5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Coloured Aliens - Excise Payments - Bounty on Beet Sugar.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Herbert made certain statements regarding the employment of coloured aliens in the sugar industry in Queensland. I have received from the Premier of Queensland, through the Prime Minister, the following information on the subject: -
Information supplied Bamford that fully five hundred aliens will be put in for district of Nelson is grossly inaccurate. Number, Cairns district, which comprises Nelson, total one hundred and ninety-three. Mackay district, two hundred and forty-seven aliens. Coloured labour paid same wages as white, and with season ending. We are strictly conforming to regulations; in any case, must recognise treaty obligation, also exemption of kanakas under your own Commonwealth Act. The spirit of the Act has been observed, and after January i regulation will be strictly enforced. I sent you copy of regulation.-.
-I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs if the Government has received any more of the money owing in connexion with the sugar excise? If so, will the honorable gentleman inform the House how much has been paid ?
– We have received another £8,000 from Millaquin.
– The Minister has told us that £100,000 has been received from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and £8,000 from the Millaquin Company. Has he’ any idea when the remaining £50,000 will be paid ?
– I think that the business will be completed very soon. The ComptrollerGeneral has been adjusting matters, and the final adjustment is now pending. There will be no delay.
– The growers of beet in the Gippsland, constituency are desirous of knowing when the bounty of 2s. 2d. per ton is to be paid. I ask the Minister whether it is necessary for a proclamation to be issued first f
– I am in consultation with the Treasurer on the subject now.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Kalgoorlie in the place of Charles Edward Frazer, deceased, and the dates appointed in the writ were as follow: - Date of nomination, Monday, 22nd December; date of polling, Saturday, 17th January, 1914; and the return of the writ to be on or before Saturday, 7th February, 1914.
– In the light of the statements made by the honorable member for Herbert yesterday regarding the immensity of the staff of the Home Affairs Department for the carrying on of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, I ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs if it is possible for him to sack most of them to-day? Does he intend to do so?
– I am afraid that I cannot meet my honorable friend in this matter. I am making earnest inquiries into the statements of the honorable member for Herbert, and find that a number of considerations in connexion with the construction of the line appear to have been entirely overlooked by him.’ I think that in the end it will be found that when these considerations have been weighed, they very materially weaken the general argument.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs place on the table of the Library all the correspondence that has passed between the Government and the Prahran City Council in reference to the transfer of the post-office to the council?
– I shall consider the request, but I think that it would be inadvisable at the present time to make public all the correspondence. It would not be in the public interest to make the recent correspondence generally available.
Inter-State Commission’s Inquiries
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he is in communication with the Inter-State Com- mission, and whether he expects to receive a report from the Commission before the session closes ? If the honorable gentleman does not expect to receive a report this session, when does he expect to receive a report? If a report is received, will it be made public property, and will the Minister introduce a Bill providing for certain alterations in the Tariff to give effect to the Commission’s recommendations ?
– The Commission has received a number of requests, and has notified that it is desirous of obtaining evidence regarding them, those who wish to give such evidence being invited to do so. The members of the Commission are working very hard. They are at present in Queensland, and have been in South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales. The Commission will take evidence, and when it has done so, it will present reports to the Ministry, whose duty it will be to take action in accordance with the spirit of the legislation passed by this Parliament.
– Is it the intention of the Commissioners to visit all the States before coming to decisions in regard to the matters upon which they may have to report ?
– I understand that the Commission will afford facilities for the giving of evidence from every part of Australia in connexion with all the matters into which it will inquire, and that evidence will be taken wherever it is necessary to take it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister obtain a progress report from Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice in respect to the Cockburn Sound Base, so that work can be proceeded with at the earliest possible moment?
– The Government, being anxious to proceed with the necessary works, will invite Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice to present his report as early as possible.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 4th December, (vide page 3809) of motion by Sir John Forrest -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division i - The Parliament, narridy, the President, £ 1,100, be agreed to.
.- Last week I attempted, on the adjournment, to reply to some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, but Mr. Speaker rightly ruled that as they related to a matter which was under discussion in Committee, I could not refer to them on the motion for adjournment. I pointed out at the time that the regulations issued by the Queensland Government under the Queensland Sugar Act were framed with a view to the tapering off of the employment of coloured labour in the sugar industry. Something like 6 per cent, of the labour employed in the industry is coloured, and the growers who have employed coloured labour have had to do without the bounty given by the Commonwealth Parliament. In attempting to abolish coloured labour altogether, the Queensland Government is facing the difficulties of the position in the only way possible. That the State is sincere in its expressed desire to give effect to its compact with the Commonwealth is shown by the legislation which has been passed, which makes provision for the buying out of vested interests. The difficulties in the way of abolishing coloured labour cannot be overcome in a few days. For one thing, the Commonwealth is part of a nation which is bound by treaties with other nations, and the conditions of these treaties must be observed. I do not think it would be said that an Indian, Chinaman, Japanese, or other alien who had a crop of cane growing should be prevented from harvesting it. The regulations have been framed with a view of getting coloured labour out of the sugar industry as quickly as possible. The honorable member for Maribyrnong read an ex parte statement from a Labour journal published in Cairns, but that is not sufficient to go on.
– He never said that the black grower should not reap his harvest.
– He complained of the regulation which is framed to allow the black grower to reap the harvest. He did not know enough about the case to be able to express an opinion, but read an ex parte statement, which was taken advantage of by the Labour paper to flout the Denham Government. I am pleased to note that the Minister of Trade and Customs is able to verify what I have said. I desire now to draw the attention of the Government to some remarks I made in this House some time ago with regard to honorable members’ allowances. It is quite possible that within the near future this and another place will once again have to face their masters. It appears to me that the only solution of the present political situation is an appeal to the people. At the last election considerable rush was experienced owing to the short period between the dissolution and the elections, and the officers were unable to do their work as it should be done. The shortness of the period was due to the fact that when the House is dissolved, honorable members no longer draw their allowances.
– Hear, hear ! It is outrageous!
-I am under the impression that the present Government will let that fact weigh with them in deciding what the period shall be between the dissolution and the election. They will, I think, endeavour to give the Electoral Officers as much time as possible; but, at the same time, I am sure that they have no desire to deprive honorable members of that allowance on which some of them have to depend. In my opinion the cure is to amend the law so that members may continue to draw their pay until their successors are appointed.
– The same as in Queensland.
– Yes, and I feel quite sure that the general public think that that is the course pursued at the present time. The newspapers very often tell us that we are drawing £600 a year, but so far as I am concerned it does not amount to £500; and if we are to have an election every twelve months the allowance will be further reduced very considerably. Even though it should involve a sacrifice on my part, I am prepared to end this very unsatisfactory state of affairs in Federal politics to-day. My advice is that we go to the country as soon as possible and let the people decide.
There has been considerable discussion about country telephone facilities, as compared with the facilities of the town. The large cities are, I think, very well up to date in this regard, and the rates are fairly cheap in both town and country. There is a difficulty, however, in the fact that the regulations are so inflexible that, apparently, they cannot be varied, but must be applied in exactly the same way all over Australia. Very often country residents are asked to guarantee telephone lines, and this means that a few publicspirited men in the locality find the guarantee. If there is any deficiency, those men are responsible, and, I have no doubt, in many instances, have to dip their hands into their pockets in order to pay for facilities of which other people take advantage. The rate for 15 miles is1d. per call, and the officers in estimating the revenue naturally base it on that rate. This appears to me to be hardly sufficient to pay for the cost of switching a subscriber on where there is only a small scattered population. I am not advocating an all-round increase in the rates, but merely trying to show that where the people themselves are prepared to pay a higher price in order to have telephone facilities they should be allowed to do so, or at least the Department might meet them in some way by making the charge 2d. in particular instances. Deputations in my own electorate have told me that the people in certain places are prepared to pay even 6d. a call on condition that, if the revenue proves to be more than is required to cover expenses, the rate shall be reduced.
– How would the honorable member suggest raising the money for additional telephones’?
– The whole trouble lies in the mismanagement.
– The honorable member for Maranoa has, I think, hit the nail on the head. The rate on the trunk line from Helidon to Brisbane is Is. for three minutes; and if the line were continually used for even every five minutes of the day, it would return an enormous revenue. The same remark applies to other trunk lines.
– What does the honorable member call an “enormous” revenue ?
– I should say that 100 per cent. over the cost of construction of the line would be an enormous revenue. I find that in the case of most of these trunk lines they are hung up practically for the whole of the day owing to the congestion of traffic for 25 miles of one end of the line, which may be 100 miles long.
– Can the honorable member tell me any country in the world where the telephone rates are cheaper?
– I am notcomplaining about the rates, but about the mismanagement; and in reply to the honor able member for Oxley, I say that the money for the new telephones is in the business already, if the business were conducted on common-sense lines. Perhaps the whole of the necessary money is not there already, but this country can afford to pay for telephones, and the people deserve some consideration, particularly those in the back country.
– How can the lines possibly pay in Queensland, where the distances are so long t
– It is impossible sometimes for hours to get through from Toowoomba to Brisbane.
– And there are seven or eight lines between those places.
– I agree with what the honorable member says, but the idea is to run the Department on a business basis.
– The proper business basis would be to get some good man, or men, to see that the congestion does not occur. Since the advent of the present Postmaster-General there has been a great deal of reform, and I think that our Queensland telephones, both town and country, are the best in Australia. I say this after having had considerable experience of most of the other exchanges.
– The Department can be put on a proper basis if -there is a decent supply of money.
– It is not altogether money that is necessary, but there are lines which ought to be earning interest, and are not doing so. If the line from Tweed Heads to Brisbane, at the rate of ls. or ls. 8d., were used continuously, good interest and a sinking fund would be earned, because I think the expenditure does not amount to more than £2,000. Another suggestion I have to make is that in the country, where the lines are overloaded, and there are other exchanges not large enough to warrant a continuous service, there might be an extended service. The fact is, however, that we have a hardandfast regulation that there must either be a continuous service, or an eight-hour service. If we had a twelve-hour service on some of the trunk lines it would give enormous relief, and I think the Department ought to be able to pay for the extra attention necessary. The lines would then be available earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon, but, as it is, they have to be open from 9 o’clock until 6, and are supposed0 to carry the traffic in the time. I have had a fair amount of experience with machinery, and I think that the best way to make it pay - and this applies to telephones - is to wear it out by continuous work. Instead of having these lines hung up for, say, sixteen hours, doing nothing, let them be earning money.
The honorable member for Franklin, and also the honorable member for Bendigo, made out a very good case for, at least, calling a halt in regard to our defence expenditure. I am appalled at the amount that this nation is called upon to pay at the present time, with every prospect of the expenditure increasing; and we ought to look around for some means to curb it. This matter has already been dealt with by others, and I shall not refer to it further, except to warn this, or any Government, that, so far as I am concerned, there must be some curtailment. The defence of Australia belongs to the people of Australia, and the Defence Act was framed to suit their requirements, and not merely to suit the requirements of the officials. If those officials take the view that they are “ bossing the whole show “ in their own interests, they will find me ranged on the side of the civilian, who has to find the money for this costly insurance. In many places, when we ask for training areas in centres where there are sufficient lads to form a camp, we are told that it is impossible to supply them, and, in my opinion, we should get the training officers to the people, and not compel people to go to the training officer. Further, rifle clubs should receive considerably more encouragement in the way of better weapons. The rifles in use to-day are a disgrace to the Department. Riflemen do not, as a rule, complain for the sake of complaining, and I may say that I have heard many complaints that the rifles are not suitable. I regret to learn that our Small Arms Factory has been so unsuccessful so far. The rifles are being turned out very slowly. I do not know what the quality is, but the quantity is very disappointing, and I hope the Government will endeavour to get a hustle on in regard to that factory. There are one or two matters brought up by previous speakers to which I wish to reply. I know the old adage that those who live* in glass houses should not throw stones, and that is’ one of the reasons why I refrain, as much as I can, from criticising other honorable members, but I was compelled to have a ‘few interesting moments with the honorable member for Brisbane some time ago, and I think it did him good, seeing that he has been remarkably quiet ever since. However, he is beginning to kick over the traces a little, and it may be necessary for me to deal it out to him again later on. While listening to the speeches of honorable members opposite, I have been thinking that they are hardly consistent. I remember that in 1911 a provision was inserted in the Electoral Bill by the Labour party, that all electioneering advertisements should be headed “ Advertisement,” and I think that to be consistent honorable members opposite should advocate heading their speeches in Hansard “ Advertisements,” seeing that most of their speeches during this debate have been made for electioneering purposes.
– That is something good - a case of spontaneous combustion.
– I hope the honorable member for Brisbane will not tempt me. I told the House something about him previously, but I did not tell half of it. For the present, I wish to deal with the honorable member for Oxley. Some time ago that honorable member told this Committee something about a certain letter that he had had something to do with the handling of.
– I never said that I had anything to do with the handling of it.
– I do not suppose the honorable member admitted that he had anything to do with it, but the letter was published in his paper. In fact, there were two letters - one the honorable member for Brisbane had picked up.
– I did not.
– The honorable member handled it, at any rate; he read it at a public meeting. It is a very honorable thing to pick up a letter in the street and read it at a public meeting.
– You are telling lies.
– The honorable member knows that he is distinctly disorderly.
– I admit my remark was not parliamentary, and I withdraw it.
