5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and rend a first time.
– Some time ago the Leader of the Opposition brought before the House the fact that objection had been made to the enrolment of a Miss Annie Irvine, andI now read to the House the report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the case. It is this -
The objectionto the retention of the name of Miss Annie Irvine onthe Balaclava roll did not arise from information supplied by a political organization,or any person other than an official. It originated in the return, by the Postal authorities, of the ref erendum pamphlet addressed to Miss Irvineat her place of living, as appearing on her enrolment claim, with the indorsement “ unknown.”
A subsequentinquity was made bythe Registrar, through the local police, who also reported Miss Irvine “ unknown.” There undoubtedly appears to have been some misunderstanding in the matter on the part of both the police and Postal authorities; and while the inclusion in the claim of the name or number of the house in which Miss Irvine resides (full postal address) would, as suggested by the Divisional Returning Officer, have enabled that lady to be located beyond question, I think it should not have been very difficult to find her without this added information, having regard to the limited number of houses in Hughenden-road.
Prior to the issue of the notice of objection by the Divisional Returning Officer, it appears that an alteration had been made in regard to the local mail delivery, with the result that -official notification of objection reached Miss Irvine in due course.
If Miss Irvine will be so good as to return the notice of objection to the Divisional Returning Officer, with an indorsement that she is still living at the address given by her in her claim, he will intimate that the objection has been withdrawn.
The indorsement referred to in the last paragraph is asked for in compliance with the provisions of the law. I lay the report and correspondence on the table for the information of honorable members.
– In this case an elector’s name was struck off the roll because a referendum pamphlet posted to her had been returned with the endorsement “ Unknown.” I ask the Minister how it is that the names of personsby whom the pamphlet was received have also been struck off the roll ?
– If the honorable member will bring under my notice particular instances, they will be investigated. Cases of error will arise under the best Departmental organization.
– Cases of error are very numerous just now.
– They are alleged, for party political purposes and for no other reasons, to be very numerous just now.
– It is stated in the report that the Minister has just read that if Miss Irvine had given her full address and the number of the house in which she is living there would have been no trouble. The house was not then numbered, though it is numbered now. But seeing that there live in the house, Mrs. Irvine, her mother, and Miss Elsie Irvine, as well as herself, and that letters are delivered there practically every day, there should not have been any difficulty in discovering whether Miss Annie Irvine wasliving there, and whether she was qualified by residence to vote in the Balaclava division.
– The report states that the Department does not regard the difficulty of finding the addressee, even though the full postal address was not given, as sufficient reason for the action subsequently taken, but in justice to the officer concerned, let me point out to the right honorable member that if he goes through the papers which I have laid on the table he will find “Not known” written on the back of the referendum pamphlet by the Postal Department, and the same statement by a sergeant of police. It was on that information that action was taken.
– The information is insufficient. The case shows that trouble will occur if such information is regarded as sufficient.
– As the judgment of the Arbitration Court, on the appeal by the Postal Electricians Union, is against the Postmaster-General’s Department, do not the Government think that the Treasury should pay to the union the costs of the appeal, which amounted to about £60?
– If the House will allow me, I shall explain exactly how the matter stands.
– The Public Service Commissioner took the matter in hand after Mr. Justice Higgins’ award was made, and he sent to the Secretary of my Department a memorandum, in which he said -
Immediately upon the award coming into operation, the rates of pay of employés in the positions designated in the award must be adjusted to the amounts prescribed in the award. Cadet and junior mechanics are to be paid according to age, as prescribed in the award. Cadet mechanics will in future be designated as junior mechanics. All mechanicians receiving less than £8 per annum will be advanced to that amount.
Senior mechanics, foremen mechanics, exchange foremen mechanics, telephone inspectors, mechanicians, battery men and foremen battery men, receiving less than the minimum prescribed in the award, are to be advanced to such minimum.
Persons hitherto employed as junior mechanics, mechanics, electrical mechanics or wiremen, are to be designated and paid as junior mechanics, at the rate according to age as prescribed by the award, with district allowance, where payable, according to locality. Satisfactory evidence as to age should be furnished within a reasonable period. The only exceptions to be made are in the cases of temporary mechanics who have passed the prescribed examination for mechanics, or those who are employed in the telegraph workshop (hitherto generally designated as electrical fitters) and who can be reported as thoroughly competent workshop hands. In such cases, the employés will be designated as temporary mechanics, and will be paid at the rate of £168 per annum, with district allowance, where payable…..
In certain cases, the adoption of the award rates may mean a slight nominal reduction in the present rate of pay to temporary employés, e.g., electrical fitters in certain States are paid at the rate of us per day, which, upon a basis of 313 days in a year, is slightly in excess of£168 per annum. It should, however, be noted that in future temporary employes must receive the same public holidays as permanent officers, and that their hours will be reduced from forty-eight to forty-four hours per week.
On receipt of that circular, the officers of the Department issued an order to the Deputy Postmasters-General in all the States, that wages were to be paid in accordance with the construction put on the award by the Public Service Commissioner. That never was referred to me, as I think it should have been. As head of the Department, I think I was justified in demanding that I should be informed when any attempt was to be made to reduce wages or salaries, because the Prime Minister had given instruc tions that no reductions whatever were to be made. The first I heard of this was by a telephone message from Mr. Power, the secretary of the union, in Sydney, which I received at about 9.30 p.m. one evening in this building. I never saw these papers until yesterday. I was told thatI had nothing to do with it, and that action was taken on the interpretation of the award by the Public Service Commissioner. The next day the secretary of the union in Melbourne called upon me, an appointment for the purpose having been arranged. I said to him, ‘ I am told that I have nothing to do with this, but if it had been in my hands no reduction whatever would have been made without consultation with the Judge of the Arbitration Court. So far as I can see, the best thing you can do is to apply to the Judge of the Court to deal with the matter, and state what was his intention when he made the award.” The union followed that advice, and out of courtesy to the Court I was made a party to the proceedings. I authorized the Chief Electrical Engineer to appear before the Court, and I am very sorry to have to say that the Judge made what I consider a personal attack upon myself, as though I had been a party to these proceedings.
– I would not say that.
– I felt it very much.
– I would not say it here.
– The Judge of the Arbitration Court is himself very sensitive. When I mentioned in this House that, unfortunately, the wages of some of the men had been reduced owing to the construction put on the award, His Honour wrote to me asking what I had said, and I sent him a copy of the report of my statement appearing in Hansard. I think he should have been satisfied with that, and should not have made a personal attack upon me.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the conduct of one of the Judges of the High Court should not be challenged in this House except upon a substantive motion.
– He is not a High Court Judge.
– Or the conduct of any Judge.
– Or that of any Judge. That is clearly laid down in May, and our own Standing Orders prescribe the same procedure.
– The Postmaster-General is making an explanation which honorable members opposite asked for.
– It should be given without an attack upon the Judge.
– Order ! I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he omit from his statement adverse references to the Judge.
– I ask your ruling, sir, as to whether the President of the Arbitration Court, when adjudicating upon industrial questions, does not stand in quite a different relation to this House from that occupied by a High Court Judge ?
– On the point of order, I wish to say that this Parliament is expressly invitedby the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to review the decisions and proceedings of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court in certain circumstances.
– On motion.
– In the circumstances, I submit that the references which have been made to the Judge of the Arbitration Court by the Postmaster-General are quite in order.
– I point out that there is a regular and an irregular method of procedure. If an honorable member desires to criticise the conduct or utterances of a Judge, the proper method by which to proceed is by a substantive motion.
– I shall not refer any further to the matter. When the case came before the Judge again, in order to meet the objections raised by the Public Service Commissioner, he amended the award. I told the deputation that waited upon me that the Government would pay whatever was right as from the date of the original award, and that no advantage whatever would be takenby the Department of any reduction due to the interpretation of the award. I said that the men would all be paid in full, as from the date when the original award came into force. With reference to the question put by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I can only say that I have a sympathetic feeling towards that matter. I shall look into it, and see what can be done in connexion with it.
– I wish to say that, when occupying a seat on the Treasury bench, I made a statement which, judging by the cheers from both sides of the House, met with the full approval of honorable members at that time.
– Order ! Doesthe honorable member desire to make a speech ?
-I wish to ask a question, but I must make a few remarks in explanation first. I made a statement, with the approval of the House, that if there was any considerable delay in getting a decision given by the Court so far as casual mechanicians were concerned, the award would be dated back to the 1st July, 1912. I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral or the Prime Minister whether it is intended to honour that promise ?
– Will the honorable member be good enough to put his question on the business-paper.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he has received any statement from the Premier of New South Wales as to the reason for his failure to carry out his promise to bring into operation a compulsory vaccination law in New South Wales?
– No, none whatever.
– I wish to put a question, without notice, to the Prime Minister. Is he aware that owing to the proclamation declaring an alleged small-pox area in and around Sydney, the whole of the trade of Riverina has been alienated from New South Wales? Will the Prime Minister take into consideration the advisability of rescinding the proclamation, and so restoring to New South Wales that lost trade.
– I will consider the matter.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen a press report to the effect that Dr. Cumpston has described the non-passing of the Vaccination Bill by the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as “a calamity.” I wish to know whether Dr. Cumpston made this statement in respect to the Bill by the instruction or with the approval of the Federal Government?
– I have issued no instruction of any kind in connexion with this matter.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a further question, without notice. Having regard to the fact that the New South Wales Parliament have not passed a Compulsory Vaccination Act, will the Government now, in the absence of such, take steps to remove the embargo that is crippling Sydney, and has been doing so for months past?
– I regret more than I can say that I do not see my way at the present time to raise the embargo. I hope the honorable member will take my assurance that I am giving to this very important question all the consideration I can, and that it is causing me a great deal more anxiety than it is him. At the earliest moment that the way is clear, the embargo will be lifted. We need no urging to do it.
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether he has seen a letter, signed by Dr. Strong, who has charge of the welfare of the inhabitants of Papua, in which it is stated that because His Excellency the LieutenantGovernor held a certificate that he had been successfully vaccinated and showed signs of recent successful vaccination, it is quite impossible that he could acquire true small-pox ? I would also like to know whether that opinion is shared by the head of the Quarantine Department, because, to me, it is an absurd one.
– Through the courtesy of the honorable member I have read the letter to which he has directed attention. The facts are that the LieutenantGovernor arrived on the 23rd July, that he had been vaccinated for more than fourteen days previously, and within a period of three years. As a greater precaution, however, he was again vaccinated before leaving Sydney. On the 28th July he noticed a slight rash, and immediately placed himself under the acting medical officer, who recommended a short period of isolation, as he thought that in some cases it might be impossible to at once diagnose true small-pox. The acting medical officer, however, soon discovered that theoriginal diagnosis was correct - that it was not true small-pox, but was a diseaseequivalent to Kaffir milk-pox. Not only Dr. Strong, but Dr. James, made an examination, and both bore out the original diagnosis, that the case was not one of true small-pox.
– But they said that it was quite impossible for him to get true small-pox.
– I do not know what these technicalities amount to; but I do know that, in order to inspire greater confidence, the Lieutenant-Governor submitted himself to a period of isolation.
– Since the House met on Friday last, reports have appeared in the newspapers to the effect that the Prime Minister and the. Minister of Defence have made important statements concerning the necessity for holding an Imperial Naval Conference. Some rather important details seem to be briefly expressed in those reports. Will the Prime Minister give the House the benefit of the information that he gave to a private gathering?
– I am not aware that I gave any information to a private gathering, except that I made the most general reference to the fact that we had requested the Imperial Government to convene a conference, with a view to determining future constructional developments in connexion with the Navy. That is all I have said. The newspapers are doing the rest, and I cannot help that.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will lay on the table of the House any correspondence which has passed between the Government and the Imperial authorities in regard to the. holding of an Imperial Conference ?
– I am afraid that I cannot do that.
– Why this secrecy?
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he will have posted in the Registrars’ offices a list of those persons to whose names appearing on the electoral rolls objection is taken?
– Yes. I will have arrangements made to exhibit lists in the Registrars’ offices where at present, I understand, the information is obtainable, though not in as concise a form as has been suggested.
– I understood from the reply made to the inquiry in reference to Miss Irvine, that the Registrar desires the notice to be returned, otherwise her name will be struck off the roll. That seems to me an excess of duty which is quite unnecessary.
– Order ! The honorable member is making a statement, and not asking a question.
– I assume that the honorable member intended to ask a question. I am informed that the law in regard to objections requires that the person objected to must either orally or in writing answer the notice of objection. That has not yet been done in this particular case, and I think that all the departmental officers desire is that the formal course of the law shall be observed.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he will cause the list of persons to whose names on the roll objection is taken to be exhibited every half-year, or every quarter - as may be most convenient - in places where the public may have an opportunity of seeing them. He stated just now that he would have these lists exhibited in the Registrars’ offices. I would point out that from some portions of my electorate the Registrar’s office is 600 miles distant. In these circumstances, will he have the lists posted at every post-office and receiving office ?
– I will give consideration to the request of the honorable member.
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether, as the result of representations made to the Department, a very definitely worded circular has not been sent out instructing Registrars to be very careful before they strike names off the roll.
– I am not aware of any departmental action having been influenced by representations made to it. The Leader of the Opposition asked me to give him some information with regard to the lodging of objections and removal of names from the rolls of the Korumburra division of Flinders. The Chief Electoral Officer reports as follows : -
I am advised that -
Seventy objections have been lodged since the last election.
Eighteen of the names involved were brought under notice by an outside organization, but were not objected to until exhaustive and independent inquiry had been made.
The Registrar has not lodged any objec tion without careful inquiry, and without having fullest grounds for belief that the persons objected to do not live in the division, and have not so lived for a period of not less than one month.
The honorable memberalso asked a question in regard to a statement which appeared in the Wondai Times, Queensland. In reply to that question the following telegram has been received from Mr. Allars, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in Queensland -
Your telegram 27th re Wondai Times, Registrar Nanango denies having invited objections from organizations. Merely proposed receive information with view independent inquiry. Returning Officer reports Registrar most reliable.
– Did he send the letter?
– We cannot expect to get postal replies in the time that has been available since the honorable member asked this question.
– Did he send a letter to that organization ?
– He denies having invited objections from organizations.
– The reply is not clear. I know Mr. Allars very well.
Day-Labour Work - All-Red Cable Route
– I would like to ask the Postmaster-General, without notice, whether he is committed to the daylabour system in connexion with the undergrounding of telephone wires in Albury, and, if so, whether he will see that the Government stroke there is accelerated ?
– Wherever tenders can be called, the Department propose to call for them. As a matter of fact, there is plenty of work, not only for tenderers, but, I think, for pretty well all the unemployed in Australia.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take into consideration the report made, according to Hansard, by the
Minister of Railways in Queensland, on 25th September, 1912, regarding day labour work over a considerable period, involving an actual expenditure of £1,864,562 out of an estimated expenditure of £2,135,914, and showing an actual saving by day labour of £271,352, or 12.70 per cent.; or, comparing day labour with contract, with an exactly similar mileage over a corresponding set of years, a saving in favour of day labour of 37.8 per cent? Will the PostmasterGeneral examine this report before he declares for the contract system ?
– I shall be very pleased to look into that report. In some cases, day-labour work is better than “contract work, but, no doubt, lately there has been a good deal of Government stroke.
– I would like to ask the Postmaster-General whether any action has been taken by the present Government with the objective of getting the Imperial Government to agree to the laying of a State-owned Atlantic cable, thus completing the All-Red route?
– I think the honorable member turned that proposal down when he was Postmaster-General. The honorable member said there was no chance of the matter going on while the present Postmaster-General in Great Britain was in office. I do not know that anything has transpired since then.
– On a question of privilege, I would like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have read the leading article in to-day’s Art/us in which honorable members of the House are charged with having shown discourtesy to you in every direction ? I do not think that is fair comment, that honorable members on the Opposition side of the House have shown any discourtesy to you.
– A question of privilege in relation to newspaper comments can only be raised by a substantive motion declaring the newspaper concerned guilty of contempt, or of a breach of the privileges of the House; but I can inform the honorable member that the opinions of newspapers have not been inspired in any way by myself, nor am I likely to be in any way influenced by the views of newspaper writers in relation to the discharge of my duties as Speaker.
– Seeing that a large number of objections to certain names on the rolls are coming in, and that there is a fine of £2 to which every man who has not got his name on the roll is liable, I would like to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he is aware that a large number of organizations are issuing instructions to their various members to make fresh applications to be put on the roll, and whether he does not see that by this system tens of thousands of names will be added, and an enormous amount of clerical work will be involved if this striking off of names is to take place?
– The striking of names off the rolls is the normal course of purifying the rolls , that must be carried on in the Department if the rolls are to be kept in any way pure. So far as the other part of the honorable member’s question is concerned, I am not aware of the subject-matter therein.
– I have information from my electorate that there are a number of names being struck off the roll, and it is very significant that the persons are all of the one political leaning, so far as one can judge. I ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, by whose instructions are these names being struck off?
– I should like the honorable member to give notice of the question, and to give some specific instances of the kind, because the specific instances that have been given in the House, so far, have shown that the action taken has had absolutely no political significance.
– The Argus of to-day says that you are purifying the rolls for the elections.
Waggon Contracts : Sleeper Contracts
– In this morning’s paper there appears an announcement that the Minister of Home Affairs has let a contract for a number of bogie waggons for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway, and the prices are given. Is the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs in a position to tell the House when the contractor will commence the delivery of these waggons, and when the contract will be completed ?
– Offhand, I am not in a position to give the honorable member that technical information. On Thursday or Friday last I brought the papers to the House to show them to the honorable member for Fremantle, who had submitted questions on the point. If the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will place a question on the notice-paper, I shall behappy to give the information he desires.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs also lay on the table of the House the papers dealing with the sleeper contract which were promised some time ago?
– The papers in connexion with the agreement relating to sleepers are very voluminous, and I take it that the honorable member does not wish us to have them copied. When the contract is duly signed, I shall be happy to lay the papers on the table of the Library.
Engagement of Mr. Griffin
– I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether it is true that the Government intend to engage Mr. Griffin, the American architect, who submitted the prize design for the Federal Capital, for a period of three years? If so, can the Prime Minister give the House any idea of what will be the total cost to the Commonwealth of securing the services of this gentleman?
– We are negotiating with Mr. Griffin to see whether we can make satisfactory arrangements with him to remain and look after the plans prepared, and to supervise the general laying-out of the Federal City. I hope soon to be in a position to make a definite statement on the point.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the suggested engagement of Mr. Griffin in connexion with the Capital site is the outcome of the discovery of inefficiency in his Department, or an effort on the part of the Government to economize with regard to the expenditure on that site?
– No; it is the result of a general impression on the part of the Government as to the advisa bility of getting the author of the plan to see, on the spot, that it is carried into execution.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are: -
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– I invite the honorable member’s attention to the published correspondence. Meantime I have to say generally that we shall be glad to lift the existing embargo when other steps have been taken within the State of an equally effective kind, or when the disease has abated.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are - 1 and 2. No publication dealing with the present outbreak of small-pox in Sydney has been issued by the Quarantine Department.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government have yet agreed upon the form of instructions to be issued to Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice; and, if so, will the Prime Minister place a copy of such instructions upon the table of the House?
