings owned the whole of Denmark. To-day that country has almost reached the acme of perfection so far as justice and the welfare of its people are concerned. It actually takes from Great Britain in return for the produce that it sells there more gold than all Australia raises from its many mines. Of the five continents, Australia is the most arid. Its catchment areas must therefore be utilized to the fullest extent by converting them into reservoirs to hold the winter rains, which can then be used for irrigation purposes. The Inter-State Commission should be able to do good work in this respect, and it should see that this right is apportioned equally amongst the various States. We must lock the rivers and build more reservoirs. We must have catchment areas sufficient to supply additional reservoirs; and if by means of bores we should discover, as I hope we shall, unlimited supplies of water, the whole character of vast stretches of country would be altered. Geologists entertain the idea that the great layer of rock forming a huge basin under the widest portion of Australia comes hundreds of miles under the ocean from the Himalayas.
– That idea is now practically exploded.
– Let us hope, at all events, that vast supplies of water will be opened up by means of bores. Those who examine the rainfall records of this continent as carefully as I do must know how little falls over a vast portion of Australia. We must do our best to build up our farmers, and to establish throughout the country as many Milduras as we can. In the struggle for existence some fall by the way, and some through causes within their own control. Alcohol, for instance, has many a time destroyed a n.au, and brought poverty and suffering to his family. I wish to pay my meed of praise to the Lara Institute for the treatment of inebriates, which has been more successful, having regard to the number which it has treated, than any institution of which I know. A man who is fined repeatedly should not be left amid his old surroundings, but should be sent to a public institution of this kind. Then, when all the liquor has been removed from his system, and he can stand in the presence of his Maker a clean and healthy man, the head of his department could say to him, “Mr. Jones, you have had your chance. We have done all that we can for you. You are now a healthy man. Take this as a warning and do not break away again, for, if you do, trouble must ensue.” The Lara Institute can point to even 60 per cent, of cures, and offers a splendid means of treating the victims of alcohol. Drunkenness is one of the causes of unemployment of which men may rid themselves. I come now to the question of strikes. I hate war as I hate hell, and my hatred of strikes is second only to my loathing of war, since behind every striker, as behind every soldier, I see the woman and the child who suffer. Strikes entail suffering on innocent people who have had nothing to do with them. At the same time I must admit, as Frost shows, that strikes have been productive of far more good than harm. There is one way of settling strikes which may not appeal to honorable members, but is certainly worthy of consideration if we are going to make Australia firm and strong. Some time ago there was a lock-out in connexion with the collieries in Westphalia and Silesia. Some little disturbance occurred, and the masters, who had locked out their men, refused to meet in conference delegates appointed by the employes. The men asked that their hours of labour should be reduced to ten per day, and that they should be granted a slight increase of pay in their wages. William of Germany at last intervened, and issued a. proclamation in which he said, in effect, to the workers, “ If you keep peace I will see that you get justice; but if you create riots I shall have you shot down likedogs.” Then he said to the mineowners, “ If you do not appoint representatives to meet the delegates of the workers; within twenty-four hours I shall appoint them for you, and you will have to abideby the result.” Delegates were appointed. The request of the men was granted, and the whole trouble was over in forty-eight hours. I wish to see our Conciliation and Arbitration Court made so strong and powerful that it will be able to say to the one party, “ Thou shalt not strike,” and to the others, “ Thou shalt not lock out until we have seen how justice can be done.”
– If we could arrive at such a situation, it would be a very good thing.
– I hope that we shall be able to do so, and I am sure the honorable member would be glad if we could reach such a stage of civilization. Time was when there was no justice, but we now have a fair amount of it in our Courts of Law. The Inter-State Commission should be able to do much good in the matter of water conservation. We all recognise, that President Roosevelt was right when he told an Australian native that we should fill up our empty spaces. Mr.. Elmslie, the Acting Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, assures me that although a large sum of money has been spent in advertising Australia in the United States, only five Americans have come here as settlers. Let us make it easier for our people to get on the land, and when, instead of hundreds of applicants for one block of land, we have hundreds of blocks offering for every one applicant, let us welcome with open arms every one of the white races. In addition to improved water conservation facilities, I hope to see the time when every farmer will be within reach of a Government tank and a Government silo, so that in time of drought stock will not suffer. We all remember the splendid lines of the Australian poet, in which he pictures the unfortunate cattle lowing for want of water, and dying for what man had not provided for them. The workers may be broadly divided into two classes - the regulars and the casuals. When a man gets into the forties he finds it harder to obtain employment than it was in his early days, and if he falls sick by the wayside his master cannot always keep his position open for him. If he belongs to a trade union, in many cases he is able to draw from an out-of-work fund. But whilst the unions do a lot of good in that way, they cannot long withstand such a drain upon their resources. A casual may be generally defined as an unskilled worker, having little hope of obtaining a fixity of tenure, and who is harassed by the uncertainty of the future, and the difficulty of finding his next job. Despite all that the State Parliaments have done in the great public services, such as the railways, the call is for more organization and more regular and fewer relatively casual workers in the ranks of industry. When men and women are “ temporarily “ employed by a Government for ten or twenty years, it surely is a sign of management that is not too good, for if they are worthy of being employed year after year, I see no logical reason why they should not be given permanent positions. I cannot do better at this point than quote from Mr. Cyril Jackson’s book, Unemployment and Trade Unions: -
Since trade unions are the established form of working-class organizations, it will be better to work through and with them. Briefly, four problems have to be solved. They may be Stated as follows : -
In some trades and occupations the total number of men engaged is permanently in excess of those for whom regular work can be found. These men are, therefore, casually employed ; and though their daily or even weekly earnings are quite adequate, their yearly earnings are not sufficient for a decent livelihood. This must be corrected by decasualization, which concentrates work on the ablest men.
In many trades annual spells of unemployment are inevitable. The wage earned during the other months may be ample, but unless machinery of thrift is organized the slack season brings penury and deterioration.
In most trades the cyclical depression of the world’s commerce brings periods of unemployment too long to be met by unassisted thrift. These must be met by collective action.
Throughout industry the supply of unskilled labour exceeds the demand, because the occupations of boys and girls are such as to produce neither the skill nor the character necessary for the higher grades.
This must be corrected by better technical training. Mr. Jackson goes on to strongly urge the utilization and development of the machinery of the trade unions of Great Britain to effect his purpose, and then quotes from Mr. Arthur Balfour’s speech in the House of Commons, on the 9th April, 1910, on the Prevention of Destitution Bill, which was moved by a Ministerialist.
– Trade unionists over there will not have preference to unionists.
– This is not a party question, and I do not wish party politics introduced for a moment. The motion was seconded by Mr. Balfour, at one time Leader of the Conservative party in England, and, in the course of his remarks, he said -
It is a most intolerable thing that we should permit the permanent deterioration of those who are fit for really good work. Putting aside all considerations of morals, all those considerations which move us as men of feeling, as flesh and blood, and looking at it with the hardest heart and the most calculating eye, is it not very poor economy to scrap good machinery?
In a properly and scientifically organized system of industrial life in such a progressive Democracy as Australia, it should not be possible, unless ina period of a great national calamity, and certainly not in normal times, for any citizen to become “ scrapped.” The great work performed by the trade unions in Great Britain was referred to in the House of Lords on 30th August, 1909. The Leader of the Conservative party, Lord Lansdowne, observed -
The sound principle in all these cases is surely that which was laid down by the noble Lord behind me - namely, that it is for the trades themselves to combine and fix, by their own efforts, what shall be the recognised rate of remuneration for any kind of employment. That is, I venture to say, the only really sound principle. We have, of course, recognised, and recognised in full, the right of trades to organize and to combine, in any way they think proper, for the purpose of bringing about the principles of a living wage.
Lord Salisbury, in the same debate, said -
I confess that I see no way out of the main proposition which the Government have put before your Lordships’ House. As far as I myself am concerned, I assent to the establishment of Trade Boards, whose principal function is to fix a minimum rate of wages. I do so, because the ordinary trade remedy appears to be impracticable. I mean the union of the workers. That is the proper remedy wherever it can be applied, and that is the remedy one would like to see applied in these cases.
They know much better - I am speaking of employer and employed - what is good for them, than any Trade Board which the ingenuity of the Government can construct. But, unfortunately, the evidence is almost conclusive that these women have not made sufficient progress in the arts of citizenship to be able to combine in a trade union, and until they do, I presume, we must be content with this procedure, not so good and not so effective as the other would have been.
Mr. Gladstone, whose words ought to be written in diamonds, said that unionism was not “ a conspiracy against freedom, but a healthy combination, and one of the greatest hopes of the workers.” I recognise the great good that trade unions have done for Australia, and I only wish that the casual workers, who are not trained workers, could be formed into some association which would benefit them as unionism has benefited the expert worker. I should like to see all the trade societies throughout Australia take up the question of unemployment. I am certain that the evidence - practical, every-day evidence - which they could collect would be of incalculable benefit to the cause. I should here like to say a word of praise of our splendid Statist, Mr. Knibbs, and his able staff. A scholarly American, much versed in statistics, assured me that he considered that the Commonwealth Department, with the limited amount of money supplied for its maintenance, would hold its own with any to be found in the world. I should now like to quote a few figures just to show that wealth sometimes bears an appearance which acquaintance with the real conditions removes. I am informed that during the past five years the highest note circulation in Victoria during the quarter ended 31st December was that in 1910, namely, £934,291. On the same basis, the note issue on the 30th June, 1913, would be £1,008,958. Notes held in the banks are not counted; and for the March quarter, 1913, the average amount of Australian notes in the hands of the public was £4,047,446, representing £1,181,826 for Victoria, if the Commonwealth average be assumed to apply to this State. If, however, we add to this the number of notes actually out of the Commonwealth Treasury, the figure is £2,717,000, as against £934,291 in 1910. In the matter of our old-age pensions, invalid pensions, and maternity allowance, I trust that our policy Will tend to remove any stigma of poverty or pauperism. These three activities of the Government must be brought under more scientific control; and there is the germ of a great idea in national insurance. In this connexion, I cannot do better than quote Viscount Milner, who wrote a preface for Mr. Cyril Jackson’s book, from which I have already quoted. Viscount Milner says -
The State is now definitely committed to an active policy with regard to unemployment. One important step has already been taken in the establishment of Labour Exchanges supported by public funds. Another step, even more important and more difficult, is likely to follow soon, viz., a State-aided system of insurance seeking to provide for the workman during spells of unemployment, and to prevent such periods from causing a permanent deterioration in his condition or in that of his family. A system of insurance would mitigate the evils of unemployment, but it would not prevent their recurrence. There are other remedies striking more directly at the root of the evil, such as the better distribution and organization of work, and an improvement in our methods of industrial training, and of our educational system generally.
Those words have my full approval, and, I hope, the approval of every member of this House. It is true that in the Middle Ages the guilds sought to guarantee work for all their members, and some trades unions do so even in our own day. It is to the friendly societies, however, that the greatest credit is duo for aid of this kind, though we know that thos© friendly societies are composed of the thrifty, the skilled, and the saving. It is when we have to deal with others who are not so well blessed with this world’s goods, that it becomes our duty as politicians to afford help. I see that my time has about expired, and I must draw to a conclusion. I should like to see instituted some place under an attractive name, say “ The Farm of Hope,” where men out of work could go and earn, not a wage calculated to interfere with private enterprise, or large enough to cause them to wish to remain, but sufficient to tide them over a difficulty, and enable them to lead a pure and healthy life, with good food and shelter, and, perhaps, to give them a taste for country pursuit*. So, too, with the womenfolk. But I desire that the conditions of such a Home should not be in any way degraded.. Notwithstanding the good intentions of the State Governments, the labour farms have not been carried on’ altogether as they should be. Whether these Homes of Hope are established in the Federal Capital Territory, or in the Northern Territory, or by the States, I do not want to see the dignity of those who go to them abased. Nor do I desire that trades and callings shall be taught there. My idea is that the men and women who go to these Homes of Hope shall be taught how to live on the land. A husband and wife with their family may be sent to one of these homes at a time when unemployment is rife, and set up in a little house on the farm. The woman would have chickens to tend, and the man vegetables to grow. I can picture such a woman, without the fear of the landlord’s knock on Monday morning, without the dread of the butcher’s, the baker’s, the bootmaker’s bill, saying to her husband, ‘ John, this life is better than the town life; let us stay longer, and try to get a little block of land of our own on which to bring up our children in a healthier atmosphere than that of the town.” I thank honorable members for the hearing which they have given me, and hope that every one of them ‘will make himself a proselytizing force. I have seen the Salvation Army preaching to one man, but look at the power of the organization ! History tells us that Mahomet made only one convert in three years. Let us all this night go out with the full determination to do our level best, without respect to party differences, to remove this curse of unemployment. I had the idea, before I commenced reading, that Germany was pre-eminent among the countries of the world for the assistance which she gave to the unemployed. But that great measure which has just been passed y the Mother of Parliaments makes Great Britain pre-eminent. My hope is that our Australia, leading the van in social and other progress, will make this continent one in which poverty some day - please God, may the day be soon - will cease to exist.
– I compliment the honorable member for Melbourne on the spirit ‘ with which he always deals with humanitarian questions. I give him the assurance that the matter to which he has called attention is being considered by the Government; and I join with him in hoping that we may compass reforms affecting society so intimately and deeply, without being diverted by the consideration of mere party ends. I have just been settling a list of questions for submission to the friendly societies of Australia, whose co-operation I, as the Minister in charge of the social insurance project, solicit. This list of questions will, I trust, be handed to the press this afternoon, so that all in Australia who desire to further this great reform may help us to find the best method for doing what is needed. I have also a tentative outline of a scheme of social insurance which will cover many of the matters on which the honorable member has touched, among them unemployment. We all recognise that we cannot allow society to drift by adhering too strictly to what may be termed the tenets of the old economic school. It was laid down by Bentham that justice was the end of government. We may all admit that, but the difficulty is how to apply it. Following him came Herbert Spencer, par excellence the individualist writer of the last fifty or sixty years. He considered pure individualism the salvation of society, and thought that the test to be applied to all legislation was’: Did it allow each man freedom of action so long as he allowed equal freedom of action to others? That test he would have applied to almost every legislative measure. But its application would put outside the sphere of legislation factory laws - for which I admit that trade unionism has done so much - education, sanitation, and many other measures regulating human activity, which have greatly improved the condition of the masses. It almost shocks us now to think that when the Ten Hours Bill was introduced in 1858, even a man of so kindly a temperament, so clear a head, and such intense humanity as John Bright - from a too strict and pedantic adherence to tlie old Radicalism, which I very much respect, because I trust that I am somewhat of a Radical in the best sense of the term - should have been led to doubt, as I think Macaulay did, too, the efficacy of the measure. It is the desire of this Government that, so far as unemploy- ment is capable of being mitigated, if not altogether removed, by legislation, no abstract principle of individualism, Liberalism, or Conservatism shall interfere with the placing of a measure on the statute-book which will lead to that end. Unemployment has been found to be one of the most difficult subjects with which to deal in connexion with social insurance. I have read the reports of some of the commissions on the question which have sat in America, and a synopsis of some published by a professor of one of the American universities, who points out that even in January, the busiest month in New York, from 10 to 15 per cent, of the operatives cannot get employment; and at the time of the dockers’ strike in England it was found that about threefourths of the men were casuals, their employment being fitful and ill-paid. A similar state of affairs exists even in connexion with somewhat highly-skilled industries. If we can frame legislation that will mitigate the evils of unemployment which affect so largely the unskilled workers who live closest to the margin of a decent standard of living, we should not hesitate to introduce it. I ask the honorable member not to insist upon that part of his motion affirming -the desirability of appointing a Royal Commission. As the Government is endeavouring to do everything that is reasonable, seeking the co-operation of both sides of the House, with thf employment of its departmental officers, and the assistance of such men as Mr. Knibbs, in whose hands I have placed the actual technical business connected with insurance, the subject is likely to be dealt with more effectively and expeditiously than by a general inquiry by a Royal Commission. Besides, the Inter-State Commission Act provides, if we wish to delegate these matters, that the question of labour, employment and unemployment may be investigated by the Commission. With the spirit of the motion expressed in the first paragraph, we are all more or less in agreement. The honorable member mentioned other matters directly concerned with Australian prosperity and development, among them irrigation. I hope that something will be done in that regard with the co-operation of the Commonwealth. A board of engineers, appointed in the middle of 1911, recently presented a very valuable report to the Premiers of the States on the possibilities of storage for purposes of navigation and irrigation. They say that, taking the money already spent on works such as the Burrenjuck reservoir in New South Wales - estimated to cost £1,000,000 or £1,500,000, according to the height of the dam - on the Goulburn and on the Murray in Victoria, the largest being the Waranga Basin ; and on the South Australian works, something like £6,333,000 would be needed to do all that they suggest for the impounding and distribution of water to settlers for the irrigation of 1,400,000 acres. Some years ago ridiculous notions were entertained as to the possibilities of irrigation from our rivers, which I never shared. I expressed my doubts on the subject in a pamphlet which I wrote in 1891, and on several other occasions. The engineers to whom I have referred say that between £6,000,000 and £6,500,000 will be needed to finish the works already in progress, and to complete other works, including a great storage reservoir on the Upper Murray at Cumberoona, or at some other place where the foundation would be absolutely reliable. The Federal Government will do all that it can to enable that outlay to be effective. When that is done, the rivers will be destroyed for the purpose of navigation. It is absolutely clear that when you have stored the water, or provided for the control of rivers for storage to the extent necessary to irrigate 1,400,000 acres, navigation will be brought to such a limit that it will be too intermittent and fitful to continue boats on the rivers. That fact is amply demonstrated by the reports of the different States. It is, then, for us to say to what extent we shall help the States to restore navigation, in fact, to maintain and improve the navigation which would be destroyed by carrying out these storage works.
