5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 7.45 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that certain employers in the Old Country are forming an association, with a capital of £50,000,000, for the purpose of fighting trade unionism? That being so, will the honorable gentleman ask the InterState Commission to take into consideration to what extent non-union goods are to be allowed tocome into Australia, taking advantage of the preferential duties?
– I think that I shall ask theInter-State Commission to do something nearer home, and more useful.
– Am I to understand, from the laughter with which my question was greeted by honorable members on the Ministerial benches, and from his reply, that the Prime Minister does not consider the introduction of non-union or sweated goods into Australia, with the advantage of preferential rates, a matter which concerns us? Having had time for consideration, is the Prime Minister still of opinion that the question has nothing to do with Australia, or is of very remote interest to us?
– I did not say that the question has nothing to do with Australia. I presume that the smiles on this side were because of the honorable member’s innocence in being, apparently, quite unaware that no proposal for reciprocal trade with the Old Country is being dealt with at the present time.
– My question had reference to the preferential rates under which British goods are now imported into Australia.
– I think that we can meet the trouble when it comes.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs make available to honorable members the terms of a series of questions which have been addressed to secretaries of friendly societies in connexion with the proposed scheme of national insurance?
– I shall be pleased to send to honorable members copies of the printed questions addressed to the friendly societies.
– Has the Prime Minister received, from the Lord Mayor of Sydney, a petition asking that the embargo laid upon that city in connexion with the small-pox outbreak may be removed? If so, when will he give a favorable reply to it?
– I have not had a communication from the Lord Mayor of Sydney, but I have had communications from other representative men of that city, including the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.- I do not yet see my way clear to lift the embargo. I am afraid that we cannot do it just yet.
– In a day or two?
– I saw to-day a number of photographs of small-pox patients, and I should like my honorable colleague to let other honorable members see them, so that they may know what effects the disease has, even in a mild form.
– I desire to know from the Postmaster-General whether he has received a communication from the Premier of Tasmania about the proposed contract for the carriage of mails between the mainland and that State, and whether he will give consideration to the request contained in it. I should like to know, also, whether he proposes to take this House into his confidence in regard to the contract, which, I understand, is to be for the term of seven years, to ascertain whether they think it acceptable in the interest of the State?
– I have not received any communication from the Premier of Tasmania regarding the contract. If the people of Tasmania do not want the contract, we may re-consider the matter.
– Some time ago, the Postmaster-General informed the House that an agreement between his Department and the Tasmanian shipping companies had been drawn up. Can he tell us when the contract will be signed ?
– No contract has been drawn up, and I do not know that we are quite in accord as to terms. I have instructed the Crown Law Department to draft an agreement, and it will be for the shipping companies to approve of it.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware that a deputation of representatives of Tasmania, including members of this House, and also of the Senate, waited on the Postmaster-General last year with a view to an improved mail service for Tasmania ? Is the honorable gentleman aware that, at that deputation, a member of the pre sent Government, in the person of Senator Clemons, declared that it would be a disgrace if Tasmania were further subjected
– This is an argument, not a question.
– Order !
– Senator Clemons declared that it would be a disgrace if Tasmania got into the grip of the Shipping Combine, namely, the Union Steam-ship Company and Huddart Parker and Company.
– Order !
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member is making use of an argument, and that is not in order in putting a question.
– I have already called the honorable member to order. I was trying to follow him to discover the nature of the question he was asking. It is permissible on occasions to make a short statement to explain a question, but it is not permissible, in submitting a question, to make a statement of facts. The object of asking a question is to elicit information, not to give it.
– I accept your ruling, sir. I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware that a member of the present Government has declared that Tasmania should not be in the hands of a Shipping Combine, namely, the Union Steam-ship Company and Huddart Parker and Company, by reason of giving the Combine a contract for seven years; and that it is against the interests of Tasmania that any such contract should be entered into?
– All I can say is that I know nothing about the matter to which the honorable member has referred. I never heard of it before.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral make inquiries into the statement?
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether action has been, or is likely to be, taken to secure an agreement providing for reciprocal trade relations between the Dominion of New Zealand and the Commonwealth?
Have the negotiations, which were advanced to a certain stage by the last Government, gone further; and is Parliament likely to have an opportunity to deal with the matter this session 1
– The question has been considered by me personally, and is receiving attention generally at the present time in relation to the Tariff. I cannot make any further announcement at this stage.
– Are we likely to deal with it this session ?
– I cannot answer that question now.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs do his best to have the agreement relating to the working of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway laid on the table, so that those who wish to discuss it may do so when the Estimates are being dealt with ?
– When the terms of the agreement have been finally settled, .1 shall be only too pleased to lay the papers on the table of the Library. I have telegraphed to the South Australian Government, asking for an appointment on Saturday or Monday next, to settle, I think, the only outstanding detail; and I hope that next week the matter will be brought to a conclusion.
– Some weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister a question relating to the offer of £500 by his predecessor to the British Association of Cotton Growers for the purpose of having an expert sent to Australia to advise us on the growing of cotton. The honorable gentleman said then that he had not heard of the offer, and I ask him, now that he has had time to look into the matter, if he is prepared to make a statement regarding it 1
– I regret that I have not had time to look into the matter, and I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question, so that he may receive a definite reply. I understand that the Minister of External Affairs has the matter in hand, and I tell the honorable member plainly that £500 will not be allowed to stand in the way of getting the cotton industry going, if that is possible.
– Following up the answer given me by the Prime Minister, I should like to ask the Minister of External Affairs a question, without notice, on the same subject. I may say that I am quite satisfied that the amount of the vote, £500, is not the difficulty. I am anxious only that something should be done in the matter ; and perhaps the Minister of External Affairs will be able to inform me if anything is being done.
– I understand the question is as to whether anything is being done by the Government with a view to introducing an expert to examine the cotton possibilities of Queensland.
– Of Australia.
– The matter came under my notice by reading an account of the development of the cotton industry throughout the Empire in the report of debates in the House of Commons. I believe that a British association interested in cotton desires to examine the cotton-fields of Queensland. When I saw that, I made a minute that they should be requested to allow their expert to examine the cotton possibilities of the Northern Territory as well. Within recent years a grant has been given by the Imperial Government of, I think, £10,000 a year to encourage the growth of cotton within the Empire, owing to the limited supply now being obtained from America. All I can say is that we shall do everything in our power to see that a proper examination is made if the Imperial Government or an association send an expert to Queensland, and we shall see whether he cannot also examine other parts of Australia where cotton-growing can be profitably carried on.
– I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral, without notice, whether he is aware that there is a Printers’ Combine in Melbourne, and whether he has perused the letter which appeared recently in one of the dailies from the secretary of the non-combine printers ? I should like to know if the operations of the Combine are Inter-State in character, or in restraint of trade; and, if so, whether there is any Act on the Federal statutebook to prevent these people carrying on their nefarious practices 1
– The matter to which the honorable member refers did not come under my notice before he mentioned it. Any information which the honorable member or any one else can give me on the subject will be inquired into very fully. I should not care to pronounce any opinion on the matter until some inquiry has been made. If the honorable member will write to the Department, I shall institute inquiries into the subject at his suggestion.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence a question without notice. I should like to know if he will give me the use of some of the drill rooms in my electorate and a couple of worn-out generals, so that I may raise a band of loyalists?
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in asking a frivolous question.
– It is very funny that you will not allow me to put these questions.
– Order ! I wish to inform honorable members that frivolous questions are not allowable. The least the House can expect is that questions asked shall be of some public importance, and deal with some serious matter of moment to the country and to the House. It is highly disorderly to ask frivolous or ironical questions.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General, without notice, is it customary, when telephones have been destroyed by fire or unavoidable accident, to charge the users with the price of the destroyed instruments ?
– This matter has not come under my notice before. I shall make inquiries about it.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs state whether the officers who were employed to define the boundaries of electorates prior to the last general election have received any special consideration over and above their ordinary salaries for the work which they did as Electoral Dividing Commissioners? If so, how many officers have been so treated, and for what reason?
– Speaking from memory, I think that a member of the late Government made a statement in this House, in which it was explained that no Electoral Dividing Commissioner who was a Commonwealth public servant should receive any monetary recompense whatsoever for this work. Since then, certain applications have, I understand, been put in for gratuities, and have not been acceded to, with the exception of one case - that of a Fourth Class clerk who was chosen to act as Dividing Commissioner in Queensland. If my honorable friend will put his question on the notice-paper, I shall be glad to give him accurate information as to details.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs when he proposes to introduce the legislation which will enable the sugar-growers who are entitled to receive bounty to receive the 2s. 2d. per ton to which they are entitled ?
– In reply to the honorable member’s question, I have to say that we hope to be able to introduce the legislation referred to on Tuesday afternoon.
– Is it the intention of the Minister to introduce a Bill to provide for the payment to the sugar-growers of the 2s. 2d. per ton to which they are entitled on coming under the regulations concerning the increased rate of wages after August, 1912?
– I ask the honorable member to wait until he sees the terms of the Bill when It is introduced on Tuesday.
– Mr. J. Ramsden, who was injured while engaged in wireless construction works at Rockhampton some months ago, has not yet received any compensation, although I believe that the Department has the papers under consideration. I should like the PostmasterGeneral to consider whether Mr. Ramsden is not being disadvantaged by the delay in view of the possibility, in case of his going to law, of his witnesses having departed from the district.
– I shall inquire into the matter.
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following paper: -
Tariff - Letter, dated 8th September, 1913, from the Minister of Trade and Customs to the Inter-State Commission in regard to its investigation of the effect and operation of the Tariff Acts.
Local Manufacture of Explosives - Telephone Construction by Private Enterprise : Supply of Material : Condenser System - Inspector of Lighthouses - Telephone Mechanics : Importation of: Training of - Telegraph and Telephone Services : King Island - Tasmanian Mail Service - Design for Postage Stamp - Late Postage Fee - Small-pox in Sydney: Photographs - Federal Capital : Staff.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I desire to call the attention of the House to the necessity for the Government, as early as possible, making provision for the manufacture within Australia of all the explosives required for defence and other purposes, and to suggest, as a means to that end, that a testing station should be established. The question of Defence is very pressing, and we are expending large sums of money for the purpose of equipping the Forces. To a certain extent, we are manufacturing the cordite required for our small arms, and we should also take steps to provide the ammunition required for the big guns. While we are expending large sums in preparing to defend these shores, we should be entirely at the mercy of an aggressive foe who once got control of the seas, seeing that we have to depend entirely for certain supplies on oversea manufacturers. In such an event, notwithstanding our large expenditure, we should be unable to put our armaments into use if our supplies became exhausted. I understand that the late Government appointed a Board to inquire into the question of the manufacture of big gun cordite, and that the report of that Board was very satisfactory. A week ago I endeavoured to elicit from the Government some information as to their inten tion in regard to giving effect to the report, and I was informed that it had not yet been taken into consideration. No delay ought to occur in this connexion, especially in view of a report in relation to the Small Arms Factory. In that report we are told -
There need exist no trace of doubt that the whole of the cordite required by the Naval and Military Forces of the Commonwealth can be manufactured in Australia. Large extensions to our present plants will be necessary, but they can be grafted on without sacrifice of efficiency or any serious interruption of manufacture. The larger outturn will have the effect of reducing working costs of the factory per ton of cordite, and of placing Australia in a position of independence regarding a vital supply.
I entirely agree with the suggestion there made, and it is one that should receive early consideration. We are not justified in expending .millions on defence unless we make provision to serve the forces with ammunition should it ever be necessary.
– And without the assistance of the capitalist.