– The answer to the question is -
It is proposed to place in Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice’s hands Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson’s report, with a view to obtaining his advice as to the best methods of carrying out the recommendations therein contained as to Naval Bases in Australia.
Increase of Expenditure - Post Office Buildings - Federal Capital - Public Works Committee - Development of the Northern Territory - Land Settlement - Loan Expenditure - Defence Expenditure: Naval Bases : Rifle Ranges - New Hebrides - Budget-papers - New Works - Country Telephone and Telegraph Extensions - Trunk Telephone Lines - Rifle Clubs - Woollen Mills - Harness and Clothing Factories - Manufacture of Cordite - . Day and Contract Labour - Federal Printing Office - Quarantining of Sydney - Quarantine Works - Remount Depots - Post and Telegraph Department : Appointment of Commissioners - Centralization - Lighthouses - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 10th October, vide page 2013) : departmentofhomeaffairs.
.- I take it that the Government desire to get these Estimates passed as soon as possible, and that any remarks we wish to make on the Budget should be reserved for another occasion. In view of the tremendous increase proposed in the expenditure for this year - something over £5,000,000 - it is rather disappointing to find that only a small proportion of the increased expenditure is to be incurred in connexion with those services which are necessary to the development of the country interests of the whole of Australia. On looking through these Estimates I find that an increase of £255,000 is proposed in the expenditure of the Home Affairs Department, and an increase of £244,000 in the expenditure of the Postmaster-General’s Department. In other words, an increase of £499,000 is proposed in the expenditure of the two Departments which more particularly touch the country interests of Victoria. Last year, of course, in connexion with wireless telegraphy there was placed on the Estimates a large amount which, probably, may not occur this year. Last year new works under the Home A-ffairs Department were proposed to the amount of £400,000, whereas this year the new works- under the Department are estimated to cost £320,000. First I desire to refer to the proposals for erecting new post-office buildings in Victoria. I admit that the proper course is to deal with these Estimates in relation to the whole of Australia; but probably honorable members are more familiar with those proposals which refer to their own State. I intend, therefore, to deal with some of the items for postoffices in Victoria only. On the Estimates for this year a total sum of £85,000 is provided for post-office buildings in this State. Of that amount about £55,000 is to be expended in the metropolitan area, and only about £30,000 is to be expended in the country districts on the erection of post-office buildings. I think that a large proportion of the £55,000 is to be spent on new offices within the metropolitan area. In other words, about one-half of the total sum is to be expended in connexion with the Melbourne Post Office and a new parcels office. Having regard to the enormous increase which is proposed in the expenditure for this year - an increase of over £5,000,000 - a very small proportion of that amount is being devoted to the ‘erection of country postoffices.
– That is very serious, as this is supposed to be a country Ministry.
– I am discussing the question from the stand-point of the interests which are most largely involved. Let us turn for a moment to the expenditure on telephones. These Estimates show an increased expenditure of £244,000. Last year the expenditure was £835,000, and this year the proposed expenditure is £1,079,000, being an increase of £244,000. From that amount we have to deduct certain heavy expenditure on switch-boards. That means that the expenditure on our Post and Telegraph services shows, in some instances, a decrease, so far as country districts are concerned. Instead of what we supposed to be an increase in connexion with this large Budget, there is really to be a de crease in the expenditure on purely postal services. .
– Is not the fault in allocating the expenditure ?
– No. The switchboards which are to b.e erected will absorb nearly the whole of the proposed increase of £244,000 in connexion with the services.
– An increase of switchboards is to be expected at present.
– We have also a proposal to increase by £147,000 last year’s expenditure on the Federal Capital, the proposed vote for this year being £285,000. That item ought to be struck out altogether. At this early stage in the history of the Commonwealth, when we have 3,”000,000 square miles of country to develop, and when we require railways and telephone services in all directions, it is our duty to spend the money available on purely developmental works. Justification for the expenditure of this money on the Federal Capital is not, and cannot be, shown. I have heard it said more than once that the Capital could be made a good business proposition; that, with- a territory of 900 square miles, we could build the Capital and lease the laud on such advantageous terms as to secure a fair return upon our expenditure. That being so, we ought to have a comprehensive scheme, showing the direction which the expenditure should take, and the prospect of making the Capital self-supporting in the near future.
– It is time that the honorable member gave this up.
– It is time the Committee inquired more searchingly into the expenditure that is being heaped up year after year. For the last three years we have been complaining about the enormous increase in Commonwealth expenditure and taxation. Yet we find that we are asked thi3 year to spend about £5,000,000 more than was expended last year, and that we have no more information to guide us than we had twelve months ago. The very thing of which we complained last year we have to complain of this year - that we have no business-like guidance in voting these large sums of money. The Federal Capital should be dealt with separately, and on its merits, and the Committee should be given an idea of the extent to which the proposed expenditure is going to commit us. Twelve months ago we were told that the £110.000 then voted was but the first instalment of a total expenditure ot £3,000,000.
– Who made that statement ‘
– The then Minister of Home Affairs. We are asked this year to agree to an expenditure of £285.000 on the Federal Capital, or an increase of £147,000 on the amount expended last year, yet we are given no information as to how far the passing of this item will commit us to a ‘total expenditure of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. I think we ought to have a Public Works Committee, which could make the fullest inquiry into the proposed expenditure on the Federal Capital, and place before us a scheme which, perhaps, would show that the Capital could be built without making too great a demand on the Federal Treasury. We ought to have some such assurance before we vote this money. I intend to vote against the proposed expenditure on the Federal Capital until I have received further information as to the extent to which it will commit us, and whether it is likely to run us into an aggregate expenditure which this young Commonwealth perhaps would be unable to stand.
– The honorable member is very parochial.
– I am not. This is not the only proposed expenditure which should be looked into. Take, for instance, the expenditure proposed to be made in the Northern Territory. We are constantly being asked to vote money in that direction, without having before us anything like adequate information as to the future of that great tract of country. We are asked this year to spend £59,000 iti respect of new works in the Northern Territory. In addition to ike proposal to expend £400,000 on a branch railway line, and to the expenses of administration running up to £50,000, we are asked this year to vote £59,000 for new works in the Territory. Of that sum only £14,000, consisting of a proposed vote of £8,000 for the construction of roads and bridges, £2,000 for water conservation north of the Katherine River, and £4,000 for the erection of wind-mills and pumps, can be described as expenditure on developmental works. We should have the fullest information in regard to all future expenditure in the Territory. I think, also, that the £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 proposed to be expended in constructing a railway line through the centre of Australia could be more advantageously employed in carrying out some great developmental scheme within the Northern Territory itself. I have my own views concerning that part of Australia. I believe it is possible to develop it, but that it can be developed only by the construction of public works within the Territory itself. We know, for instance, that rain falls there only during three or four months of the year.
– That statement applies to only part of the Territory.
– The honorable member is mistaken. Darwin has the highest rainfall record, and it is only during four months of the year that rain falls there.
– What about the tablelands!
– They are really a drier part of the Territory. It will be impossible to carry on agriculture successfully there without water conservation; and the first step which we ought to have taken was to appoint an engineer, with experience in the construction of irrigation and water conservation works in tropical countries, to furnish a report to Parliament as to the best means of conserving the water now running to waste in the .Territory. Water conservation is undoubtedly the first essential to success. We are, however, doing nothing in this direction. We are voting this money blindly. I would also draw attention to proposed votes for certain Socialistic schemes like that of the Commonwealth Clothing Factory.
– Are these the actions of a Government which was going to guard the public funds?
– I am discussing this question from the stand-point of the guardianship of the finances of the Conmonwealth. We are asked to vote £85,000 for the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, and there are also large items in respect of the Commonwealth Clothing Factory and the Harness Factory. If it is wise to call for tenders for the construction of public works, why is it not equally wise to call for tenders for the supply of harness, woollens, and clothing?
– Read the report of the British Royal Commission on that subject.
– I hold that what is good in the one case ought to be good in the other. I know that the Clothing
Factory has already reached the Socialistic ideal in turning out suits of clothing of the same pattern and the. same size.
– Are not the employes being treated well?
– I am dealing, not with the employes, but with the question of Socialistic schemes. These three schemes were introduced by the late Government, and were condemned by me at the time. No doubt considerable expenditure has been incurred in carrying them on up to date; but when business men find that they have embarked upon a bad speculation, and that their expenditure is not likely to fulfil anticipations, they abandon the enterprise, considering the first loss to be the best.
– Surely ‘he honorable member is not censuring his own Government.
– If T had my way, I would cause the position to be reviewed, to see if it would not be better to put these contracts into private hands. We frequently hear from members of the Opposition statements condemnatory of the Legislative Councils of Australia; indeed, if the Legislative Councils were abolished, the stock and trade of the Socialist party would virtually disappear. But Governments whose legislation has to be passed by Legislative Councils have shown themselves more liberal than the Commonwealth Government, as I shall prove by citing a concrete instance. The Government of Victoria, before throwing open for settlement the land in the central part of the Mallee, constructed 66 miles of railway, at a cost of about £200,000, to give access to it, at the same time excavating large tanks along the railway line, and in places distant from the line, and grubbing some scores of miles of road. That is as it should be. It has been too often #ie practice in Australia to wait for private enterprise to blaze the trail, and to withhold railways and water supply works until the certainty that they would be profitable was obvious. This Mallee land, having been rendered fit for settlement, was thrown open for occupation. But when I endeavoured to get the last Commonwealth Government to erect a telephone line, the cost of which would be about £2,000, to serve the district, I was told that the people of the district would have to guarantee a certain part of the estimated loss on the work, and this Government takes the same position. The Victorian Government has spent £200,000 in opening up the district, but this Government will not spend £2,000 to help the people there without a guarantee of £150, which it is difficult to secure, because in the beginning settlers find it very hard to get money to finance even their own immediate wants. Yet a telephone line was erected to give communication between Melbourne and Sydney, at a cost of from £25,000 to £30,000 without a guarantee.
– The honorable member could get the £2,000 he needs by reducing the Federal Capital vote by that amount.
– I do not think that the money would be expended in the way in which I want it expended, even if the Federal Capital Territory vote were reduced. I point out, however, that the Postal Department is the only Commonwealth Department that can assist the development of the country. When I first read the Budget speech, I was under the impression there was to be a large expenditure in country districts, in extending telegraphs and telephones, and in renovating or constructing postoffices; but the expenditure is not to be as large as I hoped for. Of course, this Government has a hard row to hoe, in having to make provision for the commitments of its predecessor. But before Parliament agrees to expend large sums in the Northern Territory and in the Federal Capital Territory, it should be given all the information necessary to enable it to determine the wisdom of the proposed expenditure. The sum of £50,000, or more, has been spent in administrative work in the Northern Territory without inducing more than halfadozen new settlers to go there.
– It is proposed to spend in the Territory £400,000 to construct a -line of railway from Pine Creek to the Katharine River. We do not know that that line is the best that could be constructed for the development of the Territory, and we do not know whether there should not be an investigation to ascertain if it will follow the best route. It is proposed to spend money in the Territory before it has been decided whether the freehold or leasehold form of tenure shall be adopted. I do not think that the country will ever be settled on a leasehold tenure ; the history of the world is against that. We are similarly in a position of darkness regarding the Federal Capital Territory. I intend to vote against the proposed expenditure there, unless the Government gives us the information needed for a proper conclusion as to its proposals. In my opinion, the information that we require can be obtained only by a Committee; and there should be laid before Parliament a scheme which will make the Territory selfsupporting within the near future. If the Government is prepared to give us this information, and to postpone the vote, I shall suspend my judgment on it for the time being ; otherwise .1 must oppose it, because I think that it should be knocked out. So much money is needed for the development of the country that it is a crime to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in the Federal Capital Territory., If it should be necessary for the Commonwealth to do its parliamentary work elsewhere than in Melbourne, there are other cities to which the Parliament could be moved.
– If the fate of the Government depended on the “ honorable member’s vote, lie would support an expenditure twice as large as is proposed.
– The honorable member is not a mind-reader, and knows nothing about it. He is merely making a guess, as he does in regard to most matters. It is proposed to spend a large sum on naval works, but we do not know whether there is, or is not, any justification for the expenditure. Of course, our naval defence preparations must continue, bub we do not know that the money is being spent to the best advantage, and depend for information entirely on the reports of the departmental’ officers. We have no expert advice with regard to it. It is proposed to make up the expenditure to £27,000,000, and yet we have no expert information as to the manner in which the money is to be spent.” Would any good business man spend money on such slight information as is given to us in this matter ? I hope that before money is voted for public works generally, the Government will show us exactly how it is to be spent, so that we may judge as to the utility of the works, and the value of the proposed expenditure. We need a Public Works Committee. I am not prepared to say what the constitution of the Committee should be. If practicable, the
Committee should be composed of members of the Parliament, because they would be the best fitted to conduct investigations into proposals for expenditure; but it might be difficult for such a Committee to travel all over Australia making investigations. If not composed of members of Parliament, it should be composed of other competent men, or there should be’ a number of independent committees. Men should be chosen possessing business as well as expert knowledge, who would present to Parliament reports which would guide us in our decisions, and enable the people who pay the taxes to know that their money is being spent to the best advantage.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am afraid that my speech will be nearly as dry as that delivered by the Treasurer, because I have so many figures to bring under the notice of honorable members. I wish to direct attention, if the Chairman will permit me to say so, to the tricks of the right honorable gentleman. A Government should be open to criticism, and one ought to be allowed to use the strongest language in referring to it. If the word “tricks” is not in order, I might be permitted to refer to the “ devices “ of the Treasurer. Referring to the right honorable gentleman the other day, I reminded honorable members that an old dog was wanted for a hard road. I am anxious to-day to direct their attention to the method by which the hon>orable gentleman gets his business through this House. He lias on the paper a Loan Bill, which covers the expenditure for new works included in these Estimates
– Not all. The Loan Bill proposes the borrowing of £3,080,000, whilst these Estimates cover an expenditure of £3,268,569.
– The honorable member forgets that the Treasurer does not mind about a million pounds, and he might let my statement go. Would it not have been much more straightforward for the Treasurer to get his Loan Bill through first, in order to test the feeling of honorable members with respect to the proposed borrowing of money? He puts the Loan Bill well down on the businesspaper, and then brings forward Estimates of Expenditure for new works which are to be covered by the Loan Bill.
– No; these works have nothing to do with the Loan Bill; they are to be paid for out of revenue.
– Then I must have made an awful mistake? I remember that when I was travelling on a London ‘bus a man looked up at the top deck and said, “ There is room up there.” The conductor said, ‘ ‘ There is no room up there.” The intending passenger insisted that there was, and the conductor then said, “ Go up and see.” The passenger went up on top of the ‘bus and said, “ There is room here.” “ Very well,” said the conductor, “ I must have make a mistake. I would not be here if I had not made a lot of mistakes in my time.” No doubt, that little story describes my position just now, and probably I should not be here if I had not made a number of mistakes in my time. We have included in the Loan Bill a vote for the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway of £1, 400,000; for the construction of a railway in the Northern Territory, from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, £400,000; for the construction of a railway from Port Moresby to Astrolabe, and for the construction of wharfs in Papua, £60,000; for the purchase of land for post and telegraph purposes, £170,000; for the purchase of land for defence purposes, £300,000; for the construction of conduits and laying wires underground, £425,000; machinery shops, &c., Cockatoo Island, £175,000; and the erection of London offices, £150,000-
– Those votes are not included in the Estimates before the Committee.
– My point is that the Treasurer should have brought the Loan Bill forward first, that we might settle the question whether we are prepared to borrow for defence purposes.
– The honorable member is no doubt aware that he cannot discuss the Loan Bill on these Works Estimates.
– A certain amount of money is to be provided for new works out of loan if Parliament passes the Loan Bill for the borrowing of £3,080,000, which the Treasurer intends us to discuss later on. My point is that the right honorable gentleman is, so to speak, sneaking in these New Works Estimates before we have dealt with the Loan Bill, so that if we reject the Loan Bill these new works will have to be provided for out of revenue. It will be seen that the right -honorable gentleman has two strings to his bow.
– He is very deep.
– The right honorable gentleman is as deep as a well.
– It is the usual practice to deal with Estimates and then to deal with loan.
– I take exception to it, because I am entirely against the honorable gentleman’s proposal to borrow for defence purposes. He is well aware that we cast into the outer darkness his Loan Act for the borrowing of £3,500,000 for the construction of the Fleet. We would not have that, and said that we were going to construct the Fleet out of revenue. The right honorable gentleman is very ingenious. He says now that the Government will not ask for a loan of money with which to construct the Fleet. They say that they will construct the Fleet out of revenue, but will borrow for other public works. Doubtless the Treasurer concluded that it would be very dangerous to. suggest the construction of the Fleet out of loan money.
– The Government are not proceeding with it out of revenue or out of loan this year.
– There is over £1,000,000 on the Estimates for the purpose.
– I have here, at page 232 of the Estimates for revenue and expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1914, the abstract of the expenditure proposed on new works and buildings. I find that the expenditure proposed in connexion with the Department of Home Affairs amounts to £1,122,768; the Postmaster-General’s Department, £1,079,700; the Treasury, £4,860; Defence Department (not including construction of Fleet), £692,311; and External Affairs Department, £68,930; or a total for additions and new works of £3,268,569. The Treasurer proposes that we should pass votes amounting to millions of pounds for new works, and is going totry to pass a Loan Bill later on to meet that expenditure. Does the right honorable gentleman deny that?
– Yes; these works are not to be paid for out of loan.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that no money will be spent on these works out of loan if, later on, we pass the Loan Bill?
– Not a penny.
– I intend to deal with the question of defence. The Treasurer is proposing a lot of new works in connexion with defence.
– The amounts included in these Estimates will be paid out of revenue. The loan items are given at page G3 of the Budget-papers.
– We will leave that for the present. I wish to refer to the expenditure proposed on defence, because I do not approve of the extraordinary expenditure, amounting to £5,700,000, which the Treasurer proposes for this purpose. The right honorable gentleman has got his way at last. I remember that, when he attended an Imperial Conference, I think it was, he said that cur contribution to the Empire, if we did our duty, should be £5,000,000 a year. The honorable gentleman has got it up to the £5,000,000 now, and beyond that amount.
– The party opposite at that time proposed to keep up a contribution to the Imperial Navy, whilst the Labour party insisted upon an Australian Navy.
– I think this is a convenient) opportunity to express a few objections I have to offer to the expenditure proposed by the Government. I submit to honorable members that we are now reaping the results of the Dreadn.ou.ght scare that was started some few years ago. Honorable members will recollect that it was a scare got up mostly by politicians.
– Would the honorable member reduce the defence vote?
– I should, especially the vote for the Navy. I am not so much concerned about the expenditure on land defence.
– Yet the honorable member supported the previous Government in carrying on the schemes initiated by the Liberal Government.
– Why does the honorable member for Wimmera support a Government that proposes to double the expenditure on the Capital site ?
