5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Public Service Commissioner’s Ninth Annual Report.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional).
Military College - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 253.
Military Forces - (Regulations) - Statutory Rules 1913, Nos. 251,252. (Financial and Allowance) - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 257.
– I have received information to the effect that in some of the offices of the Electoral Registrars there are no rolls of recent date on view, and that in one of these offices the roll exhibited is nine years old. I ask the Honorary Minister if he will see that a copy of the certified roll is placed on view for the inspection of the public in the office of every Electoral Registrar?
– The certified roll is constantly being altered, but the Electoral Registrars are by law required to keep for public inspection a roll embodying the most recent corrections within their knowledge. If the honorable member will bring under my notice any particular case in which this provision has been disregarded, I shall have the matter made the subject of an urgent inquiry.
– There seems to be in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill no clause defining “benevolent asylum.” Will the Attorney-General take into consideration the question whether it would not be well to insert in the Bill a definition clause ? A definition may be required, because it is well known that a certain gentleman named Dudley once described Parliament as a benevolent institution.
– I think it would be better to deal with these questions when the Bill is brought forward for discussion.
– I ask the Prime Minister when we are likely to have the preliminary proclamation that was spoken of a fortnight ago issued for the bringing into force of the Navigation Act, which has been assented to by the King?
– I understood from a conversation with my honorable colleague recently that . the preliminary promulgating proclamation would be ready almost directly. I shall ask him about it as soon as I have an opportunity.
– In view of the increasing number of regulations emanating from the Defence Department, I ask the Honorary Minister if he will bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence the desirability of having a bound copy of the regulations made for the use of honorable members ? It is impossible for an individual member to deal with these regulations unless they are arranged in consecutive order, and put together ?
– I shall bring the suggestion under the notice of the Minister.
Visit to Tasmania
– Has the Prime Minister received a communication from the Government of Tasmania, offering the ordinary hospitalities to the Admiral during the stay of the Fleet in Tasmanian waters ?
– My recollection is that Buck an offer has come from the Tasmanian Government, but I shall make inquiries.
– A paper has been placed in the hands of honorable members, giving the reports of the State Commandants in regard to the canteens in military camps, and I ask thePrime Minister, as this is a matter too important to be left to departmental regulation, and should be regarded as one of policy, if the Government has any intention of giving effect to the expressed desire of the
State Commandants for the reintroduction of canteens’ in military camps ?
– The opinions of the State Commandants have been expressed and tabulated in the paper referred to, as the result of an instruction by the last Minister of Defence- that they should report on the canteen question after the year’s camps had been concluded. I know of no contemplated change of any kind whatever.
– The paper that has been circulated among honorable members in regard to military canteens comprises only the reports of the State Commandants. Will the Prime Minister kindly have laid on the table of the House, with a view to their printing, the reports of the officers commanding who are the men who really know how a camp is conducted 1
– I shall ascertain whether there are such reports, and if I find that they exist, I shall be glad to do what the honorable member asks.
– A few days ago the honorable member for Capricornia asked me whether a list of the permanent officers in the service of the Commonwealth Bank similar to the list of the officers under the control of the Public Service Commissioner could be published. I referred the matter to the Governor of the bank, and his reply is that the information asked for is confidential, and cannot be made public.
– Does the Treasurer think there * is any reason for keeping secret the names of the officials employed in the Commonwealth Bank, and will the right honorable gentleman take into consideration the question of whether there should not be an amendment of our legislation dealing with the Commonwealth Bank to provide that the information now obtainable in regard to all other branches of the Public Service - information as to I the date of their appointment and so forth I - shall be supplied with respect to officers of the bank?
– I gave the honorable member, in reply to a previous question, the answer that I received from the Governor of the bank. If it is not satisfactory to him, I shall be quite willing to submit to the Governor any ques tion that he chooses to put on the noticepaper. The honorable member knows that the Treasurer has no control over the Governor of the bank.
– Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister a question, on notice, about the instruction the Government would issue to Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, and the reply was that a copy of Admiral Henderson’s report would be handed to that gentleman. I wish to know whether it is the intention to hand to him a copy of the report without a covering memorandum. If an instruction is to be issued to him, will a copy of it be laid on the table ?
– I know nothing of any instruction. I told the honorable nf’ ember in as plain language as I could use what our idea is in getting this officer out. I do not know what the honorable member wants. If he explains himself precisely I shall try to meet him.
– Surely the Government has some object in getting out this officer ?
– I have explained our object to the House on a number of occasions.
Postal Mechanics’ Award - Tasmanian Mail Contract - Telephone Guarantees
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether, under an award of Mr. Justice Higgins, the Department will now have to pay boys of fifteen or sixteen years of age, who, as apprentices, are learning their business, the sum of £168 a year?
– I am advised that, under the award, youths under twenty-one are entitled to the same pay as men of any age, namely, £168 per annum, but I think that part of the award was made under a misapprehension by the Judge, and the Department is applying to him to amend or to rectify it. The application will be heard on the 20th inst.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether the contract with the shipping companies for the carriage of mails between Melbourne and Tasmania for a subsidy of £15,000 a year has been signed and, if not, whether he will hold it over until the House has dealt with the motion submitted by the honorable member for Darwin?
– The contract has not yet been signed, but the conditions have been agreed to, so that I think it would be very unfair to hold it over any longer.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral obtain a report as to the number of country telephone lines erected in Victoria under the guarantee system on which a loss to the Department has occurred, and in respect to which the guarantees have had to be enforced?
– Will the PostmasterGeneral supply the same information in regard to telephone lines erected in all the other States, so as to make the information complete? Such a return would be very interesting.
– Seeing that there is no provision on the Estimates for the erection of a Government Printing Office and the provision of a printing plant at Port Darwin, will the Minister of External Affairs state whether it is the intention of the Government to have the Government printing required there done, as in the past, by contract?
– I have not considered any alteration of the existing policy, and no alteration has been suggested.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether it would be possible in the country districts to make arrangements to pay the oldage pensioners their fortnightly allowance by cheque ?
– It is not considered advisable to do so, as the expense of administering the Act would be much increased. There would be great difficulty in getting receipts, also in insuring payment to the right person.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that Government House, Sydney, has been vacant for the past six months, and is in charge of a caretaker, can the Commonwealth Government make arrangements with the State Government of New South Wales so that the Governor-General may occupy the same pending the settlement of the appeal case to be heard by the Privy Council?
– No ; the present State Government is unwilling.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 14th October, vide page 2067) :
Department of Home Affairs
Division 1 (Home Affairs), £300,863
.- We have in subdivision 2, an item of £8,486, in respect of “ Building for Department of Treasury and other Departments.” The amount appropriated under this heading last year was £22,750, and the actual expenditure was £29,375. I should like the Minister to explain whether this item refers to the new Commonwealth buildings in the Treasury Gardens. If it does, will the honorable gentleman state whether the estimated cost was exceeded, and how the cost of this building, which was erected by day labour, compares with the cost of buildings of a similar character carried out by contract?
– The building referred to by the honorable member has now been completed, and is in occupation by some of the Commonwealth Departments. A good deal of the £8,000 expenditure set down was incurred last year, and the object of the vote is to wipe off practically an old obligation. The original estimate of the cost of the building was £34,000 for the front portion, and £27,000 for the big wing erected at the back, or a total estimated cost of £61,000. The actual cost has turned out to be £63,000, which must be regarded as very close to the estimate. If I had known that the honorable member would require such information as details of comparisons of the cost of buildings erected under different systems I should have been prepared with the information. In the circumstances I have only to say that if the honorable member for Wimmera will put the question on the business-paper I shall be happy to supply the information for which he has asked.
– I do not think the method of supplying information in answer to questions to be asked in this House, as suggested by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, is a good or a fair one. In matters of this sort we expect the Minister in charge of Estimates to be able to supply the information asked for by honorable members.
– The honorable member could not expect a Minister to be prepared to supply information as to the cubic cost of erecting all the buildings in the Commonwealth .
– I admit that an estimate of the cost of a building by cubic measurement would require to be carefully made by officers of the Department concerned, but usually the Minister in charge of Estimates has a permanent officer of his Department present with all the papers, from which answers may be given on the spot to reasonable questions put by members of the Committee. I should like to know, for instance, what was the original contract for this building, if there was one?
– There was no contract for the building. It was erected by day labour.
– I should like to know, in view of the erection of this building at a cost of nearly £70,000, whether any arrangements have been made as to what is to be done with it in the future? We are about to enter upon the erection of a. Parliament House and public offices at the Federal Capital. Assuming that their erection takes twice as long as the Government architect has estimated - two and a half years - it would seem that we have been erecting a building at a cost of, roughly, £65,000, because there is still a good deal to be done before the offices in question are fully equipped, without any announced prospect of our being able to dispose of it when the Public Departments are moved to the Federal Capital. Though we may embark upon an expenditure of £65,000 in a very light-hearted way, it is a serious item, and I should like to know whether there is any record in the Public Departments of an arrangement with the State Government of Victoria for taking over this building from the Commonwealth.
– We shall always want offices here.
– It is estimated that theaccommodation provided by this building will continue to be required.
– That is all right; that is what I wished to know.
.- We must continue to have Commonwealth offices in Melbourne as well as in all the other capitals, and there need be no trouble on that score. In view of the Minister’s statement that the original estimate of the cost of this building has been exceeded by only £2,000, I should like to ask whether there have not been some alterations of the plans on which the original estimate was based? The Minister may say whether the difference between the original estimate of £61,000 and the actual cost, £63,000, is not accounted for by alterations of the original plan 1
– There have been some alterations of the original plan, but nothing of any importance. I have admitted that the actual expenditure is very close to the estimated cost. The actual cost of these buildings is sometimes a little under, and sometimes in excess of, the original estimate.
– But there has been additional work carried out for the additional £2,000.
– Nothing to speak of.
.- I think that the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs might have given a more frank and direct answer to the question put by the honorable member for Parkes. The building under discussion formed, a subject of controversy inside and outside this House as to the system adopted for its erection. The Vice-President of the Executive Council spent some of his time in another place in saying that it would not have Cost one-half as much as it has cost if it had been erected under the contract system. I do not know what view the present Government take of the matter, but I am of opinion that this building is one of the very best in Melbourne, for appearance, equipment, and finish. It is healthy and comfortable, and has been constructed with a view to utility for the conduct of public business. So far from the building being likely to be unused when this Parliament leaves Melbourne for the Federal Capital, my opinion is that it will not be found large enough to accommodate the necessary officials of the Commonwealth Government, even though the population should remain as it is at present.
– What will it save the Commonwealth in rental?
– I believe that the amount paid in rents in Melbourne runs to from £10,000 to £11,000 a year for offices occupied in addition to the buildings in question. If we were to leave Melbourne now we should be able to save a considerable portion of the interest on the cost of this building in the shape of rental.
– The rental paid in the past for the building occupied by the Home Affairs Department, and which might have been reduced, has been £875 a year. Four per cent. on £27,000 would represent over £1,000 annually. I admit that these are much better offices.
– They are infinitely better offices. Apart from considerations of convenience and utility, the erection of this building from a purely monetary point of view has been an excellent investment. It must not be forgotten that the loss of time to the public in having the Government offices scattered throughout the city is serious. People coming to Melbourne to interview the Public Departments lose much of their time in travelling between the different offices. I enter my protest against the statements which were made concerning the men who were employed on that building. Honorable members who go before the public and make statements which wilfully misrepresent the position, and who do not withdraw those statements when the facts are borne out by their own Minister-
– There have been no facts produced to-day.
– It has been proved that the work was carried out for a very slight increase upon the estimated cost.
– The estimated cost may have been high.
– That is a charge by the Honorary Minister against his own officers. What is the suggestion ?
– What is it?
– That the permanent officials of the Commonwealth made a high estimate of the cost in order to save themselves.
– That statement is absolutely unworthy of the honorable member and of the position which he occupies.
– What were the words used by this responsible Minister? He said that the estimated cost may have been high.
– There is no doubt about it.
– Here is another instance. The responsible Minister tones down his statement, but the irresponsible member for Gippsland does not.
– The departmental officers had to give effect to the policy of the late Administration, and erect this building by means of day labour.
– The late Government accept full responsibility for their daylabour policy, and if the present Ministry wish to make out a case against that policy they are at liberty to do so.
– The honorable member has answered himself now.
– The Honorary Minister made a blunder. He put his foot in it, and was backed up by the honorable member for North Sydney.
Colonel Ryrie. - I said that the estimated cost was based upon the day-labour system, and, therefore, had to be high.
– I have no doubt that underneath all this quibbling is a desire to get back to the contract system . That is the ambition of the Government. What is preventing them from adopting that system ? If they desire to do so, nobody can stop them, seeing that they have their majority. I repeat that the Treasury building is a credit to the officers who designed it, as well as to the workmen who erected it. I believe that it was erected cheaper than it could have been erected under the contract system. A great many honorable members who have criticised it and the workmen who were engaged upon it, have shown themselves desirous of extorting more from labour than they are prepared to return to it. The building will always remain, from the stand-point of appearance and utility, a monument to those who constructed it.
– The ex-Prime Minister has addressed a somewhat heated statement to the Committee under the impression that he was proving the superiority of the day-labour system. Apparently he forgets that the departmental estimate was based upon the day-labour system. All that he has proved is that the day-labour work did not cost more than the day-labour estimate. If an estimate had been made of the cost of the building under the contract systemwe should probably have seen that it could have been erected for £15,000 or £20,000 less than the amount for which it was constructed by day labour. The honorable member for Wide Bay and his followers may laugh, but I propose to place before the Committee one or two concrete instances. I had occasion to mention in the House, the other day, a case in which the Government, doubtless upon the daylabour principle, had offered to construct a telephone line a distance of 14 miles for £480. The people of the district, however, grew so tired of the delay in initiating the work that they carried it out themselves by contract at a cost of £120. That is to say, they completed the undertaking for 25 per cent. of the departmental estimate.
– The cost of the wire, insulators, and posts is not included in that amount.
– This is very interesting. I know for a fact that the people who carried out this work took the wire from the Government store, that they were charged for it, and that the cost of the wire is included in the £120. Within the past month we had a judgment from Mr. Justice Heydon in regard to some work which was done in New South Wales. He stated that, according to the admissions of the union representative in Court, one day’s piece-work was equal to twelve days’ day-work.
– Twelve days?
– He gave, as his own judgment, that one day’s piecework was equal to twenty days’ day-work. I admit that the judgments of Mr. Justice Heydon are not as popular as are those of another Judge. But I know very well that he is quite as capable as is any other Judge on the Bench. I am prepared to allow 50 per cent. for exaggeration of witnesses, if necessary, and I say that a very lurid light is still thrown upon the difference between contract and day labour. Yet the ex-Prime Minister works himself up into a yeasty frenzy because this work has been completed at no more than the estimate on day-labour principles. Unfortunately, the present Minister cannot give us the information ; but I should like to know what would have been the estimate for this particular work if it had been calculated on the contract principle. I am plad to hear from the ex-Prime Minister that in putting up this building, no matter how extravagantly it may have been built by day labour, careful con sideration was given to the fact that it would be required for Federal purposes, even after the Capital is removed to Canberra.
– They are taking up all the staircases again for some reason or another.
– I remember a picture in Punch of a man who had a wall built by day labour, and found that it was much out of plumb. A workman came in, and, after inspecting it, said, “Why, you have been leanin’ agin it.” It is quite possible somebody has been “leanin’ agin” the staircases in this new building, so that within a few months of the completion of it by day labour, the Government find it necessary to take them out again. When the exPrime Minister was congratulating himself on the wonderful performance of his party, I regret that he did not take the trouble, for his own satisfaction, to have an estimate made of what the building would cost by contract work; for then we should be able to see what it would have cost had it been carried out in that way, instead of by the wasteful principle which the Labour Government adopted.
.- I think some one has been leaning against the honorable member.
– And he has fallen in.
– Yes, badly. The honorable member is against day labour, and in favour of contract work.
– The two largest unions in Australia will not work by day labour.
– The Opposition Whip is against day labour in his own case. He is for piece-work all the time.
– A little evidence is worth a lot of opinion. I shall quote a statement made by the officials responsible for the construction of public works in Queensland.
– I can bring you twenty statements in favour of contract work.
– The honorable member knows something of work carried out by contract. He remembers the McSharry case.
– So does Mr. Justice Barton.
– Other honorable members remember the Robb case. Those were the piping times for contractors.
Since then Queensland has done a great part of her work by day labour.
– You are going to make a summer out of one swallow.
– The honorable member will not object to me quoting the present Secretary for Railways in Queensland, who is in no way associated with the party to which I belong, but is a member of a Government that is practically compelled by the arguments advanced by our party to adopt the day-labour principle.
– I undertake to quote plenty of cases in an opposite direction.
– I have no objection, if the honorable member will permit me to put in first the evidence of an adverse witness.
– Does it refer to railway construction or to buildings ?
– It refers to railway construction.
– That is on a different basis altogether, because there is an element of risk to the contractor in railway construction.
– Does the Honorary Minister say there is any difference between constructing a railway bridge or a railway station by day labour, and constructing a house or building by the same method ?
– The building is the simpler work.
– Therefore, the building contractor has not to cover himself against risk.
– I must request honorable members, including the Minister in charge of these Estimates, to exercise a little restraint in the matter of interjections, otherwise it will be impossible for Hansard to record the speech of any honorable member.
– Let me quote the remarks of Mr. Paget, Secretary of Railways, in Queensland, on the 25th September, 1912, as reported in the Queensland Hansard, volume 112, page 1291 -
I am handing in, for the information of honorable members, a return prepared in 1897 for the then Chief Engineer of all railways built by him under contract between 1881 and 1893. “ The total expenditure was ?5,491,720, the mileage 1,144.94, and the average cost per mile ?4,796.
This return includes all railways built between 1881 and 1896 in the southern division, a few in the central division, but none in the northern division, as the central division was only taken over by the then Chief Engineer in 1887, and the northern division in 1892.
A return has been prepared by me of all railways built by day labour since its inception in- 1900 up to 1911.
The total expenditure was ?3,413,249, the mileage 1,144.59, and the average cost per mile ?2,982.”
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear.
The Secretary for Railways. - The fact that the mileage in both returns is practically the same is merely a coincidence. “ This return includes all railways built throughout the State during these years. The total difference in expenditure is ?2,078,471 in favour of day labour.”
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear.
Mr. Kirwan. ; I hope the Liberals in the Federal Parliament will read this.
The Secretary for Railways. - “ The average cost per mile is ?1,814 per mile in favour of day labour.”
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear.
The Secretary for Railways. - In case honorable members should think that the statements are not prepared on “all-fours,” - I have no time to read all the headings - they will find, as a matter of fact, that in the day-labour statement is included land and resumption surveys, and for some reason that is not included in the contract return.
Mr. Huxham. ; What would that amount to?
The Secretary for Railways. - It would amount to a good sum.
– It is a pity you did not give the wages paid in each case.
The Secretary for Railways. - I cannot possibly read through all this return. “ The difference between the contract andday-labour cost is increased when it is considered that -
For the purpose of further comparison, I have taken the railways built in the southern division only by contract, and compared them with those built by day labour in the same division. I find that-
The total expenditure by contract was £5,185,144, the mileage 1,062.02, and the average cost per mile £4,882.
The total expenditure by day labour was £1,673,653,the mileage 567.89, and the average cost per mile £2,947.
As a further comparison, I have taken those railways built by contract and day labour in the same country, and find that -
The total expenditure by contract was £1,025,452, the mileage 241.09, and the average cost per mile £4,253.
The total expenditure by day labour was £599,630,the mileage 205.74, and the average cost per mile £2,914.
Summarizing these figures, I find that -
Taking the saving at £1,000 only per mile, and ignoring the facts mentioned in clause 9, the total saving effected through having built the lines By day labour instead of at the contract rates existing in 1881-1896, would be £1,144,590.
These comparisons between day labour and contract could be enlarged, and greater accuracy obtained, if the Chief Accountant were instructed to prepare a table (the books in my office do not contain the information, for reason mentioned in clause 3) showing the cost of lines built by contract throughout the State for, say, twenty years prior to the commencement of the day-labour system, and comparing the cost per mile with my return of the day-labour cost per mile during 1900-1911, the accuracy of which return I would invite him to check. This comparison would largely settle the question, as the great expenditure and mileage dealt with in both cases would make the average result fairly equitable.
Land and surveys have not been included in the statement of contract cost. I have excluded them from the day-labour statement for the purpose of making comparison. I have also converted the miles and chains in the day-labour statement to miles and decimals, to agree with the contract statement.”
A very large table follows, which I hope honorable members will peruse before they attempt to plunge into this matter without evidence, relying upon prejudice, honestly believing that if we had the contract system it would be the means of saving the people’s money. That is right against the evidence and the experience of men who have been compelled to adopt the better day-labour system.
– Will you tell us whether you are building your own cottages by contract or by day labour?
– I have only had to deal with one matter of construction. I gave the work into the hands of a unionist, and I was perfectly satisfied both with the workmanship and with the money I had to pay for it.
– Was it done by contract?
– No; by day labour. I am perfectly satisfied.
– Would you like it?
– I should not like to live in it.
– That is an offensive remark, and it is not correct.
– What is?
– That the honorable member would not like to live in it.
– Yes. An honorable member asked me if I would like to live in it, andI said I would not.
– This shows that the honorable member for Parkes is not only angry, but has lost his head in this matter.
– Certainly not. My head is as cool as yours.
– It is worse than an impertinence; it is impudent of the honorable member to make any reference of the kind, because it is not correct.
– There are people quite as good as the honorable member for Parkes, and delighted to have the opporunity of living in it. I myself had the honour of living in it, and with very much satisfaction.
– I am talking of what you built lately.
– Although it is incidental to this matter-
– I asked the right honorable gentleman whether he has not entered into contracts lately?
– Order !
– Better men than ever you were have lived in the bush.
– Order! The honorable member for Maranoa is not in possession of the floor.
– I asked the honorable member for Wide Bay whether he has not lately contracted for the erection of several cottages ?
– How do honorable members know whether I have or not? I will oblige the honorable member for Parkes, but I want to revert to the question of whether I would be prepared to live in the house.
– I want you to tell me whether you have not lately entered into contracts?
– It is singular that I cannot live anywhere without the placeI live in, and my family too, being referred to by the Treasurer, the honorable member for Parkes, and other honorable members.