– Without the assistance of any one beyond our own people. The Government have power to manufacture these explosives, and they ought to exercise it as part and parcel of the defence scheme, without placing any dependence on private enterprise. A considerable sum of money is paid for imported explosives for defence and other purposes; and the return shows that the aggregate value of the explosives from abroad last year was £469,203, or close on half-a-million of money. A great deal of this importation was on account of the military. If we established our own factory we should employ a considerable number of men. As it is, many men are employed in connexion with the manufacture of cordite for the small arms; and if the explosives for the big guns were also manufactured here the additional money would be paid to citizens who would contribute towards the upkeep of the country. Every citizen is a revenue producer, and if we could find employment for some hundreds of men we should not only place ourselves in a position of independence in regard to supplies, but afford some relief to the taxpayers. I was pleased to hear some remarks the other day by Captain Pirie. He pointed out the steps that were being taken throughout the world to bring about national arbitration and to abolish warfare. I am at one with him in that regard. I heartily wish that it were possible to abolish war, which involves a considerable waste of money and great destruction of valuable life. But we have to take things as they are, and must be prepared for any emergency. We do not know that the day will not come when we may have an enemy knocking at our door. Our young men are being trained to defend our own shores, and with no idea that the Commonwealth shall ever be an aggressor. For such a purpose we ought to be in a position to be independent of outside supplies. We should be able to make all that is required for our own purposes. From that point of view, it is necessary for the Government to take early action, and to realize the importance to Australia of being able to manufacture explosives for the requirements of the Army. In regard to explosives that are imported for other purposes, it is needful that steps should be taken to erect a testing station. It is the policy of this country to impose duties to encourage the manufacture of commodities in Australia. But we have the means to our hand of securing the manufacture of explosives within Australia with very little aid in this direction. Considerable quantities of explosives are used in mining operations. Li mines that give off gas, there is considerable danger in the use of certain explosives. To minimize the risk as far as possible, the Mines Department of New South Wales prescribes that only explosives that are placed upon a certain list should be permitted to be used in such mines. The result is that manufacturers who would be inclined to make explosives for use in our mines are absolutely shut out for lack of a testing station. There is no hope of their succeeding. Companies that are even prepared to manufacture explosives cheaper than they can be imported are unable to car.ry on. In Newcastle there is a company which has been in existence about four years. A number of persons in Sydney found sufficient capital to establish it, and it commenced operations with a good number of hands. The company admits that it has a good market; but, in order that it may be able to dispose of its commodity, it must get its explosive on the permitted list. In order to get on the list the company was compelled to send a quantity of explosives to England to be tested. The Mines Department realized the importance of the matter, and decided to assist the company. But nearly twelve months elapsed before the explosives forwarded were dealt with by the Testing Board. It must be admitted that any explosive that is taken oversea, and is not tested for twelve months after manufacture, will in the meantime have deteriorated considerably. There can be no hope of having suitable explosives manufactured here and placed upon the market unless we have a testing station. Even supposing that a sample sent to England passed a successful test, no board would take the risk of certifying that it was reliable, because they would have no opportunity of testing other samples. But if the Government would erect a testing station within Australia, this company, or any other company that might be established, could have its explosives tested upon the spot; and if they gave off no fire which would cause danger from the ignition of gas, they would be placed upon the permitted list by the Mines Department. The company to which I refer is prepared to sell its explosive 2d. per pound cheaper than the imported article. That is a big consideration. We want to populate Australia, and we can best do that by encouraging the use of goods of our own manufacture. But, to insure that, we must give manufacturers fair play. Nevertheless, we allow this kind of thing to go on year after year, no effort being made by the Commonwealth Government or the State Governments to do justice to those who are prepared to embark their money in such enterprises. Local manufacturing companies would have a- good market if they could get their explosives on the permitted list. But they have been waiting in vain, supplying only small orders to mines which do not give off gas. This matter ought to receive serious attention at the hands of the Government. Something should be done in regard to it immediately. The manufacture of explosives within the Commonwealth would find employment for hundreds of working people. I venture to make the assertion that they could be manufactured without any duty. I am justified in saying so from this point of view. If once we erect a testing station, the manufacturers of explosives in other parts of tha world will be in the position that, when their explosives are imported, they will have to be tested in Australia. When the explosive arrives, after a long sea voyage, they must take the risk of a test here, to see that the explosive is up to the mark and satisfactory, and, rather than take that risk, it will be to their interests to manufacture the article here, and thereby save deterioration of the explosive on the way out, and having the material thrown on the scrap-heap through failure to pass the test. We can, therefore, expect that the explosives manufacturing companies in different parts of the world will establish themselves here once ive bring these testing stations into existence. We have already had a sufficient evidence that the explosives can be manufactured here. The company that I have spoken of has made various tests. I was present on’ an occasion when tests were made in the presence of representatives of mining companies, and the explosive was satisfactory to all concerned. We failed to detect the slightest fire given off by that particular explosive, and so satisfied were the representatives of the mining companies that they were anxious to secure it at once; but, because of this obstacle, because the explosive could not be placed on the approved list through the absence of any testing station, the company found that they were not in a position to manufacture and sell their product. This compels me to ‘take advantage of this occasion to bring the matter forward. It seems to me sufficient importance has not been attached to the question. So long as we are able to get our explosives, and so long as things go along smoothly, we appear to be satisfied, irrespective of whether we pay more than we should, and irrespective of whether our own people are employed in their manufacture; but if ever the time comes when Australia is involved in war, and we have to defend ourselves to our utmost, should our supply of explosives run short through our enemy having control of the seas, we will be entirely at their mercy. Therefore, from that point of view alone, the Government should consider the necessity for manufacturing the explosives we need for the ammunition for small and big arms. In addition, we should take into consideration the necessity for erecting a testing station, so that we can manufacture in Australia the explosives that are now imported. If the Government will look into this matter carefully, and obtain reports, they will see the importance of it, and they will find it will be to the interests of the Commonwealth to carry out my suggestion. Certainly, if they establish a “testing station, they will earn the gratitude of those engaged in mining.
Colonel Ryrie - Do you propose a duty, or that the Government should engage in the manufacture of explosives?
– My point is that the Government have the power to manufacture their own requirements for arms - we now supply the cordite for small arms, and we should supply what we require for the big guns - and people with capital are willing to manufacture commercial explosives, but the absence of a testing station prevents them. One company has put considerable capital into the manufacture of explosives, but the industry has been lying dormant for four months. I refer to the Weston Factory in the South Maitland district. They call their explosive Westonite. It is suitable for mining purposes, as it gives off no fire, and is equal to any explosive imported. It can also be supplied to the miners at 2d. per pound cheaper than is paid for the imported explosive. Therefore, without any duty at all, we could advantageously manufacture explosives in Australia if we had a testing station. I know that if we establish a testing station the New South Wales Government are quite prepared if this particular explosive passes the test to put it on the list of explosives permitted to be used. Once this is done we can employ perhaps 200 or 300 hands, and we shall be able to manufacture all the explosives we require for mining purposes. As for dynamite and other explosives, it will be found that, if the Commonwealth has the right to test explosives, overseas people will come here and establish factories to avoid any chance of their explosives deteriorating on the long sea voyage to Australia.
– I am heartily in accord with the proposal for the establishment of a testing station for our Australian explosives; it is a matter that should have been taken in hand long ago; but there are practical difficulties in the way.
– They are not insurmountable.
– There is only onemanufactory in Australia that is under disabilities owing to the absence of a testing station, and the facts are exactly as the honorable member has stated them . The explosive is effective and cheap, and safe; but it cannot be sold to the miners of Newcastle because it is not on what is called the approved list. The difficulty might be overcome by a slight modification of the Coal Mines Act in New South Wales in the direction of giving the Minister of Mines a little discretion. I am surprised that something has not been done in that way long ago. It is time that we in Australia began to test our materials in our own laboratory.
– There is hope for you from a Protection stand-point yet.
– That is a protection in which I thoroughly believe, the protection of the miner and the protection of his pocket; it is a policy in which this Government thoroughly believes. It is one way in which we can help the miner, and help him substantially. We cannot by legislation increase the price of coal, because international competition largely determines that; but we can reduce the expenses of the miner, and in that way help him to make the value of his wages more. Such protection as that finds a sympathetic chord in the minds of all on this side of the House. The honorable member says there might be a number of hands employed in the manufacture of this explosive if only we had an effective testing station. All that seems to indicate an inquiry as to ways and means. A testing station of the kind would cost thousands of pounds a year to maintain, and the question arises whether it would be worth while to undergo that huge expense for the purpose of a small business of that kind. But it has often occurred to me - I have thought over it many, many times - to consider whether we could not make arangements with some of our universities, who have the laboratories and the necessary appliances, to carry on tests of that kind ; that could be done probably with very little cost and expense to all concerned. The honorable member has, however, opened up a very much larger question, and I am not sure that he is not right. I shall have a talk with my colleague, the Minister of Defence, to see if there is no useful function that may be performed in connexion with the large amount of ammunition he has to purchase year by year for defence purposes. But as to the larger question, the manufacture of these explosives here, it is time we began to think about it. We cannot be said to have an effective defence force, naval or military, unless we are self-contained in all these respects.
– When are you going to do it?
– I do not think my friend should be so urgent in his protestations in this matter.
– I have been advocating it for the last thirteen years. It is about up to somebody to do something.
– We went a very long way towards it during our three years of office.
– I have not heard yet that the late Government did anything in this respect.
An Honorable Member. - The Prime Minister thinks we did too much.
– I do not think the late Government did too much; but I do think they might have put first things first. The moment a subject is broached, honorable members opposite begin to make politics out of it. If they are going to take that aspect of this question, I should like to ask why they did not put first things first in the matter of defence ? Why could they not let private employers continue to make saddlery and harness for our Defence Forces, and devote money expended on those Commonwealth Departments to this very useful purpose ? That is what I call putting first things first.
– Naturally. The private employers are the honorable gentleman’s friends.
– No ; that is not the point. The point is that there are already in the Commonwealth plenty of available sources from which those supplies could be obtained, whereas there is no available local source for this other and more vital matter. Such matters, therefore, should have received first consideration when there was only a limited amount of money to be spent.
– Why is the Prime Minister “ stone-walling “ ?
– I have spoken for five minutes, but, since the honorable member says I am “ stone-walling,” I shall sit down at once.
.- The Prime Minister, in dealing with this question, began very well, but closed very badly. It is an important matter of national concern, and rests entirely on the question of expense. I should view favorably the establishment of a testing station in Australia which would give us the same standard that they have in European countries. Although it would probably involve a loss of £3,000 or £4,000 a year, it would have its compensations. In the first place, it would enable local inventors to have their explosives tested here instead of having to send them, as at present, to the United States or Europe, with the result that, after the long sea voyage, they may prove tobe very different from what they were when first manufactured. In this respect, our isolation from the great centres of the world is the chief trouble. Then there is” the point of view which the honorable member for Hunter has so frequently and ably put before the House : that a testing station of the desired standard would put it beyond doubt that only first class explosives would go into use in Australia. The late Government gave the matter very serious consideration, and I think that such a station ought to be established in Australia. Although it will involve a loss, a regard for the safety of a large number of miners in Australia probably demands this expenditure at the hands of the National Parliament. The real difficulty arises from the question whether this is a Commonwealth or a State function. The Prime Minister did not deal with that point. He suggested that the New South Wales Government might propose an amendment of the existing law to enable some other authority to do the work for them, but my contention is that either the National Parliament must undertake it or leave it to the States to deal with. I do not agree with the Prime Minister’s argument as to the defence point of view.
– It is a question of argument, not of politics. We have at the present time an effective safeguard in regard to defence explosives. The Department has a method of testing such explosives which renders it unnecessary to provide for such a test as we require in regard to ordinary explosives. What the honorable gentleman referred to in respect of defence explosives would not get over the difficulty. We require to provide for a test which will be acceptable in Europe and the United States. I shall view with favour a proposal by the Government to establish a testing station of the highest grade, and to place it under the direction of a first class chemist, so that we mayhave tests of the standard demanded in other countries. We may suffer some monetary loss, but we shall gain far more than the equivalent in the protection of the life of our miners. Whether the undertaking of such a work is constitutional I cannot say, but whether it is or is not, if it is a good thing for the people it ought to be done.
.- A few weeks ago the honorable member for New England asked the Postmaster-General whether the Department would supply to people who are willing to erect telephone lines the material wherewith to erect them. The honorable member gave an evasive reply.
– The honorable member will have a chance of dealing with that matter when theSupply Bill is before us.