– I will repeat the views which I expressed in this House on this subject on 28th August, 1912. I said -
I am sure that the naval scheme will break down unless it is modified. Australia will not be able to foot the bill. I think that the Ministerial party will have to have on its programme next year a plank which will enable us to modify the scheme in a useful direction. We are committed next year to a line of steam-ships. It would be wise for us, instead of spending so many millions on warships alone, to spend several millions of the money on convertible merchantmen, which might be used as var vessels in time of need, whilst in peace time they might be used for carrying passengers and mails to and from Europe. We can make our new plank - a Commonwealth-owned line of steamers - fit in with that idea. We shall be able to con. struct fast convertible merchantmen, and in that way do something of a useful character for Australia, instead of putting our money into vessels which, as every expert tells us, are only fit for the scrap-heap in the course of a decade.
That is what I said last year, and it expresses my attitude all along towards this huge expenditure on the Navy. The present scheme of the Treasurer is the outcome of the alarm which was created a few years ago when Mr. Winston Churchill, President of the Board of Trade, speaking at Dundee, said that the scare was - a false, sham, and lying panic started in the interests of the Conservative party.
The British Labour party, in a letter to the honorable member for Wide Bay, who was then Prime Minister, described the scare as -
A panic which has been engineered for political purposes.
Sir Josiah Symon, too, when interviewed on his return to Australia, said -
I was in England during the progress of the scare, and it was apparent that the whole business was really worked up for party purposes by the Tory newspapers.
It certainly is a singular circumstance that, on the same day, the leading newspapers in Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, contained leading articles in favour of presenting the Home authorities with a Dreadnought.
– The honorable member ought to have heard Senator Pearce in Sydney the other night.
– I do not know why they contained those leaders.
– Each Minister of Defence is trying to outbid the other in the matter of expenditure.
– It may be that certain persons are looking for titles. It may be that they desire to get titles from the Imperial Government at a cheap rate. I am not quite certain that one should object to a man who, has rendered greatpublic service, or who has acquired distinction in the domain of art, science, or literature, getting, something in the nature of a tag to his name ; but it is wrong for persons to endeavour to get titles from the Imperial Government by loudly proclaiming their patriotism. When I was in the Old Country, a member of the House of Commons told me that seeking titles was really the religion of the people df Loudon. He said that the obstacles in the way of carrying out all democratic reform in the Mother Country did not come so much from persons with titles as from those who were endeavouring to obtain them.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is wandering away from the Works Estimates.
– I understood- that on this point I was at liberty to roam a little.
– But the honorable member’s observations must have some connexion with the Estimates. o
– Without pressing the point that I should be allowed to discuss grievances before Supply, I will getback to the question of Defence. I say that these scares are raised by interested parties, by persons who wish to proclaim their loyalty, as did some individuals in Queensland, who clamoured for more contingents being sent to South Africa, and who, at the time, were interested in certain meat contracts. I have here the opinion expressed by Mr. “Francis W. Hirst, the editor of the Economist, London, at the International Peace Conference, which was held in Washington, in December, 1910. He said -
War scares were largely inspired by armament contractors, and these contractors would ultimately drag various countries into bankruptcy.
That is what the Treasurer will do. The whole country will be “in pawn if the present Government remain long in office. Mr. Hirst continued -
Brazil’s purchase of Dreadnoughts was absurd, and Japan’s rivalry with the United States was crushing the Orientals. Great Britain and Germany were wrecking themselves by their expenditure on armaments.
If we ask the Treasurer why we should expend £5,700,000 in defence this year, he will probably reply that we are beset by an enemy in the East - by Japan.
He will probably say that we have possible enemies in Europe, and that, therefore, we must incur a big naval expenditure. I am inclined to support the view which was expressed by Mr. Hirst, that, iu all probability, the armament contractors have a great deal to do with the armament expenditure which is going on throughout the world. They are interested in having huge sums spent in their ship-yards, and in various other works. Here are the profits of Armstrong, Whitworth, and Company Limited -1910, £351,921; 1911, £527,866. During the same years the profits of Vickers, Son, and Maxim were £288,044 and £510,668 respectively. These people will build war-ships for Japan or any other country; so how can they boast of their patriotism ? We do seem to be a most curious people. I notice that a great disturbance is being made just now in the New Hebrides. The missionaries complain that the British laws which were enacted to prevent the sale of arms, am-( munition, and grog to the natives disadvantage the trader, and urge that France has enacted no such laws. Is it not verystrange that the Imperial Parliament should prohibit the sale of guns to the natives for fear they may shoot one another, whilst offering no objection to Vickers, Son, and Maxim manufacturing guns for the Japanese, or any oTher possible enemy of Britain ? Indeed, so far from condemning it, the Imperial authorities appear to think that it is a very good thing for trade. I believe we are extremely foolish to allow armament contractors, politicians, and soldiers, who are interested in these firms, to gull the public throughout the world into spending millions of pounds, in order to swell their dividends.
– This is a general indictment of the Fisher defence policy.
– It is intended to be an indictment of the proposal of the Treasurer, and a general indictment of the actions of the. Governments of Britain, France, Germany, and other countries.
– What about the Labour Government 1
– I have not time to deal with that matter. I view this question from the stand-point of one who, having looked at the list of representatives who have appeared in this Parliament, and who have passed away, does not expect- to remain here many years, and who, therefore, deems it to be his duty, while he is here, to give expression to his true views. I say that we are being gulled by the so-called patriots of the Old Country into shouldering an abnormally heavy burden. I know that the Treasurer has said that our contribution towards the defence of the Empire ought to be £5,000,000 annually.
– If we contributed at the same rate as do the people of the United Kingdom. I did not say that we ought to pay that amount.
– There can be only one inference drawn from such a statement, namely, that we ought to contribute £.5,000,000 annually to the defence of the Empire. To read the after-dinner speeches of some persons in the Old Country, who declare that they are very pleased to see how manfully Australia is shouldering the burden of Empire positively makes me ill. Probably some of these people « have never been outside of the radius which is represented by the distance between Paris and London. If anybody wishes to learn what Australia is doing for the Empire, let him visit the country districts of the Commonwealth. Let him go into Queensland, where he will see persons who are absolutely denying themselves the comforts of life, as we in the city know them, who fell trees, plough the ground, and sow maize without getting any return for it - all for the sake of the Empire. The plains of Australia have been whitened by the bones of pioneers who have toiled for the Empire; and when we pay interest on the loans which have been made to us by British capitalists, I say that we do quite enough.
– We have had the money.
– Yes; and we are paying a very high rate of interest for it. There is no suggestion that we should go in for repudiation. I believe that the money which has been loaned to us by British capitalists is safer than is the money which has been loaned by them to other parts of the globe. But when we pay 4 per cent, or 4^ per cent, interest upon that money we have no right to be charged another 4 or 4£ per cent., in order to insure that that interest shall find its way safely to London.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Treasurer, in delivering his statement with reference to new works, said that the amount to be expended on additions, new works, buildings, &c, was £3,971,000, which amount is set down on page 40 of the Budget-papers, and he also told us that we must add to that amount loan moneys to the extent of £1,070,000, also set down, on page 40 of’ the Budgetpapers; but if we turn to page 59 of the Budget-papers we shall see a further statement as to the amount which is to be expended, which does not tally, so far as I can make ‘ out, with the figures on page 40. On page 59 there is set down the sum of £7,086,628 for additions, new works, &c., and if we deduct from this the amount of £1,196,829, accumulated from the previous years for the construction of the Fleet, it leaves -a gross expenditure of £5,889,799.
– The honorable member is dealing with the main. Estimates, and not with new works.
– I am dealing with the * additions and new works on these Estimates. We find from figures elsewhere that the loan money to be spent on additions and new works amounts to £4,219,000. Therefore, we have three statements showing different results; but I have noticed, further, that the daily press have drawn still another result from the Budgetpapers. In one newspaper yesterday it appeared that the total expenditure for new works was to be £2,968,000, or taking into consideration the unexpended balance from last year of £430,000, a grand total of £3,398,000. It seems to me that we should try to make the Estimates as plain as possible to the people. I am not finding fault with this Budget any more than with previous Budgets, but if financial statements are brought down and submitted to honorable members in such a way that we cannot understand them, how much less can we expect the public to understand how we are handling the finances? It seems to me that the whole matter needs recasting. I come of Scotch parentage, and like most people with Scotch parents, I think I know something of finance; but when I go through the Budget-papers to find out how we are going to spend the money I cannot fathom them.
– The honorable member is making a general Budget speech, and is not speaking to the Estimates for new works.
– I am dealing with the items set down for expenditure on new works, but I have completed my general observations on the amount tobe expended, and wish now to come to definite items. I notice with pleasure that the present Administration propose to expend a greater sum on telephone and telegraph extension than has been spent in the past, because we are to have an increase this year of £150,000 overthe expenditure of last year. In no way could money be better spent. As a country member, and asone brought up a long way from a railway, knowing the disadvantages under which the settlers labour, and the difficulties with which the pioneers have to contend, I say we cannot spend money more profitably than in extending the telephone and telegraph system. I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks made on both sides of the House on Friday last dealing with the question of telephone construction, and it seemed to me that the honorable member for Parkes made a statement which was very business-like. The honorable ‘ member laid down a system which seemed to me to meet the case in every way’. He pointed out the vast difference between construction of telephones required for cities and those suitable in the bush. The honorable member for Denison afterwards treated us to a dissertation on the mechanical side of the telephone construction branch; and while not in any way trying to gainsay the knowledge of the honorable member or to belittle his remarks, I would point out that his statement dealt merely with main and trunk lines.
– I said there were three zones, and that country lines cost £12 6s. a mile, which is surely cheap enough.
– The whole tenor of the remarks of the honorable member was that we must construct telephone lines in the best possible manner : that we must make them as good lines as can be laid down. I disagree entirely from the honorable member on that point. While cities must have permanent lines laid down and constructed in a thoroughly workmanlike manner, it does not matter how ramshackle a line may be in the bush so long as it does for a year or two. The main thing in the bush is to run up a temporary job so that the people can get the use of the telephone. In the various out-back portions of this great continent, we find telephone lines constructed of ordinary wire, and attached to trees, and along lines such as these much business is done, much social intercourse is carried on, and by means of them many valuable lives have been saved. They cost almost nothing to construct, but they can do much good business in their limited way, just sis much as the most expensive lines that could be constructed ; and it seems to me that it would be a very wise course indeed for the Administration to adopt to put up these temporary lines where there is any demand for them. As soon as these temporary lines are brought into use, “and the people become accustomed to the use of telephones, they will be quite prepared to foot the bill for the erection of more expensive and better lasting lines ; but what they require to begin with are merely temporary lines, to bring them into touch with those in the outlying parts, and to enable them to do their business; also in times of distress to save those lives which” are so valuable to Australia. As soon as people find out the increased facilities for transacting business and the increased safety that accrue in the bush through the construction of telephones, they will be quite prepared to allow us to include in the Estimates before Parliament votes for the construction of telephone lines to a much greater degree than we do at present. Another thing which seems to me to redound to the credit of the present Administration is the increase proposed for rifle . clubs. Nothing stands more prominently in a patriotic light than the increase of these clubs. No doubt, for the last few years they have received nothing like the consideration which should be theirs.
– How much more is on the Estimates for them this year?
– The vote is increased this year by £7,500. Though not a great increase, still it is an increase, and, to my mind, nothing can be of greater value, because, as I suppose most honorable members know, a great many of our young fellows in the country districts have been discouraged owing to the little consideration they have been receiving.
These are the men who should be put in the position to defend Australia, and when the day comes, I know they will be able to put up any fight that is necessary. They are prepared to form rifle clubs throughout the country districts, but, of late, owing to the little consideration they have had, or owing to the cold way in which their requests have been received, they have lost enthusiasm.
– They cannot get decent rifles.
– That is so; indeed, they could not get consideration of any sort. But this increase will do something to stimulate their enthusiasm. The members of these rifle clubs are the type of. men we need to encourage. We do not wish to teach our men the lust of conquest, but we need to fit them to defend Australia. The two increases which I have mentioned are things that will enable us to improve ourselves in the defence of Australia. There is only one increase in regard to new works to which I cannot give my full support, and that is the £71,000 put down for woollen mills. It seems to me that, at the present juncture, we can spend our money in a much wiser and more profitable way than by putting it into these Socialistic enterprises.
– Will you move to strike out the item?
– If the honorable member will support me, I shall do so. If I could get the support of the House to knock out this increase, I would move to do so, because I am of opinion that we could spend this money in a much better way. We lead the world in producing the raw material, and if we are not in a position to manufacture it, then I say let us encourage the production of the raw material, and let some one else manufacture it.
– Send it to Germany.
– So long as the work is done by white men, I do not care where it is manufactured, provided we develop the resources of Australia as they should be developed. I protest against the primary producers having to carry the secondary producers on their backs. The secondary producers have no right to tax the primary producers out of existence to maintain them.
– Does the honorable member mean that he is a Free Trader?
– Of course, I am a Free Trader. I have never denied it. But in the present conditions I have accepted Protection, as it is Australia’s accepted policy. A man might as well talk against the wind as talk Free Trade ; we have settled the position for the time being; but, if ever it comes to a fight again, there will be no doubt as to which side I shall take. I am quite prepared to fight the question when it comes to be fought, but now for the time being the matter is settled, the fight having been put aside because there are so many things of far greater importance to be decided. The time may come’ again when the people will realize the necessity for a change, but, at present, there are greater things to be considered; we have sunk minor differences in order to try to act together to take Australia on the lines which we believe to be the true lines of progress and development. I object to. this expenditure on woollen mills, because I believe the money could be. put to far better use. I wish to know what those honorable members who are prepared to spend money on woollen mills will say to a symbol that was exhibited when our Australian Fleet entered Sydney ? Being patriotic, I purchased one of the symbols, and found on the back the words “Made in Japan.” We are not making our own patriotic symbols, yet gentlemen opposite decry me when I say I am a Free Trader. Could we not spend money in a better way than in establishing woollen mills when we allow our natural enemies to send us the symbols which we are supposed to wear on such a great day of patriotism as that marked by the arrival of our Fleet ?
– How do you connect those symbols with woollen mills?
– Honorable members are making a great cry about spending money to develop our secondary industries; they are making the primary industries carry the secondary industries; and then they come along cheerfully and buy these symbols. They are deluding the people when they talk of Free Trade and Protection. However, I do not wish to be led off the track.
– Did the Government buy those symbols from Japan ?
– I do not know how they came into this country, but I know they are in the country.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot go beyond a casual reference to those symbols.
– The honorable member is beating the “cymbal.”
– I do not want to beat the cymbal. We are spending our money in ways which are not justifiable, and allowing things to be brought into this country which should be excluded. In regard to this Budget, the present Administration deserve the support of every right-thinking Australian, but it is up to their supporters, wherever they can, to point out the defects of the present proposal. The Treasurer, it seems to me, would be well advised if he could submit financial proposals in a plainer and more business-like way, so that not only we, but the newspapers, who have taken this subject up wrongly, and the people throughout Australia, might be in a position to understand exactly the state of the finances.
.- I wish to deal with some of the figures with which the last speaker ‘dealt.
– Japanese medals were being sold in Sydney at the reception of the Fleet.
– The symbols were sold on behalf of the Liberal party’s funds, I understand.
– Whether they were or not, I cannot say, but if they were, honorable members on the other side would only be following their usual unpatriotic lines. 1 would advise the honorable -member for Robertson to look at the item, “ Money to be expended on rifle ranges, &c,” under the head of each State. He will find, if he does, that the money allocated in 1912-13 is somewhat above the sum which is provided in these Estimates. In the course of his speech he intimated that £100,000 was provided here, and so many more thousands provided elsewhere, and said he was glad to see the items on the Estimates. “Yes,” I interjected, “but, unfortunately, the votes will not be spent.” That is my opinion. The honorable member will find, if he makes an inquiry, that the last Estimates allocated more money for rifle ranges than the present Administration propose to spend this year.
– They did not spend it, though.
– That is true, I admit. Judging from the way in which things are being conducted, the present Government are out to try to finish the present year with a surplus bigger than that of the previous year. They are on the right road to do that.
– Are they- - with the loan money, teo?
– Yes. Everything is being done now to postpone the carrying out of works.
– They will be over two millions short.
– The Government are importing experts from here, there, and everywhere to report on works which have already been reported on, and that, of course, will take time.
– Reports on the Cockburn Sound Naval Base and the Federal Capital Site.
– It is of no ase for the honorable member to make misstatements.
– Instead of . spending £27,000,000 the Government will, I think, finish the financial year with a credit balance of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. They will not have an opportunity of spending half of this money, because every effort is being made to postpone a work to wait for the advice of another expert. Already the Commonwealth has paid large sums to get reports on some of the very works . which are now under consideration.
I am very glad that the Prime Minister is in the chamber. Seeing that there was in train a proposal for duplicating the cordite works, why is it that these Estimates are practically silent on the point, when it is well known, according to the reports of experts, that if the works were duplicated, we would save almost a third of the cost in the manufacture of the whole cordite required for big guns and small arms? These Estimates are absolutely silent on that point; but, on a comparatively unimportant matter, the expenditure is more than doubled. For the Federal Capital site, £285,000 is set down li ere. I suppose that the expenditure of that sum will practically be held up until such time as an elaborate report is presented to the House from the gentleman who has come from America. I had an opportunity of looking at his design, and, though not professing to he an expert, I say that the design is a splendid one ; hut it seems to me that, in this and other matters, it is a case of ‘ ‘ “Let us bring a man here; let us have a report;, give him ample time to get a report ready.” Now, by the time that most of these reports are ready, the greater part of the financial year will have passed by, and we shall have a bumping- surplus a3 the result of unexpended votes. To my mind, what is needed most in connexion with the expenditure on the Capital site is the advice of expert engineers. So far as architecture is concerned, we have to wait some time. I understand that the gentleman who is going to report on the Capital site is an architect. I take it that the proposed works, in regard to water supply, sewerage, and generally, fall within the province of an engineer. If we allow our Australian engineering talent to submit to architectural talent from the United States, I think, despite all the expenditure we are indulging in by getting his report, we shall find ourselves landed in greater difficulties in the near future than we have had in the) past.
– Did you hear the honorable member for Melbourne say that it was a statesman-like act to secure his services ?
– My honorable colleague and I do not always agree. He is perfectly at liberty to express his own opinion on that subject. I think that very little good is likely to accrue, notwithstanding the great capabilities of Mr. Griffin. I consider that he has come upon the scene a little too early as an architect. I believe that quite likely his services 4.ould bt valuable at some time in the future. I an prepared to divide the Committee on the item for the Capital site with a view to its reduction. The works to be carried out there at present and in the near future should be of an engineering class, not of an architectural class.
I desire here to cross swords with the honorable member for Wimmera, who said - and his statement) was approved by the honorable member for Robertson - that he was distinctly adverse to the expenditure of public money on woollen mills at Geelong. He said, also, that he was opposed to spending money in making saddlery for our mounted men.
– I say that the whole of these questions should have been reported on, and we should ha’ve had information as to the prospects.
– I am quite with the honorable member there. I favour a Public Works Committee, but it is a marvel that he did not include in his criticism the whole of the factories that we have in operation. If it is a right thing for the Commonwealth to manufacture cordite and small arms, it is equally right to make saddles for the Army, clothing for the soldier, and woollen material out of which .to make clothes. The honorable member simply showed how illogical he is. We have too many honorable members here, I am sorry to say, with a strong leaning towards the contractor. We have only to refer to the records of what, took place in actual war time to find out how many contractors in Australia robbed the British Government, and the Australian Governments too. Not only the boots and the saddles, but the hay and the chaff - in fact, nearly all things used by the soldiers - were adulterated or badly manufactured. Yet honorable members on the opposite side arc prepared to revert to that disastrous method - to bring back the contractor.