– No one objects to where you live; you are quite entitled to live where you please - in a castle, if you like.
– It may set at rest the minds of the honorable member and other persons who concern themselves with the affairs of other families, if I say that I have no cottages, have not had any cottages, have not contracted for any cottages, and have no land on which to build any cottages. I have not an interest in a cottage directly, and am not connected with the construction of any. In Western Australia, the Treasurer referred to the place I live in in a most offensive way. Other honorable members have made similar references.
– All this is out of order.
– I do not desire, sir, to go any further into that matter.
– But this is in reply.
– Yes. It only shows the character of the men who occupy the Government side of the Chamber. I would not have referred to this matter but for the challenge of the honorable member for Parkes, who stands on his dignity as a paragon of virtue, and the correct thing in parliamentary life. Without any evidence, and without making the slightest inquiry, he comes here to-day, and makes a public statement, believing it to be true, I presume-
– I do.
– Will the honorable member be good enough to give me the name of his informant, or to tell him that there is not a word of truth in the allegation ?
– You are at liberty to build houses by contract.
– That was not the original statement. The honorable member tried to insinuate that at the present time I am putting up buildings by contract, or that I was doing so recently.
– That is so.
– It is not true. As to the construction of this building, my recollection is that both the contract price and the day-labour price were considered by the architect.
– No tenders were called for, so how could the contract price be considered ?
– The Minister is talking childishly. The Government Architect and the Director- General of Works are officers whom the Commonwealth should be glad to have at the salaries which they are paid. It is open to the Government to get all information on this subject from their officers. Ministers have already shown their capacity for investigations made with the end of gaining a little kudos for themselves, or of discovering matters detrimental to their predecessors, which might be of interest to the public and to the press. They are always looking to the gallery to see how the reporters there are regarding them. If there was anything of that nature to be found in relation to this matter it would have been revealed by the Minister. I ask for the fullest publicity for the acts of their predecessors. Our Administration could not be free from errors. No Government, having to create staffs to control the expenditure of an enormous sum of money on constructional works, and to repair seven years of Federal neglect, could fail to make mistakes. Such mistakes as were made, however, are such as must be incidental to all business undertakings, even the best conducted. If Ministers have anything to reveal, I hope that they will reveal it during the discussion nf the Estimates.
– The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition had as much to do with the case as the “ flowers that bloom in the Spring.” The question has been raised, rather to my regret, since the matter which it concernshas now been closed, whether day labour should have been employed in the construction of these buildings; but the right honorable gentleman, with that air of sublime belief in himself which he always as sumes, produced evidence totally valueless for its discussion. He seemed astounded when I said that the employment of day labour for the construction of railways had nothing to do with its employment for the construction of buildings. He asked whether it is not easier to make a railway than to put up a building. Of course, it is. That is why considerations favouring the employment of day labour for the construction of railways do not apply to the erection of buildings. ‘
– Because there is no element of risk in the construction of buildings, against which contractors have to protect themselves. If you wish to make a true comparison of the cost of the day-labour and contract systems, you must eliminate the element of risk in order to get absolute bedrock contract ‘ prices. In tendering for railway construction, contractors must always cover themselves against the risk of discovering rock of a different nature from that expected, and against similar risks, and, therefore, in such contracts, you do not get bed-rock prices on which to make a comparison. In building construction, there are no such risks. That a comparison between the cost of contract work and day-labour work can be properly made in connexion with buildings, is proved by the fact that the members of the last Government dared not put the matter to the test in connexion with the erection of the Treasury building. When they had a chance to prove that they were right in the contention that the day-labour system was the cheaper, they refrained from doing so. If they knew that they were right, why did they not prove it by calling for tenders for the erection of this building ? Had they been right, the tender prices would have been higher than the day-labour price, but they refrained from calling for tenders. As to the employment of day labour in connexion with railway construction, I ask honorable members to defer its discussion until some item affecting railway construction comes forward in the course of the consideration of the Estimates. I rose merely to reply to what was said by the Leader of the Opposition. The fact that when in office he and his Ministers funked a comparison of the day-labour and contract systems in ‘connexion with the erection of this building is a sufficient answer to the right honorable member, and if he wants a further answer I ask him to apply to the present Minister for Public Works in New South Wales, who, after a Government day-labour orgy extending over a period of three years, is satisfied to hand over railway construction in the State to a private contractor.
– The discussion of railway construction is out of order. I allowed the Leader of the Opposition to refer to it incidentally, to illustrate his contention, but the debate has gone as far as permissible, indeed, I think, rather too far, and I request other honorable members to confine themselves to the items before the Chair.
– Do you rule, sir, that no reference may be made, by ‘ way of analogy or comparison, to the day-labour and contract systems; that we must confine our remarks wholly to the construction of this building?
– Such remarks must be only by way nf illustration.
– That covers everything.
– I allowed the Leader of the Opposition to refer to railway construction by way of illustration, but, had I known that he would enter into the subject so exhaustively, I should not have allowed him to refer to it. An incidental reference to railway construction is admissible, but I cannot allow a debate on railway construction generally, or the discussion of the question whether railways should be built by day labour or by contract.
– Are we to understand that, in discussing the item, which involves, among others, the question whether a building is to be constructed by day labour or contract, we shall not be permitted to point to the successes or to the failures that have attended either method of construction in other works? If we were not permitted to discuss the work provided for by the item in its relation to other public works, the discussion must be barren, and if you rule, sir, that we are not to discuss the relative virtues of -the day-labour and contract systems, your ruling is one from which I entirely dissent. If you say that we may not introduce an analogy in respect to the construction of steam -ships, telephone tunnels, or railways, I do not agree with you; and if you insist on your ruling, I shall move to dissent from it.
– The general debate on the Department has closed, and honorable members are now confined to the discussion of the individual items. I am willing to facilitate debate by allowing reference to other matters by way of illustration or analogy, but at the moment when I intervened it seemed that the debate was going to be a debate on railway construction. The Leader of the Opposition spoke at considerable length on railway construction in Queensland, and the Honorary Minister replied to him. I am willing that honorable members should refer incidentally to any matters relative to the issue of day labour versus contract in connexion with this item, but there must be no lengthy discussion of the subject.
.- The item before the Chair provides for a building for the Treasury and other Departments, and I wish to offer a reason why there should be no further expenditure for the Department of the Treasury until I get some satisfaction from the Treasurer in regard to a matter that I have brought under his notice. The other day I asked the right honorable gentleman whether he will cause to be printed a list of the permanent officers in the service of the Commonwealth Bank.
– Can the honorable member connect that matter with the item under discussion ?
– I do not wish to come into contact with the Chair, and I thought that this might be a convenient opportunity for stressing the point that we should not allow the Treasurer any more buildings for his Department until he had given the information that I desire. But as I shall have another opportunity to refer to this matter, and as you, Mr. Chairman, appear likely to rule me out of order, I shall defer my remarks until another occasion.
– There is no need for any exhibition of temper in dealing with this question. It relates to the spending, not of our own money, but the money of the taxpayers, and should, therefore, be discussed in a business-like manner. The Leader of the Opposition complained thathonorable members on this side had been discounting the value of the work, and railing against the character of the new offices generally. I have not heard anything of the kind.
– The honorable member could have heard such railings in the chamber this afternoon.
– I have heard nothing of the kind. The offices in question are a credit to the Commonwealth, and I have not heard anything said to the contrary.
– Did not the Prime Minister say that the staircase had collapsed?
– No; but for a good many days alterations have been going on, and work has been done over again. I should like the Minister to explain how this oversight occurred, and what it has cost the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition thinks that the day-labour as opposed to the contract system results in a distinct saving. He mentioned as the Honorary Minister had done, that for a building of such dimensions and cost as this, the excess over the estimate was not very unreasonable. I grant that much because I believe that when the works were started the officers did not exactly know what the requirements would be, and that certain alterations had necessarily to be made.
– An excess of £2,000 over the estimated cost is a mere nothing, in respect of such a big building.
– Provided the estimate is a reliable one - and everything hinges on that point - it is not. When this question was discussed a year or two ago, we had submitted to us by responsible officers a comparison of the cost per yard of certain work, with the price per yard submitted by the State Government, who put in a tender to construct the building.
– Compare the two buildings - they are side by side.
– I am dealing, not with the finished work, but with the price per yard for certain classes of work in connexion with it. The comparison was distinctly in favour of the tender submitted by the State Government.
– When and where was the comparison submitted ?
– In this House, and it appears in Hansard. I am not opposed to day labour, provided that it can be shown that, in the interests of the taxpayers, it is better than the contract system. But the Opposition, who have such unbounded confidence in the day-labour principle, should not stubbornly refuse, as they do, to put it to the test of public tender. That is the only true test, and it is one which the taxpayers will demand. We have a right to say to honorable members opposite, “ If you believe in the day-labour principle as being in the interests of the taxpayers, why do you not put it to this test ?”
– If contractors knew that an advertised job was almost certain to be constructed by day labour, they would cut their prices to the bone.
– The honorable member has exposed the real position that has obtained for the last few years. Honorable members opposite have always believed in the day-labour system, and the late Government would have been inconsistent had they submitted their proposed works to public tender, knowing that their avowed policy was to carry out public works, wherever possible, by day labour.
– We stand by that.
– My policy is the very opposite. We have a right to demand that public expenditure of this kind shall be put to the test of public tender.
– It was put to the test years ago.
– Quite so; but, since then, the conditions have totally changed. As to the estimates of expenditure made by public officers, we have no guarantee that those estimates are reliable. What I suggest is that we should adopt the principle that has been followed many times in the States - the principle of submitting everything possible to public tender, and allowing the officers of the Public Works Department to put in a tender on the distinct understanding that if it is below that of any outside contractor, the Department shall be allowed to do the work, but that the responsible Minister shall not allow it to depart from the specifications. The Minister controlling the Department should see, in such a case, that it carries out the specifications in every detail, and fulfils every condition which would have to be observed by a public tenderer. If, in such circumstances, the Department of Home Affairs could win a contract to carry out a work by day labour, I, for one, should have no objection whatever to the work being done by the State, but, until such a test is applied, I shall stand by the policy I have stated, and which I believe has the support of every honorable member on this side. Another point, which must be considered is the position of the workmen. Invariably a contractor pays his workmen better than does the State.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the matter.
– I do. I know that a good many men who are constantly preaching the doctrine of day labour as applied to public works, in nineteen cases out of twenty, when they have work of their own to be carried out, invite public tenders, and look round to see where they can get it carried out most cheaply.
– Can the honorable member give an instance ?
– Any number of instances, and so can the honorable member. I am glad to be able to point to the consistency of the Leader of the Opposition, who, believing in the principle of day labour, is prepared to have his own work done under that system. But when we deal with the Estimates relating to railways I shall have something to say, and a good many examples to submit, in support of the statement I have just made.
.- This question was raised by the honorable member for Wimmera, who, having disturbed a hornet’s nest on his own side, has left the chamber. Then, again, the Honorary Minister, who made certain statements in his usual loud terms, is not present, while the honorable member for Parkes, who indulged in statements that reflected no credit upon him, and sought by innuendo to cast political odium on the Opposition, and particularly upon our leader, has also hurriedly left the chamber for more congenial places.
– The Leader of the Opposition himself is absent.
– He replied to the charge before leaving; but when honorable members make an attack, they ought to remain to hear the reply, instead of hurrying away, as has been done in the three specific instances I have mentioned.
– The honorable member for Wimmera had to leave.
– He had a perfect right to leave if he wished, but some degree of decency should be observed in matters of this kind. Having raised a question which was brought prominently before the electors in the most irresponsible way at the last general election, the honorable member should have remained to hear the debate carried to its conclusion. The building which has been the subject of this discussion was erected by day labour, the policy of the Government which started the work, and practically completed it, being that of preference to day labour as opposed to the contract system. We won the elections on that policy, and, during our term of office, observed it to the letter. There were no half-measures with us. We believe that the day-labour system is preferable from the point of view of the taxpayers, in that it gives better work, superior material, more lasting and more faithful service, and is better from the point of view of the workmen, who are expected, and, indeed, are required, to give a reasonable return for the money they receive. Under the day-labour system nothing is scamped. There is no jerry building, no shovelling in of muck where cement ought to be used, and none of the hundred-and-one things indulged in under the contract system, to the monetary advancement of the friends of honorable members opposite. If illustrations of the way in which contractors have scamped their work, rendered unfaithful service, and sweated their employes, are desired by my honorable friends opposite, they can have them side by side with their statements as to the cost of the day-labour system. The day-labour system will be found in the long run to be the superior one. As to the suggestion that it should be put to the test of public tender, I would point out that everything would depend upon the policy of the Government in power for the time being. If, for instance, tenders were called at the present time, the prices submitted would be high, because contractors would know that an immense preference would be given to them by the present Government.
– The honorable member does not suggest that the departmental officers would do anything of that kind ?
– The officers have nothing to do with that feature. They would simply observe the policy of the Government, which has declared its preference for the contract system. There is nothing wrong with that. Contractors are not fools, nor are they tame individuals. They will not feed outof your hand, but will take from you all they possibly can. Knowing the policy of the Government, they will tender, and their tenders will be accepted, to the detriment of the general taxpayer. On the other hand, if there should happen to be a Government in power who believe in the day-labour system, and contractors have a reasonable belief that the work may be given to a Department, they will tender at exceedingly low prices, and will lose only a trifling deposit if they do not subsequently accept the contract. No true test can be made in the way suggested by the honorable member for Wakefield. We have to rely upon the honour of our officers, and I regret very much that honorable members opposite should insinuate that they are not honorable men, but will lean one way or another. So far as my experience goes, I say that they are absolutely impartial in the conduct of their work. The DirectorGeneral of Works, it must nob be forgotten, has his reputation as a professional man at stake, and has no reason for leaning either to a Labour or a Liberal Government.
– He has to administer the policy of the Government.
– The honorable member is referring now to an entirely different matter. There is no need for the Director-General of Works or any other officer of the Government to lean towards the policy of the Government in carrying out their duties. The Director-General of Works is asked to prepare estimates of a work, and he does so in accordance with his professional knowledge, and in an upright and honorable way. The building in question is a credit to the officers, and provides the maximum of utility to the Departments at the minimum of cost.
– Is it true that they are taking the stairs out?
– It may be. The honorable member, by his interjection, suggests that there is something wrong with the building.
– I wished only to know the facts.
– I know the innocence of the question. There may be some flaw in connexion with the building, but does the honorable member for Franklin suggest that where a work is carried out by contract alterations have never to be made? I have a vivid recollection that engines supplied to the South Australian Government, under contract, were more often on the stocks than those made in the Government workshops. Whilst, in the first instance, the engines supplied by private contractors might have been a pound or two cheaper than those made by the Government, in the long run they cost considerably more than the Government engines, though the latter hauled greater loads and covered greater distances. In South Australia, also, in accordance with a policy with which the honorable member for Wakefield may have had something to do, private contractors were given an advantage of 10 per cent. over and above the Government estimate. It may be that the stairs are being taken out of the new Treasury building, but that does not indicate that the day-labour system is wrong, though I am satisfied that it will be one of the insinuations conveyed from the public platform before long. Coming to the point raised by the honorable member for Parkes, I wish he had remained in the chamber. However, the honorable member has seen fit to fight and run away, perhaps with the hope of fighting another day. He generally makes charges in this House, and then runs away, and continues to repeat them outsidewithout a scintilla of justification, and he invariably misrepresents the true position. This afternoon the Minister stated that the estimated cost of the construction of this building was £61,000, and the actual cost £63,000, but the honorable member for Parkes, in speaking on the matter five minutes later raised the cost to £70,000, adding £7,000 to the actual cost in order to meet his view of the case. When corrected, the honorable member came down to £65,000, still adding £2,000 to the actual cost, according to the official figures supplied by the Minister. I do not propose to refer to the honorable member’s statement concerning the honorable member for Wide Bay and the erection of cottages. There was no justification for it, but it was on a par with what we commonly hear from honorable members opposite or their paid canvassers outside. They are continually raising bogies, knowing well that a certain percentage of the electors will always be misled by their misstatements, which are discreditable in the extreme, and for which, there is no justification.
The honorable member for Parkes very much prefers the contract system to the day-labour system in the construction of public works. I can very well understand why, if my reading is correct of the Hansard published by the State Parliament of which he was a member some years ago. There is on record the famous, or infamous, McSharry case. That was a case between McSharry and the New South Wales Government in connexion with the construction of a railway. When the work was completed, there was a difference of opinion between the contractor and the Government amounting to some hundreds of thousands of pounds. That is not infrequently the case. I believe that there are railway contractors in New South Wales to-day who are looking to the State Government for some £200,000 for “extras” in connexion with certain contracts. The honorable member for Wakefield wants a test of tender prices without taking “ extras “ into consideration. Possibly the love of the honorable member for Parkes for the contract system is accounted for in this way: When the New South Wales Government and their contractor McSharry differed as to the cost of a certain work, the honorable member came in as a sort of attorney, solicitor, arbitrator, or arbitrator’s assistant. No one seemed to know what he was at the time. We do know, however, that the honorable member received a refresher of £16 5s. per day of five hours - not of eight hours; I hope the honorable member for Wakefield will take a note of that. I do not know what the honorable member got for a start in connexion with the matter referred to. It may have been £50 or £60, but he received refreshers for a couple of years or so at the rate of £16 5s. per day of five hours, and whether he worked or not.
– What does the honorable member for Wakefield think of that?
– It was real good pay.
– It was; and that, no doubt, is one of the reasons why the honorable member for Parkes is anxious for a return to the contract system. There are little trifling pickings of this description which go to the friends of the contractors and the supporters of the system. The case I refer to became a public scandal in New South Wales.
– Is the honorable member aware that the present Minister for Public Works in New South Wales has condemned the day-labour system, and proposed to go back to the contract system?
– The statement made by the honorable member is quite incorrect. He allows his prejudice to blind his view, and to obscure even the reports which appear in his own party newspapers.
– The honorable member cannot laugh it out; it is a fact.
– The honorable member seeks, by his interjection, to suggest that I am laughing out his statement. I am not attempting to do anything of the kind. I am making a plain statement in rebuttal of his assertion.
– Did not the Minister of Public Works in New South Wales want to hand over railway construction to the Norton-Griffiths syndicate ?
- Mr. Griffith, the New South Wales Minister of Railways, has not gone back to the contract system.
– He tried to do so.
– Order ! These constant interjections interfere very much with the honorable member who is addressing the Committee.
– I do not mind them in the least. I say that the present Minister of Public Works in New South Wales, has not given up the day-labour system, does not prefer the contract system, and there is nothing on record to justify the assertion made by the honorable member for Franklin.
– That is absurd.
– Mr. Griffiths has said that he saved £1,000 per mile in constructing railways on the day-labour system, as compared with the cost under the contract system.
– I propose to put on record for the special benefit of the honorable member for Parkes, who raised the question of the contract system, and loves it so much, the following quotation from the New South Wales Hansard, for 28th June, 1898, volume XCII, page 253-
asked the Secretary for Public Works: - (1) Who was the leading counsel for the Crown in the McSharrv Arbitration case? (2) Was his remuneration at per day or per sitting, and what was the amount per day or sitting? (3) Did he claim a fee for the preparation of the case? (4) Is such a fee usually claimed by, and paid to, barristers? (5) Did he threaten to withdraw from the case unless such payment was made? (6) If he had withdrawn from the case at that time, would it have involved the Government in any increased expenditure ; if so, why, and to what probable amount? (7) How much did he claim as fee for preparing the case, and was it paid? (8) What amount has been paid him altogether for his services in this case? (9) How long a time did his address to the Arbitrator take after all the evidence had been given?
These are the official replies to those questions, and perhaps honorable members will be interested to hear them -
Honorable members will see by that that the honorable gentleman drew his fees even when the case was not under consideration. The quotation continues -
– Order ! I cannot allow such a lengthy reference to the general question.
– I read that quotation from the New South Wales Hansard as indicating a reason for the extraordinary love of the honorable member for Parkes for the contract system.Up to that moment the arbitration alone on the question as to whether the Government or the contractor was right, cost the Government, of New South Wales £28,000, £8,200 of which went into the pocket of this lover of the contract system.
– It cost New South Wales nearly £250,000 to settle that case.
– If the Government have anything to complain of in regard to the erection of the Treasury building, why does not the Minister obtain from his responsible officers all the information that is available, and place it onthe table of the House? During the last election campaign Senator McColl, who, before the contest, was a dry farmer, walked past two buildings, one of which was being erected by the Victorian Government under the contract system, whilst the other was being erected by the Commonwealth under the day-labour system. On the strength of what he saw while walking past these two buildings, Senator McColl went into the country and made all sorts of statements detrimental to the Commonwealth structure. Other gentlemen on the same side of politics followed in his footsteps. Paid canvassers did likewise. In fact, the Treasury building was made quite a feature of the political fight in some electorates. It is the duty of the Minister controlling the Department either to lay the ghosts which have been raised, or to prove his case. . Until all the information which he possesses is available - and I venture to say that that information would be produced in a very brief period if it told against the daylabour system - honorable members opposite ought to refrain from attempting to make political capital out of it. Personally, I think that the building will be a valuable one to the Commonwealth. It will be required, even when this Parliament has quitted Melbourne and is established in the Federal Capital. Incidentally, I may remark that, unless the Government obtain some Labour support in this Chamber, their proposed expenditure upon the Federal Capital will be reduced.
– Honorable members opposite are not anxious for another election.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. We are anxious for it.
– Why drag in any reference to an election?
– Honorable members opposite are continually suggesting that we do not desire an election, when, as a matter of fact, it is within the power of any one of them to bring about a dissolution of this House within forty-eight hours.