– If I deal with it now, I shall not mention it when the Supply Bill is before us. The PostmasterGeneral said he would make inquiries, and let us know what could be done. Since then we have heard nothing about the matter. His reply will not hold water. In other words, “ this cock will not fight.” There are in Queensland thousands of miles of private telephone lines which have been erected by private enterprise. On Thurrulgoona Station, in the Cunnamulla district, there are hundreds of miles of telephones, stretching from Barringun, on the New South Wales side, to Cunnamulla on the other. If private enterprise can erect these lines satisfactorily, surely the Postal Department ought to help those persons who are in need of telephonic communication in the remote portions of the country by supplying them with the necessary material. I recollect that some time ago it was proposed to connect by telephone a place 80 miles from Charleville, and the Department said that the work would involve an expenditure of £80 per mile.
The difference between the cost of erecting that line by private enterprise and the cost of erecting it under Government supervision was £70 per mile. In other words, the line was erected for £10 per mile.
– But the same class of line was not erected.
– No; it was not required. The Government always erect a standard line.
– The Postmaster-General has promised to supply us with a cheaper specification.
– The honorable member is wise in his generation. But we cannot live on promises. I have been promised things over and over again by successive Postmasters-General, but to get their promises translated into deeds is as difficult as is drawing a camel’s tooth. Here is a chance for the Postmaster-General to do something to help people who are willing to help themselves. Here is one of the best revenue-producing pieces of machinery in the whole of the Department, and yet the officials are so bound up with red-tape that it cannot be put into operation. We pay Government officials’ extraordinarily large salaries to overcome existing obstacles. But instead of doing that, they immediately begin to erect barriers. They have four or five standard reasons which they apply to every case, and, as a result, the Ministerial head of the Department is fettered. If he does not act upon their advice and anything goes wrong - and God knows, something will go wrong if they make up their minds on the point- they will immediately turn round, and say, “We told you so.” If persons are willing to erect telephone lines which will last ten or fifteen years, there is nothing to prevent the Department at the end of that time from erecting a standard line alongside of it, and transferring the insulators to the standard poles. I only wish that I was the head of the Postal Department for twenty-four hours. I would make things hum. I hold that the telephone is a cheap means of communication, because its use does not necessitate the employment of operators. There is no chance, therefore, of men going upon strike on account of broken shifts. The instrument is so simple that anybody with ordinary intelligence can refit it. On many stations that I know of telephones have been in use for years, and nothing has gone wrong with them. I ask the Postmaster-General to erect one or two of these experimental lines in each of the States. The cost would not exceed a few hundred pounds at the utmost, and if the experiment were a success the Department would gain enormously by it. I feel confident that it would be a success. I need hardly remind honorable members of the time, only a few years ago, when the first installation of the condenser system was effected. We all remember the trouble that was experienced in inducing the officials to adopt that system. There was a young fellow named Hallam, in Tasmania, who had not sufficient education to qualify him to enter the Professional Division of the Commonwealth Service, but who certainly possesses an inventive mind. Hie showed how the telegraph lines could be used for telephonic as well as telegraphic purposes. But his idea was opposed by all the departmental officials. Mr. Sydney Smith was the Postmaster-General at the time, and in response to my repeated representations, he consented to give this young fellow a chance to prove the value of his discovery. The ex-Prime Minister was absent in the Old Country, and I was looking after the interests of his electorate. Some of his constituents wanted a telephone line erected from Gympie to Brisbane. The officials said that the work could not be undertaken because the cost would be excessive. They represented that copper wire was necessary, and, as a matter of fact, I believe the specifications cost about £100. I asked the Postmaster-General to allow young Hallam to proceed to Brisbane to demonstrate the value of his claim. Mr. Smith agreed to my request. At the time of which I speak, there was a direct line from Toowoomba to Brisbane, and the condenser system was tried between Gympie and Brisbane. The result of the experiment was that the signals exchanged on the condenser line between Gympie and Brisbane were clearer than those which came over the copper wire between Toowoomba and Brisbane. It was only then that the officials would admit that the installation was a success.
– What became of that young fellow ! Has he been promoted 1
– I understand that he has gained admission to the Professional Division. He is one of the brainiest men in the service, but because he was located in an obscure State like Tasmania, the officials would not give him a show.
– An “obscure” State?
– Yes. When Federation was consummated, Tasmania was about 500 years behind the other States, but I admit that she has now partially fallen into line with them. What I want the PostmasterGeneral to do is to try an experiment in each State; and if it should be a success, his name will be handed down to immortal fame as that of Mr. Sydney Smith is in this House.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the House a matter which, I believe, is very important, in regard to our Public Service. Some time ago the Government called for applications for the position of Inspector of Lighthouses, and forty applications were received. Through the courtesy of the Minister of Trade and Customs, I have ha,d an opportunity of going through the papers on the Library table, and I am satisfied that a grave injustice has been done to the applicants. On a large blue sheet the names of the forty applicants are typed in one column ; there is a column for the age of the applicants, and a column is provided for remarks regarding them. No comments or remarks appear on the sheet at all; but there is a note from the late ComptrollerGeneral of Customs stating that he would like the Public Service Commissioner to make an appointment by telephone,, so that he could talk the matter over with him. I find that four names were put down for consideration, and one of the names at the top of the list was that of a gentleman called Commander Brewis. It is stated clearly that he stood out pre-eminently above all others as regards qualifications for the position, but the Commissioner said that on account of his temperament he would not be a fit person to appoint.
– What temperament has he ?
– I do not know what examination the Commissioner put this applicant under, or whether he examined him at all on that point. What I wish to know is whether the Commissioner examined all the applicants with regard to temperament, and also whether that was a qualification for the position. A peculiar fact is that the position was given to a gentleman named Mr. Rams botham, from Western Australia, who, I understand, has been in the Commonwealth a little over two years, and who is supposed to have a knowledge of the Australian coast, and to be able to find out the best places on which to erect lighthouses. One would think that the Inspector of Lighthouses would require to be a mariner who had some knowledge of our coast, and would be able to guide the Government as to where lighthouses should be erected.
– The Commonwealth wants a man who knows where the danger spots are.
– The Commonwealth wants a man who knows where the danger spots are, and has been on our coast on dark, stormy nights. The gentleman who was appointed to the position is not a sailor, but a civil engineer.
– Commander Brewis went right round the coast.
– Undoubtedly. He was the applicant with the best qualifications for the position, but because of his temperament he was disqualified. I should like to know if the Public Service Corn.missioner exceeded his functions, or what induced him to make the recommendation he did. In my opinion, the other applicants did not get a fair deal. They were not examined at all, and the papers disclosed to me that one particular man was cut out for the position, and that his age was thirty-five years. The Commissioner took the rough-and-ready method of saying that all applicants over that age were disqualified, because he wanted a new man who would be able to devote a great number of years to the Public Service. When the Commissioner calls for applications for a position of this kind, he ought to be fair to the public by stating that no one over a certain age should apply. Had that course been taken in regard to the position of Inspector of Lighthouses, it would have saved much trouble and disappointment to many persons. Can the Minister of Trade and Customs explain to me why a gentleman who has been in the Commonwealth only two years, is not a navigator, and has no experience of our coast, was appointed to a position with a salary of £800 ? Perhaps the right honorable member for Swan may know something about this matter.
– He is mostly good on navigation.
– I do not wish to reflect on any honorable member, but I submit that there was something wrong in the selection of Mr. Ramsbotham. How did the late Comptroller-General of Customs come to ask the Public Service Commissioner by telephone to make an appointment with him to talk over the matter? Seeing that there were forty applicants, there was a great deal of correspondence to go through. These gentlemen had not the time to go through the correspondence, because in less than twenty-four hours after it was sent to the Commissioner, he forwarded a note saying that he recommended Mr. Ramsbotham for the position.
– Do you suggest that he had a friend at court?
– I am not going to suggest anything about it. I do not think that the Public Service Commissioner went fully into the qualifications of the other applicants. The papers show that some of the applicants have been engaged all round the coast for sixteen or seventeen years, and know its dangerous parts. If any appointment would be likely to confer a benefit upon the Commonwealth, it would be that of a man who had been employed on our coast. It will take the gentleman who has been appointed to the position years to learn its main features. There were applicants who possessed the fullest possible knowledge on that subject, because they had been in charge of large steamers. Some applicants had been in command of the Orient steamers, while others had been employed very successfully in command of ships on the coast, in surveying the coast, and in laying cables. Yet these applicants received no consideration at all. It is a grave reflection on the Public Service Commissioner that he was so quick in going through the volume of correspondence and considering all the pros and cons, and that he made no remarks in the column which is provided on the blue sheet for that purpose. He did not say whether an applicant was too old or too young, or had had no experience. Not a reference was made to any other applicant; but the appointment was given to a man who was not qualified for the position by experience on our coast. I hope that in the future, when applications are called for positions, the Commissioner, or the
Government, will be honest enough to intimate that no man under a certain age need apply.
– And that the position has already been picked out for some one:
– I am not going to make a charge. How can the Minister of Trade and Customs account for the fact that the applicant with the best qualifications was turned down because his temperament did not suit the position ?
– By whom was Mr. Ramsbotham recommended ?
– He was recommended by the Commissioner. I do not wish to make a great deal of this, but I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to make an explanation to this House in regard to what has been done. When the Estimates are before us, I may have something to say regarding the suitability for his position of the gentleman who made the recommendation - the Public Service Commissioner. He completely failed to do his duty by the other applicants, showing them scant courtesy, and not giving their applications full consideration. Those who apply for positions in the Public Service should be honestly dealt with, and their applications should not be turned down on the ground that they have a bad temperament, a hasty temperament, or no temperament at all. I should like to know what temperament Mr. Ramsbotham has.
.- Both the Postmaster-General and the Prime Minister should be conversant with the subject which I wish to bring under notice, because both have given replies to questions asked regarding it; I refer to the contemplated importation of mechanics for telephonic work. I find that, in pursuance of a promise given by the PostmasterGeneral, an advertisement was published in last week’s Commonwealth Gazette inviting applications to fill vacancies in the position of temporary mechanics in the telephone branch of his Department in Western Australia; but it is stipulated that the “ applicants must be fully qualified in common battery and magneto exchange work,” and they are informed that they will be required to demonstrate their qualifications. I understand that applications have been invited from persons who are not in the employ of the Postmaster-General. The telephone service is, however, a Commonwealth monopoly, and rightly so, but persons not in the employment of the PostmasterGeneral have no opportunity of doing practical work in connexion with common battery or magneto exchanges. How is it possible, then, for mechanics not in the Public Service to demonstrate ability which they can acquire only by employment under the PostmasterGeneral? Men connected with the manufacture of certain machines and apparatus may, of course, have some little knowledge of their practical working, but, as a rule, in this country, persons not in the employment of the Postmaster-General have no opportunity of getting practical experience in this kind of work.
– In the Railway Department they train up apprentices.
– That is a point to which I wish to draw attention. It appears to me that those who are in authority seem to think that there are no persons in Australia who can qualify to do the work required of telephone mechanics. They recommend the importation of mechanics from abroad, and have insisted on the conditions to which I have drawn attention to prevent Australians from being appointed. There are in the community smart young fellows who -are desirous of entering the telephone service. They have qualified, so far as the obtaining of theoretical knowledge can qualify them, but they must of necessity be employed by the Department before they can get practical experience, and demonstrate their practical ability. I understand that the Customs Department has trained a number of young men who to-day are rendering admirable service to the Commonwealth ; some of them have so educated themselves that they are able to speak or write three or four languages, and have been deemed worthy to represent the Commonwealth in the metropolis of the world in many ways, and especially in connexion with one of the most important Customs cases that we have ever had. These young men are not more than thirty years of age, and have been so well trained in Australia by the Customs Department that they can take their place with the leading men of the world in fighting this case for the Commonwealth. All honour to the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs for what he did in sending several of his officers to London, not only dur ing the last three years he was in power, but also during his previous term. He it is who was responsible for sending these young men to the other side of the world. The work done by young Australians trained in our Customs Department has saved the country hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum. Why should not the other Departments follow the example of the Customs Department? Why cannot the Postal Department educate energetic young men in a similar way for its particular services? In my opinion, no Australian will be able to obtain a position as telephone mechanic, and this is because of the way in which the invitation for applications has been worded. I may be over-suspicious, but that seems to me the intention. Australians in every walk of life have shown that, given a fair opportunity, they are able to do as well as, and a good deal better than, persons from other parts of the world. The telephone branch of the Postal Department should afford every opportunity to young fellows to show their ability in its service. I have been waited on by young gentlemen who, in my opinion, are well qualified so far as theoretical knowledge is concerned for the work required to be done, and who, if given the opportunity, would soon demonstrate their fitness for the practical side of their duties. I appeal to the honorable member for Robertson to help me in getting a ‘ ‘ show ‘ ‘ for young Australians. I hope that he will stand up in his place and express his sympathy with what I am urging. I hope the Postmaster-General will take this matter into serious consideration, and not allow the Public Service Commissioner, or any one else, to prevent young Australians from obtaining these positions.