– The contractors found money to put them there; why should they not?
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Robertson was in the State Parliament at the time of . the South African War, but immediately it was concluded, inquiries were made by the authorities for the British Government, in conjunction with the Australian Governments, and it was found out how the contractors had robbed the taxpayers of Australia, and of the Empire, by the stuff they supplied. A man who walked 2 or 3 miles in a pair of the boots supplied would be a cripple. What kind of patriotic men were these contractors ?
– That was the fault of supervision.
– These are the type of men whom my honorable friends opposite call patriots. These are the kind of men who are only too ready when a man’s back is turned to put their hands into his pocket and rob him. A contractor who would supply boots made of inferior material, and adulterated hay and chaff for the horses of the soldiers, in time of war I consider to be the biggest robber in the community.
– You do not say that all contractors are of that type?
– No; I am talking of a particular class. What has been our danger in the past might be our danger in the future. In Australia to-day there are men lifting their heads very high, riding in carriages, afid boasting that they are millionaires, who laid the foundation of their present financial position by defrauding the British Government with the stuff that they sent to South Africa. These are, I suppose, the kind of men whom my honorable friends want to bring back into the contracting business.
– That is a bald general statement.
– It is a statement which one can prove.
– You could not, I think.
– The records of inquiries will prove it. I want to sound a note of warning here. We have to be careful. I do believe in the day-labour system in preference to the contract system, of which the present Government seem to be so enamoured. The honorable member for Wimmera knows that, in Victoria, many years have elapsed since we thought of constructing a railway under the contract system. With proper supervision we shall get far and away better value for our money with the day-labour system than under the contract system.
– Go up to Albury and talk like that.
– I have heard men like the honorable member talking about the day-labour system. Some work was once carried out by day labour on a Victorian railway in my electorate. One day a gentleman saw a man wheeling dirt up a plank and tipping it, and he came to me and said, “ What do you think of the Government stroke?” I said, “Fred, while I was waiting for my train the other morning, I watched that man, and I advise you to take out your watch and find out how many loads he shifts and tips over the plank in a given time, and you will then realize that he is doing very good work indeed.” I want to remind the honorable member for Hume that the man is not merely going for the half-hour and the few minutes he may be looking at him, but for eight hours a day. Very likely the honorable member, like myself, would put on a wonderful spurt for twelve or fifteen minutes, but he would be no good for the rest of the day. On the contrary, a labourer works for eight hours a day each week, and, if he is’ fortunate, he works fiftytwo weeks iu a year.. The honorable member would not last very long beside many of the men whom he condemns to-day.
In -regard to the establishment of a Public Works Committee, I have never heard an honorable member sound a discordant note. I suppose that every man who approves of public works being conducted on practical lines believes that there should be such a body, consisting either of members of Parliament or outside experts.
– If the Government liked to come down with a measure providing for the appointment of a Public Works Committee, they could pass it in a few hours.
– I am sure.
– I believe they could. For the most part the present Government have put before us only bones of contention. Whenever any. noncontentious measure has been submitted we have passed it with alacrity. But at almost every sitting we have a bone of contention thrown down, and we should be less than men if we did not take up the challenge.
– Let us get on and give the unemployed a chance.
– These works can go on without the authority of Parliament.
– We have not the money, and cannot have it until these Estimates are passed.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that some of the works for which these Estimates provide are already in hand. There is no reason why the bulk of them should not be in course of construction at the present time.
In reply to those honorable members who have complained of delays in connexion with the Postal Department, I would point out that the Fisher “Government during their three years of office constructed 92,000 miles of telephone lines. There was never such a record before, and if the present Government remain in office during the next three years, and at the end of their term can point to. such a performance, they will receive commendation and not condemnation from me. The record is one of which members of the late Government have reason to be proud. The Treasurer said a few moments ago that these works could not be undertaken until the Estimates were passed. As a matter of fact, however, I am now making arrangements with the Department of Home Affairs for the opening of a post-office in my electorate, provision for which is made on these very Estimates. The work has practically been completed.
– The works cannot be started until the Estimates arc passed.
– This office can be opened as soon as the Postal Department is ready. Whilst I have not got all for which I have asked, I must say that I have received prompt attention from the officers of the Postal Department, and when we find officers displaying alacrity in the discharge of their duty, surely we should be prepared to give them some praise for it. It is all very well for some honorable members to subject the Department to wholesale condemnation, but they should not lose sight of the difficulties which have to be contended with. I agree with the Postmaster-General, however, that there is too much red tape, and that there should be an easier method of getting to work at once, instead of every matter having to be sent from Minister to Minister and officer to officer. Such a system would not be tolerated for a week in private business. I believe that this Parliament is as practical as any other, and that the general desire is that all public works shall be carried out as promptly as possible.
I wish now to revive a complaint which I made last session in regard to the Government Printing Office. We have now three printing offices in this city doing certain classes of work for the Federal Government. We have on these Estimates a proposed vote of £1,000 for work to be carried out and machinery to be installed in connexion with the noteprinting branch. Then we have £660 set down for machinery and plant for stampprinting and works in connexion therewith, and £4,200 for machinery to be installed in the State Government Printing Office. Do not the Government think that it is about time we had a Federal Printing Office? I do nob desire to make any rash statement; but, in many cases where the States are called upon to do work for the Federal Government, I think that the Federal Government has to make good any loss. I am safe in saying that nearly two-thirds of the work now being done in the State Government Printing Office is to the order of the Commonwealth.
– They say that they have been losing money by it.
– The Victorian Treasurer, who is the Ministerial head of the State Government Printing Office, is a very keen business man. He is always on the look out for money, and would just as soon take it from the Federal Government as from any other source. We are doing so much printing that it is time we had an office of our own. It was suggested on a previous occasion that, in putting forward such a plea, I was anxious to. establish the .Government Printing Office at Canberra.
– What would it cost to install a printing office here?
– A good deal of room is available in the King’s warehouse. Complaint has been made of the delay which takes place in the carrying out of public works because we are dependent upon State officers, and I think that much of the delay in connexion with Federal printing is largely owing to the fact that the State Printing Office has too much to do. This Department is big enough to come under the immediate control of the Commonwealth. We shall have eventually to establish a Federal Printing Office at Canberra, and we should be able to take a well-organized staff_ with us if we began at once to organize a Federal Printing Office and staff at the present Seat of Government. All our other Departments have been organized, and why should we not begin the organization of a Federal Printing Office?
The Postmaster-General said to-day that some works could be carried out better by day labour than by contract, and vice versa. That, no doubt, is true. Works in remote parts of the Commonwealth might be undertaken more satisfactorily and with less cost by a local man with the requisite knowledge than would be possible if tenders were invited in some centre of population, and a contractor and his plant had to be sent up to carry them out. . I would remind honorable members, however, that we have instituted, and rightly instituted, in my opinion, the day-labour system in connexion with Federal works, with the result that we have in the Department of Home Affairs, and also, I believe, in the Postal Department, a very considerable plant. A good plant, after all, is a very important factor in connexion with the carrying out of public works, and I would ask the Postmaster-General, when calling for tenders for a work in connexion with his Department, to give the Department of Home Affairs an opportunity to tender side by side with outside contractors. If he found that it could do the work at anything like a reasonable rate, then the contract should be given to it, instead of to an outside contractor. This proposal is worthy of serious consideration. It would increase the Minister’s opportunity to have his works carried out by bringing in an additional tenderer, and would also, I believe, lead to saving.
– The Government are bound to agree to that proposal.
– They ought to do so,
– If the Department of Home Affairs made a mistake in estimating the cost of a work, who would have to make good the loss?
– The honorable member, by his interjection, reminds me that one of the advantages of the day-labour system is that works may be altered, if desired, without any claim being sent in, as would be the case with a contractor for extras.
– Under the contract system a contractor is absolutely in the hands of the responsible Department, which may alter a contract in any way.
– The honorable member has in mind the form of contract read the other day by the honorable member for Parkes. We see in that form the trail of the legal man, but apart altogether from that, if a contractor is asked to do something which is not specified in his contract, he is entitled to charge what he pleases for it. Then, again, once you depart from a contract, you afford a loophole, of which advantage would be taken, I think, by most contractors. If some of the Defence works in my electorate had been carried out by a private contractor instead of by day labour, they would have cost thousands of pounds more than they did, because of the alterations made. They were altered in many particulars to the advantage of the Department, and with the result that considerable savings were effected. We ought certainly to carefully consider the advantages of the day-labour system before we substitute for it the contract system.
– I agree with what the honorable member has said. As a matter of fact, I let a contract to-day to the Commonwealth Clothing Factory for the supply of uniforms for postal employes.
– Very good. Some years ago, there was a great outcry in this State about the cost of Government printing, which it was said could be done for much less by outside printers. The Government Printer of that day therefore requested the Ministerial head of his Department to invite tenders for certain work, and to allow him to put in a tender. This request was agreed to, and the Government Printer’s tender, in some cases, was hundreds of pounds below that of private contractors.
– Then there is the experience of the Newport workshops.
– Yes. In the manufacture of locomotives alone, to say nothing of other classes of rolling-stock, at the Newport workshops, the State Government has saved many thousands of pounds. The evidence in support of the day-labour system is so conclusive that I think it would be disastrous to substitute for it the contract system. I hope that the Government will not be influenced by outside persons who are ‘ anxious that the contract system shall be introduced. Let us have day labour, and,’ if you like, better supervision. I am prepared to admit that mistakes have been made, but no Department could carry out such vast works as have been undertaken by day labour during the last three years without making some blunders. Looking at the matter from A to Z, however, I think that even the present Ministry will admit that our public works have been carried out by day labour in a workmanlike manner, and that we have secured a better class of work for the money paid than we should have obtained under the contract system. The publication of the balance-sheets’ of the Commonwealth Clothing and Harness Factories has led to the publication of several letters in the press. It is very amusing to read such letters signed “ Contractor,” and so forth. The writers have not the courage to sign their own names.
– In one newspaper, a letter was signed “ Contractor,” while in another the same letter was signed by Mr. Bow ley.
– Be is the last man to whom one would go to ascertain whether the Commonwealth Clothing Factory was being properly managed.
In the last Parliament, the present Prime Minister had some very drastic criticism to offer regarding the lack of information supplied in connexion with the Works and Buildings Estimates. I have exactly the same complaint to make to-day. But that my time has almost expired, I should read an extract from a speech by the present Prime Minister, in which, as Leader of the Opposition; he castigated the late Minister of Home Affairs for his failure to give more information regarding the Works and Buildings Estimates for last year. I agree with the honorable member for Robertson that it is unfair to ask the Committee to pass proposed votes amounting to £2,600,000, with little or no explanation of the items. However, I may have something to say on the subject later.
– The representatives of country constituencies supporting the Government have been taunted by members of the Opposition with having entered into a conspiracy of silence, and withbeing muzzled by the Prime Minister. We, likethe other members of the party, have remained silent to testthe sincerity of the profession of the Opposition that they desire to get work done; we have not occupied time unduly, because they have had so much to say. If in the future they will take a leaf out of our book, and will allow more work to be done in these legislative halls, they will win a better opinion in the country of their political ethics. I have been amused to hear the’ objections raised by some members of the Opposition to the voicing of country needs by country representatives. They have tried to make it appear that, because country representatives have tried to express definitely the needs of the. country, they are, therefore, trying to create a country party as opposed to a city party. There is no such intention.
– Who made the suggestion ?
– The honorable member for South Sydney, for one. While I shall always be ready to make known the wants of my electorate, I shall also be prepared to listen to representatives of city constituencies when making similar speeches. I desire now to impress on the Committee the need for doing more on behalf of the country districts in order to induce population to leave the cities, and to settle in the great vacant spaces in the country.
– Then why not pay decent wages to rural labourers?
– Decent wages are paid to the right sort of men, but the trouble is to get such men. It seems to be thought by city dwellers that any born fool, any one who would be an absolute rotter in city employment, will make a Heaven-born farm labourer. That is not so. A fanner using a machine which has cost from £60 to £120 does not not wish to have it spoilt by an incompetent hand during the first round of the paddock, but a man who is capable of properly managing such machines can always command high wages.
– I cannot connect the honorable member’s remarkswith the question before the Committee.
– I was about to add that there are in the country hundreds of good bushmen who could erect the telephone lines needed in the districts in which they live without having to be instructed to use a half-inch chisel to chip a piece out of a pole for the insertion of an auger. To give such a direction to a practical man is ludicrous, and it is hard that the country should have to pay for the printing of such twaddle as the directions that were read to us the other night. The Postmaster-General has referred to the red-tape practices of his Department. I can speak feelingly of these, because, among other things, I have been an unofficial postmaster. I might remark, incidentally, that the clerical work required of unofficial postmasters is beyond what ought to be necessary. I became an unofficial postmaster, although I had my private bag delivered at my own door, to assist my neighbours, who wished for the establishment of an unofficial post-office. There being no one else to do the work, I did it for the enormous salary of £12 a year. Each week there were two mails in, and two mails out, and the work of the office tied up some member of the family for four days of the week. On an average, eighty-six letters and twenty papers were received each mail, but the outgoing letters were not so numerous. On one occasion I was staggered to receive a,n instruction from a high official asking me to furnish a return of the mail matter which had come to the office between the 24th and 30th February. I treated the instruction as a hoax, but I received an urgent message asking why I had not complied -with it, and four urgent letters came, until, being threatened with departmental action, I replied that I was aware that every fourth year there was a 29th February, but that I did not know of a. 30th February. The officer who had instructed me to prepare the return had used a printed form, but had struck out a printed date to write in another date, and I still have the document if the PostmasterGeneral desires to see it. That kind of thing has happened to others besides myself.
– I suggest that the honorable member should reserve these details until the Postmaster-General’s Department is under discussion.
– There should be an increase of postal, telephonic, and telegraphic facilities in country districts. There should be, too, an investigation as to the cost of country postal services. We should know why, in some parts of New South Wales, where the revenue is a little less than the cost of the service, settlers have been threatened that unless they pay, in one case, up to £40 to make good the deficit, they will have to be content with a once-a-week instead of a twice-a-week mail. Such action on the part of the Department does not conduce to settlement.
– It drives people into the large centres.
– Yes. When telephone lines are to be erected in the country, the local residents should have an opportunity to take contracts for the work, and to carry it out themselves. No particular skill is needed to erect a telephone line. One of the finest lines that I have spoken over - it is 20 miles in length - was erected by bushmen, who used a figure eight to tie the wires together. It is the best line for speaking over in the district. Any bushman can tie a figure eight, and yet we are told that experts are needed for these works. In my opinion, the present practice places difficulties in the way of constructing upcountry lines. Coming to another matter, let me say that I hope that the Go- vernment will not lessen the quarantine restrictions. The main railway line from Sydney to Melbourne runs through the Hume electorate from Binalong to Albury, and in two of the towns of the electorate - Cootamundra and Albury - there have been cases of small-pox. Nothing should therefore be done to lessen the precautions against the spread of the-disease It would not be fair to residents in the country parts of New South Wales, let alone those in the other States, to remove the present safeguards. I am pleased to know that money is to be spent in each State to provide remount depots, but provision should also be made for the purchasing of remounts. This is a matter to which the Government should give serious consideration. Over 20,000 remounts will be required very shortly each year by our Defence Forces. We know that all good remounts are very quickly snapped up by other Powers, because they cannot breed them themselves. They send to Australia for them, and particularly to New South Wales. New South Wales’ remounts have a reputation throughout the world, and a military man would sooner have a “ Waler,” as they call them, under him than any other horse you could breed.
– I am unable to connect the honorable member’s remarks with the Works Estimates.
– I thought it was possible to connect remounts with remount depots, and there are votes on the Estimates for remount depots in the different States.
– The honorable member will be in order in discussing the matter from that point of view, but he will not be in order in dealing with the general question of providing remounts.
– I suggest that, as the Federal Government now control territory of their own, it would be wise to inaugurate some system for the encouragement of the breeding of horses for remount purposes. The previous Government have already established a Commonwealth Clothing Factory and a Saddlery Factory, and I see no reason why we should not go in for Commonwealth breeding of remounts.
– What about Socialism now?
– I do not care what the honorable member calls it; I am out to save Australia. We have now undertaken our own defence, and it is necessary that we should be certain of every link in it. It would never do for us to wake up in war time to discover a weak link in our chain of defence which could not be remedied at sight. If we are to have mounted infantry and artillery, we must provide the means to move them.
– Who is going to buy all the horses the farmers breed ?
– The Japanese and the French are buying them now, and we have Indian buyers coming here also.
– How many do they take?
– I understand that they take from 23,000 to 24,000 a year.
– We have plenty to sell them, and to supply ourselves as well.
– I am not so sure of that. I have had many conversations with gentlemen who understand the horse-breeding business from A to Z, and I am told by them that we have not, in any of the States of Australia to-day, too many of the right stamp of horses for remounts.
– What sort of a hash would the Government make of the breeding of horses?
– I do not see why they should make a hash of it at all.
– The honorable member, I suppose, is aware that horses are not fetching the prices to-day which they brought twelve months ago?
– I am not suggesting for a moment that the Commonwealth should enter upon the breeding of horses as a speculative enterprise, but that the Government should breed horses for their own use, and to occupy the remount depôts which they are providing for.
– Does the honorable member think that every horse bred by the Government would be fit for a remount?
– Certainly not. They might have to turn down four out of every six, and they could do what they pleased with the rejects; but I desire that the Government should undertake or encourage here the breeding of a class of horses that would be of use to us in the evil day, which will probably come at some time, though I hope it will not be in my time or in that of any other honorable member present.
– We have enough patriots in Australia to find all the horses we shall need.
– Our patriotism to-day would appear to be limited to an allowance of £1 a year to mounted men for remounts.
– We do not pay them enough.
– I think we do not. I wish to see our defenders given every encouragement, and that they may be properly horsed when the evil day comes. I have referred to a few matters from the point of view of a country representative, and I repeat the expression of my hope that there will be greater expedition in carrying out the erection of country post-offices, telegraph and ‘ telephone lines, and that greater facilities will be afforded to the country districts, in order that more people may be induced to settle in places where people have to put up with enough of hardships, without being deprived of the ordinary advantages of civilization.
– In common with other honorable members representing country districts, I am very anxious about telephone and telegraph construction. If there is one thing on which honorable members on both sides can agree, it is the necessity for the extension of country telegraph and telephone lines. Every succeeding Government have made this a part of their policy. When seeking the votes of the electors they have said, “ If you put us into power, we will give you telegraphic and telephonic facilities.” I am not saying that the Labour Government were any less to blame in this connexion than any of their predecessors; but my experience all along has been that too little attention has been paid in these matters to the requirements of the people who are pioneering the country districts and making it possible for those who will come after them to live under better conditions. The other day, in saying as much as I could in the three minutes during which I was able to speak, I asked the Prime Minister whether he could tell the House and the country of any one telephone line which is not paying. The honorable gentleman said that he could not; and I now challenge the Department to mention one telephone line from one end of Australia to the other, which, since its construction, has not paid. I am aware that the honorable member for Denison will not agree with me on this question, because the honorable ‘member has been, and, apparently, is still, a hide-bound official. He tells us that people cannot do this, and cannot do that, in connexion with telephone construction; but I can give the honorable member some information as to what is done in the far western parts of Queensland. I was sitting in the office of a large station, and the station manager was sitting in his private room, and was talking to me over 160 miles of No. 8 galvanized -iron wire, and I could hear as distinctly as if he were speaking in the same room.