– We do not wish to have any more scenes.
– I do not think any one wishes that.
– Then I hope honorable members will not try to provoke them.
– For any honorable member, or any person, to come into the possession of a private letter addressed to another person, and to make public use of it, is most contemptible. I do not know how the honorable member for Brisbane became possessed of the letter, but he got possession of it, and he used it on the platform, and said, “These are Tory tactics.” It was simply an ordinary business letter, written from one business gentleman to another.
– It was dealing with public affairs.
– It was dealing with their own affairs.
– Was it purloined?
– It was purloined in some way. . In regard to the other letter, which the honorable member for Oxley said he did not handle, but which was published in his paper, it was stolen from Mr. Macartney’s office.
– You know it was not stolen, and you know you are making a statement that is utterly untrue.
– Order 1
– Then let the honorable members state how they got it.
Mjr. Finlayson. - You must think we are from the country.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Darling Downs can’ say how they got it?
– No; I should like to hear how they got it.
– I do not think any one .from the country would do such a mean, despicable act as to take a letter from another man’s office, a private letter, and publish it, distorting the facts in every possible way, and leading this Committee to believe that the Premier of Queensland was asked to grant money out of consolidated revenue for party purposes.
– No such statement was ever made.
– If the honorable member will read his first account of this letter in the Committee, he will see that he tried to convey that impression. His paper tried to convey that impression during the election.
– That is not true.
– It is not only necessary for an honorable member to withdraw an expression that he knows is not in order; but he should also refrain from making further interjections of the same nature. I ask the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw that statement, and not to offend in that way again.
– My interjection was addressed to the honorable member for Richmond. It is very hard to sit quiet and allow statements to go unchallenged that one knows are absolutely incorrect, and have no foundation. However, I withdraw the words.
– The honorable member has admitted it is very hard to allow these statements to go uncontradicted; and it is only after a repetition of the charge by the honorable member for Oxley that I have risen to refute something which he has stated in the Committee. The other day he informed us that Mr. Denham absolutely refused to give any information as to where £4,000 came from that was in the hands of trustees to be used for party political purposes.
– Is that not true?
– It is absolutely incorrect to say that Mr. Denham refused to give information. As far as I know, that money was contributed by thousands of well-wishers of the Liberal cause in Queensland, just the same as money used by the honorable member’s party was contributed by supporters of his party in Queensland; and I venture to say that if the matter is sifted, it will be found that the Labour party spent in Queeusland £2 for every pound spent during the campaign by the Liberal party. If the honorable member had taken the trouble to look up the evidence and inform the Committee of what Mr. Denham really did say, it would have put a different construction on the matter altogether.
– What did he say?
– It is in reply to Mr. Ryan, who was defending Senator Ferricks.
– Mr. Denham was happy in his advocate.
– I really cannot connect the honorable member’s remarks with any particular item in the Budget. I know that honorable members are allowed a considerable amount of latitude, and I have endeavoured to indulge them; but I really think that this discussion is outside any legitimate debate on the Budget.
– I am simply replying to a charge that was made in the Committee, and if it were not for the interjections the matter would be very much less offensive. I am justified in putting in the evidence of Mr. Denham to refute the words that were used by the honorable member for Oxley, and with that I shall leave the matter.
– I think you had better leave it.
– I think I had better go on with it. Mr. Denham, in reply to Mr. Ryan, said that Mr. Macartney had handed him £2,000, and had authorized him to pay it to the trustees of the People’s Political League, and to intimate to them that another £2,000 could be obtained and would be paid! pound for pound on money raised by the People’s Political League.
– What did he say when he was asked where the money went?
– I shall tell the honorable member, but the honorable member said the amount was £4,000. He knows that the letter he published in his own newspaper was a claim for £971.
– Not a claim.
– At any rate, it was a request.
– It was not a request; you have not read the letter.
– It was a request from Mr. Archer to Mr. Denham, which was sent on to Mr. Macartney, who had the custody of the letter when it was stolen.
– It was showing the amount they had already received; it was not a request. You have not read the letter; you do not know what you are talking about.
– Let me read this evidence -
Mr. Ryan. ; Where did the money come from?
Mr. Denham. From friends of the Liberal party.
Mr. Ryan. ; You do not know by whom it was given.
Mr. Denham. ; I do not know, and I do not care.
Honorable members interjecting:
– Order ! The honorable member for Oxley must not interject so frequently.
– The honorable member might allow me to put in the evidence which refutes most conclusively his libellous statement against Mr. Denham. Now, with regard to the Beef Trust, the honorable member for Brisbane tried to twist the truth last night, as he very often, tries to do with regard to my attitude. When I oppose anything that I consider to be injurious to the community, I like to be consistent. I oppose the whole principle involved, and not merely a portion of it. If honorable members opposite were sincere in. their desire to crush trusts out of Australia, they would be urging the taking of action against trusts which already have a grip of the Commonwealth. The Beef Trust has not yet done anything which any Government in Australia could stop. If it does begin to victimize the people, I shall be one of the first, as I have been in other cases, to attempt to block its progress, and to release the people of Australia from its grip.
– After it is too late.
– Not at all. We cannot take action against a firm which establishes itself here, and carries on a lawful occupation. We cannot take action against it merely because it is a large firm.
– What has the Labour party to say against the Beef Trust, anyhow? They encouraged it to come here and to put up its works.
– They had a great deal to say about it when it discharged 150 of its hands whilst the election was in progress. There was a howl, I think, on the part of the honorable member for Brisbane, who urged thai the Trust, at the suggestion of Mr. Denham, had discharged the men. There are in operation in Australia to-day other trusts to which I would call the attention of the honorable member for Oxley. The To bacco Trust regulates the price of every ounce of tobacco manufactured in Australia, with the exception of the output, of one or two small factories.
– The Australian tobacco is the best in the world.
– That may be, but. the Tobacco Trust has a grip on Australia. We have not heard the honorable member for Oxley, however, make any reference to it.
– I have left it to the honorable member; one at a time is sufficient, for me.
– Order ! For somelittle time the honorable member for Moreton has scarcely uttered a sentence which has not been followed by an interjection. That is manifestly improper. I ask that the honorable member be allowed to make his speech without interruption.
– On a point of order, sir, I would remind you that the honorable member for Moreton is inviting interjections by putting pointed questions to different members.
– I have not heard the honorable member do so. If he did what the honorable member suggests, I should call him to order.
– One must expect interjections when one is touching honorable members opposite on the raw. I would remind them that we have in Australia a combine of landlords, which appears to be the most serious in any part of the world. Who is bleeding the peopleof the city to-day more than the landlords are doing? In Collingwood thereis an allotment of land about 90 feet square - I stepped it the other day - on which, if I remember rightly, there are fourteen houses. I noticed on one of them the name “ Tudor Terrace,” butI know that the honorable member for Yarra has nothing to do with the property.
– There are onlytwelve houses.
– I am open to correction, but I was not aware that the honorable member knew anything about the property.
– I purchased it from one of your Christians some time ago.
– Those twelve houses must yield a fairly handsome income.
– I spent £800 in (putting them in order.
– Surely the honorable ^member is not annoyed because a good income is being drawn from the property?
– No, but I have -always thought that a man who has to pay, in the shape of rent, more than a “day’s wages per week is bearing a very heavy impost. A man paying rent at “that rate in a natural lifetime will have worked seven years for the landlord. We «have read of the man who worked seven years for a wife and got her, but the man who has worked seven years for his landlord in the way I have mentioned has (nothing to show for it at the end of that period.
– The honorable mem.ber is astray in his Scriptural knowledge. Jacob did not get the wife for whom he bad worked seven years.
– I am quite aware that the old man, Laban, rung the changes on him, but the fact remains that he did get a wife at the end of his seven years’ service. The point that I want to make is that the honorable member for Oxley does not object to being in “the combine of landlords. He does not mind drawing from the sweated tenants of Australia £25 per week as his part of the plunder of the great combine.
– When your rents are low you are not sweating your tenants.
– Then, again, I have never heard the honorable member for Oxley raise his voice in denunciation of “ Tattersalls,” although it is one of the greatest frauds iu Australia. It is conducting a magnificent business in Tasmania. It says to the deluded dupes of t,he Commonwealth, “ Send along your money to us in your hundreds and thousands. We will retain 10 per cent, for ourselves and you can draw lots for the Test.”
– - There are a few church people doing business with that institution.
– I hope that the honorable member will set them a good example. We have never heard the honorable member for Oxley say a word against the licensed or unlicensed bookmakers who are allowed to lay the odds, and who invite the people to support *hem
– They have to pay twenty shillings in the pound, and they do.
– They are distributors of wealth.
– I have not noticed that they have a very great affection for the poor.
– Why! the butter trade pays the lowest wages in the State.
– It pays the highest wages. Is the honorable member for Brisbane an advocate of the bookmakers and the “ take-down “ crowd ?
– I think my whole life is an answer to that inquiry.
– I do not know whether that is a very good answer.
– The honorable member should not say that.
– When the honorable member for Brisbane interjects as he has done, he must expect such an answer. While the honorable member for Oxley is sending forth a wail of lament for the poor people of Australia, who, he declares, will be taken down by the Beef Trust, I ask him to listen to the patter on the pavement of the bare feet of those who have been taken down by a class of “people with whom he has associated himself for a number of years.
– Order. I am afraid that the honorable member is now getting way from what may be regarded as fair comment. I must call him to order.
– I confess that I do not feel myself any the better for indulging in such criticism. But when I am attacked by the other side, I am not going to sit here without hitting back occasionally. It is very seldom that I do so.
I wish now to make an appeal on behalf of a section of the community who should be regarded as Australians, but who have no voice in the government of the Commonwealth, and but little voice in the government of the Territory in which they live. The British people pride themselves, and justly so, I think, on being good colonizers. We have two large territories under the control of the Federal Parliament, and some effort should be made to give the people there every facility for developing the country. I refer more particularly to Papua than to the Northern Teritory. My views with respect to the Northern .Territory are fairly well known in this
House. I hold that it can be developed only by giving facilities to those who are prepared to occupy the land and to put it to its best possible use, and that is for pastoral purposes. Residents of Papua, however, have no representation in this House, and are justly entitled to complain of the treatment they have received at the hands of this Parliament. Some time ago we established a wireless station at Port Moresby, but for some unaccountable reason the station was not made available to the people of Papua for something like a week after its completion. A. friend of mine writes to me on the subject as follows -
I must tell you what appeals to me as Papua’s one joke. Mr. Fisher was the mill-stone round the neck of Papua - and yet when belated wireless connexion was given with Port Moresby the public were not permitted the privilege of sending messages for the first week. No one knew whir but it eventuated that it was reserved for the first message to be a synopsis of Mr. Fisher’s policy speech at Maryborough - words of wisdom from the Great Panjandrum.
The writer of this letter takes a great interest in Papuan affairs. I have also received the following extract from the Papuan Times of 13th April last -
We have received a communication from External Affairs to the effect that the press rates to Papua have been fixed, and are very much surprised “to learn they are about 650 per cent, over and above the Australian rates, which are 10s. per I,000 words all over the rest of the Commonwealth. The press rates to Papua are 13s. per 100 words. Why we should be so disgracefully treated we leave to the imagination of our subscribers, but the fact at the bottom of it all is that we have no vote, and are, therefore, treated as rabbits or other vermin. No politician would dare to fix such rates if we had the franchise. The cable to Tasmania cost a hundred times as much as the wireless here, yet the Tasmanian public get their cables at the same rates as the rest of the Commonwealth ; but they have got a vote ! It seems an exceedingly short sighted policy on the part of the Federal Government to single out and penalize the unfortunate Papuan white citizen, making him pay such exorbitant rates. In any case, the press rates should be, we think, uniform, as the news which comes by cable is of interest to all, and the public should be served at reasonable rales.
I do not know that those conditions prevail at the present time, but if they do, it is certainly unreasonable to ask the people of Papua to pay 13s. 6d. per 100 words, while the rest of Australia has to pay only 10s. per 1,000 words. However, I am sure the Postmaster-General will give the matter every consideration, and . that these people will be granted facilities equal to those enjoyed by the rest of Australia. If we want to develop Papua and the Northern Territory, we must give the inhabitants every advantage possible. The previous Government, I think, hardly kept faith with some of our Australian citizens in the matter of the development of the Papuan oil-fields. A Mr. Charles Priddle, whom the honorable member for Maranoa knows, went to Papua about twelve years ago, and spent ten years exploring for oil and minerals. He was given to understand that if he made a discovery he would get a lease. He did make a discovery, but when he applied for a lease the late Government, instead of granting it to him, said he would have to wait until they sent over experts totest the country. He has risked his life on many occasions, and has been carried out of the Territory by natives almost in the last stage of exhaustion. He was always, however, buoyed up by the hope that he would be rewarded by getting, at least, a lease or royalty. I believe the late Minister of External Affairs paid £500 to a Mr. Thomas.
– We paid Lett and Thomas. I never heard of Priddle.
– The honorable member did the right thing in compensating Mr. .Thomas, although even he was very poorly paid for the work that he did. I believe there are difficulties in the way of compensating even Mr. Priddle, but there is no excuse for hanging these things up ‘ indefinitely. If he had been told three or four years ago that there was no hope of reward, he would have gone elsewhere. He had tempting offers from German syndicates to explore German New Guinea, but he preferred to work in British territory, and went on, hoping that the matter would soon be settled.