.- I wish to have a word with the PostmasterGeneral, on the subject of the Commonwealth stamp, because I see by to-night’s Herald that he is not complying with the promise, or pledge, he made to the House and the country in connexion with this matter. I read the following statement in the Herald of 29th July last -
With praiseworthy speed Mr. Agar Wynne, the Postmaster-General, has decided on the design for the new stamp. A feeling of relief has come over the mind of the expectant public. The suspense, while it lasted, was severe, but it is gratifying to learn that it is over. The kangaroo has been deposed from his pride of place, and, indeed, has been exiled from the penny stamp altogether. That is now dominated by the head of royalty variegated with what are alleged to be wattle blossoms of a red tint, and looking more like doubtful apples affected with bitter-pit. On the twopenny stamp, however, the kangaroo once more makes his appearance, but only as a little side show, standing at ease holding a têlê-a-têlê with His Majesty, while our old friend the emu is close at hand waiting for orders. Here, again, are sprigs of wattle blossom, coloured blue like the rest of the stamp in compliance with the international arrangement. The kangaroo is also blue, so is the emu, and the King looks blue, too. How does the ex-Postmaster-General look? The stamp seems to be a fair compromise between a portrait gallery and the Zoo ; it is racy of the soil, yet it has the touch of Imperialism. The critical would have liked to have found place for the kookaburra, the magpie, the black swan, the dingo, the rabbit, and some other local products, such as a pat of butter, a city councillor, a cable tram, or a tube of calf lymph. But the stamp is a minute article, and cannot be crowded with figures like a canvas of Tommasi, or Raphael, or Streeton, or Hal Gye.
A further reference to the matter appears in to-night’s Herald, and I shall be glad to hear from the PostmasterGeneral whether it is correct to say that he proposes to have the two kinds of stamps in use at the same time, so that a man going to a post-office may ask for a shilling’s worth of “Kangaroos” or a shilling’s worth of “ Kings.” The matter is important, because it is possible that if certain honorable members of this House inquired at the post-office for a couple of “bobs’” worth of “Kangaroos,” some doubt might be cast on their loyalty.The Postmaster-General appears in this connexion to have displayed a reversal of form, and should be had up before the stewards - the Australian public - to explain his action.We were told some time ago that the kangaroo stamp was absolutely absurd, and the press of Australia, backing our honorable friends opposite, referred with a great flourish of trumpets to what was said to be the praiseworthy action of the present Postmaster-General in deciding to do away with the kangaroo stamp.
– I can let the honorable member see one of the stamps.
Mr.TUDOR.- The stamp which the honorable gentleman has handed to me has, I see, the wattle blossom, which is like a doubtful apple with the bitter-pit. I am not an authority on bitter-pit or reversal of form in connexion with stamps or with other matters, but I shall hand the stamp over to the exPostmasterGeneral, who, I believe, knows something about the subject.
– Is that a “ King “ or “ Kangaroo “ the honorable member has?
– I do not know whether it is a pennyworth of “ King “ or a pennyworth of “ Kangaroo,” as both the King and the kangaroo appear on the stamp which has been handed to me. The kangaroo is like the boxing kangaroo which we used to know in Australia, and appears to be going to “give the King one.” I should like to know from the Postmaster-General whether the following statement which appears in to-night’s Herald is correct - “ They can have their kangaroo stamp if they want it,” he says. In America, he states, there’ are perhaps half-a-dozen designs for two cent (or one penny) stamps. He anticipates that philatelists will purchase the King’s head stamps for their collections and for exchange in other countries. Thus, he says, Australia will stand in the forefront of countries of the world that take a pride in their stamps.
I do not think the public will buy any more or any less of them, whether the honorable gentleman issues a few or a great number. If he will say that he was not ready when he made the statement that he would be able to issue stamps with the King’s head on them in the time he expected, and that rather than disappoint the publiche proposes to issue a few at a time, we will understand hispresent action. But we ought to have some explanation of this sudden change of front. We were told a few months ago that the kangaroo was to go, and we now learn that he is to remain, and that the two kinds of stamps are to be issued together.
.- I wish to make an observation or two on the matter raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. The conditions expressed in the advertisement to which the honorable member has referred constitute, in my opinion, a vote of censure on the Post and Telegraph Department, and especially upon the mechanical branch, because they show that up to the present they have been unable to find sufficient talent within the Department to carry on its affairs. For years past the mechanical branch of the Department has failed to rise to the occasion. Those in charge have never attempted to use the material they have at hand, although they have been urged from time to time to do as is done in other Post Offices, and especially in the British Post Office, where every inducement is held out in the mechanical branch, the operating room, and the exchange, for the advancement of the best talent amongst the youths employed. With other members of the Postal Commission it was my unfortunate lot to go very minutely into the work of this Department. We urged three years ago that there should be established practically a school within the Department, in order that those in charge might be in a position to discover the talent available. Little or nothing has been done in that direction, the boys employed in the service have been neglected, and have been afforded no opportunity to show their ability, and the only way now to overcome the difficulty is to advertise for the services of persons outside the Commonwealth. I should like the Postmaster-General to inquire what steps have been taken with the object of educating and training the lads in the Post and Telegraph Department. Surely it is one of the duties of the PostmasterGeneral to see that the service gives the best it can to the public ? I do not like to say anything in opposition to the honorable member for Maranoa, but I remind him that when Mr. Sydney Smith, as Postmaster-General, introduced the condenser system, and the treeandfence telephones, the condenser system, while meeting a keen want, and giving temporary relief to a large number of people, did not prevent a great congestion of business not long afterwards. The condenser system is good up to a certain point, but it should not be looked upon as a permanent substitute for the efficient service to which the people are entitled. On a number of lines in my electorate the condenser system is established ; and the worst of it is that when once that system has been put into operation, the Department seems to go to sleep. No regard is paid to the growth of the telegraph or telephone business; and the result, in most of the country districts, is that the people are penalized in double charges. While the regular fee for telegrams is 9d., the people in the districts to which I refer have had to pay the urgent rate of ls. 6d. in order to get efficient service, and we representatives of country districts have to bear the brunt of the lack of observation displayed by the Post Office officials. I do not know whether the Postmaster-General proposes to continue the beneficent system introduced by the late Government of, wherever possible, providing telephone lines as distinct from telegraphic lines. In my own electorate the services are being separated, with metallic circuits for telephone lines of 600 or 700 miles in length; and it is expected to in this way provide facilities equal to those in Melbourne and Sydney. The Postmaster-General ought to realize that the condenser system should be inaugurated only where there is practically no hope of a separate service. There is another matter to which I would like to refer. I understand that the Minister of Trade and Customs has been distributing or showing in this Chamber certain photographs of the victims of the Government blunder at present suffering from the plague of small-pox in the quarantine area. I strongly object to the Government endeavouring to influence members by pictures showing, or alleging to show, the condition of the patients thus circumstanced. The fact that the Minister has to get into his head is that there has not been a single death from this disease in Sydney, or in the quarantine area ; and that, I take it, is the best test of the seriousness of the complaint. Even if the pictures are true - which they probably are - what do they prove?
– I call the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he is now traversing a debate which has already been made an Order of the Day on the honorable member’s own motion for another day, and he is not in order in proceeding on the present lino.
– The photographs have been introduced since my motion was placed on the notice-paper, and I did not include them in that motion. However, if the Speaker rules that I am not in order I must agree, and defer my remarks until the debate on my own motion is resumed. In the meantime, I am sorry that the Minister of Trade and Customs is using this method to influence honorable members.
– Are they official photographs?
– I do not know; 1 have not seen them.
– During the debate on the honorable member’s motion the Prime Minister, in reply to a question, said that these photographs were available if honorable members would like to see them.
– That matter must not be discussed at this stage.
– There is another matter to which I desire to direct attention, but I shall defer my remarks until the Supply Bill is before us.
– It is within the knowledge of honorable members that during the past two or three weeks I have given some attention to the case of the postal mechanics. The Administration have the idea of importing mechanics from the Old World; and to this I take serious exception on the ground that no effort has been made to employ our own people. It is said that we cannot get people in Australia capable of doing the work; and, having regard to the advertisement issued by the Public Service Commissioner, I am not sur prised. In that advertisement we are told that applicants must be fully qualified in common battery and magneto exchange work, and will be required to demonstrate their qualifications. I appeal to the common sense of the House as to how people outside the service can, by any possibility, give such demonstration. It is only in the telephone service itself that the necessary experience and ability can be gained ; and I do not see why the Commissioner should issue such an advertisement, and, of necessity, handicap outside men. The desire evidently is to import from the Old Country, not people who have mere theoretical training, but those who are already employed in the telephone service of Great Britain, and the promise is given of twelve months’ employment provided they prove their efficiency. If at the present time there are men in the postal service who have passed their examinations, and are fitted to do this work, they cannot get it to do. The Public Service Commissioner will not give them the opportunity of filling the positions for which they are fitted. I have had within the past few weeks dozens of letters from men who have passed their examination, but who have been turned down. Why? The Department says to them, “ You are postmen, or letter-sorters; it is quite true that you have passed your examination, and are fitted for this work for which we require men; but we refuse to dispense with your services in the capacity in which you are now operating.” How can we expect that men will study and qualify themselves for higher positions if they find that when they have qualified they are turned down and held to the lower positions which they have been filling 1 This matter demands the careful consideration of the Postmaster-General. There is no reason why any attempt should be made at the present time to import men while we have men here who have passed their examinations and are capable of doing the work. I invite the attention of the Postmaster-General to this question ; and I repeat that to insert an advertisement of this kind in the public press is a scandal and a disgrace. It is simply an attempt to prevent any outside person in Australia from taking up a position, and is paving the way to the importation of an element which, while desirable in itself, is not desirable while we have people in our midst capable of doing the work which the advertisement says requires to be done.
– No one is keener than I am that our own people should be employed wherever possible; and when I saw an announcement to the effect that it was intended to send Home for mechanics, I at once gave instructions that an endeavour should be made to obtain them in Australia. The advertisement to which reference has been made was inserted in accordance with that suggestion. I am told by the Public Service Commissioner that the examination which the men are required to pass is a very simple one, indeed.
– They have passed it.
– Any man who has passed the examination is entitled to get an appointment.
– They cannot get it.
– I am informed that twenty-one are required for Western Australia, and others for Victoria and New South Wales. Of course, I am not an expert in this work, and therefore must listen to the advice of the departmental experts. They tell me that there is no great difficulty in men passing the examination for this branch of the service. If there are young men in the Department who have been educated at a Working Men’s College, or a similar institution, they will have the first chance of appointment if they can show that they are fit to do the work, or even if they can show that they are partially fit, and that we can complete their training afterwards.
– Why does not the Department take in boys and train them?
– That is one of the suggestions which I have made to the Department. I have suggested that we should have a training school of our own, in which we should educate our lads up to a standard fitting them to do the work of the Department. We cannot get enough of the young telegraph boys whom honorable members see about the streets. They get promotion rapidly. Of course, I have no power to appoint a single man in the Department. If I had I would endeavour to exercise my power honestly and fairly. Appointments have to be made by the Public Service Commissioner. I believe that that gentleman endeavours to carry out his duties honestly, but I give him credit for endeavouring to do the right thing. I have only met him once, and was very much impressed by his fairness when I conversed with him.
Mr.Fenton. - Where are lads likely to get the practical experience required in the Post Office?
– I will tell the House what has been the practice of the Department. We encourage lads to take lessons at the different colleges, and, as soon as they have passed their examinations, we pay their fees for them.
– Only those who are in the service.
– Of course, we cannot be expected to pay the fees of persoons outside the service. Any young fellow who sees an opportunity of bettering himself by studying can do so, and as soon as he has passed his examinations, the Department refunds the fees he has had to pay for his education.