– I never disputed such a thing as that.
– The honorable member has told us that such a thing could not be done; that we must have certain amperes and resistance, and a whole lot cf other technicalities. I could take him to many stations in Western Queensland where the fencing wires are used for telephone lines. Where there is a gate in the fence, the line is run up a pole on one side of the gate and carried across to a pole on the other side.
– Some of us never saw a telephone until we got them to attach to such lines.
– The first telephones I ever saw were sent up to Rockhampton to attach to a line that was built in Western Queensland fifteen or sixteen years ago, without the aid of any electrician at all. That line is working to-day. What do we want with expensive lines in the country districts? I know that where the induction is great we must have a metallic circuit; but country members of this House are not looking for telegraph and telephone communication where it already exists.
– Is £12 6s. per mile too costly for the honorable member?
– Will the honorable member induce the Postmaster-General to build some country’ lines at that rate ?
– I said that we could put up country lines at that price.
– Here we have an expert who is willing to try cheap lines, and to show the Postmaster-General and his officers how to erect them ; yet he told us the other day that we must have lines up to a certain standard.
– The honorable member quite misunderstood me. I suggested three zones of construction, and that in the country where you can have a silent line you might have a cheaplyconstructed line.
– It is just in the country that we want the lines constructed. That is what we have been battling for for years. The honorable member, in speaking on the subject the other day, fairly tied me up in connexion, with this telephone construction business. I have assisted to erect telephone lines in Western Queensland, and I have no more knowledge of electricity than a chair.
– According to Lord Kelvin, no man in the world knows what it is.
– The honorable member has reminded me that on one occasion I made what I think was the shortest trip I have ever made between Melbourne and Brisbane in company with an American professor from the Harvard University. He was most entertaining on the journey, and before we reached Brisbane, he asked me, “ Do you know where electricity comes from?” I said that friction produced it. He said, “ Friction produces it, but where does it come from ?” I have since asked several electricians the same question, and perhaps the problem is one which the honorable member for Denison may try to solve.
– He must have been a very foolish man to ask such a question.
– I can say that until 1 was asked the question, though I knew that friction produced electricity, it never occurred to me to consider where it came . from. We do not in this matter ask the Government to do anything irrational or to embark upon an experiment. We have officers in every State alive to the needs of people living in remote districts, but in many cases the Government will not permit the people concerned to erect their own lines.
– We can settle all that by delaying these Estimates until we get a definite promise on the matter.
– What is the good of a promise? We have had these promises year after year. We have been told, “ If you allow the Estimates to go through this year you will find things” very different next year.” The only way in which I think we can bring about any alteration is by telling the people to do the work themselves. I secured’ the erection of a telephone line in Western
Queensland by telling the people interested to build the line ‘themselves, and it would be all right. The Government knew nothing about the. line until it was erected. Then the Department wondered how they had done it, and, in order to save its face, took it over. To-day it is one of the main trunk lines, and one of the best paying lines in the State. The honorable member for Denison affirmed the other day that, in the construction of telepho’ne lines, copper wire of certain dimensions and of certain weight must be used, and that it is imperative there should be so many feet between one wire and another. My experience is quite the reverse. It may be information to the honorable member to know that I have seen brandy bottles used as insulators, a,nd that they have proved most effective.
– I thought that I could shear a sheep until I tried to do so.
– That is not a very difficult matter. A brainy man like the honorable member ought not to take long to shear up the belly. It is in shearing round the neck of a sheep where he would experience the most trouble.
– Order !
– The honorable member is causing me to digress. The whole complaint of country representatives is that the rural areas are urgently in need of telephonic and telegraphic connexion. Only last week we had an exhibition of what the representatives of city constituencies think of country electorates. They maintained that it was in the cities where telephonic facilities should be granted. They evidently forgot that without the back-blocks there would be no cities. The pastoral industry is the backbone of the Commonwealth, and yet it is the most neglected industry. I know of persons who have spent thousands and thousands of pounds in establishing telephonic communication with small centres, and the Government have not assisted them in that work to the extent of a single penny. Yet the moment the enterprise has become a commercial success the Department has stepped in, taken over the lines, and made them pay for the privilege of using them. I have no desire to labour this question. I understand that the Government intend to place the Postal Department under the control of Commissioners. Surely the representatives of country districts have seen enough of the way in which Departments are run by Commissioners in connexion with the railway services of the different States. Do we want a repetition of that?
– Are there Railway Commissioners in Queensland?
– We have a Railway Commissioner there; but we did have Railway Commissioners. Victoria afterwards had a taste of the same gentleman. Mr. Mathieson was one of our first Railway Commissioners. The country districts can never obtain anything from these gentlemen. They will talk very nicely to us; they will plume their feathers, listen to our tales of woe, and then go away. That is the last you hear from them.
– One can always get to Melbourne in a stock train.
– I would like to see some of these gentlemen travelling in stock trains. Even in the matter of travelling stock between district and district, it is the devil’s own job to get the work done properly. If we place our Postal Department under the control of Commissioners, they will endeavour to make it a paying concern. I ask the representatives of country electorates whether Australia has been brought to the position which she occupies to-day by reason of niggardly treatment by past Governments? I know of men who have spent vast fortunes in acquiring station properties in Western Queensland, and who have had to leave their holdings without being possessed even of a buggy to convey them to the nearest railway station. These men have sacrificed all the pleasures of city life to develop the country. Of course, they went there originally with, the idea that they would make money. But circumstances over which they had no control proved too strong for them. They have pioneered the country, and we are benefiting by the losses which they sustained. Yet neither the Commonwealth nor the State Government will help them one iota. The honorable member for Wimmera has told us that the Government of this State have sufficient confidence in the Mallee district to build a railway line into it costing over £200,000. Yet the Commonwealth is not courageous enough to risk an expenditure of £2,000.
– On the same line?
– Yes. The Victorian Government are spending £200,000 in an endeavour to populate the place, “but the Commonwealth dares not spend £2,000 without obtaining guarantees. From whom ? From poor men who are making their first start in life. I regret that the Postmaster-General is absent from the chamber, because I know that it is idle to appeal to the Treasurer on a matter of this kind. He thinks that the same old tale is told by honorable members year after year.
– Good big provision has been made this year.
– Under these Estimates money will be spent in populous centres, but the people who are keeping the Commonwealth going are being treated in a most niggardly way. It very frequently happens that after the erection of a telephone or telegraph line has been sanctioned, the work is not commenced till towards the end of the financial year.
– Some of them are not undertaken for years.
– That is so. In some instances the money is voted year after year, and yet the work is not undertaken. The only way in which the representatives of country constituencies can assert themselves in this matter is by means of their votes. Unless they make their influence felt in that way, they v.ill get nothing from any Government. The present Ministry are only anxious to get their Estimates passed, and to shut up shop, and honorable members are anxious to bring about that result. In regard to electoral matters, I gave the House the other day the benefit of my experiences as a political agent.
– Order! I am afraid that electoral matters are outside the scope of these Estimates.
– Then I shall reserve my remarks until the general discussion upon the Budget. I strongly object to the Government paying for defence works out of loan moneys. Nobody knows better than you, sir, the way in which the Labour party fought the Naval Loan Bill which was introduced by the Treasurer when he was a member of the Fusion Government. Yet here we have the Ministry coming to Parliament with a proposal for a naval loan-
– Order !
– I will not pursue the matter further. I desire to see the Government pay for military and naval works out of revenue, and not out of loan mousy. I will oppose their proposal as strenuously as I can. If they cannot pay for defence works out of revenue, why do they not say so ?
– Let us increase the land tax?
– Let them tell the country that they cannot do it.
– To what is the honorable member specially referring?
– To defence expenditure.
– Order ! A Naval Loan Bill is not now under consideration.
– Why should we pay for anything connected with defence out of loan money?
– What would the honorable member do?
– What would the honorable member himself do if he had no money? If we cannot undertake defence works out of revenue, let us do without them. It is -idle to live in a fool’s paradise. If we cannot find the money, let us tell the people that we cannot.
– We are spending upon the Post Office £2,500,000 more than we get from that Department.
– All the money for defence purposes could be found by cutting down these Estimates. On page 234 of the Estimates, in the summary of votes under the control of the Department of Home Affairs, there is an item of £171,575 for expenditure on new works for naval purposes, and there is also an expenditure of £478,355 for new works for military purposes, or a total of £649,930 under the heading of Defence. This money for defence purposes is found from revenue; why not all the money required? It is easy enough to do so. I remember that, when a crisis took place in Queensland, Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, then Premier and Treasurer, asked the Defence Department whether they could not cut down their Estimates, because he did not wish to borrow money for’ defence purposes. They told him it could not be done, but he soon showed them how he could do without this and without that. He did exactly the same as our present Treasurer must have done on the original Estimates submitted to him. I am only guessing, but the odds are that he cut out a few hundred thousand pounds from the Defence and Postal Estimates. Did he give them all they asked for ? He will not answer.
– One of my post-offices has gone.
– The Treasurer can do that in regard to some of the proposed expenditure, but he cannot do it in regard to all. The Government are spending an enormous sum of money for building new post-offices in Sydney and Melbourne.
– They are required.
– They can spend hundreds of thousands in big centres of population, but when we want a few hundreds spent in the country, the money cannot be spared.
– In places where they have no means of communication at all.
– In common with other honorable members of the Opposition, I do not believe in paying for defence works out of loan moneys. If these items are necessary - and I believe they are, or the Government would not go on with the works - we should cut our cloth according to our measure. Seeing that we have only a certain amount of money to spend, we should do away with some of the big items for postal and telegraphic services, and spend the money on defence.
– This discussion has taken place for many years, and I think that now we have reached that stage when something ought to be done. There is no doubt that dry-rot has got into the Central Administration of the Post Office. We have heard statements made here, and made on authority, that the departmental officers have given certain estimates for works, and that these works have been carried out for a quarter of the amount, and evidently to the satisfaction of the Department, because the Department have taken them over from private individuals who constructed them.
– That was not my experience. I generally had to apply to the Treasurer for a further amount.
– I think the Department is just a little bit improved since the honorable member’s time, but very little. From the inception of Federation, the administration of the Post Office has been guided very largely by the requirements of Sydney and Melbourne, and it has been tied up to a great extent by red-tape. The Prime Minister made an admission the other evening, which I was sorry to hear from him, that red-tape would beat this Parliament every time. I think the time has come when this Parliament should say that red-tape shall no longer stand in the way of carrying out necessary works.
– What would you suggest to substitute for the present system ?
– I suggest that the Department should be taken thoroughly in hand, and overhauled, and that no man should stand in the way, or say that the requirements which Parliament says are necessary cannot be undertaken. It is time that the PostmasterGeneral, and, failing him, the House, should say whether any official, or any Department, should be allowed to stand in the way of the requirements of the people.
– Unfortunately, red-tape is always associated with centralization.
– Centralization has been the curse of the past administration of the Post and Telegraph Office.
– Order ! The discussion on the general question of centralization is out of order.
– The Treasurer has said that the Government propose to spend a great deal more for post and telegraph offices than appeared on last year’s Estimates. He is quite correct, but the whole of the increase is being spent in the large centres of population, very largely for switch-boards, and there will not be as much money to spend in country districts on the absolute requirements of telephone communication as was the case last year. In New South Wales, we find that the sum of £150,000 is set down for switch -boards - half the entire vote. In Victoria, the amount set down is nearly half the entire vote for that State. The items are so mixed up in regard to Queensland that it is impossible to arrive at the amount provided for this purpose, but the figures in regard to the other States are: - South Australia, £85,000, out of £175,000; Western Australia, £29,000, out of £106,000; and Tasmania, £2,300 out of £14,700. All these amounts are being spent on switch-boards in the cities and centres of population, practically half the amount of the vote. I do not grudge the cities their communication; the telephone exchanges should be put in good order in the cities, but I do say very distinctly that there can be no necessity for a new Post Office in
Sydney as compared with the requirements of the people living out iu the back-blocks, with no telephone or telegraph communication at all. The whole system of telephone communication is sadly in need of a thorough and complete reform. We have had pointed out to us the absurd estimates made by the Department for the construction of works. The honorable member for Denison - whose “ proffessional knowledge I am, of course, quite prepared to accept - has defended the Department, but there is one point which cannot too often be placed before it. They invariably seem to forget that the people in need of this telephone communication are in districts where only one wire will be required during the life of the posts which are first put up.
– The engineers point out that there are Acts of Parliament made by you gentlemen which are responsible for some of these lines .being so costly. You insisted on all poles being 20 feet high.
– My opinion is that it is the estimates of these professional gentlemen that are largely responsible for these costly works. I have been pointing out for years that many of the lines we construct are unnecessarily expensive. We put up posts to carry one wire, but they are sufficiently strong to carry twenty wires.
– Ah Act of Parliament compels the Department to do that.
– That is one of the matters where we require a complete reform. It is the conservatism of the Department that is responsible for the whole of the delays, but there is one question which I hope will be settled during the life of this Parliament; that is the compelling of a guarantee to be given by people living in back-blocks who ask for a telephone service,, The honorable member for Denison has alluded to the number of communications in the Franklin district. That is due very largely to the fac.t that in Tasmania the Deputy PostmasterGeneral is an exceedingly progressive officer, and if he were given more latitude I believe greater advantages would be obtained. But when you send in an application for a telephone you get the same stereotyped answer until you almost get sick to death of it. We are always asking the people to go out from the cities and take up Crown lands, bub when these people do so, and ask for a telephone service, an officer of the Department reports- that he thinks the business will not warrant the construction of a line unless the -settlers are prepared bo guarantee the Department against any loss. I maintain that this system should be stopped immediately. There is no justification for it. Telephone communication is now a necessity of civilization, and no Government should allow departmental officers to take up a stand that because sufficient revenue will not be immediately received from the telephone service to pay the whole of .the interest on the cost of construction and the cost of working, these people, the poorest class in the community, should be compelled to give a guarantee to make up the loss. I have been pointing out the stupidity of the Postal Department since I have been in this Parliament, and I say there can be nothing more stupid than telling people that the further they go into the country the more they will be charged for using the telephone system.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7. £5 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended for dinner, I was pointing out what a small amount has been provided on the3e Estimates for the extension of works in the country compared with that which is to be spent in the cities. Ali examination of the Estimates will show that a sum exceeding the total increase in the expenditure for the year is set down for works in the cities and the large centres. There can be no comparison whatever as regards the necessities of the case. It may inconvenience a man in the city if he is not able to get telephonic communication the moment it is required, but what is his position compared with that of a man in a country district who has no telephone at all? Take a case of accident or a case of illness, where a person has to be driven for miles and miles before he can get into communication with a doctor. I am pleased indeed to see that the movement which was started here some years ago to secure greater facilities for opening up the country districts is supported by a large number of the new members. This is a question of policy for the Committee to decide. It is for the Committee, for instance, to say whether the pernicious system of requiring a guarantee to be given before a telephone is granted to a country district shall be allowed to continue or not. Is the Committee to say to the people who are scattered in the back-blocks of every State that, whilst we can spend £27,000,000 this year, we cannot afford to give a telephone to people who have gone out into the bush, unless they give a guarantee to make good any loss incurred in its construction?
– You must draw some line.
– i would draw no line in this matter any more than I would in connexion with a post-office where no guarantee is asked for.
– The Department often call upon people to reduce a deficit.
– I know that the system is bad in that regard, but i would place the telephonic system in exactly the same position as that in which the State Governments have placed the educational system. Wherever, in the interests of the country, a telephone is required it should be provided. It is up to those who reside in -the larger centres, especially in the great cities, to be satisfied for a time at least “‘with the enormous advantages they already possess, and to allow practically the whole of the money for this present year which is provided in these Estimates to be spent in developing the country districts by means of telephonic communication. The hundreds of thousands of pounds, which are provided am these Estimates for new works in the cities would provide telephonic communication to every district in Australia that is requiring it. Is not that a fair proposition?
– They will never be satisfied.
– I ask those who represent districts where every convenience of modern civilization is provided, to remember that if it were not for the development of Australia the lives of men in the cities would not be so easy as is the case to-day. Letters are ‘ delivered at their door three or four times a day, and their greatest inconvenience is that they may not be able to secure telephonic communication the moment it is required. I feel quite certain that if it were put to them rationally they would be content with their present advantages for a year in order to’ provide necessary facilities to the. people in country districts.
– How many requests have you in your constituency?
– i think it is up to an honorable member who represents a small State, where communications are easy, to show at least some consideration for those persons who are scattered over an enormous area, such as that of Queensland, and who have no communication at all. When I was in the north twelve months ago, it came upon me as a shock to find how exceedingly irregular were the communications which the residents had. I know that in a small State like Tasmania, even where the distances are so short, it is impossible for people in the bush to get a telephone unless, though they can ill afford it, they give a guarantee that they will recoup the Government against any loss. I hope that this is the last appeal which the Committee will have to make in this regard. For the last ten years we have been trying to get the guarantee system removed and I trust that, before the close of this session, there will be such a strong expression of opinion that the PostmasterGeneral will see his way clear to introduce the great reform I have advocated. There is another matter which, I think, requires some consideration, and that is the enormous expenditure proposed in the Northern Territory. I think that the whole cost of development in the Territory is just as rotten as it possibly could be. We are following the worst lines of German colonization, where it is thought that an enormous army of officials will secure the development of the country. That is the exact antithesis of the system which has been followed in the settlement of all Australia. The expenditure on the Northern Territory to-day to govern 1,000 persons is nearly £250,000 a year. In the whole history of the failures of colonization a worse position than that could not be found. I was one of those who said that if we adopted the agreement with South Australia, we should keep faith with that State. I opposed that agreement, believing it to be unsound. I still adhere to the opinion that the agreement, having been made, must be kept. I believe that the best way to get something like a return on the money spent in constructing the north-south railway is to construct the line northwards from Oodnadatta, rather than southwards from
Pine Creek. When the question of transferring the Northern Territory was first discussed here, the honorable member for Grey, who could not see eye to eye with rae, paid me the compliment of saying that I had tried to study the question as closely as I could. From what I have read on the subject - -and I have read all the works I could - I believe that if there is one portion of the so-called Northern Territory which will give something like an immediate return, it is the portion in the vicinity of the Macdonnell Ranges. Instead of creating an enormous army of officials, as we are doing, and securing no additional population, we ought to consider whether we should not reverse our policy, and commence the construction of ‘ the railway from the southern end, where there is at least some prospect of obtaining a return on the outlay.
– We are making exactly the same mistake that South Australia made during the whole time that it had control of the Northern Territory.