.- I am highly pleased with the finish and workmanship of the new Treasury building. I am glad to know that in its erection the Departmental estimate of £61,000 has been exceeded by only £2,000. That is a mere bagatelle compared with what the Commonwealth would have been called upon to pay under the contract system, had any alterations of design been necessary. Had the building been erected by contract, any such alterations would have been regarded as extras. I would further point out that, in cases where extras are charged, litigation usually follows. A contractor is always pleased to have an alteration made in his plans, because his contract is thereby broken, and he is in a position to charge what he chooses for extras. I feel sure that the Commonwealth will make a mistake if it substitutes the contract for the daylabour system. Let me give one illustration. At the present time we are building a parcels post-office near the railway station, Sydney. The contract for its erection was let for £47,000. After four storeys had been erected, it was decided to put up an additional two storeys. The contractor, of course, had his gear on the job, and he therefore received £18,000 for the erection of the two additional storeys. Then it was resolved to put in a sub-way, for which the Government had to pay £2,500. That building has cost more than £65,000, and the veriest layman who sees it will say that, from the stand-point of style and finish no comparison can be instituted between it and the new Treasury building in Melbourne. In the latter, there is more accommodation for the public, and the Government have obtained ample value for their money. I regret that towards the end of last session, many sneers were indulged in about ‘ ‘ the man on the job.” The Departmental estimate of the cost of the Treasury building was £61,000, and despite the increased prices of material, it has been carried out for £63,000. The Government are to be congratulated upon this result. I also desire to point out that it is more difficult to construct a large building than it is to construct so many miles of railway. Yet more money has been made out of railway contracts than out of building contracts. A man may lose a fortune by accepting a building contract, because the slightest alteration in the cost of labour or materials may utterly dislocate his estimate. He has necessarily to incur a good deal of risk. There are only a certain number of contractors who can tender for the erection of a large building. There may be perhaps a dozen in Sydney, and a similar number in Melbourne. Let us suppose that tenders are called for a Government work involving the expenditure of £60,000 or £70,000. These men understand each other and work together. If ii contractor has his hands full for two or three years ahead, he will not want the contract, and consequently will put in a very high tender. Thus, these men practically arrange amongst themselves who shall get particular contracts. The Government should, therefore, adhere to the day-labour system. If they do so, I am satisfied that the taxpayers will get the best possible results. At any rate, I shall oppose the adoption of any wholesale system of contract.
– The blue-books of every State teem with proof of the superiority of the day-labour system over that of contract. To repeat the old arguments in favour of it is really like slaying the slain. In fact, there is* only one reason that I can understand for this recent agitation, and that is the increase of wages among the working classes of the community. The others do not talk of the huge profits made on their side. I recently pointed out that the wealth of this country had increased last year by £150,000,000. The late Government did not do all their work by day labour, and rightly so. There are circumstances when the contract system should be resorted to. The day-labour system will always be of advantage under any Government strong enough to see that fair work is being done, but if we get a Government so miserably weak as to be unable, through its officers, to see that fair and reasonable work is done, then contract work would be of advantage for the time being. I wish to refer to something that occurred in Victoria a few years ago in connexion with the celebrated building of railway locomotives at the Newport railway workshops. There was a statement by the Railways Commissioners that they objected to the capital cost of the railways being increased by the huge cost of locomotives, and after much correspondence, Sir Thomas Bent, who was then in power, gave a contract for the building of locomotives to the Newport workshops, as a result’ of which the Victorian Government were able to build their locomotives for £21 ls. a ton less than they cost at Ballarat. This is no new matter which the Labour party have invented ; we find this on the official records of the Victorian Parliament, on page 10 of the report of the Royal Commission on the cost of making railway locomotives at the Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat, and at the Newport railway workshops. The costs of one engine built at the Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat, are compared with the costs of one built at the Newport workshops. In the case of the Phoenix Foundry, an average of five is taken, the costs being as follow : - Works in contract, £3,200; cost of materials supplied by Department, £985: freight, £35; inspection, £54; drawings, patterns, office expenses, &c, £50; total cost per engine, £4,324; total cost pelton, £67 2s. In the case of the Newport workshops, an average is taken of the first ten as follows: - Works in contract, £2,174’; cost of materials supplied by the Department, £1,008; freight and inspection, nil; drawings, patterns, office expenses, &c, £50; total cost per engine, £3,232; total cost per ton, £50 3s. The average costs of the second ten built at the Newport workshops are given as follow: - Works in contract, £1,921; cost of materials supplied by Department, £980; drawings, patterns, office expenses, Sca., £50; total cost per engine, £2,951: total cost per ton, £46 ls. The difference between the locomotive built at Newport and that built at Ballarat was therefore £21 ls. per ton.
– The Phoenix Foundry engine cost nearly 50 per cent. more.
– How can any one, unless he is perfectly blinded by prejudice or hatred, escape evidence of this character ? And it is merely a sample of the evidence that can be found in all the blue-books of Australian States. Notwithstanding this, we have the plea for contract labour cropping up repeatedly, and the only conclusion I can come to is that contractors have had such a remarkably good innings during the good times, and they are so jealous of the increased wages secured by the workmen, that they have simply run riot in the matter. I would like an inquiry made into this question, so that the Commonwealth can secure a report similar to that I have just quoted. It is of no use for honorable members to skite all over Australia without proof of their statements. Here is a record of what has taken place in Victoria, where the capital cost of the railways was loaded up in an unjust way at the expense of the Victorian taxpayers. We should see, as soon as possible, that, in the face of evidence, the capital cost of Commonwealth works is not loaded up by an attempt on the part of the present Administration, in their determination to keep faith with the crowd behind them, to introduce a system which has been a curse to and a tax upon the people.
.- I could not sit and listen to some of the remarks made in advocacy of the day-labour system without giving one or two illustrations on the other side. In the suburb of Ashfield, Sydney, the Post and Telegraph Department were altering, by daylabour, the poles on a telephone line at the same time that the electric light company were altering, by contract, the lighting system from gas to electricity; and the company were putting up five poles to every .pole put up by the Postal Department. That was the evidence of my own eyes, and it is quite convincing that the contract system is a great deal better than the day-labour system.
– How many wires did the telephone posts carry?
– I am not talking about wires; I am talking about the poles that were being put up. There were five men. in each gang, and the five men working for the contractor put up five poles for the electric light company in one day. The poles were 5 feet in the ground.
– What sort of sinking was it?
– The sinking was precisely the same in both cases. The two gangs were working within a chain of one another.
– Will you give the specifications for both jobs?
– No. I am merely giving the evidence of a hardworking man and what I saw with my own eyes. I had a look at the holes, and discovered they were in the same class of country, and both gangs were using the same class of tools. I wish to read an extract from the Albury Banner, one of the most reputable papers outside the cities of Australia. It reads as follows -
The Day-Labour Stroke. - Nearly everybody in Albury has had something to say regarding the day-labour principle as applied to the work of undergrounding the telephone wires at Albury, and nobody, apart from political advocates of the policy, has had a word to say in its favour. The work has proceeded in the most leisurely manner possible, although a very big staff of men has been engaged. Much space might be occupied by the publication of local comments that have been made by observant people regarding this much-vaunted principle in the carrying out of public works, as favoured by the Labour party. This is the second local experiment in the day-labour stroke on public works, and it is not unlikely that the second experience will be as costly as the first to the taxpayers. Another large job in the town is being carried out by contract, and the celerity with which the work is proceeding has evoked much comment favorable to that system as against the easy stride of day labour.
– That is the evidence of a prejudiced individual.
– It is a comment from the Albury Banner. They are commenting on facts as they saw them in one of the most important towns in my electorate, and I have received letters from men in that town, practical men, who know what they are talking about, which led me to submit a question to the PostmasterGeneral the other day asking whether the Post Office was wedded to the day-labour system. These are the comments going through the length and breadth of the Hume electorate.
– From irresponsible people.
– We cannot call the men who find the money irresponsible people. He who pays the piper should call the tune. I have simply pointed out one or two facts on the other side of this question to honorable members who, one after the other, stand up here and laud the day-labour system, when I know that there1 are many opponents of that, system, at any rate in my electorate.
.- I am glad to have an opportunity to express my views on this matter, and to reply to some of the statements made in regard to day labour. We ought to try, if possible, to act in a business-like manner. I propose to state the result of my experience and study of the question for a number of years, and to adduce proofs that the system pursued by the late Government is the best one for Australia. It is my duty, I think, to endeavour to educate the present Government to the proper way of carrying out public works. There is no doubt that, during the election campaign, many very silly and outrageous statements were made. The question of contract versus day labour is no new one. It has been under consideration during the forty years in which I have been acquainted with the public life of New South Wales. Whenever an opportunity has been afforded to really test one system against the other, so far as the taxpayers are concerned, day labour has always come out on top. That system is pursued, not only in New South Wales, but in Germany and France. In Great Britain, the larger councils, like those at London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow, carry out all their works, especially their public utilities, by means of day labour. It must be apparent to an unprejudiced observer that, in employing day labour, there is only one object in view, and that is to carry out the work well and efficiently. A man who takes & contract to carry out a public work is not actuated by love, for he has no love for his client. He simply seizes the opportunity to enrich himself as much as he possibly can; and why should he not do sot I do not fall out with a man who adopts that course. I can speak from an experience of many contracts as a contractor. But in the capacity of foreman and manager - that is before I engaged in business - I always carried out a contract with the view of serving my employer. If an opportunity arose, or if a flaw in the estimates was found, I availed myself of the opening to enrich the man I was serving, and I would have been a traitor to him if I had not served him in that way. That practice runs through the ramification of contracts. No matter whether it is a contract for the construction of a railway or for the erection of a building, a contractor will try to do as little work as possible. We ought to look at the broad aspect of the question. Honestly carried out and properly supervised, there is no question that the daylabour system is the best one for Australia. With the employment of day labour, the Government have the opportunity of obtaining the best mechanics. The best mechanic will not slum his work. It is the experience of not only myself, but of all men who have engaged labour, that the more skilled and capable a man is the more determined he is not to do jerry work. Every contractor will indorse my statement that it is impossible to get bad work from a good mechanic. The superiority of the day-labour system is pretty well emphasized by an examination of the structure which has been referred to in this discussion. On two occasions I went through the building, and, if my judgment will have any weight with honorable members, I can assure them that the work was carried out in a manner creditable to the mechanics employed. We are now told that some alterations are required. The experience of every contractor is that, in the case of a structure of that kind, there is always the possibility of alterations being required to the extent of some thousands of pounds. An architect, whether public or private, endeavours, as far as possible, to ascertain what is in the mind of his client, and sets that out on paper; and when the contract is approaching completion the client’ may see that he would like some alterations made to meet the requirements of the structure, and he necessarily has them made. That is -no unusual thing. That does not furnish a reason for condemning the use of day labour in erecting the Treasury building. Some reference has been made to its cost. It is well known that an architect bases the cost of a work at so much per cubic foot; that is, so far as his ability allows him to make an estimate. As a rule, he does not take out the quantities. He gets out a perspective view of the proposed structure, and takes nut a few of the details, and on that information he estimates the cost of the work at so much per cubic foot. No architect gets out an estimate of the actual cost until he passes the plan on to the contractor. Very few architects are able to state what the labour cost is likely to be. It is only by practice that a man can arrive at an estimate. It takes a great deal of time before he can get at the actual cost. The cost of the material, of course, is easily obtained. A quantity surveyor can get out the quantities, but he cannot estimate the actual cost of labour. So that the probable cost of a building is not arrived at until a contract is put into the hands of a contractor. An honorable member on the other side has said, “ Before we adopt the day-labour principle for a public work, we should get a price from a contractor.”-
What an extraordinary system for the Government of the Commonwealth to adopt - to ask a man who has been out all day supervising a contract to burn the midnight oil, to go through the ordeal of ascertaining the probable cost, and send in a price, in order to be told afterwards that calling for prices was only an experiment on the part of the Government to see what the cost of day labour was likely to be ! I do not know where the honorable member picked up such an idea. That is simply a system of persecuting persons, or putting them to unjustifiable expense and trouble, only to be told afterwards by the Government, “ We got the information for the purpose of comparing the cost with the cost of the structure if erected by day labour.” In New South Wales, we have had a great fight for day labour. On every occasion a test has been made, it has been found to be the better system. Some years ago, under-ground tunnels for the telephone lines were laid down by day labour. An inquiry into the work was held, but there was no report made. The honorable member for Parramatta was on the Select Committee. He was so interested in the experiments that he took a very active part in the inquiry. At that time, he was one of the champions of day labour. The Select Committee also included our late departed friend, Sir William Lyne. The honorable member for Parramatta actually convinced Sir William Lyne and other members of the State Government that the day-labour system was the best one to adopt for carrying out public works. In every railway contract provision is made to meet things unforeseen, such as a fall of earth. Sometimes the prices are fixed by schedule and sometimes by mutual agreement. The Minister has stated that there is more possibility of loss in the case of a building contract than in the case of a railway contract. My experience is that if a contractor makes out his tender properly, he can hardly lose on a railway contract. I am speaking of a man who has had considerable experience, and has taken the precaution to seek the advice of other persons. Very many things are possible in the case of a building contract that are not possible in the case of a railway contract. When the Minister said there was no possibility of loss on a building contract, he was talking of a matter of which he had no knowledge. In regard to rail ways, I wish to make an incidental reference to what has taken place in New South Wales. When Mr. Griffith took charge of the Public Works Department, he entered upon a defence of the Department in justice to his officers. Honorable members on the other side seem to entertain no respect for the gentlemen who are employed in public offices. If they did, they would certainly be lenient in criticism, because, unfortunately, those persons have no possibility of defending themselves. I know many of the officers in the Public Works Department of New South Wales. I believe that it employs some of the most honest and intelligent men to be found in any portion of the world, and many of them have been my life-long friends. Honorable members on the other side ought to be more careful in regard to some of the statements they make, or the reflections they cast against public officers for party purposes. The extract reads -
Mr. Griffith entered upon a defence of his public works policy and the day-labour system. When he came into office, he said, he found that there were a number of highly reputable firms who seemed to have a monopoly of the public works of this State.
Amongst the contractors of New South Wales - and I believe it is the case in the other States - there are certain gentlemen who appear to be able to get the ear of the Public Works Department, or to have a better grasp of things. It may be that they are able to grasp clearly the intention of the officers. They certainly seem to have a better knowledge than is possessed by a great many contractors, with the result that the price they put in always comes pretty near to the estimated cost of the work. I know from experience that there was some way in which certain contractors could get a better knowledge than could be obtained by an average man. My advice to a stranger is to be very careful not to tender for a public work until he has gained some experience and knowledge. The report continues -
Where a firm of railway contractors made a profit of over ,£100,000 out of a ,£300,000 job, he took the view that this profit of £100,000 should remain in the Works Department for the construction of another railway.
Mr. Griffith was carrying out the pledge that he made to look after the public interests when he took office under the Crown.
The Government had been attacked for its day-labour system, and Mr. Wade singled eu the Moree-Mungindi railway, and said that the
Government had wasted money on it. A seclion of this line, Moree to Garah, was now open to traffic, and, although the Government paid 1s. a day more, and afforded privileges to the men denied by the contractors, involving a total expenditure of £8,000, it carried out the work for £13,000 less than the lowest tender received by his predecessor in office.
Those are facts that honorable members should bear in mind.
To give further proof of the advantages of the day-labour system, the Government had called for tenders for the erection of thirty additional cottages at Daceyville; but the lowest tender received was £110 per cottage more than it cost the Government with its own officers.
These cottages cost between £400 and £500, but not more than £600 each. If this Government persists in adopting the contract system, Ministers will not be able to say they were not warned against it by the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the great savings effected by the day-labour system in the construction of Government railways in Queensland, but I can give an example of a still more substantial saving in New South Wales. The following particulars relating to railway construction in that State were compiled by the Chief Engineer for Railway Construction : -
Taking the whole of the railways constructed from 1897 (when the day-labour system was first initiated) up to 30th June of the present year, the following figures show the mileage and the total cost of the lines actually completed and handed over to the Commissioner. [As the North-coast line from Dungog to Taree was constructed partly by day labour, and partly by contract, it could not, of course, be included in this comparison.] The books of the Department show that, within the period named, there have been constructed under the contract system 404¼ miles of railway, at a cost of £1,744,460, or on average per mile of £4,309. Under the day-labour system, there have been constructed 765 miles of line, at an aggregate cost of £2,540,897, or an average of £3,321 per mile. In the case of the contract lines, the total cost exceeded the estimates by the sum of £229,880 - equal to 15 per cent- whereas on the daylabour lines the total cost worked out at £282 less than the total estimates.
No Minister can give any positive statement as to the exact cost of the work under the contract system, because it cannot be known in advance what the extras will come to. These extras may be due to blunders by departmental officers, or to other things. I have been a contractor, and in some of my contracts have lost money, though doing well out of others. Contracting is a lottery; the contractor puts down his money and takes his chances of making a profit. Climatic conditions, changes in the price of material, breakdowns, accidents, and a thousand and one things that cannot be foreseen, affect the success or failure of a contract.
– From what newspaper was the honorable member quoting?
– Not from the Worker, but from a Liberal organ which is wholly opposed to the day-labour system. The action of the Opposition in protesting against the adoption of the contract system by this Government is due to the desire of honorable members on this side to prevent loss to the public. As the guardian angels of the public, we wish to keep Ministers on the path that will lead to the country’s prosperity and their own salvation. Ministers have shown themselves too anxious to put the late progressive Government at fault, and to find pegs on which to hang complaints against its administration. They have thus overstepped the bounds of decency, and ignored the best interests of the people. As one who has studied these matters, and who has a practical knowledge of construction, I advise them to revert to the day-labour system. I look forward to the time when the industrial community will obtain the full value of its labour. No doubt, there are honorable members opposite who also think that the workers should get a fair return for their labour, and that the wealth of the country should be equitably distributed. Those who hold this view have the right to ask the Government not to adopt the system which will allow individuals to make more than a just profit. In the past, some contractors have become almost millionaires. As a Democrat, and in the interests of my fellow men,I urge the distribution of Government expenditure among as many persons as possible. I hope that aspersions against the workers to the effect that they are guilty of loafing will not be repeated. Instances like that brought forward by the honorable member for Humeshould have no weight with the Committee. The statement which he read was probably penned at election time, and was due to an exercise of the imagination. We certainly do not know the facts. Probably the honorable member himself does not know who wrote the paragraph that he read. The writer may have had animus against certain men, or may have been the friend of some one who thought that he should have been given a contract for the work. No such person could be a proper judge of the manner in which the work was done.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
Colonel RYRIE (North Sydney) [5.15]. - I have listened to this interesting dissertation on the day-labour and contract systems. In regard to the question of railway construction, I should like to point out that the Minister of Works in New South Wales, Mr. Griffith, set out full of enthusiasm to construct by day labour the North Coast railway, to which the honorable member for East Sydney has just referred. He found it necessary, however, to resort to the contract system to carry on the work. The employment of day labour on the North Coast railway was responsible for a very large increase in the cost of construction, and Mr. Griffith had to admit that day labour was, in part, a failure.
– The contractor threw up the work.
Colonel RYRIE. - The contractor was bought out because of a land slide. He stood to lose £30,000, but the work was taken over by Mr. Griffith, and he did not have to pay a shilling. The Minister practically made him a present of £30,000, which he was prepared’ to lose, and, in addition, bought up his old plant, consisting of a lot of broken-down crocks of horses, and hundreds of barrows, drays, &c, along the line, for which he gave top prices. In reality, therefore, Mr. Griffith, made the contractor a present of about £40,000, and took over the contract. If the day-labour system was the success that honorable members would have us believe it was in the construction of railways in New South Wales, how comes it that the Minister of Works in that State, Mr. Griffith, recently brought down a Bill to hand over railway construction works in -the State to Messrs. Norton, Griffiths and Company, a big firm of English contractors?
– Nothing of the kind.
Colonel RYRIE. - It is an absolute fact. The Minister proposed to give Messrs. Norton, Griffiths and Company £3,000,000 worth of railway construction works.
– The Bill was thrown out.
Colonel RYRIE. - I know that it was; but it was not the wish of the Minister that it should be rejected.
– Some of his own colleagues voted against it.
Colonel RYRIE. - I am aware of that. But this action on the part of the Minister of Works in New South Wales shows that the day-labour system is not the success which the Opposition would have us believe. The Leader of the Opposition presented figures to prove that day labour was more economical than the contract system. Figures, however, can be made to prove anything. We could bring forward dozens of cases showing that the contract system is more economical than is that of day labour. As an instance of what happens in connexion with the employment of day labour, I would refer to the removal of two trees in front of the Education Department’s offices in Sydney. For some time a number of men were engaged in that work, which cost something like £90. I saw the work going on. There were men employed with ‘little saws - such as a lady might use in pruning small trees in her garden - cutting off branches bit by bit, and carrying them away. Now and again they seemed to have a consultation. Then a man would spit on his hands, pick up one of these small saws and saw off another little piece of timber.
– Would not the honorable member do the same ?
Colonel RYRIE. - If I were employed by the Government on the day-labour system I would probably do so. Indeed, every man would, knowing that he could put on the Government stroke when employed by the State. The good old Government is a fine milch cow.
– This is a slander on the working man.
Colonel RYRIE.- No; it is only human nature for men to do as little as possible for as much pay as they can- get, more especially when they are employed by the Government. It was interesting to notice how often these men thought it necessary to spit on their hands. They seemed capable of producing a most remarkable quantity of saliva. Given three good axemen, accustomed to grubbing, I could have removed those two trees for £15, and have made money out of the job. As it was, the work was carried out by day labour at a cost of about £90. The day-labour system will result every time in men taking advantage of their being employed by the Government. There is no one to see that they do a day’s work for a day’s pay. In the case of railway construction, for instance, the men are employed in gangs, and are all unionists. The ganger himself is a unionist, and is not going to fall out with the men under him, because he knows that if he did his life would be made miserable. We know to what men are subjected if they try to speed up those under them. The longer the job lasts, the longer the ganger will have a good billet, and the longer his pay will continue. Then there is the District Superintendent. He is not going to fall out with the ganger and those under him by endeavouring to speed them up. Who, then, is going to speed them up? It is no one’s business to do so. There is no doubt that in such gangs there are honest workmen.
– The honorable member would have a whip behind them.
Colonel RYRIE.- If the honorable member had much to do with workmen he would know that where there are in a gang two or three good men who are prepared to do a solid day’s work for their pay - men who are ‘ ‘ tigering ‘ ‘ into their work - the others will look at them, and say, “What are you doing? Do you want to ‘nark’ the job? Are you smoodging ‘ to the boss? Go steady.” A good man is not allowed to do a good day’s work.
– The honorable gentleman seems to know all about it.