– Itwould be a good thing to take boys of fourteen years of age, apprentice them for three or four years to the Department, and then employ them as mechanics. The Department would then be continually turning out trained men, just as we turn out our compulsory trainees.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. But I am not a walking wonder. I have only been in the Department two months, and have done my best since I have been there. I quite agree with many things that have been said concerning red-tape in the Department. It is driving me nearly crazy. I should like to knock it on the head. There are so many regulations, and so much red-tape, that one who has to spend many hours in this House cannot get much work done in the Department. I have worked from twelve to sixteen hours a day since I have been there. On offdays, I take papers home with me and work at them till after11 o’clock at night. I agree with very much that the honorable member for Maranoa has said. The departmental cost of erecting telephone lines has been a great surprise to me. I put up a telephone line, 7 miles long, at a place of mine in the country, at a cost of £9 per mile. One of my neighbours said that he would like to have a telephone, and I told him that he could use my line. I had two wires on it. The departmental officers say that my line is no good. Yet I can talk at a distance of 150 miles from Melbourne through four exchanges to my house in St. Kilda. I think that is good enough for the average man, even if it is not good enough for the Department. It is certainly good enough for me, and would be, I am sure, for most of the members of this House. With reference to the supply of insulators and wire, I may mention that I have just concluded a contract with a Colonial company whichhas started work here, and has established a new industry for the making of insulators. I gave them an order, in preference to a foreign firm, for a very large number of insulators. I believe that in time they will be able to make every insulator we require for all Australia.
– Have the insulators been subjected to the proper test?
– The smaller ones have been tested and found satisfactory. We are now testing the larger ones, and I believe that they will answer the requirements of the Department. As we get sufficient of them, we shall be prepared to supply them to the public, so that people who want to put up their own telephone wires can get them. They will also be able to get wire from the Department, and I think that will be an assistance to the general public. I am only too pleased to get suggestions. I have had suggestions from young fellows in the
Department, and also from the public outside. I do not take any credit to myself for the few little things that have been done. Nearly everything has been suggested to me by honorable members in the House, or by people outside. All I am anxious to do is the best we can for the public, and to make the public have confidence in Parliament and the Department. It is not a question of doing a thing for one’s personal vanity; it is simply to do it. I will give a little instance of what happened the other day. A letter-carrier informed my wife, at St. Kilda, that he did not get off until 7 o’clock at night because the mails were sent out to St. Kilda so late that they could not make the delivery before ‘7 o’clock; and my wife asked me why I kept those poor young fellows working until 7 o’clock at night. So I came into town, and made inquiries, and found that twenty years or so ago they sent the letters to the Flinders-street station to be sent out by train to the suburbs, and then they had to be carted from the suburban stations to the suburban post-offices, and that tin’s arrangement was still in force. I said, “ What is the use of all these motorcars you have?” So now they take the mails out by motor-cars in a quarter of an hour, and the delivery is over by 6 o’clock instead of 7 o’clock. This only shows what common sense there is among the junior workers of the Department. The more suggestions they make of that character the better for the service. The honorable member for Maranoa suggests that we should put up some trial lines. I think that the idea is an excellent one, and if the honorable member will have a talk with me, and show me the system he proposes, I will see if it can be carried out.
– Is it not a fact that, owing to the extra work put on the mail cars through the abolition of the late postage fee, the letters cannot be sorted on the way down to Melbourne, and have to be sorted on arrival at Melbourne ?
– I do mot see how that can have occurred already, because the new regulation has not been in force more than two days.
– I merely say that they are blocked already. I do not wish to see the regulation abolished.
-The abolition of the late fee postage was for the benefit of people living along the railway lines in small towns where, perhaps, they have only one communication a day, and we asked the general public not to take advantage of the increased facility so as to cause annoyance to others. Of course, if it is over-done, people simply have to run the risk of having their letters brought to Melbourne to be sorted, and they will probably lose one delivery; but, notwithstanding this, a great many people will be benefited by the new regulation; it will be a great convenience to the country people in very many places. With reference to the question raised by the honorable member for Yarra as to the new stamp, all I am dealing with at present is the Id. stamp. For different denominations, I would like to revert to that beautiful Western Australian stamp - the black swan stamp, for one; to the view of Mount Wellington, in Tasmania, which was a very handsome stamp, for another; and to a view of Sydney Harbor for another stamp.
– What about the Buffalo Mountains ?
– We have Mount Wellington, and we do not require two mountains. We have the wattle blossom for Victoria, and the kangaroo and emu. If we have four beautiful stamps, it will be to the credit of Australia, and be better than having the one pattern on all the stamps. That will leave us five, or six, or seven denominations, including the kangaroo stamp. I am not wiping out the kangaroo. I think that the second prize design submitted for competition is a much prettier stamp than the existing one. It has a kangaroo on it, and is a much better design than the old stamp. Putting a half-starved kangaroo on a bare white patch will not keep Australia white. It is the people who will keep Australia white, and they can do it without parading the fact on poorly-printed stamps. I do not think it is worth while going to the expense of cutting a number of new dies, but I regret to say that the dies for the black swan, and the other dies, were destroyed three or four months ago. I cannot understand why this was done. They were expensive things to make, and it is a great pity that they should have been broken up for old metal.
– Who destroyed them?
– The Department. I heard of it only last week.
– Was the Tasmanian die destroyed, too?
– All those dies were broken up.
– Who was the man who gave such a dastardly order?
– I do not know; it was done.
– Have you broken up the penny kangaroo?
– No. The honorable member for Yarra spoke of having two stamps in existence, the present penny stamp and the new penny stamp. In the United States of America they have six stamps of the same denomination in existence at the one time. They have President Taft, and Franklin, and former Presidents. They run them all, and people take them as they come. I thought that we would have had the new stamp in full swing by now, but they are being engraved on steel, and can only be printed by the printer of the note issue, and as the Treasurer is very anxious to get £5,000,000 worth of notes out before Christmas, I have only the use of a small machine to issue a small number of stamps. I thought that as people were’ so anxious to use these stamps, we might give them’ a few to go on with, but next year, after these notes are printed, the machinery will be available to print both notes arid stamps.
– You seem to have started before you were ready.
– I can get two or three machines now, but I do not see any necessity for incurring the expense of buying machines when the note-issue machines can do the work. It is only a question of a postponement for a few months, but we can get a few going now, so that if people want them they can get them. I think I have dealt with all the questions asked by honorable members. I emphasize that I have not the slightest objection to suggestions. The more that honorable members can give me, provided they are good suggestions, the better I will like it.
– I should like to make some suggestions with regard to the telephone system, because I have had a little experience in telephone work, having earned my living at the occupation for about twenty-five years. I say that we can find in Australia all the men needed to carry out the work required by the Department - if the Department will pay the wages. I understand that it was the intention to send men to Western Australia at the paltry wage of £144 per year. Had they paid £176 per year, which they intended to pay to the men brought from abroad, they would have got men in Australia, but no one would go out into the climate, say, of Kalgoorlie, and take on the work there for £144.
– I think it was £164.
– That was the maximum. I understand the men were working at £144, and were asked to go there at that wage. I have yet to learn that the common battery is in use in Kalgoorlie, or even in Perth at the present time. The common battery system is practically new in Australia, and even in the Old World. When I was in London two years ago, I found the old system in use. A run-down telephone system was being employed because the British Government controlled one section of the service while a company controlled the other. The British Government were about to buy out the company, and I was led to understand that, on taking over the service, they intended to bring it up to date, and to make it equal to that of America, or even Norway. Norway has the finest telephone system in the world. Few people realize the wonderful changes that have taken place in telephone construction during the last decade. Machinery coming in this year as quite up to date will be obsolete two or three years hence. Having carefully examined the automatic system in use at Geelong, I am of opinion that the day is not far distant when the common battery system will be obsolete and the automatic system, which is working splendidly at Geelong, and a credit to those who installed it. will be in general use.
– It has been in use for ten years in America.
– I wish the honorable member had it installed in his own home. If he had, he would spend so much time in talking with his friends over the wire that when he came here he would give us a rest. A few years ago, there was a great boom in the construction of telegraph lines in Australia, and particularly in Western Australia, with the result that telegraph operators could not be obtained locally in sufficient numbers. Operators were therefore brought out from the Old Country, but they could nob “live” with the Australian operators. They found men working on a quadruples line taking off their thirty-five or forty words a minute hour after hour. They had never seen such fast work, and they had to be drafted into the backblocks for a quiet, easy life. I doubt whether we shall be able to induce competent men to come out here for even £175 per year. It would pay the Department to set up a proper technical school and to place in charge of it a ‘really good mechanic. Every man who is about to enter an electrical mechanist’s shop should have served two or three years at mechanical engineering. He should be capable of using the file on the bench, and also of using the lathe, so that he would not damage instruments in attempting to repair them. Such a school would pay the Department. I am surprised that it should be said that the examination which these men are asked to pass is an easy one. It certainly is not. If it were simple, then we should not get competent men. A telephone fitter should have a knowledge of the theory of the working of instruments, as well as practical experience, and he should also study the higher branches of electrical engineering. This brings me to the point mentioned by the Postmaster- General regarding the construction of his own line. He may construct a line very cheaply. There are lines which can be constructed much cheaper than they have been by the Department, but the position in regard to long-distance lines is different. It is all very well to use a single wire with an earth return in the case of a long line that is to run by itself; but let the PostmasterGeneral give permission to others to erect their cheap lines alongside of it, and the cross-talking, or what is technically called the “ induction,” will be so great that not one of the lines will work satisfactorily. That is why the Department, when they want a long line, construct a metallic circuit. I believe it is cheaper in the long run to use copper rather than iron wire. You put up a line, make metallic circuits, and transpose the metallic circuit every quarter of a mile. That is to say, you take the wire from one side of a pole to the other, crossing the wires, apparently, but not allowing them to touch. You then get a practically silent line. That is necessary to a successful telephone system, and it pays in the end. There is nothing more troublesome to a business man than to have an earth return circuit, with its annoying induction. It is an easy matter to train men in the Department, for they will gradually assimilate the new systems coming in. No one is quicker than is an Australian to change his line of thought on any particular subject. Men do not specialize in Australia, and get into a groove. In other countries men are kept, as a rule, on one class of work, and become very expert; but in Australia we usually find one man doing many things. I have in my mind’s eye a gentleman whom the Department could not hold. In the first place, he had a laudable ambition to rise in our Defence Forces, but as he was a poor man, with no blue blood in his veins, when he became a lieutenant he was not acceptable to some people. Although he was a Government servant, every obstacle was put in his way when he wished to attend camp every year. He was paid only about 12s. per day, although he improved a system that enabled the Department to use a line simultaneously for telephonic as well as telegraphic purposes.
– Surely not ! That is thirty years old.
– The honorable member knows a great deal about vaccination, but his interjection demonstrates to me that he knows nothing about telegraphy. This gentleman of whom I speak - Mr. Medhurst is his name - was taken to Queensland to instal the system which 1 have just mentioned, and he also invented a military telephone, that could be fixed on any wire fence. He obtained twelve months’ leave of absence, went to England and placed his invention before the public, with the result that a company was formed to take it up, and it is now being used successfully in all parts of the world. The Department was not paying that man, if I remember rightly, more than 13s. per day when he left. They let him go, and he is now the manager of one of the largest electrical companies in Tasmania, if not in Australia. The Department is losing good men because it will not give them a reasonable remuneration.