– We hear a lot of yarnslike this.
– I regret to hear the honorable member treating the matter with ridicule. It is a very serious thing for men to spend twelve of the best years of their life doing exploratory work, and facing danger, only to find their case laughed at when brought up in this House. I am surprised at the honorable member being so callous as to laugh at men who risk their lives in this way. If he will ask the honorable member for Maranoa privately what he thinks of this man’s case, he will get the facts. 1 do not expect the honorable member for Maranoa to state them publicly in this House.
– They did not tell me anything about Priddle discovering oil -over there. Did he discover it?
– Yes, he did; and the honorable member sent a borer over to test the field, and Mr. Priddle was simply told that he could not get a lease even of four acres. The Bulletin of 24th July, 1913, published the following:
There are rumours in Melbourne that MacDonald, who reports so positively against the existence of oil on the Victorian River (Northern Territory), was able to spend only a day or two on each of five areas. If this be true, it is up to the Commonwealth to hire an expert to inquire thoroughly into the probable existence of oil on the Victoria River. Incidentally, he might go to Vailala River, Papua, and find out why it took six months to bore 250 feet through -soft strata. The finding of oil in Australia is too important a matter to be set back or delayed by the adverse report of only one oil-driller, whatever his qualifications - especially when the oil-driller has done no drilling.
In the same paper of 31st July, 1913, this appeared -
Glynn, the new Minister in charge of Papuan affairs, says he is quite alive to the importance of the oil prospects in the Dependency, and to Start the business right he intends to get out :from America just the very best expert procurable.
All this sort of thing takes time. I know the present Minister is pushing on with the matter as fast as he can, and I hope the Government will lose no time in coming to a decision as to what they intend to do with the oil resources of Papua if they do exist. There is plenty of capital waiting to be invested in the field if it can only get the right to operate, and if the Government are not prepared to go on.
– I have no doubt the Standard Oil Company would do it.
– We do not want them to do it. We have Australian capital waiting to do it.
– Don’t you think Australia could do it herself?
– I think Australia could, but if it is done at the rate that has been followed for the last three years, when will the field be opened up? Are these prospectors to waste the best years of their life for nothing simply because honorable members believe in some Socialistic fad? We have tried to do lots of things, and have not done them properly. We make trousers and lose them, according to the speech made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports last night. We do not seem to be able to look after our own affairs, and if private capital can develop the oil fields it should be allowed to do so. The Government can protect themselves against monopoly or abuse, and at the same time receive a very handsome return by way of royalty.
– The great mistake we make in this House is that we are continually attacking each other. The honorable member for Moreton went into the history of a matter that was discussed in this House some years ago. I do not like going into personal matters at all. Some years ago I purchased properties in Melbourne. I do not think that was a crime because I was a Labour man, and I spent £800 on one block to put it in form. For years it had not been fit for habitation, yet after I had spent all this money in turning a virtually useless property into a valuable asset, putting in all the conveniences of modern civilization, a clergyman attacked me about it. He had passed it every day previously for five or six years, and never said a word about it, but directly O’Malley, a Labour man, got it, he suddenly discovered that it was a crime against civilization, and his attack was repeated in this House. My friend went down there and saw it. It covers a whole block, and. it is quite true that there ought to be more ground space, but if an owner puts in every convenience that Is required, this does not leave much room for back yards, and I do not know that men spend a great deal of time in their back yards. I am not much in my own. yard, because I have no time to spare.
– 1 did not mention the honorable member.
– But the honorable member spoke about different terraces, such as Tudor-terrace, Robertsterrace, Page-terrace, Thomas-terrace, and Pearce-terrace. Honorable members will notice that I called them after the Christians in this Parliament. Dr. Agnew went through my properties, and said they wore in fine shape. I told him that if anything required doing I would do it. I hear great condemnation of landlords in this Chamber. I do not say that landlords are perfect, nor do T say that tenants are infallible, but I do say that we lose a lot of rents. There ought to be in Australia a law to prevent any further buildings going up unless they comply with all the sanitary conditions that are essential to the building up of a great people. When we have to condemn or criticise tilings that people may have done it does not mean that the people concerned did not do their best, but there axe more modern ways of doing things now, and these are what we should adopt. The fact that the honorable member for Bendigo dealt with the question of defence last night does not mean that he was condemning Senator Pearce, nor does the fact that the honorable member for Herbert had a go at the big staff of the Home Affairs Department mean that he was condemning me or the present Acting Minister, the honorable member for Wentworth. He was simply pointing out that in his opinion the Home Affairs Department was over-staffed. It may be. But the idea in America is this, that when you are going to create a great activity you should put them all in and shove her through, and get your capital to work.
– Whatever the cost?
– The point is this: If it takes five years to put up a building costing 1,000,000 dollars, you are losing interest on your capital over a long period. It would be better to get the building put up in three months, so that it would commence to earn a return. We had to create a staff in the Home Affairs Department for the construction of a line of railway 1,063 miles in length. The Engineer-m-Chief pointed out to me that this was essential. A lot of young men are employed preparing reports, and typing, and sending out statements. There is a crowd engaged merely in supplying information to Parliament, and in connexion with the Chinn Inquiry. You must have a staff. But as soon as its Business is finished you can dismiss the staff. There are no permanent hands there. I do not say that there has been no over-staffing, but later, when the Minister can adjust things, it will be for him to get rid of those who are not wanted. The men are not there for life; they are not pensioners. I sent for every man about whom there was any doubt, and said to him, “ Understand you are not a pensioner here.” The great idea about Public Service employment is that it will last for ever; that it is a close corporation; and if ¥ had sixty sons I would start them in the> Public Service, and say “ Climb.” They would have a sure living without much> trouble.
– It is not sure. I wagin the Public Service for seven years and they put me out.
– I was in it. for three years at the. top of affairs.
– And got the sack.
– But you. have seen no tears. I have not wept: over it. I had a fair innings, and I want now to give others a chance. But. I left the Department organized, so that, all they have to do is to touch the button’, and she works. It is a wonderful tributeto the Fisher Administration that our friends opposite have made no changes. The bi-monthly schedule, the digest, and: the costing system - the finest in theworld - are all there. For the first timein the history of Australia it can be ascertained in regard to a Government, job what materials, labour, and management are costing, and a balance-sheet canbe prepared every two weeks.
– Who discovered that system ?
– I do note like to claim credit for everything. I suppose the honorable member thinks: the officials discovered ‘it. Instead? of always abusing each other weshould try to hatch out a business system, and help to make the country progress. No one will say that Governments: are run on the scientific business methods that are adopted by private corporationswhich pay dividends, but they should’ be so run. It is the party system that makes the trouble. Money talks all1 languages, and turns a corner when, nothing else will. The money question- is the biggest in the world, and yet, forthe last five months, it has seldom beentouched upon in this chamber. We very rarely get down to the rock basis of - affairs, the financial system of the nation.. I congratulate honorable members, who, yesterday, pointed out the iniquity of throwing away millions on the defencesystem, and going beyond the actual necessities of Australia. What has happenedhas reminded me of three Englishmen who came to Western America, and’ bought a mine when I was there. They brought their machinery and experts at. high salaries, but when they started? operations, they found that the only gold there was some that had been brought from Mexico by certain buncosteerers, and shot in with guns. They wasted £80,000, or 400,000 dollars, before they ascertained whether there was a reef to work. The Defence Department seems to be suffering from a similar madness. It is not the fault of the Minister at the head of the Department. Both Senator Pearce and Senator Millen are able men. When we get up here and criticise, we are told that we are against defence. Like the honorable member for Bendigo, I give my meed of praise to the Age for having directed attention to this matter. The Aye was one of the first newspapers to advocate a big scheme of defence, and it is still in favour of defence, but it is not in favour of mortgaging the future generations of Australia for the purpose of creating a fighting machine so expensive that when there comes to be need for using it we shall have no money with which to fight. This is the flying period. At the great Labour Conference held in Brisbane in 1907, several of us endeavoured to persuade the meeting that the flying period had arrived, and that our defence preparations should consist in buying flying machines and submarines. Many differed from us, however, with the result that Mr. Watson, who as a very able man, and prominent in the Labour cause, was strong enough to get his way, and the system that has since been followed was adopted. Then the opponents of Labour vied with us in preparations for a defence such as is not required by an isolated country like Australia. One party has been bidding against the other, instead of both parties combining to study the interests of the shareholders. Australia hitherto has been governed, not for the shareholders, but for the directors. We are not the directors. It is the four men sitting with the Prime Minister in Cabinet, the Prime Minister having the casting vote, that are the directors. The Treasurer knows that there is only one job worth having, and he has always :said so. I remember him in the West. There were no stoppages then; the works always went on. Nowadays we have flying machines travelling 1,000 miles at the rate of 50 miles an hour, and the progress in these matters is being accelerated. John Bull is hard to move, but he has voted this year £1,000,000 for airships. Yet Australia is continuing to build Dreadnoughts. Mr. Hayes Hammond, the son of a great multi-millionaire in America, has invented a wireless system that will enable him to blow up a Dreadnought which is 8 or 10 miles away at sea. His invention has created a sensation in America.
– I do not think he can do that yet.
– He has done it. He gave Tom Edison the surprise of his life. Tom didn’t believe him. Vickers now is building an airship factory. The time has come when we must recognise the advantages of aircraft, but when Senator Findley and myself were fighting the battle in Brisbane, we were ridiculed, even when walking in the streets, as the air-ship men. Years ago I advocated the building of Commonwealth offices in London, and that suggestion was ridiculed. To show that my views on defence are not new, I propose to quote something that I said in this chamber in the first session. If we go on as we are doing, the time will come when every man in the country, poor and rich, will be taxed out of house and home to pay for ships and war material that has been on the scrap heap for generations.
– We shall not go so far as that.
– I let my honorable friend have his say, and I am entitled to my own opinion. I have never hesitated to express my views, and they cannot beat me. It was our friends opposite that bought the machinery for the Lithgow factory, but it does not matter who did it. What we have to do now is to vote each year a limited sum for the Government to spend as they like on defence.
– Not as they like.
– They will do as they like, anyhow. I travelled through the southern States of America after the war,- and I was told by the women there that the soldiers had cut down the trees to get the fruit. We know all the disastrous effects of a military army crossing the country - when militarism gets into the saddle. A soldier does not even weave his own knot of glory, or bake his own bread. We want no permanent army here, but only a citizen army. Some years ago I proposed that there should be purchased 200,000 rifles, stamped with the Commonwealth stamp, so that they could not be bought or sold, and that they should be distributed amongst the farmers’ sons, who, on a compulsory basis, should be drilled on a .Saturday afternoon. There must be compulsion to that extent, but it is not necessary to take boys out of their offices. They should start drilling at a specified age, after they have gone through the schools, and they should be taught to shoot. “What is the good of a man on the battlefield if he cannot shoot? Future wars will be fought, not with the solid phalanx, but from behind hedges and briars, as the Boers fought. When I spoke on this subject thirteen years ago I dwelt on the necessity for a uniform railway gauge. Are honorable members aware that if we desired to transport even a small army from here to Brisbane it would occupy sixty days with the present break of gauge ? I went on to say -
Every great democracy that has been crushed has been crushed by military despotism - by the “ man on horseback.” I admit that war wastes the accumulation of the people. A few men grow into great opulence, and wealth, and great importance, but it casts a great gloom over the vast multitude of the people. They recognise that they have to pay the taxes. We do not want a military despotism, or the “ man on horseback,” in Australia.
We have no room for Napoleons in Australia. “Why should we not do away with the feathers and dress, so that a man can go out and drill in his ordinary clothes ? -
We could have our drill-masters going out into every town and teaching the young men on twelve or fifteen afternoons a year, and it should be compulsory for the men to close up their places of business and to go out and drill on the squares on those particular afternoons.
To spend millions on an army and a navy is the greatest economic waste. In 1905, as reported on page 1657 of Hansard, I said -
That is included in the matters I have mentioned. If the sum which it is proposed to exend upon defence were handed over to the tales Treasurers for the purpose of enabling . them to place people upon the land, the railways of the Commonwealth would pay. I say that we should pension off our military men. Let them come and dance with the young ladies of the town, and enjoy themselves. But we should waste no more of the taxpayers’ money upon these military phantoms, which are conjured up for the specific purpose of creating a scare which does not .exist. Great Britain has confidently withdrawn her fleet from the Eastern seas - according to American newspapers - and is willing to trust Japan and France, her allies. America has not yet withdrawn her fleet from Manila, but now that peace has been concluded between Russia and Japan she will doubtless do so. I claim that it is not necessary to waste money upon the maintenance of an army in Australia.
I went on to say that if the £4,000,000 we were proposing to waste were handed to the States, we should have closer settlement, increased population, increased production, and a big bank balance to come back to the Treasurer of Australia. In* 1906 I uttered similar sentiments.
– Why did the honorable member not raise his voice like this in 1910-11-12?
– My friend, when you are one of a lot of Christians you have to obey the majority. Our defence, in view of what we see going on throughout the world, should consist purely of aeroplanes and submarines. The Americans have taken steps to fully provide themselves in this way; and we have the fact that those huge vessels of the United States’ navy, which were here five or six years ago, are now, several of them, on the scrap heap. We have not now to ask who is, or who is not, responsible; when we find that a branch of a business is not profitable, cut off the limb that is not. paying.