Colonel RYRIE. - And the honorable member also knows all about it. I have just as much sympathy for a bonâ fide worker as he has, and I think that I would prove a better boss than he would be. In every instance men take advantage of being employed by the Government. Under the contract system, however, the contractor keeps an eye on what is going on, and a man who will not do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay is discharged. Under the day-labour system the position is different; very few men are discharged from a Government job. The “ Government stroke “ is going on all the time, and undoubtedly the daylabour system results in gross extravagance and waste of public money.
– I regret that in discussing this matter we have not the advantage of the patronage of even one Minister.
– The Honorary Minister is here.
– But he is not in the chamber.
– There are two present.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The subject of discussion for some time this afternoon has been the merits of day labour as opposed to the contract system. It would be only fair to ask the Government, since this is a question of policy, and one which, to them, is of vital import, to make a statement as to what they propose to do in reference to it. During the election campaign we were treated every day to dissertations about the evils of day labour, and the gross extravagance of the previous Government. We were told that if the Liberal party came into power they would restore the contract system. But now that they have come into power, they are reduced to that pathetic state of ineptitude in this matter which characterizes them generally, and they do not propose to make even a statement in regard to their intentions. And we find them supported in this attitude by men who were returned because they denounced the day-labour system, and who will yet continue to support them, although they have not the courage to put the contract system into force in one case out of twenty. This policy of substituting contract for day labour, so far as it is a policy of theirs, has been watered down by them. It is going to be applied with discrimination. It is not to be applied to the construction of railways; it may be applied to the erection of only certain classes of buildings. That being so, day labour is to hold the field, except in certain cases. This is the pathetic position of the Government in this most important matter. The party which, when in Opposition and before the country, declared that the day-labour system was costing theCommonwealth hundreds of thousands of pounds, which came into power to effect economy, now calmly and shamelessly abandons every pretence at giving effect to a policy which it declares to be the right for one that it declares to be a wrong one.
If the day-labour system is wrong, why not end it? Why not denounce it, and furnishus with instances where it has resulted in loss? True, we have had one or two cases cited this afternoon. The honorable member for Hume spoke of some telephone poles and certain public works at Albury, whilst the honorable member for North Sydney gave us a graphic illustration of the manner in which workmen employed by the State Government of New South Wales carried out their duties under the daylabour system. But what of that? Are we to accept the statements of those two honorable members as setting forth the reasons that have induced the Government to abandon day-labour for the contract system ? Are we to assume that the present Prime Minister - who came into prominence in public life as one who substituted day-labour for the contract system, and who gained, in the Parliament of New South Wales, notoriety and kudos, upon which he lived for years because he substituted day labour for contract - bases his recantation upon what these two honorable members have told us this afternoon? But if he has better reasons, why does he not declare them? If the honorable gentleman has any better reason to offer, why does he not tell the Committee what it is? If he knows something which will support his statements to the electors that the day-labour system is a canker, which destroys the fibre of the working men of the country, and under which they sponge upon the public Treasury, and use the State as a milch cow, why does he not tell us what it is, and act upon the policy upon which he was returned? When we were in- office we had the courage to put into force our policy of preference to unionists, because we believed in it. The present Government do not believe in the day-labour system, but they have not the courage even to indicate what their policy is to be. Recently the Prime Minister said that the Government are not in power legislatively, or even so far as administration is concerned. Both these statements are absolutely untrue, but the second is particularly false, because, so far as administration is concerned, the honorable gentleman can decide whether these public works shall be constructed by day labour or under the contract system. I challenge him to give effect to the policy upon which he was returned. If he does not believe in day labour, let him show that he has the courage of his convictions in connexion with one thing, at any rate. The honorable gentleman poses as a man of iron in his allegiance to principle, but when it comes to adhering to principles, when it comes to putting all to the hazard of the die, and doing something which will expose him and his policy to the test of experience, he does nothing. He says that he does it very well ; but, in fact, he does it very ill.
We have been treated to dissertations - such as they were - upon the many defects of the day-labour system. We were told that its chief defect is that human nature is so constituted that it cannot stand the day-labour system. But how does it differ from the contract system, so far as the workman is concerned? It does not differ at all. The workman is always a day labourer, and works for daily wages. What, then, is this talk about human nature ? Is there something in the nature of a Workman which does not appear in the nature of a contractor ? If there is, what is it ? Are we to suppose that, when the Contractors Association manifested those outpourings of enthusiasm when the Prime Minister and his party were returned to power, that they were animated by pure patriotism, and a philanthropic desire to help the taxpayer? We know that human nature is as firmly embedded in the contractor as in the workman. We know why the contractors were glad when the honorable (gentleman assumed office. They were glad because they saw again opening before them those Elysian paddocks in which they had fattened at the expense of the taxpayer, but which we had closed to them. But are they glad now, I wonder? The Prime Minister has not even kept faith with them.
I do not for a moment deny the statement of the honorable member for North Sydney as to the results of day labour here or there; but for every case that he can mention where a day labourer has not done an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, I will give him fifty cases where contractors have cheated the community, and have cheated the individual; have poisoned him, or attempted to do it; have sent him to war with guns which were not fit to be used, with saddles in which no man could ride, with stirrupleathers which no man dare trust himself to, with powder that would not stand the test of use, with supplies of food that were underweight and unfit for use. Why, sir, in the list of all the Judases that have ever battened upon this world, the contractor stands at the very head and front. Yet we are asked to believe the workman fleeces the community while the contractor protects it. The contract system is now to be elevated to the dignity of a religion, and we are supposed to fall down and worship the contractor. If this bedaubed and bemuddied idol is to be put on the throne again, let us hear something from the Prime Minister as to why it should be so. Why did the honorable gentleman substitute day labour for the contract system in the State of New South Wales? He did so because the contractor was a failure. Why does the honorable member for Wentworth leave out all reference to railways when we are contrasting the two systems of construction? He did so because it so happened that if railways are considered the contrast is most unfavorable to the contractor. The honorable gentleman says that there is something so curious about the construction of railways, that while day labour cannot be trusted in the construction of buildings, it can be trusted to build a railway. It would appear from this that human nature, which is at the same time a very simple and a very complex thing, manifests itself according to circumstances. But I think it may be safely said that honorable gentlemen opposite hesitate to give us any reason why they are, or are not, going to recommend a change - for we do not know what they are going to do - because the case for day labour has been made so strong by railway and other construction work in Australia that they dare not put the matter to the test. For every £1 expended on other public works, £20 has been expended on railways; and if, therefore, we are able to say that in the construction of railways the day-labour system has more than held its own, the onus is upon honorable members opposite to show that day-labour has failed. I do not deny that it has failed in many instances; but I say that for one case where day labour has failed we can find ten cases where the contract system has failed. The honorable member for East Sydney has said that the essential to success under either the contract or the day-labour system is exactly the same, namely, supervision. With proper supervision, the day-labour system will succeed, and wilh bad supervision it will not. Exactly the same may be said of the contract system. I wish to say, in fairness to the day-labour sys tem as it exists at present in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, that there lately came under my notice the construction of a telephone line in New South Wales, and I ask the PostmasterGeneral to supply this House with information as to the rate at which the men of the Telephone Construction Branch of his Department do their work, and the cost per pole or per mile, whichever is the more suitable unit for comparison. I venture to say that these men are a welltrained, good class of men, who do not loaf, and who do as good work as any men in this Chamber, or outside of it, can do.
– The honorable gentleman has asked for a return, but we have not got it ready yet.
– I do not think that the Postmaster-General should allow the statement made by the honorable member for Hume to pass, as if the honorable member described a typical case of the way in which the public servants of the Commonwealth carry out their work. It may be that one gang in ten do the things the honorable member has complained of, but I say that, taking them by and large, the public servants of the Commonwealth do their work honestly and well. I should have liked the Prime Minister to take sufficient interest in this debate to tell us something of what he proposes to do. It might furnish him with another text upon which he can hang a discourse later in the week. I suggest to the honorable gentleman, if he did tell the Committee something now, his next discourse would have an advantage, over all those he has previously delivered, in that it would be hung upon some facts, and would have at least some substratum of that which was, or is, rather than of that which might be. The honorable gentleman says that the policy of the Government is,” We are going on.” Great Heavens! They are going on. Going on where?
I do not wish to trespass further upon the time of the Committee, but I do think that when we are asked to spend money upon public works in this way, we have a right, as representatives of the people, to know whether the contract system, which we were positively assured by honorable members opposite meant great savings to the people, is to be put in force or not; or whether, when our friends said that the substitution of the contract for the day-labour system would greatly lighten the burdens of the people, they were only talking with their tongues in their cheeks. There may be, and I hope there will be soon, another opportunity of laying this question before the people. When it comes, we shall be able to say that all the Prime Minister said concerning the way in which he was going to save the people’s money was only so much “ bunkum “ by which he hoped to fool them.
– One would think the honorable gentleman meant it.
.- On the question of day labour, I take the view that the State should be an ideal employer. That is agreed to by nearly everybody, but some honorable members opposite seem to take the view that the Australian people ought to get as much as they possibly can out of the labourer, especially if his work is underground or in the trenches. The honorable member for Hume told us that he had done a hard day’s work in his time, and knew what hard work was. I have no doubt that he got away from it as soon as possible. I do not know his history, but he probably got into business, and made money by buying and selling. I venture to say that the honorable member for Riverina will not assert that the products of his station are produced without labour, and pretty hard labour at that. The men who build his fences, his rouse abouts, and his boundary riders, all do a fair day’s work.
– Does it not make the honorable member for Capricornia tremble to think of all this hard work?
– I can tell the honorable gentleman what I thought on the subject this morning, when I was walking around the streets of Brighton. I felt very grateful, indeed, that I had not to do the hard work that I saw some men doing. I saw a man, employed as a scavenger, going round from house to house, and lifting tins of rubbish, vile smelling in some cases, and I felt very grateful indeed that it was not necessary for me to spend all my time in doing that kind of work. I felt very grateful, and I think that should be the attitude of any person who is not compelled to work hard. Since the State should be an ideal employer, why should it employ detectives to discover when a labourer straightens his back? While something is due by the individual to society, we must not forget that something is also due by society to the individual. What is there about the life of a labourer in the trenches which is congenial ?
– I do not think that the honorable member’s remarks have any connexion with the question of day labour.
– I am discussing the employment of labour in the erection of buildings. Men are required to excavate earth, to carry the hod, &c. If, occasionally, they are found to be taking their time over a piece of work for the nation, the nation has a remedy through its officers. That remedy is to get machinery to do the work. No man can complain of the adoption of labour-saving machinery nowadays. He would be a very foolish individual if he attempted to do so. I fail to see that we have cause for complaint against any labourer if he does pause occasionally in his work. Let hon.orable members opposite attempt to do the work of labourers, and they will soon discover their error. We must view this matter from the stand-point of absolute justice. What is society giving the labourer who works only four hours a day instead of eight hours ? If we consult our mortality tables in order to ascertain how long the labourer lives-
– These observations are too general in character to be connected with this particular item.
– I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee unnecessarily. The question is whether this building should be constructed by day labour or by contract.
– If the honorable member will connect his remarks in that way, he will be in order.
– Organized society, in the shape of the National Government-
– Is the honorable member’s point that the day labourer has not to work so hard as has the contract labourer ?
– Yes. Nobody should ask him to work so hard. There are some contractors who will pay a fair wage for a fair day’s work, but there are others who are actuated by the principles which are held by the honorable member for North Sydney, who said that a contractor is entitled to speed up his men. What does this speeding up mean? It means that the contractor makes the labourer shorten his life by expending so many more foot tons of energy during each week than he would otherwise be called upon to expend. I do not think there is any justification for the repeated attacks which have been made upon the daylabour system. I hope that this building will be constructed by day labour as far as possible. Some honorable members opposite have asked, “ How did you build your house ? Was it constructed by day labour? Did you have the painting of it carried out by day labour ?” I would remind them that individual members of the community have not a Works Department and a staff to undertake these duties. If a man wishes to paint a house, will he employ a man on day labour, or will he hand over the work to some decent employer ? The State, on the other hand, has its own Works Department and a trained staff of officials to carry out its undertakings. I have no doubt that there is very little difference between the cost of the daylabour and the contract systems. A contractor has to make a profit. If he does not make it out of his estimate, he very often makes it out of extras. Under the day-labour system the labourer has not to work so hard, and the profit that would otherwise go to the contractor is received by him, either in the form of better wages or of lighter work. I hope that the Government will adhere to that system as far as possible.
.- I would not have spoken upon this item but for the fact that the honorable member for Capricornia has made a personal reference to me. Time after time honorable members opposite give one the idea that all wealth is the product of labour. That is an absolute fallacy. Only the other day, I read, in an English review, an article dealing with the position of workmen in America and in England. It showed that the workmen in England were almost in a state of starvation, simply because their efforts -were not directed by brains.
– I am afraid that the honorable member’s remarks are far away from the item under discussion.
– Anyhow, I have got in the reference which I desired, and I will now resume my seat.
– I wish to say a few words in regard to the Treasury Building, which has been the subject of -discussion even in the remotest corners of the Commonwealth. It is a great mistake to start by condemning either the day-labour or the contract system. There are times when we can* build a lot cheaper by day labour than by contract, and there are other occasions when we can build cheaper by contract than by day labour. In the latter case we may be far removed from a plant, and there may be a contractor in the vicinity who has a plant which will enable him to undertake the work. The whole trouble is that when we wish to do work quickly we cannot have it carried out by contract. Why? In the first place, .plans and specifications have to be prepared, and these have subsequently to be submitted to the requisitioning Department. Then tenders have to be called, and this involves further delay, so that the work cannot be carried out as expeditiously as it could be undertaken by day labour. T quickly discovered that when I became Minister of Home Affairs. But the wholetrouble is to be found in the want of system. Day labour is only good if it is systematized. It is good in the Depart: ment of Home Affairs now because it has been systematized. That Department is quite ready to take over the works of the whole Commonwealth. In regard to the Treasury Building, I wish to’ say that I purchased the ground on which it stands from the Victorian Government for £7,000. They would not have sold it to a private individual for less than £15,000 or £20,000. The point which I had to consider was whether it was advisable for the Commonwealth to pay £10,000 or £11,000 a year as rental for offices in Melbourne. After discussing the matter carefully with the officers of the Department, I concluded that we ought to have our own building.
– Not officers, but gilt-spurred roosters.
– They are’ all changed now. They met a business’ man, and they changed accordingly. That is the reason why I submitted a pro’posal to acquire the block in Sydney upon which we might erect our own buildings, which could be let until the Government required them. If the Government need them, they will have the buildings ready.
– You are wider off the mark than I was.
– The honorable member was describing wealth. Wealth is the product of land with intelligent labour applied.
– Order !
– I apologize. The idea was to have our own Commonwealth buildings in all the States. The new building in Melbourne has cost £70,000, including the ground, but not including the bullion chamber. The actual cost of the building in round figures was £63,000. In addition to this, the ground cost £7,000; and we spent £7,400 on a bullion room. When we move to Canberra, which will be in, at least, seven years’ time, this building will contain the whole of the offices of the Commonwealth in Melbourne, for which we are now paying £10,000 a year in rent. The actual cost of the building, exclusive of the bullion chamber, cubes out at 9¾d. per foot. The State Government estimated a complete building, with 14,000 superficial feet of floor area, at a cost of £16,000, without fireproof construction - any person can go down and see it - but, after going into the matter carefully, we found that the building would not suit. We considered it was no use building, as post-offices and various buildings have been built, all over Australia, suitable only for villages, but of no use when a community grows; so we decided to put up a proper building to house our officers. Our building provides 44,000 superficial feet of floor space, with fireproof construction, at a cost of £63,000. The rental charge of the building, worked out on the basis of 5 per cent. on the capital outlay on the building and land, is 19d. per square foot. The rentals paid by the Department in Melbourne at the present time a,verage from 36d. to 48d. per square foot.
– What did the bullion chamber cost?
– It cost £7,400; making the total cost of the building £70,400; or, with the land, £77,400. But the bullion chamber is extra. That building could not have been put up by any contractor for less, nor could it have been built so substantially. I went there every day and saw the men working. They were working honestly and conscientiously.
– What is the reason for the present alterations?
– Something happened to the cement in the front steps; but the company which supplied the cement is now replacing them at its own expense. I do not wish to be hard on the contractor. The best thing in the world sometimes comes out defective without the knowledge of the officials in charge of the production. Something got into the cement that was used - I do not know the chemical names - and to a slight extent prevented it being worked. The Commonwealth does not wish to be always a tenant. Did we ever know a man go out and fight for a house in which he is a tenant as hard as he would for his own home?
– That is right - for the freehold.
– I do not care whether it is freehold or not, but I would rather the Government held the freehold of land, because then I would have more money for building houses and to let on rent.
– You would not build them.
– Yes, I would. In the Home Affairs Department, day-labour work can be carried out as cheaply as in any place in the world. We put in a costs system. It was about completed when I got the “ royal order of the boot,” and I handed if over to my successor. I am glad we did it. When the Chief Architect of the Department was in America he had the benefit of an hour’s interview with Mr. Thompson, of the firm of Thompson and Starratt, one of the greatest builders of skyscrapers in the world,and brought back the latest ideas on system, and we have put them into the Home Affairs Department. That is why the Department is in a position to-day to tell honorable members every two weeks the cost of material and labour employed on any work. The Honorary Minister can givea statement like a bank balance if it is required.
– It is a pity the architect did not bring back with him some of the gangers on those skyscrapers.
– Will my friend say that all contractors are immaculate ?
– Certainly not.
– In the United States, after spending millions on two warships, they had to knock them out as not fit to go to sea, and they are going to try some of the contractors. I suppose those contractors would have their seats in an aristocratic church on Fifth Avenue.
– The contractor who plastered this House should be tried also.
– The trouble in regard to contracts is the extras. A friend of mine came to me recently with a bill for £400 for extras on a little terrace of cottages. He did not know whether he would have to put his boots up to study Hebrew.
– Did you take him on ?
– Never mind about that. Extras are the curse of contracting. At times, contracting is better than day labour, but it all depends upon the system.
– Does the honorable member say that day labour would be better than contracting if we could be sure of our specifications, and that they would not be altered?
– It all depends. Before I took charge of the Home Affairs Department, nearly all the small contractors were ruined, because they had to wait so long for their money. I came across one man who was nearly mad. The Department had owed him a few pounds for many months. I said to him, “ Come here, brother, and I will have a talk with you “; and, after a while, I found where his money was. All that is altered now. An officer settles an account at once. The Minister can tell you now that this has been all arranged. Previously, daylabour work was not organized. It was in a state of chaos. To-day, there is no place in the world where better value can be obtained for the money than at the Federal Capital. Colonel Miller, the Administrator at Canberra, is a very able and intellectual man. Of course, he grew up in a. Department, and he became twisted in red-tape, but I got it off him after a terrible struggle, and he is all right now. The danger of contract work is in changing the plans. When we let a contract for the Parcels Post Office, in Sydney, we did not provide for the two extra storeys. When I went into the matter, I discovered that it would be wrong to put a small building on such valuable ground, and so we decided to put on an additional two storeys. Of course, we had to pay what the contractor asked!
– Why did you not think of that at the time?
– I was green then; I was an animated rubber-stamp. When, finally, I found that we had made a mistake, we had to pay for it; but if the work had been going on by day labour, we could have gone on with it right away. We would have had the plant there to do so. However, we had not the plant there. That is why I say the great trouble with contractors is that you have to j>ay extra for every little change you make. It is different when you are working on the day-labour system. You have a good superintendent, a good boss, a man who has his coat off, and his sleeves rolled up, and walks around. If he finds a workman, not doing his work, he puts him off. You have a system and time-sheets, making each man keep his own time, with a timekeeper going round every twenty hours checking them, and you have a costs system instead of the old method by which the clerk of works had to buy his own timber, and if he required 22 feet timber, and the merchant did not have any 22 feet lengths, timber 25 feet in length was bought, and 3 feet cut off each piece. The loss is not so much because the little mau gets something extra by loafing an hour or two. That is not where the loss is. The great economic loss is in the purchasing of material, and in the handling of it.
– That is so.
– I was nob long before I discovered that, but, or course, I sat still and looked on.
– Why did you not put it right?
– I did. It is right now.
– It is not.
– I left it to my successor.
– They put it right.
– No. Let the honorable member be honest about this matter. My successor would not make such a statement. Surely we can treat each other here as men. When I was a member of the Pleasant Hour Club, in America, we used to treat each other like men, and not like highway robbers. We come into this Parliament, and cannot say a word in favour of each other. Why? It is be- cause of this cursed party system of which we are frightened.
– Why do not you drop it?
– Why does not the honorable member do so?
– Order ! This is irregular.
– We are all working for the taxpayers of Australia. We ought to act here like the managing board of a big institution, and try to see if we cannot evolve systems and schemes that will benefit Australia and its taxpayers, instead of hatingeach other.
– That is a well-deserved rebuke for a great deal of what has happened here this afternoon.
– I am not speaking of any side. Take another point. It is very easy to sit down and get out the sections and dimensions, and calculate the cost. There was no costing system in the Home Affairs Department when I went there, but there is now. Let the Minister insist upon the quantities being taken out for every building, and not allow the officers to go out with their plans and start to work, and, if a corner is not right, pull it down, plumb it, and put it up again. That has been the curse of day labour. When the officers have taken out the quantities, let the Minister hold them to the quantities, and make them responsible. Let him go to the contractors and engage their best men. He can always go to the contractors, and, by paying a little extra wages, get their best men ; but do not let him overstaff . When there is too big a staff at the top, they are eating up the working men from the bottom. With a proper system, there is no doubt in my mind that the Department can put up buildings quite as good as the contractor can do, and. savehis profits. Does a man take a contract as a benevolent despot, or because he is a Christian philanthropist who wants to do good for the community? No; he takes a contract to make a profit, and I say “Amen” to him. There is no reason why a Government should not carry out public works if they have their buyers and proper supervision for the related branches of engineering or architecture, as the case may be. The whole trouble is that there are too many overlapping officers. There are too many buyers of material, one drifting into another. If the Departments had each a representative of its works in the Home Affairs Office, the representative of the Post Office could say, as the draughtsman was drawing, “ You want to put a footway here, or a doghouse there,” andthen everything would work all right. When one Department gets out a plan and sends it to another Department, the latter gets a message by telephone that the other’s officer has not come back from somewhere. That is the cause of delay and extra cost. When a Works Department is established under the control of the Minister of Home Affairs, and the works officer of every Department goes there with authority and sits under the Director-General of Works, and points out what has to be done, day labour will beat the world. That is all I have to say on the subject.