In the majority of cases the heads of Departments have graduated from the operating staff, and not from the mechanical staff. The result is that the mechanical staff has never received the kudos that it should have received from the telegraphic service. These fitters must be men of ability and of education. They have to know the units which govern the use of electricity. Take the three units which govern everything. In all wires there is a resistance to the flow of electricity. That is called the ohm, after the discoverer of it. Then we have the pressure current, which is called the volt, and, finally, we have the ampere, which is the unit of current on the line. Fitters and linemen should know all about these units, otherwise they may send altogether too much electricity along a wire. Or they may see a cracked insulator, and imagine that it is all right. They may not know that the resistance of an insulator may be considerably reduced by a crack. That is why I inquired to-night whether the insulators are to be subjected to a test. As honorable members know, an insulator is the white porcelain cup which is placed at the top of each telegraph pole. “What function does it perform? It prevents the electric current going to earth at every pole. Electricity has a tendency to run to earth by the nearest route, and if the insulator is not of high resistance, the current will thus be lost. Then, again, a fitter who has not the requisite knowledge may get an electric current of such a high pressure that it will force a leakage at every one of the insulators. It is evident, therefore, that these men must have had a highly technical training. Yet they are paid no bettor wages than navvies. In fact, I have heard it suggested that plumbers should be put on to the work of installing telephones. It is said that was done in London, with the result that the work had to be done over again. Why? Because the first relay erected for telegraphic purposes was one of about 5,000 ohms resistance. In Tasmania the resistance has been brought down to 25 ohms, and the battery power has been reduced to a third of what it was previously. These telegraphic fitters are men of very high calibre; some of them are capable of doing electrical engineer- ing work. I do hope that the PostmasterGeneral will insist on his engineers doing engineers’ work, and upon his fitters doing fitters’ work. Only the other day an installation was being effected in this building. I inquired whether drawings of the work were supplied, but I could not find any. I say that there ought to have been one. The men should work to a diagram, and as soon as a telephone is erected it should be connected with the switchboard. It is idle for men to be called upon to pass a theoretical examination. They should be required to pass a practical examination, and to put in so many years at each section, working from the bottom rung of the ladder to the top.
– The Department moves a man when he has become proficient.
– That is the great trouble. It would pay the Telegraph Department to allow men to work from the bottom rung of the ladder to the top, and to enable them to be classed as electrical engineers when they have passed their final examination. These men must have a knowledge of algebra, otherwise they are of no use to the Department. Some little time ago, when I learned that one engineer was dealing harshly with the linemen and fitters under him, I said, so that he should hear me, “ If this gentleman does not change his tactics I shall insist on him passing an examination in algebra and working out his plans in that fashion.” He was a wise man, and promptly altered his tactics. We have in Australia a Chief Electrical Engineer who is a very able man. Judging from what I have seen of his work, he is a very efficient officer, who, I am of the opinion, would, if given a free hand, initiate a system under which these men would be trained, and thus the necessity for going to the Old World for them would be obviated. It is a remarkable thing that whenever there is a Conservative Government in power, they must send to the Old World for their experts. Without wishing to disparage the mechanicians of the Old Country, I am of opinion that in Australia we have men who are equally capable. I hope that we have heard the last of importing men when there are good positions to be filled. We have competent men in Australia, and so let us give them a chance to show their ability, and place confidence in them.
– As a matter of fact, it is the anti-Australian party who are in power.
– I do not say that. But I cannot understand why the leading positions are given to imported men. A great complaint has been made about our telephone system, but it should be remembered that when the Commonwealth took over the telegraph and telephone services every one of the States had allowed the system to run down. The electrical engineers of the States could never get money to do any work effectively, hence the States did not have a good system. Then the Fisher Government came into power. I do not know how they got the money, but they got it, and spent it, doing unprecedented work, with the result that the electrical engineers could not obtain men to carry out extensions as quickly as honorable members desired. I think that we should give the electrical engineers a free hand, apart from the Public Service Commissioner. I have no faith in the Commissioner as an authority on the choice of electrical engineers or electrical mechanicians. What does he know about electrical engineers ? Still I am told that he has the power to step in and say that engineers or mechanicians are not required. When an electrical engineer says that he wants thirteen electrical mechanics, the Commissioner replies that three or four will do. How does the Commissioner know the number that is required ? He has no technical knowledge, nor have his advisers in the States. I hope that a freer hand will be given to the electrical engineers and the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, who are responsible for the expenditure of the money and the effective carrying out of the works intrusted to them. I trust that these officers will be given considerably more power in the future if we want the telegraph and telephone systems to work smoothly and well.
– Could that not be done by altering the Public Service Act in relation to the Commissioner ?
– If these officers are tied up in that way it is deplorable, and the sooner the Act is altered the better, if we are to have an effective up-to-date system. Electrical engineering is, I suppose, one of the most peculiar branches of engineering owing to the continual changes which are brought about. I hope that no more of the common battery system will be installed, that the automatic system will be introduced throughout Australia, and that metallic circuits will be used everywhere. I heard only to-day of an honorable member getting a reply to the effect that an iron wire was being put up in Western Australia, but if it were found that the iron wire was not suitable, and that the service would not work well, a copper wire would be put up. What state of affairs is that ! Surely an engineer knows immediately that the conductivity of a copper wire is much greater than that of an iron wire. I want to be fair m my comments. Copper wire may be very expensive at the present time, and iron wire may be on hand. The engineer, or whoever is responsible for putting up the iron wire, may be in a position to say that copper wire will be considerably lower in price in a few months or a few years, and that it will then pay the Department to pull down the iron wire, and put up copper wire. If that is not so, I cannot understand an iron wire being erected. What sort of a reply was it for the officer to give to an honorable member? It would have been better for the officer to say nothing than to put himself away by stating that the iron wire, if not effective, would be replaced with a copper wire. Before, the line is erected, the engineer should know whether it will be effective. He knows how many telephones he will have on the line, and the distance. He can calculate the resistance, and all he has to find out is whether the resistance is so great that one will not be able to speak effectively over the line, or whether it is so great that no magneto, if he is going to use a magneto ring, will ring through it. He should know these things before he erects a line, and not give such an absurd reply as the one I have referred to.
– - I am glad that the PostmasterGeneral is here because I have a few serious complaints to make, not on account of his administration, but on account of the neglect of past centuries. I think that small country places ought to receive more attention than they get from this Parliament, or the Government. Between Tasmania and the mainland there is King Island, with a population of 1,000. It is a very long island, and the people are very much inconvenienced by the want of proper communication. Sometimes weeks elapse from the time a steamer leaves until she returns to the island, yet the residents cannot get a telephone line across the island. I have pleaded, not with one Government, but with every Government, for twelve years.
– With your own Government ?
– - One Government is as bad as another. But having a Christian Postmaster-General in office, I hope I can plead successfully with him for a telephone line. The steamer service to King Island is a very bad one. The boats are more or less antiquated, because the subsidy is so small that no shipping company can afford to put on good boats. I think that in such circumstances the subsidy ought to be materially increased. Then, as regards country places, country people are called upon to give a guarantee before they can get a little telephone line erected, yet the Department can spend thousands of pounds putting in tunnels in the city, and giving the citizens every convenience, when they are at the very doors of the General Post Office.
– Why did you not do it?
– I - I was the Minister for Home Affairs, not the PostmasterGeneral.
– He was too busy doing other things.
– I w I was too busy getting the Home Affairs Department organized so that the Assistant Minister would haveno trouble. The PostmasterGeneral is,I understand, about to enter into a seven years’ contract for a mail service to Tasmania. I hope that he will not do that. We have not fast boats yet in Australia. When I stated in Tasmania that there ought to be boats with a speed of from 25 to 30 miles an hour, a lot of sneering was indulged in. I remember two or three Collins-street gentlemen writing articles, and saying, “ This man evidently is beyond himself.” I have turned up the Shipping Manual, and shall show, by reference to it, that a man may live in Collins-street and have no knowledge of the outside world. There is a boat travelling from London to New York at the rate of 31 miles an hour. In Europe, there is a boat of 1,700 tons that travels 28 miles an hour. Such a vessel could go into Burnie, the town that is becoming the distributing centre of Tasmania. There is another European boat, of 1,216 tons, travelling 28 miles an hour.
Mr.mcwilliams. - A river, or a deepsea boat?
– The These are all deep-sea boats.
– The honorable member is referring to the Channel steamers.
– The The trip from Dover to Calais is often worse than that from Australia to Tasmania. There is another boat of 1,767 tons, built in 1909, that travels 28 miles an hour. In America, Vincent Astor’s motor-boat travels 48 miles an hour. Yet my statement that boats to-day travel from 25 to 30 miles an hour was ridiculed, and my opponents made great fun of it on the stump. I shall start a school to educate myfriends about the outside world.
– The honorable member’s colleagues are attacking him over this.
– I n I never say anything unkind about my colleagues. The honorable member for Yarra stated, in an interview, that there was no agreement with the Government to put on fast boats. The boats of which I have spoken are slow boats now. I have read the figures to show how ridiculous was the treatment accorded to my statement. I keep up to date, and the only man on the Government side who is with me in that is Brother Conroy. It was the intention of the last Government to put on a line of fast steamers. When it is so cheap to put on boats, we ought to be able to travel between Burnie and Port Melbourne, 209 miles, in at least nine hours, and there should be a day service. At Burnie they are spending thousands of pounds in extending the breakwater.
– No doubt, not a quarter enough.
– I a I admit that. At the present time, there is great delay in getting mails delivered; and I hope that the Postmaster-General will go carefully into the whole matter before making a contract. It seems to me that no contract should be for more than two years.
– Five years.
– I t I think that the time has come when the Government should put on a line of boats. The popuation of Tasmania is at the mercy of one Corporation, the Union Steam-ship Com- any of New Zealand. We ought either to have a law regulating rates and freights, or a line of boats belonging to the Government. I am not in favour of Government interference when there is real competition; but, when by monopoly competition has been destroyed, and an “honorable understanding” allows the producers to be plundered and exploited,, it is our Christian duty to step in and say, “Mr. Robber, you shall take no more!” One other point. The Postmaster-General ought to be as liberal as possible to the dwellers in the country, who are without the conveniences enjoyed by townspeople. If possible, telephone connexions should be given to them at cheaper rates than they are given in the city, and a guarantee should not be required every time an extension is wanted. We have catered too much for the great cities. If they were to be burnt down, and the farmers were kept on the land, the farmers would build even grander cities. Land and labour are the complete’ source- of the wealth of any nation.
– There must be capital, too.
– Cap Capital is the product of land and labour. Mortgages, and bonds, and shares represent only title to the profits of land and labour. The man who possesses shares and other securities can often borrow from a bank at 4 per cent., when the farmer, who produces the necessities of life, is charged 6, 7, and 8 per cent. I can borrow all the money I want at 4 per cent.
– The honorable member is a rich landlord.
– I a I am a poor landlord. Landlords are poor nowadays; they have to pay so much taxation. This Government has a great chance to have a rural credit system attached to the Commonwealth Bank. But you can only do that by getting the various States to co-operate. I do not want this Government to be merely a bone-hunter. I want Ministers to be real Christians, and to do some great work. They can do it.
– Early Christianity forbade usury.
– The The Mohammedans to-day will not take any in- terest, but I am opposed to that. There is a matter connected with the Federal Capital which I wish to bring under the attention of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs. I believe that if, under the Public Service Act, the honorable gentleman appoints a number of permanent officials to carry out the work to be done at the Federal Capital, he will soon find that he has come to the parting of the ways. The difficulty is that the Public Service Commissioner, after a certain period of service, refuses to renew the time of temporary clerks after they have become trained and qualified for the work which they are asked to do. I point out that under the system which is now followed the time will come when we shall have no use for a number of the people employed at the Federal Capital, and, in my opinion, if the establishment of the Capital is to be made a success, it will be necessary to remove those employed in connexion with it from the operation of the Public Service Act.
– Perhaps the honorable gentleman will say exactly what he means.
– We We have a lot of clerks at the Federal Capital who are temporary employes, but are trained and qualified. They apply to have their time renewed, and the Public Service Commissioner will not grant their application, on the ground that permanent appointments should be made. If all the offices there are filled by permanent officials we shall be unable to dispense with them should bad times come. We shall find them on our hands. The Federal Capital is in a transition state, and we should not have a lot of permanent officials employed there. I had experience of the difficulty, and when I left office a lot of operations had about come to an end because the temporary men employed would not be given further time.
– The best way to prevent the difficulty is to stop the work altogether.
– Oh Oh ! No fear. I am sure that the Prime Minister and the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs would not consent to that. We made an honest compact with the people of Australia to put up the Federal Capital, and we have a mighty asset there. I should be prepared to take it over now from the Prime Minister, and run it on my own for the profits I could make out of it. A matter of serious moment arises from the fact that we take into the service of the different public Departments a great many temporary hands, and when they have become qualified by experience of their work they have to go. The result is that the Departments are so many kindergartens for the training of men whose services are not afterwards retained. My experience as Minister of Home Affairs of governmental business methods proved to me beyond all doubt that it is possible to be outside the lunatic classification and still possess very little sense.