– What does the honorable member think we ought to do ?
– I know what I should do myself, but I will not say it here; there is not too much love for me all over the country. The birth of our Navy took place just as all these big things were being experimented with all over the world, and, unfortunately, our party system made us vie with each other to see who would spend most money.
– Did the honorable member’s party not promise at the last election to build another Dreadnought straight off?
– Do not ask me any questions.
– Who said that?
– The Leader of the Opposition; it can be found in his programme.
– Air-ships are revolutionizing methods of defence. We are paying £2,000,000 for a vessel, which in England costs £200,000 a year to maintain; and I ask how much will be the cost of maintenance in Australia, where wages are nearly double those of the Old Country. Yet, in ten or fifteen years, this vessel may be on the scrapheap. We, as intelligent thinking men, ought to be able to dispense with party considerations when re-organizing and reconstructing our defence machine.
– Defence is not a party question.
– It always has been.
– It is a party question on every platform, and the Tories make good use of it.
– Let us have great peace here! We are talking blood, and we desire peace; you must be very cool when you are talking “ stouch.” I have never known a hotheaded prizefighter to win a battle - it is the cool general who wins. For purely defence purposes, submarines are gradually replacing Dreadnoughts all over the world. It is recognised that the Dreadn ought is only a means of spending the people’s money.
– We require submarines below and airships above.
– Quite so. Australia is defended by the blue seas, and the canopy of Heaven, with no nation within thousands of miles. Before the Fleet of any possible enemy could leave its own territory to start for Australia, we should be told all about it by wireless - there is no Napoleon or Wellington business now. We all knew when the Japanese Fleet sailed for Port Arthur, and when the American Fleet sailed for Cuba. What we require is to drill our young men, though not to such an extent as to make them machines; we must leave them their manhood and independence, so that they may learn to use their heads. As I said before, the principal thing is to teach our defenders to shoot straight. It is the man who can lie on his back, and put his rifle over his knee and hit a bull’seye at a couple of thousand of yards that we require on the battlefield. Take a battleship that costs £2,000,000. It will take £200,000 a year to maintain it in England, and I suppose it will cost £300,000 a year in Australia, for which sum we could almost put a line of aircraft along our coast and maintain them. We could also send scientific men up into the air to study the air currents, as they are doing in America now; and we could maintain submarines in almost all our harbors where the enemy could effect a landing. The question is, not what we have done, or what some one else has done; it is what we. are to do in the future, and how we are going to arrange to limit the tremendous expense that is now growing so fast. I heard an honorable member yesterday reading a list of officers in the Northern Territory, but I would like to know what our friends could do. What would they do if they did not have their officials on the spot to meet immigrants? My own opinion is that the Northern Territory will never be settled until Australia has 25,000,000 or 30,000,000 people, and then only when the overflow from the south will start for the north, the same as took place in connexion with the development of Western America. Every one I met said there would never be any population in that area, but now 20,000,000 people have settled there. German and French scientific farmers came into New Hampshire and Vermont, and bought out the young American farmers, and the latter, in turn, went west to that district where the United States Government had established immense irrigation schemes. The Central Administration of the United States had asked the State authorities to meet them in the matter, and this was done, with the result that a unified system of irrigation was created, and land which could -be got for almost nothing is now worth anything up to 500 dols. an acre.
– Do you believe in friendly relations between the Central Government and the States?
– Certainly; while I am here I belong to no side. I belong to what I believe to be the right movement according to my lights. I do not imagine that the present Government can start in and cut things down suddenly; but during recess they can sit down and have a Christian, heart-to-heart confab on the matter and see where they can cut things out. I have always held that we cannot carry out in their entirety the schemes of Admiral Henderson and Lord Kitchener. It is not required that we should do so. The trouble is that a Minister seeks to do the very best, but his advisers have ideas that are suited to the great British Empire, and not to a little part of it. Our population is not as much as New York City. It is 2,000,000 behind London. It is not as much as that of the State of Ohio. It is 2,000,000 behind Illinois, 3,000,000 behind Pennsylvania, and 5,000,000 behind the little State of New York. We have not the population. We should pick out two or three Naval Bases and limit ourselves to them, gradually making them complete. Can any honorable member point to me any fort in Europe that stood a siege when the besiegers had sufficient time to keep it up? Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Moscow - all had to fall before the conquering heroes. General Pemberton said that Vicksburg was impregnable. General Grant simply came and said, “Come out,” and out she came. General Pemberton said, “You will have to catch the rabbit before you cook it”; but Grant said, “I have got you “ ; and Pemberton had to come out with 33,000 men. General Bazaine, with 140,000 men, was shut up in Metz, and the German Army marched by him, leaving him there, and went on to pulverize MacMahon at Sedan. Port Arthur had to surrender to Nogi. General Todleben, the Russian general, so fortified Sebastopol that it was said that it was impregnable ; but “ John Bull “ marched in over his head. It matters not what we spend on forts; they have to go. When men get in them, they are surrounded and starved out. If we have to fight, let us fight in the open, as Washington did. Though Washington ran away, and lived to fight another day, he lived and fought until finally he got Cornwallis at Yorktown. It a great sparsely-settled country like Australia we require no forts, yet every big general who comes out from Europe wants us to build forts and mines to keep out the enemy. In days gone by, we used to build forts to keep out people, but now we are building ships to bring them here. When the methods of unionism have reached over the world, there will be a Christian fellowship, and German, French, Austrian, American, and Australian workers will meet and say, “ There shall be no more war.”
– There is evidence of that already in Australia, is there not?
– Ah ! They are in a primitive stage.From that they will get into the intellectual and Christian stage. We should have a Defence Committee, a real Defence Committee of the House, composed of a few men who are not military men. I would rather get men who are managers of a Presbyterian Church. I have a great faith in Presbyterians; they are such good business men. The Committee should have power to deal with all military questions that came forward. I would not pay them fees, but they should have their expenses paid. They would go and look at certain sites. They would be trustees of the people, and would not waste money. I have always had the greatest confidence in members of Parliament. They are the trusted trustees of the Australian people.
– When we come to think of it, we are a lot of fine fellows.
– The only trouble is that the present system makes us hate each other. It is not real hatred ; it is only un-Christian hatred; it is not real scientific hatred. A Committee such as I have suggested could say to the Prime Minister or the Treasurer, “ This is the amount you will spend this year.” It was a recognised rule in America, even where they are clever in finance, that the Military Department was a sink. There has never been an abler Minister of Defence in Australia than Senator Pearce; and Senator Millen is an able man, as every one recognises. They are both able men; but, Lord, they cannot tell what is going on in their Departments. I was an animated rubber stamp for three months. I used to tell the Department to work me, to come down and get the stamp working. A Minister must be a rubber stamp until he’ has his Department so systematized and so digested that he can pick up a matter quickly and say, “ Hold on ; what are you spending on barracks? Um!” The secretary of the Department may be the most honest man in the world, but he is a sympathetic man - he does not want to do anything that is wrong; he will not do anything wrong; and he can bring down a statement that looks all right until it is thoroughly investigated, and then it looks all wrong. The Defence Department needs to be tackled; but it could not be tackled in the first stages when we were creating it. Now it will need to be gone into very carefully, and we ought to have a Committee.
I would nol limit it* membership ;to Presbyterians. I was at one time the director of a company in America, on the board of which we had quite a number of Presbyterians and they were good business men. I should like a Committee to be appointed from all sides of the House to go carefully into this matter. I come now to the Tasmanian mail service, which is a question of great concern to the people of the island State. At the present time 200,000 people in Tasmania are dependent upon one shipping corporation.
– Where is Tasmania?
– In the centre of Australia, intellectually. It populated Victoria, and gave her her genius and her snap. I would urge the Government to establish a line of steamers of its own to run between the mainland and Tasmania. We intended to establish such a service, but had not time to do so. The Government need not interfere with other companies. I would not make the Commonwealth service a monopoly, but I would reduce fares and- ‘freights, and so enable the Tasmanian farmer to place his produce on the market on equal terms with the farmer on the mainland, who reaps the benefit of the State-owned railways. If the Labour party had been returned to office, that is one of the first things we should have done. Burnie, because of its geographical position, is the natural distributing centre of Tasmania.
– It comes second to Launceston.
– I do not want to get into trouble. I thought that my honorable friend was outside. I am glad, however, to see him fighting for his own city. At Burnie we have a splendid harbour. Thousands of pounds are being expended in extending the breakwater, and the” largest ships in the world can be accommodated there. We ought to have a fast line of steamers running between Victoria and Burnie, where the mails could be rapidly distributed. They would leave Melbourne to-day, and be distributed all over Tasmania to-morrow. At the present time, we have only a slow train travelling between Launceston and Burnie. Turning to another subject, I think the Government ought to follow up the system that we laid down, and which we were gradually advancing, by giving better remuneration to those employed in our contract and allowance post-offices. I am filled with righteous indignation when I see that millions are provided for preparing a defence scheme, which will never be required, while throughout the back-blocks of Australia, where the producers have to live, even short telephone lines and reasonable postal accommodation cannot ,be secured. There are women working for sweated wages in contract and allowance offices, and many of the mail carriers are also underpaid.
– Let the Department increase the telephone rates.
– Where you have an extensive business concern, the great point is to make the profitable section pay for the unprofitable sections. We ought to encourage in every way our primary producers, on whom depend the people of our cities. Burn down your cities and keep your men on the land, and the farmers will rear up even grander cities in their stead. But burn out your farmers, and you will soon see the people of the large towns swimming in their own stew. The city resident has all the comforts of civilization - libraries, theatres, picture shows, and motor cars. He does not appreciate how hard is the lot of the man in the back-blocks.
– Nearly all the farmers now have motor cars.
– Good luck to them ! They ought to have had them a long time ago. I notice with regret that our revenue is declining. I wonder what is the reason ? Can it be that the Lord is punishing the present Government for some unspiritual act? The members of the Ministry are fairly good honest men, and mean well; but without revenue a Government must be crippled.
– The revenue of the Postal Department is going up.
– Yes; because we gave her a fair start. Whilst the Labour party was in power, revenue was pouring in. The people in far-off countries’ said, “ There is a Labour Government yonder. We can trust them, and therefore we will pile in our goods, and so swell their revenue.” Whether they have lost confidence in the present Government, I cannot say. Some time ago, in the United States, a British duke was making a fine speech about the land of his birth, and concluded by saying that he belonged to an Empire on which the sun never set. A lawyer, named Kearn, who was present, replied that he was thankful that the Lord had sufficient confidence in America to allow the people of that country to sleep in the dark. I am unable to account for this falling off in the Customs revenue. From the point of view of Protectionists - and I am a Protectionist - it is a good thing, but I am sorry that there should be a decline in the revenue, because we need more revenue to carry on our great activities and enterprises. I read the other day of a member of the Government who spoke of our extravagance and profligacy. I would remind him that when we took office we found post-offices, military barracks, rifle ranges, and various public buildings in a state of almost hopeless decay. From the inception of Federation successive Governments of the Commonwealth had vied with each other in returning their revenues to the States, whilst, for years before Federation, many of the States had neglected to repair the great national assets which were to be taken over by the Commonwealth. They handed them over to us, in many cases, in a state of ill repair. When we took office we were constantly being advised by honorable members on all sides of the House of Commonwealth properties that were in disrepair, and were urged to take action in regard to them. My natural business mind would not allow me to let this state of affairs continue. We spent millions in repairing various public buildings and improving numerous public works, and I am sure that honorable members generally must have approved of our action. At the same time we saved Australia some millions of money. I venture to say that the Department of Home Affairs saved the country £200,000 in the purchase, repair, and renewal of properties. Whilst I was Minister of Home Affairs I kept what I called a savings book. It is still in the Department, and any honorable member may apply to inspect, and learn from it the savings we made. The Treasurer has determined to consolidate the State debts. Before he attempts anything of the kind he ought to convene a conference of the State Treasurers and Premiers.
– He could not proceed with his scheme without doing so.
– Quite so. By the way, I desire to congratulate the honorable member for Franklin on the speech that he delivered yesterday. Save in one or two respects, it was the utterance of a statesman. The Treasurer, I repeat, should call a conference of the State Premiers and Treasurers, with their State actuaries, to discuss with the Commonwealth Government the consolidation of the debts of Australia, irrespective of party politics. This conference ought to try to draw up a financial scheme upon which the consolidation of the debts might rest. It should also deal with the question of a uniform railway gauge. The Commonwealth Government, in my opinion, ought to bear the whole cost of securing uniformity. The States put down their railways with due regard to the conditions that were then obtaining. They borrowed money to build them, and if the Commonwealth desires to unify the railway gauges of the several systems for the benefit of the whole of the people, then the whole of the people ought to bear the cost. The conference should also agree upon a system of national irrigation, as well as national water conservation, national afforestation, and a scheme to encourage immigration, provided that immigrants can be placed on the land. I am strong for that, but I do not believe in bringing people to Australia merely to dump them down in our great cities. As a matter of fact,I have sixty or seventy people waiting to get into one of the terrace of houses to which the honorable member for Moreton has referred. I may say, in passing, that I have not raised the rents of those places. I hope that this conference will take place at an early date. There is a vast difference between attempting to do something for yourself and calling in the others concerned and asking them to join with you. The Commonwealth Bank could be utilized for carrying out the scheme agreed to by the Brisbane Conference.