– Can we do anything without their consent?
– We cannot deal with irrigation ; that is a matter for the States, and a matter, perhaps, that should be left to the States. The Inter-State Commission can only report what is going on. I helped to draft the measure, and the part dealing with rivers was drafted by my own pen. My proposal was to ask the Inter-State Commission to watch what was being done by the States, and report from time to time to Parliament. The jurisdiction of the Commonwealth is eonfined to navigation, to preserving the river waters as instruments of Inter-State commerce.
– If we cannot control irrigation, what can we do ?
– We can subsidize outlay on the locking of rivers to the extent required for maintaining and improving navigation. After the storage has been constructed, if the storage renders the rivers unnavigable and the expenditure of £2,500,000 or £3,000,000 will make them perfectly navigable for, say, 2,000 miles, the Commonwealth would not hesitate to say to the States, “ Having regard to your policy of storage, if you declare finally that you are prepared to settle the whole question by a scheme of locking, as well as storage, we are prepared, as guardians of navigation, to subsidize your expenditure on that work.”
– Will it be possible, unless the States are prepared to vest greater power or general control in the Inter-State Commission ?
– I think so. South Australia last week passed a Bill which would involve the expenditure of up to £1,000,000 in making the Murray permanently navigable from the mouth to the junction with the Darling. They propose to put down six locks in South Australia - two, or probably three, from Lake Victoria to about 50 miles up the river from the border of South Australia; and the others between there and the Darling. This will raise the level of the river. According to the report of Captain Johnson, the locking of the Murray between South Australia and the Darling will lift the height of the river about 9 feet, which will be sufficient to give a navigable depth of about 6£ feet as far as the Darling.
– How much is lifted by a lock?
– The total lift of the locks has to be determined by the engineers. The original estimate showed a lift of 12 feet to 16 feet at some of the locks; but Captain Johnson’s report is to the effect that a lower lift is better. He claims that three locks with lifts of 9 feet are better than two locks with lifts of 12 feet. I cannot say the. actual lift of a lock at the present moment.
– I do not think it matters.
– Yes it does; you do not get the weight of the waters.
-A s the honorable member for Maranoa has suggested, the lower the river the less the pressure on the structure, and the less the danger is. Of course, a weir will not always be up. When the river level is low, the weirs can be altered to allow the water to go over as usual. If the scheme suggested by the engineers is carried out, there will be nine or ten months of the year when there will not be navigation at all. If, however, the States determine amongst themselves to carry out a scheme of storage, and irrigate economically from the rivers, and if that destroys the latter from the point of view of navigation ; and if they go beyond that phase, and attack the whole question of incidentally locking the rivers to maintain and improve the navigation of them, I think the Commonwealth would be justified in some co-operation to bring that about. I merely wish the honorable member to understand I express sympathy with his motion, and I hope he will accept my suggestion that the second paragraph be omitted, knowing that everything reasonable will be done to mitigate the evils of unemployment. The other portion of his motion is a declaration of principle, that may or may not be pressed.
– I agree to the elimination of the second paragraph of my motion.
Motion amended accordingly.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
.. - I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, a Public; Works Committee of members of this House should be appointed, to whom all proposals of expenditure exceeding£10,000 should be submitted for inquiry and report, such Committee to be appointed during the present session.
This is one of the most important motions the House can deal with. I have moved it in two previous sessions, but owing to time failing I have been unable to get it decided. It took me some little time to persuade the then Minister of Home Affairs that there was nothing antagonistic in it towards his Department; but I think I satisfied him upon that point. Nor is there anything in the present proposal antagonistic to the Department. I think it has been evident to many honorable members that the public works of the Commonwealth have increased to an enormous extent since the expiration of the Braddon section. The Home AffairsOffice a few years ago was a small concern. Now it is the most important Department in the Commonwealth. It is the great spending Department, other than the Defence Department, and it is not fair to honorable members, or to the country, that huge works should be proposed and! brought down to the House, and members be asked to vote “ Yes “ or “ No “ on them, and yet know practically very little about them. In the .larger States it has been found necessary to appoint Standing Public Works Committees, to whom such works are referred, and how much more necessary is it in the case of the Commonwealth ? A very important work may be proposed for Queensland or the Northern Territory, but what do members in the south know about it? Works may be proposed for Western Australia, and Queensland members will be in the same position. We are thrown wholly and solely on the departmental reports, and the experience of all the States of Australia and of the Commonwealth goes to show there is a very wide difference between the estimates of responsible officers. My proposal is to adopt the same system as that adopted in some of the States, notably in New South Wales, where a Standing Parliamentary Committee has been appointed, to which all public works costing more than £20,000 are referred. By the courtesy of the Secretary of that Committee I have obtained the reports, guide, and manuals of the Committee, the reports covering the last three or four years, and I shall be glad to allow any honorable member to peruse them. It is not necessary to quote them. However, it would be an enormous saving to the Commonwealth to have such a committee appointed by Parliament, to which all works should be referred. In my motion I suggest that the amount should be £10,000, although in New South Wales it is £20,000, but I do not tie myself to the £10,000. We must remember that we have before us a Commonwealth expenditure of from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 on public works, and I think it must be patent to every one that we need some different system from that we have had in the past. In the Federal Capital we have a proposed expenditure of four or five millions, and, judging by the present proceedings, the expenditure in the near future will be very large. Again, we have propositions for the construction of a railway through the heart of Australia from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, and for the building of the overland line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. In these three directions alone we can see ahead of us an expenditure of from £20,000,000 to £25,000,000, and on other works which I believe the House is prepared to accept we have a further expenditure of from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 staring us in the face. Members are asked to vote these huge sums of money with practically no information. All the information that is supplied comes from departmental officers, and experience has shown us that the estimates of these officers vary so enormously that it is not fair to us or to the country to expect us to pass these large sums without further information.
– Do you include Defence works ?
– Defence works involve an expenditure of so many millions that one scarcely cares to contemplate the idea of passing them without referring them to such a Committee. Such works are not covered by the New South Wales Act.
– They should all be referred to the Committee.
– -I am inclined to agree with the honorable member. We have had an example of what may happen in the Defence Department in connexion with the purchase of the Fitzroy Dock at Cockatoo Island. Some honorable members declare that it is the best bargain ever made by the Commonwealth, while others declare that New South Wales made a magnificent bargain in selling to us. This purchase was made without any opportunity being afforded the House to express an opinion upon it. The Estimates, covering the expenditure, will be submitted in due ‘course, and no matter how bad the bargain might prove to be, I do not think any honorable member would be prepared to repudiate the act of the Government. There is nothing for us to do but to foot the Bill.
– It must not be forgotten that we were dealing with a Government in that case.
– Whether a purchase be made from a Government or a private individual, nothing remains to us but to foot the bill, no matter how bad the bargain may be. Surely that is not a proper position for this House to occupy. Before any such works are purchased, the House should be able to obtain reliable information as to their character, and the amount that ought to be paid for them. Our public works have increased so enormously that I think in the interests of the country and the Parliament, as well as in the interests of Ministers themselves, it would be well to appoint such a Committee as I propose, in order that information necessary for the guidance of this Parliament may be obtained. At present departmental officers are the only source of information which Ministers have. Their opinions may be exceedingly valuable, but experience has shown that they are not infallible. Let us, look at the way in which votes for public works have been passed from year to year in this Parliament. As a rule, the Estimates are kept back until the last week of the session, Ministers intimate their intention of forcing them through within a certain time, we have an allnight sitting, and expenditure amounting to millions of pounds is agreed to very often when only five or six honorable m embers are awake in the chamber. A company that attempted to carry on business in such a way would soon have bankruptcy, if not fraudulent bankruptcy, staring it in the face.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the personnel of the Committee should be drawn from both sides of the House?
– Under the New South Wales system, which is an exceedingly good one, both sides of the House are represented, members being appointed by the House itself.
– In Victoria, both sides are also represented on the Public Works Committee.
– Quite so. Unless this Committee is to be of a wholly non-party character it must fail. I would far rather withdraw the motion than run any risk of having a Committee that was not strictly non-party.
– The Public Works Committee of New South Wales comprises only one out-and-out Liberal and two Independents; all the rest are members of the Labour party.
– There are some points in respect of which we might make a departure from the New South Wales system. My own idea is that the Committee should consist of seven members, five members of the House of Representatives and two senators, and that the representation of both parties should be as evenly divided as possible. With such a Committee, the practice of agreeing to works involving an expenditure of millions of money, with practically no information before us, and after very little consideration would no longer be continued. Then, again, the Government of the day, knowing that the Committee would take evidence with open doors, would not dare to bring down any proposal which it thought would not bear the light of day. I am sure that our experience would be that of the States which have adopted this system. I am informed by some who have followed the proceedings of the Public Works Committees of New South Wales and Victoria that, as the result of their inquiries, enormous sums have been saved to those States.
– Hear, hear; millions.
– So I have been told.
– Does not the honorable member think it would be better to have a Board consisting of experts drawn from outside Parliament altogether?
– No. I think there is too great a tendency to hand over the privileges and responsibilities of this Parliament to Boards and Commissions. If the Parliament is not competent to appoint a Committee of its own members to deal with the public works of the Commonwealth, it had better make way for experts, and hand over to them the charge of the public affairs of Australia. No matter what experts were appointed, such a Board would be open to exactly the same criticism that is levelled now at departmental reports. My experience both in this Parliament and in the Legislature of Tasmania hasnot been such as to make me an absolute believer in departmental reports. I think it would be well to have a Public Works Committee, before whom the departmental officers could appear, and which, if necessary, could take evidence from outside to determine whether or not the views expressed by the departmental experts were quite correct. Departmental officers are no more infallible than are others.
– In New South Wales, at the present time, the Public Works Committee is in direct conflict with the Railways Commissioners as to a certain proposal.
– If the work is an important one, it is not a bad thing that there should be a conflict of opinion, because in such circumstances there must be a fuller inquiry. I have no intention of labouring this question. The subject is one which I think honorable members have fully considered, so that it is unnecessary to elaborate it.
– I am sorry I was not present when the honorable member began his speech. Has he sketched out some plan?
– My suggestion is that we should follow very largely the lines laid down in connexion with the Public Works Committees of New South Wales and Victoria ; although I think
Borne alterations in both systems could be made with advantage. The secretary of the Public Works Committee of New South Wales has kindly supplied me with full information, which I have before me; but I am sure that the Prime Minister is conversant with” the system in operation there. I have said that I think that the Committee should consist of five members of the House of Representatives and two senators, both parties to be represented.
– Would the honorable member pay the members of the Committee ?
– That is a matter to be determined when framing the Bill, but it seems to me that if this work is to be done well, the members of the Committee should receive some recompense for their loss of time and the labour which their duties would involve. Unless the Committee is to do its work well and thoroughly, it would be better not to appoint it. The Bill creating it and bestowing upon it the necessary powers could determine the remuneration or expenses to be allowed. Under the New South Wales Act, the remuneration allowed to the members of the Committee cannot exceed £2,000 per annum.
– Would the honorable member have the members selected by the Ministry or by the House?
– By the House.
– By ballot or by open voting ?
– That is another matter for which the Bill would have to provide. Personally, I think that selection by ballot would be preferable.
– In Victoria, each party elects its own members.
– I think that is a good course to pursue. I also hold the opinion that the party in power should have three representatives from this House as against two representatives of the Opposition. That is the usual prac tice, and with that understanding I think it would be much better to leave the whole matter open to the House.
– What would be the position if there were more than two parties in the House? We might have an Independent party of one, who could appoint himself.
– These, after all, are details which cannot well be settled on a motion of this kind.
– Would not the application of this proposal hamper the Defence Department?
– My vote would go to make the proposal apply to all works; and the Defence Department is the one on which the least information has been obtainable, so far as expenditure is concerned. Whether or not that is due to the fact that, of recent years, the Minister of Defence has occupied a seat in another place, I do not know, but we have had less information regarding the Defence Estimates than any other. The Defence Department has grown to be the largest spending Department in the Commonwealth. Under Admiral Henderson’s scheme, the expenditure to which we are pledged amounts, roughly, to £100,000,000 for naval defence alone; and, of course, the House should be supplied with the fullest and most complete information. I am not in favour of the New South Wales principle of exempting defence work from such supervision, and every motion in this House, whether for a new work or the continuation of a work, should be referred to the Committee.
– It might be two years before a work, such as a naval base, got before the Committee.
– So far as some of the naval bases are concerned, it would have been a good job if they had been referred to a Committee. In this matter, we have the choice between a waste of time and a waste of money; and, up to the present, we have had both. We have confronting us the enormous expenditure I have mentioned; and, in addition, there are works in the Federal Territory to which we shall be asked to consent almost immediately. Practically, this House has no knowledge, and no means of obtaining knowledge, of the works proposed. There is no reason why this Committee should prove very expensive; and, in any case, a muddle in one of the large public works would cost more than the maintenance of the Committee for twenty-five years. This Committee, I believe, could obtain information of the very highest value to the House in enabling honorable members to form proper conclusions ; and I ask serious consideration for my proposal as of great advantage to Parliament, to Australia, and to the Government. I ask honorable members not to debate the matter at such length as to render a decision impossible, but to carry the motion, and thus enable a Bill, creating the Committee, to be passed during the present session.
– I hope the honorable member for Franklin will not press this motion to a divison. I do this the more because I have felt for a long while that some different method of dealing with our public works would, perforce, have to be adopted. The whole matter is in a more or less chaotic state to-day. Huge sums are being, and have been spent for years past, without proper inquiries, and without that information to which the House is entitled No big public work ought to be undertaken until this House has passed judgment upon it. That is one of the prime functions of a legislative assembly anywhere and always; indeed, this proposition goes to the very root and basis of our system of responsible government and parliamentary control. I have the greatest possible sympathy with the principle underlying the motion. I have urged more than once that this House ought to be placed in possession of the plans and specifications of any large work undertaken by the Government. In our present condition of affairs, it is impossible for that to be done, and there is something more needed than this proposal for a Public Works Committee.