– Every mistake which South Australia made, and which has involved the Commonwealth in a burden of about £3,500,000, the latter is repeating with less justification and with its eyes open, learning nothing from the errors of the past. I think that before the Committee commits itself to the enormous expenditure which is proposed in, connexion with Port Darwin - an item of £10,000 for workmen’s cottages, and a host of other things - it ought to consider some definite policy for the development of the Territory, and the carrying out of all works in relation thereto. I have objected before to taking the Works Estimates immediately the Budget is delivered. Our practice hitherto has been that the moment the Budgetpapers are laid upon the table, the consideration of the Works and Buildings Estimates is entered upon. It has been considered necessary that those Estimates should be put through quickly in order that the works might be carried out. In my opinion, that system is a huge mistake. The Works and Buildings Estimates should not be taken in hand until the Budget has been thoroughly considered and determined ; and on the policy laid down in that discussion the new works and buildings should be given effect to afterwards. If we pass the Estimates for the development of the Northern Territory now, of what avail will it be for the Committee afterwards to express an opinion on the question of constructing the north-south railway from Oodnadatta northwards instead of from Pine Creek southwards ? In connexion with all the proposals on these Estimates the cart is being put before the horse. In the Budget debate, I shall have an opportunity to discuss the total expenditure which is proposed for this year. I thoroughly agree with the short statement made by the honorable member for Capricornia. I believe that the naval proposals will break down of their own weight. That is all I intend to say on that subject at present. In my opinion, the best way to defend Australia is to people it. I think that if we were to take a considerable proportion of the money which is proposed to be spent on naval works, and attempt some rational common-sense system of settling people in the empty portions of the continent, we should be doing far more to secure the permanent defence of Australia than we are doing to-day by our naval construction. In regard to the administration of Papua and the Northern Territory, we are following the worst system of German colonization, and that is creating an army of officials at an enormous expenditure. Take, for instance, the Northern Territory. If it were populated sufficiently to become a State, the indebtedness would be so great that it would be practically impossible for the residents to shoulder their obligations. To expend £250,000 a year on the government of a thousand people is one of the biggest blunders which Australia could possibly make. What we have to bear in mind is that the present Government are carrying out the policy pursued by the previous Government. They are making the great blunder of believing that by appointing a host of officials in the Northern Territory to assist each other to do nothing, they are thereby securing the development of the country. When the Estimates are under consideration will be a more fitting opportunity to deal with some of these subjects. I wish, in conclusion, to express my deep-felt pleasure that the question of developing the country districts by telephones is not regarded here as a party question. It is one of those matters where .there is really no room for party consideration. The provision of facilities for those who. go out into the back-blocks is a question in which every honorable member is concerned, especially those who represent districts which hitherto have not been able to obtain necessary facilities of that kind. I hail with delight the expression of opinion which has come from so many of the new members of the House that this small modicum of justice should be done as early as possible to the country districts. I believe that there will be found a sufficient force behind the arguments to secure a complete reversal of the policy which, so far, has been pursued by the Postal Department. The great trouble arises in the central Department. If the Deputy PostmastersGeneral were given greater latitude than they have at present - if we could strike out the cursed system of centralization, which seems to gather here in Melbourne in connexion with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department - many of the difficulties that country representatives have to face in connexion with their electorates would be removed.
.- I wish only to refer to two items, which are of local interest in the electorate of Boothby. In the first place, I am pleased to find in these Estimates a proposed vote of £1,000 to build a very much needed telephone exchange for the suburb of Norwood. I had hoped to find provision made for another very necessary work in my electorate, namely, the building of a new post-office at St. Peter’s, one of the suburbs of Adelaide. The present postoffice has been standing for something like thirty-five years. It was in existence before the town was declared a corporation, and the facilities it offers, although perhaps sufficient thirty-five years ago, are now, and have been for some years, altogether inadequate. I hope that the time is not far distant when the people of St. Peter’s will have this much needed new building. As to the great question of the Northern Territory, the time at my disposal to-night will not permit me to go into it as fully as I feel I should need to do in order to do it justice. Although certain ideas that I hold in regard to the subject may be anathema to some of the electors of South Australia, I thoroughly agree with the honorable member for Franklin that, instead of attempting to settle the country, from the north and working down south, a start should bp. made in the south, and the work carried northwards, towards the Macdonnell
Ranges. White people can thrive there, and can rear their families to healthy manhood and womanhood. But what I have learned from people who have lived in the malarial belt in the far north satisfies me that, no matter what form of land tenure we may offer to induce settlement there, that part of the Territory will never be developed as we could wish it to be. I shall reserve further observations on this question until the EstimatesinChief are before us, and shall conclude with the hope that the matters of local interest to which I have referred will receive the attention of the Government at a very early date.
.- I have listened with pleasure to the debate on these Estimates, and more particularly to that part of it which hinges upon the question of the construction of telephone lines in country districts. I have the honour to represent what is practically a suburban constituency, having but a small tract .of real country attached to it. But even in that small rural district I had brought very forcibly under my notice during the recent election campaign the fact that the establishment of a public telephone, some 20 miles south of ‘Fremantle proper, was responsible within one week of its erection for the salvation of a man’s life. I know, that many honorable members representing purely rural constituencies feel keenly on this subject, and I am prepared to assist them in every way to secure the extension of telephone facilities in the country areas throughout Australia. I agree with the view that increased power should be given to the Deputy Postmasters-General, in order that they may grapple with many local matters. The difficulty in this regard is not confined to country telephone lines, but extends to metropolitan works. I have been trying, for something like three months, to get a telephone cabinet shifted about 300 yards. - I have received from the Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth an assurance that the work will be carried out, but when is a matter for conjecture. I am sorry that the formation of a Country party should have been mooted during this debate, for I believe that the introduction of a third party into our political arena would be a mistake. This Parliament has already had experience of the three-party system, and I am quite sure that the electors of
Australia are not looking forward to a repetition of it. Some criticisms have been indulged in with respect to the proposed expenditure on the Federal Capital Territory. I believe that it is part of the Federal compact that we should have a Federal Capital, and, whilst there is no doubt a good deal of jealousy between the larger capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne, still I think that we ought to encourage the development of the Territory, and the building of the Capital itself. I am glad that the present Government are trying to secure the services of the designer of the Capital city, because I think the man who is responsible for the design should superintend, at any rate, the initial work of the building of the city. The proposed vote in respect to the Federal Capital, instead of being reduced, might very well be increased. Honorable members residing within the immediate vicinity of Melbourne no doubt feel a little discomfited at the prospect of having to leave their own homes to go to Canberra ; but there are many honorable members of this Parliament who have, for months at a stretch, to give up the comforts of home life in order to attend to their duties in Parliament, and to them, I am sure, the housing of the Parliament in the Federal Capital will not make much difference. In addition to that, I feel that we should have for the National Parliament a truly Federal atmosphere, rather than the atmosphere of any one of the present capital cities of Australia. “ A matter that has been brought very closely under my notice during the last few months relates to the lighting of the Australian coast, and I think honorable members generally will agree with me that to provide, as the Government have done, only £15,000 for the construction of additional lighthouses, is a very poor way of doing business. Commander Brewis issued his report in sections and in that section which applies to Western Australia proposed an expenditure of £85,000 on new lights alone. When it is realized that there are long stretches of the Australian coast, more particularly Western Australia, that need additional lights, in order to give greater security to mariners, I am sure few will cavil at an attempt to increase the amount on the Estimates in order to provide for a number of those works. I cannot speak on the details of the lighting of other parts of the Australian coast, but I can say that, for the safety of vessels trading between Fremantle and the eastern ports of Australia, it is vitally necessary that the proposed new lights on Eclipse Island, just outside Albany, and on Dentrecasteaux Point, midway between Albany and the Leeuwin, should be erected without delay. I do not know whether the Minister of Trade and Customs has journeyed along that coast.
– I have.
– Then the honorable gentleman must have seen White Top Rocks, midway between Albany and Cape Leeuwin, and, having seen them, will recognise that they are an absolute menace to the shipping community. I urge upon him the necessity of placing in position as promptly as possible a new light on D’Entrecasteaux Point, which would cover the White Top Rocks, and act as a leading light. There is on the Estimates an item of £13,000 for alterations to the present lights. In reference to that item, I would point out that the light at Breaksea Island is a very important one, because vessels travelling westward are of necessity compelled to keep a look-out for it, in order to avoid danger in voyaging farther north along the coast-line. Provision is made for an alteration to that light, and the work should receive prompt attention. Certain honorable members have criticised the appointment of Mr. Ramsbotham as Director of Lighthouses, but, as one who knows him personally, I can say that, from an engineering standpoint, one could not desire to have a more thoroughly qualified gentleman to fill the position. As to his nautical knowledge, I have no information.
– He does not want much nautical knowledge.
– I understand that, in the advertisement inviting applications for the position, it was stated that nautical knowledge was specially- desired. I believe implicity, however, that Mr. Ramsbotham is one of the best engineers that we have in Australia. I desire, on behalf of the constituency which you, Mr. Chairman, represent, to protest against the small sum of money provided for the new General Post Office at Perth. The sum of £12,000 is ridiculously small for that undertaking, especially in view of the fact that the proposed vote for the new parcels post-office in Sydney is £39,833, and for a similar office for Melbourne £45,605, while £10,000 is provided for workmen’s cottages in Port Darwin. If Ministers are serious about the matter, the vote for the Perth Post Office must be increased. Thousands of persons use the present Post Office daily, and it is absolutely unsuited to their requirements. In regard to the supplying of new switch-boards, and the extension of telephonic facilities, some of the States appear to have received more than their fair share of the cake. Telephonic facilities should be increased throughout Australia, but the expenditure should be on equitable lines. Foi New South Wales last year the appropriation for new switch-boards and extensions was £52,500, but this year it is £241,000.; for Victoria last year it was £30,000, and this year it is £150,200; for Queensland last year it was £7,250, and this year £7,900; for South Australia last year it was £2,800, and this year it is £17,550 ; for Western Australia last year it was £30,000, and this year it is only £29,000; and for Tasmania last year it was £150, and this year it is £2,300. Western Australia, which has been called the Cinderella State, is much the worst treated in this matter. No State should be penalized to benefit other States. For naval works, machinery, and plant, Parliament last year voted £200,000, and this year £210,000 is asked for; but there has been no detailed information as to the manner in which the money is to be expended. I ask that we be given information on lines similar to that on which information was supplied to the Senate last year by the ex-Minister of Defence. The people of Australia must accept the burden of providing for the defence of their country. I am not one of those who think that we should cut down our defence expenditure. The millennium may be in the distance, but we must make preparations in the light of existing conditions, and not delay until the danger is so imminent that there is no hope of successfully combating it. The construction of Naval Fleet Bases is by no means a small work. Its completion must mean the expenditure of many millions of pounds. There should be no dilly-dallying about these undertakings. But this year’s vote is only £10,000 more than last year’s vote. It must be realized that works like the Henderson Naval Base and- the Flinders Naval Base will mean a constantly-increasing expenditure, and I ask, in view of the smallness of the proposed appropriation, does the Government definitely intend to push on with these works ? The money voted last year for Cockburn Sound was expended on exploratory work, and if permanent work is to be undertaken, the expenditure must be increased. To propose an increase of only £10,000 for this year suggests that this Administration is not desirous of pushing on these works as they should be pushed on. I shall have more to say, however, when the general debate on the Budget is resumed, and merely add now that I hope that Western Australia will receive fair and proper consideration from this Government.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle that the provision for lighthouses is not adequate to the necessities of the travelling public of Australia, and if there is one thing that we should do, it is to make travelling as safe as possible. Last May I visited Russell Island, which is in my division, and there met a good old English lady, a Mrs. Willes, who pointed with pride to an illuminated address which had been presented to her by shipping people on the Queensland coast in appreciation of her goodness in having kept a lamp trimmed and burning every night for thirty years.
– There should not be any private lights.
– There should be no need for them.
– Past Queensland Governments must have been very remiss.
– We are concerned with things as they are, and I hope that this Government will rise to the occasion, and see that our coasts are properly lighted. The sum of £15,000 is not sufficient to provide for this purpose. Coming to another subject, during the electoral campaign every member of the Opposition took credit to the party for having initiated and carried to fruition Australia’s defence scheme. This afternoon, however, the honorable member for Capricornia criticised the expenditure on defence. During the campaign the honorable member for Brisbane came into my division, and assured the people of Ipswich that Australia was quite safe; that it was unnecessary to go on spending money on defence, because, if a foreign foe were to attempt to invade Australia, a few hundred bushmen would soon knock them out of existence. The honorable member had something to do with a foreign, or at least a rebel, force at one time, and the bushmen very soon showed them what their position was. He, therefore, has had experience of what the bushmen can do. On the 24th November, 1909, the present Prime Minister, who was then Minister of Defence, moved the second reading of the Defence Bill, and gave the following outline of the proposed Fleet-
We are to get an armoured cruiser of the Indefatigable type, with a speed of 25 knots, and an armament of eight 12-in. guns; three unarmoured cruisers of the improved Bristol type, with a speed of 25 knots, and an armament of eight 6-in. guns ; six torpedo-boat destroyers of the River class, with a speed of 25 knots; and three submarines of the “C” class. It was the opinion of the Admiralty that the big ship should be laid down at once.
I notice that the honorable member for Gwydir moved the “ gag “ three times on the Minister of Defence on that occasion when he was moving the second reading of the Defence Bill.
– I should have moved it thirty times if I had had the chance.
– It shows the patriotism of the honorable member that he should have moved the “ gag “ three times on the Minister of Defence when he was making a most important speech outlining the naval policy of the then Government, which is the policy of Australia to-day.
– A discussion of the general question of the naval policy is out of order on the Estimates now before the Committee.
– You will admit, sir, that the votes now before the Committee cover a great deal of expenditure for naval purposes, and I have thought well to put this matter of the naval policy of the Commonwealth right.
– Why dig up old ghosts ?
– The honorable member for Gwydir is fairly good at digging up ghosts himself. The second reading of the Defence Bill submitted by the honorable member for Parramatta, as Minister of Defence on that occasion, was carried in this House by thirty-nine votes to nine, and I wish to direct the attention of the fact that the minority consisted of Messrs, C. E. Frazer, J. Mathews,
King O’Malley, J. Page, J. Thomas, F. G. Tudor, and W. Webster, the tellers for the “Noes” being W. R. N. Maloney and C. McDonald. These gentlemen formed the minority who, on that occasion, voted against the present defence system of Australia.
– That is wrong; that is absolutely untrue.
– Order ! The honorable member for Maranoa must withdraw that expression.
– Well, but it is a bare-faced lie.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Maranoa to withdraw both those expressions ; they are both disorderly.
– Am I to sit here and listen to the honorable member telling a deliberate lie ?
– Order ! I have to carry out the Standing Orders, and I must ask the honorable member to assist me by withdrawing the expressions he used.
– I will not withdraw unless the honorable member for Moreton withdraws his statement.
– Order 1 The Standing Orders distinctly state that expressions such as the honorable member has used are disorderly, and must be withdrawn. I ask the honorable member to assist me by withdrawing the expressions.
– Is the honorable member for Moreton to be allowed to make a false statement against me, and am I to be prevented from repelling it?
– The honorable member will have an opportunity, if he pleases, to show that the honorable member for Moreton is wrong, but he must not use disorderly expressions in reply either by way of interjection, which of itself is disorderly, or in a speech. I again ask him to assist me in carrying out my duties under the Standing Orders by withdrawing the expressions he has used.
– In deference to you, sir, and to the Committee, I withdraw the expressions, but I think the honorable member for Moreton should withdraw the statement he has made.
– The honorable member for Moreton no doubt will accept the assurance of the honorable member for Maranoa that the statement he made regarding that honorable member is incorrect.
– I do nob know what the honorable member for Maranoa has taken exception to. I should be very sorry to cast any reflection upon him, particularly if it was undeserved. I was reading Hansard for 24th November, 1909, page 6259.
– What was the question?
– The second reading of the Defence Bill. I find that the honorable member for Maranoa on that occasion voted with the “ Noes “ on the motion that the Bill be read a second time. Votes speak louder than words, and the honorable member’s vote was recorded against the Bill.
– This is worse still.
– The honorable member is absolutely misrepresenting the case, and he knows it.
– The honorable member for Maranoa will have an opportunity to reply, and I have marked for him the Hansard report which I have read. To get to some more congenial subject than the past transgressions of the honorable member for Maranoa, I have something to say with regard to the Federal Capital site. Certain honorable members have shown from time to time a spirit that is hardly commendable in repudiating the solemn contract which was entered into with New South Wales before Federation. As most honorable members are aware, my interests are not wrapped up in New South Wales, and I opposed Federation very strenuously, but I know that New South Wales was induced to federate because, for - one thing, she got a promise that the Federal Capital would be established in that State. Now that we have made a move in the direction of establishing our own head-quarters, I hope that the present and any succeeding Government will not be slow to carry out the compact made with New South Wales in establishing the Federal Capital on uptodate lines. I do not wish to hurry the matter, though the sooner we get to the Federal Capital the sooner we shall be able to do our work unhindered by the metropolitan press of the different States.
– When shall we get there ?
– I have no idea. Some honorable members on this side have been twitted with supporting the present Government because they propose to spend more on the Federal Territory than was spent there by the previous Government. If they were dealt with in these Estimates there are some works carried out in the Federal Territory by the previous Government that I should be prepared to criticise, but I give them credit for having spent a fair amount of money on the Territory. The fact that they did so makes it only the more necessary that the present Government should go on with the work, and should spend more money this year than was spent there last year. I hope that yearly the amount spent on the Federal Capital will go on increasing, and that in the course of a few years this Parliament will be able to meet at the real Seat of Government of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Franklin had some criticism to offer in connexion with the Northern Territory, and I think that we may all criticise, not only the attitude of the present Government with regard to the development of that Territory, but also the fact that the last Government spent enormous sums of money there, from which, up to the present, we have had no return whatever. If the Northern Territory is to become anything but a millstone round the neck of the Commonwealth, it must be developed on natural lines. So far as I can gather, it is better suited for pastoral purposes than for anything else. I do not think that we shall make a success of agriculture there, though we may do something in the . development of the mineral resources of the Territory. What we must look to, first of all, is its development for pastoral purposes as Nature intended. I notice that the vote set down for artesian bores and the conservation of water is very small indeed. A large part of the Territory must be included in the artesian belt which embraces a large portion of Western Queensland, and the sooner the Government set about tapping these underground sources of water supply the better it will be for the Territory, and the sooner the Commonwealth will be relieved of the great burden which it is bearing at the present time. If the Government do not develop the Northern Territory on natural lines, let me warn them that they will have to contend with pests there that will cost, not thousands, but millions of pounds to eradicate.
– How did Nature intend that it should be developed ?
– Nature intended that it should be used for pastoral purposes, as the western portion of Queensland is used at the present time. That is my view; and I am not going to enter upon a discussion about Nature with the honorable member- for Gwydir. The honorable member looks’ up with a twinkle in his eye as if he knew everything, and, though I did at one time believe that he had some little common sense, I arn beginning to lose faith in his wisdom.
– I never tried to dictate to Nature.