– Is the honorable member satisfied with the bank’s operations at present?
– No; but I think we could not have done more in making a start. The Bank, like other institutions, has not stopped growing, but its growth must necessarily be gradual. It can be made a great institution for the Commonwealth, the States, the municipalities, and the various public trusts.
My original scheme, as adopted hy the Brisbane Labour Conference was, “That the board of management of the bank shall consist of a Comptroller-General representing the Commonwealth and a representative from each of the subscribing States.” That was on 15th April, 1908. It was further proposed that - “ A branch of the bank shall be established in London ; at the London office and at the head office of the bank in each State Commonwealth consols shall be obtainable in sums of £10 and upwards.” Our idea was to give the bank a start, and then let it develop. In 1913, £15,978,430 of debts mature, and these have to be met. Under the present system of financing the States are in the market competing with <!he world. They are often not in a position to carry on and meet their obligations, with all these debts maturing, and, consequently, have to go on to the market and pay higher rates of brokerage, high rates of discount, high rates of bank commissions, and high rates for all kinds of other commissions. The Commonwealth Bank ought to be in a position to finance the States until money is cheap in London, Paris, or New York, and they could then go on to those markets and float their redemption loans. The intention of the bank is to convert, to renew, and to issue inscribed stock for the Commonwealth, the States, and municipalities. If the bank is not going to do those things there is no room for it in Australia. It will simply become a competitor with the other banks. The Bank of New South Wales has £34,000,000 of deposits, and the Commonwealth Bank has about £5,000,000. Of course, it has done very well in the circumstances, but it ought to be the right hand of the Commonwealth, and it ought to be in a position to give rural credits to help the producers of this country. In 1914, £2,864,061 of debts fall due, and in 1915 debts to the amount of £21,662,945 mature. All these loans will have to be refloated, because I do not imagine that any of the States are yet prepared to liquidate those obligations. The Treasurer has now one of the great opportunities of his life - the opportunity to create a financial system in Australia that will make it impossible for the States to have to go cap in hand to the Hebrew children of London and put-their watches up. The net profits of the twenty-three banks, including the little Ballarat Bank ing Company, for the past year were £3,227,827. All that has to come out of the pockets of the producers and traders of Australia - those who till the land and do the hard toil in this country, because we in the cities produce no wealth. The dividends paid amounted to £1,748,723 for the same period, while £1,066,500 was added to reserves, as compared with £819,700 added to reserves during the previous year. I believe in the building up of these reserves, because I want to see strong institutions.
– You say these profits were taken from the Australian producers. To whom did they go ?
– They went to other investors.
– Would not many of them be the same people ?
– I am afraid I do not do any producing myself.
– Then the honorable member is a holder of bank .shares?
– I have some somewhere. What I claim is, that that money was taken out of the pockets of the Australian producers and traders in order to enable them to exchange their commodities and properties. This country to-day is run by three classes, bankers, doctors, and lawyers, and all the rest of us work for them. Extravagance and poverty - particularly extravagance, whether in the individual or in the nation - are the things that sap the life of a community. That is why we want in Australia a great bank of re-discount, and the Commonwealth Bank can never become this, or become a self-liquidating institution until the States join in. I shall show the Committee why. First of all, millions of the Australian people’s money is out on call loan. The balance-sheets of our great financial institutions show that they keep thousands of pounds on call loan in London.
– Why is that ?
– Call loans are let on stock exchange collateral security, because that is the second line of defence. We have in Australia no financial institutions like the Bank of England, or the Bank of France, to enable our resources to be mobilized for the benefit <pf our people generally. That was the cause of the failure of the Australian banks in 1893. If the Commonwealth Bank was made a re-discount bank to handle, in addition to other functions, the securities of the Commonwealth, States, municipalities, andvarious public trusts, it would knit together the reserves of Australia, and reinforce them with the resources of the Commonwealth through the national treasury. Those reserves could then be mobilized by the Commonwealth Bank for the benefit of the Australian producers. One finds in talking to most men that they have never bothered about the question of finance, yet it is the great question of the world to-day. Whether we like it or not everything is a matter of boodle, and boodle is the machine that keeps the show moving. The money let on call loan is taken out of production, out of its legitimate channel, but the banks have to do it, and I have no doubt that the Governments do the same. The reason is that the various Australian Banks and financial and fiduciary institutions have no re-discount institutions to which they can go with their collateral securities and say, “ We want a re-discount to enable our clients to carry on their activities.” Sitting suspended from1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have said that the reason why banks have to lend on call loans is that they are the second line of defence. If we had in Australia a re-discounting bank, the other banks would not be forced to lend on call loans. In my opinion, to have large sums of money lent on call loans produces an element of danger, and is unsound banking. The loans are on stock exchange collateral security, and at call. It is because there is no great bank of discount in Australia, in which other banks and financial institutions could liquidate their securities if they wished to do so, that our banks have to lend on call, and millions are thus taken out of the natural channels of trade and commerce that might be used to increase the production of Australia. Hundreds of people who have investments out are involved. It is not safe for banks to lend a large part of their funds upon private corporation securities, because these securities do not tend to liquidate themselves when that is desirable. If we had a big banking institution, such as the Commonwealth Bank will be when the States have become our partners, the activities and finances of Australia would pass through it, and it would be in a position to immediately utilize its great national financial” power for the benefit of the individual. The reason that the other banks are not in that position is that the securities are for loans made on bills receivable, and these bills cannot be liquidated until they have matured. If there is no re-discounting, bank, and you want to get a bit of capital, you must go to one of the Hebrew children, but they take all your profits.
– The banks will discount bills.
– The banks have not the money. The Commercial Bank would not have closed its doors in 1893 if it could have got £50,000.
– That happened at the time of a crisis.
– What is the central bank for but to prevent crises? In 1857 the Bank of England had only £358,503 worth of gold, and under Sir Robert Peel’s Act of 1844 the moment that a certain sum was out it had to stop discounting. It stopped discounting, and there was one of the greatest financial crises ever known in the history of England. The very Government that had passed the Act authorized the bank to break it. The Bank of England is the repository of all the gold of England, Scotland, and Wales, and of most of the gold of Ireland. It is also the British Government’s bank of deposit. The reserves of England are only credits on the ledgers of the Bank of England. If gold is wanted anywhere in England, Scotland, or Wales, it is withdrawn from the Bank of England, and, in the natural course of business, comes back to the bank. In 1857 the bank had only £358,000 in gold, and that represented all the gold in the United Kingdom, yet it discounted £8,000,000 worth of credit-circulating notes for the business men of London. The other banks did the same, and immediately the gold in the Bank of England increased to £1,000,000. That is what we want in Australia. A private banking corporation has only a limited amount of capital. Our largest financial institution, the Bank of New South Wales, has a capital of only £3,500,000, and deposits amounting to £34,000,000. How could it carry on the business of the Australian nation? What we want is a central bank where the other banks and the great lending corporations of Australia could re-discount a certain percentage of their commercial paper, and thus help the producers.
– No central bank could stand if there were a collapse of credit in the country.
– No central bank would allow a collapse of credit. Eventually the Commonwealth Bank will have the note issue. It will become the repository of the gold of the Commonwealth, and of the gold reserves of the other banks.
– And would prevent a smash.
– How could there be a smash ? We have £225,000,000 of deposits in Australian banks. There is £87,000,000 in the commercial banks drawing interest, and £62,000,000 not drawing interest. In the savings banks there is £75,000,000. Against all that there is only £51,000,000 worth of gold. The total interest on the £225,000,000 is £2 3s. 7d. per cent., so that the corporations and banking associations, and others handling Australian finance, pay only £4,914,000 per annum for the £225,000,000 that they have borrowed. The private and public debt of Australia, as nearly as it can be calculated, is £650,000,000. The public debt is £300,000,000, not including the municipal debt, so that my figures are certainly under the mark. The people of Australia, public and private, pay not less than 6 per cent, for the money they have borrowed, which means that they have to produce £39,000,000 every year to liquidate their interest obligations. The corporations that hold the £225,000,000 will not lend any of it for less than 6 per cent. I come now to another point. There is no institution in Australia, public or private, that has the power to stop a financial crisis. Why do not the banks stand together? Had not Sir George Dibbs made bank notes legal tender in New South Wales for six months, enabling the banks to withdraw their gold from the State, not one of them would have been able to resist crossing Jordan. As it was, we had institutions closed up holding £60,000,000 of the deposits of the people. That caused hatred in England, and frightened the English capitalist from putting out his money in Australia. I know, because I have relatives in the “ boodle “ business.
– And the honorable member has been in it himself.
– I am a small man. The Prime Minister has a great chance to settle this matter. When you have a great re-discounting bank, it becomes a self-liquidating institution, like the Bank of France. From 1890 until the present time, the discount rates of the Bank of France have varied only between 2 and 4 per cent. During the Boer war the rate went up to 4 per cent., and it has- gone to 3 per cent. For seven years it stood at 2 per cent. Why should the people of France be able to get their paper re-discounted at 2 per cent., and why should the Australian farmers, upon whom we all depend for our existence, have to pay 6 or 8 per cent, unless they give a mortgage? Why should a farmer give a mortgage any more than I have to do when I want £200 or £1,000? Why should not a farmer be able to get an overdraft from a bank, as in Germany, or in France? The Government should ascertain by absolute investigation why the lands of France and Germany produce twice the crop per acre that is produced in Australia. It is because the German and French producer can get money at from 3 to 5 per cent, for a term of fifty years, and can repay the principal at the rate of J per cent, a year, or in a lump sum, as it may suit him. Money is advanced to him to buy land and to improve it. The German Government backs up associations that lend money to the farmers at low rates of interest, making these institutions its special pets. Does any one say that the land of Germany u as rich as the land of Australia? In Germany, I suppose, they have been ploughing the land for 2,000 years; but theirs is scientific farming. The Australian farmers are the men on whom the wealth of the nation rests; and yet the financial men - the manufacturers of bonds, mortgages, shares, debentures, stocks, letters of credit, and bills of exchange, are those whom Australia favours. For years and years the great banking corporations have discriminated against the farmers in favour of the producers of lists of securities, which, after all, are only the title to the profits from the land, and the labour of the Australian workers. For millions of years the masses have stood with their backs bent, and the great army of gatherers have marched to glory and. affluence over those backs.
.- It is impossible to regard the present Estimates with any very great measure of equanimity.
The expenditure involved is very large, and I, as one sitting behind the Government, will be very grievously disappointed if, when in due time they submit’ their next Budget, a very different tale is not unfolded. I am quite in agreement with the honorable member for Darwin that there is too much fighting one with the other in this House, and that we ought to unite forces to meet the national conditions and promote the betterment of the people. That honorable member devoted considerable time to the question of the defence expenditure. When the present defence scheme was entered upon I do not think that any one of us fairly apprehended that the expenditure would be so enormous in such a short space of time; and it certainly exceeds very largely that anticipated by Lord Kitchener. This is one of the matters to which the Government will have to give very serious attention during the recess. There will have to be modifications in some directions in order to meet the case from the financial point of view. Much has been attempted in the way of Socialistic enterprises; but each experiment seems to demonstrate more and more that the Socialistic system of Government control is not the best for the country.
– It all depends on the manager.
– The honorable member had charge of a Department for three years, and he knows the difficulties of management under Government control.
– Open the Public Service, and let business men into it!
– How does the honorable member propose to get the business men there?
– By paying them a good wage.
– We have been fondly thinking that we are paying good wages to men of capacity and power. I regard the report on the Small Arms Factory as disclosing a pitiful state of things. Here we have a factory erected at a capital cost of £288,000, and yet, up to the present time, it has turned out only 1,000 rifles and appurtenances, valued at about £6,600. That cost is surely outrageous, and would never be tolerated for a moment under private enterprise; indeed, no Government could stand it if they had not the power of taxation. For the support and upkeep of all these huge, unnecessary, unprofitable ventures we have ultimately to fall back on the taxpayer. The question of defence, however, has been traversed at considerable length, and I shall turn my attention to the Northern Territory. It is in regard to defence and the Territory that we shall be forced to alter our policy, or the people will rebel. I question whether there is a single bond fide settler permanently established in the Territory. In 1911-12 the Administration showed a debit balance of £363,000, and in 1912-13 a debit balance of £393,000, while the present Estimates anticipate a debit balance of £531,000. Very largely this amount is made up of the salaries of the 216 officers who have been sent there. The estimated expenditure on salaries and contingencies is shown under fourteen heads, and the increase this year, as compared with last year, is no less than £57,000. For this huge expenditure we ought to anticipate a speedy settlement of the country, but in this connexion the last report from the Administrator tells a doleful story. It appears to me, on reading the report, that there is an entire absence of policy so far as the development of the country is concerned. The only indication I can see of any policy is a determination to conduct the administration on Socialistic lines, which, in the light of experience, we are justified in regarding as foredoomed to failure.
– A voice from the distance ! The Administrator admits that private enterprise has done much in ascertaining the capacity of the lands. On page 6 of his report, he says - . . it says much foi the hardiness and intrepidity of the stockmen and bushmen who explored it seeking cattle country in the early days, that little of it is, in a general sense, totally unknown.