– Let us have this item before dinner, please.
.- I do not know about letting the Government have the item before dinner. At any rate, I shall not detain the Committee very long. I believe that the daylabour system has resulted in the saving of thousands of pounds in the carrying out of governmental, municipal, and other public works. The Commonwealth, as an employer, should pay the best wages and offer the best conditions;. then they would obtain ‘ the best workmen, which would result in the best work being done. Those advantages, under day labour, have beenobtained, to a very large extent, in connexion with big public undertakings, and I trust that this Parliament will be the last institution to think of abandoning such a very fine system as day labour. I wish to indorse the remarks made by the ex-Minister of Home Affairs. There is one great advantage which must accrue to a big concern like the Federal Government in carrying, out their own works. Whether the material be timber, bricks, cement, or anything else, a very large quantity is always required, and the Government can buy their requirements much more cheaply than any private contractor can possibly do, thus saving to the taxpayer big sums of money. Take, for instance, the use of timber in the construction of offices and other buildings. Unfortunately, most contractors, and even some Government Departments, do not allow the timber they use a sufficient time to season. Many of the defects which are noticeable in some of the most recently erected private buildings are due to a shrinkage of the timber owing to its use in a green state. It is quite true that a ‘ private capitalist may not have sufficient money to lay in a stock to be properly seasoned, so that the best services can be got out of the timber when it is placed in the building. But the Home Affairs Department, operating, as it does, for the other Departments, has erected a timber-seasoning shed in Maribyrnong. I believe that there is also a timber-seasoning shed on the Capital site, and at Sydney, and other State capitals. Practical men in the Departments, and practical, men outside, agree that these seasoning establishments will be of immense value in the construction of public works in the future. One of the reasons why buildings have lasted so long in older countries is that very well seasoned timbers were used in their construction. The question of purchasing timber and other material, and using seasoned timber, must always be taken into serious consideration. I intend to conclude my remarks before the time arrives for adjourning for dinner, because I understand that one of the big bones of contention in the Estimates is to be found at the bottom of the page. It will be an unfortunate thing if we cease to criticise when schemes are brought forward, whether by the Treasurer or other members of the Government; but practically every criticism which has fallen from honorable members on the other side to-day has been a serious onslaught upon the capabilities of public officers, anil some very unfair aspersions have been cast upon worthy public servants. What does a shire council do when it calls for tenders? Its engineer prepares plans and specifications, and sets down a price, so that, when tenders are submitted, the shire council has its own engineer’s estimates to go by when it is considering whether the contractors are seeking to fleece them or not. The same procedure ought to be followed in the Home Affairs Department; in fact, I believe it is being followed. The expert officers should draw up plans and specifications, and say what a work is likely to cost. Seeing that we already have officers of that type, it would be a pity, indeed, to pay them a big salary merely to look after contractors and see that they make no mistakes in carrying out contracts. What we ought to do is to put their abilities and capabilities to the best possible use. Whether it is in connexion with the construction of a railway or a building or an underground tunnel, the best plan is to let the expert officers have a body of capable men at their service. Ask any contractor in this or any other city what is their best asset in carrying on contracts, and he will say that it is the well-trained body of men whom he has under his control. If it is a good thing for a private contractor to get round him a well-trained body of men, how much more essential is it, if we intend to be practical, for the Departments to follow the example of the contractors, and thus save their profits? In Melbourne, there is one body that has been very particular in giving their work to contractors. Persons have had to pay thousands of pounds more into the coffers of the Metropolitan Board of Works simply on account of the immense profits which contractors made in carrying out works for that body. The Commonwealth has saved such profits, and it ought to adhere to that policy. This afternoon, the ex-Prime Minister showed by a quotation that on a certain number of railway lines in Queensland about £1,250,000 or £1,500,000 was saved. Surely, it is worth the while of this Parliament, if it is wise, to employ the practical men in the Public Departments in carrying out the erection of public buildings! Although a very large number of honorable members, particularly on the Government side, are anxious to revert to the contract system, still, I believe that some members of the Ministry know so much about the virtues of the day-labour system that, even though they may be, so to speak, flogged into a certain position for . a time, they will be very glad to get out of it. As the exAttorneyGeneral has pointed out, they are not showing that boldness which is expected of them. If they believe in the contract system they should say, “ We are not going to employ day labour on public works.” They have not taken that step, and - I do not wish to use a threat - they dare not do it, because the bulk of the evidence is undoubtedly in favour of day labour End against the contract system. I trust that the daylabour system will be continued, because that will be the means of saving thousands of pounds to the taxpayers, and securing a better class of work. As regards the building about which there has been so much discussion to-day, I question whether, for the same sum, we could get a similar building erected. No contractor would ever erect a building like that for the same money, notwithstanding that the ex-Minister of Home Affairs excised from his calculation the cost of building a strong-room for the bullion. The alteration of the building for that purpose cost a very considerable sum.
Sitting suspended from 6.31 to 7.45 p.m.
.- I enter my protest against the manner in which the Honorary Minister dealt with the question raised by the Leader of the Opposition. That his speech was a most tactless one was shown by the fact that, directly he sat down, ten others rose to reply to him. If I might advise him, I would suggest that, instead of continually attempting to belittle those on this side, he should try to give the Committee information. The position of honorable members opposite in regard to the contract system is easily understood. They have to stand by the contractors.
– We might as well say that the Opposition have to support the labourers.
– The fault I find with the Treasurer is that he has nothing to say on these matters.
– This matter is not within my Department.
-The Treasurer knows that, had he given us a proper explanation this afternoon, we would by now be half-way through the Estimates. The trouble that has arisen has been caused by his leaving things to his assistant, the Honorary Minister, who tried to show that there was no relevance in what was said by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the advantages gained by the adoption of the day-labour system for the construction of railways in Queensland. We do not know what it would have cost to erect our Treasury building by contract; but I do not hesitate to say that it would have cost considerably more than it did had it been carried out under the contract system. The honorable member for Wakefield tried to introduce a comparison between its cost per cubic foot and that of the Victorian Agricultural Museum close by.
– I spoke of a comparison between an estimate of cost made by the Victorian Government officials and one made by our own Department.
– The cost quoted by the Victorian Government was for the Geological Museum.
– I spoke of the Victorian Government’s tender for the Commonwealth building, which was declined.
– The Victorian Government did not tender for the construction of the Commonwealth building.
– The ex-Minister of Home Affairs said that he declined the Victorian Government’s offer because he could do the work himself in much less time.
– The Victorian Government did not submit a tender, but a good deal appeared in the newspapers about the cost of the Commonwealth building, and the cost per cubic foot of the Geological Museum was obtained from the Victorian officials. Does the honorable member for Wakefield say that there is any comparison between the State agricultural building alongside of the Commonwealth building?
– There is no comparison between them. I saw both buildings almost daily during the whole time that they were in course of erection, and know that in architectural structure and general finish they differ greatly. The Commonwealth building contains a strong-room, which cost an enormous sum, and is built on concrete foundations, for which an excavation was made to a depth of from 18 to 20 feet. Probably the Commonwealth building will be standing long after the building of the Agricultural Department is in ruins. It is idle to make a comparison between the two buildings, and any statement as to the cost of the building of the Agricultural Department is useless for arriving at a determination as to what the Commonwealth building should have cost. Mention has been made of the difference between tenders for engines submitted in this State by the Phoenix Foundry - a private concern - and the Newport Workshops - a Government Department. The AttorneyGeneral, when I referred to the matter on a former occasion, said that these facts were the best argument we had for the day-labour system. A Commission of experts was appointed to look into the matter. I do not think there was a Labour member on the Commission. The Newport Workshops offered to construct engines for £800 or £900 less than the Phoenix Foundry would do the work for, and the Commission’s report was that, adding various shop charges, interest on capital, and so forth, the Newport Workshop’s price would still be £400 less than the price of the Phoenix Foundry - a clear admission that a State Department, when properly organized, could do work more cheaply than private individuals. The construction of ten engines was given to the Newport Workshops, and, after the work had been carried out, it was found that, by reason of the experience gained, other engines could be made for £600 or £700 less than the tender of the Phoenix Foundry.
– The present Treasurer did a tremendous amount of work by day-labour in Western Australia.
– There are many works which, in the public interest, should be carried out by day labour to save the contractor’s profits. Of course, where there is something to be done in a back-country town, it is not wise for the Government to incur the expense of sending a staff and plant 200 or 300 miles to do the work. In such places local men are best intrusted with what has to be done, because they have material, plant, and labour at command; but in the big cities the Government should do its own work by day labour. I hope that the Treasurer and Attorney-General will see the wisdom of keeping the Assistant Minister quiet in future. If he makes other speeches like that of this afternoon, he will succeed in raising the ire of honorable members on this side, and that will not result in the quicker passing of the Estimates.
– I am rather surprised at the statement made by the honorable member for Kennedy that we are compelled to adopt the contract system. My answer to him is that we are impelled to do so by common-sense reasons, and by the belief that the affairs of the Commonwealth should be carried on by us just as we would conduct our own businesses. Honorable members, whether they belong to the Liberal party or to the Labour party, when they have any work to be executed, invariably have it carried out by contract.
– They do not.
– A system which we think wise to adopt in connexion with our own private enterprises should be equally worthy of application to the business of the Commonwealth. We have learned much from actual experience in New South Wales concerning the advantages of the contract system over that of day labour. The adoption of the day-labour system in New South Wales has increased the cost of Government works by something like 42 per cent., while the time occupied has been in many cases from three to four months, and, in some cases, twelve months, longer than would have been taken had contracts been let for them. This delay has occasioned further loss, since the works are not interestpaying until they are completed. I have some concrete facts and figures to put before the Committee. For instance, when we visited the H.M.A.S. Australia a few days ago, we all saw the car-sheds at Fort Macquarie. The estimated cost of those buildings was £17,000, but the actual cost of erecting them by day labour was £37,000, oraloss to the country of £20,000. For the construction of the Tabulam Bridge, over the Clarence River, the tender was £9,879, but the cost of building it by day labour was £15,669, or a loss to the country of £5,710. I come now to the Pyrmont Post-office, the tender for which was £2,660, whereas the cost of building it by day labour was £4,509, a difference of £1,849. The tender for the Newcastle Post-office was £19,335, and the cost by day labour £33,000, or a loss of £13,665. The estimated cost of Lyne Park was £7,000, and the actual cost, under the day labour system, £11,427, or a loss of £4,427. Then, again, the tender for the construction of Camden Bridge was £8,238, and the cost of constructing it by day labour £10,284, a loss of £2,046. The tender for erecting a public school at Millthorpe, which is 8 miles from the town of Blayney, in which I live, was £800, but it cost by day labour £1,600, or a loss of £800, while the time occupied in building it was three months longer than that specified in the conditions of contract. I find that the total of the estimates, or tenders, in respect of these new works was £64,912, and the day-labour cost £113,489, showing a net loss to the country of £48,577, or a difference of 42 per cent. No wonder New South Wales is in the market,, because, for every £1 that she borrows, she gets only as much as 10s. would have secured under the contract system.
– Is she in the market?
– Yes; and if we adopt the day-labour system throughout the Commonwealth, I am afraid that Australia will be in the market, and, indeed, up for sale. One of my principal objections to the day-labour system is that, unfortunately, in many cases, the overseers and men engaged on the works do it in their own time, and in their own way, because they are’ part and parcel of one big political machine. That is where the difficulty arises. The sooner we separate these matters from politics, and adopt a principle that is being observed throughout the rest of the civilized world, the better. I defy honorable members to point to one civilized country apart from Australia in which the day-labour system has been adopted by the Government. The sooner we resort to the rational system of having our public works carried out by contract, the better it will be for the taxpayers, whom we represent. Recently, the State Government of New South Wales decided to remove two Moreton Bay fig-trees which stood in front of the offices of the Department of Public Instruction in Sydney, and, although the timber is not very tough, it cost £72 to grub out these two trees by day labour. In conclusion, I would remind my honorable friends of the Opposition that two of the biggest organizations in Australia are in favour of the contract system. The first of these is the shearers’ organization - we all know that the shearers believe in doing their work by contract - and the second is the Coal Miners Association, the coal miners also favouring the contract system. I fail to understand how honorable members opposite can claim to be consistent when they depart from this very excellent rule.
.- It must have been refreshing to honorable members to listen to the catalogue which has just been read by the juvenile member for Calare. It is not the first time that the honorable member has indicated that, in his opinion, everything done by this Parliament, before his election - to it, was wrong, and that there is no possible chance of our doing what is right until he is given an opportunity to show how that desirable end may be secured. I do not know what his profession is, but he evidently poses as an authority on all things. If the honorable member had some knowledge of the question now under discussion, we might have listened to him with some attention and interest. But, as showing what his knowledge is, let me relate the facts in regard to the erection of the Newcastle Post-office - a work with which I am familiar. The reason for the increased cost was that the Government decided to use a freestone that was much harder to work, but far more durable, than that for which the original specifications provided. For the increased expenditure, the Department got double the value, inasmuch as the stone actually used has double the life of that which would have been used under the original specification. I understand something about this matter, although, perhaps, the honorable member does not. He has gone to the Liberal organization authority for his information, and that authority has never been characterized by truthfulness. His statements in regard to other works are quite on a par with his assertions in reference to the Newcastle Post-office. The honorable member said that the Moreton Bay fig-tree is not a very hard timber. Apparently, he does not know that it is about the most difficult tree in Australia to grub. There is no tree whose roots and tendrils extend further in the ground than do those of the Moreton Bay fig.
– The men would not have to follow up the roots; they would simply cut them.
– Of course, they would have to take them up when they were going to build on the site.
– The Moreton Bay fig-trees which were removed from the front of the offices of the Department of Public Instruction in Sydney were the largest, or nearly the largest, in New South Wales. They had been there for nearly one hundred years, and every bit of the reserve had to be turned over, and the roots grubbed out, in order to provide a proper foundation for the structure to be erected there. These trees could not be felled because of their situation, but had to be cut down in sections. In the case of men of the type of the honorable member, however, anything is good enough to use in flogging the Labour Government.
– The honorable member for North Sydney said this afternoon that the cost of removing those trees by day labour was £90, whereas the honorable member for Calare now says that it was £72.
– We must take no notice of such discrepancies in the statements of honorable members opposite. Probably, we shall be told presently that the cost was £60. It does not matter to honorable members opposite whether the statement is true or not, as long as it will help them to make out a case against the Labour party. Under the old contract system in New South Wales, the extras used to amount to from 30 to 40 per cent., but under the day-labour system everything necessary to complete a job is done, whether the specifications provide for it or not, and no extras are shown. In comparing the cost of carrying out works by day labour and by contract, therefore, we should always add a percentage in respect of the extras for which contractors have to be paid. It does not matter to these great authorities, who came into this House about five minutes ago to tell us what we ought to do, that the Queensland Liberal Government of to-day have proclaimed to the world that they have saved £1,250,000 by adopting the day-labour system for the construction, of railways in that State.
– They are going to adopt the contract system.
– The present Secretary for Railways in Queensland made that statement, and he declares that, in the opinion of the Queensland Government, the day-labour system is preferable to the contract system for the construction of public works. I have travelled over railways in New South Wales built by contractors, and also over those built in more recent years by day labour, and can say that there is no comparison between them. One can tell whether a railway has been built under the daylabour system by the smooth running of the train, in the first place, and by the finish of the cuttings, which results in the saving of enormous expense in maintenance. The first cost of a work may not represent either extravagance or economy. If the work is thoroughly well constructed, though ‘it may cost something more, the subsequent saving in maintenance will be sufficient to cover double the interest on the money expended. I do not say that the day-labour system is everywhere perfect, because it is not always possible to get men who are sympathetic with it to control it, and it is unsympathetic control and lack of proper supervision that leads to increased cost under that system. We have been told that honorable members on this side, when they have any private work to be done, get it done by contract, but that is not so. Honorable members on this side are consistent; they do not preach one thing and practise another; and if they have any. work to be done, and they have not much, they have it done by day labour, and pay award rates for it. The honorable member has told us that day labour does not succeed because it is part of a political machine, but I may tell him that the contract system is undoubtedly a part of the old Conservative machine. The honorable member for Wimmera has suddenly blossomed as an authority upon works of all kinds. I do not know whether his sudden awakening to a knowledge of these things is due to a proposal which is in the air for the establishment of a Public Works Committee. It is possible that that proposal acts as an incentive to some honorable members to pose as authorities upon public works.
– That is a very tender matter.
– I must find some reason why the honorable member for Wimmera, who runs a country newspaper, should get up here and talk to people who do know something of the subject about the proper construction of buildings. That the honorable member should pose as an authority on the subject is the height, I will not say of impertinence, but of absurdity.
– I think the honorable member ought to be the last man to accuse another of being a universal authority.
– I do not accuse the honorable member for Wimmera of being a universal authority, but of suddenly professing a talent which we did not’ know he possessed. I was saying that the proposed Public Works Committee may. though I do not say it has, have something to dp with the honorable member’s awakening. He will be able to say. whether this little straw shows which way the wind blows. Thau a man who has not knowledge and cannot have had any practical experience should discuss such questions is the height of absurdity. If the Prime Minister were to speak on mining, we should listen to him with attention, whilst if the honorable member for Moreton were to do so, we should take no notice of his remarks.
– Would the honorable member listen to me with attention if I talked on mining? If so, I shall be on my feet instantly when he sits down.
– The public has now so seldom an opportunity of listening to the pearls of wisdom which used to fall from the honorable member’s lips when he was on this side of the House, that I would sacrifice anything to enable them to enjoy a little of what they used to get from the honorable member in days £.one by. It is becoming melancholy to find the Prime Minister so silent. I admit that he is setting a good example to his followers, which they imitated for a while.
– I believe that the honorable member has me muzzled.
– The silence of the honorable gentleman is the essence of self-sacrifice. I was hoping that it would have its effect on his wild and youthful followers, and though it did affect them for a time to-day, we find them getting up one after another to discuss a question which not many of them understand. But they must talk or burst, they have been tied up so long, and the only opportunity they have to speak is upon a question they do not understand. Tt is marvellous that they should all agree to talk upon those matters which they know least about.
– The honorable member will never burst.
– I am waiting to hear the melodious voice of the honorable member for Corio, and possibly we shall hear it later on the vote for woollen mills. I was dealing with the Treasury building. I saw the building in course of construction from time to time, and I have no hesitation in saying that the statement made by the honorable member for Wakefield was one for which there is no justification.
– The honorable member knows nothing about it.
– He admits that now, and if the honorable member for Kennedy had only pressed his point, would have apologized for venturing to express an opinion on a subject he knows nothing about. Fancy the honorable member posing as an authority on a brick and concrete building ! He might know something about farming.
– No ; the honorable member was a draper’s assistant. At shop assistant’s work he is a professional.
– Then he. should at least know something about a yard measure, but I do not know how he could have gained information to enable him to discuss the erection of the Treasury building. I advise the Prime Minister to allow his followers to discuss some subject which they understand, so that they may be able to impress the Committee. I am very pleased that honorable members opposite are at last off the chain. It shows that they are not mere automata.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the question.
– I am not here to “stone-wall.” I never practised “stonewalling,” and would not know how to do it if I tried, but I do know something about the building trade, and I say that whoever was responsible for the construction of the Treasury building by day labour will be justified in the years to come by the life of the work. I shall not deal with the matter further, as I wish to reach some items dealing withthe question of quarantine as early as possible.
– I have risen only for the purpose of making an appeal to my honorable friends on both sides to let this item go through. There are some very important items immediately following
– This discussion was raised by honorable members on the other side.
– I am not complaining, but I think that honorable members opposite will agree that this matter has been threshed out pretty well.
– There is just one more speaker on this side.
– Two or three honorable members opposite rose, or I should not have risen. I should like to appeal to honorable members to terminate this debate now.
– What is the policy of the Government as between the daylabour and the contract system?
– The policy of the Government is to do the best they can with the taxpayers’ money, and to get the best value for it.
– Will the honorable gentleman say whether the Government intend to adopt the contract or the daylabour system?
– The honorable gentleman will forgive me if I do not lay down a policy just now. I want to get these Works Estimates through. At some other time I may refer to the matter.
– I think we are entitled to something definite from the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman must not forget that during the last two sessions, when he sat on this side of the House, he continually condemned the Fisher Government for what was described as the general loafing that was going on throughout the Commonwealth in connexion with public works. Several honorable members on the Government side take objection to what they did in that connexion. They protest against the day-labour system, and they have reason to do so because of their utterances when they occupied seats upon this side of the chamber. The Prime Minister was not very careful in the statements which he made on the hustings six months ago concerning the Fisher Government and their alleged lavish expenditure. He declared that they were throwing away millions by their methods of administration, and that men in the Departments were not earning the money which they were receiving. Seeing that the present Government have now been in office for four or five months, I want to know what is their policy. If the day-labour system is a wrong one, are they going to alter it?
– Surely it must depend upon the circumstances of each case.
– Honorable members opposite did not say that when they were on the public platform. They condemned the administration of the Fisher Government in wholesale fashion. Seeing that the Ministry have control of the expenditure of millions of pounds, I desire to know whether they intend to confine that expenditure to some eight, ten, or, perhaps, twelve persons in each State - persons who are large contractors. My own opinion is that the public in general should participate in this expenditure. The Government should set an example of how our public works should be carried out. They should show private employers how they ought to treat their employes. We all know that if the opportunity presents itself many contractors will put second, and even third, class material into a job. Some contractors have practically robbed the Government in thi3 way, and the work which they have undertaken has been passed by whom ? By interested officers. This circumstance brings vividly to my mind certain happenings in Tasmania some fifteen years ago. At that time, tenders were called for large public works involving an expenditure of £30,000, £40,000, or £50,000, and it was afterwards proved that Ministers and departmental officers were interested in those contracts. I protest against the adoption of a system whereby only four or five persons in a State are in a position to tender for large contracts by reason of the costly appliances which are required. Although the Prime Minister condemned the administration of the Fisher Government throughout Australia, he is content to remain in office, and practically to carry out the same methods of administration. He is anxious only to get into recess. Under the contract system, when the Government invites tenders for large public works, the only persons who will be in a position to tender will be those who contribute their £2,000 cheques to c”ertain unions in Australia. Why do they make these contributions? For the purpose of keeping the working man down. What right has the Commonwealth to give big contracts to these people in order that they may treat the working men as they choose? If the Government have decided to go in for the contract system, I hope that the Prime Minister will notify Parliament of the fact. Then we shall know where we are, and the public will know where they are. The latter will then be able to judge whether the Government are keeping their hustings pledges or not.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat appears to have overlooked a very important paragraph contained in the Ministerial statement of policy. Paragraph 11 of that document reads -
An effort will be made to re-arrange and simplify the duties of the Departments of State, so as to lead to a more expeditious, effective, and economical transaction of public business.