– A Public Works Department.
– I am afraid that this motion will not get us over our difficulty.
– There ought to be three more Ministers; but, at any rate, a Minister of Public Works.
– I tell the honorable member candidly that I think there ought to be another Minister. I am not sure that the Defence Department does not need to be subdivided. However, that is a matter which can wait. The great outstanding requirement of the moment, it seems to me, is a re-shaping a re-aligning, and re-allotting of the duties now carried out by the various Departments. I am making no complaint whatever as to administration by previous Ministries; the present state of affairs is not due to the action of Ministers anywhere, or at any time.
– The work has outgrown the Departments.
– That is the point. The Departments began in the simplest and most elementary way, but, like Topsy, they have grown. There has been no particular plan of development or evolution, and the result is that, by one accretion of functions and another, by this subdivision and that subdivision, the whole administration is out of harmony and proportion - out of focus altogether. In the Home Affairs Department we have a constructing authority, and that is not a works Department. The Department has also to do with statistics, meteorology, and electoral matters; all the odds and ends seem to find their way to this Department. There is no affinity, for instance, between electoral matters and the construction of a huge national public work. Then, in the External Affairs Department we also have a constructing authority.
– That has only been very recently, in connexion with the Northern Territory.
– Quite so; but there is the fact. There is, I suppose, about £20,000,000 of expenditure projected in connexion with the development of the Territory. Thousands of miles of railway have to be built if we expect effective occupation, and yet with this work our Construction Branch has nothing whatever to do. I suppose that in a week or so the Minister of External Affairs will be submitting proposals for Northern Territory railways. Further, there is the Post Office, and the PostmasterGeneral behind me says that he is spending
– The PostmasterGeneral talks of millions as if they were sixpences, and yet his Department is not a constructing Department to any great extent. In the Defence Department many millions have to be spent on the construction of our naval bases and other works of various kinds. It will be seen, therefore, that to-day we have in operation four different constructing authorities.
– Is it true that the Government propose to cut down the Defence Estimates by £6,000,000 ?
– Why not make a big mouthful of it at once, and say that we intend to cut the Estimates down by £40,000,000 ?
– I asked the question because a statement to that effect has been published.
– It has also been said that it is intended to reduce the Estimates for lighthouses, quarantine, and other works.
– That has been said in the Age.
– All I can say is that I am not responsible for what appears in the newspapers, and I hope my honorable friends will take no notice whatever of those statements. This is a matter which affects the House, irrespective of party, and goes to the very root of the efficient government of the nation. The sooner something is done the better for all concerned; but there is the greatest possible difficulty in devising measures for the rectification of the troubles I have mentioned. For instance, we can do nothing without legislative power. At the present time we have nothing in the shape of a Supply and Tender Board, except scratch boards got together in the various States and at the Seat of Government in connexion with the Departments. We have no properly constituted Supply and Tender Board, and the Treasurer is now seeking power, by an amendment of the Audit Act, to bring about that little reform. Further, we have no such thing as a Committee of Public Accounts. There are Estimates for works to cost at least £22,000,000, and I defy the most autocratic Minister or the humblest member in the House to say or show that this money is being spent wisely and well. What we require is what is in existence elsewhere - a Committee of Public Accounts to follow those Estimates into the Departments, and see that the money voted gets to its proper destination.
– The sooner such a board is appointed the better.
– But here, again, legislation will be required.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– Either of these Bills could be drafted in a couple of days. It would be only scissors and paste work.
– I am not speaking of the drafting of them, but of getting them put on the statute-book, which is quite a different thing. I am interested to hear that these are noncontentious measures, and I hope that my honorable friends opposite will make some proposition whereby we can get the Bills through in a few days’ time. Then we shall do something. But they make me nervous when they talk of noncontentious measures.
– The Prime Minister brings forward the most contentious business first.
– I thought that the Audit Bill would have gone through without debate.
– Evidently delay was necessary, because it is proposed to amend the Bill.
– The amendment was not suggested by anything said by honorable members opposite.
– Then the Ministry brings forward measures that are ill-digested.
– Here we have the non-contentious gentlemen shooting contention across the chamber.
– Has this anything to do with the motion?
– I am speaking of the possibility of getting through the House a very useful Works measure. Other statutory power is required to enable us to establish a proper constructing Department, an organized, modern, up-to-date Works Office. We have no such thing to-day, and our officers are struggling along under the greatest disabilities. I am afraid that we are overlapping. I do not speak authoritatively on the point; I only give my impressions, as any honorable member may do. The co-ordination of the works expenditure is a pressing necessity. We need some expert body to make preliminary investigations, and to present reasoned estimates and forecasts before Parliament is asked to vote huge sums of money. To my way of thinking - I do not say this for party purposes - the manner of the taking over of the Fitzroy Dock was wrong. An obligation amounting to £850,000 was incurred by the late Government without reference to Parliament.
– It got full value for its money.
– That is an idle statement.
– Does the Prime Minister think that estimates were not made by the most efficient experts?
– Should Parliament vote millions until estimates have been placed before it, so that members can know how the money will be spent?
– Are there not in the Defence Department expert opinions on the taking over of the Fitzroy Dock ?
– The honorable member ought not to interject. He spent heaps of money without tenders or anything of the kind.
– Only in connexion with wireless telegraphy.
– And in connexion with many other works.
– Certainly not. If that can be shown, the Auditor-General ought to be sacked for not drawing attention to it.
– What was my statement? That the honorable member spent hundreds and thousands of pounds without calling for tenders.
– On day labour !
– Could I call for tenders from men seeking employment on work being carried out in the streets?
– Order !
– It is very unfair for the Prime Minister to speak of what was done as expending money without calling for tenders.
– I shall have to name the honorable member for Barrier if he persists in wilfully disregarding the authority of the Chair. I have several times called order, and it is grossly disorderly, when the Speaker is trying to preserve order, for an honorable member to again immediately interject. I hope that it will not occur again.
– You took my head off quick last night.
– I name the honorable member for Gwydir.
– I thought so.
– The honorable member’s interjection, made immediately after I had asked the House to preserve order, was a direct challenge to me to take action. I name the honorable member for wilfully disregarding the instructions of the Chair.
– It is very disagreeable to me-
– If Mr. Speaker is going to pit me, let him do so. If we have a partisan Speaker, let him do it.
– The honorable member has now made a gross reflection on the Chair. Every honorable member must recognise that I try to be as fair as possible. I have tried to defer action like this as much as possible; but, immediately after I had pointed out the grossness of the disorder of interjecting, when I had but a moment before called for order, and before I had more than resumed my seat, the honorable member interjected again. He had no right to impugn my impartiality, because I think I have shown proof of my desire to be fair to every one. The opportunity is still open to him, if he desires ft, to express his regret.
– If the honorable member will not do anything, it will become my painful duty to take action. But I hope that he will do something.
– What do you want me to do?
– Express regret. In addition to interjecting immediately after I had called the House to order, and had explained how disorderly such interjections were, the honorable member interjected again, and thus forced me to name him; an action which was most repugnant to me. Having done that, he further charged me with partiality. Therefore, he has offended doubly. I ask him to apologize to the House.
– If you are offended, I do so.
– It is not a question of my being offended.
– All I can say is that I apologize.
– I am very glad that the honorable member has taken that course, because I assure him that it is exceedingly painful to me to name any honorable member, but the House will recognise that its business could not be carried on if disorderly conduct such as he was guilty of were permitted.
– I am afraid that my point has been misunderstood by honorable members opposite.
– I do not think that the Prime Minister put things fairly.
– My point is that large public undertakings should be the subject of preliminary inquiry before Parliament is asked to vote money for them.
– Did not the Prime Minister say that it is no wonder that 1 was particularly interested in the Fitzroy Dock, because I had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds without calling for tenders ?
– I did not. I said that the honorable member was interjecting very freely because he had been a sinner in this respect; that he had spent thousands of pounds without calling for tenders.
– But not without consulting Parliament.
– Parliament knows nothing about what he has been doing, nor does any one else. It cannot, under present circumstances, be known. Parliament votes money in total ignorance of how it will be spent in detail. That is why we need inquiries to follow these votes, and see that they reach their proper destinations. More than that, Parliament should be fully seized of the purposes for which money is asked. That is impossible under present conditions. We have not the requisite expert bodies to inform Parliament, so that honorable members may deal intelligently with the proposals put before them. But as we are nearing the hour for the dinner adjournment, I ask leave to continue my speech on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the acceptance of Norfolk Island as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth and for the government thereof.
Bill presented and read a first time. Sitting suspended from 6.3O to 7.45 p.m.
The following Sessional Committees were appointed, by leave (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) : -
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Committees, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Sampson, Mr. Roberts, Mr. Poynton.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Glynn, Mr. Groom, Mr. Bruce Smith, Mr. McDonald, Mr. Hughes, Dr. Maloney, and Mr. Spence.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. R. W. Foster, Colonel Ryrie,
Mr. Ahern, Mr. Mathews, Mr. Higgs, Mr. Anstey, Mr. Archibald.
Mr. McWilliams, Mr. Stumm, Mr. Patten,
Mr. Palmer, Mr. Bamford, Mr. Jensen, Mr. Watkins.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of money be paid for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the Audit Act 1901-12.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Debate resumed from 5th September (vide page 931), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I desire, very shortly, to put the views which I hold in respect of this measure. To clause 2, as proposed to be amended by the following amendment which the Treasurer has circulated - and the expenditure shall be in accordance with the Appropriation Act for the previous year, and the aggregate amount of expenditure shall not exceed the amount expended in the month of June preceding,
I take no exception. We shall be glad to facilitate the passing of that part of the Bill as speedily as possible. Clause 3, however, deals with an entirely different matter. There is no necessary relation between the two provisions. The one is to provide for contingencies that have arisen, and are likely to arise, in order to enable the public services of the country to be carried on without resort - as the Prime Minister has said - to doubtfully legal expedients. The other proposes to create a Supply and Tender Board, or, as the clause stands, to give to the AuditorGeneral, under section 71 of the Audit Act, power to make regulations for regulating the purchase, custody, control, and issue of public stores. That, shortly, is a proposal to create a Supply and Tender Board. I want to make the position of the Opposition perfectly clear in this matter. We do not take exception to the creation of a Supply and Tender Board. To that, it appears to me, there can be no valid objection. Such a Board, to my knowledge, is in existence in New
South Wale3, and, so far as I know, in other States; but the proposal to make provision for it in this measure is, in my opinion, objectionable. There is no necessary relation between the two matters, and it sets up what appears to be a quite vicious principle. The AuditorGeneral is an independent officer, his sole function being to review the financial expenditure and financial conditions of the other Departments. In himself he does nothing. He, as public auditor, guarantees to the public that everything is as the Ministerial heads declare it to be. The Government are now proposing to make him the head of a Supply and Tender Board.
– I beg the right honorable member’s pardon. That must be the position under the Audit Act. Such a position ought not to be created, because if it is, the Auditor-General will have to review the acts of his own officers. He should not do that. His duty is to review the actions of officers of other Departments. The object which the Government have in view can be secured in one of two ways. It is open to them to create a Departmental Board, such as exists in New South Wales - where the UnderSecretary to the Treasury, and two other Departmental heads, are constituted by departmental regulation or arrangement a Supply and Tender Board - or they can create such a Board by special Statute. To these courses I have no objection. Either course would give the Government what they want, whilst, at the same time, it would give the Auditor-General that power to review, as an independent officer, the actions of this Board, which he will not have if he has to review, as he would have to do under this Bill, his own acts. The right honorable member says, “ No,” but he will permit me to state my own view of the position. Clause 2 of the Bill is entirely acceptable to the Opposition) but there is a difference of opinion as to whether, under clause 3, there should be created a Supply and Tender Board, or whether that Board should not be created either under a separate measure or by regulation. The Board may be created by Statute - I do not know that there is any particular reason for doing so - or it may be established by regulation. I think the Treasurer would be well advised to withdraw this clause, so that the Bill will deal with one particular matter in stead of two that are entirely unrelated. Clause 2 will really give the Parliament power to grant Supply for thirteen months instead of twelve. The two matters should not be embraced by the one measure. That, shortly put, is our position. The difference of’ opinion relates to a matter of procedure rather than of principle, and the desire of the Government to- establish a Board should be carried out in the way I have suggested.
.- This Bill was practically thrown at us at the end of last week by the Treasurer, who, for all practical purposes, acknowledged, in the course of his remarks, that he did not understand it. That, perhaps, is not surprising; nevertheless it would have been only ordinary courtesy on the right honorable member’s part to make himself acquainted with the provisions of the Bill before presenting it to the House. At the very first breath of reasonable criticism, he admitted that the Bill did not contain a very important provision which should have been embodied in it, and he has since emphasized that admission by himself providing for a substantial amendment. Whilst the right honorable member was moving the motion for the second reading of the Bill, it was interjected that the Bill did not provide that payments made under it during the month of July should not be in excess of the appropriation for the previous year. He replied, “ I think there is such a provision in the Bill.” He did not know, and presumably had not looked at the measure, or taken the trouble to see that it contained such a provision. The right honorable gentleman subsequently found that it did not, and at this early stage we have had circulated by him a very important amendment, which would not have been necessary had the Bill been reasonably considered before being thrown on the table of the House. The Bill, as introduced, and without the amendment that has now been circulated, would have made it possible for a Ministry defeated at the polls to have indulged during the month of July, without calling Parliament together, in an expenditure altogether out of proportion to the appropriation made during the previous year, when the House waa in session. That is scarcely permitted in the case of an ordinary Supply Bill, granted when a Ministry holds office by virtue of even a large majority and the House is in session.
There is invariably a stipulation, when an ordinary Supply Bill is granted before the Estimates come on, that the payments made shall not be in excess of the previous year’s appropriation. Now, however, we have the Treasurer throwing a Bill at honorable members which, hud they not carefully looked at it - far more carefully than did the responsible Minister - would have meant that next July, for instance, the Government need not have called the House together, and would have been able to indulge in any form of expenditure which the House would have no opportunity to consider. As a matter of fact, such expenditure would practically have to be condoned, and, doubtless, would have been condoned.
– And the Government complain that the Bill did not go through in one sitting.
– That is another feature worth noting. The Government complain that the Bill was not hurried through in one sitting; but it needed a mere interjection from this side to show the right honorable gentleman the necessity of practically withdrawing the Bill in order to frame an important amendment. It will scarcely be believed by the people outside, who have been misled by those references to the necessity for the Bill going through in one sitting, that in no circumstances can it come into operation until July of next year.
– That is all right; we are past July now.
– Then why should the Treasurer, or the Prime Minister, suggest that we on this side wasted time in discussing the Bill for a moment, and urging that it was not a measure of urgency ? Such painful attempts to mislead the community ought to be reprimanded and severely condemned, because they are becoming regular. First of all, the Bill cannot come into operation before next July, and, in all probability, it will not be brought into operation until the July following a general election. It is inconceivable that, unless under the latter circumstances, the Ministry would delay calling the House together until after the first week in July. After an election there might be an excuse for its doing so, and then only would the Bill be of the slightest use, in so far as its main features are concerned. As the Prime Minister dealt with this particular feature of the Bill when speaking at Dandenong a day or two ago, it is permissible to refer to what he there said. Again, we have a direct and deplorable misrepresentation of the situation, as will be seen from the Prime Minister’s words, as reported in the Argus of 9 th September. The honorable gentleman said -
The Opposition said, “ Bring along noncontentious Bills, and we will help you: if you will only keep ‘ preference ‘ out of the way, and the postal vote out of the way.”