Private enterprise has been good enough to investigate the merits of the country, and apparently private enterprise has “turned it down” as not good enough for practical men. Anything would commend itself to a highly-paid official, whose position is determined by the reports he submits; but it is a different story with a practical person. The Administrator goes on to say -
Those men who traversed the country in search of stock lands had an excellent idea of what was suitable, so much so that to-day the best and most accessible first and second class pastoral (which includes agricultural) lands are held under long lease or yearly permit, and at a rental so low as to be almost negligible. For example, we find nearly seventy million acres held under leases which do not expire for nearly thirty, years, in the majority of cases, at a rental of is. per mile, or o.2d. per acre, the most that can ever be charged for the best of it being o.rd. per acre, while another twenty-five million acres are held on yearly permit at a rental of is. per mile. It is further safe to say that the whole of this vast area, comprising the picked lands of the country, does not contain a white population of more than one to the thousand square miles.
This is described by the Administrator as the picked land of the country, and the value of the leases to those men is shown by a further statement on page 8-
I do not anticipate that such resumption will at any time be a costly matter. We have seen how Messrs. Lawrie and Co. viewed the possibility of a Government settlement near their Elsy run; it was welcomed so much that they handed over the area we desired without compensation, although the leases had about another thirty years to run, and I confidently anticipate that other large leaseholders’ will equally see that it may be to their advantage to have some comparatively close settlement in their vicinity.
Whatever virtues there may . be in private ownership and private enterprise, I do not think that those interested can be accused of any magnanimous or anxious consideration for the welfare of other people. Generally, people are led into a new country by the anticipation of doing good for themselves; but here we find men prepared to throw up these vast areas in favour of the Government. Even in the matter of poultry, the Administrator, while saying that the industry is very good, points out that it is troubled by various diseases. As to horses, he says -
As I have already reported, horse-breeding in the past has been but indifferently carried on, partly because of the absence of fencing and provision of proper food during the long dry season for the young growing animals, partly because of the absence of care in the selection of stallions, and to a considerable extent owing to the presence of a disease known as “Walkabout.”
To give a further insight into the beautiful condition of this country, I take another quotation -
There is, of course, no paddocking whatever, and often there is no good grass at certain periods, either through burning or through soil poverty, within anything like reasonable distance of the station. For example, when at Borroloola, I found that the police horses were being perforce herded twenty miles away from a station. Further, as the horses are grass-fed solely, they are rarely in a condition to do long forced marches.
This is a valuable report, as showing the splendid asset we have for our enormous expenditure, running into millions of money.
– The honorable member is sarcastic. Does he not think that the Territory is a splendid asset?
– If a wise policy were evolved for developing the country by a railway from Oodnadatta northward into the hills, gradually, as a preliminary, developing the grazing areas, some good might be done; but no one but a highlypaid Government official would have approved the course that is being followed. We have a lengthy report upon the Batchelor Farm, and there are one or two beautiful illustrations of how they do things there. The other day a question was answered in the House, showing that there was a loss of something like £19,000 on these farms. This is the way in which Government officialdom works. This is what the report of the Administrator says -
Owing to the fact that operations at this farm were commenced in the midst of the wet season and that no horses suitable for haulage could be procured for many weeks, a great deal of work in connexion with temporary buildings and yards had to be undertaken, and it was not until the dry season was approaching that an area of 20 acres had been cleared, fenced, and ploughed’ for the trial of crops.
If it was the wrong season in which to commence, why did they commence then? Private enterprise and common sense would not have acted in that way, carrying out a fixed duty impressed on them, and then making a complaint about it afterwards. But this is the inevitable outcome of Government control in matters which rightly and properly private enterprise alone can accomplish. We have in this report furnished by the Administrator one or two explanatory tables showing how the costs of clearing are arrived at. One clearing of 75 acres was undertaken by day labour, with the aid of a traction engine, and the work occupied twenty-eight weeks, at a cost of £7 13s. per acre. Is that not a beautiful picture? Further, there is a paragraph dealing with an area of forty-five acres which was cleared by contract, and the means adopted were the use of a forest devil and hand grubbing. This work was done in five weeks at a cost of £5 15s. per acre. I am glad to see that the Administrator has awakened to the fact that there are other considerations than those of a Socialistic nature. Another paragraph says -
The dealing that will prove of most interest to the average settler is that now being done by contract - trees, saplings, and old stumps removed to a clear 9 inches. The area comprises two paddocks . of 80 acres each of what may fairly be described as moderately heavily timbered land - very much more heavily timbered than any wheat land in the south, but not nearly so heavily timbered as the coastal hardwood forests of New South Wales, Victoria, or Queensland. Probably the number of trees per acre in the Territory is greater, but the trees are invariably smaller in diameter. The contract, let to a party of men who had previously worked for a short term on the farm, is at the rate of £5 15s. per acre, the work to be completed and the land left in perfect order for ploughing within eighteen weeks.
This report of the Administrator contains a good deal of valuable information, but it all goes to demonstrate that we have committed the great folly, and the great sin, of seeking to develop the Northern Territory without, first of all, determining on a solid policy to be pursued. I agree with the honorable member for Darwin that we shall never successf ully settle the Territory except by the process of gradual expansion back from our settled areas. The only sound policy to be pursued is that of extending the 3-ft. 6-in gauge railway north from Oodnadatta into the hilly country, in order to give those areas favoured by a larger rainfall, and well adapted to the production of beef, a chance to produce what the land will produce there, and so that what is produced may be brought down to the markets of the south at a reasonable cost.
– The proposed line from Pine Creek to Katherine River is not inconsistent with that policy.
– No, but my objection is thatwe are building from north to south. We have already paid for the survey of a line from Pine Creek to Katherine River, but that line should not be persevered with, because it would be a wrong policy to build it. To begin with, it would be wrong from a defence point of view, because if there is any possibility of enemies coming into Australia they could make use of the railway to our disadvantage. In my opinion, any railway extension should be from the south, northward, in order that, if the land is brought to profitable use, what may be produced can be brought into consump tion among the population in the south. That is a sound policy, and I commend it to the Ministry. At any rate, I hope we have heard the last of the Pine Creek to Katherine River project for some time to come. Of course, eventually, when we have a population of 40,000,000 or 50,000,000, we should have a railway running across the continent from north to south, but in the meantime, from the defence point of view, and from the point of view that the proposed line is unnecessary, and is likely to be unprofitable, we would make a huge mistake in building it. It is a mistake that I hope will not be perpetrated by the present Government. Sitting behind the Ministry, I am desirous that they should have a fair trial, but I shall be grievously disappointed if the next Budget is not vastly different from the present one. I recognise that the figures in the present Budget are not of the present Treasurer’s choosing. They are the outcome of a condition of things which developed when his predecessors were in office. Therefore, whatever I have said in condemnation of these figures - and I do condemn them, because the expenditure is abnormally large for our population - I am not condemning the present Treasurer. At the same time I do not wish to take up too antagonistic an attitude towards honorable members opposite. They have a belief that it is a good thing to develop on Socialistic lines. Our policy is altogether opposed to that. To develop the country on Socialistic lines it is necessary, first of all, to plank down officer after officer - highly-paid men - and some of them now in the Northern Territory are there, not because of their qualifications, but because of their Socialistic predilections.
– That is nasty.
– It may be nasty, but it is true. What about Ryland? Can any one justify his position?
– Then why do not the Government sack him?
– These men have been sent to the Northern Territory, and have been drawing their salaries, and I have heard it whispered that, although they went there at fixed salaries, there is an attempt to increase them.
– Why listen to these nasty whispers?
– I should like to know from the Treasurer whether in the draft
Estimates there were not considerable additions proposed for these men who went up to the Northern Territory at a fixed salary, and for fixed terms of office.
– That is so.
– The Treasurer assures me that it is so. Men who put in a claim for increased salary, knowing the Territory is a hugh financial loss and a loadstone about the neck of the people of the Commonwealth, should be relegated to private life again because of their attempt to get to the other side of their agreement. I would like to ask the Treasurer whether these increases were recommended by the Administrator.
– I have the statement of the Treasurer that they were recommended by the Administrator. If the Territory was a paying proposition, if these officers were doing good work in developing the country, if they had succeeded in inducing one single permanent settler to go to the Territory, there might be some justification for these increases, but “ failure “ is written over the whole project; the Northern Territory is a huge, lamentable-
– Colony of public servants.
– I have entered my protest against this expenditure. I shall be grievously disappointed if the next Budget does not show a different complexion, and if there is not a very great alteration in many things which, from a financial stand-point, can only be regarded as unsound.
.- The honorable member need not have reminded us that there is a very big difference between Ministerialists and the Opposition in policy. We are Socialistic, as the honorable member says. We consider the interests of the community on the social side as being of the first consideration. Apparently the honorable member for Echuca stands for the interests of individuals. He wants the Government to do something in the Northern Territory by means of contractors. Surely the honorable member must realize we would have to pay a pretty big price to induce a contractor to go there, and take a team of men with him. What sort of competition would there be in the Northern Territory, where there is so little work except what is being carried out under the Administrator? The honorable member must realize that, in the absence of competition, the contractor would have the Commonwealth at his mercy. I cannot understand the honorable member proposing to have things done in any other way than they have been done in the Northern Territory. We cannot settle the land without having it surveyed, and without having a staff. It is absurd to complain of the cost before we have had time to get the thing under way. The honorable member must remember that South Australia controlled the Northern Territory for forty years, and was getting further into debt, and yet no! .progress was made. When we launch out on a new enterprise we must have a big outlay at the beginning beforeit comes to the point of paying a dividend. We all know, except, perhaps,, the honorable member for Echuca, that, the Commonwealth is developing the Northern Territory for other reasons than profit. We seek to develop it,, and to settle the place permanently, and to do that we have to go slowly. It is not to be said because a certain policy does not prove profitable at the outset that it is necessarily wrong. I recognise the general feeling of the Committee is in favour of the session being; brought to a speedy termination, and,, therefore, I shall not speak at any length. We have been doing our utmost to inducethe Government to go to the country before Christmas, but that now appears tobe hopeless, and honorable members areanxious, I think, to conclude the business of the session as soon as possible. The Government, perhaps, will make a 11 appeal to the country next year. I hopethat they will do so. My own view is> that they are waiting anxiously to hear the result of the election in New South Wales to-morrow. I should like at this stage to call attention to certain remarks made by Mr. Winston Churchill, who, in proposing the toast of the Commonwealth at a recent Western Australian dinner,, said -
Australia’s development had been grand, but it was different from any other community in. the world. Sometimes, when he saw populations of millions trodden in the slush of great cities, or forgotten and famished on vast expanses of territory, he considered that Australia was wise in following collectivist rather than competitive ideals, and watching with care over the fortunes of the rearguard and the weaker portions of the army of labour and industry.
T would commend these thoughts to the honorable member for Echuca. Mr. Winston Churchill is a keen observer, and is not the only eminent man who has spoken thus of some of the ideals of collectivists. The honorable member for Echuca, however, has been swallowing some of the misrepresentations that w.e hear from time to time in regard to Socialism, a word, by the way, which conveys different meanings to different minds. I started some time ago to examine the Budget carefully with the object of discovering whether there was any justification for the tremendous increase in expenditure proposed by the Government, but as there was no reasonable prospect of an opportunity to deal with the question in a thorough manner, I did not push on with my investigations. That being so, I do not propose to-day to criticise the Budget statement to any extent. It must be clear to those who have read the Treasurer’s financial statement, however, that some of the bogies that were trotted out during the recent election campaign have been safely laid to rest by him. They were not even strong enough to cast a shadow of reality. Every statement made by the Labour party, when before the electors, regarding the growth and development of the Commonwealth under its administration has been proved by the Treasurer himself to be true. The right honorable gentleman’s figures prove up to the hilt every claim made by us. For years past it has been the custom of our opponents at election time to warn the people that if Labour were returned to power the country would be ruined. Experience both in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments has shown that such statements were wholly without warrant, for the country has never been more prosperous than it was under the Labour regime. The people have been told that there could be no confidence in Labour rule, and attempts have been made to show that the world’s money market is affected by the kind of Government in power at any given time. If such a suggestion were true, then the present Government would stand condemned. When the first. Watson Government took office there was an immediate rise in the price of Consols, whereas, according to a cable message from London the day after the present Government took office, Consols closed at 72£, or a fall of £ per cent. since the previous day. The cable stated further that this quotation was the lowest on record since Consols were converted into their present form. It would be just as reasonable to say that the coming into office of the present Government had affected the price of British Consols as to utter some of the misrepresentations that have been made in regard to the effect which the coming into office of a Labour Government has on the prosperity of the country. The truth, perhaps, has been given by Mr. Teece, one of the ablest financiers in Australia, who is connected with the Australian Mutual Provident Society. He said recently -
Australia’s credit in London is not interfered with because of the part played in politics by the Labour party. Policy doesn’t count. The whole business of money raising is done by brokers, and the Labour Government will get a loan as readily as a Liberal Government. Either party will have to pay the same.
That is the sensible statement of a reasonable man, and why politicians should indulge in the wild talk which we sometimes hear in regard to matters of this kind is beyond my comprehension. It was asserted, when the Federal land tax was brought in by the Labour Government, that it would ruin the country. When it was found that the prediction had not been verified, it was said that it had failed to achieve the chief object which we had in view - the breaking up of large estates. As to that point, here is a quotation from a report of a speech made by the Chairman of Directors of the Scottish Australian Provident Society, which should be of interest to honorable members -
The chairman of the Scottish Australian Investment Company in London stated that owing to the operation of the Federal land tax they would be obliged to sell their freehold properties in Australia, “ but he had no doubt that they would find other outlets for their capital, because Australia, with all its faults of Government, was a great country, with a future before it.”