It is hoped, by the creation of a General Works Department, to obviate the conflict of authority, and to prevent the tendency to the duplication of staffs, which at present leads to delay and wastefulness in public expenditure.
In carrying out public works in the future, it is the intention of the Government to resort, as far as possible, to the contract system.
The Government propose to prevent duplication by increasing the staffs for carrying out our public works in every direction. There are already Sn existence certain Departments which have facilities for carrying out our public works, and the Government propose to reduce these, and to establish others in their stead. If there is one thing more than another which shows that the Government are Conservatives in disguise - that they are merely endeavouring to look like Liberals - it is their proposal to revert to a discredited system in connexion with our public works - a system which the nations of the world are doing their best to get away from. To-day every civilized country is attempting to bring about that system of co-operation which will ultimately extirpate the competitive system of which many honorable members opposite are so fond. In every direction there is an increasing tendency to enlarge the scope of State public ownership, and to limit the private ownership and control of public facilities. The Governments of Australia have hitherto managed their public affairs in the most commendable fashion. That mistakes have been committed goes without saying. That events have happened which are open to hostile criticism may be freely admitted. But there is not an honorable member opposite who is prepared to say that our railways would be better run than they are under a system of contract. Public enterprise is covering more and more every department of public life. The States and municipalities are controlling more and more by their own staffs those particular facilities which are absolutely necessary to the development of the public estate - such utilities as tramways, railways, light, sanitation, gas, water, &c. What reason is there why the State should not bo able to manage its own business more satisfactorily than somebody else is able to manage it 1 What individuals can do for the community, the community can do better for itself. Every one knows that the contract system is one of those old systems which have grown upon us until now the objections to it are largely the result of its widespread abuse. That system stands condemned by experience. That experience has been purchased at a large price, owing to the rapacity and inhumanity of contractors, whose business it is to get as much as is possible out of their contracts. Every contractor, in stipulating the price at which he is prepared to carry out a certain work, makes provision for incidentals, contingencies, and extras. Under that system, therefore, we are loaded at the outset with an increased cost, which is admittedly unnecessary. I refer to this matter with some limitations, because we all know that there are contractors whose integrity and honour are above suspicion. But, generally speaking, the tendency amongst them is to do the least possible work at the highest possible price, and to put into their contracts inferior workmanship if there is a chance of getting it passed by the departmental officials. The honorable member for Bass made a passing reference to the danger of bribery and corruption under the contract system. If there is any system which has laid itself open to charges of corruption, it certainly is that system. If there is one thing more than another which has rendered it easier for the members of this and other Parliaments faithfully to discharge their public duties, it is the fact that contractors have not been able, during recent years, to get at them so readily as they have been in the past. It is very hard to give specific instances, but every one knows the experience of America in this respect - how franchises, contracts, and public works have been bought and sold by members of Parliament through the influence of contractors - and, if only for the sake of preserving the integrity of our Public Service and the purity of our public life, it is a good thing for Governments to do for themselves what contractors, for their own particular purposes, seek to do for them. What are the objections to a Government carrying out work? Usually, we hear that the objection is the extra cost of Government work; but the Leader of the Opposition has submitted the experience of Queensland in that respect. I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman gave a very interesting quotation from page 2697 of the Queensland Hansard for 1912, where the Secretary of Railways said that a return prepared by the Chief Engineer showed that the cost of maintenance of nine lines built by day labour as against contract was in favour of day labour, thus -
– I did not quote that.
– Then it is just as well that it should be known. I have also the report of the Queensland Commissioner of Railways for the year ending the 30th June, 1913.
– He is what they would consider a hostile witness.
– It is one of their own friends giving evidence against them. Nowhere in his report is there a single suggestion of a return to the contract system. The statistics quoted furnish irrefutable proofof the utility of day labour, and throughout the report there are suggestions for its continuance and improvement. The Commissioner of Railways says -
Immediately on my appointment as Commissioner,I went very fully into the system of controlling the expenditure on construction worksby day labour, and came to the conclusion that it was very necessary that a more direct control should be held over this expenditure than had been the practice heretofore. One of the first requirements in this direction was the establishment of a plant account. Previously, practically no plant account, beyond that kept on the works, existed. I, therefore, arranged for a comprehensive plant account to be opened in the books of the Head Office (Chief Accountant’s Branch), and a sub-branch of the Accountant’s Branch was formed, termed the “ Construction Branch,” which deals with all construction works carried out from loan funds, and keeps the necessary plant account, showing the disposal of plant, horses, bullocks, &c., on the various extensions. This enables avery thorough check to be obtained on these accounts ; and, in order to obviate any dual control, as far as expenditure accounts on such works are concerned, I arranged to transfer the control of the construction accounts staff to the same office, and thus do away with the duplication that existed, owing to certain portions of the accountancy work being performed in the Chief Engineer’s Office and also in the Head Office. This importantchange I submitted to the Auditor-General for his opinion, who instructed his Chief Inspector and Ac countant to investigate the matter from a practicalpoint of view, both in this office and that of theChief Engineer; and I am pleased to report that he indorsed myaction in the following terms : - “ That the proposed alteration should work admirably; it concentrates responsibility, obviates dual control of accounts, and should work not only more economically but with greater efficiency.
I commend to the Prime Minister the suggestions contained in that report of the Queensland Commissioner of Railways. What is required is, not the abandonment of the day-labour system, but the improvement of the way in which the Government officers carry out that system. The ex-Minister of Home Affairs stated to-day, and every honorable member knows, that before he left office he instituted a system for the management of works throughout the Commonwealth. His system was on the right lines, and the proposal to abandon it, and give the work out to contractors is a retrograde step, to which I think, all honorable members on this side of the House must, by all means, be opposed. The objection to Government work is based on two grounds. The first is that in Government work we get the Government stroke. I have heard honorable members on the Ministerial side, during the course of this debate, refer to the Government stroke. Opposed to the Government stroke is the stroke insisted upon by contractors - the speeding-up system, the continualpressure exerted by contractors on men to get work through. Anything is better than that inhuman and cruel practice of contractors by which they impose on men burdens greater than they can bear. Is it true that there is such a thing as the Government stroke? I freely admit, as the Prime Minister has admitted, that there is extravagance in the Public Service; there is tremendous extravagance; but, even so, and admitting the red-tape of which the Postmaster-General spoke, I believe we get from our public servants, for the money we pay them, value quite up to that any contractor gets from the workmen he employs. There is one thing, at any rate, that can be said about Government work - the very fact that men are employed in the service of the country develops in them a desire to do better work, and lifts them to a higher level as workmen. The second objection to Government work is that of expense. Possibly it may be more ex- pensive in some cases to carry out works by the Government than by contractors; butI do not think it is actually the fact as a general rule. Contractors must make a profit - it is their business to do so - and even if only the contractors’ profit were saved, the Government would be in pocket. But I contend that by the Governmentcarrying out work under faithful and efficient supervision, better work is done, compensating over and over again for any increased price paid in the first instance. I think it is to the credit of Governments in Australia that where work has been done departmentally there has been more efficient work done, it has been of a higher quality and of a better finish, and a substantial article has been turned out. What is our private experience in regard to contractors ? I suppose we have all had some little experience in this regard. I hope honorable members will not forget what I have already said - that I speak in this matter with some limitation, because there are contractors who are absolutely sound and honest.
– How can they compete with the others ?
– That is the difficulty. It is our experience that it is cheaper and better, in the long run, to select a man and give him the work, trusting him to give us a fair price, than to get the lowest tender, to squeeze the contractors to the lowest figure, and take the job they can turn out when they think they can dodge our supervision and inspection. If we get an honest contractor, and an honest man willing to carry out work, it is far better, every time, to trust him to do the work and give him an open hand in the matter, than to trust to the tender mercies of the ordinary contractor. May I refer to the contractors dealing with the British Government, especially during the great wars in which Great Britain has been involved ? I need not go farther back than the Boer war. We remember how these men, who claimed to be patriotic British citizens, robbed the British Government, even in the matter of supplying food to their own soldiers. There is no depth to which contractors will not descend. They have no conscience, no integrity, in carrying out their work. Where Governments carry out their own work they get far more satisfaction, and they get goods much cheaper, than where they have to trust to the tender mercies of a contractor. May I quote from one authority on this matter? This authority says -
Well, if the nation can manage a State University, it can run a packing-house.
If it can feed an army, it can run an hotel.
If it can build bridges, it can build factories.
If it can irrigate land, it can sell groceries.
If it can sell postage stamps, it can sell coal.
Ifit can manage a Navy, it can run telegraphs, telephones, express companies, and railroads. If it can make cannon, it can make stoves. If it can manage experimental farms and agricultural colleges, it can manage farming. If it can pave the streets, it can make the material with which to pave the streets. If the people can run the public schools, they can run factories, or any other public utility.
– They cannot make farming pay.
– The standard of efficiency is not whether a work pays. If that is the standard the honorable member applies to most matters, they would be dismal failures so far as the nation is concerned. One of the greatest institutions we run is the Post Office. Does it pay? No. Does the Education Department pay? No. The most useful institutions we have - those that bind us together and make us really what we ought to be, a nation of individuals interested in each other’s welfare - are the very ones we expect to pay least so long as we get satisfactory returns from them.
– But something must pay.
– That is not the standard we fix. It does not matter whether they pay or not. The question is whether the public are being better served. The contract versus day-labour question is simply another development of competition versus co-operation, that, in a few years, will alter not only the government of this country, but also that of every civilized community. Is not the contract system based entirely on the principle of competition? Is not the calling for tenders just one development of the spirit of competition, its object being to try to make one man beat down another? The worst of it is that the tenderers, in competing with each other, have to make their profits out of the labour they employ, or by supplying an inferior article. There is no other way to do it. But contractors are getting cunning ; they are discovering that they are being found out; and now they are beginning to see that it is to their advantage to understand one another. There is scarcely an item in the Public Service to-day which is open to tendering on which there is not an understanding between the tenderers as to who shall get the work. They share the work; they sublet it; they agree with each other that one shall tender, and that they shall each get a certain share of the work to be done. Take printing. Every State Government has its own printing office, and there is not an honorable member in this House, or in a State House, who would propose to abandon the Government system of carrying out printing and go back to tendering for the work. Why? Not because the outside printers are unable to supply good work; but because the Government find they can manage their own affairs better, and with more satisfaction to themselves, and with considerably better results to their workmen, than when depending on the system of tendering by public competition. Have we in Australia been so indifferent to the movements of the times as to be unaware of the tendency among the Governments of civilized countries to get rid of that form of competition, and develop the spirit of co-operation and mutual interest? Honorable members on the Government side may affect to believe that efficiency is to be gained and expense saved by going back to the contract system, but the time is surely coming, and coming very’ quickly, when more and more every State will abandon that system, and decide not only to erect its public buildings, to construct its railways, and to carry out its public utilities of the most general character, but to get down even to the most ordinary affairs of every-day life, and supply the community with things which are necessary to existence, under its own direct control. We are told, of course, that that means an army of inexperienced men in charge of affairs. There may be some ground for believing that the ordinary public servant is not a very good manager. Unfortunately, that is not his fault, but the fault of the system under which he works. The ordinary public servant has practically no opportunity of developing any power of initiative. If there is anything wrong with our Public Service at all, and if there is any excuse for the statement of the Ministry that there is a want of efficiency, and there fore a necessity for some alteration, it is due to the fact that the Public Service does not offer sufficient opportunity for men to develop their powers and display originality. The Public Service is conducted in a groove. There are wellmarked ruts and well-defined paths. Along those paths, and in those ruts, public servants may go, but they dare not go outside of them.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the Public Service generally.
– The inexperience of public servants, if it does exist, and their inability to carry out public works successfully, is due, not so much to lack of ability as to lack of opportunity. If the opportunity is given, I am quite satisfied that, in the Public Service, we have men with both brains and power to carry on public works to the advantage of the community. But we are not limited in that direction. The State can command the best ability, and the best organizing power, which is available. Not only so, but the State ought to be willing - and I think it is unfortunate that we are not willing - to pay adequately for brains. It is true, unfortunately, that private enterprise will offer much higher salaries to get the best men than even the Government are prepared to offer. The inelasticity of the Public Service in that regard is simply appalling. I believe that if the State were willing to pay the money required to secure the best brains, it could not only obtain the best men, but develop the best workmen, and secure the best results obtainable; aye, better than could be obtained by private enterprise. The competitive system lives by keeping down the people from whom it derives the strongest support. It is the aim of the Government to secure the highest efficiency, but that must be combined with a direct and a humane interest in the persons who carry out their work. I think that the standard of public life in Australia has made the Public Service attractive. There is now a number of persons who believe that the Public Service, of the Commonwealth at any rate, is a desirable one to be in.
– Order ! We are considering public works, not the Public Service. I must ask the honorable member to keep to the item before the Com mittee.
– I know that, sir, but I am leading up to the last point of my argument. The development of the best that is in our workmen, the development of the best and the highest that is in the Public Service, must ever increasingly be the highest duty of the State. The Government of Australia owes a public duty to its servants in the way of devolving upon them greater responsibility. “We can attain that end by continually increasing the bounds of their opportunity, by giving them more and more work to do, by enlisting their ability and their sympathy in the development of all that is best and highest in the interests of the people.
.- I desire to make a few remarks before this item is disposed of, and I shall not detain the Committee very long. I remember the Prime Minister, when he. was leading the Opposition, quoting an extract from the *Argus about “ the man on the job,” about the man who took four days to dig 5 yards of drain.
– I never said such a thing.
– The honorable member made the quotation here.
– “Well, some of his supporters did.
– I well remember that the Prime Minister did. It was continually urged at that time, and it was urged during the recent elections, that there was a wilful squandering of public money going on under the. day-labour system. According to the manifesto of the Government, that system is to be superseded by the contract system. I feel Very strongly on this question, as I am a strong supporter of the day-labour system. During the short time I was a member of it, the Victorian Parliament - a Parliament “which has never been controlled by a Labour Ministry, and which for years has been controlled by an anti-Labour party - found it necessary, in the construction of railways, to supersede the contract system by the day-labour system. I well remember the time in this State when railways were constructed under the contract system, and the men engaged on the work were getting as low as 5s. per day. Some contractors were making huge fortunes out of the contract system. The Government saw the folly of it, and instituted the butty-gang system, under which men are getting at the present time 9 s. per day on railway construction. The introduction of the day-labour system has saved hundreds of thousands of pounds to the people of Victoria. “We cannot ascertain the exact figures, but it is not denied by those who have charge of railway construction that the lines are built now much more cheaply, and certainly much more effectively, than they were built previously. If we allow the system of day labour to be superseded in our own Public Service, we shall not have what we have to-day - an ideal employer. I certainly think that both the Commonwealth and the State ought to set an example to private employers. They ought to offer an inducement to men to enter the Public Service, because, if bad conditions are established in the Federal and State Services, then certainly private employers will come down to those conditions; whereas, if we improve the conditions of public servants, we shall also improve the conditions of those who work foiprivate employers, and get better work for our money. In America to-day the piece system is in operation, and in the factories there, if we can believe what we read, it is a rare thing to see men over forty years of age at work simply because of that task system. We already have the beginning of the system in Victoria. We have a strike in which men are fighting against the introduction of the piece system. They recognise that for a short time they may earn increased wages, but they know from the experience of other countries that it must shorten the lives of the workmen. I remember the honorable member for Darling fighting this question in the Creswick district fully thirty years ago. He fought against the introduction of the contract system in mining, and the big fight which he and others put up then undoubtedly has prolonged the lives of thousands of men in this country. They were defeated on one or two aspects of the question. They had to allow contracting in connexion with reef driving. I knew the men who were engaged in that work, as most of them went to school with me, and 90 per cent, of them are lying in the cemeteries in that district. The system shortened their lives by twenty or thirty years. I trust that the Government, notwithstanding their manifesto, will not carry out their declared intention to depart from the system which was laid down by the previous Government. 1 wish to remind the Prime Minister that when the State Governments do let a contract they insert minimum wage clauses. They compel the private employer to pay stipulated wages, and prohibit the subletting of work to other contractors. Is it the intention of the Commonwealth Government to see that minimum wage clauses are inserted in all contracts? I understand that there is no provision in any Act compelling the Ministry to take that course, and that it is purely optional with a Minister to do so. The insertion of such conditions in the contracts would prevent unlimited competition amongst the men. To some extent the men would be provided for, and assured at least a living wage.
– Surely the honorable member knows that in contracts we specify wages and conditions?
– I know that that was the custom of the previous Ministry, and that is what I would expect of them.
– Before they were ever in office it was done, as the honorable member ought to know.
– Then it was the custom of previous Ministries to insert such conditions in contracts.
– And of the present Ministry.
– The point I want to make is that it is not compulsory on the part of the Ministers to insert these conditions in contracts. I desire to know whether it is the intention of the Ministry to do so.
– It is our intention to pay the best wages.
– That is not the point at all. Do the Government intend to pursue the policy laid down by previous Ministries?
– Yes; there will be no alteration.
– Do they intend to have minimum wage conditions inserted in every contract?
– We have been doing that all the time.
– The Prime Minister was definite. He said that there is to be no alteration.
– I accept the assurance of the Prime Minister. That, to some extent, will minimize the evils of the contract system, and insure at least a fair and living wage to the workers, but it in no way touches the question raised by the honorable member for Brisbane that, under the task system, men are worked to their uttermost during the whole of the eight hours. I do not believe that it was ever intended that men should be kept at top speed so long, nor do I think that there is any necessity for doing so in the twentieth century. We know that contractors only engage men to make a profit out of them. They will see that the men work their very hardest during the time they are employed, but we shall not get any better work done. Very often that system leads to work being slummed, and causes financial loss to the employers. I regret very much that the Ministry is departing from the day-labour system, and is proposing to employ a body of contractors who will make huge profits out of the Commonwealth. This will not mean any saving to the public. There are only a few men who are in a position to tender for some of the big works that are to be undertaken, and to provide the big deposits that will be required. This will lead to a combine. Arrangements will be made between the tenderers, from which they will benefit, and the State will suffer. But as the Prime Minister has reminded us that there will be another opportunity to discuss this matter, and as I am particularly anxious to placate him, so that he may consent to an adjournment next Friday week, to allow honorable members to attend the South-street competitions, I shall uot say anything more now.
.- I understand that this discussion was commenced by a supporter of the Government, and I regard it as a challenge to the supporters of the day-labour system, which has been in operation for many years. The Prime Minister, when PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales, from 1894 to 1896, carried out the construction of telephone tunnels in the main streets of the city of Sydney with day labour.
– And thereby saved money to the country.
– Yes. It was stated by the honorable member for. Calare that the miners and shearers are contractors ; but that is not so. Although the miners are employed on piece-work, they are paid tonnage rates, and there is no calling for tenders.
– There is no competition.
– No. Then shearers get so much for every 100 sheep shorn, each man being on the same footing, and getting the rate laid down by an arbitration award or an agreement with the pastoralists. The New South Wales Railways Commissioners have been doing work by day labour for a number of years. They are not under the control of Parliament, and were employing day labour even before the present Labour Government caine into power. The deviation which got rid. of the zig-zag, and the Glenbrook deviation, were carried out by day labour, and the deviation between Otford and Waterfall is being done by day labour. The Commissioners have to make the railways pay, and if the contract system were cheaper or better than the day-labour system, they would adopt it; but they know that it is not. The Sydney Water and Sewerage Board has also, during the last five or six years, done a great deal of work by day labour. The Cataract dam at the back of the Bulli mountain, in the construction of which hundreds of men were employed, and which cost thousands of pounds; the Cordeaux dam, at the back of Mount Kembla, and big sewerage works in and around Sydney, have been carried out with day labour. Then, the large emporium of Anthony Hordern and Sons, stretching along Goulburn-street from George-street to Pitt-street, was erected by day labour, the men receiving ls. a day more than was the current rate. After the work was done, Mr. Samuel Hordern declared that some thousands of pounds had been saved by employing day labour instead of letting a contract.
– The Honorable W. Angliss, a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria, has all his work done by day labour.
– I understand that he had large works at Footscray carried out by day labour. A number of private employers use the day-labour system,. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 30th June last, the Marrickville Cottage Hospital, in the Lang division, was constructed by day labour. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Alderman W. T. Henson, the president of the institu tion, quoted figures which went to prove that a saving of over 33 per cent, had been effected by employing day labour, instead of letting a contract. He is not a Labour man. He said -
When tenders were called for the additions and internal arrangements, the lowest tender received was £4,975, the Government -estimate furnished for the work being (£5,000. But the Committee considered the figure too high, and decided to have it carried out by day labour. Mr. Crothers, of Summer Hill, a retired builder, undertook to supervise the work, recognising the great amount of good the hospital was doing. He assured the Committee that he could effect a considerable saving on the lowest tender. His services were accepted, and the work was carried out by him at a cost of (£3,361 5s. 3d., a direct saving to the hospital of (£1,613 14s. gd. Nor was that all, for over (£400 worth of work, which would have been charged for as extras if by contract, was also carried out by Mr. Crothers. Therefore, on the finished building, a saving was effected of over (£2,000. The Committee of the hospital has decided to recognise Mr. Crothers’ gratuitous services.