In the first place, such words were never used by the Opposition, although the Prime Minister quotes them as actual expressions from honorable members on this side. We did invite the Government to bring along non-contentious measures, and promised to help them; and we are prepared now, and always have been, to deal with business of that description. But we made no stipulation about keeping “ preference “ or any other subject out of the way. However, the honorable gentleman proceeded -
Last Friday the Ministry took them at their word, with an Audit Bill and a Bill to provide an agricultural bureau. The last Government hung on to office so long that when the present Government took office it could not get the money to pay salaries, except by a stratagem, not quite legal, and which Parliament would have to indemnify.
There, again, the statement is incorrect, and a distinct misrepresentation; no stratagem had to be resorted to. The House met on the 9 th July, and then, practically without discussion, the Government were granted Supply. The Bill was put through the other branch of the Legislature with equal rapidity on 10th July, four or five da.ys before the Public Service salaries were due. There was no necessity for any stratagem, much less one which Parliament, to use the Prime Minister’s own words, would have to “ indemnify.” Perhaps honorable members on the Government side are so accustomed to stratagems and methods that many honorable men reject that the idea occurs to the mind of the Prime Minister. The Government had not, and did not, resort to any stratagem, because, in the first place, the necessity never arose, salaries not being payable until the middle of the month; and, in the second place, a Supply Bill passed both Houses long before that time, the Government having been given a clear intimation by the
Leader of the Opposition that there would be practically no opposition to Supply before the salaries became due. Yet these statements, puerile in themselves, though of a deceptive character, are made to a public, the members of which, by reason of their various avocations, cannot possibly know the details of the business of this House, and who are likely to accept statements coming from gentlemen holding high and responsible positions, although those gentlemen themselves must know that there is no justification for them. The Prime Minister went on to say-
The Audit Bill was to provide that in any year they could get supply without waiting for Parliament, so as to tide over the first few weeks. Mr. Hughes said that it was a farreaching reform, and it was not allowed to pass.
Again, in this sentence there is a distinct and deplorable misrepresentation. It is made to appear that the Audit Bill, in so far as it provides for tiding over the first few weeks of a new financial year, was referred to by the honorable member for West Sydney as a far-reaching measure. What the honorable member did say was that the innovation which the Government endeavoured to make by tacking on a Supply and Tender Board provision was far-reaching. So far as the Bill dealt only with the means of tiding over the first few weeks of a financial year, it was regarded as non-contentious, and we were prepared to pass it practically without a word. In that speech, however, it is made to appear that precisely the reverse was the case, and I am justified in calling attention to this deplorable conduct in the hope of having some effect in checking it. The Prime Minister went on to say -
The Agricultural Bureau Bill was a measure to assist the farmers and others. But these two Bills were talked about the whole day, and when the House rose on Friday they were no further forward than when it began.
Here is another distinct misrepresentation. Certain speeches had been made on’ both Bills, and the discussion of one had been adjourned because, at the first breath of criticism, the Government found that they knew nothing about their own measure, and had to withdraw it in order to submit an important amendment. The debate on the second Bill was adjourned when practically the ordinary hour for the adjournment of the House had arrived, after two speeches had been delivered, one by the Prime Minister, who admitted that he was taken at a disadvantage, for he knew really nothing about it, and another by the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs.
– The honorable member knows that, under ordinary circumstances, the Bill would have been introduced by the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– We know that, and it was for that reason that we allowed the Prime Minister, practically without criticism, to wander on in his remarks. We knew that he was taken at a disadvantage, although he is Prime Minister, and the Government submit this Bill as, according to the honorable member for Wannon, their supreme measure, which is to raise the agricultural community to a standard that could never be reached by the poor members on this side, and which will stamp the present Government as one deserving the permanent occupancy of the Treasury benches. We know why the Minister of Trade and Customs is absent, and on that score no objection can be raised. The notes prepared for that honorable gentleman at the Customs House were sent up to the Prime Minister, who did his best. In view of this predicament of the Government, why should the Prime Minister and others go to Dandenong, or any other place, and make statements intended to convey to the public that we on this side are deliberately delaying measures, and taking undue advantage of the forms of the House to prevent the Ministry getting their business through? When we come to debate the Agricultural Bureau Bill we shall be able to show very clearly that, not only the Prime Minister, but practically the whole of the Ministry, are taken at a disadvantage at the present moment. In reply to a question a day or two ago the Prime Minister had to admit that the Government had not considered the Bill in any shape or form, and really did not know what the financial provisions were to be. However, we shall deal with all this when the Bill is before us. It is reasonable to ask the Treasurer to explain what, stratagem he indulged in in order to paysalaries in the early part of July.
– I did not use any strategy.
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s statement. The Prime Minister says that stratagem was indulged in, and, once again, we have a distinct difference of opinion between two responsible officers when it comes to the facts, and they are brought face to face with honorable members, whose duty it is to give attention to details.
– I mean that the Treasury did not use any stratagem.
– The Treasurer states that his Department, the paying Department, had not to resort to any strategy. But out in the country, at places like Dandenong, before cheering crowds of Liberal supporters, the present Prime Minister said the opposite. The honorable gentleman has a right to indulge in post-prandial speeches, but he should not use the occasion to slander those on this side, and to mislead the community. Had not the Treasurer told us the truth we should have had to ascertain it by direct inquiry. I take no exception to clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill, the provisions of which are reasonable. In the month of July, particularly after a general election, it may not be convenient to call Parliament together until perhaps ten or twelve days after the beginning of the financial year, and the Ministry, even though defeated at the polls, would be justified in paying salaries for the transaction of the ordinary business of the country. The Bill would permit that, the payments being in accordance with the previous appropriation. But the Acting Leader of the Opposition has properly drawn attention toa provision which, in my opinion, should not be retained in the measure. Clause 3 provides for the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board. I do not take exception to the establishment of such a Board, but I say that it should be provided for by a separate Bill. We should know, too, what the composition of the Board will be, what its functions will be, and whether its members will be new appointments or officers already in the service. Under the Bill the Government could appoint new men at any salaries they chose, and we have just had a message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of the Bill. I do not know what the amount of the appropriation will be.
– No appropriation is intended, but it was thought that the Bill could not be introduced without a message.
– No appropriation is possible for last July. The message need not have been brought down until later.
Under clause 3 the Government could establish a Supply and Tender Board, and; by regulation give it practically any powers they thought fit, without Parliament having an opportunity to criticise what had been done. The deletion of clause 3 is not proposed by way of an attack on the Government, and it can be agreed to without loss of dignity. Honorable members on this side feel that the provision is not in its right place, and that the Board, if established, should be authorized by a separate Bill. Clause 3 amends section 71 of the principal Act - which provides for the making of regulations - by adding a new paragraph; but it is a matter for consideration whether the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board would be consistent with the original Act. The Act deals with the auditing and keeping of accounts and the proper expenditure of the appropriations of Parliament. The establishment of a Supply and Tender Board is an entirely different thing. Section 71 gives power to make regulations “ not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act “ ; but it might be found that regulations for the creation of a Supply and Tender Board were inconsistent, and, therefore, they would go for nothing. The AuditorGeneral himself might say, “ Notwithstanding your amendment of the Act to provide for the establishment of this Board by regulations, the regulations are inconsistent with the Act, and, therefore, your action is ultra vires.” Section 71 reads -
The Governor-General may make regulations. (not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act) for carrying out the provisions of this Act, and in particular for -
the collection, receipt, custody, issue, expenditure, due accounting for, care, and management of all public moneys and the guidance of all persons concerned therein ;
the more effectual record, examination, inspection, and audit of all receipts and expenditure, and the keeping of all necessary books and accounts;
prescribing the necessary forms for all books and documents whatever required under the provisions of this Act or the regulations;
requiring officers, holding positions which in the opinion of the Treasurer ought to be guaranteed, to contribute to the Guarantee Fund ;
providing for the control and management of the Guarantee Fund.
Those are the special regulations provided for in addition to others not inconsistent. with tlie Act. The Treasurer should explain to us how regulations for the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board could be consistent with the Act. Failing such explanation, I think that clause. 3 should be struck out, and its provisions embodied in a separate measure.
– The point taken by the honorable members for West Sydney and Adelaide is that the provisions of clause 3, amending section 71, will be invalid because incongruous with the Principal Act. It is assumed that section 71 deals only with regulations congruous with the rest of the Act. It says -
The Governor-General may make regulations (not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act) for carrying out the provisions of this Act, and in particular for -
The Audit Act is not merely an Accountancy Act, and there is a great deal of difference between auditing and accountancy. The Act deals generally with the supervision of finance, the methods of drawing moneys, when they are to be paid, when accounts lapse, and so forth. In many of the State Acts there are special provisions dealing with supplies of stores. These provisions are not in our Act, because the Commonwealth has not had, so far, many large transactions in connexion with stores.
– Does the Minister say that clause 3 is cognate with anything in section 71 ?
– Yes ; and it is sufficiently explicit as a substantial enactment to authorize what the Treasurer proposes to do.
– The creation of a Supply and Tender Board.
– The clause authorizes that, but it does not mention it.
– There is a provision in the Commonwealth Acts Interpretation Act 1904 that regulations of this kind shall be laid upon the table of the House. Objection may be taken to them. They may be challenged. How can any one say in advance, before a regulation is framed, that it must be invalid ? This merely gives power to take custody and control of public stores.
– Can that be dealt with by regulation?
– It can if sufficient power is given in the Act; and whether a regulation is within the scope of an Act or not must depend upon the terms of the regulation. Honorable members have not seen any regulation yet. Is it not rather premature to say that a mistake must be made in exercising a power which can b6 exercised with perfect legality ?
– We may think that too much power is being taken in this case.
– It cannot be said that this is outside the spirit of the Audit Act. That Act is for the purpose of controlling public moneys, or stores into which public moneys have been converted.
– The thing is foreign to the nature of the Auditor-General’s duties.
– I do not think so. In the first place, I take the point that this is not a mere matter of accountancy. It is not a mere matter of determining whether a particular set of accounts is correct or not. It is something more than that. It is a general direction to the Treasurer and others who have to deal with public moneys and materials as to how they are to exercise control over them. It empowers the Auditor-General to check, within the scope of the measure, the application or use of those moneys and materials. That that is properly provided for is shown, by an examination of the Audit Acts of the States. Take the South Australian Audit Act of 1882. It provides that the Commissioner of Audit, or any officers appointed by him - and if a separate Tender Board were appointed they would be officers within the meaning of the Audit Act - are authorized from time to time to check accounts and goods warehoused in Government stores, and so on.
– That says nothing about purchase.
– It alludes to ascertaining the quantity, description, and price of all stores and supplies.
– That is auditing only.
– Of course; if it were not auditing it would not be in an Audit Act. But the auditing is not a mere matter of accountancy. It involves a general supervision over the financial operations of the Treasury.
– Is the scope of the duties of the Auditor-General of South Australia the same as in our Act.
– I do not say that the Acts are exactly the same, but they are in spirit the same. You can invest the Auditor-General with any powers you like which are in consonance with his position. You can invest him with the power of supervising the purchasing of goods.
– The whole virtue of the duty of the Auditor-General is the power of review of all other officers. That is the main thing.
– Even if I accepted what the honorable gentleman says, this provision would be within the scope of the Audit Act.
– Is it proper for the Auditor-General to do something that he himself would have to review?
– It is not proposed that he shall do that.
– I am prepared to put this view to the honorable member for West Sydney. I say that it is proper for the Auditor-General to do such a thing, because the Acts of the States contain similar provisions.
– That is a lovely idea.
– There can be only two possible positions set up by honorable members opposite. One is that, assuming we give these powers, they are inconsistent with the spirit of the Audit Act. The other is that which seems to be taken by the honorable member for Adelaide, that though the proposal may, or may not, be in conformity with the objects of the Audit Act, we are not attaining the object by the way we are amending section 71.
– There is another point - that this hands over power to the Government to make regulations, when we can specify here what we want to be done.
– Why not do it by regulation ? Surely the particular machinery to be employed is a matter for the Department concerned.
– There is more than machinery in this.
– The honorable member will find that in two-thirds of our legislation power is given to do certain things by regulation.
– Too much so.
– Do honorable members want the Audit Act to contain a provision that only certain classes of persons shall be appointed, and do they want the names of the persons connected with the staff of the Tender Board to appear? That sort of thing has nob been the practice in our legislation. It is only when you appoint Railways Commissioners, or some great functionaries of that kind, who are not permanent heads of Departments, that you prescribe their powers in an Act. In other cases, general powers are given. For instance, we hand over to the Public Service Commissioner the power of classification and selection of officers, and so on. Similarly, in this case it is proposed to give to the Treasurer by Act of Parliament power to appoint a Supply and Tender Board. Surely we can intrust him with the constitution of that Board as long as we define the general powers. Those powers can extend - and, as a matter of fact, they do extend in the States where they have more of these operations than we do - to the control and purchase of material as well as the disposition of material.
– Will anybody have power to review what the Supply and Tender Board does?
– Yes, the AuditorGeneral.
– It will be under him that these functions will be exercised.
– Not at all.
– It is a mere question of this provision that is objected to being in keeping with the spirit of the Audit Act. Of course, if what is intended is not properly achieved by the wording of this measure, it can be amended in Committee. But I do not for a moment think the object is not properly achieved. Whether it should be provided for in an Audit Act is a question upon which there may be a difference of opinion. All that I say is that similar powers are contained in the Audit Acts of the States.
– This thing ought to be under the control of a sub-Department of the Prime Minister’s Department, so that he may have a purview of the matter, and so that the Auditor-General can review the Prime Minister’s action.
– I cannot see for the life of me why this matter should be under the Prime Minister’s Department. If we say that a regulation may be made affecting, the custody and purchase of public stores, surely that matter can be under the control of the Treasurer, he being the Minister who will have to provide the funds. As a matter of fact, it will be found that in the Acts of the States, in many cases, the audit relates, not merely to money, but to materials - to materials into which cash’ has been converted ; and it is a perfectly proper thing to invest a commissioner or a Board with a power of supervision over such matters. There is no doubt about that. The only question is as to whether we are attaining that object by this measure. According to my reading the Bill is ample for the purpose.
.- The honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat has devoted his attention to showing that, because there is a provision in some of the Acts of the States which permits of the Auditor-General performing the functions laid down in this Bill, therefore, it is proper that we should provide for them in the Bill. But there is a difference between the AuditorGeneral of a State and the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth. The AuditorGeneral of no State to-day has the enormous amount of work to supervise that the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth has. The whole of the time of our Auditor-General is consumed by his present duties. He is in a different position from that which this Tender Board will” occupy. The Auditor-General presents his report to this House. He is responsible to Parliament, and not to the Government. If the Auditor-General is to be made the head of a Supply and Tender Board, he will not be responsible to this House as he is now.
– He will only audit the accounts.
– The Minister of External Affairs went further than the Treasurer goes when he said that the Auditor-General may exercise control over the purchase of materials, and that he is to choose and supervise the persons acting on the Tender Board.
– That will depend upon the regulations.
– That is the impression left upon my mind by the honorable gentleman.
– That is the power.
– This Bill gives power to make certain regulations. It gives power to establish a Supply and Tender Board with the Auditor-General as Chairman.
– It does not say so, and that was never intended either.
– If we once pass this Bill the Government will have ample power to do that, as the Treasurer should know. Of course, I am well aware that he does not know much about the Bill.
He came down to the House with an imperfect knowledge of it. But the Minister of External Affairs has put an entirely different complexion upon the matter.
– In what way did he do that?
– If I am to keep on replying to the Treasurer I shall not be able to get in what I want to say.
– The honorable member is offensive in saying that I know nothing about the Bill.
– The point which I wish to make is that if the Auditor-General is made chairman of this Supply and Tender Board, the result will be that sooner or later he will come into conflict with the members of this House on some action that he has taken.