Such a statement by the chairman of a Scottish investment company - and Scotchmen have the reputation of being particularly shrewd business men - should be sufficient to lay to rest another bogy This investment society finds it necessary, because of the Federal land tax, to sell a portion of its freehold estates in Australia; but it proposes to re-invest its money here. It has absolute faith in the country. Statements have also been bandied about by our opponents as to the alarm which the coming into power of a Labour Government has occasioned investors. The Labour Government were alleged to be responsible for the tightening of the money market, but to show how ill-founded is such an allegation, let me quote the opinions expressed by Mr. French, manager of the Bank of New South Wales, and a man who is in the very forefront of bankers. He is a banker of vast experience, and his opinion, I dare say, would be taken as against that of any other financier in Australia. He has given the following reasons for the tightening of the money market -
The annual increase in the production of wealth during the administration of the Labour Government was double that for each of the previous nine years. The increase of trade in two years was more than the increase for the previous nine years. The deposits in our banks of issue increased nearly three times as much per annum, and their assets by six times as much. Savings banks deposits increased two and a half times as much, and the marriage rate and birth rate by four times as much as before. We have reached a stage in the political life of Australia when the opponents of the Labour party must reconsider their attitude towards us. They will have to look for new bogies. The Labour Administration in Australia instead of resulting in injury to the country, has been marked by unprecedented prosperity. During the late election campaign the Fisher Government were charged with extravagance.
– Is there any chance of our dealing with the first item in the Estimates this afternoon?
– I shall not occupy the time of the Committee much longer. I am anxious that the session shall close as soon as possible, but I wish to call the Prime Minister’s attention to the enor mously increased expenditure proposed by his Government. While, on the one hand, the Treasurer estimates that the revenue will fall short of last year’s returns, he has enormously increased the expenditure of the Commonwealth as compared with that for 1912-13. The estimated revenue for the current year is £21,462,000, which, with the surplus of £2,653,223, gives a total revenue of £24,115,223. The total expenditure will exceed the revenue by £5,733,223.
– How ridiculous it is to put loan moneys against revenue.
– I am simply stating the expenditure proposed by the Government. They condemned as grossly extravagant a £22,000,000 Budget.
– Entirely wrong. The Labour Government’s Budget last year, if we include loan moneys, was a £25,000,000 one.
– The honorable member is wrong. The fact remains that the Government are proposing a vast increase of expenditure, and have not explained how they justify it. They have not told us why they have not carried out the pledge given by the Prime Minister in his manifesto, in these words, “ We will give you honest, sound, and economic government.” They are giving it to us by spending all the available surplus, and by issuing a loan for another £3,000,000 in addition. Where does the honest, sound, and economic government come in ? It may be honest, but the Committee ought to know what they are spending the money on, as it is very difficult to find out from the Budget-papers.
– These are the commitments of your Government.
– A good while ago, the Government tried to make out that the money was for commitments, but some very able speeches, notably that of one who is unfortunately no more with us, were made from this side to show that the present Government must be held responsible, because this is their Budget. It strikes me, from what has been let fall by Ministers, that the Government took the departmental heads’ suggestions for expenditure, one of which, at any rate, was initialed as being. “ submitted for the consideration “ of the previous Government. That is a very different thing from being finally passed. Every departmental head naturally asks for as much money as he thinks is needed to make his department efficient; but all these suggestions have to be finally reviewed by the Cabinet, and certainly by the Treasurer. It looks to me as if the Government had simply taken these suggestions, and put them all into the Budget, saying, “ These are the commitments of the Labour party.” If that is so, they cannot shelter themselves behind that excuse. The only commitments which can be honestly pleaded are those which were admittedly made, such as those of the building of the Navy, and other defence works, about which there is a general consensus of opinion that we must not be too parsimonious. It appears to me, however, that there is a serious increase in the general expenditure on the part of a Government that claimed that they were going to make a change in the financial administration of the Commonwealth. If this enormous increase is essential to the welfare of the Commonwealth, why do they not propose increased taxation to meet it? That would be a fair way of doing it; but, instead of this, the Commonwealth is going to drift into the position of a seventh borrower for Australia. This Government is the first to start on that business. We frequently hear quibbles about the Fisher Government having started the borrowing policy, simply from the fact that, in taking over the Northern Territory, they had to take over the loans already incurred by South Australia. They cannot be charged with borrowing for that purpose, nor can they be honestly charged with borrowing in connexion with the valuation of transferred properties. Hitherto, the Commonwealth has done without borrowing a penny, and now the present Government, instead of following our policy of trying to meet our obligations out of revenue, or increasing the taxation if the revenue is not sufficient, are embarking upon a borrowing policy. I believe that the people are quite willing to pay increased taxation if it is necessary. The Commonwealth has undertaken a large and costly scheme of defence, and I do not see why we should not come down on the richer man to meet the cost, as England does. We have avoided the imposition of direct taxation, with the single exception of the land tax, which applies only to very big estates. If they want money in the centre of the Empire, they raise the income tax ; but our wealthy classes in Australia are going scot-free of responsibilities which they could well afford to bear. I do not think there has ever been a time when things have been so good for the capitalistic class. There has been a tightening of money, especially in New South Wales. The banks will not advance on more than 50 per cent, of valuations, and yet this has not stopped building operations in the least. Six million pounds were spent in one year on buildings, proving that, without borrowing money from the banks, there is plenty of wealth available, coming mainly, I believe, from the great wool trade. In this prosperity there is a great field for additional taxation, especially among the wealthier classes, whose property the masses would have to defend if we were ever unfortunately involved in war. The Government have been threatening to make a very dangerous departure in another’ matter. How far they have done it, I do not know, because we do not seem able to get any exact idea of what they are doing. I refer to the deliberate introduction, as a serious policy, of the contract system as against day labour. The Labour party never tried to do everything exclusively by day labour, but they adopted the day-labour system, as any good business manager would, wherever it meant a saving to the Commonwealth. The present Government, judging by their public utterances, are going to adopt the contract system out-and-out, whether it suits or not. Some of their followers seem to have a fixed idea that the day-labour system is the most costly, but that is entirely contradicted by the experience of Liberal Governments in the various States. I commend to them the actual experience of the Liberal Government in Queensland. The report of their Railway Commissioner has already been published, showing that many thousands of pounds were saved through the Railway Department building its own lines. New South Wales has had a similar experience. A saving of £13,000 on the lowest tender submitted was shown in the case of the line just finished from Moree to Garah. The honorable member for Echuca looks surprised, but I would recommend him, and others who worship the contract system fetish, to get hold of the report of the EngineerinChief for Victoria, wherein the most convincing figures are given, to show how it is possible for the Department to do the
Work for itself at an immense saving.
– Will the honorable member deny that the lines done by contract were all through heavy, hilly country?
– I have seen the official report, and the comparison that induced the Liberal Government in Victoria to adopt the day-labour system. That comparison was between lines in the same kind of country. It could not be a comparison unless the conditions were similar. They are most careful to compare lines in similar country; and the report shows that the work was done for £900 per mile cheaper under their system than under the contract system. Let honorable members imagine what a saving of £900 per mile would mean in the construction of the transcontinental railway. I should like to know whether the present Government are going to do that work by contract? It will be a most serious matter if they are, as the work was started in the proper way by the late Government. Consider how many miles of railway could be built out of a saving of £900 per mile. In addition to the facts I have quoted, the Engineer-in-Chief for New South Wales railways shows that earthworks cost 37 per cent, less under day labour than under contract, and on one of the deviations on the mountains the Commissioners saved £10,000. They would never dream of doing work of that kind in New South Wales by contract. Another advantage in constructing a railway line under departmental control is that the work can be begun at least six months earlier than would be the case under the contract system, where every care has to be taken in regard to specifications, so that there may be no charge for extras. New South Wales had one experience that cured them of the contracting habit, where they had to pay £127,000 odd on six lines for extras, and to settle law cases. Since that happened, they have been constructing their lines for themselves at an immensely cheaper rate than they ever paid for similar work under the contract system. Some of it in good and level country is costing them only £1,800 per mile. Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria - all of them under Liberal Governments - would not dream of letting contracts for railway construction; and this House certainly ought to know, before it passes the Estimates, what the Government are going to do in this matter. No one objects to their letting contracts for the construction of buildings. We do not expect them to have the whole of their work done by day labour, but we do object to their adopting the contract system for big works like railways. It looks as though they have put a few millions extra into the Budget to meet the extra cost that” will be incurred by doing large public works by contract. The difficult work of tunnelling the streets of Sydney for the Postal Department was done by day labour at a saving of £40,000. I know the late Sir William Lyne was opposed to day labour, but when that matter was investigated by a Commission, of which he was chairman, the evidence converted him. No one could know how much would have to be paid for extras if work of that nature were let by contract. In the case of the Forbes’ drainage system, the lowest tender was £1,693, and the work cost only £1,380 by day labour. For one section of the Long Cove storm-water channel, the contractor asked 50s. per foot; the work was done by day labour at 45s. per foot, showing a saving of £400. For another section, the contractor asked £5 per foot, and the work was done for £3 5s. per foot, showing a saving of £1,200. An earthworks cutting, for which the contract price was ls. 6d., was done by day labour for 8d. a yard. There was, in one case, a saving in concrete of from 10s. to 15s. per yard, and, of course, the work was done more honestly than it is ever done under the contract system. The daylabour system- guarantees efficiency; the contract system means inefficiency and increased cost. It has been said during the electoral campaign now proceeding in New South Wales that the North Coast Railway has cost more than it was estimated to cost, but the explanation is that prior to the advent of the Labour Government, there was an alteration of the specifications. The line that has been made is a much better one than the line that was originally intended to be made, having heavier rails, lower grades, and wider curves. Similar explanations could be found in many other cases if the trouble were taken to look for them. I could quote many other examples, in Australia and from the practice of municipal councils elsewhere, to show the advantages of the day-labour system. We are not justified, because the party in power has certain ideals, in allowing the taxpayers’ money to be spent to boost up certain individuals. In the old days it often happened that the man who got a railway contract thereby made his fortune. Those days have gone by. Nowadays public expenditure is more closely watched, and we ought to adopt whatever methods common-sense dictates as being beat in the public interest. We should not be carried away by an idea. I ask those who are interested in the subject to read the report of the Victorian engineer in regard to the abolition of the contract system. Where a contractor has not permanent work, and does not own a large plant, he adds to his price the cost of his plant. Then, again, if he has not a large working capital, and must pay interest on borrowed money, he adds the interest to his price. Of course, where contractors are continually engaged in the erection of buildings, and have permanent staffs >and plant, the prices are much more reasonable, and supervision is better. But now that the Commonwealth is entering on railway construction on a big scale, it can afford to secure plant and to organize a staff, and the staff will work better when it has been a little time in existence. We shall be very foolish to have our work done by contract when we oan do it more quickly and more cheaply ourselves. It has amused me to hear one or two members, who seem to have never done’ any work, criticise the labour of men whom they have watched for ten minutes or so, and whom they accuse of loafing, perhaps because one of them had a pipe in his mouth. I have had good opportunities of knowing what is in the mind of many working men, having been largely trusted for many years in connexion with big organizations, and I have never known a man who would not assert that he had to work harder for the Government than for a private contractor. But it is impossible to judge of what a man is doing unless his work is carefully measured, and regard is had to the time he has been employed. To make com.parisons of this kind, experts are needed. A mere on-looker cannot form any reliable opinion. The Labour party favours the doing of as many things as possible under Government control. We have established Government dockyards, and clothing, and ammunition factories, and the present Government has departed from its great and sacred principles sufficiently to recognise that these institutions must be supported by it. We say that they do not cover tEe whole field of Government activity. To call these enterprises Socialistic means nothing, because a Socialistic enterprise is only an enterprise undertaken for the social welfare. In today’s Argus, the Sydney correspondent of the newspaper quotes from the report of the Auditor-General upon the operations of the State brickworks, quarries, timber-yard, and other enterprises. What the Auditor-General’s report shows, and the point I wish to make, is that these enterprises are not entered upon for profit, but for saving. The State brickworks, which have only recently been established, have shown a total saving of £6,678; in the case of the bluemetal quarries, which supply the Government and municipalities, there has been a saving to the former of £4,600, and to the latter of £2,000, while the net profit earned is £4,322, or a total benefit of £10,832; the State joinery works, in a period of thirteen months, show a net profit of £2,075. The total benefit from three enterprises, with the odd figures, is £19,685 18s. 7d.
– What do the Government charge per 1,000 for bricks?
– The Government charge 10s. per 1,000 less than do the Brick Combine.
– That is not so; the Government are charging £3 per 1,000.