– I have always tried to take advantage of what Nature offers; and the man who does not do so will not get along in this world. I was warning the Government of the danger of the Northern Territory becoming infested with prickly pear. There are agents there to spread the pear at the rate of 50 miles per day ; and if it once gets a footing in the Territory, instead of giving the land away, as the late Government tried to do unsuccessfully, we shall have to give a large bonus with the land, to enable us to unload it on to any one. Amongst the first things which should be aimed at is the discovery of artesian supplies of water, the conservation of rain water, and the opening up of the Territory with railways. I am not satisfied that a line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges will open up a very great stretch of country. I know that from Quorn to Oodnadatta, a distance of 400 to 500 miles, the existing line goes through very poor country indeed.
– It would not feed a bandicoot.
– It would not. That does not seem to me to be the way that Nature intended the traffic of the country to go. Dealing with the Works Estimates as a whole, I think the Government are to be commended upon having had the courage to increase the Estimates of their predecessors. I hope that at the end of the current financial year, a very large proportion of this money will have been spent. I do not believe in fooling the people by voting a large sum for public works, and expending only about a half of it. Last year. £640,295 voted by this Parliament was unexpended. I hope that the Government will get a move on, and not build up a surplus from unexpended votes.
Very much of the surplus of which we have heard is represented by money which was voted last year, but which was not spent. During this debate reference has been made to the harness and clothing factories. I am not going to condemn those enterprises, if they are absolutely necessary. Whilst I believe in giving private enterprise a fair chance, I have never believed in the Government being victimized or dictated to by private enterprise. The honorable member for Barrier has twitted me with having said that I am in favour of a State- owned steam-ship service in preference to allowing the Commonwealth to be victimized by a shipping combine. I hold that opinion still, and I hold it in regard to any of our requirements, provided that we cannot better ourselves. But there are many other reforms which should be taken in hand before we touch a harness or clothing factory. Having established these industries, however, we should insist upon getting good value for the money which is expended upon them. Now, we never see a balance-sheet for the harness or the clothing factory. It has been asserted by some persons who ought to know that the clothing factory is not a paying concern, and that uniforms cost considerably more than they would under private enterprise.
– That is not correct.
– I would not like to say that it is correct. But rumours get abroad, and we are entitled to the fullest information in regard to these Government institutions. If my honorable friends wish to give the lie direct to these imputations-
– We want authentic information. We cannot contradict a mere rumour.
– I do know that, in the past, private contractors, when tendering, have had to buy their cloth from the Ordnance Department, and pay cash for it. Yet these men have had to wait for payment six, and even eight, months after the goods had been delivered.
– That prevented them from putting shoddy material into the uniforms.
– Perhaps it is a good precaution. . But why should the contractor be kept out of his money for six months? If we wish to get the best we can, let us give the private contractor an opportunity to tender alongside of these Government factories. If we do that, I am sure we shall get from a majority of contractors a fair and square deal. The average business man prides himself on his reputation, and naturally endeavours to supply a good article. I am pleased to note that provision is made on these Estimates for a slight increase of expenditure upon rifle ranges in Queensland. I compliment the Government upon taking this step to encourage rifle clubs.From my own experience of riflemen in Australia, I unhesitatingly say that they have scarcely had a square deal. They do not get that recognition from the Defence Department to which they are entitled. In time of crisis, I am sure they would render valuable service to the Commonwealth, and, therefore, they are entitled to more consideration. More ranges should be provided, and more rifles of an up-to-date pattern. Some criticism has been bestowed upon the Government proposal to expend loan money upon defence works. That matter, however, will come up for discussion when the Loan Bill is under consideration, and the honorable memberfor Fremantle will then see that Western Australia has obtained her share of the money which the Government propose to expend. I do not think that that State has anything to complain about. She is receiving £1,000,000 towards the cost of the construction of the transcontinental railway. I am pleased that that work is being pushed forward, because I regard it as part of the compact into which we entered when we federated. In regard to new trunk telephone lines, I say that if we borrow money to construct them it will be well spent. In those portions of Queensland which I have visited, the trunk lines cannot carry the present traffic. The existing charge on many of these lines is1s. for a three-minutes’ conversation, and I say that the Government are justified in duplicating the lines, and giving the public an improved service, for which they are quite prepared to pay. If there is any part of the telephone service that should pay, it is the trunk-line portion.
– Is the existing traffic regular on those lines?
– Complaints are general in my electorate that persons have sometimes to wait as much as twenty- four hours before they can get connexion. That statement applies all over Australia. These lines are overloaded. If a charge of only1d. per minute were made upon them, it would return a very large interest upon the cost of their construction.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In the course of his remarks the honorable member stated that I voted against the present defence system. I am quite willing to back up any vote which I have recorded in this House. I wish to say that in similar circumstances I would vote exactly as I voted on the occasion in question. The position was that the honorable member for Gwydir, and two other honorable members, smarting under the application of the “ gag “ to themselves, moved the application of that weapon on three occasions when the present Prime Minister was moving the second reading of the Defence Bill. The honorable gentleman himself moved “ That the question be now put.” I voted on that occasion in favour of hearing the honorable gentleman. Every honorable member of the Opposition, with the exception of two or three, did the same thing. But when the present Prime Minister attempted to flout the House and the country by dispensing with the second-reading debate
– The honorable member “ gagged “ him twice.
– The Treasurer’s statement is absolutely inaccurate, as I did not vote for the “ gag “ on that occasion, nor, as far as I know, at any other time.
– Will the honorable member inform us why he waited till afterwards to explain how he cast his vote against the Bill?
– I am not sure that I spoke the same evening.
– The honorable member had an opportunity to explain his position on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– The honorable member for Moreton was very touchy the other day when I called him the member for the “cow country.” He interjected about seventeen times, and now he has picked out a particular vote of mine - a vote by which I am prepared to stand.
If the Prime Minister moved the application of the” “ gag “ in the same circumstances again I would vote in exactly the same way as I voted on the occasion in question.
– I hope that the honorable member will have a better excuse next time.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has informed me that during the past three years 98,000 miles of telephone lines have been constructed, and that ?5 per cent, of these are in the country. He also tells me that 8,900 miles of telegraph line have been erected, together with 356 new post-offices,, most of which are in the country. If certain honorable members are going to form themselves into a Country party, it is quite possible that the representatives of the cities will form themselves into a Town party. Whilst I have been a member of this House I have never voted against any country proposal.
– Do you not think it is a fairer way to compare the amount of money spent in the country, and not the mileage ?
– The Post Office is not paying at present. Telephone exchanges do not pay.
– The country lines are the only ones that are paying.
– If the country lines are paying, by all means let the rates be reduced in the country, but let them be increased in the towns; let the people in the towns pay double or treble the present rates.
– It is not worth plugging a man on for a penny.
– When we get a balancesheet from the Post Office-
– Ah ! When we do !
– We are promised it. At any rate, the returns we do get show that, on all the mail services, there is a loss, and we cheerfully vote to make it up - I do - and make no complaint.
– There would be no city but for the country.
– It is not the town members who go to the PostmasterGeneral to ask for new post-offices or telephone exchanges. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh said the other day, the commercial representatives practically keep the postal and telephonic facilities right up-to-date. Town members have not asked for these things. I have never asked for a post-office.
– Did you not ask for trousers for postmen?
– Yes, for postmen all over the country, as well as for the town.
– But only for Victoria.
– Were they delivering letters in Melbourne without trousers?
– Order ! Trousers have nothing to do with these Estimates.
– The honorable member for Maranoa has suggested that I once asked that the letter-carriers in Victoria should be placed on the same footing as the letter-carriers in every other State. I did. But I wish to Heaven honorable members would let me get on with my speech.
– I would like to see all the postmen in kilts.
– I must ask the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Barrier to allow the honorable member for Yarra to proceed.
– It is extraordinary that there are more interjections made during my speeches than during the speeches of any other honorable member.
– Look at the questions you raise.
– If Mr. Chairman would show a wholesome example, and have some of these honorable members removed, I would have a much smoother passage. I was speaking of the difference between town and country in the matter of postal facilities, and I was saying that it was not the town members who asked for these facilities, and that I have never asked for a single thing for my constituency, when the honorable member rudely interjected something about what I had done for men all over Victoria. The honorable member will admit that I did not ask that for the town men alone. He will give me that credit.
– Hear, hear! But you asked for trousers for them.
– Yes - to place them in exactly the same position as men in the other States, where they were not paying for them, but got them from the Department for nothing.
– What were they wearing previously ?
– Did they not have trousers ?
– The honorable member was a member of the Postal Commission, and what he does not know about postoffices is not worth knowing. I thought he knew everything in connexion with post-offices from A to Z, from the time of Rowland Hill to that of Oxenham. I thought he would know that the men in Victoria and South Australia were in a different position from those in the other States. From the inception . of Federation I was anxious that these postmen should be put on the same footing, and the action I took then I would take again, notwithstanding the sneers and gibes of honorable members. Honorable members are very hilarious.
– Order! I must request that the honorable member be allowed to go on with his speech.
– Some honorable members apparently think it right that men in one State should be treated differently from men in another. I did not think so. It was my desire to see that they were all placed on the same footing, and that the men in one State should not have to pay for their clothing whilst the Government provided it in another State.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with these Estimates.
– I wish to touch on the question raised by the honorable members for Fremantle and Moreton, that is, the miserable amount upon these Estimates for lighthouses. You, Mr. Chairman, have taken a keen interest in maritime matters, and in connexion with the safety of men who go down to the sea in ships. We have had from time to time appalling disasters brought under our notice, not only on the Australian coast, but in other places, but we find that Liberal Governments dallied with this question for about ten years. . They had an opportunity of passing a Lighthouses Bill in the first session of the first Parliament, but they did not do so, and the matter was left as a legacy to the late Labour Administration.
– They did things very quickly.
– Yes. We appointed an officer to inquire into things even before the Bill was passed.
– After looking into it for three years.
– We came into office in 1910, and we passed the Bill in 1911. Commander Brewis was appointed early in 1911, and we have his reports.
– There were lots of reports before then.
– But 0the honorable member’s Government did nothing in connexion with the matter, although he states they had the reports. They did not pass a Lighthouses Bill.
– You did nothing. You did not build a lighthouse.
– We improved the light at Wilson’s Promontory, the most important lighthouse on the Australian coast, and have built two or three others.
– It was an extraordinary accident to pick upon that spot.
– The work was recommended, and I think the evidence of the whole of the mercantile marine was that Wilson’s Promontory light was a source of danger. The light was out of date - vessels passed the Glennie Group before the old light opened up - and it has been improved at no very great cost. Commander Brewis went all round Australia, and furnished splendid reports. I think the best testimony of that fact is the small amount of criticism levelled against them by professional men engaged in maritime work. I do not know of any other reports that hav6 been received with such unanimity and commendation. Commander Brewis points out that the works required in connexion with lights are as follows: - Islands in the Bass Straits and Tasmania, £24,158; north-east coast of Queensland, £73,558; north coast, from Cape York to the end of the Northern Territory, £41,581; Western Australia, £98,420; South Australia, £26,723; New South Wales, £35,300; total, £299,740. And the Government say, “ We will put £15,000 down for this year “ Unless we have steamers to attend to these lights we must hire them from companies, or from the States. Commander Brewis estimates that, four steamers will cost £120,000. In a subsequent report he recommends that Australia should be divided into four districts - First, from the east side of the Northern Territory to a point on the Western Australian coast near Broome; second, the east coast of Queensland; third, the coasts of New South
Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, and part of the South Australian coast; fourth, from the other side of the Great Australian Bight to the point near Broome. He proposes that four steamers should attend to all the lighthouses, one for each district. If we own our steamers we shall have to pay for them, but I shall deal with that phase of the question on the Budget to show that the Government expect to get £60,000 in light dues, and expend £59,800 on wages, salaries, and maintenance during the year. My complaint is the small amount provided on the Estimates to do this work. Some two years ago, after the wreck of the Yongala, when we were going to take over the lighthouses - because we have not done that yet - the Queensland Government said that the Federal Government had stood in the way of work which was urgently needed being done. On the Queensland coast this work is. urgent. Those who have travelled up the coast from Brisbane or Gladstone to Cairns, or beyond that point, know, if they have travelled in the day time, what numerous islands and dangers there are to be avoided. Practically every sea captain will admit privately, if not publicly, the dangers he may run from time to time on account of the coast being insufficiently lighted. Apart from the £300,000 for the lighthouses and £120,000 for steamers, Commander Brewis said that a proper hydrographic survey would have to be made of certain portions of the Australian coast. Hitherto, we have been dependent upon the British Government for doing that work; we have paid a certain amount to have it done. If we are to develop the Northern Territory, a large amount of the traffic will be conducted by sea, and not by land. In addition to the construction, which is going to cost more, the maintenance of the lighthouses will cost more - altogether, it will cost £22,242 more a year - than it did previously. I candidly admit that the light dues can be arranged so that the revenue will be sufficient, no matter what the extra cost of maintenance may be. When we are faced with an expenditure of £300,000 on lighthouses to start with, and an extra expenditure of £22,242 a year, we should have a state: ment from the Minister. I hope that he will get up when I have finished my speech, or when we come to the item of lighthouses in these Estimates.
– I shall give full information.
– I am very glad to hear that.
– On lighthouses, I will give you the information now.
– Will my honorable friend allow me to finish what I have to say? As this is my second speech in the general discussion, I cannot make another speech.
– Why do you take so long?
– Surely the Treasurer does not object to what I am saying regarding the lighthouses? ‘
– Do you not think that I do not know it already ?
– It is quite possible that the right honorable gentleman knows all about this matter, but it is probable that, some honorable members who were not in the last Parliament may not know that the Commonwealth has neglected to take over the lighthouses for ten years, and that previous Liberal Administrations did nothing in the matter for nine years.
– They have been well looked after by. the States, have they not?
– There, perhaps, we have a cue to the small amount that is provided on these Estimates. Does the Treasurer begrudge the expenditure of any money to bring the lighthouses up to date? Every State will admit that for some time the necessary expenditure has not been incurred. Out of a total expenditure of £27,000,000 odd the Government propose to expend just £15,000 on the protection of life and property at sea. Honorable members have complained about the small expenditure on telephones, but the whole of their constituents have an opportunity of dealing with that position. We know that if the commerce of Australia, which must be largely sea-borne, is to be adequately protected, increased lighting facilities must be provided along the coast.
– We intend to build some lighthouses. You built none in three years.
– We did.
– What did you do ?
– We erected a lighthouse on the Glennies, one on Cape Liptrap, and one at Gabo Island. It must not be forgotten that other Governments had not passed a Lighthouses Bill.
– We introduced the Bill.
– Of course, my honorable friends opposite introduced a number of measures, but they never passed them.
– You completed them.
– It was like their writing of memoranda; they introduced things, but never completed anything.
– The Bill passed the Senate, and came down here. You know that.
– I do not.
– Well, you should.
– At any rate, the Bill would have to be introduced afresh in the new Parliament. It was only a short measure, and there was no contention as to its clauses. I doubt whether it had passed the Senate; but, whether that was so or not, it had not passed the Parliament.
– It took two years.
– Whether it took two years or two months does not matter. The Liberal Governments did nothing for ten years. In fact, they did nothing till we got into office in 1910, whereas we passed the Bill in the session of 1911 We anticipated the passage of the Lighthouses Bill by appointing an expert to report on the lighting of the Australian coast, and excellent work he did. I feel sure that what I am about to say will appeal as much to the honorable member for Henty as to any member of the House, because he has had a little experience of sea-faring. The report of Commander Brewis has not been criticised by any of the sea captains, but has received universal commendation. Although he recommends, apart from the provision of steamers and the making of a hydrographic survey, an expenditure of £300,000 for additions and alterations of. existing lights, and an increased maintenance of £22,242 a year. Yet in these Estimates the Government propose to expend only £15,000. I suppose that but for the reliability of the unattended lights, the work, instead of costing £300,000, would cost £1,500,000. It would probably cost five times as much but for the improvements in some of the unattended acetylene lights, which are now being adopted universally. I understand that the Panama Canal is to be lit with one type of this light - I think the type which is being used by the Federal Government at Citadel Island, and which I see by the press the Minister has adopted for the lighting of the Northern Territory. These lights, through being reliable, are able to do the work at a fourth or a. fifth of the ordinary cost. I understand that the maintenance will be much less, on account of the lights being unattended. They need be visited only once in three months, in order to provide a fresh supply of acetylene gas, because their reliability has been proved. If any honorable members . entertain any doubts on thi3 matter they should road the reports of Commander Brewis on the lighting of Bass Strait, and the lighting of the west coast of Australia, in which he deals with the question of the reliability of unattended lights, as I have not time to go into the matter at present. Another point is that the Lighthouses Act provides that a number of these lighthouses, in order to be more valuable to the mariner, should be attached either by telephone, or by telegraph, or by wireless. That, of course, will have to be done, and is, I think, provided for in these Estimates. I do not anticipate it will involve any great cost, because, as we know, youths are able with a small installation to receive messages from a range of 200 or 300 miles. Seeing that wireless telegraphy has been proved to be most important to the interests of navigation, I do urge upon the Minister that where the Government have £2,500,000 to throw away, he should think a little of those people who cannot be here to speak for themselves.
– Hand it over to the country .
– I am not particular. I think that even country representatives might concur in my view.
– What did you do last year?
– We provided £15,000, and spent £7,400. The reports on the lighting of the Australian coast were not completed. We proceeded with the most important work as soon as the report was available.
– You threw away £23,000,000 last year.
– Seeing that the Government have a large amount of money to expend this year, I do put in a plea that they should enter upon this lighthouse work, and push on with it more expeditiously. On the items themselves I shall be able to say a little more than I can now, because one cannot compress his remarks on an important question of this kind into a speech of half-an-hour.
– Two half hours.
– There were other matters with which I had to deal. I ask the Minister, if possible, to do his utmost to see that more money is made available for lighthouse work, in order to afford a greater safeguard to the men who go down to the sea in ships, and who are not here to speak for themselves.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I was surprised at the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs speaking as he did on the question of delay. I ask him to cast his mind back to the actual facts of the case. In 1909 a Conference was held in Melbourne between the State Premiers and the Commonwealth Government, and an arrangement was made as regards the exact position, settling the principles on which the Commonwealth should take over the ocean lights, beacons, and buoys. A Bill was drafted and completed, and was ready for legislative enactment. However, the session closed without the Bill having been carried through. The exMinister of Trade and Customs tells us now that the question of the lighthouses of Australia was a most pressing one, that while the Lighthouses Bill was not enacted the lives of our seamen were in danger. Let us see exactly how the previous Government dealt with the matter. In 1909 an agreement was made with the States, and a Bill was drafted. In April, 1910, our honorable friends came into office. How long did it take them to carry the Bill through, which the honorable member for Yarra says was such a simple one, consisting of only twenty clauses? It was assented to on the 22nd December, 1911. The late Government, who were so eager to carry out this legislation, took two years to pass a Bill previously drafted, and to settle principles settled by a previous Administration. What was their method of procedure ? As the honorable member for Yarra says, the late Government appointed an expert to inquire into the matter of lighting the Australian coast. I commend them for that action.- The expert was highly qualified to do the work, and I quite agree with my honorable friends that he did the work excellently. Let us see exactly the dates when the major portion of the work was completed. In January, 1912, he had finished the report on the lighting of the north coast of Australia, and in April, 1912, he had completed three other reports, namely, on the lighting of Bass Strait and Tasmania, the south coast of Australia, and the coast of New South Wales. The greater portion of his work was completed long before the late Government framed the Estimates for last year. Although my honorable “friend says that they realized that the lighting of the coast was an important matter, yet they spent altogether last year £7,461. To-day, they say this is a life-and-death matter.