– Why should he be made the chairman ?
– I do not know. All that I know is that we are going to give power to the Government to frame a regulation making the Auditor-General chairman if they so desire.
– No one suggested making the Auditor-General the chairman.
– No doubt if the Attorney-General had explained matters he would haveput them more clearly. We have been told that he will have complete control over the purchase of the various stores required by the Commonwealth. If that be so, sooner or later he must come into conflict with the members of this House. Now, if there is one man in the Public Service of the Commonwealth who should be placed beyond the possibility of conflict with either House of this Parliament, that man is the Auditor-General. I object to government by regulation. I agree with the Prime Minister, who, upon numerous occasions in this House, has taken strong exception to government by regulation. We do not know who are to constitute the proposed Supply and Tender Board. This Bill will empower the Treasurer to expend money for one month after the close of the financial year, on the basis of the Estimates for the preceding year. I think that the exercise of that power should be limited to the first month after a general election. That is the only time that the Treasurer will be called upon to exercise it.
– It is always wanted.
– It is only required because Governments call Parliament together at the last possible moment. There is a necessity for empowering the Treasurer, after a general election, to expend money for one month on the basis of the Estimates for the preceding year, because if Parliament were called together before the 30th June, the Senate would have to meet composed of its old members, notwithstanding that the country had elected new members.
– We can never tell what will happen.
– I think that the measure will work out in the manner I have suggested, and that, in the future, Governments, instead of calling Parliament together during the first week of July, will probably defer meeting it till the end of July or the beginning of August. I recollect that, on a former occasion, when money was required before the meeting of Parliament, a special Bill was passed to authorize the necessary expenditure. By adopting that course now the public finances would be protected in a way that they cannot be protected under this Bill. To-day I asked the Treasurer whether there had been a proper audit of the public accounts from time to time, and I again ask him whether those accounts have been correctly audited from time to time?
– Certainly. The Auditor-General’s report comes before Parliament every year. What is the honorable member driving at?
– I will tell the Treasurer. The Prime Minister has attended different meetings in the country, and has told his hearers that the public accounts have not been properly audited.
– I never said any such thing in my life.
– Then the honorable gentleman must fight the matter out with his organ, the Argus.
– Indeed, I will not. The statement does not appear in the organ either. The honorable member twists everything.
– I have not the statement here–
– And the honorable member cannot find it, either.
– The honorable member should have told me what he was up to.
– These statements are made outside for one purpose - to blacken the reputations of honorable members on this side of the House, and to make it appear that they would not allow the public accounts to be properly audited. The Prime Minister stated that those accounts were not properly audited. Yet the Government now propose to impose further duties on the AuditorGeneral
– He has to do all the work now.
– Yet we find the Prime Minister going about the country and declaring that the accounts are not properly audited. I strongly object to placing this additional burden on the Auditor-General. I do not know what the Government intend to do in this matter. The Treasurer did not tell us. He acted exactly as the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs acted last night. He gave us very little information. I am quite in accord with the idea of establishing a Supply and Tender Board. The sooner we have our supplies regulated under one head the better. But I do not think that the method proposed is the best way of going about that work. A Bill should be introduced creating a Department expressly to deal with this matter - a Department which should be under the control of some responsible Minister, and which would leave the Auditor-General free to audit the accounts from time to time.
– That is what is going to be done.
– But the Treasurer is proposing to do it by regulation, when it should be done by means of an Act of Parliament. The Government ask for power to make regulations from time to time, and every honorable member knows the difficulty that we experience in understanding them. They are brought forward in bundles, and I do not believe that there is a single man in this Chamber, from the Prime Minister to the humblest member of it, who ever reads those regulations. I notice that the Prime Minister is very anxious to make a personal explanation. He has had to make so many since the last general elections that the mere making of them is becoming a gift with him. I enter my protest against the procedure that is being adopted in connexion with this Bill. I do not think that the first portion of it will bring about the results anticipated, because it will enable Governments to postpone calling Parliament together until the last possible moment. It can be made effective so far as the financial portion of it is concerned only after a general election.
– During the past few days the honorable member for Kennedy has been putting trick questions on the business-paper, with a view to making use of them in the constituencies. These questions have been addressed to the Treasurer. The honorable member will, doubtless, go outside and say, “ Here is what Mr. Cook says, and here is what his Treasurer says.”
– That is what I intend to do.
– The Treasurer gave the Prime Minister away to-night about the social at Dandenong.
– The same old game. Mr. Speaker has been pulling up honorable members upon this side of the House all day-
– Order! I have several times called “Order,” and only just before the adjournment for dinner I had to remind honorable members that it is very disorderly to interject immediately after I have called the House to order. I ask the honorable member for Illawarra, as a new member, to remember that.
– What I object to is the misrepresentation which is contained in the questions put by the honorable member for Kennedy. I will read what I did say, and I will be judged on that.
– Is this from the Argus ?
– No. Here is what I have said referring to the audit of our accounts -
In the case of out Commonwealth transactions there is no such report or signature by the Auditor-General. Instead, there is a serious complaint and criticism by that gentleman in the following language. Writing on 30th June, 191 1, he says: - “The statement of the Honorable the Treasurer relating to the accounts for the year 1909-10 was received by me, complete, this 10th day of March,1911-
That is nine months after the end of the year, and after this Parliament had risen and was in recess.
The late receipt of the statement and accounts made it impossible for my report to be prepared and presented to Parliament prior to the close of the recent session. My previous eight annual reports had been submitted for the information of Parliament in the first instance.”
Instead of the Auditor-General presenting his report to the Parliament while it was in session, so that it might be of use to honorable members in the criticism of the accounts of the country, it was not presented until the Parliament had risen, and therefore it was of no use in connexion with that criticism. He points out that previously eight Liberal Administrations had always enabled him to present his report ‘on the accounts to Parliament while it was sitting.
– What small accounts they had compared with those of the Labour Administration.
– Never mind about that. The Auditor-General says -
My previous eight annual reports had been submitted for the information of Parliament in the first instance.
In this case he did not present the report to Parliament at all, and the only way of getting it before the country so that the public might estimate the audit was by publication in a special issue of the Gazette.
– I think that is a reflection on our public officers.
– It is a fact, whomever it reflects upon.
– It is a reflection on public officers.
– In that case it is a reflection by the Auditor-General, and that is the point I want to emphasize. I am not making a reflection. It is the Auditor-General’s reflection-
– Why publish it?
– It is the AuditorGeneral who is making the reflection, if reflection there be. It is he who points out that his report is practically valueless. I go on to say -
In the first year of the present Treasurer it took 9½ months after the close of the year to present the accounts of the year for audit. This was long after Parliament had risen - when, indeed, it was nearly time for it to reassemble. Despite this protest of the AuditorGeneral, the delay is repeated the following year, leading toa repetition of the protest in the following words -
That is to say, the year’s accounts were not audited until almost the due date for another audit. The whole twelve months had gone i ,und before the accounts were presented complete to the Auditor-General .
– How are you going to get over the difficulty ?
– I am not even concerned with that at the present moment.
– You are not concerned with anything.
– I am concerned with these facts which are sought to be misrepresented by one of the honorable member’s colleagues for political reasons.
– You know the cause of that?
– This is another dialogue. Order !
– Will you answer my question ?
– What question?
– I said you stated that the public accounts were not properly audited.
– I never said that.
– It appeared in a newspaper which I can show to the honorable member.
– I have never said that. What I have said is that the audit has been useless, . so far as Parliament is concerned.
– Those are not the words in the newspaper.
– Will you not accept the statement of the Prime Minister ?
– I will accept it if he denies what is in the newspaper.
– Order !
– On its face it is logical, too.
– Order !
– He will explain it away.
– Again I have to make the same complaint as I had to make a few minutes ago. The honorable member for Maribyrnong is the offender on this occasion. Immediately after I called for order he interjected. I inform him that if it occurs again I shall have to take another course.
– All right, sir.
– It is a pity that honorable members on the other side will not let a man defend himself. “The Right Honorable the Treasurer’s statement of accounts for the year 1910-11 was not received by me, complete, until this Jay, the 30th of April, 1912 “ - or ten months after the close of the financial year - “ when the statement of the Treasury balances was signed by the Treasurer. . . . The late receipt of the Treasury accounts, and the consequent delay in the presentation of this report, has rendered1 much of the subject-matter of less public interest than it might otherwise have possessed.”
That statement, coming from the AuditorGeneral, is serious. He himself says that his report is rendered of less value than it ought to be by reason of the late presentation of the Treasurer’s accounts. These are not my strictures at all; I am merely quoting them from the public records. This is what the Auditor-General says-
– Does he say in any part of the report that the accounts have not been properly audited ?
– What a. foolish man he would be to make that reflection on his own work !
– The honorable member did it.
– What a fool he would be to say, “ I am not doing my work properly!” I go on to make this comment-
What these strictures mean in plain language is, that the whole of the national audit is being rendered almost valueless by the dilatory methods of the Treasury under the control of the PrimeMinister.
That is as to two years of Labour control of the Treasury. Honorable members will recollect that on the last day of the last session of the last Parliament the Auditor-General’s report was presented, that is, when it was too late to do anything, even to look at the document. I remember that we had been asking the Treasurer to facilitate the presentation of the report for some days.
– That was an improvement by five months, at any rate.
– Of course it was an improvement. We had been asking and pressing the Treasurer to present the audit before the session closed,, and the honorable member will find from Hansard, if he looks, that while the honorable member for Wide Bay was telling us, not on one day, but on several days, that he was pressing the Auditor-General to present his report, the fact was that hisown statement of accounts had not been presented complete to the AuditorGeneral.
– That is a nice thing to say.
– It is a fact.
– When it was presented five months after the 30th June, did it get in on the last day of the session?
– I advise my honorable friend to listen to what I am saying, because he really does not understand the matter.
– Thank you. I happened to be in the Treasury for about nine months, you know.
– It is a pity then that you make these interjections. I see that the Auditor-General’s report on the third occasion was presented to this House on the last day of its sitting.
– Will you kindly say whether there is in this Bill anything which will remedy that difficulty ?
– I do not suppose there is. It is all a matter of the presentation of the accounts by the Treasurer to the Auditor-General.
– This Bill will practically give more work to the AuditorGeneral, which you admit he cannot carry out.
– Does not the honorable member understand that it is not a matter of the Auditor-General? I want to point out, if honorable members will permit me, instead of interjecting, that the Auditor-General said in the report which was put on this table on the last day of the session, “ The statement of accounts from the Treasury was received by me complete this day.”
– But the AuditorGeneral cannot audit the accounts until the end of the financial year, which is the 30th June.
– That is all I have to say in reply to my honorable friend, who put the trick questions on the notice-paper for the purpose of trying to get something to flog me with outside. Let him flog me with the AuditorGeneral’s reports.
– That is not the Auditor-General’s report.
– It is. The honorable member will find this statement in the three reports, if he will look them up. I advise him to get the facts, and publish them broadcast. They show that, whereas previously eight Liberal Administrations had presented their statement of accounts, and got them ‘audited, and the audit put before this Parliament during the session, during the three years of Labour rule of the Treasurer the AuditorGeneral could not get the statement of accounts in any one year in time to make his audit of any use to this Parliament.
– That is very dirty, and there is no necessity for it.
– All I have to say is that it is the fact as set out by the Auditor-General. Really, the honorable member must go and criticise that officer.
– You know the reasons why?
– I am only quoting what the Auditor-General says.
– Why do you not say the reasons why? You know them.
– I really do not know the reasons.
– I will tell you, if you like.
– I do not know now why the accounts cannot be presented to this Parliament just the same as can be done in connexion with any big business, perhaps not quite as readily. I am not asking that the report of the Auditor- General and the balance-sheet should be presented as is done in the case of a company; but, making allowance for the difference between the affairs of a Government and those of a company, I still say that the very purpose and intention of an Auditor-General auditing our accounts is that the audit may be of service to this Parliament in reviewing the accounts of the year, and that, as he himself points out, is absolutely impossible unless he can get the statement of accounts in time to audit them and present them to this Parliament while it is in session.
.- It is very interesting to hear the Prime Minister “ stone-wall “ his own Bill for about twenty-five minutes and never at any time touch anything which is associated with the Bill.
– I did not get up for that purpose.
– Then the honorable gentleman ought to have stated that he wanted to make a personal explanation.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member ought not to have used the privileges of the House in order to be deceptive to the House. In connexion with this matter it is interesting to note that he-
-! would remind the honorable member that the previous speaker- -
– Yes, sir; but if the Prime Minister is allowed to go on for twenty-five minutes in regard to the matter, I ought to be allowed twenty-five seconds to reply to his statements.
– The Prime Minister only spoke for a quarter of an hour.
– In all probability we shall find that the statements of to-night, which cannot be corrected in three minutes, will be repeated the next time the honorable member gets to Dandenong.
– You cannot correct them at all; they are here.
– The honorable gentleman is perfectly aware that the Treasury statement includes the accounts of every Department; that these have to be gathered in from every quarter of the Commonwealth, and that they have to be checked by the departmental accountants in the different States after coming from remote parts of the most remote States. This, of necessity, occupies a very considerable time. In the particular year to which the Prime Minister has referred
– I spoke of three years.
– The honorable gentleman said that in one year the position was worse than in any other. He knows, however, that that was Coronation year. It was the year in respect of which a special appropriation was made by this Parliament in order that a large party of honorable members might attend the Coronation celebrations in the Old Country. He is well acquainted with the fact that Parliament was deliberately called together very late in that year, and that it was for that reason that at the end of the previous session a Supply Bill was passed authorizing expenditure for the first two months of the next financial year. A.11 these facts are cleverly concealed from the public, and particularly from the residents of Dandenong, when the Prime Minister goes up there with his colleague the Attorney-General to take part in a specially -prepared “ boosting “ function.
– Why Dandenong? The matter was never mentioned there.
– This is just the sort of thing that the honorable gentleman would talk about up there.
– The residents of Dandenong are intelligent enough to understand some things that the honorable member is unable to understand.
– I understand the honorable member pretty well. We can get a code of honour from the honorable gentleman, who saw fit to vote to keep himself in office and power when a deliberate indictment was made against him.
– Order !
– I admit that the remark is slightly irrelevant. Here is another interesting fact which has just been unearthed - a fact which the Prime Minister did not care to look up, but which we have found out for ourselves - that the report of the Auditor-General for 1907 was presented on the last day that Parliament met. That was during the term of office of the Fusion Government.
– No. That was the Government which the honorable member helped to keep in office.
– I believe that it was the Reid-McLean Administration, which was supported by honorable members opposite. The point that I wish to make is that the Prime Minister said that prior to the advent of the Labour Administration the accounts had been presented in time, whereas in 1907 the AuditorGeneral did not present his report until the last day of .the session.
– So that his statement was incorrect.
– Is it necessary to mention that? I think that the present Treasurer resigned his position in the Deakin Administration about July, 1907.
– And left his leader in a nice fix. Coming to the Bill itself, I do not propose to take serious exception to the first part, so far as it is designed to legitimately amend the Audit Act, although there is associated with it a dangerous feature. I recognise that it is absolutely impossible for the Government of the day to carry on the great Departments of the Commonwealth when they have not a penny at their disposal from 1st July until Parliament meets. The Treasurer knows, however, that whilst that is so, he allows the different Departments under his authority to enter into contractual obligations in connexion with the supply of the various stores required by them - obligations extending into the following financial year. I do not say that the money is expended, but the contractual obligation to expend it is undoubtedly authorized by the Treasurer.
– By the head of each Department.
– With the sanction of the Treasurer.
– If my honorable friend tries, after 1st July, to enter into obligations in connexion with the purchase of stores for the great Department which he controls without the authority of the Treasurer, he will find himself up against the Auditor-General.