Here we have an ex-contractor recommending an institution to do work by day labour instead of by contract, thus saving nearly £2,000 on the Government estimate. The honorable member for Bass referred to-night to something that took place in Tasmania a good’ many years ago. About fourteen years ago the Tasmanian Government called for tenders for the breakwater at Macquarie Harbor. After the tenders had closed, a Select Committee was appointed by the Tasmanian House of Assembly, and it was discovered that one of the prominent members of the State Government of that day was the actual tenderer for the work, but under an assumed name. The result of this disclosure was that he lost his position. Such occurrences have not been confined to Tasmania. Politicians in New South Wales have been unseated because of their connexion with, and participation in, Government contracts. A member of the firm of Proudfoot and Logan once represented the district of New England in the State Parliament, and was unseated because of his interest in a State contract undertaken by that firm. The contract system leaves openings for political gerrymandering, and that is an evil against which we must guard. It has been pointed out that in Queensland a Conservative Government has for years been carrying on railway construction by day labour, and the Engineer-in-Chief for Railways in that State has shown that the adoption of that system has resulted in a saving of thousands of pounds. If a State Government - if municipal bodies, water and sewerage boards, and various other public institutions - can successfully carry out their works by day labour, then the Federal Parliament should be able to do so, and in saying that it cannot, honorable members opposite are only confessing their own want of ability. I shall oppose any return from the day labour to the contract system in connexion with Commonwealth works, and I enter my protest against such a proposal.
.- In subdivision 4 we have the item “ Federal Capital at Canberra - Towards cost of establishment, £285,000.” I wish to test the sincerity of statements made by many honorable members opposite during the recent election campaign, when they made themselves hoarse in decrying the “ dreadful extravagance “ of the Fisher Government. According to them, we had expended, not thousands, but millions, on the Capital site, and this was declared to be a shocking waste of public money. I wish to ascertain to-night whether they propose to support the continuance of this “ wasteful system.” Last year, £137,267 was expended on the Federal Capital, whereas the present Government propose an expenditure of £285,000. I move -
That the item “ Federal Capital at Canberra - towards cost of establishment-, £285,000,” be reduced by £147,000.
If the proposed vote be amended in this way, we shall bring it down to the “ dreadfully extravagant expenditure “ in which the Fisher Government indulged last year. I have a further reason for this amendment. I fail to see why the electorate of Grey should be treated as it is under these Estimates. It is by far the largest electorate in South Australia, yet the amount proposed to be expended on post-offices there, this year, is £562; or, including re-votes - money voted last year but not spent - a total of £1,370. After scanning these Estimates, one is inclined to think that, so far as the Government are concerned, it is a case of granting favours to the victors. A total of £32,000 is provided for post-offices in South Australia, and, of that amount, the electorate of Grey is to receive, including re-votes, only £1,370. Nearly all this expenditure is to take place in the electorates represented by Liberal members in that State. I fail to see why a division should be penalized merely because it is represented by a Labour man ; and it seems to me that my only hope of securing a larger expenditure in my constituency is by obtaining a reduction of the proposed vote for the Federal Capital. There is no great hurry in regard to the Capital works. Mr. Griffin, the designer, whose services have been retained to supervise the work of laying out the city, is just about to leave for America, and cannot possibly be back before Christmas, so that the Government will not be able to spend the proposed vote of £285,000 during the financial year.
– Then why not vote it?
– I want some of this money to provide for more urgent works in country districts.
– Did the honorable member apply for any particular works to be carried out?
– I tried to secure the erection of quite a number of post-offices but was unsuccessful. I know that in New South Wales it was said, during the election campaign, that the expenditure on the Federal Capital was insufficient; but in South Australia, when I said that (lie amount voted last year was £110,000, members of the Liberal party and Liberal organizers contradicted me, and declared that the Labour Government were literally wasting millions on the “ bush Capital.” We shall now see whether these honorable members are prepared to support a proposal by the Government to increase what they then described as extravagant expenditure.
– I hope the Committee will not accept the amendment. I do not believe in pitting one place against another. Whether the electorate of Grey has been generously treated on these Estimates or not is no reason why we should, at this stage, interfere with a project which has been decided by one or two Parliaments, and has been the settled policy of the country for some time. Honorable members will notice that last year £110,000 was appropriated for this purpose, and £137,267 was expended. They will find also that, in 1910-11, £50,000 was appropriated for the purpose, and £16,043 expended; and in 1911-12, £100,000 was appropriated, and £68,025 expended. The Minister in charge of* the Department concerned will, I am sure, give honorable members all the detailed information they require, but I have already pointed out in the Budget statement that it is proposed to spend the vote for this year of £285,000 in carrying out work which must be completed before the construction of the permanent buildings of the Capital is entered upon. This money is required for obtaining a water supply from the Cotter River, which must be brought a distance of 10 or 12 miles through pipes, the construction of reservoirs, and of a main sewer and sewerage for a portion of the Capital site. Works are in progress for providing bricks, timber, and other materials required for buildings. An electric plant is being installed, and a weir is to be erected on the Cotter River.
– A very large weir will not be required.
– It will eventually be a large weir, no doubt, but will not’ be very big at the beginning. There are 650 men employed on the works at present in progress. Honorable members will see from the Budget statement that the expenditure on the Federal Capital to date has been:- In 1910-11, £16,413; in 1911-12, £68,025; and in 1912-13, £137,267, making a total expenditure to the 30th June last of £221,705. When the amount proposed to be appropriated for the current financial year is spent, it will bring the expenditure on the capital up to £506,705.
– Can the right honorable gentleman say what the expenditure for this year has been from the 30th June last to date?
– I have not that information, but it could be easily obtained. I have said that there are 650 men employed on the works at present in progress.
– The Government are spending £81,000, besides this vote, at Jervis Bay.
– I am speaking now of the Federal Capital. Up to the 30th June, we had expended £169,845 in the purchase of land. The balance of the £600,000 voted for this purpose is available, and no doubt a considerable portion of it will be spent this year. I have not included the expenditure on the Military College at Canberra. It is an independent vote, and about £313,024 will have been expended in connexion with it by the end of this year. The project for the building of the Federal Capital has been approved by Parliament, and is a going concern. It cannot be expected by any one that a Government coming into office only a few months ago would seek to reverse the confirmed policy of the country. The establishment of the Capital is an obligation imposed by the Constitution to begin with. When we entered into Federation, a bargain was made with New South Wales that the Federal Capital should be established in New South Wales territory. That bargain must be kept. Honorable members are aware that a great deal of difficulty was experienced in the . selection of a site, but a site was eventually selected; and if honorable members were to support the amendment, they would be going back upon all that has so far been done. We have been advancing gradually and regularly, and I hope the work of establishing the Capital will not now be interfered with. We should go forward with it, and complaint might much more justly have been directed against the Government for not having provided for a larger expenditure on this account. We have to make up our minds in this matter. We are going to build Parliament House and enter into possession of our own domain at Canberra, or we are not; and if we are, we should set about the work in earnest. That is a matter which the Government must consider; but they have not been able to do more at present than to provide for expeditiously carrying out the preliminary work, in securing a water supply, providing for sewerage and building materials, which is necessary before we enter upon the construction of Parliament House and other buildings to enable us to locate the Federal Parliament at Canberra. I do not think that the honorable member for Grey is in earnest in moving this amendment. The honorable member indicated that his object was to try to put some other honorable members in a difficulty. To try to put another member in a difficulty is not a thing to be very proud of.
– That sort of talk will not help the right honorable gentleman.
– The honorable member seems to think that one must not express what he desires to say. We are all here on the same footing, but if I have said anything to ruffle the honorable member’s feathers, I regret it. I have no wish to do that; I merely said that to try to put another member in a difficulty is not a thing which an honorable member should do. I hope the amendment will not be agreed to.
.- It is indeed with very great reluctance that I rise to support the amendment, because I am one of those who, over eleven years ago, pointed out that the first thing which should be done was to have a referendum on the question of striking out the condition that the Federal Capital should not be established within 100 miles of Sydney. I have not the slightest doubt that, had that proposal been agreed to, every one would have seen that it was a right and proper thing to do. We are now going on with the building of a bush Capital. I never thought that was a good thing to do, and I do not think so now; but, the country having been committed to it, I do not see how we can very well go back. I think the honorable member for Grey will have to agree with other honorable members on that point. I am sorry to say that, when I proposed the resolution to which I refer nearly twelve years ago, I got little or no support. Mr. Skene, the honorable member for Grampians at that time, took the same view of the matter as I did; but we stood so much alone that we had to give up the proposal. The matter has since drifted on, until we have already spent about £400,000 at Canberra, and there is, perhaps, another £80,000 or £100,000 of expenditure at the site for which we are liable. Roughly, I suppose £500,000 has been spent there. Unless the honorable member for Grey believes that the whole of the States are prepared to support him, I do not think that he ought to press his proposal. As the Treasurer has put it, we must either knock the whole project on the head, or we must proceed with it. I am afraid that the general opinion is that we are bound to proceed with it, and, in these circumstances, the sooner this Parliament -is located there the better.
– I thought that the honorable member would support any proposal to reduce taxation ?
– I will support any proposal tlo reduce taxation, and any measure which, when taxation is imposed, will cause that taxation to pass into the Treasury instead of into the pockets of private individuals. I regret that the honorable member would not assist me to insure this in connexion with the sugar bounty.
– Order !
– I merely rose to point out that, a few years ago, I did wish to have the Federal Capital scheme knocked on the head, because I do not believe iu a bush Capital, and because I imagine that future generations will wonder whether the members of this Parliament had any brains.
– I thought the honorable member prided himself on his consistency. He is very inconsistent to-night.
– I would like to know from honorable members opposite whether they really intend to stop expenditure ou the Federal Capital, because they certainly have taken some credit for having proceeded with the building of it ? When we remember the part which the honorable member for Darwin took on the occasion of the christening ceremony, we may rest assured that he will not be prepared to see it upset without entering a very strong protest. He laid one of the foundation stones of the Capital.
– Does the honorable member believe that there is an adequate water supply there?
– When the site was first suggested, I knew that there was an adequate water supply. The surveys which have since been made have merely borne out what I and other surveyors who were acquainted with, the district knew perfectly well.
– There is a pumping scheme now.
– The water supply from the Cotter River was discussed thirteen years ago. I hope that the honorable member will not press his proposal to a’ division.
.- This is one of the instances in which the staunch independency about which the honorable member for Werriwa prates so much is shown to be about as limp as a bathing suit after use. He does not want to expend money on a bush capital, and he is in favour of preventing the imposition of taxation for useless purposes. Yet this staunch, stiff-backed Liberal, as soon as he is tested, becomes as limp and helpless as possible.
– As limp as I am.
– I am sorry if the Prime Minister is not well. I recognise that he has many worries. I regret very much the position in which the honorable member for Werriwa has placed himself. I scarcely know whether to describe it as ludicrous or pitiable. I had not the pleasure of a very long association with him when he previously occupied a seat in this House, but I was given to understand that, when once- he gave expression to an opinion, it was because he had studied the subject with which he was dealing from every point of view, and because there was no minute detail connected with it of which he was not seized. Yet we find that, in the very first instance in which he has been called upon to stand to his opinion, he falls. The first skirmishing shot sees this strong man fall helpless to the ground. What will be his position in the course of a little time, when his party, in accordance with their election promises, bring forward some Tariff question ? If the fate of the Ministry depends upon it, will the honorable member fall again helplessly to the ground ?
– I shall seek the honorable member’s advice.
– The honorable member will not be able to follow it, because his Government will not allow him, Caucus will not allow him, the organizations outside will not allow him. He is subservient to those organizations. Here we find him to-day, in obedience to some call that is yet unexplained, going back on his previous admission. Though the honorable member may not like it, nevertheless he has to admit that this has shown him up, not as a man of backbone, but as a mere delegate, registering the opinion of outside organizations. I suppose Caucus has whipped him. Seeing that several Labour candidates approved of this expenditure, one or two Victorian Liberals were given a free hand on this question. At the elections it was necessary in Victoria to fight the matter differently from the way in which the Liberals in New South Wales were fighting it, so one or two were given a free hand - but not necessarily to do any harm to the Ministry - in order to allow them to squeeze in for Victorian electorates where the subject of the Federal Capital is not popular. But, so many appear to have been given a free hand, it was neces sary to put the whip on the honorable member for Werriwa, and I am sorry that he who prates most of his independence should be so treated, though I admit he has been brought down several times this session. On sugar they brought him down.
– The honorable member is a long way from the. Federal Capital.
– On the question of quarantine they brought him down.
– Order !
– I do not propose to follow that line of argument, but I could not help expressing my keen sympathy with the honorable member for Werriwa, who presented himself as having a backbone, but has proven conclusively that he is of the jelly-fish order. The special reason for directing attention to this item is the peculiar way in which it was fought at the elections by our friends on the Government side of the House. In New South Wales, where expenditure on the Capital site is popular, the general statement was that there was not sufficient money being expended. The term used by the Prime Minister was that the expenditure on the Capital site by the Fisher Administration was “miserably” small, and, generally throughout New South Wales, the statements made were to the effect that the Labour Administration were not doing enough in this direction, that we ought to have done more, that we were niggardly and parsimonious, that we did not believe in the Capital being established, and that we were doing our best to delay its establishment. Singularly enough, the Liberals in Victoria, and in one or two other States where this expenditure is not popular, were allowed to sing a different song, and tell an entirely different tale. They were allowed to tell to the electors those stories which suited for the moment to get them a majority, regardless of what were the future intentions of the party. If we are to believe the statements made in Victoria by several gentlemen, the expenditure on the Capital site last year, and the year before, was out of all proportion to requirements, and was extravagant and wasteful, and everything that it should not be; and because of this it was said that the Fisher Administration should be ignominiously put out of office. These tales were told in Victoria and other States, and, in the circumstances, I am justified in calling public attention to them, because they are typical of what the Labour party is subjected to. Practically every subject was analyzed as regarded its popularity in particular districts or States. There was an entire absence of definite policy, a looseness by which each honorable member opposite could deal with a subject, not from a Commonwealth point of view, not from the point of view of the real intentions of his party, but from the point of view of how it would tickle his electors.
– Is that not a most important view?
– It may be an important point of view to politicians, but it is a lamentable point of view to statesmen.
– “We want Federal men on this question, not States men.
– I admit we require Federal men with strength of purpose, men with mentality, who know their opinions, and who are prepared to adhere to them, no matter at what cost, political or otherwise. We do not want, as suggested by the unhappy remark of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, the class of politician who promises white in one district and black in another; who makes promises of various descriptions in different States.
– You ought to understand that.
– The honorable member seeks to escape now by saying I ought to understand it. I am not a member of the Fusion. I did not go away from the Deakin Administration into the Fusion. I was not at one moment in an Administration that called the present Prime Minister, and those with him, the wreck- age of all other parties, and the next day was hanging round their necks. His interjection misses the point.
– Do not set your snare in sight of the birds.
– The interjection misses its mark. The honorable member is not a skilful thrower, despite his skill as a politician. I regret the attitude taken up by honorable members opposite in relation to this particular expenditure.
– Are you for or against it?
– I intend to vote with the Ministry.
– Then you are a statesman?
– Apparently, from the point of view of New South Wales, honorable members who support expenditure on the Capital site are statesmen, but from the point of view of Victorians honorable members are mere politicians if they go in for too much expenditure in that direction. I take the view, then, that we have entered into a compact. The compact we entered into was an honorable one between the States, and when Parliament, after due consideration, selected the particular site for the establishment of the Capital, expenditure was started, and I fail to see where we can reasonably stop the expenditure now. As a matter of fact, the Parliament to be established there will be an improvement on what is possible here, or what would be possible in Sydney or any other State capital. There is a feature, however, in connexion with the item which ought to be given prominence, and that is that the Government propose to expend over double the amount that was spent last year. While I agree that they are committed to a continuity of expenditure in that direction, they are not necessarily committed to any particular amount, and, therefore, so far as this item is concerned, the gibe which has been thrown at the Opposition side for the last few weeks - namely, that the Government are committed to certain expenditure and cannot help themselves - does not hold good. There is no necessity for them to expend during this financial year one penny more than was expended during the last financial year. The Minister of Home Affairs ought to be able to tell us how much has been expended during the months of July, August, and September.
– I cannot tell you the absolute amount, but in a few moments I will get the information for you.
– I am grateful to the Minister for his offer.
– Roughly, about £70,000, I should say.
– I do not know what authority the honorable gentleman has for making that statement.
– I was just looking at the Estimates, and recognise that three months of the year have gone.
– The honorable gentleman is not quite so innocent on matters political as to suggest that because three months of the financial year have expired, necessarily a fourth of the proposed vote has been expended. There is no justification for a statement of that kind.
– Mr. Chairman, will you get’ this current of cold air turned off, please % It is like a barn here.
– There is another reason, perhaps, why the Capital, and the Parliament House to be erected there, should be built more quickly, for if ever there was an unhealthy chamber for men to meet in it is this one.
– The atmosphere here is poisonous.
– I ask permission, sir, to say that I never knew a day’s illness in my life until I came into this place, but I regret to say that that has not been the case during the last few years.
– You are not the only one who is sick.
– I care not what an honorable member’s physique may be. It is utterly impossible for him to stay in this chamber during the hours that the House sits in any one day. To stay in here for three consecutive hours means illness, i Honorable members will not mind me saying, I am sure, that I endeavour to stay here a reasonable number of hours, but it is absolutely impossible for any honorable member to do it with moderate decency and comfort to himself. His health is seriously at stake if he tries it.
– If the honorable member did not speak he could.
– I do not know whether that would be possible.
– He might have to listen to the honorable member for Werriwa, and that would be worse.
– Yes, I might have to listen to the honorable member for Werriwa, and that is more painful than anything I know of, particularly after his recent display. I do not intend to labour the question. I do not know if the Government are able honestly to expend this amount during the current financial year. That ought to have been considered by the Ministry before they put the item on the Estimates. At any rate, now that three months of the year have passed, they ‘ought to be in a position to say precisely what the expenditure has been during that time, and whether there is a reasonable prospect of the whole amount of £285,000 being expended during the year. I do not believe it can be spent, particularly when we find that the work is to be, very largely, under the supervision of the American architect; that he is about to proceed back to America; that he cannot possibly return under the space of three, or possibly four, months; and that in all human probability his absence will mean delay in certain directions.
– I assure you that you are wrong.
– If the absence of Mr. Griffin will mean no delay, of course there is a greater possibility of the whole amount being expended. What I do note running right through these Estimates is a tendency to propose an expenditure which it is not reasonable to suppose can be indulged in during the financial year, with the plant and the men available. If that is being knowingly done, there seems to be a set purpose to end the year with a surplus by the simple process of not expending money which is voted for expenditure.
– The trouble will be to find all the money we want this year. I assure the honorable member that we will be able to expend all that we can get.
– The Minister assures me that the trouble of the Government will be to find the money they require, and that they will be able to expend all that they can conscientiously get hold of. If that be the case, of course my thoughts in that direction are not justified. We cannot come to a final conclusion on that point until the financial year has expired. I intend to support the Ministry in the proposed expenditure on the Capital site.
.- My attitude in regard to the Federal Capital has been that of consistent opposition toexpenditure, and I have urged that view in the interests of my constituency. At the same time, I am not a supporter of the fireworks motion proposed by the honorable member for Grey. I am doing no violence to my election pledges. Prior to the late election, when I’ had the honour of being returned by a very large, majority indeed, I told the people that we had embarked on the building of the Capital, and that the position of honorable members was such that it would go on, whatever Government might be in power.
– So it ought to.
– I do not say that; I am simply stating the facts. I have no particular reason, from a political point of view, for supporting the amendment. I recognise that the mover wishes to “ dish “ his opponents.
– I wish to see whether honorable members opposite were in earnest in what they said at the elections.
-The honorable member forgets that the great bulk ofthe items on these Estimates are the direct outcome of the policy of the Government which he supported.
– That Government did not put down £280,000 to expend on the Federal Capital this year.
– This Government might have taken the attitude that they would not spend any more money than could be helped, which would have meant the dismissal of a number of men, and of some highly-paid officials, but I doubt whether such a course would have been wise. I am sorry that the expenditure is so large, yet, last year, although Parliament voted only £110,000, the Labour Government spent £137,000. The question is, Are we to continue, or are the works already begun to come to a standstill? A large majority is pledged to push on with the Capital, and unless money is to be thrown away, progress must be made at a reasonable rate. I view the financial position of the Commonwealth with, concern, because expenditure is increasing in every direction, but the ex-Minister of Home Affairs has asserted confidently that the Federal Capital can be made a paying proposition.
– Hear, hear ! I would take it offyour hands.
– Although the honorable member is inclined to make rash statements, and I do not know that I would take him as my private financial adviser, he has stated over and over again that this may be made a paying proposition. If that is so, as a large and increasing expenditure will be necessary, extending over a number of years, I think it fair and legitimate that the money required should be obtained by loans. That statement does not meet with the approval of honorable members opposite. The last Government posed as a non-borrowing Government, but had it remained in power it would have been compelled either to tax the people unduly or to resort to borrowing. If the Federal Capital can be built with loan money, borrowed at a reasonable rate, with a properly apportioned sinking fund, there will be more to justify our support of the project. As the honorable member for Grey has thrown out a challenge to thoseon this side, I have made my position in regard to this matter plain. I told the people that whatever Government was in power, this expenditure would continue, and that if I could relieve the burden of taxation by supporting a judicious borrowing policy I would do so.
– My complaint is that the vote is not large enough; the work of development that has to be done cannot be carried out for the sum set down. There are reservoirs to be built, and water must be brought to them.
– Where is the water to be pumped from?
– From the Cotter River, one of the purest rivers in the world. Then there is a great sewerage scheme, an irrigation scheme, and an afforestation scheme to be carried cut. Had the last Government remained in power, £300,000 or £400,000 would have been set apart for the Capital this year. This is a paying proposition. The Capital will finance itself. In a few years, when the population of the place is 8,000 or 10,000, the revenue will reimburse the expenditure. There is a nice income now from the Territory. I cannot see why any person should oppose this expenditure. This is the only Capital Territory in the world where the people own 560,000 acres. It isan asset to the nation, and every penny spent on it is spent for the benefit of the nation. There is a vast difference between Canberra and Washington and Ottawa, where the land is owned by private individuals. Land in Pennsylvania-avenue, which has been locked up in private hands for a hundred years, has been increased in value by hundreds of millions of dollars through the unearned increment. That will not happen at Canberra.
– This Government will sell the freehold.
– It cannot, and I do not think that it would if it could.
– I do not think that any one would buy the land.
– I would buy it if it were for sale.
– I would sell the honorable member some, if I could have my way.
– I believe that the honorable gentleman would. Another point which I wish to emphasize is that the appointment of a lot of permanent public servants in a Territory like this, which is in a state of transition, will prove to be a huge mistake. The Commonwealth Territory should be excluded from the operation of the Public Service Act. I am speaking as a man who knows something of the business. If a lot of permanent officials are appointed, byandby, when the city develops, there will be nothing for them to do ; but their services will have to be retained.