– I know what I am talking about. In the case of a building in which I am interested, the Brick Combine thought they had us under their thumb, and failed to carry out the contract, but we were able to get bricks from the State brickworks at 10s. per 1,000 ‘less, taking 20,000 per day. These questions ought to be discussed quite free from party bias, in order that we may discover which is the best method of procedure. We do not hear any grumbling because the railways and the Post Office, and many works connected with defence are carried on by the Government. The Railway Department of New South Wales, under the Liberal Government, stopped the manufacture of trucks in order to square accounts, and the result is that the Commissioners are not able to take from the State brickworks all the bricks needed on the railways. What they have taken, however, has resulted in the saving I have indicated. Of course, no Government is justified in fooling with the people’s money in order to carry out some fads of their own; but the State Labour Government are working on sound business lines, such as are adopted by large business firms, who have their work done under their own supervision. The Prime Minister, in his manifesto, informed the country that his Government were going to secure industrial peace, or words to that effect ; but it would appear that there are still some industrial troubles. I notice that the Liberal party and Government have deservedly given public thanks for, and expressions of appreciation of, the work done by the Women’s National League, notably in Victoria; and, in this connexion, I think I may turn the tables on the Government, and accuse them, as they have often accused us, of being governed by outside bodies. The statement is equally true in either case; but I should like to draw attention to the words of one or two of the ladies at the recent conference of the league at Ballarat. One lady said that the man or woman who originated a strike should be either fined or imprisoned, and that picketing should be made an offence against the law, while strike committees should be dealt with “like any other robbers.” I wonder if that is the idea of the Government? It means the prohibition of strikes, and yet, no doubt, this same lady has, during h<=r life, refused an offer of marriage. A strike is only a refusal to accept conditions offered, so that we have strikes every day in buying and selling, and other business. Another lady, Mrs. Moss, suggested that strikers should be penalized by taking away their franchise for a stated period of time. That, of course, would be an excellent idea for the Government, for they would only have to foment a strike on a large scale, and then hold a general election.
– The Government also turn a member out of the House when they wish to.
– Apparently the seed of this kind of thing is sown in Ballarat. The Prime Minister told the country that he and his Government stood for “ indus trial peace and the reconciliation of all classes.” The ladies outside do not stand for that; and there are troubles both existent and threatening. I want the Prime Minister to live up to his promises in his manifesto. These people who we are told promote strikes are the only people trying to prevent the very serious consequences arising out of the New Zealand trouble. Of course, they do not get any credit for that kind of thing. They have had conferences, and have thrown in the weight of very big unions to prevent the spread of the trouble, yet they are denounced because they are unable to control certain wild spirits, very many of whom are not Labour supporters. If they vote anything at all they vote for Liberal candidates; they are what we term the “ red-raggers “ ; they are men we have to fight against. Yet we have to bear the brunt of their action. Another matter is the attitude “of the Liberal party generally towards rural workers, and the trouble that is now likely to spread from one State to another. The rural workers, before their amalgamation with the Australian Workers Union, tried hard to get a conference with the farmers, but their requests were refused. Then the presiding Justice in the Federal Arbitration Court tried to conciliate, but the officials of the Farmers and Settlers Association declined, saying that no trouble had arisen. Afterwards, when they were cited to the Federal Arbitration Court, the door was shut, because there was no time for the hearing of the case. Afterwards they amalgamated with the Australian Workers Union, and we tried to bring about a conference with the Farmers and Settlers Associations in the different States, so that we might meet in a friendly way, and talk the matter over, and thus avoid trouble. References have been made to agitators, as if the agitator were a person to be condemned, but coming from Sydney last Monday night I discovered quite a number of agitators on the train. They turned out to be Federal members who had been over to New South Wales to help their political friends. There has never been a bigger agitator than the Prime Minister. However, the progress of the world is due to agitators. The representatives of the Farmers and Settlers Association declined to come to any settlement, so that if any trouble arises it is of their own seeking. It is a fact that the log has been raised, but it bad to be raised, owing to the fact that farmers were voluntarily paying more than was originally claimed. There is ample room for settlement between the two parties if they would come together. Why should the Liberal party block the door to settling this question? In New South Wales the Liberals in the Upper House threw out the proposal to have a Wages Board for rural workers, and Mr. Wade and his party opposed it in the Legislative Assembly; in Victoria the Liberals have refused to have a Wages Board for rural workers; the present Commonwealth Government have in their programme a measure to shut the rural workers out of the Federal Arbitration Court; and yet there is complaint about industrial trouble. The Liberals are forcing these men into the old method of the strike, instead of carrying out what the Prime Minister says in his manifesto - securing industrial peace. I ask the Prime Minister to reconsider this matter. His attitude towards the rural workers is a departure from the settled policy of Australia - to have Courts to settle industrial disputes.
– What is the difference between the wages paid in New South Wales, and those asked for?
– A Judge of the High Court adjusted the wages of shed hands, reckoned as unskilled labour, at 37s. 6d. a week with rations, and a guarantee of full work, no time being deducted for wet weather. Yet I know of a case of a married man working on the Great Western vineyard for 25s. a week, and having to keep himself. Even a quarter of a day was stopped from his wages in wet weather. He was asked when the ploughman was sick to do the ploughing for 25s. a week, but he would not do so. He was eventually given 5s. a day to do the ploughing, which he did for three days.
– You pulled the men out at Wagga on a difference of 4d. a day.
– I am merely quoting cases of low wages, and it is quite fair to point out where men are being paid such miserable sums. I admit that it is only the minority who pay these wages. No one would charge the farming class with being unreasonable, but it is quite fair to have the wages fixed at a reasonable rate, and have a tribunal to settle differences between the men and their employers. Quite recently, in con versation with a clergyman who was bemoaning, as many unthinking people do, the feeling between employers and employes, I said that a bit of feeling and opposition was a good thing. I pointed out that there had been complaints as to the friendly terms existing between the contractors and workmen in Chicago and San Francisco, by which the unionists got top wages, and the contractor passed it on to the public. There is no competition there among the bosses, and they so fleece the public that the man who wants a house built is taken down.
– That is absurd.
– It is a fact, and I say that one of the advantages of our position is due to the fact that there is a feeling between the two classes, and we have set up a Court to settle it. Any departure from that system is going to force on trouble.
– We must have a tribunal that has the confidence of both sides, and not of one side only.
– The honorable member is fighting tooth and nail to prevent any tribunal dealing with this matter. If all the unionists came together in one big powerful body they would be as much a. combine as any combine now existingWe are pledged to support the principle of conciliation and arbitration for the benefit of all classes of the community, but honorable members opposite would not extend that principle to a section of the community that cannot help itself. I could quote figures as to the low wages paid in the dairying industry which would astonish honorable members. Those low rates are not generally paid, but in the interests of fair and reasonable employers the industry should be regulated just as other industries are. Why should one particular class be exempt? The Liberal party are forcing on trouble. I had intended to refer to some other matters connected with the Budget, and the growth of expenditure, but at this late hour shall not do so. The Government have failed to give us any explanation of their proposed increase of ‘expenditure, nor have they told us what they intend to do in regard to the development of the Northern Territory, and other matters of importance. Apparently they propose, as soon as possible, to sneak into recess, where they will be able to do as they please.
Motion (by Mr. Gregory), by leave, proposed -
That the Select Committee on Powellised and other Timber have leave to sit during the sittings of the House.
.- If Select Committees are to be allowed to meet while Parliament is sitting, are we to add to the cost of such bodies by calling in outside assistance to report their proceedings? The Hansard staff has been working up to its full limit for the last “three or four months. We are asked to establish a new principle; and may have in some future session three or four Select Committees meeting during the sittings of the House.
– A Select Committee of the Senate is meeting while that Chamber is sitting.
– The principle is wrong. I should like to know whether the Mansard staff is to be called upon to report the proceedings of these Committees when the House is sitting, or whether outside assistance is to be obtained ?
– The sittings will only extend over a week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I should like to read a report from Mr. Pethebridge, Secretary to the Department of Defence, concerning the statements made last night by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in regard to alleged deficiencies discovered by the Auditor-General in the Ordnance Stores in Melbourne. The report is as follows : -
The stock sheets referred to are not connected with any audit report. They are lists of stores in stock as counted by ordnance employes at the ordnance depots in South Melbourne last December for the purpose of checking stock with the books at the ordnance stores in St. Kilda-road. When asked for in Parliament some checking had been done, but recounts of articles shown as deficient or surplus have vet to be completed.
Pending the return of these sheets to the Department, this work of checking cannot be proceeded with. After these stores have been further checked it is not anticipated that any serious deficiencies will be disclosed. The final result will be dealt with by the Audit Department officials in the usual way.
Certain audit reports on other matters are at present being dealt with by the ordnance staff, but there is nothing in them which calls for special reference at this juncture.
– Is the stock being checked by the officers who are responsible for its care?
– It is being checked by the officers.
.- A day or two ago I put a question in the House as to certain moneys which had been paid into the funds of the Liberal organization in Queensland. In reply, I was informed that a statement of the money so received had been sent into the Department, and that such returns were available for public inspection upon pay~ ment of the prescribed fee of ls. in respect of each return. I sent some one down to the Home Affairs Office, but the Chief Electoral Officer said he was not empowered to take the shilling, and that any one who wanted to see the Queensland return would have to go to Queensland, because it was kept there. This is the Federal Parliament, and the Central Electoral Office is in Melbourne, and, surely, at least copies of the returns for each of the States should be kept here, even if the originals have to be sent back to the States.
– I asked the Honorary Minister a question this morning in reference to the Prahran Post-office, and it seemed to me that his reply might have been a little more courteous, seeing that a paragraph has appeared in one of the papers to the effect that an offer had been made to dispose of the Prahran Post-office to the Prahran City Council for £9,000. I wanted the correspondence between the Government and the Council to be laid on the table of the Library, and I understood the Honorary Minister to say that as certain negotiations were proceeding he did not think it wise to accede to my request. I should like to know if the Government have any intention of disposing of that very valuable property, situated in one of the finest business streets south of the line, for so low a sum as £9,000. It has been variously estimated that the property is worth from £15,000 to £20,000, and we still have 960 years of a lease to run. In the circumstances, it would be foolish to sell the property for so little, even for the benefit of the Prahran City Council or the Prahran ratepayers. Several hundred pounds was spent by the late Government on the building to bring it up to date for postal and banking purposes, and I understand that it now meets all requirements. I believe the Prahran Council wanted to get it for £5,000, and that a previous Minister said he would consider an offer of £10,000, but the Home Affairs Department stepped in, and placed the building in an up-to-date condition. I am not raising this question in a captious or critical spirit, but we should certainly know what is being done in this matter.
.- Section 172 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-11 provides -
The returns and the receipted bills of particulars shall be retained by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, and shall be open to public inspection during ordinary office hours on payment of the prescribed fee.
As that is the law, I would ask the honorable member for Barrier, instead of sending up a shilling to the Melbourne office, where the State returns are not kept, to take the ordinary course of asking his friends in Brisbane to obtain for him any information that he requires.
– We have telegraphed to Brisbane about it, but that is not the point.
– Then there is no occasion to take up the time of the National Parliament further with the matter. A Commonwealth Department did, some years ago, offer to take £5,000 in exchange for its occupation of the Prahran Postoffice. The matter was recently revived, but the Home Affairs Department has not made an offer to accept £9,000 for the building. I did write to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department informing them that other premises in not quite so central a position, but possibly better suited for postal business, could be found for about £9,000. That is where the matter stands so far as the Home Affairs Department is concerned.
.- I have on the notice-paper several important motions which I should like time to discuss this session. Will the Prime Minister state what he intends to do with private members’ business? Is he going right on with the Estimates from start to finish? If he does, there will be very little hope for a lot of Government Bills that are on the notice-paper. How many Bills is he going to throw overboard? If he is going to put through the Estimates and all the Bills before he lets private members bring on their business, I am afraid we shall be here until after Christmas.
– I was quite well aware that it is not the Auditor’s report that is on the table of the Library, but the stock-sheets of the stock-taking which took place last December in connexion with the Queen’sbridge Ordnance Stores. It seems most peculiar, however, as the Prime Minister must admit, that it is only at this stage - twelve months afterwards - that the Department are checking to see if the deficiency really does exist. During the whole of those twelve months they must have been receiving and sending out goods, and, therefore, before they can ascertain what the deficiency really was in December last, it will be necessary for them to go over the whole of the stock that they have received and issued since. They could not take stock without doing it. However, I am willing to let the matter rest until it has been investigated by those who supervise the Department. But some one has been very remiss in waiting twelve months before thinking of checking the stock-sheets.
– Replying to the question of the honorable member for Capricornia, let me say that the Government does not intend to begin next week with the consideration of the Estimates; we desire first to get rid of several little Bills which are non-contentious. There are, for instance, the Post and Telegraph Bill and the Australian Notes Bill.
– Does the honorable member regard that Bill as noncontentious?
– It ought to go through as formal. We must deal, too, with the Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Bill. It is important that we should know exactly where we are in view of what has taken place elsewhere. Then there is the Bureau of Agriculture Bill. The Inscribed Stock Bill is, I understand, merely a technical measure.
– Are you going on with the Bureau of Agriculture Bill?
– I should like to. The Tasmanian Grant Bill should not take long. Possibly we may deal also with my motion for the introduction of a Bill to institute a Public Works Committee.
– We will help you with that.
– What about the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill?
– I am speaking now of what we hope to do next week.
– What about the Electoral Bill?
– The honorable member for Kennedy is to resume the debate on that.
– What business is to be taken first?
– I think that we shall take the Notes Bill on Tuesday, and then go on with the others in the order that I have named.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 December 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131205_reps_5_72/>.