– But if the honorable member were a Minister on, say, 1st January, could he not enter into a contract having a currency of twelve months ?
– That is an entirely different matter. It would be covered by the Appropriation Bills up to 30th June. In the circumstances I have mentioned I know that, when Postmaster-General, I had to get the authority of the Treasurer, and that whilst I was in charge of the Treasury all other Departments had to obtain my authority.
– That is to say, after the 30th June.
– Exactly. This Bill does not relieve Ministers from that obligation; but it will give the Government of the day, willy nilly, a month’s supply without the express authority of Parliament. It would be. possible, under the Bill as it stands, for a Government situated as the present Administration is, to refrain from calling Parliament together until the second week in August, instead of early in July. Knowing the difficulty which the Treasurer has in ascertaining whether he can meet his expenditure on the exact day on which the books close, namely, 30th June, I shall not take serious exception to this provision, although, under it, a Government defeated at the polls in April or May could carry on until August, and still have authority to expend public moneys.
– No Government would do such a thing.
– It is a question not of what they would do, but what they could do. As to the second part of the Bill, the Prime Minister this afternoon indicated that he was favorable to the appointment of a Public Works Committee to supervise public works, and also that he thought it might be necessary to have a Public Accounts Committee. The late Government inherited from their predecessors a legacy which they did not leave for their successors. At the Sydney Post Office it was found that telephone accounts amounting to nearly £30,000 had been unaudited for about eighteen months. In the Stores Branch the late Government for nearly two years made efforts to find out exactly what the position was ; and at the expiration of that time it was decided by the Treasurer, as the easiest way out of the trouble, to close the books and start again.
– It was admitted that nothing could be done with the accounts.
– It was impossible to get out of the entanglement left by the previous Government. A new accountant was appointed, and I believe that the system of book-keeping now in vogue is much better than the one originally adopted, based on the varied systems of the States.
– There was practically no system.
– I am not going to attempt to make any political capital out of the position; but I submit that there is danger in clause 12 as submitted. My opinion is that if the suggestion of the honorable member for Kennedy were adopted, and this clause made to apply only to the month of July after a general election, the necessities of the case would be met.
– I thought the honorable member was pointing out that there was the greatest danger after a general election?
– After a general election Parliament cannot reasonably be called together in the first week in July unless, of course, we are content to include senators who may have been defeated at the poll. If an election be held late in June, it may be some weeks before the final result is known, as on the last occasion, and the Government returned certainly require a few weeks in which to consider their position before meeting Parliament. It appears to me that the proposal to place on the AuditorGeneral the responsibility for the purchase, custody, control, and issue of public stores is quite foreign to this Bill.
– There is no such proposal.
– Section 71 of the principal Act, which clause 31 of the Bill proposes to amend, gives the GovernorGeneral power to make regulations, and that is the Act which controls the AuditorGeneral, and with the assistance of which he, in turn, controls the accounts of the Departments.
– That is right.
– Under section 71 of the principal Act the Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with the provisions of the Act, for carrying out those provisions, and in particular for -
In my opinion it is dangerous to allow regulations to govern business of that description ; but, in any case, it is now proposed that the Auditor-General shall be empowered to make regulations governing the purchase, custody, control, and issue of public stores, which, I contend, cannot be considered relevant to an Audit Act. Personally, I am not at all opposed to some sort of tribunal to insure a more effective examination of tenders, and exercise control over the purchase of stores made by the Departments, because such a body would be particularly useful. In my opinion, however, this is the wrong Bill in which to provide for such a tribunal. It would be much more satisfactory to provide for this control in a separate Bill, which can be criticised here, and not leave it to regulations. I shall give a general support to the first part of this measure. I have no desire to impede its progress; but I must commend the points I have raised to the attention of the Treasurer.
– Does the honorable member say that he will go so far as to support the first clause, which provides, “ This Act may be cited as the Audit Act 1913 ”?.
– I should be sorry to commit myself to support anything with which the honorable member might be even conceivably associated.
– I desire to raise a point of order. It was the practice in the House of Commons, probably hundreds of years ago, to introduce Bills embodying possibly half-a-dozen subjects; but time and experience showed that it was desirable to confine a measure to one purpose only. One might have expected, with a Ministry consisting of five professional lawyers, and the balance bush lawyers-
– I am waiting to hear the point of order.
– My point is that the Treasurer got permission to introduce a Bill to amend the Audit Act; and an audit, as honorable members know, is something quite different from the regulation of the purchase, custody, control, and issue of stores. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know that a clause is not in order which exceeds the order of leave, as I submit clause 3 of this Bill does. I direct your attention to May, eleventh edition, page 465, in which we are told -
In preparing Bills, care must be taken that they do not contain provisions which are not authorized by the order of leave, that the prefatory paragraph prefixed to a Bill, which defines the object thereof, known as the title of a Bill, corresponds with the order of leave, and that the Bill itself is prepared pursuant to the order of leave, and in proper form ; for, if it should appear that these rules have not been observed, the House will order it to be withdrawn.
I presume that honorable members are not going, for political purposes-
– This has surely nothing to do with the point of order.
– Perhaps it is beyond “ the order of leave.” Honorable members must see that the purchase, control, and issue of stores are things entirely different from those coming within the provisions of the Audit Act. The Standing Orders are quite clear on the subject.
– I think that the honorable member has stated his point of order.
– I should like to elaborate it.
– I am in a position to give a ruling on the point. The Bill is one to amend the Audit Act, and the clause to which the honorable member takes exception is a clause to amend a section of that Act. I can see nothing in the clause inconsistent with the Bill, nor anything in the amendment inconsistent with the original Act.
– I wish to address myself shortly to the point raised by honorable members opposite, that the clause referred to is one that ought not to find a place in the Bill. The question is not whether it might not form part of another Bill, or form a Bill by itself, but whether it properly forms part of a Bill to amend the Audit Act. The scope of an auditor’s duties is pretty well defined at law, and known to men of business. They involve not merely accountancy, but also the investigation of all the affairs and finances of the company, corporation, or government for which the audit is made. Auditing involves the examination of vouchers for all payments, the ascertaining of the existence of the property alleged to have been purchased with money spent, and other things. The duties of an auditor are stated clearly in the Encyclopedia of the Lavis of England -
An auditor may be described as a person whose duty it is to examine the accounts of a, company, firm, or person, so as to ascertain the exact state of affairs financially at a given moment. This involves, not only a scrutiny of the figures, but also an examination of the form and substance of the accounts, in order to see that they truly represent the state of affairs purporting to be represented by them.
Although the duties of an auditor are not usually construed to extend to valuation, they include the ascertaining of the existence of the goods for the purchase of which money has been expended. A general supervision of stores, and the ascertaining where they are, what is left of them, what has been issued, and what has come in, fall within the scope of an auditor’s duties.
– And depreciation?
– On that considerable doubt has been expressed from time to time, but I think it is now the generally conceived opinion that an auditor’s “duties do not strictly cover valuation, unless there is depreciation such as must be patent to every ordinary man of business. It is not the duty of an auditor, in auditing the accounts of a company holding mortgages on properties extending over a wide area, to visit all those properties, to find out whether they are correctly valued.
– 1 was thinking of the depreciation of stores.
– If stores had been destroyed, it would come within the duty of an auditor to ascertain that fact. The auditor must be able to say that money supposed to be represented in goods is so represented ; but it is not his duty to make valuations. Among the duties of an auditor is the ascertaining of the existence of, and the supervision of the dealing with, stores. The honorable member for Denison says that we wish to make the Auditor-General .an inspector of stores, but that is expressly provided for by the Audit Act.
– Our objection is that the clause mixes up the purchasing of stores with the auditing of stores.
– That is not so. Regulations imposing the conditions under which stores may be purchased, used, kept, and controlled are essentially within the purview of the matters over which the Auditor-General ought to have, and has expressly been given, jurisdiction. This is the title of the Audit Act -
An Act to make provision for the collection and payment of public moneys, the Audit of Public Accounts, and the Protection and Recovery of Public Property, and for other purposes.
The main duties of the Auditor-General are therein set out. He must see that moneys do not go out of the Consolidated Revenue until statutory proof has been brought before him that the authority of Parliament has been complied with; but he has also to supervise the accounts and affairs of the Government. Under section 45 a number of express duties with regard to vouchers and stores are assigned to him. Among his duties are these : He shall, either by himself or such persons as he may appoint -
Ascertain the quantity, description, and price of all stores purchased on account of His Majesty, and of all stores supplied for the use of every Department of the Public Service, and whether any person in the Public Service has requisitioned for or obtained any stores in excess of the reasonable requirements of his office.
That provision relates to the general conditions for the purchase of stores.
– He has no more right to purchase stores than I have.
– I have not implied that he has the right to purchase stores. I am merely showing that the purchase, issue, and control of stores naturally come within an Act dealing generally with the duties of public accountants, and of the Auditor-General, who is given a particular kind of supervision over these things. Under paragraph e he must - examine whether the proper quantities of all such stores are remaining in stock in the proper store or building.
It is his duty, not merely to supervise and see that conditions imposed by law or regulation are complied with, but also to satisfy himself that stores representing the money that has been paid out are where they ought to be. The general conditions under which public stores may be kept and issued come within the scope of those matters over which the AuditorGeneral is given supervision.
– Has not the Auditor-General that supervision at the present time?
– Yes; the powers are contained in the Act from which I am quoting. The first point that I want to make is that the general supervision of stores - not as a purchaser, not as a Ministerial head - is under the auditorial supervision of the Auditor-General. The next point that has been made is that this measure, if carried, will give the AuditorGeneral power to purchase, control, and issue stores. It will give him nothing of the kind.
– That has not been contended. The contention merely is that the Government are associating the Auditor-General with men who are purchasing stores.
– That is not so, as I shall show. I am now showing that this is not a regulation which will necessarily, or even probably, give any additional powers to the AuditorGeneral. What it will do has to be read in connexion with the sec tion to which it is an addition. That section is number 71. What does it provide -
The Governor-General may make regulations (not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act) for carrying out the provisions of this Act, and in particular, for -
the collection, receipt, custody, issue, expenditure, due accounting for care and management of all public moneys, and the guidance of all persons concerned therein;
the more effectual record, examination, inspection, and audit of all receipt and expenditure, and the keeping of all necessary books and accounts ;
prescribing the necessary forms for all books and documents whatever required under the provisions of this Act or the regulations ;
requiring officers holding positions, which in the opinion of the Treasurer ought to be guaranteed, to contribute to the Guarantee Fund ;
providing for the control and management of the Guarantee Fund.
None of those duties, except indirectly, imposes any powers whatever upon the Auditor-General, but some of them may impose conditions which he will have to see have been complied with before he can say that a proper audit has been made of the affairs of the Treasury officers, who are conducting the actual receipt and expenditure of money. It is only incidentally that they affect the Auditor-General.. They prescribe matters which the AuditorGeneral will have to see have been complied with. That is all. This Bill, then, merely imposes another condition. It is not an enabling measure. It does not enable the Auditor-General to do anything. It merely says that the Governor-General may make regulations affecting the control and issue of public stores.
– Dictating to the Auditor-General.
– Dictating to him certain conditions which he must comply with.
– The principle is a bad one.
– The House must judge of that. I am only explaining what is being done. We have to read the Audit Act generally. First, there are the provisions for the safety of the public, laying down conditions under which public money can be issued. Over all those the Auditor-General is given control. He must find whether the money has been properly appropriated by Parliament. Those are all provisions relating to his duties. They are ordinary conditions that have to be complied with, and’. which he has to certify have been complied with. He has to see that particular moneys which have gone out of the Treasury have received the appropriation of Parliament. But the Governor-General may make regulations imposing other : conditions affecting the payment of money out of the Treasury, or the receipt of money. Under section 71, if the GovernorGeneral does make those regulations, the Auditor-General may have, and probably will have, other duties imposed upon him - namely, to see that these regulations have been complied with. But he is still in exactly the same position of complete independence as a high official charged with the duty of seeing whether the law has been complied with, and whether the money of the Government is intact in the shape of funds or stores. All that falls within his direct province.
– Will the honorable gentleman let us know whether it will be possible, under this Bill, to appoint a Supply and Tender Board ?
– I must express the best opinion I can. I am inclined to think that it would be possible. It is certainly the intention to do so.
– Does the honorable gentleman think it was fair not to so inform the House ?
– If the honorable member is asking me a question affecting political ethics, I do not want to enter into it now. I am simply endeavouring to explain the legal position. I arn inclined to think that there would, under this measure, be authority for the Governor-General to issue a certain regulation under which a particular Board might be appointed. At all events, that is the intention of the Government.
– That is candid.
– It is the purpose of the Government to appoint a Tender Board.
– We have had to drag that out like drawing a tooth.
– Not at all. I said the other night that that was the particular purpose.
– Why .should we get into a state of party excitement over a very small security which may be required f
– We do not object to that.
– It is information which we could not get from the Prime Minister.
– What some honorable members opposite are apprehensive of does not exist at all. Assuming, as I do assume, that this Bill does give power to the Governor-General to appoint a Tender Board, that, again, is merely creating a further condition, namely, that the consent of that Tender Board shall be obtained for the purchase of all stores; and that is a condition’ which the Auditor-General, in his capacity as Auditor-General, must see has been complied with before issuing his warrant.
– Does not the AttorneyGeneral think that the Board should be responsible to a Minister?
– In one sense it ought to be responsible to a Minister. Of course, it will be a departmental Board, and, personally, I think the Minister would rightly give such a Board as much responsibility as possible:
– If it were constituted under a separate Act it would possess greater independence.
– Not in the slightest degree.
– Under the Government proposal it will owe its existence to a regulation which the Minister may alter at any moment.
– That is another matter.
– It is really the policy against which we are contending.
– Several honorable members have taken a good deal of exception to the appointment of this Board, because they apprehend that the> Auditor-General will be either the chairman of it or a member of it. Not only will that not be so, but it would be quire inconsistent with the position which he occupies under the Audit Act. The Auditor-General is the person who has to see whether the conditions imposed by the Supply and Tender Board, as well as all the other conditions under Statute or regulations, have been complied with, before he can certify to the expenditure of the money. Consequently, it is highly undesirable that he should be connected with the Board in any way. As a matter of fact, he will not be. Therefore,, this provision is a purely restrictive one. Any regulation which may be passed wilt merely restrict the power of the Minister to purchase stores.
– Would it not be better if these functions were discharged by an inspector-general of stores?
– If we appointed an inspector-general of stores we should be creating a new office, the occupant of which would have to perform many of the functions which have to be performed–
– But he would be subject to the supervision of the AuditorGeneral.
– The AuditorGeneral is the inspector.
– Yes. I would point out to the honorable member for Denison that the Auditor-General is at present responsible for all the work of an inspector of stores, though he does not do that work himself.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral contend that?
– The law says that it shall be done through the AuditorGeneral, and I am sure that it is so done.
– I am sure that it is. I have seen the officers taking stock.
– What is there to be apprehensive about in this Bill? It is essentially a matter for regulation.
– What was in the Attorney-General’s mind as to the duties of a Tender Board?
– If the honorable member asks me precisely, I should say that a Tender Board would probably be a small departmental Board, charged with the duty of investigating the prices of stores, and of learning what are the most favorable conditions for their purchase. Can there be any practical objection tosuch a self-denying provision as that? No regulation can give the Treasurer more power than he has. It can only limit his power.
– That is all right, but the provision is contained in the wrong Bill.
– I have been endeavouring to show that this is an appropropriate Bill in which to incorporate that provision. In Victoria a similar provision is contained in the Public Service Act, but in New South Wales it finds a place in the Audit Act. Personally, I think that the more appropriate place for it is the Audit Act. Because regulations may impose other conditions which the
Auditor-General willhaveto take into consideration in determining whether the public accounts are properly kept, and the public stores are where they ought to be, it seems to me that the most convenient place to insert such a provision is in this Bill.