– They could be transferred.
– But where to? On one occasion it was proposed to send up a boy from one of the public offices to create a shire which we had to found up there, and had I listened to the proposal there would have been a nice mess. The man whom I sent up discovered 11,688 acres - in fact, close up to 20,000 acres - which were not on the shire records, and in respect of which not a penny of taxation had been paid to the shires of New South Wales. We also discovered 107,000 acres which were not on the books.
– There was never any geodetic survey up there.
– That is so; and this incident serves to show the slipshod way of doing business which is going on in some of the shires. In the absence of a proper geodetic survey, you buy up country in Australia, and do not know that you own it. You have people overlapping your land, and you are overlapping other people’s land. I am told that you do not want to bring any strangers here; that you want to have everything to yourselves. It would be a good thing for you if you had sixty or seventy King O’Malleys coming here.
– And into this House?
– Yes. I am here, and no power in Australasia can put me out. Another complaint that I have to make relates to temporary employment. The Government is a kind of kindergarten, teaching the young men as they come in what they have to do. But, under the Public Service Act, just as a temporary employe has learned his business, he is given “the order of the boot,” and another man has to be taken on.
– That difficulty can be overcome only by means of an amendment of the Public Service Act.
-Exactly. Exempt the Territory from the operation of the Act. We have a splendid Administrator in Colonel Miller. I found him to be a man of great ability, but he was tied up with red-tape. I took it off him, and he is all right now. The PostmasterGeneral was not long in office before he discovered the difficulty arising from redtape in his Department. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has a great work before him in the Federal Territory, and we should help him in every way possible. My contention is that when a good man is secured for work in the Territory, he should not be discharged at the end of nine months. How can the Public Service Commissioner, sitting here in Melbourne, know what is required in the Federal Territory? Has the Almighty endowed him specially with some great power, which enables him to sit here and tell how to operate things in the Federal Territory? I do not think so. The Administrator should have the power to retain the services of a man who suits him until they are no longer required. We cannot make a success of the Territory when we have some other man weighing out what we want. When I was Minister of Home Affairs, I found that a man, who was perhaps a clerk in the Postal Department, would be created an inspector and sent up to the Territory, where he wanted to weigh up the men who should help me in administering the Department. All this, of course, was clever and splendid. I would be told, perhaps, “ Take this gentleman and run the Department with him.” As a matter of fact, I would not ask his opinion concerning the price of a walking stick, yet I had to avail myself of his services in carrying on that great Department. The position is the same in regard to the Territory at the present time. A change ought to be made. If an able young man is secured as a temporary hand, the Administrator should have power to employ him as long as his services are required. When the Territory develops, and he is not wanted any longer, he will be able to go into business for himself up there. If this plan be adopted, we shall obtain a staff of able officers, rather than a lot of official machines. It is dangerous to create a great permanent service in the Federal Territory.
.- I should not have risen at this stage but for the speech made by the honorable member for Echuca, and the apologetic manner in which he sought to excuse his want of consistency in refusing to vote for this amount, notwithstanding his utterances from time to time in this Chamber in respect to the Federal Capital expenditure.
– What about the honorable member for Gippsland ?
– He has not had that experience which is necessary to give him a proper sense of his responsibility as a member of this Parliament. The honorable member for Echuca, however, is of age, and he knows, as a rule, what he is about. It grieves me to find him, as soon as he gets under the wing of a Government where he has an opportunity of giving effect to his opinions, slipping from the path that he mapped out for himself when sitting on this side of the House. What explanation has he given us?
– I do not think it will satisfy his constituents.
– If it does, they must be easily pleased. The honorable member says that he promised his constituents that he would not encourage the expenditure of money on the Capital site as proposed by the Federal Parliament. He must not forget that the electors, believing that he was truthful and consistent, returned him to this Parliament.
– The honorable member is forgetting the statement I made.
– It does not matter. The honorable member’s statement is on record:
– Who says it is on record ? I hope, for the honorable member’s sake, that it is not. I have been some what surprised at the action of the Government in turning down the local officers and finding it necessary to accept the advice and instruction of Mr. Griffin, who is just over here from America, and who, I very much fear, will be unable to make his ideas fit in with Australian aspirations. If we are to accept the guidance of men who have carried out works of this kind in a country where they speak of billions as we do in Australia of millions, they may land the Commonwealth in extravagance in connexion with the establishment of the Federal Capital, which we may never be able to meet, even with the best returns we can anticipate from the Federal Territory. The Government have practically insulted the local officers by telling them that there is no man in the Home Affairs Department capable of handling the plan and specifications submitted for their guidance by Mr. Griffin. I want to know from the Minister why he does not explain this item ? Why does he not say how it is proposed to spend this £285,000? Does he think that the Committee should vote that sum of money blindly ? Are not the people entitled to know what the Government propose to do with this money?
– That is why a Public Works Committee is proposed. The late Government should have foreseen the necessity for it, but they showed no intelligence.
– The honorable member for Werriwa was not here last year, and it ill-becomes him to talk of a Government he knows nothing about. He would be more legitimately engaged in discussing the actions of the present Government, as I know he would like to do if he had the liberty which he ought to have to express his opinions. What do the Government propose to do with this £285,000 ?
– I shall explain if the honorable member will let me.
– I shall be glad to hear the honorable gentleman’s explanation presently. Is the expenditure of this money to be controlled by the officers who have supervised the expenditure on the Federal Capital to date, or is all their work going to be set aside? Is everything they have done to be reviewed and recast by Mr. Griffin ? Are we going to embark upon an exploring expedition to discover some new basis on which to establish the Federal Capital? We have a right to know how Mr. Griffin’s proposal will affect existing conditions, and what will be involved in the alterations he proposes ? Can the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs tell the Committee what salary Mr. Griffin is to receive. The Government have not, so far, condescended to tell honorable members for how many years Mr. Griffin is to be engaged, or what salary he is to be paid.
– The honorable member, and honorable members generally, will have the fullest information on those points as soon as the agreement is made.
– We are dealing with Estimates for expenditure on the Federal Capital, and we should have the information now.
– We are dealing with Works Estimates, and I should probably be ruled out of order if I discussed the salaries of officers on the vote now before the Committee.
– The- salary of the officer who is to carry out this expenditure is a legitimate matter for discussion on the vote. Why do the Government not tell the Committee whether Colonel Miller or Mr. Griffin is in future to rule at the Federal Territory? That is a most important point. The late Minister of Home Affairs eulogized Colonel Miller when freed from red-tape, as an excellent officer, whom the present Government should admire and appreciate. I should like to know whether Colonel Miller or Mr. Griffin is to run the show at the Federal Capital?
– Does the honorable member refer to the Colonel Miller who was useless in the Home Affairs Office?
– Any man would be useless if he were bound up with redtape, but if the “King” has freed the “ Colonel “ from red-tape, possibly the best that is in that officer may become known. I have not been so impressed by Colonel Miller as some people have been. What is to become of Colonel Owen, the Director of Works, and the man who is absolutely in charge of these works at the present time? Do the Government propose to duplicate the officers of the Works Department, or to humiliate the local officers? If they do, they will certainly introduce discontent into the Service, and that must involve inefficient administration .
– No Administrator has been appointed at the Federal Territory.
– Yes; Colonel Miller is the Administrator of the Federal Territory.
– He is still Secretary of the Home Affairs Department. He has never been appointed Administrator of the Federal Territory.
– The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs says that he is an admirable officer. I do not think that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is prepared to dispute that.
– He has not been appointed. I think that we ought to be told who is going to control this expenditure.
– Then why does not the honorable member make an appeal to the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs?
– I will help the honorable member.
– Let us get to the item.
– If Ministers will not talk, they might have put on these Estimates an explanatory note of their intentions in regard to this expenditure. Will the Honorary Minister explain the matter if I sit down ?
– Will he explain the matter fully?
– Let us get to the item. The honorable member can speak again if he is not satisfied with my explanation.
– Upon that clear understanding, 1 am prepared to resume my seat.
– I do hope that honorable members will assist us to pass this item to-night, because, after all, it is not, as the honorable member for Grey put it, one which must be regarded from the stand-point of one’s own constituency. I like to regard the Federal Territory as the constituency of every honorable member, because it is the territory of the people of Australia.
As honorable members know, there are certain initial stages in the building of a city in virgin country. These stages are concerned with the supply, for city purposes, of water and sewerage. These are the initial stages which must be faced before the erection of permanent buildings is begun. In the scheme of the Federal Capital, two reservoirs are provided. One of these is to he constructed immediately above the pumping station from the Cotter. I would remind honorable members that pumping is being resorted to, not because it is the only means of getting water from the Cotter, but because it is cheaper than would be the bringing of water from further up the Cotter by gravitation. Immediately above the pumping station there is to be a reservoir, on top of Stromwell, on which we propose to spend £15,000 this year. From that pumping station the water will be carried in pipes to a distributing reservoir above the city itself, on Redhill. On that pipe-head reservoir we propose to spend another £15,000.
– Does that fit in with Mr. Griffin’s plan ?
– I am speaking of the water supply for the city. So far as this stage of the business is concerned, it has nothing whatever to do with Mr. Griffin. On road maintenance, and improvements to roads, we propose to spend £8,000 this year.
– Will the alterations of our present scheme by Mr. Griffin resultin ripping up all the roads that have been made ?
– No. The actual lay-out of the roads on the city site has not yet been decided. These roads are intended to provide reasonable access to our works on the Cotter, &c.
– The Government cannot deal with a water supply for the city until the roads have been laid out.
– I admit that; and what we are hoping to be able to do in the immediate future is to settle the actual city site, so that we shall know the precise location of every road on that site. When that has been done, we shall call for tenders for the principal buildings of the city. On quarrying development we propose to spend £1,000 this year, and on the dam and reservoir of the Cotter River we propose to spend £40,000 this year. The actual minimum flow of this river during the three years that we have tested it has been 4,000,000 gallons, which would be sufficient to provide 60 gallons per head to a population of 66,666. So that the actual minimum flow is very much more than adequate for any city that we can conjecture for some time to come. The average flow daily is infinitely higher.
– That is to say, the Government propose to expend £70,000 on the two reservoirs and on the dam on the Cotter ?
– Yes. I am considering the question, of economizing to a considerable extent this year on the vote for the Cotter dam, for the reason that cement is costing us a good deal up there. I have under consideration the question of the local manufacture of cement, by which we hope to save a substantial sum. I understand that there are no engineering difficulties involved. If the Government can make the base of this dam for the present so that we can provide for an ample storage for the next ten or twelve years-
– Is it proposed to establish a Government cement works?
– I should imagine that it may be something of the kind. At present we have under close consideration the practicability of the scheme. I do not wish honorable members to press me too much at this stage. It is possible that we may economize in this year’s vote for the Cotter River reservoir; but we shall do so solely with a view to effecting economy in the ultimate construction of the dam without in any way retarding the development of the city by providing for less storage water than will be necessary during the next ten or fifteen years. We intend to expend £62,500 this year in connexion with the cast-iron pipe mains, and the laying of them for sewerage and water purposes.
– How can they be laid until the streets have been mapped out?
– The bulk of these are on the way into the city.
– I thought the sewerage applied to the city.
– I have told the honorable member that in the immediate future the lay-out of the city will be definitely decided upon. On the brickworks we expect to expend £10,000 this year.
– State brickworks?
– Certainly. Do you object?
– No. I am glad to see you are converted.
– I ask my friend to regard this as the Capital of Australia, and not as a means of throwing party bricks. On the power plant we shall spend £20,000. That is a vital feature of the scheme, supplying, in addition to its lighting functions, a power mill for the erection of the dam on the Cotter River, and for the cement works and other workswe shall have in connexion with the city. On the power-house we shall spend £13,000. On the plant we shall spend £19,450. On the tunnel from the reservoir we shall spend £20,000. That is to cut out a long length of pipe and to save frictional and other costs. We have a possible sum set aside for the manufacture of cement.
– How much ?
– The sum laid down is £10,000. We have also £18,000 to lay in a stock of timber to season for future requirements. These are, broadly, the Estimates for the Federal Capital for the year.
– Is the payment to the New South Wales Government for extending the railway included?
– There is £22,000 provided on these Estimates for the railway.
– Is it out of the £285,000 ?
– Yes. I think the railway will be completed this year with the £22,000 provided. Our difficulties in connexion with the Federal Capital would have been minimized had we started to build the railway in the first place before commencing works on the site.
It seems to me the time has gone by for discussion on this question in the amusing way in which we used to discuss it in the House in times gone by. Then it afforded opportunity for a certain amount of amusement among honorable members. I think we all participated in it. We clamoured for sites, and fought about their respective merits. But now I think one thing is completely established, and that is that Australia has for its Capital beyond all doubt a site worthy of the Australian people. Another thing established beyond all dispute is that the site is not going to be an extravagant proposition to Australian people, for Australia is to own its own site, and is to have absolutely the unearned increment that will come from locating the Capital in the virgin bush.
– Has the Minister worked out any calculation as to its revenue-earning power?
– I. have gone into those facts, but as the hour is so late, I would like honorable members to pass the item. At another time, I shall be pleased to give any information.
– What would be the use of it then ?
– Almost unanimously the Committee is in favour of passing the item, and I therefore ask honorable members to allow it to go through to-night.
.- I have no desire to keep the House at this stage, but I think the Honorary Minister should give us some explanation of what the Government intend to do in regard to Mr. Griffin. We are totally unaware of the intentions of the Government in this respect. If they intend to alter the plan, it means delay.
– There is no delay involved.
– The Government have not told us what they are going to do. It is no use saying that no delay is involved. Any alteration to Mr. Griffin’s plan must mean delay. Nothing can be done until the plan of the ground is settled. The whole trouble from the inception has been that there has been no settlement of the ground plan. It was the intention of the late Government to ask architects to furnish plans for the various buildings required; but architects cannot furnish plans until they know what are to be the sites of the buildings. If the ground plan is altered, the whole thing will have to wait until it is settled. I can understand that the reservoir can be gone on with; but the Capital ought not to be put into its place until we know what Mr. Griffin proposes to do. It might upset the whole system. No doubt he will put his reservoir on the highest position, so as to get a proper pressure - that point may be settled - but before these Estimates pass we ought to know if the Government intend to engage Mr. Griffin for the purpose of delaying this work, or for the purpose of improving the plan. Mr. Griffin’s original plan did not deal with the matter of sanitation. The two Australians who submitted plans made provision for sewerage and sanitation. If Mr. Griffin’s plan has only to be altered to provide sewerage and sanitation, we should be informed of it. Before we give authority to spend this money we should know whether the work is to be carried out under Mr. Griffin or under the Board appointed by the late Government. That Board is composed of capable men, and I believe they have the work connected with this Capital site at heart, and that they are very anxious, if given the opportunity, to show their ability. I believe that if they are given the opportunity we shall not regret placing the matter in their hands. I believe that honorable members supporting the Government would oppose the idea of giving authority to spend money without the Committee knowing whether the matter was to be taken out of the hands of this Board and given to Mr. Griffin’s control. I do not know the reason for the delay. If I were asked to give an opinion, I would say that I do not think Mr. Griffin will return from America. I do not think the Government can give him sufficient compensation unless he is paid a very heavy salary. There arc so many opportunities for him in America. The opportunities are not so great for such a gentleman in Australia. He will have no other source of employment but the Federal Government, so that his salary must necessarily be very high. If we give him a high salary, then, I presume, we will place responsibility on him ; and, in that case, the Government will possibly do away with the Board. I take it we should know something about this. But when Mr. Griffin gets back to America, away from the excitement of coming to Australia and receiving the hospitality for which Australians are so noted, he will begin to think he has made a mistake.
– Have the Government made a proposal to him, and if so, what is it?
– The only opportunity we have to force the Government to give us information on that point is before this item is passed, and I feel quite justified in now trying to elicit full information for the people of Australia. Before the Board system is abandoned in favour of the appointment of Mr. Griffin, it is not unreasonable for me, I think, to ask the Government for a definite statement.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney, supported by the Leader of the Opposition, by interjection, wants to know what we are doing with regard to Mr. Griffin. As honorable members know, the Government asked that gentleman to come from America to advise us with regard to changes from the original prize design. And we are under a very great debt of gratitude to him for coming over here at a considerable loss to himself for that purpose. Since we have seen Mr. Griffin, we have realized that in him we have an authority on town planning such as we certainly had never seen before in Australia. Town planning is comparatively a new science.
– Why rub it in?
– It is not a question of rubbing it in; this is a new science. I might, for instance, have an unbounded admiration for any of my honorable friends, but I would not expect them to be Greek scholars until they had learnt Greek. Town planning, I repeat, is ‘a new science. I have a very high admiration for the officers in the Home Affairs Department, who have been looking after this business. I do not think that a better body of men could be found anywhere, but town planning is not their specialty. I have endeavoured, and hope to be able, to secure the services and advice of Mr. Griffin for two or three years - the latter, I trust - in connexion with the establishment of the Capital. I do not think it would be a fair thing, and I think that my right honorable friend, on consideration, will realize that it is not quite a fair thing, to give details of an understanding which is not yet definitely arrived at. When you are dealing with a man, you do not want to be making a statement about him until you are in a position to do so without an affront to him, or perhaps without damage to your own interests.
– It is understood that he is coming here?
– Yes; and we hope to use him to considerable advantage.
– What are the terms you have offered ? You have made him an offer?
– My right honorable friend would not dream of complying with a request of that kind if he were on this side of the House until he was in a position to make a full statement. I hope to be in that position very shortly. If the right honorable gentleman would like to know privately what we are doing, I shall be only too happy to tell him.
– Why tell him more than any other honorable member ?
– I will tell any honorable member who wishes to know, privately. I do not want to make a public statement before I am in a position to do so.
– I think that the figures presented by the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs furnish only another evidence of the great blunder which this Parliament has made in the selection of the Federal Capital site. The Treasurer knows that I have opposed this project every time it has come before the House.
– Did you vote against it last time?
– Yes; and I intend to have a division on the item to-night. This item only makes one realize how much preliminary expenditure is necessary in connexion with the Capital site. We have only to glance through these Estimates to see what a great bungle was made in selecting the site. We find that, out of this sum of £280,000, two reservoirs are to be constructed at a cost of £15,000 each. For another reservoir, which is supposed to he a preliminary one, a sum of £40,000 is get down as a beginning. On roads, which is a national expenditure, £8,000 is to be spent, and I have no objection to that. I did expect some information in connexion with this project, especially from the present Ministry, who used to make loud complaints about lack of information. On the Works Estimates for last year, the Prime Minister complained bitterly, not once, but several times, about the lack of information which was afforded. We listened to the Assistant Minister to-night while he was rolling off thousands; but he did not explain all the items which are covered by this sum of £280,000.
– He gave an explanation of the whole amount, except £13,000.
– While the Assistant Minister, in a flippant way, announces that it is intended to reserve this area for all time for the people of Australia, the Treasurer says he wishes he could dispose of some of the property now. I should like to know whether the Cabinet are united on this point. The area is not nearly so valuable as other sites that were inspected.
– I was expressing my personal opinion; I do not object to selling land in towns anywhere.
– When we find an important member of the Cabinet expressing a desire to sell some of the land in this area, it behoves us to be wary.
– It is provided in the Act that we cannot sell.
– Yes; but there is such a thing as amending the Act. I desire to know whether any considerable portion of the Cabinet, or of their supporters, share the Treasurer’s view ?
– I do not know.
– It is quite likely that the right honorable gentleman may set out on a little mission work. We have been told by the ex- Minister of Home Affairs that the Federal Capital is a magnificent paying proposition, which will impose no great burden upon the taxpayers, but the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has given us no information about it. We have not been told what revenue has been received from the Territory. Full statistics should be put before us. We should know what improvements have been effected with the money expended, and what revenue has been received. This Government promised to be a wonderful business Administration, and yet it has not shown a balance-sheet for this outlay.
– The estimated revenue from the Territory this year is £2,000.
– I suggest that the honorable member should continue his speech to-morrow.
– I hope that tomorrow the Minister in charge of the Department will be prepared with a return showing what money has been expended, how far work has progressed, and what return is received from the Territory.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) pro posed -
That this House do now adjourn.
– I desire to briefly draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to the case of Mr. W. Somerville, a pressman connected with the Sydney Daily Telegraph, who was injured at the Kitchener Encampment in the Liverpool area in my electorate in 1910. A live cartridge was left in a machine gun, and exploded when the gun was being cleaned after target practice, the projectile passing through a contractor’s horse, and tearing a wound in Mr. Somerville’s leg. The contractor was compensated for the loss of bis horse, but Mr. Somerville received no compensation. According to his statement, representations were made to the then Minister of Defence, the present Prime Minister, who promised to leave a minute recommending a favorable consideration of the ease to his successor, but Senator Pearce turned the application down, on the ground that on the back of the press pass issued to Mr. Somerville was printed the statement that no responsibility of any kind was undertaken by the military authorities. Mr. Somerville wrote saying that this attitude was unfair, and that he should be compensated as well as the contractor. Their duties take various pressmen to the military encampments, and it is unfair that they should not be compensated for injuries of the nature received in this case. It may be argued that the Government is under no legal responsibility, because of the indorsement on the press passes, but there is a moral obligation which cannot be repudiated. I consider that Mr. Somerville is entitled to compensation, and I hope that the Honorary Minister will ask the Minister of Defence to again consider his claim.
.= - I have the heartiest sympathy with Mr. Somerville, and I shall bring the statement of the honorable member for Nepean again under the attention of - the Minister of Defence.
.- I made representations in regard to this matter to the Department, and was absolutely surprised to find that the legal technicality had been used as a reason for not compensating the individual who was injured. If the legal objection is the only ground on which compensation was refused, I trust that this Government will recognise its moral obligation in the matter. On the facts stated by Mr. Somerville, as to the correctness of which there seems to be no doubt, compensation should be given to him for the great suffering which was caused, and which endures to the present day.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta - Prime Minister and Minister of Home the case, because I was Minister of Defence when the accident happened. As the matter has not been brought under my notice since I took office this time, it escaped my attention, but I shall look into it again, aud see what can be done. The case is a hard one, and I promise that consideration will be given to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative. .
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131015_reps_5_71/>.