– That is rough on Socialism.
– T - This is not Socialism. I am a great believer in governmental regulation, and the utilization of the national power for the whole people. I hope the Postmaster-General will not let the proposed contract for the Tasmania] mail, but will do something for the little State of Tasmania. When Tasmania came into the Federation, she did not make a contract like that which the Treasurer made for Western Australia, securing her own Tariff for five years. I remember the right honorable gentleman’s battle at the time, and our old gentlemen from Tasmania were asleep when he was fighting. Tasmania came into the Federation, and has proved faithful to it; and I hope that will not be forgotten.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Unemployment - Payments for Over time - Cotton Industry - Day Labourers Wages : Brisbane - Assistant Minister of Home Affairs - Printing of Postage Stamps - Budget - Votes for Contingencies.
In Committee of Supply:
Considerationresumed from 24th September (vide page 1474), of motion by Sir John Forrest -
That a sum not exceeding One million one hundred and twenty-one thousand nine hundred and seventy-nine pounds be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1914.
. -I wish briefly to address myself to the question of unemployment. I wish to point out to honorable members how persons who are looking for employment in our midst are obliged, under the existing system, to go the round of the various
Departments. If, for instance, a woman is looking for employment as a cleaner at 25s. a week, she is obliged to go to the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Home Affairs Department, the Treasury, to the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Secretary of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, and the Collector of Customs, Melbourne. It certainly should be possible to arrange that women seeking cleaning work should be registered in the Public Service Commissioner’s office, and that could be done in all centres of population. The Prime Minister will agree that there are many people out of employment at the present time, and I want to show him how difficult it is for any man seeking employment in the service to secure it. He must go to: -
Mr. W. B. Edwards, Commonwealth Public Service Inspector for Victoria, Customs House, Melbourne.
Mr. F. J. Quinlan, Chief Clerk, Department of External Affairs.
Mr. H. W. E. Manisty, Naval Secretary, Naval Office, Lonsdale-street.
Mr. J. J. Lahiff, Controller of Stores, Victoria Barracks.
Mr. A. P. Leighton, Cordite Factory, Maribyrnong.
Mr. H. A. Slade, Clothing Factory, South Melbourne.
Mr. G. E. Crowe, Harness Factory, Clifton Hill.
Colonel D. Miller, Department of Home Affairs.
Mr. D. Hill, Department of Home Affairs.
Mr. P. Whitton, Customs House, Flindersstreet.
Mr. C. E. Bright, General Post Office.
Mr. R. R. Garran, Attorney General’s Department.
Mr. G. G. Allen, the Treasury.
Mr. S. A. Pethebridge, Department of Defence.
Could anything be moreidiotic than to send people seeking work all round these Departments ? I suggest that there should be one room at the Customs House, under the Public Service Commissioner, perhaps, where persons could register ‘ for the whole of the Departments. I should also like to take the opportunity to point out that overtime has greatly increased since the present Government came into power.
– Is that so?
– Yes, and I may ask for a return in connexion with the matter. No one will dispute that it is a great wrong when a man is asked to work four months’ overtime in one year ; and, as a medical man, I say that it is infamous. The Departments concerned are the Audit Office, the Customs House, the Defence Department, and the Home Affairs Department; and the great Commonwealth is paying what used to be paid to me in my earlier days, namely, ls. 6d. tea money when “overtime is worked. In the case where four months’ overtime was worked, only two months was paid for, the remainder of the term being covered with tea money. I have approached Government after Government on this question, and I shall be only too pleased to give any information the Prime Minister may desire, so that this great wrong may be remedied.
. -I have asked questions in regard to the cotton industry, but, perhaps, owing to my vagueness the Minister of External Affairs does not seem to grasp the point of which I wished the House to be seized. Early this year the Dominion Commission visited Australia and took evidence in regard to industrial matters, and the possibility of trade expansion amongst the sister Dominions and with the Mother Country. Mr. Charles Garnett was a special representative on that Commission of the British Cotton Growers’ Association; and special evidence was taken on the question of cotton culture in Queensland. It was then that I had the honour to draw the attention of the ex-Prime Minister to the subject, and suggest that, as the British Cotton Growers’ Association was then actively engaged in discovering suitable localities in the Empire for the culture of cotton, it would be wise on the part of the Commonwealth to encourage investigations in Australia. The ex-Prime Minister promised the Chairman of the Commission, Sir Edgar Vincent, that he would give £500 towards the expenses of a representative of the British Cotton Growers’ Association visiting Australia to inquire and advise the Government as to the best way to encourage the industry. I am quite satisfied that, as the Prime Minister said to-night, a matter of £500 or more will not be allowed to stand in the way. At the present time, however, the cotton industry is in a very parlous position. It may not be known to honorable members that, as far back as 1867. there were 14,000 acres under cotton in
Queensland. Since that time, however, owing to foreign competition and other causes the quantity of cotton produced has fluctuated very considerably. We are told in the Year-Book, No. 6 -
Cotton-growing on a small scale has been tried in Queensland, but so far without very marked success. The area under cotton, though fluctuating, has shown an upward tendency during the past five years. In 1907-8, 300 acres were under cultivation in Queensland, while 605 acres were devoted to this crop in 1911-12, giving a yield of 186,894 lbs. of seed cotton, valued at ^4,672. Hopes are entertained that, with the invention of a mechanical device for the picking of the cotton, the industry will become firmly established, since the soil and conditions appear eminently suitable for the growth of this crop. Small areas in the Northern Territory have also been planted with cotton, and . 20 acres were under cultivation in 1911-12. The tropical portions of Western Australia have also long been regarded as suitable for its cultivation.
Honorable members are aware that there is a bounty of 10 per cent, on the market value of cotton, and it is interesting to note the amounts claimed. We are told in the YearBook that in 1907-8, 662 lbs. of cotton received £10 in bounty ; in 1908-9, 21,865 lbs. received £32; in 1909-10, 24,994 lbs. received £34; in 1910-11, 53,178 lbs. received £91; and in 1911-12, 60,443 lbs. received £137. India, Egypt, and America are the main cottonproducing countries, and they practically control the market. It has been proved that the northern parts of Australia are eminently suitable for the growth of cotton. In most parts of Central Queensland, and in great stretches of Northern Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, as well as Papua, there is an unlimited field for this culture. Under the circumstances, we ought to take full advantage of the desire of the British Cotton Growers’ Association who are spending their own money and the money granted by the British Government in discovering fields and encouraging cottongrowing within the Empire. The idea which some people have that cotton cannot be grown successfully without cheap labour is not borne out by the facts. I should be glad to have a more favorable opportunity of showing that cotton can be successfully cultivated with white labour, and offers the most fruitful field for small farming and close settlement. The only thing that has hampered the development of cotton-growing in Queensland is that there are so many other crops that give a more satisfactory return. But by sheep-breeding and cottongrowing combined we can offer facilities for closer settlement that are not surpassed by any other ordinary products. I trust, therefore, that the Minister of External Affairs will give his prompt attention to this matter, so that we may, at any rate, not allow the cotton industry that we have already to perish, but may rather encourage and stimulate its development. The other matter to which I wish to allude has regard to the reply given to me by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs yesterday in regard to the wages paid to men engaged on Commonwealth works in Brisbane. As long ago as 21st August, in conjunction with the honorable member for Oxley, I raised this question in the House. In reply to what I said, the Honorary Minister stated -
Unlike my predecessor, I desire to see the men in Brisbane get the same chances as their colleagues throughout Australia ; and the telegram I sent was as follows : - “ Minister for Public Works, “ Brisbane. “ Am informed to-day that day labourers employed at Kelvin Grove aTe being paid less than nine shillings per diem. Please pay minimum nine shillings all ordinary labourers employed Commonwealth works. “ Minister for Home Affairs, “W. H. Kelly.”
Had the honorable member for Brisbane brought this matter up months ago when he first knew of it, those men in Brisbane would have had their fears set at rest immediately by the present Administration, and there would have been no occasion to make this a matter for discussion on the adjournment of the House. The present Administration stands for the payment of the best wages, and the granting of the best conditions, that we can give ; and, in common fairness, we shall pay similar wages for similar work throughout the Commonwealth.
In the telegram which he then read, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs made the distinct and definite statement that an instruction had been given to pay the minimum wage of 9s. to all ordinary labourers employed on Commonwealth works in Brisbane. Yesterday I asked why that instruction had not been carried out. The answer, to my mind, was unsatisfactory from every point of view. The reason given was that the Minister of Public Works in Queensland avers that the wages being paid are in accordance with the determination of the Builders’ Wages Board; that they were considered satisfactory by the late Minister. Now, even if that statement were true, I should still want to know why a definite instruction given by the Minister has not been carried out. Why has it been ignored by the Queensland Minister of Public Works? The Commonwealth is paying for this work. The Commonwealth is finding the money. The Commonwealth is responsible. Is the Honorary Minister going to take up the position that, because two years ago the Minister of Public Works in Brisbane stated that he could not see his way to pay the extra money awarded by the Wages Board, he is now to be allowed to flout an instruction given by a Commonwealth Minister? Such a thing is neither fair to the men nor to this Parliament. This House has been told that instructions have been given that 9s. per day shall be paid to the men. The Minister of Public Works in Brisbane may be quite right in saying that the Wages Board rate is Ss. per day. But that has nothing to do with this Parliament. If the Minister will stiffen his back, and insist on the Public Works Department, Brisbane, carrying out the policy of this Parliament, I am prepared to stand by him, find support him to that extent. Men engaged on Commonwealth works in other States are getting 9s. per day, and the Acting Minister of Home Affairs stated - and the Prime Minister supported him - that he did not wish, and would not allow, the men in Brisbane to be treated differently from men in other States. Nevertheless, these men in Brisbane are now being treated differently. What I object to, however, in the reply given yesterday was the Assistant Minister’s statement that the explanation of the Minister of Public Works, in Brisbane, was considered satisfactory by the late Minister of Home Affairs. I am not concerned with whether it was or was not so, but I do object to these continual reminders about something that the late Minister did. I am not at all concerned with what the late Minister did in this matter.
– It is very significant, that the honorable member covered all this up for years, and only drags it out now that he is in Opposition. That is the plain English of it.
– It is a plain, incorrect statement.
– The Prime Minister is somewhat unfair; I will make no stronger statement than that. The fact of the matter is that the ex-Minister of Home Affairs had a similar experience of the Public Works Department, Brisbane. He, however, insisted that the painters employed on Commonwealth works should be paid at the rate of 10s. per day, although the State Works Department was paying 9s.
– That has no effect on the Prime Minister.
– lt shows how unfair the Prime Minister is.
– It is not unfair. It is grossly incorrect.
– It is quite correct.
– At any rate, in that particular case the protest of the ex-Minister of Home Affairs had its effect. It may be that the extra shilling “was paid by way of a subterfuge, in the form of travelling allowances, but, at all events, it was paid. I now ask that the Honorary Minister will take steps to see that the labourers in Brisbane receive this extra wa’ge. I wish to go into a more personal matter. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has become rather fond of sheltering himself behind other people. In this particular’ matter he is not content with sheltering himself behind the alleged action of the exMinister of Home Affairs, but he also says that the matter is now before the Public Service Commissioner. I protest that the Minister is responsible to this House, and has no right to shelter himself behind an ex-Minister or a Public Sendee Commissioner, in the face of his own distinct and emphatic statements as to the wages which should be paid. In these circumstances there is but one straightforward thing for him to do. He should honestly see that the men not only get the wages that he promised them, but the back money to which they are fairly entitled.
– Casual labourers do not come under the Public Service Commissioner.