.- Apparently the Government desire to establish a Supply and Tender Board, to which 1 have no objection. But I do protest against embodying such a provision in this Bill. If honorable members were asked to produce the Act under which a Supply and Tender Board had been established, they would hardly be likely to produce the Audit Act.
– The proposal is quite right. The honorable member believes in it, only it is wrong.
– Apparently the Government have started with the letter “A” - the first letter of the alphabet - and, being desirous of establishing a Supply and Tender Board, they have made provision for it in the Audit Bill. My only surprise is that they did not get on to the letter “ B “ - the Bureau of Agriculture Bill - and insert the provision in that. With the exception of the clause in question, I have no objection to the Bill.
– A Bill like this, if the honorable member’s party had been on this side of the House, would have gone through without question.
– The Prime Minister may say that to honorable members who have not sat here for twelve years.
– Do not forget the eighty-three Acts.
– I do take exception to the statement made by the Prime Minister to-night - a statement which was made for political purposes only.
– It would not have been made but for honorable members opposite.
– I am going to make the statement again. The Prime Minister affirmed that every Auditor-General’s report that has been presented to this House-
– I did not say that. The Auditor-General said it.
– The Prime Minister said to-night-
– I quoted the AuditorGeneral.
– Will the Prime Minister permit me to quote him? He said that during the nine years that the Liberal party held office the Auditor-General’s report had been presented to Parliament each year when the session was about half-way through.
– I say that I did not.
– If the Prime Minister did not say that the Auditor-General’s report was presented to Parliament each year that the Liberal party was in power when the session was about half-way through-
– I said that the Auditor-General says that his eight previous reports were presented to Parliament in time to be considered during the session.
– If the Auditor-General made that statement, let us look at the facts. We have had the same man in the position since the beginning of the Commonwealth. For the six months ending 30th June, 1901, the report was presented on 26th May, 1903 - that is nearly two years after the accounts were closed. For the year ending 30th June, 1902, the report was presented on 26th May, 1903. For the year ending 30th June, 1903, the report was presented on 3rd March, 1904. As far as I am aware, in no instance when a Labour Ministry was in office was the report presented so late as on these occasions.
– I showed to-night that one of your reports was presented on the 30th April.
– I will not be surprised to find that one of the honorable member’s reports was presented on the first of April. When the Prime Minister gets up and says that under the Liberal, or Fusion, or Wreckage party - happily named by its late leader - the’ report of the Auditor-General was presented when Parliament was sitting, I am compelled to point out the dates when it was actually presented. For the year ending 30th June, 1904, the report was presented on 14th December, 1904 - the day before Parliament rose. The honorable member for Swan was Treasurer then.
– No; in 1905 I came in.
– For the year ending 30th June, 1905, the report was presented on 15th December, 1905, a day later than in the previous year.
– That is better than your own.
– No. For the year ending 30th September, 1906, the report was presented on 25th September, 1906. That is the earliest date on which it has ever been presented in the honorable member’s time; and he also has the record for presenting the report on the latest date - barring the reports for the first three years of the Federation.
– When was that!
– On 15th December, 1905.
– The last report was presented in the following April.
– There was a reason for that, as the honorable member well knows. On account of Ministers being away somewhere, the House had not met.
– Next year it was presented a month later still. What was the reason for that?
– I do not think that the honorable member’s statement is correct.
– The quarrel is not with me, but with the Auditor-General.
– I am going to stick to the Prime Minister. I do not intend to deal with the Auditor-General, who is not here to defend himself. I never attack a man who is not here. I am not like some honorable members on the other side, who speak about men who are not here.
– Oh, oh, oh!
– Order !
– I am going to deal with the Prime Minister’s misstatements tonight.
– Order I The Prime Minister is out of order.
– Mr. Speaker, I want protection.
– The Prime Minister knows that he is out of order. He should set an example to other honorable members.
– That is a well-merited rebuke.
– Order !
– Surely, on a Bill dealing with the Audit Act, I am entitled to discuss the presentation of the AuditorGeneral’s accounts?
– This is pure, unadulterated obstruction.
– I call upon the Prime Minister to withdraw those words.
– And apologize, too.
– I suppose I must withdraw them, Mr. Speaker.
– For the year ending 30th June, 1907, the report of the Auditor-General was presented on 13th December - the last day on which Parliament sat. Except in the first few years of the Federation, when the report was very late in being presented, it has been presented practically on the last day of a session, or thereabouts. For the year ending 30th June, 1908, the report was presented on 10th December, 1908, the first Fisher Ministry having been in office for about three weeks. No doubt, the accounts had been sent along, and anything that the previous Treasurer could do, either to facilitate them, or keep them back, had been done by him. When the present leader of the Opposition was Treasurer in 1908, the report was presented on the 10th December, that is, four days earlier than the present Treasurer presented his report in 1905. I have objected to these statements which have been made on public platforms for party purposes. Were the honorable member for Gippsland present to-night, I would deal with him on this measure, as he has criticised the Auditor-General’s report, but since he is absent, I will save my criticism for a Supply Bill or a grievance day. He objected to statements which have appeared in one journal called Every Week. I shall take the statements in the Argus and the South Gippsland Shire Record.
– I ask the honorable member to read this passage from the report of the Auditor-General.
– I have no intention to deal to-night with this report of 252 pages, which has been handed to me by the Prime Minister.
– I only want you to read that one paragraph.
– I was pleased to hear the Treasurer state that every audit has been correct, and that all moneys spent by the Fisher Government have been accounted for. I am absolutely in accord with this Bill, except the provision for the inclusion of a Supply and Tender Board, as I consider it out of its proper place in this Bill. I believe that the proposal to have the money available in July is a right one, and I approve of the amendment, which the Treasurer had apparently forgotten when he introduced the measure. This is a case of hasty legislation. Had we passed the Bill on Friday, when the Government were anxious that we should, the right honorable gentleman would have had to get it altered by his huge majority in the Senate. The whole seven of them would have had to get to work there. I am anxious that the Bill should go from this Chamber complete. But I do not think it is right to deal in an Audit Bill with the creation of a Supply and Tender Board. That should be dealt with in a separate measure, so that people should not have to look up a number of regulations which have to be altered from time to time. Honorable members on the other side have objected to government by regulation. It is far better to deal with a question of this kind by a special Act than to leave it to be dealt with by regulations, because any Minister may amend the regulations a week after Parliament is out of session.
– We can do it now without any regulations.
– I know that, and that is why I am in favour of the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board, but I think it should be provided for in a special Bill.
– By way of personal explanation-
– How many more?
– I am not going to have these lies jammed down my throat. I shall not have these misstatements recorded in Hansard without being corrected.
– The Prime Minister has described as “ lies “ some remarks made by the honorable member for Yarra. That, Mr. Speaker, I think, is grossly disorderly.
– I did not hear the Prime Minister make that remark. This serves only to emphasize the importance of maintaining silence when an honorable member is addressing the Chair. It is sometimes absolutely impossible for me to hear what is going on owing to the numerous interjections and remarks that are being made simultaneously. If the Prime Minister made such a statement I ask him to withdraw it.
– I shall withdraw anything in the interests of peace. But may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to stop this bombardment which meets me every time I rise.
– Order !
– I am asking for protection, that is all.
– I have just sat down after doing what the Prime Minister now requests me to do. I ask the honorable gentleman to set an example to the House, so that I may have the .assistance of occupants of the front Ministerial bench in trying to maintain order.
– I shall do my best to keep order, but I think it is time to make a protest.
– I would remind the Prime Minister that he rose to make a personal explanation.
– I am making one now, and the explanation is that every time I rise I am met with a bombardment of this kind, so that it is impossible to proceed.
– Order !
– On a point of order-
– There is no point of order. I have already said that it is impossible for me to follow what the honorable member in possession- of the Chair is saying while honorable members keen up a bombardment of interjections. If this continues I shall have to take other steps. I am the judge of whether or not the Prime Minister is in order.
– The explanation that I want to make is that I haw been misrepresented by the honorable member for Yarra, who has said that T have been making these statements concerning the late appearance of the AuditorGeneral’s reports. I wish to quote again the statements of the’ AuditorGeneral, and to say distinctly that they arp not my statements, but those of the AuditorGeneral. They are to be found in his report in respect of the year ended 30t1 June, 1909-10-
The statement of the Honorable the Treasurer, relating to the accounts for the year 1909-10, was received by me, complete, this tenth day of March, 1911. The accounts had been fully audited, and my report is now made thereon, supplemented by further information relating to the public accounts. The late receipt of the statements and accounts made it impossible lor my report to be prepared and presented to Parliament prior to the close of the recent session.
My previous eight annual reports had all bees submitted for the information of Parliament in the first instance- and, therefore, during the session of Parliament.
– Does the AuditorGeneral use those last words 1
– How could these reports have been presented to Parliament if Parliament was not in session ?
– It is all right, as long as we know that the honorable member is adding those last words.
– The point is that this report was sent, not to Parliament, but to the Treasurer, and that the Auditor-General is explaining that he had to send it to the Treasurer to be published in the Gazette, and so made public, instead of being laid on the table of the House.
– Why mix up what the Auditor-General says with the honorable member’s own words?
– I am not doing so. The Auditor-General says -
My previous eight annual reports had all been submitted for the information of Parliament in the first instance. In the present case it becomes my duty, in accordance with the provisions of section No. 53 (2) of the Audit Acts, to transmit to the Treasurer, with’ the view to publication, a copy of the statement and report prior to submitting the same to Parliament.
– In the Prime Minister’s opinion, who was responsible for the delay?
– I am dealing now only with a matter of fact. My statement has been impugned, and I am now quoting the statement of the Auditor-General.
– I deeply regret that the heads of the Departments of the Commonwealth are not better protected than they are in this House. We all know that the officers of each Department look to Ministers for protection. To-night, however, we find the Prime Minister evidently not realizing his responsibility, and, for purely party purposes, in order to refute a statement made outside this House, questioning the ability of the various heads of Departments.
– Not at all.
– The Prime Minister says that the Auditor-General waa unable to audit the accounts until late in the year. We all know that Ministers were not responsible for this. Who, then, was responsible ? The heads of the various
Departments. Before attempting to show why they were so late in furnishing to the Auditor-General the necessary accounts, may I ask the Prime Minister to agree to leave being granted to me to continue my remarks to-morrow, since T gather from a nod by the Minister that he is anxious to close for the night? We were here until midnight yesterday, wilh the result that some of us did not get home until 1 or 2 o’clock this morning. We shall have to meet again at 10.30 tomorrow morning, and I, therefore, ask the Prime Minister for leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
– May I remind the honorable member that we have been here all the week, and have done no business ?
– I think the Prime Minister will admit that I have not been guilty of any unnecessary opposition.
– I cannot agree to the honorable member’s request at this time of night, seeing that no business has been done.
– T regret that any honorable member, in order to make himself good with the public outside, should question the ability of officers whose ability is really beyond question. The Commonwealth took over the best officers of the State Departments, and we have at the head of our Departments capable men quite able to look after the interest? of Australia. The Prime Minister casts n reflection upon them when he says that, the Auditor-General is unable to fulfil his duties owing to the neglect of some person. The system is responsible for the delay. The financial year closes on the 30th June, and the accounts have to come from, say, Western Australia, or southern Tasmania : or auditors have to be sent to those places. How is it possible for the Auditor-General’s officers to audit the accounts more quickly than hitherto? The Departments have grown much within the last few years, owing to the fact that the late Government were a Government who did something, and, in doing that something, they created new work. I question very much whether the present Government will be able to furnish the accounts to the Auditor-General any earlier than did the previous Government. I do not think that the Honorary Minister would intentionally mislead this House; and, in my simplicity, I believe statements made from the other side.
– The honorable member should wait until he knows the Honorary Minister better !
– I have said that it was in my simplicity, as a young member of the House, that I took it for granted that neither the Honorary Minister nor the Prime Minister would mislead honorable members. We were told that this was a simple little Bill; and I had no intention to speak until I heard four honorable members on the Government side give four different interpretations of the measure. The only honorable gentleman opposite who, in my humble opinion, after my twenty-one years’ experience of the making out of requisitions for stores for a big Department, presented the Bill to us in a way that I could grasp was the Attorney-General; and I feel deeply grateful to him for the information he has imparted. I do not know that, after only three years’ experience as a member here, I am quite at liberty to adversely criticise the Treasurer, with his many years of parliamentary life behind him,” and his reputation as a financier; but I must say that, after having listened attentively ito him when he introduced the Bill. I find the views I then formed as to the object of the measure entirely changed by the explanation of the Attorney-General. I am in agreement with this Bill up to a certain point, because undoubtedly the Audit Act needs amendment; but I fail to see the propriety of imposing on the Auditor-General the duties of an inspectorgeneral of stores. It is an unfortunate fact that there is a different system of storekeeping in each one of the States, and each Department has its own Stores Branch. The Post, Office, the Department of Home Affairs, and the Defence Department each has a Stores Branch, and the work in this connexion must increase as the years go on. My idea is that we ought to have an expert inspector-general of stores, and that the machinery suggested by the Government will, if created, clog before long. An inspectorgeneral would bring about a uniform system throughout the Commonwealth, and this would be of great advantage. I question very much whether it could be ascertained now what stores there are in stock in any one of the Departments, and there is practically no expert supervision over their issue. If the electrical engineer in the Post Office desires stores, the storekeeper cannot Pay whether they are required or not, because he has no practical knowledge of electrical engineering. At the present time, we have the Public Service Commissioner, with no responsibility, selecting and regulating the number of hands who shall be employed in the Post Office : and now it is proposed to saddle the Auditor-General with the extra duty of a stores inspector. There is no doubt that if this Bill be passed as presented, the Auditor-General will have to create an expert branch in order to carry out his new duties, because his Department is now admittedly overloaded with work : and this new branch will mean the appointment of a head and a number of officers. The staff of the Auditor-General’s Department have had no practical experience of this kind, and to ask them to undertake expert duties such as are proposed must prove to the disadvantage of the Commonwealth. I am informed that a quantity of German insulated wire has been purchased by the Postal Department, although there is preference of about 15 per cent, in favour of British wire of superior quality. The reason given is that the British wire could not be obtained in Australia for work that was urgently required, and the Department had to accept the inferior article which was available. My own opinion is that, if these new duties be imposed on the Auditor-General’s Department, the purchase of stores will be still further delayed. The duties of an Auditor-General are to supervise the accounts, compel stocktaking at least once a year, and see that the vouchers are all right. He should not be called on to do work altogether outside his proper duties. Who will be responsible to the Minister when stores are purchased ? Will the AuditorGeneral be responsible? That would make him subordinate to the Minister, and he should be altogether free from political influence. But the chief officer of a Tender Board should be responsible to a Minister, so that the work of the Board might be discussed by Parliament. I have no desire to “ stone-wall “ or delay the passing of the Bill, but I hope that the Prime Minister will see his way to agree to an adjournment of the debate.
.- It is only to be expected that some reply will be made to the misrepresentation arising from the constant personal explanations of the Loader of the Government. The honorable gentleman tried to make the honorable member for Kennedy appear to be something other than he really is, and quoted from the report of the Auditor-General, but he did not touch the charge levelled against him. that he had publicly stated that there had been no proper audit of public accounts.
– I have repeatedly denied that I said that, and I ask whether an honorable member must not. under the rules of debate, accept the denial, and cease from repeating the statement?
– It is the invariable custom to accept an honorable member’s disclaimer.