– And they had £15,000 appropriated’ for the purpose.
– Quite so. I do not wish to treat the honorable member for Yarra unfairly, and I am not in the habit- of indulging in unfair recriminations, but when I came into office I found that there was not a lighthouse officer in the Department. The only officer to carry out this important work was Commander Brewis. In other words, there was no staff to attend to “ this life-and-death matter.”
– I do not think the honorable member is quite right.
– I think that I arn. Not one district officer or engineer had been appointed.
– Because the districts were not then mapped out.
– But no leading officers had been appointed. Commander Brewis was practically the only officer in the Department to attend to this matter. When I took office I found that applications had been invited by advertisement for the position of Director of Lighthouses, and that that advertisement had been withdrawn by my predecessor, and a second one published, in which it was stated that applicants must have experience in the organization and administration of matters affecting marine interests and a general knowledge of Australian requirements. - It was also intimated that they should state any further qualifications that they possessed. Applications were coming in when I entered office, and we made an appointment at the earliest possible moment. It will thus be seen that for one month only have we had in charge of the service a permanent director.
– It is more than that. Mr. Ramsbotham was appointed in July.
– But he could not take office until the beginning of September. The delay in appointing a Director of Lighthouses obviously delayed the transfer of the Department. It was hoped that it might be taken over this month, but it now seems clear that we shall not be able to take it over until 1st March next or thereabouts, although the transfer will be made earlier if possible. Having regard to these facts, it is extraordinary that the honorable member for Yarra should accuse us of delaying this “ lifeanddeath matter,” as he calls it.
– I did not charge the Minister with delay; I said that there was not sufficient money on the Estimates for this work.
– The honorable member also made a charge of delay. Coming to the amount on the Estimates, I would point out that last year only £7,461 was expended, although £15,000 was appropriated for these purposes. The principle upon which Commander Brewis advised - and the principle, I think, is a sound one - was that we should not attempt to expend in one year the whole sum of £300,000 which it is estimated these lights will ultimately cost, but that the expenditure should be distributed over a period of years.
– Five years.
– Six years.
– But one year has already gone.
– Then the honorable member, as Minister of Trade and Customs, expended £42,000 less than he should have done last year. The idea was that as soon as the Department was organized, the staff appointed, and equipment provided, we should proceed with the building of lighthouses at the rate of £50,000 a year. Then the order in which the expenditure should be made was also a matter of importance. The advice very naturally given was that the more important lights should be the first to be provided. That is a principle which must commend itself to the Committee, and we are acting upon it. We have nearly completed the first batch of these works. They consist of alterations to the light at Gabo, a new optical apparatus at Wilson’s Promontory, and new lights at Citadel Island and Cape Liptrap. The next lot of lights to be provided during the present financial year, in accordance with the recommendation made by Commander Brewis, and approved by Mr. Ramsbotham as the most urgent and pressing, are the two lights at Port Darwin-
– For which the honorable member has accepted tenders.
– Yes- the lights at Emery Point and Fort Point. Honorable members are aware that tlie part of the Australian coast which has been reported upon as requiring lights more urgently than any other is that inside the Barrier Reef, coming down from North Queensland. At the present time, vessels have to anchor at night, so that it is exceedingly desirable that lights should be provided at once. It is proposed, therefore, during this year, to erect lights at Clarke Island, Piper Island. Chapman Island), T.T. Reef, Heath Reef, Dhu Reef, and Coquette Island .
– What about the Cape Liptrap light?
– That work is nearly finished. It will take about £7,500 to carry out.these works.
– And is that amount. part of the £15,000 to be appropriated?
– Yes. Then it is proposed to provide a light at West Point, in Tasmania, and repairs to the Cape Schanck light are to be undertaken.
– What is the nature of the repairs?
– They have to do with clock-work arrangements.
– It will probably require more than the amount set down on the Estimates to provide these lights, and I have arranged with the Treasurer that the requisite money shall be made available. We hope to have the works completed within the financial year.
– But the Department should be getting ready to go on with the other lights; the work should be continued steadily.
– The four lights, the provision of which was undertaken last year, had not been completed when I took office. We hope to get these works well advanced, and the Director is now giving consideration to a scheme for the continuation of the work of lighting the whole coast. The idea is that there shall be a continual process of building going on ; and we hope to have these works completed at the earliest possible- date.
– The amount on the Estimates should be doubled
– I hope that it will be quite adequate for the work we propose to do this year ; but, as I have already mentioned, after consulting with the new Director, and going through the whole scheme with him, I arranged with the Treasurer that the requisite money to complete the work should be forthcoming. Although we have practically only one officer advising us so far, we are fully alive to the necessity of properly lighting the coast, and it is the intention of the Department to push on and speedily complete this very urgent scheme. I come now to the remarks made in regard to Mr, Ramsbotham not being “ a purely nautical man.” In the first place, I would point out to the honorable member for South Sydney, who first raised this matter, that my predecessor, in inviting applications, emphasized the point that he wanted a man experienced in the organization and administration of matters affecting marine interests.
– With a good knowledge of the Australian coast, whereas Mr. Ramsbotham has been here only two years, and has never been round the coast.
– The words used in the advertisement were ‘ ‘ and a general knowledge of Australian coastal requirements,” not “ a good knowledge of the Australian coast.” Those who urge that a purely nautical man should be appointed are evidently labouring under a misapprehension as to the qualifications of officers placed in charge of the control and maintenance of lighthouses. I find that neither in South Australia nor Victoria has a purely nautical man been in charge.
– The Victorian officer is an engineer.
– That is the position both in Victoria and South Australia. Going further afield, I find that Trinity House is controlled by the Elder Brethren, assisted by the Younger Brethren, and that Sir Thomas Matthews, EngineerinChief to Trinity House, is responsible for the construction and maintenance of lighthouses, and the maintenance of the lighthouse service, and that he acts as general adviser to the Trinity Brethren. The Scottish lights are controlled by tha Northern Light Commissioners. The Engineer, Mr. D. A. Stevenson, attends all meetings of the Board, advises on the selection of all sites for lighthouses, and is responsible entirely for all construction and maintenance. Then, again, I find that- the Irish lights are controlled by the Irish Light Commissioners, and that the Engineer, Mr. C. W. Scott, is responsible in the same way as those I have previously mentioned. In each case the responsible officer is an engineer. In Canada, the Chief Engineer, Mr. W. P. Anderson, is in like manner responsible to the Deputy Minister of Marine and Fisheries, while the French Lighthouse administration is controlled by the EngineerinChief, M. Ribiere
– Where did they get their information ?
– These officers, before selecting a site for a light, would be guided by information supplied by those engaged in navigating the coast who are competent to express an opinion.
– In France, they have one light to every 5 miles of coast-line.
– And in Australia we have about one light to every’ 150 miles of coast-line.
– One to every 170 miles.
– In each of the cases to which I have referred, there is an engineer in charge. We had to select the best man available, one possessing organizing skill and ability, and I was glad to hear the indorsement of the honorable member for Fremantle of the high opinions that have been expressed regarding the qualifications of Mr. Ramsbotham
– Why was not Commander Brewis appointed f
– His reports were excellent.
– They are able documents, which speak for themselves.
– What will be done with the four steamers that it is proposed to buy?
– The purchase of the steamers is to be considered. Means must be provided for communicating with the various lighthouses.
– Four steamers will not be needed.
– There are six in use now.
– At present, the needs of the lighthouses are attended to by the Governments of the States. Last week, the honorable member for Yarra complained that we are not making sufficient provision for quarantine stations, but I may inform the Committee that every recommendation made by the Director of Quarantine when under the Ministerial control of the honorable member is to be given effect to. The last Government, although we have been told that it considered quarantine stations so essential, spent only £27,000 of the £50,000 voted for them by Parliament. We ask this year for £40,000, including re-votes. It is the policy of the Department to get the stations on our northern coasts properly established. Adequate provision for quarantine is to be made at Brisbane, Townsville, Thursday Island, Port Darwin, and Broome, at a cost of something like £27,000.
– How much is to be spent at Sydney ?
– Let me mention the proposed expenditure for each State. In New South Wales, it is proposed to spend about £1,500 for extra hospital accommodation, and £2,000 for the completion of the disinfecting buildings, and the laundry buildings now in progress, and a dining block. At Adelaide, £1,000 is to be spent on a disinfecting block; at Melbourne, £2,000 on an extra dormitory; and at Fremantle, about £3,000.
– Might I suggest that in seeking for a site for a new quarantine station, the Government should search north, as well as south, of Fremantle ?
. - The Treasurer, speaking in regard to the taking over of lighthouses by the Commonwealth, asked what need is there for hurry, seeing that the States are looking after the lighthouses so efficiently. Our experience in connexion with the Department of the Postmaster-General should provide a reason for hurrying. In regard to it and other services, the States, realizing that there was soon to be a change of control, did not hesitate to adopt a policy of starvation and neglect. The Minister of Trade and Customs, has promised, though not definitely, that the lighthouses may be taken over next March, but I hazard the opinion that they will not be taken over during the present financial year. I, therefore, urge the Government to make haste in this matter. The efficient lighting of the coast of Australia to insure the safety’ of our coastal and oversea shipping is absolutely necessary, and as things stand, the State Governments are not likely to bother themselves about the lighthouses. The whole matter should have been dealt with long ago. I do not know the gentleman who has been appointed Director of Lighthouses, and I have never seen him, but from what I have heard from persons competent to form an opinion, I am inclined to think that the Commonwealth has secured the services of a competent aud able engineer. But the desirability of having an engineer in the position is open to question. Some persons consider that it would have been better to appoint to it a nautical’ man thoroughly acquainted with navigation in Australian waters; but it must be admitted that if such a man were appointed it would still be necessary to have an engineer attached to the Department, because it would be eminently unsatisfactory to have the engineering work done by some other Department. It is incumbent upon the authorities to get the best advice possible as to the points on our coast which should be lighted. . I am not altogether sorry that the Commonwealth has lost the valuable services of Commander Brewis. If I had had anything to do with the matter, he would never have received the appointment he did receive. In the first place, he knew nothing of the Australian coast which rendered him competent to form an opinion as to the points of it which require to be lighted.
– Yes, he did know something of the Australian coast.
– It is commonly said that he did not. There are at least a dozen men, to my knowledge, who have grown grey battling around the Australian coast looking anxiously for a light on many dark and gloomy nights who could have perfectly filled the bill. Of course, we have had a valuable report submitted by Commander Brewis; but we know how some of these reports are compiled. Two classes of persons furnish offiIcial reports. In some cases a report is 1 furnished by a man who thoroughly understands the matter on which he is asked £o report; but in other cases a man makes a report by pumping all the information he can get from any one who knows anything about the subject on which he has been called upon to report. I do not say that the report on the lighting of our coast to which I have referred was compiled in that way, but I do say that the Government need to be very careful before taking action on these reports. I strongly urge that, before they remove any of the existing lights, they will, if they do not appoint a competent man specially for the .purpose, send out circulars to the men who are navigating in Australian waters to-day, and who will be only too willing to give the best advice they can as to where lights should be established. If the Government do not do that, I am afraid that it will not be long before some honorable member will be calling attention in this House to the fact that a portion of our coast is not lighted at the points where it is desirable, in the interests of navigation, that it should be. The engineers connected with Trinity Board, in the. Old Country, always make it a practice to obtain information as to the’ proper place for establishing lights from the men actually engaged in navigating around the British coast, because they would not think for a moment of acting upon the judgment of an engineer in such a matter. The honorable member for South Sydney reminds me that an engineer will be wanted in connexion with the erection of lighthouses. That is. so; and I have said that I do not object to the gentleman who has been appointed to take charge of this department, because I recognise that the appointment of an engineer in connexion with it is essential. Every honorable member must be interested iu having th« coast of Australia well lit for the protection of life and the benefit of those who have to get their living on the high seas, lt is the future about which I am most concerned, and I ask the Government to take into consideration the suggestion I have made. It would be a mistake to depend upon a report from one man. One man might know the coast of Queensland very well, but might have a very vague knowledge of the coast of South Australia . The honorable member for Yarra has said that there has been a large extension of the use of unattended lights. I am willing to admit that the unattended light is a marvel of’ invention of recent years ; but I think its use may be carried too far. From motives of economy there may be a tendency on the part of the engineer who has been placed in charge of this department to overrate the value of the unattended light. I do not condemn it; but from inquiries I have made from those who are engaged in navigating the coast of my own State, they would not feel too secure if the use of the unattended light is carried too far.
– They are used very extensively on the Atlantic and Scandinavian coasts, which are rougher than ours.
– I concede to the honorable member that, possibly in years to come, the unattended light will give mariners greater confidence than it does to-day; but I point out to him that a lighthouse is useful, not only for the purpose of warning the navigator of his near approach to danger, but is of very great use to a ship in distress; and the unattended light is not of much use for that purpose. I hope that the Government will get to work as quickly as possible in taking over the work of lighting the coast of Australia, because, as I have said, the State Governments will be apt to neglect a service which, in a few months’, or in a year’s, time, will be taken out of their charge. The transfer of the service is provided for in the Constitution; but there are many other matters also provided for in the Constitution. And when it is said that the late Government did not push on with the transfer of this ‘service as they might have done, the answer is that they could not do everything at once, and that they had first to deal with questions which they regarded as of more pressing concern. We have had the matter in hand for about two years since the Bill was passed, and we have a report which I do not by any means take for gospel. The sooner they get to work the better it will be for those who have to get their living on the high seas of Australia.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Treasurer to the item, “ Garden Island, Sydney Naval Establishment, £10,000.” I find that there is a total naval expenditure of £13,000 provided for in New South Wales. Now, the manner in which these Estimates are prepared isvery unsatisfactory. Admiral Henderson reported upon the necessity for establishing certain Naval Bases in New South Wales, and recommended that one of these should be established at Port Stephens. The late Government commenced operations there, but there is nothing in these Estimates to indicate that the present Government intend to continue them. I think that there ought to be. I do not feel inclined to vote large sums of money in the absence of some information as to where it is to be expended. I enter my protest against the lack of information relating to the proposed expenditure on Naval Bases. There is another item on these Estimates which reads, “ Machinery and plant for Printing Office, £4,200.” It is high time that the Commonwealth realized the necessity for acquiring a printing plant of its own. We have experienced many difficulties by reason of not having a printing press of our own. I am not now referring to the ordinary work of this Parliament. But in connexion with the recent elections in New South Wales we were unable to secure a copy of the rolls until a comparatively brief period before polling day. We could not get them printed.
– They were printed in Sydney.
– The New South Wales Government printed “them, but they allowed them to stand over until they had done their own work.
– The honorable member would not suggest the establishment of a printing office in Sydney merely to print our electoral rolls once in three years ?
– We should be selfcontained so far as our printing is concerned. Why should we have to rely upon any State for our printing?
Mr.Fenton. - In Victoria, the State authorities use our machinery for their work.
– Yes. And yet only a paltry sum of money is provided on these Estimates for a printing plant. In view of our experience in connexion with the recent elections, we ought not to hesitate to procure machinery with’ which to do our own printing. The honorable member for Moreton made some disparaging remarks about our clothing factory. He went so far as to say that he doubted if it was working satisfactorily in the interests of the people. He stated that a balance-sheet should be issued, the inference being that a balancesheet was not issued. Now, I hold in my hand a copy of the balance-sheet for the clothing factory, which has been audited by the Auditor-General. Consequently, there was no foundation for the honorable member’s statement. I do not think that he should have placed on record a statement which is calculated to discredit the factory, and one which is not justified by the facts. The balancesheet shows that, after the factory has been in operation only a year, it is producing the material that is required for our Defence Forces for slightly less than the prices we were called on to pay to the last contractor. The manager points out that, during the first six months of its existence, things did not run too. satisfactorily. Nobody expected that they would. But, during the past six months, when the workmen had become more expert, he was able- to reduce the cost of manufacture considerably. During the current financial year, he anticipates that the cost will be still further reduced by. 10 per cent. I find that, in the case of breeches, for which the contract prices from lst-July, 1911, to 30th June, 1912, were from 14s. to 14s. 10d., the average cost of production in the factory up to 30th June, 1912, was from 14b. 6d. to 15s. 6d., while the average cost of production for the quarter ended 30th September, 1912, was lis. 9d. For great coats, the contract price from 1st July, 1911, to 30th June, 1912, was 30s. Id. to 32s. 9d., while their average cost of production in the factory up to 30th June, 1912, was 36s., and their average cost of production in the factory for the quarter ended 30th September of last year was 31s. 6d. There ia a footnote which reads -
Material sold to contractors at 6s. 3d. per yard waa debited to factory funds et 7s. per yard, therefore for the purpose of comparison factory cost should be reduced by as. 5.1. per coat.
Then, again, in regard to shirts .without shoulder-straps, the contractors charged 9s. 9d., 10s., and 10s. 6d., whereas, for the last quarter to which I have referred, they cost us 8s. In regard to shirts with shoulder-straps, the contractor charged 9s. 6d., 10s., and 10s. 6d., but we have been able to manufacture them for 10s., though we have been paying our employes the highest union wages, and they have been working under the best conditions. Our employes are well satisfied with the conditions prevailing, especially the provision of tea-rooms, .and they .are allowed a fortnight’s holiday on full pay.
It is well for these facta to come out.Honorable members who have attacked Government factories have not looked into these balance-sheets. They are opposed to day labour, or to the Government running any factories, and they simply wish to make out a case- for the contractor. In doing so they overlook the real facts which I have just placed before the House, so that honorable members can find them in Hanford when they go before the people in the country. I venture to say that when the people know that the employes in their clothing factory, numbering about 300, have the very best conditions and the highest rate of wages paid, and a fortnight’s holiday in the year on full pay, and yet the Government are able to get clothing. considerably cheaper than from the contractors, they will be perfectly satisfied. The same argument will apply to other factories. Balance-sheets are presented from time to time. Officers of the Auditor-General have to go through every item - there could be no more searching investigation - and we have the certificate of the Auditor-General with regard to the finances of these particular manufacturing industries. No doubt oan exist as to the proficiency of these factories, and as to articles they are producing being cheaper than that previously obtained from the contractors. Before these Estimates go through, I hope the Treasurer will give us some information in regard to the Naval Bases. It is not fair to expect the Estimates to go through without our knowing exactly the amount of money to be expended on the different works. If we are to go in for a system of defence, and to spend money on ships, we ought also to carry out the scheme in its entirety. We should adopt Admiral Henderson’s scheme, and build, the Naval Bases aa quickly as possible ; but from the’ small amount to be voted, it appears to me there is not to be much of an attempt to do anything in that direction before June next. These Estimates will have to be dealt with in detail, and we have no wish for a detailed discussion ; but if the Treasurer is not prepared to give more information than he has given so far, he will find these votes will be dia.cussed item by item, because we should know exactly the position we are in so far as the works in connexion with defence are concerned.
House adjourned at 10. ai p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 October 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131014_REPS_5_71/>.