– The matter does not come under the Public Service Commissioner at all, and that is why I am protesting against the Honorary Minister trying to dodge his responsibility. He pretended that night, when I raised the question, to take up a highly dignified attitude, and prove how virtuous and noble the Government were, compared with their predecessors. I quite agree with the Prime Minister that political capital should not be made out of these things, and I do not wish to make political capital out of this matter; but. I maintain that the honour of this Parliament should be upheld by the Honorary Minister, and that he should give effect to the instructions he has issued, or admit that the statements he made on 21st August, and that the spirit of the replies of yesterday, are not what are in his mind, and that he has no intention of giving effect to those instructions. When the Honorary Minister followed ‘the member for Adelaide yesterday, he made certain statements to which I took exception at the time, and to which I wish to take exception now. I interjected ; my interjection was not according to parliamentary rules, and I was very properly called upon to withdraw it. But my object was to protest against this continual misrepresentation indulged in by the Honorary Minister for the purpose of making political capital. He made a comparison in regard to the attendance of members of the House, a comparison which was entirely incorrect and absolutely misleading. He also spoke of the member for Adelaide and other honorable members of the Opposition talking of things with their tongues in their cheeks, and he wished that the people outside could secure a photograph of the same, and not read their words only. He also made another misstatement when he said that the quip had been raised by the member for Adelaide. As a matter of fact, the protest against the action of the Attorney-General and the Department of Home Affairs in regard to the instructions relating to the removal of names from rolls was raised by the Leader of the Opposition. To my mind, the Honorary Minister was indulging in those very things he accused members on this side of doing. That idea is borne out by the flippant style of the Minister, because, as soon as he resumed his seat, he indulged in a hearty laugh, and seemed to enjoy his smart sayings, and the effect they seemed to have produced. Certain members have, during the session, made statements with which I cordially agree. I agree with them that there is a most unnecessary and undignified style of referring to other members, trying to make political capital by twisting their statements, and suggesting a double meaning to them.
– What has the honorable member been doing for the last half-hour but that?
– The Honorary Minister will hear me out.
– We are listening attentively to a lecture, but it is getting late.
– It is not my fault that I am speaking now. I have been endeavouring since 8 o’clock to have my say, and I shall have it. I shall be honest, frank, and open, and the Honorary Minister is quite entitled to reply.
– The honorable member knows well that it is too late to reply.
– On the 17th September, I complained with regard to certain conduct of the Honorary Minister. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to ask my full question, and therefore I found it necessary to object to the reply of the Prime Minister, so I am making a statement now, and I hope the Honorary Minister will take the opportunity or trouble to reply to it, because it is getting rather serious. As I have said, honorable members on both sides have complained during the debates this session of the attitude taken up by other honorable members in referring to each other. I cordially agree with that, and I ask the Honorary Minister to take up a more reasonable, more just, and more correct view of his position and the relation in which he stands towards honorable members in the Chamber.
– Do not start being humorous. Let us get to bed!
– It was all very well for the honorable member, when in Opposition, to indulge in a flippant style of interfering in debate, and in a smart method of suggestion and innuendo which he is particulary fond of using. I suppose it was a good way of finding fault with the Government and holding them up to ridicule. I used to admire his smartness in ‘ interrupting debates at all times and at all seasons. Whether the matter was relevant or not, it did not seem to make any difference to the honorable member; he could always manage to squeeze in half-an-hour at any time to keep a debate going. I have heard that it was quite a regular thing for the honorable member, when the House was sitting, to say to his friends at the club, “ Come up to the House and have a bit of fun. I will stir up some of those Labour chaps.” At any rate, the way the honorable member used to cut into the debates whenever the galleries were full, and make his onslaughts and criticisms, seemed to give colour to that report.
– Does the honorable member think he is justified in wasting the time of the country with that “tripe “ ?
– Order !
– The remark of the Prime Minister is unworthy of him and of the position he holds. He should be ashamed of himself. I am making a direct and distinct statement in regard to the Honorary Minister.
– You are reading a lecture.
– You will have to put up with it, just as we had to put up with it when we were over there.
– If it lasts for threequarters of an hour longer, it will mean an all-night sitting.
– And the Prime Minister must accept the blame for it.
– Let the honorable member stick us up, if he likes. We are under no compliment to him.
– I had no objection to the conduct of the Honorary Minister when he was in Opposition, but we should not have a continuance of it from his present position. Some of those on this side have not the advantage of a college education such as the Honorary Minister has had. Some of us have had to fight our way in life.
– Is this in order, Mr. Chairman?
– I object to the Prime Minister - this afternoon, as well as to-night - attempting to instruct the Chairman.
– I have never dealt in tramway shares.
– Let the Honorary Minister make any statement he cares to with regard to tramway shares, and I shall meet him. If the Honorary Minister has had the advantages of a college education, let him show in the House the advantages of having such an education, and that it has fitted him to fill the position he now holds. 1 congratulate him - a young man - in having come to the position he occupies so early in his life. It is a distinct encouragement to other men to persevere in laudable efforts in the service of the country. But when he carries on in the way he does, sheltering behind ex-Ministers and public officials, when he is continually making accusations against members on this side of having said and done things, when these accusations are absolutely wrong and not in accordance with facts, when he does this in such a flippant manner - laughing and sneering - as long as I am here, at every opportunity I shall protest against such buffoonery in carrying on the business of this country.
.- 1 wish to ask the Postmaster-General what will be the extra cost of using steel plates for the printing of postage stamps instead of printing them in the ordinary way. When I held the office of Treasurer, I went into the matter, and found that the extra cost would exceed 66 per cent. That, I think, would be a wanton waste of public money.
– If we use the special machinery imported for printing the Commonwealth bank notes when it is not required for that purpose, the extra cost, I am advised, will be very slight.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral give me an accurate statement concerning the matter, which I believe to be of importance ?
– I shall endeavour to do so when the stamps are being printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain Supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
Resolution of Ways and Means covering Resolution of Supply adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. W. H. Irvine do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest and read a first time.
Motion (by , Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- 1 understand that the Treasurer has announced that he proposes to deliver his Financial Statement on Wednesday next. I am inclined to think Thursday would be a better day, since we could hardly discuss it next week, even if the statement were delivered on Wednesday. If Thursday were selected, the debate could then be adjourned until the following week.
– Very well; I am quite agreeable that that course should be followed.
.- I desire to refer to a matter which was discussed by practically every honorable member opposite, when they were sitting iu opposition, in connexion with every Supply Bill submitted to us. I refer to the items in this Bill relating to “Contingencies,” “Miscellaneous,” and “ Treasurer’s Advance.” Honorable members opposite used to declare that the practice of voting large sums in respect of these items was a bad one. I wish, therefore, to know why they are following such a bad example. I find that, whereas in the Supply Bill passed last month the amount set apart for contingencies was £170,000, this month we are asked under this Bill to vote contingencies amounting to £206,000. I am anxious to hear what the honorable member for Gippsland has to say in regard to this proposed vote. I know very well that every penny must be accounted for to the satisfaction of the Auditor-General; but I know, also, that a great deal of political capital was made out of this item during the last campaign from every platform in Australia by certain honorable members opposite.
– Wilfully lying statements were made.
– It was said that there was a sum of £3,000,000 for which the Auditor-General could not find any accounts. Of course, I know the statement is absolutely wrong.
– The honorable member for Gippsland denied having made it.
– No; he said that he followed the honorable gentleman’s example in declaring that there were £3,000,000 unaccounted for, and which every member knows has been accounted for. Then, again, in this Bill we have an item of £20,544 under the heading of ‘ Miscellaneous ‘ ‘ ; whilst in respect of Treasurer’s Advance we are asked to vote £300,000, or a total of £526,000 in respect of which no details are given.
– We will take the Treasurer’s word in regard to these items.
– But would honorable members opposite take our word for them when they were in opposition ? The present Treasurer invariably took exception to the amount voted for Treasurer’s Advance, but now that he is in office he brings down a Bill in which we are asked to vote £300,000 this month under that heading, and he does not offer a word in explanation. I think it is a larger amount than was ever asked for in any one month by any previous Treasurer.
– I have explained it before.
– The honorable gentleman has not made any reference to the proposed vote in respect of “ Treasurer’s Advance.” Under this Bill, which provides for an expenditure of £1,121,000, no less a sum than £526,000 is to be appropriated under the headings of “Treasurer’s Advance,” “ Contingencies,” and “ Miscellaneous.” I know that every penny of this money must be accounted for to the Auditor-General. I am glad to learn that the Treasurer intends to deliver his Budget next week. This is the third Supply Bill we have had, and I have no doubt that, before the Estimates have been passed, we shall be called upon to deal with yet another one or two Bills of a similar character. Honorable members opposite have not a word to say about this money being expended before we have had an opportunity of discussing the Estimates. However, I have no desire to detain honorable members. We shall have an opportunity next week of debating the Budget, and the proposals of the Government in reference to the sugar Excise. I also intended to touch on electoral matters. I rose principally to point out that those honorable members who made most capital out of the financial administration of the late Government are either absent tonight, or have not uttered one word of protest against the increase of expendi ture under “ Contingencies “ from £170,000 in the last Supply Bill to £206,000 in this Bill. Apparently, the Government have to do exactly what their predecessors did, in connexion with contingencies and miscellaneous votes, and I have no doubt that future Governments will be obliged to follow the same course.
.- I feel it my duty to place upon record in Hansard a statement in relation to this Bill, particularly on account of what was said during the recent elections. From very many platforms, Liberal candidates, together with paid assistants, organizers, canvassers, &c, laid special emphasis upon financial matters. One item which they stressed more than another was that of expenditure under the heading of “ Contingencies.” From every platform where it was thought that there was nobody present with a detailed knowledge of politics to offer objections or to point out the course of misrepresentation adopted, reference was made to the expenditure under “ Contingencies,” quite apart from the large and general references of the Prime Minister, and by those who copied his deplorable example, to millions of money. I found, in conversation with electors, that many were misled because of these statements. Liberals averred that expenditure under “ Contingencies “ was so many tens of thoussands of pounds, or so many hundreds of thousands of pounds, as the case might be, and that no information was given regarding it. The impression thus conveyed was that something was going on of a character which ought not to be going on ; that the Government ought, therefore, to be displaced from office; and that Labour members were not qualified to represent certain districts. Because of the misrepresentation which was then indulged in, I feel it my duty .to refer to the matter to-night. The Bill before us will permit of the expenditure of £1,121,000, of which no less a sum than £206,000, or more than one-sixth, is covered by the heading “Contingencies.” Over £1 out of every £6 which will be spent under this Bill is termed a “contingency,” about which the Treasurer has not vouchsafed the slightest information. I do not believe one penny of this money will be used in a wrong direction. What I feel justified in emphasizing, is that honorable members opposite, when they were before the electors, endeavoured to mislead them by suggestions, innuendoes, and allegations which reflected . discreditably upon the late Administration; but, now that they are in office, they are doing exactly the same thing. They are following precisely the practice which has been followed since this Parliament was first established.
– A bad practice.
– It may be good or bad, but that is not the matter which I am discussing. ‘ It is a practice which is well known to every honorable member on the other side, and I am justified in the circumstances in calling their attention to the fact that they misled electors by references to a practice which had pertained for many years, and they did it with the object of casting odium on this side of the House and with the object, of course, of securing their seats by methods which did not reflect credit upon them. The Treasurer must agree that I am justified in calling attention to the matter.
– Yes; but do you not think that this could wait till next week?
– I am not desirousof detaining honorable gentlemen unduly, but I would remind the honorable member that when he was on this side he took occasion to say whatever he thought it was right to say, and I do not know that he gave honorable members personal consideration. When we have such a glaring instance of contingencies - £206,000 out of a total of £1,121,000- even the Treasurer will agree with me that there is reason for drawing attention to it. I do not think that this comparatively small item can be touched when the Estimates are before us, for if my calculations are correct, the Estimates will be of such a character that we will want all the time at our disposal to deal with major points. Inow call attention to a trick which was indulged in, and which resulted in much misrepresentation, and, possibly, many votes going in a direction in which otherwise they might not have gone.
– I hope that the Estimates will show a decided improvement in this matter of contingencies.
– They will all be set forth in the Estimates.
– I am not one of those who alluded to this matter on the platform, but I have known the amount for contingencies to be three or four times as much as the amount for salaries. I do not think it is fair to ask us to pass items without a fuller explanation than we get under the head of “ Contingencies.” I am not going to debate the question now, but I suggest to the Treasurer that, in the Estimates, the contingencies should form a very much smaller proportion of the total amount than they do now, and that much fuller information should be given under that head than has ever been given to this Parliament.
– I only wish to say that “ Contingencies “ is but a name, and that every item is given in the EstimatesinChief. We call them “ Contingencies,” but it is only a name. All the details are specifically given, and everything has to be audited.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.
House adjourned at 11.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 September 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130925_reps_5_70/>.