– The denials of the Prime Minister are so frequent that one cannot keep them in memory. To his own delight, he quoted from the report of the Auditor-General a passage which he thought would discredit the Labour party. He pointed out that the AuditorGeneral has stated that he did not receive the accounts for the year 1909-10 early enough to enable him to submit his report to Parliament in time ; that he did not get them before the 10th March, 1911. One might expect that the Prime Minister would at least endeavour to be fair, and would investigate all the circumstances before quoting a passage with the object of discrediting opponents. Had he done that he would have found that the Fisher Government came into office in 1910, only two months before the financial year closed. During the first ten months of it the Deakin-Cook Administration had control of the Commonwealth, and its successor had to clear up th, debris arising from the neglect of the past, and deal with the inauguration of heavy expenditure to remedy that neglect. It could not be expected to present accounts in the way alleged by the AuditorGeneral that they had been presented by nine previous Administrations, though the honorable member for Yarra has disproved that statement. At the end of the yeal the honorable member for Wide Bay had to go to Africa, and he did not return until early in 1911, and a few months later he had to go to England. These extraordinary calls on the time of a Prime Minister new to office, and faced with tasks calculated to overawe any man, increased the difficulty of clearing up after the imperfect arrangements of the past. The present Prime Minister is always sheltering himself behind some one when his statements bring him into difficulty, and this time it was the Auditor-General. His charges against his predecessor are not fair. I draw attention to the legal exposition undertaken by the Attorney-General. He endeavoured to explain what the duties of the Auditor-General were. He said it was the duty of that official, not only to review the accounts submitted to him, but to see that the stores and other assets were as reported by the officers in whose Departments they were. I asked the honorable gentleman whether depreciation was to be allowed for, and he said that the investigation did not include depreciation. I say unhesitatingly that in Departments such as the Defence Department and the Post and Telegraph Department, where material depreciates and becomes obsolete, if the Auditor-General makes a report without allowing for and estimating depreciation, his report must fail to convey an idea of the true position of affairs for the guidance of the Government and Parliament. Consequently, the Attorney-General’s argument falls to the ground. What is the reason for the power to make regulations provided for in this Bill? Is it the outcome of a discovery that there has been no supervision in the past, no person responsible for the duties of purchasing and controlling public stores? Is it that the accounts of the Government of Australia have been so badly kept, and the provision for the custody and purchase of stores has been so ineffective, that Parliament is now asked to give the Government power to make these regulations? Personally, I am very pleased to find that, at last, some one is going to be made responsible. In travelling through the country with the Postal Commission, and in examining the stores of the various States, we found that the officers in charge could not furnish any reliable data as to the property in their custody, nor did their books indicate that they had any reliable accounts to serve as a guarantee to the public. In Western Australia, through the lack of system which obtained, an officer accumulated copper wire belonging to the Department to such an extent that at length he got sufficient to enable him to fence a selection with it. That was not discovered until the Postal Commission investigated matters in that State. There was no system. How could there be a system ? The methods followed in every State varied. We find different degrees of unreliability in re- gard to the keeping of public stores. Whilst the Public Service Commissioner has the power of appointing officers to take charge, and pays little regard to their adaptability, we shall not get that efficient administration which is required. Men are appointed to positions by a rule of seniority, not by a rule of fitness. If you have a man in charge of a store who understands proper methods of stocktaking and bookkeeping, he may be removed to some other position, where he knows nothing about the duties, and another officer may be brought in to fill his place who knows nothing about stores. There is a constant changing of men and putting them into positions for which they have no special fitness. While that system continues, you may give the Auditor-General any powers you like, but you will not obtain that completeness of supervision that is insisted upon by any decent private firm. No business man would take a competent ironmonger and put him into his accounts branch, or would take a good accountant and put him in charge of his ironmongery. Yet that is what takes place in our Public Service to-day. We are constantly putting round pegs in square holes, and square pegs in round ones. While that system continues, it will be useless to give extra powers to the Auditor-General. There should be an accountant in each State, who should be made personally responsible to the Minister, and the Auditor-General should be the correcting officer between the accountant and Parliament. Unless you have some such double check, you will obtain no satisfaction. What is the position in regard to accountancy to-day? Let the PostmasterGeneral investigate the matter in his own Department. After an exhibition of weakness extending over years, an accountant was appointed, but we have not been able to get a statement yet.
– I hope that we shall have one next month.
– I do not think that the Minister can give such a promise without reservation. What have we obtained from the accountant of his Department?
– He is a good man, and he is doing good work.
– For years, no one has been able to tell what the accounts of the Postal Department were. This gentleman was appointed for the pur- pose of introducing proper methods of bookkeeping and a system of check, which is essential, and also to lay down methods of ascertaining the specific cost of various services, lie was there over eighteen months, and yet no progress was made. I should like to know who is doing the work now?
– The Chief Accountant in the Department is an excellent man, and 1 believe he will have the balance-sheet ready some time next month.
– Who is the Chief Accountant.
– Mr. Halliday - a very high-class man. He came from the Railway Department in Western Australia.
– I was not aware that any person other than Mr. Triggs had been introduced into the Department.
– Mr. Triggs has gone to New Zealand.
– I know that. At the time the Postal Commission was conducting its inquiry, there was only one certificated accountant in the Department. Even if there is in the Department a man of whom the Postmaster- General thinks highly he will not be able to do the work as it should be done, unless he has qualified juniors to take charge of the various branches in the different States.
– We are getting more post-office than Bill from the honorable member.
– The Treasurer knows so little about the relations of the Accountancy Branch-
– The honorable member is an accountant, I suppose ?
– No; and 1 do not think the Treasurer is, either.
– Order ! These interchanges are irregular.
– It is not always the man who has served his time at accountancy who makes the best accountant. But any man of ordinary common sense who investigates the working of a Department can pass judgment upon it. The Treasurer need not attempt to flout me, or to throw out innuendoes in respect of work to which I devoted a large amount of time without any consideration whatever. I devoted myself to that work wholly for the purpose of improving the position of the Postal Depart ment, and it ill becomes him to sneer at my efforts. The Postal Department is the greatest spending Department in the Commonwealth. 1 venture to say that twothirds of the time of tlie Auditor-General is spent in supervising and directing the Accountant’s Branch of the Postal Department. Consequently, the relations between the Post Office and the AuditorGeneral constitute one of the most striking illustrations of the defective system which exists to-day. The Government do not appear to realize that any provision for the creation of a Supply and Tender Board should be contained in a special Bill. The duties of such a Board could then be plainly set out. We have to recollect that a Commonwealth Supply and Tender Board will be the biggest thing of its kind in Australia, and, consequently, its functions should be clearly specified.
– I would not have spoken at this late hour but for a few remarks of the Prime Minister.
– It is always some remarks from honorable members upon this side of the House which prompt honorable members opposite to speak.
– The Honorary Minister had better remain quiet. He is the youngest member of the House, and the most “ cheeky.”
– Do not be impudent.
– Order ! The Honorary Minister himself invites these irregular observations by his own interjections.
– The Prime Minister, both in the country and in this House, has been flourishing the reports of the Auditor-General. 1 should have thought that any reasonable man would have been satisfied with the explanation given in connexion with the presentation of the Auditor-General’s report during the closing days of the last session of the last Parliament. But notwithstanding the statement of the ex-Prime Minister and Treasurer, we find that the present Prime Minister, both in this House and in the country, has been making statements which, in my judgment, cannot conduce to the advancement of the Commonwealth. In speaking of the finances of the Commonwealth, we need to be especially careful, otherwise we do great damage to our country’s credit. Yet leading politicians have been going about the country gasconading on this subject.
Last session the Prime Minister complained that the Auditor-General’s report had been presented to Parliament only in the dying hours of the session. No matter what Government has been in power, it seems to me that the AuditorGeneral’s report has always been presented during the closing weeks of the session. I recollect one year in which the Treasurer represented this country in South Africa, and that may have caused some delay, and also in another year this Parliament did not meet until September, because the honorable member for Wide Bay and other members attended the Imperial Conference in London and arrived here late. The Prime Minister ought to realize when he is making these complaints - whether he is reading from a report of the Auditor-General or not - that he is throwing a certain amount of odium upon leading public servants of this country, especially those who are associated with the making up of our accounts. Last session, after the honorable gentleman had made complaints similar to those which he made here tonight, the ex-Prime Minister spoke as follows : -
The statement of the honorable member for Parramatta is so far from what I should call a judicial criticism regarding the presentation of the Auditor-General’s report as to be of no value whatever. To say that there is no control over the finances because the AuditorGeneral’s report has only just been presented is not within measurable distance of fact or truth. The Auditor-General’s report is in the hands of honorable members, and the position of the Government can be tested, if not in this House, elsewhere.
– The Auditor-General is appointed as an impartial critic of the finances, and yet we have not been allowed to know until now what his opinion of the public accounts is.
– The Prime Minister should withdraw the remark that my statement was not within measurable distance of fact or truth. It was most offensive.
– If my remark was offensive to the honorable member, I withdraw it, and with all the more pleasure, because his objection indicates that he did not know what his language conveyed. Like other honorable members on this side, I was under the misapprehension that he had made the allegation that the Government had delayed the presentation of the AuditorGeneral’s report to prevent the Opposition from criticising . our financial administration, and had conveyed the suggestion that there is no control over the finances.
– I did say that.
– Then my remark clearly covers the honorable member’s statement. The Auditor-General acquits the Treasury of any intention to do other than facilitate the presentation of accounts. He says that the Treasury officials showed every desire to bring matters before him. If there is one thing that I should like more than another, it is the presentation to the public of the results of a full investigation of Commonwealth affairs since we took office, and such a statement will be presented to the public.
That is a manly, truthful statement, which ought to have prevented honorable members when seeking election, or trying to secure the election of comrades, making many of these diatribes against the financial conduct of the Commonwealth. That is unpatriotic conduct, in my opinion. I am not here to defend the honorable member for Wide Bay. There is not the slightest doubt that had he been here to-night he would have ably refuted what the Prime Minister has said. I think it is about time that we laid aside the reports of the Auditor-General, and ceased to quote them ever and anon, in the hope that in throwing a lot of mud some of it may stick to a political party. While 1 congratulate the AttorneyGeneral upon the lucid exposition he gave of this Bill, for which we are very thankful, I do say that he has wrongly apprehended the duties of an auditor. 1 believe that I am a little at variance with some of my honorable friends on this side. 1 take it that the duty of the Auditor-General is to analyze the accounts and vouchers just as any auditor deals with the vouchers, accounts, and balance-sheet of a company. I hold in my hand a certificate as to what an auditor does under the Companies Act in Victoria. I take it that the auditor to a public company or a big concern acts in relation to the company in the same way as the AuditorGeneral acts in relation to our great Commonwealth. An auditor’s certificate in this State reads as follows: -
I report that I have examined the books and accounts of the …. company for the year ended 30th April, 1913, and that I have obtained from the officers of the company all the information and explanations I have required. In my opinion the accompanying balance-sheet is properly drawn up, and exhibits a true and correct view of the state of the company’s affairs, according to the best of my information, and the explanations given to me, and as shown by the books of the company.
If we saddle the Auditor-General with extra duties - the functions of inspectorgeneral of stores in the Commonwealth - we shall take him out of the position for which he was appointed, and charge him with certain duties which ought to be performed by an expert. What does the Auditor-General know about many of the stores received in the Post and Telegraph
Department ? It would be physically impossible for him to. examine the stores at all.’ Is any one prepared to tell me that the Auditor-General would be able to leave his office here, and go over to Western Australia to examine all the stores there, and afterwards in turn go to South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, and Queensland? Such a thing would be physically impossible. I trust that a vote will be taken which will confine the Auditor-General to his proper sphere, and so relieve him from the duties of comptroller or inspector of stores. It is quite likely that to-morrow I shall have some observations to make on the Sill in Committee. I trust that the Treasurer, as well as his colleagues and their supporters, will take kindly any hints that may come from this side. The complaint made by the Opposition in the last Parliament was that the Labour Government would never take any hints or suggestions from them, but I sincerely trust that any hints from the present Opposition regarding this measure will receive fair consideration. I hope that when the Bill is brought on for consideration in Committee, one of the first announcements made by the Treasurer will be that he intends to relieve the Auditor-General of the duties of comptroller of stores. I am in favour of that portion of the Bill which deals with the expenditure of money on the public services and other items, but I consider that the purchase of stores, and the consideration of tenders, are matters which ought to be dealt with in a separate measure.
– I do not think that I shall be prepared to take the honorable member’s advice and to alter the Bill in the way that he suggests. It seems to me that if we did nothing, we should have no trouble; but that when we desire to do something that will be of advantage to the Parliament and the country, we are met with a host of objections. A good deal of care has already been exercised in connexion with the purchase, -custody, and control of stores. The work has not been allowed to proceed in a haphazard way. We have used, up to the present time, the Tender Boards of the States with great advantage. Victoria has a very complete set of regulations with regard to the purchase, custody, and control of public stores, and, with the concurrence of the State Government, to whom we are much obliged, we have availed ourselves of them. There has been, however, some want of organization on our own part, and we are now trying to perfect the system. Even at the present time it is open to us to make Treasury regulations dealing with the subject, but they would not have the force of law, and, perhaps, would not be as binding on the Auditor-General as regulations are. The reason for the insertion in this Bill of a clause giving the Governor-General in Council power to make regulations for the purchase, custody, control, and issue of stores is that we desire that regulations having the force of law, instead of Treasury instructions, -shall be framed. I am quite surprised that any exception should have been taken to this Bill. The first part merely makes provision for a convenient arrangement. It will be, no doubt, of assistance to the Government and to their successors. It is a machinery provision, which has been much talked of, and which, it was thought, would readily meet with the concurrence of the House. The only object that we have in view in connexion with the second part of the Bill is to try to afford greater security than at present exists. The objection that has been taken that clause 3 is in the wrong place - that such a provision should not be in an Audit . Bill - has been shown by the AttorneyGeneral to be without foundation. In every State, I think, the purchase, control, and custody of stores is provided for by regulations made by virtue of a section in the Audit or some other Act. It is not covered by a separate Statute. Nothing but good can result from this proposal. We are not seeking under it to make our path easier. We are really imposing more restrictions upon the expenditure of public money, and taking upon ourselves, as administrators, more burdens. Honorable members opposite have been good enough to approve of the principles of the Bill; but they seem to disapprove of the form it takes. The speeches made to-night should rightly have been made, I think, in Committee, for they have not dealt with the principles of the Bill.
– Let us get into Committee now.
– The Opposition have kept us here all the evening, and I am going to keep them only alittle longer. The consideration of this
Bill should not have occupied the House for more than an hour. What does it provide? In the first place, we propose to allow payments to be made during July of each year; and, in the second place, to take power to make regulations to control the purchase, custody, control, and issue of stores. The Departments have been purchasing stores ever since the inception ‘of Federation, but because we seek, under this Bill, to improve the control, placing upon ourselves more burdens as administrators, numerous objections have been raised. If the Opposition do not want the stores of the country to be controlled, let them say so. No one would suggest that we should introduce a Bill of a hundred clauses, embodying all that is usually provided for by regulation. Honorable members will find a hundred clauses in regulations of the States governing the custody, control, purchase, and issue of stores. What chance would we have of passing a Bill of so many clauses if we had a repetition of the prolonged debate to which we have listened to-day ? Last session such a Bill would have been passed in an hour. The debate has been unduly prolonged. I shall not take the advice of honorable members opposite, and mutilate the Bill in the way they propose. In view of what we have had to put up with at their hands during the last few days, and the fact that they have been doing their best to prolong the debate, I do not think they have any right to give advice to the Government. .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed, pro forma.
Small-pox Outbreak: Quarantine.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) pro posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Can the Prime Minister inform the House when the Minister of Trade and Customs is expected to return? I desire to -bring under his notice the question of the quarantine arrangements at Sydney.
.- The Minister of Trade and Customs has stayed in Sydney a day longer to do some public business, but he will be here on Saturday without fail.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 September 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130911_reps_5_70/>.